Friday, September 5, 2008

When Ya Gotta Go: Two Roads

"I see my path, but I don't know where it leads. Not knowing where I'm going is what inspires me to travel it." (Rosalia de Castro)

Funny, the way we set off in a direction with only a vague idea of destination, and eventually, when we're not even looking really, reach that place we didn't quite know existed. One year ago Duncan walked me across the park and led me to that momentary encounter which changed our walks forever. Prior to that they'd been private affairs and most of what occurred remained in my head, only occasionally surfacing in dreams or perhaps journal entries or conversations with Ken; the vast majority, though, are lost, little more than flashes of experience which flit across my sense memory and then fade away again.

Let me tell you.

When I was six and shortly after my mother and sister and I moved from Nampa, Idaho to Pocatello, I remember asking my mother to sit down at our kitchen table and take dictation. There was a story about a monkey and a pig and a walk through the jungle that wasn't going to tell itself and so Mom sat patiently and filled in the words I was unable to commit to paper. She may still have them even now.

By the time I was ten and able to scratch words out on my own, I was the star of creative writing in the fourth grade. Mrs. Coons, an army sergeant of a woman who I feared first and loved later, encouraged my writing, and my voice. That summer I began writing plays which all the kids in the neighborhood performed for our parents in my backyard.

At thirteen I began an epic story, a soap opera really, which I wrote for the next ten years, filling more than twenty enormous volumes. It had an unfortunate title, Love Affair, but to give you some idea of how long it was, if it had been on television and you were to watch one episode a week, thirty weeks of the year, it would take you fourteen years to reach the end.

At twenty-one I awoke from a sound sleep, a voice speaking in my ear, deep and omnipotent––one of those voices you do not ignore, like Kevin Costner's character in "Field of Dreams,"––telling me, "If you go, it will happen." My gut told me I needed to move to Lake Forest, Illinois to study creative writing. And so I did, without much explanation, and with little warning. While there I composed three books, one for each year, made only ten copies and gave them to those friends and family I was closest to. I graduated with many honors from my department and with the aid of my words was fully expected to make something of myself.

And then, by the time I reached thirty, the words seemed to have dried up and left as suddenly as they appeared. One morning not long after my mentor, Phil Simmons––author of Learning to Fall––, had died, I awoke, Ken asleep next to me, to find Phil sitting at the foot of my bed, his hand firmly planted on my calf, shaking me awake.

"Curt," he said in that high-pitched and unsure quivering voice of his. "You are not doing what you are supposed to be doing."

I actually argued with him––which was not an entirely new thing to occur between us––tried to convince him there were more important people he should be sitting with, his wife and two young children that I did not matter, than the words were gone.

"Shut up," he told me. "And listen..." And for the next five minutes I did as he said, never doubting he was really there, awake and as sure of his presence as I was of Ken's, or Winnie, curled up on the pillow where my head had made a nice round, warm impression for her. Phil reminded me that I was a writer and that I was squandering the gift the universe had bestowed on me, that I needed to write because that was what I had always been meant to do. And then he was gone, had slipped from existence, leaving behind a sense of where he'd sat, the warmth of his palm on my leg, the sound of his gravel voice still humming inside my ears. Ken awoke, asked who I'd been talking to, and when I explained, he smiled and pulled me into his arms, not disbelieving my story and told me, "Well then, you should write."

My problem has always been beginnings. They are elusive and I am a perfectionist, and if the words don't hit the right tone, have a perfect rhythm or make the complete and solid sound of a lid sealing a jar, they are no good. Despite having the entirety of my first novel in my head, a novel I know is good, know will be published because Phil told me so, I haven't written it because I've been waiting for the words. And so a year ago I started my first blog, School Daze, which eventually led me to Duncan, who has spent the past year leading me every other place, the most important of which has been back to my words. I have worked hard sharpening my voice and finding confidence in it, rediscovering the joy that can be had in a good story. Walking is a lot like telling a story. There is a place to begin, there is a route which, although not always visible, will lead you, if you persevere, to the place you need to go, or maybe even some place better. Then, last Sunday morning, when I did not expect it and was hardly prepared, I awoke at that place. Words had arranged themselves in a new and surprisingly good order inside my head, and it was only when I jumped out of bed and committed them to paper that I realized I'd been handed the plans to my next journey, which I have been waiting a long time to take. The novel I have waited so patiently to begin writing has finally decided it wants to be written. And so it shall.

I have been faithful and disciplined and there has not been a day since I began this undertaking a year ago that I have not walked Duncan and brought you along for part of it. We will still walk and you are still invited to share it with us, but I must take the new path as well, because, as Phil said, that is what I am meant to do. There are more stories to tell and although Duncan's is far from finished I can no longer tell it every day. It won't be easy; I've fretted over it for a very long time but I wanted to tell you because even this has been part of the journey. From the moment I shared our first walk, I had a plan; I just didn't realize it would come so soon.

Duncan and I will be waiting for you. He is always ready and my legs need to be stretched often. Autumn is nice around these parts and I'd love to tell you all about it. There is a mist out tonight and although most of the sky is clouded, I can see Orion peeking out from behind the clouds. He has had many adventures since last we saw him. Maybe he'll share them with us next time. Whenever that may be. Not too long, I hope.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference. (Robert Frost)

*Photo, as usual, "borrowed" from Google Images


duncan's internet friend said...

