Tuesday, October 28, 2008
I was isolated in this desert, and now I'm connected in the night sky with other stars - a constellation of stories, young and wise, old and new-scratched. Phantom Seed No. 2. The following, friends from years and friends who are new, writers whose words I admire so greatly - inspiring our rather large turnout of attendees in the library's gracious back room! This is what makes a community, people gathering to tell their own stories, around a sort of virtual campfire, the village feeling, the mingling with diverse others, and pulling a little bit out of that alone-world and making contact points, like stars, a little soft darkness remaining between us, but a common glow and pulse connecting us all from not-so-far. Reflecting the sun, each and every one of us!
I gather the courage to write - to really let my voice open up and words to spill, and let it all go. Tonight, I was so honored to join the following: Larry Hogue, Bill Luvaas, Linda McMillin Pyle, Julie Paegle, Mike Cluff, Phyllis Costello, Lee Balan, Randy Maxted, Ching-In Chen, Chris Clarke....some came from so far! And so I feel a little less alone, and a little less OCD about wanting to pour my heart into a missing lover, missing lover, now the story will come. Your heart is here with mine, although I can't reach you to tell you how thrilled I am that I've done so well and so suprisingly with Phantom Seed. I'm truly floored at the response, the need, the desire in our community of writers for this little magazine. I found an empty shell and imagined things inside of it, as I did and do with you. So much has grown. Words are printed, and the world is a little more fluid because of it. Imagine, for me, my heart inside of yours, how it's already grown.
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Warm, very warm late October weather. I've been absorbed in the abstract intellect world of compiling the introductions and biographies for the desert anthology I'm editing for Heyday. I'm forging ahead, scraping to get it all together by my deadline of Oct 31. It's frightening and liberating - to let this book go....to the publisher....my intimate sheaths and sheaths of copy paper, my eons of books and endless hours of reading, researching - a prolonged pregnancy of sorts and a very extended labor! And not yet born.
So, going up to 29 Palms Inn today was a relief. Nice to pull my head from the small laptop - have I ever been this focused and absorbed before? Courage - to pull all of these beautiful pieces of writing together; I take all of the writing very personally and feel that the years of culture, history, geology, people, places, desert crossings, desert beauties, desert in all of its manifestations - are a sort of mine - mine to float on, a little while longer, before the push over the lip of the hill, and across the desert floor.
I've been sidetracked, as life will do, by distractions. Namely, my teaching work. Rewarding as always but chipping away, as it does, at my private, poetic, editing, writing time. My inner vision landscape. We have completed Week 8, halfway through the semester. There isn't enough time, or should I say space, to fit around my writing. I've got an inspiration, the seeds, of several pieces - one is Shoshone Woman and Me - sitting at the edge of Soda Dry Lake at ZZYZX Springs last Sunday, waiting for the phone to ring and for it NOT to be the 866 or 503 area code numbers that have been harassing me - some credit card debt of my daughters, nothing to interrupt a meditation over and how the hell did they get my number anyway, for some measly $200 bill or something she's TRYING to pay - wanting it to be that special "someone else" I craved and crave. Ring - jump - that dastardly 503, where IS that, anyway?
And I noticed, precisely then, the lump in throat, a teasing ring is what made me almost throw my phone away across that semi-dry lakebed, but not - that I was sitting quite close to the iron peg markings of Shoshone Woman. My friend Susanne, a BLM archaeologist in Las Vegas, told me about her. She has been in the lakebed for 5,000 years - I'm probably wrong, but it seems that the emptiness and longing in my heart have been accentuated that long, too, and I'm still here. Shoshone Woman and me. Watching another mirage rise and shimmer, and I know there's no water in the direction of Baker, the heat-risen line of box houses dangling halfway up the white blank horizon - that damn giant thermometer. What does it mean? As if it's going to endure to measure the next flood, last big one was the Mojave River flood of 1916, people today loved Phantom Seed the magazine, I sold out of everything, issues #1 and #2, it floored me, the mag is a phenomenon, this desert is to so many people so amazing!
