The act of graduation, Incipit Vita Nova, Yoda, Jazz, and more.
(Disclaimer before you put eyeballs on this: This was partly written in haste—grammar potholes, absent words that didn’t show up to class (( meaning, the entry), metaphoric follies that pull a reader deep into a meta Nazaré Canyon—the underwater landform off the coast of Portugal—say, are all my fault. Forgive me. I am dedicated to improving my writing, retooling like the language is in a NASCAR pit—the loud whips and whaps of air compressors, wrenches, jacks, the coordinated jumpsuit and helmeted people…see this sentence is a folly. Now, to the main event.)
Dear Readers of Tuck Talk,
It has been a little bit. I have been busy with a graduation and a new job. Life has never been better. First off, way back in the beginning of May, I graduated with my Masters degree! Some my family members—my sister! my aunt! my 80+ year-old grandparents!—flew down and surprised me! I was putting in a pizza when my partner, Meg walked in and said, “Can you go check the mail.” I threw off my oven mitts and walked outside excited for the possibility of an interesting piece of mail. Instead, it was something better than anything that could be delivered: my sister, who lives in LA, sat on our front porch, smiling back with her voluminous flow of curly hair dangling. I yelled, “What!” and felt like Star Trek had broken out of the box of imagination and given us the ability to transport people—beam them across many galactic miles. No sci-fi here, though, just good old fashioned planning and timing. Special shout out to my love and heart, Meg for planning this moment for months and orchestrating a surprise that will stay pieced in my memory for as long as my brain has blood and oxygen.
The weekend bathed me in a specialness, a hyper glow of memory—it won’t and can’t be forgotten. The morning of graduation, hours after my grandparents and aunt emerged from a rental car in my driveway, with the weather gods keeping the dial at a cool, mesmerizing 70-75 degrees, adding a new, spectacular level to the surprises, I tried to reflect on what had happened. I began to cry when I stood in the crowd of hundreds of other graduates. I painted my work logo on my graduation hat. I felt the lack of sleep from the night before hanging with my sister do some kind of bongo drum on my temples. This simple stage, this simple act of getting your name called out, shaking the hand of the President of the university, this wreath of celebration and golden button on achieving a degree.
When I entered the program, I might have not been the type of person who would attended graduation. I would’ve waited for the degree in the mail and mentally would have tried to cauterize the entire experience from my memory. Now, though, three and half years later, I am the type of person who would walk at graduation. Who would take part in the celebration. I was a tad cynical, worried, if not a bit sad, back then—I am not wholly rid of these characteristics as dominate modes of operation from time to time, to be sure, but I am better. I thought of who I was when I entered this program, back in fall of 2018, and who I am now. How much has changed. How many goals have been met and possibilities created. To stand on that stage, to be here with my family, my lovely partner and best friend, to have a job I love, to have a summer of other celebrations and visits planned, made me feel outrageously grateful. I remember three-and-a-half years ago how I wanted—so badly—everything I now I have. Time, effort, luck, and yes, work, can transform your circumstance.
I wish I could have paused that moment and thanked every little bit of luck I have had getting to this place. In reaching this transformation. This moment on the stage, seeing the thousands of families and parents and other-type of graduates was a frame, a picture on the wall. Every picture you keep has a world within it—a whole long story and complicated mess of a situation that lead to that picture and will take place after it. We keep the pictures to capture a piece, to pause, and to reflect in that picture’s power and perhaps, goodness. The weekend meant everything to me. Here are a couple of my favorite pictures:
So, moving on from graduation, I am going to try to insert writing lessons here, or creative scribbles. I get to be creative everyday in my work, and write, but I am also going to try to bring some other stuff, outside of job duties, into existence. Here, on Tuck Talk, or this newsletter, I will share resources, lessons, and perhaps, when they are ready, actual written stories when they are written. I also still have a book to publish. I may have stories to publish, too. Whatever I learn or pick up or find interesting will make it here. If things get updated—if I get a Yes in the world of Nos—this will serve as a platter to the good news. The newsletter will be ideas on being creative, perhaps on how to maintain a good attitude, and other fun, loud, absurd stuff.
