About Steven Lewis
Steve Lewis has lived on or around Springtown Road in New Paltz, NY, since 1973. He and his wife Patti are married 48 years and have seven children and sixteen grandchildren (who call him Chief--another story, another time). He is a former Mentor at Empire State College, a current member of the Writing Institute faculty at Sarah Lawrence College, Elder of the Nichols Pond Salon & Sanctuary, Literary Ombudsman of 650: Where Writers Read, El Jefe of the Duckdog Writing Retreats on Hatteras Island, NC, and a longtime freelance writer whose publication credits include The New York Times, The New York Times Magazine, The Washington Post, LA Times, West (LA Times Sunday Magazine), AARP, Ladies Home Journal, Beliefnet.com, Confrontation, Commonweal and a long, long, long (biblically long) list of parenting magazines.
Parenting (and Grandparenting) is a dreamy road trip full of contradiction and paradox, meandering summer lanes behind the leather wrapped steering wheel of a green Alfa-Romeo that become--in a wet sneeze--windy mountain passes slick with ice in a beige Astrovan full of screaming kids; then hellish burdens suddenly transformed into cherubic glider wings. Every time you think you know where you are, you're not there anymore.
Over the past 48 years family matters have grown exponentially more complicated and busier with the birth of each of our seven children (and now sixteen grandchildren). Yet in the end--as in the end of another noisy and tumultuous day in which I again try to ponder the imponderables of this life--I find that my inner world has paradoxically become simpler and quieter, quiet enough to share experiences reflections with other parents and grandparents who are as lost and found in this whole process as I am.
THE WRITING LIFE
During much of the Sixties I was writing self-indulgent poetry in Madison, Wisconsin—mostly to meet girls—but somewhere along the way the poet James Hazard gave me a flashlight to navigate my way through the self-reflective shadows and into what I now understand is the illuminating voice. It is the most valuable gizmo in the battered tool chest I carry daily up to my writing space in the Shawangunk Mountains and into workshops in New York’s Hudson Valley and the windy beaches of Hatteras Island, NC.
Inviting The Wild Things In
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.