Category Archives: Writing

Reading

Rainy

As I sit here in the coffee shop it is raining hard outside.  Almost everyone has their hood up.  We are truly in Colorado, however as no one has an umbrella.  My wife has umbrellas, but much of her childhood was in the Puget Sound area.

I am going to give you a little series about writing.  Writing is my most important retirement activity.  If I don’t get to write in any given week, I feel a little hole forming in my being.  So, here I am in the coffee shop with my trusty iPad.

To write, one must read.  I am a lifelong reader.  It wasn’t Dick and Jane, it was Scrooge McDuck with his three cubic acres of cash and his nephews, Huey, Dewey, and Louie.  In the living room there was a big round oak coffee table cut down from a dining table with stacks of magazines.  I read them all, including my dad’s Cosmopolitan and Redbook he subscribed to for the romance short stories in every issue.

Time, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Outdoor Life, Lady’s Home Journal, Argosy, Popular Science, Sports Illustrated, and my Boy’s Life.  My comic books dwelt there as well.  My mother belonged to a local book club and the Book of the Month Club.  I read them all.

Other books were there as well.  My father’s railroad books and Utah and Colorado photography   books, all well thumbed to the point of loose bindings sat in the bookcase.  I had a bookcase in my room with lots of stuff to read.  My favorite books were Richard Halliburton’s Complete Book of Marvels, and Parade of the Animal Kingdom by Jane and Robert Hegner.  I still have them.

In school, I read everything we were assigned.  I even used the library.

Now I subscribe to High Country News, Scientific American, The New Yorker, the Disabled American Veterans Journal, and the Environmental Defense Fund journal.  Carol is regularly after me to get rid of some books.  She doesn’t seem to understand that books are sacred objects.  I must admit, however, some of them remain unread.

My favorite subjects are history, geology, spirituality, mythology, and nature books about the Colorado Plateau.  I have some fiction and do read fiction, but most of my stuff is non-fiction.

The Dalai Lama’s Cat

Carol and I have a bedtime ritual.  I read to her.  Mostly it is mystery novels written by women, but we sometimes range afield.  Lately it was The Dalai Lama’s Cat and The Art of Purring. By David Michie.   They are fun books told in the first person by Little Snow Lion, Rinpoche,  HHC (His Holiness’ Cat), and Meow Tse Tongue, all names acquired by that singular small feline.  They also contain good stuff about Tibetan Buddhism.  We got lots of good laughs.  Carol picks the books, so we seldom get bad writing.

One of the things the books bother me about is the popular market genre books suffer from poor editing and proofreading.  It looks to me publishers increasingly rely on authors to do their own editing.   Unfortunately, authors’ mistakes are often a function of ignorance about a subject.  For example, we recently read a couple of mysteries where the crimes occurred on rural gravel roads.  When those roads are built, the road itself is crowned so water will run off to the side rather than making ruts down the center.  The dirt for that crown comes from the side of the road, forming a borrow ditch.  The dirt is borrowed from the side.  I have seen barrow and burrow, but never borrow.  Those woman mystery writers just don’t know road construction.  Why don’t they ask me?  Why doesn’t their editor call me?

The Hurt, The Itch, and The Joke

It’s raining today, which means it is time for miscellany.  I always have a few short ideas rattling around in my head, and these days writing about them is the best way to get them out of there.  First, the itch. 

For years now, if it doesn’t hurt, it itches.  I have arthritis in several places and it bothers me from time to time.  Currently it is my left knee and my left wrist.  The knee hurts and is weak for the first few steps when I get out of the chair.  I get shots in the knee from time to time, usually good for six months or so.  I am left handed and the wrist is intermittently a real pain, usually when gardening.  I notice that my left hand is weaker than the other one (I won’t say right.)  as I am the official opener and fixer around the house, this is not good.   

Itch

Itch

The itch is the biggie.  I itch every morning until the Allegra kicks in, and every evening until the Benadryl kicks in.  I don’t know what the allergen is, and it is year around.  The worst spots are on my back over my kidneys.  Right now, the inside of my forearm and calf are itching.  The itch doesn’t drive me nuts, I was already there.   

