Arc of the Poet, Part 14: Ramblings
More than ten years ago, after relocating to the Blue Ridge Mountains and making final preparations for parenthood (we actally studied The Bradley Method), Beth and I launched into this current phase of our love story. Experiencing life’s joys and sorrows together over the next couple of years, while diligently tending to my business and supporting personal projects for many members of the family, I wondered what was to come for the creative writer. In 2002, I made up an answer, in the form of a new writing project named Ramble. In it, I aimed to address my personal challenges, write simply and seek new focus. From the beginning, these words have appeared at the top: “This document will hopefully grow in the weeks ahead to represent a journey: the rediscovery of the writer inside a person caught up in his life as businessman, husband and parent.”
Going mostly on instinct, I limited each line to 38 characters, wrote the first entry 73 lines long, and planned to make each subsequent verse one line shorter. If all went as hoped, I figured the final line would be something significant, even if most of the others might be forgettable.
Leaping ahead to the present, Ramble has been somewhat miraculous to me; as you might expect, it changed dramatically over time… and so have I. For the first, longest verses, I vented in detail about momentous developments, including some of the bigger political and global issues of those days. Progressively, I grew more and more daunted in facing the need to communicate things of real importance concisely. For anyone arriving at a crossroads in life with ability and time to write, I encourage a similar writing challenge. If you don’t have years and years to devote, begin with a five-line poem, then count down four, three, two and one: In my experience, it’s a productive approach at focusing oneself.
This website did not exist when I started writing Ramble, but it features all the most recent entries. Since writing number 17 in early 2008 and publishing it here the next day, I’ve written seven others that I’ve instantly published. One year ago, I wrote and added #6 in honor of my son Riley.
Hoping your interest runs deeper, I’m proud to share a few of my favorite rambles. They span from the project’s earliest days through until now, almost; #5 was written this past March. Below, all make their debut. The very next chapter of Arc of the Poet will end this tale, while also seeing Ramble through to its finale. I appreciate your interest immensely, and hope you will stay tuned, keep in touch, and enjoy everything life has to offer.
by Roger Darnell
So, on a weekend, what exactly is it
that’s keeping me away from tackling
one of these longer-form projects of
personal origination? Not exactly an
easy question to answer, but I do
realize that the key to “jumping” when
I get the opportunity depends upon me
getting through this. My first
reaction is to think about these other
standing items: the next novel from
my step father-in-law; the electronic
books and developments underway for my
father-in-law; the screenplay project
which is certainly a priority at the
moment; and after that, my sort of
aimless, hard to pin-down hesitation
in knowing exactly which project to
“jump” into. If I get that far, there
is certainly one project I think of,
but knowing that I need to be making
daily progress with these other
initiatives — plus of course finding
my third client and landing them –
it’s a very sticky cobweb I have to
spin my way through to actually begin
contemplating launching my efforts.
It’s easier to pick up a book, do
some straightening in my office, write
my mom or my brother an email, or go
and see what it is that Amelia and her
mother are up to. The ability to
actually focus on that creative work,
to make it absolutely phenomenal, is
a goal I am passionate about for good
reasons: if I pursue it, I want it to
be great, to succeed where my other
completed creative pursuits have not.
I can remember reading about A.E.
Housmann, coming to see that after he
wrote A Shropshire Lad, he essentially
retired from writing poetry. His
powerful words, written before he
reached 25, I believe, touched me very
deeply when I was young, and I was
pretty determined to follow-through on
my poetic pursuits; seeing an end to
the achievements of someone I sought
to emulate at such an early age, I was
troubled as I considered my future.
I’ve always thought about writing
like my favorite authors, and making
movies like my favorite filmmakers,
and I can see that failing to achieve
something close in any of these areas
would be a significant disappointment
in my life. So, if I’m to live the
life I’ve aspired to for so long, I
need to create every aspect of those
successes that are so far immaterial.
I’m extremely grateful for the dreams
which drive me on; having them is a
gift… and the more readily I can see
them, the better my chances at keeping
the fire of determination alive within
me. Continuing on at the pace that my
wife and I are enjoying, we’ll pay off
two homes, live a great life and raise
two children with much love and joy;
hallelujah! By seizing any chances to
write I can put more icing on my cake.
