Tuesday, December 11, 2007


At 5:30 p.m., a wet fog already settled on the land. The sky was gone; trees in pastures began to seem skeletal. Everything but the two-lane blacktop was gray as I listened to a Norah Jones CD.
She sang “The water pulls so strong / no one is around / and the moon is looking down.”

She sang, “Rosie, come with me / close your eyes and dream.”

I saw a darker gray shape in the ditch, and it moved. It darted toward the road and became a deer. It darted back toward the barbed wire fence and soared easily over the barbed-wire fence and disappeared into the fog.

Two evenings earlier, I burned trash in the back yard near the forest line. It was about 9 p.m., and I heard coyotes yip and yap and echo one another maybe 150 yards away. I heard a short, sudden, animal shriek, at once alien and earthly. I felt small.

Lau Tzu said, 2,500 years ago: “Manifest plainness, embrace simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires.”

I bow before all men, women, and children, and none. My prayer is to live the examined life. My prayer is to make a deposit in 2008 in the First Rational Bank of Texas.

How best to live life? Or at least try to pass something along rather than just consume. I gave up enough calories every day in 2007 to feed another person, although I did not do it for humanity; I did it for myself.

What is it that I have to pass along? Someone recently called me a “Buddha-like figure in East
Texas,” which made me smile. How can I be Buddha-like when I don’t suffer fools well?

What is it that I have to pass along? I drove to Dallas In November to teach the creative writing class. I splurged the afternoon watching the movie from Cormac McCarthy’s novel, “No Place for Old Men,” in a pretentious shopping center off McKinney Avenue where so many of the so-called privileged people, preening, reek of snobbery. I miss the movie theaters, the book stores, and the choice of live music venues in Dallas; as I write this, I somehow connect it to the deer soaring over the fence and to the short, sudden, shriek in the nearby forest.

What is it that I have to pass along? Russell Shorto, in his book Saints and Madmen, identified each of us as “…the crusty collection of habits, tics, and behaviors that together form the self, which is for each of us the center of everything and also a choking, ossifying tomb.” Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi contended that the bigger the world we inhabit, the closer we come to truth.
T.S. Eliot said, “Unless we can find a pattern into which all problems of life can have their place, we are only likely to go on complicating chaos.” Cinematographer Guillermo Navarro said of “Pan’s Labyrinth” and his other movies: “I approach them from the idea where I consider the cinematography, the images, to be the language of the movie . . . I have to find the condition, the space, the atmosphere for that story to be inhabited . . . I’m interested in the movie that allows me to delve into the concept of reality.” Early on in Russell Hoban’s 1983 novel Pilgermann, the title character tells us, “I don’t know what I am now. A whispering out of the dust. Dried blood on a sword and the sword has crumbled into rust and the wind has blown the rust away but still I am, still I am of the world, still I have something to say . . .”

Those words from other people resonate with me. They are things I teach in the writing workshop, and want to pass along.

At 5:30 p.m., driving through the persistent fog to audition a new favorite waitress (whose smile lights up a room), I listened to Norah Jones sing, “Rosie, come with me / close your eyes and dream.”