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soul standing cool

I sat down to look for a writing prompt on the internet sick of my stories of the same guy, the same feelings, the same place. But, maybe thats what writing is all about–dissecting events through details to make sense of things that evade my understanding. I used to write in a style that I adopted from the Beats–journalistic, shocking, filled with the iconic hobo character who I found so fascinating. In college, obtaining my English degree, enamoured by Medieval literature and freshman colloquium examining great Western works.

My favorite authors did not turn out to be the Beats and I became disillusioned with tales of acid trips and anti-government articles that only seemed to birth a generation of folks who read the works to recreate the dissonance of following rules and partying in secret. I’ve never met a true anarchist or many others who take politicking out of the two houses–right or left. This year, I’ve decided not even to follow politics. I understand that acts being performed anger folks, but why not try to take that passion to a micro-level. This is how my favorite author emerged in my life–Marcel Proust. Master of non fiction and detail.  In writing group the other night a very long sentence in my writing was pointed out and I lit up inside–writing like Proust.

I wake up at around 4:30 am and open my whispy white curtains and collect empty Powerade bottles gulped from in between dreams of nature scapes that return to me over and over and as I drive down the curvy road to town I wonder if I have been here before surrounded by tall pine trees and sun beating down through thin mountain air. I fill the tea kettle with faucet water and make my bed, wash dishes while the stainless steel pot starts to giggle with hot bubbling water and pour over grounds watching foamy brown water give off a rainbow sheen glistening like an oil patch in a drive-in parking lot. I pour hot, thick liquid into my only coffee cup–red, black, and chipped and tilt the carton of almond milk for a small pour always sighing at that first drink.

Usually, I sweep the floors and find the swooshing of the broom bristles comforting as tiny piles of mountain dust and crusty chicken collect in little cairnes of my kitchen.  I cannot stand the feel of crumbs beneath my feet and become aware of my own idiosyncacies as others don’t seem to mind the tiny particles and remark on my affinity for sweeping. Archaetypes and metaphors come to mind–the Disney princess sweeping looking forlorn by the fireplace, the giant michevious broom splintering into a thousand tiny ominous brooms filling the alchemist’s basement with water. I remember last year and so many years when the piles of dust were filled with bundles of Lou Dog fur and I muse on another pet taking morning and evening walks that give me the swept earth feeling I crave.

I think on who would not mind my sweeping, who would take in my anxiety like an old cup of bitter micowaved coffee–still thankful for the symbol of morning elixir.  Still thankful to be awake with me.  Who would hardly ever tell me to slow down or speak up or talk about my intensity as if I can control the way I don’t seem to filter myself or the world. One who would be chill rather than telling me to chill letting my mirror neurons kick in and find peace in teaching yoga and meditation–meditation not cooling my fired up personality right away but invoking the cold waters of my soul shaking away the need to be clear and dirty palms up in offering of the person that I am exactly in this moment.

My favorite poets are from the Romantic era along with my favorite pianists. Chopin pieces filled with trills that I used to practice over and over at the piano bench my fingers like a broom, pinky sweeping over high notes and right hand jumping octaves to create the sweet sad sound of a nocturne. Whitman speaks of the human flesh becoming a poem and I see my spindly arms at the top of the page creating the metaphor of a storm swirling on a high prairie lighting up the big sky full of stars.  Stars I see every morning and night as I open and close the white curtains to my deck facing the world. And so I face the world in my poem-body and Proustian mind getting lost in the details yet feeling the glimmer of light in one thousand mirrors becoming one shining beam of energy, one focused point of my life.

“I exist as I am, that is enough,
If no other in the world be aware I sit content,
And if each and all be aware I sit content.
One world is aware, and by the far the largest to me, and that is myself,
And whether I come to my own today or in ten thousand or ten million years,
I can cheerfully take it now, or with equal cheerfulness, I can wait.”
― Walt Whitman

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a letter everyday

I didn’t save the letters, but Grandpa sent us a letter every day for years.  Different topics, different pens, different paper, but always the same strangeness. Sometimes I would barely read them.  They came so often and just as often I could not understand them.  I would write a obligatory letter of small talk here and there.  The thoughts of letters I box up and add to the pile of subjects and folks in my family that give me unbearable guilt.

