Prelude from my novel, Silence of Centerville.
My sons do not like that I still live alone in this old house. They worry about me. They worry that the roof leaks. They worry that I still heat the place with wood. They worry that it is cold, and drafty. But mostly, most of all, they worry that I am alone. They worry that something will happen to me or that I will get lonely between their visits.
It’s funny to me that they should worry about such a thing. They know nothing about being lonely, not like I do. I know what it means to be genuinely lonely. A man does not find that kind of lonely living in an old house by himself. To be lonely, really lonely, you have to be among other people. I know a little bit about being that kind of lonely. It is the worst thing in the world, I think; that kind of lonely.
That’s the way it was for me when I was younger. That’s the worst time for that sort of thing, too. It is the time in your life when a man should have hopes and dreams. Not to say that I didn’t have hopes and dreams; I had them. I also knew that my hopes and dreams would never come true. That was the hardest part of it all.
I knew that my life would never have a fairy tale ending or that I would never live happily ever after or any of those things. I knew for a fact from an early age that no matter what I did, that the world would pass me by like a fast horse, taking any chance I had for love or laughter or joy right along with it. It wasn’t always that way for me, but for so many years of my life I lived just knowing that there was much I would never have; so many things that I would never experience. And those were the loneliest years of my life.
I lived in a world where I knew all of those things every morning when I got out of bed. It was a terrible time for me. It was as if God had singled me out to suffer. Blackness set over my soul like the wall cloud of a mighty summer thunderstorm and there was no escaping the darkness of its shadow.
It’s horrible to go through the world that way; knowing the limitations of the life you are living. It is as if you are stranded upon a desert isle in an ocean where you know that no ships will ever sail, and no planes will ever fly. It is that sort of hopelessness and that kind of loneliness that I lived with every day. What’s worse, I knew that it would never get any better.
The funny thing is though; everything that I thought I knew then...was wrong.
And what it says is that even though there is a foot of snow outside my door right now, that another spring is just around the corner. It means that life, despite all obstacles, can be beautiful if given the opportunity, and the only thing that we must do to see it is to keep living, keep breathing, and keep trudging through the snow covered parts, toward the spring that awaits us round future's coming bend.
|Henry Herbert Knibbs|
I use this metaphor often in my writing and my thinking. During long, cold winters and difficult times, and long bouts as a writer where it seems as if rejection letters are your only link to the world outside of your writing room. I remember that I need only keep putting one foot in front of the other a while longer, and something good will come of it all, and the warm spring sun will melt the snow, just as sure as the sun will rise in the morrow.
"...But I'm jogging along, jogging ahead, perhaps I'll find it mate."
Those are words from Henry Herbert Knibbs' poem, The Sheep and the Goats. This also happens to be my favorite poem as long time readers will have undoubtedly seen it before...
I don't mind working to earn my bread,
And I'd just as soon keep straight;
I've listened to what the preacher said
About rams and sheep at the gate;
I like to sleep in an easy bed,
But I tell you this, old mate:
A man like me, what you call a Bo,
Can blister and sweat and save
All his life, and earn just enough of dough
To prove that he is a slave,
And have, when it comes his time to go,
Well, enough to line his grave.
Say, mate, have you ever seen the mills
Where the kids at the looms spit blood?
Have you been in the mines when the fire-damp blew?
Have you shipped as a hand with a freighter's crew
Or worked in a levee flood?
Have you rotted wet in a grading-camp,
Or scorched on a desert line?
Or done your night stunt with your lamp,
Watching the timbers drip with damp
And hearing the oil-rig whine?
Have you seen the grinders fade and die,
As the steel-dust cut them down?
Have you heard the tunnel-driller's cry
When the shale caved in? Have you stood by
When his wife came up from town?
Have you had your pay held back for tools
That you never saw or could use?
Have you gone like a fool with the other fools
To the boss's saloon, where the strong-arm rules,
And cashed your time for booze?
Well, those are the games—I've played 'em all—
That a man like me can play.
And this lovely world is a hard old ball;
And so at the last I took a fall
To the right and proper way;
And that is to see all the sights you can
Without the admission price.
That's why I've changed to a traveling man,
With a quilt and a rope and a kind of plan
Of hitting no one place twice.
I do no kicking at God or Fate;
I keep my shoes for the road.
A long gray road-and I love it, mate;
Hay-foot, straw-foot, that's my gait!
And I carry no other man's load.
For I'm free! Oh, the lowlands by the sea
To the mountains clear across
On the other side, they belong to me;
A man owns nothing unless he's free,
And I am my own good boss.
I don't mind working to earn my bread,
And I'd just as soon keep straight,
But according to what the preacher said,
I'm a ram—and I've missed the gate;
But I'm jogging along, and jogging ahead,
And perhaps I'll find it, mate.
Henry Herbert Knibbs
Remember, that as writers we are both students and professors of life. We must learn before we can tell and teach. Every ounce of hardship and bad luck, and every rejection we receive, all only serves to make us stronger voices, and better writers in the end. A hundred years from now, no one will know what your troubles were or how many times you were rejected or what your credit score was. They will only be left with the words...
Thanks for Reading,