+99.3

“I draw a jackal-headed woman in the sand; sing of a lover’s fate, sealed by jealous hate, and wash my hand in the sea.” – 1o,ooo Maniacs

So here’s the thing: I thought I’d hatch a dream, to escape the dreadful void of not knowing What I Was Going To Do With My Life, and then I’d instantiate it — make it real — and then everything else would just sort of sort itself out.

So naive.

I’ve loved that song above, Verdi Cries, for thirty years now. When I first heard it, in my teenaged bedroom, sitting on the floor in front of the stereo, as almost every kid worth her or his salt used to do, before Walkmen and iPhones and portable Bluetooth speakers… sitting on the floor of my California bedroom, in front of the stereo, in the nineteen-eighties, I thought I’d be one of those lucky dreamers who didn’t have to conform to the mold that held everyone else, everyone above and beyond me in the aging olympics, so tightly bound.

“I was a dreamer before you and I let me down.” That’s Taylor again. It’s astounding, the reservoir of tremendous lyrics just from that one human’s brain. Enough to live on for years.

And somehow, in my solidly upper-middle-class, mostly trauma-free, loving two-parent household in the still-new suburbs of one of the nicest cities in America, I imagined I could both be an iconoclastic dreamer [my junior year journalism teacher, Peggy O., taught me that word. She was fantastic; a former Berkeley hippie who brought it every day. How teachers do that is still beyond my understanding.] [I thought I could be that, too, for a little while — it was a momentary answer to the question above, which really means, “How are you going to pay your way through this life, dummy? English Lit. major. Seriously?” But I failed miserably at that too; all those young faces looking up to the front of the room, desperately needing guidance and structure and, equally, doubting my ability to give them either. Too much.] I imagined I could both be an iconoclastic dreamer and have the same kind of stability (or so it seemed) and security (or so it seemed, and luckily, ended up) as my parents, my extended family, the neighbors, my friends’ families.

I saw my dad bust his ass to change his own brakes and get it done before the sun went down on a Sunday, and somehow didn’t believe that calculus would apply to me. What was I thinking? That if I just listened to Verdi Cries enough times in a row, the parts of the future cars that I’d certainly have to own — let alone find ways to pay for — would just heal themselves, like magic?

I seem to have overlooked that a house is not just a thing — a permanent place you come home to and a vessel for watching television within. I saw — and even occasionally helped with — the constant painting and tweaking and minor repairs and battery changes and perpetual trips to Home Depot for some damn inscrutable little part or tool or other. And sure, some of that sunk in, past the oblivious filters of teenage lust and angst, to where when I signed a deed myself, all those years later, many of those activities felt strangely instinctual. I’d been culturally patterned to know that having some screwdrivers in a drawer in the kitchen was a good idea; and taught, almost by osmosis, which one to use for a particular problem. I knew not to fuck around with electricity until the breaker’s off, and even then, not too much. I knew about paint, sort of — because California paint is ridiculously different than Midwestern paint — and calling plumbers and why you fix a leak the second you spot it. Sure.

But somehow, for all that, I still dreamed about owning a “cool”, “interesting” old house someday — one with the ever-popular CHARACTER — and thought it wouldn’t be a source of constant need; an epic time-suck; an incalculable sinkhole for money that really should be spent on guitars and vacations.

“So it goes.”

And, duh, same with pottery. I didn’t see the long hours, the sore back, the fact that every lump of clay on the wheel still brings its challenge.

And if I was still in my abyss, spiraling down the long ramp to oblivion, I’d have ended this scrap of writing just there. On a note that says, fuck, wow, am I fucked, and I bet you are too. But I’m not. So I didn’t.

Yeah, the house is a monster, but it is my sense of place. My anchor in the physical world. I walk off the side porch into the incredible cold — the tear ducts momentarily crystallizing kind of cold — and look up and there’s Orion’s Belt, tilted at just the angle that belongs to us here, slowly plowing across the dark; passage marked like hands on a cosmic clock by the bare branches of the trees I nurture and then, as time and the weathers do their thing, prune and cut and burn for their saved heat. I struggle to force myself back to the wheel, every time — I know now that I always will — but like that dog circling it’s bed before a nap, that routine of stalling and approaching gradually and checking for hazards before letting my guard down exists for a reason. No, for a thousand good reasons. The dogs that didn’t scout before sleeping ended up not being dogs faster than those that did. The potters that just rush in are probably missing something important.

So throwing is still hard, but once I commit, and acclimate, it’s mostly a good hard. You know what’s not hard? Tying my shoes. You know what I never even think about as I’m doing it, and haven’t felt any reward from accomplishing since I was, like five years old? Yep. Gods forbid that making things out of clay should ever fall to the level of tying shoes.

Like learning new chords on the guitar, and then wondering how they somehow remained hidden from me all these many years, I go back to my wheel — so simple, it just goes ’round in a circle — and all the clay I can possibly use — so complex, it can do almost anything, if you learn what it wants and are patient — and the possibilities, hiding just out of sight, or around the next corner, are bafflingly wondrous. This can be anything you want, said the sign I wrote to myself when I quit being a full-time potter and went back to being a part-time potter. You’re paying your way, mostly, elsewhere, so don’t be a dumb drone here. Don’t make an endless run of the same Teadust mug and wake up twenty years from now not liking any of them. Don’t surrender to the modest expectations of your likely customers. Don’t hurt yourself trying for a quantity that wouldn’t really make you feel that much better if you achieved it.

Just don’t.

“The souls of men and women, impassioned all. Their voices rise and fall. Battle trumpets call. I fill the bath and climb inside… Singing…”

+99.2

“Trying to tear her down was your first mistake. ‘Cause little do you know, she wasn’t built to break.” – Grace VanderWaal

I approached the gods and I was found wanting. They sent me back here, for more practice.

That’s OK. The trees are awfully nice, especially at the start and end of each day. And I get to sing songs with my daughter — honestly, we’re both terrible, but wow is it fun to try.

I’m not sure if they sent me back with the capacity to make more pots. I mean, it seems like they would have; I assume I can, since that’s been a part of me for almost as long as this has been a me. But I really don’t know. I can imagine, if the terrain suddenly shifted, morphing that impulse and those skills and desire into music, or cutting up and drawing on bits of paper, or writing, or who knows what else The OA might sprinkle on the path, luring me to some as-yet unimagined destination?

But this version of me? I dunno. Sometimes it feels like I channeled so much of the despair through clay that it’s too hazardous to return there. That those well-worn repetitions and modes of thought are permanently entwined with the bad loops; that my former (just barely) salvation could now be a route back to my undoing. Is this just the normal procrastinating stall before diving in, or is this one different? I’ve never dove back in with a new brain before. I probably will; and later I’ll probably report back that it was good and fine and I’ve found some good new things there to chase. But right now — at 6:02 on a Sunday in the northern hemisphere and winter — I’m not sure. It seems a bit too much like the risks I used to take without knowing they were risks.

OK. I’m gonna get my 2nd cup of coffee and reset here. This night isn’t quite over, and I’m not convinced that this is a smart direction to start this day. Hold on a sec…

[OK, I did an Instagram checkin, too. Because I am a solipsistic jackal, like all the rest of you. But the overnight returns were good. It’s crazy to fuck around with some pencils and graph paper and an X-acto knife for a little while and then make an impression on a dozen brains I admire to the ends of the world. I mean… what the fucking what how does that happen? MORE LIKE THAT.]

Mapping out my new brain.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

[Oh, also have a good streak of posting a lyric from a song I’m listening to at the start of each day to Ye Olde Dreaded FB. I like that almost no one ever Likes them. No one but me; because I fucking love them, man. These sounds/sounds/words are the cheapest life support system our civilization could have conceived of, and it’s right there, now, on an infinite tap, straight into my soul via these weird little white knobs that hang around my neck. Imagine.]

OK, loop back. That opening paragraph sounds like I attempted suicide and fucked that up, too. Clarity: I didn’t. More clarity: I didn’t make the attempt — have never got closer than imagining a long walk in the snow with no destination, on one very cold night years ago. And I really don’t know what any of that metaphor means, or is trying to say. I really don’t. It popped into shape, fully formed, as I was doing my too-early music-supported back-stretch hoodie-on lie-down routine. The thing that helps me transition from waking at 5am to being a respectable (?) human at 5pm.

{Oh, and shit! Man, do I want to recount that subtle suicide joke my buddy made yesterday, in my IG comments; but it’s too much to out him for, and I mean, that stuff is not funny, Scott. No; not ever.}

Well, OK. So much for plans. I think I’ve been avoiding this ‘space’ because I foolishly made a plan for it and announced my intentions, back in that bizarre rush of October and November. Nothing kills flow like predicting it’s continuity. Or expecting it. Dummy.

But hey — on the plus side, it looks like I still remember that ‘“I’m not clay.”

+99.1

“Tilt your head and turn it towards the sun.” – Stars

“Waterfall goes softly to the sea. And I feel my hands are finally free. Oh, give me a chance so I can find the sea. One and one; one and one is me.” – Wheat

Well, well. Fancy meeting you here again.

So, I have been writing, despite lack of all evidence here. In fact, writing so much that it’s seemed a little overkill or OCD, even for me; writing writing writing. But it’s all been for myself; working on a story that must remain only mine, at least for now; chipping away at other ideas way too strange even to tell to you; circling and circling this amazingly strange and wonderful new ‘space’ I’ve discovered, like an overlay on the world I previously knew, all too well, but which was hidden from me by secret codes and handshakes I could only dream of.

Writing in my digital Bear, some, yes; mostly cataloging the recent past; trying to put down markers for future reference, remember the places where time moved too fast, so I have to play it back. Typing is good for that; I’m really fast at a keyboard, when I just need to catch the quickest thoughts as they go by the interpreter in a caffienated Rush.

But mostly writing in my paper notebooks — the slow(er) kind of writing; more introspective; more spatial; sometimes with associated sketches and arrows and scribbles for emphasis, or as substitutes for actual mediatation. I’m now on my third one, since I restarted that sporadic habit this fall, [a habit that stretches back at least 30-years; and maybe more like 35]. Not sure when that will wind down or if it will keep pace, but if I keep going at 10-12 pages on a good night, I’m going to need to start buying them in bulk.

But all of that is, pretty much, and as I said, another story; a story that would come well after +99 here. If ever; because it’s a story I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to tell. (Although, “ever” is so long, probably, that it’s foolish of me to assume that. Better to think that I will definitely tell it, just later than I think I might.) Alternately, it might just leak out in unexpected ways, like tears lately, or in the occasional, unanticipated slosh of an overfull mental bucket. We are not always as in control as we think, or would like. Sometimes ideas slip out like meeting an old friend in a new, unfamiliar place.

“Which one am I again?”

+

For years (I mean: years), I’ve looked out the windows at our mostly-wild landscape in this season and thought, “Fucking frozen winter hellscape. Surely this is what’s making me miserable. Surely it’s just because it’s [January].” [*insert name of current month here*]

Now I look out and think, “My god, where did all this beauty come from? Sure it’s cold — I mean, by The Old Gods is it ever cold! — but that’s part of the fun. It couldn’t be this astoundingly white and ice blue and a million shades of interleaving gray without the cold. And we need a good hard frost to kill off all the nasty bits. And it’s not all bad, needing an excuse to walk outside, to go babysit the stove in the studio six or sixteen times a day. Not all bad at all.”

It would be natural to assume that when I stopped writing here, it was because I stopped chasing the Muse; gave up on The OA. But it’s the opposite — because I was chasing her harder, farther, faster, more intently; the Wild Hunt howling in full throat for days at a time.

“This Is A State Of Grace.”

And, another bit of unexpected grace: as I pace my circles around our driveway circle, trying to keep my long, aging limbs moving even at the nadir of the solstice, I get to actually see the track of where I’ve been; literally how many laps made by footprints, captured in snow. Just like fingertips trailing across the wet surface of a just-thrown pot, or how I was, walking the beaches, as a sunburned, foolishly optimistic kid — completely unaware that not every landscape in my later life would automatically record the trace of my passing, like sand. I walk out on that 8º morning; or this -11º morning; and can see all the loops of yesterday’s walk; and the day before’s; and the day before’s. I need, right now, that reminder of the days passed; proof of progress through The Long Night. It is not optional; not a luxury. The count keeps me in rhythm; synced to the eternal Cloud; out of the ditch; away from the old edge of the old, goddamn Abyss.

So, like retracing those steps through the snow, I’ve been needing to write for only me; to figure out what the fuck is going on in here. I just kind of stumbled into moving the slider on the Public/Private control all the way up to 99. (Well, maybe 95; if you’ve been following me on Instagram — and you really should be following me on Instagram; I mean; I’m getting pretty good there — you know that I’ve been using it like a little microblog more; like shards of these longer arcs; excuses for another space to drop random-to-you-but-crucial-to-me lyrics; saying more with a photo than my brain (or courage) have been able to muster with full paragraphs.

I need to dance to TS with new earbuds in my studio in the early morning dark, while the stove kicks back up to an inferno from the embers. I needed to let my beard grow wild for a few more days, here in the mandatory winter “break”; to go out in the single digits and cut broken trees and haul next next year’s firewood; and play backyard lumberjack just to prove that I’m not yet fully broken or too far gone, both for the lumberjacking and the play. I needed to put on new strings and be amazed again at the sound this thing can make; I have played more guitar in the last month than in the previous five years combined. Maybe a lot more. I’ve got two or three new songs almost learned, to where I can go through them without having to think about it too hard. It is mesmerizing, like a self-cast magic trick, and so heartening to hear my own voice dare to sing. Again.

I needed, these last weeks which have felt like months, to make a list of Important Things To Do Today and then studiously ignore it, for, instead, playing snippets of songs into Voice Memos on my new iPhone, or putting together new Lego sets with Pixel, or continuously not going down to load salt into the softener barrel in the basement.

At least, that’s what I *think* I needed. It seemed to work out OK. I’ll be “behind” again in April, and May, and probably in March, but maybe it’s time to take a good hard look at what that really means, and who the dreamer is who keeps indulging in that particular self-cast nightmare, anyways.

Because I really have no idea.

I’m trying to find new friends; trying to start this massive book about ancient Rome; {down, autocorrect! I’ll decide if “ancient” gets a capital A; not you!}; trying to at least think about sorting this almost-done year’s receipts, so I’m not stuck fiddling with paper on a gorgeous day in Spring, like I have been every year since I first tried to be legit about selling pottery in this world.

Anyways.

So: I used to wake up, nearly every damn day, and think, “Fuck, another damn day.” That is literally, exactly what I would think. That and/or worse. I am almost more ashamed to admit it than I am compelled to admit it. So there; now you know.

Now I wake up and think, “Wow, another day. I want to do everything today. How am I going to choose? How will I fit it all in?” And this is no little fling; no temporary {in}sanity injected into the norm; it’s been that way for months now. Months. “I’m doing better than I ever was.”

Somehow, the help pulled me out of the Abyss. And then, as if that wasn’t enough for one year, I somehow also slipped the hangman’s noose; given a reprieve from my choice of execution, where I’d hung, gasping, for years. I’m still gawking at that combination of circumstances; struggling to fit it into a coherent view of the universe; marveling at it. That kind of fortune deserves reverence; vast appreciation. I will try not to get greedy. I will try not to want too much more.

And if this new state (of grace) does turn out to be temporary — if the Abyss drags me back into its gravity; if the noose sneaks back around my neck in some new, unanticipated form — then I feel the urgent, desperate need to use this time, right now, to lay down new patterns; new circles in the snow, which, hopefully, will bring me back here, if and when I get lost again. So I’be been screaming my way into new anti-patterns; going FILDI at as many things as I can juggle at once; doing the opposite of almost everything I used to do, aside from the cores of being a decent Dad, and crossing off my chores, and not blowing out my back, and eating and sleeping, at least occasionally, well.

The contrast — between Old Me and New Me — is sometimes dizzying; inscrutable joy (as if I’m drunk without ever having been drunk) alternating with profound confusion (as if I woke up in someone else’s body, and need to learn how these fingers and legs work). An almost-daily twist of regret and mourning for everything I lost while I was lost; for who I could be or would have become by now if not for all that. (With recognition of what Maron said, about that immediate tendency to blame yourself for not knowing then what you suddenly know now, and how that’s fruitless. I get that. I respect that, and grant myself that pass. But still — that guy I used to be was a stubborn fucking idiot sometimes, wasn’t he? I hated that guy. I wouldn’t blame you if you hated him, at least sometimes, too.)

Been thinking that it’s like the thing that I killed and left in that shallow roadside grave was not The Dream, but the *me* who stumbled through trying to kill it from, oh, let’s say 2007 to mid-2017. That’s a long fucking decade to be lost. That’s a critical mistake, to think that I could strip off that skein of hope and live without it, like Peter Pan without his shadow.

“Just because I’m losing, doesn’t mean that I’m lost. Doesn’t mean I didn’t get what I deserved; no better and no worse.”

So: sorry for the delay; sorry for the future delays; sorry for being sorry. You know what I mean. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.” So much has happened that I would have liked to also capture and track and share here — it seems deeply crazy that I wrote a blog post on the morning of my sale and completely forgot about it until I friend just reminded me of it the other day, so thoughtfully sending me a screenshot of it on his device, to prove to me that these words I put on my screen actually do go out into the world, and to other minds, sometimes. Weird how often I forget that, amongst the dark and the notice. I read it again yesterday (or was it the day before the day before that? I lose track…) and it was actually good; and also good that that was only 20 days ago and feels like 20 weeks. And I don’t actually mean “deeply crazy” like crazy, but deeply weird; like unbelievably strange. Like my internal sense of time passing has warped to match the contours of this new terrain; this strange, unmapped place where I’ve no desire to waste time, to get past it, to skip ahead via video games and televised sports or drama, and instead want to either be soaking up every moment — often listening to music as much and deeply and in ways I haven’t since I was literally a teenager — or asleep, refueling for the next charge into the unknown.

In a D&D metaphor, I just keep coming back up to the surface base camp with one strange, powerful, dauntingly beautiful artifact after another; mystified that they’d been lying under the surface, just beneath our feet, all that time, while I obliviously sleepwalked through years, staring at my feet yet missing the fact of all that ground/earth/substance beneath; immune to the idea of things both seen and unseen. Now it’s like I’m rolling natural 18’s and 20’s most days of the week, with the occasional, paltry 9 not being against anything fatal; all my bad rolls now seem recoverable, with a little rest and some extra spellbook study.

As my new brain has gradually ramped up to cruising speed (I hope), my attention has sometimes gone fractal; trying to be everywhere at once; and so (or, maybe, in spite of this) my writing has gone way, way deeper than even I was expecting. I am using the tricks and tools that I developed here on the blog, back in the way-gone of Oct and Nov (with you as volunteer audience to help me learn them), to burrow, now, down where no audience should go; at least, not yet. If I keep writing myself to sleep each night, instead of watching TV or reading The New Yorker, I’m a little scared of where that might lead. Is it possible to learn too much about yourself, scribbling out one word at a time?

