All posts by Jay Tilden

About Jay Tilden

I am an aspiring writer and artist, but mostly a writer. I love science-fiction and radical climate change activism.

Update: First of December

Wow, so, I went almost two years without updating this blog. Now that’s really something, because every time I think about this blog, I think, “Damn, it’s probably been a month or two since I updated that. Better do it.” And then I forget, and, a week or two later, it starts all over again.

I don’t know if anyone still follows this blog, indeed, I’m so rusty with WordPress that I’m not even sure how to see who, if anyone, follows the blog, or how many people. But hey, we live, we die, and we forget to read and write blogs. Such is life.

I’ve been spending the past few months surrounded by work, reading books, writing essays, and most importantly, writing my own book. I’ve been taking classes on ancient epics, reading The David Story, the Ramayana, the Odyssey, and now the Aeneid; I have a class on the Argentine writer Borges; a class on screenwriting; an independent study in which I’ve introduced myself to the Middle Ages; and, finally, an archival research seminar centered around independent research projects.

With the semester so close to an end, I think I’m going to be a little melancholy to go home. I’ve really enjoyed being occupied with this kind of intellectually stimulating work after a summer filled with monotony, with deep-frying falafel balls and cooking chicken schwarma for hours on end. Being back at Hampshire has been wonderfully revitalizing, a feeling I really want to sustain throughout the Long Winter of Vermont, where I’ll return after being away for a year. I have some plans for small research projects, but I’ll mainly be continuing my book, which is estimated by Scrivener, currently, to be 520 pages.

Yesterday, I hand-wrote nine pages in a yellow legal pad, which has been almost completely filled in the past two weeks with my work, primarily, on two chapters in the novel. I’ve just been plowing ahead, getting as much content out as possible, and it feels so good. And I don’t know if this is because I’m on a bit of a productivity-high right now, but I really feel like this book could be something special. Something different than anything else I’ve done. And, most importantly, I’ve had more fun writing it than I have anything else. I can only hope that means the reader will enjoy reading it just as much.

I don’t know when War (very tenuous title) will be done; I guess it could be as little as another year, or as much as two or three. I’m going to be revising some shorter pieces soon, too, so that I might begin submitting them to publications. No luck there, yet (I sent out a few this summer, but the abyss swallowed them).

Anyway, this is my weird little life right now. It’s weird ’cause I find it a lot more exciting than it appears to be from the outside. And it’s weird because, for the first time in my life, I am 100% content to be working on these things alone, and I’m just as content to go to bed alone at night. I’ve spent far too much time with people, and if I’ve learned anything this semester, it’s that I can really flourish when there are none around. For a while, anyway. Then I get bored and need someone to annoy.

Okay, I’m going to make some coffee and eat some breakfast, and, for as long as I can, I’m gonna mother-fuckin’ write.

[11:59 a.m.]

J

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Setting Goals: The New Year

And here we are! The year 2016. Isn’t it shiny and new and filled with potential? Maybe. The new is always very alluring for awhile, since it is unfamiliar and, perhaps most importantly, different. I think that might be why we set resolutions at the start of each new year, as if we’re exhilarated or motivated by that shiny sense of newness.

I don’t know that I can set concrete goals for myself that I’ll realistically keep. I won’t deny that, no, not at all. I’m hopelessly addicted to caffeine, and I like it that way. I smoke weed a decent amount, but again, why not? In a very real, very emotional sense, I’m feeling better than I have in quite some time, and though the calendar’s reset, I feel no need to alter my habits. They’re firmly in place, and perhaps I finally am, too.

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that we can be sure of nothing. No future is set in stone, so why bother labeling what hasn’t happened yet? Maybe this will be the year of Self-Development, or maybe it’ll be the year of Disappointments. Probably it’ll be a Mixed Bag, though, a treasure trove of good and bad. All I want to do is stay afloat in all the craziness.

Staying afloat for me is writing as much as possible, and reading enough to match. I’m excited about where I can take my writing, largely because I feel so free to fuck up. I am writing for no one but myself, in the creative sense. Academics are different and admittedly important, but different. The creative stuff is what fuels the imagination, what keeps me level, what helps me escape. I want to prioritize writing over most other things, which I failed to do in 2015.

