It took a lot of convincing for my daughter to fall asleep. Lots of pretending to sleep, lots of cuddling with a tiny but frustrated human.
Lots of kicks in the stomach.
I’ve been thinking about my writing practice–more correctly, my lack of a writing practice. It’s one thing to think of writing often, and another thing to actually do it. Before 2020, I filled journal after journal. Journaling was a way to say to myself: “it’s good you’re writing.”
With the rupture in the world’s status quo, you’d think that’d make for a storm of writing. So much material. And I’m certain for a lot of folks, the past few years have been extremely–what’s that word the kids are using, nowadays?–generative. Lots of generative writing, editing, publishing. Journaling.
I have felt for a long time that things have shifted, but it hasn’t been ’til now that I recognize it for what it is–
I’ve been doing a lot of writing to remember, and moving away from writing to express.
There’s this journal I have for my daughter. It’s a large sketch book. When she was a baby, it was very easy to sketch her. Now, I’m lucky if I can quickly capture the way her hair moves–wild and untamed–when she’s running full-speed across the park. It’s filled with little notes, milestones; very simple memories that I know I would have appreciated reading about as an adult.
Then, of course–there’s the desert stuff. For reasons I’m still untangling, we now live part-time on a 10-acre lot. I saved as much as I could while working remotely as a programmer, then took the Great Resignation plunge in February this year to turn my full attention to our place in the desert. There’s a fence and a gate, now. Quite a few 275gal water totes scattered across the property. We planted pine trees, fruit trees (fig, olive, and pomegranates), and a special Miyawaki native forest. I purchased an old skoolie–a school bus converted into an rv–and have been retrofitting it to make it more livable in the desert heat. The hope is to cultivate all 10 acres into a thriving, independent oasis–a tiny forest–within 10 years.
As I grow older, I’m losing the ability to remain quirky and playful. Such a relief. In its place, I’m gaining a new ability to speak openly about the metaphors, symbols, images, and spiritualities that have always guided me.
I’ve been sharing with a lot of my close friends how stuck I feel in the “legitimize the project” state. On the one hand, I still believe in an idealistic reality that sheds the need for professionalizing anything. On the other, I’d like to take what I learned from Typewriter Poetry and challenge myself to elevate the project’s standards and conditions for existing.
In some ways, I’ve already succeeded. Instead of remaining a mystery, I’ve been writing reflective essays to document how the desert garden is doing. The other day, when my water pump broke while I was watering the pine trees, I posted a video asking for help and–to my complete surprise–received a generous gift from two of my former, close work colleagues. Their act completely blew me away…and not just because of their monetary gift (which is important!). It was because they wanted to be part of the project in some way, even though they are miles away from the desert. Their spiritual support means more than I can even put into words.
And I think that’s one thing I “missed” with Typewriter Poetry. The game doesn’t really matter, does it? Even when it’s about connections, and seeing people, and capturing magical moments on paper…what really takes precedent is the showing up. The surprise at who does come through. And the gratitude–can’t escape it!–of life’s timing and coordinating all of this.
So what’s the desert got to do with poetry?
There’s a poem I wrote years ago–I’d be surprised if anyone but me remembers it:
This piece was part of a “National Poetry Month” writing fundraiser I took part in with other poets, on behalf of Tupelo Press. I ended up writing a collection of three-line abstractions, which eventually ended up in a handmade book I assembled called “suck myself out the heart (i give back).”
This poem in particular has stuck with me for years. It gave voice to an image, a sensation, I experienced years prior–sometime around 2011 or 2012. (I’d have to look through my journals for the exact date.) I was in the Antelope Valley–the desert–with someone I loved, walking at night, looking up at the stars.
So. This poem, this collection of words, has been marinating inside me for at least TEN. YEARS. Ten years, y’all!
That’s what I mean when I say I am cultivating a garden in the middle of the desert.
I am returning to an image that visited me a long time ago. Back when I was…24.
There is a deal you strike when you open yourself to the comings and goings of the universe.
The deal is: I get to see you, I get to experience you, I get to have this transformative moment and magical epiphany…BUT NOW, I am in your service. For how long? I don’t know. Maybe eternity. But in following the image, the symbol, the vision, the pipe dream, there is a freedom in the responsibility. In the believing.
Both of these reflections have root in an earlier piece I wrote about “pipe dreams,” where I waxed poetic about visions and dreams and hopes tied into our future self’s anticipated actions: “Thinking About Pipe Dreams.”
So many threads.
What are you doing to catalogue all the infinite tangles in your life?
My daughter has since woken up from her nap. We’re outside, listening to music in Spanish and enjoying the slight summer breeze.
I’ve got my typewriter and my synthesizer in the car, ready for when we return back to the heat of the desert. Ready for the next phase of the Typewriter Poetry saga.
“Where’s my chalk?” my daughter asks. She’s ready to draw.
And one day, she’ll be ready to write.
Thanks for reading.
If you enjoyed this, I encourage you to read my “Flow The Desert” essay reflections about our desert project: