Bird By Bird

bird by bird

“All you can give us is what life is about from your point of view. You are not going to be able to give us the plans to the submarine. Life is not a submarine. There are no plans.”

~ Anne Lamott, “Plot”


Living Twice: Natalie Goldberg

A great book deserves re-reading. Poking back into this one again, as I recently bought my own copy.

the joy of zen

From Writing Down the Bones, 1986:

Writers live twice. They go along with their regular life, are as fast as anyone in the grocery store, crossing the street, getting dressed for work in the morning. But there’s another part of them that they have been training. The one that lives everything a second time. That sits down and sees their life again and goes over it. Looks at the texture and details.

In a rainstorm, everyone quickly runs down the street with umbrellas, raincoats, newspapers over their heads, Writers go back outside in the rain with a notebook in front of them and a pen in hand. They look at the puddles, watch them fill, watch the rain splash in them. You can say a writer practices being dumb. Only a dummy would stand out in the rain and watch a puddle. If you’re smart, you get out the…

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I’m In Love With a House

I’m in love with a house

(I need to be making more money)

I made much more in the two years prior, than I did last year

(I’m battling the common bitterness)

Had a dream about those five balcony flowerboxes

(Just off the upstairs master bedroom)

I heard the low horn of a train, passing through town today

(I’d hear it from there in my yard, too)

Some of the figures for a crack at this home look bright

(But others don’t fit into the proper boxes)

But I have the love

(And there it is)

It visits my pleasant dreams like an old flame

(Or exciting promise of new loves to come)

But not all loves are meant to be

(Beyond our dreams)

This one is still alive

(And though I might fail – this love’s for sale)

Uh Oh

Today, I fell in love with it again.

Teaching college writing, that is.

Uh oh.

That said, I still see this 14-year track as only part of my career – as much as I might like it to be a larger slice – because in today’s world and economic realities, it’s just not feasible as a sole source of income. That option’s shrinking, unfortunately, to those with large trust accounts or wealthy partners. Even the best “Road Warriors,” with 5 or 6 classes and connections at multiple campuses tend to pull in under $30K a year. Not exactly a salary level that provides for summers in the Hamptons, let alone the local lakefront. Scratch that. We all know – these folks are pulling every single string these days, just to get by and pay the bills.

That said – as they say – not bad work, if you can get it.

Much time spent, over the past couple weeks, fretting over certain truths:

~ shrinking pay

~ shrinking opportunities

~ unsure future assignments

~ choices and chances that dwindle, rather than grow

~ just never seems enough security, promise, cushion for certain grown-up dreams that call,
like that lovely little chalet/house for sale, driving by, dreaming a couple times a week.

All par for the part-time-faculty course, for certain.

And yet.

At high noon today, there they were, all 24 of them, reading and talking, laughing and smiling. Reading aloud, debating, and sharing others’ writing, thinking and learning and growing. It was a wonderful hour and a half. And I’ll do it again tomorrow. And the next day, and the next.

Lucky me.

It’s going to be a good week.

And that small, cozy chalet with fireplace will still be there,

With a for-sale sign,

The next time I drive by.

Maybe tonight.

I’m just saying –

I sure would like to have that fireside, that 2nd floor balcony with a wooded view,

As I tackle this fat stack of student writing over the next week.


Dream dream dream.

For now

I’ll settle for candles, some warm tea,

And these priceless thoughts that my students have been so kind

(under pressure of college credit and grades)

To share.