And I don’t mean for that suggestion of unseen words to be tantalizing — assuming you like and maybe even value them, at least a little — or a promise of future quantity and quality, it does feel a lot like being out there in the snow, geared up and trying to have fun without cutting my leg off: sawing up raw materials that will fuel as-yet-Unknown future work, once the requisite time for seasoning is complete… Who knows what might happen in a sufficiently-warmed room in 2019? With an infinitely malleable material like clay — or words — or thoughts — and enough serotonin to keep from getting stuck in another bad series of loops; and, with any more luck — although I know I can’t ask for, and shouldn’t ever expect, any more than I’ve already, recently had — it seems like possibly just about anything could happen. Just about.

And that’s kind of the essence of hope, isn’t it? Of dreams? Not expecting, not counting on them, but allowing them?

I don’t know what else I can tell you about all this, today. Rewiring a brain from scratch is hard work. Labor intensive. Non-linear. Hard to estimate how much time and money it might take to complete the job. Hard to show evidence of past work in the “finished” product.

It’d be nice to have wrapped the year with that ‘final’ +99 post; the one I’ve been thinking about, and hinting at, for months. But I still seem only vaguely closer to writing it; it might need next year’s firewood to fully combust. So yeah, sure, that would have been nice, but nice is not always worth chasing. Trying to fit my actual life, day by day, hour by hour, to the harsh geometry of arbitrary calendars feels like Old-Me thinking. For the sake of what? A very shallow riff on a joyless joke? Like: look at me, I hit a numerological deadline! Yay. Yeah, maybe that kind of thinking was always more part of the problem than part of the solution. Whereas dropping that quote-unquote important post on some random day in January (or June) (or next January) feels much more humane; more in tune with the human I actually am. And this human still needs all the help he can get.

“So it goes.”

So 2017 was the first year in a long time that I didn’t hate. Well, that’s not strictly true: I hated the first seven months of it, as usual. That’s why I ( finally ) went to get help. And then, like the punch in a fairytale, the help, somehow, magically… helped. The last five months — those were really good. Intense, wild, brave, scary-good, but so much better.

“My castle crumbled overnight. I brought a knife to a gunfight. They took the crown, but I’m alright. All the liars are calling me one. Nobody’s heard from me for months. I’m doing better than I’ve ever was.” — TS

Thanks, Taylor. Sincerely, and from the greatest depths I can plumb. This music, your music, has helped me more in the last year than I could say in a thousand blog posts. You are an incarnation of The OA. I am unerringly grateful.

So August through December has been like a renaissance. A new way of writing, a new language of thinking, an almost — at times — brand new way of looking at… well, fucking everything. I don’t know how else to put that. And sorry, but the F-bomb there is necessary; like so many seemingly unnecessary things.

I am humbled by that newness, where I’d truly believed there was no room left for anything that wasn’t old. Brought low in my dominion of self; to where I can now bow to the full New Year moon as I pass by, in the sub-zero snow walk to feed the stove. I am so much less than I’d insisted, and so much more, now, than I’d hoped.

And since I couldn’t have predicted any of this, a year ago — since I failed completely to see any of it coming — I am officially out of the prediction business. I will, instead, make small, contained goals. I will try to keep my To Do lists short and on point (with everything else dumped into appropriately labeled containers, minus expectations and guilt: Someday Maybe; If You Feel Like It; Rainy Day Insanity). I will try to be open to each new bend in the road, each new curveball from outer space, and each new opportunity to indulge in another Oxford comma, or not.

I will just try.

“There’s glitter on the floor after the party.”

+98

“I love you to the moon and back…” – TS

It’s sale day. The last thing I should be doing, three hours and fifty seven minutes before opening, is writing a blog post. That’s why I’m doing it.

Well… That and I feel like I kind of left you hanging there. After twenty thousand words in October, and another twenty in November, I was certainly paid up on my Karma Payment Plan for December — but I could have at least given you a heads-up. I was so insistent about getting my voice into your head, all three of you who doggedly followed along for the whole thing, that it was kind of rude to just turn that voice off, without warning. So, sorry about that.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. Might even be doing more, but I switched over to paper and the Private side of the words. I’ve had a ton to think about — between the new job and the new brain, it would have been plenty, but adding in the sale panic and I didn’t think I could trust my filters enough to avoid making a mess. A couple recent near-misses — where I accidentally lobbed things on the wrong side of the Public/Private membrane, yet somehow got away clean — shied me off for a while. You don’t have to FILDI everything, all the time.

(Don’t worry; I’ll be back to cause myself more trouble again, soon.)

➕ SALE TOMORROW :: 10-4 ➕

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

So last night, during the obligatory bath time (not mine), I was cruising around iTunes — which I virtually never do — and found a new-to-me TS song. I bought it instantly — a dollar and twenty nine cents might be the most ridiculous bargain in the history of culture — and discovered it is tragic, and beautiful, and austere, and… Well, it’s pretty much knocked down my walls and destroyed me three times since then, and the sun still hasn’t been out in that span. Clearly, things are moving below the surface; tectonics of emotion, drifting in their inexorable, unpredictable patterns, atop a sea of god knows what.

And the shocking-revelatory thing there is that this slice of beauty was there, for years, just out of my view. It existed in the world — we have as many external bits of proof of that as we might want to go look for — and yet, to me, it was invisible. Unknown; even more: unimagined.

So how many other things are there, like that, just out of my biased, habitual, so often too-scared and too-distracted view? Dozens. Millions. A red cardinal on a twenty degree late afternoon, perched on the side of one of our seventy year old trees to catch the fading Midwestern sun. A side-by-side moment of paternal joy. The explosion of a perfectly landed joke; the glimmer of a secret smile. All these things.

It’s traditional for potters, at this time of year, to proclaim that this is their best batch of work in a long time; that they are really pleased with the new stuff, their discoveries since they last hammered out their road signs, that you should (I mean, not should, but I sincerely hope you will) come and see it — and also, if that’s not enough, cider and cookies! And that’s usually just Communications & Marketing. (Trust me; I know. Also, I am now a certified professional, so you have to believe me.)

Well, as suspcious as this will sound: this is my best batch of work in a long time; maybe ever. I am more than really pleased with the new stuff; the discoveries since I last hammered out my road signs — I’m almost to the moon and back over them. And, as great as it would be for you (and you and you and you and a whole bunch of them) to come out to our weird spot near Fillmore and see them, I honestly don’t really care if you, or practically anyone, does.

The pots are good, and that’s almost all that matters. Almost. I followed The OA as far as she would take me this time, sincerely and openly and with all the attendant risks, and it was worth it. The setup is getting lovely even as I write, the snow hasn’t started falling yet, the flowers in those new perforated vases are gonna break my goddamn heart, and maybe yours, too, a little bit.

The hardest part is done, the funest part — seeing people see them; seeing people like them — comes now. And… and then these long months of work and worry and more work will be done again, for awhile. I’m not certain that I won’t start glazing up the next batch on Monday — I’m that jacked up to take another shot at twenty two hundred degrees — but I might sleep all day, too. Maybe some of both.

Or write that plus-99 post. Or something.

Anyways. I’d say “wish me luck”, but I already feel like I’ve won a lottery this fall. Can’t really ask for more than that. Wouldn’t want to.

Cheers, readers. I hope it snows on you today, just a little. I hope you look up that song, if you’re overdue for a good, clear-the-decks sob… It’s called Ronan, and it’s, to me, astounding.

I hope you find some unexpected, pre-existing beauty today. I’m going to keep a good watch for it, here, myself. Try to be the best version of me I’ve got access to, right now; after all that. When I get tired, but can’t go nap, will try to just go a little quieter than usual. To remember that tired is okay, and doesn’t last forever.

OK, here we go. I won’t ask for you luck, but I’ll take any you’ve got to spare.

Thanks, guys. I love you all, even if I don’t even know your names.

“I remember your bare feet, down the hallway; I remember your little laugh.”

+97.0

“I recall late November, holding my breath, slowly I said, ‘You don’t need to save me…’” – TS

A whole decade of before.

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… And, starting today, a new after.

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The difference is shocking; startling; surreal. If this was a dream, you guys would let me know, right? What a delta a day can make; what a change a window onto the (real; not virtual) world makes. I can sense time passing, just like on studio days, from my perch on Day Hill, instead of that gnawing, perpetual twilight. I can watch the sun go by; hear the church bell ring noon; and at five; see police cars, coming and going; see the wind blowing by a leaf, and the big wire that nicely cuts across the view — like a line of black slip from a brush — swaying in time.

Plenty of people on campus would kill for this room with this window. Plenty of people, everywhere. I know I sure would have. But maybe I paid for it up front, with 10 years working out of a hole in the ground. As unlikely as it seems, maybe I’ve actually earned it.

“Nobody’s heard from me for months. I’m doing better than I ever was.” – TS

+96.8

“And the time on the clock, when you realize it’s so late, and this time we’ve spent, together.” – Dashboard Confessional

I just realized something. Something that probably shouldn’t have taken 46 years, 5 months, and most of 16 days to figure out. Something that maybe I used to know, once, in the shining moment of youth, and then forgot, along the hard way.

You have to be chasing something.

It almost doesn’t matter what. Or how. Or how remote, or even if you’ve ever got a fucking chance in hell of ever catching up to it. It’s the chase that matters.

All those days, months, years where I’d pretty much given up the chase.

“And I know it’s long gone and the magic’s not here no more, and I might be OK but I’m not fine at all.” – St. Swift

It’s so good to be more excited about the next oddball, semi-random thing I’ll discover through the kiln than worried about what happens if they don’t all turn out well. It’s good to dwell on the almost-successes; to allow my imagination to go fractal and pursue the entire flock of receding birds at once. It’s okay to live part of each day in an inspiring fantasy. Just remember to keep eating protein and take care of your kid(s).

I dunno. It’s 3:51 in the dark, or so they tell me. Feels awake to me.

Sometimes the thing you can chase is dumb, or silly, or absurd, or even painful. That’s the thing — no, one of the many things — I loved about Dart, back when I really knew him; back when we were growing up together on an almost-hourly basis: he ran towards the pain. If it was hard to do, he was even more motivated to try. The only way out is through. The only way to get good at all the pain — and there will be so much more than you’ve dreampt of, my sweet summer child — is to practice. Dive into the cold water all at once. My friend Dart, from what I remember, usually ran towards it with a howl in his lungs and a mad gleam in his eyes, like the exact opposite of what any rational person would want to meet coming towards you on a battlefield, back in the days when his red-haired ancestors (and mine) were swinging rocks and bronze axes at each others’ skulls. He’d have won, every time.

He chased painting, muscles, style, friendships, cycling, attitude, loyalty, discovery, belief. Goddamnit.

So. So so so. Here’s to the negative nine week olds, who don’t even know yet that they’re gonna inherit one super cool dog as best friend. Here’s to words across the wire; friendships on the wind; potters firing as if the food they’ll eat in April is on the bubble now. Because it actually is.

I’m gonna try, like the damn fool that I am. Not to give up the chase. Not to revert to my mean[ness]. Do more stupid shit that might leave me on my face, in the mud, embarrassed for the attempt; but at least not smug and clean on the couch. Like a free mug caption contest on Instagram. Like making changes where all the change seems to have bled dry years ago. Like eating better food, throwing better curves, dreaming better dreams.

Oh! Look! There’s some new pain::: RIGHT. OVER. THERE.

Let’s go!!!

“And I knew, that you meant it, that you meant it, that you meant it.”

+96.6

“In silent screams, and wildest dreams, I never dreamed of this.” – TS

winter. night. firing. breath.

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Back to my faux death, the one where I tripped in the studio and drowned in a bucket of white slip: it’s interesting that near the start of this fall run of writing, I was thinking in terms of death metaphors. Not intentionally, but as if that back part of my brain was bubbling up the idea that some now-unncecessary part was peeling off; dying; draining away.

At the time, back in the +40s, which now feels like merely the prototype days of what this thing has become; and it wasn’t that long ago, but the time has been so compressed and intense, so much happening, so much internal change and revelation that it feels, sometimes, like years… and mostly good years.

Back then, when I came up with that bucket of slip gag — and it was intended as a fun joke, about why I needed one of you to show up and save me from my solitary ramblings in the studio, stretching into the night time hours, as I marveled at my ability and desire to keep making things at a time of day when I’d always just assumed it was too late — back then, I was imagining how I might cobble together a ‘dead man stick’ here for this blog; a switch that would self-terminate it if I just stopped logging in to WordPress for a month or two. Like a news agency composing obituaries for notable people while they’re still running around healthy, just so they are ready if it happens all of the sudden, I thought I could start at the ending and write the last post now; set up to autopost in the event that I just never came back.

I’m painfully wary of suicide and death metaphors, now; too close; too soon. But also; but still… some part peeling away. If that person who insisted on zombifying The Dream, and exhuming it, and staring into Oblivion, a handful of Alms waiting for the end to take them — if that person has been gone, consistently, a while now — “nobody’s heard from me for months” — then isn’t it like I killed him? Pushed him out of the pilot’s seat, at high altitude? Left him in the hole in the ground he’d dug for himself and furnished, with loving care, with all the trappings required to convince himself that he really deserved nothing better than to live out the rest of his days in a hole?

It really is like that person I’d become is gone. But I know he’d come back the second I allowed it. Old buckets of slip are lying around all over the place, waiting for me to faceplant into them. Try not to trip on anything obvious, at least.

You might remember how I killed off one blog — you know, tw@se, the one that people actually liked. I did it deliberately, coming back to give it a good send off at the very end, but only after I’d almost let it just lapse into oblivion; fade to nothingness. That’s how I felt then; that’s how I was then. I almost can’t look at that last picture of myself, now; reflected back in the studio window, surrounded by the dark, and the noise, outside. Man, that hurt.

I couldn’t imagine then being like this, now, and I really couldn’t imagine, then, turning that weekly attempt at self expression into this, where I just went ahead and said almost everything. It’s so much worse for you, dear reader; so much better for me.

reach > grasp

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“I feel like I might… sink and drown and die.” – TS

A little later — I could go look up the dates, but it doesn’t matter exactly when — I had that actual dream about piloting my craft into that frozen lake. It was shocking. I don’t think I’d ever dreamed my own death before; at least not that specifically or viscerally.

That crash. Jesus. Even after all that practice — in the dream, I was a seasoned veteran — I still couldn’t stop myself from cutting the margins until there was no margin left. When your ‘margin for error’ is zero, you next move is always an error.

(Like Viserion, in that show about fire and ice, I sank to the bottom of that arctic lake. Unlike him, there were no zombie hordes to pull me out, no Night King to reanimate me into the opposite of my former self. The slow, inevitable march of doom. I’m wondering if that Dream pilot, the one who kept risking everything for ever more marginal gains, if he needed to sink and drown and die all along; not the Dream itself. Or, as Witt once instructed me, if I just needed to find a new Dream, and believe it was worth continuing to imagine in the impossible. Supposedly impossible.

So maybe that guy, the “new” me who replaced the “old” me, whether that was ten or fifteen years ago, is dead now; vanquished by these tiny blue and white pills, as if it’s a tiny, daily magic trick that reveals a formerly hidden layer of reality. Maybe I didn’t need to Kill The Dream after all; maybe I needed to Kill The Dreamer Who Was Having That Nightmare.

“And I buried hatchets, but I come back to where I put ’em.”

HOT

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“Everything means everything, Dan. That’s the problem!”

So no: I don’t know what I’m doing here. I mean — how the hell could I? Maybe it’s clear as Athena’s grace to you, from the outside, but it’s opaque as death to me.

I know that I’m stalling. I know that I’m going to do +99, and I’m going to take as long to make it right and good as it needs. I know it’ll probably be after my sale, which means still several weeks off, and that, while it was smart and good to set that arbitrary deadline, I’m likely going to keep writing, and wanting to keep posting, and so I’ll probably linger here in these fake dot revisions, and even keep going back and adding and revising the old, “published” ones (sorry, Witt!) as much as I need, or want, to. Call it what you want… to.

Going almost back to the beginning of my pottery blogging, I’ve loved setting up number systems and then wontonly breaking them when and where I see fit. It’s fun to connect the dots, and find patterns; it’s more fun to flaunt those rules and break them. I missed six, you missed six; sometimes we’re all so eager to think we know what the fuck is going on in the world, in our lives, in our minds, even — hilariously — in our deepest emotions, that we jump to seven as if it’s a magic number.

Spoiler alert: there are no magic numbers. It’s all just arbitrary markings on the wall of this particular cave we find ourselves in together; ways of demarcating and annotating the time we’ve got left until that woman who escaped [because, again, why does it always have to be a guy?] comes back with the light to show us how our reality is just shadows.

One thing I know is that I’ve skipped watching TV, at night, before bed, more in the last forty or so days, since that day when Everything Has Changed, than in the previous… Oh, let’s say, decade. I almost never read, or need to read, The New Yorker, by the light of my bedside lamp, to turn off those last troubling thoughts of the day and sink into sleep; as I’d done for at least twelve years, and maybe more like twenty. More input at that time of day is now the last thing I want; even when my brain is so tired it’s practically hallucinating. There are too many ideas in here already. But I keep feeling the need, sometimes desperately, on a daily, and sometimes almost hourly, basis, to get them out; to play and sing and dance and write and write and write, down to the bones. Thanks, Natalie.

Back in mid-October — when I thought I was already cranking out words pretty hot — ha! — even two posts a day and a writer’s block wasn’t enough. I had to revive my paper journaling habit; of pretty much daily spilling out everything; the entire truth; if you want to know that story, look for the cheap notebooks with the colorful covers. But trust me, you really don’t. (Also, it’d only be proper to ask my permission, first. I’ll probably say yes, because you know how I am about wanting careful readers.) There, I write — now — with no worries about someone else finding it; reading it; what they might think, what ideas it might loose out into the world. I worry, a bit, about them failing to burn it with me in the cremation kiln some day, [hopefully long from now] [wow, there’s a change] [!], as per my request. And that rediscovery of self in pen and pencil somehow seems to connect this new me back to who I was at 17 or 25 or 32. Not that any of those guys had “it” figured out, or that I’d want to go back and be them again. But they knew one thing, which is that I’ve always wanted to put words down, to get them out of my head; that there’s not anything wrong with writing for twenty minutes before you can wedge that first piece of clay, or for an hour before you can tackle the day’s chores, or for three hours, all told, by the time you circle back to bed. [No, autocorrect, I did not mean to type “circle back to dead”, but wow, are you learning my tendencies. Like a kid who missed six and now reads like her life depends on it, you are helping map my terrain, and I’m grateful.]

Oh lordy, now what am I gonna do? [Maybe try 7.5? Duh.]

