All posts by Rob's Surf Report

Rob lives near the geographical center of the North American continent with his wife, daughters, and (unfortunately) two cats. Most days he's a member of the law enforcement community, and tries to keep himself sane by making himself both stronger and more creative. His big plan is to find a way back to the coast and to stay there for good so he surf the livelong day.

Not just another Tanka Tuesday

Have you ever found yourself clearing out a craft space that has long sat unusued, only to discover a finished product that never saw the light of day?

I said the other day I’d be working my way through the handful of drafts in my draft folder. Here’s one that I found today, and it was fully written. Here it is, with zero changes. Originally written on December 20, 2016, this post dates from about a year after the lights started going out on my original spate of blogging . . . about three years solid, and five years since post one (seriously, I just scrolled through all of it; Holy Hannah Banana, I have a ton of material!) Today this blog is nearly eleven years old and I have some cobwebs to clean out, but as it turns out, I also have something left over to offer — a little look into the mood that pulled me off the page for so long . . . .

room by room
turning off the lights
unsure as to why
I get the impression
it’s time to withdraw


I’m pretty sure I’ve been islanding. I’m almost certain that it’s not entirely my fault — I blame some of it on climate change. Things aren’t the way they used to be, and I can’t tell whether that’s because I’m always either resisting or having trouble keeping up, or whether it’s simply because I am no longer a kid, and I get that now. 

Every year the ocean levels are rising, and the shores of my island become smaller. I’m being forced inward. 

Or maybe it’s supposed to be like this. As the drum beats time marches on, and as we disconnect from the Matrix of old social paradigms the tubes and wires connecting us to them pop off, leaving us cold and alone in our very own pod, surrounded by a sea of machines and trite little tchotchkes, a blip of life in a Universe drowned in invisible data.

But I can’t believe that; it’s fatalistic. It’s dark, I know — and I promise that it won’t always be this way. But sometimes to find treasure you have to be willing to dig through a mountain of trash, decaying remnants of old life, mouldering bones and offal. It’s a dirty job for sure, but someone ought to do it. 

I’ve had the good fortune to be a WordPress blogger for years, even in spite of long absences, and this place has helped shape who I am. Writing gives us an outlet and a place to put our thoughts and ideas in order. To put ourselves in order. And I must write more, or risk losing myself in the shuffle. And I guess that means getting some of this stuff off of my chest and working it out. 

I find it ironic that I use this space to talk about how I see technology as an increasingly efficient disabler of the natural social construct, leaving unfulfilled more and more the visceral call to community that built the world that made WordPress possible. 

Maybe it’s evolution, or maybe someday it will turn out that my job was to document the fall of humanity. If so, then I might be woefully behind as outsiders have already set up shop within our borders. Or maybe I’m just looking for something other than myself to blame. 

This is me, digging. 

I know the pieces fit . . .

I know it’s hard to believe, but my ideas don’t just spring out of thin air. In the past, I’ve relied upon writing prompts to help spark the old whirlygig in my head when I had nothing else going, and more often than not it helped bring out some of my better writing.

For some reason, that river seems to have dried out. Exhaustive searches have struggled to turn up a current source of daily writing prompts. It took me a little more digging to discover that I used to go to a blog called the Daily Post, and headed over there only to find myself a Lone Wanderer, looking at a monolith of the past . . . something that I failed to consider might have an end, but is now sitting unused, flecked with rust in the spots where the paint has chipped off. But then in my inspections, I came upon a whole new realization.

I don’t want to generalize my own habits, but maybe I’m not the only one that does this: sometimes you get used to skimming, and you forget to really look at the little things. Over the past few years, falling out of the writing habit . . . all of my best work has been done at the behest of some assignment for school; a card in need of some pithy, heartfelt message; an incident report that I was lucky enough to have to write for work . . . just enough to wet my whistle, but hardly enough to satisfy. You know.

In the rush and bustle and Cram of life, I had gotten so used to looking at the forest I forgot there were trees. Shrubs. Blades of grass. Individual grains of . . . soil? And throughout and underneath all of that, a massive mycological network that both feeds and feeds on all of that. All of a sudden, I realized this whole time I was looking at something truly valuable and not even seeing it.

I’m snapping out of that feckless state! It’s tough work. The WordPress interface has changed completely and I’m hacking my way through the process, trying to come up with new shortcuts to do the things I want to do. But I’m now saying goodbye to leaning on writing prompts when I need inspiration, and hello to looking for it on a more granular level.