I tried the allergy specialist with no luck.  The only things that help are the antihistamines.  There is a possibility the allergen is one of the medications I take.  Next time I see my doctor I will talk to her about doing an allergy elimination protocol.  I won’t do it myself, I take that stuff for a reason.  I don’t want to have a stroke while tracking the source of the itch. 

I didn’t itch when I was younger.  I even felt a bit smug when others complained about their allergies.  Maybe the whole thing is karma.   

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Now, the joke, my favorite of all time.  I see a person wearing a college t-shirt or sweatshirt and ask them if they know why graduates of the school’s big rival keep a copy of their diploma on the dash of their car.  They do it so they can park in the handicapped spot.  Here in Denver it is usually Colorado-Nebraska or Denver University-Colorado College.  Nebraska, of course, is the most appropriate.  That N on their football player’s helmets stands for nowledge.  Most Coloradoans know that joke, but it is fun to see the reaction when in Nebraska. 

I have used it for schools all over the country.  Michigan-Ohio State, Purdue-Indiana, Notre Dame-Penn State, Duke-North Carolina, Auburn-Alabama, USC-UCLA, and especially Texas-Texas A&M, as Aggies are right in there with Nebraska.  I have told this to dozens of people, and only one didn’t like the joke.

Changes

Equanimity2I retired five years ago.  I waited until I was 68 to pile up some more retirement benefits.  I also waited because I was scared of retiring.  When I retired I took two part time jobs which soon went to one.  I felt like I had to work.  That lasted four years.  Now, I am truly retired.  (Funny thing, I wrote tired instead of retired.).  

Another reason I retired from my career in water treatment was noticing I just was not as sharp as I used to be.  I have always been fairly sharp, except for the ADD brain lapses I have always lived with.  The lapses were more frequent.  One of my part time jobs required constant focus.  Not good.  The other one was working with elementary school kids, and meant unremitting joy.  I gave that job up because I didn’t want to work so many hours, and my bad back was complaining. 

Now my back still complains, but I can pace myself more and take a time out if I need to.  Right now it’s my upper back hurting after yoga and shoveling a pickup load of wood chips.  Today I am going for a walk where it is flat. 

About those lapses.  All older people complain about them.  The other day I made four trips to the basement to get something and never did come up with it.  Yesterday I was in the grocery store and upset because I forgot the list.  When I got home without some things on the list I found it in my pocket.   

Well, there is a reason for this.  As we age, our brains tend to shift from the executive function-running things- to inner processes.  It is certainly true for me.  I want to write, read, meditate, and enjoy happy entertainment.  There is a huge obstacle right now.  Politics.   

Prayer

Prayer

It’s hard to hold on to my equanimity these days.  Usually I deal with negativity by praying for the people creating the mood.  I have even prayed for Newt Gingrich.  I have yet to be able to pray for His Yellowness.  Praying for people doesn’t necessarily change them, although sometimes it does, but it does change me.  The changes I experience make me more able to live with myself.  I am even less of a jackass on the road. 

I have more peace.  My body doesn’t work as well as it used to, but I think my mind may be getting to a place where I can actually experience the inner connectedness of all life.  I can find joy in anyone.  Well, most everyone.  I also have trouble feeling connected with the Japanese Beetles who want to eat stuff in our garden.  I can’t go above the second step on the ladder because I tend to fall off.  Some of the evil critters get away because I can’t get high enough. 

On balance, aging isn’t so bad.  I have lived a life of constant stress from trying to be normal when I am not.  Now, I get to embrace being weird and getting weirder, and love life.  Mostly. 

I will know I am really on the right track when I can pray for THEM.

Writing Short Essays

You have seen my ravings on this site for some time now.  I have written about not being able to write for many years, which I attribute to my Attention Deficit Disorder. I just did not have the focus.  Getting a diagnosis and treatment changed my life.  The ADD is still enough of a problem that I don’t think I have a novel or long nonfiction book in me. Maybe I could come up with a long piece on regional geology, but it has been done many times.  Someday, maybe.  

