Thoreau's Journal: On This Day
Stones. Words and Walls

You are Stuck with Me...

Read. Write. Create. Share. 
Collaborate. Assess. Reflect.

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“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man.” 



     I am a writer teaching writing and a reader whose life has been, and continues to be, inspired by other writers—including you, you luckless souls who have been forces or coerced onto a yearlong journey with, yes, me..

For better or worse, my text is my life—the rambled gleanings of crafted words and endless wonderings distilled into the home-brew that intoxicates and invigorates my soul. I am not cut from a cloth of pedagogy or a shroud of hubris. I care remarkably little about what’s other teachers do or what or why or how they teach. I am not a rebel in any sense of the word, but maybe a pragmatist who has tried and done, tried and failed, and tried and done again. In the end, like in so much of life, experience and repetition wins the day. I would rather you set sail everyday in  flimsy dories and labor through the rips, tides and fickle winds of actual experience and feel the intricate pulsing of hard wood and soft sails across safe harbors. The tiller is your pen. The lines and blocks, mast and sails, compass and charts will bleed your hands, and sharpen your wits in a sea of enduring humility parsed in adventurous awe—and when the winds are still and your brain is a dark and dull mirror, then unsheathe your oars and row.

Only when you sense a semblance of skill mixed with vision should you leave the harbor, for then, perhaps, you will know the limits and possibilities of wandering words, and you will learn that grit is a verb and not some vague, idealized thing that can be summoned at will or in leisure. Grit is embedded in character and springs from the Will to sail through the Furies—and not above—the tempests of the waters and the rhumb line we chart through life.

Afterwards, when docked at the pier, you might even listen to an old salt’s advice. That is what writers do. Practice and learn. Practice and learn. Practice and learn. 

Stare a blank screen until drops of blood form on your forehead, for that too is what’s writers do.

And, yes, we will read books and stories and poems and essays—good and enduring words as words are the repositories of ageless wisdom culled from the trivial pursuit of simpler pleasures. If nothing is gained, everything is lost, and the poems, songs and stories we read are but fluff and self-aggrandizing vanity. The power of literature is to appreciate and learn from the writers who somehow whip words into a frenzy of feeling; writers who know every line, knot and trick in the book to take us into the heart of the storm—and every story needs a storm to antagonize the moment and open the gaping maw of ignorance and recalcitrance. It is how we learn to actually live life in real and palpable ways. We connect our comfortable lives with a pulsating and infinite energy to move beyond shallow dreams and vague expectations.  

If all of this seems beyond you, you simply have not tapped into what is within you. If you are not nervous, you are not real. You are, however, real; and you might be nervous—but, I have no doubt that you are ready... All I can ask is that you step into your dory, grab the tiller and trust in the fate that brought you to this classroom. Seek the polestar, not the sky itself.

Some days I will drill you with a series of dull and persistent exercises; other days I will give you more freedom than you know how to handle. But I will always give you time, and I will not let you drown in apathy and reluctance. Learning to read and write well; learning to look within and find words that match your genius, and learning, and simply making the effort to do what is asked of you is all I ask of your time in my class.

Give a damn. Figure it out. You only hit what you aim for.

Today is day one.

How are you feeling?