virtualDavis

ˈvər-chə-wəlˈdā-vəs Serial storyteller, poetry pusher, digital doodler, flâneur.
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Essaying Wanderlust

Essaying Wanderlust: "Let each man exercise the art he knows." ~ Aristophanes

Essaying wanderlust…

[It’s almost time for the] launch of Wanderlust, the first in a series of short format memoirs. I’ve been writing and revising these chronicles for four years during which time they’ve evolved from a single-but-sprawling Year in Provence style narrative into a more intimate collection of extended essays exploring the notion (and artifacts) of “home”.

Essaying vs. Wandering

At first glance wanderlust and essay seem to be odd bedfellows. One is carefree, omnivorous and easily distracted; the other is systematic, focused and (ideally) conclusive. One is a potentially undisciplined adventure outward propelled by curiosity. The other is a disciplined journey inward propelled by opinion, judgment and evidence.

Or so we’re lead to believe by parents and teachers.

To be sure, wanderlust and essays can be penned into polar continents, but they needn’t be. In fact, perhaps they’re not so dissimilar at all. A little etymology opens the possibility.

Middle French essai, ultimately from Late Latin exagium act of weighing (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Think of weighing in terms of exploring, considering, comparing,… Think of weighing an idea. Discovering possibilities. Brainstorming. Assessing. Think of endeavoring to understand something better.

essay \ˈe-ˌsā; also e-ˈsā\
verb: to try to do, perform, or deal with (something)
noun: a short piece of writing that tells a person’s thoughts or opinions about a subject
First Known Use: 14th century
(Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

An essay in the broadest, most ample sense is an attempt. An experiment. A foray into a subject endeavoring to explore and – hopefully – better understand the subject. An essay is a composition that tries to weigh something.

Redacting Rosslyn Redux

Rosslyn Redux was born out of renovation. It was an attempt to understand why converting a dilapidated house into a livable home mushroomed into a multi-year journey. It was an attempt to do something with the stories and artifacts and history that were discovered in the process. It was an attempt to honor the heritage of a place and the people who made it valuable. It was an attempt to “heal”, to expiate the excess, and to celebrate success once the dust settled. It was an attempt to understand the series of events that kidnapped much of our lives for several years. It was an attempt to move on.

I envisioned a tidy A Year in Provence or a sprawling Under the Tuscan Sun. What I didn’t envision was that the process of telling the story would turn out to be as challenging, confusing, and (ultimately) as rewarding as renovating Rosslyn had been in the first place. I also didn’t envision the story evolving from novel-esque chronicle into an experimental series of narratively structured essays that explore the following themes:

  • Wanderlust to Houselust Why does a diehard vangabond settle down?
  • Archeology of Home Digging into the weird and wacky artifacts of “home”.
  • Rehab Ad Infinitum Renovating. Never. Ends. Learned the hard way!
  • DIY: Design, Build, Share Parallels remodeling a house with writing a book…

The four mini-memoirs chronicle my adventure from wanderlust to writing a book. Or four! But they do so in an unconventional way. With more than a few broken rules along the way. Each is a tangle of interwoven stories comprising a thematically focused “essay” with a decidedly scrapbook feel. And in a strange way, the process of revising and preparing the manuscripts for the public marks a return to the wanderlust that I thought I’d abandoned when I plunged into home ownership in the summer of 2006.

A Return to Wanderlust

Wanderlust is opportunity. It is the yearning simply to go, to leave without an anticipated return date, or determined destination… It is an overwhelming need to escape, traverse, and rove… Wanderlust is raw desire… ~ Rachel Narozniak (Examiner)

If the first book is a prequel to the renovation story, the fourth book is a sequel. W2H explores the back story for why I abandoned the mortgage-free lifestyle of a footloose global nomad. The next two books plunge into the all-consuming  3-4 years of saving an historic home, a marriage, our sanity, etc. AofH focuses on all of the bizarre baggage that we load on top of a home, and RAI focuses on the endless process, and the ever retreating finish line. But DIY is about stepping away from the project and transforming it into a story. It focuses on the “do it yourself” approach we took to revitalizing Rosslyn and the “do it yourself” approach I’m taking with developing and sharing the story. It is a plunge into the rapidly transforming world of publishing in the 21st century in the same way that buying Rosslyn and swapping Manhattan for the Adirondacks was an adventure into uncharted but fascinating (and SUPER risky) waters.

It is the story of how the vision for the Rosslyn Redux memoir became four separate story/essay/scrapbooks. It is the story pulling up the anchor and heading off on a new adventure!

