THOSE ‘HEY, YOU’ MOMENTS MUCH LIKE FLEAS ON A DOG

A member of our writing group said she couldn’t think of anything to write about during the week so had nothing to share.

Later during the session, with voice rising and hands gesturing she described the reason she had attended a school of theology.Confessions of a Professor cover

“You have just written a compelling introduction to a chapter in your memoir,” I commented and then described how a person can organize life’s story by using the epiphany, i.e. a moment of sudden revelation or insight. More simply, a life-changing experience.

I employed memoir in writing about my 30-year experience as a college professor who taught courses in journalism. In “Confessions of a Professor” I wrote about incidents that stood out in my mind, most of which carried a high risk factor of failure but kept students awake.

Calculated risk-taking has been foundational to my life, but I didn’t realize that until I began writing memoir. As a result, I’m seldom surprised by the outcome when my life changes. Frankly, if my life doesn’t change periodically, I become bored.

I like the way a friend of mine defines epiphany: A certain amount of adversity is good for a person. Like the saying goes, “A certain number of fleas is good for a dog. It keeps them from brooding about being a dog.”

This friend has selected a dozen benchmarks in life in preparation to write a memoir.

In this writer’s case, he has identified not only the incident but how it played out in forming his life’s philosophy. Example, in writing about what appeared to be an impossible task of purchasing a site and building a cabin he writes: The man who has a true goal in mind doesn’t see the obstacles; he only sees the goal.

I have shared important events in my life during the past two years in this blog. I’m uncertain whether these events were life-changing, but they were important enough to remain in my puny, pigmy, pusillanimous mind.

For example, one incident comes to mind that may have preserved my ability to write a blog. It occurred during the summer of 1949 while I worked in the Montana woods for the U.S. Forest Service.

Most of the crewmembers were college grads who were restricted to a former CCC camp so we would be available to fight forest fires. To occupy our free time on weekends we decided to use felled trees to build a raft on the bank of what was then the Kootnie River near the camp.

Our crew leader, a retired Forest Service ranger, stopped nearby in his pickup truck and asked what we were doing.

“Building a rift so we can travel downriver to Libby when we get some time off,” one of the crewmembers replied.

“Get in the truck,” the ranger said. He then drove us downriver a short distance. We piled out of the truck.

“You die there,” the ranger said as he pointed to a churning, evil-looking rapids.

Most of the crewmembers returned to the pub across the river, and I spent my spare time learning how to pitch horseshoes and writing letters to a woman who eventually became my wife.

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