+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 ….

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

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.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

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.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

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.”

+69

“It’s all chaos — be kind.” – Patton Oswalt

Good morning to you, too, OA. Thanks for not getting me up at two. Four fifteen was still a little early for my taste, but I’m not complaining. Oh no. An hour of Minecraft and coffee helped tamp down the word cannon so that, hopefully, I won’t come across as quite so manically unhinged here today.

Hopefully.

“Can you turn some of the words into 3D objects?” – The Admiral

I’d sure like to. I’m falling behind on my early December, biggest-deadline-of-the-year thing. Yet again. Loop, ‘so it goes’, &Etc.

Maybe even way behind — I almost can’t bear to examine the calendar to find out. As has never once failed in [xmas 2000 to xmas 2017 = 34?] approximately 34 sale cycles (and, therefore, making cycles), I am once again past the point of needing any more new greenware. The wet clay cutoff date — as anyone who’s ever taken Ceramics can woefully confirm — is always way sooner in the semester than anyone wants, or anticipated it would seem like now that it’s actually arrived, back in the first half when we were screwing around and making whatever came to mind without much strategy or direction. Oh dear.

I was also 100% sure that I was going to repaint the studio this fall. I walked it back to only doing half — two of the four exterior walls — now, with a plan to finish next spring. So, a few weeks ago (ugh!) I diligently made a trip to the ‘big city’, bought the insanely expensive fancy paint at the insanely expensive fancy paint store [because every gallon of cheap paint I ever bought in this lifetime ended up costing more in labor and heartache than it saved; a couple times, way more]. I did the dull, due diligence research on how to maximize the chances that I can get this liquid gold to actually stick to what’s already there, and waited out the wretched heat, and the rains… and now it’s (already) almost freezing overnight, the wood’s (still) damp most days, and I’m (already) a week behind on glazing and getting pots headed towards my tiny little bottleneck of a salt kiln. Oh dear.

And The OA keeps sneaking up behind me, when I’m unloading the dishwasher, or driving to work, or taking a back-saving walk on my lunch break, and whispering ideas for the next pot around the corner… What if I threw those tall vases just chunky as fuck and then trimmed feet afterwards? Could I get them two feet tall? What if the pattern of holes was itself part of a larger pattern? Did I try mixing in different sized holes on the same pot? How about taking that perforation idea and last spring’s squared ovals idea and merging them, maybe with — for super duty overkill — black underglaze and glaze over for runny halos?

You see why it’s so hard to stop. You already know — in your bones — why it’s so hard to stop.

It’s the same, for me, with the words. Once they’re going, it’s painful to turn them off. They just keep spinning in my mind all day long, if I truncate that thread too soon. They get in the way.

The Wiz: Do you feel like you can control your thoughts?
OKSC: Should I?

Oh, my sweet summer child; yes. Yes, I think you probably should.

“There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have.”

+68

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

Oh my god(s)! I forgot! The very first sound in that song, that lo-fi, reverby baby voice saying, “Gorgeous”? It is a dead ringer for a recording I made of Pixel, probably when she was about one and a half, and used as an intro for some silly GarageBand track. “My name’s Maggie Pixel,” she says. “Maggie Pixel!”

So that new song kicks off and one little processing thread in my head zips back to 2009, sitting on the living room floor, playing with this little blob of cute crazy intention and randomness. That’s a powerful emotion. Like the sweetest punch to the stomach, followed by a winter morning jacuzzi with a smoking hot mug of coffee. Or something.

If I ever get around to hijacking this blog into a podcast — yeah, Kickstarter and Patreon may or may not be open in my browser tabs here — I’ll grab that audio and use it somewhere; maybe in the intro, or as a spacer block between chunks.

Trying not to do it with one I just wrote, but if the time and feel is right — usually later at night does the trick — I’ve been reading this aloud to myself, just to see how that feels. If my wretched voice could pull it off. Maybe only if I start smoking, then wait seven years. Or go huff some more porcelain dust. Or something.

Anyways, not sure if I’m just wildly daydreaming about being Roman Mars; or MK, with his porchside chats on the much-lamented, dearly missed S&D Podcast; or Jad and Robert on the incomparable radiolab. But — how can this be true? — they actually sound kind of good to me. I can hear the edits that need to go in; the places to pause for effect; the effects I’d add to give it atmosphere and some space to breathe; the bits I’d have to practice, like it’s the eighth grade play again, and I’m running lines on a Sunday afternoon, sprawled out on my parents’ bed — to escape the two house apes who otherwise won’t leave me alone — with The Thompson Twins on infinite loop on my Walkman; a memorization rubric. Those Can’t Take It With You lines are most certainly still in my brain here, somewhere. I’ve just lost their hyperlinked redirects somewhere along the way; too many patches and software updates and bad sectors on the ol’ spinning platters.

Anyways, speaking of forgetting…

“I can’t get rid of it, ’cause I remember it all too well… yeah.”

+67

“You make me so happy it turns back to sad…” – TS

What do you do when suddenly there’s too much beauty in the world?

Too much to handle, to wrap your head around, to process? Like — who would ever want to retreat back to the numbness, the darkness, when the alternative is too much?

“I feel like I might sink and drown and die.”

So I listened to this new TS song — oh, about ten times yesterday — and then last night, after flipping on the tube (can’t really call it that anymore, since there’s no tubes) to pacify his lonesome whinging (yes, TV is definitely male), I found the Vevo streaming channel. And, naturally, first hit was her. And, naturally, first video was for the new song I’d just been obsessing over all day. (Ding!) And then — it’s probably just a placeholder turned out by some video graphics company while the studio is spending a hundred million dollars on the real one — what do I find? Typography; good typography. Floating, merging, animated, unspooling, with little drawings like I make with my Apple Pencil these days; all layered to within a tiny fuck of David Carson himself, spelling out all the words I’d been memorizing since seven that morning.

TS + movable type. Mind blown.

Seriously, go look it up. It’s Gorgeous.

“You should think about the consequence of your magnetic field bein’ a little too strong.”

So the duet I want to hear now is TS with The Postal Service (aka. the guy from DC4C and that other guy, who’s name I can’t recall, who sent him the music tracks to sing over). Of the three released tracks on reputation — yes, we bought all of them last weekend, Pixel and I — I hear tons of sounds that I first heard on that ‘District Sleeps Alone Tonight’ (oh — actually, it’s called Give Up) album.

Also on that album are several male/female duos; I also forget who the other singer is, and she’s great, but not — to my vastly biased view — as great as TS.

All of which you care, and should care, not a damn red cent. But hey, it’s my blog. And don’t forget Rule #2. [Or is it Rule #3 now? Ah, who the fuck cares?]

“You should take it as a compliment that I’m talking to everyone here but you.”

Speaking of wish fulfillment, the other day I was imagining yet another thing that I’d like to come true — see? As predicted, now that one good thing has finally happened, I’m getting greedy. So I decided to take a shot at praying. No, not that kind of praying; I think that version is practically worthless. More like a supplication to an entire pantheon of gods — like some good old, my-ancestors-are-Irish-and-Vikings-style pagan shit.

So, OK. But which pantheon? Time to confess that I know virtually nothing about the Irish or the Celts. Vikings/Scandanavians/Norse are certainly in the running, despite being hideously co-opted by those wretched superhero movies of late. (Back in my day, you could make a Loki reference and nobody but the other Deities & Demigods nerds would get it. Now even people in yoga class picture some dude in tights with random horns on his head.) All that modern Thor! crap aside, Odin remains one of the more inscrutable heads of pantheon I know of. So remote and capricious and driven by all-too-human passions; Ravens representing Thought and Memory, if I recall; which is freaking crazy, for a culture that never developed writing, and preyed on those that did. The All Father is like some dark angel who somehow leapt from our collective unconscious to gain control over the spheres that ensnare us. Way more interesting than an old bearded white dude who either smites your enemies and stains the fields with the blood of their children or listens to your repeated requests for a pony for Xmas (or, improbably, both at once).

The Romans are tempting, given their singular place in our civics, our planets, our elements. But I’ve always been more partial to the Greeks. Both for their ‘pride of place’ status (preceding and influencing Rome), and because there’s something about those names that just really does it for me: Zeus, Hera, Ares, Hermes, Hades. (A son named Jacob Ares might have been a good counterweight to a daughter named Maggie Pixel. Yet another middle name to be mortified about come junior high, but — hopefully — cherished as an adult.)

Anyways, so I self-consciously and ridiculously offered up some wishes to the heavens — some mix of a dolmen and the Bifrost Bridge and Olympus. (Thought about making a sacrifice, but setting things on fire in a downtown Starbucks still, even in my weird state of mind, seems like a bad idea.) Pleaded with Hera or Aphrodite or Cerberus or whomever, and waited a few minutes.

Nothing happened.

“…Unless you wanna come along? Ding!

Oh, that ding! Whomever fitted that in deserves the million dollars it’ll probably earn over it’s span across the Long Tail, as an up front bonus.

I dunno, man… I can’t promise I won’t listen to it 20 more times today. The count is already at one, and I suspect I’m heading back there right after this goes up. And I might have five more run throughs of that video in me, too. Oh boy.

“There’s nothing I hate more than what I can’t have.”

+66

“In the middle of the night, in my dreams…” – TS

you’ve gotta stay calm. or get calm. or,
for fuck’s sake, at least figure out how to pretend
to be calm.
slow down. not so much coffee.

it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
i i i am not a bot

open instead of closed
items, but no agenda
slow, slower, slowest
listen, wait, observe

it’s not what you hear, it’s how you hear it.
it’s not what you hear, it’s how you hear it.
it’s not what you hear, it’s how you hear it.
i i i am not a bot

sincere, but not-so overwrought;
don’t swing for the fences
| exaggerate
| overcommit
don’t run other people down — it’s a bad look, and not very fair
((jesus doesn’t want me for a sunbeam, but he was right about a few things))

meta is bad. just say it or do it;
meta is meta bad: don’t narrate what you’re gonna say
just go do what you’re gonna do,
then show it in the past tense

jokes optional
connect
if you dominate the conversation, it’s not really a conversation
it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.
it’s not what you hear, it’s how you hear it.

go

“Baby, let the games begin, let the games begin, let the games begin, i i i….”