So I guess when there’s a firehose of inspiration coming in — nonstop streaming from that unseen radio station in the sky. Or gifts from The OA, from where she sits, over my shoulder, back where the guest potters’ shelf is in the show/writing room; laughing behind her hand, like it’s the best joke in the world, but one she’s not supposed to tell, or to find funny in present company; starry eyes sparking up my darkest night; so gorgeous can’t say anything to your face. Because look at that face. Or the beneficence of Hermes the Messenger, or Hera, the divine Mother. Or downloading at warp speed over that super secure terminal connection to VALIS, or Vishnu or von Wittgenstien or. I guess once you have that on tap, that much coming in, you need more than a garden hose of expression going out.

Every living system needs homeostasis. I’m glad I’m still among the living systems. Because being almost entirely dead fucking sucked.

“And losing grip, on sinking ships, you showed up just in time.”

+96.5

“Candle wax and Polaroids on the hardwood floor.” – TS

My new favorite sound in the world is the bell that rings in Taylor’s Gorgeous. It happens — I dunno — four or five times in the song, right before that killer chorus; you’d think I’d have memorized every bar by now, for the number of times I’ve listened to it the last few weeks. The rest of the tracks — the synth bass, the digital marimbas, the tripled or quadrupled vocals, all that atmospheric reverbs stuff — stop for a beat, and then that bell. In the pause, just before each time it rings, I pretty much have to reach out into space and pretend to hit that button. Like the fifth movement in The OA, or taking two arbitrary little dance steps backwards on the way through the frost to the studio, in time to other music in my head, or closing my eyes for a moment to acknowledge the grace of beauty in the world, reaching out to hit that imaginary bell is penance for past sins; a koan of gratitude for finding my old self again; a small gesture of supplication to whatever American Gods still linger in these parts, under earth or stars or faded hopes of not succumbing to the inevitabilities of an unexamined life.

That video, watching St. Taylor — another incarnation of The Muse — work through the first parts of that song in what seems to be a legitimate view into the act of creation… that’s still kind of haunting me. Is there anything more lovely than that momentary look away, maybe an inadvertent scratching of one’s cheek, when we realize there is an idea lingering, just off stage, and if we listen for it and stay patient, even for just a single goddamn second, it could be ours for keep? I mean — is there?

My new second favorite sound in the world is the rhythmic, mechanical, subtle-but-absolutely-intentionally-there-in-the-mix, of what I think is a mic’ed sustain pedal on the piano as she plays New Year’s Day. It’s in the L channel (at least, it is on my headphones), and it compliments the rest of the song in a way that’s breathtaking. Like, I practically listen to the song just to hear that creaking.

(In my fantasy version of the world, one of the engineers was down on the floor fussing with cables or something and heard that pedal squeaking or creaking a little more than it should during rehearsal. And then, on a lark, and instead of getting out the WD40, she snuck a little mic down there to catch it as the piano got captured for all time. Later, she turned that phantom track on, just for a minute, during one of the playbacks and TS flashed on it immediately. (Uhm… duh — because she’s a fucking genius.) “Wait! Jennie, [because the engineer is a woman — got you, didn’t I?], “Jennie,” she says, “what’s that sound over there on the left?! Oh. my. god. Put that in! You guys, we have to put that in!” And so it went in. For people like me. For people like her.)

And everyone in the world who hears it will hear it, even if they don’t know they are, or don’t really hear it. It’s there. Like a too-bold glaze drip frozen until the next volcano comes by.

My third new favorite sound in the world is that one percussion hit — a single woodblock or rim shot in — yes, you guess it — another song from reputation; almost certainly my favorite one: Call It What You Want. This is the one I dance to in the showroom every morning, now, despite the fact that I have no moves, no game. No shame.

It’s not that it’s crazy different or a surprise. In fact, it’s probably the right, expected sound in just the right, expected place in that kind of song, landing high in the mix, just as she goes into the brilliant chorus of, “My baby’s fit like a daydream…” — And yet… And yet.

The thing is that it only hits about an eighth as often as I’d expect — only right at the opening to that chorus. Then, it’s replaced by a quieter, more rhythmic sound in the rest of those spots on the drum chart. I’m quite certain that someone — maybe even teams of someone’s — spend hours and hours fidgeting with these drum tracks for each song; imagine the millions that are potentially at stake. So I also like to imagine the deliberateness that would go into finding exactly the best sound, like a craftsman honing away everything that wasn’t essential, and then, once found, the restraint to not overuse it. Like a fluid, perfectly imperfect brush stroke that stops a few centimeters before it had to, or a pattern of applied texture left open or wobbly at the end, so the spirit can get out and go into the next one.

And, of course, one of my all-time favorite sounds is the muffled roar of the burner, as it first becomes audible above the crunch of the gravel under my feet, as I make my way back out to tend to the kiln, 10, 20, 30 times each firing. My brain goes from that momentary worry — is it off again? — to that soothing You Are Firing A Kiln state. Work is getting hot, work is getting done. That’s the sound of progress; the sound of another little batch of dreams coming awake.

“You and I, forevermore.”

+96

“Don’t we dream impossible dreams?” – TS

So I spent about 2o,ooo words calling to The Muse in October, and in return she graced my first firing of the season. Not that it’s strictly transactional like that, of course, but I’m quite sure it’s related. And it feels like if I keep dancing before dawn every morning and playing at least one song on the guitar at night and writing writing writing, but also pausing to supplicate nature and appreciate the beauty of momentary rays through clouds, or a break of sun on my face as the last row of bricks go into the door;; if feels like if I keep doing all that, then this good harvest will continue.

That’s some whackadoodle mysticism right there, now ain’t it? Good god, what’s happened to me?

So No. 83 was more like a 3rd or 4th firing in the cycle than a 1st. The first ones are usually mediocre; I purposefully fill them with the worst pots, as a test run; a kiln calibration; fodder for all my same old mistakes. But this one had, like, zero jankiness and almost every pot was good — even the few where I overshot in my zeal for that runny amber celadon. (I’ll need to do some careful grinding, because the results of it flowing off the pot were — pretty awesome.) Several other’s were even — I don’t know if I can say this ::: does it irritate The OA to say that her gifts are great, bordering on revelatory? Maybe it jinxes it to be that specific? Or is that the appropriate degree of regard? Am I supposed to heap praise and rend my garments and grow out this beard in gratitude? Hell, no wonder every tribe had a shaman; this shit is complex. Oh, I guess I’m probably just supposed to shut up and make another sacrifice. Words don’t really count. (Too bad words are how I roll.) Got another goat around, Witt?

Anyways, there were like, some serious keepers, dude. (If you have the misfortune to also see my nonsense on Instagram — ‘a.k.a. my micro blog when I’m not macro blogging’ — you’ll have seen a half dozen shots from that load yesterday. And I had to restrain myself to keep it to six. More in the hopper for today. UNFOLLOW!)

{Uhm… I think they’re waiting for you to toss in a “you missed six!” reference. Not gonna do it? Ugh! Such a jerk. Way to set ’em up and then fail to knock ’em down -Ed.}

So. So so so. I think some of my wonder at the results was because the forecast promised buckets of vile, cold rain all day. But at daybreak, after kickstarting the stove, it was clear just long enough to haul the door down, grab all the pots, run them into the studio like a bank heist gone wrong, and then button it back up before my fancy shelves could get a drop of wet on them. (It rained like a bastard all day after that, too, so — timing. As usual, it’s almost everything.)

So then, suddenly and unexpectedly, there were all the results, sitting on my stainless countertop under the hot lights; the first group of new pots in almost half a year, and a reprieve from my terrible plan of having to glaze the next whole load with those pending results still unseen. So good.

Perhaps needless to say, I was doing the “jesus-fuck-wow-oh god-holy crap-no way-too good!” routine through the whole load, as I hurriedly pulled them out. Afterwards — I’m not making this up — I sat in my studio chair — the broken one St. Trox gave me for free — a used $800 Aeron, that took a quarter — literally just a quarter — to fix and make good as new — [OK, now I’m just stalling, because this involves more crying, and I’m being a baby about admitting it… Jesus, suck it up, man!]

[Music recommendation for this next section, if you can get to it: Memories of Home, from the soundtrack to the series The Pacific; Blake Neely, Geoff Zanelli & Hans Zimmer. Instrumental. Orchestral. It’s what I’m listening to now, as I write this.]

…so after I got the pots out, amazed at them, and so happy to have pulled that little stunt off, I sat in my 25¢ studio chair and dripped a few more tears into my hands, cupped over my face; but this time it was pure gratitude, and relief. All the books and blogs and religions say to practice gratitude, but for years I just couldn’t find any; not without faking it. And I knew the difference. And then here it is, like a magic trick. The real thing. ‘Everything has changed.’

This can’t last, can it? It’s too good to be sustainable; it’s got to be an artifact of my rapid ascent from the depths; an emotional bends. But;; maybe;; ?? Or, just go with it and stop trying to anticipate the next disaster, or direct the movie you’re watching?

“And, God, let me enjoy this. Life isn’t just a sequence of waiting for things to be done.” Oh, Ze. Where’d you go, man? I miss you like a brother, lost before he was ever born. “You look like him… Frank.”

So there I am, sitting in my studio on yet another Saturday morning, like a thousand other Saturday mornings, but this time, maybe even for the first time, saying thank you to some force that I do not think actually exists. And yet, saying it anyways. Wondering if, just maybe, I’m coming around to the idea that our selfishness and smallness and venality are all from us — that we are indeed the source of our worst impulses — but that things like love, and generosity, and graciousness, and our capacity to not only appreciate beauty but actually create little patches of it from time to time, might actually come from somewhere else; come through us, rather than from us. For an up-until-right-now hardened atheist, that is one heck of a thought. Not sure what I think about that thought, yet.

It’s like the combination of realizing finally! that I’d been overfiring the whole load just to flux liners on the top shelf, and stopping doing that, and finally! figuring out how to get salt cups into the dry zones without them turning into lava and puddling all over the shelves; it’s like those two in combination solved 85% of the problems I’ve had in the previous 82 firings. (Well, that and adding the chimney, which was a massive improvement in the actual firing cycle itself.) And so, yes, sure, that’s just trial and error and an idiot trying to get to salvation so with the wrong tools and a poor understanding of the scientific method, and randomness, etc. But… But but but. Isn’t it also, arguably, “the sacred geometry of chance?” I mean, I look at the results on a couple of these surfaces that were just random shots in the dark; experiments with brand new tools, whose magnificence I’ve hardly earned yet, and the layering of texture and my intentional marks with color and then running glaze, seeking the path of least resistance back to ground, and blasts of salt and heat and love and it’s just kinda fucking staggering. Like, “Who made this and where did it come from?” Because it sure doesn’t feel like it came from only me. I dunno; maybe it’s just an illusion; a byproduct of this hot new brain.

Oh — and you know the kiln gods are on your side when you haven’t fired in literally six months, and yet the thing follows the previous firing log like minute for minute, all the way down the last four hours to the end. Crazy good.

So, as predicted, I feel vastly better about pulling off the sale, not just because my big rock is now rolling, but because this tiny batch of 25 or 30 pots not only adds more to the shelves in the showroom, but is also better than almost all of it. A new crop of the freshest, best stuff… And this wasn’t even close to the finest of the bisqueware, still stacked around the studio. Oh my.

Oh — and the firing went easy, and I found the energy to keep prepping the next one, even though I got up in the four o’clock hour to start bumping the gas, and… Whew.

Two more like that and I’ll be in good shape. Not great shape, but good enough. Good enough to invite all my previous customers with confidence. Good enough to not get swamped in regrets about how I should have/would have/could have just knuckled down more in August or September or October. [Because, note to self: August and September and October were insane. And November’s not been without it’s share of drama and incredulity, either. You did pretty well, considering.]

(Oh dear; I see what’s happening here. Look, I AM NOT counting the pots from those future firings yet. I know they still have to go to hell and back! Yes, that’s the deal! I get it! I wouldn’t try to skirt the deal; Oh no! Not me. And I’m gonna keep dancing and playing and singing and crying and writing and staring that beautiful terrifying polar bear dead between the eyes, until the burner goes off for the last time. (Hopefully at twentyonehundredandfiftyfivedegrees.) I’m an idiot, but I’m not stupid.)

💥

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Hmm.. Let’s see. There was something else…

Oh, right! I had a long, nighttime phone call with that old friend. It was great. Good to hear he’s doing well, especially considering last week’s news. Fun to feel that conversational bubble appear out of nowhere, yet again, like another magic trick; despite something like three years in between us talking. When you’ve spent night after night, for almost an entire year, lying on your respective sides of a dorm loft, talking in the dark before sleep, noses inches from the ceiling, so there’s room for a couch down below, well… I think that sets a conversational pattern in place that you can lean on, now almost 30 years later, pretty much as hard as you want. I feel like, for all our wild differences, that guy’s been in my mind, and I’ve been in his, enough that we can just synch any damn time we might want to. Pretty great. More like a brother than a former roommate; more like an unexpected herald of The Muse, since he first lead me to clay, and without him I doubt I’d have ever found it, than just an old friend.

I also took that field trip to U-town, and met up with Aunt Nell for the first time, and it was amazing. Two world class conversations on back to back days — when do I ever do that? [Spoiler alert: never.][OK, not I’m just pantomiming my own schtick. Ugh.] Anyways, her show was wonderful — so many impressions and surprises than I’d ever expected from the photographs, and, since I built her website by hand back in the day, I think I know her photos (and the photo version of her work) pretty damn well. Score another one for seeing art with you own damn eyes, instead of on a screen.

And the rest — walking around a town with a cultural heart, the best bowl of soup I’ve ever had, browsing and splurging at an honest-to-Zeus art supply store, [I didn’t get around to shopping for pants,] listening to TS most of the hour and a quarter there — in between a few long bouts of talking to myself;at myself;for myself — another paean to The OA — and again most of the way back. Crazy.

And Aunt Nell is the bomb. I love back-to-the-land hippies who are now closing in on retiring age. They are pretty much the best. Thanks, Aunt Nell. Especially for listening. So weird to look around and discover people who actually seem to get me. Can’t wait to do that again.

So, yeah. When have I ever unloaded a kiln with a new OS Patch on my brain? It’s been so long. Or made a drive like that and instead of a mild torture, kind of an adventure? Or woken up each day excited about at least one thing, if not several — even if it’s just this dumb blog or an idea for a photo to shoot to further feed my Instagram addiction? So long. So weird.

And now it’s Sunday afternoon, and somehow I talked my way into getting the next batch loaded [Always helps to let The Admiral loose on IKEA every once in a while]. So No. 84 is sitting ready, out in the deep cold, where it will wait for my two-day stint as a “normal” at the U to end, then I’ll try to blast it through a little hole in the predicted weather between Tuesday night and all the familial obligations of giving thanks in a proscribed, ritualize manner. (No thanks, I’m good. I’ve got The OA on my side now; one rambling, excessive blog post and one more playthrough of Call It What You Want at a time. That’s my religion.) (Well, that and slaughtering the occasional hapless Georgia goat. Honestly, we just fucking make it up as we go along.)

I haven’t tallied up my word count for this month so far — was thinking that’d be a good bookend to this whale of a post. I bet it’s a lot, but feels like bad luck to look, now, in the middle. Also, expecting it to fall quickly as the sale approaches… But then again, I never expected to write any of this in the first place, so who knows? It might keep going up.

Not me. I don’t know a damn thing.

Lucky you.

“Like we’re made of starlight, starlight.”

+ 95

“I’m so happy I can’t stop crying.” – Sting

Ugh, this is a hard one.

So now I cry almost every other day. For a while there, it was even a couple times a day, face down on my yoga mat in the corner of the showroom, where I hope people will come stand soon to look at the pots that are still too hot outside in the kiln. Pretty sure that was on five, down from ten, and that it was entering “jags” territory. Like once I’d turned the key, now I couldn’t go back through and latch it again. Back at ten it feels useful and healthy; at five it felt a little unhinged.

Let’s see: should we do the What, now? What is pretty much all of it: I cry about the lost time, the regrets, the missed memories, the wild flailing at a dead Dream. That it took me so fucking long to find this one little lever to start my rock rolling uphill again. How could I not see that before? How much of that suffering was needless; more than I could learn from? I don’t know; I might never know. I cry, now, too, about that one other thing. Sometimes mostly about that. But that’s a story for another day. Or never.

Today I’m trying to understand why I didn’t. Like, not a single actual tear for almost an entire decade. Maybe longer. Like all the other bad ideas he whispers, so convincingly — this is just normal, the world really is this dark, and it’s just that other people can’t see it, you’re too weak to escape — the Dark Angel talked me into thinking tears and the occasional sob were not only optional, but not worth the risk.

I think — I mean, my current working theory — I was afraid. Afraid I might scream, and maybe not be able to stop. Fear that if I let it loose, my mind might just split in two. Fear I’d become my father, and abandon her when she was two. At Christmas.

That’s right, I said it. Come and get me. I’m not afraid anymore.

I don’t know. Maybe I wasn’t really afraid of any of those things; maybe I’m just grasping at the idea of fear now as a comfortable scapegoat, or a simple, plausible explanation. At the rate things are changing in here, it is entirely possible that in a week I’ll know it was something more, something else, something fractal and more complex. But, just now, it sure feels like I was afraid. It felt like territory I used to roam that was now closed off to my exploration; a part of myself embargoed, or sacrificed on the twin altars of fatherhood and obligation.

OK, we’re closing in on it now. Nowhere to run. Ninety-nine is coming, and unless you’re going to pull a fast one and miss six, you’ve gotta start figuring out how you’re gonna get there. It helped to describe it to Aunt Nell yesterday. See seemed to both get it and ratify that decision. Pretty sure I’d trust her to just make the decision for me; maybe that one and a whole bunch of others.

Because look where it got me, making all of them for myself. Almost nowhere; but finally here.

OK, I’m posting this before it gets light and I come to my senses. Still 6:08 on the blogging machine. Still in my glasses, stove still cold in the studio, and still on scarcely even one cup of coffee. Because I will wuss out in the daylight, if I don’t hit it now. FILDI. “You look like him… Frank.”

You’re welcome — and sorry — and thanks. Thanks so much.

“I was brought to my senses. I was blind, and now I can see. Every signpost in Nature says…”

+94

“And someone with strengths, for all the little things… You need.” – Wheat

Today feels good, and also very random. Waking up at 4:30 and starting to work will do that, I guess.

First light. 1167•F.

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OK, so I am admittedly a complete homer on this, but I say that “Gorgeous”, “Call It What You Want”, “Delicate”, and “New Year’s Day” is one hell of a good playlist. I may or may not have listened to it, oh 50 times since reputation came out. Less than a week ago.

The strangely specific, very unpleasant smell of slowly cooking off an entire summer’s worth of wasp’s nests from the loose bricks over the kiln arch. Ug. Gives that first firing of the season a distinctness I could live without.

The paranoia of having the kiln going again; hoping for no burner FUBARs, the weather to follow its predictions, myself to regulate my energy and enthusiasm so that I stay on top of it and don’t do anything dumb, like decide at the very end to let it go fifteen degrees hotter for no reason.

