By the shovelful

A letter to friends. First things first. Snow.

There really is no clearer demonstration of how rare it is to call something beautiful
that isn’t also dangerous. One of those unique instances nowadays
that’s impossible to argue with. I mean, look up. It’s that same cluttered,
pupil-shrinking prism for all of us. Weather.
And we fall under it.
What does that tell us?
The tilt of our wonderfully imperfect earth. The pull of the moon, pulled like a rib
from the belly of our world. The storied soil we work on and eat from and take on
yet cry and bemoan any opportunity or demand to give back. Which is inevitable.

It disrespects the dead to fear death this much.

That’s what winter is for. Every year, for a month, or a few, our planet tries to bury us.
Freeze us out. Toughen us up. Shed old leaves and dream and make plans for spring
staring longingly into fires as we listen for kettles to whistle
more eager than dogs do for dinner bells.

Wheels are not really ideal for snow.

Clothing becomes a form of shelter. As much home as one can carry worn like armor.
It can be the difference between a good day and that one day. Extra gloves. Dry socks.
Nature Valley bar. Lukewarm coffee.
It really is the little things that separate being outdoors from hell on earth.
Come equipped. Be stubborn about it. Dress in layers. Prepare for change.

A good nickname for winter. Change. Different.
Roll with the punches off a rolling earth.
Be buried up in ice and frozen rain and dig a way out.
By the shovelful. Claw with bare hands if you have to.

Show up.

A pretty titanic lesson that’s been working on me over the past year.
Which events of life am I truly willing to let deter me. Cold? Rain? Snow?
Were these elements not in the forecast when I set my plans. My intentions.
Yes. Of course they were.
These seasons have been forecast for millennia.
Put your boots on and play in them. Shovel out the drive and go adventuring.
Leave some tracks in something that was pristine when you first got there.
Perfect. Clean. And powder. Like paper. Put a story in it.
The greatest form of flattery is imitation.
So show winter it is not the only one of us who is willing to change.

Say to the earth, this is how I roll.
I, like you, stop for nothing.

The Algebra of Human Emotion

Language is not reality. No more than one plus one equals two. I used to always argue this back when I was in school. To the truly left brained minds, it was a lot of fun. But one. Does not exist. One. Is a living, breathing, intangible reference. Always. To something else.

The point is, one what? What is a one without a what? An object. One flock of thirty geese plus one flock of fifty five geese and one confused pigeon, does not equal two flocks. One plus one is a highly inadequate equation to measure these, and most of life’s sordid, overlapping, seemingly never ending botherations.

Even for humans. One plus one is far more likely to equal a Brian than it is to add up to two. And then the question changes from what to who. Until so many stories entangle and we need to use a different sort of math to sort them out.

Storytelling. Literature. Language.
Is not reality.
So much as it is
the algebra of human emotion.

Pecan Eyes

Pecan eyes. Raisoned eyebrows. Cracker backside.
Glazed on side scowl. Rind on teeth. And strawberry cheeks.
With cookie crumble feet. Breathe. Intake and exhale footsteps on foot trails.
Leave crumbs of yourself.
Ever so often along the way.
Clean your plate.
Pray for the coming of the second helping.
A savior carrying a cheese plate with a butter knife
and thin shaved pork rolled up like eyes.
Granola. You solidify the stool. Give a step up.
A reason to sit. Full with insoluble fiber.

Give body to my shit.

And late night water. How you wake me up in the early hours of by god,
do you still call this morning, it’s far too early, tea kettle cat calls
from the kitchen hall, my oatmeal wants to make a meal of me.

Sat in the dark tying shoelaces like licorice whips
because you know no one wants to eat those.
Are you a ricist? Is it all white?
Or can a little long grain and wild brown
make it into you every once in a while?

How many ways can one go hungry exactly.
Also. Are pop tarts just pie crust and dry jelly filling?
Maybe I’ve been misled.
Maybe I’ve got all this stuff I’ve eaten.
Filling up my head.

Broken Pieces

You want to know my secret.

You could ask my sister. I remember one night, she had graciously invited me to venture out into the world with her friends. In the car on the way out of town, we were passing a cemetery, and I looked over and said that graveyard is full of people who felt the same way we do tonight. Young. Ready. More in front of us than behind us. And that’s where they are. And it went by quicker than they ever could have imagined. Elisa looks back at me and says great, now you’ve gotten that out of your system, no more of that tonight, okay brother.