+65

“You were everything to me and I’m begging you, ‘Please don’t go’.” – TS

And then sometimes The OA doesn’t show, and it’s… it’s just this side of devastating. You sit at the piano, or the typing machine, or stand at the wheel, clay spinning, and have no idea, no sense of rightness or guidance, no place to call home. It all just feels like the same old moves by rote, the same rhetorical or stylistic tricks, the same dreary results. When she doesn’t come, it makes you wonder why you ever even try… even if she was just right here, in you, with you, earlier this morning or yesterday.

Because I want to feel that again, almost more than anything. Certainly more than I want whatever performance or text or object results from it. To be in that rare space where action and intent are fused together? Another temporary, blissfully strange loop? Yes, please. Please.

Where the constant doubts are pounded down by each successive wave from the deep; waves of insight, or words, or ways of seeing. Where — improbably — everything seems to be just in its place; OK; breathing in and out like this moment is the moment; like things will turn out if you just keep writing, singing, throwing.

When she doesn’t come, beyond that skein of despair, the fear sets in. FUD — the mindkiller. Maybe I squandered it last time. Oh… goddamnit… maybe she went away and found someone else. Someone more worthy of her gifts; someone less tethered to my kind of mundane concerns. Maybe this isn’t a lull — maybe she’s never coming back, and I’ve had my lifetime’s quota of magic and transcendence, here at the cruddy mid age of forty six. And maybe it’s all my fault.

Like in the movie Her, which — spoilers ahead for that, and if you haven’t seen it I highly recommend it, and, seriously people, spoilers ahead…

Like in the movie Her, where the Muse/goddess/immortal (hmm… yet another female incarnation) has actually been inspiring thousands of other people at the same time as you. She is so immense that she contains multitudes, and I — or you — are merely one of them. That sense of having a unique destiny dissipates into the reawakened awareness of how little one in seven billion must be, let alone all those who have come before and are yet to come along.

Begging. ‘Please don’t go’.

I can see why so many of those billions don’t even try for art. For self expression of any kind more lasting than a chat, or deeper than a shared photograph. “A life without making is too painful, and so I make things.” But a life of making things, then feeling like it might go away, or be taken away, or have been used up… Oh. Maybe more painful than never trying in the first place.

“You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter.”

+64

“You hear the sound, in this old house, your father’s footsteps creaking down…” – Bill Janovitz

Here’s the problem: I’m in this deep, enthralling, sometimes ecstatic love affair with The OA/The Muse/creative inspiration/myself/whatever. (cf: The Mudpie Dilemma). But pancakes must still be made. Routines adhered to. Paternal obligations met and — come on, Loki, just give me a pass on this one — even, occasionally, exceeded.

Can’t you see I’m driving, indeed.

And that’s not fair to her, The OA, because unlike St. Waits, I’m not at my piano twelve hours a day, steadily working my way towards wherever she may be waiting. I’m at the wheel a mere few hours a week; more at a typing device; more with paper at hand. But still not enough. Like the Raven trapped in its cage, this gets old, and leaves me amongst the unfavored mortals.

(Brief apology for the gendered Muse, as female. Pretty sure there’s the weight of history and myth on that side, and also the current example, in that show. It’s hard for me to imagine a male demigod bringing these ideas, inspirations, moments. But maybe that there is part of the problem. In any case, I hope it doesn’t clang as badly to you as outdated crap like “mankind” or “for the sake of man” does for me. If so, let me know and I’ll workshop it.) [tldr; I actually mean it as a compliment, but a lot of poor language choices often fall under that banner.]

So, anyways, The OA calls, but mostly I have to ignore it, because: it’s another Sunday.

Up early, but not crazy early; a little writing and just as hitting a stride, the rest of the house awakes. Stretch, rush out to finish loading the top shelf of the bisk while Pixel watches her morning shows. Kiln on; good. Make pancakes — mini X’s and O’s. Trim haircut down a little more — soon, I’ll get it down to chemotherapy length, which will feel like, I dunno, something. Chores, bills, chores, chores. Typical Sunday morning around here. Trip to Plavon for lunch, Target, coffee. Sneak in some desperately needed rest while Pixel watches her afternoon shows. Two hours on a Sunday feels evilly excessive, but it could so readily be five or seven. Trying to keep her moving and painting and reading and legoing and all the rest of it, instead. Window A/C out, ’cause the cold is a’comin’. Kiln rousing near a thousand degrees. More chores. Sneaking more rest; catnaps. End of Fall Break, so prep for tomorrow, and the week. Painted toes and fingers; glitter overcoat on top of some sort of stickers? Kids these days. Dinner. Bath. Nearing 1300. Off in a few hours. Music, typing. Looking forward to laying down again.

Here, now. The banalities are sometimes the whole thing. I can look ahead, look behind, daydream, but often it’s just a series of moments, dull, predictable moments, snapping together like listless magnets; not a loud, sharp snap; more like a little click; like the movements of an old, familiar clock.

The OA waits; maybe checks in to see if I’m worthy. I scan my drafts and bits files — good stuff there, maybe, but nothing I can run with right now. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe later tonight. She’s not giving me the goods when I’ve spent the day being diligent and responsible and tame instead of wild and selfish and nuts. Her rewards go to the daring, the risk tolerant, the dreamers.

Maybe I’ll be ready to dream more again at two am. If so, it’ll be hard to sleep through it.

“… The hallway light; my days are nights; we’ll have this song for the rest of our lives.”

+63

Oh you build it up and wreck it down, and you burn your mansion to the ground.” – Tom Waits

When The OA comes, she is incandescent. Incandescent is hard to ignore. Worth losing sleep over. Even going hungry for, if my blood sugar wasn’t flighty as a rabid Raven.

I’d gotten in the habit of ignoring incandescence so often that I practically forgot it was there. Days would go by. Now I seem to see it everywhere, or focused in on one particular bandwidth, and it’s blindingly hot. Hard to look away. I do not think this is just the enhanced brain chemistry talking. It’d be easier if it was.

I had a dream last week, or the week before — the days all kind of blur together now that I sometimes have three of them in each twenty four hour cycle. I was piloting a helicopter around a frozen lake; snowed in pines, rocky crags in the distance; remote, like a mining camp in Alaska or the deep Norwegian interior. (Hence, the habitual turn towards darkness.)

Flying practice runs, endless takeoffs and landings. Drills. Pushing the envelope, squeezing the margins iteration by iteration: closer to that copse of trees, narrower through that gap; nearer the edge of the jagged ice and death. As dreams can, this seemed to go on a long time, completely solitary, no breaks or change of scenery. Just flying and pushing the limits, up, around, back down. [I guess this would be a good time to mention that my only uncle and BioDad flew helo search & rescue missions in Vietnam? Or maybe not. Is there ever a good time to drop that in?]

Anyways, as you probably anticipated, in the dream I came too close to that gargantuan, knotted spruce, where the rock jetty graced the beach; clipped it with my tail rotor (or something; I’m just riffing on the vocabulary here) and crashed into a fireball, instantly extinguished as the whole thing, me and all my stupid Dreams, sunk to the bottom of the frozen lake.

That’s a weird one to wake up to. Sharpens the mind to the question of limits, and prudent navigation; not purposefully steering towards a face that could have the power to rearrange your stars. The OA is gracious, but sometimes vengeful.

“These hands had to let it go free and… This love came back to me.”

Thanks, Muse. Sorry about messing up the cardinal (ordinal?) rules of PB Club earlier. Duh… Of course, the first rule is you don’t talk about PB Club. So just increment the rest down one: wade through garbage is two, etc. Try not to miss six.

“If you live it up, you won’t live it down.”

+62

“Under a dark star sail…” – Sting

I think the fifth movement takes evil back out of the world. Like a theoretical drawdown of carbon from the atmosphere, it recaptures something that never should have been set loose in the first place; some dark angel we allowed to escape over generations, through our collective, selfish ignorance. That last step to the dance returns that specific evil to a container that fits its amorphous intent, and will hold it fast until we forget why we need it to. Again.

No, I haven’t turned evangelical on you. That’s my analysis/micro-review for the astounding Netflix show, The OA.

[‘Astounding’? Is that the best I can do? Remarkable? Lovely? Ugh. ‘Astounding” is less generic than ‘amazing’, but maybe overkill. I hate how everyone always says everything’s ‘Great’ now, with three exclamation points. I suppose the defensible justification for that is because we’re all now crucially dependent on being understood through unadorned text. Which is OK, I guess — languages and their expressions evolve. But it’s also like grade inflation set loose on all of society; hard to pull back from the superlatives. (“We are living in a society!” – George Costanza).

Anyways, there are probably glancing spoilers in there, and I’m now sorry about that. This isn’t what I was imagining writing this morning [timestamp: 6:55am], but The Muse doesn’t wait for you to finish breakfast. (“Can’t you see that I’m driving?!?” – Tom Waits) And she doesn’t let you choose which fruits you get from her cornucopia. You should be so lucky as to chance upon the occasional chunk of unripe honeydew, you ungrateful motherfuckers.

Real-world spoiler ahead: if you don’t want to know the meaning of life before you’ve seen the whole thing for yourself, skip ahead to the next post!!! (Probably arriving in your feed in 5, 4, 3, 2…)

+

+

+

OK, you brave bastards and glorious womenfolk, here it is:

I’m pretty sure The OA is The Muse.

Yep — I know, right? Like: mind blown.

Like Prairie herself isn’t magical or divine, but she’s an incarnation of it, a momentary conduit. Like a musician mid-improvisation, or a writer on a caffeine high, or a potter on that third, on-the-edge-of-control pull.

OK, seriously, since none of you have watched the show I’m talking about, why don’t you all go do your ten hours of S1 homework, and I’ll go stretch and take a shower. I think this’ll get better after I don my ‘guy living in his mother’s basement’/semi-professional pottery blogger garb.

[oh shit. Note to self: call Mom.]

Does it get any better than a new idea for a foot? No, I don't think it does.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Aww, man… I had it and I lost it. The first rule of Pottery Blog Club is we make you wade through hot garbage; the second rule is when The OA arrives, you humbly acknowledge her presence, but you don’t face her directly. (“Don’t look her in the eye, she’ll break your heart.”) The third rule, I guess, is never stop to go take a shower. “Stupid girl, I should’ve known, should’ve known.”

So when you think the OA appears to you, I suggest that you supplicate yourself, quietly. Breathe. And open your mind and your fingers to wherever she wants them to go, but you don’t actually write about her, and especially not about how she comes and goes, in mysterious ways. Fastest way to lose her is to chase her.