I love writing these short pieces.  I have wide interests, and there is no one telling me what to write.  I do think I will do some independent reporting the next time we have a big geology related event.  A good flood, landslide, or dam burst will do fine.  There is an opportunity to write for our neighborhood association, but I will not sit through meetings. 

Why not fiction?  I probably have as many ideas for fiction as nonfiction, but the craft is more demanding.  I can hammer out 500 to 1000 words in an hour or two, revising as I go, and it usually works just fine. I have a good editor/wife that straightens me out from time to time.   

I have always had some talent and encouragement from teachers in high school and college about my writing.  In college, I made some money writing papers for people for $10.00 a page.  It had to be a subject I liked and knew something about.  My best customers were forestry majors, who seemed to be only semi-literate.      

Now, with the help of a lot of stimulation in the coffee shop, I can scratch some things out.  My pieces seem to be getting longer, not because of any design on my part.  I also plan to write more.  No shortage of topics.  I just hope I can avoid politics for the most part.  Trevor Noah and Steven Colbert help me discharge most of my disgust for the current political climate. 

I would like to do more humor, but I don’t seem to have the reservoir of funny stuff people like Dave Barry seem to have.  People do tell me I am good at smart-ass remarks, however.  My favorite writer is John McPhee, who is the best expository writer in the business.

I have been published.  I wrote a book review for the journal of the Oregon-California Trails Association.  I plan to do more writing about pioneer trails and history.  The Western History section at the Denver Public Library is a good resource, but they won’t let you check anything out.  It is necessary to go there, and they don’t have a coffee shop. 

One thing is sure, I will keep inflicting my writing on you as long as there are a few of you to read my writing.  I would like more feedback and criticism, however.  Also, tell others about dofbill.com.  It’s easy to remember, dof stands for doddering old fart.  I started this with around thirty readers.  Now I average about 100 hits every week.  No Pulitzer yet, but I would write for just myself if that was it.  Extroverts do like an audience, however.

Book Review: Battles and Massacres on the Southwestern Frontier

 

Here is a book review I wrote for the Overland Journal, the quarterly magazine of the Oregon California Trails Association.  I am Vice President of the Colorado Cherokee Trail chapter of the organization.  The review is the reason  for a delay in getting a post up.  I had trouble with one section of the book which has poor graphics and some errors, although it is important research.  It took weeks of ranting at people about it until I was able to calm down and include a short paragraph pointing out the problems.  Maybe next time I won’t get so personally involved in someone else’s work.

 

BATTLES AND MASSACRES ON THE SOUTHWESTERN FRONTIER: HISTORICAL AND ARCHAEOLOGICAL PERSPECTIVES

 

Edited by Ronald K. Weatherington and Frances Levine

Norman:  University of Oklahoma Press, 2014

248 pp., photos, maps, illustrations, extensive references, index

Paper, 5” x 8”

Battles and MassacresBattles and Massacres is a book that looks at several battles or massacres in the mid-nineteenth century from the perspectives of historians and archaeologists.  This is important because the historical record is usually written by one side of the conflict.  The archaeological record does not engage in cover ups, obfuscation, or have a political agenda.

The book examines four nineteenth century events in the American southwest involving Native Americans and Euro-Americans and the conflicts rising from westward expansion.  The encounters are the Battle of Cieneguilla in New Mexico, Adobe Walls in Texas, the Sand Creek Massacre in Colorado, and the Mountain Meadows Massacre in Utah.

The first three were direct conflicts involving Indians and soldiers or buffalo hunters.  Mountain Meadows was between Mormons of Southern Utah and a train of emigrants headed to California.  Some Paiutes acted with the Mormon militia.

This book is important in illustrating how modern archaeological methods can apply objective information to a historical record that can be essentially accurate, as at Adobe Walls, or what amounted to a cover-up at Cieneguilla.

Adobe Walls was a trading post in the Texas Panhandle occupied by a number of hide hunters engaging in killing as many Bison as possible for profit, while destroying the Native Americans livelihood.  A large group of Cheyenne warriors, believing that their medicine would protect them from the hide hunter’s bullets, attacked twenty-eight men and one woman.  The medicine did not work.  The big buffalo rifles were able to outrange the attacker’s weapons and many Indians were killed.  Three of the defenders were wounded.

