Sunday, December 30, 2007

For friends who have followed the same path.

Of all the things I’ve written, I have one favorite. It’s a play – the only one of my works that has never been produced. About three-quarters of the way toward completion of the script, I realized this play never would/could be presented in what I considered a satisfactory manner. (I don’t know of any theatre in the world with a stage large enough, for one thing.) So I’ve never offered it to anyone.

As a rule, I like simple plays – not much set, few props, modern costumes – you know the type. Maybe it’s vanity. I’d much rather you remember the work because it’s well written, and not because of an abundance of gimmicks or a lack of clothes.

Even before it was finished, I knew this thing wasn’t going to fly. But by then I was hooked – I had good characters and a solid (maybe even slightly original) story.

The work is a biography of Morgan le Fay, half-sister to King Arthur. The thrust of the story is that Arthur was the villain of the age, and that Morgan spent the entire of her life seeking not revenge, but justice. Ironically, after Arthur’s death, Morgan learns that she was instrumental in giving Arthur a semblance of immortality – had she left him alone, had he not been forced to create the round table, he would have lived and died as little more than a footnote to a dusty genealogy.

My agent loved it. She agreed with me that a play requiring a stage area half a mile square on the side of a mountain probably wasn’t going to be produced anytime soon. On the other hand, she pleaded (and when was the last time you saw an agent plead?) with me to turn the play into a book.

So that’s what I’m doing. I’m in no hurry. (Obviously) Today I worked on two different plays for a goodly part of the day. It was by accident I even found my Morgan play at all (Oh, THAT’S where that was!) I was in process of putting it away again, when the thought occurred to me of sharing it with you – at least a portion.

I don’t know how you feel exactly, but I’ve become quite fond of our relationship. You’re a little strange at times, and I’m comfortable with that. I look forward to you being there.

So here’s a section of dialogue few people have seen. As you have pleased me, I hope this pleases you.

Early in her search, Morgan came to the realization that everything had a price. Even the air she breathed was not free – it was taken. An elder witch, tiring of the constant complaining, forced the younger woman to look to the heavens – to the myriads of stars. “What price is here,” she was asked. “What do these cost you?”

Morgan considered for a moment before answering.

I once thought they be not stars, but mirrors of my soul
(those myriad twinklings set apart, aloof.)

How alike we are, I thought, to watch as bourgeois kingdoms
gasp for life,
and fall.

To remain pure, chaste – unreached and unreachable – thereby avoiding the countenance of that soiled creature (God in His perfect wisdom) permitted to begrime the earth.

To live forever! To never age or …or if to die, to die apurpose,
a bright
across the heavens!

I thought them supreme! Omnipotent! One with the Creator! But …
with the coming of the simple morn, they depart –
those stars,

frightened (no!) offended by the belligerence of the sun.

i remain. iii

take me with you, leave me not to face the iniquities of this little life, which draw me away, which make me less like you …

They do not hear me. Or, if hearing, disdainfully ignore my supplication.

And in my
that secret place where truth be not denied,

I am pleased. Grateful!

For if in compassion they respond,
then they be more like me
than I would be like them.

So. For a space I forgot them, moved as I was toward consuming sorrow,
(the pain within all too jealous for attention.)

And now I think again we are alike, those stars and I.
Affecting not the nature of
living thing,
save as a curiosity.

Existing for the mere sake of …………………………………………….. existing.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

For all daughters who have fathers

This year my daughter gave me a basket of food for Christmas.

This was inevitable, I suppose. When you reach a certain age, you know a basket of food is in your future. Sooner or later. Preferably later. On the other hand, my wife – who knows me well – got me a robot for Christmas. Although only a few days have passed, I have now spent a number of quite enjoyable hours irritating the family dog.

In any case, once I got everything from the food basket laid out on the table, I was forced to admit it was a pretty good gift. I had lots of dried and candied fruits and dates, jams, jelly, pinafores wrapped in metaphors, sausages, and a large variety of cheeses. Since my daughter’s tastes and my own are very similar, I knew that this had actually been a gift not casually selected, and thus worthy of more than token appreciation.