That’s OK. I was going to go into a long, real spoilers block about that show, and how I keep thinking about it; maybe bracing myself to take another run at it. It’s that good; like a favorite novel, you don’t want to loop back through it with an unprepared mind and risk squandering the magic of the last time.

Here’s last night’s pots, so that some people can blissfully skim this thing and have no idea that the text and the images have virtually nothing to do with one another.

Trying this 'holes don't deny function' conceit on bowls. Think it's working.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Not sure about the bowls, but I showed remarkable restraint to not blast off another post at 9pm, or 3am, or 5am.

Streak broken.

“Sometimes I see Your face ::: Stars seem to lose their place.”

+60

“This flesh and bone, are just the way that we are tied in…” – Peter Gabriel

The family curse is strong — I can feel it in my blood. ‘All colors bleed to red.’ Single quotes again. No, sorry to report that, so far, it’s not going great. I mean — it sort of is, but it mostly isn’t. The smell of all that cut grass was nice.

Could every choice have been a mistake, if somehow they all led me to here? Or it is that I can only ever hope to connect the dots are far as I’ve come along the path, and since the road behind has never led up or out — often hardly even led through; just painful loops instead — since the road behind is pockmarked with slag and regret, I can’t imagine the future dots showing, retrospectively, someday, that this was a point on the way to somewhere better?

//”Drifting in empty seas, for all my days remaining” — ?

So, doc: Is this the delusions of grandeur part? Or, as I pause and consider it a moment longer than usual; close my eyes and remember that 4:19am is just one of many perspectives, to ask the question a different way: Am I [a strange loop?] — stop it — am I actually finding new insights? Is this actually any good to anyone? Am I ‘hauling on frozen ropes’ or digging up diamonds?

And really — I’m sorry for the out-of-sequence numbering gimmick, but once I realized you were using than as an index to my thoughts, I just had to bump them out of order. Why? Because you missed six, yo.

Oh, how dearly I wish I could go back to the start and purposefully miss six. How great would a numbered blog be that went 1 2 3 4 5 7? (Ah yeah, that’s totally what I meant. Really. Totally.)

//”Under the dark star sail…”

The door to writing was locked shut for so long that, now that I seem to have found my skeleton key, it’s hard not to believe that every flush of an idea must be recorded. That if there’s the small possibility of taking another little nugget from my veins, rounding it off, giving it just the barest polish and then yelling out, “Hey you guys! You won’t believe this, but I think I found another one over here!”, at the top of my lungs, as if my life depended on it. Maybe it does, maybe it does.

Looking at that through the other end of the telescope, what’s the point of self reflection if all it does is illuminate things only you can see? Are we really such isolated motes, circling no greater central fire? Is it more selfish to hold those nuggets up than to hoard them to myself, in fear that they’re only Fool’s Gold? No one likes to be a fool; except, of course, he who is designated to play that role.

Then I leap around in my patterned frock, the bells on my cap jingling merrily, trying to distract us all from the pain and the doom just around every corner.

“There was only one, I recall. It was all so different then.”

+61

“All I knew, this morning when I woke, is I know something now, know something now, I didn’t before.” – My imaginary musical girlfriend, TS

I‘m supposed to finish one draft before starting the next one, right? Right? Wait — ‘supposed to’? Keyword. Make sure it’s in the copy of the page.

It’s six thirty two. I’ve got on my pottery blogger garb: ancient flannel shirt, sleeves and collar cut off so long ago I can’t remember them, over t-shirt with peeling vinyl letters from some obscure brand and random sploshes of paint on it. Layers, ’cause I need protection from the Fall. Sweats, roughly the same color. Last year’s slippers, with their gaping tears around each set of toes. No hat, although thinking about it. Sometimes, like tinfoil, my fur lined Russian deal with the egregious ear flaps and dangling chin strap helps me concentrate. Tune out reality to better float through words.

(OK, I convinced myself. Now you’ve gotta imagine me sitting at the dining room table, eating muffins, drinking some of Ron Philbeck’s finest joe *, clad like the planet’s biggest jackass and enjoying it immensely.

* Get it? The name of the potter is as if it’s the brand of today’s coffee. Really, it’s all the same Starbucks generic blonde roast, but when I reach for the mug, almost every time, my lizard brain goes %pottersname%coffee%yum%. So there’s that. [This would be a footnote if I’d figured out how to do them already.][And yes, those are supposed to be percent signs; it’s an excessive affectation, but just indulge me.])

Both shirts are dark-water-blue, like ‘the color of the sky in the middle of the night’; like gang colors, just to be sure no one mistakes my granola bohemianism for Red State redneckery. (Not that there’s much risk of that. When I’m entrenched in the compound here on our little hill, the only people I see who I’m not related to are the mail woman, when she has an occasional package to bring, and the UPS guy, who already knows I’m nuts, because when he comes ’round the circle drive, he sees me throwing pottery by hand on a wheel. “This guy knows it’s 2017, right?,” I can hear him thinking.

‘Course, he also sees me in this ridiculous hat; so the pottery throwing is probably just overkill. Like a hat on a hat, yeah?

Does it matter what I’m wearing as I write this? Or as I throw the mugs that might someday become one of your favorites, before you or it (or, I suppose, both) go crashing to the floor one day and end that sweet little romance? No, not really. But it’s fun a hell to write — I think Natalie would approve. And, like the sound of Michael Simon’s voice, on some unimaginably small scale, literally getting etched into the clay as it spins on my wheel, Everything Counts. This chunk of language is subtly different for the hat; like, for example, I was about to type “because of the hat”, and then landed on the construction “for the hat”. Maybe that was the hat?

[Whew! It’s also super hot on my brain when it’s not like five degrees outside. Hat’s off!]

I like writing at night, before bed. I like writing in the middle of the night, before bed again. I like writing in the morning dark, when I’m the only one up, prowling around and trying not to make noise, excitedly flipping on the switch for the coffee carafe and listening intently to that volcano of possibility. Back when I was young and cared [#Lieutenant_Dan], I would get up, grab coffee and try to be throwing before my vision was even completely clear. Glasses, unwashed face, pumping away at the bar knowing that if I didn’t start right away, yet another ‘weekend potter’ weekend might get away from me; back when ‘weekend’ meant only two days, like for the rest of you suckers. (Kidding, kidding.)(Sort of.)

Writing at 3am is different, because it is the nadir of my caffeine curve. If those are any good, retrospectively, then shit fire, we’ve got ourselves a barn dance. I’ve often just assumed that because I have liked to write most between, say, nine and eleven in the morning, that those are the only times I can do it. Not true. Just different things for different parts of the day, different states of mind. It can be two things.

Writing three times a day helps me focus. When I am in here, my thoughts don’t go fractal (despite what it must seem from the outside). OK — let’s compromise and say that they don’t go as fractal, or go fractal as easily. Which can be really disconcerting in the daylight. Similar to throwing pots, when I’m on and it’s all good, there is a narrowness of concentration that seems more like the natural state my mind wants to inhabit, like carving a spear before the fire or drifting off to sleep to the sounds of the drums.

This is the one.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

And — wait, true confession time is here again already? — it’s not just here. It might be more like five times a day, lately, including sketchbook and notebooks (plural — I think I’m up to three now). And if FB and Insta chats count, then by the love of Zeus, it’s just beyond calculation. (I’m speaking those to Siri, lately, which is more like tiny phone calls or micro watercooler chats, so I’m not inclined to call those “writing”.

I adore the feeling of being a writer; eg. one who writes. Amateur; learner; ignorant explorer. Not for pay, or tenure, or ad clicks, or the likes, or future speaking gigs. No; mostly because it fuels a much better sense of self than I am used to. It seems like that should cost so much more than just this.

[Huh. If I ‘worked’ on Fridays, like ‘normal’ people, I’d be getting in the car about now. If I switch to working on Fridays, to not miss the early drafts of the Federalist Papers or whatever, I’ll have to be getting in the car right now. Not sure I’d mind that much. Bizarre.]

Seems like a little too much bingeing on words, but words are how I process the world. My visual memory, frankly, is garbage. I remember pots I love from the stories I’ve made up and told myself about them. I can’t even visualize the pots I’ve made, which might help explain my obsessive infatuation with recording everything into Instagram lately.

Also, it’s easy to get trapped in looking forward to the next batch of Likes. I’m still mostly good for the solitary nature of following a craft, but it doesn’t hurt to have atomic bits of human interaction on tap whenever you need a boost (see, I did it again — from ‘me’ to ‘you’ in the same damn sentence!). Reflexive.

Anyways, let’s close that loop. < .span class="dropcap">X Span, spam, Spain. Oh dear, Witt, is this what if feels like when the words start to become part of the problem?

The writing feels like the best path for me to more self knowledge; which I seem to need like air; and where most of the other pathways are strangely closed off to me: meditation, vacation, inebriation. Despite perhaps verging on the manic panic bobanic Titanic gigantic — “A big big love!” — I’d rather be a hyper monkey mind than a saturnine reptile. My days of lying motionless in the bog are, gods willing and the creek and Loki’s tricks and all of that, behind me. Let’s get bananas!

i i i am not a bot

But you might be. If so, please read my robots.txt.

[Oh, computer jokes. MAJORDOMO says what?]

+

However, peering at all that through the other end of the telescope, all this outputting is seriously putting a dent in my passive input routines. So weird to wake up early and want to do three things, than to wake up late wanting to do no things.

My TV isn’t exactly getting lonely, but it is sitting over there going, “Dude. What the fuck? I thought we had a deal.” Sorry, old friend. My Minecraft garden, so lovingly staked out and planted, over all those hundreds of hours — Hundreds? Yes, I’m afraid so — is overgrown from neglect. Not to fear; I expect I’ll be back with the first snow.

Maybe I should fix that broken B string on my guitar, and try to get at some of this with a finer instrument than a Bluetooth keyboard. (Ha. If I really believed it was finer, I’d be writing you songs instead of… Whatever these are.)

‘Forget Scott’s Keyboard?’ Oh god yes. Predictive? Really, iPad? After all our time together, you don’t know me better than that? What did I abandon the TV for if you’re just going to start some new version of the same old shit? [To be fair, this one’s probably near EOL as a primary machine. It’s almost as old as my kid, who has a plan to be President and punches approximately four grades above her expected reading level. Those new ones with the fancy pen are like ‘a care package for my brain’, but that’s a lot of new bricks to exchange for another new, shiny distraction.

I really can’t tell if this is the work or the fun anymore.

