Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Years of Magical Writing

The moon, working with serious intent on becoming full orb, seems to hang in the early morning sky like a picture mounted a tad above eye level.  Pine needles and fallen jacaranda blossoms skitter across the streets like teenagers sneaking home past their deadline, driven by muscular Santana winds.  If you close your eyes when you walk, you can pick up the scent of aftershave lotion, pungent, bracing, awakening.

You are in about mid-block, facing almost due east toward Fairfax Avenue, mindful of the faint hint of sun, wanting to rise.  You are a comfortable witness to the battle for dominance between these two satellites.  When you pass persons on the streets--and you already have passed a few--they are speaking to you, either in mere recognition of you or paying some sort of lip service to the quality of early morning.  They are not speaking into cell phones; this is a time when there were no cell phones, when cell phones were still Dick Tracy inventions.

This is also a part of the city--near the Carthay Circle--in almost west Los Angeles, where police often conducted so-called field interrogations without leaving the car, as indeed the black-and-white, pulling abreast of you, then shining a light on you, considerate, careful not to blind you, did.  Greeting you by name.  Asking how the novel was going.  Used to seeing you on your morning walk, which was, in fact, your end-of-the-day walk that year, that magical year, one of many magical years, in which you lived in different places, looked for, and found different things.

The novel to which the officer referred was indeed going well. a respected literary agent was keen to represent it, and you seemed able to compartmentalize it from some of the television work you were doing and the pulp novels you were writing to build up some kind of war chest.  At this particular time, there was a reason for the war chest, a she who was twelve years your junior, thinking serious thoughts about biological sciences, and graduate school.

The magic of that year was the sense of being in love with many of the things you did, particularly the things related to the she and the plans you had, and for things having to do with all-night writing sessions, reading books that left you feeling connected with things you could scarcely see or understand, going to out-of-the-way places to listen to your friends jam into such early hours as these, and a growing sense that adventures or unfathomable depth awaited you.


Events of strange and convoluted complexity wrenched the she from your life.  You would not see her again for ten years; you would indeed experience other magical years in which editing and publishing took on waves of significance and relevance, connecting you with surprises, taking you to what for you were out-of-the-way places:  New York, Chicago, Tennessee, Washington, D.C.

These events led you into the magical years of teaching, in places you'd never think to go, much less places where you would teach.  In fact, somewhere near the middle of the campus in Los Angeles, where you taught for a number of years, there is a bank of pay telephones.  At this very spot, you kissed the she of the past, and, some time after that, it was on this bank of pay phones where, you'd spoken with her half-brother and received the news that she had died in her sleep, the night before.

The magic of which you speak in these lines is not the magic of spells or charms or formula.  This is the magic of living at a significant enough rate of intensity to produce love and to generate the energy of transformation.  This is the magic of bringing intensity to the work of writing to produce some connections and memory you will experience later, after it is done well.

These years later, years enriched by magical events you had never supposed possible, you wandered on your walk again, at a much earlier hour, but the magic of a waxing moon was in place, and an insistent Santana wind nudged pine needles and leaves along the street in a persistent skitter, and all it took was a policeman to provide enough of a formula to send you back in time.  He appeared in his black-and-white, stopped in a crosswalk.  As you drew abreast of him, he nodded in apology, acknowledging he'd blocked your way for the second time in a week.  He seemed so sincere in his apology that you were cheerful in your greeting.  As he pulled away, you called after him.  "The novel is moving along."

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