Things You Might Want to Know About Me
I have lived below Bonticou Crag in the Shawangunk Mountains of New Paltz, NY, since 1973. My wife Patti and I are married 53 years and have seven children and sixteen grandchildren.
Beyond all that, the geography and geology of my life, I am a former Mentor at SUNY-Empire State College, a current member of the Sarah Lawrence College Writing Institute faculty, and longtime freelancer with publications ranging from the notable to the beyond obscure ... The New York Times, The Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, LA Times, Ploughshares, Narratively, Spirituality & Health, Road Apple Review, The Rosicrucian Digest, and a biblically long list of parenting publications. I am also Senior Editor/Literary Ombudsman for the podcast Read650.org. My book list includes Zen and the Art of Fatherhood, Fear and Loathing of Boca Raton, a chapbook of poems, If I Die Before You Wake, and four recent novels, Take This, a generational sequel, Loving Violet, A Hard Rain, all from Codhill Press, and a new novel, The Lights Around the Shore, published by Moonshine Cove in July 2021. A poetry collection, Fire in Paradise, co-authored with my daughter, Elizabeth Bayou-Funk, will be published in 2022.
THE WRITING LIFE
Some years ago, our pastoral backyard began to be pierced by howling coyotes, fisher cats shrieking like little girls, that terrible-beyond-thinking yelp of bunnies caught in some carnivore’s incisors. A 400 pound bear lumbering in from the treeline. A black bear standing seven feet tall reaching for birdseed is a daunting, jaw-dropping sight. Unlike a snake, it won’t slither off; or scamper away like a deer when you open the door—or bang pots—or stand as tall as the Rangers advise. Like the most arrogant of muscularly overgrown teenagers, a bear won’t flinch. If you’re not food, you don’t exist. Best stay inside, nose pressed to the window.
Most days I work inside this civilized oasis of cinder block and wooden joists, double paned glass and fiberglass insulation, sheetrock and art on the walls—this gash of an intrusion into forest. In my writing I try to use the tools of civilization to get back to a primitive wordless understanding of what it means to walk upon this earth—and then try to translate it into narratives told in a pitch that humans can hear. If I don’t get back into the forest, the work will be flat and uninteresting. Writers who write without an understanding of what lies beyond the intimate tree line might as well be writing Saturday to-do lists.
Which is what I do soon after the bears return from their caves each spring: bear proof the garbage bin—check; reinforce the posts that hold the bird feeders—check; bring in the bird feeders each night—check; let the dogs out whenever the grandchildren are playing in the backyard--check; protect the goldfish in the small pond from becoming hors d’oeuvres--check; lock the doors before we go to sleep.
All around this domestic DMZ, I know this: my house is nothing more than a fallen tree; the lawn is a clearing full of food and danger; we share the gurgling stream with creatures who, after all these millennia, still don’t accept the notion of our dominion … that the weekend work I do to keep animals out must be abandoned Monday mornings when I must invite them back in.