10/22/08

On being a deep thinker

(This is the most fun I've had writing in a long while, it's a journal response for nonfic class - Chan)

So Annie Dillard walks into a forest, and she sits down on this mossy tree, see…I don’t know why Dillard went to sit on the tree, but she calls it “the tree where I sit,” and knowing a little about Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, I assume that Dillard goes to this fallen tree to think. This is discouraging to me, and I’ll tell you why. I’ve tried thinking before, as I assume great writers/profound, awesome, esteemed people do. It didn’t work out for me. When I was maybe a junior in high school I came home one night from hanging out with friends. It was softly raining outside, which, to a high schooler that liked to listen to emotionally manipulative, despondent singer/song-writer music, seemed like really great thinking weather, so I decided to go lay in my front yard. If I remember right, I think I actually decided to go out after trying to read scriptures for a little, and my plan was to lay there until I got an answer whether or not the Book of Mormon was true. A little bit of Enos and way too much Patty Griffin. Anyways, I laid down on my back and did my best to be really intent. I can’t remember what I thought about, but it was probably a lot of fretting about whether or not my plan would work, interspersed with lots of other random bits of music or girls or school. The rain hitting around my eyes was irritating and made my face twitch (I had a buddy that said he loved to be lay out in the rain, and I could never understand it, because, like I said, it makes my face twitch when the rain hits my eyes. I felt enviously less “deep” than he because he liked to do something so soulful as lay in the rain. But then again, he was a liar and we were talking to girls, so in retrospect I don’t think he actually liked laying in the rain. In fact, I don’t think hardly anyone likes laying in the rain, writers or otherwise. That’s why rain jackets and umbrellas and houses are such big sellers). And when my dad’s headlights swept over me as he pulled in the driveway, the whole thing seemed a little embarrassing. So I went back inside.

            More recently (last year) I had a job that was eight days on and six days off, so I had a lot of free time during those six days. And then I quit my job and didn’t have a job, so I had all kinds of free time. Anyways, I figured that with all the free time I had I would get in some really good thinking, pondering. I lived with my aunt in Ogden, so after a couple unfruitful thinking sessions in my aunt’s backyard and later at a park, I poked around Ogden Canyon until I found this big tan boulder that sat in the stream  that runs through the canyon. I had realized since high school that listening to somber feely-feely music, for me, was a slippery slope of somber feely-feely-ness, not a legitimate emotional experience. So this time I chose my spot out of aesthetics and isolation more than whether or not it bespoke emotional turmoil. Anyways, I’d go to this rock every couple days and bring down lots of different books (because you just never know what you’re gonna wanna read when you’re sitting on a large rock), and my journal and a some water and a blanket and I tried hard to think. Now and again I’d have ten or twenty minutes when I felt like I got some good thinking done, but mostly I just got distracted by birds (I like birds, I like knowing their names and seeing new ones). I don’t regret the time I spent on the rock, I spent some good hours there. And I suppose I was thinking the whole time I sat on that rock, but it never really went anytwhere. I'd feel lousy for a few minutes (some troubles had come up), and then I'd see a bird. Then I'd start reading some book for a few minutes, and then I'd see a bird. So I saw some great birds, but I didn't do whatever it is I imagine great thinkers doing when they think. I just don’t understand how people, like Dillard, can go somewhere and think and have such good things come of it. It’s like people who love shrimp—I just can’t relate. So sometimes, when I read something, like Dillard’s piece here, about some person that seems to feel and think more deeply than I, I feel discouraged. I mean, will I ever be a good writer if I’m constitutionally incapable of sitting on mossy logs and probing, like some divinely inspired physician, the slimy but occasionally and surprisingly breathtaking guts of life and humanity with nothing but unflinching honesty and my naked mind!!!? Cause I’m certain that’s exactly how it happens for Dillard. So, anyways, I’m not much of a thinker.  

19 comments:

Sky said...

Ha ha. Nice. But very different voice for you, Chan. Trying a new style?

Chan said...

Naw, just playing around, voicing frustrations about...I dunno, whatever it is I'm voicing frustrations about. And it was nice to just flip something out and not worry about a stupid assignment, or whatever.

Crystal said...

I tried to sit outside and just think and enjoy nature once. But ants kept crawling on me, and this bee kept divebombing me, and the mosquitos kept circling, and all I could think about was how uncomfortable the rock I was sitting on was, how much I hated bugs, worrying if I might be allergic to bee stings and not know it, and how I could only sit for another five minutes before I had to go to work.

Julie M said...

I liked it. I liked it a lot. I'm glad you're not Annie Dillard. You're not suppose to be- and neither am I. So let us rejoice because if we were all like Annie Dillard we'd never want to go see movies like Red Eye and the Hulk. In fact, movies like that would never be made. Only movies like The River Runs Through It (maybe) and the discovery channel. Yeah, the discovery channel would probably still be around.