Two books: I have read a lot of books about the grieving. Books about dead mothers, dead partners, dead fathers, dead siblings, dead friends, dead pets even, whole communities obliterated, lost parts of the self. Etc. To read this stuff is to live forever in the crack of a cracked teacup. My book rattles with that ethos, so I thought I should know the landscape before I make my own landform, if you know what I mean. If you wish to go into that world, or rather, if you need to, as I have needed to, so you might understand your own grief, and the Mind Knot that is grief and loss, there isn’t a gentler and more wonderful book than Kathryn Schulz’s Lost and Found. As a blurb on the jacket indicates, it’s a memoir from a happy person—and yet, the first half is about loss, the loss of a father in particular. “The loss of someone you love is too immense an experience to take in all at once. Only belatedly does it begin to reveal itself in its fullness, after the terrible king tide of grief has receded, leaving all kinds of strange things behind,” Schulz writes, expertly, as someone who knows the feeling of loss. She points out that this feeling—albeit, terrible and mystifying—is part of living. We spend time looking everything from lost keys in our apartment to lost airplanes in the Pacific Ocean.
In as much as we lose, the act of finding, the subject of the other half of this book, is also part of the human experience. When is the last time you read a good, true, flesh and blood story of someone finding their love? I have rarely encountered such texts that have done it well or thoughtfully. Yet, so many people love this type of story—I would say it dominates the conversations of intrapersonal communication between friends. Schulz manages to catapult us in that joy with descriptions of how she found her partner and the explosive love, marriage, and engrossing depth that comes with it. “This is the thing I try to explain to people who are still looking for a partner and despair of ever finding one:,” she tells the reader who might doubts love exists—“not having found love and finding love are wholly incommensurable conditions, yet you can cross from one to the other in a single day. Dante did, the instant he met Beatrice—an experience he later described with perfect concision and, although he normally wrote in Italian, in Latin, to give it its due gravity. Incipit vita nova, he wrote, of the moment of finding love: a new life begins.”
I can’t pull away from this book without including and letting you know there is a special, powerful treat on page 175 (my copy anyways) near the end of part 2: “Writers of romantic stories, in other words, generally dwell on love’s beginning or on its end but largely neglect its middle—which, per our general lack of interest in happiness, they seek to make as short as possible. But actual lovers do exact opposite: they seek to make the middle as long as they can; they wish it would go on forever.”
The rest of the paragraph goes on from there and makes me want to tattoo it across my back for its beauty expels any beauty I could ever wear or gloat.
The other book, Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe is a political thriller about Northern Ireland. It’s a page turner, that follows four individuals throughout the Troubles, and at the heart of it is the mystery of a murder. As a reader though—through Keefe’s extraordinary ability to metabolize research and strategic play-out of information—you find the vortex of mystery that surrounds Ireland’s recent political history. It opened my eyes to a history I knew little about, and yet, gave me all the thrills and bumps of a good-old fashion crime story.
Other small stuff: My friend just released a new online zine, of sorts, Granola Paper on Insta—check it out for flash fiction, poetry and more! NPR music Jazz night in America playlist if you are like me, want something in the background to fill the silence. I also recommend the Fresh Jazz list from Spotify. Did you know that San Fran has a Yoda statue? I love that it exists. Lastly, for those of you with boys, or if you yourself identify as a boy or a man, it can be hard to calibrate how to be masculine. This CNN article on how to think about Aspirational Masculinity versus, the much known and smelly Toxic Masculinity, offered some good starting points for thinking about masculinity. It may help organize those thoughts, if you have them, as I do, as masculinity—one way or another—is a part of my body and life.
That’s all for now. Next time, I will write about earnestness and Coldplay and the true Coldplay divide. Love and cheers out to the world.
(Disclaimer: Edits will be made; as errors more than likely occurred)