I am writing from a place that has
evolved since the beginning of this
project, but it’s the place that we
envisioned prior to relocating here,
and I have attained it more than once
over these past two years. It is a
place of harmony… where I can enjoy
our beautiful forest surroundings, the
peace of trickling waterfalls and the
dazzling brilliance of sunlight sifted
through treetops and reflected from
flat eddies in the creek’s shimmering
waters. Even the buzzing of insects
is a joy to behold here, because they
are brilliantly contrasted with those
sounds from locales we have occupied
in the past. I can immerse in this
splendor of nature because my wife and
my daughter are also enjoying harmony
today… out at the library or perhaps
playing at a park… and our son grows
contentedly inside his mother’s womb,
slowly but surely becoming. All along
the journey that has brought us here,
this place has existed, but often it
lies beyond our grasp. Even during
times of peace, some unexplainable
phenomena occupy our energies to the
extent that we pre-conceive some of
the difficulties we might face, or we
puzzle over challenges on the outer
peripheries of our lives. These past
few nights, my wife has dreamt of the
most horrible situations with our
daughter… and as I laid sleepless
but exhausted in bed last night, I too
was visited with torturous visions…
as if imagining a benign scrape on our
daughter’s elbow isn’t horrifying in
itself. Such thoughts prompt me, on a
morning like this one, to gaze at my
daughter with such profound love… to
realize the limitation of the security
I can offer as she, too, continues to
become. And the blessing that is most
evident is this place, and all that it
means to us in our hearts and minds.
For here, aside from the riches nature
surrounds us with, we are also wealthy
in loving family and the overflowing
fruits of nurturing, wholesome values.
Beauty, fine arts, fun, adventure,
bonds of love, community and self-
identity are giving our child a unique
and solid perspective in the world,
and she, together with her cousins,
will shepherd our little boy all the
days of his childhood, until he grows
with them into a full human being.
These children, invested with the very
best we have to offer, in a place that
seems as though it will always hold
its magic on its very surface… a
a simple empire that knows, respects
and admires them… have every chance
of becoming great. These virtues
kindle my thoughts on this summer day.
December 2003: #61
Recalling the occasion of the father
returning home to his two-year-old
daughter, after an absence of some
five days, a flood of heartwarming
emotions is the first overwhelming
sensation that seizes the stage in the
retelling. It’s a feeling that stays
strong through the end, just as well.
First, though, it’s also important to
note the quality of their communiques
during the trip; many very funny
Flash email cards from Hallmark made
the journey through the Internet to
reach from Boone to Hollywood, and
they were quite touching and
sentimental. “Miss Kiss” is one that
remains embedded in Amelia’s mind,
about the time when her Daddy was in
California, when each was very sad.
Well, the phone conversations also
ran to new lengths and nuances…
giving both a chance to express
the love both had become so adept at
expressing through touch. Just as
is the case for anyone, the voice
on the phone can be a source for
painful feelings of things missing,
like sight and touch. This was the
most poignant instant yet in the
daughter’s perception of “missing
Daddy,” and the Daddy’s, too. So,
by the time the date arose and the
daddy closed in on his return home,
anticipation was extraordinarily
high. He arrived, and he looked in
at his sleeping daughter in her
bedroom, and he and his beloved wife
seized the moment to lay down, rest
and catch-up together. Somehow, the
now-accustomed lonesomeness for each
other had added a new dimension,
which seemed to capture most of the
gravity in itself: their daughter.
The parents were joyful and focused
on ending the pain of parting that
they’d all suffered together, each
in their individual way. So, as
soon as an acceptable amount of nap
time had transpired, the father
climbed into bed with the little one,
and upon her waking up, he met the
sweetest words he could never even
imagine: in her whisper, she told
him, “I missed you.” One little hand
on each of his cheeks, her smile said
the pain was gone, and he kissed her,
until he had to bury his face against
her chest and give in to the utter
sobs — quiet, happy ones — that rose
to the surface of his emotions. She
heard Daddy laugh, “Happy tears Baby!”
November 12, 2005: #34
So, let’s discuss this ‘writer’ in more detail.
Fastidious, he’ll have to be for sure, to make
progress in creating something brilliant
enough to ford his fate to any new height.
First things first, though, as he knows.
There’s a story to be told. It must be
crafted superbly. Its language must be
inviting, captivating… calculating. Spot on.
That’s what’s missing – the ability to step
into the zone, where the mind can focus
completely on artistically rendering a tale
with depth, heart, soul, and stirrings of
ancient orders for living human spirits.
My goodness… it’s no wonder I’ve decided
in the past to build up to this. It’s quite the
pedestal I’ve parked my expectations on.
