Friday, February 25, 2011
A story about writing came up the other day. I had told this story to an online friend some time ago and we had been out of touch for about a year and then she came back a couple of weeks ago. I started to tell the story and she said she had heard it and that she had told it to friends of hers. I asked what their reaction was. “They laughed,” she said. And that, I told her, is why we don’t share much of the process, but here is the story anyway.
That book in the right column “Keep the Round Side Down,” took almost twenty years to write.
It started in the mid 70s as a short story tall tale. I used to write those for fun, practice, if you will, with no intention of ever publishing any of them. It is like the pianist doesn’t go to Carnegie Hall and play scales and these were scales to me. One followed another over the years and I found people enjoyed hearing me read them, as my daughter attests in that nice review she put on Amazon.
In the early 80s I began driving boats and because of the adventures I had with killer whales came to be called Orca by people for a while.
One night I began to fantasize how someone named Orca would get that name and another tall tale developed, only this went on for a while. I wrote several more with the same character. It eventually developed into a novel in which the boy Orca saved a pod of orcas from a catcher crew that was collecting them for a marine zoo, somewhat akin to Sea World. (My interaction with Sea World is another story) I worked on it for several years intermittently, in between other writing projects, boat adventures, and the Exxon Valdez oil spill.
Somewhere in that time a friend told a friend of his about the stories, someone who ran a small Alaska publishing house. I eventually gave her the short stories but not the novel.
That was because in the interim Disney had come out with the “Free Willie” movies and my story looked so much like that, it would have been ridiculed, so I figured that was a lost cause, more practice, more scales.
The publisher eventually came back to me liking the stories but wanting what she called a framing tale to connect them all. I showed her the Orca stories but told her of my apprehension about accusations of copying. I suggested maybe I could rework it with a different ending, She liked it and the book is the result of that.
Now, here is the real part of the story within the story: One day I marched to the Post Office (this was before Internet and such)with the last submission, the book had been written, edited, corrected, revised and this was the last mailing.
I remember handing it reluctantly across the counter to the fellow in the Post Office and once it was out of my hands I walked over to our favorite watering hole thinking I would celebrate. I sat down, ordered a beer began to take a sip, when an almost tangible overwhelming sadness came over me. A realization. It hit me that I had just said goodbye to a whole group of friends. For the past 20 years of my life all those characters had been with me every day in one form or another, friends I could play with at my whim, kindred spirits, mates, foes, lovers, fellow adventurers. And now they were gone, they wouldn’t be there the next day, I had passed them into the care of another person. It had left me feeling empty and alone.
The bartender who knew I had mailed the manuscript for the last time came over and asked me what was wrong, she had sensed my mood. I looked at her and said I just lost a whole bunch of friends today. She smiled at me and she said she thought she understood. I think she did. It goes to that poem somewhere in this blog that John Updike wrote about marching through a novel:
“I love them though I march them to finish them off” but in my own case with the hope they always sail with the round side down.
I put that picture up there just because I like it. It was taken by our friend Annie Daly on the voyage of the Kaisei last summer.
Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Phrase popped into mind today, a line from a song sung probably in junior high school. Is this that long-term memory we hear so much about? Anyway, it is. Signs of spring. I’ve never been one to want to hurry spring along, mostly because these days March is the absolute best month at the East Pole. It gets cold enough at night to keep the snow and the creeks frozen and the compacting of the snowpack plus a hard freeze on the surface at night lets you go anywhere you want until it warms up by early afternoon.
On a bright sunny day, which there seem to be many of in March, on the west-facing deck, the temperature can rise to 70 degrees, t-shirt and beer weather. It stays that way until the sun disappears behind a tree and then drops to 30 again,
So, signs of spring. Yes. It’s becoming more difficult to sleep late into the morning and I find myself waking up earlier and staying up because of light coming in. Then there’s the height of the sun. Just a week or so ago I needed sunglasses and the windshield visor because I had to drive straight into the sun which was low enough in the sky to shine directly into the car during the commute. Now the sun is high enough in the sky so I don’t need the visor anymore because it is above the top of the windshield.
Can winter’s kiss goodbye be far away?
And the woodpecker was back at the feeder when I walked out into the blaze of pixie dust yesterday. Seems like all is right with the natural order of things. Biorhythms, don’t you know. If only the human relations were as much in synch.