The letters were a bit like Grandpa as he began to age. Often incoherent. Full of receipts from the Co-Op in Burns, Wyoming where Grandpa had lived since he was a little boy.  The family homesteaded there and bought up 146,000 acres of land while running a cattle company.  Wyoming roots.  In the roots of the Wyoming tree were also roots of the eccentric side I recognize all through branches manifesting in my own mannerisms.

Grandpa had his own workshop down in the basement of the huge house my sister is still convinced is haunted.  The new tenants that are renting are convinced of this too.  Perhaps a little of the madness of my Gpa has stayed there lingering in fumes of paint and metal.  I never felt the ghosts my sister claims, but I was eccentric like Gpa.  A quiet connection I found in his pillow when I realized it contained the same smell as mine.

Sometimes the letters contained dead bugs.  A spider smashed by the manual typewriter.  A dead bee scotch taped to a yellow paper of a legal pad.  Brown juice of flies in corners of cartoons he would draw shakey and small protruding from the margins. The cartoons always of someone running or the laughable folly of a heavy object falling.  Gpa and myself not aware of any falling, falling, although others might see the eccentric slip as a painful one.

My uncle commented perhaps his eccentricity compromised his career and that may be the case for us all but instead my Uncle meditates everyday, I blog everyday, Grandpa wrote a letter everyday, my sister parents everyday.  Sanity and strangeness just perceptions, socially coded, dynamic, changing, different everyday.

In Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangenesspsychiatrist David Weeks explains that eccentrics are physically healthier and significantly happier than “normal” people. He notes that eccentrics are wildly diverse yet share common characteristics. Here are his 25 descriptors of eccentricity, listed in descending order of importance. (Dr. Weeks says the first five are the most significant characteristics.)

  • Enduring non-conformity
  • Creativity
  • Strongly motivated by an exceedingly powerful curiosity and related exploratory behavior
  • An enduring and distinct feeling of differentness from others
  • Idealism
  • Happily obsessed with a number of long-lasting preoccupations (usually about five or six)
  • Intelligent, in the upper fifteen per cent of the population on tests of intelligence
  • Opinionated and outspoken, convinced of being right and that the rest of the of the world is out of step with them
  • Non-competitive
  • Not necessarily in need of reassurance or reinforcement from the rest of society
  • Unusual eating habits and living arrangements
  • Not particularly interested in the opinions or company of other people, except perhaps in order to persuade them to their contrary point of view
  • Possessed of a mischievous sense of humor, charm, whimsy, and wit
  • More frequently an eldest or an only child
  • Eccentricity observed in at least 36% of detailed family histories, usually a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. (It should be noted that the family history method of estimating hereditary similarities and resemblances usually provides rather conservative estimates.)
  • Eccentrics prefer to talk about their thoughts rather than their feelings. There is a frequent use of the psychological defense mechanisms of rationalization and intellectualization.
  • Slightly abrasive
  • Midlife changes in career or lifestyle
  • Feelings of “invisibility” which means that they believe other people did not seem to hear them or see them, or take their ideas seriously
  • Feel that others can only take them in small doses
  • Feel that others have stolen, or would like to steal, their ideas. In some cases, this is well-founded.
  • Dislike small talk or other apparently inconsequential conversation
  • A degree of social awkwardness
  • More likely to be single, separated, or divorced, or multiply separated or divorced
  • A poor speller, in relation to their above average general intellectual functioning

Eccentric doesn’t bother me. ‘Eccentric’ being a poetic interpretation of a mathematical term meaning something that doesn’t follow the lines – that’s okay.”

-Crispin Glover