The interesting thing about getting old is watching it unfold. This is applied science: biology in action, psychology and sociology revealed in real time as I experience the changes in my body and brain. I can react to others’ responses or my own, or I can step back and withhold all judgment. I’m both participant and observer.
I’ve written about aging, about post-seventy tattoos and half-marathons, physical decline in spite of excellent health, dwindling opportunities and increased invisibility, a thicker skin and fuck ‘em attitude about things that used to bother me. The challenge, though, as a writer, is to make this process and my experiences appealing to readers young and old. The former may be inclined to glaze over and think, what has this to do with me? B-o-r-i-n-g. The latter might appreciate commonality, feel less isolated in their own experience, or they might choose to avert their eyes, say I’ve got my own shit to deal with, she doesn’t know the half of it.
Since Baby Boomers entered their seventies they’re writing about aging too, as if they discovered it, expressing the indignity of it all, their painful joints or purported joys, or just plain denial as they grasp at perpetual youth, pronounce seventy to be the new fifty. But I got there first by a few years, and I intend to stay in the conversation. If all else fails, I’ll beat them to eighty and have new stories to tell before they catch up again.
Today we are pleased to feature author Randon Billings Noble as our Authors Talk series contributor.
In “The Sparkling Future, the Eternal Present,” Randon reads an excerpt of her essay, “The Sparkling Future.” She reflects upon the feeling of looking back on past work and (as an essayist) her past self.
Even if we — as writers– have “outgrown the person that told that story,” Randon discusses that this work can continue to have value for readers. The writer might no longer be the same person by the time the writing is published, but its message can still be relevant to those who read it.
I recently wrote a poem without thinking much about it, which seems to be one good way to write a poem. If it’s there, and coming into being, why think about it? Just get it down. I thought about it afterward, though.
Two Middle-aged Springer Spaniels
Two middle-aged springer spaniels,
black and white, with distinguished black freckles on the muzzle, and
one puppy, barely ambulatory, brown and white, slithered through the open screen door
when no one was looking, and charged into the living room. This room was in St. Louis, Missouri,
birthplace of T.S. Eliot and Marianne Moore, and it was large and full of comfortable
furniture. There were some nice-looking worn rugs on the floor, and the two elder dogs
ran around and around on the rugs, crumpling them up. They didn’t bark one bark,
but hurled themselves faster and faster in a circle around the room,
messing up the rugs completely and disassociating them from their rug pads. The dogs were
shedding all the while. Then they went over to the fireplace and upended the woodbox and the
kindling basket. They knocked down all the fire irons on the granite hearth with horrible noise.
The smallest was absorbing all the methods of the elder dogs, who seemed to
know this. They knocked over one of those fancy matchboxes with long matches
that people sometimes give you for visiting presents. Fortunately these didn’t ignite.
Then all three dogs were exhausted, so they crawled under the coffee table
and slept. This happened at my Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Leonard’s house in St. Louis,
and I know because I was there, too, and the thing I liked best about the whole performance
was that Aunt Deirdre and Uncle Leonard sat on the sofa and laughed and laughed the whole time,
and they didn’t tell the dogs to stop or call them bad dog or smack them,
and pretty soon the dogs went outdoors again and ran off into the bushes and down to the garage.
I have neither an Aunt Deirdre nor an Uncle Leonard, and I’ve never been to St. Louis. But I had an aunt and uncle who were similar to them, and they were lovely, forgiving people who knew what their dogs were like, and who loved their animals’ happiness more than a swept and garnished house.
My aunt was able to understand dog values and dog time. She knew that the importance of dog life lay in the chase, and in the curves of the arcs described around the living room, dining room, pantry, kitchen, back storeroom, were important parts of her dogs’ communication with the world and with each other. My aunt knew that the outdoors had a corresponding resonance for her dogs. The dog drama was to cover the ground in a ritual pattern, day and night, and to lead other dogs in the pattern.
My uncle came from a family who thought it was pretentious and hypocritical to have fancy boxes of fireplace matches with pictures of Piazza San Marco on them. I liked to go and stay with them by myself when I was a teenager, because they never seemed to be annoyed with me, unlike some. Could they possibly be in sympathy with people, as well as with dogs? Could they be sensible grownups who didn’t mind who or what you were, but who liked and/or loved you anyway? Would this show me how to laugh at things instead of be randomly angry? I was trying to find out who I was and what to do with my life. My aunt and uncle didn’t seem to mind if I stayed with them sometimes while I figured this out. I think I was lucky to have them.
Among online literary publications, Superstition Review is unique; we are based out of Arizona State University (Polytechnic Campus), and we do not run our magazine out of a physical office. Suffice to say, this provides some advantages and disadvantages. (Though, I’ve got to say that pretty much everybody universally enjoys working in their pajamas.)
Another one of our distinguishing features is that we are a student-run publication. We are in the thick of words and work–we read for our classes, we read to publish, we go to work, we do our homework, and we also publish this Review.
Keeping that in mind, I feel the two main components of the SR experiences are growth and learning.
Every word to this blog, every minute touch up of the site, every poem submitted to our editors enables SR to grow. And as a creative writer myself, I know especially how much writers grow just by building up the strength of their own work and courage just to send something in with the hopes of publication.
We learn; every day is a learning experience. Some of us have never worked this close with publishing, or exclusively in an online environment, or on these many deadlines. Some of us have worked like this before, but with a new team, one always has to adjust to new rhythms. Hopefully, you are learning alongside us every step of the way.