Sunday, February 20, 2011
Stepped out yesterday into a sparkling world. Everywhere in the air little bright spots floated. Bright sunshine meant it wasn’t snowing and though it was cold, it wasn’t ice fog and sundog cold. It seemed to be going on for no particular reason until I saw a bird fly out of a tree heading for one of the feeders. We had had a light snowfall of that cold, tiny flaked type over night and when the bird took off it sent a bunch of it flying off the branch into the air. The flakes were so small and so light they drifted in the air for a time and reflected the sunlight. Given there were several birds flitting from the trees to the feeders and probably a couple of squirrels running around, a considerable amount of snow was thrown into the air and created this little storm of sparkle in the yard. Or maybe it was pixies after all, and they are the cause of all the mystery. Watching the trees for a sign of Tinkerbell, but the way the rest of the day went I doubt I received any pixie dust from her.
Monday, February 14, 2011
I left for work yesterday over a clean blanket of snow in the driveway. When I returned in the dark, there appeared to be more tracks in the yard than there should have been. Just at the doorstep were two footprints even and next to each other, much smaller than mine(they were about 2/3 the length of mine as seen in the picture) and with pointy toes. Definitely not mine. In the dark and being tired I waited until morning to investigate. A vehicle with wider tires than mine, probably a pickup, had pulled in sometime yesterday. Unless it backed in, the driver did not get out, only a passenger with those pointy shoes who walked to the doorstep and apparently stood there but did not go up on the porch. Very curious. Oddly I could not find tracks of those pointy boots leading away from the step. But there was quite a mix of my own tracks in that area from when I went to work and returned. Obviously these were not the causes of the light going on the night before, but now a new element has been added. Perhaps all this mystery can be grown into a story. We shall see. Meanwhile there have been lots of visitors today.
Saturday, February 12, 2011
Friday, February 11, 2011
Now a new mystery has been added, promoted by the availability of electricity and motion sensor technology. With sensing lights on both sides of the house, the yard illuminates without apparent reason sometimes. A cat running through the yard perhaps or a bird flying by. During the huge windstorms that blow through here often they will be on constantly, triggered by the bending swaying branches of the trees. Tonight, though, a mystery.
Tonight the west side light came on. There is no wind so that was not the cause. New snow had left its sheet over the ground awaiting the news, but there was no news, no telltale tracks hinting at what might have moved past. So, what was it triggered the light? The spirits of the forest perhaps, wisps of fairies dancing just above the snow. In the dark few birds fly by and the feeders remain untouched. No spy of my imagination slipped up to a window, no cat followed the squirrels across the yard, no moose came to nibble the lilac. What mystery motion could have sparked the light into brilliance? Perhaps morning will reveal the answer. And then came a tapping, tapping tapping at the entry door.…
Though some of what the writer says is a bit of a stretch, her main message rings true from what I have learned about the singer. I am not sure if this makes me more or less interested in listening to the new song. But the message resonates: "Born This Way."
The photo was taken from the NASA Aqua satellite Jan. 12. It shows a snow covered Southwest Alaska and the southern Bering Sea. For location, Anchorage is a bit above center vertically on the right side of the image. The Alaska Peninsula angles down to the lower left.
Here is what NASA had to say about it:
"From an altitude of 438 miles, the biting cold and snowy hassle of winter melts away and is replaced by minimalist beauty. The clouds that normally shroud much of the Arctic cleared on January 12, 2011, to unveil a snow-bound Alaska. The scene was captured by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.
"On the ground, snow is an equalizer: It covers everything uniformly in a blanket of white. But from space, snow is a revealer. Subtle variations in color and texture highlight Alaska’s rugged topography and primary ecosystems.
"Inland, the vast boreal forest is dark, colored by evergreen trees that shed snow from their tall, conical forms. The treeless tundra, on the other hand, is bright white. The low shrubs and mosses on the tundra—along the coast and above the tree line in the mountains—do not break through the snow, so the landscape is an unrelieved white except for the slender rivers winding across the landscape.
"Winter white extends to the ocean. Land-bound ice swells the coast, temporarily claiming the ocean for the land. The shadow of the summer coastline, where land meets sea ice, traces a faint outline—a hint of gray—between stark white sea ice and equally white coastal tundra. A brown and green channel of semi-open water separates the continent from the ice-choked Bering Sea. Moving away from land, ice creeps across the open sea in wisps and curls that resemble foamy froth.
"Beyond the clutches of ice, the Bering Sea shows signs of turbulence and the dark waters swirl with vibrant green. Such color often points to phytoplankton, but this burst of color could also be sediment brought to the surface by powerful waves spawned by winter storms."