I'm just doing my thing, eternalizing the Mojave Desert with my long-striding words, my grasping metaphors and my sense of being so very alone - same as I was at 22, 25, 30.....pregnant with my daughter at 24 and wandering miles alone in remote hills - driving while under the influence of mushrooms (gasp) in my red volkswagen van, getting miraculously airborne near Cima Dome....camping in the New York Mountains in Thanksgiving snow, showing those who were slightly nutty enough to go out there with me places like the East Rodman Mountains (where we found a burned huge desert bighorn sheep rack) and climbed Stoddard Mountain for the umpteenth time to sign the little ledger there.....hearing and seeing dirtbikes whine irritatingly so far below. Just doing my thing, and collaging it onto my own memories, and people love it - what more satisfying, that and to hear the phone ring. Maybe things were easier back then, when there were no portable, cordless phones.
And it does, tonight. Tonight, my love calls me. I made him move out, 6 weeks ago and it feels an eternity. My heart has been in my throat since he has been gone. I think we fell victim to a sudden dust storm and lost our way. Panic and the necessary and thoughtless, primitive gut actions to survive. Mirages drown us all.
And so, after a successful day, being so poetically and surprisingly featured as a guest speaker at the DPC annual meeting - these folks were meeting and saving the California desert before I was born! - little did I know, the vanguards, my guardian angels - after following the Joshua Tree park superintendent Curt Sauer - what an honor! - and preceding Howard Wilshire and Jane Nielsen, geologists and desert savants and guardians galore, with their new book from Oxford University Press - there was little old me, reading my narrative incantation poem, Joshua Tree Imprimature, which is being superimposed on a film being created by the UCR-CA Museum of Photography in Riverside, CA- I am so excited to soon be helping promote an arrange showings of the film - the premiere is November 6th, at the museum - I don't know how I'm up for all of this, only to remember that I threw a boomerang out there last summer, early fall, putting out good intentions from my innermost heartfelt passion, for my beloved and austere desert - and here it is, coming back! Shoshone woman doesn't dial a phone, but she talks, how she talks to me.
And my heart feels a little less alone in the world, receiving so much love and abundance from these good, desert-loving and hard-working-protector folk. Who would think that so much so vital and needed comes from little meetings like the ones hosted today at the 29 Palms Inn? Guests wandered by, past the pool and Mr. Guitar Man, wondering who we were. I had a conversation with Preston Arrow Weed, an amazing Quezchan Indian from Yuma, Arizona. Or should I say, I shut my mouth and listened to what he had to say. I perused a notebook with pictures of and proposals for new California desert wilderness areas, created in large part by the hard work of people like the wilderness coalition. And my homie called.
He called, and all the stars sorted their way into my arms, and the world felt a little less crazy tonight, and I smoothed my heart across the deepening, darkling sky, no longer feeling alone. I watch a jet trail arc across, like a fast star, but with its blinking red. I don't care what he says, I only want to hear his voice, and imagine water, in Soda Dry Lake - I swear I've seen it and others will stand me by -it rises yet again. Resurrection - it's not a mirage. It's the real deal, and I'll drown in it, willingly. The thermometer, the wind-dancers, dazzle their displays across the water. Hold my hand, cradle a temperature of stars, answer the phone and talk to the woman from 5,000 years ago, or was that just yesterday, is it now -
Wednesday, October 22, 2008
we’d be swallowed out
there, thirsty prospector lips
stuck to sand whipped tongue
Long arms scratch spring sky,
Dry, irritated. Brief rain
Taints fingers yellow.
vultures circle high
above rock lips once kissed smooth
by water long gone
I’m Desert Acres:
close up I’m all smoke tree. From
far away, I’m clear.
Mormon Rocks, Joshua Tree,
Mormon Tea. Settlers
name you, then they leave
Mt. San Jacinto from Whitewater
clouds nibble white peaks
cows nip green desert fringe
water flows from brown thighs
old man planted trees
oranges, lemons, date palms
the well is dry now
Lavender Pit is
the name of this copper-gut gash
fortunes were born here
love at 45
Bastard Hill, harder to climb
I miss the wide views
alone, mountain top
8,000 feet and waiting
for a thunderstorm
Soda Lake Bed
old age, feathers bright
dry lakebed molts deep blue wings,
water lifts to sky
in quick dash across dirt road,
c. 2008 Ruth Nolan
c. 2008 Ruth Nolan
Tuesday, October 21, 2008
Fall - Winter, 2008-09
Ruth Nolan, M.A. is Associate Professor of English
at College of the Desert in Palm Desert, CA. There,
and elsewhere, she teaches and lectures in:
creative writing, poetry, desert literature and
Native American literature, all with a focus on
the California desert regions. She has recently
founded a new desert literary magazine,
Phantom Seed, and is also editing an anthology of
California desert literature to be published by
Heyday Books in 2009 (www.heydaybooks.com)
(in addition to the below listings, stay tuned for updates
and for "desert poetry writing workshops" to be led by
Ruth Nolan this fall, winter and spring at exotic and
unique locations throughout the California desert, including:
The Living Desert Preserve; Bubbling Wells Ranch;
Desert Studies Center at ZZYZX Springs; China Ranch;
Whitewater Preserve; Deep Canyon; and more!)
