Archive for October, 2016

thoughts on art, truth, and unconditional love

October 23, 2016

I’ve found a temporary nest in my father’s second home outside of Albuquerque.  I’m not ungrateful for the space; it’s giving me room to think about what to do next.  Still, my relationship with my dad being what it has been, multiplied by my strongly developed hermit-like tendencies, made being here during the 2 weeks my dad & his wife were still in residency a tight-rope walk.

Once they left for Florida, I gave myself permission to tear into Elena Ferrante’s 4 novels (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neapolitan_Novels).  Although my friend had recommended them 3 weeks ago and I had purchased them 2 weeks ago at a Santa Fe independent bookstore, I’d held off, perhaps sensing that once I started I wouldn’t be able to interact with members of the human race in any adequate way.  Within 4 days, I had finished them.  At first I thought, “Whoa!  Slow down.  Stop binging.”  Then I realized this is who I am, someone who binges on great fiction.  When I’m deep into another world, I can barely lift my head to consider the real one, forget to move for long periods of time, neglect caring for myself, grab junk food rather than cooking, dress carelessly, fail to leave the house.  I’ve been doing this since I was a child.

Here’s one of my favorite passages from the 4th novel:

“And then he laughed … said obscurely that in his view love ended only when it was possible to return to oneself without fear or disgust, and left the room.”

I thought of the times in my life when love’s fever had cooled to the point that I could return to myself without fear or disgust.  At this point in the quartet, Ferrante has guided her readers through love’s infernos and finally places this remark in the mouth of the protagonist’s former lover, a revolutionary crippled by Fascists.  How had she arrived at this truth, I wondered?  Did it unfold itself gradually as she wrote or was it one of the ideas she began with when she started to write?  That she could place it so casually in the midst of the flood of words and ideas that filled these four novels filled me with admiration.  But truth is like that, no matter where you find it.  It glitters amid the dross; it stops time; it arranges chaos.

Reading these novels reminded me of why I want to write.  Not for fame or recognition but because through fiction there’s an opportunity to give something important to someone.  You can’t control what that gift will be or who will receive it.  You write because there’s a chance that something you express will act as a rope to someone who’s sinking so she can drag herself onto solid ground.

If art is any good, it manages to express someone’s notion of truth.  But it has to be forged with the highest intentions.  And for me that entails being alone, going into the depths and facing myself: the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly parts.  This kind of scrutiny is not for everyone.  Other people choose to fill their lives with obligations & other people.  Resentful at the sacrifices I’ve felt forced into making, I once labeled these other set of choices as distractions from what was most important.  I realize now that they are different paths on the search for truth.

I don’t know if I’ll succeed in writing fiction.  It’s hard, and I’m one of the laziest people I know.  But I am also vain (Ferrante has a great observation about vain people too), so I will keep trying, hoping, dreaming.  I will also keep working at my ability to love unconditionally.  Because that’s what art is too:  giving yourself to the world, trusting that it will nourish someone somewhere just as you have been nourished, cared for, protected, and loved.

Beginning

October 17, 2016
sunrise in New Mexico

sunrise in New Mexico

 

Yesterday I set up my own computer in the guest house where I plan to stay for at least the next 2 months, and this morning when I awoke, it had switched on, shining a picture of my beloved Bandit like a benediction.

It has been almost a year since Bandit left, and by the end of this week, I will have started setting the foundations for the year to come.  It’s my hope that the material I choose for the task will be solid and the decisions durable, able to bend and not break beneath the strains of sudden starts and stops, exhilarating surges and precipitous declines.

From Virginia to Wyoming to New Mexico.  A year ago I couldn’t have imagined this route and now this path has become part of whatever the story of my life will be.  Along with the startling surprises and fleeting victories, there have been moments when I’ve wanted to lie down and admit defeat, times when I have sobbed with exhaustion and despair.  Even as I look back at what I’ve accomplished, anger bubbles up as I consider how the many changes I’ve already made haven’t made a dent in answering the demand to pick up my tools and get back to work.  Then the fear that all the resources I’ve depended on thus far will fail creeps up behind me.  Loneliness and doubt whisper in my ear.

Still  beneath the thin layer of my self-pity there lies a growing excitement as the small roots take hold and begin to push upward for their journey into light.  Many wonderful experiences have already come into being, this morning’s sunrise seemed to say; so many more lie ahead.