For a little less than a year I’ve been driving by the new shopping center building site. It’s been fun watching commerce rise from woods and an old tomato field. Once the buildings were pretty much complete a crew of landscapers came in and then the wall builders, headed by an old guy who looked like a Llama herder from the mountains of Peru. (I asked, he was from Peru. My prejudice regarding Peruvians, they all live in the mountains and own llamas.) The rest of his team, dressed in worn t-shirts and jeans without knees, were hard-working salt of the earth wall sculptors.
About a half mile up the road a small condo complex went up about two years ago. It’s also on my way to work. A few weeks ago a string line went up and a ditch was dug. At first I thought they were putting in a sidewalk until I saw several pallets of flat stones arrive. Two more walls. These walls were straight, low and made with flat topped stacked stone.
The SUV guys building these walls wore polo shirts, canvas pants and baseball caps. They were hot shot engineer types with their string lines and lasers and all manner of things to get their walls just right. The walls are straight, flat and though labor intensive, uninteresting. I realize that uninteresting is probably what the condo owners wanted but really, come on, it’s a wall, it’s going to last for generations, show some creativity.
So what does this have to do with writing?
I’m like the old Peruvian guy, with my years of practical knowledge and not a single signed certificate of higher education to hang on my wall. I don’t use strings and lasers, I use my experience, what I have gleaned from trial and error, (in the beginning mostly error), and what I have cultivated from years and years of lifting and placing word-stones.
Lately I have noticed that the hot shot MFA-ers get a lot of attention. I’m not downing a writer’s formal education, (maybe I’m jealous), but without experience, without the hardcore effort of lifting, lugging, assembling, disassembling and putting back together what we do, what’s it all about … Alfie.
It takes a long time for writing to end up as stunning as the walls at the entrance of that shopping center, a long time for a creative endeavor to go beyond pedestrian and endure. The walls at the condo are nice, and they will last, but they aren’t the ones people will talk about and remember years from now. Like the old Peruvian llama herder, I want to be a ‘talk about me and remember’ writer.