I find that, at least for me, writing is a lot like Tetris. All the little pieces that fall . . . it feels like the game is sending you what you need. What really matters, then, is what you do with them. The pieces fall, and you place them, you wait for the right piece that will give you the space you need, and you keep on kicking those lines out. You try not to choke and start spamming the hard drop. But the goal isn’t really to win, per se — it’s to get better. To improve, to find new ways to do the same things over and over.

To get creative.

Life is a lot like that too. Things we do, they can feel old after a while. But the world throws so much at us, we can sometimes get so used to dodging that we fail to see the inspiration whizzing past our ears. We avoid change, to our detriment. 2021 is a new year, this much is true today. But every day is a new day. New things are coming down the pipe all the time.

So it’s time to pay attention. Keep your head up. Strengthen your communication.

It’s always “go” time.

Haikuna matata

phoenixes, in fact;
we all rise from the ashes
left by mid-night fires

I don’t know how I managed to start a new year, posting on the first day. Maybe it’s a fluke.

I thought many times about coming back to blogging on the regular this past year. I felt like I had some things to say, but lately it’s felt like everyone’s got something to say and there’s too much noise for my words to matter; it felt like everything worth saying became something that was grossly overused. In a year that felt too political, too dramatic, too over-the-top from one day to the next, it was hard to process much more than the day-to-day changes as we constantly adjusted to the milieu.

But you know what? I miss writing. I’ve been back in school for like two years now, and if there’s one thing I miss, it’s writing for fun. Don’t get me wrong — school is school! But when I write for school, I still try to make it fun. So sorry to say, I’m not going to be that guy — that “how about that COVID guy”, the “how about that terrible politician” guy.

Noise, noise, noise!

I’d rather talk about anything else.

So? . . . Maybe this is the year I rise again. Perhaps I will find that 20 minutes, here and there, for getting back in the habit. Perhaps we will all find ourselves coming back again, shaking off the dust, getting back in the groove and finding that for all the noise and inconvenience we have endured, life is still an adventure — one worth exploring.

Maybe I’ll kickstart it by finishing the handful of drafts I have in my draft folder.

Sink or swim — here’s looking forward to kicking 2021 in the pants.

Once upon a haiku . . .

Forgotten Days,
ways to do things that
were once light

I just have a few minutes to write before I have to go to work. It’s funny how life gets away from me, how I start to miss things like writing. I once hoped I would make some sort of a living from my writing, but that never came to fruition, and I’m okay with that; after all, life is pretty good.

Since my last post — over two years ago — I quit my job at the Bobcat Plant. Out of sheer frustration with the place, with five years of unfulfilled promises and the runaround and the lost opportunities to enjoy life, I decided it was time to find a new path, and put in my notice there. After a short break I got a holdover job at the local Menards, and now I have embarked on this new career as a Correctional Officer. Now I have the opportunity to serve my community every time I go to work.

Every time I go to work I choose to go to jail, and do the other things not because they are easy, but because they are hard. Because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of my energies and skills, because that challenge is one that I am willing to accept, unwilling to postpone, and one which I intend to win.

I’ve forgotten how to do this. I’ve forgotten how to put in the header image, how to insert the images in the text, and I’m pretty sure if I pick this back up I’m going to have to figure out how to get my domain name back. But I’m still out there fighting the good fight, fitter and more adventurous than ever. Just a few weeks ago my family and I went to the top of Pike’s Peak, and in the same day we were exploring caves deep underground. This is life, and we’re living it.

I hope you are too. Whatever your fight, I hope you’re fighting. Whatever your life, I hope you’re living. It should be an adventure, even through the everyday.

Do these things not because they are easy, but because you mean to win.

Case in point: the forgotten draft

I used to grope for blog post ideas. This was part of my problem, I think. I’d go over to the Daily Post and see what they had there. I’d see if I could mix the different prompts to generate something to write about. But I don’t need an idea, really 

I just need a place to start. Writing is a conversation, albeit delayed somewhat between its transmission and reception. It creates a de facto myth to be interpreted and assimilated by the reader, and so in a way it is fact-checked more completely against their own treasury of knowledge and beliefs. 

