Monthly Archives: June 2011

thorns

My latest book comes out tomorrow. I navigate for awhile in another part of a writer’s life: the public part, being reviewed, discussed, doing a few book signings. I’m out here in the New Mexico high desert on a retreat and different cacti are blooming at the ranch where we’re located. (It was created by one of the creators of Biosphere 2.) Anyway, one of the cacti, the cholla, can’t help but catch your eyes.  It stays a neutral gray green  and spiny all year, but right now there are these amazing rose-like flowers opening all up and down its arms. I’m like that cactus, I’ve decided…..staying internal and blending in with the landscape around me as I work to craft a story. And I keep my psyche and creativity surrounded by thorns so no one gets too close and hurts me because if I get hurt enough, I can’t create. The thorns are also out so I can keep distance around the thing I’m creating, so it doesn’t wither from the wrong kind of attention. But now I’m in flower and whether I want it or not. What I’ve created is out there for show. I feel awkward and gawkily on display. I don’t know how to take compliments or criticism. I don’t know how to be in flower. Only my thorns seem familiar.

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spaces

I’ve been driving across a lot of vast, open spaces in the past few days….the beginning of plains country around Amarillo and the high desert and desert of New Mexico stretching all the way to mountain. Dad has been on my mind. He was about the same age I am now when he died. And I never really knew him. If he could have waited on me to grow up more, to be able to sit in the discomfort that was always between us, we might have been able to have some real conversation, or if not that, that sincere quiet that can reside between two people who love one another. My Dad was a child of the Great Depression, and that marked him all his life. He left home early; by 16 he was off to college and then to the Merchant Marine Academy. He was forthright and opinionated. He drank too much and said things I would imagine he regretted later. It was the saying of those things that put distance between us. They hurt, and by the time I was 8 I moved some place far back inside myself and never came close to him again. But some of my siblings managed better. My late sister Carmen said she always saw him as a hurt, little boy. My brother loved and admired him and has nothing but that to express when my Dad’s name comes up to this day. But me….I missed an opportunity to know him. I couldn’t get past the fear of hurt. So I’m thinking of him as I drive past vast, open spaces because there was a vast, open space between us, and now I’d like it closed.

samurai

We’re giving a tea party for my niece. As I gather boughs with great, white clusters called snowballs from my sister’s shrubs to put into vases, my thoughts are far away, on bits and pieces of movies I’ve watched as I bid my time here, movies about warriors, movies about sports and young men, movies about God in unexpected guise and the demons in one’s self. In case you hadn’t noticed, says the coach in one of them, life ain’t fair and sometimes you get the short end of the stick. But how long you carry it is up to you. Movie samurai practice their swordplay in my thoughts, their solemn, intense, yet zen focus, the clean, hard discipline and code of honor bulwarking all, death no enemy, but an accepted piece of the life of a warrior, with an honorable way to die underpinning all. Texas high school seniors repeat their lines as I set out silver trays, football heros, who must deal with the last clear, clean drama most of them will have in life, winning state or not. Again, rules are there, even if not followed by all. Their play on the football field is a kind of war to them, requires them to grow in ways they don’t expect. Or I think about the real war-traumatized movie hero with God striding beside him; the moment when I realized his companion was God made me blink my eyes at the TV screen and weep from the sweet simplicity of it. What do you want from me, screams a soul-maimed warrior. What do you want from yourself is the reply.

As I arrange tea cups for the party to come, there’s a longing in me for clean purpose, for a code of conduct so precise that I have no questions, for an honorable way to die as clear as goal posts on a football field. Dialog from one of the movies echoes in my head: it’s a game you can’t win. It’s the playing of it. The dialog is about golf.  Life, I think, watching snowball petals drop lightly on a polished table top…..life.

Have you a code of conduct, a code of honor? What is it? And how is a woman a warrior, for I know we are. Yet, what are our battles? What are our swords?

awake


There was an article in an old Smithsonian Magazine about Agatha Christie. She kept to herself, didn’t do interviews, had this runaway, hideaway place of a second home, and once, she did run away….disappeared for a time. I’m feeling a little like running away. This is the time in a writer’s life when suddenly there is this exposure, as if you’d been sleeping peacefully and someone pulls back the covers and turns on the lights. My fourth book is about to be out. It debuts officially June 28, and here I am, blinking stupidly at the light’s glow of that. It’s as if I must wake up from a giant sleep and comb my hair and look presentable. I must announce my deed of writing a book. I must explain why I did what I did. Or I must read about someone else’s opinion on why I did what I did and whether I did it properly. The thing about writing fiction is, it’s such a private act. You write and someone else reads, but your paths never cross. There is silence in writing and silence in reading. I’m always whining to whoever will listen about the solitude of my work, but I realize as I must step out of that solitude for a few minutes, how comforting it is, how I love it. I really am a hermit dreaming a dream I write down. Plant dreaming deep….that’s the name of a memoir by the poet May Sarton…..the words resonate right now. Don’t want to unfurl and explain the dream.