And, since our tastes are so similar, it pleased me to once again recognize the old adage: the acorn doesn’t fall far from the brie.

(Yeah, yeah, I know. You were with me right up to the last minute. I act this way on purpose so you won’t have any real proof that you actually are the love child of Bill Gates and J. K. Rowling. If I can't have the money, neither can you.)


Tuesday, December 25, 2007

DT had the right stuff

Another year almost past. And with it, another birthday, unbidden, a reminder of mortality, the frailty and finality of life etched deeper into a sunken face.

Sad, isn’t it?

Shall I sit back, content with my vapid achievements, looking forward with fearful respect toward “that undiscovered country, from whose bourne no traveler returns?”

Hell no, I’m not gonna do that!

Do not go gentle into that good night, Old age should burn and rave at close of day; Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right, Because their words had forked no lightning they Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight, And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way, Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay, Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height, Curse, bless me now with your fierce tears, I pray. Do not go gentle into that good night. Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Dylan Thomas

Sunday, December 23, 2007


I love dreamers. I love them.

I love those blessed/cursed individuals who periodically invade my private space. And I’ve learned I must count every minute in their presence as precious. I must carve into memory every fleeting impression, cling desperately to every nuance of personality, spirit speaking directly to spirit …

because I know it won’t last.

It can’t last. Dreamers are too fragile to live long in my world. There’s only so much they have to give before they are consumed by the very green fire that feeds them.

And I despair when only the husk remains, a true abomination. If the gift was being withheld from me, I’d hate it. I truly would. But this … thing … that no longer has a gift to sacrifice as a blessing – where only the self-mocking shell remains … well, there are no words for grieving loss, no matter how I grope for them.

Did I do this? Did I contribute to …

Understand it’s not a case of love or hate – never these. Never. It’s indifference. Indifference is fatal to the dreamer.

I realize at times like these just what a lump of sod I’ve become. I realize I’ve stifled my own ability to dream so willfully and for such a long period of time that I sometimes wonder if there’s anything still there at all.

Yet I still see them – the dreamers. Day and night they lightly dance around me. I still have enough wit left in me to at least recognize them, as they weave unimagined tapestries into my dullard’s imagination.

And maybe maybe recognition is a good thing. It is, isn’t it? Isn’t recognition a sign that there’s still something in me that could be resurrected? I have a longing for a longing.

And I’m aware of it, and it’s delicious.

Thank you, dreamers. I love you.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Christmas message

I received this email from a young friend only a few minutes ago. I thought it was both eloquent and beautiful, certainly worth passing along.

I hope there is peace in everyone's hearts within the Christmas hustle or bustle(or chaos for those who know retail;). I haven't written anything like this in a while, so comments or criticism are welcome. Well, here goes...I was just thinking lately how easy it is to sing a Christmas carol, and to not really notice how deep and profound the words are, then when you really think about it, you're totally blown away w/ how dear we are to God. I mean what are famous singers or people who only go to church twice a year thinking about? Hoping that it'll make the album sell well? The God-shaped void whispering to them? That they're on key? Or even gosh, can they hurry up so I can sit down? In this crooked world, Satan tries to commercialize this sacred holiday so we can forget about what it's really about. Here's what one of my favorites carols,"O Holy Night," means to me.

O Holy Night, the stars are brightly shining...
- God uses His creation to show that this is no ordinary night.

It is the night of our dear Savior's birth...
-the main event!

Long lay the world in sin and error pining...
- A world lost in sin and yearning for something real

Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth...
- Our answer is in Christ and through Christ we are worth something more

A thrill of hope a weary world rejoices...
- Yes, we can hope for something better and rise above the sin that weighs us down

For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn...
- We have a new beginning!

