So it took longer than I wanted it to, but the inspiration I wrote about in my last post – it’s right below, but here’s a link anyway – got me looking with a new eye at some stuff I’d written awhile back, and I’ve decided to put some of it on Field’s Edge.
I started with a piece remembering a summer afternoon back in the early 1980s. I hadn’t read it, really read it, in some time, so it was a little weird editing and revising something that, while not drastically different from something I’d write now, did seem in places to have a little bit of a different voice to it. Not that the words themselves had become strange or unfamiliar or uncomfortable, but more like a jacket that you haven’t outgrown but just haven’t put on in a few years.
Here’s the result: "Summer, After All."
When I was growing up, my neighbor and I built forts. Every summer, it seemed like, from late elementary school on through mid-junior high, we spent a good chunk of time nailing together some lumber or logs or even just throwing a roof over a hole in the ground back in the woods. The most elaborate of these was a boxy thing up on stilts at the far edge of my backyard, up on a small hill and behind two rows of pine trees my dad and I had planted.
The west-facing view from that fort hasn’t changed much in the past decades: The field it sits beside still alternates between corn and soybeans and the occasional unfarmed summer, and I can mentally sketch the shape of the treeline at the far side without even thinking hard.
When I was in college, I self-published a book for my Dad: just a collection of a half-dozen short-short stories, a poem or two, and an essay about a camping trip. I typed them up on my old tank of a word processor and had them spiral-bound at a copy shop. I titled the project "Stories from the Fort at the Field’s Edge," and I had my friend Aaron sketch a cover of the fort, which Dad had helped build.
Many years later, I returned to that expanse of land when I thought of the name "Field’s Edge." It takes no effort at all for me to visit it in my mind in any condition: I know what it sounds like during a snowfall and I know what it smells like after a thunderstorm and I know what it feels like during a humid summer afternoon.
Messing around with Virtual Earth the other day, I was checking out that field, and I noticed something:
Here’s a closer, re-oriented view, just in case it’s not immediately clear:
This was the first part of a much-needed creative jump-start. The second part came last weekend when my family threw a surprise birthday party for my mom. I spent last Saturday night near that field again, in the shadow of those pine trees and in the company of extended family and friends I’ve known since middle and high school. It was a perfect, chilly late-summer evening and it was like swigging bottled memory while drinking in a wondrous present.
There is much writing to be done. Summer ends soon, and fall is too short.
"…by the way, there is such a thing as a tesseract."
of my favorite bits of writing ever. One of those singular turns of
phrase that has stuck in my mind for decades, even as I lose track of
the plot points and character details of the book it’s from. This one’s
from "A Wrinkle in Time," of course, which I’m flipping through because Madeline L’Engle has died.
My wife and I have four cats. The first was already named when we
adopted her. When we took in a gray stray kitten, we named him Charles
Wallace. And "A Wrinkle in Time" was one of the first chapter books I
read out loud to my daughter.
such a thing as a tesseract." I read this for the first time when I was
in fourth grade. It comes not far into the first chapter of "A Wrinkle
in Time," and the story’s already got a good hook at this point, what
with the introduction of six-year-old telepath Charles Wallace and his
math-smart/life-clumsy sister Meg and their brilliant scientist mom and
a mysterious stranger arriving on "a dark and stormy night," but man,
oh MAN, with that single sentence, the book and its world just seem to
open up like a Twilight Zone door floating in space.
realized over the years that most of my favorite books and stories are
those in which fantastic occurrences happen in the real world with
little or no explanation: They simply ARE. "Shoeless Joe," for instance
– baseball ghosts in a cornfield. Why are they there? How’d they get
there? Where do they go? Doesn’t matter – they just ARE. Bradbury’s
Martian time-crosses and midwest phantoms and King’s haunted hotels and
Murakami’s mind-bending wonderlands and L’Engle’s billion-year-old
witches and disembodied brains.
It’s a big world. Weird stuff happens.
Which is why I will always believe in tesseracts.
It’s late Monday afternoon, and what a tremendously gorgeous weekend.
Saturday, Kelsey and I took our annual road trip to Fossil Park. Sixth year we’ve done this, and when I think about it, I’m amazed to think she’s ten now, and that we’ve been making the trip since she was five.
We took different roads to northwest Ohio this time around, just to get off the Interstates and see new places. Drove up along Lake Erie, through the small coastal towns at the western end of the basin, past the Davis-Besse nuclear power plant. We discovered Bono, Ohio, took two magnificent bridges over Sandusky Bay and the Maumee River, and gave serious consideration to throwing our Fossil Park plans out the window and winging up to Cedar Point for the day, since she’s turning into a coaster nut, which couldn’t possibly make me happier.
But we stuck to our maps and our cooler-packed lunch and our empty boxes awaiting brachiopods and trilobite butts (trilo-butts?) and spent three hours in the sun and the dirt and the rocks at Fossil Park before heading south to Bowling Green and Dairy Queen and our usual short campus walk and our made-up games on the fountain in front of the administration building.
Heading eastward, she fell asleep as afternoon stretched, and I picked up the end of the Michigan-Appalachian State game on an AM station, silently cheering to myself as we passed through small towns between wide fields.