Monday, July 28, 2014

One Alone

For as much as I live in the world, I live alone.

I’ve always been a loner. It’s a personality trait that fits a writer or perhaps a painter or composer. Being alone, playing alone, working alone can be very threatening for some people, but not for me. I suppose that is because most of my life goes on in my head.

Oh, I participate in the populated world, and enjoy being with other people, but not for long, and not all the time. Even as a child I enjoyed playing alone, discovering the world as I went, learning from experience. I also paid attention to others, and learned from their mistakes and successes, but by observation more than participation.

Being alone for a portion of every day is as much me as the work I have chosen for myself. Of course there were many years in which I had to work with others, wanted to work with others, but still I preferred working on my own.

Being a filmmaker is a collaborative profession. Writing is the most solitary part of the process, when research and imagination blend into a script, a blueprint if you will, for constructing a visual story. For many years I wrote and produced films. In a few wonderful instances I  wrote, produced, directed, shot and edited and even voiced entire productions. They may not have been the most viewed of the many films I worked on, but they were for me the most satisfying.

Devoting myself to writing for print/electronic publication, as I have for the last 20 or so years, has brought me the most pleasure, the greatest reward (intellectual, emotional, not financial), and is what still drives me to create stories and essays. Even when I think I have cleaned out the store, so to speak, I discover that there is still more to write, and to write about. Being a solo act has spilled over into many other parts of my life.

I live, as regular readers know, in a remote part of the world, near but not in a village of a few people, in a very under-populated part of the world. There are mountains that ripple the county, and that must be crossed for food, entertainment, even visiting with friends or family. That, or do it myself, fix it myself, build it myself. I don’t mind it. In fact I find depending on myself for most things gives me a kind of strength and endurance and acceptance of life that is difficult for many more “modern” people to understand. That sometimes includes family. But I am fulfilled by doing for myself. And a long time ago I found the one person with whom I can be alone and not alone.

Over many years we have built a life and a way of living that encourages and demands a high level of do-it-yourself skills. Some would say that we are at risk, living so remotely, so away from the world. We don’t see it that way. What we do see is that we are perhaps better prepared to get through every day, regardless of what the day may have to offer. We depend on ourselves and each other.

We are not alone, and yet we are.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Looking Ahead

We had a wedding in the family last week. Friends and relatives gathered from near and far to join in celebrating with the happy couple. We shared food, drink and affection with the bride and groom and with each other. We also shared music, but for those of us not yet totally deaf, it made the celebration just a bit uncomfortable. Uncomfortable but, given the occasion, bearable.

One of the side benefits of the gathering was a chance to meet members of the groom’s family, see members of the bride’s family, and meet friends of both. The bride, one of our granddaughters, had invited two of her Peace Corps friends, to be in the wedding party, as well as her closest friend from high school. We knew her, but not the others.

At dinner for the wedding party the night before, we sat with the attendants around us. Young, healthy, perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect teeth . . . and perfect goals in their lives. From distant places, all had arrived at a point in life where they were finalizing the course of at least the next few years. What impressed me about all of them (and their accompanying partners) was that all, (bride and groom included), were setting themselves to accomplish things that will make a better world for others. All of them have chosen to continue their education now, and at the same time, undertake jobs that have already made a difference in the lives of others. It was a very reassuring weekend, talking with them, and with other friends of theirs and with other family members who all seemed to be genuinely concerned and focused on trying in some way to fix what is broken, discover what needs to be done, and then instead of complaining about the way the world is, getting right into the deep water of what might be called “draining the swamp.”

I guess that when parents and grandparents look at the up-and-coming generation we sometimes feel despair or even helplessness. Spend a weekend with young people like these. It is reassuring, generating smiles rather than frowns.

We have seen the future, and the good news is: there will be one.

Sunday, July 13, 2014


When I was young and single, and before I decided that I was going to remain that way (single – youth would turn to maturity regardless), I gave some thought and consideration to what I would consider essential in the person with whom I would spend the rest of my life. Foremost among them was that the person should be kindred in interests and skills; a person who had a visceral need to live a life that demanded creativity, with the skills to achieve it.

An artist, I always thought, would be the ideal mate for me; a painter or sculptor or another of the visual arts. Eventually I decided that such a person didn’t really exist, and so I would carry on alone, enjoying what relationships I could, but no longer looking for the one person who would fit that description.

And then we met. And half a century and more has passed, and we are still together, still working on things jointly, still finding new ways to share our life. From painter to photographer was not a giant step, and when I had an opportunity to make a film with a crew of my own, I signed her on as still photographer. Aside from the pictures I needed, one received a major award in an international juried show.

The eye of an artist is quite different from any other, I’m certain. And while I have a pretty keen sense of image and what I want to see (as a film writer I could not have survived without that skill), I don’t “see” the way she does. I don’t, perhaps, have the same inner vision that allows her to create and bring together elements and images into a picture that says much without motion or movement. Today, website design has become a logical progression for visual artists, and is a skill that has now been added to her resume.

And that brings us to our most recent collaboration: developing a new and exciting web page where you can find out more about my books, about writing and about the part of me that is the writer.

With her artist’s eye she has brought together images and words from a general impression of what I want or need.  I have learned to depend on that eye to turn my vision into reality.

The new website is still being finished as I write this, but we hope that in the next few days it will be up and running. You will find it, when it is ready, at

Visit often. Comments are always welcome.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

An Anniversary and a Birthday

John Williams raised his baton, and on the downbeat the music began. It wasn’t some star-studded movie music he was conducting, but music much older, with words we all know. The words are 200 years old, and are as stirring today as they were in 1814.

We were watching the televised July 4th program from the National Mall in Washington DC. At least we recognized the place as the Mall, but really, you couldn’t see the ground, so many citizens had come out to say Happy Birthday to our land.

I imagine that The Star Spangled Banner is one of the first songs we Americans learn as children, probably soon after Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star. It is a song we have all sung at ball games and ceremonies and graduations and sometimes, if you’re like me, you even sing it to yourself. Not all of it. Nobody remembers all of it, according to the WW-II movies, anyway. Only spies did that, and that was how you tricked them into revealing themselves. It isn’t because it is so complicated, I suspect, but more because we all want to get on with whatever has brought us together in the first place. Besides, it’s hard to sing. High notes and twisty cadences and things only the music-minded really understand. But we make the effort.

I’ve sung it so many times, in places I can’t even recall, with even worse voices than mine helping make the words ring out. And yes, it has been sung to different music (they call it music, anyway, whoever they are who sing it that way), but to me, regardless of where, regardless of the quality of the music or the voices sharing the moment, this is still “The Song.” It is the song of freedom, the song of longing for peace, the song of aspiration and faith in a future we can’t always see. But we can hear it in the words.

No matter how many times I’ve heard it, how often I’ve stood with my hand over my heart or fingertips touching forehead, it still reaches me, touches me, makes me stand a little straighter, a little taller. That’s real music. Two-hundred years! That’s a long time for song to be in the top ten.

For me, it is always number one!