Thursday, February 10, 2011
Rock on brothers and sisters. Take it to the man and woman.
Sunday, February 6, 2011
Friday, February 4, 2011
Thursday, February 3, 2011
Despite a contagious rumor, coughing doesn’t prevent a heart attack. An e-mail that spread around the world like a contagious disease a few years ago claimed that anyone who feels heart attack symptoms while alone should cough “repeatedly and very vigorously, repeating a breath about every two seconds…until help arrives, or (a normal heartbeat returns).”
Wrong, says the American Heart Association.
“It’s right up there with voodoo as far as I’m concerned,” says Dr. Cary Fishbein, a cardiologist with the Dayton Heart Center.
The coughing technique known as “cough CPR” has been used in hospitals by physicians to treat sudden irregular heartbeats in monitored patients during cardiac catheterization procedures. In this case, a responsive patient who develops a sudden irregular heartbeat could possibly maintain blood flow to the brain and remain conscious for a few seconds if they cough vigorously and forcefully while being directed by a physician.
But traditional CPR is not used to treat heart attack victims who remain conscious – but only if the heart attack if followed by cardiac arrest, the American Heart Association says.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Some interesting quotations
You know that I always just wanted to have a small ship to take stuff from a place that had a lot of that stuff to a place that did not have a lot of that stuff and so prosper. -- Jackie Faber, "The Wake of the Lorelei Lee"
If an insurance company won't pay for damages caused by an "act of God," shouldn't it then have to prove the existence of God? -- I said that
Writing is the only thing that when I do it, I don't feel I should be doing something else. -- Gloria Steinem
Exceed your bandwidth-- sign on the wall of the maintenance shop at the West Coast/Alaska Tsunami Warning Center
One thing I do know, if you keep at it, you usually wind up getting something done. -- Patricia Monaghan
Do you want to know what kind of person makes the best reporter? I’ll tell you. A borderline sociopath. Someone smart, inquisitive, stubborn, disorganized, chaotic, and in a perpetual state of simmering rage at the failings of the world. -- Brett Arends
It is a very simple mind that only knows how to spell a word one way. -- Andrew Jackson
3:30 is too late or too early to do anything -- Rene Descartes
Everything is okay when it's 50-below as long as everything is okay. -~ Hudson Stuck
You can have your own opinion but you can't have your own science. -- commenter arguing on a story about polar bears and global warming
He looks at three failed marriages as a good start -- TV police drama
Talkeetna: A friendly little drinking town with a climbing problem. -- a handmade bumper sticker
"You're either into the wall or into the show" -- Marco Andretti on giving it all to qualify last at the 2011 Indy 500
Makeup is not for the faint of heart -- the makeup guerrilla
"I'm going to relax in a very adult manner." --Danica Patrick after sweating it out and qualifying half an hour before Andretti
"Asking Congress to come back is like asking a mugger to come back because he forgot your wallet." -- a roundtable participant on Fox of all places
As Republicans go further back in the conception process to define when life actually begins, I am beginning to the think the eventual definition will be life begins in the beer I was drinking when I met her. -- me again
Hunting is a "critical element for the long-term conservation of wood bison." -- a state department of Fish and Game official explaining why the state would not go along with a federal plan to reintroduce wood bison in Alaska because the agreement did not specifically allow hunting
Each day do something that won't compute -- anon
It's not about how many times you get knocked down; it's about how many times you get up -- Tim Tebow
I can't believe I still have to protest this shit -- sign carried by an elderly woman at an Occupy demonstration
Many people hear voices when no one is there. Some of them are called mad and are shut up in rooms where they stare at walls all day. Others are called writers and they do pretty much the same thing -- Meg Chittenden
Life should be a little nuts or else it's just a bunch of Thursdays strung together -- Kevin Costner as Beau Burroughs in "Rumor has it"
You're just a wanker whipping up fear -- Irish President Michael D. Higgins to a tea party radio announcer
Being president doesn't change who you are; it reveals who you are -- Michelle Obama
Best headlines ever
GOP congressman opposes gun control because gay marriage leads to bestiality
Owner of killer bear chokes to death on sex toy
Support for legalizing pot hits all-time high
Give me all your money or my penguin will explode
How zombie worms have sex in whale bones
Crocodile steals zoo worker's lawn mower
Woman shot by oven while trying to cook waffles