Valdez, Alaska was beyond renewing, revitalizing, refreshing, refilling.
The surroundings as much as (even more than?) the theater conference.
A great happening, Last Frontier Theatre Conference, don't get me wrong.
Plays and art day and night, giant peaks, glaciers, haunting blue tides...
All of it inspiring, but those snow caps and ice creatures staggering.
Every time I stepped outside, hard to breathe, all that beauty.
The outdoor landscape, seascape lifted up all we did.
Reminded us how much is bigger than ourselves.
Homecoming felt good but then rough with the news.
Rough -- too small a word.
Devastating. Squashing. Broiling.
It's all too overwhelming. Humanity.
Abortion is healthcare. Contraception is healthcare. Healthcare is a human right.
Womxn's rights are human rights.
Gonna go away a little while again.
Go be in bluer states, see ocean, redwoods.
Be around beings older than humans.
And try thinking, feeling more with my animal brain, my elemental heart.
Try and regrow my wings again.
So I can think about next steps again.
But thank you, Valdez, Prince William Sound.
Thank you Suacit, these ancestral lands of the Chugach Alutiiq and Sugpiaq people.
Thank you water and mountains and eagles and glaciers.
Stay with me, in me, strengthen my heart, grounding my feet.
Until next time.
The peaks jagged, barely visible behind mid-morning fog and clouds.
Ghost crests' pine green through grey drizzle.
We taste the air, misting droplets sizzling around.
Hard to know what direction they fall from, or jumping from below?
The conifers house ravens who shout to each other
across the street and amongst their branches.
We striding holding pack straps in our hands,
keeping as much weight off our backs as we can
on our trek to see Mendenhall's river of ice
before she disappears forever.
Feet sore, dressed in layers,
glasses, hats, fingerless gloves for me
in hooded sweatshirt and windbreaker,
a hat and sweatshirt for Thomas,
yellow rainjacket stuffed in his pack, sweat on his brow.
Or is it rain?
Side by side down the road.
We don't talk much to keep our breath,
except noticing aloud what we see.
My legs ache from so much walking.
I know Thomas is in pain beside me.
Highway pines and deciduous leaves reach up.
Bald eagle soars overhead, who Thomas points out
as the raptor shines in front of emerald giants.
Our skin chills and perspires in humid damp.
Mountains, mountains, everywhere, but also wet
throughout the greenhouse of Juneau's west side.
Our focus on the triangular summits ahead,
between which we glimpse a wedge
of white and blue -- a segment of glacier miles ahead.
My hood up over hat, glasses rain speckled.
We tread forward on the roadside.
I found the reminders below from summer 2016, written before the world changed and changed and changed again. Are these still my commitments as a writer? What is different, new? What can I lean into more? What can I reexamine?
(This is self-inquiry -- you can answer in the comments but the questions are really for me.)
What are your commitments? (This you can definitely answer.)
In my writing,
I'm committed to aiming for big global topics and intimate, human connection.
To cultivating empathy and discovering how to open up my own vulnerable truth in order to allow that from others. My audience, my collaborators.
I'm committed to creating in a way that speaks to the silent and opens up a platform to allow the disenfranchised to speak. That offers opportunity for the empowered to listen.
I'm committed to using my points of privilege and my experience as ways to advocate for others, for the outsiders, minorities, for targeted groups.
I'm committed to listening more/deeper to the stories I intend to represent or leave space for others to represent.
I'm committed to reaching higher every time,
paying specific attention to the needs of each project.
In my process, I'm committed to write every day, whatever that means.
I'm committed to spending good time on one thing at a time, one pursuit, one project. When my focus isn't split, I feel better, the work goes better.
I'm committed to taking my time.
I'm committed to making the change I want to see in the world through what I write and how.
I'm committed to self care, to kindness.
To moving/loving my body. To taking walks and baths. And naps.
To waiting. Not-doing. Un-doing. Wandering. Meditation.
I'm committed to being a playwright first but continuing my exploration of
poetry, fiction, nonfiction, memoir, screenwriting, writing for radio, even television.
I'm committed to free falling.
I am a person who can go deeply into a thing.
I don't scan the surface, though I have a broad range of interests and abilities.
I know where I want to focus, where I intend my attention with intention.
I'm committed to being committed to my art. To going big. Turning pro.
To learning and teaching and doing.
To speaking truth and each time trying to get truer, more specific, more scary.
I'm committed to learning how to say the hard thing well, to working with difficult material and making each story more global, more intimate.
I'm committed to getting really exact and personal in my work
so that I can speak what happened to me
and what I deal with in my brain,
so I can reckon with it by sharing,
and so that others may be more willing to open, share and be human together.
I've written and made art for survival.
And look here now I've survived I'm surviving.
How do I take that privilege and turn it into change?
What do I do in my art to respond, to quake, to bellow?
How do I stay strong, vigilant, healthy, mentally and physically--
and be a lookout, a safe keeper, be kind with big heart
and help care for the oppressed and the silenced?
Been in the midst of a big rabbit hole project this year I never anticipated with this cycle of centuries. What is a century? Most basically, a list.