But I’m telling you, contemplating mortality puts a brake pedal on time.
It slows the world down just enough that you can feel the immensity of the present.
Life is not a house you build from a blueprint.
It is a stone wall, and plans change as much as the rocks.
And you must strike a balance between imagination and functionality.
A balance. True balance. Or you will never build what we call happiness.

Which is almost exclusively made out of broken pieces.

Disagreeable Animals

It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, to mean it isn’t an accident. This country is not broken. We are. Because that’s what the men who wrote our constitution were dealing with. A divided population desperately being translated into a divided constituency. England left slavery alone in America, because that is all America was to the British Empire. Slave labor. Pillaged resources. Raw goods, for industrial ends. The idea that under Britain, we would never own our farms, but if we were culpable only to Americans, we would. Talk about a powerful campaign promise. That’s all freedom really was to our founders. It is not a conspiracy, but was not an accident, that they did not address the liberty of all the people living within their country. How a leader can preserve the self esteem of thousands on the oppression of hundreds. Someone to look down on. The rejects, and runaways, and the chattel of Europe, and their African slaves. If they were not evil in their initial intentions, then they were certainly turned over to the idea by time. Look at who we are today. We are the inevitable, flighty, judgmental result of our ancestors. This was not an accident.

It was also not a southern tradition, or some small, easily discounted regionalism. America owes its existence more heavily to African Americans than any other group of people. This is the motivation for racism, untrue, identifiable, quantifiable hierarchy. Undelivered respect.
And the guilt it inspires.

Emancipation did not end slavery. Slavery, the word, does not mean the incarceration of one group of people in one country during any certain period of time. The people at the top, going all the way back, use the subjugation of others like caffeine. Slavery is in our prison system, it lives in welfare programs, and minimum wage, hourly pay, two weeks off a year careers. Slavery is the lack of having any other real, substantive option.

And if you did not participate in some form of income generating activity, where would you live, what would you eat, where would you go that you would not owe a single debt?

It is not some great conspiracy. But it is also was not in any way on accident.

It’s agriculture.

We, the people, are being farmed by the same poor standards we subject our animals to undergo. Taking the horns off goats so they don’t hurt each other. Castrating cattle. Separating mothers from babies. Not evil, just specific to a very particular context, that if taken out of that context, has a very similar shape, make-up and the same sordid potential of anything we would agree to call evil.

Up until now, no one has really been trying to shape a sustainable, viable society.
We’ve been building and expanding pastures. Fence lines. Tethers. Barns and locked pens.

Doing it outright to others is actually a highly successful method of pulling the wool over the eyes of people having it done to them. All the little pecking orders animals in cages establish over one another. Whispering conspiracy theories about those towering shapes that show up to trickle grain into a dish, or clean the water tub, and leave us some hay. Do they love us? Is that why they’re feeding us? Then why do we disappear one by one as our offerings shrivel up, why aren’t we guaranteed life outside of productivity and use? Did they shape all of this for this purpose, to keep us confused, yet working, ignorant, yet dutifully pulling the cart, for fear of a lash from behind?

It’s just, humans can’t be fully domesticated. The wilderness is written into our curious consciousness. We’re the shepherd creature. Through evolution, we learned the latent power of the universe.

Revolution.

And until we invent a system that truly guarantees our freedom, a pasture with a gate any one of us can open, we’ll have revolution after revolution after revolution. Just as we see when we study our history.

I refuse to believe we’ve been earnestly investing and upholding societies that break down this destructively and this often on accident. We’re too smart for that. It’s not a conspiracy that government has been used more as a tool for control than an actual mechanism for organising access to the basic needs and protections for entire populations.

It’s just inconsiderate, bully farming. But humanity makes for a precarious subject.
A creature that rivals goats at breaking down and betraying barriers.

We all need resources for food, water, and shelter built into our local communities.
And if we are living in a system that can not or does not provide those resources,
we all need the equivalent amount of commercial value that would allow us to sustain basic life.