Fall on your knees!
- humbly we come to the King of Kings

Oh, hear the angels' voices!
- The heavens sing praises on Earth

Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
- It was indeed a divine night when Jesus came to Earth as a child to save us all

Oh night divine, Oh night, Oh night Divine.
- With a loss for words in awe of it all, all that can be said is oh night divine.

Best Christmas wishes to you all! Each and everyone of you have been more of a blessing than I could ever imagine! May God's love become more apparent to you this year than any other year! (( ))<- hugs!

With love, Anna

Why I Do What I Do Do Do

My friend Julie emailed me yesterday, asking me if I had seen a specific show on TV this past week-end. One feature on the show dealt with known writers who are also competent (if unknown) as artists, and showed several of their quite respectable paintings and drawings.

Since Julie is skilled as both a writer and an artist, she simply asked for my reaction to the feature. I answered by saying that an artist is an artist, and that just because we are drawn to one form doesn’t at all mean we have any less interest in others. The direction we take is largely determined by the talent we (think we) have.

Sounds good, doesn’t it?

No it doesn’t. It sounds adequate, at best. Lame and insensitive.

So lets take a look at this thing. Maybe together we can figure it out.

First there’s the all-consuming (and pretentious) question – why do we write? With an expression bordering on constipation, some will answer, “because I have to write. (This is usually followed by a sigh and/or some degree of heavy breathing.) The other extreme is to say we write for money. This is at least honest. But if we were truly honest here, we’d add that our fondest desires are to (1) have the opportunity to be benevolent and magnanimous, showing all our former friends that we haven’t really changed, or (2) to flee – as quickly as is possible – from the social and economic situations that made us interesting as writers in the first place.

But there’s a third answer, and if we’re going to be worth anything, this is the only one that counts. “I saw something. I felt something. It touched me. It changed me – it changed me.”

So … where does all this artist stuff come in? (And you thought I’d forgotten that part, didn’t you?)

A famous sculptor – can’t remember who – was once asked how he could create such fine carvings from an ordinary piece of marble. Without hesitation the man replied, “I see the statue in there and just chip away the stuff that isn’t part of it.” And then there’s the Art school – “Introduction To Drawing 101. Teaching the hand to draw what the eye sees.” Laughter from one of the associates. “Teaching the hand to draw what the mind sees,” he corrected.

Do you get it yet? Do you understand?

One more piece of meat to drop in the stew, seemingly unrelated. About, oh I don’t know, maybe a year ago, I was taking a break with a co-worker while she was talking to her boyfriend on her cell phone. The conversation was heated, and I was growing less and less interested until she challenged him with, “do you know the real difference between men and women?!”

Suddenly she had my undivided attention. Oh boy. The answer to one of life’s great questions.

“Men want sex,” she told him. I knew that. “But women want intimacy.”


I drifted back into my stupor. Obviously her answer would require more work on my part than this morsel of information would … never mind.

But the idea nagged at me. I belong to a small writer’s group, and my contributions are appreciated more than they should be – they’re just words. I know how to gloss the surface. From listening to others I began to realize that I needed to dig deeper into my subjects – what is truth here? How do I actually feel about this? What are my real goals?

And it came to me – finally – that intimacy is not a weakness. It takes real strength to walk into the fire with your eyes open.

And then all the fragments came together. To be an effective communicator, you can’t be an observer of life, but a participant. You don’t just see it with your eyes, but also with your mind, your heart, your passion, and your soul.

And if …

And when …

you can do that – from the instant the concept is formed – all means of expression are open to you. They are a gift. It doesn’t matter if you’re writing, painting, or beating on a hollow log with a stick, because everything is simply a variation on the same theme.

The only thing that really matters is this: did you reach somebody?

I don’t write because I’ve experienced life. Rather, because I’ve experienced life, I write.

And how was your day?

Tuesday, December 18, 2007


Okay. I admit it. I’m stuck. Stuck-stuck-stuck!

It started innocently enough. I have this writer friend of mine – a novelist. She asked me to edit one of her books. I was flattered. Not only is she my friend, but quite a good writer. So I’m reading and reading and … funny thing. The plot took an unexpected turn. (I know. Plots are supposed to take unexpected turns. But this one was out of character.)

