Flash Fiction and the Loss of Ego
John Brantingham

In late Spring in the High Sierra where I live in the summer, the snow melts off and turns the mountains into a world of mud. In those places of recent fires, this is the season for morel mushrooms, which love the nutrient rich ash. I have a ranger friend who hunts them through the soggy mud, and she cooks them on a portable stove right there in the dark shade of the giant sequoia trees. Fire is an important part of the pulse of the forest. Without it, the giant sequoias would not reseed. Without it, new growth would never have enough light to thrive.

I think of my friend at this time of the year. I wish I were up there myself. I love being in the Giant Forest of Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Park where I can finally feel small, as do my concerns. Spring for me as a professor is a time of intense work, hundreds of daily small problems and details, that are overwhelming. I want to go back to that place where I can lose my ego and see myself in the proper perspective. I am small and this world is so big and there are so many people with their own concerns.

It is the loss of ego that I search for in the natural world and in my writing as well. That is one of the things I love about flash fiction. With the short form, I can see the world from extraordinary perspectives. Flash fiction is a kind of meditation where I am able to inhabit the lives of people and things that let me see myself as I truly am, just a small part of a world of people who are all complex.

In June, I like to hike up to Heather Lake, which is up over 10,000 feet and wander off the path to find a place where I am perfectly alone to write in my little notebook. The semester has ended, but its anxieties follow me until I can sit down among the foxtail pines looking down at the giant sequoias far below me and inhabit the fictional life of whoever it is I am writing about. That’s when I can finally find what’s important to my life again.

I cannot wait for summer when I live for months in my van under the giant trees. I can’t wait to commit most of my time to writing. And I can’t wait to come to the Flash Fiction Festival and take part in the work being done there. I love being with writers and what happens to my ego when I allow myself to become a part of a bigger community of people all working to see and resee the world again and again. These are the places I love. This is where I find myself.

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