I took a selfie out in front of the kiln, something I never do. OK, not never, but like maybe four times to date. After looking down and realizing how ridiculous I’d look to a stranger coming up the driveway, I couldn’t resist. 15 year old torn up jeans, backed by thermal leggings. Ancient yard work tennis shoes, dull green from all that dead grass. My IOWA 51 hoodie, from 1993 — so that one wins the prize for oldest garment in the ensemble at 24 or so years. Rabbit-trimmed hunters hat, bought as a gag on a cold day in Wisconsin in what seems like another lifetime, and now worn every day around the studio from October to April. Blue latex gloves, to keep the coarse, ice cold sealing clay off my skin, as I wrap the dumb little kiln in a paper mache’ coating, for protection against stalls and backburning from the occasional volatile gust. And I’d even forgotten about whatever my semi-beard is doing now, in the long 5 day interim between being on the clock from one week to the next.

And they think I dress down on office days.

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Living in the country, growing weird, indeed.

I got in touch with one of my oldest friends, after a few years of radio silence, and we scheduled a call for later tonight, after the kids are in bed. So great. Such a relief. And while I’ll be loopy as hell by then — even more than I am now — he’s one of the few people in the world who’ve definitely seen me worse, probably dozens of times, and still loves me in spite of it. Or because of it, maybe; I’m not sure. That decade-long recluse thing kinda came back to bite me in the ass, and I’m determined to turn it around.

Same goes for tomorrow — once I get past this first firing — I’m going on an exceedingly rare (for me) clay visit, to see the retrospective show of a friend, whom I’ve never actually met in person. This should be cool. And it’s in the U town — the real U — so there will probably be a good lunch involved. Thinking I might also let myself go to the kick ass art supplies store and buy whatever feels right; even though my 14 year old car needs new shocks, struts and tires, and I’m a long way from banking any of the sale proceeds from all this bisqueware all around me, it seems like a fine time to not deny myself some new toys/materials. “Because a mind needs books like a sword needs a whetstone.” Oh, and I might even buy a new pair of pants, if after all that I’m still awake and feeling particularly nutty. The one I’ve got left, that isn’t tattered by clay dust, is from last year, before I stopped drinking milk and accidentally lost about 15 pounds. I’m pretty much swimming in them now, and the belt situation is a little ridiculous. (I know, the fucking luck, right? Sorry. What can I say… I got the Scandanavian metabolism/skinny gene as part of the Dad Deal. Came with some decidedly negative early life experiences, and I’m pretty sure I can chalk up the Black Dog to that side of the bloodline, too. But hey — at least I know not to start drinking. That’s a plus.)

Oy. I think I need another lunch before it’s time to salt.

I made the mistake of showing Pixel this morning’s post, because she asked if I had used that Taylor lyric yet. So I was reading that paragraph to her, and she started reading aloud over me, as she does, and she’s so dang quick that she got to the next line, which I’d already forgotten about, and read out, “Fuck ’em if they can’t…” — before I could snap shut the browser window. Oh dear. I lose the bet with The Admiral as to who’s gonna break out the first one of the seven deadly swears.

So I immediately go into my whole song and dance about how there are no bad words, only bad people — kidding! — only bad uses of words, and that almost any word can be used badly, la la la, etc etc etc, what do you expect from an English major/might-have-been-Philosophy-minor-if-my-first-Prof-hadn’t-been-God-awful?

And she says, “Well, in my world, we call that the F-word. That way we can say to a teacher, “He said the F-word!”, and we don’t also get in trouble for saying it.”

Third grade, folks. Read ’em and weep.

Makes me think about all the other things that she knows that I don’t think she knows yet. This parenting thing gets easier when the world beats me to the punch sometimes.

“Waterfall goes softly down the drain. And I think my time has finally come. Oh, give me a chance so I can find a thing… One and one; one and one is three.”

Well, shoot. Plus-93 was going to be about how I did my 93rd bisk firing in my electric kiln the other day, and the same day Pixel came out to the studio, looked at a whole board full of test tiles, and said, “Dada, I like number 93 the best. Ninety three.” And, for whatever reason, how one of my favorite Colts, from back when I was young and watched football, was Dwight Freeney, DE, No. 93; all-time master of the spin move. And some other 93 thing that happened that day, too, but is now lost to wadding and diorite and lunch and two semi-naps and salt prep and Instagram addiction and waiting and watching and wondering.

“My hand is, possibly, slipping. And I may have, lost what I, was gripping.”

+93

“Yesterday we broke from the parade.” – Wheat

Spoiler alert: there’s no Pottery Bloggers’ Club. Of all the peeps I came up with, in the Golden Age, pretty much all have quit now, or stopped, yet again for an indeterminate time. Just like I have before; just like I will again. No shame in that, but it does get a little lonely sometimes. We, collectively, made a thing, a spark of beauty in the world, and then we scattered, “like embers taken from the fire.”

So just now it’s only me and Tony C. Weird. Sad.

Of course, that’s not actually true at all. There are dozens of other people still going, too; people I never quite connected with (yet) or whose combination of writing and photography and pots didn’t quite hit it for me. No shame in that; or in my not knowing them and following their exploits like I hope you’re following mine. A quick scan of Fuzzy’s pottery blog hit list says this is true; written in the sky so blue; as blue as your eyes.

In this case, I’m not even sure whose eyes those would be.

Strange.

++ THIS IS WHAT WE CALL A SECTION BREAK. FOR MOST PEOPLE, THAT’D BE ENOUGH TO CALL IT A POST AND EVERYTHING ELSE WOULD BE ANOTHER ONE. IMPROVES YOUR CLICKBAIT AND PENNIES OF COMMISSION I GUESS, OR SOMETHING. IDIOTS. ++

Firing today — finally. First one of the Fall, first one of the cycle, first one of the last ones of the year. Feels good.

Here’s the bad news: my blogging machine is now out in the studio — right here, at the table where I cut and handle and assemble and paint and smooth and refine and dream. Seven and a half years of operational discipline with tw@se — never letting the blog encroach on the making, not even a little — and now with my new brain all that is gone like the wind. Ha! I won’t be surprised if I type half the day away now, in between temp checks and turnups and salting… Instead of glazing up the next load, like I so certainly should do.

Ah well. Can’t have everything, I guess. Can only be in one place at once.

Closing in on a thousand degrees. It was great, yesterday, after waiting out nine hours of rain, that the meteorologists at the NWS nailed it — stopped on cue, just a little 0.00″ mist, and I slammed ’em in there, bolted it up, and turned on the gas. Also great that after a full six months away, without even seeing the interior of the kiln, I had enough of the process packed into hard memory that I could mostly go on instinct; my obsessive notes and checklists more of a safety net than a “what the fuck do I do next?” recipe. {He seems to be overconfident. Especially for the first firing of the cycle. This is likely to end in tears — you heard it here first. -Ed.}

“I know it’s true; it’s written in a sky as blue, as blue as your eyes, as blue as your eyes. If nature’s red in tooth and claw, like winter’s freeze and summer’s thaw…”

Sorry — that line just came out the speakers, because I queued the song up on my still-new-yet-already-beloved-iPod-Touch, and I had to transcribe it. Already had a bit too much coffee for 6:46am on a Thursday. Or any day.

I told Witt yesterday, on one of our two short Potters’ Panic Season calls, that it was weird to be doing all this same stuff with my new brain. Glazing and firing is such a routinized operation; everything kind of has to follow from the previous step, skipping or freelancing are usually disastrous, often the best you can hope for is to not make dumb mistakes — just too many variables to keep track of, at least the way I do it, and too narrow a spectrum that qualifies as “success”. (At least, the way I do it.)

And now, I kind of can’t believe I did all this while I was depressed. No wonder it was so fucking hard. I feel more like I’m just doing it, and less like I’m rolling a hostile boulder up a horribly hostile inclined plane. Afraid that’s gonna jinx it, too; my self-fulfilling prophecy capacity seems nearly as strong as my self-defeating one. Like, last night, for the first time in forever, all I wanted to do was sleep and stay asleep — the one night where it would have been really useful to be up prowling around, to get in an extra gas bump! The diametric opposite of what the previous 82 firings have been, where I desperately wanted to sleep more, but was too anxious and couldn’t get back to sleep after wandering out in the cold and the dark to light that candle.

“I lit a match and blew his mind…”

Not my favorite new TS lyric, but Pixel loves it… And has been insisting for a few days that I work it into “a blog”. “Let’s do a blog, Dad.” Oh dear. Poor kid doesn’t even know how goofy and wrong this is; she’s growing up thinking we’re normal and the rest of the world is weird.

Living in the country, growing weird.

It’s firing day. I’m keeping all of that. Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.

“One and one and one is yesterday.”

+92

“Squeeze my hand three times in the back of the taxi. I can tell it’s gonna be a long road.” – TS

That’s a strange phrase, “like the back of my hand”. It seems like I know the front of my hands a lot better than the back. Maybe focusing on the front is a potter’s thing. We like insides just as much as outsides; a lot more than the average Jane.

Things finally seem to be going in a good direction for me. It’s been a long road. Not everything, not guaranteed. But I feel the vector gradually shifting from negative to neutral to positive. Kind of unbelievable, really.

That said, there’s always plenty of time left for me to fuck it all up. My capacity for self-sabotage seems limitless, some days. If I do — fuck it all up, that is — maybe I’ll get a tattoo. On the inside of my right forearm, in block S T O N E C A R V I N G letters; starting at the wrist and going up, left to right, to the inner elbow. It will say, “This was a terrible idea.”

Fuck it. Sometimes you’ve just gotta say, “Fuck it, let’s do this,” and kick off a one-man dance party:

I spoke too soon. _Now_ it's a party!

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I still haven’t cancelled my sale. But I still haven’t sent the postcard off to the printer yet, either. Usually, that’s the demarcation line. I’ve glazed and wadded the first load of pots, but I still haven’t fired anything. I was a thousand percent committed to starting early this year — my first target date was mid-October — before everything else went fractal on me. Ah well. ‘So it goes.’ What are you gonna do?

The irony is this might be the best batch of bisqueware I’ve had in a while. Maybe a long while. Ends up better brain chemistry helps in the studio, too. Who would’ve guessed? Speaking of regrets and blaming yourself for belatedly figuring out something important: by Odin’s Beard it kills me to imagine what pots I could have made, what discoveries discovered, what problems solved, if I’d started all this sooner. /Kills/ me.

But. But… No time machines. The path of regrets leads back into the dismal swamp. Sometimes you’ve just gotta drop a full power Cone of Silence down on that shit. FILDI. Just do it. Be the change you want to see. And don’t forget, Scott: water bugs.

Water bugs, and trout.

Below.

“Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you… And I will hold on to you.”

+91

“I am not the type of dog that could keep you waiting… for no good reason.” – R.E.M.

I told that anecdote from The Night Of a couple weeks ago. Don’t worry; no spoilers coming. If you’ve seen it, you know the one I mean — about the care package. If you haven’t seen it, just imagine that it’s a great story, but one that a person like me really should never attempt to use in a regular old conversation; especially not when the other person doesn’t already know the story. It’s one thing to reference a shared idea; another thing entirely to try to conjure it up out of thin air and make it work. In this case, it’s just too convoluted a setup, and requires details that have to get worked in somehow, and if, after all that, the payoff at the end misses — well, ugh. That would suck.

But it was late in the day, on a really crazytown day — I mean, probably the craziest in a long time. And so I’d been firing on all cylinders for so long they were starting to melt the engine block. So while some little, faraway part of my brain was screaming, “Don’t do it!”, I just couldn’t hold it back. Like so many things I’ve written here, when I’m over-tired, I tend to tell too much of the truth; my filters are the first thing to fail. And, really, maybe that’s not so bad.

Because I’m pretty sure I’d rather be a storyteller than a technician.

So, amazingly, considering those circumstances, that story seemed to land just right. And it needed to, and I was somewhat in the right to attempt it, because it conveys one of those ideas that almost can’t be had via simple, rational explanation. It’s an idea that needs a story as the medium to express it. Sometimes metaphors aren’t stand-ins for the thing; they are the thing.

And this particular story, the one from that show that I’m still not spoiling, just matched up perfectly with the idea I had; with the overwhelming way I felt that afternoon. In fact, I’d even thought of it in advance, like learning lines for a play that may or may not go on. I’d talked myself in and out of trying to land it several times before the curtain went up.

I do tend to think about words a lot, don’t I? About them, in them, for them, by them. They’re like a care package. If you’ve seen the show, you know what I mean. If not, you should go watch it.

+

Circling back up a level, with this blog (aka. an exercise in text and solipsism), it’s like I’m trying to build a fractal palace in my imagination. Sort of like one of my Minecraft monuments, but made out of virtual words, instead of virtual blocks of wood and stone. A fantastical place where you can come play with me — a place that, through writing and reading, we start to expand and revise together, just like that rare bubble of a conversation in a rainswept car at night.

I think it can be like this third thing, between my mind and yours. Something that is neither you or me, but can’t exist without both of us being engaged (and, hopefully, a little transfixed with the focused attention and enjoyment of these shared moments going snap snap snap).

We instantiate this thing together; it’s not mine or yours alone. Then we can use it like a screen, to project our wilder ideas upon; an echo chamber, to test the sonic resonance of impulse control and surrender; a malleable ball of universal clay, that maybe neither of us knows how to work well, at least, not yet, but which shows signs of being amenable to all the traditional tricks of craft and hope.

Like spawning a new server as the admin, I breathe that first spark of life into it (if for no other reason than because I’ve got the top level privileges here). But the very next thing, before the spark goes out, I invite you to join, and if you say yes, we’re off. Who knows what could happen in that wavering bubble of thought and time? Sometimes, so rarely it makes me cry, wonderful things happen.

When they do, we try to sustain it as long as we can. So hard getting started, so sad having to stop. I hate every alarm that rings, every known limitation on that flow, every regretful pass at another idea that could have lived, another feeling expressed, another moment captured into two twinned memories. Hate them. Everything in the known universe tries to tear that bubble apart. Clocks, “priorities”, to do lists, other appointments, drying pots, on rushing deadlines, the need to keep bringing in cash at a steady pace.

Nature abhors a vacuum; our civilized, modern minds abhor anything that deprioritizes our avaricious, atomic selves in favor of some shared understanding or identity. It’s a shame, really. I think our not so distant ancestors would watch us running away from each other all the time and wonder where it all went wrong.

“I can swing my megaphone, and longarm the rest. (It’s easier and better to dispute it from the chest. Of desire.)”

+90

“Don’t we dream impossible dreams?” – TS

And here’s me after just two days back at ten:

David Carr, whose passing I still lament:
“Hope is oxygen for someone suffocating on despair.”

And he knew, more than most, about real despair. I’ve had my taste, and no thank you. Not anymore, if I can help it. I’ll go to the doctor, go to the mountain, look to the children, drink from the fountain — you name it. (Well, OK. Pretty much anything except American Jesus. I’ve also had more than enough of my share of that, and no thank you. Seriously, if it works for you, great. But I’d rather try Taoism or or rock climbing or Gluten-Free.)

When the afternoon tiredness hits — and it hits hard on a wake up cycle in the 4am hour — I am either just tired or I am despondent. At five, it was the despair; the old, well-honed mental machinery cranks up again, glad to get a chance to work. Every possible pessimistic thought, every denial of a hopeful view of tomorrow or next week or ever, every excuse to find some momentary wrench to shove in those gears and make it stop.

At ten, I can see those gears — giant and looming over my landscape like artifacts from a long departed, indifferent alien civilization — and hear them shuddering, as the hidden underground boiler tries to churn itself to life again. At ten, I can turn my back on that, and put in earbuds and listen to All Too Well or New Year’s Day and find some comfort. It also helps if I’ve got enough clear space to take a nap; which has been happening lately and is gonna be difficult come Monday.

I spoke too soon. _Now_ it's a party!

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So I missed my first firing window, and I was sure I was going to be despondent about that, too, yesterday. But instead it felt weirdly like relief. Relief that I didn’t have to be out on the first 25º morning of the year; that I didn’t have to keep rushing to an automaton’s schedule; that I could indulge myself the slack of putting up those lights. (Which, at mid-day, seemed like stupid folly, once I was wiped out and hot from being up near the styrofoam ceiling and with the bright cold day sun glaring in the windows seemed to add almost nothing. After blessed dark again — and a rare chance at napping, eating dinner, and then going back into the studio — they were… Wait for it… Yep, you guessed it: incandescent. [There’s something else I dearly want to say there, but I won’t. At five, I might have. Which is fan-tastic. Call It What You Want To.]

Every day, while I wait — to fire, to see if I’ll actually be able to pull off the sale, to see what this batch of brain chemistry will spawn — I hatch little plans. Mini-Dreams, to see me through. As if I need to learn how to grab a Dream, and savor it for a while, and then let it go just as easily. Cycle through them, instead of getting fixated on a single one, with a 10 or 20 year horizon. That’s too remote for hope. Too far to really see with anything other than wish fulfillment. A good dream would be intrinsic; something I can visualize in all its complexity and with the grit and texture of daily life on it. Not a city on a hill. Not a lottery-winning utopia. Not getting saved by some deus ex machina.

{Someone notify the Autocorrect Department that “machina” is correct, and should not convert to “machine”. (Although, deus ex machine is funny, in it’s own way, especially when composed by a robot. Oh — maybe I’m not giving it enough credit, and it was trying to make a joke? Hey — save comedy for the meat bags! What the fuck else do we have left?) Seriously, though, the bots should totally be smart enough by now to recognize the kind of popular Latin that this simpleton is able to pull out of the air on impulse. -Ed.}

More optimism: I called in an airstrike from St. Philbeck and he’s gonna sortie his jets. Awesome. My customers really like his pots. (Maybe better than mine, but I’m not jealous. I swear.) I’ve still got a really fine crop of Phillips’s and Gillies’s, too. That’ll help. I remembered that I have a small group left at the shop in town, too, that I can raid for the big weekend. (It’s been so long since I had any in town that I’d forgotten about them; they’re pretty much the best of the best of what was left over from the spring sale there, which means they’re better than anything here in the showroom (aka writing room) now. That’ll be a good boost, both to the display and my confidence.

And Change Master encouraged me to skirt around my kiln/weather problems by just glazing up as much as I can in advance. That I’ve been doing this a long time, and mostly have my glazes dialed in, and it’s worth the risk to get them fired to take a few shots in the dark. Better than good bisk on the shelf on sale day.

And there was also some talk yesterday about actually buying a piano — maybe after the sale? — and about how, if I did get serious and actually start building a kiln, I might be able to call on reinforcements for vastly-needed expertise, as well as hugely valuable labor, and priceless comraderie. Can you imagine? Having that much fun and ending up with a new kiln?

Now that seems like an impossible dream.

“Like we’re made of starlight.”

