Monthly Archives: February 2012

I don’t prefer to write about writing on this blog–in writing, of course. But a status update might be a good thing at this point. I’ve had a harrowing last couple of weeks, hence the vacuous silence. However, I’ve finished a major rewrite and have been fixing all those niggling parts of my book. I feel very confident about this rewrite, and I’ll tell you why–instead of feeling like tack-ons to force an unworkable plot into compliance, these niggling last details feel like puzzle pieces that fit perfectly into the bigger picture.

I’ll be out of town a lot in the next few days, and when I return, I’ll begin again.

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I Am Data

I feel very tired. I feel this way because I stare at a computer screen all day, sometimes multiple screens. I blog, I conduct research, I read news, I write books. Do you know what I used to do? I used to visit college libraries for research. I used to read the news in the paper, or listen to it on the radio. For a researcher, the internet is the best collation of good-bad-indifferent sources. I love my technology, but sometimes I wonder if it’s entirely beneficial to me as a human.

Sometimes I long for what I’ve lost–hearing actual voices and speaking to actual humans. Sometimes, I want to sit on the porch with my husband and watch the lights of the distant city wink through the atmosphere. But I know it’s too late to go backward. Yes, I can sit on the porch tonight, and maybe every night after this until I die. However, my eyes have transformed into screens, my thoughts into strings of codes and words. I’m not a machine, I remind myself, not a machine. And that isn’t even true. Technology has simply taught me who I always was–a robot longing to be human, rather than a human longing for technology. This robot needs to discover the soul button and push–the heart button that pulses as if it were real.

And honestly, all I really desire is to understand human behavior: their quirks, what makes them tick. Do you know where I might purchase an emotion chip so that emotive data will integrate with my system? Do you?

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Mediator of My Soul

In my vision, Hermes bore a lamb wrapped at the shoulders. I was fully aware of him, of his figure in front of me–much taller and with frailer shoulders than I could have imagined. He was a silent man, although he was musical. He was the mediator of my soul.

He was the mediator of my soul, and he wore a lamb wrapped helplessly at the shoulders of his tunic. He didn’t grovel as I did. He stood upright, and he never beckoned, but suggested that I might want to rise from my supine position in the sand. He didn’t bother with the words I wrote there. They were of little interest to him because, despite my ideal, the words didn’t equate to my soul and personage. They weren’t the person who waited at the core of being.

At core, I was the lamb wrapped helplessly at the shoulders of his tunic. I have to say this. I have to proclaim this. Jung was wrong about the animus of my soul. He didn’t desire to usurp me, to overwhelm me with his masculine nature because, more than anybody, he understood the dark side of the soul. He understood the shadow self because he came face to face with it in the desert.

And my shadow self recognized his presence in my life, distinguished that he was the man who carried me. He carried me out of the cave where I wandered, or believed myself to wander, where I lost myself in darkness. He carried the lantern and led me out. Yes, I admit, for a long time, I didn’t notice the shoulders that bore me–until his hands set me down so that he could carry another. But he was my animus–my Hermes–my shepherd. How could he desert me?

How could he leave me in the shadows of my life? I couldn’t see well enough to make out the pastures, to make out the shadows of the valley of life. Hermes, how could you leave me in a place where the food and water are distant and indecipherable?

What can I decipher, but feelings, needs, wants: my need to wander out of the shadows, perhaps back in the cave where the walls, at least, offer a sense of comfort and closure–because there’s no closure here where there’s no present light for distinguishing a bed. Will you return to me if I play the instrument you left for me? Will you return and lead me through to the daylight if I bark out a few bleating notes?

My bleating voice is a cipher of nonsense, as nonsensical as the sand where I used to scratch out verses. Who am I without you? But he had no words for me, no comfort. I was without him. I was in that way that a human is, in need of a shepherd, and not understanding the words he wouldn’t speak.

The words he wouldn’t speak I spoke, and at that point, my vision of him rose up before me. He was Hermes, a shepherd with a lamb slung over his shoulders. He carried a lamb, and he carried me, but mostly he played his instrument and guided the music that hid itself in my heart. What does it mean to hold onto nothing and to hold onto the image of Hermes at the same moment? What does it mean to understand the words of his heart?

Mediator of my soul–rest in my dreams–light the music my soul longs to sing!