You and Duncan have been such a good part of my morning. With your books, you will be a good part of my bedtime! Is there a way we can get "put on a list" so we can be emailed when you are published? Congratulations on this journey coming together for you!

Marty said...

I will miss your daily postings. Every morning, I get my coffee and check your blog. First thing, it While Walking Duncan. Write and publish your novel and remember us while you are away.


Lori said...

I find myself feeling envious. Please don't take it as a negative toward you, because I want to be the first to buy your book! I envy that you had the opportunity to study writing, and that you had a mentor that shaped you, and continues to kick you in the rear to get you moving, even though he is dead. My mentor, Virginia Lanier, is also dead, but ours was a long-distance friendship, and mostly she just told me I could write as well as she did, without concrete guidance. She didn't know how SHE wrote, let alone how to tell others to write. Perhaps as you progress on your novel, you can be MY writing conscience, getting me to do what I feel I was also meant to do? (Then we can go on book tours together! :-) )
ALL the best, always, to you and the fur-kids and Ken, and I'm still invading you next month!

Curt Rogers said...

It's so nice to hear that Duncan and I have been part of your mornings. Mornings are sweet things and I believe they shape the kind of day we are going to have. If we have somehow shared in making your days sunnier or less difficult it brings a smile to my heart.

I do want to add that we are not going away. I still plan on posting, I just won't be able to maintain a daily schedule while also working on The Eulogist. Please check back often because I imagine we'll still be here three or four times a week. This is the end of nothing but dailiness.

Thank you all for your support and encouragement.

caboval said...

OMG I shall die! I cannot live without you and Duncan!!! I am so happy you will start with your novel believe me, but I shall die a slow death if you do not post. I know you said you will still try a few times a week and thats ok so please please try. Good luck and we love you. Valerie Joey and Kealani OXOXOX

Traci said...

Thank you Curt. You've reminded me that I have some work to do too. Love you!!

Kevi said...


I am moved. What a thing it is to be your friend. I think the hormones of our thirties call us to look inward. It has been wonderful to watch you do that. You have made my smile brighter, and sometimes, my milk sweeter.

I am so proud of you.

lisa said...

You know it's time. You have your opening line. The world awaits. Truly.

Sue said...

I am so happy for you, and sad for myself in a selfish way. I relish the moments I get to spend with you and Duncan through your blog, and can't stand the thought of loosing you...I remember feeling the same way when I heard my best childhood friend was moving away. Please don't move too far away...

Papacita said...

Are you sure?
Can't you do both?
Write the great American novel and STILL keep the rest of us spellbound in the morning?
As for Curt's followers...He is and ALWAYS has been a great writer...
Maybe not always...not in the womb at least...

Curt Rogers said...

I fully intend to do both, just not as regularly. Some of you may not even notice my absence. Last year when I first began writing about my walks with Dunc, I decided I would do it for exactly a year, simply for the discipline I'd lacked since leaving college, where every day was a writing workshop. It was tough going sometimes, and I'm sure if you went back and reread all the posts, those tough days would be quite obvious. But now, with my novel bubbling to the surface I have to make room for it, too. Quite often a single post here takes hours to compose, hours that I have enjoyed but which could also be spent furthering my writing, which has always been my life's ambition.

The plan has entered phase two, which requires a reduction in the number of weekly posts here. I'll begin a concerted effort on the novel while also working on a bigger Duncan project. Obviously I cannot dedicate all the hours of my day to these tasks, but if I divide them up they are manageable.

I hope I have not given you the impression that I'm vanishing for a long period of time. That's simply not going to happen. I love my dog, love our walks, love sharing them, and love the feedback I receive from all of you. You have no idea how important your words and encouragement have been to me.

You will see a post here very soon, I promise. In the meantime, enjoy the music (if it gets too annoying, let me know and I'll turn it off again and let you decide on your own when you want to hear it). If you're new here or discovered me relatively recently, starting over at the beginning would be a nice thing to do. It's been exactly one year and things should line up nicely.

But check back. Add me to your Google Reader so you can see when I've posted. But don't fret, I'm not going far and not for long.

Cheryl said...

You may not have written in the womb, but you listened. I read to you often. A mix of authors and stories. I knew your pen was not stilled...I await chapters one, two, and three (for proofing of course). Write on and on and on. XOXO mom

Chris and Mackenzie said...

As Yogi said, 'when you come to a fork in the road, take it.' Can't wait to read the next chapter. :)


CJ said...

Ahhh sad day. But I'm selfish like that. You gotta follow that dream wherever that dream may lead. Or something like that.
50 degrees today in your area????
I loved what I saw of Pocatello when I went through there.

Marty said...

I've noticed you are gone, but I'll keep checking back.


Greg said...

No, I want to be the first to buy your book, my friend! Paths often take us to places we can't see at the start of the trip--that's their magic.

As long as I know you are still out there and still writing...and occasionally posting, or surfing other blogs...well, then, that will be enough for me.

Congratulations on this new phase of your journey...may the words always flow for you, as I believe they have just begun to do so again for me!

Anonymous said...

As Yogi said, 'when you come to a fork in the road, take it.' Can't wait to read the next chapter. :)

Uhu work said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

we can be emailed when you are published? Congratulations on this journey coming together for you!

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