Thursday, June 4, 2015

Squirrels, Pebbles on Tombstones, and Massive Notes for Stories

 As you recall the matter from conversations long past, one of your oldest and closest friends was born into a Church of England family who did not spend much time among the Sunday communicants or, for that matter, the communicants of any day.  

If anything at all, your pal had an affinity for the culture into which you were born, seemed drawn to many from that culture, but in the overall arc of his life seemed to get on with those from all cultures.  You know for certain his sponsor in AA was a Navajo whom he suspected of certain shamanic leanings.

One tradition from your culture, among others, is to place a small pebble at the burial site of a departed friend or relative.  You do not know if your friend was buried or interred at all, rather than being cremated, ashes strewn or otherwise kept.  In the spirit of leaving a pebble on the closest analogy for a tombstone as you could find, you stopped by his Facebook page today, the day of his birth, to leave a pebble.  

"Old pal,"  you said.  No surprise to see dozens of individuals, stopping by to leave their pebbles, some a good deal more overt in sentimentality and a good deal longer in terms of expression.  Your friend had that effect on people.  

One such person, a former student of his, told you, when she came to study where you taught, how he'd had an indelible effect on her life, her career choice, and the discovery of her writing voice.  Yet another student of his, sent to study with you, said more or less the same thing.

While he was on his deathbed, you promised him to finish a project you'd begun together, developing on his visits to you or your to him.  The work began as casual conversation over a favored meal, pasta with clams.  He dropped his fork, clutched your arm.  "Wait.  What did you just say?"

You said you wondered if there were such a thing as a dramatic genome.

"That's it,"  he said.  "That's our book.  Of course there's a dramatic genome.  Of course that's the title.  Of course we're going to identify it, then show those willing to take the trip how to locate and use it."

This first day after you have come upon a three-week stretch with no classes, you turn to the task of getting your notes in order, compressing and filing separate ideas and concepts in convenient storage for a less scattered access.  Among other things today, you turned to the Dramatic Genome notes in order to hear your friend's voice, spend a few moments of reminiscence with his towering and probing intelligence.

On a scale of one-to-ten with one being lowest, you'd rank yourself at most a 2.5 towards being a hypochondriac, and even that ranking an exaggeration of intensity.  Nevertheless, these past few years, when some symptom comes your way, carrying a warning that it will be visiting a few days rather than a simple early-to-bed and sleeping in the next day, you greet it with the warning that you have no time for it to be serious, much less fatal.  Too much to get done.

Your hope for such matters is the hope of always more to get done than you can possibly manage. Thus yesterday's mild wooziness that came about between about twelve thirty and four were greeted with the offer on your part to take a nap and a quick shower before your five o'clock class, but no more.  "Do not even think," you warned, "of cutting into the three-week gap between classes."

The strategy worked.  At about six o'clock last night, you were aware of interacting with students well past the assigned time for them to begin reading their work, no slight residue of the wooziness to be felt.  Earlier in the week, an acquaintance had retired from a reported wooziness that sounded similar.  Tomorrow, you'll compare symptoms before returning home from Friday coffee to continue transcribing notes, alert to where your enthusiasm takes you.

From this great friend of yours, you got the habit of storing notes the way the squirrels where you used to live stored away the peanuts you bought for them at the pet supply shop.  At first, the feeding of the squirrels was a simple, straightforward delight.  You were sharing with a delightful tribe of your neighbors, often taking morning or afternoon coffee near the trees where they lived, watching, enjoying their ventures at life.  Then the pleasure of feeding them increased as you realized your landlord's mean-spirited attitudes toward them and his imagined litany of the consequences of feeding them.

Tomorrow, after coffee, your plan is to stop at the pet supply for some bird seed and peanuts, then sit in the patio, transcribing notes.  There are ideas to visit, half-formed characters, concepts for stories, new blends of coffee to brew up.  What better atmosphere than your own patio, among the chatter of birds, squirrels, and ideas?

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