So today I am reading Myth and Meaning by Claude Lévi-Strauss, and I’ve already found something of interest. He writes: “I forget what I have written practically as soon as it is finished. . . . I don’t have the feeling that I write my books. I have the feeling that my books get written through me and that once they have got across me I feel empty and nothing is left.”

Identifying with this statement can explain the sudden block that causes a writer to leave the blog a howling lost city for so long. Even the most prolific bloggers can have spurts, long or short, of inspired activity only to peter out and move on to less confounded pursuits. 

…………..

This is what I’m talking about. I wrote the above text over a month ago, and left it to while away the days in the black abyss of my draft folder. It might have stood well enough on its own, but it felt unfinished to me and I haven’t had the time to get back to it. Less confounded pursuits, there were. 

We all have things we have to do in life. We gotta work. We gotta feed our babies. We ought to mow the lawn and prune the hedges. But in between watching episodes of The Walking Dead while doing sets of pullups I am best by the guilt of not working on creative pursuits, because life says that in order to look like Superman I need to be on a steady diet of pullups, push-ups, prisoner squats, lunges, split squats and burpees. Burpees!

Talk about harsh. Whereas starting pullups leaves you wishing you could do a pullup, starting burpees and squats leaves you wishing you hadn’t. 

Take the time to find your inner creator when you can, and don’t worry about the demands of life. Do them if you must, but don’t sweat them. Just make sure you’re not filling a folder with unfinished work. 

Today’s thoughts

Sometimes I wonder if I will ever be alright again. Or if I ever was. I move in waves, quite like the ocean, between acceptance of and rebellion against the status quo and its attendant duality of outrageous fortune vs. a sea of troubles.

It’s a bit of a bind, whether to blithely accept the good or to keep fighting the things that are wrong with my world.

Mme. Ross and I have become disillusioned with life on the great plains. The ocean calls us through its connection to our blood. Living in a red state is an exercise in patience for the opinions of those who otherwise seem good. And perhaps there is more for us out there than there is here, in the comfort of a well-built life of wage slavery.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Isn’t that what they say? No guts, no glory.

With this life comes many comforts, such as the ability to indulge in pastimes – almost lavishly so. I feel like Thomas Jefferson in my ability to do and create, to be active and somehow strangely prolific in what little spare time I have . . . Strange, because it seems I have so much to do and so little time, no thanks to my work schedule. Yet like old Tom I am marvelous in my ability to curate random collections, such as homemade nails. Like Jefferson I have a taste for the quintessential, the original, the innovative.

In that Spirit I’ve made a new goal for myself comma although whether I reach that goal depends on many factors I cannot control. Within 10 years I will be a freelance illustrator.

That’s me, going back to my roots. I’d like to work for myself, out of my own digs.

Rob’s Surf Report has always been a very personal blog. A reflection of me. The rise of the tide and the long, deliberative silences. the salty attitude. The need to nurture and the instinct to lash out.

I am what I am: a stunning self portrait of the creative One. The I AM. I am the ocean and the child who walks on the water.

Those of you who are reading this because you’re still subscribed, I am so glad to have you and I hope you know I support you and see your endeavors, and I am truly inspired by them. If you’re new to this blog know that I don’t post “just because,” or to build a writing habit.

I have things to say. 

Keep posted, siblings. As long as I have this domain, you can trust that I will be back. 

Finding your inner Plasticman

Man, I wonder how quickly I can do this.

Remember when I used to steal time, when I called myself a time thief? That was 3.25 years ago, and somehow time has gotten its stuff back from me. I push my effort into all the little corners and crannies that life gives me lately. I’ve learned that resistance is futile. That reacting with anger is only a way to show the world that one doesn’t understand what their responsibilities are — and it’s a curious change to behold from this side of my face, because it’s happening to me. Instead of snapping, I can nearly feel a physical sensation as my mind stretches out to find its peace with the situation. In retrospect, it’s all small beans.

5848859148_227d8b1f45_m
Would you believe a con-goer can ply?? (Image credit: Kevin Dooley, CC BY 2.0)

Of course, the situation could be much more extraordinary than an unexpected change of direction in one’s day. Not everyone can be asked to find their inner Plasticman.

I have long aspired to find that secret superhero within, and I suspect that there has been a conspiratorial push to bring any such people out of the woodwork of society since the dawn of the atomic age. As our world becomes more extraordinary, it feels like there is an undercurrent of longing for extraordinary people to guide us, and to show us how to shine and to have hope. It’s so sad that this is a time when the people of the world are watching this sad contest between two clowns who have no business at the top of the free world, but I would be at a loss to suggest an alternative.