The archaeological data showed that the majority of the Indian weapons were relatively short range rifles like the Henry and Spencer carbines, easily outranged by the big Sharps rifles of the hide hunters.  There were bullets from muzzleloaders and steel arrow points as well.

The recent archaeological investigations at Sand Creek have established the actual location of the massacre and validated the conclusion that there was a slaughter of people who were not able to effectively defend themselves, believing that they were under the protection of the U.S. Government.  Almost all of the recovered artifacts were from Army weapons.  The massacre was the result of John Chivington deciding that the Indians should all be killed.

Mountain Meadows is different, mostly Euro-Americans killing other Euro-Americans.  The essay in this book is unusual in that it comes from a Mormon Church historian and places culpability on the Southern Utah Mormon leadership for the massacre.  Given the tensions prevailing between the Utah Mormons and the U. S. Government, it was understandable there would be some conflict between the Mormons and a wagon train from Arkansas, but how it escalated into the slaughter of all the migrants over seven years old remains obscure.

Archaeological investigation at Mountain Meadows is difficult because of repeated disturbances over 150 years and the resistance of the Utah political leadership.  A study that was halted by the then Utah Governor, a descendant of one of the attackers, did provide forensic information that reinforced the conclusion that the emigrants were disarmed and slaughtered.

The studies of the battle of Cieneguilla in 1854 illustrate how an archaeological survey can refute the historical accounts dating from the time of the battle.  Of sixty troopers of the First Dragoons led into battle by Lt. John Davidson, twenty four were killed and twenty three wounded by about 100 Jicarilla Apaches.

The official report by Lt. Davidson is a story of a gallant attack by Dragoons against a superior force.  In fact, the troopers, after leaving their horses in a canyon bottom, attacked uphill and were outflanked and hunted down by the Apaches as they tried to retreat.  A Lt. Bell attempted to correct the report, but never received a hearing and was subsequently killed in action.

While the Cieneguilla study is important, there are some flaws.  The archeology is well done, the maps are not, making it difficult to visualize the entire battlefield and the movements of the combatants.  In addition, both essays explore the Battle of Cieneguilla, but fail to mention that what was Cieneguilla in 1854 is now Pilar, not far south of Taos.

The real tragedy of Cieneguilla is that the Apaches were then hunted down, starved, and sent to a reservation.

Overall, the book does an effective job of showing how history and archaeology can come together to provide a more accurate picture of events that occurred more than 150 years ago.

College Towns

DU

I have lived in college towns for most of my life.  They tend to be more liberal, have a vibrant cultural life, and steady infusions of young people having some of the best years of their lives.  The energy inspires me.

Grand Junction, Boulder, Fort Collins, Colorado Springs, even Greeley are all good college towns.  Here in Denver we live near the University of Denver.  I drink coffee and write in a coffee shop near the campus.  I write mornings, and the shop has a rush every hour when classes change.

We go to concerts at the Newman Center on the DU campus.  The student productions from the Lamont School of Music are always a lot of fun.  The musicians are excellent, and the operas are good, but the student voices are not always top quality.  I always want to hear Baroque music, and we go to concerts put on by Friends of Chamber Music.

The Newman Center also regularly presents professional artists from most everywhere.  Most notable recently are Cameron Carpenter, a wildly flamboyant and talented organist.  We just saw The Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company, a post-modern dance group from New York.  I was entranced by the dancers and the music, performed by Lamont students.

I am a little sad because Carol now refuses to ever see The Nutcracker again, and this year she would not go to see Oklahoma!  I just don’t know what is wrong with her.  When we lived on Capitol Hill we went to some productions at The Denver Center of Performing Arts, but the events at DU are less expensive and the Newman Center is one of the best venues anywhere.

I am not much for sporting events, but DU’s Lacrosse team is good and I have seen several games.  It’s a good game, fast, with more scoring than soccer, making it more fun to watch.  The crowds are fun as well, with a lot of youth lacrosse players watching the college boys.  There are always some fans of the other teams as well, because Denver draws people from all over the country.  It is also good that DU dropped football in the1950’s.  I used to watch Colorado College hockey when I lived in Colorado Springs, but haven’t been to a DU game yet.

