Category Archives: No [One] Is An Island

The Dust Settling

I intended to post, Saturday and Sunday, about the rest of my poetry weekend, outside Breckenridge; but the lodge’s wifi went down, early Friday evening, and never got reestablished. And once I got home, the usual other stuff took precedence, until now. As these things happen, having had the handful of days after the weekend has allowed things to settle, given me more time to sort and figure things out—even moreso than usual.

Frankly, the events of the weekend kinda overwhelmed me. There were more people than I’m used to being around, and in persistent proximity—a draining and aggravating thing for an introvert. Finding a pocket of space and time in order to be by myself and/or write was both frustrating and difficult. It all ate away at my nerves, making me increasingly edgy and pissy. I didn’t particularly like who I was, nor how I was around the others.

But I made it through, and by mid-morning, Monday, my ickiness was on the way out. And what I was remembering about the weekend became increasingly positive. So, now that I’ve had almost a full week to let this past weekend settle, what I have to say about it is starkly different that what I would have said, Saturday and Sunday.

P1020103

So, a week from when it started, here’s where I’m at, at this moment.

For nearly three full days, I got to hang out with twenty-some members of my tribe—three of whom I already knew, and three others whom I just knew by name. It was an intense time, and an overwhelming one. Intense and overwhelming in good ways, as well. I’m still discovering ways the weekend has changed things for me.  I’m gonna be rocking from its ripples for awhile longer.

And, for the first time, I felt I was with my tribe, my people. This is no small thing—I grew up being told, and believing, I was an outsider, never really belonging wherever I was. It is still an easy and natural thing for me to feel apart from my fellows. To be the odd one out. I’ve attended writers’ workshops and conferences; and this was the first time I felt not only that I belonged, but that I was being drawn deeper into the fold.

This was and is no small thing.

Advertisements

Leave a comment

Filed under Changing Perspective, No [One] Is An Island

Home-going and -Coming

I arrived back in Salida just two night ago—or maybe it was yesterday, since it was juuuuust past midnight, Tues/Weds, when I pulled up behind my apartment. Anyhoo, I left for San Antonio, Texas, early Saturday morning, so that I could spend Mothers’ Day (and the day after) with Mom, who’s in a healthcare residence, there. Too, it’d been just five months since Dad, her husband of sixty-one years, had passed away. It seemed a good time for a visit. Its being Mothers’ Day was a solid excuse and motivation to do so.

Mom chewing the fat with my older brother, David, Mothers' Day 2015.

Mom chewing the fat with my older brother, David, Mothers’ Day 2015.

Ay, what can I say about Texas? I left the state, for Colorado, close to twenty-two years ago. There are many reasons why, but some of the chief ones were: to escape the incessant heat; to be among the mountains; and to live amid more liberal-leaning locals. With the exception of going back last December, due to Dad’s dying, (which, to be honest, wasn’t really a choice), it’d been six or seven years since my last visit to the state.

I prefer driving, but it’s an all-day journey, somewhere between sixteen and eighteen hours, straight through. Fortunately, my ’91 Caravan handles the trips well; and I do fairly well, myself. Still, it’s a full seventeen hours, give or take, of being in the saddle, of being hummed by the asphalt. It’s not a trip to approach lightly.

But here’s the thing: For all my grumblings about Texas and my having come from there, it turns out I remain still very muchso a Texan. Even after my absences, I still fall immediately into the rhythms of the state. Still find my cultural  bearings, pronto. This realization was a mild shock, when it hit me. But it clarifies some of the turmoil I’ve been experiencing, makes sense of some of it. And, it’s not a bad thing still having Texas in my bones and blood, two decades anon. It’s not a troubling situation at all.

This morning, I went to the local breakfast diner, on the highway. I’ve no idea how many months it’s been since I was last there. As with any small town, nowadays, especially here in the Rockies, there’s a distinctive pair of either Old Timer or New Comer camps our locals fall into. Patio Pancake Place is where the Old Timers go. Years before artists discovered this town, and the rafters followed suit, followed then by outdoor weekend warriors looking for second homes—long before Outside magazine ever called Salida by name, “Patio” was helping the local farmers and ranchers and miners get a start on their days.