September 2 - December 9, 2008
Creative Writing class - open to the public
Tuesday evenings, 6:50-9:55 p.m.
College of the Desert, Palm Desert, CA
writers from the community as well as traditional students
are welcome to take the class for credit (3.0 units) or audit.
Writers will be encouraged to develop original works in the
areas of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction with a focus
on the local desert region; class will culminate in a reading
at Barnes and Noble, Palm Desert, December 5th, 2008.
for more information contact Ruth Nolan, instructor,
at email@example.com (760) 964-9767
visit College of the Desert/admissions at
Trap Door Monthly
Poetry Reading Series: 2008-09 Season
Palm Springs Art and Wine
begins September 14, 2008,
6:00 pm open mike; featured reading 6:30 pm
your hosts - Ruth Nolan and Steve Petersen
see website for directions to Palm Springs Art & Wine
+ information on featured readers!
Ching-In Chen and Brandy Burrows
Joshua Tree Poets/Rangers: Caryn Davidson, Mike Cipra
Sunday, October 26, 2008
Ruth Nolan discusses the role of Phantom Seed,
a new desert literature magazine
Desert Protective Council
54th Annual Meeting and Desert Gathering
29 Palms Inn, 29 Palms, CA
The American West At Risk:
Science, Myth and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
Howard Wilshire & Jane Nielson,
see www.dpcinc.org for more information
now available from Occidental Books (2008.)
Monday, October 27, 2008
Phantom Seed Release - Issue #2
Featuring Ruth Nolan, Julie Paegle, Ching-In Chen, Jeff Green, William Luvaas, Lawrence Hogue, Chris Clarke, Rob Roberge, Larry Hogue, Linda McMillin Pyle, Lee Balan, Randolph Maxted, and more. Copies of the smashingly successful Phantom Seed Issue #2 will be available!
Palm Springs Library 6:30 p.m.
October 25 and October 28
Two Readings and Discussions of
The American West At Risk:
Science, Myth and Politics of Land Abuse and Recovery
by Howard Wilshire and Jane Nielson
Saturday, October 25 - Borders Bookstore, Rancho Mirage, 2 pm
for more information (760) 779-1314 - books available for purchase
Tuesday, October 28 - Palm Springs Library, 6:30 p.m.
for more information (322) 7323
both events free and open to the public.
November 1 & 2, 2008
California Desert Indian Literature:
Indigenous People of the Mojave Desert
Desert Institute at Joshua Tree National Park
lecture-workshop taught by Ruth Nolan
includes hike and lecture
more information coming soon!
November 6, 2008, 7:00-8:00 p.m.
University of California Riverside
California Museum of Photography
24 Hours @ 24fps Over Joshua Tree
a film experiment created by 60 photographers
narrative poetry by Ruth Nolan
Screening at California Museum of Photography
3824 Main Street, Riverside, CA
www.cmp.ucr.edu (951) 827-4787
a part of 1st Thursday Artswalk - Riverside, CA
November 8, 2008
A very special literary event! 6:30-10:00 pm
Teatro Chicana: A Collective Memoir & Selected Plays
storytelling, reading, and reception for the authors
50-471 Polk St, between Ave 50 & 52
Coachella, CA 92236
hosted by Culturas and sponsored by
Coachella Valley Art Alliance & Latino Voters League
November 15, 2008
Phantom Seed Issue #2 Reading - Release Party
Pasadena Library, Catalina Branch
more information coming soon (10.21.08)
November 16, 2008
Desert Committee Fall Meeting
Granite Mountains Desert Research Center, East Mojave
Ruth Nolan lectures on desert literature
December 5, 2008
Barnes and Noble, Palm Desert
College of the Desert creative writers - reading
of original works, 6:00 p.m., free and open to public
December 12, 2008
College of the Desert
College of the Desert Creative writers - reading
of original works, 12:30 pm, Pollock Theater
December 13, 2008
Desert Literature - Lecture and Slide Show
The Living Desert University, Palm Desert, CA
Ruth Nolan, lecturer/photographer
January 6, 2009, 6:30 p.m.
