I don’t write to be famous, I don’t write to be known, I write because I am and I want to be read. How sad to fill a room with paintings no one sees or play music no one hears. Writing is talking without sound, singing without score and dancing without movement and yet, it is all of them. It is a solitary art conjured from thought and expressed by the need to communicate.

HEAD SLAPS, SPEED BUMPS and LIGHTBULBS, one woman's WTF, oops and ah-ha moments of life.

They were published once, and as every writer knows, once is not enough.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

I shall name my llama Alfie

I’m lucky. I live is a house that is remote, yet is pretty close to amenities. So, even though I’m planted in the middle of the woods, with only the wind in the pines as my traffic noise, one mile down the hill another world exists; life on a roll.

A mere two miles beyond that, a new shopping center opened with an American, independently owned, supermarket that this area has been waiting for, for twenty-five years. The only other one is Dutch owned and it has been around since my husband was a stock boy. There’s a few other stores in the center, and a restaurant, but that’s not what this is about. The heck with the stores, I’m wanna’ talk walls.

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.

I watched them work during the heat of the summer, in their broad brimmed frayed straw hats, and when it rained, in yellow throw away parkas they didn’t throw away. Literally, dawn to dusk, seven days a week, they built some of the most beautiful walls I have ever seen. Here in Connecticut we know our walls. One wall at the entrance, they assembled and disassembled a couple of times until it was just right. I never saw a string line or a level and yet these walls, built with soft edged, rounded field stone are a sight to behold. The way the walls curve, and offer entrance, is just plain beautiful. Those hard working men have created a stunning legacy.

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.

I praise the company that gave the old guy and his rag-tag bunch the opportunity to build those spectacular walls. I admire the agents and publishers who dismiss the need for framed certificates and do not hesitate to look to those of us who started by making typewriters sing. Sometimes stunning started with pencils, wears frayed straw hats and loves llamas.

Do you use a laser and a string or do you stack and sculpt until it looks just right?


  1. I'm probably playing with Linkin Logs, really - but *definitely* see what you mean! Love this post.

    And when you do find your Alfie - photos please! ;)

    1. I love Lincoln logs. My Alfie probably looks like old Abe too.

  2. Definitely stack/sculpt. No MFA, no formal anything. Just hours in the chair. With a lot more hours needed, and a lot yet to learn.

    1. After all this time I think we know more than we think we do. Confidence in the process and continuing to learn is the key.
      I think.
      What the hell do I know anyway? I'm over-lived and undereducated.