It really is that simple. Leaving us in conditions that demand payment for items we die without, breaks down our sense of community, it lends tender to the fire of prejudice and division, and keeps us hungry, and reactive, unsettled and under stress. Essentially, our society doesn’t feed or water or house the chicken, until after the egg has been laid. Which is really poor farming. Most of us who have raised chickens provide a safe, warm environment, clean water, good feed, months and months before an egg is ever laid. And even when it grows cold, and the production slows, we don’t. A good farmer still pays into the livelihood of animals that are not currently returning.

“Is it really as simple as that, Jeremy?”
Yes. It really is. Society doesn’t need to organize our social lives, or tell us how to chicken. We really just wanted government to make sure the things we need to stay alive get distributed evenly to all of us, because no matter who or what we are, we cease to be any good to anyone without them.

Reading the headlines, scrolling through timelines, if I knew nothing else of America, I’d say every American had a full stomach, a good roof over their head, clean water, the protection and rights that come from any decent shelter. Four walls and tin roof and all. A big old yard outside to roam around, and a little help fending off the dogs. Which I know isn’t true.

So I’m asking you, if it really could be that simple, will you at least consider it?
That all sorts of issues we’re facing as a nation could be solved if there were a little more feed in our dishes, and if we, all of us, had more free time in the yard? That we wouldn’t have to take the horns off the goats, if they had space to explore their instincts and roam.

We need to start at the beginning, and experience a bit of the lives of our ancestors before we step boldly into so-called new worlds. There has to be a quiet, tax free, simple, self made life in the country available to every person, in order for a puritanically economic system to still be called freedom. Or every citizen needs to be provided with the economic equivalent of what it takes to sustain basic life in the town or city.

That’s it. That word, free, we’ve been throwing around for so long, that is what it has always meant. To be taken literally, free of required expense, or payment for products that can’t be boycotted, because they are essential to life. Every living thing has a right to the break neck pursuit of staying alive. Governments should exclusively be a facilitator and ally for us in that pursuit.

Humans are a precarious, particularly devilish animal on a farm. They refuse to lay their eggs in cages. And the human grazes only where the grass is greener, won’t live right not knowing what’s on the other side, for better or worse. Whinnies like a horse, and chatters loud as chickens. They make little plans, and take the screws out of wood, and dump their dishes and peck the farmer, when kept cooped up in pens, and solely within fences.

I get it, government. It’s not some conspiracy. Certainly wasn’t on accident. But up until now the pursuit has been better fences and pens. It has. No reason to deny it. You wrote out a Bill of Rights for us, but we never returned the favor, and put down our bill of rights for you.

Food.
Water.
Shelter.

Everything else we need from you will be lessened once those things are covered.
Like roots. We only see a tower of leaves and color.
But just to stand, just to argue, just to be someone hated by everyone,
you still have to have eaten, had water, and slept somewhere out of the weather.

So what we can’t agree on everything.

Governments, farmers, by necessity, must be impartial.
They feed and care for us all, just so we can get back to the business
of being disagreeable animals.

It isn’t always hammer time.

Having an opinion, and being invested in an outcome, are different. The people who study guns, the gun perspective I trust, is not someone who supports, or promotes, or defends owning a gun. No one can trust the opinion of anyone who participates in those endeavors when it comes to the use, regulation and education surrounding firearms. I’m sorry, but your desire to have a thing you like actually means you are biased, and far less likely to consider all sides of an issue.

Guns are tools, like hammers and nails. I don’t care if you worship them. If I see them in your hands, I’m going to ask you what you’re building. And if you’re not building anything worthwhile to anyone, you should not have a hammer, or nails.

If you’re not building, or fixing, you’re just scared, and you looked around the room for the most powerful form of defense, and holding it, and having it, puts you at peace, assuages your fear, and let’s you sleep at night, that’s okay. But I will not trust your opinion about your own security blanket.

I’ll take the opinions of carpenters. And anyone who talks about a gun for what it is, a tool. And a tool is inexorably linked to purpose. And without purpose, some tools are inappropriate for some environments. Because of the potential of collateral damage these tools introduce.

Not only is this an acceptable conversation, but it’s one we have about every other tool in existence. So the question is, what is a gun to you? A tool for hunting, for security, a form of entertainment? All of those are totally and completely acceptable to me. No one who implements this tool for these purposes desires it to be in the hands of individuals who would harm children, unsuspecting people going to church or at restaurants or concerts.

