Full Moon on the Rise

I’m taking a plotting class.

For the second time now. Not as in, I flunked the first time so I have to take it again to get a passing grade for my major. That was Immunology. Why Immunology among all those hard-core pre-med courses I took? I have no idea. No one knows which heel is the one that didn’t get sufficiently dipped, I suppose.

No, this is a different online plotting class that I’m trying because I keep feeling like I should learn how to plot better.

And no, this has never been feedback on my book, that the plot has to be stronger. I think I have this idea that if I learn to plot, everything will be much easier. See, the RWA folks are all about plotting vs. pantsing. In fact, they ask you that after they ask your name and where you’re from at receptions. The first time someone asked me, I couldn’t even figure out what word they were saying. “Pantser” is a person who writes by the seat of her pants, rather than plotting out the story ahead of time.

I’m not fond of the term, frankly.

I dropped out of the first plotting class because I hated it so much. They had us start with loglines, which is basically your pitch line. “A beautiful young girl, abused by her family, sneaks into a dance where she captures the heart of the local charming ruler. Afraid that he’ll spurn her once he discovers her base origins, she flees, forcing him to search for her so they might live happily ever after.”

That kind of thing.

And my deal is, I don’t know how you can know what the story is about until I write it. Writing for me is a process of discovery. I write essays the same way. And these blog posts. You can probably tell that half the time I don’t know what my point is. I start with an image or an idea and talk about it for a while. Sometimes I make it to a point, sometimes I don’t.

When I *do* find a point, it’s a wonderful moment. My friend, Craig Arnold, now a dead poet, which he might actually find kind of amusing, taught me a way to think of it. I think it was the Chinese, he said, who talk about the moment the poem “opens its eyes.”

I live for that moment. Which I suppose makes me a crazy writer, even if not a cinematically worthy one.

Starting with the logline is, to me, like starting with the moment the story opens its eyes. Which feels fundamentally wrong and backwards, like I’m jumping to the end without having earned it.

Like all ventures that can end in a thrilling reward, there’s also doubt and fear. Which is probably why I keep thinking I should learn to plot. Just in case. So I started a second class. And we’re starting with loglines. I’ll give it a few more days.

Prophylactic heel-dipping, as it were.

The Point of No Return

The time has come to say good-bye.

Funny how that time is different for every person. How we each work our way through hope until we can face reality and know when to let something die.

My friend, Angela, spotted this article about my lost friend, Craig, the other day. I was grateful she sent it, since it’s a loving and lovely tribute to him. And it sums up his disappearance and presumed death. She commented that, after reading my postings about it, this confirmed for her the ending of it all.

For me, that final post about it on May 8 was when I came to terms.

Though to confess the hardness of my heart — I’d given up hope well before that. While his family fought to extend the search for weeks and weeks, I gave up on him after about five days. After that, I figured that, even if they found his body, he couldn’t be alive.

Perhaps I’m not a hopeful person.

Had I been Odysseus’ wife, I would have remarried long since.

Perhaps it’s just an acquired skill. Having lost my father, when I was very young, I think I learned something about letting go. Elizabeth Bishop says that the art of losing isn’t hard to master and I think she’s right. You learn that someone can be there one moment and vaporize the next.

The hard part becomes the holding on.

In many ways, I think it’s hard to hold out hope. It takes constant energy to hope that something isn’t so. To somehow remold the past, to change the outcome. Maybe that’s why we regard hope as a virtue, because it can be so difficult to generate and maintain.

Yet, I believe there’s also a virtue to finding the end of something. To knowing that it’s over and having the courage to recognize it.

I think the articles and memorials for Craig have just now kicked in because school restarted. As if everyone took summer vacation from grief and worry. And from hope, perhaps. Now is the time to wind it all up. It’s appropriate, since Craig lived according to the ebb and flow of the academic calendar.

Beginnings and endings.

Farewell, Craig.

Alpha and Omega

Among twenty snowy mountains,
The only moving thing
Was the eye of the blackbird.

It was evening all afternoon.
It was snowing
And it was going to snow.
The blackbird sat
In the cedar-limbs.

Today is for the beginning and the end.

I wasn’t able to post earlier today and maybe that was meant. My sojourn with Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird coincided with the search for our friend and wonderful poet, Craig Arnold.

The news has come in that he’s gone. I’ll let the letter from his partner, Rebecca, stand for any words I might add.

Our dear friends and family,

Though Craig himself has not been recovered, the amazing expert trackers of 1SRG have been able to make themselves and us certain of what has become of Craig. His trail indicates that after sustaining a leg injury, Craig fell from a very high and very dangerous cliff and there is virtually no possibility that Craig could have survived that fall. Chris will pursue what he can about getting specialists to go down into the place we know Craig is so we can bring him home, but it is very, very dangerous and we are not yet completely certain what that will require. The only relief in this news is that we do know exactly what befell Craig, and we can be fairly certain that it was very quick, and that he did not wait or wonder or suffer.

