Underwater

Dear Blog,

I know, I know. And I’m sorry. I’ve been ignoring you, ignoring my commitment to the daily practice of poetry (was I completely mad for deciding to do that? Probably.), ignoring my commitment to engaging with Ideas (or, in other words, being Uppity, Bombastic, and Generally Annoying) and ignoring my insistance on gathering little bits of bright paper and pinning them against the sky.

(because, in the end, that’s what a blog is, right? Things gathered, things assembled, things roughly made. Like an automaton made of soda cans or a rendering of the Venus de Milo made of used wrapping paper and ribbon and tin foil. A blog is a wobbly thing, insubstantial, ephemeral, as permanent as smoke.)

If it’s any consolation, it’s not just you that I’m ignoring, dear blog. You should see my house. It’s a freaking mess. And I haven’t washed my son’s hair in about a week. (Of course, that is also due to the fact that he is very, very fast.)

But soon, I will crawl out from under the weight of this next revision, and soon I will feel happy (mostly) about the work that I’ve done, and soon I will breathe the sighs of the innocent and sleep the sleep of the blest.

I took this bit out of the book:

They say that an entire universe lives inside of the tear of a dragon, and, if you had eyes to see it, a close examination would reveal endless space, burning suns, spinning planets, and huge civilizations rising from the dust and vanishing into the ether in the time it takes for the tear to well, spill and evaporate.

Did my world originate in the tear of a dragon?

Did yours?

But I’m sorry to see it go, quite frankly. I like novels with thought experiments in them, and I really liked them when I was a kid. Maybe I’ll put it back in.

Don’t tell my editor.

I also took this out, my little bit of mythic scripture-making:

You see, the story that the children told was true. Or true enough. There truly was once a single Universe, and it did indeed split into the teeming, cacophonous multiverse – the Worlds upon Worlds upon infinite Worlds – that exists now. It was also true that the short, runty god (the one who had no name; the one we loved best of all) was the cause of it.

But there was more to the story.

The other gods, upon seeing what their brother had done, were enraged. Imagine their shock! : Three worlds where there once was one? “Madness!” the other gods cried. “Lunacy!” they shouted. “Stubby idiot,” they muttered under their breath. He was ordered to undo his rash creation.

But you see, the runty god with the stubby arms and legs found that he could not destroy the worlds he had made. “Look!” he said, “how the mountains uncurl from the sea! Look at the white clouds in this world, the golden clouds in that. Look how the planets spin, how the stars cast their light into the ragged edges of space and time.” Soon, the other gods noticed that the three new worlds were stable and whole. They didn’t wobble or shift. And what’s more, they saw how their stubby, ugly brother loved his new worlds. Loved them.

And so it was that the other gods decided to form new worlds as well – so many that they frothed and bubbled as though in a great sea. There were universes ruled by mathematics and those ruled by magic and those ruled by philosophy and those ruled by physics. There was even a universe entirely subject to the whims of a very large turtle. There were worlds that dwarfed their neighbors, and worlds that fitted neatly inside one another, like nesting dolls. Every universe imaginable erupted, spun and grew. The multiverse swelled and foamed. Worlds pressed so close to one another that their fragile skins stretched and bulged, curving the space within. And the creatures of these worlds saw strange reflections – the distorted glimpses of a world not their own. And they were afraid.

Finally, the runty god had an idea. “It isn’t right that the creatures of our new worlds should suffer. I propose that all of us spend time in the worlds of our devising. We must train teachers and thinkers and tellers. Stories shall be the antidote to fear.” And so they did, each god to its own world, its own creation.

All but one.

I may end up keeping that bit, but in a very, very, very different form. We’ll see.

In the meantime, someone tell me a story. Or tell me good news. Or tell me a joke. Put it into a bottle and throw it into the sea of my own making, my stormy, foaming brain. Or tie it to a rock, and let it sink to the bottom. And maybe I’ll find it. Maybe it’ll keep my heart from drowning.


Dreams, Signs, Wonders (Is there a difference between novel writing and clinical insanity? Probably not.)

There’s a magic thing that happens when a book takes over your life. There is….an unpinning from the world. A sense of nonbeing – or, perhaps multi-being. 

When I start a book, it feels like play. I doodle pictures of my characters, I draw maps, I try to channel their voices in journals and logs and the endless possibilities resultant from potential choices spread in every direction – like bright, hot threads stretching from my fingers to the sky.

Later, however, those possibilities begin to dwindle.

Later, the possible choices begin to thin, clear and fall away, leaving precious few paths left for our characters to take. Sometimes, our characters are left with only one path – and it is a devastating, brutal thing to do to one’s creation.

When this happens – when I am immersed in a world of my own invention, when my heart breaks again and again every time I return to the page – I experience a sense of dual existence.

I am here and not here.

I am there and not there.

I am in between.

Four days ago, I wrote a scene in which a character wakes up and sees a large crow sitting on his window sill. The boy sat up, regarded the crow, who regarded him, one shiny black eye narrowed on the boy’s heart. Later that day, when I was out for a run, I saw a large crow flying low to the ground – missing my head by inches – with a still-kicking baby duck in its beak.

I know that crow, I thought. I know that duck. 

I ran home and sank into the book.

Yesterday, I was running in Nine Mile Creek park in Bloomington – a long windy trail in a wooded ravine tracking alongside the rushing water. It was a perfect day – not too hot, the rush towards green in the plantlife, the insistence of birds. Suddenly, I stopped in my tracks.

The wolf, I thought. The black wolf.

black Wolf 44

And there it was. The black wolf from my book. And it was huge. Broad shouldered and ropy muscled and heavy jawed. I couldn’t move. In my head, I recited these words:

That night, I was troubled by strange dreams. I dreamed that I rode on the back of a large black wolf through a darkened wood. I hung on tightly to his course and greasy fur my nose crinkling at the rank, gamy tang to his smell, though strangely comforted by it at the same time. Above us, a red, glowing bird soared just over the tops of the trees, its mouth wide open to the sky, its song ringing against the world. What’s more, the song itself made the forest blossom – flowers opened and fruited, moss grew thick and bright around the trunks of the trees. 

“Why are we running?” I asked the wolf.

“I dare not stop, Child, not even for the moment, or the wild dogs will rip you to shreds.”

And before I could ask anything more, I heard the unmistakable bay and snarl of a pack of dogs getting closer and closer. Also unmistakable: We were slowing down.

I had just been revising that chapter not two hours earlier. Was I in the book? Was I here? Were the lines between here and there permanently blurred.  I closed my eyes. I smelled the wolf and felt the wolf and felt its breath upon my skin.

When I opened my eyes, the wolf was gone, and in its place was a dog – a labrador. Black. Its head tilted and its grin spread in that classic labrador smile. I took a step backwards and it bounded into the woods. It was then that I realized that I was holding my breath.

But I thought to the book – when Nika first encounters the wolf, and I thought about my body when I thought I saw the thing I did not see. I remembered the instant prick of sweat, the musk of fear, the breathing quickening, shallowing, until it ceases entirely. I thought about the sudden lightness of my body – that I was fully prepared to sprint the three miles back to my car, and that I would likely run without tiring, without pain, without hesitation. I thought about the terrible calm, the utter assurance that I could outrun this creature or fight it to the death if I had to, regardless of whether such things were true.

I thought about the physicality of fear. And then I re-wrote the scene.

The threads from my life weave into my book; the threads from my book weave into my life. Perhaps this is the nature of my work, perhaps I must simply accept that I live in a reality that bends, buckles and flows. Where the imagined and the real are inextricably linked – two different sections of the same, long road.