You can love guns, and not throw your hands up to this heavy, necessary conversation.
However, your loving guns should in no way inhibit, or direct, or alter it.
All it does is taint, and even nullify your opinions and observations on the subject.

Hammers, knives, power tools, saws, explosives, cars. All only appropriate in certain environments, and even then, with restrictions, required education, licensing, and often with warning labels printed directly on them.

Thank God for people who look at objects passionlessly.

Someone is spending a lot of time and money to make us argue
whether or not firearms solidly belong in this sort of grouping.
With everything else.
That explodes.
And rapidly projects metal up to a mile or more.
At deadly speed.

If your opinion isn’t that this sort of technology necessitates restriction,
that’s not an opinion.

That’s bias.

Please Pass the Plate

We have a universal religion. Survival. No matter your belief system, to even have the conversation, we all have had to eat a little, drink a little, and especially this time of year, we had to sleep inside out of the weather. Just to have functional ears, and flowing blood, and eyes absorbing. No matter the particulars of your faith, figures, mantras, customs, symbols, traditions, if there is a creator, it commanded we all first work diligently at the sacraments required for maintaining alive, before all else. Or, if you do not believe in a creator, you still did a lot of work to come to that conclusion, and you share all of that labor with every single believer, of any faith whatsoever.

We have differences. We have cultural divisions. We have distinctions, and arguments, and logical impasses, and even judgments standing solid between us. But not dinner. Not hunger. That is a custom we all share. Like thirst. Like exhaustion, and exposure. We could build an entire way of life, distributing basic resources, instilling simple agriculture economies, connecting neighbors and communities in small, cyclical food and barter systems, before we ever even have a good enough reason to discuss our differences. We don’t live and die by our divisions, until a human being decides so. But whatever led to this, the universe, and life as we know it, did want us all to sit down at a dinner table first. We all live near a well, or some kind of straw connected big sloshy tanks at the tops of towers, or held in reserve in reservoirs full with fish.

My point is not that anyone is right or wrong in comparing religions, belief systems, political pursuits, ideologies.

My point is that the argument starts after dinner.

After everyone has eaten.

It is impossible to have a healthy discussion of religion with someone who is starving.

No matter the faith, its first commandment must be, please pass the plate.

Every portal closed, except for eyes

I get to work in this beautiful world today. White stuff spray painted on top of green stuff. Black asphalt with white in the cracks like ice cream breaking through chocolate. A crunch to each step. Soggy leather toes. So many outspoken crows, decorating up and down trees pin dots of dark on bare bouncing branches. I will let my eyes loose like dogs freed from leashes, to run around the yard and pick up what they find. I will feed my mind soggy milk sunrises on little blue black centered spoons. Smell cold. Taste the weather. Feel it creep into my clothes and dig claws into my skin. Keeps me moving. This insistent world we’re using for a blank palette, even though it’s covered clear over in more layers of paint than one can count, brushed over like no account. But not by me. I move menial amounts of earth, and dirt, and filth on a daily basis. Many mini mountains that could not have stayed where they are without consequences. Gathering up waste because one day we’ll like the taste. One day we’ll all be that much stronger for all the shit we’ve gone through. But today, we go to work. In a beautiful world. Clouds like frozen ocean. Grass like it has seen a ghost. Cars lined in white. Every door, every window, almost every portal closed tight. Except for eyes.

I walk into the cold light of this beautiful morning with eyes open wide.

Minutes and Money

Time clock.
How is that for redundant.
In more ways than twelve.
Which is actually twenty four.
Which is truly, speaking truthfully now,
innumerable.

Sore wrist. Right hand dominant.
Upper extremities bilaterally powerful.
That time teller. Like in line at the bank.
Looking directly into my face.
‘I can help whoever is next.’
Eyes locked tight like that safe.
Beholding all of someone else’s equity. Pity.
The numbers don’t trail like I do. Hiking boots.

Mountains behind me like the mountains in front of me.
Many.

Turns my stomach wrung like a dishrag in the hands of time.
The imbalanced arms on the whiskered face of a clock.
Tell me how much time I’ve got.
Assure me I’ve used up all my credit.
And now it is time to go to work.
Trading minutes for money.

How is that for redundant?