No Cure for Curiosity

No Cure for Curiosity: Banish boredom with curiosity!

No Cure for Curiosity: Banish boredom with curiosity!

“The cure for boredom is curiosity.
There is no cure for curiosity.”
~ Dorothy Parker

I’m not a Dorothy Parker buff, but I became intrigued with her when my brother-in-law purchased a sprawling house in Bucks County, Pennsylvania that she had owned with Alan Campbell in the late 1930s and 1940s. Listen to Helen Beer (daugher of Dorothy Parker’s Bucks County caretakers in the 1930s) recollecting Dorothy Parker swimming in the buff.

Dorothy Parker skinny dipping? Hmmm… Curiosity trumps boredom every time. And – albeit a somewhat insidious elixir – there’s absolutely no cure for curiosity.

A good thing too!

A Certain Lady, by Dorothy Parker

Here’s a poem by Dorothy Parker that reminds the reader that there’s no cure for curiosity. Except, perhaps, the absence of curiosity altogether.

A Certain Lady, by Dorothy Parker

Oh, I can smile for you, and tilt my head,
And drink your rushing words with eager lips,
And paint my mouth for you a fragrant red,
And trace your brows with tutored finger-tips.
When you rehearse your list of loves to me,
Oh, I can laugh and marvel, rapturous-eyed.
And you laugh back, nor can you ever see
The thousand little deaths my heart has died.
And you believe, so well I know my part,
That I am gay as morning, light as snow,
And all the straining things within my heart
You’ll never know.

Oh, I can laugh and listen, when we meet,
And you bring tales of fresh adventurings, —
Of ladies delicately indiscreet,
Of lingering hands, and gently whispered things.
And you are pleased with me, and strive anew
To sing me sagas of your late delights.
Thus do you want me — marveling, gay, and true,
Nor do you see my staring eyes of nights.
And when, in search of novelty, you stray,
Oh, I can kiss you blithely as you go ….
And what goes on, my love, while you’re away,
You’ll never know.

The Bobcat Blues

Feeling blue one morning, naturalist Ed Kanze heads into the woods and finds his thoughts full of bobcats. Listen here to what the cats had to teach him… Theme music written and composed by Josh Clement. (Mountain Lake PBS)

Kanze’s “Bobcat Blues” is a clever essay on how he and the bobcat are similar (as well as how they differ). It opens with a parallel that will appeal to freelance writers.

Bobcats and I have much in common. They are freelance creatures, solitary for the most part. They spend most of their lives out on limbs just as freelance writers do, hoping to sink their teeth into prospects that more often than not fail to materialize. ~ Ed Kanze (Mountain Lake PBS)

Kanze’s poignant closing thought and my friend Josh Clement‘s (@josh_clement) stealthy blues transformed this melancholic reflection into a poignant, infectious and semi-philosophical soundtrack for my days’ work. Hope you enjoy the “Bobcat Blues”!

 

Befriend Failure

Stephen McCranie is a cartoonist.

Befriend Failure (Credit: doodlealley.com)

Befriend Failure (Credit: doodlealley.com)

My goal is to make good ideas easy to access, understand, and share. To this end, I create comics with heartfelt stories that are appropriate for all ages. I also try to facilitate the spread of useful ideas by drawing short comic essays about concepts and principles that have been beneficial to me. ~ Stephen McCranie

Delve into this always scary but always critical tenet for living a creative life:

The master has failed more times than the beginner has even tried.

This, McCranie believes, is the main difference between the beginner and the master.

It rings true for me, especially as I edge toward the exhilarating but risky launch of Wanderlust, the first in a series of short format memoirs. I’ve been writing and revising these chronicles for four years during which time they’ve evolved from a single-but-sprawling Year in Provence style narrative to a more intimate collection of extended essays exploring the notion (and artifacts) of “home”. Within months Wanderlust will tumble out of the nest and into the imaginations of readers. If I’m lucky.

It’s a scary/thrilling time. A time for confidence. And humility. A time to take a chance. To silence the critic within and risk failure. Come what may.

For the writer at least, and perhaps also for the reader, it is better to have tried and failed to achieve perfection than never to have tried at all. ~ Aldous Huxley (Preface – Collected Essays)

Befriend Failure (Credit: doodlealley.com)

Befriend Failure (Credit: doodlealley.com)

This cartoon was sent to me recently by a close friend. The cartooning – the “doodling” – would appeal to me, not the message, not the befriend failure theme. This is what my friend said. And perhaps she meant it. Probably she meant it.

