Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Poor Man's Sting Speaks

It occurs to me that my life is full of miniature representations of dreams that I have had. It is as if I have taken the things I have always wished for and placed them around me, like knickknacks.

Not me.
First, I am a poor man's Sting. (Well, maybe a destitute man's Sting.) I don't say this to compare talent levels, but to show that where he is a former English teacher who worked in clubs as a musician and went on to become one of the most famous popular musicians of all time, I, too, am a bookish fellow who became a teacher of literature and who remaines a very active musician (of whom few have heard). A result of his having been one of my musical and lyrical heroes? Partly.

As a teenager, I wanted to be John Williams (the film/orchestral composer) but that hasn't happened; though, I did score a full-length independent film. So, I, you know, have done it, at least.

No word on an Oscar yet.

I write books that no one has published (I blame my business-lazy self), including a first book that is an epic fantasy (I wanted to be the next Tolkien; now I'd like to be the next Steinbeck). I do the writerly thing, but in miniature, at least as far at the world is concerned. My audience is a few hundred loyal blog-readers per day; this is not an enduring legacy or a fantasy film franchise. No literature awards. No discussions of my work in college classrooms. (I like to still think "not yet" but all of these possibilities would require my actively pursuing publication.)

As a student, I was enamoured of the Romantic poets. I was just as interested in their lives as in their work, in some ways, and I made a pilgrimage to the Lake District to visit Wordsworth's Dove Cottage and to walk the green, poetry-seeping hills. I sat high, looking down at the village and started planning ways to spend my life there...

Not my house.
Well, I don't live there. I live in New Jersey. But we did pick a house in the back of a small town and that house backs up to a decent strip of woods. If you go out there and crouch low, you might imagine you are surrounded by a forest primeval. There was a time, before humans swarmed the area, when the whole area must have been gorgeous. Even Whitman lived in the area and called it one of the most beautiful places he had seen in the world. My woods are beautiful once you get down inside them, alongside the dark creek. But within three minutes, you can be on a neighborhood street crisscrossed with phone lines and buzzing with lawn mowers.

I don't mean this to be a midlife-crisis posting about my shortcomings, though, one could see it that way. But one can also see it as a valiant effort on a road not yet completely traveled. What I am proud of is not having ever been a "poser." I wanted to be a writer and I am, regardless of the scant reward. I wanted to live someplace with the beauty of nature and I do, at least to some extent. I have always wanted to be a musician and a composer and I am. So many of my friends with similar dreams gave up on all of it when "reality" set in.

Also not me.
I've always hated that.

And none of the above dreams were ever worth trading love and family for. You could hand me a Grasmere home full of Oscars and Nobels and I wouldn't trade it for the life I have built with my wife and kids.

So, I'll live this way, gathering the miniatures of my dreams on the shelves around me. But I'll never stop dreaming big. Why would I?

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