Saturday, April 16, 2016

Life observed

Kato asked how I managed to get the experience necessary to write Except for His Wings. Since not everyone reads the comments, I include here part of my response:

"Some of the events and sayings in Except for His Wings are stories adapted from family and other memories. In my years in the monastery, I not only studied Twelve Step programs (we were required to attend workshops on these topics every three years), but I knew/still know any number of people in such programs for many issues. The more I learned about addictions and the more I recognized the dynamic within myself, the more I saw how the teachings of John of the Cross about inordinate attachments applied to such things.
"The guy with wings came from who knows where, in my mind as well as in the book.

"Life provides us all with plenty of material for creating, whether it be books or drawings or song or dance. All I do is observe and ponder...

"Life, as they say in Jurassic Park, finds a way."

 I am, after all, almost 66 years old. I was born in Georgia; grew up in a small college town in East Texas; did my undergraduate work at Michigan State University; entered a monastery in Arkansas and became a priest in Dallas; spent three summers studying in Mexico; got a graduate degree from the University of Dallas; worked on a PhD (I am ABD) at the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC ; and lived, laughed, prayed and worked in monasteries in San Antonio, Dallas, Boston, DC, Wisconsin, and Chicago. I spent a sabbatical year as a live-in chaplain for a community of cloistered nuns while taking writing courses at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, and I preached a brief homily every morning while there. I spent an amazing year at St. Louis University in a program for religious men and women from all over the world. I listened to thousands of people from all works of life share intimate details of their life as part of my ministry for three decades. I met a future pope, worked for a cardinal and am on friendly terms with a Lebanese archbishop in Iraq. I know priests who became monsignors and bishops; I know priests who became pedophiles, bankrupted their dioceses and ruined innocent lives while some of the bishops tried to cover up what was happening. After leaving the monastery, I worked for Catholic non-profits, clerked in a department store, managed a museum shop and ran a bookmobile.

I've seen sun and I've seen rain. I have lived in the country, in the suburbs, in the city.

I have been a voracious reader since childhood, in part because of having to wear braces and special shoes for a while to correct a problem with my legs and feet. I have a near-eidetic memory that is starting to fail or fade. But lots of words, pictures, events -- some true, some fiction, many partially or mostly distorted by time and internal re-writing -- are stored away between my ears.

Tom says there is a lot of room in there because my head was empty to start with.


I have been surprised a bit by the enthusiastic reaction that Except for His Wings has received from my (handful of) readers. My mother tells me the people at her senior center are lined up to borrow the copy I sent her, something that did not happen with previous volumes. Maybe that is because of the Texas connection. Since it was a National Novel Writing Month project, I spent less time on it than on any of my other writings. Although I did a bit of research on minor things having to do with raising pecans, it mostly emerged, four or five thousand words each morning of November last, from my imagination, fueled by my own life experiences or fabricated from misty dreams,

Go thou, and do likewise!


Anonymous said...

Your life is so textured. Your writing style is so gracious.

Anonymous said...

"fabricated from misty dreams"

Michael Dodd said...

Thank you. You are one of the readers who posts frequently, and that encourages me to keep writing.