Once More Unto the Breach

Fine.  Since the tea is not forthcoming, let’s have a philosophical conversation.

— Anton Chekhov, The Three Sisters

I miss hunting for just the right word.  I miss hammering ornery sentences into shape.  Solving tricky paragraph jigsaw puzzles.  Riding the furious wave of a self-righteous rant, pontificating from a rickety soapbox, waxing poetic at the turnings of the year.

I miss blogging.

I haven’t posted for ages, though, due to logistical problems.  With reality.

Teetering as we are on the brink of environmental suicide (as a species), descending as we are into the hell of authoritarianism (as a nation), and bumbling as we are through a pandemic minefield (thanks to mind-boggling resistance to global cooperation on the part of privileged nations and effective protocols on the part of privileged millions), I feel obliged to keep abreast of current events.  Write letters.  Make calls.  Text-bank for good causes.

It’s not much.  More a token effort than actually doing my part.  But minimal as it is, it’s well beyond my comfort zone.

Pair my discomfort with a can’t-shake-it perception that it’s pointless and possibly detrimental to write about anything except the perilous existential journey we’re on, and voilà!  Another extended hiatus.

Mid-series, I might add.  I was moments away from posting The Cold Civil War – Part III: Whistling Dixie.  Right on cue, the GOP pulled off a passel of restrictive voting laws in a passel of states, all designed to disenfranchise Black voters in particular.  The resurrection of the Jim Crow laws that institutionalized segregation and suppressed the Black vote from 1877 till the mid-1960s dovetailed perfectly with my points:  that the Dixie loyalists and sympathizers who comprise the Republican Party bear no more love for or allegiance to the US of A than did their Confederate antecedents; that the underlying goal of their every act is to bring our democracy to ruin at long last; and that the South may have surrendered, but it never admitted — nor did the North ever ask it to admit — defeat.

A better blogger, perhaps, would have clinched the relevance of their post by exploiting the synchronicity.  Me?  I bailed entirely.  Couldn’t ignore the clear and present danger of ‘Murica’s newest racist legislation.  Only way I could catch a break was to stop dwelling on its historical parallels.

Many moons later, the future isn’t looking any brighter.  So what’s brought me back to the blogosphere?  Sentimental longing for the cherry click of my keyboard?  I get plenty of that from the COVID-careful online life I now lead.  Reluctance to let all that work on the blog-site revamp go to waste?  Fair cop, it’s a factor.  How can I admire this nifty font on this pretty page under that cool pic of West Texas if I don’t post any new content?

But what truly rejuvenated my enthusiasm for playing with pixels were my bestie’s brilliant project and unironedman’s blog.

Photo by Khôi Châu

Whilst wallowing in worry, it occurred to me that everyone is grappling with global and national doomsday scenarios, yet not all bloggers feel compelled to write about them.  Took some time, but finally the great stories, fab pics, and damn good writing of unironedman – A blog about being fifty-ish, keeping fit, and acting the fool . . . (yes, that’s a link) have made me realize that our dire circumstances do not constitute a writing assignment.

Granting myself permission to blog on non-doomsday matters was only half the battle.  My writer-battery was dead.  Enter my bestie with a jump-start.

Wanting to do something about the appalling lack of literary space afforded a certain demographic-cum-subject matter, my f’rever friend Janet created The Crone’s Words, an online venue for female-identifying elders to speak out about our peeps’ mental health and emotional well-being.  Patience is not one of my virtues. Rather than wait for the e-anthology’s publication, I played the “two proofreaders are better than one” card and offered to give the accepted works another scan.  Naturally, Jan took me up on my offer.  And, naturally, reading all that great material galvanized my inner critic.

Not my inner self-critical critic.  My inner opinionated-about-everything critic.

If they existed, were economically feasible, or I’d realized early enough in my existence they were viable career paths, there are a few jobs I’d have enjoyed so much, I might have stuck with them.  To wit:  Translator, Professor of Pre-Christian Stuff, Critic-at-Large.

I was an ASL (American Sign Language) interpreter.  For a while, anyway.  As a freelance copy-editor, I specialized in translating the papers/articles of ESL scholars into eloquent Academese.  The gig I really wanted, though, was translating kung-fu film subtitles into coherent English.

photo by Neil Jimenez

Whenever I was studying the stuff I was passionate about (Táin Bó Cúailnge, Branwen ferch Llŷr, Beowulf, The Elder Edda, Gilgamesh), I was either auditing or slipping a class onto my transcript I believed didn’t belong there.  Whenever I stumbled on a trove of archaic treasures (UC Berkeley’s music archives, Sonoma State University Library’s Lyman Collection), I spent every free moment and many a stolen hour buried in the riches.  Sadly, being clueless in college, I zig-zagged from Anthropology to History to a degree in Dramatic Arts never realizing I could do fer-reals what I was doing for fun and spend my life immersed in ancient arts and cultures — that Mythology & Folklore was a legit major and bona fide life-path.