+89

“I’m a crumpled up piece of paper lying here, ’cause I remember it all, all, all… too well.” – TS

So here’s me after about a week at five, written a couple days ago:

It’s been intense. I’m worn out. Worn down. Worn.

Trying to work when everything is screaming that I’ve earned another hour off, a day off, a week off. Imagine: taking a whole week off. Insane, but definitely insane in November. Potters gonna Panic.

The problem with being this tired and this emotionally wiped is that the Dark Angel sees my weakness and pounces. He has so many terrible ideas for me, each one wrapped in a chrysalis of hope and the promise of momentary salvation. I have to bat them away like flies. Very, very tempting flies.

Stupid Internet ruined everything. Everything | and | everyone | always | being | one | click | from | everything | and | everyone | else |. It’s freaking dangerous.

Oh, you mean, ‘what else is wrong’ besides the fact that I’m a fucking idiot who can’t stay out of his own way? That I can’t seem to sleep more than three hours in a row without needing a break for music, writing, Minecraft or all three? That I’m still not sure if I’m having a sale, even after posting the event and dates to the dreaded FB? That work has gone from it’s usual somnambulistic mediocre haze to a white hot rush, including more drama and intrigue than I thought possible anymore? (Followed by the bizarre sensation of suddenly caring again, like I did back when both me and the web were still young?) Or that I had a weather window for a firing this week, and really, really tried to hit it, and still came up short. So close is useless on Sunday, after it’s started raining.

Or — I mean, seriously, check this out — the sneaking suspicion that I may have — simply through being stubborn and determined to ride my existing coping skills and mechanisms all the way to rock bottom, if need be — I may have squandered the better part of, oh, six to eight years of my life, for want of a little blue and white pill at dinnertime each evening?

Yeah, sure. I mean, besides that stuff, there’s nothing wrong. It’s all good.

“Time won’t fly, it’s like I’m paralyzed by it.”

+88

“You make me so happy it turns back to sad; there’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have.” – TS

I went back up to ten. It was getting a little too sad in here; sad in a way that felt too familiar, and so a little scary.

There should still be a range, ups and downs. There’ve been a lot more ups — like, super ups — lately than I’d have guessed possible; so I’ve gotta swallow my downs, too. But then there’s too down, which is where the shit that the Dark Angel is whispering at me starts to seem like a series of plausibly actionable ideas. And no, it’s not about controlling how you feel; but you’re always responsible for controlling what you do.

Downs like when an old friend dies. Like a light going out over your head, the one you were using to see the page, but didn’t even know was on. Ambient light versus direct. Easy to mistake one for the other, then take it for granted.

I don’t know what that means, and I doubt the analogy holds up, but it feels right. I’m gonna go with what feels right — for a change.

Holy shit, I really need a piano.

Music and writing instead of tv last night — again. Like I’m someone else. More like my 20-year-old self than a recliner-bound has-been, awaiting a slow, spiraling fade out.

{Hey, remember when you used to write obsessively about everything, back when you where ‘young and cared’, in those 300-page spiral notebooks? There were days you could scarcely stop. That seems weird now, because the intervening 25 or so years have kicked you ass, en route to teaching you a thing or two, and so just like most kids quit drawing, you (mostly) stopped writing. At least, until tw@se came around. But, arguably, that’s who you are as much as anything else. You used to play guitar and sing a lot, too. And cry. And have unimaginably remote, impossible dreams. And fall in love like your life depended on it. (Maybe it did.) -Ed.}

I’ll take sleeping straight through from 9 to 4:30 any day over that ghostly Dark Wake mode. Fitfull sleep, full of dreams, I think, but not OA dreams. Still haven’t had another one of those; that was a unique experience. But still — solid sleep, I think. Helps to reload your cache.

[OK, going weirder now, and into more computer/as/metaphor shit. Feel free to bail.]

Woke up thinking that this is like in the old Mac OS days — for me, the entirety of the 90s — where all the non-core things you wanted the machine to do required little bits of software called Extensions. (I was not in IT back then, and had zero clue that would be my fate — I mean, that would have seemed as ludicrous to me then as working in the hardware department at Sears as a tool-clueless 15-year-old had done in 1986.) Anyways, I was still a tech civilian back then, so I can’t tell you what an Extension really was, in CS terms, without doing some Wikipediaing that, at the moment, I don’t give a shit about. But my guess is they were “extensions” of the basic operating system. Things the Apple Gods had deemed outside their purview to include. And so, things that were absolutely necessary if you wanted to, say, print. Or calibrate the color of your monitor, or “distill” a PDF file, whatever the fuck that was supposed to mean. (Perhaps that Adobe saw itself as some kind of renegade bootlegging operation; the little good guys up against the Mac’s Death Star. Ironic. Why do the rebels always end up as tyrants the second they seize 51% of the power? Have they no shame? No fondness for their hippie roots?)

Anyways, because Extensions were outside the main system, they were [oh, let’s just go ahead and say ‘a Wild west’] a Wild west of roll-your-own, slap-’em-together, figure-it-out-yourself hoo-hah. (Today’s “DYI” sounds so punk rock, whereas back then it was more like a trip to Radio Shack with a broken soldering iron and Journey playing on the cassette deck. But the weird inversion is that today’s version of “do it yourself” is actually much more tame and guided — more corporate and safe — than the old-school one, which really was a new frontier. Those Homebrew Computer Clubs were the real deal. Same old story, I guess: We tell ourselves lies and then layer over some hubris to hide our tracks.)

So you’d find an Extension to do some new trick on your Mac — not online, because online (mostly) didn’t exist yet. It’d come on a floppy — not a CD, and certainly not a install DVD, because those didn’t exist yet, either, outside of some R&D lab. And you’d install it and then you’d reboot the computer, often needing to also invoke arcane spellcasting like zapping the PRAM or holding down three special modifier keys (which sometimes did nothing and other times caused their own special weirdness). The machine would come to life and… pretty much anything was possible. Now you could, say, print, but your mouse didn’t work. Yay, command line interfaces again! I knew all that pointing and clicking was a fad. Or you could do that distillation of that fancy document format, but half the colors were missing from your display, or you’d get system crashes every 30 minutes (which was super duper fun back in the days before partitioned memory; one app would take down the whole machine, including all your unsaved work. (Sometimes hours of writing, if it was the middle of the night at a computer lab across campus, and your paper was due in your first class, and you were too loopy to keep track of time and remember to keep saving.) (To this day, I still compulsively hit Command-S every few minutes, even in applications that autosave to the Cloud, where Command-S doesn’t even do anything anymore. It’s like a cargo cult.)

“There’s glitter on the floor after the party.”

I can’t believe I forgot to convert the italics in that message. I can’t believe I didn’t offer to drive, didn’t say that one part that I’d planned, over and over again, to say, didn’t see that my excited gesturing was looping ever and ever closer to the top of my ill-advised Starbucks cup. [Note to self: even for 4:40pm meetings, maybe recaffienating right beforehand is a bad idea. Better to go in too cool than too hot.]

For the amazing string of things I got right — I mean, there were a few that I nailed like a bullseye from across the room, with my contacts out — for all those successes and good things, I can’t believe all the things I got wrong last week; all the near misses and missed opportunities, only realized in shocking jumps hours and hours later. That is definitely the kind of obsessive, self-critical thinking that I’m supposed to steer clear of, because while we have to examine the past to learn anything from it, imagining a time machine is not helpful. You cannot go back for a do over, you can only try to do better the next time. And it’s not that any of those little misses or mishandling so or unfortunate turns of phrase really mattered, not really. Nor will it make a huge difference one way or another, that, say, I had to stand there for 15 minutes with coffee dripping down into my pants. Who knows? Maybe it clarified the mind and stiffened my posture and helped me nail the rest of it? Because it certainly went unexpectedly fractal there for a while, and I held up well, almost as if it was one of those crazy interview stunts where they purposefully stress test the candidate. (Hilarious to imagine that I think everyone else is just playing checkers, but they’re full on chess masters, and so that’s exactly what they were doing, and I was too dumb and arrogant to see it; but somehow passed the test anyways. For all the ways ceramics has ruined my life, having to stand in front of a kiln load of complete disaster and retrieve your mistakes from the void, one painful lesson after another, builds a shit ton of character. To where standing there with an unfamiliar iPad and coffee in your underwear and random important people popping in and out like it’s a 70’s improv sketch and everyone else is on coke is pretty much a walk in the park. (If that’s true, I should blow all this off and start a consulting gig where I travel around in a fancy POW-style bread truck to fancy corporate HQs where they force their employees to wrangle with glazes and trimming bowls and the ego-sandblasting of blatant inexpertise and clear, unrelenting failures. There’s probably a million dollars in that idea, for someone more shameless and motivated than me.)

So I’m trying not to dwell on my missed opportunities, but damn does that gully go deep. Neural pathways, it ends up, take some serious time to rewire; and in the meantime, it’s like every wire is hot, nothing is labeled on the panel, and some dummy didn’t even bother to put covers on all his comically-wired junction boxes. It is a “hot mess”, my dear.

But sometimes I really do wonder, with my new set of Extensions, if all it might take is one of those little things — just one more unlikely piece added to the stack — to tip the whole thing over into something else. Some new reality. [Like, what if true A.I. was there, waiting in some inscrutable configuration of this piece and that piece and definitely not that piece, and no one ever thought to wrap them together and say, “Run”? Some of this undeniable moments feel like that; like if I could have just threaded together disparate elements in such a way, like a pagan charm, it would be the thing that would make all the difference, as if it could somehow leap me out of this reality and into another one. That’s some high-octane mystical thinking, there, which maybe speaks to how wide I’m casting my net in trying to sort out this new brain.]

Sorry again for the hypergraphia. Really; you don’t have to read all these — certainly not now. They’ll keep; I’m not gonna rush over and delete the whole thing the first time it catches me up in some minor unintended consequences. (And, even if I did, pretty sure the Internet Archive’s got it all covered. Every momentary thought, crystallized into an unrelenting permanence, simply because I couldn’t find that last bit of self restraint, again. I dunno — it might all come back to bite me in the ass, but there’s something beautiful about taking that risk. At least if the bill comes due, I’ll have paid it forward as best I could.)

OK, that’s enough for now. Sorry again. It’s better than the one I was going to do. It occurs to me that, rather than save this on the shelf for later, perhaps more reasonable review, I have to hit Post now in order to make the writing stop. I can fix it in the mix; I’m letting myself do that as much as I like, now. The stove needs restarting, the glazes restirring, the next batch of pots resorting. I missed my firing window, but I really hope to not lose yet another day.

“Is it cool that I said all that? Is it chill that you’re in my head? ‘Cause I know that it’s delicate.”

Thanks for reading, again and again and yet again. I can’t believe that you do. You’re the best.

“I recall late November, holding my breath, slowly I said, ‘You don’t need to save me…'”

+87

Things I Shouldn’t Have Said This Week
Vol. 373

– Maybe by different starlight I could find another dream worth having.

– That’s how it works…

– Your instincts on these things are usually wrong.

– I actually feel sorry for the sanctimonious jackasses who are too far gone to enjoy this.

– Gygaxian Premise

– I’ve been waiting for that invite for ten years.

– Oh shit!
[Not sure if I actually said this or not, but in the moment that I was accidentally knocking my coffee into my lap, during that meeting, it might have slipped out.]

– See you tomorrow?

– I’m used to them being slick, but that guy is evil.

– I feel like I’ve known you for years.

+86

“And I never saw you coming. And I’ll never be the same.” – TS

On a typical day, now, I wake up thinking. I’ve got an idea for something to write, and I’m just going to keep thinking it until I’ve filled up my RAM and boxed myself in somewhere. I have to write it to get out of the box. When I don’t get to write it, I can just keep thinking myself farther and farther into the box, until the best part of the day is gone and I’m just a mess. Stuck in that box.

[I did restring my guitar, last Sunday; at least, the first three. (All six at once boggles my mind, with all the stretching and retuning. Top three are up next.) And I’m learning some TS songs: All Too Well; Call It What You Want. Singing ’em, too. I even bought a couple new songs just now, which is so rare these days. Like I’d given up on music as if it was a young man’s game. Whew, that was close! Let’s not forget again.]

[Spin, Fidget Ninja, spin! Don’t let them stop you. You be you, Fidget Ninja. You be you.]

I’m still a little stunned by how many posts I wrote in October. [Or, I should say, how many I wrote and posted. 33 doesn’t even count that Drafts and Scraps in their respective Bear bins, or the half notebook I filled with private scribbling, or all those ‘today’s writer’s block’s I did. So many words. By Yoda’s knotty little cane, if only I was this devoted to glazing and firing pots just now. Ah well; we do what we can, not what we can’t.]

I joked to Witt that I’m now posting so much so fast like it’s a buffer overflow hack on your wetware — trying get so many of my thoughts into your RAM that your system can’t handle it; exploiting the mechanism where that lets my input start to bleed over into your other processes. “That’s how it works.” Pretty soon, you’ll be dreaming of muses and watching The OA and listening to Taylor Swift all day long, just like me.

As the comedian Dana Gould had it, crudely but essentially correct, “Let me put my thoughts into you.” Isn’t that pretty much all of Communication? All Marketing? All influence, persuasion, reading and watching and writing and singing? Practically all of culture, when it comes down to it?

“And I loved in shades of wrong.”

So you’ll probably find this little admission just up against the border of pathological: I’ve also been writing in my paper journals again — a lot. It started with those Guest Check cards — still so fun, but I’m mostly using them for lyrics and quotes and lists, and less as blog post starters. Poor Natalie Goldberg got me started up so fast that I read the first fifth of her book and haven’t cracked it open again since — like the boulder in Raiders, or Ol’ Siss on a bad day, it’s like I am racing down a preordained track and cannot be stopped.

The journals are for the actual private writing. The things (even) I don’t dare say here, or that I type here and then think better of. But, also, for just free associating. I find that moving the pen or pencil makes my thinking better; less fractal; less obsessively looping. And I’ve got a lot of thinking going on. Too much.

I started back into them, maybe a month or six weeks ago, with those little “today’s writer’s block”s — a gimmick that let me write what I was thinking, but without leaving a trace. A lot of stuff I needed to write but not worry about saving, or even seeing again, myself. Then it kind of morphed into deliberately scrawling across the page, like shorthand by a speed freak or something. {Note: He’s not actually on speed, all appearances to the contrary. Too much coffee, sure, but other than that still pretty much straight arrow clean. -Ed.}

But then I realized I was having trouble processing it without the actual, legible recording of the thoughts. Fast and sloppy was good, for just blasting things out at the speed of conversation, but I kept finding that I wanted to at least have the option to go back and see what I’d said. Sometimes I need to refer to the transcript to figure out where the hell I am now. But the catch there was that by going back to legible script, I really was leaving a paper trail — a literal one — of all my worst, least appropriate, indefensible, momentarily (?) nuts ideas. That’s a tough one. Even if those notebooks never leave the house, it’s hard to secure them in a way that doesn’t feel like leaving dangling, important bits all over the place.

And then, one day, I just said, “Fuck it.” I need to write what I think, so that I know how I feel, so that I can keep going, and I’ll write “BURN BEFORE READING” and the date on here, and if anyone is stubborn or foolish enough to ignore that warning/request and plow into it, then they kind of deserve to know what they find.

So — hey — one of you: if I croak first, next month or 167 genetically modified years from now, please go through my shit and find all the paper notebooks with that on their covers and stick ’em in a nice, piping ∆14 firebox. Thanks!

“This is a state of Grace. This is a worthwhile fight.”

+85

“And I know I make the same mistakes everytime, bridges burned, I never learn, at least I did one thing right. I did one thing right.” – TS

Now if I could just figure out what that one thing was.

Call it what you want to.

Man, those typography videos just nail it for me. Even the parts that are a little obvious or formulaic; all in all they’re just grand. I love — love! — the canvas scrolls, so that it feels like the camera is tracking across this larger, unseen space, where all the words are cascading and morphing in all across the whole. And typewriter fonts. . . well, I probably should have realized that would have been enough to sustain me when I first played with moving them around on screen seventeen years ago. Damn, Scott, you should’ve gone deep on the typewriter fonts when you had a chance. Could be making Taylor videos from your parents’ basement by now.

“All the drama queens taking swings // jokers dressing up as kings.”

Hmm… which of those three am I? On any given day, some of all three. Perhaps mostly the joker, although I do seem to enjoy the drama lately more than I expected myself too. My misanthropic guise is slipping daily.

I give myself a B+ for today; probably just a straight B for execution, but the plus for insane effort. I definitely tried for an A. Well, today, which is kind of faded into yesterday already, but still feels like today. You know how that is.

{So can you tell this is another of those middle-of-the-night Dark Wake posts? Like hot off the metal and into the Cloud? So perilous; so fun; so bizarre to read them again twelve hours from now, trying to remember this state of mind, and it seeming like it must have belonged to someone else. What fun. -Ed.}

“Starry eyes sparking up my darkest night.”

Things at work — you may recall the ‘everything has changed’ bit — uh, for those of you who are lost, it was +52 — 26 days and 33 posts ago — things at work are continuing apace. [No, unhelpful autocorrect, not “Apache”. Trust me; I was an English major before the computers learned to spell. “Apace” is a word. Jezum Crow, it’s like nobody appreciates the archaic form anymore.] Which is to say that it’s like I’ve got this donkey. He’s a stubborn motherfucker of a donkey; like, won’t take yes for an answer kind of stubborn. And we’re stuck halfway between hell and high water, so I’ve gotta get ’em to town. (Let’s call him Stan.) So Stan the donkey and I are on the road; I’ve got a lead rope on him, and I’m pulling in the direction we need to go; I mean, of course it’s the right direction — haven’t I been down this road a dozen times before? But no — Stan wants to go towards just about any other point of the compass rose, or to just stand still and wait for fate or retribution to smoke him into ashes and regrets.

So I’ve gotta pull him, just enough to get his feet up, and yet only about an inch forward. Then I stop pulling. Wait. Wait | Wait | Wait. Gauge him — still huffing? Weird donkey saliva still bubbling on his weird donkey lips? Or is he ready to move again? If ready, I pull some more — hard — but only another inch. See, I have to wait for stubborn Stan to forget that we just moved an inch a few minutes ago before he’ll let me move him another inch. It’s ludicrous; Sissyphus is lapping us on a regular basis, and laughing his ass off as he does. “Rock and Roll, Dudes!”, he says as he goes past. [Weird that, for some reason, Ol’ Siss speaks in Title Case. I do have to wonder what he’s listening to on those earbuds.]

So odd, dumb Stan and I are stuck on the road, one inch forward at a time, with thunderheads looming and one of those freaky, barn-killing sideways winds coming; fifty degrees colder than it just was a couple hours ago. “L E T ‘ S . G O . S T A N.”, I plead. “For fuck’s sake, we’ve already been waiting so long; let’s go!”

Goddamn Stan.

“My castle crumbled overnight, I brought a knife to a gunfight, they took the crown but it’s alright.”

