Tag Archives: summer

Writing in the Rain

Rio de FlagI may not be jumping around like Gene Kelly in the rain (writing while dancing is ill-advised, and I would know, because I’ve lost four laptops that way). But I do like writing when it rains.

Growing up, I usually had plenty of free time during summer and Arizona’s monsoon season. In college, I took summer classes during the rainy months, and spent a lot of time indoors next to a window, writing. I associate rain with writing, and I enjoy desert rainstorms. The temperature drops, and the moisture makes everything smell more vibrant, the pine trees and shrubs and soil. Even an overcast sky makes me want to write, even if what I end up writing is terrible.

It’s safe to stay inside when it rains. Overcast skies mean lightning. In the Midwest, rain can sometimes mean tornadoes and flooding, and in Arizona the monsoons always accompany flash flooding, to the point that Arizona even passed a so-called Stupid Motorist Law, which requires drivers who enter flooded areas to pay for the cost of being rescued. I can’t write about rain like it’s a benevolent god when the opposite is equally true. Rain can destroy. But having grown up in a state that, in a few years, will have no water at all has made me appreciate the rain in all its destructive beauty. Noah had the better apocalypse. Drought is not the end I would choose, but it’s what I’ve been dealt.

Rain also feels safer to me, somehow. A swollen, grey-haired overcast sky stretching from horizon to horizon feels like a second roof over the roof over my head. I can hide behind rain curtains, like I’m waiting to go on stage and give a speech or monologue or stand-up routine. It precipitates anticipation, motivates me to prepare for something, but I never find out what. So I prepare by writing, and after the clouds dissipate, I wait for it to rain again.

-jk

The Great Summer Reading List

books

The Summer Reading List is a staple of summer vacations. Like beaches, fireworks, and barbecues, books are a necessity for good summers. I’m sure countless psychologists, anthropologists, literary scholars, and social scientists have devoted hour after hour to calculating the best equation for a summer reading list. It should be filled with books one has meant to read but hasn’t had time to yet. It should be diverse in genre, not just balancing poetry, novels, and plays, but adventure, drama, comedy, romance, or any combination of the reader’s personal preferences. Often they have new releases paired with classics. My summer reading list is hefty; it has books I’ve been meaning to get around to for over five years, as well as books I just discovered months ago. Some come recommended by friends, others I picked up off the shelf on a whim. However, it is most important for a summer reading list to be leisurely and enjoyable. I’ve certainly enjoyed my list so far, and have no intention of slowing my reading until I have to get back to work in the Fall.

My list is as follows:

The Iraqi Nights by Dunya Mikhail (Iraqi poetry)

A Dog About Town by J. F. Englert (murder mystery narrated by a dog)

The Long and Short of It by Pamela Painter (short stories)

The Theory and Practice of Rivers by Jim Harrison (poetry)

With a Strange Scent of World by Víctor Rodríguez Núñez (Cuban poetry)

The Propheteers by Max Apple (historical fiction novel)

Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck (novel)

The Penguin Book of Modern African Poetry

Literature from the ‘Axis of Evil’ by various authors (anthology of works from Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Cuba, Libya, Sudan, and Syria)

The Penguin Book of First World War Poetry 

Fall 2014 edition of Cardinal Sins (literary journal)

Book of Grass by J. V. Brummels (Midwestern poetry)

They Came to Jerome by Herbert Young (Arizona History)

Salt by Earl Lovelace (Trinidadian novel)

Our Father Who Wasn’t There by David Carlin (Australian memoir)

Death and the King’s Horseman by Wole Soyinka (Nigerian play)

Volume 35, No. 1 of Mid-American Review (literary journal)

Healing Earthquakes by Jimmy Santiago Baca (poetry)

Aimless Love by Billy Collins (poetry)

Waiting for the Barbarians by J. M. Coetzee (South African novel)

The Blizzard Voices by Ted Kooser (Midwestern poetry)

All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Remarque (WWI novel)

The Wayward Bus by John Steinbeck (novel)

The Business of Fancydancing by Sherman Alexie (poetry and short stories)

Emails from Scheherazad by Mohja Khaf (Syrian-American poetry)

What books are on your summer reading list? Any favorites? Leave a comment and let me know what you’ve been reading.

-jk

The Summer Limbo

Giant wheel bw

The sun rises earlier, the nights are warmer, yellow pollen is in the air, and Flagstaff’s population shifts from students at the University to tourists on their way to the Grand Canyon or Lake Powell. Like birds in migration, people move backward or forward in summer, propelled into greener forests, taller mountains, warmer beaches. Among those birds in migration, I am absent. I am still perched in Flagstaff.

My time at Northern Arizona University is over; my time at the University of Nebraska has yet to begin. Now I’m in limbo, with no schoolwork, no tests, and lots of free time on my hands. I still have to pack up my life and move to a new state, but I will not be moving for a while, which means I suddenly have no major obligations. After four years of deadlines and assignments, I hardly know what to do with myself.

So far, I’ve been spending my time exploring parts of Arizona I haven’t seen much, like Prescott and Jerome; I’ve been camping, doodling, learning to play the mandolin, working through my reading list of over twenty books (I’m seven books in), and trying to teach my dog that fetch requires letting go of the ball.

I’ve also taken advantage of the free time by writing, or trying to at least. But I feel like I’m in an episode of The Twilight Zone, “Time Enough at Last,” in which the main character Henry finally has enough time to read all the books he can after he becomes the only survivor of a nuclear war. Being The Twilight Zone, poor Henry’s thick glasses slide from his nose and break, rendering him too blind to read. Like Henry, I have plenty of time to do what I love most, more time than I’ll probably ever have again, but something about this summer limbo is blinding me from my creative intuition.

Being in Flagstaff is a nice way to spend the summer. I may not need greener forests, taller mountains, or warmer beaches, but I do need something to realign the way I see my writing, a new perspective, something wrought from a new experience. I’ve had some fantastic experiences this summer, but being stuck between two worlds, physically and emotionally, is disconcerting. Hopefully I’ll break out from this creative complacency soon.

-jk