Of the multiple and various

She thought of putting pen to paper in the comfy green chair under the floor lamp

Kick up the old feet

Put the book on a pillow on her lap.

But which thoughts would she commit to paper?

Of all the lines running through her head

Of the multiple and various

Lacking a prior commitment to any one of the many,

she chose the desk up stairs and the keyboard instead

Where first or third didn’t matter

Or could be changed without record or blots

Which moment, of these many?

The one where she sat with a bowl of noodle soup,

the saltiness curling the back of her tongue into an arc,

the heat steaming chin and cheeks.

All alone, though quietness was quickly overtaken by the hum of the printer,

the soupy ohm of her half-puckered lips against the spoon

and the approaching train that would soon cause the monitor to start shaking

She would continue to slurp and write on with eyes wide shut.


I wonder what it would be like to write fiction?  Would it be like poetry? I imagine it to be somewhat more coherent than what is actually happening.  If I wrote fiction, wouldn’t I then have to make a decision about which reality to choose?  That would be quite different from me sitting here alone tonight with my bowl of miso, thinking about what to write in my first blog post since moving from Ottawa to Lake Pleasant. From the capital of Canada, a city I love, to a tiny little village in the US, where I am surrounded by massive white pines and hemlocks, a lake that is crystal clear and friendly neighbours.

All that is true, but the hemlocks are threatened by an invasive creature that has been wiping out entire forests in recent years. The lake is the expression of an underground aquifer supplying the drinking water for the area. It is bordered by the aforementioned train tracks and scores of abandoned, creosote-laden railway ties lie delicately perched on the embankment. They are only held back from falling in by a few saplings.

As for friendliness, some of my neighbours maintain an historic club called “The Scalpers”, complete with a stockade, at the bottom of the road. Apparently, at the height of popularity of Spiritualism in the early twentieth century, the sons of the faithful became bored with their summer excursions into the woods of western Massachusetts and thought they would appropriate for themselves the grisly history colonialism in this region, the faint echoes of Aboriginal resistance in the 1670s, and dim recollections of the massacres that followed. Yes, many things can be true at the one time, and depending on who you are, the impacts are variable as well.

I could follow the crumbs down any of these pathways, and I might at some point.  But tonight what I want most of all, is to learn again what it means to just write with the clarity of the unexpected.  To use words that I choose myself. To allow thoughts to form, and take shape in celebration as well as critique.  To choose poetry over the sound bite and sentences instead of poll-speak.  I am searching for imagery and creativity and old ideas. Yes! I feel like listening to old ideas, through new ears.  Ideas are what I’m after, but I’m not sure where they will bubble up from.

For instance, on my first morning of work, I felt immense delight to be driving through mountains and across two beautiful rivers on a perfect day, only to face the simultaneous confusion of listening to the early radio reports of gas attacks in Syria. I had no touchstone to make sense of what I was hearing.  Had I come to rely too much on the CBC and the shared political banter that used to frame my days?  How will I now engage with the national discourse when there is no such thing? Here, the national is presented as self-evident, as universal.

I’m not immune, I realize. Recently I had the experience of driving slowly past the wooden houses of my new village, waiting for a dog to move, when I noticed a beautiful shade of red out of the corner of my eye and I admired the shimmery white tones beside it, until I realized with quite a start that I was looking at an American flag attached to a telephone pole.

All that is solid, melts into air.

At the same time, I have also become disoriented by the localism of public (“public” means privately financed by users) radio, where you have to find a new station every few miles, and each one has its own unique schedule for broadcasting nationally syndicated news programs. It’s fragmentary and disjointed and  I find it very disturbing that in this region, where there are more educational institutions per square inch than anywhere else on the planet I’m sure, the NPR station plays classical music all day long. Nothing against classical music, but there are no news or current events shows.

Oddly, despite these cracks and inconsistencies, I have started to feel a little claustrophobic, as if I’m being enclosed within something very dense. The trees feel like they are perhaps too close together, and overly green.  The storms have been ferocious and the temperature swings, unnerving.  I am unsettled to be sure, but it is also true that I cannot remember ever being happier.  I’m back in the classroom. I’m with my love (although he is currently in Ottawa!). I’m teaching students from all over the world. I have the daily opportunity to reflect on US foreign policy, in its ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ dimensions.  Tomorrow when it’s bright again, the katydids will go back to sleep and I will once again love the trees.

Many things can be true at the same time, and partial.  It’s what I expect. It’s what I’m used to in an interior way and that’s good. Something familiar.  I’m good with that.

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