How It Happened

I was mourning my seemingly endless inability to write anything but political columns lately, and then only once a week or so, when I stumbled upon the root of my problem.

I got to looking through my archives and realized that after the end of June 2011, my “creative” writing suddenly slacked off and the state-of-the-union pieces multiplied. Later in the year, even these were coming just once a week.

What was it, I wondered, that caused the change? I did have a very harsh personal tragedy that month that I won’t share here, but it definitely took the wind out of me.

Now, I’ve lived through plenty of tragedy in my day. I usually pick up the pieces and move on, get things back to normal eventually. But this time it seemed I just didn’t go forward again, and it showed in my writing, which you should realize by now is a direct reflection of my state of mind, my overall spirit.

What I discovered is what I’ve been preaching all along, but very few people take me seriously. “Aww, you’re just whining,” some say. Then they comment, “Why don’t you find some other thing to occupy yourself?” Others reproach me that, “Maybe you’ve just said all you have to say.” I doubt that. I’m pretty much a windbag.

Yeah, very, very few people understand, but you know what? I don’t understand a lot of things about other people either, but I do my best. What I can’t comprehend, I try to accept.

June was the last time I immersed myself in wildness.

I’ve confessed it all along. There are all kinds of words to describe it: Addicted. Obsessed. Fanatical. Zealot. Possessed. Infatuated. Enamored. You can throw words at it all day, it doesn’t change the diagnosis.

For the last eight months, I have touched my feet to little more than concrete. I have only seen water that is still and somber, and I have paid the price.

Do you see that this thing, this ludicrous fixation on fast water, open spaces, deep forests and clean air permeates every facet of my life? Go to my website and look over my work since June. There’s no clearer evidence than that.

That oppressive heat dome that settled over much of Louisiana last summer ambushed the rain, and my places of solace grew thin and emasculated. With temperatures in the triple digits north of here, I had little interest in even making a hike.

I resurrect again the ghost of author Harry Middleton:

I sneezed. “Okay, but what about my obsession with mountains and mountain streams and trout?” I asked, trying to dry out my hankerchief by holding it near the woodstove.

This is what Erskine Lightman, fifth-generation master of Smoky Mountain folk medicine and trout fishing said, “Only one thing to do: shoot yourself.” (“On the Spine of Time)

Wildness has become, in the absence of the magic that once permeated these thinning, suffering bayous and swamps, the source of my inspiration. It is the pivot of my solace.

Look at a map of any of these special, wild places and you’d see a broad expanse of green surrounded by the clutter of buildings, the lines of streets and highways, farm fields and clear-cuts.

So rather than put my little boat over in Bayou Teche to sort through dismally shallow waters, ‘posted’ signs, sand bars and siltation, I’ll gladly get into the truck and drive hours and hours to lose myself in an oasis of green.

And that’s what hasn’t been there for me since June. That’s what’s missing: The soothing, the medicine. Is it any wonder I’ve grown cynical and desperate?

Not even I, who fills this page with stories of my time there, realized until now what an influence it exerts on me, such a dependence I have on it. Because out there, once I march away from the folding-chair adventurers and barbecue grill outdoorsmen, there is such a fantastic soaring in my chest. It’s not just in those millennia-smoothed hills north of here it is also in the soft-browed peaks of the Ozarks; in the ancient, lush elevations of the Blue Ridge and Smokies; I found it high up in the Rockies in Montana, and along the pebble-strewn reaches of Cut Bank Creek at their feet.

God help me, I am as doomed as Harry. There are, no doubt, many joys in my life. Much that brings happiness and peace.

And if I could gather them all up and take them with me to some dark green forest, sit them beside me along some laughing, mischevious stream as it throws itself over rocks left over from the birth of time, then…then I would surely know serenity. And then I would write until my fingers fall off.

5 comments to How It Happened

  • Jon

    Sounds like you broke the ice? Napoleon, in his day quipped, “religion is what keeps the poor from killing the rich.” Some of us realize that “Mother Nature” in all of her splendor and magnificence keeps us sane. She’s also my ‘Spiritual Guide’ ~ Cheers, with finding the true purpose for breaking that spell!


  • Two months to go. You can make it.

  • blufloyd

    Well dude seize the moment I don’t reflect or recollect or hang. Move on, momentum gathers.

  • Hey BF –
    If you don’t, then I really feel sorry for you.
    You must have had a piss-poor life.

  • blufloyd

    Ha wouldn’t trade it for all the wives and children in the world, maybe a Sage One and a 7 series BMW though.

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