At just a little over zero degrees — the sun shining beautifully — my daughter and I went ice skating at the town’s rink. Set behind the elementary school, in an out-of-the-way field where burdock grow in the summer, the rink is the vision of one woman, coupled with 2″x6″s and a plastic liner and a lot of help.
I slipped off my mittens to pour a cup of hot chocolate. My hands nearly froze.
Small town life is generally cozy. We see each other’s kids grow up. By and large, we look out for each other. But every now and then, the underside, the other, deeper side of small town life appears. That same day, two different people appeared in my life from a long-ago part of my life. One was a woman. She and I exchanged stories. The other was a man who stole from me and my daughters.
My daughter with her red cheeks and I were on our way home. A friend leaned close to me and asked who was the stranger. I whispered to her, and then we left.
Long ago, I crossed out of any Pollyanna view of New England village life and into the realm of Sherwood Anderson and Ray Carver. I’m nearly finished Ensouling Language — a book that unexpectedly arrived in my post office box. I’d never heard of the author, Stephen Harrod Buhner, although the book from its opening lines writes in my familiar world, particularly of Lorca’s duende, of traveling in the wilderness, of baptism with dark waters.
As a woman writer, particularly, I often find myself pushing back against this cultural insistence to “make nice” and pretty things up. We live in an enchanting world, but the world’s waters are often dark, too, populated by saints and by thieves.
My daughter and I took our skates home, hung them up, and ate dinner.
A thousand thanks and more for this book.
Love is nice… but writing is too hard for love alone. Love is crucial for many reasons but it is not enough to get through [writing] the book. And whether you call it hate, or rage, or anger, or irritation, it is all some form of the same thing. You must have this hate, this rage to be a writer for this is one of the hardest professions on the planet and without rage you will never survive it. You will always run out of steam about page 60.
8 thoughts on “Stories From the Past and Present”
Reappearances can be unsettling. I love the quote.
The book is fantastic. And reappearances? Totally unsettling….
Damn. I think that explains a lot about my limitations as a writer.
Reading this and seeing the comments I appreciate this writing community, even if I am not a writer. The realism is always in the struggle. GT
Interestingly, I almost didn’t use this quote, in part because we live in such a rage-soaked culture. But Buhner is about so much more than rage, too. And it seems to me that writing — or just about anything else, for that matter — is about curiosity, too, even if it sometimes takes us into dark and scary places. The book is all about duende, and reading it reinforced for me that duende holds those dark waters.
Happy eve of the New Hampshire primary.
Buhner wants (I think) constructive rage- a rage/passion that spurs one to action in a building way, not the nuke/flame thrower/ blind destructive rage, a rage that has no solutions (wildflowers after Mt. St. Helens) but only heat. As a UNC Tar Heel, I hate Dook (Duke) basketball, but to his credit along the same lines Coach K once said about his infallible player Christian Laettner’s passion to win: ” I told Christian that passion is like a fire. Focused and contained, it can heat your home and cook food. But…unfocused and uncontained, it will burn your house down!” (Paraphrasing,). So I feel it is the same with rage. Good passion seems so blunted in society nowadays…except of course in good blogs like Brett and Ben’s. GT
Your description of rage is well-said. Perhaps our contemporary dilemma: how to heat our house without burning it down.
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