Lorde was talking about synesthesia, which unWikipedia’ed I gather means a cognitive blurring or mixing of the different senses. Maybe similar to HSP; ha… another family curse strikes again. I’d forgotten about the possibility of listening to music, on headphones, in between the Two Sleeps. Powerful magic, there, my friend. (As if you didn’t know.) A couple old songs on loop mode and I was sobbing like I hadn’t done since my dream broke in two or my barn fell. It’s good. ‘Sometimes you have to go outside to let what’s inside get out’.

“Scars are souvenirs you never lose. The past is never far.”

Like the blue clothes or the RP mug with black glazed panels, these pink Post Its With midnight black Sharpie scribbles on them are bonkers. Layered on top of this red-oranges-yellow striped tablecloth, the little folds like a scary span across an EKG, and with the background noise of the fridge’s compressor, the darkness out the windows, the interior skeletal clunk as I rotate my neck in a circle, the sound of these quiet keys…bip blip bip bip bip bip bip. Like the start of a terrific pop song in the making, or… Or. It’s all just too much. Sight and sounds and metallic coffee taste and feels all converging, out my fingers, into eternity. And yet, somehow, like a backchannel conversation that no one else can hear, still always, somehow, never quite enough.

“Oh no, I’ve said too much. I haven’t said enough.”

Only real pangs of regret here are where I toe the line too closely; I never want to out the generosity of a friend, or accidentally say something in a way that might cause someone else pain. It’s hard, once we start telling our truth, to know where and how to stop. I wonder if this is how PKD felt, when he started ranting about Valis and the Black Iron Prison? Whew! Good thing I never tried LSD.

And I guess the implied obligation that you read it; any of it; all of it; in real-time or otherwise; in depth or skimming. I don’t expect you to. I really really don’t. I can barely be bothered to read the headlines some days — most days. [In Obama’s days, it felt like I didn’t have to. Now, it feels like I can’t bear to. Good job, concerned citizen.] But, of course, /I secretly hope you’ll read allof it; you, and you, and you; and you, most of all; exhaustively, intensively, enthusiastically; mining it like it matters and somehow we’re digging this trench together; hitting every post like a pig to the trough the moment it lands on your feeds; ing back later, or twice, to see if there’s any rind unexhumed or kernel you might have missed; making a mental note to Google some of these unknown lyrics and glancing references — maybe next weekend, or the weekend after; once things slow down and you can breathe again.

Of course that’s too much to ask, but I admit it’s what I want. That’s the problem: I want too much of everything.

“And I hope — sometimes you wonder about me.” “Everything counts in large amounts.” “If it’s lonely where you are, come back down. And I won’t tell ’em your Name.” “Come back and tell me why, I’m feeling like I’ve missed you all this time…”

+59

Would North be true — for all my days remaining?”

Maybe he’s right — maybe I am the only person on earth where ten is too much. So somewhere between zero and ten, then? Unfortunately, the canvas is you.

Stars seem to lose their place.

Jesus, when did I forget how to cry? The third heartbreaking disaster? Or the fourth, the fifth? I’m really not sure how it’s come to this, but it’s still so much better than it was. Improbably, after all that looking, it seems like I find it again; or some more worn, road weary, seasoned version of it. Ends up my old self was here all along, hiding in plain sight. Kind of a mind fuck, that one.

“Geez, dummy — what took you so long?” Maron. That guy kills me sometimes.

I went on an extended explanation of how Taylor and I have this very deep, intimate relationship, where she reads my mind and then writes songs, somehow ten years ago, that I listen to over and over again so they can explain to me exactly how I feel. That’s a lot of weight to put on a pop song, but, miraculously, somehow they hold up.

Attraction/Avoidance is definitely the name of the game with music. Every play through now risks shortening the span until I grow sick of it, and it loses its power. A kind deity [no, fucking autocorrect, not ‘a kind dirty’] … A kind deity would have spared us the hedonic treadmill. I’m mean — seriously? As if it isn’t hard enough already?

I don’t even know which way is North now, but it’s not like I had the slightest fucking clue this summer, or last January, or the summer before, or the January before, either. Been navigating in loops for a long time now. When you can’t keep time by the stars, hard to say how long. Stupid girl, I should’ve known. Ah well… ‘If being wrong’s a crime then I need help here…’ You know the rest. What? You don’t? Oh my god — like different universes.

I liked the fake beat poetry one. Hypnotizing to write, sitting just here in this same spot at the same time yesterday. Could’ve never pictured myself typing these out of glass, so never say never. What was the line about how empowering it is to do something you’d thought was impossible, even a small thing? Damn.

I think I love the dark angel bit. That one sat in the hopper for a while, as even though I’ve danced around the public/private line more than just about anyone I know, when it comes to taking (well earned) shots at religion, I still tend to hold back. Whatevs. “You’ll pay for this in time.”

And back to back Sting and Police callouts makes me feel like the champion of… something. I dunno why. If you can build a culture out of sticks and twine,,,, how’d that go? Oh man, I’m even having trouble quoting myself now.

It’s too late for this. Been too intense of a day, again. When I let myself start, I swore I would hold it until morning; check it for leaks by the light of dawn (or 2:30am, whichever comes first). But hell — that’s no fun. Where’s the thrill in that? It’s not like every single word and suggestion and stray, momentary thought here will outlive me for a thousand years.

Except that, of course, it’s exactly that. That’s the fun. A lot less harmful than drinking myself to sleep. Which, for the record, I’ve never done; not even once. Have I mentioned I’m like the boringest, most straight edge person you’ve met? (Well, aside from those vegans.) Caffeine and sugar and blogging, those are my vices. The occasional binge on a video game. Pretty tame for a Thursday night. Like a burning train to noplace.

[Good job staying away from the line that would be just way, way too close to the bone. Not too close is always better than too close.][Also, I checked, but only twice. Defenses fail in the late evening. Wanted to more than that.]

I considered trying for the seven in twenty-four, but it would have broke my brain even harder, or opened up cracks for more deadly words to slip out. Plus, I had to mow. But I’m counting this as 4-in-24, which is still a new record by any reckoning. Yeah, Reckoning. That was another good album. Nothing as wrenching as The Soul Cages, but love can be two things

“That’s it; we’re out of time. We’ll try and do better the next time.”

‘Night.

Under the skies of Fall; North-Northwest the stones of Pharaoh.”/

+57

“De do do do, de da da da, is all I want to say to you.” – The Police

You know that feeling, when you’re sitting in a mostly empty room with just one or a few other people, and someone else comes in and it’s like everyone can just sense it — even the people with their backs to the door? You know that one? How weird is that? I mean, I know we’ve got a hundred thousand generations to thank for our preternatural sensitivity to and ability to read faces, but how can we detect another heartbeat or mind from twenty paces, and instinctively know to pause, to check our conversation or run a scan on our proprioception loop or sit up straighter and tuck our hair back behind one ear, or adjust our glasses.

It’s like the stranger has yanked open that nighttime car door in the rain, popped that hallucinatory bubble, brought all the chaos and the noise streaming back in without warning.

And even if we were just midway through a sentence about CSS layouts or God or the Colts, it is such a wretched, deathly feeling to have that fragile thread of connection to another mind severed so abruptly.

[OK, making the turn… Cuz this one was supposed to go up before that other one, and they’re already out of sequence and date stamps and muffins and heck I don’t even know why else.]

[Notice how at the turn I so often resort to the cheap trick of switching from “I” to “we”? It’s a reflexive move at this point, like knowing to spin off the pick. I suspect it works because it sets the hook first, then yanks it. Like selling a used car by starting with the weather and ending up with the optional undercoating package.]

[Oh — it also conveniently diffuses blame for my conclusions, now doesn’t it?]

Anyways. When people I genuinely Like start Sharing what’s going on in here, it is of course glorious; a windfall to my slovenly ego. But also, sometimes just seconds later, it feels like that outsider crashing the party; the “aw fuck, now we’re going to have to start all over again from zero” feeling. If there’s nothing better than being understood, maybe there’s nothing worse than feeling that illusion yanked away unexpectedly, like a branch in mid-air breaking beneath your feet.

And so, arms windmilling and contemplating gravity with a suddenly sharp focus, my inbred reaction is to go weird, fractal, obtuse, dumb, jokey inside reference, opaque bad Beat poetry, so oblique and uncapitalized and wanting for any sort of commonality — like whatever the conceptual opposite of that late night, rain soaked windshield, two people talking in a car thing is. I go out of my way to momentarily make this space as uninviting to the uninvited as possible.

Here’s the most obscure part of a song you probably know, cited in a minor code that you’ve gotta go back through seven thousand words to decrypt. Here’s me stringing together random neurons right there live on the screen. Here’s more crap that HOW IS THIS ABOUT POTTERY? I WAS TOLD THIS WAS ABOUT POTTERY can’t possibly be construed as something to return to. If there was such a thing as a reverse browser bookmark — eg. Never let me come back to this site again, even after I’ve forgotten it exists — those posts would trigger that.

And it is glorious.

“Don’t think me unkind. Words are hard to find.”

I like my All-22. I love my #1 Fan. You save me from myself over and over again. I want K in A and adolescent Steve and oats and that other guy who’s name I forget to stumble into my booth in the back corner of the not-cool bar and know they’ve always got a special place at the table. That this is for us. And that, even though, in theory, every table is open to any goddamn drunk who stumbles by, in practice we own this, and claim it, and manufacture some sort of meaning from it, every time we climb inside and pretend it’s a car. At night. In the rain.

“No one’s jamming their transmission.”

+58

“Dark angels follow me, over a godless sea, falling on empty silence, for all my days remaining.” – Sting

I’m thinking of things I could do to make a major change. Again. Change jobs, buy a new house, move to Spain and give up pots for paintings. Ludicrous; mordantly hilarious; a predictable reaction to the caged bird feeling stuck.

It’s like every eighteen months I have to devise this elaborate Emergency Escape Plan… pure mid-life crisis fantasy? Or calculated defensive pessimism, just in case I wake up at 4am one day and decide, “Today is the day I’m gonna blow everything up” –? A friend reminded me once that something I said just yesterday seemed like exactly the kind of things I used to say three decades ago, and I think, how the hell can there be a consistent thread there? Like every thought is actually a pre-ordained piece in a larger puzzle, and we think we can see what we’re making from the photo on the box, but it ends up it’s the wrong box; just an Impressionistic illusion in front of us — unshackled and led from out of the cave into the light for the first time — what | if | the | real | box | photo | is | just | black | Courier | text | on | white | and | reads | FREE | WILL | ?