Denver is a big city with several colleges.  Some of the colleges have neighborhoods that are part of the big city but qualify as college towns.  The area around DU is an example.  The Auraria complex has CU Denver, Metro, and Community College of Denver, with many more students than DU, but the area is a downtown complex, with most of the students commuting.  There is no college town feel there.

Washington Park

Washington Park

Capitol Hill has some of the feel, with a young population and a diverse, eclectic cluster of communities, but no college of any size.  DU, however, has dorms, lots of apartments, rental houses, and fraternities and sororities.  A real resident population, much like Boulder, Greeley, and Fort Collins.  People walk, go to events, party, and hang out in bars,restaurants, and coffee houses.  I didn’t know how much I missed all that until we moved into the neighborhood.  Evans Avenue, University Boulevard, Old South Pearl, Washington Park, and Observatory Park are places that tie the community together, with a fine University at the center.  I lived near Colorado College in Colorado Springs that had much the same feel, just on a smaller scale.

College towns, my favorite urban settings, I want to live in them always.

 

Winter Blues

 

Winter Blues

Winter Blues

Here it is January.  It was cloudy and snowy for days.  The sun is shining today,  but bleakly.  Christmas and the rest of the holidays are over.  They served as a temporary lift from the dark, depressing days of winter that every year remind us of the inevitable destiny we all share.

But, no, it isn’t all bad, just mostly.  I don’t know why, but my regular seasonal depression is worse this year.  I started feeling flat and unhappy sometime around Halloween, a holiday that was started to point out the return of darkness, the time when the spirits of the underworld again manifest here in our vale of tears.  Recent news events have not helped.

For weeks I could not write, and painful memories and feelings arose.  I read worthless trash, and was even drawn to watching mainstream television programs (I mostly resisted).  I was crabby, restless, and had trouble sleeping.  In times past when the melancholy struck, I would turn to drink, but I know it is only a temporary bit of oblivion that makes the everyday reality even more painful.

I got my meds changed, and the depression has lifted enough to allow me to write and get out of the house for a movie (Into the Woods).  I feel a bit better, and the return of the sun is helping.

Abraham Lincoln said that the secret of happiness is happiness.  That is true but he remained a melancholy.  Maybe we have these times to remind us of the good times we so often take for granted.  Maybe depressions force us to go inward, to leave daily life out there and look into those corners of our being we try to ignore.

Carl Jung wrote about the need to integrate the shadow,  that part of the psyche that lurks behind the face we try to present to the world.  If that part of the personality is ignored, it will surface as beliefs and acts that seem to be the opposite of who we want to be.  The tragedies of  twentieth century point out how the shadow operates in society as well as in the individual.

Depression brings the shadow out, especially at 3:00 AM.  When it happens to me, I get to look at the events in my life I regret.  I have to acknowledge that I have hurt people, been a bully, lied, shirked responsibility, had rage episodes, cheated, stolen, and overslept.  If one tries to bury the dark side, it will surface in a more virulent form.

Learning to accept my shadow allows me to see when it wants to come out, and I am better able to deal with it.  Carol, my wife, calls it the other Bill.  Now my shadow mostly surfaces as irritability.  I usually am able to recognize it and deal with it before I make a big ass out of myself.  Depression makes me more irritable.

Today I am sitting in the doctors office while Carol has a procedure.  With a few days of the medication change and some sunshine, the depression has eased somewhat, even with less sleep than normal.  I think things are improving, even with the bad coffee here.

Holiday Decorations

 

?????????? Carol and I have always been ambivalent about elaborate holiday decorations.  We have had natural trees, artificial trees (boo), and now a little painted plywood tree made by a former coworker.  Decorations go on the mantel; there are colorful magnetic ornaments on the refrigerator door, a Santa on the stand in the foyer, and a Menorah in the front window.

 

Holiday Lights

Holiday Lights

The big one is the 20 foot tall tree in front of the house.   A few years ago something inspired me to light the tree.  This entailed quite a project.  The tree is between the street and the sidewalk, so I had to tunnel under the sidewalk to install a two inch pipe for the electric cord.  We didn’t want a cord tripping people on the sidewalk.  I dug, I pounded, tried a water jet,and dug some more.

 

The pipe is in, is capped and doesn’t show most of the year.  After Thanksgiving I run a long extension cord from the tree, throughout the pipe, and up to the outlet on the side of the house. We decided to be old fashioned and use large colored bulbs rather than the mini lights popular today.  Seven strings of lights for that big tree.

 

Next comes the hard part, getting those lights up.  We have a big lighted star on top.  Several seasons of trying methods have come up with the solution of putting the star on a stick and bungeeing it to the trunk.  The problem is getting it up there without killing myself.  That tree is TALL.  I have wobbled on the top step of my eight foot stepladder, tried to place it with the long hooked pole I use for hanging the light strings, and prayed, while Carol is on the ground crying and wailing.

 

This year I drug out the 20 foot extension ladder after deciding my life was worth breaking a few branches on the tree.  It turns out there is a sturdy side branch in just the right place to support the ladder.  I firmly believe I have a guardian angel.  Without that angel I would be dead many times over.

 

Menorah and TreeWith the star up, is is just the matter of winding those strings of lights around the tree.  Carol holds the string, and I put a kink in my neck placing the wires around the tree.  The whole process took three hours this year, and I am still alive.  The timer lights the tree from 4:00 PM to about 10:30 PM.

 

More neighbors on our block have lights, and it is festive out there in the evening.

 

Happy Holidays!  Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All!

My Life With ADD/ADHD

My Song

My Song

At age 59, I was diagnosed with ADD. I was in a therapy session which was, like most of my therapy sessions over the years, going nowhere.  My therapist stopped, looked at me and asked, “Have you ever been evaluated for ADD?”  Well,no.  No one had ever suggested it and it had never occurred to me.

That evening a computer search brought up several checklists. On the first one I took, almost every question was a head slapper.  I was a match for 48 of the 50 questions.  That therapist was not a big help for the ADD; most therapists aren’t.  The diagnosis, however, changed my life.  I had always known something was wrong.  I just did not function like most people, and the stress of living in a world where I didn’t quite fit in was taking a physical toll.

add quoteI have a number of symptoms, including a short attention span if not wholly engaged, impulsivity, irritability, hyper focus at times, forgetfulness, poor attention to detail, trouble getting started, distractibility, poor memory, and absent-mindedness.  Did I mention I forget stuff, like people’s names?

In my fifties I was treated for a bleeding ulcer, migraine headaches, had prostate surgery, rectal surgery, knee and back problems, hernias, and was involved in years of individual and couples therapy. Much of this was due to the stress of trying to function in a world of normies.

Work had ups and downs.  I always had authority problems and often missed small details.  I was never in enough trouble to get fired, but I had several of those long sessions with several levels of supervisors.

School was much the same way. I am fairly smart, so I almost always got by.  In college things got worse.  I couldn’t get by on brains and charm.  I actually had to work, and found that if the subject matter or the instructor didn’t engage me, I literally could not do the work.

Brain Disorder

Brain Disorder

I remember a political science course with an instructor who was always patronizing with students and wanted us to learn about Communism by studying Yugoslavia. By the time I realized I was not going to learn anything there, it was too late to drop the course.  Another F added to my list.

I lived with anxiety that I would do or say something wrong. I also have a lifetime of replaying the things I did do wrong.  Even now, 13 years after the diagnosis, I obsess about things that happened long ago.  I sometimes do things on impulse I later regret.  To protect my self-esteem I defend situations I get myself into that are indefensible.

Recently at work I threw some things away that needed replacing, but the replacements are not ready. My impulse got my colleagues all stirred up, and the children who come to play don’t have stick horses to ride.  I don’t think they minded that the old horses I threw away were worn out.

I get irritated by noise. Big crowds, barking dogs, truck traffic, elevator music, and crying children all get to me.  A neighbor friend had a little girl that cried a lot.  I found myself getting angry at her to the point of wanting to harm her.  I decided then that having children was not an option.  To my first wife’s disappointment I got a vasectomy.  I’m not sure that was the right decision, but I often believe so.  I have poor impulse control.

