An easy morning, walking Leonard to the park and back, and then a slow run along the trail. It’s still cold, but the air is still and the sun reflected twice on the lake so I could imagine for a moment I was on another planet circling three stars.

Birds were still fighting. Mid-air brawls between ducks. Or loud mating, I suppose. I guess it’s time to keep an eye out for the first of the ducklings. Last year the hens kept them well-hidden.

There’s an angry finch outside my window now. A chattering non-stop like someone shaking a maraca with a manic rhythm til you want to slug him. How do birds breathe when they do that? I imagine the little guy gasping for breath now. Then flying off before anyone calls his bluff.

A colleague tells me I can’t trim the hedges yet. (As though I were itching to do garden work). The migratory birds are still nesting.

Tomorrow is my birthday and I’m going to have E. make some paleo hot chocolate and take me to the beach after work. I’m hoping the oystercatchers are back. The curlews. I’m hoping the wind is still but the sea is wild, white, and loud.

It’s been several weeks since we went to the beach. And then I was busy writing poems on stones, and thinking too much.

My new personal goal is to separate my day job from my personal work, and fold that work into the quiet, like shuffling a deck of cards.

Isn’t this the image people have in their heads of what poets do? Take things easily? Move through the world aware and in the moment, and then effortlessly shape the impressions into a written missive to convey the human experience? A recognizable experience. An idealized experience?

I don’t know. Does the general reader seek the familiar? Even Sexton and Path’s pain is idealized too often. I realize I could be wrong: my teenage preconceptions of what it is to be a writer are still lodged somewhere beneath my solar plexus, gnawing at me sometimes. I’m not living up to my own fantasy. Being the poet people say puts words to their own feelings for them. The successful poets with thousands of followers on Instagram, who self-publish and make enough money to retire at 30.

But the truth is I don’t want to do that. Not that I could either.

When I was 16 I sent some submissions to Hallmark Greeting Cards and was ignored. They were inauthentic. I was trying to “write pretty”. I am too intense for the general public. Too angular for comfort. I once told a colleague that I had a nice relationship with my step-daughter, and they asked me if she got my sense of humor. Apparently, I am an acquired taste.

This is real human experience, too, though. Even the being an acquired taste part.

I never imagined myself as the kind of person who would sit on the beach in wool socks and gloves. Who would walk through the sumps on purpose for no other reason than the inhale the smells of mud and broken branches of heather. Sheep shit.

I never aspired to be a poet who wrote about sheep shit.

Every year I try to explain to my students the differences between Romanticism, Bucolics, and Kitsch. Most of them don’t care. Maybe I do it to remind myself. I may be coming back to that separation of day job and personal work again.

I can feel my shoulders release now. I can let in the space of the ocean air – even here in my little room, fingers on the keys. Imagination is a wonderful thing when used right. Imagination stopped in its tracks just before it hardens everything into the familiar.

I am easing into a new ars poetica. That’s kind of exciting.

It will probably be an acquired taste.

During the second
war – so many wars – they ate
bread made from seaweed
Their hands and feet rotted
from the winter harvesting

Maybe anything shaped within the lines of poem becomes idealized, in the same way anything shown on television does? Anything framed in a gallery?

Just brainstorming here…

I overslept this morning – heavy with dreams of puppies and disappointing dance performances. I’m off to a sluggish start on a day where everything has landed in my inbox at once. Deadlines for reviews, mentoring feedback, sewing on the new books that need to be done in time for a yoga challenge giveaway on Instagram.

If this sounds like complaining, I apologize. I am rather liking my life these days.

Despite the fact that there are taxes and accounting to do. It will be a few years before my bookmaking turns any kind of profit. Even pays for just a celebratory bottle of wine. There’ve been some surprising expenses: it turns out, for example, it is cheaper to purchase a new printer each time my toner runs out than it is to purchase just the toner cartridges. (And that is not ethical consumerist behavior.) Now I get why my publisher shot down my ideas for integrated artwork in my poetry books.

It’s a good thing I trust my day job will return to normal next term. It pays my bills, and there really are moments – if not days – when I loved it. We’re all Covid damaged. Maybe the young teens especially, who normally spend a good deal of the first year playing king of the hill like young goats, sorting out the pecking order so they can settle down and move forward. Hard to perform that sort of social ritual via Zoom.

I have enormous respect for teachers who have that age group normally. It’s absolutely not my forte. And that is putting it mildly. It is nearly literally driving me crazy dealing with these little rites.

And now that was definitely complaining.

The sun is out. And I think a long hike this weekend will do me a world of good. It will be 8 Celsius at the weekend, but that is a good temperature if we can keep up a brisk pace. The willow trees are all budding. In Norwegian, the fuzzy-looking knobs are called baby geese, or cat paws. It is that time of year – when everything sharp seems to soften a little.

Maybe that’s why I am dreaming of puppies? Puppies who were the same breed as the old lady I had to put down two years ago. She was 18 and would not give up despite all the pain. She was all bones in the end. Everything soft had left her.

I am sure there is some leap there from my subconscious, a connection I can’t quite tease out intellectually. In the dream I was critical of a dance performance I’d had high hopes for.

Yeah. No. That’s all pretty straightforward, isn’t it? Sad when even my dreams are cliches.

Lately I have really been embracing the idea of the “myth of originality”. I am not sure who coined the phrase. Or if it was coined back at the advent of post modernism and is resurfacing? If I allow myself to worry about originality – or comparing my work to what other people have “said already – and better” I would … well. What would be the point of doing anything in the world? I am not even original in terms of my own posts here. I am very certain I have circled around this topic more than once. More than once I’ve written about how a college art professor ran me out of the program when he told the class my wire sculpture was derivative of a Picasso sculpture I’d never seen. And my remark about not being familiar with it, was just fuel for his fire that I was too ignorant to be in the class if I didn’t know the work.

Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

But really isn’t the point of art to iterate the human experience? No one has the ability to speak for everyone.

And I think about how those paintings worth millions of dollars drop in value when they find out it wasn’t painted by a famous artists, but by one of his students. Same painting. What exactly are we valuing? What are we buying into – literally?

I think this is connected to my dream. The dance performance. Now that I think about it – it was a memory not imagination. A famous dance troupe who wobbled and tottered and looked nothing like the soaring, still photographs in the advertisements.

See. Not even my dreams are original.

I am just not in the groove today. I am the Pixar Up! pup: “Squirrel!”

what if every bud
on the rosebush tried to be
original? not last year’s
promise of this year’s joy?