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The Origin Story of a Creative Life
What's not fruit is fertilizer
I’m not sure what compelled me to sing John Denver’s “Please Daddy (Don’t Get Drunk This Christmas)” when I was five years old but I’m told that I stood at the foot of our Christmas tree and belted it out with heartfelt conviction to the great delight and possible horror of a roomful of adults. I can’t tell you why, of all the other songs on that 1975 record, I chose that one. Rudolf the Rednosed Reindeer might have been a more appropriate choice.
The irony is that my dad didn’t touch the stuff. Alcohol killed his dad a couple of years before I was born and it would kill his sister later that year. I didn’t know that, but maybe somehow I felt it. Maybe I saw a softening in his face and the glassy sheen of tears that would well but never spill across his cheeks when he first heard me singing it. As he’s aged my, my dad has become more emotional but when I was a boy he held everything in so tightly. I must have intuited his suffering and wanted to help. As a father myself, I can attest to the uncanny intuition of children.
Kids are wired to please. I wanted to please. I needed the validation, the feedback— the connection. And as the youngest of three boys, maybe a little song and dance were required to be noticed.
As the years have progressed, that need to please has not diminished though it has taken different forms and been expressed in ways that have brought me both great joy and great sadness. I’ve had to learn to understand what I want or even what I feel independent of those closest to me. But looking back, I know that need to please was the tiny thing with wings that pollinated the dormant seed of creativity that germinated and eventually grew into an orchard of trees that produce the fruit that nourishes and sustains me.
In this publication I’m calling Catch & Release, you will get to sample some of this crazy fruit. For most of my life, I’ve felt like that neighbor who’s the overly ambitious gardener and come September, is leaving grocery bags full of bulbous, prickly cucumbers and strange tomatoes at your doorstep. I know nobody asked for all this stuff, but I’ll be damned if I can stop making it. I’ve tried.
So each week, likely more often, you’ll get a little bag on your doorstep. Maybe there will be a few nice pieces in there that taste like sunshine as you sloppily devour them on the stoop before you even put your key in the door. Others might be best cooked down in a pot of soup. The rest — the bitter ones, the sour ones, the ones that make you break out in hives you can discreetly toss into your backyard. Even those won’t be wasted. That’s the beautiful thing about this life, what’s not fruit is fertilizer.
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