After breakfast, I headed to Sacred Ground, which is also along the same highway, where us newcomers go for sustenance and community. I spent more for the two espresso drinks, there, than I did for my breakfast, including the tip. But if given a choice between the two places, Sacred Ground would win every time, hands down, no hesitation.

But here’s the thing: Even though my living in Salida just twelve years firmly posits me in the New Comers’ camp, there’s also the strong part of me that needs the connection to something that’s older, larger, and “other” than me. There’s an essential connection that’s re-established at Patio that even Sacred Ground can’t touch. Just as I am both Coloradan and Texan, I am both Sacred and Patio. Both cases, I need the grounding of both.

Home and homecoming. Neither is necessarily only involving a singular place.

Leave a comment

Filed under Changing Perspective, No [One] Is An Island

Re: Leaving

For anybody’s who’s followed this blog, or who has spent much time around me, it’s no secret I’ve fallen for Telluride, and have seriously considered moving there. Within the past couple of years, I’ve gone there no fewer than seven or eight times, spending at least one night on all but one of the those visits. To be sure, the beauty of the place is one of its attractions. And because all my visits there have been directly connected to writing, it’s pretty much impossible for me to disconnect Telluride from being crucial to my writing. Even all of the locals I’ve met and have gotten to know are themselves connect to writing in some way.

Telluride's main drag. THAT sorta beauty.

Telluride’s main drag. THAT sorta beauty.

But, Salida has its beauty, as well.

But, Salida has its beauty, as well.

Meanwhile, here in Salida, even after living here for twelve years, I’m so far from where I wish my writing to be. So far even from where I expected it to have developed after just three or four years. Further, in a lotta ways, I’ve kinda stopped living here. Instead, I’m merely going through the motions. I don’t feel the connection to this town like I once did. Don’t feel a part of it, don’t feel much like one of the locals. This is all my own doing. Or, rather, my own lack of doing.  My life has become centered on the job at the hospital. I’m either there, working, or hunkered at home recovering from, resting up for, it. If I’m feeling apart from this town, it’s because I’m not taking any part in it.

I spent most of yesterday at a local coffeeshop. I knew a good number of the other customers and all of the employees by name. More than that, I knew each of them well enough to have engaged in a conversation, asking about their family, latest projects at work, the trips they’ve recently gotten back from. Also, while there, I saw the editor of the local monthly magazine, who gave me my first assignment of the year. In the previous paragraph, I said I, “Don’t feel a part of [Salida], don’t feel much like one of the locals.” Well, yesterday’s time at the coffeeshop belies that stated feeling. Chalk it up to selling short the effects of my having stayed here for twelve years. (Not that I’ve any tendencies whatsoever to discount the value of who I am, what I do.) I’ve accomplished more, here, than I typically give myself credit for.

I would love to be living in Telluride. But If I moved there, I’d lose so much of the good, here. Very likely, I wouldn’t even realized what I’d be losing until after I’d lost it.

Leave a comment

Filed under Changing Perspective, Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island

My Farewell To My Dad

Last Friday was the one-month anniversary of my dad’s passing. I’d recently cut my hair from upper-back to nearly-shaved, saving it in a ceramic bowl someone had given me; and I’d decided to commemorate my dad’s passing by distributing the hair into the Arkansas River, which is just a couple of blocks from my apartment. I posted this event on FaceBook, inviting sixty-some folks.

Three generations of male Brummels: my grandfather, Basil Edward Brummel; my dad, William Davis "Bill" Brummel; and my older-by-six-years brother, Daivd.

Three generations of male Brummels: my grandfather, Basil Edward Brummel; my dad, William Davis “Bill” Brummel; and my older-by-six-years brother, Daivd.

The days leading up to last Friday were overcast, snowy, and cold. Friday, though, was sunny and warm[er]. Still, when the 6PM start-time came around, it was 18 degrees. When I arrived at river, two folks were already there, and then two more joined us, very shortly after. I had my laptop begin playing the John Denver song my dad loved, picked up the bowl with my hair, and made my way carefully down the bank, into the river, and cautiously made my way to the spot where I’d let the river carry my hair (eventually, theoretically) to my folks’ home-city of San Antonio.

