Showing posts from August, 2009

On Dogs (Discovery for 8.29.09)

Good dogs are everything that humans hope to be, but never have quite achieved yet.  
When I think back on all my good dogs I had when I was a boy, I can't help getting a little bit sad. There was Arky, a little obese weiner dog my aunt in Arkansas gave me.  He thought he was a big, ferocious dog, and would bare his teeth to anyone who threatened me.  He sat right beside me when I propped my back against a tree to read a summer afternoon away.  There was Fala, a white spitz I named after FDR and Eleanor's trusty dog.  Every day Fala trotted out to Hoskins' Grocery where my bus let me off. Everyone on the school bus crowded to one side so they could see him sitting there patiently awaiting my arrival.  When the bus screeched to a halt there he'd wag his tail--three thumps on the ground behind him--then jump up to walk home with me.  
Those were the two I had the longest, although there were others along the way.  I miss them every single one.  
And now I have other dogs, b…

On Opportunity to Start Anew (Discovery for 8/27/09)

Every morning the whole world gives us the opportunity to start our lives anew. 
That's what I kept thinking as I drove the winding roads of Eastern Kentucky yesterday as the land came awake.  A thin mist breathed out over on the hills and hollers.  A white rind of moon in the struggling shadows of first daylight.  The sky burned purple and gray on the horizon.  I passed through Big Hill, Morrill, Clover Bottom, Sand Gap, Gray Hawk, Mummie, Elias, Traveller's Rest, Levi, and other little communities.  In each of these, the houses along the road were coming awake, too.  Yellow rectangles of light in the windows.  An occasional square of blue where a television flickered the morning news.  
Best of all, the people stirred outside.  
A woman sweeping her porch, her mind on something far, far away.
Two women sitting on a bench outside the Little Angels Daycare Center, smoking and laughing. One of them threw her head back to cackle out; the other slapped her knee.
A man stretching beside …

On Roadside Discoveries (Discoveries for 8/25/09 and 8.26.09)

1.  A homeplace, left to be devoured by the ironweed.  Once, someone lived there.   A family, maybe.  They had lives and loves and sorrows and most of all, they had their own stories.  In the cool of the day they'd sit on the porch and tell big tales and flies buzzed in the kitchen and the children ran down to the creek to play and a woman with weary eyes broke beans on the porch, so used to this work that her hands didn't even think about what they were doing.  One of the children--the last one--left when he was eighteen and looked back at the little house and remembered all the good and the bad and everything in between.  He had no idea that he'd never be back there, that he'd go off and forget who he was.  He had no idea that someday nobody would remember any of them and the house would sink down and down and down until it had been completely overtaken by the wildflowers, the weeds.  He had no idea that the only thing that kept the roof from taking flight was the gat…

On Headaches (Discovery for 8/24/09)

An especially terrible headache is as big and endless and dark as the ocean, stretched tight across the globe, middled by black white-capping waves that chop at the horizon, a largeness and darkness like death.

Eli the Good Reading

The discovery blogs are temporarily on hold while Silas is briefly out of the country.  In the meantime, a reading from ELI THE GOOD...(double click to watch full-screen)

On Dancing (Discovery for 8/19/09)

Once you stop dancing, you die a little.I used to dance all the time.In my early twenties, we were out at honkytonks every Saturday night.I ran around with all of my cousins back then.We never went anywhere without each other.Even when we weren’t at a bar or a club, we’d find a way to dance. If we were in a restaurant that had a jukebox loaded down with good songs, we’d get up and dance.Didn’t matter if there wasn’t a dance-floor.We’d lean our heads back, close our eyes, and listen only to the music.We danced on the lake bank, in our living rooms, on the wide front porches of our youth.Once I settled down and had children, the only dancing I ever did was with a baby on my hip.Some of my favorite memories are of dancing with my daughters.I’d slow-dance them to sleep, drawing in that scent that can only be found at the nape of your daughter’s neck.When they got older, I fast-danced with them.We used to dance every single night, the music turned up as loud as it would go.I taught them ho…

On Books (Discovery for 8/18/09)

I love books.I love reading them, but there is even more than that.Touch. I love how cool the pages are when you first open them in the mornings.Or how warm the pages are if you’ve left it out in the car for awhile in the summer, like something baked the exact right length of time.The endpapers and the spine and the little letters that are sometimes imbedded in the cloth, a kind of Braille for book-lovers.Smell.The new ones: people talk about a new-car scent all the time, but what I love even more is a new-book scent.They should make little deodorizers of that aroma to go under one’s car seats.And the old ones:they smell like history, and rain, and the skin of all the people who loved them before, and every room wherein they lived.See.Yes, of course we see them when we read them, but I love seeing them on the bookshelves, too.Or lying about, covering every available surface, stacked on the stairs, on the nightstand, on the kitchen table, on the kitchen counter, on my desk, a haphazard…

On Holiness (And Turtles) [Discovery for 8/17/09]

Holiness shows itself when you are not watching for it.