Palms to Pines Birding & Nature Trail
lecture with Ruth Nolan & Kurt Leuschner
Palm Springs Library
February 16, 2009, 1-4 p.m.
Desert Poetry Writing Workshop
The Living Desert University, Palm Desert, CA
Ruth Nolan, workshop leader
after the Navajo Night Chant, as told by N. Scott Momaday
In Joshua Tree
In the land that crowns its needled glories with sand
In the desert made of pavement fallen from the Milky Way
In the desert made of deep holes, carved by grinding stones
In the desert made of gashed canyons, cut straight through stone
In the desert made of walking rain that the eye can far-off see
In the desert made of fan tree palms
In the desert made of cold
In the desert made of blinding mirage
In the desert made of light so old it whispers like grooved bones
Where the woolly mammoth and rattlesnake cross time and home,
Oceans of time rising and receding, land quaking in their paths
Where the granite batholiths arch their backs
Where the red-tailed hawks vault their hunting songs
Oh, desert night lizard!
With your comet tail, sparking eternities of stars
With your rustling inside the fallen
With your invisible sipping at faint oases
With your instinct for scuttling sideways up sharp rock hills
With your narrow paths in the native grasses
With your nest inside fallen Joshua Trees,
With your burrowed body penetrating sand dunes
With your zigzag shape, you whip your way into abandoned mines
In Joshua Tree
In the land that prophets barren land with shouldered
Trees that are not trees, but lilies, they call you by many names
In the desert, where flash floods chorus and howl in summer’s long crawl
In the desert, where footsteps penetrate the night
In the desert, where bobcats and mountain lions prowl
In the desert, where the bighorn sheep scuttles at sunset in the highest rocks
In the desert, where shade rests in deep and narrow space
In the desert, where the early Pinto people carved their words into eternity
In the desert, where Chemehuevi Indians called Oasis of Mara home
In the desert, where small cemeteries mark the empty land
With your early people, hunting big game
With your ancient glaciers, carving the land to bone
With your old men and women, anxious for gold
With your young lovers, Willie Boy and Carlota, who could not share
Their love in silence with the land
With your reliance on the creosote for medicine and tea
With your vast wisdom of how every spare desert plant could be food
With your cemented reservoir at Barker Dam, a sweet man-made pool
With your earth-gouged wounds, gutted for their jewels
With your global tourists and rock climbers, hikers, plein air artists,
Musicians, ravers, thrilled children, all feeling they have found a home
In Joshua Tree
In the land where rattlesnake meets highway
With your ancient Indian trails snaking their way from
To the coast, the California Hiking Trail and Highway 62 follow
Your wise old routes
With your hidden built-in palm oases, shouldering timeless stands
With your visiting painters and photographers and
Walt Disney painted colors on pictographs he could show
With your nearby cities, fighting to eat your rare resources,
With golf courses blowing their invasive species of mustard grass
With Marine base blowing up the ancient, sacred sister mountains
With high desert towns competing for your northern love
With your sloped drop on your southern edge into the land we call low
In the desert raging with fires that burn invisible things we cannot see
Until they are dissolved
In the desert where people wander off and get lost
In the desert where coyotes and jackrabbits and kangaroo rats and tarantulas shoulder the slow, desert tortoise crawl
In the desert, where Minerva Hoyt came to your rescue and made you a National Park
In the desert, where
In the desert, where orange and ruby sherbet sunsets are your dessert
In the desert, where your shallow rooted namesake trees
Gnarl their arms skyward in a massive prayer
In the desert, where wind shreds your needled skin into pulp
In the desert, where snowstorms powder the barren ground
In Joshua Tree
Where canyons spill into nowhere lands
Where dayglo bright colors paint the sand in spring’s melodic verse
Where the June sun tarnishes the artist’s canvas brown
Where garbage blows indiscriminate of color, age or race
Where boulders become pillows for society’s aching back
Where lovers fight and surrender into the long sweep of Key’s View
Where the Wall Street Mill offers empty promises of old
Where the families camp and come to explore
In the desert, where the crush of nearby
In the desert, where motorcycles can’t whine, forbidden here
In the desert, where
In the desert, where the Little San Bernardino Mountains rise to pinyon pine
In the desert, where transition zones abound
In the desert, where rain may not visit for a year
In the desert, where water may destroy
In the desert, your name is scratched into stars
In the desert, you survive, you survive
In Joshua Tree.
