Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Literary Junk Yards

For as long as you can remember, you've been fascinated with parts of the world where the front and rear yards of houses had the flavor and sprawl of pawn shops and junk yards.  Neat, manicured lawns or the more imaginative rock and cactus gardens might catch your attention, even provoke a not of approval.  But you wouldn't want to live there.  

You'd be pleased for a visit to such places, admiring color, texture, overall arrangement, even theme.  You often pass such places on your evening walks, stopping to admire some imaginative use of succulents, appreciating gradations of color from one blossoming plant to another, lost to a measurable intensity on the planning, work, and imagination required to bring a sense of completeness to an area that would just as soon be open to whim.

You've seen places of this type of whimsy as well, where little or no attempts  were employed to prune back the hydrangea or thin out the alstromaria and iris, and thought yes, you could live with comfort amid such disarray, provided of course, that there was a large ensemble of plant and flower.  All of this is speak with appreciation of the garden you live within and of the effects of your weekly flower and plaint binges have throughout the square footage of your studio.

Much as you admire the presence and value of plant and flower life, you also have feelings of tenderness toward rusted out auto parts, ladders with missing rungs, old model washing machines and their newer iterations as well as microwave ovens, pinball machines that appear to have given up the ghost, the occasional gas or electric range, and if you are fortunate, a sizable chunk of what was once a truck.  In such places, you value rust and the intimacy of the complex inner wiring associated sewing machines, or the functional random beauty of old Oldsmobile or Pontiac parts.

Such treasures have the most beauty for you.  There is an unspoken sense of optimism in such places, wherein unseen men recognize the inherent value of these things.  Mindful of their womenfolk's cynicism, these men believe themselves on the cusp or restoring these hulks to useful life--every one of them, including rusted TV sets, sprung sofas, and that still radiant Maytag washer-dryer combination.

You imagine yourself at such places feeling close to the nascent energy of such front and back lawns all because you have in your filing cabinets, hard drives, and unsorted piles of handwritten materials the literary equivalents of such yards.  Not everything you write goes unfinished, and this is your point.  You have this optimistic sense where all these hulks of unfinished things will be tended to because there are useful parts and characters and themes. 

The hidden truth here is the regularity with which you keep certain projects around in the belief you'll someday get to them, but in fact they are already finished.  This is a candid admission that you more often than not don't know you've finished a particular piece.  You persist in tacking additional material to it, baffled that this added matter falls off.

The discipline of working every day to make sure the junk does not get the opportunity to rust out is a friendly, fun-loving discipline.  It allows you to think of fun days and of work, however frustrating or humbling, as a partnership between you and the project.

A number of your writer friends have neater literary lawns or at least the discipline to work with one thing until it has been brought to life, allowed to mature, then kicked out of the nest to go at life on its own.  For the longest time, you accepted the notion that your friends' discipline meant they were better able to have such cornucopias as a tangible body of work.

In recent years, you've come around to the belief that the rural junk yards you see in portions of California, Arizona, New Mexico, and their attractiveness for you, are no accident.  They remind you of your own literary junk lawns, the difference being that you can and in fact do live within them.

You understand what this makes you, a hoarder of junk, a hill-billy sort of individual with a strewn yard who is one of these days going to get around to removing yet another piece of the clutter.  This takes you back to the fact of having neat, organized parents and the possibility that your own literary yards are some sort of payback to Annie and Jake, each of whom would joke about you that they did not provide you with neatness DNA.

You do not write as you do from some hidden desire to show Annie and Jake a justification or even as a proof that you are moving more and more toward working in your own manner of   work, taking the money, yet hanging around to see if perhaps you can fix some of those forgotten parts.

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