We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Daily archives for July 6th, 2018

Face the Fear

Summer                                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

300px-Gutenberg_pressAt the Mussar Vaad Practice group we all come up with a practice for the coming month, a practice based on that month’s middah or character trait. Each month the congregation has a middah of the month. Emunah, or faith was the middah last month. My practice focused on sharpening doubt, a practice that made me feel more alive, more grounded in faith as a necessary human act.

This month I’m getting even closer to the bone of my inner skeleton, as we focus on bitachon, or trust. This radical confidence is a natural sequelae of emunah. Like doubt is on the same continuum as faith, but at one end of it, trust is on a continuum, too, with fear. In the Jewish approach to these matters it’s not doubt bad, faith good, fear bad, trust good; it’s about knowing how to deploy them at the appropriate times, or if not deploy them, be able to feel them, to know them without hiding.

Following on the rich experiment with sharpening doubt, I decided to go with the same approach, the far end of the continuum, and focus on fear. I said as much at the MVP, but the fear I wanted to confront embarrassed me (probably making it an excellent candidate), so I didn’t name it there. I will now.

Albert Camus 1955

Albert Camus 1955

My fear, the core fear, is exposing my writing to publishers and critics. Ancientrails doesn’t ignite that fear for some reason, maybe because it’s seen by only a few, but sending off my novels and short stories and poems to publishers causes my fear to burst into a wildfire.

It’s quiet, though. How it works is I think about submitting work, I make a move or two toward that end, then abandon it. Often not intentionally, at least not overtly, but I allow this or that to get in the way. Query letter? I can’t do a good one. Mail the manuscript? Too much hassle. Find an agent? The old writing ouroboros rises from north sea. Nothing published? An agent won’t want my work. Yet, I need an agent to get my work published. A problem that constantly eats its own tail.

artistsThat same fear is the one I faced after the Durango trip, writing here about setting a rejection’s goal. I have made two submissions so far, one of Missing, a novel, and one of School Spirit, a short story. By focusing on my fear of rejection, the vulnerability it exposes, the possibility that I’ve been wasting my time for over 20 years now, I hope at least to get my work out in the world. Whether any one wants it is, well, up to them.

MAKING ART copyI’m embarrassed to write this, ashamed I’ve been so fearful, yet I have been both embarrassed and ashamed for most of the most of the time I’ve been writing. Now is not different. The only way I can make it different is by finding publishers and agents and getting my work to them.

I’ll let you know how it goes. I just got a new shot of magazines and book publishers open to submission today. That means tomorrow I’m going to be reading submission guidelines, looking at finished work and getting stuff out there. Staying at it is the key, I know that. Persistence. Something I’m usually pretty good at.



A long, hot summer

Summer                                                            Woolly Mammoth Moon

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Fire mitigation, May 2016

Smoky the Bear’s fat index finger points at Very High on all the fire danger forest signs we drive by. In Evergreen the fire station there says Extremely High. The Spring Creek Fire is at 103,000 acres burned and 35% containment. The 416 is at 54,000 and 45% containment. The Weston Pass Fire has closed 285 at Fairplay and is at 12,000 acres with 17% containment.

There’s a lot of low level anxiety here, knowing all it would take is a careless camper, a lightning strike, an automobile accident to put us in danger, too. The big fires are in the southern and southwestern parts of the state where some areas have passed beyond extreme drought conditions, so the fuel load is tinder dry.

Half of the slash, May, 2016

Half of the slash, May, 2016

We are left not with trust, then, but only hope. Hope that fire will not burn down our houses and upset our lives. Once Kate and I decided that if it burns, it burns and we move on, my anxiety level decreased. We chose to live here, chose to build our Colorado life in an area vulnerable to fire.

August 2016

August 2016

Choices, like our psyches, are never only this or only that. We moved here to be closer to the grandkids, yet to have our own life in the mountains, too. That is, we chose to move from the relatively safe from fire Andover (though the occasional derecho, tornado and hail storms were destructive.) to the wildlife/urban interface of the Rocky Mountains. It’s desirability is captured by its adjectives, we are where the wildlife live, yet urban amenities are also close. We have the beauty of the Rockies, the mule deer bucks and does that visit our yard, the elk that bugle in the fall, the mountain lions that cough in the night, black bears and all manner of other creatures. Yet, we also have the existential danger, especially high in early and mid-summer, of fire. Not an either/or, but a both/and.

Life, too, though not a choice we made (but to continue our life is a choice), puts us in an even more dire dilemma. We were thrown by circumstance into the life/reality interface, knowing that the wildfire of our death grows increasingly less contained as we age. At some point it will engulf us, burn out the wild mind that has carried us from birth. I’m ok with that, too. Not that I have a choice.