Whatever writing I take on, there are
rewards to be had, but creating content
I can own is what I’m driven to accomplish.
That seems something profound to savor.
So, there’s a story to be crafted, as
described. Making headway on that will
be a respectable challenge in and of itself.
Organizationally, strategically, I’m proud
to say that I’m starting to gain traction.
And I’ve done my share of long-form
writing projects in the past. If I’m lucky,
my future will have more big projects than
are now in my past. And all will get made.
February 1, 2006: #32
Relating to my children is becoming more
and more important to me. When I hold
either of them, I realize how very much
I love them. The physical connections
between us remind me that I have made
a person, who is now growing up. As
they fare in the world, so do I, in every
sense of the word. The life that spread
itself over 36 years is now off the charts,
quite literally. Our mental range is now
restricted to the swift currents of the past
53 months, since the responsibility that
came home with our first baby settled in.
The dedication required to fulfill parental
obligations is exactly what my wife and I
were set to provide, at that point in life.
We took a risk, struggled at first, and then
hit a stride like we never thought possible.
By the time we get through our next CPA
meeting, I expect to have a distinct plan
in hand for our financial future, including
early retirement, at least by a couple years.
The routine is rewarding us with security,
and it makes me very enthusiastic about
the world my children live in. And yet, the
days of our lives bring us grief, despair,
disaster, destruction… and cancer. These
Darnell children, so important and special,
how much security can I truly offer them?
My apprehension can never be fully offset,
but when we hold each other and know
that all is well, today, we are living large.
March 13, 2007: #24
An attempted ode on the beginning of life.
These days, the agenda involves sorting
powers of attorneys, wills for life and death,
guardians for children in the event both
parents die, separate trustees of the estate,
and of course backups for those named as
heirs to each station, plus their backups.
I have seen ends of lives – they’re not pretty.
No one ever seems prepared. But in time,
looking back, it sort of looks like each was,
as the last of their waves eventually receded.
Even the pyramids will return to sand in time!
My little insurance gift, or my little empire
of feats, finances and – pardon the popular
British expression – fuck-all (as it will no
doubt all turn out to be), may not amount
to a hill of beans in the record books, but
I hope it will be a real blessing to my family.
They are the joy and devotion of my life, and
the best times I’ve passed here have been
the spans I’ve spent in warm happiness,
laughter, and even attending life’s sorrows,
with them. Life offers more joy, with Roger
or not, with you or not, as it will always be.
December 8, 2007: #20
A journey. A commitment. An idea.
An experiment. A reward. A victory.
A therapy. A relief. A confession.
An approach. A monument. A cry.
A lament. An admission. An outreach.
A shame. An act. A gesture. A display.
An indiscretion. A performance.
An elixir. An epiphany. An enigma.
A catalyst. A catharsis. A transformation.
To discover. To dedicate. To evolve.
To learn. To reach. To will.
To fathom. To expect. To purge.
To try. To excel. To blossom.
To listen. To understand. To accept.
To observe. To absolve. To interpret.
To relate. To channel.
To absorb. To celebrate. To comprehend.
November 29, 2008: #11
tonight I watched the pieces fall into place
the words used to describe my own values
either to someone else or myself, either in
reality or some hoped-for future, all these
observations and ruminations on the most
important building ingredients I weigh
were united and elegantly whirled together
as my life’s journey-to-date was laid bare,
and what I saw was that it added me all up
as this guy on the planet who has lived.
And from now on, I can add new material.
March 24, 2011: #5
Tonight, I am very thankful to be a son,
a grandson, a brother, a nephew,
a cousin, a friend, a husband, and a dad.
Also, I’m grateful that my kids have much
to be thankful for, and they both know it.
January 17, 2008: #17
January 18, 2008: #16
February 1, 2009: #10
April 27, 2009: #9
October 3, 2009: #8
May 9, 2010: #7
August 18, 2010: #6
Arc of the Poet, Part 14: Ramblings (#5)
Arc of the Poet, Part 15: Being (#4-#2)
Arc of the Poet
Part 1: Life Poetry
Part 2: Tour de Force
Part 3: True Love
Part 4: Spinning Out
Part 5: Wake-Up Call
Part 6: Serious Dreams
Part 7: Home Stretch
Part 8: Feedback
Part 9: Dear Departures
Part 10: Good Poetry
Part 11: Rewrites
Part 12: Resistance
Part 13: Fame and Fortune
Part 14: Ramblings
Part 15: Being