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Winter was coming.  Now it’s here.  Not the snow, but the cold dark and the daylong mist that stays on top of this mountain around the clock.  I work on my novel for four hours every morning in a room large enough to hold a Fokker F-27.  I have a little space heater that warms the side of my leg.  Most days, I wear a blanket and a red watch cap to keep from trembling.

The long drive on a clear day.

It’s a nice place.  Enormous in every way.  Sparsely furnished.  In summer, if you’re quiet, you can hear the wind in the trees rise like surf.  My uncle had a Japanese architect build it for him in the early 80s.  My uncle went crazy in this house.  He’s still alive in a facility down in central California.  My cousin goes to see him and he thinks she’s my late aunt.

The house is situated near the top of the mountain but angled so that wind currents will naturally flow around it, creating an extra buffer of silence.  Sometimes, the coyotes on the other side of the hill yip for a while and their voices sound like dogs and babies laughing together.

I’m lucky to have this time between things, but I don’t suspect I will be staying here much longer—maybe a month, maybe less.  The regular occupants will be returning soon.  They’re oblivious (or try to be), but for me the ghosts of my aunt, my mother, and my grandmother stand in the doorways of every room.

My spiritualist aunt died of a brain tumor in the upstairs room where I’m sleeping.  She was a medium when she was alive, practiced automatic writing, channeling, held séances.  My grandmother read the candles, apple skins, could read a deck of playing cards and tell your future.  My mother could, too.

They all died in sad ways, not peacefully, not with dignity.  They were good people—hard-edged but also kind.  I miss them and all the old folks I knew as a kid.  They’re very much with me these days.  I see their faces in my mind’s eye.  I hear my mother and sometimes see her in my dreams.  But it’s nothing special.

If ghosts do exist, I hope I join them when it’s my time.  If they don’t exist, I hope I don’t, either.  It’s like that when the only family members you’ve got left are more interested in forgetting than remembering those who used to care for them.  Who’s going to remember the old folks if I don’t?  They were mechanics and housewives and small business owners.  The marks they made on this earth were slight.  And now they’re buried and gone.  It’s as if they never existed.  But I remember them all and think about them often.  I believe they existed for a reason.

So I’ll be going soon.  I don’t know where.  Somewhere interesting and meaningful, I hope.  Christmas is coming around again; though, I don’t much care for it.  It’s a holiday I could do without.  For the time being, I have an old chow to keep me company while I figure out the next thing.  I have my novel to finish and my online classes to teach.  And during the day, if it isn’t raining, I might go stand outside in my blanket and listen for some coyotes.

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I write fiction and nonfiction for magazines, work as a freelance writer / editor / journalist, and teach composition and fiction writing.

This blog is mostly dedicated to writing about politics and media, travel essays, creative non-fiction, discussions about books, the MFA experience, publishing, and work I’ve already placed in magazines. But I might write anything.

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“To educate is to seek meaning in everything. It is to teach others to seek the meaning of things. This means mixing the dreams of children and young people with the experience of adults and the elderly. This exchange must always take place, or else there can be no humanity because there would be no roots, no history, no promise, no growth, and no prophecy.”

— Pope Francis, 5 June 20

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“I write it myself, edit it myself, censor it myself, publish it myself, distribute it myself, and spend time in prison for it myself.”

— Vladimir Bukovsky

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“If you’re going to try, go all the way. Otherwise, don’t even start. This could mean losing girlfriends, wives, relatives and maybe even your mind. It could mean not eating for three or four days. It could mean freezing on a park bench. It could mean jail. It could mean derision. It could mean mockery—isolation. Isolation is the gift. All the others are a test of your endurance, of how much you really want to do it. And, you’ll do it, despite rejection and the worst odds. And it will be better than anything else you can imagine. If you’re going to try, go all the way. There is no other feeling like that. You will be alone with the gods, and the nights will flame with fire. You will ride life straight to perfect laughter. It’s the only good fight there is.”

― Charles Bukowski, Factotum

“La lecture est un acte d’identification, les sentiments exprimés sont déjà en nous. Autrement, le livre nous tombe des mains.”

— Madeleine Chapsal

“Time is said to be irreversible. And this is true enough in the sense that ‘you can’t bring back the past’. But what exactly is this ‘past’? Is it what has passed? And what does ‘passed’ mean for a person when for each of us the past is the bearer of all that is constant in the reality of the present, of each current moment? In a certain sense the past is far more real, or at any rate more stable, more resilient than the present. The present slips and vanishes like sand between the fingers, acquiring material weight only in its recollection. King Solomon’s ring bore the inscription, ‘All will pass’; by contrast, I want to draw attention to how time in its moral implication is in fact turned back. Time can vanish without trace in our material world for it is a subjective, spiritual category. The time we have lived settles in our soul as an experience placed within time.”

— Andrei Tarkovsky, Sculpting in Time