I wrote two solid short stories during my first semester of college. Neither were exceptional for my own abilities, I don’t think, but they were solid, and I learned from both experiences. I’m in the process of a longer story, likely a novelette, about a woman who is apparently “randomly” chosen to be an intermediary for a massive alien conflict, a budding war, many lightyears away. It’s currently titled “The Good Teacher.” I’d like to finish it in the next two weeks. I want to produce as much writing as possible this year, setting times for myself to write during the day, every day, working around classes and homework. It’s easy to be distracted, and I must control myself as a writer if I hope to improve. That’s probably every writer’s goal, ultimately, but it helps to make Step One writing it down. Once it’s written down, I may be guilt-ridden if I defy my own word. Christ, it’s all I’ve got.

I don’t post frequently on this blog, which is something I’m considering changing. I keep my own personal journal for venting and I write enough otherwise, but there’s something nice about knowing others are reading your words.

And if you are reading these words, I hope you’ve begun your year happily. I hope past resentments can be dissolved, grudges deteriorated, negative thoughts deflated. Do something you love, whether it’s sketching or napping or eating good food, and when you’re doing that thing, remark upon how lovely it is, and don’t forget it.

You’re only as beautiful as you see yourself.

Happy New Year,

J

12:15 a.m.

Listen to: All of these! I’ve selected some of my newest favorite songs that I’ve recently discovered. Indyish rock, folk rock, etc.

“Blood, Love, Dirt, Stop!” by The Heavy

“Lido Shuffle” by Boz Scaggs

“Blackstar” by David Bowie (Holy shit, watch the music video even if you’ve never heard the man)

“The Walk” by Mayer Hawthorne 

“All the Dogs Are Lying Down” by Johnny Flynn

PS. Anyone see the new Star Wars? Holy shit. John Williams’s entire score was on point again…as usual…and “Rey’s Theme” really stood out to me.

 

Creeping Depression and Writer’s Block (A Word-Vomit)

In perfect form, I’ve gone all summer without posting anything on this blog. Also in perfect form, I’ve done very little writing since the summer began…and now it’s almost September. I suppose that’s how things go sometimes.

It hasn’t been an easy summer. I think, since graduating high school, there’s been an underlying dread attached to every thought of leaving home or being in college. Honestly, I don’t fully want to do it. Until September 3, I’m still in my home town, sitting around drinking coffee and pretending to be productive. I know that, for my own best interest, I need to get away. But I also know that, for my own selfish interests, I want to stay and have nothing change.

Besides my reluctance to hop the nest, I’m dealing with the long-term post-breakup depression that literally every other incoming college freshman is probably experiencing on some level. Who hasn’t had a breakup before going off to their first year of college? Happy people, maybe. I haven’t really felt happy in a while. That’s a scary thing, if you’ve never experienced it. I don’t actually know if I’ll be happy today, because I know my mind can concoct reasons not to be…no matter the beauty of a thing. I find myself lingering on questions that should have been answered two months ago. I find myself worrying about my quality as a human, as a significant other. I find myself wondering how I could have been different, and if I even should have been.

Those are the big things. And they’re trying to command the forefront of my attention. When I let them, I spiral. It’s hard not to spiral because it’s so easy.

It’s not like I’m creatively spent, of course. I don’t think that’s possible for sardonic teenagers. I get new ideas every day. What if a man was trapped inexplicably in a house with four locked, multicolored doors? What if a time-traveler was forced to stop traveling, confined to a containment unit, watching his friends and loved ones age without him? What if a small town was trapped by a gang of malevolent, bodiless witches?

Oh, look! Common themes: Capture. Containment. Helplessness. I wonder where those narrative delicacies came from.

I know I need to get out. I know I need a change. But change is scary. Change is things you’re not prepared for, things you’ve never dealt with. And it only makes it worse that everyone’s left already, or will be gone soon. In a month this will seem trivial, irrelevant. Now it’s scary. So when, aside from that, you’re also dealing with writer’s block, a debilitating ailment that renders people like me completely useless, you can see how things become a little hazy mentally. I’m keeping myself up by reading and going for walks, but I just have to wait. I can only hope that in the future, my writing returns to me. I really need it to, because I don’t know that I can function without it.

