Friday, August 06, 2010
A long, long time ago I picked flowers for my mother. I picked violets and lily of the valley. They grew in the wild area on the north side of our home. I gave the the flowers to my mother and she put them in a vase on the table. She was happy and I felt like a good boy.
The yard was mowed and fenced except for this wild area. The grass wouldn't grow on the north side, so it was left and the flowers just grew all by themselves. I could go out there in the summer and lie down and have my own dreams.
We lived in a white stucco house in the suburbs of Chicago, under the shade of very tall oak trees and elm trees. The high-dappled shade is the best because the air flows smoothly on hot summer days. A white wooden fence ran around the back yard. We played baseball and badminton and left bare spots in the lawn from playing all summer long. Mother grew peonies and roses in the back of the yard, just a small garden, but it was pretty.
In the winter, when the ground was frozen, she had me cover the roses and peonies with oak leaves to protect them through the coldest days. That was an easy chore and I was glad to do it -- only once a year, and then in the spring I would take the leaves away. It was something special I did for her.
Outside the fence, between the fence and the alley, the tiger lilies grew thickly -- day lilies, but we called them tiger lilies because of their bright orange color. They grew wild, all by themselves.
One of my regular chores was taking out the trash, out to the alley. I put the trash bags in a wire basket and lit a match and set the trash on fire. I liked standing in the alley, all by myself, outside the fence, watching the flames in the wire basket -- bright orange flames, but green and blue muted flames from the coated pages of magazines and the wrappers on tin cans.
I liked being out in the alley, outside the fence with the tiger lilies and the unpaved alley way with gravel and mud puddles, where I could have my own dreams. I think this is what made me how I am today.
I hated Little League baseball. I didn't like Lilttle League. They had rules and uniforms and grown ups bossing us around -- they called it "coaching" but I didn't like any of them. I liked playground ball much better. We were kids -- we chose up teams and made up our own rules. We had huge arguments too.
"He was out."
"No, he was safe, I saw him touch the base."
"You liar, he was out by a mile."
So, we had our own arguments, but we didn't need a bunch of stupid grownups hanging around to show us how to play baseball. Geez.
Skateboarding. Kids don't play ball like we used to, they want to be skateboarding. But it's like playground ball --- it's not officially sanctioned with umpires and coaches and stupid grownups. The kids can do it all by themselves on skateboards and create their own form of play.
A few of the skaters in LaConner are known to be ill-behaved. I was told that one of them cursed at the librarian. I could ask the librarian if that was true, but it's bad enough that rumors go around like this. How are the kids going to get a skateboard park this way?
What they should do, the kids that are serious, is have a talk with the smart alecks who cursed at the librarian -- and then beat the crap out of them, because they're messing it up for everybody else.
Just my opinion. These kids want to skate without a lot of adult interference. I know the feeling. I can hardly stand grownups myself. But then you have to make your own rules and enforce them.
I don't tolerate too much attitude in children, but then, looking it at from another perspective, if the worst thing they did is curse at the librarian and leave some trash in the parking lot at the grocery story -- how bad is that? You know, how does cursing at the librarian compare to a drive-by shooting? Pretty light weight stuff.
Unless you're the librarian, who I happen to know and like.
Now, to change the subject:
You Can't Write. This message is for all the new writers who are planning to self-publish their memoirs. You can't write. I know what you heard on the Oprah Winfrey show about how you should express yourself and why your story is valid and strong and worthwhile. It is your story and a true one. That d't mean anybody else wants to hear it.
In the old days you kept a diary and kept it private -- as it should be. Writing, that is writing something of value to a larger group, is a skill and not everyone has it -- like being a carpenter or a farmer. It takes years to get good at it, and not every one can succeed.
So this message is for you, my friend. You are surely very good at something, but it might not be writing.
Let me explain it another way. It's like the difference between gardening and farming. I can garden. I can grow a pretty good garden, but there's no way I can farm. Farming is when you can grow enough food to sell it and make a living at it. But gardening is a past time.
So maybe my few words are put before you to re-establish a boundary between writing as a past time and writing as a profession -- a friendly, but meaningful distinction.
Subscriptions and Signed Copies of the Book. It used to be that you sent in $25 and did not get much more than my appreciation, but now you get a signed copy of the Frog Hospital book.
This book is a treasure that will still be worth reading ten years from now.
Send a check for $25 to Fred Owens, Box 1292, LaConner, WA 98257. Or go to the Frog Hospital blog and pay with PayPal.
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