We all walk ancientrails. Welcome to the journey.

Eudaimoniac

Summer                                                                   Monsoon Moon

20180526_143004A good soaking rain yesterday, extending into the night. And cool sleeping. Two huge benefits, mitigates fire danger and improves sleep. Go, rain.

Kate has had two days without nausea. Well, up till that late evening coffee cake. She seems to have found at least one palliative measure, stop eating before she gets too full. A major component of the nausea may be later life sequelae from the bariatric surgery. She sees a gastroenterologist for a consult in August. Slowly, gradually getting a handle, I think.

I’m flailing a bit on the lesson planning. Not sure I understand Rabbi Jamie’s grid, so that makes working with it difficult. Gonna push ahead, make some guesses, get done with what will amount to first drafts. Finishing the Superior Wolf revision and writing these lesson plans are my top priority right now. Superior Wolf work is mostly done, I need to enter the edits; so, the lesson plans are up. Due Friday before my breakfast meeting with Alan.

20180705_072608Tomorrow afternoon I get a new workout. Exercising has been more 20180704_111915sporadic of late, partly due to my aching back. The back stays ouchy because I’ve been doing the chainsaw work, cutting up (bucking) the downed trees. This involves bending over, holding a heavy saw well below waist level and controlling its movements, especially the gyroscopic force of the chain around the bar. Not a recipe for good lower back health. I’m getting there with the trees though. I have two fully cut and a third part way there. That leaves two plus the one Jon says he’s going to mill, create boards for a project of some kind.

 

I’m getting a lot of satisfaction right now, eudaimonia. I’m flourishing, using my gifts at their outer limits, getting feedback, moving purposefully through the day. Don’t care about happy, but I do care about eudaimonia. Seems to come when I flow with the work, with life as it comes, rather than trying to force results. A Taoist way to eudaimonia, then.

Hmmm

Summer                                                                         Monsoon Moon

Have to say something about it, just don’t know what. Finished my first revision of Superior Wolf. 95,000 words. And, I think, easily the best thing I’ve written. Not comparing it to anybody else, just me. It gives me a little shiver to think I put those words on the page. I was going to submit it to publishers; but, instead, I’m going to shop it to agents. I feel like I might snag one with it. Just saying that out loud makes me feel good. If I hadn’t been facing my fears and, if I hadn’t set my rejection goals, I wouldn’t be writing this.

Cooler up here today. The big Dodge Ram sitting in our driveway, the only thing Enterprise had available yesterday, will stay with us until Tuesday. Had to have a bearing replaced in the right front wheel assembly on the Rav4, trés expensive. Toyota broke a brake sensor for the ABS system and they have to order the part. Thought about trust here. The Toyota way, a cultural thing for their company, long ago soothed my jangled cynicism about guys that run the service departments at car dealerships. I trust Toyota. They’re not trying to screw me. At least I don’t think so. That’s good enough.

The rest of today, tomorrow, Tuesday I’m devoting to lesson planning. I have to get six ready, well, five, since I’ve done one. I’ll probably have to redo them all, but at least I’ll be getting the process down.

 

 

 

A Lunar Month of Significance

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

Rustic Ranch, Bailey, breakfast on the Durango Trip. Sweet cream pancakes.

As the Woolly Mammoth Moon phases away toward a new moon, its month, the same lunar month we always have, yet also a different lunar month from any we’ve ever had, all spiraling through space as we follow the sun while orbiting it, I just wanna say thanks for what happened under its gentle influence.

It rose as a new moon, invisible but watching us, on June 13th, the day Mark, Paul, Tom and I headed out to Durango and the 416 fire. It was a trip both across southwestern Colorado and back into 30 years of friendship. Not to mention back to the days of the Pueblo dwellers of Mesa Verde. It was, in a sense, a way to say to each other that, yes, these friendships are for a lifetime. That this lifetime, whatever it may mean individually includes each other–and Bill. When you think about it, affirming the power of our past and honoring the reality of our future, is pretty damned cool.

Ode lays out the trip

Ode lays out the trip

It was also on this same trip that I read the essays about ground projects by Bernard Williams and about setting a rejection goal. The first one affirmed my existential sense that life gets meaning from our intentions and our labor to fulfill them; the second has transformed my writing life. A big, huge, amazing, wonderful thing.