Oh Joshua Trees, populating this arid ocean,
In the land where prophets turn for words
When colors bloom and fade
When lovers come and do not stay
When the last footprints have quickly blown away
When the first impressions of human hands have been found
You find your true name
Where the sands filter through your hands
In the desert, you are lost, and you are found.
c. 2008 by Ruth Nolan
Monday, October 13, 2008
Thanks to Mary Sojourner, new to the high desert, for bringing with her a small contingent of 29 Palms High Desert friends - that, with the sound of Harleys in the parking lot (the Palm Springs Wine and Art shop is near a hectic and crazy British Pub, downtown) - and a smatter of Palm Springs tourists (looked like well-fed Canadians to me), some of the usual Palm Springs poets/friends, and even G. Murray Thomas, who runs poetix.net calendar, all the way from Long Beach!
Mary brought a special resonance for me - in addition to this being probably the first poetry reading I've been at/seen here in Palm Springs that was entirely inclusive to people from the vastly different high desert, mixing it up with some of the well-jeweled and surgeried patrons, although distinctly at their own table by the door - nothing I love more than connecting the dots and mixing up cultures and peoples at poetry and literary events. Coming from my own beloved Flagstaff, Arizona, Mary was a longtime resident there - driven out by sad changes in economy - she reports the closing of Aradia Women's Bookstore, a place I went for books, women-strength, writing workshops.
Last night, a meeting - from northern Arizona across old trails of the desert, and then some - a story about Buffalo Park, a place I knew well and loved and hiked numerously, in all conditions Mary described walking it - muddy, slushy, summery, spring-ish, lightning-doomed, and blinding snowstorm - I've done it all. In my own two years in Flagstaff, 93-95. Wonderful to resonate with my own connections and stories there, back when I was in graduate school - a part of me I was so sad to leave, returning to California after my time there. Interesting that after the reading, I met a young Navajo man working at I-Hop restaurant from northern Arizona. Of all the synchronicities...
Thank you for the blessing, the small ray of connection to stories and humanity and a real and honest connection between peoples' souls. Last night - squeezing in a shred of evening to read one of my own poems, to connect and build a generous vibe - lifted me up and will keep me going this week, undoubtedly. A little poetry reading - a world of intent and meaning and articulation and feeling just a little less by myself.
Our next reading: Sunday, November 16, 6 p.m. Featuring Ching-In Chen and another poet, to be announced. On December 14, Joshua Tree Park Ranger-Eco Poets, Caryn Davidson and Mike Cipra.
I'm up in this slant light, a Dickinson moment perhaps, and not yet all the way plugged in. The neighbor's bougenveillia leans over my fence, soft pink and not yet in its full brilliance, the way it will be when the sun moves in on full - another clear, bright desert morning on the journey to our little world. Palm Desert. 29 Palms, longtime home of the Chemeheuevi Indians until they were exiled by authorities for being illegal aliens and shipped down to the low desert, and given their own little reservation due south of what is now a wedge between Coachella and Indio, I like to think there is something real about how the 29 Palms Band of Indians now owns one of the most profitable casinos in our region, Spotlight 29.
And last night after Trap Door Poetry, which I'm hosting now - a big success last night, down to earth, not pretentious, and very cool - we went to I-Hop for pancakes and hash browns and a lot of super hot coffee with my daughter, over in La Quinta on Highway 111, and I met a beautiful young man who is Navajo Indian, living here from near-Page, and with incredible turqoise he wore with heart and fashion - got to talking to him, he's going to be a student at my college, and he is a grass dancer and was just at Morongo Reservation up in the Pass for the recent pow-wow they had there. Tarah is 1/8 Sioux Indian and she can't get tribal recognition; her grandpa Vince was born on the Rosebud Reservation in South Dakota and when I visited with her dad, years ago, I was taken for Indian and it was my first experience with raw, and ugly, and tall-straw-hatted racial discrimination. For yours truly.
