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Author Archive: "Corwin Ericson"

In Which I Say “Author”

Thank you very much to Powell's for hosting me as the guest-blogger this week. I enjoyed telling Powell's blog readers about carcasses, trash finds, and hidden trails — things I won't even tell my neighbors. Now that were at the end of series, I'd like to consider the term "guest blogger." I imagine an appraiser on an episode of Antiques Roadshow: " This is a guest-blogger, an antique innkeeper's tool. It's a long cudgel for whacking unruly patrons. How much did you pay for it?"

A few hours before I left my house for a book show across the continent, my boxes of books arrived. I'd heard a few days prior that the boxes had been briefly in my town before the UPS guy gave up and took them back to his lair. In the afternoon I had a premonition, so I drove to the post office where I found the UPS driver talking with our postmaster, Charlie, who was signing for the boxes for me. Charlie and I are friendly; he was an Olympic hockey goalie, a Harvard graduate, a Vietnam vet. He saves wheat pennies for me, because ...


This Piece of Writing Makes Me Think of How Fortunate I Am

You know what you should do at the end of each freshman writing class? Make sure you've got all your stuff. As the professor, I see what you all have left behind. Usually I stash it in the room and try to remember to ask if someone has lost a book, a glove, a handgun. I have never bought a travel mug nor an umbrella, and can count on a new scarf every winter. There are actually trends. Several years ago, water bottles were common. Aluminum travel mugs seem to have replaced them on the lost-and-found pile on the disused overhead projector. Last year, flash drives became the most left-behind object. I understand these little drives are banned in high security areas — the digital equivalent of a virulent handkerchief.

But what you ought to really police is the printer. This is where I find the high-value nonsense. That recycling box next to it stuffed with unread handouts is a trove of strange writing. I love this stuff when it's not my students' work. Here's what I found after class:

This piece of writing makes me think of how ...


I Wish You Were Out

Not even counting the ancient cellar holes, there are as many empty houses in my neighborhood, if it could be called that, as occupied houses . The built-up trailer with the lights on a timer and the mowed grass is owned by the bank but unsellable, my neighbors say. The family across the street, where the woman was on parole for embezzling the town's property tax money, owns a couple of the half-built ones that were meant to capitalize on their farm's frontage, but which were never completed to code.

The log cabin around the corner was empty for a couple years. There had been a lethal OD there and the elderly woman who remained after the troubles never left the house. It was hard to tell when it became empty. The driveway went unplowed one winter, but the kid who came by once said his grandmother had been there the whole time.

The arrival of the plumber's van in the spring suggested that the pipes had burst. Early that summer I smelled something wrong burning — too nasty and strange to be brush. Someone had shoveled out the ...


Out by the Beaver Deceiver

There's a little hillside that brings me to my knees. I don't want to tell too many people where it is, since there's treasure and gore and crime, but I'll tell you. Go left out my driveway and down the dirt road about a quarter mile. Take the right under the first power lines and continue down that trail north past the gate until just before you can see the beaver deceiver in the first pond. Right there by the culvert is where I start crawling. On my hands and knees I find bits of mineral treasure — mostly almandine garnets and staurolite. I've worn out a pair of pants doing this, and my pockets are lined with gravel. Garnets are like ruddy pea-sized soccer balls. I almost never find anything of gem quality here. People ask me what I'm going to do with my garnets and I've never had a better answer than hoard them, just as I've always done.

As I crouched there one afternoon picking through the pebbles, I saw a coyote cut out of the woods and saunter down the path toward ...


The Conference

My friend said she'd paint the story I was telling her and call it "The Conference." She'd paint it in the manner of Peter Doig, because that's how it sounded. I felt flattered, but later I had to look him up. He's important and talented. He has a film club. He lives on a warm island but paints snow. His wiki says: "Peter Doig's work captures moments of tranquility, which contrast with uneasy oneiric elements." I was glad I had my dictionary nearby. I thought oneiric might mean masturbatory. I can look up a word faster than my computer can. But that's just because I live in the old dial-up woods.

As the postage stamps of Doig's paintings trickled in, I saw they looked like Frost poems, but in second person. I do know whose woods this painting will be set in. They are my neighbor's. His house is in Rhode Island; he'll have roughly a hundred miles to go before he sleeps, since he only has a shed and several flower beds here. My previous neighbors once came to my door to tell me to stay ...


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