As for the last item on my list, in all fairness, I’d make a lousy critic.  For one thing, I lack the prerequisites.  Critics need a detailed and thorough knowledge of the art-form(s) they critique.  I possess a superficial smattering of knowledge on a broad range of topics.  More of an intellectual dilettante than a Renaissance person, if you get my drift.

Not only do I lack a critic’s credentials (and, consequently, their credibility); I lack control.  If I like a piece — of writing, music, art, food — I praise it to high heaven.  If I dislike it but am not annoyed by it, I endeavor to be kind and constructive.  If I resent having spent time on it, I rip it to shreds, eloquently and with uncalled-for brutality.  It’s excessive, unprofessional, and I’m not proud of it . . . but I can’t say I wouldn’t do it again.  Delivering a truly nasty review is a deliciously wicked pleasure.

Mentally meandering down the Roads Not Taken inevitably led me back to this blog.

My skills are no longer needed by the Asian cinematic universe; subtitles are light-years better than they used to be.  But should I wish to dissect the best (worst?) of the hysterically, egregiously mistranslated dialogue that abounds in classic kung fu films, I do have a platform.

I’m def not looking to go back to school, get another useless degree, and re-instate myself in another Ivory Tower.  But should some juicy pagan-esque lore come my way, I have a dandy place to post it.

And should I slip a glowing or scathing review onto this site — or the demon spirit of politics move me to rant once again, or the shifting seasons inspire a song, or I randomly decide to waste a bit of your time and a whole bunch of mine blathering on about what’s up with me — well, that’s neither here nor there.

The self-referencing tag line above is clearly a closer, but I’m ditching elegance to end with a plug.  I hope you’ll check out The Crone’s Words (yep, that’s a link). I especially recommend the “Origins” page for the backstory and the “Poetry 1” page for a short piece by a poet whose work has oft graced this site.  Big thanks :)

11 thoughts on “Once More Unto the Breach”

  1. Risa,
    I was soooo pleased to catch this as soon as you posted it. I don’t read anymore, I just listen. In listening to what you said I was not only pleased, I was pacified. (as in a lowered level of discontent) Pacified enough to not feel the need to put in my two cents worth. Now voilà you posted again and I was moved to shift the position of my derriere enough to type a few words. Thank You, Thank You. You have illustrated a balance point between having to spend energy worthlessly expostulating needlessly over things out of my control and looking at the world as if I am really present. I love your Mentally Meandering Down the Roads Not Taken and with your permission intend to insert it whenever it will hopefully have a piquant effect on whatever the current thought stream happens to be.
    Not much else to say but thank you for the insight into your current emotional innards. My better two-thirds (hopefully that is still an acceptable pronoun replacement) and I have finally learned how to relax and enjoy the current social disconnect by facing the facts. We hope to take into stride that it is what it is and it will be what it will be. (Thanks to Marcus Aurelius Meditations: “Soon you will die, and still you aren’t sincere, undisturbed, or free from suspicion that external things can harm you, nor are you gracious to all, knowing that wisdom and acting justly are one and the same.”)
    R Lee Smith

  2. What a long-desired treat to read your blog, with a special addition of unironedman (great name!!
    His writing is every bit as engaging as yours, and now I’ve got both sites bookmarked.
    And, of course, I am so moved that you plugged my site. I need all the traffic I can get, and the more folks who subscribe, the sooner I’ll get off my butt and start producing the next issue! Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!
    Looking forward to Civil War, part 3, if you can muster it.

    • Here’s hoping my little plug gets more eyes on The Crone’s Words. It boasts some fine pieces, and this issue should def NOT be a one-off.
      Civil War 3, though … just reading about the Rittenhouse verdict and witnessing the response to Gosar has maxed me out this week, and every week (every day!) there’s a new news item to unsettle me. Fluffy, mundane posts aren’t the ones y’all crave, I know, but that’s all I’ve got in me for the nonce. (shrug emoji)

  3. Great to see you taking up the cudgel again. S and I were reading Heaney’s ‘Digging’ yesterday morning in bed, and it seems right the following day brings your post. Delighted to get a mention here, and from a real author too. Modest you are, to a fault. You would make a wonderful critic, surely, and I’ve no doubt your readers will agree.
    I share your outlook on life, though I’ve not had the fortitude to try and tackle the ills of the world online as you have. I’ve done in my blog what all sensible runners do when faced with an injury; they generally ignore it and keep running

    • Ah, indeed, the sensible thing IS to continually RUN AWAY! RUN AWAY!! (Of course, y’all always end up back where you started, but let’s not cloud the issue with important details.)
      Thanks for the read and the encouragement, Dec. And bonus points for stretching to link me coincidentally/sequentially with my writer-idol. Omg, yes, I’ll happily take that as good omen.


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