And I think of Willie Boy and Carlota and wonder if the Santa Ana winds were blowing this stiff in the desert that 99 years ago October. Why this story spins itself 'round and 'round in everyone's heads, especially mine. It's a story of unrequited love, of the desperation of sacrificing all for love, and for the price we all pay in our lives for love, how Carlota died and undoubtedly knew there was no turning back once her father was dead. She must have felt terrified and realized then how narrow the space between dark and sunrise really was, in the vast and uncharted caverns of the heart. I am sure she would have given Willie Boy up to have her father back. My parents are in Italy, and they've been gone for three weeks. I haven't spoken with them in all that time, and I'm embarrassed to say that this is probably the longest I've gone in my life without talking to my mother. She came to me in a dream last night, in her long black leather coat that I just sold at a yard sale, because I've never been able to wear my mother's clothes, and it brings me to tears, because she couldn't spend much time with me even to talk briefly because my father came, and she turned and walked away with him. No words.
We don't have words for Willie Boy. It's the ultimate in voyuerism and much more compassionate bringing than all of the tabloids I read, week to week like a dopesick junky, and for unknown reasons other than that I know I've been under way too much pressure at work, with single parenthood, with home ownership, for the past few years, particularly since I bought this house and at one time was not only teaching full time, but adding 2, 3, 4 classes on the side for University of Phoenix Online and another online university - and barely keeping up, in fact, not really keeping up with anything and realizing now how ill I can really afford to live in Palm Desert, I'm off to escape in the desert as much as I can, and on a daylike this, when the scraping wind is this stiff, and makes my nose bleed, and gives me a huge migraine headache as it did last night (thank GOD for Imitrex, or I'd have woken up with severe nausea and other dizzying side effects of migraines) - it will be impossible.
But I think of what it may have been like, for him, brimming with a heart full of love, and desperation too, and other things we can't know - me, in my pathetic efforts of storytelling, how I make his story my story, how I make Carlota's story my story, how I tried to make right balance by bringing Philip here to live, and how desperately I botched the whole thing up, and not that I feel I'm to blame, and I'm working hard to know the delineation between my responsibility and his, but his absence, on this wind-cut morning, when I can't help but cry a little, feeling lonely post-dream and shouldering the house by myself, and wanting to be a poet on a rock, perhaps not a pinion of professor, book editor, mom to a lonely and confused, but elegant and very together overall 20 year old (an amazing and admirable young woman, who would know that her father all but abandoned her, to his sad life in and out of prison, doing sweat lodges and struggling with alocholism and poor choices in life and in friends, as a little girl? She hasn't seen him since she was younger than 10, and often expresses now how odd it is to not feel like she even knows who her dad is.)
Sometimes I think I know why, why a person would risk all for everything, or nothing. I built my life here in this house, raised Tarah, have two dogs, two cars, a pool and spa (well, the pool pump motor is broken right now,) two computers (that's if you don't count the old ones,) and more books than a typical library. All good books, I might add, carefully selected. I know why, because sometimes it is all or nothing. That's how I feel right now. Philip pursued me and then admittedly agressed me, and I responded, and he lived here with me and we were close and we tried to carve out a symbiotic life and we first really connected with each other almost exactly one year ago at Desert Studies Center at ZZYZX Spring and it seems that only in the desert, and I mean way out in the desert, like the Jesus statues on a lonely, Joshua-studded hillside, that I visited for the first time last Friday, to stop and eat a chili relleno burrito from the Santana's drive through in Yucca Valley (one I always visit in Riverside, too) and reconcile my weird alone-ness in a day journey out of Palm Desert, a cottonwood and water/oasis soothing walk through Morongo Preserve (where Willie Boy and Carlota, and later their trackers, stopped for water and to refuel, too) - a day journey I'm not used to doing alone, because I've been alone so much in the desert for so much of my life.
