“The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over the Hills” is the title of a book and subsequent poem that Charles Bukowski wrote and published in 1969. The book was printed and published by the Black Sparrow Press in Los Angeles, and was printed using the old fashioned letter press method instead of the more modern offset press.
In one of my many former lives, I was the director of The East Lansing Arts Workshop (1975-78), located in the Old Marble school several miles from Michigan State University. During this time, I had come into possession of an old Ben Franklin letterpress printer. It was the type of printing machine that required you to hand set each letter from a tray filled with different sizes of A’s, B’s and Z’s, etc. There was a platen where you applied ink, which the rollers would run over and then apply ink to the type, held in place in a frame, and then the press would bring the paper into contact with the inked type and then return to print the next sheet of paper, all hand fed.
It was a marvelous machine, a direct descendant of Guttenberg’s bible press, and depending on the quality of paper used, the type would not only leave ink on the paper but would also leave just a slight indention in the paper. The better the setup, the less indentation but there was no missing the fact that a book had been printed using the “letter press”, which at that point had become somewhat of a lost art.
It is a hard process to describe, but suffice it to say that every bit of your body is used in the production of a printed piece. My machine had a big flywheel which was in turn rotated by an electric motor with a huge leather flywheel belt to keep it going. Once engaged, it was up to the operator to keep feeding the paper into the press and removing the piece that had just been inked. Once the press was engaged, here was no first gear, then second and then third: it was full bore the whole way. You could stop the paper from hitting the type, but the press kept moving as long as the motor was on.
Interesting, but not the point of this post. I think I told this story in order to set the stage for the time when I first encountered the thought of days “running away”. Those days of printing stuff at the Old Marble School have runaway or more accurately faded into the past.
Since falling on October 17th of 2022 and breaking my hip, I have had plenty of time to ponder my days and how they have come and gone and in some sort of sense, run away as well.
Yet as I peer into 2023, what is it that I am seeing. Is it holy spirit smiling back at me and whispering in my ear that I need to value each and every day, each and every cup of coffee or glass of wine with my wife, and keep my family as a priority.
My life, as I recall, has been mostly accentuated by big brush strokes and lots of primary colors. Add to this periods of greys, crystal clean black and whites and colorful, muted pastels and earth tones, and you get the picture: almost.
I have never considered myself a writer, although I have journaled for years. I play the guitar almost everyday and have never considered myself a musician, nor an artist though I have filled up many portfolios.
I am just a boy, standing in front of my future, and asking for a little bit of perspective and some knowledge of my purpose to take with me for the rest of my ride, no matter the length or the width or the depth of it.
My fall has given me a gift and allowed me to slow down and rid myself of some habits that needed to be gone, but were hard to walk away from when I walked in full strength and without a limp. I have faith to believe that my limp will lessen and my strength will return and I will achieve the balance that my life has needed for several years.
Our story is like that letter press printed page, with each letter selected, slowly, one by one, until the whole page is finished, sentence by sentence, inked and prepared for publication.
And rather than the image of a horse running over a hill, our lives are at best, like a mountain stream, that runs past a stationary spot, yet keeps running from a source hidden in the hills, over and over and over and beyond a place that we have ever been.