Tag Archives: narrative

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The Process

I consider myself a writer, but when someone asks me if I’ve written anything, I can’t give them a straight answer. I say “kind of” or “I’m working on something right now” and then go into explaining a project or making something up on the spot. The truth is I’m writing all the time in my head, in my life, and with my life. I see the narrative every day; the irony, the suspense, the folly, the heartbreak, the joy, the triumph, and sometimes even the foreshadow. Writing isn’t about how you can put words on paper, but how you take in and interpret the world so that others, and you yourself, can see it in a new way… so I’m writing every day, but what do I get for it? I don’t get paid for it. I feel like I work so much, but so little makes it on to paper, and the stuff that does isn’t even near my best work, isn’t close to what I see every day. It’s like the thrill and challenge of writing is discovering the story as it happens, whether that be in your life or fictionalized in your head. Once I’ve discovered the story I feel as though there’s nothing left to gain or learn from simply by transcribing that discovery on to paper. Obviously that is false, and others can learn from the same discovery of the story, but I’m just saying that’s how it feels to me. Now I’m trying to figure out if that means I’m just a selfish person if I don’t trudge through the monotonous work of writing things down. Other functioning members of society work the same routine and weekday schedule most of their lives just to get by, but for some reason I can’t sit down for an afternoon an focus enough to write out a story. Do I somehow, deep down, think that writing is superior to other occupations? Is that why I’m like this? Or do I, deep down, think that the world is going to end and I’m going to die and the sun will turn into a black hole and all of human history will be lost, so ‘why should I even bother writing a little story?’ I may never figure out why I do the things I do, or why I write all the time, yet still have written nothing; but at least I still have the ability to write, and hopefully one day, trudging through all these roaming thoughts I can find a reason for all this writing—a narrative… a discovery…

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Donald Was in Kindergarten

As a child in kindergarten, Donald would pluck the legs off of the insects he found, specifically daddy long legs spiders, and occasionally eat them. He would study how the legs would keep moving after he removed them, and would sort them into piles of wigglers, non-wigglers, and pop the legless bodies in his mouth. 15 years later he would learn that daddy long legs spiders carry venom approximately 600 times more potent than a black widow spider, but they are incapable of biting humans, rendering them harmless; but he still wondered why he didn’t die after eating the entire spider along with all its venom. Donald would learn 20 years later that he was misinformed, and that daddy long legs spiders are harmless because they in fact don’t have any venom at all.

Upon moving to first grade, to a different school in a different neighborhood with different people, Donald noticed that no one ate insects anymore; they just watched them. On the first day of school Donald saw two insects fighting and decided to break up the fight by squishing them. This was the first time a complete stranger had gone out of her way to tell him a question.

“How would you like it if you were squished by a giant foot?” Donald had not learned what puns were yet, so he couldn’t say ‘I would feel depressed,’ but he still had some manner of wits about him, and replied,

“I squished them with my shoe, not my foot.”

“Doesn’t matter.”

“Yes it does. I wouldn’t be out here without shoes on. If I didn’t have shoes, then they would still be fighting!”

The girl held her stern gaze on Donald and let out a shrill, high-pitched burst of sound. “Ms. Schneider!”

Ms. Schneider was a heavy, non-Germanic woman with the classic wart on her nose, who’s official title was ‘Recess Duty,’ and who’s unfortunate unofficial title was ‘Playground Witch’)

“Ms. Schneider! He’s making fun of me!”

This confused Donald on two accounts: the first because he had no idea why the girl, unprovoked, would shriek; and secondly because he was a very literal child and was in fact not having any fun on this girl’s behalf, nor was she transforming into any derivative of the greater concept of fun. Donald felt that either this girl’s choice of words, or her line of thinking were poorly misguided, and he rebutted on the matter:

“Nuh-uh!”

Donald was simply trying to prevent an insect war, but apparently this little girl had nothing to do but complain during recess.

“What’s your name?” Ms. Schneider lumbered over with an invisible cane.

“Donald.”

“Donald, can you come with me?”

Donald was glad this peculiar woman with the loyalty of an abused dog had pulled him away from the girl, but he was completely unaware that every time someone followed the Duty, that she lead them to the principal’s office. Donald was, again, confused as to the situation that presented him. In this wonderful country of checks and balances and democracy and freedom where those who are persecuted are innocent until proven guilty, Donald was now subjected to stay after school for ‘making fun’ of that girl. He didn’t even know her, and it was in that moment he learned never to underestimate the power of a little girl.

Donald was inexplicably afraid to hold eye contact with anyone, for reasons unknown to him in his present age, which didn’t help his case as he tried to explain to this grown man with a patch of hair on his chin that he didn’t actually make any fun; and even if he did, he wondered why he would be forced to stay inside for making fun? “Isn’t the point of recess to have fun?”

The principal’s stomach growled and he wanted to finish his sandwich before he had to go class to class introducing himself in a fun and friendly manner, and so he settled on telling Donald,

“I think you might have a different idea of fun than the rest of the kids.”