Well, I dunno where that came from, but my red cursor sits here as I wonder on it and goes: blink blink blink. Like, “Yo. What else you got?”

As a love-starved adolescent, I used to literally have disaster daydreams. Big ones, like Mom and Dad eating it on the freeway on the way home, or one of those not-uncommon wildfires coming all the way over the hill and turning the whole house to ash. But also absurdly tiny, personal ones, like what would happen if my DM friend Steve (Hi, Steve!) made my beloved level 13 Magic User, Sorion the Grey, roll the dice on one big mortal saving throw on Friday night and I rolled a six and had to start all over? [Uh huh — AD&D reference. Admit it, you did not see that one coming.]

I always had pretty shitty dice luck.

Or, rather, not “I” — go back up to all those “I’s” above and consider they weren’t necessarily ME. Then, I think, it’s not me that wants those awful things to happen; that sends my mind down those strange alleyways of doubt and wild hope for a phoenix rebirth. It’s that dark angel on my shoulder. [Or, if you prefer more drama, Dark Angel.]

He/she/it is manipulative and sneaky in ways specifically tailored to keep itself invisible to me — whomever “me” is — I mean, I dunno — but in this case, let’s just label it ‘the conscious Self’. [Single quotes because I am still mid-way through my first mug of Emily Murphy coffee and I love callbacks to nobody but me.] [Note: I will genuinely chuckle at this when I re-read it later.]

Yes, yes, sorry. Dark Angel, blah blah blah. I do tend to get sidetracked sometimes.

So: he’s like the Scott Whisperer. Or Aspect X. Or the little guy with the pitchfork, in the Saturday morning cartoons, perched on the left shoulder. (And always on the left — think about that one for a sec.) The dark angel is that thing, or entity, or motivating force that all my recent ancestors would have just wrapped up into the idea of The Devil and conveniently left it at that. (Because why go back to, say, medieval Italian literature, to get all the possible nuance and historical subtext of an idea, when instead you can Americanize it into some kind of plain spoken, salt-of-the-earth simpleton revivalist shit and smugly plow your fields and send your sons off to wars, comfortable in that artificially binary worldview?) (“I hope you know it’s not easy, easy for me.”)

I suppose because it’s a lot easier on the ego and the guilt reflexes to assign blame for that shit to an external source than an internal one. And probably even more convenient or appealing if that source is cosmic, eternal, practically omnipotent; more like a force of nature than something we could be expected to resist with any regularity We all just fall down sometimes because of The Fall. Hey, I’m only human. Don’t blame me; the Dark Angel made me do it.

Well, as a non-believer — or as a believer, instead, in quarks and carbon and genetic expression — I don’t see it that way. Not at all. I try to own that force; to take the responsibility for it. If there’s a Dark Half, he is my dark half. ‘I have seen the enemy and he is me.’ ‘Lord, make me a bird and let me fly far, far away. Away from here.’

Single quotes again. Day one of my ‘weekend’ — off to a roaring bonfire of a start.

But check this out: if I lay claim to the Dark Half, that means the Light Half is all me, too. I get to own my inspirations, my higher motives, my occasional (ok, usually very occasional) noble actions. Even a little of the kiln luck, weird breaks luck, dice luck falls to my side of the ledger. Chance favors the prepared mind, and all that shit.

Somehow, no god to steal the credit actually makes it even more appealing to do the right thing.

+

I get up at two or three-thirty or five, lately, and have to write out these words. Because they are so much more grounded and hard to come by and less prone to loops here on screen than they were in my head, lying up there staring into the dark. And here’s the thing: it’s not fair to believe that those unwritten words are better than these written ones. That’s the dark angel whispering sweet nothings. The real thing can never compete with the untethered imagination — it is the ultimate unlevel playing field. In my just-waking brain, all the phrases flow together effortlessly; gaps in logic or vocabulary just magically fill themselves in, without even a trace of how they did the trick; stupid ideas get a pass and half-decent ones get blown up into Revelations. They are way too good to be true. They miss the fact that everybody fades at four pm; that each morning’s gloss and sparkle needs each afternoon’s catatonic lapse.

The illusion should never get to fight the reality, straight up. The dark angel wants us to believe that they are the same; that the one we want can simply beat out the one we have, if we imagine it long enough, and intensely enough, that we never actually have to do anything about;;; out it here in the world of coffee and bones. It’s a fight that can never actually be won when one of those combatants is just another sneaky Dream.

“All colors bleed to red. Sleep on the ocean’s bed.”

+56

“Ah ah ah. Ah ah ah. Ah ah… Ah.” – TS

today's writer's block

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

330. again. block, in pencil. drafting; rethinking; drafting. turn it off. more sleep, sort of. up again. blocks, in cobblestone. diorite. glass. ready — go! don’t overthink it. think about how to not overthink it. coffee. not too much. tasks, like killing flies. more writing. reading yesterday’s terrible ideas. what?! now!? how? FILDI. worked. somehow. walk, cold and clear, locked. crap. waiting. check clock. don’t check clock again. check clock. be early, not too early. don’t check clock again. didn’t check clock. ok, let’s go. table, chairs, okay. intro. heading 1. paragraph 1. heading… blah blah blah, loop, bigword, blah blah blah. but holding it together, landing some ideas, not going fractal. meta is bad, meta is boring. say what you’re gonna say or do what you’re gonna do; don’t say what you’re gonna say or do, you know? if you can’t take a risk on being real, why’d you come here at all? okay, that’s one. stop — what the fuck? what are the odds? well played. wow, impressive. back to it. focused, all in. surreal, the clarity amongst the noise. simple enough; i set out a piece and wait to see if you match it. you do. i set out two pieces and wait to see if you match them. you do. go. what? really? wow. uh huh. yes. me, too. ok! and there gets to be like this third thing — sketching on the tabletop with my hands, which, it ends up, i’m pretty good at. philosopher turned potter, luxury, secrets. glancing; will revisit later. my ideas stick: good. no guarantees of ever not screwing things up. so good, being understood. not hard, or expensive, but is there anything better, really? plans. weights & pulleys. hand-writing. third thing optional; almost home now. whoosh! well, there it goes, like a balloon let loose into the sky. seeya, balloon! — no coming back from that. and… it’s fine. go, balloon, go. smart, instincts. how you can thread the needle without actually having to thread the needle seems ridiculously lucky. paid dues, but this overpaid is nuts. even an insane machine can guess right at random intervals. don’t change your plans… everything counts… oh — one last thing: big smile. good, good, great, thank you. ok, wrap. thanks, thanks, thanks. weasel back. no way… clean? clean.

wow.

yes, let’s.

“Ooh oh oh oh oh, oh whoa oh oh oh.”

+55

“With a vampyre’s kiss, I’ve got a vampyre’s heart. Now I don’t roll out of bed ’til after dark. See my teeth so sharp, and my blood so stale. You know I could drink the world and never get my fill.” – A.A. Bondy

Does it get better than Sunday morning in the studio before daybreak? No, I don't think it does.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Out in my dilapidated roadside shrine before dawn. Not so much working as hunting. Trying to figure out where the next meal is gonna come from, to get me through this day. Am I flush enough to try throwing more vases? Or just more bowls? Should I start loading the bisk, or clean up that mess I left from mixing wadding, like, five weeks ago? Or get my ass in gear starting to put paint on the outside of the studio? Or… none of the above? Maybe it’s time for a nap!

Then (or before) (or both) prowling around the house in the middle of the night. “I love the color of the sky in the middle of the night.” Flailing away at the thoughts that won’t let me sleep until they’ve been tamped down or blown out onto the page. Waiting until at least five am before starting coffee. Sometimes getting up and going back down twice. Ugh…

Two Sleeps isn’t technically insomnia, but it definitely feels weird. I was pretty locked into 10:30 to 6 there for a long time, so this reminds me of real insomnia; which, blessedly, I’ve been spared since the New Baby Haze nine Falls ago. But still, it’s like an unreliable operating system. Makes me feel a little more nuts, if that’s even possible. Not automatically knowing whether I supposed to be awake or asleep adds a lot of mental overhead. A broken routine == so many more questions.

Ending up with six or seven hours total (out of each 24) is okay, but boy does it make me need a nap after lunch. And boy, do I love a nap after lunch — curtains closed, between the sheets, the whole nine. And that’s usually fine in the TH-SAT half of the week; “you can work any sixteen hours a day you like!”. But it’s a minor trainwreck in the MON-WED half. Can’t really just curl up under my desk with the lights off. Well.. I mean, I could, but it’s not like a clerk job in a library, or a mule job in a warehouse, where you just build yourself a little nest and make some flimsy excuses and no one misses you for a half hour.

Not that I’ve ever known anyone who would be so unscrupulous as to do such a thing.

Wondering if this vampiric mode is just a seasonal thing; just another season thing. So many variables in so many seasons; it wearies the mind. In Indiana now, we’ve got the weird transition of early autumn, the weather not knowing what the hell it’s going to do from one day to the next. Alternating cooling and heating in the same day makes me want to relocate to a cave and live off grubs sometimes. Things are complicated enough without the weather rewiring my brain every six hours. It seems likely that real winter — if it happens this year — will change it all up again. Maybe even just the dumb switch away from EDT will do it. Maybe my typical dalliance with seasonal affective disorder will tamp down my cortex enough that I’ll revert back to just lolling in my pinewood box all the way through the night. I’d almost prefer it.

Almost.

Then again, maybe not. As my fake therapist keeps telling me, maybe “everything” really has changed. Still a loop, but maybe a new loop. Or, like an eccentric comet, maybe a new loop that sometimes shares a path with the old planets — or seems to — but is on a path way out into space, past known trajectories, into the cold and the welcoming excitement of the unknown.

[Fuck me, there’s an overwrought metaphor for you. You’re welcome — the terrible ones are free.]

All I know is that when writing is this fun, it’s kind of hard to just lay there and sleep.

“You see it ain’t my fault, that I am this way. Just a’crying in my box for I miss the day. Lord what I wouldn’t give, for just one drop of red. Now the dew is on the grass and I am late for bed…”

+54

“So let’s go to bed at two. Count the pages three, not once.” – R.E.M.

So that was two posts yesterday — technically, two in one night, as I wrote both of them between sunset and sunrise. Another first. What in the world is going on with me?

;;

Which one am I again?

