An isolated dispatch from Central Texas
I haven’t written a single thing in I can’t remember how long. I used to write the babe a few diary entries a week so she’d be able to look back at the life we lived together and piece it together in some meaningful way. I haven’t done it in months.
I used to write food essays. Haven’t done it in over a year even though I recently started getting a check from the traffic on a 3-year-old blog I did on Buc-ee’s convenience stores. Read it here. Even that hasn’t injected any new motivation.
I feel like it used to be a compulsion I had no control over. My mind was constantly sprouting new things and connecting them to other previously sprouted things and it was a dense forest of sticks and twigs and raw materials that I was excited about harvesting and polishing into something different than what it was before. A little gathering, a little size-sorting, a little milling, a little laying it all out to be hammered and glued back together into something new. It was the thrill of making something and the gratification of discovering the fine points of a matter that kept me engaged with writing as a hobby.
Building something from nothing is exciting. Putting things in order for display soothes the soul.
One of my favorite boyhood activities was burning brush on grandma’s farm near Bertram. Burning brush may be a bit of a foreign concept to my friends and family in west Texas and the high plains as it is an exercise of utility when living with and around an abundance of trees. Over the course of a few years, as trees and their branches rise and fall and dry and weather, you heap all your downed limbs into bonfire piles across the property. Then when you have a few piles big enough you set them on fire and keep a close eye on your most mischievous kid, as they may sacrifice a variety of organic and inorganic material to the flickering flames.
Now I don’t know if everyone with trees on land burns their brush. I’d imagine there is a number of creative ways to rid oneself of fallen limbs. You could probably make a chunk of change by processing it for firewood, grinding it up for compost, or even milling into live edge shelf and table top fodder. You could make cutting boards and turn writing pens. You could make sculptures and build bird-feeders, mailboxes, and dollhouses.
But my family just burned it.
My face, 30 years later, still remembers what the heat felt like. Like looking up at the noon sun with a day old sunburn.
One of the disappointments of not having written much in the last couple of years is the strange sense that the years are gone now and I’ve missed out on an opportunity to document and thereby understand my sense of all that’s transpired. And so much has transpired.
It’s been incredible having a kid. All my previous navel-gazing is now time much better spent. Instead of staring at my own navel, I now “give tickles”, on-demand, with my whiskers to the belly-button of our daughter through her giggles.
It’s been a great kind of resetting of the careerist and creative production mentality I had developed. I wanted to create more and better and be a slave to a craft for who knows why. I still think it’s important for me, but the older I get the more comfortable I am living in the seasons of life and creative pursuit. There’s an ebb and flow to things. Some people turn pens and make beautiful widgets from fallen wood. Some folks burn it.
Probably both are fine.