All Good Confessions

Nobody writes about dragons. Dragons are a mythological concept, probably derived from our ancestors finding dinosaur bones and inventing explanations. There is no actual quantifiable definition of a dragon. It is fiction. So no one who writes about them is writing about dragons. They’re just like the rest of us. We’re all writing about ourselves. Greed. Selfishness. The amassing of great hoards of equity, virgins and gold, that we can never access. The value of both can only be measured in the instant either one is handed over. Gone. Changed forever.

Nobody writes about witches and wizards and jumbled Latin roots and millennial blurred line friendship turned love stories. They’re writing confessionals. Just like me. Just like the greats, who filled the canon with black ink powder and wounded us for generations into the future. Injuries for which there is no suture. We pray for clean burns and exit wounds. We are writing about the nature of art, the nature of nature, putting down our part. A wand is a stick. But a pen, now that is a funnel for power. Killing spells, renewal curses, habitual rituals like brushing our teeth or setting up the coffee. There is no such thing as magic. The greatest witches and wizards of our time will tell you. There are human beings behind all of this holding strings. Hiding the miracle of reality behind a barrage of earthly, domestic expectations.

Goblins, and elves, and demons and sorcerers. We suffer under such a deficit of imagination in our time. No one alive invented these things. These ideas. Creative, moldy leftover remains of our giant, untraceable, easily arguable collective unconscious. Our universe’s big memory. Like an ocean. Comprised of all these droplets of our individual memories. If you could journey back thousands of years, the people who first wrote about them were not inventing, or being creative, or imaginative. These writers would tell you they were translators. Observers. Watchers. The fiction was so good, because no where in their minds was it fiction.

Nobody is living anymore. Nobody imagines if there were no word for tree. How many sounds would you throw to the ground to see which one sticks to rocks. We are so wrapped up inside of our own culture, it’s stagnate. The most imaginative, our very most creative, are interpreting nothing. They’re regurgitating primeval themes and re-branding the myths and fantasies of medieval minds.

One should not trust the metric of consumption as reflective of success. I’ve seen people, and animals, eat some terrible things with smiles on their faces because there was only ever a menu of terrible things. Sometimes you don’t even see how clouded the glass is, until there is clean water on the table. A powerful, moving, world changing novel, that isn’t based on a children’s fable. But reality. Capital T Truth.

I like it when heroes have to wash their hands. Or sit with a child, trying to keep it from crying. Or sewing holes in crotch of their long underwear. For me, magic cheapens, tarnishes, makes a farce of all these actions. The presence of one real, undeniable, wand waving miracle in this world darkens and dampens and disrespects every experience untouched by such formal grace. My answered prayer shines a burning spotlight onto the unanswered prayers of thousands of others who honest to goodness probably need it more than me. Magical abilities would produce more overweight wizards than it ever would heroes.

Not even if we believe, if we’re even just mildly curious if this world is the creation of some untouchable, unknowable intention, if it is all on purpose, then why are we trying to escape it so desperately?

Why can’t wizards be true, and goblins for next door neighbors. The school you go to, teaching physics, literature, expression, the mathematics of how all existence comes together and falls apart, an ancient purveyor of our most modest witchcraft. Ingenuity. Invention. Imagination.

We are translators, first and foremost.
All great writers read.
Just not always books exclusively.

Nobody is inventing worlds so that we can get out of having to live in this one.
In my experience, it has been the exact opposite. They’re not telling us how it is,
but how it feels. They’re giving their confession. I can’t speak for all writers.

But most often, I write for the simple sake of it helps me to feel less alone,
whenever I help someone else feel less alone. That is my magic. A sort of miracle.

I found it at the heart of every piece of fiction I’ve ever read. No matter how extravagant. How imaginative. How other-worldly. Like all good writing. All good confessions.

I found myself looking into a mirror.

In the middle of a five army battlefield or banquet dinner or an old growth forest walking in circles. I did not feel transported. But rooted. A mouse with a sword and a shield taking on a world of sea rats and foxes triple my size and carving out a good name for myself.

Overcoming limitations. We even fantasize about our limitations. We don’t enjoy the strength without the struggle. And magic and miracles are always demonstrated with elements of suffering, humility and base need. Same as reality. There is no escaping it.

But you can always wake up in it.
There is no franchise that holds the patent on magic.

All good fiction is a pursuit of truth.

And I’m saying, I’m telling you, if you can stop glossing over it, reality is full of magic and miracles. It is the source and inspiration for literally anything and everything you have ever read.