In the living room, my mom scolds my sister’s puppy, Hanna: “No, I don’t want you up there! No, I don’t want you on the couch…” I gave up disciplining Hanna concerning the couch. She is far more single-minded in her pursuit than I in mine (regarding her, at least) and it also not my couch. I feel less loyalty to it than to Hanna’s pleasures, which so far in her small eager life include lying on couches, gnawing on bones and shoes, and having her belly rubbed while she lies in the cool evening grass.
I keep trying to write. Anything, other than small stones. To restart the cold mountain series. Or something sustained, with a narrative, a structure: and I keep shying away from it. I cite more looming deadlines as an excuse. I cry exhaustion; it was a long summer in Virginia, in classrooms the majority of the day, with work accompanying it. I flatter myself, saying it’s because I want to write something “good.” But in honesty, fear is the dominating reason for not writing. One of the other students on the program this summer is a photographer. He and I talked a bit about commitment, fear, and intimacy in any creative endeavor. I learned a lot about writing listening to him talk about photographs, going over different photographers with me. How, when I realized intimacy in someone’s work was what I responded to, I began to notice right away when it wasn’t there, and how so. And then I realized I needed to become more honest as a writer, to get up against the skin of things, even inside the skin, if I wanted to write. I won’t say “be a writer.” I don’t know what it is to “be” any one thing. But the commitment aspect, that however you label yourself, you have to commit to not just a particular craft but to practicing it, working at it, cultivating yourself within it: that’s partly where the fear comes in. Because you don’t know what that commitment will demand of you. I say that as someone who has a major commitment in life, has a central vocation, and has had to negotiate the difficult demands it makes of me. I balk at making another commitment. But then I balk again: if I’m not going to commit, then what? The question rears in front of me, and I waver in front of it in return.
Virginia sunrises were like the breaking of an egg over the world: a sudden crack, and then light ran everywhere, insistently flooding every corner and crack and heating the moisture-laden air. In compensation, the evenings were long blue affairs, the light lingering and deepening until finally the stars began to come out, soft, as if they didn’t want to intrude. In Idaho, however, the dawn arrives a little later and more gently than in Virginia. Here the morning sun is a gentle wash without heat. Yesterday I walked up a nearby canyon. Every color there was velveted, the sharpness gone. Sagebrush dominates the hills here, fragrant, silver-green. I don’t know why I ever left the West, I wonder to myself. I was young, though, and the need to leave was stronger than my ties to the land. Then. Now I feel the homecoming of light and land, and I wonder how I’ll leave this time, and when I can return.