The Barn Trip 

This morning started out with a minor walking trip through the dewy grass in my sandals up to the big red barn to recover the small pet carrier that is stored there. Normally, I don’t visit the barn that often; and I don’t think I have ever been in it at 6:30 in the morning. If I am not digging out a half of coffee can’s worth of chicken feed from the barn’s feedbox as the substitute “farmer” in place of my dad, I really have no call to be in that dark and dusty place. But this time I needed the pet carrier because the cat (the cat which I never had any intention of owning in the first place by the way–long story) was going in for her operation. This vet trip gained particular urgency in the last couple of weeks because the cat had been seen cavorting with the stray tom who lives in the woods behind the barn. Not a good sign since the last thing I need is another set of kittens: one set was already too many. In any event, I managed to pack her off into the carrier and have her driven to the vet. The cat is currently spending the night there after having been spayed just this afternoon. The other cat, much too young to be neutered yet, has decided to stop being a pain and settle down after an hour of trying to sit on my keyboard, assuredly some kind of feline entertainment.

The only other reason beside the pet carrier or chicken feed that might be cause for me to be in the barn is the fact that some of my old things are in its upper loft. These things comprise about eight or so boxes and are mostly filled with old textbooks or schoolwork scribbled down in notebooks from my undergraduate days of about six or so years ago. I tell myself that I should move them to prevent any more of the thick barn dust from settling on it, or to prevent the inevitable dew from wetting that dust and caking those papers with a fine mud thereby warping the pages. Probably, I will move it sometime in the summer.

Still, even though I was a little tired, I braved the rickety ladder and opened up a couple of boxes to retrieve six of my notebook journals that I had written during those early college days. Back then, I fancied myself as a writer of sorts, so I included everything that one who considers themselves a “writer-to-be” in those journals: poems, phrases that I thought interesting at the time, a few overheard conversations, or memories of things I had done. I had been to a few author readings, writer presentations, or library events where writing was concerned, and invariably, aside from questions about how to get an agent, the speakers mentioned that the best way to develop “the craft” of writing was to keep a journal. After all, artists have their sketchbooks, so writers should have their journals. Most of my journals were written before I had a blog of any kind, and in that regard, if I had never created a blog, I would probably have filled up a lot more than just these six.

I still keep a written journal to write things down when I don’t have a computer on hand to type something off real quick, but mostly the blog serves most of my creative writing purposes. I’ve only had a chance to read one of these older journal and already two things stand out pretty clearly. One, my writing was pretty terrible–overwrought and whiny–which I have to admit, I can still be guilty of, but trust me, it was far, far worse back then. There is a lot of awkward complaining about being lonely and trying to be a “good person,” which likely meant that I was really, really, really lonely and had more than my share of self-esteem issues. The second thing I noticed was how, back then, my writing was less focused on my personal problems. I suppose I use my writing more these days as a way to explore my emotional life and sort out how I feel about things or my past. Even though the old writing is terrible, I miss the creativity it expresses. I think I should go back to writing more poems. A few of my undergraduate professors had mentioned that I had some talent for it, but then again, that is the story of my life: potential that doesn’t seem go anywhere. Perhaps this is my basic personality, but I sure hope not. I’d really like to be able to have accomplishments to be proud of rather than a truckload of regrets for things I haven’t done or things that didn’t pay off with the results I really wanted.

21 May 2007

Gaining Ability 

I only got about four and half hours of sleep last night, but despite that, I managed to get to school on time this morning without frantically speeding down the highway. Somehow, I also managed to finish up a lot of previously incomplete work during the afternoon. Energy and motivation had taken a vacation during the past couple of weeks, but surprisingly, for some unclear reason, I found them again. I just have a few more unfinished projects to complete in the next couple of days. I need to print up a few photography assignments on the school’s fancy Epson printer tomorrow, and I further need to complete a couple of overdue life drawing assignments by 11:30 a.m. It’s doable, and I am still confident I can get it all done.

By 5:30 p.m. tonight, I was ready to quit working on assignments and begin the trip home. It takes an entire hour from the school parking lot to my front door at home, so the trip is a bit of hassle, but today’s sunlight and light road traffic made the trip home almost pleasant. Between stoplights and the ever-present muffler fumes from the other cars, I had time to muse over how I’ve really gained some real artistic knowledge these past few months and, while I definitely need to practice my skills a lot more, began to reflect on how that knowledge is getting incorporated into my current work. I only have to look over at some of the beginning Art students struggling with their drawings and designs to see how I have gained an ability that they have yet to develop. I have noted in myself a tendency to be overly insecure about my own abilities, especially as that may relate to a future paying career. Self-esteem, anyone? While I am not sure that being gratified at noting my abilities above the other students is necessarily a healthy thing, it does go a little way to maintain my confidence in myself.

