The lesson my writing students hate


Feature image: [Nicholas A. Tonelli]

A Hindu proverb teaches that: S/he is a real teacher who not only instructs others, but practices the same instructions. So today, I write from the gap. I’m not camped deep in the Mojave Desert, nor in a bland motel room in the nameless town in which I found myself at 3 a.m. I’m on the front porch of my single-wide trailer in a little hilly suburb ten minutes south of Flagstaff, Arizona. I sit here every morning repeating a prayer until Winter cold drives me into the trailer. For the further of all sentient beings; and the protection of earth, air and water.

I sit with the emptiness that has been with me for nearly a year. I know better than to push for a connection that once was so strong I would have told you it was my life. Ravens drop to the feeding station on the old Ponderosa. A black and white cat crosses the street. Wind rips golden leaves from the Gambel Oak in the backyard.

My writing – or, rather The Writing – has been my most ardent lover. It has been my best friend, my harsh master and my reason to wake on sorrowful mornings. The Writing has not served me. I have surrendered to It. And now, I seem to have only to surrender to Its absence.

This is the lesson my students hate. This is the lesson that has repeated in my life every few decades since I stepped through the door of a little malpais house in Flagstaff in 1985, knowing that I had come 2200 miles west to write and fight for the earth. This is the lesson I can teach because I have learned it far too well.

I risk the sight of real principles at a time when human vision is awash in a tsunami of words moving toward them at the speed of SEO and Branding and Social Media. Here, there are ravens. Here there is the sound of November wind. Here there is the faint scent of pine.

Here am I, alone, in the absence of The Writing – writing.

And you?

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