Sunday, the Sabbath, the holiest day of seven holy days, I was in a car with several of my closest friends and my two daughters. Members of my given and chosen family. We had been to the top of the mountain to look out at three states. There, there, and there, we said. “Look at Kentucky, it’s the prettiest,” one of us said, laughing. “No, Virginia is,” said another. “On a clear day you can see North Carolina,” somebody else said, “and none of them can beat it.” Each state was completely the same from up there. Each state was completely different from up there. Each endless and green and lush with more mountains, rolling on and on and on, for ages. We spent a long while up at the pinnacle, talking, climbing rocks, studying trees. There were long bouts of silence. Family—especially the chosen kind—allows that between one another.

Then, coming down the mountain, there was a box turtle in the road. We had all been laughing …

On Sabbaths (Discovery 8/16/09)

Sometimes all the church a person needs on the sabbath is to watch his daughters sleep.

On Bicycles (Discovery 8/15/09)

(During the weekends the "discoveries" may often be much shorter because school is back in session and I don't want to spend too much of my time on the computer...instead I want to be with my daughters every chance I get, or be on the lake, or be sitting under a tree working on my new book.  So, with that in mind, the blogs for this weekend are shorter, with promises of the weekday ones being longer.  Also, don't forget to scroll down so you can follow my blog and receive notices each time there is a new post.)
On Bicycles (Discovery 8/15/09)
A bicycle is the only completely perfect vehicle, the only vehicle that allows us to be still and to be in motion at the same time.

On Beauty (Discovering 8/14/09)

Beauty survives, no matter what. My grandmother has Alzheimer’s.This evening, she didn’t recognize anyone but me, and then, five minutes after she knew me completely and totally, she was looking at me as if I were a stranger.She was studying me and she wouldn’t admit it, but she had forgotten who I was, too.She didn’t remember anything.           At one point she asked her age.  My aunt, Sis, told her she was eighty-two.            “What month was I born?”“March, honey,” Sis said.“Yeah, I was.  It was March,”Mamaw laughed.She closed her eyes and laughed like music, like a tinking piano.“They used to call me Windy Wanda, because I was born in March and I never hushed talking.”“Yeah, they did,” Sis said.“I had plumb forgot that.”Mamaw was lying in bed with the covers pulled up to her neck even though the pulsating heat of a late evening in August breathed against the windows. (Not long ago she would have been hoeing her garden this time of evening, even before the cool settl…

On Green Eyes (Discovery 8/13/09)

When describing a particularly beautiful green eye we are tempted to come up with some kind of smooth simile, like "green as river water" or "green as a redbud leaf" (both of which I've used in my novels to describe green eyes).  But the fact is that there is nothing to compare to the beauty of a green eye because it is the perfection of green, a kind of green that transcends even the most brilliant things in the world such as rivers and leaves.

On Summertime (Discovery 8/12/09)

What makes summertime the most magical and sets it apart the most from the other seasons is that every single day we are somehow aware of its passing.Every blessed day we have knowledge of the summer slipping away and whether we know it or not our bodies are filled with some strange mix of hope and dread for what lies ahead.As much as I love all the seasons there's something about summer that moves me to the core.I think it’s the way the mist slithers over the mountains like breath, as it did this morning.Or maybe it's having the company of cicadas—I am comforted by them every night as they remind me that someone else, something else, is there.  Or fried green tomatoes.  Or the freedom of swimming.  It's hearing the nostalgic bounce of the basketball where the boys are playing down the road.  The beauty of seeing people tap their fingers on the steering wheel to a loud radio while their arms are propped up on their open car windows.    Perhaps it’s the way the gloaming str…

Discover Something New Everyday: The Challenge

This is a story I've told many times before:
Writer James Still, the author of classics like River of Earth and The Wolfpen Poems, was in his early 90s when I, a boy in my mid-twenties who didn't know anything about anything, asked him a naive and earnest question:  "How can I become a better writer?"  Mr. Still thought about it for a long time, then looked just past me with his haunting eyes.  "Discover something new everyday," he said.  
I've made a conscious effort to try and do that ever since, and it's an exercise that has changed my life.  
So, with that in mind, I'm going to try my best to post a new discovering here everyday for the next month.  If I'm able to do it, I might try for another month, and another.  I'm not always near a computer so if that's the case then I might miss a day or two.  I'm not going to devote myself to it so much that it kills my own writing day, and I'm not going to let it take over my life a …