02 November 2008


A cold rain knocks lingering autumn leaves to the ground, spatters up from the hard road, gathers on the windows. Kāhiko o ke akua - adornment of deity - in Hawaii. Bringer of life. Preserver of the land. Cleanser of evil spirits. World cultures dance, worship, revere and fear the rain.

More than 20 years ago, I lived in a metal-roofed single-wide trailer house in Layton, Utah, just outside the South Gate of Hill AFB immediately under the flight path of the southern runways and up against the rise of the Wasatch mountains. The years there were bittersweet, the joys and sorrows balanced in my memories, formative years of new awareness and self-discovery.

When I moved away to a suburban stretch west towards the Great Salt Lake, it took me awhile to identify what was missing among other things in the contained 2-story tract house with its double-paned windows, carpeted stairways and high trussed-roof: I could not hear the rain. It's deep patter, the audible measure of the storm, day or night, had become a comfort to me and a touchstone of peace.

Today I opened all the windows to listen to the rain, and a Red-shouldered hawk flew down from the roof to perch on top of the center bird-feeder and crow over the yard. Adorned with rain.

My very breath is my prayer of thanks and my awe.


11 October 2008

Lysis Complete

My story Lysis Complete is published this week on 42opus in Fiction. My thanks to the editors of this lovely site.

This story is interesting to me because it comes out of some writing I did in what feels like another lifetime more than 14 years ago. I had been working with François Camoin at the University of Utah, and at his suggestion, signed up for a workshop with Phyllis Barber. Most of this story comes from pieces that I originally wrote for her in that workshop.

But perhaps most strange to me was the tangible rush of memories that opened up when I came across the draft of this story about a year ago. My life was in shambles at the time of Phyllis' workshop. I was in the throes of a failed marriage, in between jobs and had applied to the writing program at the university - surely if I could go back to school I could pull my life back together.

The workshop was in Park City. I couldn't afford to stay at the conference, so I was staying at my parents' home near the mouth of Emigration Canyon, driving up and back through the canyon each day.

One night I had imposed myself at some party, passed out in my '76 Camaro, and then, still drunk and shored up by a little pick-me-up, I headed down Parley's Canyon. It was early morning, cold and there was fog like there is in the mountains and little traffic - the occasional semi-truck heading East to Cheyenne.

I came fast around one of those sweeping bends through a bank of fog, and my headlights caught the most enormous porcupine I had ever seen, illuminated by fog and headlamp to appear completely white. It turned its head towards me. Then I flashed by, swerving hard into the far lane, banking back again to adjust and readjust for my panicked over-correction.

I didn't stop. I doubt I even slowed.

Some psychological theory somewhere will explain how memory imprints most clearly under duress. The burst of adrenaline that implodes at chest level and then drops to churn in your stomach also binds the detail of every silver tip of porcupine quill and the round, dark eye just above the curve of its face, childlike in the headlights.

I carry more than a few memories from those long, bad years, set, as they were, by duress heightened with adrenaline, fear and pain. Even now, with resolution for the greater burden of guilt and shame, the images remain unfaded, ethereal and vivid, with crisp edges and the faintest taste of regret at the back of your throat like bitter almonds.


27 September 2008

like music

There are many theories about how to write. As a reader, I am most moved by works that connect me in an emotive way, the confluence of intellectual and emotional and shared human experience.

Music moves me at the same level. Or perhaps beyond as it surpasses language. It is emotive from a different direction. That being the ultimate challenge for a writer - to evoke connection in a holistic way. Breathe life into character and story, with subtlety and balance. Like music.