12:46 PM

J

Listen to: “L’America” by the Doors

A Saturday Walk (Or, Why Coffee Is A Magical Healing Property)

I had a friend stay over last night. We stayed up watching Doctor WhoPlanet Earth, and listening to bands like Pink Floyd and Gorillaz. This morning we walked through town and up toward the cafe Gato Nero, where I bought myself a coffee and we parted ways shortly after. I decided to walk home the long way round, which essentially meant avoiding Federal St. a little longer and going down the hill toward the movie theatre and right. As I walked along Railroad St. I began to appreciate just how wonderful Vermont is.

This isn’t the first time, of course. Earlier this week some friends and I went to Willoughby Lake. The drive there was almost more exciting than Willoughby itself: sprawling hills of multicolored trees and purple mountain ranges for miles, a perfect blue sky with wispy white clouds, and then the mountains of Willoughby towering over us as we came to that vast lake. We walked through the woods of Willoughby (I opted out of wearing shoes the whole time) and built a campfire near the water and made it tall and hot.

I’m more appreciating of nature lately, and that is due largely in part to the impossible-to-ignore presence of Vermont’s nature during the summer. The trees are so bright with green that they seem to shout at you, begging to be looked at. The wind is sometimes harsh and will blow clouds of flower petals in front of you, and then you’re looking up at a massive lilac tree for five minutes. When it rains–especially at night–you can’t help but turn off all your music and devices and lights and sit by the window listening to the rain pitter-patter along the side of the house while the thunder gurgles faraway. It sometimes seems Vermont is offering us all of these things with a willing, comforting embrace, and that all we really need to do is listen up.

This morning, I was particularly groggy-minded. I won’t allude to my activities last night (or any night), but I awoke with quite the headache. I didn’t want to get out of bed, even, but I realized we had no coffee to make at the house. So Ben and I were forced to leave so that I could get my daily caffeine-fix, a necessary addiction and a nasty one that I’ve developed especially during senior year. Despite my relatively down-in-the-dumps mood and my exhausted body and mind, going outside was one of the best things I could have done for myself today. And today was a day when I didn’t even shower–I’ve showered every morning for four years. Being outside, especially once I had my coffee and had relaxed, made it clear to me what a wonderful world we live in. This is a realization I re-realize frequently, since it’s so easy to follow into the mundane mechanics of the weekday goings on.

Saturday morning walks present the world in a way you rarely see it otherwise, no matter where you live. It seems everyone is aware that this morning is meant for the little things: the trivial cup of coffee, the five minutes you sit on the front porch and bask in sunshine, the tiny errands you must run in order to enjoy the weekend. All the little things come out on Saturday, and with my little thing (coffee) successfully achieved, I felt free to simply appreciate things. Even though St. Johnsbury was once and industrial railroad town, even though many of the streets are poorly paved or cracked, and even though much of the town is in financial hardship, it was refreshing to hear birds singing from atop lampposts, to see the trees shivering in the wind, to see the yellow sunlight brightening everything in sight.

I realize, finally, that some part of me will miss this place when I leave in September. Of course Amherst, MA has lots of wonderful things–indeed, many of them better than what they are in St. Johnsbury–but I will still miss the little things I’ve grown accustomed to in this town. It will be difficult to adjust to a new place, no matter the excitement of the change.

As I sat on the tree stump in my front yard and looked at the street while I drank my coffee, the giant tree in the neighbor’s yard across the way seemed to vibrate and shake as a gentle breeze sifted through its leaves. Damn, that’s a nice tree.

J

2:11 PM

PS. Broken Bells have some really wonderful songs. Try “The High Road” and “Trap Doors.”

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. While it’s not really a holiday I get behind, personally, I hope everyone has a nice one–whether you spend it alone or with each other, treat yo’ self.

A little about me… The one-act plays directed by three seniors (including myself) at our school are coming to a close. Today is our last performance at 2 p.m., and I couldn’t be happier with the work my cast as put in to this play, The Real Inspector Hound. I’ll be sad to finish things up, but on the bright side, I’ll have a little more time for myself after. Plus, our next vacation is coming swiftly, and I can’t wait to get some serious work done in the world of writing. I plan to do heavy revisions on some older stories, but also to finish writing my audio drama, a project I’m wildly excited about. I’ve already got a long list of people who have agreed to be in the cast, and I hope to have finished it and begin recording during April. Stay tuned for more on that, because I think my followers could be an enormous help in giving feedback and attention to the final product, hopefully sometime in the late spring or early summer.