Also under the Woolly Mammoth Moon, Alan Rubin and I began digging in to developing a curriculum for 6th and 7th graders in the Religious School at CBE. This work has affirmed the depth of my immersion into the Jewish world of CBE and reconstructionist thought. It also underscores my continuing fascination, see posts below, with the supernatural, or at least the fruits of humanity’s speculation about the supernatural.

20180415_155755

Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, ballet at CBE

Also under the WMM, I’ve been putting together the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler series for the 2018/2019 adult education year. This will feature both courses from the Great Courses company and courses from the MOOC aggregator, Coursera plus the odd film or two.

I also met Harv Teitelbaum. He’s the Sierra Club’s lead for their anti-fracking initiative, a big deal here in Colorado. I believe he and I share a similar attitude toward our current political reality and a similar focus on local races while maintaining an emphasis on the Great Work.

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

My flaxen haired Nordic goddess

It’s been a big, big month for me and I want to say out loud how grateful I am to all of you who’ve made it possible. Yes, Kate, especially you. It’s been a very difficult month for you nausea wise, I know, but you picked up a board membership at CBE and guided the food committee for the Patchworkers. All the time you’ve been supportive, though understandably surprised, at my new commitment to finally, finally, finally submitting my work. You’re the gyroscope in all this, keeping us stable and focused. Thanks, Kate.

Fangs and Claws

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

twilightModern technology is so wonderful. Over the last few days I watched all five of the much maligned Twilight movies. You might ask why, at 71, I would subject myself to all those teen hormones, questionable dialogue, and odd acting. First answer, I’m easily entertained.  Second answer, I’m revising Superior Wolf right now. Werewolves from their source. Also, a project I work on from time to time is Rocky Mountain Vampire. So, the Twilight saga is in the same genre as my own work, though aimed more at a young adult, tween to teen audience. Which is, I might add, a very lucrative market. Maybe, it just occurred to me, some of them will be interested in my work as a result of their exposure to the Twilight books and movies.

20180711_065526The supernatural is a dominant theme in my life, from religion to magic to ancient myths and legends to fairy tales and folklore. My world has enchantment around every bend, every mountain stream, every cloud covered mountain peak. No, I don’t know if there are faeries and elves and Shivas and Lokis and witches who eat children. I don’t know if anyone ever set out on a quest for the golden fleece or angels got thrown out of heaven. Don’t need to. We wonder about what happens after death, a common horror experience often and always. If we’re thoughtful, we wonder about what happened before life. Where were we before?

670HandbookAfterlifeOur senses limit us to a particular spectrum of light, a particular range of sounds, a particular grouping of smells and tastes, yet we know about the infrared, low and high frequency sounds, the more nuanced world of smells available to dogs. We’re locked inside our bodies, yet we know that there are multiverses in every person we meet, just like in us. We know we were thrown into a particular moment, yet know very little of the moments the other billions of us got thrown into. My point is that our understanding of the natural is very, very limited, in spite of all the sophisticated scientific and humanistic and technological tools we can bring to bear. Most of what exists is outside our usual understanding of natural, certainly outside our sensory experience.

The expanse of the wonderful, the awesome, the amazing, so vast even in our small human experience, is cosmic outside of it. That’s where the supernatural realm lies. Not only Just So stories, then, but What If stories, too.

Sure, there are gothic stories, horror stories, fantasy that are poorly conceived, poorly written and poorly executed. I’ve contributed to that slush pile, but at the same time there are stories of the supernatural that allow us to get outside our human chauvinism, to imagine, to wonder. The part of me that loved the Ring cycle as a fourteen year old enjoyed Tolkien, King, Wickham, Kostova, and Clarke.

I have a sophisticated, adult aesthetic, too, and I enjoy it; but, I don’t see why I have to leave behind my more childlike appreciation of things like Marvel Comics, the Twilight Saga, Harry Potter, Hunger Games. So, I haven’t. My inner tween/teen needs screen time, as well.

 

 

 

 

 

Frog. Boiling water.

Summer                                                                 Woolly Mammoth Moon

That's Superior Wolf to the right

That’s Superior Wolf to the right

Life changes in subtle ways, sometimes sneaking in a new way of being so slowly that like the proverbial frog we don’t notice. Piles of manuscripts sit on the table I’ve moved next to the computer, for example. They sit like I’ve always had revisions as an important part of my day. Writer work. Those markets tucked away in the Evernote file now call to me, pay attention, submit. And, sometime today, I’ll rearrange, organize the manuscripts into hanging folders in a file box nearby.

