As one writes a novel, letter by letter, word by word, paragraph by paragraph, page by page, people say things, do things, see things and feel things. Babies are born. People get sick; they recover or die. Characters are created and take on a reality of their own.
Each of us, second by minute by hour by day by month by year, write our own life story. We each create our world, including places, people, communication, and action. While a novelist controls the life span of characters, our own personal comedic drama unfolds in an unknown span of time.
Over many years of counseling hospice patients and their families (work from which I retired to focus on writing), I learned that no one regrets saying, “yes” to adventure, or to healing broken relationships, or to foregoing material pursuits for the sake of personal integrity and well-being. At the end of life, what matters is quality of relationships, and the sense of peace with where one stands spiritually. By this I don’t mean religiosity; this can actually present a hinderance to a peaceful end, through a sense of guilt or fear.
What I mean is “being right with the world”. Knowing that one has done more good than harm, that we have forgiven ourselves and others for mistakes, that we have asked pardon for the harm we have done others, that we took chances and lived fully and fearlessly.
Today is The Day, friends. Let’s each write a story of love, kindness, laughter, acceptance, and adventure.
Judging by the photo above, you can imagine my astonishment at having missed this establishment during my exploratory/gustatory journey up Central NE. Seriously! It looks like a lost circus tent, plopped between Durango Bakery and Sen Yai Sen Lek.
From one of the counter servers, I learn that Dipped and Debris has been open for 7 weeks, which is about the time I observed its blue and white striped presence. Looking back at the blogs, my visits to restaurants on that particular block pre-date Dipped and Debris. Whew. What is now D & D formerly was the south half of Sen Yai Sen Lek. I’m not sure what the story is with that transformation.
As to the name, it plays on the fact that the two featured menu items are the “Dipped”, a beef sandwich dipped in gravy (which my dining companion ordered, more on that later) and “Debris”, described as tasty bits of roast beef on a French loaf. They also sell frozen custard, another factor on the “Dipped” side.
One orders at the counter. In addition to sandwiches and ice cream, there are small bags of chips and beverages available.
Let’s start with the good news. I order the “Pseudo Fowl”, described as a Mock Duck Po Boy garnished with cabbage, pickled carrots, mushroom gravy, on a crispy French loaf. While the bread does not hold up to the contents, it tastes fabulous. I would definitely get this again. Now the less good news. My friend Judy orders the “Dipped” with gravy on the side, and is disappointed to be served a pile of roast beef on a roll. Nothing but meat and bread. I must concur that the sandwich appears rather stark. Down the road, the owners might consider including a side of good slaw and a few chips, along with sturdier bread.
Lest this sound excessively critical, Judy said the beef is tasty, and as noted, my mock duck sandwich tastes yummy. The sound level is comfortable, and the business, take-out and eat-in, flows steady. Seating-wise, diners may choose amongst low tables, high-top tables, and stools at the window counter.
A future visit, which I envision happening on that first really warm day in spring when one’s fancy turns to thoughts of frozen desserts, will include a Pseudo Fowl redux, followed by a bowl of custard with an extravagant array of toppings.
From The Friend by Sigrid Nunez, “Beware irony, ignore criticism, look to what is simple, study the small and humble things of the world, do what is difficult precisely because it is difficult, do not search for answers but rather love the questions, do not run away from sadness or depression for these might be the very conditions necessary to your work. Seek solitude, above all, seek solitude.”
Once upon a time, on a morning of sunshine, cool air, birdsong, and green smells I hit the pedals biking east on the smoothly tarred Columbia Road out from my long ago hometown. After riding a strong ten or twelve miles, I crest a hill, pausing to gaze and eat a granola bar. A long drink from the water bottle and it’s time to head back toward town. A mile or so down the road, on the right, I spot a cardboard box on the gravel shoulder. Curious, I stop to check out the contents. The box, though open as if receptive to whatever is offered, stands entirely empty. My attention is arrested by a word stamped on the side of the box in two-inch high black letters. “Truth.”
I make mental note of the exact location, in relation to pond, power line, and fence post.