Alone in the desert. For a year, I was not alone. I was going alone, and Philip tagged along, and I welcome him and showed him so much of what I know. Now, my alone going is violated. It at once feels anathemic and also, now, a heavy and sharp reminder of my fragilities and alone-ness. I'm shouldering a heavy pack I didn't know was heavy before Phil nimbled in and started carrying it; I was happy to show him my zone, open up my life and my haunts and open vistas. And I talk to him on the phone a little bit now, and it's so weird. So weird, because I intersected again with my own age and indulgences in my early 20's. In particular, because Philip has seemingly slipped right back into a life of ease and distraction: with his many 20-something friends, going to concerts and the beach. I resent his youth and his ease, that he has a parent who lets him live at home, that last winter he was being pressured to get a career together, and now he seems off the hook - I resent that I'm shouldering so much, after sharing the load for about a year, and that I feel responsible to be and do something in the world and no concert or party can make up for that. The world, my world, the worlds of people all around me, are shattering and crumbling, and our denials are being ripped apart; I'm one of the lucky/unlucky ones who feels it, sees it going down, and can't blind my eyes. I was, I think, going into a numbness for about 2 years, starting when Tarah went to Pitzer in fall of 2006 and the four firefighters died near my home, fighting an impossible fire and flare up of a blaze, and I began to slowly realize for the first time that there were things I couldn't save Tarah from, and it tore me apart. I remember pausing by the dinosaurs at Cabazon, to take pictures from behind their massize necks and heads, of smoke and flames, and saying a little prayer for no one in particular, just those who'd lost their lives and were destined to lose their homes, and we're in fire season again - when a Santa Ana is as fierce as it is today here, it must be 100 mph hell in the passes below the mountains all the way on the other side of the canyons to the coast.
He finally called me back last night, and we had a good talk. I'm glad to not be the target of his intense anger anymore, and yet I feel empty and lost that he's not a constant presence in my life as he was for over a year, arranging hikes and getaways and pulling people together. We both slid into a weird funk this summer, and a dead end, and I never could figure out why he had to hide me on a shelf, he was the slightly deranged mountain lion in my dream, and I walked over to meet him, when everyone else was scared. Without fear, and I can only believe, must believe, that Phil has a heart, that he meant well, that he wasn't playing or using me, and that he really was hurt because I wasn't completely "over" Jeff.
But, for all appearances, Phil has skipped off, gone back to being something I don't even recognize anymore - party boy, lighty hopscotching from one group of friends to the next, enjoying the mixing of his own special blend, and he must be on some level in mourning, as am I, because I know now, with him gone, that I really did and do have real feelings for the guy. Real feelings that were built on much time spent together on road trips and hikes, camping and reading in the house, me on the couch, him in the rocking chair (which I've hid in the bedroom, because it makes me too sad.) And I ask, in my melee of breaking down and tears, that started last weekend after we met briefly at Whitewater Canyon for a little hike, and after I realized that after a year of being pursued and aggressed, he has bailed the fuck out, he's severed his love, he's turned away, and I didn't even really know what it was like to be in the full thrust of his sun, his own brand of wind, hell he really is a kid, next to me, when you think of it, but so often the roles were reversed and I couldn't know which end was up, if he was him or he ws me. In short, Phil may be the only person I've met who really understands the alone-ness of my soul, because he, too, is the same kind of alone, and we found a sort of comfort in that. More than that. We found a bond. I found a companion but for godsake, if I can't deal with the burdens of this house, this "adult" life anymore, at least not now, how could he aspire to that, in his youth?
Part of it must be middle-aged apathy and desperation, and feeling I've lost something that I didn't even know I would ever have. Now, I am in a sad sack empty house, and I face mountains of work every day, moaning over an inane workload, and most specifically, my lack of concentration, my struggles with what's been most recently diagnosed, by a new doctor, as a general anxiety disorder (which is the root of eventual numb depression, and with a smidge of OCD, and common in very bright and very sensitive people such as me) and he's good at finding the parties, and maybe I was just another party opportunity for him, and maybe I can't blame him because in my house when he was faced with real and true things, as is my wont, and my destiny, and my pumpkin carving life work - a 24/7 type of Halloween, for me - he pretty much cracked apart and there was no choice but for him to leave. I cracked up, too.
