I don’t know why I have to drink beer when I brown beef but I just do. Maybe so I’m doing something other than drinking. I went back to my notes from Friday morning on Cougar Mountain with the dog, debated breaking my blogging habit, but came back to carry over my notes, cracked the window to let the smell out: the ant guy had been back Friday and we told him about the mouse, but I found it after he left in the bottom of the garbage can staring at me, and Dawn took it to the field across the road and tossed it there. It’s hard to kill something when you look into its eyes, you can’t help but see yourself in it. Its little feet were like filigree, but I didn’t care about the mouse. I came back to my notes on the memoir: to browning the beef, to focusing on that. It seemed anything, really anything could distract me from the work of sitting down and doing what I had been talking about or planning to do but out on Cougar Mountain Friday, I figured some of it out.
I really don’t like reading memoir. I don’t care about other people’s lives so much. I tried reading about Jacques Pepin’s and that was nice but I couldn’t finish it. I read the rock star memoirs but when I’d set those books down it all came back to me, why aren’t I doing something interesting enough to make a book about my life?
Probably the first, hardest thing about memoir is how much of it has to be true versus how much you change. There are rules about memoir I don’t want to learn or understand. The hardest thing about starting is with the names, all the real people from my life I’ve known and want to write about. All the people I’d talk about and piss off and all the people I wouldn’t talk about and piss off and the fact that not many would read it anyway and that would make me want to stop writing, so in some ways it was easier not to start. In every way, in fact. You could put it up high on a shelf and admire it from a distance but never get it down and touch it for fear it might break. In a way it was there, and in another way it wasn’t. Dreams were like that, easier to dream about.
This idea you have to wait for people to die before you can write about them. I was pretty sure I’d go first and maybe then they’d talk about me but probably not, and anything they’d have to say wouldn’t be as good as the way I’d say it because they’re not writers.
And then this thing, “if a tree falls in the forest and no one’s there to hear it did it really fall,” there’s that too, with your life: if you make these rules for yourself where you identify with something so strongly that if you don’t do it you cease to be…there’s that. Did my story really happen if I didn’t tell it? And conversely, I could make anything “really happen” whether it did or not, I could make it up.
Dawn read something about writers not writing: that all these perceived obstacles to writing are actually Places To Hide and yes, I thought: I came back to that on the trail Friday, is the blogging thing really a place of no risk, that’s why I keep coming back?
There was a tree on its side going up the trail, at the beginning. It reminded me of the arborist we had out recently, the small tree that got uprooted by the weight of the wet snow in February: he said it doesn’t even know it’s on its side, it doesn’t care. I thought about that tree and how it kept blooming, knocked over like that, maybe it just doesn’t know or care how others see it, and that’s what makes it so strong. Maybe there was a theme in that for me and my book. That there’s some strength in that inner vision you have to hold onto and trust.
I wrote all the way up and down the mountain, mostly in my head, some on my phone, and when I got down I answered work emails and went home, ate and showered, drove to West Seattle to Anthony and Mike’s, stayed up late listening to records, passing the phone on Spotify, and Dawn and I went out for our anniversary and talked over wine at a restaurant, and she said maybe you should focus on writing it first and then worry about how you’re going to publish it.