Later my mom and I drive east on the Columbia Road. As we travel, my mom questions my desire to retrieve a cardboard box from the side of the road.
“What’s in it?” she asks.
“Nothing,” I reply.
“I have a lot of nice boxes in the basement,” she sensibly responds.
“Yeah, but this one has truth stamped on it,” I said.
At this she gives up, accustomed as she is by years of experience with my inscrutable eccentricities.
In truth, I collect the box to photograph it.
Why am I so keen on the box?
As I had continued on my ride home, I puzzled over what might have been packed in a box marked “Truth. It occurred to me that whatever had been packed inside certainly was not truth because truth can never be put in a box. Far closer to truth was the present contents–nothing.
No-thing at all.
The great spiritual geniuses all teach emptiness–Buddha, Jesus, Isaac Luria, Meister Eckhart, Lao-Tze, the list could go on. From these blessed ones we learn that truth doesn’t reside in things, in ideas, in anything that can be written in a book, or shaped by a pair of hands.
Truth is found in emptiness, in the spaces between the words, in the silence, in the still small voice nudging us toward the good, the realization that all is one. Since this life is full of sound and object, of apparent separation, truth can only be approximated. As I biked, what I saw and heard and smelled came as close to truth as anything on earth. The sky. Flowing water. A red-winged blackbird. A beaver lodge in middle of a pond. Nothing that can be put in a box.
Truth is peace, the peace found in the empty and still.
My sentence of the week: “Writer as wright, creatively righting.”
To those who are writers, or who want to be writers, or who are passionate readers and interested in the process of writing, I pose a question.
In face of the terrifying mass of books published each year, added to those written in the past, to say nothing of those completed only to moulder unaccepted in the file of a frustrated writer’s office, why?
As implied by the title chosen for this posting, and by my absurdly unquotable quote, in this moment, at 2:30 p.m. on a Monday, sitting in the New Brighton Public Library, sharing the room with two elderly gentlemen reading newspapers, I posit that the purpose of spending one’s precious time as a writer lies in the creative construction of a reality which serves in some way to right the world as it exists in the exact moment of creation.
Writing is a deeply contextual process undertaken by a human mind, living in a specific place and time, with a unique history and present moment circumstance. Whether a writer is creating fiction or non-fiction, it inevitably springs forth filtered through that individual’s reality.
Why should you write? Because no one else is you and if the desire won’t leave you alone, you have a story to tell. So get with it!
On November 6th I had a milestone birthday. On the 7th I resigned my position as a hospice spiritual care coordinator. A few days later, a friend asked me I how felt. My response, “Exultant.” Singingly, dancingly, giddily, ridiculously happy. Not that I had disliked my work with hospice patients and families. I loved hearing their stories and helping them toward acceptance of the inevitable, helping them make peace with the situation, and at times, with each other. However, the hospice work, demanding on several levels, kept me from doing that for which I longed with my mind, heart, and soul.
Closing a door opens new opportunities. What I am feeling two weeks later is a deep sense of shalom. Inner and outer peace. Four hours a day, six days a week, I have been typing words into my laptop. Words forming sentences, forming paragraphs, forming pages, forming chapters, forming (God willing) completed, published books that will bring light, humor, hope, and entertainment to readers.
The book I am working on at present is the first in a series of three. Number two is also partially written, Number three is sketched out. Another book, begun long ago, is also still alive in my mind and in a file. And I can envision writing a non-fiction work based on my Central Avenue NE blogs, maybe focused on the fascinating Thorp Building. This should keep my busy for a few decades.
This past Friday I had the privilege of hearing Chris Koza perform with his band at the Landmark Center. In my opinion, Chris is a musical genius and deserves huge concert audiences and record sales. But no matter how talented the individual, be she musician, visual artist, actor, or writer, the road is challenging. Only the very few are “successful” as the world measures success. The recipe for succeeding as an artist may require luck, connections, or the ability to appeal to common tastes. Throughout history there have been millions of unremembered, uncelebrated creative artists, starting with the pre-historic cave painters. At least their works endure. Were there also musicians, dancers, dramatic performers in ages long past?
