Writing

Intrinsick Mag

Launching November 1, 2015 – Intrinsick Magflowchart

INTRINSICK MAG’s goal is to publish one memorable story per week beginning sometime in November 2015, or whenever we can collect enough quality submissions to ensure our unpredictable standards of quality can be upheld.  Our style is humorous, quirky, unusual, unbecoming, uncomfortable, or, best case scenario, a misguided hybrid of all these. Genre is not important, so long as the story is amusing and unforgettable.  Fiction or creative nonfiction, 2000 words or less. Check www.intrinsick.com for guidelines and more info.

More Info – Intrinsick Mag dot Com

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Tsundoku

She had big aspirations in regards to books. There were so many books she wanted to read, but the problem was not enough time to read them. Even if it was her full time job to just read books, like someone decided to give her a generous salary and health insurance and a 401K just to read, there would never be enough time. Even if she never slept or ate, and spent every second of every day reading, there would not be enough time to read all the books she wanted to read, let alone all the books she might want to read, not even counting all the books she had no interest in reading at all. And what about all the great books that hadn’t been written yet? This desire to read became the seed for her obsession.

Despite the fact that some people considered the printed book irrelevant or obsolete in the digital age, and even if there was never another printing of another book ever again, there were just so many great books already. And while she didn’t necessarily want to read all of them, she did want to read many of them. So she made a habit of going into used book stores and buying books that she thought she might like to read. In this way she ended up buying way more books than she could ever possibly devour, no matter how many hours per day she spent, but she couldn’t stop herself from buying more. Eventually she conceded that she just liked having books more than actually reading them, and this realization caused her book purchasing to accelerate.

She began stacking them in her bedroom and guest room, and soon stacks lined the walls of the hallways. She started grouping them by subject and by spine color, and arranged the piles like some elaborate Tetris-inspired art installation. Then, after the stacks covered all the walls and stretched from floor to ceiling like paperback pillars, she started stacking her books in the shape of furniture. She made a reading chair out of books, and stacked books to make a little side table. She put a book and a reading lamp on her table made of books. She even made a bookshelf out of books, where she placed books that she still entertained the fantasy of reading, on shelves that allowed easy access instead of locked away in the literary architecture of her design. When the book towers in the hallway tumbled like dominoes and blocked access to the bathroom, the urgency of her bladder helped her recognize her own absurdity, triggering an epiphany. She decided then and there she had get all these books our of her house, and just like that the perfect idea appeared in her mind.

She carried the books outside and began stacking them, weaving the covers and pages of the books together to give the piles more stability. She constructed one wall, and then another, making eight walls altogether and forming a rough approximation of an octagon.  She tapered the walls toward each other as they grew taller, so that eventually they met in the middle, forming an acute and precarious-looking roof, surprisingly stable despite using only gravity and the interlocking of the book pages to stay fastened together. She borrowed a ladder from her neighbor and stacked higher than seemed prudent, but the more books she plugged into her structure the more stable it became. Some called it a shrine, or a temple, or a library, or a fortress, or an eyesore. It was all these things to her, except for the eyesore part. She thought it was beautiful, a monument to books built out of books.

When she finally finished her structure to her liking she could think of nothing better to do than to sit down with one of her books and actually read it. And when she finished reading each subsequent book she added it the structure with pride, and once again felt inspired by just how wonderful books could be.

tsundoku

pillar of life

Tsundoku – Japanese (noun) – Leaving a book unread after buying it, typically piled up together with other unread books.


Number 3 of the Lost in Translation series 

Pisan Zapra

It starts with picking just the right one. So many to choose from. Not too green; it shouldn’t be crunchy. Too brown and it’s mushy and hard to swallow. It’s a texture thing. It’s got to be just right.

Then comes the peeling. Start at the stem and work your way down. No need to rush here. Take your time. Relish this common but extraordinary moment. Sometimes it seems like magic. When you’re done with the peel just toss it in the bushes, or place it discretely in somebody’s path for a hilarious display of slapstick.

Now all that is left is the fruit itself, the tender, delicious inside. Isn’t that just like so many things in life? If you can figure out a way past the unsavory outer covering there are precious treasures hidden within. Isn’t it funny where we can find these lessons?

The fruit is delicious yes, but also nutritious. Vitamin C. Potassium. Manganese, Vitamin B6. Enjoy it. Make it last. Give thanks to whatever you choose to thank, for supplying such earthly delights. Giving thanks is an important part of appreciation. Studies have shown that the act of giving thanks helps us truly appreciate things more. Do I even have to remind you to enjoy it?

See, that didn’t take too long, and we aren’t really in a hurry anyway, Maybe there is time to eat another.

Just one more.

IMG_0989

Pisan Zapra – Malay (noun) – The time needed to eat a banana.