P1010862 P1010863P1010867P1010868

The writer in me realizes there’s a story, here. Maybe, for High Country News, where I’ve already published an essay about Dad and this same river. Maybe somewhere else. At the absolute very least, I need to write this story—having it published is a whole other affair, albeit, one I’ll be pursuing.

Sometimes, our actions have to step in for when there are no words.

3 Comments

Filed under No [One] Is An Island, Parental Passing, Sorting It Out

Not What I Think

Yesterday evening, I took a walk a little too late in the day. The sun was already setting when I left, and on the way back it was growing pretty dark. As I neared the lights and buildings of downtown, which is actually on the edge of town, I felt I was returning to a place I knew, a place where I’d spent a significant amount of time, a place I new well; but oddly, it didn’t feel like where I was returning was home. There was a distance, a separation between this place and myself.

I’ve lived here for over a fifth of my life, longer than anywhere else. I am known by name, by face, and by both, here. Yet, last night, it wasn’t to home that I was returning.

There’s five and six and a half years separating me from my older sister and brother. My birth was unexpected. I grew up knowing I was at least partially responsible for Dad not finishing college: “I ran out of money. I ran out of smart sauce. And I had him.” Dad was a wildlife biologist, a facts and science guy. This son of his, however, was a dreamer, a taker of long walks, a talker to himself, a keeper of his own company. Mom becoming pregnant with me was just the first of my surprises.

Midway through fourth grade, Dad was transferred to another city, and I lost all of my friends in the move. Subsequently, I also lost the only remaining people with whom I belonged. I’ve felt a full-on outsider, ever since.

At fifty years of age, I still struggle with being liked, with being admired, being worthy, and with having value. I strongly doubt that anyone could ever really become attached to me. That my being alive in this world could have any positive meaning. (Another lesson learned from childhood was to stay out of the way, not to be a bother to other people.) At the foundation of it all, I do not believe people when they tell me that I matter, that what I’ve written and done has meant something to them. I want to believe, but I’m unable to fully do so. I am forever the odd man out.

Earlier this year, I received a Facebook message from a woman whom I’ve known for a few years. She lives four hours away with her family, and we’ve seen each other six or seven times. She is both wise and perceptive, and what she has to say is taken with high regard by lots of many people. Here’s a pivotal sentence from her message: You bring so much to the world, such generosity of spirit, such clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance), such kindness.

“…[S]uch clean vision (about everything, it seems, except your own brilliance)…” It stabbed me in the heart when I read it. With such precision, I’d been seen and called by name. My self-deprecating bs was also called by name, called onto the carpet. She is far from alone in seeing me, thus. In fact, I might be pretty much alone in thinking I don’t matter, am a bother to people, not both a joy and blessing—that I don’t belong.

One of the locals, here, is wheelchair-bound. A bumper sticker on his wheelchair says, “Don’t believe everything you think.”

Seems to me that the crux of my difficulties in becoming a writer, in believing that I might have something to offer, is this same inability to believe in the worth of my writing. To believe in the worth of my ownself.

Perhaps I should stop believing what I think about myself.

Leave a comment

Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island, Sorting It Out

Telluride Prelude: First night, before any full days

Last night, I attended a Carbon Leaf concert. It was one of the three touristy things I’ve scheduled during my stay. This evening will be Art Walk—nineteen(?) galleries stay open late to allow folks to browse, check out their art, and maybe even get to yack with the artists. Next Tuesday is Talking Gourds, the monthly poetry night at a local wine bar. (Okay, TG isn’t “touristy,” per se, but it is the very event I scheduled this visit (as well as two of my other three visits) specifically around.)

Where last night’s concert was held is a teenier venue than I expected. A good third or fourth the size. My sitting at a “middle distance” from the stage, therefore, had me in the next-to-the-last row. Even in the cozy intimate setting, I managed to seat myself in isolation, at a distance from the rest of the concert-goers. Well, this is how I’ve tended to roll: separating myself from the rest, keeping good distance between me and them.