+84

“I don’t trust nobody and nobody trusts me…” – TS

It’s been reported to me that some girls were singing Look What You Made Me Do during a bathroom break at school. What?! Other people know our song?! And they were even ‘on chorus’, which I’m not sure whether that means ‘on tune’ or ‘in harmony’. Either way, when I asked (already knowing that the answer was no) if she joined in, she said, “That’s not me.”

Sigh.

That was never me, either… I can’t fault her for that. And the times I tried to make myself be that, I always ended up flat on my face. We are who we are, and it appears that much of that flows down through the generations. Oh well. Not everyone needs the skill (or is it the will?) to rush out and make friends. Some of us are good at sitting quietly, alone, reading books, instead.

Either way, we’re pretty excited about reputation coming on Friday. I’m still listening to the four pre-release tracks daily; sometimes on a loop, for Gorgeous and Call It What You Want. Possibly even dancing around the house, with earbuds in, at the 5am dark wake time. Quietly, but actually dancing. So fucking weird.

“But I got smarter, I got harder in the nick of time.”

+83

“Say you’re sorry, that face of an angel comes out just when you need it to.” – TS

How come the only things I really want are categorically impossible to get? Is it because that is the point of Dreams — not to achieve them, but as a goad to get us up off the couch? So that we at least do something? Anything? Something slightly better than nodding through this one shot at life, supposedly safe in our protective cocoons?

How to dream again and not get crushed by waking up when it’s over? Do I have another one in me? Witt told me, even back then, that I needed a new dream, and I was like, “Oh hell no. I’m done with that shit. It’s just grim, prosaic life for me from here on out.” Well, ends up that wasn’t going so great. Not sure it has to be a binary choice — dreaming or sleepwalking — and not sure this reawakening feeling isn’t just the momentary fantasy before the next magnet snaps together, snapping me stuck in between them, again. I might be buying today’s optimism with procrastination, which means when the bill comes due tomorrow, it’s gonna be steep. Maybe?

Questions… so many questions. Oh boy, do I have questions.

+

Oh, here: this feels like a new thought: maybe I never actually killed The Dream. Maybe I just buried it alive and tried to grieve it as if I had? That bit at the end of my published version, the SFW version, where I said something like ‘life without it [the Dream] isn’t so bad’ — ? “Isn’t so bad”? What’s that, a euphemism for “hopelessness gets a bad rap; you should try it”? Fuck me.

Now, a decade out from my dream time, and a few more years logged in “isn’t so bad” territory (and, thanks to the neurochemical enhancement, maybe slightly more awake than I’ve been in a while), life without hope seems like a fate worse than death or shattered dreams. Like, if I was never gonna dare to fly at the sun again, I should have just wandered out in the deep snow while I had the chance.

[Sorry for that one. It’s what I wrote on Saturday, and it still feels too true to cut, although the timing and context are now abyssmal. I guess I can say that I’m not making a joke about suicide here; I’m referring to the time when I got closest to the real thing. And not that I was that close — I wasn’t. But I could see it from there, and it scared the hell out of me. Three months without sleep in the dead of winter is not a recipe for a reasonable perspective on the world and one’s place in it. I can’t recommend it.]

Huh. I know I shouldn’t be saying any of this, and yet — it’s pretty much the only thing I want to say. That and the lame references. Oh, and the song lyrics… Lucifer’s Hammer am I loving music lately. “We’ll dance around the kitchen in the refrigerator light” is a long, long, long way from “If you need me, I’ll be out in the deep snow.” A long way.

Approach/Avoid/Approach/Avoid

And so it’s as if that first Dream rotted and zombified, and went lurching off into some horror movie that I can’t bear to watch. A consequence of my unholy act or original artistic sin — failing to give it it’s due. I mean, I tried to, but I got scared. I got tired. I saw a softer landing spot and just thought I could rest up a bit before restarting the climb. And then I just quit climbing. And not even to say that that was the wrong choice; everything considered — the sorry list of ills and misfortune that I cataloged in that Killing The Dream essay — still seems like plenty of reason to back off and think about either a different target or a different approach to hitting it.

That undead dream probably can’t be unearthed and revived; even if I wanted to. ‘Exhumed’, to borrow the great R.E.M. word. [Single quotes again. I know I shouldn’t.]

I think the pagans would say you have to perform some rituals now, to get out from under that past. Special plants cut at midnight, under a harvest moon like the one out the kitchen window last night. (Why do I stay inside? Sometimes, it feels like freedom to just stand out under the dark.) Maybe that’s the thrust of this whole pseudo-Goddess/Muse/OA thing. Appealing to some mystical power that can erase what time and math and money have wrought.

If I do exhume it, or sanctify or put it to rest; if I did; would it make room for a second Dream? Another spin of the big wheel? So many questions. And if so… if it did, would it be worth the nearly unfaceable costs to pursue it?

Because, see, I already know what that dream would be, deep in my sneaky little heart; and of course, like a character wishing for extra wishes in a badly run D&D campaign [not helping yourself with these outdated nerd references, Scott], the new dream would somehow try to quietly wrap the best parts of the old one into itself. Like: I could get used to not actually working.

+

So the big one is coming up. I might be subconsciously racing towards Oblivion so I can get it here faster. The pressure to spill is building; I foolishly think I can lead you to it, bit by bit, Iike dragging my stubborn mules to town, one inch at a time, so they don’t quite flash onto the fact that we’re on the move. {Please clarify: is that ‘bit’ as in ‘bit and bridle’ or bit as in ‘pieces of eight’ or bit as in ‘1/8th of a byte’? -Ed.} [S T O P !].

:: so that when we get there, you’re ready for it, and won’t crucify me for my excessive honesty :: i don’t want to be your martyr ::

Whatever ends up happening with that — the how — I’ve already decided that the what is going to be +99. Because that’s a real magic number. That’s how my blue-painted ancestors would have done. Not +100. One hundred is as magical as the imperialist White King’s boiled roast beef. Drained of life, propped up on a throne encrusted with our stolen jewels, as arrogant in his certainty as the weakest among us. Ninety-nine is where it’s at. Or, I should say, where it will be. So if you want, you can skip out the rest of this slowly bending dramatic arc and just jump ahead to the grand finale.

Sixteen to go. (You missed six!) I’m scared, but I think I can get there. Better offload some more casual readers before then. Let’s see… Are there swear words I haven’t used yet? Topics so banal and grim that even Witt or K in A might turn and look away? (Not that I want them to; I just mean, bad enough that practically everyone else will.) Maybe I should abandon this ‘hiding in plain sight’ nonsense — duh, Google — and think about converting it to a subscription-only TinyLetter or something, instead. Like, before 99. Yeah, maybe. But you know I won’t.

Damn. I’m doing that thing again where I’m writing checks now that my dumb ass might not be able to cash later. I should qualify all that, as I hear tell that I am quite unreliable these days. Even on 5mg. So OK, my plan is to build up to +99. I hope to. I aim to. YMMV. “And it came to me then, that every plan, is a tiny prayer to Father Time.”

All of this could very well come collapsing down under its own weight well before we ever reach such a lofty total.

“If my FILDI is weak, let me”… Eat my critique? I forget. “But if my FILDI is strong, let me…” I dunno. I forget. Oh, Ze… Where the fuck did you go, man? I need you — maybe now more than ever. I hope you’re happy, wherever you are.

If my FILDI is strong, maybe it will let me face down the armored bear — grasp his hot-fanged jaws between my hands, moments before they find my throat, and leap onto his back, like a Minoan bull rider. Then, off we’ll charge, to kill the enemy and redeem this overly-long, sad, silly story.

Maybe I’ll even let that face rearrange my stars. Maybe by different starlight I could find another dream worth having.

“And it’s too late for you and your white horse, to catch me now.”

+82

“Autumn leaves were falling down like pieces into place…” – TS

And I can picture it, yes, even after all these days. And I know it’s long gone; and I know there’s nothing I can do, but I forget about You long enough to forget why I needed. To.

That’s Taylor, not me. Credit to the ghosts.

In the expanse of woods behind our ten acre plot, I step outside the back door of my studio to hear ten thousand leaves — a million — falling to the forest floor as one. Today’s wind takes them all. Tomorrow’s wind will take a million more.

“A hundred million birds — fly away.”

That’s Michael, not me. Credit to the ghosts. Fables of the Reconstruction // Reconstruction of the Fables.

“And inside every turning leaf, was the pattern of an older tree. Things I’d never seen; things I’d never see.”

That’s Gordon, not me. Credit to the ghosts. Ghosts in the machine.
(And if you get that reference, you are my kind of cool. I love you.)

[Firing up the fidget spinner, on the pale wood top of my drafting table, for momentum. Get it? Drafting table? A place where one goes to make drafts? {Oh boy. It’s gonna be a long ass day if he’s starting it like this. – Ed.} It wasn’t until yesterday that I realized I don’t have to hold it; it’ll just spin like a motherfucker on the tabletop right here, between my Delete key hand and my first five am mug of coffee. Likely the first of many too many. As close to a perpetual motion machine as I’ll ever get. Only way out is through.]

That’s all me. Don’t blame anyone else.

I’ll try not to call you up again — everytime I don’t, I almost do — but I can’t promise not to break you like a promise. I’m unreliable these days :: these days :: these days :: i i i am not a bot :: these days.

Soon enough, we’ll take our frigid winter walks there, soaking in what little daylight there is in an Indian winter, traipsing near where they made mounds that are now planted with corn; then holy sites or more. A legacy of blood. What else can we do? What else, beyond seek a reprieve in daylight? And think about how to explain all that to a nine year old.

I don’t know what that means, or how I can be… already dreading and anxiously awaiting it, all at once. At least once it snows, it means I’m done firing for the year. Call it what you want to.

“…The air was cold, but something about it felt like home, somehow…”

Taylor again. Pretty much if it’s in quotes and it sounds good, it’s her. Call it what you want to. You make me so happy it turns back to sad; there’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have.

Stupid kiln.

More dead Dream thoughts. Tons of them. Before that tragic news yesterday, I had a whole three pages (or whatever) cued up about burying it alive but mistakenly thinking it was over; now it seems like an awfully petty metaphor. But “this love left a permanent mark”; I can’t help but run my fingers over the scar.

And I [shouldn’t] forget about you [dream; else] long enough to forget why I needed [really, still do need] to.

Yes, Taylor. That original line: can you hear it and think of anything better in that spot? There’s no way. It is perfect. But the brackets in my mongrelized version there; if you hadn’t flashed on it yet, I’ll spell it out, since it’s still a couple hours from daylight and I need a friend:

[Stuff in straight brackets is what would have been endnotes, back on tw@se. An affectation born of a technical limitation, like most decent creative ideas are. The OA loves limits. These are my thoughts to myself, the meta layer as I’m writing; thoughts which any decent writer (or person) would leave out; would cut without a second thought on the first editing pass. (Yes, you may be astonished to know, but there actually are multiple editing passes on most of these. Sometimes with additions and corrections days later, just to really mess with Witt’s head. Not nice, but he should know better, by now, than to believe in the permanence of text. It’s not canon until all the guilty parties are dead.) Stuff in straight brackets is for me for you, if that makes sense. It’s a stubborn rejection of the Gygaxian Premise (which, you won’t recall, is that any part of a writing that you like the most is probably the part you should cut. I keep them all. You’re welcome.]

(Stuff in parens is just normal usage: an aside, something tangential, but often as a qualifier or way to undermine what I’m in the midst of saying. They’re fun, and they help keep me honest. Probably also infuriatingly loopy and hard to track. All the blog you can read, or your money back.)

{Stuff in curly brackets is a new goof of an idea; I’ve introduced the character of an imaginary Editor, who steps in, like in the grand old days when journalism was about facts and accountability, not debating whether people could and should have their own “facts”, sans accountability. Who knew the World Wide Web was going to be the downfall of our civilization? Not me, or the hippies and scientists that built the damn thing. They genuinely thought it might bring about a new Golden Age; a utopia of knowledge and communication. Idiots. We are monkeys with machine guns.}

{OK, as you probably noticed, because you’re smart and a careful reader, Scott just broke the format in that previous paragraph while trying to explain the format. Jeepers. It’s like he can’t help himself. And this, I’ll note, is on only one cup of coffee. So this — this paragraph right here — is an example of what he was talking about. If it’s in curlies, it’s by me, The Editor, which means you can trust it and take it as T H E . F I N A L . W O R D . Word to your mother; -Ed.}

Well. That went off the rails in surprising order, now didn’t it? Guess we got some shop talk in, but hell. I was aiming for abstract poetry and bullseyed redundant word salad.

And damn it, I told myself that I wasn’t going to rush in here and cover over that eulogy so quickly today. The one time I manage to hold it together and write something linear, concise and with only a justifiable amount of profanity; it should get to linger at the top of the page longer than a (very short) overnight. But what can I do? Sleepers gonna sleep; bloggers gonna blog.

I told myself that I should hover and write in the background today, if I couldn’t help it — nothing wrong with honing some stuff in Drafts, so that it’s eventually maybe a little better than this. I like the ones that linger and morph and grow strange new fruit when I hold onto them for a few days or weeks. Ah well.

I’m thinking that innocent civilians might be stopping by, linked in from polite society {I think he means Facebook. LOL. – Ed.}, to see that one thing I wrote that wasn’t a steaming trainwreck; nice old ladies. Which is fine, but then if they scroll up or down a little, holy god get me out of here. “I wonder what broke his brain so bad?, they’ll ask their daughters (my former high school friends) on next weekend’s obligatory phone call. Like I said, the Web is basically a harbinger of our endgame. As we (the sane, rational half of us, anyways) have so recently discovered — and to our collective peril — everything is basically one click away from everything else, now. Beauty from madness, joy from sadness. It is the way of the world. I can’t be blamed too much for that.

I’m unreliable these days.

[Bonus points for working in “peril”. That one’s for you, Adam. And I bet Dart would have liked it.]

“So it goes.”

That’s KV. Maybe the best line ever written in English.

“Maybe we got lost in translation, maybe I asked for too much, and maybe this thing was a masterpiece, ’til you tore it all up. It was rare, I was there, I remember it all too well.”

+81

“It was only one, I recall. It was all so different then.” – Peter Gabriel

Back in the expanse of woods behind our yard, I can hear ten thousand leaves, falling to the forest floor as one. Like pieces falling into place. And yet, not like that, too.

I loved this friend of mine, so many years ago, who I just heard today is suddenly gone. Today, when the time is already screwy, everyone’s extra tired, the weather just an emotive mess, and so, so much else going on. Today, “I grieve… For you.”

We were only together for a couple years, but they were those crucial ones — kids out in the world for the first time, just starting to imagine who they could become as adults. He was at my elbow as I fell in love with my future wife. As I first got good at school. As I toyed, cautiously, with the fleeing possibility that, like him, I could actually try to be one of the creative people, instead of just a bystander. His enthusiasm and tenacity were infectious; he made me see the world more like he did — open and full of possibility. He ran towards new experiences and pain, instead of away, like me. He let me shave his first mohawk. It was an honor; I admired him and loved him like an older brother.

I’ve already told one story about him today, elsewhere, and it feels wrong to just repeat it. So here’s another, a short one, that I think will give an idea of who the person I knew was, well twenty five years ago, now.

I was flying back in to some rural airport in Iowa, back to college after Jan term away. I knew some number of friends would pick me up. (Details were spotty, back before cells, texts, email. None of us had even heard of the Internet yet, and the Web was yet to be invented. We just kind of rolled with the uncertainty, kids.) So I get off the plane in this unfamiliar, frozen place, get my bags, and hear, from what must have been halfway across the concourse, “Super Coop!” A mad bellow; the kind that would instantly bring an armed security crew down on you, if you tried it in an airport today. And then he’s running — like full speed, lunatic weight lifter/cyclist speed, right at me, no pause as he crashes into me, knocks my bags to the floor, and bear hugs me until I’m sure he could snap a few ribs without much effort. “Hey, man! How the fuck are ya’?!” He even had on that goofy, tremendous leather cap I gave him, because it was too small for my big head of hair, and looked ridiculous atop my six-foot-five, but precisely perfect over his bushy red eyebrows and glasses.

In the intervening years — goddamn decades, now — I can’t believe I let him go so easily, and that now I’ll never get the chance to say so. To apologize to him for that, and to try to fix it. What would I not have done, a week ago, if I had somehow known? I would have dropped EVERYTHING. Cancelled the sale; if need be; torched the huge changes at work; if it would’ve helped. Gone camping or shared my brain meds or just stayed up all night talking until it might have made a difference. God damnit.

Can’t fix it now. But I’m overawed at the thought of all the other people I’ve genuinely loved, and been so lucky to know, and yet let slip away, as life carved its own channel into these distant sands. I should, somehow, find the time and make the effort to fix some of those gaps. If we cannot connect now, amidst this unimaginable array of communications technology, then we’re all truly lost. It’s only for lack of desire that we remain siloed away, one from the next. “This flesh and bone, are just the way that we are tied in.”

It’s not my job to be the catcher in the rye, and if it was, I would probably suck at it. But it wouldn’t hurt anything or anyone — not even me — to try a little better.

“Did I dream this belief? Or did I believe this dream?”

+80

“Swift writes about her life so directly that the listener is forced to think about her persona in order to fully appreciate what she’s doing creatively.” – Chuck Klosterman

Now look: I really like Chuck Klosterman. I read his books, enjoyed his columns when he was The Ethicist for the NYT, avidly awaited his podcast chats with Bill Simmons, about college football and pop music and random self-searching thought experiments. He’s way smarter than me; a vastly better (and infinitely more accomplished) writer; probably an order-of-magnitude better thinker. And he’s spent some amount of time actually being around TS, interviewing and observing her for a profile he wrote on her a few years back, where all I’ve done is imagined having a single coffee with her and how it would remake my world.

But I think he’s dead wrong in that quote above. Exactly wrong. In fact, it bothers me how wrong he is, because he’s saying that her music is somehow not enough on its own, and the biography (as told through other media) of the musician is the key to decoding how great her music actually is.

Extend that and it also says the biography of the potter is what really makes the pot. That provenance is more significant than gut-reaction. That we must become vacuums of all the peripheral flotsam of the culture we desire, to fully “get” the culture we’ve somehow missed.

Fuck that, Chuck.

I don’t give a hot damn about who song is about; what it says about them in the (now virtual) liner notes. Whom Taylor has been dating and for how long and what the gossip blogs have had to say about it. The critical supposed-think pieces, baiting their clickbait hooks as if their lives depended on it — oh, because their financial lives actually do depend on it — {insert quote about a man not believing something if his salary depends on not believing it – Ed.} — click click clickity click. Never trust a critic who hasn’t spent years trying to do the thing they’re criticizing. Otherwise, it’s just all frustrated-artist speculation, Schadenfruedian pedestal-toppling and pent-up wish fulfillment.

[Discursive Loop: frustrated-artist speculation, Schadenfruedian pedestal-toppling and pent-up wish fulfillment. Good tag line.]