As far as I’m concerned, I’d prefer to go gray at my own pace.

And the frustration continues at many angles, as we’re less than two months out from Halloween and suddenly I’m interested in building a costume from scratch, partly for the sheer love of creation and partly because I think it would be cool to have something to wear to comic store day in the Spring, or Halloweenfest (another comic store holiday,) and heaven forbid, should something like Comic Con ever come to North Dakota, saints preserve us! But it appears that the Internet has little to divulge when it comes to the secrets of Hollywood’s costumers. Mme. Ross is going to teach me to use her sewing machine this weekend, and then we will see what I can do with that.

But wearing a costume means little. Costumes come in all varieties, including pantsuits and silly blonde wigs. You can’t hide what you are so easily, can you?

I have to run now.

🙂


This week’s Daily Post challenge is to write a post about a superhero who speaks to you. Of course, I didn’t exactly follow the rules . . . scoundrel that I am. 

Dust storms and the desertification of the literary mind

DUST STORM 1968
Image credit: Sydney Oats (CC BY 2.0)

Storms. Storms in my head! I thought that I could do a little throwback Thursday or something. I would go back through some of my older posts and repost one of them to get a sense of where I once was but it’s only come to frustration because I realize that once upon a time the downpour of words that bombarded the page was so different than the sparsity that I struggle to ration out lately. I read it and I think, where the heck did that come from?

Check out Getting Rich and the Tribble Epidemic, from December 28, 2013.

I sounded so glib.

Today, by comparison, I think my prose has dried out somewhat. As though a sandstorm has come through and blasted my creativity down to bare metal.Maybe that’s what it feels like to come back to writing after a long period of no-writing. Or maybe something has changed. The thunderbolts of inspiration don’t just light up my brain like they used to.

But for whatever reason I can’t seem to give up altogether. Every time I think about hanging it up — admitting that my writing is just another fad, a fly-by-night hobby — there’s something inside that won’t let it go, and when I look back I see what it is that I must be holding on to. I would like to think that perhaps some day I can find my way back to writing long form, the off-the-cuff essays, the flash fiction — to being, and moving forward from, the bedazzling literary cyclone that I must have been.

I actually work really hard on this. And maybe I’m a little too aggressive, because here I am the next morning trying to finish this reconstruction of my feelings about this on a screen when I could be doing other things, things that I also feel I need to do . . . but they must not be as important as this. Even though I have to go running and then go to work in a little bit.

Because when it comes down to it I guess I have to write.

Can I bring life back to the desert?

Desert Life
Image credit: Wiros (CC BY-SA 2.0)


Do you need to seed the clouds of creativity in your mind? Maybe try the one-word prompt from the Daily Post — you could do worse!

Woolgathering Wednesday

When I first moved to North Dakota from the Detroit area back in 2008, I knew I was undertaking a very unlikely journey. Up until the moment I decided to accept the invitation to move to another state and give myself a chance to make a fresh start almost two thousand miles away, I thought I was never going to leave Detroit. I’m fine here, I would tell myself and others. I had received multiple solicitations to move out to California before and had turned them all down for various reasons: high cost of living, earthquakes, the probability of sliding off into the ocean being somewhat higher than in Michigan . . .

But things had changed, you know? I finally saw an opportunity to get away from a negative cycle that had kept me from truly functioning as an adult. All the conditions were right, and so I rode the wave all the way out here.

Since arriving I have seen a remarkable change in the social profile around here. Where once I noticed that it was rare to see a black or brown person around town, the area is now teeming with people who have moved here for varying reasons in the intervening years, whether because of the economic crisis, war in the Middle East, oppression in Africa; or just because in this land of opportunity, at the right time, North Dakota was the place to make a new start. And it’s not just foreign people of color, but people from all around the country. From all walks of life. Different races and religions and all the things that have some people putting stickers on their cars that say “Welcome to North Dakota — now go home!”

For shame.