The main character, and narrator, of the movie, Never Cry Wolf, remarks of his being, “a watcher of people.” Me, too—albeit a watcher from a distance. I was one of the two handfuls of folks not up and dancing in front of the stage. It was more than not having a partner to dance with, not feeling comfortable getting up front anyway and boogeying. Nope. Seems there’s something of a darkness, too, in my watching from a distance. A volitional intention to keep myself separated and away.

Maybe some of today’s, this week’s, work will be the watching of myself, will be discerning a wee bit of what this darkness is about.

Leave a comment

Filed under No [One] Is An Island

Not Alone

Well, a good bit has happened since my last blogpost. As some of you know, I received a number of hits for this particular post and its link on Facebook. When I posted, I was already turning back toward the light, and that’s been continuing, since. Each of you who reached out, whether through prayers, thoughts, bright blessings sent my way, coming up to me to see how I’m doing and to let me know your door’s always open, and commenting on the blogpost and/or its FB link, or whatever other way, has been a significant element of continued improvement. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

 

To be sure, I still have miles to go. But I’m not traveling alone. And thank you, again, for that.

———————————————————————————————————————-

 

I’m a member of a local poetry group that meets once a month. Each meeting, we’re given an assignment for the next month’s meeting. We’ll be meeting tomorrow, and our assignment will be to have written a letter to poet regarding one of their poems that we’ve spent time with, looking it over and seeing what holds it together. The four poem/poets we were to chose from were: “Thanks,” by WS Merwin; “French Horn,” by Jane Hirshfield; “Scars,” by William Stafford; and “I Might Not Have Believed,” by Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer. Me, being who I am, wrote to each poet. (Well, to Kim Stafford, who is literary executor for his father, who died in 1993, re: “Scars.”)

Friday, August 1st, I received a postcard from Kim, thanking me, saying his father would have enjoyed my letter. I was stunned when I realized the postcard was from him. (I’d also recently written a dear friend whose tendency is to send me postcards from her travels; so when I saw I’d received a postcard, I thought it was from her. When I got around to reading it, I quickly realized otherwise.) Yesterday’s mail brought another postcard; this one from Jane Hirshfield. I’m still shaking my head in bewonderment.

Perhaps I’m not alone as a writer, wondering whether my words have mattered, whether they’ve made their intended mark upon a reader. It was a stretching out my hand, writing to each of these four poets and writers. I hoped to hear something back, but I wasn’t expecting it, wasn’t gonna whimper if it never happened. The simple act of mailing a letter was, itself, already such a strong connecting action. To have heard back from two of them, and with such gracious and thankful words, and so quickly…? Well, seems my word do matter, do make their marks.

Perhaps, just maybe, even poets as successful, as esteemed, as these four aren’t so different from me, newbie that I am. Perhaps wondering whether ones words are doing good things, now that they’ve been set out on their own into the world, isn’t something that success and esteem keeps from happening. Just maybe, there’s a same quickening thrill when they receive a letter expressing thanks for what they’ve written, that shows someone has spent time with their poem, deepening their understanding and appreciation of it. Maybe the best way they can deal with their exploding-with-gratitude heart is to grab a postcard, write their gratitude on it, and put it into the mail, pronto. After all, being “a name” in whatever circle doesn’t make you less vulnerable. Make your desire to make a difference diminish any.

It might amaze you, the hands reaching out, waiting for your own hand to do the same.

—————————————————————————————————————-

 

(Since it’s not on-line, anywhere, below is Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer’s poem:)

 

I Might Not Have Believed

(Rosemerry Wahtola Trommer)

 

Because it is our work to love

I give you precedence.

Before the bills, before the making

of the bed, I set my list aside

that I might hold you first.

 

It is intricate, this loving.

I might wish it to be like origami,

a swan, perhaps.

Perfect tucks. Tiny folds.

 

It’s more newspaper hat,

crooked creases, crinkled,

never quite fitting the head.

 

I learn to bow to the clutter,

kiss what is rumpled,

kneel in the muddle and laugh.

 

Whatever this ache, I thank it,

how it keeps your scent

the axis of my dizziness.

4 Comments

Filed under Honoring Your Writing and Your Being a Writer, No [One] Is An Island