The motto taped over my computer says: “Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” (It’s Flaubert.) I am true to that motto. No need to fool around with bucket lists -- I’ve checked most items off. In fact, maybe it would be a good idea to make a list of things I’ve done right in the last decade. Some of them were sure things and some were gambles that paid off, both large and small stuff.
1. I was right to buy my exceptionally big blood-red geraniums and baby them along over the years. They earn their place in the “geranium window” every winter.
2. I was right to get these cats, who are far from perfect. (As if they gave a meow.) Crackers is a cat of little brain and much sinus. Squibbie is a cat with too much curiosity even for a cat and an inability to digest her food, which she solves by regurgitation. But we’ve bonded and they shape my day since they’re even more dependable schedulers than the radio. Sometimes I regret teaching them to get up at 3AM for a check around the house and a little something to eat. If I don’t do it, Squibbie slams doors and throws small objects off tabletops.
3. It was a good idea to buy a house surrounded by trees even though they rain branches, their roots prevent hand-mowing, and in the fall before the winds start I briefly have too many leaves on the ground. But the sound and light show is worth it, let alone the birds.
4. Valier was the right place to buy a house (near but not on the Blackfeet rez) and I bought it at the right time, just before Flathead refugees and Homeland security officers found the place.
5. It was good to take a chance on an old worn house and pay for it entirely instead of using the money as a down payment on grounds that houses are good investments. Hahahahahahaha! When I was in the ministry in the Eighties, the ministers were telling each other to refuse old-fashioned church-owned manses and to get their churches to loan the cost of a house to the minister from their endowments so that eventually the minister could cash in his [sic] house for retirement. Now it would be once again attractive for a church to own a house for their ministers to live in. Particularly since ministers are a lot more peripatetic than they used to be.
My list of seventy desiderata for a house has worked out very well. I won’t have to worry about stairs as I age. Swapping the shallow tub for a walk-in shower was a good idea. The rooms work well, though if there’s money in the future I will make this office into a laundry room and move my workstation to the front room. I don’t need a parlor. I discovered that company finds this house sadly lacking in basics and too far from Glacier Park for it to be a good tourist headquarters. So I don’t have to cope with their peculiar schedules and drinking habits.
6. Since 1999 my idea of writing -- which was the goal of coming here -- has changed drastically. Publishing has changed a lot more than my writing. Just in the nick of time I did get the biography of Bob Scriver (“Bronze Inside and Out”) published by the University of Calgary Press, who did NOT interfere with the content as the other presses wanted to do. The book is honest and intact and meant completing some relationships. In fact, that still happens as Charles of Charleston, OR, proves.
The “spine” of my writing is self-publishing AKA “blogging.” Consistently I have more than a thousand hits a week from all over the planet, though I think some of them are bogus. There seems to be another sort of diaspora of people reading second-hand through forwarding or printouts. Thanks to Christopher Scott at ropeandwire.com I’ve been encouraged to keep up with writing short genre Western stories, some about the rez and some just Fifties TV style. It’s fun and easy for me to do, which surprised me. The stories are on the website or e-anthologies are listed on Amazon. ($1.49 for six stories by assorted writers.) Cowboys may be coming back.
I’m still writing about and for Blackfeet at www.lulu.com. Mostly guides and compilations. This is where much of the material hits a subterranean distribution system, which is only fair since that’s how I got much of it. The younger leaders are the children and grandchildren of those I used to know and they are always surprised. Much of all these categories above shows up on Amazon which is busy trying to swallow the world.
It turned out that collaborating with the Montana Historical Society, the Montana Arts Council, and other local entities that I once aspired to work with just didn’t click. Their assumptions are not mine. They are status quo people. Luckily, this kicked me into a much wider context, the global internet webworks of scholars and explorers. There appears to be a whole class of hunter/gatherer writers out there. “My tribe.”
One of them has blasted my life with heat and light since 2007, not just changing my writing but changing who I am. My gratitude is painfully unlimited, but this is what I’ve been “regular and orderly” for -- this “violent and original” stuff. It will never end, but I have no idea where it will go in the future, which is a true gift.
7. Now I see that I’m off my list! but that should be one thing on my list: the freedom to lose the lists.
“Be regular and orderly in your life so that you may be violent and original in your work.” That’s a translation with an omission. The original sentence says: “regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois.” Flaubert also exclaimed, “Quelle atroce invention que celle du bourgeois, n'est-ce pas?” He was working at a time that the bourgeois middle class was just forming out of a working and rural population who wished for prosperity and stability and to ape the uppermost classes. (As my birth family did.) I’m working at a time when we’re all in a panic about the diminishing of the middle class, because who will buy things and pay taxes? Like a regular and orderly bourgeois, I’ll take notes and make lists about this.
Then I’ll go right on thinking about sex, nakedness, torture, genocide, eukaryotes grabbing mitochondria, the global neuronal workspace in the brain, historical revision, and whatever secrets deserve to be told for the good of us all.