In 1908, when Emily Carr painted the First Nation totem poles in British Columbia, she heard their strong talk roaring across the wild beaches. They were still speaking their truth even though they’d been wind beaten and faded, even though many were abandoned. This was forever strong talk.
Emily Carr was alone in the sweltering heat with the relentless mosquitoes when she talked to the ghosts and inhaled the strong talk of the ancestors. She could have wished for comfort and gone home, instead she kept on painting and that old talk spoke again through her determined paintbrush.
Sometimes you want to tell the world your story. Or maybe tell one person, just one truth.
I was scared when I was little, there were voices in the dark and they were sneaking in the window, mean and ugly. They told me that my voice was insignificant, told me I must be quiet to survive and I believed them.
What if I became a totem and told my own story? What if I was thirty-feet tall and blue, yellow, red and green and carved with the strength of my voice? Could there be strong talk in me? Would someone like Emily hear it? I’d like to think she would paint me with riots of color, thick coats of bright paint and layers of voice.
I want to be an instrument like that and make my own strong talk, spitting my words like wind on a reed. My breath would travel upwards from my roots to my heart, over my chords and out of my mouth, gaining power as it flowed over the wood to your ears, then strong talk would roar out of me.
Yesterday, my friend and I were out hiking around a nearby lake and she pointed out two bumps on a log in the shallow water. We rushed to a better vantage point and confirmed that it was two turtles, one big and one little. Their long necks were stretched out of their dark shells. We could not make out their expressions, but I imagine they were happy to be together warming in the sunlight.
Right now I feel like a turtle taking small steps in the writing of my book. This is a time of cautious reflection. I, like the turtle, need my four feet on the ground. Inside my womb-like shell I can wade through the pages and ask myself the big questions. What is the goal of this book? What scenes matter most? What can be left behind? How do I balance the heart of what I have to share with an adventure that engages the reader?
What I know for certain is that it is a book about finding light in dark places. It is about our roots, the ones we are born with and the ones we create. It is about the magical point of light that can save you on the darkest journey. The kind of spark you see in lucid dreams. This tiny, spinning orb hums as it pulses and shines. You reach out to touch it and it radiates through you as a warm, inner blanket. I want to take you with me into this forest, transform and fire you with the elements and send you home polished and new. I want you to feel what it is like in the mysterious rabbit hole and guide you back to life.
Sometimes, when my mind is busy and spinning and sparking a notch too fiery, I tell it to be quiet. When that doesn’t work (that never works), I try to ignore it and find myself reading (but not quite retaining) self-help or reminders on post-its with advice for myself from myself.
If my mind is still reeling, unable to settle, I will write a list of the pulls fragmenting my attention. What books I want to read or research that needs to be done. There are scenes to be fleshed out. A page of displaced sentences impatiently awaiting adoption. Phone calls to suffer, people to connect with and appointments to schedule (the dentist – you must!). Not to mention the numerous life changes necessary for perfection.
The list expands into a fury of unrelated obligations and reminders about posture, forgiveness and potential dog behaviorists. I write a list of things to list on separate lists, and now I’ve really (totally) lost it, for underneath lies the compulsion to achieve it all instantaneously. It is the habitual inner crusade that drives all thoughts together into an impossible tangle of immediate demands. Now I am caught (again).
What I long for then, is to reset the mess and get clean. I seek out my haiku book. The white one with the fresh, spring green pear on the cover and open to any page. I carefully read one three-line set and float into simplicity and calm, thankful for respite and peace.
The time it takes –
For snowflakes to whiten
The distant pines
Now and then I come across a piece of writing that sets my heart howling. Like hearing a song that ignites you to break dance or watching a film that moves you to take part in your own life. Maybe you brush your fingertips across a painting that you long to crawl into because the grass is that perfect and it’s warm, acrylic wind sweeps up around your skin and brings you in. That’s how I felt about this fantastically absurd story of a home for girls raised by wolves.
The parents in the tale are werewolves who want a better life for their human children. A group of nuns take the savage girls into St. Lucy’s to be groomed and normalized for civilized society. The idea of these girls marking their rooms, wearing shoes on their fisted paws and learning to stand up on two legs is delightful because it is so bizarre, so ridiculous to imagine that they can somehow be made normal. They are really trying despite the fact that their words are more like growls.
Where reality is vulnerable, the notion of being raised by wolves brings primal romance. Imagine a place where inherent wildness is valuable and under protection from the pack. Survival is amplified with the keen senses of the wolves living telepathically as one with the cavernous, dark trees. Those who cannot connect safely, can relate to the desire to say that “Yes, I was raised by wolves and therefore cannot eat without making a mess or color inside your heavy lines! No I cannot quiet and soften where I am noisy and rough!”
There’s something alluring about these feral images. The deep inner call to tear with pointed teeth. Any child who has been hurt can tell you what it’s like to bristle and spit at every shadow. If only there were claws instead of fingernails and jowls instead of jaw, there would be some way to wear that old wild coat less painfully. How comforting it would be if there was a great furred pack surrounding our fragility.
Often in my life, I’ve felt like an impostor. Walking around in clothing and brushed hair while keening to bolt into the woods and take up shelter in her earthy folds. I could dig out a bed under a pine tree and circle into the soft needles. I could transform into my true criatura, let the wild woman howl right through my tangled fur. It’s what writing does for me. Here I roam unhindered with my paws out of my shoes. I am protected by my family. One man, two dogs, one cat. They lick my wounds and nudge me back onto the path where I am writing my own heart out on the page.
I wonder what happened to the girls after they finished at St. Lucy’s. Do I ever pass them on the street and get a scent of that old legend that they lived before they polished up and blended? Maybe we all attended there in some way or another. Maybe we’re howling to each other when we nod and say good morning.Thank you, Karen Russell, for this wonderfully strange vision.
I dreamed of a blog where I would share words. Not just the big words but excruciatingly skinny words, frighteningly lucid words, gigantic, irrepressible, delicious, beautiful words.
My words. Your words. Poetry, memoir, fiction, thoughts. Pictures, drawings too.
A mishmash of the moment. Lucid dreaming. Fairy tales. Magic. Zen wisdom. Random observations. Healing consciousness. The writing life. Yoga poses. Chakra mantras. The quest for inner peace. Thoughts about cats. Thoughts about thoughts. Communion with dogs. Blessings of life. Varied ways of breathing. Tools for the path. Theories on death and the mystery and everything. Nature as healer. God, Goddess, Wind.
Pictures of pets. Pictures of trees. Pictures of birds.
Thoughts on birds and the way their quiet wings are really layers upon layers of carefully spun threads.
A blog that will explore various topics designed to educate, entertain, engage, encourage, and empower both English-speaking and Spanish-speaking readers via writing and audio-video expression.The primary vehicle of self- expression will be Poetry and Essays but other forms of writing, including fiction, will make an appearance from time to time.