Terrible Weather Conditions

This was written and sent out to my friends on the eve of the year 2002…

OneOfTheseDaysDear friends:

First off, I hope all your pre-New Year’s activities are coming together and that life is good.

Which sort of leads me to a massive amount of contemplating I’ve been doing lately, and I’m hoping you may have some good advice for me.

God knows I need it.

Now, nearly ten years after the break of 1992 (about which some of you may remember; others, well, ask and I’d be happy to relate the story sometime), I feel I’m playing it safe and boring again. I can’t decide if I merely need a new environment, a new career, or just a new outlook.

I know I have projects I’ve wanted to complete, and still feel a desire to do them, but just “increasing my creative output” doesn’t feel like the solution.

Maybe I’m wrong.

Hence this flaming arrow into the void.

There are things I want to eliminate from my life. I want less distractions and “niggling details.” Most of those details are connected with the consumerist frenzy one does when one “settles down,” i.e., buy more things, appropriate more space, consume more goods, and basically take more from society than giving. I need to break my isolation and allow for more community, but I’m afraid of that being too much at odds with “increase creative output.”

I guess I’m writing to you guys because you’ve all jettisoned the orbit of Minnesota and, for your various reasons, may or may not be coming back. I’ve been questioning whether it’s wise to stay here, or move on.

BY MOVING ON, that could mean ANYTHING. I could teach English abroad; I could take a stab at a graduate degree, that is, before I collect retirement. I could join a community of like-minds—shit, I may even have that here in the Twin Cities.

But still, I would love to hear your take on the various different places where you live and work. What do you like about it? What do you dislike about it? How does it compare with the Twin Cities? Where do you think is a great spot for a single and (relatively) young artist to live and work? What places encourage more community and involvement?

The other facet is career. I’ve been in book publishing for nearly five years now. I was blessed to get the experience I’ve gotten, but I’m more than ready for the “next level” of that, whatever that may be. I’ve come as far as I can go at —, and I’m not hopeful of that deepening in 2002 and beyond. There’s a raft of other possibilities: literature, writing and storytelling, communications wonk, theater and stagecraft, movies and screenwriting, arts advocacy, libraries and museums—even cooking, for Christ’s sake.

Anything can happen in one’s life, and career often lies at the heart of it.

For those of you who have yet to see The Shipping News, this won’t mean much now, but will after you see it (and please do, it’s a wonderful film): I feel like I’m Kevin Spacey’s Quoyle, going from inksetter to cub reporter. I guess I’m looking for my Scott Glenn to take a chance on me. And I realize that package includes the learning curve.

Here’s another question for you: What would YOU suggest I do, short of pulling another “1992”?

A: “Stay where you’re at, yet all through 2002 actively explore other career possibilities. Make sure you follow-up on them. Create a plan.”

B: “Make a clean break. Find a place that intuitively calls to you, and go there. Check it out. If it doesn’t work out, you can always leave.”

C: “Consider yourself lucky. It’s a vicious new economy and you’re rich if you even have a job. Don’t change a thing (but maybe you need to change your perspective). (And keep writing those screenplays. What do you have to lose there?)”

There may be another possibility I’m not seeing. I had the Pollyanna notion of buying and renovating a “big old house” in St. Paul and making it the locus of “my own” community of filmmakers, writers, artists…but I realized that that had somewhat dictatorial overtones.

A friend once remarked to me of this “oversight” of mine, emphasizing the amazing results people sometimes get when they “allow things to grow organically” rather than “forcing things into being.” Wise words. Note to self: Skip applying for the Hitler Day Job. The hours are killer anyway.

I apologize for the Mega Text chunk, but I really do hope to get your thoughts on this stuff. I know some of you were merely “passing through Minnesota” from other places; others seriously call it home.

The concept of “home” will mean more to people as the century moves on. I spent a good portion of my time off over the holidays looking at photos and remembering the places I’ve lived and visited and the concept of home still seems to elude me.

What does “home” mean to you? Where have you felt at home? For me, it was always small quiet moments, either alone or with friends. Can (or SHOULD) a person MAKE home?

Happy New Year, y’all! I look forward to seeing some of you in January.

Love, blessings, and best wishes,




By John Engman

Am I poor?
Are the leaves falling because I can’t afford them?
Am I crazy? I think the leaves are falling because I can’t afford them.
Am I alone? Autumn leaves are falling like little lessons

but I haven’t learned anything.
The wind is cold and the leaves have fallen for three days.
For three days, the leaves illustrate how your hair falls.
Wouldn’t you call these terrible weather conditions?

Loud sky, red rain, white crow, moon flying away.
How can I love you in autumn when everything goes wrong?
Last night, I burned three hundred calories dreaming about your hair.
I thought I felt animal earth lurch forward

and fell into the dark ages between now and now.
Sometimes, I want you to believe that I am an ancient poet
who can say grand things, “Last night, I couldn’t sleep
because the leaves were having an excellent

discussion full of sad knowledge.” But really,
this is sweet confusion, mistaking leaves for something more,
and all I can think to say is, “Do you like leaves falling?
I would like to see you today. That’s all.”

Someday, what will I be when I am nothing but a flutter
behind your breastbone like a leaf falling? Will you be the sky?
Wouldn’t you call these terrible weather conditions? There’s a hole
in the bottom of my old brown shoe, a hole in the sleeve

of my old gray coat, a hole in the pocket of my old blue shirt
where the wind blows autumn in and chills me: wouldn’t you call these
terrible weather conditions? Something should be done about this.
Someone should write to someone, as I am writing to you.

~ by completelyinthedark on November 20, 2015.

One Response to “Terrible Weather Conditions”

  1. Reblogged this on Completely in the Dark and commented:

    Nearly 15 years later and I’m still looking for my Scott Glenn to take a chance on me. Also realize that includes the learning curve.


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