the medicine of silence — Robin K. Crigler

Reblogging this beauty from my friend Robin Crigler. Best essay I’ve read in a while (and it’s my business to read essays).

—i— you are here for not twelve hours and you say “i want to write a book about silence”: this is not appropriate, it’s not in the spirit. 2,487 more words

via the medicine of silence — Robin K. Crigler

Writing these days

I have been writing! I say this with some triumph because it seems hard enough to put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard every single day, much less produce something that exists as a piece of writing. But yes, I have been writing, and it’s become part of my life such that I don’t feel quite right if I’ve neglected a day. And I suppose I’ve produced some things that I like, or at least that I will like. But…… these days….. it kind of feels like I’m not getting anywhere.

I feel that now we’re settling into the doldrums of summer. If this were a naval adventure novel, we’d be becalmed. Getting agitated in the heat of the South Pacific’s sun, starting to hate the faces around us just for their familiarity. Mutiny might be stirring if we toiled under a tyrannical captain who applied the cat-o-nine-tails too liberally. Yet the worse agony would be staring out at the unchanging sea, wishing we were fish to at least feel the cool water moving against our scales. Will the wind ever stir itself and blow this July into motion?

Yesterday I got gravely stuck, and it brought me right down to the darkness under my bed (where at least it is cooler). I was stuck on this: why am I here? What is the purpose of all this doing and scheduling and trying to make my intellect move into work and writing, and my body move into anything but a sweaty blob indented into the sofa? Why am I doing anything, really? I always think to myself that the great purpose of life is love. But I’m rather alone, rather often. Love is there (it’s always there), but it seems a little distant at the moment. I feel purposeful when I work for my students, but my whole life can’t be dedicated to teaching work (especially during the summer). I hate the feeling of killing time. I hate days with nothing to do. If the purpose of a life is to make that life a happy one, why does that feel like so much work? Am I missing something?


The pay-off of having established a daily writing mandate is that when I got into this foul, self-doubting mood, I wrote something. I thought it might get me on better footing for the rest of the day.

That didn’t happen. I napped for like three hours. It was terrible.

But at least I wrote something! And I think, if I can once again perform my most famous trick of taking messy notebook writing and play with shapes and make it into something worth continuing, I might have an essay.

The idea would be this: sometimes it might be worthwhile to stop looking so clearly through the air for goals and signs and finish lines, and to instead live our lives underwater so that even if things are blurry, we are conscious of the watery world around us. We are submerged in life, and can move forward without waiting to reach something.

That’s an idea that might be worth writing.


Summer Reading Shelf

The most fun (and time-consuming) part of setting up my new apartment was unpacking about 380 books! I decided on a smaller to-be-read shelf for the new space, accompanied by a lovely photo of me and my dashing friend Sam.


Left to right:

Barkskins, by Annie Proulx
Treeborne, by Caleb Johnson
The Turner House, by Angela Flournoy
The Farming of Bones, by Edwidge Danticat
A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle (one I re-read every summer)
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel (another favorite to re-read)
Five Quarters of the Orange, by Joanne Harris
Year of Wonders, by Gwendolyn Brooks
The Steady Running of the Hour, by Justin Go
The River Wife, by Jonis Agee
Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Summer is a fantastic time to read, and I have found myself wanting to read multiple books at once– one stays on my bedside table, one is in my school bag or the passenger seat of my car so that I can dine al fresco or take a break from coffee shop writing to read a few pages. Is there anything better than a book and a beer in the sun?

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I’ve just started Beautiful Ruins by Jess Walter, and I’m drawn in by the momentum of his prose. Here’s an example:

To pitch here is to live. People pitch their kids into good schools, pitch offers on houses they can’t afford, and when they’re caught in the arms of the wrong eprson, pitch unlikely explanations. Hospitals pitch birthing centers, daycares pitch love, high schools pitch success . . . car dealerships pitch luxury, counselors self-esteem, masseuses happy endings, cemeteries eternal rest. . . It’s endless, the pitching– endless, exhilarating, soul-sucking, and as unrelenting as death. As ordinary as morning sprinklers.

The book is, so far, about movie stars and love in the 1960s in a tiny corner of Cinque Terra, Italy, with a corollary plot in contemporary Hollywood. Anyone need a fun summer read? Shop your local indie bookstore

What are you reading? What should I add to my list this summer?

Foxes and Wolves

In Solar Storms, by Linda Hogan, Wolverine is a ghostly, animal-hybrid presence, drawn to lost souls, hungry for trouble, and eager to destroy, entrap, and deceive. He is a mythic invisibility, and he trails the women of the novel through their journeys, inscrutable.

Yet a wolf is different —  a wolf is a guardian of nature itself, silent and mournful. There are five generations of women concurrently living, rowing canoes, and seeking justice in the novel. They are deeply and cruelly connected to nature, and they live their commitment to water and land and each other’s welfare in fierce ways. When Agnes sees her impending death, she tells her great-granddaughter Angel to leave her body where it lies, to be devoured by the birds and wolves. Angel is bothered by this image, but more tortured when Agnes dies while Angel is off seeking her cure. The other women set Agnes’s body afloat on a canoe filled with blue flowers– a floating memorial oasis in deep waters– and plan to come back to take her to her burial. But when they return, Agnes’s body is gone. Angel realizes that Agnes’s wish has been fulfilled. Later in the novel, when she sees wolves, she calls them Grandmother, believing as her people do that spirits come back in new forms.

I happened to come upon these poems today:

Soul Fox” by David Mason

Sun and Rain” by Sandy Coomer

I think the idea of mythic reincarnation keeps trotting along in my mind these days, after writing an essay that incorporated reincarnation, birthmarks, generational trauma, and the idea of depth. If I were to be reborn, what would I be? Where did I come from?

I like to think I’d be a fox. Little, unassuming, not wealthy in brute strength, but wiley and fierce when I need to be. And a dweller in the snow and the woods and the quiet places.