Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Soon-to-Be Ocean, But Now Still a Well

If you had to draw a picture representing your impression of brain cells, crackling with the energetic process of ideas and thoughts, the most probable source you'd borrow from is the sky, on a clear, unobscured night of the sort you've seen in high desert or mountainous perch.  

Impressed and  moved as you are by photos or drawings of brain cells, you still favor the absolute vastness of the sky, the varying degrees of light, the seeming flicker of light as it races toward you across the cold reaches of space.

The night sky is a fine metaphor for notions such as "got to get up," "Got to get to work," "Need to produce a syllabus."  The night sky, which you clearly respect, is also a fine viewing screen for feeling yourself a part of something enormous and far reaching.

Much as you'd like it to be so, your ideas don't come from there; they come from a source much closer to home and, of course, metaphor.  In actuality, thoughts, ideas, and even notions come from brain cells, where they have been picked up by various sensors such as skin, eyes, ears, and that mysterious, acidic, tangy small of fresh coffee. At the level of which you are speaking, they come from that inner place you call the well.

At various times, the well has occupied your chest, your stomach, your bowels, and all three at the same time.  The week was installed before you were even aware of it, somewhat like a water heater in a rented apartment.  You began assuming the well was there at some point in your early school years, most likely in junior high school, but the possibility is that you were going to the well earlier than than.

You go to the well in order to scoop out some form of inspiration or connection.  You are assigned an essay or a study project, the choice being left in your hands.  Or you are assigned a project on a specific noun, a person, place, or thing.  You in effect lower the bucked into the well because, okay, because that was your level of imagery at the time the process of dipping within yourself began.

As such things go, you wouldn't mind looking to something as vast as the sky or even the sea, when you were dipping for resources.  You'd even settle for an ocean, even the smallest ocean, which you reckon to be the Arctic Ocean. Perhaps with some effort, you can replace the notion of going to the well for an idea or inspiration with the specific of going to The Arctic Ocean.

After much experience as well as study and consideration, you have achieved a kind of comfortable peace with the notion that the well, soon to be ocean, exists.  It is there.  The mere presence of the soon to be ocean existing at all is a comfort.  You know it is there.  You know from experience how to approach it.  At times, you are thrown back in time to those awkward, in-between years when you had to ask to borrow your parents' car.

The reasons you gave for wanting a car instead of bicycling or walking or bus had to be kept in the  landscape of plausibility.  Requests to borrow a car because you were hopeful of a grand, romantic adventure, such as one where you wished to drive to a bowling alley in Palos Verdes,where, only a week earlier, you'd met a girl with whom there was an enormous chemistry that left you stunned, moonstruck, your head filled with stars.  And she'd promised you she'd return to this very place next week at this very time.  

Requests to borrow the family car because you knew you'd discover a place such as the spouting fountain on Santa Monica Boulevard, just into the Beverly Hills City Limits, which may not have been The Fountains of Rome, but nevertheless was a fountain where published writers walked their dogs, bored people went to encounter other bored persons and thence to glorious conspiracies such as wondering how many boxes of laundry soap would be required to produce the bubbly overflow of the fountain, or how many boxes of Jell-o would be needed to turn the base waters of the fountain into the world's largest mold.

The well exists and you don't need permission to borrow it nor do you have to keep your hopes for adventure at a plausible level.  You go to the well to get more details for a dream, an idea for a story, a subject for an essay, an attitude with which to deliver a speech in public speaking class, a turn of plot in a novel so exciting it will keep you up well into the next morning, where a round of bacon and eggs and a Chemex pot of fresh coffee will keep you going.

More often than not, over the years, there has been something in the well, and at times you like to think this is so because you are often bringing something to the equation.  You arrive with expectation, enthusiasm, excitement, perhaps the kinds of world-weariness you get from the warp and weft of your own life or from reading noir novels.  A nice balance.  And always the well is there.

Even if the well is empty, you are able to have a conversation with it.  "Nothing?"  you say.  "You have nothing for me?"  And the well responds to you, "Sometimes there's no mail, either, kid.  You have stories out at magazines and you think that is sufficient cause for there to be a note from a publisher saying 'yes," or "no.'  Doesn't work that way."  And with a sigh, you say, "So you have nothing for me today?"  "Listen, kid, I have something for you, you'd know it already.  Feel it in your gut.  Why don't you go to the beach or read a book?  Why don't you go to the beach AND read a book?"

Sometimes, even when there was nothing in the well, there was enough something in the nothing to give you the opening lines to a story.  "Why don't you go to the beach or read a book?"  A persnickety bank teller who reminds you of your junior high math teacher asks a desperate young man with a gun in his pocket.  "Because I am holding up this goddamned bank.  You give me your money and I'll give serious thought to going to the beach and reading a book."

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