Monday, March 25, 2013

Writing Practice: What do I carry?

     I carry a lot of things: my mother's piano music, possibly a load of viruses-how many of those I don't know.  I've been researching enteroviruses, those tricky devils that hide not in the blood but in the tissue of folks like me who have me/cfs.  Lately, I've been thinking about what books I carry inside me: Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath, Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson, Wild Mind by Natalie Goldberg, and my own book, a memoir that is taking its good old time to appear. I also carry around poems: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" by T.S. Eliot, "For the Sleepwalkers" by Edward Hirsch, "Daddy" by Sylvia Plath and countless others.
     I stayed up all night the other night and read Natalie Goldberg's new book The True Secret of Writing and instantly I was carried back to the Mable Dodge Luhan house, my home away from home, as Goldberg describes how she runs her week long silent retreats.  I closed my eyes and revisited the Georgia O'Keeffe room, Spud's room, and Tony's room with the famous bathroom, the windows painted by D.H. Lawrence.  In my mind I slow walked the cobble stone courtyard past the birdhouses and the petroglyph that sits under the  massive cottonwood and then behind the main house, the sacred Taos mountain in the background, its bald peak visible from almost every where in town.
     A close friend of mine drove through Taos this winter heading from Houston to Colorado for his own silent week long retreat on a ranch owned by the Catholic church. He said the retreat was powerful but also annoying. I wondered what he meant by that. Personally, I love the silence. It's a few days a year where I can just shut up and write. A time for just me, my thoughts, my notebook, and my pen.  I spend most of my time at Mable's outside. Even at night after the other writers have gone to bed, I'll walk the courtyard or just sit in silence under the gazebo on the wooden swing and listen to the crickets while I sip a cup of chai tea. I'm not sure why I love the high desert so much, I  just do. It's a place that has been breaking me open spiritually and creatively since I began studying with Natalie in 1999.  The days grow large in that week--time expands.  At the end, I am never ready to leave, but then everyday life pulls me back down off the mountain back to Houston, the thick humid air sticking to me like wet wool. And every year I come home always carrying gratitude, always changed.