I don’t really want to talk about high school here, since I receive mental stress fractures every time I think about it. In a nutshell, I’m grateful it’s almost over and that I’ll be able to step through a new shiny door in my life and shut this dusty one behind me. There are a lot of things I’m willing and ready to leave behind, some that I’ll carry with me, and even more that I can’t wait to meet for the first time. On the whole, while life right now feels hectic and taxing, I can almost see the light at the end of the tunnel. I’m really looking forward to losing this snow, too. It starts to weigh on you mentally after a while, and I’d love a warm day or two…or a hundred. I really miss the kind of weather that doesn’t give you frostbite, but I suppose that’s Vermont for you.

I hope any of the people who are reading this are happy and healthy. Remember to put yourself first. Get sleep, get food, get time. Once you’ve helped yourselves, help others, if you can. Again, I thank you all so much for reading my posts and taking the time to like them as well as my page. Even a few counts toward something. Sometime in the future I’ll be sharing some writing with you, perhaps once things have settled a little for me. I’ll always be looking for feedback, critiques, or just friendly messages.

Love each other and the world. Happy Valentine’s Day.

J

11:25 a.m.

P.S. I’ve really been digging Chadwick Stokes. Check out his songs “Horse Comanche” and “Mother Maple.”

Increasing My Web Presence

Hi, y’all.

I’m writing the obligatory update post, since it’s been a little more than a week since the last. Not too much has happened since, although I was accepted to Bennington College. That’s pretty exciting, considering they’re only three hours from home, and I have my fingers crossed for good financial aid. We’ll see. If everything works out, I hope to be attending there in the fall. It’s such a nice little school with super cool programs and a small but interesting campus.

I also recently spoke to a couple of local publishers who run a business helping writers self-publish, especially specializing in the marketing realm. This was an interesting visit and it taught me a few things, but I also realized that I must try to increase my web presence. I suppose I don’t know what that means, exactly, but I do know it must include more twitter posts and…stuff? Right? Whatever, I’ve also decided I must gain a bit of a readership, so that we can gauge interest in my stories. I’m still deciding how I’d like to share exactly, but I’m thinking I may upload the writing in pieces in PDFs–which will include posting them here, on Tumblr, on Twitter, and even Facebook. I’m still ruminating, and a lot of stuff needs revision before I’ve reached that point, but it’ll happen. I hope a few of my WordPress followers will be interested in reading my stories when they come out in the not-too-distant future. They’re science fiction, and each is around 50 pages, some less, some more. I think some people here might really enjoy them.

I really want to expand my following online, I think that’ll be very important when I near publication–which is suddenly a far more foreseeable goal. Something I might actually be able to attain! How exciting (and frightening).

I’ll discuss all that in more detail in a later post. For now, I suppose I’m just saying hello! I know I have quite a small following on WordPress, but to all of you who may read this, I hope you’re doing well, and I thank you very much for giving me a few minutes of time. Even the smallest crowd is a crowd nonetheless.

I hope you have a wonderful Saturday! I’m gonna sit back with something hot and read some Bradbury, I think.

Till next time!

J

4:13 p.m.

PS. For your listening pleasure, try out “Hello, Dolly!” by Louis Armstrong. And if you’re not into that sort of thing, try “Creep in a T-Shirt” by Portugal. The Man.

Personal Update / Save the Earth

Ahhh! I’m an awful human. It’s not that I have any moral obligation to write new blog posts all the time, but I feel like if you’ve got the followers, you should appease them…right?

I apologize. Here’s a little about what’s been goin’ down for me.

I’m well into senior year, the second semester, now. I successfully presented a Capstone project on science-fiction and creative writing, starred as Captain Hook in Peter Pan, and am now directing a one-act called The Real Inspector Hound by Tom Stoppard. I was deferred from my first-choice school, Kenyon, and accepted to the University of Vermont. I’ll hear from some other schools, so the future is in the air.

Another event of special note is something that happened very recently. Two nights ago, I presented at the local library, along with three other authors. I was the only student of the bunch, which was quite an honor. The four of us talked for 7 minutes about the stories we were writing, and then were asked questions and given feedback by the panelist judges and the audience (the judges included my Creative Writing and English teacher, who has always been an enormous help to me). I received a lot of amazing advice and feedback, and from it all, I’ve begun to see my dream of becoming a published author as a real, tangible goal that I can grasp in my hands. It’s unnerving, to say the least, that people can really be interested in my writing, in my stories–but at the same time, it’s awe-inspiring, and really quite wonderful.

