You’ve dedicated your life to the Big Questions. Right on! So what are they? One says, “How do you get right with God?” Another smirks, “What god is that, pal? Haven’t you ever heard of the Enlightenment?” Okay,then, politics? Revolution? Be the change you want to see? Occupy! Well, maybe. Meditation, self realization, education, emancipation, gentrification, classification, Marxism, atheism, Darwinism, Freudianism, deism, sexism, page poetry, slam poetry, language poetry, confessional poetry, fiction, memoir—oh for Chissakes! Help! It must have been easier when a writer only had to justify God’s ways to man.
The point is: what’s the point?
If you are like me, you sometimes get sick of all this stuff. You wonder what you let yourself in for, trying to do this artist thing. It’s no fun. I feel it like a pressure in the middle of my trust (that’s a typo, I meant “chest”), a difficulty breathing, and a sense that I’m communicating from an underground cave or mineshaft, misty, stinking, echoing, winding, constraining, choking, oy oy oy.
What to do? Graduate school, perhaps. Uh oh. They’ll take all my money and maybe my soul. Run off to the monastery? That works pretty good for me, but it wears off, same as a bath. And then there are those pesky dogmas. One can read Nietzsche, I suppose, but that way lies madness and a bad moustache.
So I dance the dance of the serial believer: pagan today, Christian tomorrow, anarchist next week, Freudian in the morning, Marxist in the evening, do the hokey pokey and turn it all about. And keep on writing.
Sometimes, it’s nice to get away from the Big Questions and just stop worrying. Which brings me to the woods. Specifically Hendy Woods, a State Park up Mendocino way. Last weekend Dani Burlison and Leilani Clark of Petals & Bones fed a lucky group of writers on retreat a menu of prompts, s’mores, ghost stories and wilderness. We wrote just for fun and hung out in the woods. I can’t remember the last time I wrote for the sheer fun of it, not caring about content or destination, like a kid taking an early morning bike ride for no other reason than to feel the wind in my face and watch the sunrise before the big folk were awake.
What did we write about? Well, one prompt involved three short lists: what we saw on our drive through the woods, what we saw on a walk through the woods, and what we could see at the campsite. Then we picked one item from each list and were given seven minutes (only!) to make up a story. My three items were: a coked-out waitress, a fallen tree, and a silver trailer. Here’s what I came up with in seven minutes:
In a silver trailer with dirty windows and four flat tires lived a man everybody called “the leprechaun”. He was certainly over 70, tiny and bent, with a white beard and a bald head and a twinkling eye. His accent retained a hint of County Cork. When he went shopping at the local Lucky Supermarket, teenagers would chase after him yelling, “Where’s me Lucky Charms?” and “I want me pot of gold!” He never got angry, though, he just twinkled. Sometimes he’d take a particularly mean-spirited teenager aside for a few hours of talk in the silver trailer, after which the teen’s personality would change. The Leprechaun’s real name was Frankie, but nobody knew this.
Well, nobody, that is, except Katie, the coked-out lass who waited tables at the local I-HOP down on Highway 12, past the rest stop where the fallen tree still lay after being struck by lightning a few years back, just when Frankie came to town.
Frankie was in love with Katie and that’s why he ate pancakes every morning at seven without fail and also that is how it came to be that Katie found her rainbow. It happened like this.
Like I said, it’s just play.
Take a walk in the woods, my friends, and make art just for the fun of it. And, who knows? Maybe you’ll actually find an answer to a really Big Question. We did.
While hiking in the woods, my colleagues and I learned the answer to this age old query: Does a wild bear shit in the woods? Yes! Copiously. No question about it. But that’s another story.
Now go to the woods and get punking!
— Charles Kruger
The Storming Bohemian