I have only recently taught myself to write. That’s a lie, yet it feels true. Probably because every writer feels generally like an amateur, at least that’s the picture I get reading too many books and essays on writing by my favorite authors. They report that this feeling never ends, which to me is small comfort. But since so much of life is uncomfortable I’ll take small as a win.
Today is a Friday, so I allow myself the slack to write about anything. The word slack, to my surprise, is precise, despite my writing this morning being mostly imprecise. My brain feels foggy, or loose, actually, like fishing line on a slow creek, curled over a limpid pool, nestled into the water’s surface like a solicitous eel. I see nothing but moss beneath me. There are no fishes here, little or nothing to snag or feed on. Not in this brain.
The spring-fed creek I fished as a boy changed shape similarly. It’s now slow and twisted, its course altered by backhoes. In fact, backhoes reshaped much of my childhood landscape. The creek, Spring Creek, is now an eel, in the section I used to roam, or a garter snake skimming water. It used to flow in one straight shot until it met Camp Creek, and cows would wade into, drink from, and shit in it, and I would chase them from the shores and they would charge in return. Now duck hunting blinds decorate the shores. To match the landscape with the creek’s idyllic shape, the pig barns and wooden silos on the hill above it have also been flattened and burned, along with the fort I built out of old fence wood. Not that I would have warrantied this structure.
There are no fishes here, little or nothing to snag or feed on.
The house I grew up in is wrecked and interred, too, right where it once tenuously stood, collapsed into its own basement by the arms, buckets, fingers, and blades of backhoes and dozers. This house, the land over and around it, including the creeks and the farmyard that once was a township, Hamilton, was purchased by a hunting enthusiast and developer. He seeds the surrounding fields and pastures yearly with peas and grains, which are not harvested, to attract birds and fowl from a nearby wildlife preserve. Wealthy men shell out big money to weekend-lodge where cattle pens used to be, where a maroon, weathered chute, a rubbing post and salt licks, tongue-smoothed feeding troughs, a sledding slope, calf sheds, and corrugated waterers used to be. All buried now so strangers can pluck from the sky hapless birds flying toward the safety of their preserve. What sport.
Yet I don’t mourn this place which is no longer mine, for it never was mine, maybe never was. Just as my brain really is not mine, and is furthermore unreliable. It will deteriorate (it’s already showing signs). It will coil in on itself. It will be wrecked, probably buried, possibly burned to ash or resin. That will be its end, likely less drastic a change than my Hamilton, my Spring Creek where it met Camp Creek.
So I’ll not bemoan the slackness on a Friday morning, I’ll celebrate it. It’s a gift, it’s time alive, no matter the fog, or the slow current. I’ll relax, ease onto the surface of things, listlessly float over the burial grounds of my childhood, viewing changes dispassionately, detached and free—until some moneyed hick in camouflage with thin, chapped lips and a gray-flecked goatee and sepia safety glasses shoots me from my sky.
Tomorrow I’ll write precisely. Like most amateurs, I enjoy Saturdays more.