Tuesday, January 18, 2011
Austerity And The Art of Writing
There isn't a wisp of wind, and the snow spills briskly to the earth like flour sifted through a sieve; a pearly confection pasting the earth as thickly as the powdered sugar with which my daughter dusts her pancakes. She likes them that way. No maple syrup or jam. Just the sweet powder. Her densely sugared wheat cakes dehydrate so quickly that she has to cut them with a knife, whereas my cakes are sopped extravagantly with syrup, and better eaten with a spoon.
But the snow eventually turns to a steady drizzle, and our street begins to resemble the remains of our breakfast, a path cut clear down the center of the course, and sorrel, gritty granules dredged to the side. A muddy mess of slush and slop, and everyone scraping hard to clean it up.
It's all making me feel a little gloomy. Or maybe that's the lack of sleep. Or maybe it's the fact that I put on an extra ten this morning and I can't budge from my seat. Really, what it is, is that austerity sucks. And because it really, really sucks, I won't be taking a writing class this semester, thereby causing a bit of consternation (how will I stay focused?), and worse, thereby missing an opportunity to take a last workshop with Thomas Cobb—word being that he's retiring from his teaching gig (or is it maybe that I'm retiring from my student gig?). But I don't wish to proliferate or perpetuate rumor. Word being, nothing more.
I've taken a lot of writing workshops, but I have to say, none better than the one taught by the affable and unassuming Dr. Cobb. Aside from the fact that the man is genius, Dr. Cobb gave me a gift that I sorely needed: a little faith in myself. To be clear, I once had faith, but it was long lost on daily grind and housekeeping, on a barren stretch of colorless convention. Dr. Cobb doesn't know this, but with his guidance and kindness, my wayward faith was restored. He taught me about McGuffin, and reminded me to read Carver and Gardner and Bukowski. Without his encouragement—subtle, at that, I may even have misread it, in fact, perhaps just a jolly delusion—I probably would have buried my little chimera (I've so many), certainly wouldn't have dared to blog (not that I should). I wouldn't have had the courage.
My rock-n-roll-n-trippin fifth grade teacher, Mr Sawyer, was the only other teacher (aside from my father, who also taught English) who ever encouraged me to write, and I never properly thanked him for it. I don't know if he's still alive, or if he's living somewhere in the hills of New York, but a thank you has always been in my heart, Mr. Sawyer.
And while I can, a warm thank you to Dr. Cobb, for helping me clean up my slop, and straighten my spine. Happy travels, or happy whatever-it-is-you-plan-to-do-with-all-that-free-time. Who knows, maybe I'm entirely wrong. Maybe I'm feeling all sad and forlorn for naught, and I'll be seeing you 'round campus whenever I can afford to get my pancake-enriched ass back there. In any event, I'll miss you this semester. I'll be thinking of that class. But I'll keep writing. I'll plod along, I damn well will.
The power of a teacher. They can sure widen, and brighten, the landscape.