Monday, March 2, 2009

Geography of my soul

I'm heading east of the mountains again tomorrow.  Back to the old home town to see my poor demented mom, give some respite to my sister, hang out on the Palouse for a few days.  It might be strange to be out on the farm right now. In the many years since I first drafted "October Afternoon" I never go but what I think about that make-believe family.  They're only alive in my head, but are so familiar to me that I almost feel I could find their house, sit a while in their kitchen, ride a horse over their land.  Of course, their house sits approximately where my sister's house sits, though it's oriented slightly differently, with a larger back yard, and steeper climb to the top of the hill.  But I sit in my sister's living room, stare out the windows at the grain growing across the hills, and am always half composing.  I listen to my brother-in-law as he speaks to his children, to people on the phone, and I'm taking notes about the content and cadence of his farm-speak.  There's so much of him in my story--much more than he probably knows.  There's much of the whole family, though not on a one to one ratio, of course.

But lately, having studiously avoided thinking of this novel, opening the enormous folder on my computer (or one of the back-up disks) that holds it, I am flying to ground zero, so to speak.  The place where it all began, where it took shape, where it dwells--even when I'm closeted here in my rainy western Washington home.  I've always said that the Palouse is the geography of my soul, the place where the Spirit was born in me, where God began the work of re-creating me. Now I'm wondering (maybe even hoping) if it will open something up in me.  Give me the courage to peek again at this story, to look at my words with fresh eyes.  This is the longest time I've gone in years without working or even glancing on these pages.  Has it been germinating, like the wheat on my beloved hills?

I'm excited to find out.  And I'm nervous to know.  Maybe it's too soon, maybe I've waited too long.  I'm a chicken, after all.  I don't want to pick at a wound that's just beginning to scab. It's hard to explain unless you've been in this position. But I loved this story to begin with, then I hated it, and was finally loving it again.  Really loving it.  And it was right at that moment--the moment I was finally completely certain again--that it was most rejected.  So what do I do with that? How do I find the courage to even open it?

But I'm taking it with me, thinking that if I can do it anywhere, I can read this story against that backdrop, the geography of my soul.

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