Good Friday Writing Meditation
When I was living in Boston, footloose for the first time in my life, free as only a couple of bucks in your pocket and a funky apartment and lots of time to wander can make you, I was overwhelmed by something new for a California kid: greenness. Green! Everything was green, when it wasn't red brick! Fluttering, light-altering green--man! Ferns burst out of the corners of walls. Oaks and maples everywhere. I never saw anything like it. I'd walk down the Cambridge and Somerville streets, crooked and obtuse, drunk on the psychedelic tides of green emerald ninteen-layered light. I still get half dizzy thinking about it. The rattiest slum looked like some kind of Elyzium to me because of the shaggy growth exploding from every bit of exposed earth.

We in San Diego lived in a world where the desert was trying to come in and suck everything dry, or burn it. Watch the vast and deadly Western droughts that are building up--fire season's going to be rough this year. We had to put bricks in our toilets to make them contain less water volume. But in New England, just the opposite thing happened: forest tried to overwhelm the puny history of mankind. The trees and weeds and flowers went off like car bombs. Bang! There's a thistle! Bang! There's a red maple!

It was good for my writing.

I was making love to everything. Including my notebooks. I was so EXCITED. I was aroused.
It occurred to me that I could write a book of essays called The Erotics of Place. (And boy, when I got to the Rockies, those mountain trails made me so crazed I could hardly walk--I wanted to make love to the entire sky.)

So, in those wayfaring days of lonesomeness and joy, wandering into every alley and talking to bums, poets, hookers, immigrants, scholars, musicians, criminals, drunks, I'd stumble on stuff that was entirely not-San-Diego. I could have been in Morocco.

There were book sales all over the place. And they'd set up tables with really weird stuff. Obscure stuff. Who-knows-where-it-came-from stuff. And, on one Saturday table, in one stanky alley full of jostling book lovers and brown smashed banana peels and a whiff of pot, there was a table. On this table there were "really really cheap things." My kind of sign. I went right to it and beheld, oh you know, the stapled chapbooks of local poets, the memoirs of a 100 year old farm wife, the out of date slang dictionary of the Beatnik era. But among all these gems, there was a tiny blue stapled pamphlet. It was for sale for 25 cents. 25 cents! Proof that miracles come in small packages and that we miss most of them because we're too busy going to Hooters or watching Bill O'Reilly.

It was by the poet, Jon Anderson. I will admit, being a Clairemont rock and roll hick, I might have thought at first--"Hey, Jon Anderson, angelic-voiced lead singer of Yes, has released a piquant pamphlet of prog rock wisdom!" Maybe. But, no. And it was called something like Helpful Hints on the Writing of Poetry. I opened it and found a friendly list of ideas about poems. I dug out my quarter, what my Godfather in National City would have called, Una Quattah. I bought it and jammed it in my back pocket and went on to buy a Baby Watson Stroller for lunch and hit the cheap-o matinee at the Harvard Square theater. The cemetery near the theater has the very New Englandy notice posted above the graves: POLICE TAKE NOTICE. Even that sign made me crazy with joy! Was it a warning, or a request?

What I'm getting at is that somewhere in that riot of stimulation and awe, somewhere in that singing of angels and clanging of subways--which for me was the same thing--the booklet revealed the scripture that changed my life as a writer. It didn't lead me to anything, but like all true spiritual wisdom, it illuminated and quantified something already in my heart and mind. A writing rule, if you will.

Yes, a meditation.

It seems proper to offer it to you on Good Friday. It is, I think, the basis of what I try to do in writing. I have waffled over the years. I have wondered if Jon Anderson meant real ghosts, or metaphoric ghosts--like, memories and details that evoke memories. Being a scripture, it is open to interpretation. On days like today, I think he could be talking about the Holy Ghost, y'all!

This is what lies at the bottom of my well, pumping up sweet fresh water:


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