On the last day of the year, it’s almost impossible not to look back or forward. The resolutions, the round-ups, all judgment and cliché—oh yes 2016 was a horrible year, certainly 2017 has little too live up to, things will get better, things will get worse.
Can we stay in the now please?
I’m watching tropical leaves fall ever so slowly falling singsong, a baby’s cradle rocked with gravity into a serene blue pool. A fat iguana, longer than my leg, bubbles her neck, rocking her head to the melody of jungle birds while a majestic hawk circles far overhead in the deep blue Costa Rican sky. Ice melts in carrot and lime juice. The neighbour’s children sweetly gibber away sweetly…sweetly, such polite, curious and beautiful creatures. I wish I had some of my own exactly the same. Wind rocks the bamboo, which xylophones a symphony when the afternoon rains pound. A tympanic garbage truck rumbles up a distant hill. Second-hand smoke-puff wisps through the rain forest canopy. A deep baritone of morning commerce comes down the beach trail: morrrrannngooo paaapaaayaa baaannnnaaanoooo pllllaaaattttaaannnnoooo…
The past, the future, the hypothetical are unavoidable. Staying in the now is meditation, or lack of, not writing. But the attempt certainly helps description, urgency, setting… I feel all my life has just been keeping field notes to stay in this now, an impossible battle. Useful for honing skills but not assembling product. This is how I have been recharging my battery since leaving the adobe halls of Albuquerque’s flagship institution, exactly fifteen days ago. I’m so far away I don’t know if I’ll ever return. Which means I will return because I find I do exactly the opposite of what I write.
I piled too much on my plate last term. (See, I’m rounding up, because I think this is what someone wants… this is why folks blog… genre…chained to genre.) My eyes were bigger than my belly and by final week I was using all those little commitments to avoid the big picture. Re-read and re-write something I wrote and could believe? Hell, no, marks some more portfolios. Take another fine-toothed comb through those poems that are barking at the door raring to be let out for a run? Hell, no, answer some more emails. Perfect that final paper that no one will read. Pound out a thousand worlds of gibberish because you said you would and it’s suppose to be fun and that’s why you chose an MFA in the first place? No, hell no, work on that grant that just might bring you a few more months of rice and beans and third class travel. Flippancy aside, I piled my plate too high and the stress made me want to vomit and I lost balance falling into the most evil-un-drained-existential-swamp south of D.C.—Why am I here? What am I doing? Life is elsewhere…
There is no progress without anxiety. I’ll take the blame, but personal and political issues did not help productivity. When reading the news makes you want to dust off that Molotov-cocktail recipe and go rogue, it’s hard to write a love poem. When you haven’t had a meaningful hug in five months, it’s hard to approach that personal essay with peace. When each second of each day is squeezed with commitment, it’s hard to sit by the duck pond and ponder. Like slow-food, slow-travel, is there a slow-MFA? I’m not complaining, just self-berating the dolt I’ve always been, I took too much on so as to not face what I must do.
Next term, I’m finally teaching what I want: Creative Writing and The Irish Short Story. More work, perhaps rewarding, I’m eager. Three workshops, all out of genre, which will increase my wingspan and courage. A Blurred Boundary seminar with a rock-star-drill-sergeant who always clarifies and inspires. There’s editing The Blue Mesa Review and AWP in D.C.. There is a summer job to be found. There are submission and proposals. Reviews and this blog. There is fitness, which should come before all of this. There will be slammed Tuesdays and Thursdays but mornings are mine and Fridays and Mondays almost free. Is this interesting? Am I just folding laundry in public?
So good riddance 2016. You grim-reaper. You elevator of fascism. You conveyor of root canal, cracked rib, dengue fever!
Come on 2017. You got an easy act to follow. The House of Cards has a joker in the attic but with a little love and listening we can quell the hate-mongers.
Tires skid on a gravel road. Constant surf pound, ants gnaw ankles, dragonfly, butterfly, we can all fly by saying yes to this exact moment… now, yes. Say it aloud, yes. Everyone together now, yes, please, yes.