Every bit a Minnesota Man in terms of participation in the annual conferences that gather men from all over, Rick Ferchaud now makes his home in New Mexico, famously promoted and reliably experienced as “the land of enchantment.” The last time there was a drought of these proportions in the American southwest, the maize-based communities of the ancient ones (the Anasazi) were communicating by night using signal fires in the clear desert air. Now our dear friend rekindles one of those signal fires to provide his own report from the canyonlands. – Mark Gardiner
Postcard from the Edge
Falling back on the title of Carrie Fisher’s 1987 memoir, Mark Gardiner told me some months ago that originally, this collection of writing, now called “Real Words, Real Men” was conceived to become a collection of “Postcards from the Edge.” A place where men who were novice writers could express themselves without concern or comparison to the professionals. And a short piece would be okay, no judgment there either. I enjoy the longer pieces by professional writers such as Thomas R. Smith and others, but I like the postcard idea for us amateurs.
I had been considering writing a piece titled “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow”, stealing another title this time from a little book written by Jerome K. Jerome and published in 1886. As a boy, I discovered this book in a collection on my father’s bookshelf and fell in love with Jerome’s wit and humor. I tried to reread it a few months ago to a lady friend, but it did not seem as clever. Maybe I should try once more now that I am again womanless.
The idle thought idea actually had some logic. After thirty five years working slave-like in corporate America, barely surviving two marriages and divorces, and doing at times my best and at other times a mediocre job of helping raise seven children, I was spent. So I did the only thing I could do. With my youngest approaching college graduation, I quit my day job. I sold my house. I gave away most of my belongings. The stuff I could not part with, mostly my long dead father’s belongings, went into storage. By most of my peers’ standards I was broke too, though many people in this country would consider me financially wealthy. I have assets, but no longer much income.
For four years I led the life of a high class vagabond. High class because I kept a car and had some money in the bank to fall back on. Vagabond because I moved around a lot, calling more than a dozen places home during that time. I managed to stretch a planned two-year sabbatical into four by being frugal. Eventually, I found myself with time on my hands. Idle time that initially I had no idea what to do with. But I’m beginning to become proficient at exploring idle thoughts. Jerome says:
It is impossible to enjoy idling thoroughly unless one has plenty of work to do. There is no fun in doing nothing when you have nothing to do. Wasting time is merely an occupation then, and a most exhausting one. Idleness, like kisses, to be sweet must be stolen.
He is so right. I am told, that in the current time of Trump, the analogy is inappropriate. But I don’t give a damn. One can steal a kiss even today from your spouse or lover in an appropriate way. It may be naive and romantic, but I enjoy lingering in this more innocent era.
Now, I live on a farm in northern New Mexico. At this moment, I should be splitting wood for the winter. It gets cold here at 6000 feet elevation in spite of my Canadian friends perspective. Or I could be taking up stalks from this season’s corn crop now hanging from the rafters and putting down some winter wheat. And the plot I plan to plant next season is only half prepared. A good apple year means bushels lie rotting on the ground while bushels more still on the branch are asking to be dried and put up for the winter. The work list is endless. So, having met Jerome’s criteria for enjoyable idleness, I am excelling at it, wrapped in a blanket to stay warm, and thinking about edges. Edges seem important to me. Joel Glanzberg says, the world is made of patterns, and to follow the tracks. Have you seen an animal track without an edge? Or a river? They are everywhere aren’t they? In 1994, just into the second half of her career, the love of my life, Joni Mitchell, wrote a song titled, “Borderline”. The first three stanzas follow:
Everybody looks so ill at ease
So distrustful so displeased
Running down the table
I see a borderline
Like a barbed wire fence
Strung tight strung tense
Prickling with pretense
Why are you smirking at your friend?
Is this to be the night when
All well-wishing ends?
All credibility revoked?
Thin skin thick jokes!
Can we blame it on the smoke,
Every bristling shaft of pride
Church or nation
Team or tribe
Every notion we subscribe to
Is just a borderline
Good or bad we think we know
As if thinking makes things so!
All convictions grow along a borderline
Joni knew how important edges were in 1994. And are we not on the edge of perhaps the most important political election of America’s history? And having ended one more relationship, am I not now teetering on the edge of the next? Will I do better next time? Miguel Rivera taught us recently, “life is a succession of wombs”, so which womb am I in now, and how close to an edge am I? Did I even notice the last one and pass through that birth canal intact? Is there a men’s movement, or a stirring of men no longer content to sit by and be estranged from their souls while our society crumbles around the tribe of humanity? Am I pushing my creative edge, my expressive self? Are you? Or are we wallowing in the middle somewhere, safe on high ground far from the abyss?
Rio Grande Gorge, near Taos, NM
Yes, it’s important to see the edges. And having enough idle time helps.
I think I’ll head down to the edge of the Rio Grande—P’osongeh as they say in Tewa— the large water place, and string up my hammock. Maybe look for some tracks and think about this edge thing some more. I’ll leave you with two items:
Postcard: Lost in Casa Blanca, Abiquiu, New Mexico
Greetings from the edge of America, Northern New Mexico. The 32nd annual MMC was fantastic for me. Thank you for being there whether in body or spirit and heart!
Long Life, Honey in the Heart, No Misfortune, and Thirteen Thank You’s.
– Rick Ferchaud
Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota
by James Wright
Over my head, I see the bronze butterfly,
Asleep on the black trunk,
Blowing like a leaf in green shadow.
Down the ravine behind the empty house,
The cowbells follow one another
Into the distances of the afternoon
To my right,
In a field of sunlight between two pines,
The droppings of last year’s horses
Blaze up into golden stones.
I lean back, as the evening darkens and comes on.
A chicken hawk floats over, looking for home.
I have wasted my life.
- “Idle Thoughts of an Idle Fellow”, by Jerome K. Jerome, 1886. Available online free from online at www.gutenberg.org Release Date: July 26, 2008 [EBook #849]; also check out the site http://www.jeromekjerome.com if interested.
- “The Stories We Tell” by Joel Glanzberg ; RWRM; http://www.minnesotamensconference.com/2015/09/12/the-stories-we-tell-by-joel-glanzberg/
- Joni Mitchell, Crazy Crow Music, 1994; http://jonimitchell.com/music/song.cfm?id=79
- Green Fire Times, December 2015, Vol. 7, No. 12; “A Tribute to Rina Swentzell”, pp16.
- “Long Life, Honey in the Heart, No Misfortune, and Thirteen Thank You’s”, from Martin Prechtel.
- James Wright, “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy’s Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota” from Above the River: The Complete Poems and Selected Prose. Copyright 1990 by James Wright.