From here, I’ll continue to work on writing my stories and continue revising and editing them. I’d like to talk about another project too, though.

I have recently become very interested in the medium of radio plays. The writing of a story that can be carried only by what the audience hears is intriguing to me, so I’m pursuing an independent project. I’ve written some of the script already, and I have a cast of talented friends (most of whom are relatively experienced dramatists), as well as the support of a teacher with access to recording equipment and sound effects, and two friends with superb musical talent who have agreed to help as well. The script will be reviewed by fellow teachers and my heroic girlfriend. All in all, it’s dazzling to imagine actually directing this script into reality, and I’m so excited to actually produce the play. It’s sure to be a wonderful learning experience. I’ll post it here when it’s in its full completion, likely sometime not too long after April Break (the projected recording time, as of now). I’ll encourage everyone to listen to what is probably going to be a forty-minute show, and I’ll make sure it’s free for download. It’s all about exposure and experience, both of which I’m always looking for.

In the meantime, I’m continuing my science-fiction series, writing short stories and novellas for The Chronicles of Troy. I’m also enduring my final semester of high school, from which I’ve taken a personal day, today, to recuperate from the long week I’ve had–even though it was only three days. I feel drained, honestly.

Sometime soon I want to write something about climate change, but I’ll leave this post with one message: do something. I’m eighteen years old, and if I’m frightened of anything, it’s the future of the world that I and my fellow millennials are soon to inherit. The “Doomsday Clock” has been moved two minutes closer to midnight because of climate change (as of January 23), and if that doesn’t throw everything into the limelight of severity, I don’t know what will. Turn off your dormant electric devices. Take short showers. Walk, don’t drive, when you can. Unplug machines you’re not using. Recycle. Do something. Please, help this planet. Those before us have done a mighty fine job of ruining our world, and for now, it’s the only one we’ve got. We need to preserve it, and better yet, we need to improve it. If politicians are too stubborn to cooperate and help the planet, maybe the people can make a difference…even if it’s a small one. Encourage climate activism or at least climate awareness. Inform yourselves and your friends. Leave this world better than we found it, please.

Everyone will be grateful in the end.

Thanks as always to my little conglomerate of followers. It means the world that you follow and read me. I’ll try to repay the favor. Have a great day, live well, and love one another.

J

10:39 a.m.

For your listening pleasure, check out “Once Was One” by Portugal. the Man.

The First Day of Autumn?

My life has taken a tremendous turn in the past couple of months, which would explain my lack of blog posts. Heading into senior year was enough in itself to give me a bit of a slap in the face, but on the top of that I had a break-up a few weeks ago, and I’ve been a wee-bit depressed since. I’m also dealing with college crap; i.e., deciding where to apply, arranging the propers for the Common App…these are the musings of a grudging high school student who just wants to be done with all of it, for God’s sake. But if you’re an adult reading this, you’ve been there and done that, and none of this is a shock to you. If you’re my age, I’m happy we can be in the same club together. And if you’re younger…just you wait.

Today was one of those days where I simply did not want to be near or around anyone. I feel hate for certain people, dull disdain for others, and indifference for the rest. Yet, there was a glimmer of optimism to my day, and it’s something that’s helped me get through Friday without tearing my hair out.

I have to do a senior Capstone project, and mine concerns the history of science-fiction: basically, I’m researching the genre as a whole and reading as much as I can. For the end product, I’ll have some stories that demonstrate how I’ve grown as a writer and what I’ve learned from my research. It’s a beautifully free project with few constrictions. I had to present a preliminary pitch to a teacher of my choosing, and I chose Jolliffe, a former two-time English teacher of mine. To be clear, I’ve loved having this man as a teacher. I had him Freshman year and then again last year, and he’s been the most understanding and interesting teacher to have: big tall guy with shaggy hair and a beard, and a love for Steinbeck.

I went to Jolliffe’s room first thing this morning, A block, to present. He was reading The Grapes of Wrath for his Junior AP English class, which is what he teaches to juniors every year. He quoted “Danny wants a cup of water” to me for a while, and then when I asked if he’d like me to present, he initially said yes. Then his wife, also a teacher at the school, came in and asked if he’d like to get coffee. He said he would.

So, I found myself walking with Jolliffe to Gatto Nero, a new-ish cafe/art studio near the school. The morning was chilly yet crisp, the way the first autumn mornings seem to. The sun was shining brightly and all of the colors in the Vermont trees were just thriving, it was almost like they were burning. And as we walked, he told me to give my pitch. Obviously I was a bit taken aback, but I launched into it. I had expected to stand before him and talk for five minutes, answer a few questions, and be done. But this guy never ceases to amaze me, and it became more of a discussion than a pitch. Not thirty seconds into my pitch he started asking questions, interrupting when he wanted more clarification or when he wanted to give advice or recommend a change to something. We talked about books, about authors, about the writing process, about relevant science-fiction and bare-bones science-fiction.

Something else happened, and for some reason, I won’t soon forget it. As we walked, a man in a suit passed us. He said, “Good morning, Steve.” Jolliffe said good morning to him and the man said, “Nice day, isn’t it?”

Jolliffe said, “Oh, it’s a beautiful day.”

I thought, Holy shit. It is a beautiful day. How had I not realized? Was I so focused on my internal issues? Was I too distracted by business-like matters to notice the fiery leaves or the refreshingly chilly air? The fact that Jolliffe so easily appreciated the morning spoke volumes to me, and I think I realized I hadn’t been myself for a while. I needed to get back to the point where I could walk alone and be content, not upset. Where I could just look up and appreciate the sky and the clouds, or the smell of burning wood from a chimney. I did just that later in the day, this afternoon, when I took another solo walk after school.

At Gatto Nero, Jolliffe bought me an espresso as well as coffee for a few other teachers (including his wife). Then we walked back to the school and continued talking, carrying coffee and drinking espresso. My pitch, written in scribbles on a piece of notebook paper, had long since been folded and tucked in my back pocket. Somehow I didn’t need it anymore, yet he knew more than anyone about my capstone.

This is what teachers are supposed to do. They aren’t meant to sit and just listen and tell students what they want to hear. They’re meant to surprise you, make you think, make you question yourself. And then when you’ve hit the right target, they’re supposed to congratulate you and help you further along. Jolliffe did that, and it’s another reason I’m grateful to have had him as a teacher.

Back in his classroom, we spent the rest of the block talking about my college and other life plans. Where I wanted to go, where I was applying, how my family was doing, how was doing. He knew about my break-up, and had seen me go through this kind of thing twice before. I think he saw that I had finally matured or grown up in some significant manner, because he said something to the effect of, “You’re all grown up, kid.” I think he said that, actually, when he heard how my process of writing stories had changed. It’s funny how I could give a comprehensive autobiography for hours on end, but someone will know me best by the way I write and the way I talk about writing. So much of my soul is within such a seemingly innocuous activity.

I walked away from A block with a better understanding of where I was going in the coming months, and of where I wanted to be in the coming years. I don’t know how it happened, but my English teacher helped me there.

A Child’s Nightmare

It’s been a while since my last post, but that’s probably because life is one harsh mistress, and the universe is doubly so.

By no means has my life been bad these past couple of weeks (or however long it’s been since the previous post), but it has been busy. And sometimes busy can be bad–for my mental health, for my sleep schedule, for my stress, for my emotions. But I don’t want to start this off on a negative note.

I’ve been involved in a Summer Shakespeare production of As You Like It. I portray the villain, Oliver, as well as a drunken old priest and a stupid Lord. It’s been a lot of fun, despite the demanding nightly schedule that has now extended full rehearsals past ten o’ clock. So, I’m coming home from long days working at the camp, only to go to rehearsal an hour later, and I’m not returning home till 10:30, having not eaten dinner.

Needless to say, that kind of schedule can kill a person, or nearly do the job. As You Like It will perform next weekend for three nights at my school’s outdoor amphitheater, and it’ll be a lot of fun. But it’ll also be a relief to have a bit more time during the night to actually relax.

I’m almost done reading the first installment of the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George R.R. Martin, A Game of Thrones. I’m in love with the book, and might do a review when I’m finished.

*    *    *    *

I’m going to get to one of the main points of this post, now. As you probably know, I work as a Junior Counselor at a summer day camp for kids. I work primarily with five and six year olds, and yesterday, I was sitting on the bus on the way home with one five year old named Brody.

A little bit about Brody: He’s a wide-eyed boy with short dark hair and a sort of high, lilting voice. He likes to kick his sandals at people and swing his sleeves at people’s faces. Sometimes he runs off into the woods, which is a huge hassle. Several of us think Brody may be on the Autism spectrum, but we’re not positive. His mother rarely speaks to counselors when she picks him up and drops him off, so we really can’t learn much about his personal life. He has two younger brothers, ages three and four, and he talks about his pet geckos, who he feeds bugs. One of them, an “old mommy” is dying, but he doesn’t seem to mind. He’s an incredibly sensitive boy with a huge interest in art, nature, strategic games, and so on. He hates field games and sitting around doing nothing, and these sort of activities can lead him to misbehave and act out for attention. Inside he’s an insanely intelligent child, but he doesn’t like to show it.

Now–yesterday, on the bus, Brody told me he had a bad dream the night before. I had been reading A Game of Thrones, but now I set it down to listen. I asked him what had happened in his dream. He told me this: he told me that in the dream he had been watching the night sky with a telescope, because “I was looking for airplanes.” He didn’t find airplanes, but he did find an alien spaceship, or several of them. He immediately alerted his family and friends, and they all went an hid in a building somewhere. I asked him if he had been scared, and he said yes.

The aliens, Brody told me, eventually found everyone, anyway. When he told me this, his already huge eyes grew huger, and I could practically feel his fear. There’s something so raw about children’s emotions, and Brody is no exception. In fact, his emotions seem amplified in comparison to other kids’, often. He told me that the aliens found everybody but him and his two younger brothers. Naturally, I thought this meant there was a happy ending, or at least not an awful one. I said, “What did the aliens do, then?”

“They took them onto their spaceships,” he said.

“What did they do?” I asked.

“They put everyone in hot water.”

“Hot water?”

He seemed to think this wasn’t an apt enough description, because he corrected himself, speaking over me with great urgency: “Hot, hot, hot, hot, hot water.” Now I was getting worried. Alien dreams are common, I’m sure. Hell, I’ve had these kinds of dreams…but not at age five, that I can recall. I almost didn’t want to know what happened next, but I had to ask him. I think he would have told me, either way.

He told me, “They put everyone in fire.”

That gave me chills, and the worst kind. I could just feel my heart stop for a second, because the way he said it was so sad yet honest, as if this was normal. I had to ask him why the aliens did this, and he said the aliens didn’t like people. I asked him why, and he grinned and said, “You know why!” As if everyone should know. He didn’t explain further. He told me the dream made him sad and that nothing else happened, and then he went back to peering out the window. I didn’t ask him any more questions, but I was deeply disturbed by the whole thing. I still am.

What gives kids these thoughts, these nightmares? It’s something beyond our control, certainly. I remember having awful dreams of my mother, a blue and deformed zombie with glowing red eyes, bursting from my closet, rushing toward me, screaming with all the anger any monster could muster. I still cringe to think of that recurring dream. Or, the one about the tyrannosaurus rex that chased me down my grandmother’s long and winding drive way, eventually trampling me. Or, the muddled, black-faced creatures stalking that same grandmother’s house in the middle of a storm, closing in on her as she chopped wood. Or, the image of my recently deceased grandfather’s face, appearing in windows and mirrors, frozen and smiling–all those things petrified my childhood self, and they still hold that power over me. If someone told me to confront those images and scenarios in reality, I would break. Mentally, I would be destroyed.

And we’ve all had our share of alien dreams, I’m sure. And I’m not surprised that Brody has nightmares, nor that any child would. It’s part of life. What did and does surprise me is Brody’s brutal honesty about the whole thing. He had a story to tell, but to him it wasn’t a story. It was nearly reality, and it was as if he knew it was utterly out of his control. As if he knew awful things happened to innocent people, and he was helpless to the progression of life and death and nature.

These musings seem pretentiously profound when I remind myself this is just a five year old’s nightmare.

But with kids like Brody, you can’t help but wonder if they know…more. When my sixteen year old sister Sadie was five or six she had a dream that she was trying to sleep, but God was talking to her through the window. In the dream she told God to stop talking and let her sleep.

Kids are so goddamned beautifully innocent, yet so intelligent at the same time. It’s almost too much to handle sometimes.