Everyone has their journey, and some of the best ones break down the boundaries that we build for ourselves and those that others have built. And it’s so sad to see the escalating media coverage of all that is negative in the world, from the plague of shootings that seem to have come out of nowhere to the general unrest that continues to plague the cradle of civilization. And somehow, while many of us have shut down and continue to isolate ourselves most vocally in our self-fulfilling paradigms, modern society seems to have transformed the human race into a fluid. One that’s crashing in waves on the shores of the first world. The proof is evident all around us. There’s a 2012 novel that was made into a 2015 film called Look Who’s Back that opens up the eyes to sentiment regarding, among other things, the mass immigration of Turks into Germany. The subject matter shows no age, I’m sorry to say.

There’s also the recent divorce of Britain from the European Union, something that one person oh-so-cleverly called “Brexit”, and now that ungainly portmanteau will likely see not only the insides of history textbooks, but the Oxford English Dictionary as well. And while I have no opinion either way, I believe that the British used their rare chance for a popular vote and I don’t blame them one bit. After all, I always wish the popular vote would bring some results in our nation. But one of the major arguments behind the whole affair is that the EU is too lax on immigration and allows too many immigrants in. I can’t say Brexit is all bad, however, considering my 401k is finally making significant upward moves for the first time in over a year.

And there is the ever-present sentiment against illegal immigration in the United States, Donald Trump’s trumped-up promise to build a wall along the Mexican border being only the tip of the iceberg. Under the twinkling ocean of our society looms a ginormity of sentiment that lays the blame for everything from lost jobs to climate change at the doorsteps of anything un-American.

The evidence is all around that the world is a giant machine lubricated by a fluid of humanity. Our journeys take us where they will, but wherever we begin we leave something behind and wherever we set foot we leave the indelible marks of our passage. This world, being thus enriched with each passing day, acts largely like the mythically ubiquitous, ungrateful millennial that popular sentiment currently tends to demonize in our social media feeds. And hey — no society can grow richer under the banner of a single heritage. While an area might retain its distinct flavor with just a little effort on the part of those who care about where they came from, it’s ridiculous to think that pushing newcomers away will make us any safer from the damage we might do to ourselves.

After all, it’s where we are going that counts.


Looking for a way to crash into a new blog post? Take a look at this one-word prompt from the Daily Post — maybe it will move you.

 

Tanka Tuesday 2016.07.12 —

Guest
Image credit: Andrey (CC BY 2.0)

 

bumbling off
the guest will take
leave behind
transferring spirits
communion of souls

 


 

Nothing is better than having guests to break up the routines of our daily lives. People like Mme. Ross and I — that is, people who don’t thrive in large social circles — craft our lives day by day in the comfort of our home and our lives there. The occasional gathering of our closest friends really brings something to our home, and we do our best to give back as well. We help our friends move, we make them our neighbors, and we share what we have with them. To live that life on a permanent, unbroken basis seems like an idyllic dream.

On the other hand, to go to work forty hours a week for people with ridiculous, half-hearted, loosely-applied restrictions on the use of personal technology; who rarely appreciate what I’m bringing to the proverbial table; and who seem to specialize only in making others feel stupid for being themselves; had begun to seem like an awful chore until the plant was given the week off for the 4th of July, and while I thought that going back after that week off would be like more of the same torture, it seems as though the days are going fast, maybe speeding me along toward the next Summer adventure.

Or maybe it’s just a small respite in that tug-of-war.

I sometimes feel like a guest in my own life — like nothing I do entitles me to comfort or indulgence. As though very little that I do gives me a reasonable excuse to be the selfish person that I often see in myself. I stay withdrawn, and the work life that drives to the rhythm of hammers on metal while presenting as a music video fit for the Doors’ People Are Strange becomes the theme I take home in my head as I frustrate myself trying to pound some inspiration into the hearts of those who feel like their only purpose at work is to make a paycheck. To work as little as possible, think as little as possible, never realizing that it’s easier than they’re making it out to be. I often end up taking that unwelcome guest home with me.

A little effort goes a long way, is all I’m saying. But what if I’m putting too much effort into the wrong endeavors?

It would be interesting if every day was a different event — a parade, a carnival in the park, a bike ride along the river. Somehow our culture insinuates the fulfillment of that dream in a life that often demands more of us than we can reasonably give. It stretches us dangerously thin, like worn-out bubblegum.

Where can we reasonably say “no”?

Now there’s something to chew on.

 



Looking for a word to cunningly inspire the perfectly-crafted spontaneous blog post? Try the one-word prompt at the Daily Post — probably the best thing since split infinitives.