The diagnosis at age 59 changed my life. The first thing that happened is all sorts of feelings I had not allowed myself to feel came to the surface.  Anger, bitterness, rage, sadness, frustration, and just plain pain surged out.  I was not much fun to live with for a while.  I told Carol that I just had to be those feelings.

After the old feelings subsided and I found a good therapist and a good psychiatrist, things rapidly improved. Cognitive therapy gave me coping strategies more effective than making trouble to get my prefrontal lobes to wake up.  The medication helps with focus and awareness.  I can sustain tasks, where previously I was terrible at mundane tasks.  Now, I am just bad at them.

For me, the biggest change is that I can now write. I have always wanted to write, but the ADD did not allow me the focus to produce anything.  Now, except for occasional bouts of writer’s block, I can write. All those years of not writing were not wasted, as I studied good writing.  I also practiced doing clear, concise writing when writing the daily shift reports in the water treatment plants where I worked.  One or two paragraphs, but I got some practice.

Today, I have gratitude. I can manage the ADD (mostly), I have a wonderful marriage, a comfortable retirement, and I can write.  What a long, strange trip it’s been.

Why I Read and Write

Scribe

Writer and Helper

I have been a reader since I learned how reading Donald Duck comic books in kindergarten. In first grade, Dick and Jane were boring compared to Scrooge McDuck diving in his three cubic acres of cash.  I read most everything in sight.  I have to know.

At home, there was a lot to read. The living room was dominated by a round oak dining table cut down to coffee table height.  It was piled with newspapers, magazines, and books.  My father had subscriptions to Time, Newsweek, Life, The Saturday Evening Post, Reader’s Digest, Outdoor Life, Redbook, National Geographic, and Cosmopolitan.  Mother had Ladies Home Journal.  I had Boy’s Life.

The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel and the weekly Fruita Times were always there. Mother belonged to a book review club, and we had those Reader’s Digest Condensed Books.  We had lots of railroad history and books about regional topics.  I read it all.  Well, not all.  Father had Cosmopolitan and Redbook for the romances they ran every month.  Not for me.

I read a lot of the stuff boys read in those days. Mark Twain, Jack London, Hemingway, Richard Henry Dana, James Thurber, and Dickens were influences.  I think my biggest influences were Mark Twain, with his descriptions and humor, and Richard Henry Dana’s Two Years before the Mast.  In fact, I think I will reread that one.  It combined a great adventure for a young man with fine writing.

Today, most of my reading is nonfiction. John McPhee is my favorite writer.  He writes on a wide range of subjects, almost all of his topics interest me.  He does have a book about fish for some inscrutable reason.  He combines humor, good stories about the people he finds, extensive research, and clear writing.  I even read his fish book.

I have wanted to write for as long as I can remember, but I just could not muster the discipline to do so without the pressure of a school assignment. Instead, I read.  I did do well with college writing assignments.  I think I had assimilated enough good writing that I did well as long as the topic engaged me.  Most topics did so for two reasons, I picked courses that engaged me, and instructors that challenged me.

I even wrote some papers for other students, usually forestry majors at Colorado State who could not write themselves out of a paper bag. I charged $10.00 per page, pretty good money in the late 1960’s.  Strangely, I still could not write things for myself.  I had to have a deadline.

At age 59, I found out why. I was diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder.  I got cognitive therapy and medication.  The therapy gave me skills to cope with the disorder that are more effective than the adaptation I had used for many years, mainly making enough trouble to get my midbrain revved up enough to fire up my prefrontal lobes.  The other method that worked was the pressure and anxiety of an upcoming deadline.

I still use those methods, but I can often just sit down and write. I still have to have a topic that engages me, and there are those times when the words just will not come.  The ancients wrote about the Muses, goddesses who brought inspiration to writers, and how sometimes they just do not attend.  I don’t know about the explanation, but I understand the problem.

I like to go to a coffee shop to write, it helps me focus on what I am doing. At home there are too many distractions.  I used to call writing the hardest work known to humankind.  Sometimes that is true; sometimes writing is easy and just flows out of me.  I do know it is one of my favorite things to do.