Which was true, but also not a bad thing. After all, Donald was the only one pacifying insect wars on the playground. Donald was sent back to the classroom and realized that during all the explaining that was just done to him by the principal, nothing was explained. He wondered if he could be a principal some day and sit in a room and not explain things to confused kids as they were delivered to his door. He thought he could do that now, but he didn’t have enough hair on his chin. He wondered if he shouted for the Duty their roles would have been reversed and if he could have enjoyed the rest of his recess, but first Donald had to get back for arts and crafts time…

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Bare Country

One year ago I started documenting my life. To find ‘my narrative,’ to see ‘what I was all about,’ to find something—anything… I’m not quite sure why. But nonetheless I started looking, and that’s all that mattered.

I drove up in the mountains today and hiked down to Hermit Falls. It was going to be a pleasant easy hike, but the catch is that I parked my car and started marching down at 6pm when the sun had cast half the canyon in a shadow already. Everyone was climbing back up the steep path and I was the only one walking down. I stopped here and there to look at the view. Someone was talking a quarter mile away down in the canyon, and I could hear them like they were right around the corner. You can hear people long before you notice them. By the time I reached the falls it was very dark. I didn’t stop and stare too long because quite honestly I kept imagining that a bear would come for a drink and notice I would make for some nice evening hors d’oeuvres. I figured the sun would set in about fifteen minutes, so I’d have to move quick if I wanted to make it back in time.

I ran back up using as much night vision as I could muster and ended up getting lost on an unfamiliar trail. I thought about the bulletin board I glanced at near the trailhead that read “bear country” and other stuff about wilderness. Every ounce of bear survival knowledge I knew rushed through my head. The hills were steep and there were little rocks jutting out of the trail every now and then, and were very hard to see once the sun had set completely. There was a constant buzzing and chirping of bugs, but I didn’t get any bites. I kept thinking about how bears might go down to the creek for a drink at this hour because they know no humans would be on the trail. I just kept my eyes glued to the trail, focusing on where to place my feet as I jogged uphill one step at a time. I crossed the creek four times on the way back, and that’s when it felt suspicious. I thought I’d only crossed it three times on the way down. I felt the unfamiliar crunching of leaves beneath my feet that I hadn’t felt before, and I knew I was off track – but didn’t admit it because I didn’t want it to be true.

I came to a clearing with a sign that told me I was .75 miles off course. So much for that. I could either continue on a new 4 mile trail back to the parking lot, or backtrack through the unfamiliarity. There are a handful of secluded, and now abandoned cabins along the trail and creek, which might be why it’s called Hermit Falls. I thought if I couldn’t find my way back I could smash a window and stay the night next to a lonely skeleton in a house full of bats. I thought about how relieved I’ll feel when I finally find my way back… I always do. Soon after I found the correct trail after being forced to slow down due to the dark and rocky nature of the, well… nature. I crossed back across the river and ran uphill into recognizable territory. I had run too fast before with blinders on and thus I had wandered onto the wrong path, forgetting to stop and look up every once in a while to check where I was. You lose your depth perception in the dark. For a while I thought if I looked up I would see a bear. A part of me wanted the blinders on.

The moon was a little more than half full on a clear night, which after being in the shadows of shadows under the trees, made it delightfully easy to see. I stared at the moon and had to squint, which in a roundabout way brought a smile to my face as I ran the rest of the path out of the canyon. The shadows cast by the moon through the trees made it near impossible to tell where any rocks were jutting out of the ground from. But I just kept running with the expectation of tripping and falling, which somehow made it easy to keep on, because every second that I didn’t fall I was very grateful. Occasionally there was a rustling in the bushes above me or a bat that silently whizzed by my head, but I just kept to the trail, grinding up the steep gradient; right, left, right, breathe, left, right, left, breathe…

I finally reached my car with a full appreciation for moonlight, and just stood there for a while, catching my breath and looking over the canyon. A few things crossed my mind:

That was fun. It reminded me of when I would forge trails through the woods at the house I grew up in whenever I wanted to get away and de-stress. That brings me back.

Does that mean I’m stressed or want to get away? Maybe I just needed a thrill. It’s been a while. Why would I need a thrill? Am I bored of normal life?

So much could have gone wrong, but it didn’t. I can only think God for that. Who else would pull me out of a dark canyon without a scratch on my body?

Why did I do this? I didn’t need to go run through a minefield of ankle sprains, but I did. I knew full well it would get dangerous and could hinder my career as an athlete, but I didn’t even consider the possible dangers.

I did this alone. No one saw what just happened, or needs to know, or probably will know; but I know. Does that matter? To who?

I started at my car and finished at my car, back where I started like nothing ever happened. This trek was just a side trip. It won’t change the overall course of who I am or where I’m going, but at least now I have a better understanding. I start and finish every day asleep in my bed, but I have different dreams every night.

I think this run was an allegory… I think I get it now.

…At least I think I do. I just can’t tell if that’s good or bad—I need help.

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