Tuesday, July 29, 2008

If You Don't Know What This Is

You're not alone.

Apparently, it is a bird known as a Chukar (Alectoris chuka), a game bird native to Europe and Asia, introduced many and many a year ago in the western United States and southwestern Canada.

What exactly one was doing in our backyard in Ohio, we may never know, but when The Wife and The Littlest Critic were out in the backyard, this little bugger was hopping around our woodpile. They thought it was hurt as it didn't fly, which apparently isn't really the Chukar's strong suit, and instead the little thing (about duck size) hopped right down the driveway and out of our yard.

As you may imagine, this has caused quite a stir in the Critical household, and now we are naming things Chukar, we are talking about plans to catch the Chukar should it return, and we are learning more and more about the Chukar.

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Fiction, Monotony, Chrysalis

I'm not sure what it is exactly, but when I was a stay-at-home dad, our days were always different, but The Littlest Critic and I still had a routine. We were on the clock. We woke around eightish, had breakfast and some cartoons, then got dressed, brushed our teeth, and went out to play somewhere. This could be the zoo, the world's biggest playground, the library if it was rainy out, the mall or Target or some shopping venture if we needed stuff, or it could have just been errands.

But, we'd be home around 1ish for lunch, stories, and then nap. After she was asleep, I'd make dinner for The Wife, who'd get home around 3-3:30, we'd eat, then I'd go off to my night job.

That was four days a week. One weekday I had off, and everything was the same except that I'd not leave for work.

And I finished writing not one bit of fiction the whole time and could barely focus on anything narrative based at all. I couldn't write very much in the parental vein of "the life of a stay-at-home dad with kid" stuff nor could I make up completely fictional stories. Something about the predictability of our routine sort of stifled me in that direction.

I tried. Boy, did I try. I probably started thirty stories or so that went about four pages and then nothing. I wrote a few well-received emails detailing the lives of TLC and I as we struggled with fish-death and things like that.

But overall, kaput. So I took up writing book reviews as a way of keeping something simmering on the writing desk. I worked at honing sentences and didn't look too far past 2,000 words at the longest.

Almost a year has passed since that life ended and my new "Take the Morning Train" life began with TLC in school and so on and in that time, I've written (and completed) four stories that I'm really proud of – one of them around 25 pages long. Story ideas are coming at me left and right. I have dreams that are almost fully fledged narratives again that I can fiddle with on the page.

Something happened when I started spending more time by myself, when I started walking a slightly different path to the office from the train each morning. Something changed, but I can't put my finger on it exactly, but the change was somewhere inside. Maybe it was all the energy I spent on telling TLC stories throughout the day. Where did this funny shaped pine cone come from? Why do birds do that? Do you know what that squirrel is going to do when it gets home tonight? Maybe that soaked up all my direction for narrative. Maybe. But on the walk in this morning, I wondered about the new narrative turn my life has taken.

It's hard to tell yourself your own independent story when you're in the middle of reading one at that very second. Maybe that's it. I'm not sure.

All I know is that I'm writing again. I'm writing again and it feels fantastic. It feels better than it ever did before.