Tony Vagneur: Saddle Sore
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO, Colorado
Some say it’s a curse, others a blessing, but we all have it in one form or another. Clinging to us as a snake to the earth, slithering through the grass with steady, silent, random and beautiful purpose, open to the slightest suggestion, it has us in its grasp.
I refer, naturally, to our creativeness. Sometimes we call it imagination, originality, or for lack of a better word, creativity. Curiously, efforts to define it are to throw a wet blanket on that of which we speak, for creativity is the ability to mold, develop or envision outside the predictable bounds of definition.
Whether it’s an architect devising better ways of building to match the landscape, a painter bringing out a glimpse of one’s soul on canvas, a poet transcending language with deft, evocative flourishes, or us columnists who appear before you week after week, we are all in it together.
At nine years old, I crafted a 10-page dissertation on the crack in the Liberty Bell, something about an errant Daniel Boone rifle shot creating said deformity. It was an early attempt at humor, soundly rejected by the several magazines that received it. To this day, I console myself with the thought that such denials had more to do with my graphite scribbles on Big Chief writing paper than the content.
Motivated by the writing spirit, I kept a daily journal (including short stories) through most of my high school years, detailing my views on everything from sex to love, older women, tragic events, weather, my emotions, horses I was breaking, days on the range, and a myriad of other subjects. Dreadfully, and I say that with every ounce of conviction implied by the word, someone very close to me years later, threw those journals out in a fit of jealous pique. You can buy new shoes or skis, but that was different.
As a college freshman, I had notions of becoming the next Hemingway, writing earthy, gritty novels that would pull on people’s inner emotions as I fleshed out the underbelly of life, taking them places they otherwise might not go. I shunned established convention, in a misguided attempt to keep my thoughts true and uncontaminated.
Eventually, and prosaically, I left Hemingway and the hallowed halls of literature behind for a degree in marketing and business administration. To be blunt, as the man responsible for my own education, I was tired of being broke and figured I’d starve to death before I ever completed my sought-after Ph.D. I continued to write well into the midnight oil, composing complicated dissertations on how to revitalize various problematic American enterprises, or coming up with advertising slogans for new products.
Although we don’t always think so, especially when we’re young, the world moves at a frightening clip, and one afternoon, well into my 40s, I found myself hanging out in the West End while waiting for my daughter to finish gymnastics class. The familiarity of the neighborhood coupled with views of Aspen Mountain stimulated many childhood memories, and it wasn’t long before I’d spend time in the West End on other days as well, sitting in my truck, drawing forth seemingly infinite recollections.
Like a long-lost native son, beat up but better for it, I emerged from the immense, history-filled, old-growth forests of my mind with an armload of stories and revelations begging for light. The gods smiled, took a roll of the dice, and this space became that light.
Each week is a journey of discovery, a peeling back of the layered synapses, looking and waiting for that spark, the tiny grain of creativity that might grow and turn itself into a weekly column. There is nothing I would rather do.
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Columnist Roger Marolt is learning to hold his breath longer during these hot, dry summers, he writes.