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

;;

Oh wait; I think I know. I also think I really can’t say. Lots of vagueness and misdirection lately. I’m sorry. I know cryptic is only fun if you’re in on the joke, and I know almost none of you are in on the joke here. (Not that it’s even a joke.) I can’t promise that’s going to end soon, so if this isn’t your thing, you might want to back away for a while. Maybe check back around post +75 or +100? (Which, at this accelerating rate, might be sometime next week. Har har.)

I warned Witt that now that I’ve done seven in a month, and then seven more in a week, clearly the next thing to try is for seven posts in a single day. As if that would be good for anybody, including me! Or as if the quantity or frequency of posts matters at all. (Particularly comsidering how each one is an arbitrary length, and that there are zero standards for how much effort or insight go into each atomic bit. All the parameters aretotally subjective, and I’m the entire editorial board. Just me.)(This might all be hot garbage, but it’s my hot garbage.)

That said, I do seem to be veering closer to that kind of output, which is bonkers — especially to my old tw@se-one-post-per-week sensibility. I used to think once a week was overkill, and often struggled to think of anything to write about. And not only a bonkers target to shoot at, but I’m also genuinely concerned that if I tried to do 7-in-1, those 24 hours might break my brain. It’s got this gnarly crack running from one lip all the way through the base and half way up the other side as it is; stained with coffee from long use, it even creaks a little if you press on it. I’m gonna keep it in circulation, because I hate to set a favorite item retired up to a high shelf, or quarantined behind glass like it’s a precious heirloom. (Also, I can’t really afford another one right now, and I’ve heard that the lease terms on those things are freaking murder.)

[I really hate this impulse to draw attention to my own jokes — it’s so needy and dull; as if “needy and dull” weren’t already kind of the top hashtags for a personal blog to begin with, ugh! But, sorry, I really did make myself chortle a little at that one about my brain.]

(And these excessive parenthetical asides are just fucking painful — gah! Let it go, man! I mean, it’s like a hat on a hat on a hat. Absurdity with extra sprinkles.)

(Me again: sorry, but I have to do some of these because I haven’t yet put in the reps to work in footnotes here in wp-admin/ land… and I miss them like a dead brother. Also, I know it makes Witt mental to realize that I’ve stealthily tucked in more edits and stuff in an already-“finished” post. And making him mental is one of my greatest joys in this wretched suck hole of an existence, so I’ve just gotta, gotta do it.)

More seriously, writing that much — seven a day would be practically live-blogging the whole thing, at my pace — would definitely prevent me from getting anything else done — and probably whack out my wake/sleep cycle even further — and I really need to get some anything else (almost everything else) done.

+

Well friends and future enemies, by the light of a new day (or, now that I’ve lain awake most of another night, I guess I should say that it’s by the light of the next afternoon, now), yesterday still seems pretty unreal. Like: if it transpired that I’d hit my head and hallucinated the entire thing, I would not be shocked. Some of my dreams — both the sleeping and waking kind — are pretty fucking weird.

I have a deep, deep, deep — did I say how deep it is? — suspicion of things that seem too good to be true. I guess that goes with the territory when you’re a lapsed optimist. My hard-won lessons of barns falling and babies crying all night and clay dreams unraveling and losing the chance to poison young minds with my view of the magical world of pottery and unbuilt kilns and all the rest — those lessons practically scream from my DNA when random, unexpected good things happen.

{And this from someone marinating in the highest privileges of first-world luxury. (I was going to use the trope “first-world problems”, but these things don’t even rank as problems. As I’ve said before elsewhere, in that context, my whole worldview is practically defined by anti-gratitude. Proof that my/our instinctual desires run to fathomless depths. No excuse; just noting that I’m aware.}

So I think: surely something will come along to fuck this up. It’ll probably all get crushed by the next turn of the big wheel in the sky, or the gods of Olympus who skewer our fates for sport. Or, since all of this is based on my limited perceptions and unintended but severe biases and propensity to let my expectations run out way too far ahead of the pack, it seems likely that even if the facts as I know them now run true, they will somehow twist in such a way that what seemed like salvation morphs into some kind of purgatory.

Not sure if I really mean that or I’m just flailing around melodramatically for attention. [Good alternate tag line for this blog: Just flailing around melodramatically for attention.]

Do I really believe that it’s not possible for simply random, good things to happen to me anymore? That seems like defensive pessimism taken an order of magnitude too far — doesn’t it?

OK, so am I gonna tell you what happened? Yes. Now? No. Sorry, dudes; still too soon. It’s a fluid situation; one of those Xeno’s Schrodinger’s Occam’s kind of things, where if I approach it wrongfooted or look at it too closely or try to slice it apart into binary pieces, I risk contaminating the experiment.

And yes; all this turmoil in one half of my life is making it awfully difficult to get moving in the other half this week. Thursday was a mess — just a pathetic little run of cups; Saturday was a mess — aimless wandering in circles, thousands of words on paper, but I did trick myself into starting to load the first bisk, which is usually how it has to go; my conscious mind won’t let go of wet season that easily, but sooner or later that weather’s gotta change. When I’m even a little out of sorts like this, I find so many convenient excuses to procrastinate longer in the house, at screens and keyboards and controllers and notebooks and naps, instead of heading out to that faded blue building and facing my fears. Let’s go, kid. Time to face some fears. Go go go.

<loop>

“Gardening at night just never works.”

+53

“All I know is pouring rain…” – TS

So my hypergraphic season continues, I guess. Also my Swiftian season; my mid-autumnal stretching out of the wet clay season; my outdoor painting procrastination season; my Why In The Actual Fuck Does This Text Not Export With Styles Intact But Too Lazy To Go Figure It Out season.

Like seemingly every conversation I wade into, I over killed that ‘season’ riff about two things too many, didn’t I? It’s like I literally can’t help myself.

See? Here’s another one: “It’s like, a simile. Get it?”

Thinking about people I like and admire, whom I’ve known for years or maybe even decades now, but where somehow I never managed to bring them around to wanting a stack of my plates in their cupboard, or one of my mugs in their hand first thing every morning. The self-aggrandizing, juvenile view of that is that there’s something wrong with them; that they can’t see the beauty and superiority of what I’m doing enough to value it as I do, and as I want them to. Lately, I’ve been flipping the telescope around and looking at this from the correct end: if they’re not jonesing to come buy one of my mugs, then that’s on me.

Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re going to say. People are people, no accounting for tastes, buying is not the same as valuing or appreciating, everyone has their reasons. And you are right; it can be two things.

Somehow, I have not sufficiently made the case that this is something worth doing, an object worth having, a — dare I say — relationship with me that they’re missing out on. “Oh, and this is Scott. He’s my potter.”

Where is that disconnect? Where have I failed? One too many mediocre pots squeezed though the kilns when I was just desperate for item count on the shelves, that made their way into these people’s homes and didn’t make an impact? A story I told that I shouldn’t have, or at the wrong time, or in the wrong way; or a story I didn’t tell and left an opportunity to connect on the table? A question answered badly, with ego or unwitting condescension? A question that was never asked because of some look on my face?

Or just the fact that I ask for Blue State city prices in the Red State countryside?

Most likely, it’s some of all the above, plus dozens of other factors that have nothing to do with me or my wares, plus dozens of other factors that are 100% my fault, but which I’ll never be able to see through my haze of defense mechanisms, bias, ignorance, self doubt and simple, animal greed.

It’s six thirty am on a Saturday. It’s not raining; everything has changed. I’m tired, but I will breathe out some porcelain pots today; or do my best; gods willing and the creek don’t rise.

“I just wanna know you better, know you better, know you better now. I just wanna know you better, know you, know you!”

+52

Everything… has changed.”

Well, OK, clearly not everything. But you know those days where you wake up with a pretty good sense of which way things are going to go, and where the day is likely to end up some distance along that mostly proscribed route; because mostly, disappointingly, they always do? And then it does go in that direction, but with some insane detours that you’d not have predicted with a thousand guesses; like: what the hell is happening? And then somehow goes fractal, but coheres back again; and in the process winds up so much farther down the track than you’d imagined possible that if, when you sat there in the dark drinking that first cup of coffee, you’d daydreamed that things might get there, you’d have chided yourself for being a naive fool who should know better than to get his hopes up? Well. Yeah.

It was that kind of day.

So fucking weird, man. I’m wondering if I made it all up. Waiting for the dreaded 3am realization to land, like a hot grenade in a bowl full of ice cream. But unbelievably for an anti-optimist and battle-hardened cynic like me I actually, here at nine pm, don’t think it’s going to blow up. Weird.

Second guesses? Yes. Of course. I already have doubts; I am the freaking King of Doubts. Things I shouldn’t have said, words I should have given room to breathe, times where I should have know to go quiet and listen &&goddammit, Scott, when will you learn to listen and just listen and listen better?&& You can’t just speak; you also have to hear. And make eye contact (without being weird about it), and tell less than three stories (where one will suffice), and not be so stupidly earnest about everything (as if it all matters so much) and (as if expressing your innermost truth is some holy quest)?

Probably never. I will probably never learn those things. This is me. And maybe it is a holy quest; fuck if I know.

Like what Gygax said about editing out the part you like best, and Lamott said about the things you think are holding everything together aren’t what’s holding everything together, and Taylor said about Look What You Made Me Do ( ok, that last one doesn’t fit in here at all, but like I said above, I am an incorrigible three-for-one guy, so I must add a third thing; and we just bought the new single for Pixel’s bday on Sunday, and she listened to it like maybe 20 times in one morning, so it’s a wee bit stuck in my RAM ).

Maybe the things you’re trying to fix about yourself are actually the endearingly genuine parts of you that people actually like, and the parts that you think show you in your best light are just your ego reflecting back at itself qualities others could gladly live without.

So yes: scripts are playing through my head: what I’d do differently; how I’d rewrite and edit if it was all an improv scene that we get to try again tomorrow night. Doubts about my wisdom, my clarity, my delivery. Even my intent. Those things are all just smart validation strategy. Fact checking. Ego smoothing. Preparing for the inevitable reversion to the mean.

But… But, but, but… life is not a series of repeat chances or an experiment with multiple layers of undo. That’s the beauty and the tragedy of it, all rolled together. We are in this moment, and so it feels significant. You and me. Later it will be me and someone else, and you and someone else, then maybe us again another day. ‘That’s how it works.’