And I loved the cartooning. I’ve poured over many of McCranie’s clever, creative reflections on universal, often philosophical truths. But I’ve returned to this one cartoon, “Be Friends with Failure“, again and again. Shoot for success, but befriend failure.

Befriend failure? What sort of asinine advice is that?!?! How about gun for success, shoot for the moon, kick some @$$?

Yes, yes, yes. But befriend failure!

Hasta la vista, critic!

One X-Ray and Two Tooth Stories

X-Ray of my Chompers on February 9, 2011.

X-Ray of my Chompers on February 9, 2011.

Sorry about the creep x-ray. And about the even creepier tooth stories I’m about to tell. If you freak out about going to the dentist, this post is not for you.

Try “Drunk Doodles” or “Schopenhauer’s Flâneur” instead…

I never really considered the relationship between teeth and stories until today. When my dentist took my annual mouth x-rays a couple of years ago, I asked him to email this image of my mouth. I no longer remember what possessed me, probably just curious if he would oblige, but today I came across the goofy grin. Two stories were immediately visible in the black and white x-ray.

Look at my two top front teeth. The x-ray suggests that I’m chewing bubblegum. Or preparing to shoot a spitball? The truth is that those two front top teeth were damaged long ago while riding a bicycle. My smile today comes to you courtesy of a long parade of capable dentists who repair my reconstructed front teeth every few years.

Wheelie Teeth

It was a summer day, and I was visiting a friend whose mother gave us permission to ride our bikes down to Rosemary Remington’s for ice cream.

My mother didn’t allow us to ride bikes on the road, so it was a particular thrill to peddle down the pavement. Freedom! There’s something about riding a bicycle on a peeve corrode as a child that is truly intoxicating. Add to that an ice cream cone and probably a chocolate bar. Cycling in the land of enchantment!

While popping a wheelie on the way back to my friends house I overpulled and smashed the handlebars into my teeth. I reached into my mouth and collected the fragments. I looked down into my wet hand, small pieces of broken tooth. I ran my finger over my two top front teeth.  I had broken a perfect upside down V into my still new “adult teeth”. Only my mother’s heart broke into more pieces than my own. Oh, to relive that single moment!

Wisdom Teeth

Tooth Stories: From x-rays to wisdom teeth and beyond...

Tooth Stories

Absent in this image are my wisdom teeth, all four. And while that gaping maw looks laid back enough about it now, I was anything but calm at the time.

For some reason, my wisdom teeth were not removed until I was part way through college. By the time our dentist decided I needed to have them removed, they were severely impacted. Apparently this is common enough, though less common is a roughly 20-year-old male who is scared to death of needles. I had known they were going to knock me out in order to extract the teeth, and I had been agonizing over the inevitable injection for days before arriving at the orthodontist’s office. Well, turns out the ortho had a solution for that too. I was strapped to the operating table and after wrenching and flinching each time he attempted to insert the IV, he placed a mask over my mouth and turned on the gas. Once I was mellowed out he slipped the needle into me without my knowledge or reaction. I remember him talking to me.

“So you go to Georgetown?”

“Um-hmm,” I mumbled through the mask.

“That’s where I studied orthodontia.”

“Really? I didn’t know there was a dental program,” I tried to say, feeling calm and far, far away. “When did you graduate?”

“We had to break the top teeth to get them out, but I have the bottom ones if you’d like to keep them”

What? What?!?!  That’s my one experience with anesthesia. Sort of like a sloppy film edit. Same characters. Same setting. But a half hour of footage was extracted in the blink of an eye.

The rest of the story involves codeine and a slooow recovery, but it’s less interesting than the half hour of my life that was edited out with my wisdom teeth.

Tooth Stories and X-Ray Storytelling

Did you ever pretend that you had x-ray vision as a child? Or maybe as an adult? I remember advertisements for x-ray vision glasses that could be ordered from comic books or bubble gum wrappers. Never tested that one out.

But imagine if we could use x-ray storytelling to spy under people’s prettied up veneers! Maybe we can. I try all the time. A stranger in line at supermarket flips her hair while closing her eyes for a moment longer than a blink. And suddenly my x-ray storytelling is conjuring up a narrative. Probably not an accurate narrative, but an intriguing and startling narrative. Maybe that’s the same way those comic book x-ray vision glasses worked too…

If I turned my x-ray storytelling on you, what tooth stories would I discover?

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