Erupting Eruptions

It’s almost February, which means it’s almost been a year since I wrote anything on this blog. An un-updated blog is a vacant parking lot is a ball field at night with no lights is a sleeping volcano is a vending machine with no MoonPies, and then and then and then…

It takes time, I reckon, but writing can erupt, as can volcanoes:

Volcanoes erupt when molten rock called magma rises to the surface. Magma is formed when the earth’s mantle melts.

 Melting may happen where tectonic plates are pulling apart or where one plate is pushed down under another.

Magma is lighter than rock so rises towards the Earth’s surface. As the magma rises, bubbles of gas form inside it.

A few Sundays back, after my wife and I put our kids down to sleep for the night, I took our dog Bear for a walk along the paved paths winding around the ridiculously-sized swimming pools, tightly-trimmed grass, and tropical flora within the yard of our apartment complex. Bear’s a two-poop dog. Every time. No matter if it’s an early morning walk or on a night walk when, suddenly, ash begins to fall from the sky. No matter, he’s a two-poop dog.

I didn’t think: ash!?! I thought the falling particles might have been dust or some kind of dainty debris from the high-rise construction that surrounds our complex walls. None of this will not look the same in a few years that’s for sure. I thought it could have been a last-minute misty rain before we enter the cooler months here in the Philippines. To be honest, I didn’t think too much about it; there was poop to pick up.

It’s not that I haven’t been writing. There’s a novel pressure building, it’s just been slow. Brooding at times. Apathetically sweating out a sentence or two and then wondering what in the hell that sentence or two actually meant. They were just words and it can’t all be just words. Delete delete delete. Escape the blank page.

Other times, the tectonic plates are Mambo-ing and everything is flowing and spinning and slippery.

On my last blog I wrote about the weather in Poughkeepsie, which was really nothing about the weather in Poughkeepsie. This blog appears to be about bubbling gases and liquid hot magma, but, I have to admit, I haven’t had a haircut since October 22 when I last texted Rico, the barber.


The Taal Volcano is located in the southern part of Luzon island in the Province of Batangas. It’s a volcano island within a lake, which makes a full-on Alert Level 5 eruption even more messy. Here’s what Wikipedia reports:

The volcano erupted again on the afternoon of January 12, 2020, 43 years after the 1977 eruption, with the alert level of the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology escalating from Alert Level 2 to Alert Level 4.[31] It was an eruption from the main crater on Volcano Island. The eruption spewed ashes to Calabarzon, Metro Manila, some parts of Central Luzon and Pangasinan in Ilocos Region, which cancelled classes, work schedules, and flights.[32][33]

By Wednesday, January 15, 2020, 156 earthquakes had been felt in the area. We felt none here in the BGC.

Perhaps related, on the same day—January 15, 2020—the impeachment managers of the House walked their official articles to the Senate.

Magma rises.

No matter you’re political view or belief, I reckon eruptions of this scale are seismic. Or should be. Enough for food for thought, at least. A fodder of sorts.

The last few years have affected my writing, though, as an artist, I haven’t especially wanted to admit that. In the summer after the infamous 2016 election, during one of my MFA classes at the University of Alaska in Anchorage, we—students and professors alike—got into a rather interesting discussion about the influence of politics on art. Many said, well, yes, you can’t NOT write about Trump (and all his bullshit). Others, like myself, said, no, art is a sacred place of exploration and frolicking and experimenting.

I’m not so sure I agree with that thought any more.

PBS says, “volcanologists can only offer probabilities that an even will occur; they can never be sure how severe a predicted eruption will be or, for that matter, whether it will even break the surface.

While waiting, I’ve been reading. A lot.

Everything Otessa Moshfegh. Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Sigrid Nunez’s The Friend. Susan Choi’s Trust Exercise. Lisa Halliday’s Asymmetry. The Mars Room (Rachel Kushner); No One Belongs Here More Than You (Miranda July); Heavy by Kiese Laymon; The Bell Jar; Ocean VuongNormal People (Sally Rooney); a close re-reading of Vonnegut’s Slaughter House 5 (Kurt Vonnegut), and then and then and then.

I’d say reading is the best way for anybody to get their tectonic plates pushing and pulling and their mantle melting.

Art is a sacred place. And, or but, I can’t seem to get this one kavanaugh out of my head, which, when not capitalized and slightly slurred sounds like some sort of bad rash, and I can’t help but think about what character, as a father and teacher of children actually means, and so on, and I wonder if the art gods are telling me something, and then there’s: ANGELA CARTER

Eruptions of this scale are seismic.

So it (the writing) goes.

And: “Time keeps on slippin’, slippin’, slippin’, into the future.”

I’ll end this blog with a link to 65 of Trump’s worst tweets (which is only updated as of 10.26.2019, so I imagine we could expand this list exponentially) and a link to 123 Of The Most Powerful Martin Luther King Jr. Quotes Ever, a link to lightning striking, and an admission that eruptions continue to erupt all around us all the time. We should read and be ready. Stay safe.



2 responses to “Erupting Eruptions”

  1. WOW – YOU REALLY AMAZES ME. thoughts move like waves in the ocean, like magma under the crater, like your ideas that flow up and become a fire for the mind. Thanks Mr Philen!!!!

  2. Always feel blessed with your magic…. Keep flowin’… Keep flowin’…

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