Even though the work remains unrecognized and unappreciated, or vanishes with time, perhaps the spirit of all artistry endures. Is that what gives us the courage to do our work? Is this the source of what we experience as inspiration, that sense the the work produced comes from somewhere beyond ourselves?
Friends, fearlessly pursue what you love. Make the necessary sacrifices. Take the leap. And let me know how it goes for you.
How can one respond to the pervasive atmosphere of violence, dishonesty, fear, and anger afoot today? Option one: respond in like fashion. Spew invective, engage in name-calling, hunker down, buy weapons, and let survival mode dictate your actions. Option two: respond in a diametrically opposite manner. Project kindness, open your arms, turn swords into plough shares, and see the other as kindred. Visit the Fair State Brewing Cooperative taproom, study their business model, and have a beer.
Fair State is a cooperative. You have to admire the strategy of getting people to invest their money in a venture like brewing and purveying beer. The real benefits are slight enough to make one believe that it is the concept into which members are buying, not the actual financial or material return. They are investing in community. Membership is $200 and this is forever, or for the FSBC lifespan which, judging by the brisk business at each of my several visits, will be lengthy. One does get a discount on merchandise (hats, tee shirts, hoodies), a portion of future profits, invitations to special events, and an occasional discount on beer. Members can serve on the board of directors, and have input on beer varieties.
Perhaps I will replicate this strategy in order to fund my writing life. You can buy a membership into what . . . me? No, that sounds weird. Perhaps an investment in future published books. For that, you get a preview chapter, a free autographed copy after publication, and an invite to a members-only book release event with FSBC beer. Woot-woot! I think we have a plan.
In addition to an investment strategy, Fair State has an inviting atmosphere. A brew pub where people bring their kids and their dogs presents an communal ambiance. Their website notes that dogs must be accompanied by their humans. Don’t you love the image of dogs coming in on their own? Some customers sip alone at the bar, others are coupled at the small tables along the wall, while others sit in groups at the longer tables up front. You can buy a pretzel from Aki’s which is their next door neighbor to the north. Or you can bring in food from one of the great area restaurants, or have it delivered. What a deal! Fair State also sells beer at local liquor stores, and has off sale of large bottles, cans, and growlers on site.
They have a weekly trivia night on Wednesdays, and release a new beer each Thursday. If you are a card-carrying member of a local food co-op, your first pint is free on Mondays.
My personal preference is for beers of non-hoppy, but unique and tasty varieties, From my son, who is an expert in many areas, including beer, I learned several years ago about IBUs. A high IBU (International Bitterness Unit) equals hoppy and bitter, which generally makes me unhoppy. ABV stands for percentage of Alcohol By Volume.
At today’s visit I sample two tap brews. First was Bowsaw, described as a “Kvass-style ale brewed using pretzels and bread from our neighbors at Aki’s Breadhaus, as well as Pilsner and Beechwood-smoked barley malts. In essence a farmhouse table beer, Bowsaw is dry, spritzy, a touch acidic, and has hints of smoke and minerality.” ABV: 3.5 IBU: 5.* Relatively speaking, Bowsaw is low in alcohol and low in bitterness. The idea of using leftover bread products is appealing. I enjoy the brew, while being slightly put off by a smokier flavor than I anticipated from the description.
Next I sample Extreme Leisure, described as a “Fruited Berliner Weiss for those days when you can’t be bothered with anything at all whatsoever, and all you want is a super fruity cocktail, we present Extreme Leisure. guava passionfruit sour wheat beer, made with 2lbs./gallon fruit puree.” ABV: 4, IBU: 10.*’ And this about sums it up. If you like fruity, sour, low bitterness beer, as I do, this is a great choice, even though the description makes it sound like a brew for the idle and slow-witted.
Being at Fair State gives me a feeling similar to the Minnesota State Fair. A sense of kinship, community, and hope for humanity.
In the spirit of consistent kindness, I wish you farewell until next week.
* For comparison purposes, amongst the current Fair State beer lineup, the highest ABV is 8, and the highest IBU is 70.