And Yet Still I Write

By Hal Walter

Raven is a bird that is associated with magic and healing, balance between light and dark, creation and wisdom: trickster. My neighbor, who is a golfer and practices his driving on the hillside behind his house, tells me ravens routinely carry away golf balls, thinking they are eggs, before he can retrieve them.

I imagine the raven swooping up to some rocky outcrop with the strangely spherical and dimpled “egg” in its beak, perplexed by the resilience and actual bounce when cracked against the granite.

Recently during an intense period of animal care-taking I had found some frozen eggs in one of my clients’ chicken house. They had expanded and cracked before I found them. So I tossed them out near a big boulder behind the barn knowing that some wild animal would likely appreciate the free meal.

The next morning I encountered an enormous ancient-looking raven puzzling over the frozen brown egg that would not crack. As my vehicle approached, the bird was able to open his gnarly beak to clamp around the big egg. Raven flapped away with the prize which I can only hope he was able to crack.

It is perhaps both a blessing and a curse to become what most people would call a “writer.” While I am grateful that people find my words and thoughts interesting enough to read, I was startled when I finally finished my 2012 tax extension to realize that people had paid me nearly twice as much to feed horses, cattle, chickens, goats, cats, dogs and parakeets than I had made writing for that year. During a recent loan application, the lending officer made it clear that I would be better off purely ignoring my meager writing income rather than trying to explain it.

And yet still I write.

About 20 years ago I received a call from Ed Quillen, who I only knew as a legend in Colorado journalism and as a columnist for The Denver Post. He told me he and wife Martha were starting a magazine and they were soliciting for contributors. I recall writing a couple of screeds about real-estate developers and one about a solar-composting toilet. Before long I had been recruited as a monthly columnist.

And now Colorado Central magazine is 20 years old and I’m guessing I’ve written more than 200 consecutive monthly columns. One of the things I admired about Ed was that he was completely up-front with the fact that writing for his magazine would likely be the lowest paying writing job I’ve ever had. In trade, I wrote almost exclusively about whatever I felt like and rarely met a deadline.

Over those years since signing on as a columnist I’ve done all manner of other writing-related work to try to make this unspectacular career pay. For many years I was a part-time copy-editor for The Pueblo Chieftain, which paid fairly well until I was released from captivity in 2008. I’ve written reviews of fancy outdoor gear for glossy magazines like Outside. I’ve labored through the extreme tedium of technical reports for engineering outfits. I’ve written reams of infomercial-type articles for companies selling health-care products. I’ve edited books for doctors. I published my own collection of essays. I founded a newspaper that explores the topic of local farming. And there have been hundreds of other little odd writing jobs that have passed over this keyboard, everything from CD jackets to brochures to annual reports.

And while all of it has paid better, none of it has lasted as long as this gig with Colorado Central. In these two decades the magazine has changed ownership and Mike has reinvented it with his own vision. We’ve sadly said goodbye to Ed. And yet there isn’t a time after I finish yet another column for Colorado Central that I am not grateful for the opportunity he provided me to share my life and my stories with this small but attentive audience. It’s never been about the money. It’s been about making me write.

Recently much of this writing has been about experiences raising my autistic son Harrison. Much of this is intended as building blocks for a book I am working on. In December we cut down a larger than normal Christmas tree and needed more lights for it. On a trip to Pueblo, Harrison and I went into a Lowe’s to look at lights and in the process he fixated on a doorknob and lock set displayed on an aisle cap near the Christmas decorations.

He was hugging the box. I told him no, that we couldn’t buy that now, that he had some cool stuff coming from Santa. He ran off down an aisle screaming and I lost him in the store for a while. I went back to the front. He was there screaming and making a scene. Holiday shoppers were staring. I went over it all again, telling him to put it back. More screaming. In the end I carried him back to the display, pried the box from his hands. Put it back. I picked him up and carried him, flailing and kicking and crying and screaming like a Tasmanian Devil, back out past the checkout counters, out the big sliding doors and to the car halfway across the icy parking lot.

With so many spectators I am always embarrassed to make some sort of announcement and also surprised nobody ever calls the cops. But then I suppose most people realize I am dealing with something clearly beyond what words can describe. Sometimes it feels a little like pulling a tooth to drag a memory like this out of my brain and put it to words, but I’m better off writing it down later after I’ve had a little time to process.

Like an old raven bouncing a golf ball or a frozen egg against a rock, I’m looking for the gold inside.

Hal Walter writes and edits from the Wet Mountains. You can keep up with him regularly at his blog:

2 thoughts on “And Yet Still I Write”

  1. I remember working with children in law enforcement. I would ask questions and receive answers like, “the whole world knows now, I’m so embarrassed”. To that child it was the whole world, to me maybe a few friends of the child….perspective.
    You warm my heart with your stories, sometimes a sad warm sometimes better than warm but always a connected feeling. That’s my world, my perspective and it means everything to me. Thank you Hal for being in my life!!

  2. I read you article when the Magazine came last week. Shared it with my wife…and marveled at the range of images evoked in one very authentic writing. You have an astonishing writer’s voice….keep using it.

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