Julie M said...

PS thanks for posting again. Which non-fiction class are you in?

Sky said...

I don't know why I like Didion more than Dillard because she's a fine writer--but detail freak that I am--sometimes her details hide a real human being or something. And Jewels, "River Runs Through It" (you need to see it again; the river alone would blow you away.I actually fished that same river once) and Discovery are great, but we wouldn't have shows like "Across the Universe," or "Sat Night Live," or "W." (And if anyone adds "Napoleon," I'll string them up. I mean, I'm talking loose, slightly weird, easy honesty, almost moving into a dance--but not STUPID.) Good style, Chan. Jewels is right. We have to fit into our own voice--then who cares about Dillard (though I'm glad I've read lots of her). I hope you "flip" many more writings out there.

Chan said...

Ha, I love these responses. Crystal, Julie, what are you guys up to? Sis. Morgan, I don't think I've seen you since Gilliland was in town. I left a message on your phone. New York was great, but you may not like the career path it has inspired.

Crystal said...

Yes, I definitely love the style - I felt like I was reading my own thoughts. I just finished The Grapes of Wrath, and I feel like someone who scribbles and pretends to write.

You went to New York, Chan? I'm jealous. I've mainly been babysitting, which is always fun, and applying to grad schools. Not so fun.

Sis. Morgan, are you recovered yet?

Julie M said...

What were you suppose to have recovered from Sis. Morgan? Are you alive? I sent you an email. You should write me back when you get a second.
I'm just teaching kindergarten and "pretending to write" too. I liked how you put that Crystal. I feel like that a lot. We are currently trying to find tickets home for Christmas, which is proving harder and harder each day.
Why were you in New York Chan? And what career path did it inspire? Let me guess--Broadway?

Sarachel said...

So I'm a little slow on posting a comment, but I really like your voice in this post, Chan.

Matthew R. Hall, Esq. said...

Sis. Morgan, I hate to hijack this conversation, but did you see W? Because I wanted to see that, but it's not something you advertise to most people.

Sky said...

Right now I'm watching Link TV (resting in between blowing out rain gutters) about Vietnam soldiers who rebelled against the war, so "no comment" on your question, Matt.
And, Crystal, when I read the ending of Grapes of Wrath, I could not move for an hour. I was stunned.
Julie, a week of Strep, but feeling much better today. How's PA?

Eric James said...

I think my favorite part of the piece was when the words got bigger. I can just imagine Chan sitting on a rock thinking out loud about how he can't think, then getting so frustrated that he starts raising his voice.

Sky said...

ha ha ha ha he ha hah. Thats funny.

Julie M said...

I'm glad that you are feeling better. Strep is never fun. Things are good in PA. I just finished watching Elizabeth Gaskell's North and South and there was a line near the end of the movie that reminded me of something I learned last year, but had forgotten in the midst of the chaos and change of this year. We can never go back.
How are you doing other than strep? How is the WC and everything?
Good to hear from you too, Sara. How's grad school?

Sky said...

So good to hear your voice (though it's written). Yep. We can't go back, and we never get "do-overs" either.

Wish you were here, and I'd con you into a visit to a bookstore or dinner. I've been couped up for a week in a house that gets more cluttered every time I look around.
By the way, Chan's last couple of lines sums up my writing philosophy (aside from the excess of exclamation points and the statement that he's not a great thinker). . . "probing . . . the slimy but occasionally and surprisingly breathtaking guts of life and humanity with nothing but unflinching honesty and my naked mind!!!" That's it. It's how writers write. Did you apply to Temple University? Isn't it in PA?

Shani said...

Chan, this made me laugh. A lot. Then I shared it with my husband, and he laughed. Then I read it to two other American English teachers here, and they laughed. I think it's a hit...
But I confess: I'm a rock-sitter. Ever since I was about 10 years old I've found rocks, logs, and other secluded places to be positively enchanting and inspiring, and they're some of my favorite places to think or write. My one big failure was when I tried this at Walden Pond, of all places. The bugs there in the summer are HORRIBLE, and it was miserable. Beautiful, but miserable.

Chan said...

Yeah, Shannon, I remember you posted an essay about (or which featured) sitting on a rock. It pleases me to think that there are four people in China who got a kick out of this post. Funny about Walden. Bugs really do make all the difference. My little Bro thought he didn't like the outdoors until he moved west, and then he just realized that it's the bugs he didn't like, which the midwest and east are full of.

About the last lines, they are wry. They aren't sarcastic, and they aren't a joke, but they aren't completely serious because they are so serious. I mean, we are a pretty serious bunch.

Crystal said...

I'm always serious.