Monday, March 31, 2014


In all reality there were only two things that made me want to become a botanist. The first reason, plain and simple, in the long months of Desert Storm, all I really wanted to see was plants. The second reason, when I returned to Ansbach, Germany in May of 1991, it was springtime and there were plants everywhere. One day in the first spring after the war, I was running along an access road on the outskirts of town looking at the gardens when I saw her. I don't know who she was, or what kind of grapes she was tending to. I do not know why she was doing it naked. The naked woman tending grapes was really the reason why I wanted to become a botanist.

Late the other night, I sat at the bar at Atticus and casually mentioned that my life's ambition was to become a botanist. The conversation was about Warehouses and Rusted Angels which will be my third novel. I had just signed the contract. And I concluded it by saying: “And I wanted to be a botanist.” It solicited a laugh for some reason. I stared. Well, why didn't you? Why? Because I became a writer instead.

I've been thinking about what it means, the statement: I am a writer. What does it mean? I guess I could say that I am a writer because I'm writing right now. Perhaps I could say that a writer is not a real writer until the first publication. I don't know. I still do not use the words: I am a writer. Instead, I play it cool, I have written, I am writing, I have a few novels published, a few screenplays out there, even a few short stories. But a writer?

It's been a solid 20 years since I left the idea of become a botanist behind. I started to study literature in college 20 years ago. I have not really looked back, despite not always looking forward. I've just written and written more. Some years I'm prolific, some years I'm distracted and some years I just want to do other things.

One thing for sure.

Of all the things I could have done, I could have stayed in the Army. I could have continued with the Boy Scouts. I could have become a banker, a small businessman or salesman. I could have stayed doing all the things I have done in favor for a future and for money and for paper security. But that's not what I did.

I decided to say fuck all to all that. I just never saw much of a point in doing something that took all my energy, all my thought and all my life just to live a life that wasn't exactly what I wanted. I mean, think of it like this: whatever the cost of something, there is an opportunity cost, right, something you must give up in order to get whatever it is you want. For me, I never wanted a new car because it just never smelled that good to me. The price has always been too high: more money equals more hours working which equals less time writing, reading, or daydreaming. Incidentally, I feel like the day to day existence is too much expense, and I don't have the life most people have. If it came down to being able to write or anything else, well, it's not a debate. The truth is, I have always understood artists. All other pursuits have never made much sense to me.

The only religious text that ever made sense to me is Walden. Thoreau was a bit of a botanist too.

In the still afternoons last winter, I sprawled out in the sun and read as my son napped. My downstairs neighbors watch tv during these hours. When I hear the invading sound of tv or even when I'm outside and see the ghostly blue glow of a room where someone has turned off their mind I wonder what their pursuits must have been. Perhaps they all wanted to be botanists.

It isn't easy. I hasn't been easy either. Writing is tedious. It's a laborious process. It's filled with self doubt, with rejection and with one page out of 100 being of any value. And when the neighbors watch tv all day, I have to wonder what they think they're missing.

Spring is here in the mile high city. The dead lawns are turning green. The trees, from a distances at least, are become fuzzy with buds and leaves. The days are getting longer, warm and the shadows are shortening at midday. The winter is over. The plants know. Every day it's a good time to watch the growth of plants because it's all growing so fast. Spring is a good time for botany.

I became a writer without intending it. I just started to write. And for some reason I just didn't want to do anything else. I still don't.

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