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Give TOE Your Joycean Epiphany and Letters Home From Boot Camp!


Before I begin trying in earnest to construct another one of my pseudo-insightful posts, I want to take a timeout to get the blood flowing properly in these ten fingers of mine, fingers that have been encumbered, through no fault of their own, with what will amount to a lifetime of writing, which is to say, a lifetime of pounding keys.

Not long ago, CAT posted about his ephemeral run-in with Blue Mounds State Park.  I had not heard of this conservatory in Minnesota until the morning I refreshed my inbox and opened my only unread email, another ditty from CAT, and ditty is le mot juste when it comes to not only this CAT email but all CAT emails, for they rarely span longer than a single line and, thanks to his ufta-Minnesota accent, read like the sound of music, that is to say, frolicsome.

Anyhow, this email said something along the line of, “I don’t want to get too far into travelogues, but it was an interesting day trip.”

I didn’t know what he meant by any of it because the email that directly preceded this one was a request from me.  I asked him if he would be willing to publish some of his old letters from boot camp.  It followed that I was expecting this email, which was literally his email following my question, to be a response.  The first few words were I don’t want to get too far into… so I immediately figured that he wasn’t prepared to sign a kind of power of attorney over his boot camp letters, and this was precisely the answer that I wasn’t prepared to receive.

In scanning farther, however, and taking due note of the paper clip icon alerting me of the presence of an attachment, I learned that this email was nearly the equivalent of him saying okay to my request to publish his letters home from boot camp.  After all, both provided high-quality, CAT-esque content.

But let me point out that nearly is the keyword here, for his letters home from boot camp and his travelogue to a state park where, probably for good reason, I’ve never visited and that, when all is said and done, CAT himself finds boring, these two posts do not have the same value.  It’s simple:  the letters home from boot camp are clearly more engaging than the travelogue to an unengaging and unimpressive place, not to mention more abundant.

In terms of my skill to write, this is the best approximation of my frame of mind when I downloaded and opened his attachment, which you can be directed to in published form here, or – if you’ve read this far, thank you! – you can continue my warm-up.

I read CAT’s email, and somewhere shallow inside the opening paragraph I began to laugh, so I reread snippets to sufficiently grasp the timbre of CAT’s prose; I felt his writing deserved this much.  It was not only his clever way of using paranthesis that I liked, but the content in between, which I found to be quite funny, especially when I invoked his ufta-Minnesota accent:

(better, I suppose, than Luverne – “Where I-90 and U.S. 75 Meet!”  or Luverne – “A Place to Grow!” or Luverne – “Small-town Living, Big Time Opportunities…”)

Right from the kickoff, CAT had me reading so happily that any passerby would have known immediately how happy I was to be reading.  I followed CAT past the sign for Wall Drug, past windmills, past the Trosky Lutheran Church with “tender solicitude directed towards strangers’ spiritual welfare.”

I remember the first time I read that phrase, Spiritual Welfare.  I remember letting its impact move me into opening my notebook, then taking a moment of pause, staring out the window, voicing the phrase rapidly several times, and then writing:  Spiritual Welfare, a tongue twister.

The lover of knowledge in me, that is to say, the philosopher, wanted to pen a steady stream of consciousness full of weighty reflections, each adding to the profundity of this tongue twister.  And to think that it took CAT’s travelogue to Blue Mounds State Park, a location so out-of-the-way and, before CAT’s email, unknown, for me to be introduced to this wholesome concept!

This Just In :: Blue Mounds State Park Boring? was the prerequisite.

But let me get back to the park:  Apart from CAT explaining the origin of its name – “when prairie is verduous in spring, it appears blue on the horizon”, and the park itself consists of “a mound covered in tallgrass prairie”, hence, Blue Mounds State Park – apart from that, CAT also describes his hike atop the quartz outcropping, Eagle Rock, which, at an elevation of 1,700 feet, offers a unique 360° panorama into three states.

In the name of optimism, I have to believe that a panorama of this quality will infuse our human bodies with grace, and succor our spiritual welfare.  Although CAT tries to make himself out to be the exception, although he tries to be that one somebody who isn’t infused with grace and doesn’t receive succor for his spiritual welfare at the sight of this land’s bulge and roll, his prose begs to differ:

I climbed atop [Eagle Rock] and stood with my arms crossed, the warm south wind blowing through my hair, and a pale February sun shining down on me.  I cast my gaze north, south, east, and west, an endless beige checkerboard with farmstead pieces stretching in all directions under a wide-open cerulean sky. After about three minutes, I got bored, thought it would be a terrible place to be in a thunderstorm, clambered down, and sauntered back to my car.

At an elevation of 1,700 feet, looking into the expanse of three different states, CAT wants us to believe that he got bored and, what is more, only reflected on how bad a refuge Blue Mounds State Park would be in a thunderstorm.  In this way, he casually trades the liberation of a singular openness for the confinement of a car.  This is indeed what he wants us, his audience, to believe, but since we’re readers as opposed to listeners,  and he must write to us as opposed to speak to us, we read and feel the undertow of inspiration wrap around our legs, an undertow that, when we’re released into safe sea, breeds new life.  No matter how hard CAT tries to conceal his Joycean epiphany on Eagle Rock behind the guise of prosaic, matter-of-fact sentences, the grace and spiritual welfare he received while summited won’t let him succeed, at least not in writing.  His words must betray him.

In the meanwhile, I’m left wondering about the specifics of this Joycean epiphany in Blue Mounds, and waiting for an answer regarding the publication of his letters home from boot camp.

There is no time for withholding, CAT.

February 25, 2009 2:08 pm

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