there are pieces of me
that stand on mountains
in tide pools
in city lights
but the whole of me
~ Rima Z. Kharuf
Day Three. New Year. I missed its turning. 12:09 when I glanced up and thought, Oh, my goodness. I missed the magic moment 2016 closed the door and 2017 popped its head in. I was in the midst of editing my book, knew I’d soon stop and move upstairs, pack a box for my move across country in two weeks, put my head down around 2am. Deadlines on top one another that make me feel like that 70s Little Feat song, Willin,’. . .been warped by the rain, driven by the snow. . .kicked by the wind. . .Had my head stoved in, but I’m still on my feet and I’m still, willin.‘ Metaphorically feeling it, of course, but it’s made me a bit edgy at times.
Tuesday morning now, though, and time to assess what else has been happening inside me while I was in the midst of living my life. The good and best (meaning most magical) stuff is not always what we remember. Our experience not confined to what we remember, either. If we don’t let it be. What I remember about the past week is sitting in front of the computer, squinting down at the 14” screen, editing my manuscript in the way I do with each word and syllable weighed not just for what it says or how correctly I say it, but the way it feels, the rhythm and ring. And how I’d look up at dusk, think I haven’t been outside today. It was my body feeling those lines by Little Feat. In looking back, I see it was not me ‘thinking’ those lines.
I’ve been thinking about the 4-day drive to my place on the planet, Santa Fe. A longing for belonging answered. Been wiggling my thoughts to adventure in that drive, like it used to feel when I was younger, versus the tired and pain it seems long drives leave me with now. And it was a picture by a friend following Jack Kerouac’s ‘On the Road’ path (a longtime dream of hers) that sparked the Little Feat song ringing in my head. A shot of a dusty looking place. Route 66 road sign, two low-slung buildings, and a large faded, beat by the elements sign that says ‘Tucumcari TRADING POST.’ The song started like it always does whenever I see Tucumcari or Tahachapi. I’d never heard of those places when I first heard it. I was young, had traveled little. But the poetry of the names, how they rolled off my tongue, made an impression. I arrived in both by accident.
I was driving coast to coast, Durham, NC to San Francisco, to go to hypnosis school. I drove 10 hr. days then. Left time for exploration if something unexpected showed up. Loretta Lynn’s homeplace. The Indian pottery factory an hour off the road where dozens sat at long tables, painted whatever story they wanted in symbols on little factory pots. The legend for the symbols on the wall. And one very early morning I sat eating breakfast in an independent truck stop in Tucumcari that was clearly a favorite by locals and truckers both. It may sound silly, but I felt a wide-eyed wonder to be in that place from the song. A desert place so different from its name like a tropical bird’s.
And Tahachapi – I was headed out of California. The sun had set late but I chose to drive thru the last ‘big’ town at dusk. I remember looking at the lights in my rearview mirror as the road headed up a mountain, thinking perhaps I should turn around. But I’m the kind of road-tripper who follows the highways, open to what shows up, so I was unaware there wasn’t much ahead for hours. Pitch black, I’m driving the mountain. Then I saw the sign, Tahachapi. That same little thrill I’d had in Tucumcari several years earlier tickled my chest.
I stopped in a small strip of a motel. The next morning I learned it was wildflower season. I drove out to find the hillsides covered in blooms that I saw on the postcards in the office. And though I didn’t see blankets of flowers, I stood above a huge curve of train track, the one spot in the country where you can see the end and beginning of a long train at once. I felt lucky when a train came, circled that curve.
So, this week’s really been about poetry. It’s been as Rima Kharuf writes: the whole of me lies everywhere and nowhere at once. I felt beat by the elements of life and at the same time, been reminded of the thrilling adventure and discovery in life. And in the moment when I felt like my house was on fire, a friend offering badly needed help and then making a different choice, another friend showing up with gifts of connection and words I needed to hear, the most wonderful thing happened. As I sat at the computer one afternoon, I noticed I was smiling. Not at something I read or saw. Not for anything I thought about. Just because. . .well, because I was smiling. And I noticed it, and thought what a very good thing.
“None of us are getting out of here alive, so please stop treating yourself like an after thought. Eat the delicious food. Walk in the sunshine. Jump in the ocean. Say the truth that you’re carrying in your heart like hidden treasure. Be silly. Be kind. Be weird. There’s no time for anything else.”
~ Christopher Walken, actor and soul extraordinaire
Another small journey. Getting to Wise.
A Writer’s Life.
Tell me. . .what poetry do you see in your life?
I’ll tell you a secret. . .when ‘she’ said I’m too sensitive to my environment, I replied I’m sensitive, not too sensitive. That was a first.
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