My morning walk these days is short. 15-17 minutes. The heart of it three long blocks uphill, and three blocks coming down looking out to the western sky and mountains. If I’m in the third block at the top of the hill early enough before sunlight breaks, my treat is one to six bunnies. All sitting perfectly still, face forward, front feet together, ears erect like those chocolate bunnies wrapped in colored cellophane we used to get at Easter. Their big round brown eyes don’t even blink when I tell them how beautiful they are.
Recently, just after our nights started hovering 32- 40°, I noticed the colors on the western horizon we only see at sunrise – a blue between robin’s egg & sky blue and the salmony peach known as Santa Fe colors – rose to nearly fill a third of the tall sky. I wondered perhaps the temperature’s sudden change. This is the first time I live where I fully see it each morning. I felt I was witnessing something special, this tall rise of western dawn color. I felt I was gliding downhill, as if flying right to it. And suddenly I was transported to sailing across country. Two of us, bringing me home to Santa Fe, my thought. And just at that thought, two ravens sailed silently side by side over my head from behind, straight into that horizon. Their wings outstretched, like gliders.
Booker Prize winning author George Saunders says, “Story is kind of a black box. And you’re going to put the reader in there. She’s going to spend some time with this thing you have made. And when she comes out, what’s gonna have happened to her in there is something astonishing. It feels like the curtain’s been pulled back and she’s gotten a glimpse into a deeper truth. As a story writer, that’s not as easy as it sounds.” I think that applies to life stories, too.
This story of me being here, and my life now, began almost exactly one year ago when I pulled out my pile of notes, sat down and wrote the first words of The Writer’s Block Myth while on my yearly fall visit to Santa Fe. I’d already decided to move back, so I searched for a home while I wrote the book. It wasn’t a typical visit. It was a writing retreat and the beginning of my new life.
Then, in the six weeks December 1 to mid-January, I rewrote the entire book, edited it twice, created a pre-launch, made my first 2-1/2 min. video (which took 12 hours to do), packed my entire household, contracted movers, and set out across country. Like those two ravens, my husband and I in the car sailed to this horizon thru diverse American landscapes. I could’ve told a different story each night from what I observed. But it was my story I was in the midst of. And it was full enough.
Nine months ago this past Sunday we pulled in. I remember ascending the hill from Clines Corners, the thrill I felt seeing the Sangre de Cristos. How the clouds were so dramaticly surreal. We stopped at one of my favorite places for a New Mexican Sunday brunch before we headed into town.
I can’t remember when I finally stopped telling people I’d moved back after 19 trips in 18 years, after leaving to go east for family and job. That the last 6 trips were for two months. . .when I shed that story of part-time local who wasn’t really a visitor.
The months since I returned I’ve focused on the alchemy in the work I do with writers. I’ve put myself out into the world. I’ve spent hours at the computer, little of it writing stories. And I’ve been recovering from what it took to get here.
Winter passed into spring. Then spring passed. Summer passed. Fall has nearly passed. And two weeks ago I walked outside and realized I’d done little of living in this place.
I didn’t see the summer wildflowers on the mountain like I promised myself I’d do. Or walk amongst the aspens, hug one & put my ear to the trunk to hear that creaking like an old wooden ship. I’ve soaked at Ojo Caliente mineral springs only three times. And been to few festivals, galleries, poetry readings, or the many other things you only find here. I haven’t even visited the Georgia O’Keeffe museum.
The views of sky and cottonwoods out my windows I’ve lived on are no longer enough. I desire space inside and to write, as well as expand this work that I truly love doing with writers. As well as speaking before groups, and seeing people’s faces soften and smile as their eyes light up. I desire space i.n.s.i.d.e, and to write. Connection with myself and this place.
Thomas Wolfe said you can never go home, again. It’s true places change, people change, even cultures change. If we are alive, we change. And I believe what poet Derek Walcott says in his lovely poem, ‘Love after Love:’
The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s welcome,
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
I believe you can come home to yourself. I realize as I write this, that’s what I’m in the process of doing, even in the work I do with other writers. Because I am a writer.
That picture above is dawn from my kitchen window the first week I was in my little house. George Saunders is right. This story has not been as easy to write as it sounds. It’s been worth it, though.
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
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