Social Commentary Writing

Diving In

Summer Garden

LAKE MACBRIDE— The ambient outdoor temperature was 50 degrees at 3 a.m., creating a yearning to work in the yard and garden. Other work, however, kept me busy this weekend. So much so, that when each day was done, bedtime couldn’t come soon enough— outdoors had to wait.

I’m okay with that, but I’m not.

When first feeling the urge to be a writer, many years ago, I had no idea what that meant. Now there is a full slate of writing jobs, some paid and some not, and meeting deadlines has become more of an issue. Writing and proof reading our weekly newspaper can’t be described as a stressful job, but beginning on Fridays, it’s crunch time.

The supervisory work at the warehouse also occurs on weekends, so there is little time for extras in the arc from Friday through Monday. The result has been to hang with a new, and very different group of people from the academicians, political activists, public figures, and peace and justice crowd that had become staples of my social life.

American lives move from a fixed point in time toward insularity. Frederick Jackson Turner wrote in 1893,

As each generation of pioneers moved 50 to 100 miles west, they abandoned useless European practices, institutions and ideas, and instead found new solutions to new problems created by their new environment. Over multiple generations, the frontier produced characteristics of informality, violence, crudeness, democracy and initiative that the world recognized as “American.”

The degree to which one takes issue with the frontier thesis asserted by Turner in The Significance of the Frontier in American History, there is no denying the bent toward utopianism that exists in daily life. People don’t care about money as much as they want to be able to pay their bills and live their lives. In doing so, they create an island of utopianism carved out of a complicated society. Perhaps I am corrupting what it means to be utopian, but that too is an American idea.

I heard a woman say she wanted the man to make the decisions for her last week. I was stunned. Only an insular life can espouse such a world view. One that lacks a basic connection to a greater society, and exists in the rarefied air of a peculiar social network.

Ugggghhhhh. That’s depressing,” said one friend.

“Thank goodness she’s in the minority,” said another.

“A sample of one does not a movement make,” said an activist I know.

Whatever repulsion there is to a woman who wants her man to do the thinking, it is part of the diversity of life which has become a context for my writing.

A writer must necessarily become isolated while working. At the same time, there is a constant want and need for contact with humanity in all of its diversity. Writers must break from the swaddling of the familiar and dive in— it’s as close to utopia as American living gets.