“Which is more than they can say.”

The videos, while occasionally entertaining, don’t do much for me. If anything, they diminish the songs, like a mediocre adaptation of a favorite novel. Clearly, they’re aimed straight at the 14-year-old segment of her audience. But, I swear, some part of the songs is aimed directly at me, the jaded, 46-year-old, ‘reawakening for/after the Fall’ guy.

(They are Swifties; I’m just swift. But man, when I get that TS tattoo on my forearm — in medieval S T O N E C A R V I N G script, of course — it’s gonna lock down Coolest Dad Ever status, come middle school. I might even beat out Dorian for the Most Preferred Carpool Driver job. [See my post on Linked In!!!] “OMG, how does your Dad already know all the lyrics to Call It What You Want? And he likes White Horse, too? A-maze.)

All that said, there are bits about her public persona that I like. She has charisma to burn; I would cast her for the role of Muse in the remake of some Jon Hughes movie. Banging on her drumkit like her life depended on it, or whatever. I can see why the Big Pop Machine decided it could make her famous. Don’t think I’ve watched an entire interview, because they’re painfully self-conscious — image grooming — and they also belie the depth that can be found in some of her lyrics. Either she’s a better slow writer than fast talker, or there have been a lot of other people feeding her words to sing over the years. (It’s probably a good dose of both. Even so, she deserves all the praise; when I am speechless at a turn of phrase or the nuance of a repeated line, I think of her. The byline still gets the credit. We ghost writers knew the score when we signed on. “That’s how it works. That’s how you get the girl.”)

Oh! Except there’s this one live performance on YouTube — complete with allergicly-wretched lead-in promo, and couched in whatever Star Search type show those fucking things are these days — there’s this one video that, even compressed by that awful format and venue is simply incandescent. I mean, so much so that I really need to track down the audio version. I am a lifelong sucker for a great bridge, or late break, especially when the music drops and the vocals jump to the top. J U M P. And in that one, TS just eviscerates any doubts about her singing chops; the spot where her voice almost breaks just about breaks me, every.single.time. That’s not ‘a limited range’. That’s the empty spot deliberately left in the pattern of a Mimbres bowl, so the spirit can get out. Wabi-sabi, jackals. G.T.S.)

[Damn, I guess I should link to it. Should I link to it? I’ve been making a point of not linking to things, ’cause it gets out of hand so readily. And I hate how the highlight pollutes all this pure black on white, like contours wrapping around a sacred curve. Nah. Fuck it. You go find it; I don’t care. Well; OK. I care. Ask me, if you want, and I’ll send it to you. We can be Friends. Or Followers. Or whatever the hell they’re doing on Snapchat.]

All I knew, this morning when I woke, is that if the remaining 11 songs are half as good as these four, two of which I already adore enough to just play them on loop almost every day, then you and me, TS — you and me are in great shape. I cannot believe I doubted you even for a minute. Like The OA, I’m really sorry for all the times I tried not to look you in the eye, afraid for the current pattern of my stars.

“Starry eyes sparking up my darkest nights.”

dl

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I actually feel sorry for the sanctimonious jackasses who are too far gone to enjoy this. Populism, as we’ve seen in the mass hallucination that’s overtaken our Red zones, is its own reward. I really hope they — the too-cool critics, not the self-abnegating voters — are enjoying whatever else they’re listening to, instead, half as much as I’m enjoying this. If they’re not, then they deserve it. (“Some indie record that’s much cooler than mine.”)

Punk rock Penny can ridicule fantasy-novel-memorizing Quentin all he wants for looping Shake It Off in his head. We become King, in the end, and you’re just a cryptic library security guard with no hands, dude.

(Here’s another reawakening thought: when I first watched that show, I had no clue who TS even was. I’m so out of the mainstream culture, gladly so, that all those references were lost on me. Like I was watching a show made for someone else. (Hint: I was. The novels were for me. Thanks, Lev.) So, if I hadn’t later heard it on the radio, and bought it for Pixel — thinking only that she’d like it, and I could live with hearing that horn section a few more times — what would have been different? Would some other music have occupied 87% of my hindbrain these last few years, or would there have been no music at all? (It’s shocking, now, how little I listened to for a while there. Where “a while” is a euphemism for literally scores of months.) And so does that mean there’s some other singer or band out there that I missed, that would have been capable of filling that gap, that role? Or it was this or nothing? Or something not music, which I’m also lacking now? Stonecarving? Hard drugs? Poetry, for (The Old) God(s) sake? That’s a trip down the rabbit hole, if you’re inclined to follow that one. Loops galore. Danger; trout below. Look out for hope.)

Like the way truth will out, Taylor doesn’t need five star reviews by Dads who actually saw The Replacements play live. [Mother fucking piece of shit world: I didn’t.] She’s gonna get 9.4 million views in two days no matter what they (we) say. Populism is its own reward. [No, Bear! Stop inserting an apostrophe in “its”! You’re making me look like a fucking novice, and right about now it’d be super helpful for me to appear to have a few writing chops of my own.][More on that, later.]

[Hmm… hey, Witt, check this out: Maybe the third character, the one with the whip, is the polar bear. Like Iorek Byjornsson in Spyglass, a massive, armored beast. How can you not stare him down when he’s charging to devour you, rag & bone?]

[OK. What am I saying here that I’ll have to add to next week’s Things I Shouldn’t Have Said list? Aw, who cares? The time shifted last night, Pixel got up in the five o’clock hour, it’s gonna be a long Sunday, and I need this. Eff ’em if they can’t take a joke. Or twelve attempts at one.

“Sorry I woke you up at five o’clock.” So sweet. “That’s OK, little dude. I had some blogging to do.”]

Anyways. So yeah — pop music. Guilty. “If bein’ strong is what you want then I need help here with this feather.”
{See how he did that? Clever. – Ed.}

“A nuanced sense of humor does not translate on a general scale, and I knew that going in. I knew some people would hear ‘Blank Space’ and say, ‘See, we were right about her’. And at that point, I just figure if you don’t get the joke, you don’t deserve to get the joke.” – Taylor Fucking Swift, yo.

+79

Things I Shouldn’t Have Said Last Week
Vol. 372

– You’ve got it, boss!

– I’m crying more now, too.

– Busking

– Jason would have built it already.

– A little bird told me…

– p.s. Scott says, “You’re a jackass.”

– …if everything fails to go according to plan.

– Like black lines on white. Contours.

– Fan-tastic.

– And that was The Cuban Missile Crisis.

+78

“And I just want to tell you, ‘It takes everything in me not to call you. And I wish I could run to you, and I hope you know that everytime I don’t, I almost do, I almost do.'” – TS

One-thirty. With half a night’s sleep earned & banked, my mind turns on like the row of burners in the furnace below my writing desk. When the thermostat calls for heat, you get heat. Whether you actually wanted more yet or not.

Back at five pm, when I looked around for The OA, my hands sore from painting, my back sore from stooping, She was nowhere to be found. Just a Muse-shaped hole in the blinding blue sky above. At six, after making dinner, still gone. At seven, with Pixel finishing her Friday evening bonus Minecraft time, I wanted to cry out, “Where did you go? Are you ever coming back?” But I didn’t. I’m learning to know better.

Then at eight, as unexpected as a great dream, I luck into making room for Her to return. The opposite of ‘can’t you see that I’m driving?’ is ‘hey, just a guy sitting here with his fingers poised on ASDF JKL and an empty mind :: I’m here again :: just in case :: no pressure’. And, so suddenly I almost don’t detect it, She’s there again; lingering in the corner of the room, by the shelf still jammed full of my guest potters’ pots, checking me out; seeing if I really did have the wisdom to supplicate, but not to call.

It takes everything in me. I almost did.

A N D W E ‘ R E O F F.

{A Note of Apology From the Editor: Now that Scott has flashed on this new compositional affectation — the simulated stonecarving letters thing — it seems quite likely that he’s going to beat it so far into the ground it’ll end up down where our well water seeps into the limestone. Like, 200 feet too deep. FWIW, he can’t help it; it’s just how he is. But still, that’s no excuse in a public forum like this; we are not endorsing this behavior. So when you’re rolling your eyes in exasperation and reaching to X out of this browser tab, swearing that you’ve had enough — can’t possibly endure any more of this nonsense — go right ahead. We are fully paid up on subscribers, and since there are no ads to click, we’ll be fine without your eyeballs. Have fun on Facebook.}

[Wow — my editor is an even bigger jackass than I am! The balls. I even had to cut out this part (yes, I get final cut. What do you think I am — stupid?): “You know you’ll be back, and you know we’ll still be here, and ‘Sigh’ing and random-lyric-quoting and codename dropping and “I dunno”-ing A N D A L L T H E R E S T O F I T whether you’re here to see it or not. Seeya suckers!]

[As I used to say on that old blog — you know, the one you actually liked — you’ve been warned.]

Here we go again ….

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So I wake up in the middle of the night, after the first sleep, and literally three distinct ideas for posts roll into my mind, in sequence, like waves arriving from some distant shore. 1) One about W’s; how I’ve got one in my history, in my stamp, and how if there’d been a “G” in there, at the end, instead of a “C”, I’d probably not have gone with SWG, because SG would have been way too tempting to the 20-year-old me who made that decision; and how maybe that one little thing would have butterfly-winged its way to changing everything else. For the better? Who the fuck knows. 2) One about another goddamn snake dream. That’s already saying too much. 3) One about the S T O N E C A R V I N G letters. Or no — wait. [Ha… Maybe not so distinct after all.][‘Be distinct and credible’: I seem to only be capable of one of those at a time.]

OK, the S T O N E C A R V I N G letters was supposed to be in 1), entwined with the ridiculousness of W’s, since “double you” is just V V, for carving expediency. And 3) was actually about baskets, and visual influences, and that thing Clary said, ‘back when I was young and cared’, about having to be careful about what things she brought into the studio because of their tendency to creep, unbidden, into the clay. I mean, like, who makes a basket out of super thin porcelain, then scores and drills and grooves the living hell out of it? What good could possibly come from this?

[Answer: A L L T H E G O O D.]

Those subconscious visual inspirations. Things both seen and unseen. Like The OA, sitting quietly but intently in the corner, observing everything, even if She gives no sign that She hears you. Now eyes wide and giggling madly, Her mouth covered by one hand, as if She knows this is too much mischief even for Her, as She tosses another curveball at us, Her willing fools.

That’s how it works. That’s how you end up with either some sweet ass porcelain baskets or a twisted pile of shards, straight out of the bisque. Either way, you get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. (If you know what’s good for you.)

OK, that’s all I got for now, I think. Sleepy again. The first rule of OA Club is after you talk way too much shit about the OA, you go back to sleep for a while.

Not publishing yet. Can’t trust myself to have not said something nuclear. Hmm. “Nuclear” and “Unclear” are so much closer than you’d think. [I think it’s OK, but then again, I mean: I would, wouldn’t I? Hopefully after the next sleep.]

{Try not to wreck it by fluffing it up too much, yo. – Ed.}

[OK, I’ll try.]

“Oh oh oh, leaving me quite a mess, babe — probably better off this way. And I confess, babe: in my dreams you’re touching my face. And asking me if I want to try again with you… And I almost do.”

+77

“Nobody’s heard from me for months. I’m doing better than I ever was.” – TS

Somehow I got through the whole day without cracking open a glaze bucket. Not sure where the time went, but it went good. Well and good. Felt like The OA was around most of the day; mostly productive thoughts. Five mg thoughts.

Some regrets, some guilt for not trying harder, for not pushing farther. Call it what you want to; one way or another, it’s about time to call it another day.

I almost threw out caution and drove down to Bloomington tonight for that opening. Almost. Not quite. Still feeling like I have no margin to spare, even for something cool — especially when a whole day can just coast by like that with really not a ton to show for it. Not laziness, exactly, but more like a refusal to not linger in the moment, and then another moment, and then a song, and then some ideas for writing, and the next thing I know it’s past lunch time and I still need a nap (stupid sickness) and I’ve just started into the second of five things I was hoping to do before dark.

Later, I did manage to get out and do some more scraping and sanding and pushing the paint on down the wall towards the North; using up the last of the precious good, dry weather. The kind of weather that would be good for almost anything, so anything I choose will always feel insufficient. A dozen more days like that in a row, free, and I might be in good shape. Ha.

I added three more Guest Check cards, scribbled with lyrics and ideas, to the top of the stack today. Intents still outpacing spots. Guess that’s better than that dreadful feeling of wanting to write and having nothing to say. Certainly not my problem, lately.

I don’t know why I’m telling you any of this. Maybe now that we’ve pruned away any possible non-die-hard, and turned off the “hello world!” functionality, it does feel like it’s just us here; this strange little band, hiding in plain sight. Maybe that’s freeing; maybe it’s a false sense of security. You’ll pay for this in time.

In time.

We’ve got reputation marked on the calendar, for when our pre-order will come in. Song number four dropped overnight (I think that’s the lingo the kids use these days, but who knows?) and we streamed it out to the studio when she got home; how many days of the year do you get a new TS song?; she danced around in the lush fall grass while I went brush brush brush on the same wall that hasn’t been painted since I stood there one day in October with her in a Baby Bjorn. I’ve got the photos to prove it. “Life carries on, and on, and on, and on.”

I bought a fidget spinner at Satan’s Emporium yesterday (aka WalMart: I have mentioned that we live in the sticks, and there are no other options nearby, yes?). On my transition-day-run-to-town-for-oddities. So now I sit here and spin it next to my ear, when I’m waiting to see what words will stream down from VALIS next; or while I’m waiting for the page to reload over our pokey connection to the Internet. In the vibration of its spin, and the sound of the air looping past, I think I can hear Her voice. She says I can call it what(ever) I want to. That maybe it’s good nobody’s heard from the old me for months. I’m doing better than I ever was. It’s sweet of you to check in on me like this.

And I don’t even know who “you” is — it changes all the time. Sometimes it’s me; sometimes it’s you; or you; and you; or all of us at once, and that other person over there, too. “You” might never even read this, but it helps me to imagine you will, or have, or are. Or might, if everything fails to go according to plan.

And then I’ll say, “Hey! Look here. I’d forgotten all about this, but this is what this was, and this is what that was, and see how I used this word here and that phrase over next to it, and wove it together so it was obfuscated just enough to hold water but not so much as to hold my breath? [Because I’m having a hard time holding my breath.]

So weird. So dumb. Like anyone in the world cares, besides me. I’ve become an expert on myself. Or not. Or.

Might go sand down some more porcelain holes after Pixel’s sorted. Might be due for another ‘today’s writer’s block”. Might start rewatching The OA — been holding it off. Starting is hard. Somehow, I fell into Forrest Gump the other night; was looking for that first part of Braveheart; and most of it gets me every time. Gotta give the TV some love, I guess. Still doesn’t feel as whole as this, but if I write all the time then I’ll stop having things to write about.

I think…

Maybe not.

“Slowly I said, ‘You don’t need to save me…'”

+76

“And you keep my old scarf, from that very first week, ’cause it reminds you of innocence, and it smells like me.” – TS

God/Goddess/Goodness… How many times did I imagine wanting to be my old self again, but still tryin’ to find it? How long, and in how many places, and in how many ways did I look? And now, so strange it’s surreal, it seems like he was right here all along. Buried under a layer of soot and ash, I guess? Hidden by the veil of tears? On temporary reassignment for other duty? I honestly don’t know.

“Back before you lost the one real thing you’ve ever known.”

All I know is the sun just crested in the archtop window behind me. It’s [can I say?] fan-tastic. Like I scraped all that evil dark paint off overnight, when I was up prowling at one-thirty, and then forgot during the three more hours I crashed back into my pillows. Snooze | Snooze | Snooze. So that just now it came as a surprise in beauty. (Not “-ing beauty”. In beauty.)

To riff in a different song here: “I feel your light upon my face.” I think I might be able to do this. I’m going to try to do this.

It’s not gonna be too cold; I’ve no errands to run — no one to answer to — nowhere to go; two electric loads of hard pots awaiting glaze, and plans and anticipation. Gotta fire up the glaze brain; it’s been dormant way too long. [Again.] But I can; I will; I always have before. The first load always feels worse and harder than it is. Even during those times — years? — when I wasn’t here anymore to do it; even when that imposter had to go through the motions to get through another firing, another sale, another life.

You can choose to live in your regrets, or not. It’s good to see the recursion coming, and to know when to

“I was there, I was there, and I remember it — all to well.”

+75

“Sometimes the words are part of the problem.” – Witt

Back in September, I surprised myself by writing seven posts — I mean, when have I ever done that before? (Have I? I didn’t think so.) That was almost two a week for the month; practically double the old quota. Then, with that milestone reached, some sneaky part of my brain went, “Say, now that you’ve done seven in a month, what if you write the next seven in a week?” So I did that, too, and it was fun — maybe too much fun. (That is: it was fun for me, but probably more like an irritating rash for you.)

Predictably, then I started imagining what it would take to do seven in a day. Haven’t gotten there yet, but there’ve been some 24 hour spans where it seemed possible. If there’s still any wall between my momentary consciousness and what I allow to blast off into cyberspace from this launch pad these days, seven in 24 would probably finish it off for good.

Treacherous, this love is.

Check this out:

2017
01 = 0
02 = 1
03 = 2
04 = 0
05 = 0
06 = 1
07 = 0
08 = 2
09 = 7
10 = 33
11 = 3 (to date, including this one)

So over the first eight months of the year I wrote 6 posts, none of them great. Then 7 in September; warming up. Then 33 in October — an average of more than one per day — and I’ve gotta say… I’d be like the last person to know, but a lot of them still seem really good to me. There are some I’m downright proud of. It might be my best month of writing, collapsed down to just the highlights, ever. So not just quantity. (Maybe.) [But still, let’s not piss on quantity: thirty three! Jeepers.]

It’s like something dramatic changed in August or September, and then really kicked in the afterburners last month. Hmm… What oh what could it be? Nah… I got nothin’.

And it feels like this is still kind of the new, steady rate. Where the heck is this thing gonna go from here? Probably plummeting back to earth, but I honestly have no idea. I mean, technically, this is the second one today. [Really, I’m so sorry to bother you like this. I’ve even decided to unplug the ‘auto-post to facebook’ widget from wordpress… It’s just too much to blast out into the world like that. It’s RSS or sneakernet or ‘refresh it on your own pace’, now.)

I think part of the initial motivation, once I got back on the horse, was simply to mess with Witt, my #1 fan, who feels obliged to read everything I write and who almost always sends me thoughtful, useful feedback. I don’t know why I enjoy tweaking my friends so much, but I confess that I do. Not like he needs me screwing with his mind and/or firing schedule as we round the corner into Potters’ Panic Season.

Then it became a way to do something with all those weird vampyre hours; these creaking nighttime musings; the so-early-it’s-wrong-to-call-it-morning-yet mornings. Not happening as much lately, but still does some days. I wake up, The OA’s right there waiting, and She’s got words for me. Lots of ‘em.

The near-daily blogging, composing little scraps and jotting notes and mulling on it at all hours of the day, merged into working on pots at night, too, once the heat left so that it wasn’t still ninety degrees in there at nine pm. And also hands in clay in the pre-dawn, sometimes, and even after office days — totally nuts. The two things entwined so nicely; like folklore.

Back in the days of cassette tapes (ask your parents), I used to do an annual Reawakening for Spring mix tape. It’d be a compilation of all the latest songs that were inspiring, that made me want to be creative and try things and treat life like an open ended adventure. Perhaps needless to say, this is back when my ‘job’ was still mostly to be a student. Before having a job that was a job; meaning the kind of thing that made such a mixtape a ridiculous affectation.

Anyways, this weird fall of ’17 has (is) the feeling of a Reawakening for Fall mixtape. I’ve even catalogued many of their lyrics here. So weird. I used to hate fall. Sometimes now, aside from the bone-chilling part, I even look forward to winter. At least a little. Scarves and boots aren’t all bad.

I’ve got — oh, I don’t know — three other drafts in progress here in Bear, another 15-20 typed scraps, one or two dozen of those Guest Checks — which I stopped doing as a writing assignment, because I also stopped reading that book. There hasn’t been a morning in a couple weeks where I could even stand, let alone needed, more input before I started banging out my output. Words, words, words. Then hundreds of old quotes in Evernote, other assorted papers and post-its and notebook pages in several difference caches — most of it probably outdated garbage, but some have all the way to entire posts (or outlines for them) on them. And that doesn’t count the mass that was left from my last writing software (Ulysses), which I exported and archived and haven’t looked at since. I’m sure there are some good bits there, too, but I’m hardly at a loss for more starters; outta sight, outta mind.

I had three new ideas this morning by the time I’d finished my back stretches. Wrote one of them, the other two are lingering here — this isn’t even one of them. They might make the cut, might not. It’s a problem that several times a day, I cue up a song and it seems to have enormous portent, or relevance to something else I was just writing earlier; connects to a previous thread, or makes a dumb joke or commentary on some earlier idea, or connects some new dots… Or just seems too fucking rad to let go. Like, how can I go: TS > Sting > Waterboys > Paul Westerberg > TS > The Shins all in one day, and feel like each one is a musical postcard from The Goddess, Herself?

(And that’s on a day that started like hell and almost got itself trapped in a box of my own making. That’s just after I pulled out of the pending tailspin.)

Is it taking away from making pots for the sale? Oh, hell yeah. Sure it is. But would I be making pots for the sale, if not this? No. I’m pretty sure I’d be sitting in that chair just over there, looking out the window and having all these same damn thoughts, but without the fun, the extending and branching, and with all the morose looping, instead. So.

I dunno, people.
It’s wild.

“The work was a project of self-realization.” – Bruce Springsteen

+74

“Be still my broken dream. Shattered like a fallen glass. It’s not ready to be broken just yet — lessons once learned, so hard to forget.” – Sting

I scratch the names of The Muse in clay; until they carve all the way through. The illusion of separateness is broken, and there’s nothing left but scraps and dust.

Where did you go?

I think I would have been a good letterer, in a stonecarving shop. Like, Rag & Bone Buffet era. “Bring out your dead,” all that stuff. At least, until the monotony and rule following broke my brain. [Over/under on that? Ten years? Less? I bet twelve and a half cents.]

The slow craft of it; knowing each day that you’ll S T A R T . A G A I N . E X A C T L Y . W H E R E . Y O U . L E F T . O F

Up to a point, there’d be some comfort in that. Less sharp of a transition, more clear of a place in the world.

Nah — probably not.

Sometimes I get stuck, like on a segment of a line. Staring the polar bear dead in the eyes, when there are plenty of ice floes around to hop on instead, and — perhaps more productively — drift away. Watching the recursion coming: the place where the loop will cross back onto itself and start the slow, spiraling descent: and knowing I shouldn’t let it get to there, but feeling how hard it is to break off that pattern. Loopers gonna loop. Bears gonna bear. Potters gonna… I dunno — Look for any excuse not to pot, once the tragic deadline hits?

That thing I wrote about in October — that astounding bubble of a night-time car conversation, parked in the rain, just you and someone else, the external world almost completely shuttered out? That’s real. So amazing when it clicks; effortless. Or, I should say, the only effort is in not allowing each moment to snap together harder than it should; like magnets.

“You should think about the consequence of your…” No, Taylor — no, you shouldn’t. That’s my job.

Trying to work it through. Work it out. ‘The only way out is through.’ It’s a web that still needs some fixing. (OK, let’s be honest — a lot of fixing. We’re working on it; really.) Probably needs a nap, at some point, too. Think I can get around to unloading bisk #2 this afternoon. Shepard the rest of the new ones closer to #3. Start cleaning up to start plotting and glazing tomorrow? Maybe not a lot more than that. Sickers gonna sick. Workers gonna work — but yesterday was a load and a half. Gave it everything I had; went well; debts to be paid. Wise to recover a little, even if maybe not also Super smart.

Lookout for hope.

“Sink like a stone that’s been thrown in the ocean, my logic has drowned in a sea of emotion. Stop before you start; be still my beating heart.”

+73

“Fix the Web?” – Emdub

We’re ‘fixing the web’ at work. Finally. It’s great. Everyone will be so pleased.

And I’m not saying more than that, because the zeroth rule of Pottery Bloggers’ Club is, “Don’t lose your job because of Pottery Bloggers’ Club.” Yeah, I know — that jumps ahead of Rule 1: “You Don’t Talk About P.B.C.” and Rule 2: “We Make You Wade Through Hot Garbage To Get Go The Good Stuff”, and all the rest of them. But I like few things as much as starting a pattern (like, say, a counting system) and then breaking it (like, say, missing six). And retconning a Step 0 or Phase 0 into an existing ordered list is pretty much the ultimate in pattern breaking. I mean, it’s such a jerk move; “Yes, yes, my good people: I fully submit to this hierarchy you’ve created, and I applaud you for your skill and good judgement in prioritizing all these items. You’ve done some great work here. But I just need to add one little thing at the top. (Ahem… which will, of course, ripple down and change everything after it.) OK?”

5’jg

[Sorry. That extra “5’jg” was Pixel’s contribution to this writing effort. It’s like she’s three months old again, sitting on my lap while insistently sticking her fingers in my mouth; except that now she’s using them to randomly tap on the iPad keyboard, as payback for me not giving her my undivided attention. Guess it’s time for a writing break.]

Siracusa & Mann would call adding a Phase 0 at the very end of the process “popping the stack” — jumping up or over several levels to get at a problem from a more privileged place in a system. Sort of like ignoring the chain of command and going right to the Big Boss; or deciding that instead of finally repainting that wall in the dining room, you’re gonna go get the sledge and take the whole thing down to the studs instead.

Popping The Stack. Sounds so sophisticated. Good band name; if we ever reform the band. {Sigh. Yeah, that’s never gonna happen.}

Anyways, so yeah. ‘Fix the web’. Sounds so easy when you say it like that.

And speaking of people talking about things they don’t actually understand — and veering back to the topic of The Muse — it’s occurred to me that a temporary incarnation of a thing is not the thing itself. Like Plato’s cave or psychological projection or emotional transference or whatever, a thing is not its reflection. An idea is not its execution. A moment in time is not forever.

A temporary incarnation of a thing is not the thing itself. A temporary incarnation of a thing is not the thing itself. Repeat that a few more times, if you wish. I sure did.

But still; that said: even an incarnation of The OA is an order of magnitude more intense, or emotionally engaging, or, dare I say again, incandescent, than stubborn old reality. The mere shadow of a deity is way more noteworthy than the complete absence of one. Deus Absconditus. So even if what I’m seeing lately is just a shadow on the wall, a simulation of the Platonic ideal, a Matrix-style reality that I should be glad to be freed from… it’s still one hell of an appealing shadow.

“And the clouds are like headlines, on a new front page sky. Shiver me timbers, I’m a-sailin’ away.”

+72

“Now I know why all the leaves change in the fall.” – TS

I’m thinking about cancelling my Holiday Sale — again. Oh, wait… that doesn’t sound right. Isn’t it great, how imprecise language can be, even when we’re trying to keep it dead simple? Let’s try that again:

I’m thinking again — eg. as I do every year around this time — about cancelling my Holiday Sale.

Not thinking about cancelling it again, as if I’ve succumbed to that intense desire and cancelled it even once in the past. Oh no — I’ve got an unbroken streak of 34 (give or take) going, including so many varieties of reasonable excuses not to that I’ve lost track of some of them. I’ve always just kept plowing on ahead: through moving house, having a newborn, blown out lumbar discs, raging poison ivy, getting sick for a whole week beforehand, not having enough pots, working (what felt like) two other jobs, etc, etc.

‘Any 16 hours a day that you want.’ Ha.

So I’m not really thinking about cancelling it — am I? No, more thinking about how great it would be to just skip making the turn to bisk and glaze and fire, and instead linger in the wet clay longer. As I always do when it’s past time to stop. I’d kind of like to make, say, twenty or thirty more of these basket/strainer/whatever things. And more vases with holes. And more of… You know — whatever came to mind after that.

Or, I don’t know… take a month off to rest up and play Minecraft? Maybe write some songs? It doesn’t help that I’m getting my annual Fall cold; my tools are not sharp; my will is like weathered stone, ready to fracture in unpredictable patterns. I am not in a good place to start a new slog up that same old hill. It feels like I’m gonna die on that hill one of these years. Not sure that’s a decent way to go.

And sure, all of that other stuff sounds so appealing right now. It sounds appealing precisely because there’s the mounting pressure to do the other thing; to start the sale cycle. I know that I’m pathologically kneejerk about wanting to do the opposite of whatever I should be doing. I am the King of the Dogwash. Granted.

But still…

The dark angel whispers at me: Would it really matter if you just skipped one? How sweet would it be to just let the pots keep piling up? Banked those potentially-now sales into future sales? Your customers would come back next time, maybe even with redoubled enthusiasm? Right? (The OA counters, “Or would they revolt, stunned at your callous indifference to their seasonal shopping needs? How many would leave to find another potter to fill their cupboards, never to return? Do your duty. Find your bootstraps. Suck it up, buttercup.”)

Or maybe that’s not The OA. Maybe that’s whatever character I need to invent next; the third one, who carries the whip and rides my ego into daily submission.

Ugh. So tempting. So impossible.

We are ciphers, even to ourselves. Maybe especially to ourselves.

Carving at night sometimes works.

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Like I’m not sure why the holes on top and those vertical grooves on bottom. I’m not sure why slightly rectangulared. I’m not sure why in porcelain, instead of stoneware; why those wispy little lugs; why it doesn’t bother me that the slab base has all these brown flecks — molds? more contaminants? something else, new? — in it. I’m really not sure about anything; why I really wanted to finish those last two pots last night, do that carving, even though they weren’t quite stiff and dry enough for the tool to do its magic. I just know I wanted to carve some clay.

It’s crazy, the things that we can attach our emotions to. So strange how seldom we get to choose which things. Treadle wheels; barns. Clay, in the first place — rather than stone or wood or acting — then very particular clays and styles and kilns, later on. Lonely hillsides in the middle of noplace. Visions of muses and pots we can never quite catch, and ideas we can never quite express. Even when we really try. Even when we think it’s worth the risk.

There I go with the “we” business again.

“I know you’re not scared of anything at all.”

+71

“You can only sleep at night.” – Notch

The OA came to me in a dream for the first time last night. It was intense. Unlike most of what bubbles up from my subconscious during sleep, this one didn’t follow that weird dream logic. It had time and space and a sequence of cause and effect that holds up now, in the pre-dawn, to caffeinated examination.

[She was in her human form, which makes me wonder: if I’d spent the last month writing out this fever dream on my other blog, the too-sad one that even more nobody wants to read, would S/He have appeared as a Raven? And would the dream have been about us finding a way to pick the lock and then dismantle the cage into a trillion unrecoverable parts? I don’t know.]

Anyways, I realized that it’s OK to persue The Muse as long as She doesn’t know you’re chasing. So in the dream, I spotted Her in a crowd; bestowing her grace on others. Terrific, overwhelming envy. I devised a plan, a ruse to get close to one of them, in hopes that that would get me closer to Her. Long dream chapters unfolded, like watching a streaming series as back-to-back episodes. (Yet, contrary to what I said above, it was somehow compressed in time. More like the memory of a long series than actually watching it in real time.)

Like a narrowing — not widening — gyre, the plot looped in closer to Her. Two steps removed, then one. “Oh, you guys went to Iowa, too? I was there in ’93. What? Oh, that’s ten years too soon. Yeah, well, I bet we still know the same Dubuque Street, and that ‘foil wrapped abortion’ of a Gehry building down by the river, and — no, I was there when the old art building was underwater half the time. [Note: I filed that memory ‘under water’, just like Michael told me to.] Yeah, I just saw the new one, on its stilts, online the other day. Crazy.”

That kind of garbage dream dialogue.

And then it took a hard corner and bam! She was right there next to me. Looking me in the eye, addressing me directly. Incandescent. Unnerving. But somehow She was blaming herself for my infatuation with Her gifts; sort of a, “Dammit, I did it again, didn’t I?” And I said, “No! No… It’s not Your fault. It’s me. I’ve been chasing you all this time. Or, at least lately — I lost the trail for about a decade there, and I’m really sorry for that. I hope you won’t take that as a sign of a lack of devotion. Athena, Artemis, Aphrodite. Prairie.”

“Because here’s the thing: I am now willing to blow up my entire life for You. Everything. If you want me to do painting instead of clay, just tell me. I’ll make it words, I’ll restring my guitar and try to write You a song — or, at least, try to learn a few old ones. Do You like St. Waits’s Shiver Me Timbers? Or St. Sting’s Valparaiso?

“Chase the dark star, over the sea / Home where my true love is waiting for me.”

“And the sand’s shifting and the storm’s lifting and I’m drifting on by / Old Captain Ahab’s got nothin’ on me.”

And then — astonishingly — finally! — She says, ”

Oh. Ahh. I see… I didn’t know you were there yet; I thought you were just like all the rest.

[She smiled her incandescent smile. I memorized the constellations in Her face. Like an old skin, so tight, so ill-fitting, peeling away.] And, without words: acceptance of my new, undifferentiated form. Acknowledgement that this can be the new me. Blessings bestowed. I don’t have to chase anymore, or hide it. My wings are ready to aim straight at the heart of the sun; She promises me the wax will not melt.

Like: Now I can do anything.

And maybe because — coincidentally? — this is number plus-71, and ’71 is my year. ‘Zounds, when did I turn into the wild-eyed mystic? Bonkers.

[I wish I could pull off a free-jazz outro jam like the ones on Mercury Falling, but I can’t. I’m still only human; that shit is god-like. Perchance to dream.]

“You may not rest now. The bed is too far away.”

+70

“Oh, oh… Things I long for.” – Augie March

Wow. It’s just… wow.

Like how, at 46, can my brain and guts and emotions still surprise me, churning out a state I can scarcely remember ever being in before? One that knocks me over to where I’m grasping for the scaffolding, the unseen Matrix of the world as I’d previously assumed it was; wondering, “Why is everything listing sideways and racking in on itself all of the sudden?”

Sure, the simplistic answer is, “Duh, Scott, it’s the meds.” But — while I’m probably the least qualified person to make this assessment, I’m pretty sure it’s not. a) I’m on a ridiculously low dose; they don’t make a smaller amount. Seventy five pound pre-teens take this much, and I’m over 200, and quite stubborn. b) This didn’t start right away. The timelines don’t match up. Afterwards, yes. But other factors seem involved. Instead, if memory serves, its crept in gradually, like sunlight coming in through a window on the first morning after you scraped all the old black paint off overnight. Dawning from almost pure dark. Illuminating. c) Pretty sure I could quit taking them and, while it would likely get mighty squirrelly for a while, I don’t think this wouldn’t go away. Like a word you can’t unlearn, or a spoiler you can’t fool yourself into not knowing when you actually go watch the thing. Even possible it would just intensify.

OK — clarity.

It’s like The OA went from occasionally buzzing over my studio, checking in on me on that one perfect hour of that one ideal day per week (or less — sometimes way less), to setting up a permanent HQ in my heart of hearts, pumping out inspiration and obsession and guts and this overwhelming sense of possibility 22 hours a day.

To the extent that this is mostly good, I’m tempted to do that thing Maron said, where when you finally figure something out in life, the kneejerk reaction is to go, “What took you so long, dummy?!” (eg. heaping on more self criticism instead of giving yourself credit for growth; or instead of simply feeling grateful that a bounce finally went your way.) I am tempted to do that — that would be right out of my standard playbook — but I’m not doing that. And mostly because — as strange and revelatory and odd as this sensation or experience is — it’s not all great.

For example, it’s very unfamiliar; like new terrain. And that’s unnerving because I’ve been such a creature of predictable routines and habits, these last many years. Sensing that so many of my well-worn paths and default answers are suddenly up for grabs; having to reconsider things that I’d long assumed were just unerring bedrock; that’s tough work. Destabilizing. Sleep depriving, because the machine’s gotta run that hot for that long just to process it all, before the next new batch of data hits the RAM.

wabi sabi.

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So yes, it’s frequently great — like, amazing. More highs and wows and woofs in a typical week than I’d thought possible. But also really fucking confusing at times; often too bright, oversaturated, and unyielding in its persistent nagging at my consciousness.

The blues are so blue that I’m wondering if it’s time to replace my contacts. Or the nights so long and mysterious that I wonder if I really did die in that frozen lake. Or the songs so rich, and full of portent and personal significance that I think maybe I just dreamed them being written 20 years ago, and they’re actually new. How else to explain having already heard them a few dozen or hundred times before grasping that the line, “All colors bleed to red / Sleep on the ocean’s bed” means death?

[And knowing that it’s not actually grasped, per se — that this conviction is just one of many potential interpretations and moods and moments and portents — somehow knowing that doesn’t actually diminish the impact. Instead it just makes my mind boggle at the capability of the writer and singer even more. The song contains multitudes, many of them hidden in plain_sight. Like: who knew songs could do that?!? I thought I did; then I didn’t; and, somehow, now I do again. Weird.]

For as dull as the drumbeat of despair had hammered my soul, at times now — especially when I’m overtired — I’d almost gladly retreat back to passive acceptance for a bit, just to cool my jets. I mean… incandescent is awesome, but sometimes a little dark and quiet go a long ways, too. It’d be good to find some middle ground, a sandbar amidst the torrent of my Middle Passage, to occasionally beach my little craft upon and wait for stranger tides.

Sheesh.

[OK. This one should really stay on the PRIVATE side of my writing membrane. PUBLIC is way too dangerous. Initiating self-control module in 5, 4, 3, 2… Oh, shit! You missed six!]

“There’s no such place.”