Found:your college diploma

You once said that you would like to sit beside me while I write. Listen; in that case I could not write at all. For writing means revealing oneself to excess; that utmost of self-revelation and surrender, in which a human being, when involved with others, would feel he was losing himself, and from which, therefore, he will always shrink as long as he is in his right mind…. That is why one can never be alone enough when one writes, why there can never be enough silence around one when one writes, why even night is not night enough.
Franz Kafka

Not Franz Kafka…Though wouldn’t that be ironic?!

I’ve been watching a big yellow and black garden spider spin her circle house every morning on the screen in my kitchen window. It’s incredible how busy she is, how precise and dedicated. She does not pause and is not distracted. She finished the web about the same time I drain my coffee and set the cup in the sink. By ten o’clock she has caught something and is solemnly wrapping the small body in silk grave clothes. I do not watch her drain the juices–I have read and watched Charlotte’s Web a hundred times. A spider’s gotta do what a spider’s gotta do.

I don’t have anyone keeping an eye on me these days, either. I’ve always felt a person acts their truest self when no one is around. You’d think I’d have more time to sit and type out that novel, but I’m still only a couple decades into convincing myself I have what it takes to make a legit excuse for planting my rear in a seat for hours on end. I clean the barns and plant ranunculus and burn a pile of old furniture and pick up walnuts and mow the yard. I come inside and cook down the tomatoes for juice, or do another load of laundry, put away piles, run errands. This feels like work, the kind that is widely accepted. Kafka was right, one can never be alone enough when one writes–but turns out it’s mostly because any stray wind will convince you you ought to be doing something more workish with your time. Writing alone, alone writing is far too pleasurable to be called work. It’s the kind of industrious no one believes in anymore.


I found a college diploma under a pile of rags in the barn. I was sweeping and looking for a flat makeshift dustpan and when I kicked it over I couldn’t believe it. He graduated in 1956. So this is what a degree is worth 65 years post-graduate; a temporary birdpoop pooper scooper.

It really puts things into perspective. I suppose I could’ve not gone to college myself and instead spent those four years writing. Keeping a lonely chair warm and finishing a story doesn’t sound like a half bad way to spend a morning when I think of it that way. At least sixty years from now these kids cleaning out the barn will have whole books to burn and not just a measly diploma.

(Just kidding a little, I really can’t burn a diploma in good conscience–it’s sitting on the deep freeze with other interesting finds.)

All the barn verses keep popping up in my Bible readings–yesterday it was every teacher of the Law who becomes a disciple of the kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old. Matthew 13:52
My mind made it into a barn parable. It’s on my mind and in my dreams. I want to record and show the variety of treasures–this week I found more books of German Lutheran liturgy, a gilded framed confirmation certificate from 1905, et cetera, along with pristine McDonalds’ toys from the late 90s. You may go ahead and guess what I think is more valuable. The surprise and delight over discovery–look what I found!–keeps me going back to the barns.

It’s the Bible verse that hoarders, or pickers, can understand.

Another hearty ‘congratulations!’


  1. Lol that’s a nice way to look at it, that you’d have books to burn instead of one diploma had you chosen to write instead. I think we all shortchange ourselves, and we have so much potential if we’d just sit down and write. Thanks for this post!


    1. EPStegner says:

      I mean, somebody someday is gonna burn your books, like it or not! Make it one they’ll pause to crack open 🙂


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