Looking upriver

It is an odd mixture of bloodymindedness and certitude that propels me unrestrained in these trifling narratives.  For some writers the source of achievement is the “write what you know” dictum.  For others (like Ernest Hemingway) it’s about getting your butt out of bed and putting pen to paper; viz., writing from 5 o’clock in the morning – while standing up no less – until you’ve written something, anything.  And that brings one to the ultimate persuasion; namely, just write for crying out loud!  And stop thinking about it!

Whatever the stimulus one does however require a semblance of topical pursuit; that is, something beyond one’s health and the weather. Perhaps shamefully for my part, I am not one of those writers who dithers over content. I mean, why punish oneself! Indeed it has been remarked that I have the capacity to write about anything.  Which is not to say that there is any depth to what I write; just that I have whatever it is to write.  Indeed I am conscious of the vaporous level of much of what I pass off as a coherent. This is curiously so in spite of my educational credentials of two university degrees and a half-century currency with words for a living. Not to mention the decidedly literary tone of my entire prep school training. Yet the unpolluted mandate is to write.

My intrigue with this prescription is two-fold.  One, I derive fulfillment from the mere act of writing. It is an anodyne. I have felt this way before my initiation to either typewriters or computers. A fine pen – either because of its precision engineering or extraordinary cosmetics – has always attracted me. I have a collection of pens (both mechanical and fountain) which gladden me though I haven’t used them for an eternity. These fine writing instruments historically collaborated with professionally engraved writing paper (both business and personal).  I recall retaining in a drawer of my office desk a number of heavy metal engraving stamps which were no longer current and had been replaced by new ones kept by the engraver. Writing – even putting my signature to a letter typed by my assistant – was for me an act of devotion. Call it (writing) my artistic meaning. I qualify that my writing was awful which I know points to a specious character of vicarious delight. My only defence is that it’s not just what you say but how you say it.

The second draw to writing is its cathartic effect. I am uncertain what if anything is being exorcised but I know the result is invariably one of triumph. One is entitled to withdraw from hesitancy. Confronting one’s own realm of possibility is itself a worthy venture. Unquestionably I have learned new methods of expression. The ingredients of writing involve not mere ideas but your ideas. Equally critical to the goal of creation is the scope of the material and the way they’re used; that is, the assembly of words (which importantly means what to exclude).  Like any other artistic undertaking, it is identified by a feeling of correctness and exactitude. You can feel when it’s right.

Today on my way across town en route to the urban vernacular I stopped along the Mississippi River under the lookout sails to inspect the view upriver to the Village of Appleton. It is ironically my first glimpse of the Mississippi River when I landed in Almonte in 1976 and lived on Martin St S but steps away. It is where I took my Yellow Labrador puppy Lanark Drummond Beckwith of Rosedale (aka “Lanny”) for his introduction to the riparian theme. It is where, 46 years later, I shall again regard the identical scene from our second-floor corner apartment at the end of Spring Street.  Once again the proverbial circle of life! It is no contradiction that what started still exists; but I have to say I hadn’t envisioned my half-century in Almonte being a history of bouncing from one side of the river to the other and back again.