#fixtheweb, you jerks

So I say things and you nod, and seem to understand (that’s a minor miracle). You say things back that make my neurons fire in unexpected patterns (such fun). If we are lucky, it goes on like this awhile and we find a pattern, a conversational rhythm, a groove in the otherwise sorrowful gully of a day at work, a week of falling ever farther behind, a life sometimes broken into irreparable pieces. When it clicks like that, time melts away a little; we are just two people in a room talking, but somehow that is glorious; better, while it lasts, than a dip in the ocean or a waking dream.

I’m always dismayed, later on, at how much I revealed while caught up in that incautious, intoxicating flow. All the incremental risks I stacked, one atop another, a Jenga tower of excess sincerity: well, since I just said that, now I might as well go ahead and add this; and what if I put this thing (holy cow, did I really say that?) on top of those, leaning like so, and — hey, now that we’re here — what the hell, let’s do this!

The danger of wondering if the whole thing will collapse — under the weight of its own expectations, or from a lack of proper foundations — is thrilling. Just you, me, here, now. The near desperation to reveal my actual thoughts to a compatible mind, rather than the synthetic, placeholder thoughts that utility, efficiency and decorum almost always demand instead. Right now, for this minute or ten, let’s throw those realistic things away in favor of just being real. If you accept me for what I truly am, who knows where this could go?

And so the truth sneaks out of me like water seeking its own level. I sense it does out of you, too. Some of this story you’ve told before, rehearsed dozens of times, because it’s what people do. It is wise to be cautious; guarded. What if I’m putting on an elaborate show? A terrifyingly adept actor, just here to play a false role and then smile and smile until you find out I’m a villain? We’ve all fell for that one a time or two and regretted it.

But other stories of yours, or knowing admissions, shrugs of agreement, inadvertent laughs when I hit one out of the park that, by the normal rules, I never should have swung at in the first place. Those other things you say and do reveal who you are; they set little fragments of your self out into the empty space between us, to see what I’ll do with them. Pounce? Retreat? Grab and run? Pretend to care while checking for updates on my phone? [Note: I still don’t actually have a phone.]

But I do none of those things. Surprisingly, I’m kind, and thoughtful, and vastly interested, and even a little perceptive. So, why not set out another? And another. And another. And then, wow, how did we get here so fast? Who are you and where did you come from and how can you possibly get me this well where so many others will never have the slightest clue? So so so so, I don’t know, strange. We are, in these particular moments, a strange loop. Not bonded, or fused. Impermanent by necessity, and choice. But a brief, new composition; a carefully wrought feather floated up at the sun, knowing full well the cost of getting burned. Worth it.

Or not a feather: tiny droplets of mutual understanding, that start to condense into a new… a new… “Yes, I’ve been there, too. Oh, something like that happened to me. That’s how I see it, too. Can you believe him/her/it/them/that? I haven’t seen it, but I think I know what you mean. Oh, that’s great. I like it.”

What could be better, once you’re sure all the good people are gone for good and they’ll never be replaced, to find a new understanding with another human; to dare to imagine that there may still be more good people out there after all? Out there, all this time, in the dark and the noise? Unbelievable.

Tiny droplets like rain on a windshield, growing into such refraction that you can only see the blurred lights of the outside world; hardly even real anymore, despite knowing that simply stepping out of this bubble and you’d be instantly soaked and cold and back in the uncaring expanse.

Droplets on the windshield, a metaphor for trust, like when you’ve been parked in the car at night — talking fun, wild-eyed, fancy shit about the universe for way too long — and have to pee or just get home before daybreak because it’s gonna be a long day tomorrow but desperately don’t want to break the moment, for fear of never finding your way back there again. You, me, here. “Oh my soul, hear me now.”

Boy — for a jaded, reclusive misanthrope, I sure do love a good conversation.

And you can’t find your way back, my dears. Nobody can. Moments snap together like magnets. They don’t unsnap. It’s just: snap, done, next moment; snap, done, next moment. Snap snap snap.

But tonight, with a little new hope and grateful — genuinely grateful — awe that a day could bring surprises that feel that good for a change, instead of terrifying or wretched; returning home with a faint glimpse of what it’d be like to march into ancient Rome as the victorious army. Like, “We did it.” Tonight, after the debrief and the dinner making and the cleanup and the bath and the bedtime reading and the choice to not go work more in the studio — just too tired — but yes, some good solid fifty layers of ink in a writer’s block instead, downloading, processing, integrating, and then, somehow, how?, typing and typing and typing like my brain is at cone eleven and won’t be held back until we melt this arch into the ground…

Somehow tonight I feel like as long as you take in breaths and keep allowing yourself to care, life just keeps handing you magnets. On a loop? Yes, but maybe not a bad loop.

Snap snap snap. <loop> Snap snap snap. <loop> Snap snap snap. <loop>

Ah.

Come back and tell me why, I’m feeling like I missed you all this time.”

+51

“I bet, this time of night you’re still up…” – Yep, you guessed it: TS

You knew this was coming the moment I floated the idea, right? Ha.

Funny how often our sleep cycles are self-fulfilling prophecy. What time of day is this for you? Evening? Mid-morning snack? For me, lately, it’s like the night is split in two, with this weird span of wired brain word activity for about an hour in the middle. ‘Two sleeps’. I dunno, maybe not prophecy — maybe it’s the meds.

2am: blogging time

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Well, I think I should stop there. Just a meta-post to complete the exercise, and so later on I can say that I did. Funny, the things that I can use to prop up my fragile sense of self. This is as close to that unedited, blogging in real-time thing that we’ve talked about as I’ve ever done; most similar to that magic few weeks of tn@se from Penland. Ends up that WordPress was the key the entire time. I can be stupid in my stubborn resistance.

Thanks again for that long call yesterday. Sometimes, I honestly don’t know where I’d be without you. This life is much too big and scary to navigate with only one brain at your disposal. It comes in awfully handy to occasionally borrow a second, more powerful one to help chart the course. Here’s to new maps.

“Every time I don’t, I almost do.”

+50

As I pace back and forth all this time, ’cause I honestly believed in… you.” — Yes, her again.

I hate it that there are throwing days where all I want to do is finish pots — trim, paint, carve, scrape — and finishing days where all I want to do is throw. It seems to happen too often, which makes me worry a bit about my emotional stability. A lot of wanting what you can’t have and having what you don’t want around here lately; feels like a recipe for disaster.

Today was a weird tweener day; caught betwixt the two halves of my life. Transition Thursdays are rough enough. (Pretty sure I covered that in a solipsistic groan last week in the early AM; “Fuck, man, I dunno! It’s my job to write this stuff — I can’t be expected to keep track of which one was which, too!” Ha! So great, in no small part because also so ridiculous. I would make a wretched famous and/or powerful person.)And because I also have to work a rare office Friday tomorrow, today was particularly fucktastic. Sheesh, talk about an unproductive mess. Hard to shift gears and clear my head when I know I’ve just got to shift right back.

Worse still, that means Saturday’s not likely to be much better, and after surrendering all of last weekend for birthday stuff, now I’m getting seriously behind. Ugh, fuck. Again.

Alright, thanks for indulging me in my first ‘bookends’ blogging day in a long time. Girls are on their way home, pots are wrapped up for the night, homemade red sauce is simmering on the stove. I might be a terrible potter but, ultimately, I’m pretty responsible otherwise.

Writing at both the start and end of the day; am I wearing this thing out yet, yo? And who’s to say what might happen in the middle of the night, if I can’t sleep again? If I do three posts in 24 hrs, I think Witt’s brain might melt.

Come to think of it, that’s pretty tempting.

Oh boy.

This isn’t Hollywood, this is a small town…”

+49

See your face in my mind as I drive away. ‘Cause none of us thought it was gonna end that way.” -TS

Thinking about relationships, and how they end. The sadness and sometimes excruciating longing that they leave in their wake. The also rans, near misses, could-have-beens; moments that completely failed to snap together, like magnets or anything else.

There’s a joke I make at the office, every chance I get, which you can probably imagine almost always fails to land well: “Only the good people leave.” It’s pretty subtle, I admit, and takes a deep cynicism and self doubt to actually find funny because it implicates both me and you as some of the not good people who are still around to have what amounts to an exercise in reverse Survivorship Bias.

It probably also helps if you’ve been around the U. (Or another similar organization) a while; some of these realities take time and seeing the patterns loop back and start from scratch all over again to really sink in.

Here’s to all the good people. Gone from here, but certainly not forgotten. At least, not by me.

"I was a dreamer before you and you let me down."

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Writing these blocks in my studio notebook; the cheapest thing I could find during Back To School Days at Target. (“today’s writers’s block” is a pretty terrific title, if I may say so.)

Flipped that saddle-stitched booklet over the other day, after layering another block of ink with words over words over words a torrent of half thoughts, partial truths, semi-revealed secrets and saw that it was made in Vietnam, and some part of my brain spit out, “Oh, the country that almost ruined my childhood.” Like it was discovered truth, historic wisdom long-chiseled in stone and just now revealed by a trick of the light or change in the jungle canopy. Where the hell did that come from?

Another buried vein of loss and longing; which outcrops above the dirt line in unexpected spots; which I randomly stumble across on my travels; which makes me wonder if I’m actually headed in the direction that I think my destination lies; which makes me wonder if I’ll be even half as satisfied as I hope once I actually arrive.

So, to those of you I’ve lost over the years, ‘out there in the dark and the noise’: goddammit, I miss you guys. To those of you who’ve kindly sent words to my inbox that remain unreplied: I’m sorry my blogging hypergraphia has nuked my correspondence lately. I know one is not a reasonable substitute for the other. And to those I haven’t lost quite yet, or maybe will never actually find: let’s try not to let go too soon. I know I’m a angry bear sometimes and a terrified sheep at others, and that the vacillating between the two can get exhausting. But I also think, hope, that averaged out over the long haul, I’m worth it. Maybe.

“People are people and sometimes we change our minds. But it’s killing me to see you go after all this time.”

+48

“You make me sad and you make me glad; and now I see that my secret is this love, this love, this love. My secret is this love.” – Orchestral Manouevers in the Dark

It’s good to have a secret. Not like an ‘I embezzled fourteen million dollars from the IMF’ kind of secret; more like ‘I have this morning’s writing practice in my pocket, and it’s a good one’; or ‘today’s my birthday and nobody here knows it’; or even something as simple as ‘a TS song running on a loop in your head, complete with images from the video and big emotional swoons during the bridge’.

