Friday, January 2, 2009

Desert Life

So where do I begin? I have been a inadequate correspondent during this time in AZ and an insufficient poster. I won't try to make up for it in one fell swoop here, but I'll tell you a little bit about what's been going on.

Usually when we come to AZ we try to get into a rhythm of writing and going out into the desert and then hanging out at night. Last year that didn't happen because we were here such a short time. This year that hasn't happened the way it usually does for a number of reasons. But that's all right. More and more I think a good life is about letting go and flowing with the go. I'd like to think I'm easygoing but whenever I suggest this to my family, they laugh out loud. Uproariously. I do hang on for dear life. I like rhythms. I like beautiful routines. And I also like an adventurous life. I'm a nester and a traveller.

For the first week here, I couldn't settle down. I wanted to know that my dad was doing well. That my sister was doing well. I wanted to see them. I also wanted to stop eating crap. This year has not been a good year for me eating well. (Compared to someone who swills gin and eats sugar all day, I eat very well. But for me, I've been eating crappy, and I feel it. I'm cranky, depressed, and bigger than is comfortable for me. I'm used to being a little person and I want to remain a little person.) Plus I wasn't sure if I was going to write while I was here. So I dreamed all night, stared at the "no trespassing" sign over the wash part of the day, and sat in a chair in the wash other parts of the day and listened to the desert life around me.

Two of my sisters and my dad came to visit us a couple of times. We walked in the desert. Both times they were here, we saw a jack rabbit. I just love these creatures. They are so incongruous looking with their huge ears and their loooong legs. After one encounter, I imagined the jack rabbit had on a top hat and was carrying a magician's wand. He did a little dance, doffed his hat, tapped it with his wand, and then he pulled a man out of his hat. Abracadabra!

I've written many posts while here but I haven't posted them. Not sure why.

Mario says I don't seem happy here. I said, "When was the last time you saw me happy?" "When you're here," he said. "You're happy here." I don't feel that kicking my heels together joyfulness hardly ever any more. I'm sure it'll come back. Won't it? I've just been grieving for a few years now. I don't get over things easily—I'd like to change that only I think my resolution this year is to accept myself as I am. Maybe I won't try to change anything about myself. You can tell that I'm resolute about my resolution.

I don't make New Year's resolutons. I don't think I ever have.

I'm still having so many dreams. Some of them are nightmares. On New Year's Eve, I had one of my worst dreams of my entire life. And I've had some terrible dreams in my life. In fact, I think I am a connoisseur of nightmares. My own nightmares. Connoisseur is not quite the right word. Let's just say I've had thousands of grim, gruesome, and horrifying dreams over the course of my young life.

Anyway, I did finally start writing. As I think I mentioned, I heard the story in my head in a particular accent. For days I would think in this accent and speak in this accent. I started to wonder if there was something wrong with my brain. As soon as that happened, the voice faded. When I sat down to write the next day, the voice wasn't there. The rhythm of the book was stone cold dead.

Now picture this. Every morning I walk out to the Quail House. I kiss my sweetheart and we exchange places. He's already been working for a couple of hours when I come to the little house. (I stay in the Quail House because there's a desk short enough for me to type at.) Mario goes back to the casita. After he's gone, I take my rattle and I stand out in the desert sun and I rattle. I call out to the directions. I give homage to all those creative energies that are a part of my life. Then I go back inside, sit at my desk, and write. But this day, I sat at the desk and I didn't hear that strange accented narrative in my head. I realized that I had denigrated this wonderful thing that was happening to me: this story had been coming to me, beautiful and strange, and I had started to fear it, to question it, and so it went away. Who wouldn't? I put my head in my hands then and said to myself and anyone else who was listening, "I'm so sorry! I didn't mean it. Please come back. Please come back."

I waited in the silence. The hepa fan was going. The heater was going. Outside I could hear the desert birds. And then I heard the voice in my head, "All right then. Let's talk about the auld sea and the auld ma." And I started to write again.

Things and people and places come and go in our lives. It's important not to hold on too tightly, but it is important to honor those people, places, and things. It's important to honor our gifts. This reminds me of something Clarissa Pinkola Estes said several years ago. I wrote about it in my unfinished nonfiction book Answering the Creative Call: "When we were in New Mexico we spent a day with Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes (Women Who Run With the Wolves), along with a couple hundred other people. She sat on the stage and wove stories around us, like a magical weaver creating shawls of inspiration for each of us with her words. She talked about stepping out of what we know. Move. Don’t be afraid of what others think. Be yourself. Do not denigrate your intuitions—to do so is murder on creativity, she said. 'Creativity is enhanced when what is invisible is acknowledged,' she said. We need to give ourselves permission to listen to our intuition, to the trees, the wind. This isn’t supernatural, this is absolutely natural."

So I say tonight, "Do not denigrate your gifts." I say that to myself. All year I have been giving up writing. All year I've doubted that what I do has any value. Writing is a strange art. With the visible arts, people can see them. Even if no one ever pays a dime for them, the art is visible. People can look at a painting and say, "This is great." They can look at it and have an emotional response.

This isn't true with writing. Perhaps it should be called the invisible art. It is an offshoot of storytelling. Oral storytelling was part of an experience with an audience. The storyteller moved and grooved and changed as s/he gauged the reaction of the audience. S/he would know right away if she was successful or not. With writing, if our stories don't come out in some kind of printed form, we don't know if we've been successful or not. And even when they do come out in book form, we usually have no idea what the readers think.

Is that what is missing in the art of writing? The audience is missing?

Regular readers here know that I think a publishing revolution is far overdue. I'm the instigator, but I'm not sure I have the details on how it should occur. No, wait; let me rephrase that. I am sure: I don't have the details. But perhaps writers should consider what is missing. What's missing for us is that most of us can't and don't make a living at doing our work. I think publishing needs to move out of New York. I think that model died a hundred years ago. We should have major publishing houses all over the United States. But maybe that model is dead too.

Something is missing.

I need to think about this some more. I'm so sleepy I can barely keep my eyes open.

We're going to get up at 6:00 a.m. and watch the meteor shower; I better get to sleep.

May You Revolt and Stargaze in Beauty!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ah, I found you! Forgot you were in the desert and was alarmed by the natl. wthr frcsts of snow in WA. But you are safe and cosseted in the dessert's warmth, letting it speak its magic to you. And sharing it with all of us, tumbling across the ethers and into our hungry souls. Suckling little artists and human needing to know our place in the world.


All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.