“So what happened here,” I asked, slurping my third cup of chocolate mouse laced coffee.

Her eyes lowered. “The characters wouldn’t let me go where I wanted,” she murmured. Shyly then, her gaze once again met mine, pleading for understanding and acceptance. (Well, maybe not “pleading,” exactly. Hey! I’m a dramatist. What do you expect?)

I don’t honestly remember what answer I gave her. In the best tradition of Walter Mitty, mentally I was already ten miles down the road and still accelerating. “There’s a play here,” I thought, “a play expressing all the insecure angst writers create for themselves, and the often heated disagreements they have with the characters they create.” (If you are a writer, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about. If you are not a writer, let this be a warning that writers don’t live in the same world you do.)

Sorry. I digress.

So. I wrote the play. It’s a satire, of course, and silly. I’m comfortable with “silly,” and I’ve been told I do it well. Even my serious dramas have silly elements – sometimes on purpose.

I digress again. Must be age.

Now here’s my problem. I’m pleased with what I wrote – it says what I want it to say, and the humor is solid from the beginning to almost the end. Almost. I can’t figure out how to end the dumb thing! I’m only a page away – maybe less. I’m only a few words away. How do I get these characters to leave the stage?! They’re just standing there, All I get from them is “duh …” Ohmygod. I’ve become a character in my own play!

So I did what many writers do in similar situations. I raked the yard – about twenty times. I took long walks. I did breathing exercises to the point where I thought I was going to faint. I ignored it for awhile. Started other projects – including this blog.

Nothing has helped. Nothing. There it remains, this tailless albatross hanging around my neck. A-a-a-r-g-g!

That felt good. I think I feel better. Still don’t have an answer, but I feel better. You really are an outstanding listener. I hope you know you are appreciated.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Thinking of the Temple

I keep thinking of the first temple. A flimsy thing it must have been. I mean, there it was – woven material held in place with rope and poles, swaying in the wind, likely hot inside. Is this a fit dwelling place for God? I made a model of it once. In Sunday School we cut out a model of it from a pattern, I suppose purchased in a store that supplied projects for Sunday Schools. It was white paper, held together with Elmer’s glue and finger prints. I think of that model every once in awhile. I wonder whatever became of it.

Later – years later – the realization came to me that this fragile paper structure actually represented a real place – the dwelling place of God. This puzzled me. Wasn’t God everywhere? One description of hell is being “apart from God.” I’ve studied this a bit – I know all the stock answers, but it doesn’t answer the question, because I have absolutely no idea what being apart from God would be like. I can’t even imagine it.

So. Anyway. God dwells in a tent – or at least the Glory of God is a viable presence there, a tangible bug zapper dealing in the real world in a real and measurable way.

What kind of God is this? Hmmm. Maybe this tent idea isn’t such a strange idea after all. Because of the fall, we were set apart – the wrong way. Maybe it’s not so much that we can experience him – after all, by everything we see, hear, taste, touch, smell – we experience him. Maybe the tent is for him to experience us. Wow. Goose bumps.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Horse story

I feel like telling you a story tonight. It’s a horse story, and one of my favorites – one I’ve never shared with anybody, because it’s totally personal, and I didn’t think anybody would understand the depth of my feelings here. But you maybe will.