Number 1 of the Lost in Translation series

Dino Eggs for Sale

brontocopy

Check out my latest published story in the January issue of Jersey Devil Press.

Brontosaurus, by J.D. Hager

“Jacob found purpose in those eggs. He took them to his sandbox and buried them with exaggerated care. He constructed a small protective structure out of twigs and acorns, and guarded and doted over them like he himself had laid them.”

The Impermanence of Memory

“Memories warm you up from the inside. But they also tear you apart.”

― Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore (via goodreads)

 

Back before the Fall

Back before the Fall

On a recent trip to the doctor my mom and sister were driving home and were stopped at a red light. Plastered on the bumper of the car in front of them was a bumper sticker declaring, Joy Comes From Within.

What do you think about that, Mom? Joy comes from within.”

I can almost hear the annoyed sigh my mom must have made. “Joy come from within, huh? Well, let me know when it comes out.”

This has become an inside joke amongst us as we battle for meaning in the face of my mom’s Alzheimer’s. We will remind ourselves that joy comes from within as we laugh in the face of the depression we feel. These are the memories I will hold on to. I don’t want to remember the tears, the confusion, the sad pleas for help. I want to remember the joy that comes from within.

I have accepted the fact that my mother is dying slowly, not unlike my father. Her path will be different, but the destination will be the same. In my father’s case his body went before the brain, while my mother’s descent will proceed in the opposite order, her mental state deteriorating until the body fails. I often wonder as I watch the Deer Hill Dinner Theatre which is preferable, to lose control of one’s mind or one’s body. When I struggled through those years watching my father battle his own body after his accident, many of his favorite things in life taken from him as a C-4 quadriplegic, I could imagine no greater tragedy than being confined to a wheelchair. But having seen my mother’s sad dive into dementia, I realize that there are so many important parts of life that stay unappreciated. How many people give thanks for the ability to walk, the ability to feed themselves, the ability to remember yesterday? How many people truly understand the significance such simple actions?

Seeing the people you love suffer is not easy, but the shock is somehow eased through the process of acceptance. In the case of Alzheimer’s, what is perhaps saddest is that my mother herself will never be able to reach this final plateau of the grief hierarchy, that she will never be able to embrace her condition and comprehend the trajectory. Not only is she unaware that she has a disease which will eventually destroy the part of her brain that controls the autonomic function of her internal organs, but she has no idea that she is even sick. Another cruel trick of fate. She still calls the disease old-timers, and considers her memory only slightly hindered. Sometimes she has a moment of lucidity and realizes that something is wrong with her, but cannot understand the implication of the reasons before the moment fades away. My father was well aware of the fate that eventually awaited him, and I’d like to think he was able to accept it and move on. I often wonder if that gave him closure.

Closure is another ambiguous term that gets thrown about when people discuss grief and loss. Is it coincidence that the fifth and final step of the standard lesson format most teachers learn in their training programs is called closure? Closure provides summary and context. Closure deepens understanding through scaffolding and connections with preexisting knowledge. Closure creates a bridge between what happened today and what will happen tomorrow. Closure is supposed to be the part where the other portions of the lesson introduced earlier come into focus, leading to deeper meaning and understanding. Closure is when everything gets wrapped up in a neat little package that students can take with them. It is considered the most important part of the lesson, and is also the hardest part to get right. Unfortunately not all lessons can be so easily wrapped up with a bow. Some lessons are open ended and ambiguous. Some lessons remain ongoing and aren’t ready to be closed. I felt that if I transcribed all these memories and saw them on paper, that meaningful closure would come to me. I am still searching for it. I know it must be here somewhere.

From all this I am reminded above all that I have lots to be thankful for, but in the tumult of daily life it is easy lose sight of this fact. It usually takes tragedy to remind us of these things we should be thankful for, which ironically is a tragedy in itself. Must we really have something taken away from us before we can appreciate it? Is it that absence makes the heart grow fonder, or can we never truly see that which is right in front of us? Are we destined to lament and covet what is missing rather than exalt and celebrate the amazing abilities and relationships we still possess?

These memories of my father and mother are the memories that have shaped me, and I hold on to these memories tight, afraid to let them go. Some even argue that our memories make us, that without our memories we would not be the same person. I’m not ready to tackle this debate, in truth. But in order to prevent forgetting I will continue to write them all down, everything that makes sense and especially everything that doesn’t. I will read it over and over and try to reach an understanding of what it means. Hopefully the act of writing it all down will prevent me from forgetting. Somewhere in this act I will find closure.

Understanding now that the persistence of memory is never guaranteed, I don’t want to lose these memories, no matter how painful, because if we don’t have our memories, what is left?


 

Written for the DP Weekly Writing Challenge: Memoir Madness

I had been working on this piece to publish this Wednesday, but decided to publish a little early for the Weekly Writing Challenge.

What do you think? Any feedback, advice, or constructive criticism is always welcome.