Monday, July 17, 2017

Stuck, Fred Feldman

Author’s Note: This bit of nonfiction was an impromptu piece written and delivered at Affinity CoLab’s monthly Open Mic Event at Steel City Coffeehouse. The prompt was “Stuck.” I have edited for clarity and expanded a few parts.

Two Types of Chaos
by Frederick W. Feldman

I expect that anyone who has done any sort of creative work has experienced being “stuck.” Unsure of where to go next with a piece, or unable to settle on a worthwhile idea. It is the lot of the artist.

Oftentimes, being stuck is symptomatic of being unaware rather than any real lack of material – which is not much of a criticism, considering how difficult being aware is. We humans only function by being unaware of an awful lot, or else we’d be paralyzed. Being aware is no picnic – it is the process of descending into chaos and re-emerging with some sort of artifact. Very frequently, I find myself searching for a “great idea” – the sort you can put in quotes – and that never works out. A great idea is never found by looking for it, and my oft-made resolution to be extremely clever never suggests with it any process by which that goal might be accomplished.

But sometimes the chaos comes to you, which is what happened to me on the drive here.

As I drove down 113 near the intersection with Route 100, I saw a family of geese crossing the road. I live near a park, so we have a lot of geese around, but they don’t usually walk into the road. Rarely one or two geese will, but this was the first time I saw goslings crossing. I tried to gauge where they would be when I got to where they were. I slowed as I approached and was glad to see that the geese were passing out of my lane. A mother goose was trailed by one, two, five little goslings with their puffy light down. I wanted to be on my way and was glad I didn’t have to wait for who-knows-how-long while they crossed.

As I stepped on the gas and the geese appeared on my left, the car from the other lane was a bit ahead. I watched with some interest how this driver would react. Now he would have to wait – or would he swerve?

The sporty red car, reflecting the sun into my eyes, pulled past me and plowed into the line of geese. I saw the mother goose flap vainly, then an explosion of feathers, and I saw the round bodies of the goslings scattering across the road. Then, there must have been another goose up ahead, because a second explosion of feathers was followed by the flopping body of an adult goose getting spat out behind the car.

The red car didn’t slow and turned left onto 100 at the light.

I was jarred. I don’t know what kind of childhood you have to have to run over a family of geese without compunction, but it must have been pretty bad. That, or I don’t give John Calvin enough credit. I kept the radio on, but I couldn’t hear the music anymore. I felt as if I had witnessed a Flannery O’Conner story happen before my eyes. It was the same sort of random, shocking violence and disregard for life that she frequently portrays in her writings.

One type of chaos is the kind into which you descend. This is the chaos of the underworld. It is fearsome, but it can be harnessed. The underworld is where one goes when one needs guidance, like in The Odyssey, when Odysseus seeks the spirit of Tiresias in order to learn the way home. A successful trip out of the underworld brings direction and revivification.

I’m often struggling to find the entrance to the realm of the chaotic, but there is another type of chaos - the kind that finds you. It’s the sort that seems to have escaped from the depths of Tartarus, and sometimes it’s right next to you on 113, and you don’t really know what it is.


  1. Whoops -
    Typo Watch: The first line should read "anyone who has *done* any sort..."