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Up as Crosswise to Down

She built the world from the top down. She built her life as the schools taught her, as a house hung from a floating roof. From the sky, she plucked bread and lowered it in the toaster, until the government outlawed bread. And at that point, she stood in line at the commissary for her ration of soy and corn, and she stirred it in the aluminum pot on the electric range, and she mooed as a cow might at the thought of such food.

When her skin blistered and her head swam, and the soldiers dropped by daily to beat her because her boyfriend ran off with the rebel militia, she concluded she didn’t know how to live at all. With several days worth of clothes peeled over her skin, a packet of matches in her coat pocket, and a few baggies full of soy and cornmeal, she ran away to build a new world from the ground up.

If she ever heard from her boyfriend, she would send for him. But she knew she wouldn’t because her contacts claimed he was slaughtered with so many others in the battle at the tarmac. Alone, she slipped over the border and trekked up the mountains where the soldiers never patrolled. With a bureaucracy the size of the world, the soldiers couldn’t manage the altitude or the deep woods, as well as the oceans and states.

But this isn’t a story of political unrest. This is a story of a woman who needed to learn to live. From childhood on, she learned what was necessary in the high apartment where her parents raised her. She learned music and reading and writing–later, she learned theoretical physics at the university. She learned that bread appeared in the box in the kitchen, that produce grew from bins at the supermarkets before they were closed due to rationing. Then, she learned that soy and corn appeared in burlap bags at the commissary.

Now, she relied on her extra clothes to withstand the thinning air as she walked higher and higher. Although she intended to reach the rumored village that nestled deep in the pines along the northwest trail, either it didn’t exist, or she missed it. And somehow, after the first snowstorm of autumn hit, when she knew she would die without help, she managed to light her first fire deep within a bank carved out by the roots of a tree.

When the weather died down, and the snow settled around her, she climbed out of her bank, and she knew she would die if somebody didn’t help her, send her bread from the sky, and pop it into an ethereal toaster. Her energy ran low. She could drink the snow, but she couldn’t eat the plastic bags that once held her cow-feed. Instead of bread, she stumbled on an old hunting shack, which should have been long since abandoned due to the laws prohibiting guns and hunting–the same laws that criminalized living in these mountains. Why then did she find non animal tracks leading from the door and into the woods? Why did her nose detect a whiff of wood smoke?

She forced her way inside and realized it wasn’t abandoned at all. A heap of dirty blankets waited on the bed. The hearth still glowed from fire, where a kettle hung, filled with the lukewarm broth of cooked animal. She gagged at the smell of it–she hadn’t eaten meat since she was nine, since her parents could no longer afford to buy it. An axe and shovel leaned against the wall near the stone fireplace.

She huddled by the coals of the fire, and she waited. But several hours passed and nobody returned to build the fire higher or stir the pot. So she rose from her huddle and took hold of the axe, and she took it out to chop wood. She threw her shoulders and arms into the task, but it seemed an impossibility to cut clean through anything, especially in the snow, and finally, she dragged the splinters, chunks and bark back to the shack.

She stirred the pot and peered in and couldn’t tell what kind of meat waited in the cloudy broth. She ate it, anyway, from the long-handled spoon that hung from a nail. She choked it down because she was starving. When the afternoon turned shadowy, and she had difficulty reading her watch in the darkness, she wrapped herself in the heap of blankets, and she fell asleep by the coals.

She didn’t sleep long. The door banged, and a dog rushed in and barked and pranced around her. When she dared look up, a gun barrel stared her in the face.

“Please,” she whispered because the soldiers had taught her to plead quietly.

The man with the gun spoke in a foreign tongue. He yelled in the direction of the dog, who whimpered and curled up in the corner away from them.

“I was looking for the village. I got caught in the snowstorm,” she whispered.

The man lowered his gun. He was a big man, old, dark, and his facial hair hid his face. A pair of dark eyes peered at her from the bush of his eyebrows. He grunted, and then he left her.

He built the fire higher. The next day, he forced her to build the fire for him. He accomplished this by shoving her in the direction of the fireplace. And because this isn’t a story about love or even a story that has an end, but a story about a woman who had to learn to live, don’t be offended that the man forced her to cook, as well, to skin and gut rabbits, to mix the ashes in the stew, and brew pine-needle tea.

Eventually, she chopped wood, too. She set traps and collected potfuls of snow. She learned to live because she had to, for a someday when the world was sane, and she could reenter, not from the roof down, but from the place where work was an altruistic beast that consumed man and woman alike–a beast without sex or race that only discontinued its consumption when there was nothing left to devour.

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