© 2008 -- 2011 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic. All rights reserved.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

This is why I blog

So I can say things when I need to remind myself

There are things that happen as you get older. There are battles that are lost that never should have been lost. There are dreams that never should have been left unfulfilled. There are projects that should have been completed. And there is time that you can never get back.

I have done things that have made a difference in people’s life.

I know that because the people have told me—called me out of the blue and said thank you.

I know that because I’ve run into people at random—people I don’t remember—who have said something I did made a difference in their life. I got off the train at South Station in Boston, was walking with what seemed thousands of other people in Boston who had gotten off of other trains and heard someone—a total stranger—say to me “Professor [grandpa]? You don’t remember me, but you were my teacher in business writing when I was junior at St Anselm. I use what you taught me every day. I’m vice president at [a big bank in Boston], and the way I got there was knowing how to write. And it was your class that taught me how to do it. I always meant to call you and tell you thanks..

And I’ve seen writers who wrote for me as their first editor win awards for work they did for me, win awards and publish books when I was the first editor who believed in them.

But you get older, and the work you set out to do hasn’t been done, and you think you’re starting to run out of time. The clock hasn’t stopped ticking yet, but the tick-tocks are coming faster and faster and sounding fainter and fainter.

It’s the angst that destroys. So how do you answer it?

  • Trust the people you know.

  • Know that you have influenced other people’s life.

  • Understand that no work ever gets done by whining about the fact it’s not getting done.

  • Accept the fact that when you die you die. What you’ve done to that point is the sum total of your work.

  • Accept the fact that you’re alive.

  • Work.

It’s hard to imagine I’ll ever be satisfied. But I can still keep working.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

5 Minute Therapy

My therapist recommended I watch this video. Do you think she was trying to tell me something?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Character Envy

Jason, the narrator of my novel, is a poet and teacher of creative writing. He seems to have little respect for his own poetry and he doesn't much care for students. Here's a fragment from one of his poems:

If we touch the magic
That makes us real dissolves
Like bullion in a cup of water
And we become mere parodies
Of what might have been.
Thin, watery imitations
Of a hearty broth.

In the following scene he's walking in the woods with his brother's 14 year old step daughter. Jason's father, a painter, died of a stroke in his studio just a few days before. Jason's been called to New Hampshire by his aunt (who is actually his father's mistress) and this is the first time he's met any of his brother's new family. Candi, the young girl, is a big fan both of Jason's father and of Jason's poetry. She's taken him to a spot in a field where she used to go and watch Jason's father draw.

I sat down beside her. “You liked Pop did you?”

“Very much. It doesn’t seem fair, Jason, that he died so soon after I met him. I danced with him at Howard’s and Mother’s wedding. I was so nervous when he asked me because they were playing a waltz and I was so sure I was going to step on his feet. But he made it easy. I didn’t even have to think about what I was doing. He made it feel like magic.”

“Pop was a good dancer. I can remember when I was little watching him and my mother dance together in our living room. I also remember when they used to go to square dances. He’d wear a cowboy hat and she’d wear this big flared skirt with all these layers of petticoats underneath it.”

“You wrote about that,” Candi said. “’My Mother’s Petticoats.’ It was in your first book. How she would swirl in front of you, fanning you with her skirt and being dissolved in a cyclone of lace.”

I felt humbled. I had actually forgotten that I’d included that poem in my first collection. “You really do know my work better than I do, don’t you?”

“I’m sorry,” she said. “Did I get it wrong?”

“No. No. You got it just right. I’m surprised, that’s all. I wish I could remember my work as well as you seem to.”

“I like that poem a lot. The way you describe the air moving so fast around you and you stayed still as a stone, and then how your mother wasn’t even there. Nothing but the moving air and you felt left behind. I kind of know what that feels like. Everybody just comes into your life and goes and it’s like they were never there at all. And if the air didn’t move, you would never know it.” She had it just the way I had meant it when I wrote it. “Aunt Margaret was your mother’s sister?” she asked.


I like that pooem too. In fact, I wish I'd written it. That's what I mean by character envy.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Peace Day

Monday, September 21 is the International Day of Peace 2009 (also see the Culture of Peace Initiative site as well as Peace One Day). The Web sites list "Peace Building" events that are going on around the world, from random acts of kindness to concerts to international forums. There are also events on the World Wide Web, on Facebook, and in other networking venues. I plan to spend time on Monday thinking about how I can be a part of peace building. I invite you to join me.

It's a dream worth sharing.

It's a wish worth granting.

Afghanistan: Peace Day 2009

Friday, September 11, 2009

Watch for it

Watch for the winter issue of The Raintown Review. (I'll let you know when it's actually published.) I got word today they are going to publish my poem "The Writer's Wife," which is in my mind one of my most important poetic works.

And while we're on the subject of watching for it, Pastor Sharon at Dances with God gave me an award a while back. I don't as a rule do awards, though I'm very honored when I get one. And this was a special award so I told her I would do it. I just haven't figured out how yet. But I will. Maybe this weekend. In the meantime, if you haven't met Pastor Sharon, you really should. Why not pay her a visit right now.

Thursday, September 10, 2009


For L.M on the occasion of his third marriage

Let me sing for my love a song
And my love will cover me with kisses.

Then never stop singing. Let your voice fill the land
with your new bride’s name.
In the morning, sing to her as you make her toast,
spreading marmalade.
At noon, sing to her over cups of chicken soup
brimful with noodles.

Sing to her in malls; sing on the escalators
and in parking lots.
Sing at the counter and tables of fast food chains.

When you buy movie tickets, sing your lover’s name
while you count your change.
Sing in the soft glow of dimly lighted lounges
with fake fires burning.
As the singer on stage sings a final set and
your love sips wine, sing.

Sing on the drive home and as you check locked windows
while she combs her hair.
Sing to her in the rush of passionate embrace.

But give her also days without singing,
for her heart, just as yours,
must hear the splinters of other songs.

Originally published in A Matter of Mind, Foothills Publishing, 2004.
© copyright 2004, 2009 the Grandpa at The Word Mechanic Blog.
All rights reserved

Saturday, September 5, 2009

What a difference a couple of words make

This is actually another sign of the times. Looking for a place to have breakfast in Manchester, NH, I came across the Web site for the Manchester diner:

Many Have Eaten Here, Few Have Died

S pointed out that's not quite as bad as it could be. Just add "Only a" in front of few, and it's no longer just funny. It's a challenge. But, be afraid, be very afraid.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Another sign of the times

This sign's on a placard in my hotel room here in New Hampshire:

High Speed Internet Access
And Remote Printing

See your desk drawer for details.

Well, I'm looking at it right now, and I've asked repeatedly for details. So far it's been nothing but mute.

As you leave, take a look at the spotlight post. Fantastic Forrest has invited us to join her in an important endeavor.