I had a favorite horse. We met when I was doing extras work in movies. I tracked her owner down – he owned a stable – and my horse and I would go riding most Sunday afternoons – lots of long and high ridges around Hollywood. You hear about them every once in awhile – some fool on a horse would fall down one, every once in awhile. “Don’t ride along the edge, idiot! Ride in the middle!” Anyway … sometimes I’d rent my horse for the weekend, and off we’d go in some direction. Now you have to appreciate the fact that in the Spring the desert is beautiful. Flowers and blooms are everywhere, as far as you can see. So that’s where we’d go. Strange thing about that horse – no matter how lost I got, she always knew the way home. And we both knew it. So we’d go riding among the flowers, no special direction, just out and out and out. Toward dusk I’d stake out a campsite, build a small fire, feed oats and apples to my horse. And there we were. I’d set up my hammock – contrary to what you see in the movies, when you are alone, you don’t normally sleep on the ground – too many creepy crawling things. So there we would be – horse and me. The campfire is embers now. If you look off to the west, way off, there’s a very soft glow in the sky that’s Los Angeles. But here – nothing. The Indians in the area believe that everything has a spirit – a Moniteau. And here that’s easy to believe. The land is at rest, contented. The silence is profound. You can hear horse softly breathing, and on rare occasion you can hear a coyote howling at the moon. And with good reason. The moon is so close you could reach out and touch it. And the sky … it’s huge! It goes on and on! The night sky takes your breath away with the sheer vastness of it. In the eastern United States you can never completely escape lights of the city, but in the western desert … the sky is so magnificent it makes your chest hurt. And you cry. You don’t know why, but you do. In the morning you break camp, and horse leads you back to civilization. With each few steps, the feeling of being a part of something larger than yourself starts to withdraw. More and more. You fight it with everything that’s in you, but it’s going and then gone. Even if you turned back – right now – it wouldn’t be the same. With the sight of the first car or house the protective shell goes up around you again, and you shrug – what was the big deal, anyway? That night you have claustrophobia, because your bedroom is closing in on you. The next night it’s easier, and the next night – easier yet. By mid week you’ve almost forgotten your night in the desert. But somewhere – deep deep deep, by Thursday you find yourself cleaning the sand out of the hammock without even thinking, and on Saturday you can’t drive to the stable fast enough.

That’s my story. Different from yours, but maybe not. Like it?


It's 2:30 in the morning, and I'm sitting in the living room watching a TV movie with the sound off. And that's fine. The movie is in Spanish. I don't speak Spanish, so the absence of sound makes the movie more interesting than I think it actually is.

I'm beginning to think I like 2:30 in the morning. It's quiet. It's not silent - that is, it's not desert at night silent, when your own heartbeat becomes audible. But it's quiet.

I can hear rain tap dancing across the roof. Hmmm. Must be a production number. A tree has reached out to brush just the tips of branches against my window - a lovers caress.

Ever notice that a Hostess cupcake tastes so much sweeter at 2:30 in the morning than it does at 2:30 in the afternoon? No? Try it some time.

SomewhereI can hear a clock ticking. Curious. Tomorrow - if I think of it, I'll investigate. I don't remember placing a clock in that direction. From a great distance I can hear a car passing along an empty street What is a lone car doing out this late at night? How empty is that sound.

I have this strong urge to take a walk around the block - to absorbe the nothing that is everything. To leave a vacum behind me, because there's nothing in any great hurry to fill it up. I have the urge to do that - I really do. But my shoes are upstairs, and my dog's idea of "fetch" is to shove his (empty) food dish into the middle of the kitchen floor. So there you go. Another golden opportunity lost.

I feel better now - think I can sleep. Thanks for staying up with me.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

A Stranger Coming home

I stand at the gate - huge, rough, much weathered. The wind blows from somewhere up the tor, bringing the faint scent of foppish animals sacrificed for a small repast. My eyes water. I tell myself it's the wind - simply the wind.

Everything looks the same, but different. The sod faded walls, the steep angle of vaulted roofs, even the cobblestones bring back instant memories of - what? Childhood? What was that? No, the overlapping pictures hold neither pain nor pleasure. Rather, the puzzle simply is that they are so much smaller than memory served. Curious.

From somewhere comes the muted trill of a werebeast. I smile. I've been doing a fair amount of that, of late. Foolishness. Allows one to be caught unaware. And rightly so!

And so, we progress slowly forward, you and I - one step most carefully placed in front of another.

What adventures await in this new yet old land into which we have stumbled?

Time will tell.