But back to the four hours sleep, my being up way too late was my own fault for not turning off the television at 11:00 p.m. like I had planned. Cartoons and late night comedy proved to be too compelling. The afternoon nap I took yesterday did not help matters either. The cats like to zoom around at midnight anyway, so my being up late accommodated their schedules if not my own. They seem to like to have an admiring audience to their feats of destructive acrobatics, but don’t seem to understand that I wind up watching more out of concern for the objects they invariably knock over than any admiration for their capacity to leap from the bookcase to the windowsill across the room in a rainbow-like arch. I am sure that there are more than a few things under the bed that either one of the cats has pushed or carried away there than I really care to know about: a dusty sock, a toy mouse, a deck of cards, or a forgotten scholarship application for instance.

My graduate school life of a couple of years ago seems like a million miles away today, but I can still feel its lack in my life. I want to clutch its memory with a granite squeeze and press it into the firmer side of my heart, but it seems less like granite and more like a drifting summer smoke chasing its way out of my hands whenever I grab at it. Summer days must cause me think of grad. school more than during the darker days of winter for some reason. I am not sure I will–or at this point in my life, even could–return to a possible future career as English professor. But now, and I mean right now as I sit in my chair typing this on my laptop, I feel the need read a lot more often between now my next blog post, whenever that will be. I hope it will be sooner than next month.

16 May 2007

Midnight Worries 

Another night that I can't sleep all of the way through. This time, I am pretty sure I was awakened by the sound of my glasses hitting the floor, and the initial grogginess I felt wore off after a few minutes of searching for them under the bed. The culprit, as if I didn't know immediately when I heard the report of the frames bouncing on the ground, was one of the four cats living in my room at the moment. You know, cats are great in small doses, but for extended periods of time, they become like pebbles in your shoe: an irritant.

As for the Court I attended the other day (mentioned in my previous post), although it was very interesting, ultimately, it was also very disappointing. I discovered halfway through this process, that thanks to the State Legislature, if one gets a fine within a school zone, it cannot be reduced by the judge at all, which of course meant that I had to pay the full amount of the ticket, $206. The judge noted my driving record was immaculate up until the school zone ticket, further noted that my violation wasn't all that extreme anyway, and expressed his own frustration at not being able to reduce fines for cases like mine. (However, I'm not entirely sure if he was really frustrated, or if he was just putting on the show for the others in the courtroom and saying that he was frustrated to make me feel better for not reducing the ticket.) Overall, I did worse than the elderly lady who forgot her disability permit to park in a disabled space--a potential high dollar fine of which she only had to pay $20--and I did much, much better than the Mexican guy who, because of previous fines and violations, is likely to spend some time in jail. I felt bad for him because he seemed very worried.

School is going okay at the moment, but to be perfectly honest, I think I am feeling the wear of the appearance of not making any progress. It is like the hope and optimism I had for a comfortable future is being ground into a fine powder against the twin rocks of debt and my previous failure to complete graduate school as I would have liked. At this point in my life, mid-thirties, I imagined that I would be in a decent paying career, have health insurance, a nice apartment, and have a healthy savings account. Of course, I am still grateful for the continuing support that I have to actually pursue a new school path, a place where I am trying to build new hope as an artist rather than an instructor. However, all I have to do is think about the talented art students in my current drawing classes and see the evidence of even more talented students who have already completed the program to feel a lot of trepidation about the future viability of this new path. My talent for art maybe nothing more than a mediocre skill easily attained by others who have more energy and devotion. And in the highly competitive art job market, competitive as all jobs in the humanities are, you have to really stand out above the rest. I think my best hope for a career most likely lies in the ability to learn how to operate software like Photoshop, and not in the ability to create a work of art with the lyricism of craft. And as fast as computers change these days, my meager skills with Photoshop can disappear with the advent a new software standard, or more profoundly, a new technology.

I think about all the kids who wanted to be in the NBA compared the minuscule amount of kids who actually made it. Hoop Dreams, anyone? Or, I think about all of the kids I've met in the college who want to become famous movie directors. Their hopes far exceed their potential, but they don't know it yet. The film students who have any kind of experience in film making, however modest it may be, tend to keep these hopes secret knowing what an embarrassment that their foolish hopes can be. In the Literature world, it is like everyone who wants to write a novel, imagining the millions of dollars that will flood in when they do, but never put a word to page, or worse, never read a book--or if they do manage to tap something out on their laptops, cannot make even a simple sentence bend to their will, much less come to life.

I will try to get back to sleep for a little bit. School is in a few short hours. I will continue to go and put my time in there as it is my best hope for a brighter future, and I will try to remain optimistic about future success. But in the dark night of the early morning hours, optimism is a much tougher thing to hold on to than it is in the daylight.

02 May 2007