I cannot express again the profound gratitude I feel to everyone who has loved and honored Craig with their goodwill, their immense efforts and energy, and their overwhelming generosity. I believe that where he is, Craig knows.

There will be further occasion to celebrate Craig, and when I know more I will post it.

For my part, I love Craig beyond the telling of it and will always love him as immeasurably, as enduringly, as steadfastly and as unconditionally as I do now and have done these past six years. In leaving our family, Craig, in a manner absolutely characteristic of his own vast generosity and capacity to inspire, brought us all closer together than we perhaps have ever been. I feel his presence, loving and understanding and funny and deeply feeling, at all times. I hope you do, too.

With love,R.

Hope Is a Thing With Feathers

The river is moving.
The blackbird must be flying.

It’s been officially a week now that Craig has been missing.

I only know this because I’ve been keeping track. Really nothing substantial in my life has changed. In many ways we feel odd, his friends, continuing with our lives. Finishing out the semester for his colleagues. Planning and publicizing our own book celebrations. The robins and crows continue their spring dance. The river swells with snowmelt. Craig wasn’t expected to be here anyway, so nothing has changed.

There’s really nothing TO do at this point, once we’ve let everyone know, applied the political pressure, donated to the search fund. I check the updates on the search, but it’s not like that changes anything. It doesn’t help find Craig.

Today’s update:

5/5 9:18am EST: Thanks to the money raised through The Fund to Find Craig Arnold, we have been able to engage the help of an independent search and rescue team (1SRG) who arrived at Kuchino-erabu yesterday afternoon. The local authorities brought the team up to speed, and they immediately began searching; they believe they have picked up Craig’s trail. They will be on the island until the 9th, looking, though obviously we all hope Craig will be found before then. However, the official search for Craig has been called off by the Japanese authorities. We need everyone’s help contacting their local congressional delegation and asking their assistance in encouraging the Fukuoka consulate to engage local US military/DOD assets on the ground in Japan. They have been thinking about it and we need them to move forward with that as quickly as possible.

I picture them there, like a scene from some Pacific theater WWII movie. The jungle vegetation, the Japanese villagers. Teams of searchers stand under canopies, studying maps laid across folding tables. But I am only an audience for this drama, despite my stake in the hero’s survival. I am not part of it.

One of the most disconcerting aspects of death and loss is how little changes, outside of our hearts. It seems that all the world should stop. Nothing does. You must eat, feed your cats, show up for your job, even enjoy the birds and the joy of writing. You forget for stretches of time that your friend is missing and that people on the other side of the world are finding his trail, exhausting themselves to find him.

So, I check the updates several times a day. As if this makes a difference.

I hope, thinking maybe it will.

Spread Your Tiny Wings and Fly Away

The blackbird whirled in the autumn winds.
It was a small part of the pantomime.

My friend is missing.

As in there are search parties looking for him, with dogs and helicopters.

You may have heard about it already, since his friends and family have been working hard to spread the news. The object of the publicity is to keep the Japanese government searching, something they planned to suspend after three days. Yes, he’s on a volcanic island, Kuchino-erabu-shima, in Japan. He’s been visiting volcanoes and writing poetry about them — what can I say? That’s part of what makes him an interesting guy.

His last Facebook post was on Sunday, when he said “Craig Arnold is at long last leaving Princess-Mononoke-Land.” That status remains. I’m really hoping it won’t become an ironic elegy.

There’s a Facebook page for him: Find Craig Arnold.

On that group are people’s letter templates for writing to representatives. They call Craig a national treasure. Someone sure to become US Poet Laureate someday. All steps must be taken to find him because of his exceptional talents. They mention his Yale education, his poetry fellowship to Rome, his many awards.

All of this is true. And it’s great to use that kind of pressure, for political reasons.

But it should be enough that we want him found because he’s a wonderful friend to so many. One of those guys who manage to be vital, funny and sensitive. When he coordinated the visiting writers program at UW, he made sure to invite me, a local writer not affiliated with the MFA program. He invited me to lunches with authors he knew I’d like to meet. When I’d show up for readings, he’d flash me a smile. Craig had a knack for making people feel special, that he was genuinely delighted to see you. Every time.

In one of his last Facebook exchanges, one of Craig’s friends asked if they really had 111 friends in common. He responded, “the question is, can I really have 111 friends, period?”

Yes, Craig, you can. You have thousands wanting you to come home.