Then, another subtle change. That same table will fill up with material related to Beth Evergreen’s religious school, working my way to six lesson plans about reconstruction, about Jewish holidays, about middah, about the Hebrew alphabet. This material gets sorted today in 9 hanging folders, one for each month from September to May. Then files for each class session. Probably holiday files, parsha files, maybe a moon calendar.

20180710_062121When that’s finished, I have to prepare for the adult education meeting on Thursday. I’m going to take the Great Courses I plan to use for the Jewish Studies Sunday Sampler, along with summary printouts for 12 online courses that I also plan to offer for sampling, all in the Jewish Studies general area. The idea is that I’ll show up one Sunday a month and offer a teaser lecture from a Great Courses offering and a teaser lecture from one of the Coursera classes. If folks are interested, then I’ll set up a time, probably in the evenings, for them to pursue the full course.

Rabbi Jamie plans to have a new media setup built into the social hall space with a long table that ends at a large flat screen tv. Supposed to be done by September. It will be connected to the web. Folks can then use the table and the screen to watch more of the lectures as their time allows. What we’re offering here is the chance for discussion, something you don’t get if you view these alone, at home.

These all, of course, are outward manifestations of internal shifts, ones that have come gradually, shifting my internal attention. All of these changes feel very positive to me, making me feel as whole as I have in a long time.

Fear and Bitachon, trust

Summer                                                                     Woolly Mammoth Moon

article-new-ehow-images-a07-ti-j3-duties-literary-agent-800x800Spent most of yesterday on submissions. I revised School Spirit, taking 2.0 down to 2,700 words from 4,800, and submitted the revision to Mysterion. I developed a table in Word to track my submissions. It has these columns: submission, work, publisher, response, rejection, acceptance, contract, published. Later on today I’m going to begin revision of Superior Wolf, which I want to get out as soon as I can get it where I want it.

I now have an Evernote file for Novel and Short Story markets which contains 25 new markets and I will build that file. I need another log to track reading periods, periods when a particular market opens to submissions. They are often only a month long, so you have to both have work that fits their interests and know when to send it. Once I get a rhythm going here, I’ll get back to agent submissions, arguably more important than submissions to markets.

tumblr_mh1q88lsfr1s19s9xo1_500So, I’m facing my fear, not only that, I’m leaning into it, grabbing it by the scruff of the neck and saying, “Come on, now. Message received. Stop already.” This is partly mussar driven, the practice I wrote about on July 6; but, it’s also driven by self talk that long preceded mussar, though ineffectually, and even a bit by the shame and embarrassment.

What, exactly, has the fear been doing for me? It’s tried to protect me, fence me off from disappointment and failure. It feels the pulse of shame before it rushes through me and says, go another way, that feels bad. Just keep your head down, don’t poke it up, make yourself visible. And, of course, in spite of that self-protective urge, the result has been that for 30 years I’ve felt disappointed and I’ve failed at publishing because I never took the risk.

Fear, like doubt, is good. To not fear the fall from a high cliff is stupid. Getting a flu shot makes sense because fear rightly says the flu is worse. Slowing down around a mountain curve? Sure, fear tells me I’d fly off into the void otherwise. But fear is pluriform, it responds to many things. When on the Savannah, a fear of vulnerability probably sensed a predator nearby, or an enemy. Pay attention. Hide. Be ready to defend yourself against death. Having a red light moment is adaptive, until it isn’t.

2011 05 06_0875Publishers and editors and agents, even critics and readers, are not lions or hyenas on the veldt. The fear I’ve allowed to rule me for the past three decades however has believed them so. The shame then is a complicated emotion which recognizes the self-deception and self-protection. It knows I’ve chosen the critique of intimates, why hasn’t Charlie ever published, to the critique of possible readers. That’s embarrassing, but it’s where I’ve been for a long, long time.

Now, however, a strange, new moment is on the rise. In part I got tired of the narrative I’d been telling myself, been telling others. “I’m just not good at marketing.” I call bullshit on that. In part I read this article about setting a rejections goal and this time it made sense to me, a sort of akido move, use the power of your adversary against them. In part it was this month’s mussar practice of facing fear in order to learn about trust.

Yesterday, for the first time I can ever recall, I felt like I was getting down to the business side of writing. Yes, I’ve made submissions before, but I have never made as organized and concerted an effort as now. It feels good.