This collection of lists is becoming a novella of a book, a shadow box, a podcast. Learn more about the process through the MFA at CIIS Artifact Podcast where this month they devoted an episode to my process completing this series and trying to represent that visually with a shadow box.
This weekend on Sunday (May 1) at MING Studios in Boise, I'll be reading from this series for the first time. If you're in Boise and want to hear, I will begin at 7pm through MING Studio's 7o'clock series. Sometimes they lock the doors right at 7, so get there on time :) It's $7 if you're not a member (and if you're an artist, you can be a member for $13 a year!). A lot of the stuff will be raw and vulnerable, freshly typed, so friendly faces please, for this work-in-progress reading. Thank you!
Maybe I'll see you there. If not, you can check out some of my process below and the podcast to learn more.
The rushing Payette, gentle roar by the shore.
We sat on wide boulder,
low sandstone flat at our feet
displaying our black Rubbermaid plates, containers, bins of food,
brought out one at a time.
Mountain pines stretched all around.
The day in high 60s
but a breeze asked me to pull up my sweatshirt hood.
Pale sky, trace clouds.
Greens, strawberries, crackers with chevre,
a yellow cheese that bit back
and tinned oysters.
Blackberry bubbling drinks rested on river rocks unopened.
We watched the ants watching us,
pools of sugar sand circling round stones,
the sap and water scents infusing life in our bones.
Kayakers waved paddles by.
On mountaintop, grass dried underfoot.
I reached the height of one landing
and knew the climb continued far above.
I craved a hike deep into wilderness,
to walk on and on to forever.
Our red Prius pulled into a temporary spot.
Tiny saplings emerged on the ridges,
bright needly tips shot up just in time to greet us.
On one side, thick brambles of conifers, aspens, huckleberry shoots, reeds.
A rocky soft hill descended steep down the other.
And up above this plateau with fresh open land for wandering,
ATV treads dug in from beyond
leading up to fire pits, fresh burnt logs, still smoldering.
Across the road, another peak raised giant.
Cars motored past in quick succession, short bursts of quiet between.
Anytime we leave the house
it doesn't seem like anyone else is isolating.
Traffic doesn't die.
Lycaenidae and Pieridae flutter by too,
black with orange wing tips, white with blue specks,
damselflies with translucent pixie wings.
I step up on a log, a stump, aged, cracked,
to see what's below the surface wood,
leveraging out the spaces under crevices,
wanting to hole up inside.
Of course the leaves. The wind moving leaves. The burble in my stomach.
Breeze. Breath. Smiles. Footsteps. A soft creak. A chair adjusts.
Sink into this spring evening, waving like a syncopated drum.
Songs of silence and motorways.
A little finch pours in her child's lullaby.
Feel whispers of hope in high waters.
A river gushes, rushing fast bubbles that wash willow tree trunks.
We're all spiraling together.
The flagpole squeaks. Motorcycle revs.
And yes the air currents through lavender bushes, through maple, oak, aspen.
Everywhere singing birds in their own notes and keys.
Some steady, slow, some quick, high pitched.
Everything green. Everything vibrating. Everything the river.
Years ago, the river at its high point closed the greenbelt,
so I took a different route home from teaching on my birthday, on my bicycle,
and Dr. Alluri ran into me in his night blue sedan.
I wear a helmet now when I ride.
I look all ways with more caution, more of my dad's fighter pilot sense behind eyes.
A wavering melody creeps in:
violins, ragtime accordions, silent film pianos unseen,
as though some invisible composer
designed a cinematic soundscape for this moment.
Across the way, thundering booms hard to distinguish.
The traffic stops and starts in spurts, but constant.
Kids yell in a tunnel.
I tell myself hush. Tell worries quell.
Some bicycles creak, their spokes sputter. Some run clean and flow.
Footsteps on brick, on concrete, on wood steps.
My dad wasn't always a great listener but he was quiet most the time.
He allowed space. Didn't interrupt. Didn't not talk over me.
He waited, that patience that boiled my organs
when I wanted something now.
A whistler soothes me with her lips.
Alone time: scale rocks, run impossible sprints.
Write with all my senses, limbs.
With my own pace, clock, rhythm. Trust that.
Spend weeks, months, years lying in wait, envisioning my next feast from my cave.
Then it's time to act, to launch rocket in belly.
The taste of my craving. Locking sight on her there.
Embrace, attach, drag my target up cliff face to a spot safe from vultures, jackals.
Dream my next fierce outcome.
In silence, listen to the orchestra around us in this mountain land.
Tiptoe, keep clean, everything arranged as I like. Or I get ruffled.
Always watching, preparing the next big leap.
Waiting with whole-bodied attention.
Inside I growl and bellow -- and sometimes outside. Mostly I seem calm.
Hiding in splendor home, creating bizarre fantasies about all of you.
Examining differences between the world and me, measuring the limits.
Another hearty poem inspired by Dorianne Laux's "Heart" in the spirit of this week.