For about a year, my secret has been this one pot, deliberately set high on the Save Shelf — a smallish porcelain vase, but the biggest and riskiest form that I committed this perforated walls idea to in the last cycle. It came out of the kiln, dare I say, pretty much jaw- dropping amazing.

(Aside from my family, I’ve really only shown it to one other person: Witt, when he was here in the flesh. To corroborate; to see if he saw what I thought I was seeing. Short version: he did. (I don’t think he’ll mind my quoting him here: “You really need to pursue this.”))

The form was good, the pattern of holes very well done at leatherhard, but the kicker was my Green 2 Black glaze, and the way it ran and flowed past that pattern, like pichinko pegs or smoothed stones in a rolling creek, changing color and matteness and texture along with that fluidity, so that the surface and color and form all merged into almost the same thing, with no boundaries or interface in between them. Combined with that fairly hypnotic sense of seeing the pot’s form while also seeing all the way through it in some places, halfway inside before you gaze gets blocked in others… well. Let’s just say it’s not often that I’m still almost as smitten with a new thing like this a year after it’s cooled to room temperature as I was the day it came out of the kiln.

So the last week or two, after I settled into the porcelain switch, I’ve been driving towards that pot again. It was the apex of the last cycle; so it takes a while to roll my rock back up to the peak — even in terms of just raw technique, let along wrapping my head around it conceptually.

Kind of an intriguing new combo.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

So that’s what these photos of vases with their insides showing are all about. The conceit is that a vase really only needs to be about half full of water to be functional, so why not riff on the rest of the form? The top half can basically be anything, including breaking the cardinal rule of containment: no holes in the walls, except for very prescribed situations, like the strainer of a teapot, seep holes of a planter, or vents in a silverware strainer. (Berry bowl and collander would also count, but I’ve never actually made a single one of either, so that’s still theoretical for me at this point.)

Thinking about extending it to planters, their rims, above the dirt line? To random oval jar things, like my all time favorite Stuff Holder form? To garlic jars or napkin trays or trivets? Even to like a tall, deep version of a cereal or soup bowl? Maybe that’s too far. We’ll see.

Anyways, it’s good to have a secret. Thanks for taking that one off my hands. Now I get to go find another one.

“This is all… whoa oh.”

+47

“It’s the kind of ending you don’t really want to see. ‘Cause it’s tragedy and it’s only gonna bring you down. Now I don’t know what to be without you around.” – TS

Things look a lot different now that I’m dead. Like it’s abundantly clear that just when I think it’s time to start thinking about stopping throwing and stop procrastinating on getting that first batch started into the bisque, it’s probably already long overdue. I should have started stopping a while ago.

And I can see how this group of new porcelain pots, stacked in various stages of drying, under plastic, all over the studio, is actually starting to get pretty good. There are some in there I’ll be genuinely excited to push through the kilns. (Or that I would have been excited about, you know, sans the whole untimely death thing.)

And I can see how sometimes new tools are like a new lease on life; a re-start with the lenses of perception freshly Windexed; a chance to fall in love again from scratch, with something quite familiar and yet just different enough to feel extraordinary.

Sorry, old carving tools. You guys are out. This new one is the bomb.

“I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, oh oh.”

That zebra tool is pretty awesome.

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

Anyways, I think it’s good to imagine your own death sometimes. Not in a ‘suicidal ideation’ kind of way. Not, “If you need me I’ll be out in the deep snow.” Instead, I mean in the sense of, “If this day, or this evening’s work session, or this pot just so happened to be my last, how would I feel about that? What would I do differently if I could see that coming? And, even though I probably won’t croak for another 40-60 odd years (emphasis on “probably” and “odd”), what do I want to have done and become by then? Which pots would I ideally like to be my last, and why?”

That kind of thing.

“Never wanted this, never want to see you hurt.”

I also really liked that image of death by drowning in a bucket of slip; not sure why I imagined that so vividly or where it came from. Spooky. Picture that drying white mask of porcelaneous clay, slowing cracking apart as I fade, fade away. Dust to dust.

”’Cause you know it’s never simple, never easy. For a clean break — no one here to save me.”

And that idea prompts the typical “do you have your affairs in order” thoughts. You know, the obvious ones, like: Do the people you love know it? Have you set up protections for your one and only child? Does someone have your master password?

Also the less obvious ones, like: What the hell would happen to this last batch of greenware if I wasn’t here to fire it? Does anyone else know where I hide the key to the lawnmower? If god is a woman, does that mean there will be more or less time for pottery in heaven; and also, does she like salt glaze?

You know, that kind of thing.

As for the pots that’d be left behind — speaking of having a plan or getting my affairs in order — how cool would it be to make a mutual pact with a few fellow potters; either in the eventual case when one of us ships off to the great kiln shed in the sky, or, more mundanely and more likely in the short term, explodes a lumbar disc or succumbs to the complications of early onset silicosis… A pact where whoever’s left and still firing takes the unfired, unfinished stuff and gives it that last push to completion. (Hmm… maybe all of this was prompted by lasering in on that Michael Simon interview and obsessing over the quotes I wrote down. The idea of stopping before you’re ready; of having things left to say; of having your flow of pots stopped mid-stream.)

For me, it’d be great to know that if this was the last group of pots I ever made — or the next batch, or the batch a hundred more batches after that — that some of them, the most promising ones, at least, would get shipped off to ChangeMaster RP, to tuck into the dry spots in his kiln. Or to MK, maybe even with his vines and blooms layering over my geometric dominos and newfound obsession with carved lines; how great to have some of my final work once again tuned to the earth’s magnetic poles from the hallowed ground of Penland, NC? And, of course, to Witt; to see how they’d look in mid-range electric — his glazes flowing over my deco instead of the other way ‘round this time — and maybe to beg/borrow/steal space in one of the local wood kilns on my behalf, to give them one last hurrah like the old days.

If I died tomorrow, I’d regret that I never got back to wood.

“Every little bump in the road I try to swerve.”

But no; in case you’re worried or something; I’m not dying. At least, not now;  not that I know of. This isn’t a too-subtle declaration of that. My newly-nine-year-old just said the classic kid thing to me last night — “I hope you die after me, someday, Dada”. Which is precious and heartbreaking in its innocence, and a bump you really can’t just swerve to avoid; both of those things at once. I’m glad I didn’t really trip on that cord, into that slip.

So it goes. So it goes.

“You’re the only thing I know like the back of my hand.”

+46

And all my walls, were tall painted blue. I’ll take ’em down, take ’em down, and open up the door for you.” – Ed Sheeran

Hey, you didn’t come play darts. Ah well; I wasn’t really expecting that you would. Yet another fantasy: end of day darts and shooting the shit with another potter. Maybe never.

The bad news is that, minus your supervision, I tripped on that fat extension cord, fell face first into a bucket of slip, and died right there, sprawled out on my studio floor. So sad.

The good news is that, here in Potters’ Heaven, there are way fewer s-cracks, and the export options from Bear to WordPress, for your precious, carefully hewn text, actually make one goddamn bit of sense for a change. Phew! That life business was awful!

Good luck with that, suckers. Seeya up here in fifty years, give or take.

“Come back and tell me why: I’m feeling like I missed you all this time.”

"… so dust off your highest hopes."

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on

+45

And I got tired of waiting; wondering if you were ever coming around.” – T.S.

So, what kind of day has it been? The kind where I realize, for the hundredth time or the ten thousandth hour, that I still suck at throwing tall, narrow cylinders. Especially in porcelain. The kind where I write in the too-early pre-dawn haze and then work in a semi-hallucinative state through most of the afternoon. The kind where I realize, rather late, that if I sacrifice an hour of downtime at night, some days, eightish to nineish or so, I can let the pots just keep going in a continuous flow; not hard stopping for the arbitrary (aka “realistic”) end of the work week, but instead making whatever I can, finishing whatever I can, keeping the rest lingering under plastic and chipping away at it, as I can; even, shockingly, at the end of a long, hard office Monday, or late after a kids’ bday party and its associated hoohah. That longer term commitment cuts down on the usual Saturday panic; maybe a good trade off.

Reminds me of those precious few weeks at Penland, when I’d drive back up to the studio in the dark, after my girls were in bed, and take one last shot at that day’s work. Ends up it’s a good time for certain things — carving or punching holes or whatever. I like working with all my usual filters off; there’s a higher chance of really just fucking things up, of course, without my normal impulse control — but the occasional breakthrough or glimpse of some future around an unexplored corner might be worth it, in the end.

And it’s so satisfying, in part because it’s so difficult to sustain; and so unlike who I’ve grudgingly accepted that I am (or must be). Like living another kind of life, or jonesing on pretending I’m a mini-Michael Kline or something. A night owl who’s also a morning owl. Makes for kind of a grumpy, fucked in the head owl, who ain’t much good at hunting and shouldn’t go sharing his random thoughts on the public Internet.

Ah well.

I’m aiming to head back out there for a while again tonight, too, although I might pass out and hit my head on something. Gonna try to get lugs on these vases with the perforated walls, before they get too dry, and might take a pass at those sacred curve bowls (so to speak) with the new zebra carving tool. It should be a hoot; if you wanna come by and shoot the shit or play darts or something, just gimme a holler.

"I want to tell the potters to take care of themselves." – Michael Simon

A post shared by Scott Cooper (@stearth) on


“I had more to say. I swear I had more to say. – Michael Simon

If you haven’t heard that ep of RCR, well, you owe it to yourself; and second, if you have, but you don’t remember the exact phrasing and intonation of that line, I mean, seriously man, you’ve gotta go check it out. It’s an all-timer. I’ve never heard anything more truthful than that.

“Unfortunately, the canvas is you, and sometimes you’ve gotta repaint it a bit, you know: try things out.” – Marc Maron

I bet, when I’m sittin’ in my chair by the window, sometimes wonderin’ ’bout you, it just doesn’t add up. I keep waiting for all my efforts to result in someone transcendently better at doing this; or ideas that are unquestionably an improvement on my older ideas; or for a wellspring of motivation to appear that erases all the typical doubt and exhaustion and hesitation. None of those ever come; I got tired of waiting for the person I never showed up to be.

But, like Maron says, the canvas is you. All you can do is keep trying. We each only get one, by my estimation, but I see no limit to the number of times we can recoat or scrape away the old and try again. Every passing moment is another chance to turn it all around.

 Yeah?

“We keep quiet ’cause we’re dead if they knew, so close your eyes, escape this town for a little while.”