All I can handle anymore is poetry, and finding comfort in the healing powers of words. I find some small light-glimmer in having a quality discussion with my poetry students this semester, about the politics of language, about the nuances of Fire and Ice. A man in creative writing class is writing beautifully about how he was separated as a child by the Catholic Church association from his sisters and brothers, and now is reuniting with them. I have four bikes now, and they are all two-wheelers, and I'm confident in cruising the local streets long and far on my red Mojave mountain bike. And I've largely recovered from my fear of tall palms, even when they rattle in the wind, especially the fronds that have been cut down and dried, must be a sort of latent Ash Wednesday or Good Friday thing, I'm still a little scared from when I was a kid, but I've recovered.
And as I recircle in on my childhood, and chuckle at old fears, I realize I'm still a little kid in so many ways, and I want to be rescued by somebody, at least part of the time, and that I have gotten so out of the loop, spending half of the past 2 years on sabbatical from my job, and finding my writer's life and niche in ways large and beautiful and small, and always rewarding - a whole new slew of friends, connections, and possibilities that I also had never imagined, 2 years ago - I've developed a whole new direction and feel I've cracked the code of my new life's work - after 20 years of teaching - and can barely handle the old things I used to do, particularly now that I am pretty much alone in this house again. With no real reason to park myself here, how it doesn't feel like home. A sudden conflagration, after all we could our houses in fire zones, and I'm no exception - god, how it's time to go, and it snuck up on me like a spot flame, ingiting a hillside while I slept.
I'm at once grateful, because I have long had a keen sense of picking up and knowing when it's time to go. What I can't handle well is that so much of my life and time have passed in this town, and it's like I've woken up from a long sleep, and I'm suddenly on the run - Philip cracked the code. The vault hangs open on a rusted hinge. The money is gone. The emptiness offers the potential for growing full once again, and there is excitement and a lull that frustates and lures. Your hurt is my hurt - compassion grows and grows and dominates my heart, but these are new feelings I must share. No one can hold this fault-zone-borne beauty and terror inside for long.
And there is also the undeniable sensation of being angry, and scared. Why doesn't, why can't my heart's desert love reach out to me and offer me the generosity of his love, and drive the 60 miles of open space that keeps us apart, and tell me he didn't really mean to break my heart, as I've told him I didn't mean to break his. Just to touch the hand of love and believe in that, and know that the other stuff is human foible and silliness and that we'll all outgrow it one day. Because I, like anyone else, the girl and the boy, 99 years ago, ruined by love and also eternalized by it; like all people, whose illusions and infrastructures inevitably return to the sand; am troubled and anxious and often feel I'm beyond repair. but hoping, in spite of myself, to create a wonderful change - to grow the young plants of a new garden of the writers life that have taken hold in the past 2 years.
It's time to find and light candles, get candy together, create a scary or funny or combination of both type of costume to wear. I'm glad I don't have to go to confession. I'm grateful I'm in charge. And I'm holding a fucked up pumpkin in my hands, its lopsided grin, the hollow chanting of a botched Santa Ana wind morning disturbing my early morning sleep, and I think of Willie Boy on the lam, and his last chance at love, double dead, and how he must have turned to face the open desert, fire-weather wind in his face, and how he must have been filled with dread, and with a giddy sense of liberation, knowing he had nothing else, nothing else to lose, and that the Mojave desert lay in wait for him, the one place he could lose himself, when everything else was irretrievable, was gone.
Tuesday, October 7, 2008
All 150 pages of glorified desert nuance!
We had a phenomenal reading at Riverside Public Library on Saturday, October 4th, with readers/contributors and a panel discussion on the likelihood of an emerging "desert noir." Discussions of environmental/apocalyptic mingled with aesthetic metaphors of night blooming cereus cactus (I have one in my yard, and last week it was offering its autumn hot-night blooms to the evening sky, even with no moon) long, elegant white trumpet flowers.....
Next reading: Palm Springs Library, Monday October 27, 6:00 p.m.
We have a big lineup of readers! Free to the public. Will rock the rocks!
Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
if you would like an issue of this new lit-mag.
I'm still here. One trumpet to the ground, hearing the rhythm and tribal hum, low pocket vibration of timeless rhymes - filming/recording footsteps in the desert sand for a film/writing project I'm collaborating on with the CA-UCR Museum of Photography.
College professor, will work for food. And a good chunk of time and space for writing.