370: “Once Upon A Time” (Charles Yu)

                “Once upon a time, there was a man who did not know how to use a sword and was also very afraid of dragons, so he took the L.S.A.T., did pretty well, and ended up getting into a decent law school.” -Charles Yu, “Fable”

                Lately I’ve been imagining a planter pot of rich soil. The kind you might call loam, really, soft and dark, like when I tripped in the forests as a kid and wanted to lick the ground. It looked like chocolate cake. I might actually be remembering Margaret Mahy’s The Girl With The Green Ear, where I might remember someone making cakes for plants. That’s exactly what I want to talk about this week: the way my mind fumbles for stories, for images, for patterns that I’ve seen, and tries to put together what I’m doing now and who I am from those pieces.
                Charles Yu is playing with how our stories can be dislocated from where we actually are. Sometimes the fairytale with the sword and the dragon jostles against the life I’m living. “Hero” just isn’t a useful concept for anything about what I’m doing. I can try to fit the pieces together based on my myths (as the character keeps trying to do in Fable). I can decide that this puzzle isn’t a puzzle, that all the pieces don’t need to fit, and throw some of them out the window, and find other pieces, and make other pieces, and use them all as a garden path for a doll house.
                So lately I’ve been trying to add another piece. Over the last few years, I’ve noticed myself working towards deadline after deadline. I’ve found myself, again and again, feeling like I needed to rest but couldn’t until after the semester ended on December 15, after the performance on March 25, after I finished my novel draft in late April. I’ve noticed that after a deadline I tend to give myself another deadline. To pick up another project. To say, there next. For the most part I’ve really liked the places I’m going, the tasks I’m taking up. I feel lucky to have the chance. But at the same time, the sense of business, of can’t-pause, is something beyond any of the deadlines. It’s a way I have of being in myself. This fall I want to play with other ways. I want more quiet space with ladybugs buzzing by. I want more of the rich openness below trees, and leaves blowing. A space where I’m not hurrying to next. I’ve been imagining that space as a planter pot I’m tending. I’m not trying to grow anything in this earth. I’m trying to be aware of the dirt, the way its color changes when it gets wet and dries out. To feel this loam between my fingers.

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