*    *    *    *

I’ll leave things here, tonight. A couple other fun tidbits:

I’m working on writing a one-act play about a girl and a ghost who form a friendship, only for it to be taken from them through the natural progression of life and death. I kind of imagine something Disney-esque, with creepy and funny elements tied into it. I’ll direct it this winter, since seniors direct plays every winter at my school.

I’m still watching 30 Rock, and loving it. I just finished Season 3.

I’ll be visiting Kenyon, Bard, and Marist college in the next couple of weeks. I can’t wait to see my first-choice (Kenyon) and my close second (Bard). In September I’ll also see Bennington, which is a tie for second.

*    *    *    *

To the few of you who have subscribed to my posts and liked my posts, I thank you a hundred times. There’s a quote from Dean Koontz that says “If something in your writing gives support to people in their lives, that’s more than just entertainment–which is what we writers all struggle to do, to touch people.”

I hope that I’ve at least managed to touch a couple of people with my posts. That’s all I really want with my writing, be it books or plays or blog posts. While I don’t have the most interesting life, I think we’ve all got stories to tell.

I’ll try to be more frequent with my posts, time allowing. For now, I bid you farewell.

Goodnight, Faithful Readers. Goodnight.

-J

11:31 PM

Friday Musing

It’s finally Friday, and after another (especially) long and tiring week of work, this Friday evening couldn’t come fast enough.

Yes, it’s been one hell of a week. Kids can be and usual are quite insane, and for some reason, this week the energy at camp was pumped up an extra ten notches. With a lack of counselors due to family issues and other personal businesses, the kids seemed to enjoy taking advantage of their increasing outnumbering of those of us who remained.

Despite all the stress, I’m still pleased with the things I’ve done, for the most part. Making connections with the kids is one of the most amazing things, because I don’t know most of them, and it’s crazy to become involved in all their individual lives, one by one. I learn new things about different kids all the time–some things aren’t as pleasant as others. I have to keep in mind that many of the kids come from very difficult backgrounds that range from parental abuse (both physical and verbal) to parental drug usage to poverty and everything else in between. The excruciating thing for the counselors is that we know all these things are going on with these kids, and we only have eight hours to bring any small amount of easy feelings into their lives. Whatever they return to, we can’t do anything for them. It’s sort of awful.

Of course there are always great things to do with camp, it isn’t all negative. But I can’t help thinking about it a few times every day, especially when I look at certain kids…

Aside from all that, I’m still living a personal life. Not much of a social life, though. People are always busy or I’m always busy or just too goddamn tired to do anything. Last week I read Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. That was one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, about an MMORPG and its implications in real life. Wonderfully written with a whole bunch of great references to classic and current sci-fi culture, as well as 80’s culture and so much more. I’m now reading Suttree by Cormac McCarthy, which is definitely a change from Cline’s easy-to-read video game book. McCarthy’s book is supposedly a comedy, though it’s still pretty dark. After all, this is McCarthy we’re talking about.

It’s sad that I begin a paragraph about my social life, and by the time it’s done, all I’ve done is talk about books. Oh well.

I discovered some papers I wrote at the end of Junior year while I was cleaning my room, a while ago. A poem imitating Ginsberg’s “Howl” and a short word-vomit paper about something I had done that was out of the norm for me. My English teacher graded them and loved them, and didn’t have words. They talked in part about my struggles with writing and also with college, and the poem was largely about my dislike for many social norms around St. Johnsbury, which trailed into a long piece about the death of my brother, three and a half years ago. I also received a 5 on my AP English exam. My teacher sent me an email saying simply, “You rock!” and I later saw him–he hugged me.

I don’t have a weird teacher fetish, but I’ll be damned if these things don’t feel amazing. A person I look up to, a person with great intelligence and compassion, who has clearly been impressed with something I’m doing right. It just feels good. Really good. Because he recognizes me for succeeding in things I truly care about, where my parents don’t always seem to know how to react because we’re so different. They don’t get into English and writing and reading and science fiction. It’s not who they are. I feel alienated around them often times, but when people really seem to get it, really seem to appreciate it…that’s what feels best.

Home tonight. I think I’ll crack open some ice cream and popcorn and watch 30 Rock for a while. It’s my new obsession, ever since I had to move on from The Office. Although I’m not quite over it, yet. It’s hard. (That’s what she said.)

I’ll try to write another blog post when I feel interesting.

Adios.

-J
8:50 p.m.