Saturday, July 18, 2015

The River Fear

There was a period of silence. A period of undulating urgency, where one importunity spilled and rolled into the next like the troughs and crests of a river wave. Something I knew nothing about before I moved here, and something about which I am bound to learn a great deal more. How can one live without water after all? Not just drinking it, but being in it.

The silence was because of a fear that felt in my body like an electric current (which never mixes well with water).  At times we were rushing down the rapids of a current we had willingly entered, with our children no less, and hanging on to the raft (and our sons) for dear life. At others it felt easier, more mellow, but we knew that what lay ahead might be worse than what was behind us. It was pretty terrifying. How could I produce words during a time like that? How could I tell a story?

And even in the calmer moments, the fear was there. It baffled me, paralyzed me at times. But I knew that it was born of creating, of making esssaie. It was a response to the turbulence that comes when one risks everything for a change that feels necessary...not just unavoidable but absolutely critical for moving forward. We were making a place for our family in this valley. I had to love even the fear.

Knowledge of surfing gives you no advantage in a river. None. And it would take a much greater knowledge of river lore and language for me to extend the metaphor any further, but let it suffice to say that it was a year that challenged us. Slowly, slowly we got our heads about us. Things began to open for us, began to support the wild and risky choices we'd made. We began to feel that we would eventually be safe. And we had each other. We had our gratitude.

I have lived long enough (and written long enough) to know that you can't really write something real until you've finished living it, and with the uncertainty of how this story would end, or at least segue into the next chapter, I was wordless for over a year. Voiceless. There was fear in that, too.

Mary Ruefle once spoke about the fallow periods of a writer. Periods where the soil from which one's stories and poems grow is at rest. Things germinate, and the soil prepares itself to yield something alive and unfurling, but until then, it seems like nothing is happening. But it is. I still don't know what it is, but I feel that it is time to write and "see what I say" (Forester).

I will start slowly. As the fear falls away, there is peace, and there is language. There are stories and verses that want to give themselves to me, and I am safe enough to receive them. I let them arrive from the mystical world that generates them and projects them against a cloudless sky. I transcribe them from there. Live their heaviness. Their lightness. They are who I am, and for the first time in over a year I am not afraid.

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