But, if I’ve begun to push the fear, tried to educate it that this is not an arena where it’s helpful, which I have, I’ve begun to wonder about it, too, from the mussar perspective. If I face the fear, face it down, then does trust appear? If the student is ready…

CBE (1)I know that fear vitiates trust. If we’re afraid of another person’s motives, we’ll never get to know them well. If we’re afraid of public speaking, no one will hear us. If we’re afraid of our own motives, we’ll take few risks. In these cases, if we face the fear, listen to it, talk it down, choose to act differently, then we may find love, may discover that people want to know what we have to say, may open ourselves to the world’s rich opportunities.

I’m starting from the fear, however, not trust. If I eliminate the fear, if I continue (and I’m pretty sure I will) to organize, revise, submit, and create new work, will trust appear? In what? The question I’m asking is this, does eliminating or modulating fear create trust, always? If so, in what?

20180624_095408

seeing through the fear goggles on

In this instance, for example. If I have pushed back the fear, acknowledged the shame of constant wheedling about submitting my work, and have finally gotten somewhere with both, in what do I now have trust? That eco-system of publishing and readers will therefore embrace my work? Not really up to me beyond getting my work out there. That I’ll be a better person? Maybe. Since the fear has weighed heavily on my psyche for all these years, lifting it might have, probably will have, a positive effect on my sense of self. Perhaps I’ll trust life more, be less reticent. This would be huge, obviously.

Don’t think this is the heart of it though. Somehow the trust that emerges is, more importantly, in acceptance of vulnerability, trusting that when I’m afraid, or even ashamed, that I can still be in this world. We’ll see, of course, if this is true, but it feels right. Fear, then, can be seen as a tool, an important and necessary one, but one to pick up and then set down. It’s not a tool we want to always have to hand and when it is in hand, we need a plan to get it back in the toolbox after it’s done its work.

 

 

 

99 to go

Summer                                                                              Woolly Mammoth Moon

shame-1-1-2-638Ouch. I got this note back:

Dear Charles,  Thank you for sharing your writing with us! We received a very large volume of submissions and can only accept a small number; unfortunately, we are going to have to pass on your work this time. We wish you well as you continue writing, and we encourage you to consider submitting to us again in the future.” submission to the Metz Review, School Spirit

When I read it last night, a sharp flash of shame and embarrassment went through me from top to bottom. The old familiar response came, too. Not gonna do that anymore and I marked the e-mail done to get it off my screen.

shame 2Then, I paused. Wait. This is the moment I wanted. Lean into the shame and embarrassment, see what it means. Why do I feel that way? So many reasons. Personal competence. A big risk taken with no results. Kate’s been so supportive of my writing. Most of all though it’s my work, being rejected. And it feels bad.

OK. So, I feel all those things. I’m vulnerable, made myself vulnerable, put myself and my work out there. And, I’m not dead. I didn’t shrivel up like the Wicked Witch of the East. The fear is me trying to protect myself from rejection, from disappearing, yet it will cause, has caused me to reject my work myself; to write, then let the work lie in bits and bytes, hidden on my hard drive.

Maybe it’s like a phobia, the more times I expose myself to rejection, the less painful it will become? I don’t know, but in any case I know I have to lean into rather than flee from it. This fear is real and painful.

shame 3Not sure here all of a sudden. It was shame that I felt when I read this note. Didn’t realize it, name it until I began writing this. Why though? Why shame? Perhaps it’s from that old, underlying conundrum, am I living up to my potential? Who’s to say? Perhaps it’s wanting to be seen as a creative person, a writer of books, yet secretly suspecting that I’m not worthy of those identifiers. Perhaps it’s as simple as failing and being ashamed of failing?

shame3What I do know, for sure, is that this shame, a hot desire to hide, to cover myself, to flee works against me, is not for me, in any way. And I could identify that paradox in another, in Kate or one of the Woollys, or a friend at Beth Evergreen. I would have compassion for it, yet also have a tough love move against it. It’s not who you are, it’s an attack on yourself from within. Perhaps we could call it Shaitan, the Devil because it is evil to push yourself down or to push another person down. Why? Because living is all we have and shame makes us shrink from life.

Shame, huh? Gonna have to give this more attention.

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.

 

 

100 no’s, 5 days, and life grounds

Summer                                                                       Woolly Mammoth Moon

rejectionAfter the Durango trip, during which I read three articles I’d saved for down time, I made two decisions.

First, I would shoot for 100 rejections in 2018. I just submitted Missing to Parvus Press and School Spirit to The Metz Review. Since I’m starting with the year almost half done, 100 may be ambitious, but I’m going to work toward that end.

Second, I reaffirmed a decision I’d made when I started caretaking for Kate after her shoulder surgery. When she had recovered enough to clean up after I cook and feed the dogs their lunch, I’d go back to five days a week exercise. Three days resistance work and two days HIIT. This last week I got back there.

becoming nativeIn that reading I also learned, in an article focused on Gauguin and the moral philosopher Bernard Williams,  about the idea of ground projects. “If you are going to live a life that is true to yourself, then you had better know yourself, and remember that ‘know thyself’ was one of the Delphic maxims that set Socrates on the road to philosophy…A wiser, older Williams gave more emphatic expression to the fact that the pursuit of authenticity can lead to ‘ethical and social disaster’. He also moved away from the stark individualism of ‘Moral Luck’ and stressed the role that one’s community plays in preventing or enabling one to become whom one wants to become.”

Without tumbling around in the conceptual concrete mixer that stirs together individualism and authenticity vs social responsibility I’ll say I like the idea of ground projects, projects that give us a reason to live. This conforms well to my existentialist self who believes we are responsible for the meaning in our life and with my Taoist self who seeks the Way regardless of social convention.

labyrinthMy ground project for many years was economic justice, transmuted later on into the Great Work of Thomas Berry, creating a sustainable presence for humans on this earth. My ground project of the moment is reconstructing faith with the assistance and stimulation of the Reconstructionist Jewish movement. I have a side project, perhaps a little hillock on my ground project, which is creative writing. All of these have and do give me a reason for being alive, for being enriched and enlivened. Good enough ground for me to stand on.

 

Cleaning the Pine Pollen Off Our Solar Panels

Beltane                                                           Woolly Mammoth Moon

20180619_093741According to my weather system we’ve had 1.5 inches of rain this month. That’s 6.8% of  our annual precipitation total of 22 inches. (Conifer does better than the state, precip wise, 22 inches on average with 105 inches on average falling as snow.) And most of it came over the last three days. Pinecam.com is abuzz with hosannas. Things were not looking so good when the four of us left for Durango. Now? Much better.

This morning the dewpoint is 49 and the outside temp is 50. We’re in a cloud, rain falling, air cool. Wonderful for two days prior to the Summer Solstice.

Kate has her first meeting of the Beth Evergreen board tonight. She has management experience, great number sense, and a clear, unflinching view of reality. She will be an asset to both the board and through it, the synagogue. I’m happy she has this opportunity.

Got back into the exercise routine yesterday, planning to go back this week to 5 days with Tuesdays and Thursdays being high intensity interval training. I breath better when I do HIIT, got off it for a while during the intense period of Kate’s recovery.

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, 21x29cm (2013) by Louise McNaught

‘Wild Rabbit in the Headlights 5#’, pencil & acrylic on rejection letter’, by Louise McNaught

Also made a commitment to myself, which I have written down on a yellow note stuck to my computer: NO 104 x’s  2018.  This means I want to receive 100 rejections this year from publishers. Sounds a little nuts, I know, but I’ve read the idea several places over the last year or so and I like it.

It recognizes that in any creative work: acting, writing, painting, music auditions you hear no more often than you do yes. And, this can be crippling. It has been for me. But, if you turn the idea around and acknowledge that reality, you can set a rejection goal. Why? Because the more times you’re rejected, the more opportunities you’ve given yourself to hear a yes. It can get somebody like me, who’s grown discouraged, a way of overcoming the negative. So, I have a goal of 2 rejections a week. Which means of course that I have to submit material to publishers. The point of it all.

forest and soulWriting, at least for me, is sufficiently compelling that I’ve continued to write over the years without success in publishing. That’s working without regard to the results. And, I found quite a while ago that that was enough for me. The writing is, itself, sufficient reward.

That doesn’t mean, however, that I wouldn’t like to sell some work, get some recognition. I would. But I’ve let the fear of rejection and the other negative emotions that come with it hamper me. A big psychic hurdle, one I stopped trying to overcome.

I now have enough work I can easily reach my goal of 104 rejections in 2018. Looking forward to the first two. Then two more. Then two more.

Writing has been my ground project since 1992. I’ll talk more about this idea in a later post.

 

 

July 2018
M T W T F S S
« Jun    
 1
2345678
9101112131415
16171819202122
23242526272829
3031  

Breadcrumbs

Trails