Heart takes long trips across the frigid planes of winter
An explorer of underwater planets
A trickster bounding one way then doubling back
Heart trickles out dewdrops from lilac blossoms
An opening, a cave door
I see you and melt with a plate of buttered potatoes
Squishy heart of dancing Russian soldiers
Tiptoeing their way home at 3am
Departing the Ukrainian border
Sneaking back to bed with their wives
With their husbands
With friends and strangers
And all alone
A dream looking out the window
Sugar sticks across my lips and brows
A blood orange dripping from my hands
That tastes like dark chocolate
But a little smokey with forest fire
My heart on a plane to Belize
I was reawakened in Erik Ehn's 30 day virtual silent playwriting retreat last July.
I'm craving that kind of submersion again, especially of the in-person variety. We did much much much that month, making/reading/writing intentionally TOO much, with big pockets of stillness, silence invited throughout. We created in all disciplines and I often felt back at my MFA Program at CIIS, the first academic environment where I felt at home. Here are a few remnants, scrappy poem cut-ups/blackouts that helped me move forward in my process toward a larger thing.
Oh you green and luscious
peat moss, fruit of my hips
hair in mouth
light in eyes
my unaligned posture
form pressing me down
small breeze, nuthatch on elm
I'll one day stop making up for lost time
and the death of everyone I love
I threw up twice from the heat
and cookie dough ice cream
squeezed my eyes tight
A big emptying out
rotting cold astroturf
we slept in oceans of smoke
my upper half went numb
What is the color of sun?
A family escaping
overloaded raft made of scrap wood, piles
House on fire, they lost everything
Drifting apart into Pacific
A choke pulsed up
My heart sparks
me in their folds, their kingdom
Clouds pressed on through the wind
I hope inside you are bright
Once upon a time, I had a little rabbit.
I found it on the side of the road one winter night on my walk.
It didn’t move, munching on stiff grass, looking up at me as I approached.
I knelt close to its face and whispered hi.
Its eyes glowed red. Then flashed back again.
I watched a while and continued on.
Close to home I looked back. It was following me.
I knew it was just a rabbit but I walked faster
and even jogged my last blocks, ducking fast around two bends.
At my front lawn I turned and saw it still following, eyes flashing red to black.
I dashed in my front door and locked it,
scolding myself for how silly I was to run from a rabbit.
I decided to call her a she.
I decided it was a gift to see her out in my lawn munching grass.
I looked out my peephole and then out my window.
I saw how cute her hazel ears laid against her back.
Her eyes no longer red.
I decided I made up my fears.
I started to fall for her bushy tail, hunched walk, big back feet.
She caught me staring. I waved.
She returned to her dinner.
She had been on a long winding journey.
She lost three litters to poison.
She smelled something trustworthy on me
and decided to try trusting me for a while.
I needed to trust someone too.
I needed to feel trustworthy.
I needed someone to believe in me.
Every day had felt so alone that year.
I decided she was a good omen, the start of a lucky break.
In the previous year, I lost too many people.
Sometimes tragedy comes in threes.
For me that year it came in 30s. In 300s.
I couldn’t remember what it was like to not feel completely alone in the world.
Everyone leaves or dies.
This rabbit, let her stay.
Let me let her stay.
In the gracious benevolence of the gods,
I besought them with all wild display,
hands to air to ceiling,
mouth to lips and prayer of my heart,
I needed their boon now,
to look out for me and this creature.
I decided to go out. Give her a proper greeting.
Out the front door, she looked up at me.
Her red and black eyes flashing again.
She looked more like an it now, not a she.
I kept my heart still. I had to trust it. I needed this.
I breathed and knelt down, my fingers to the earth, a gesture of welcome, coaxing.
She/it bounded slow toward me. Eyes transfixing me.
I heard her/its thoughts. Becoming my thoughts.
I heard instructions to pick her/it up, bring her/it inside.
To care for her/it.
To give her/it a home.
To shelter her/it.
To let her/it into my body.
To let her/it into my brain.
To let her/its spirit out of this rabbit and into my body.
I saw myself feel her/its power, soon to be her/my power.
I had no more willpower.
I soon would have no more me.
Her/its eyes and fur against my skin paralyzed me, broke me.
I picked her/it up, I no longer I.
On my bed we laid ourselves down, my no longer my.
I let her/it hold me, climb me, peeking head inside my mouth.
Between my teeth, through those red eyes,
she/it breathed her/its/my spirit,
consuming/becoming me, l
eaving this rabbit shell,
this body corpse on my/its/her/their bed.
The shell soon to be eaten, discarded,
as this human body would be, once we finished.
Another being taken,
our one-by-one assemblage for our mother planet,
as we consume this earth with our brainwaves.
Once upon a time, we had a little rabbit/little woman/little planet.
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Process notes on a work in progress (me). This mostly contains raw rough content pulled out of practice notebooks. Occasional posts also invite you into the way I work, with intermittent notes on the hows and whys on the whats I make. Less often you may also find prompts and processes I've brought to workshops, as well as surveys that help me gather material for projects. Similar earlier posts from years ago can be found on: