Into the Wild
The more I simplify, the more I see.
It's not about you, it's not about me.
It's not about the gods and idols
in which we might believe.
It's about Life. Spirit. Art.
People. Nature. Energy.
The rest tends to become a bit noisy.
But the wind, the Sea,
the cool Earth, they calm me.
The fire that begins such
a dance of divine alchemy.
Birdsong at sunrise.
The wolves howling at dusk.
Hawks circling, deer hiding,
and horses running wild.
The innocence in the eyes
of a sweet, young child.
Yes, the more I simplify,
I see it's not about such idle wishes.
Life is for the living and exploring,
it's for creating, and not for waiting.
I can see exactly how I've gotten here.
It's never too late to take the Captain's seat
S. Hammond, 2017
My own nonsense to share...
Was off tech today. Lots of running around. Also, recovering from last night:
Pizza. Also, loafing and binge-watching TV. The winner? Fringe. From the pilot, and a few episodes in. I think I want the box set. Such good writing and acting.
I was halfway self-loathing and judging as I sat there, in a heap of laziness - cozy blankets piled high, fuzzy socks on my feet. "Get up, go do something, write something. Create! You're a sloth. Get up!"
Then, I was so mad at myself for negative self-talk that I grabbed some ice cream. It just all went downhill...I was up way too late, numbing myself. It had been a rough few days, emotionally. I was stuck. Not writing, not working out, not juicing, not anything-ing. Just sitting there, letting my inner weakness have its way with me. I let it all go and binged.
Today, in my crap-food hangover, as I bought new boots (just threw my last holey and soggy pair in the trash) and drove around enjoying the sunshine...I felt great. I'd given in to myself, after all. I threw a proverbial virgin into the volcano. I ate the pizza and it was good (this excuse only works in NY, where the pizza is phenomenal.)
I woke up, and was right back on track. One bad night, and not giving in to a reckless weekend, etc... It was a blanket-fort night, with all the trimmings. And that's okay.
I think that's huge. Allowing our crumbles and making peace with them, and moving right along. Also... I feel it was all for my own good, bear with me:
In watching Fringe I reconnected with my Joshua Jackson fan-girling of yesteryear. I looked him up, saw how he's jaunting through India chasing elephants to help preserve their herds and bring awareness. WOW.
Boom...clarity. Right back into Wild Horses and lots of writing. Charged up. THE HORSES!
Funny. Life will always kick your ass back to where it's supposed to be. Even if you eat pizza. All is well. xoxo
A few weeks ago, I was on the west coast chasing horses. It was a dream; a magical and inspired adventure. I made new friends, I fell in love with photography as an art, and more than that... these horses. This was on private land, and they're given hay, and checked on often. But they're as wild as they can be; in a world that hunts them down by helicopter and pushes for their euthanizing. It makes me all the more grateful for rescue groups like Return to Freedom who hosted me for this photo tour.
I went out there because I am writing about the free spirit itself: the untamed, free-willed, creative magic, within all of us (though I'm writing for women). I write about the symbolism; the shamanic inspiration and medicine that these beautiful animals give us. I dreamt of them for weeks. I had a vision of two horses; one black and one white, and they showed me the simplest truths about Life. I wrote it all down, and of course it'll be in the book.
Out there, in California, we rode in a safari buggy (I forgot what they called the vehicle) and had a picnic lunch in the hills of San Luis Obispo... so it definitely wasn't jumping out of pickup trucks in the wilds of the Sierra Nevadas... but there were sacred moments, to be sure. With the animals. Inspired, beautiful, connected moments.
It was hard, for me, in general, to think about. Something so majestic, fast, intelligent, and wild... rounded up and put behind fences. For us to gawk at. When they were once so unbridled and free. I apologized for my species, mentally, as we approached them. And I asked each one for permission, with gratitude, as I took their picture. One of them will be on the cover of my book; I'm grateful that one of my new friend yelled "stop," as he spotted the great scene on top of the hill. And we all got busy snapping photos. It was a surreal and moving experience and was the perfect culmination to a year of exploration and seeking wildness. And while all my previous travels were planned and calculated, this last trip... was last minute and unplanned, which added an extra dash of magic to it.
But as with any journey, it came to an end. I found myself back in routine, back behind a desk, coming down with a virus, tending to a sick child, and my whole world slowed down and became obligation after obligation, once again. And this happens, for those of us who juggle their wild with pieces of family life and steady income. I had all but forgotten the wonder that I was so lucky to experience. Just a few weeks ago.
It was time to sit my ass down: to fine-tune, tweak, and edit Wild Horses & Mistakes. I had everything I needed... I just wasn't ready for it to be over. When I woke each morning, I'd be walking out of the mist from some dusty mountain pass, with dirt on my knees, wind tangling my hair, sun in my eyes, hawks circling overhead, and horses... running free. Stopping for just a moment, to throw me a glance. So, I wouldn't forget. And I haven't and I don't believe that I ever will. It was an experience that changed me and expanded my art. It pushed out my edges. I vowed to buy a new camera, with the right lenses, and I was already planning a trip to find some wolves upstate, and there would be more horses. Perhaps next year, I'd be one of the ones jumping out of pickup trucks to capture their real magic. I felt on fire, inspired, alive with art and creation and hope and the sheer awe of nature and wildness. But as the mundane routines churned on, the wildness waned. As it does.
So, instead of knuckling down and finishing this book, I let the allure of shiny things pull me away for a while, because it meant creating. So, I poured myself into a side project, for days, uploading, rearranging, fine-tuning, creating, writing. Making. Making something new. Being that I have laryngitis and can't sing... web-building was my next best thing. And when it was done, this little in-between thing, I saw the pages staring at me again. Finish me...
It's never easy putting a project to bed, changing gears from wild creativity to honed seriousness and minutiae. Shifting back into the narrow boxes of ego and planning and strategy and business. It's just not easy for me, but I know it's a necessity... in order to set this project free. And it will do more good out there, then stuck in this old laptop.
I look out and see the others, my kindred, the seekers, those in wanderlust: traveling, experiencing, being, doing, sharing...and I find the inspiration to dive back in. To make real my experience, through my words. It was a gift to witness these horses and I do plan to make it a more common experience... with wildlife and natural spaces, in general. That which we focus on...grows. I am a conservationist, and I'm trying to be diligent about where my energy goes.
I'd been wriggling around trying to figure out how to encapsulate and stretch that feeling, that wildness, that wonder. And the answer was so simple that I overlooked it. The answer was art. It's why we paint, draw, write, sing, dance, shoot photos, or create anything... to capture moments and stretch them out. To take that wildness, that rawness, with us. So we don't forget.
So, stay creative, out there. Stay wild. xoxo
Hi. That's me. Baby me. Toddler me. Right about the age my son is now. The seventies, man. My brother had given me a haircut, *just before* school pictures. Mom was pleased. :sarcasm font: I think it worked for me.
1970s... Avocado greens and chocolatey browns and burnt oranges and that putrid vomit-colored maize-yellow. Bell-bottoms. My Mom's disco albums. Yeah, vinyl. I learned to dance the Hot Chocolate from one of them. I learned about (and fell in love with) Donna Summer from another.
I saw my grandparents a lot. I had one grandmother who delivered Avon, knew everyone in town (and they still mention her, to this day) and she lived in house dresses (look it up, they're like mu mus..) I had another grandmother who was a NOW (National Organization for Women) cardholder, worked in the city, commuted in sneakers and changed to pumps at the office, knew all the subways, and took us to see Broadway shows once a year. One was Grandma...one was Mimi. Can you guess who was who?
I loved them both, dearly. But I associated with Mimi the most. Honest. Eye-rolling. Sharp-tongued. A riotous and often inappropriate sense of humor, behind closed doors. She was the one who'd laugh so hard that tears would stream down. I get my fire, my sass, my passion, the marinara in my veins, my joie de vivre...from that side. The Italian side.
My other Grandmother, on my father's side (British/Dutch/Canadian)... had lessons to teach, just in her presence. In her stories. I wouldn't appreciate them until much later. They lived hard through the depression, my father's parents, and they both worked at Grumman. They had four boys, and they both worked, and rarely saw each other. They were scrappy, they had to be. They were thrifty, because they learned to be. My grandmother, boy, she could... make a dollar holler. She hit up garage sales, tag sales, thrift stores, and always gave to others the little that she could. We often got new school clothes from the rag bag (donated clothes that we got from the church in Glen Cove, cheap). So she'd often give us things to help out, even though they weren't Rockefellers, either. She wasn't a barrel of laughs or charm or high-fashion. She was a tough old broad. She got hit by a Mack truck crossing the street and broke a hip, in her... sixties? She was up an delivering Avon again, pretty soon after. That's how she was. Tough as nails. Vocal. Opinionated. In your face if you didn't submit. I get my grit and low-bullshit-meter from her.
My childhood was informed by some powerful women, although I didn't see it at the time. I won't tell you about MY mother, because, well, she's alive and well and reads this and it's just none of your business.
But my grandmothers: one was fighting the patriarchy, working, earning her worth as best as she could, trying to lift that glass ceiling up... just a bit. Caring for herself, putting herself first. She came from an Italian family that let the boys go to college and the girls... learned to cook and keep a husband happy. From the get-go, she said... "this stinks." She just knew how wrong it was, how it didn't align with who she was. My mother's side is where I get a lot of my... resistance to conform into a role. Like Becky Sharp, Scarlet O'Hara, Jo March, and so many other controversial figures of women in literature. I will hardly just go and be a wife... Because this fire burns inside... for more. For passion, for exploration, for challenge, for vibrance, for intellect, and color and travel and excitement. For a LIFE, not a sentence.
And I think, through most of her life, (I have a recording of an oral history I did with her, that I cherish), she silently stewed and let a fire grow inside, that would emerge later. And it did.
They're both gone, now, all of my grandparents are, and I feel it's okay to discuss them here.
So entwined with my current writing, Wild Horses and Mistakes, I set out on an intentional journey... call it shamanic, call it psychology, call it catharsis, call it healing the inner child, call it whatever you want... it's all the same to me, with different labels. We are but a story, and we can revisit our stories and pull meaning out, to inform the present. It's all a big spiral dance, around and around and around.
We go through childhood and collect all these stories, these ideas, that other people make up about us, and if we already feel small... we believe them. And it takes years and years of crawling out of those stories, and becoming our own people.
I can see it now, the whole pattern, as it's taught to us (of course, not everyone follows this):
birth: we're given a name, an identity, and put into the "system"
school years: our teachers teach us to memorize things, and often scold us for our originality or finding our own answers. We're often dumbed down for being resourceful or creative. It must be done their way, or we get "bad marks." So, we must get good marks, and so we conform. And often, if we're lucky, we find those one or two special teachers or counselors, that connect... and keep us going.
college: optional, but many take this route. To... fit the right mold to get the right job, to "be what they want," so they get hired to work for someone else's dream.
then...marriage, kids, two cars, vacations: and so we get out of school, we find careers, we find a partner to play this game alongside us. And for a while it's good, life is good. We played a good game, we got there! We did it! We ticked off everything on the card, look!
And then... those lost embers of glowing imagination, of magic, of dreams, of non-conformity start to bubble up through the cracks and demand change. This isn't what I thought. I did everything right, how come I'm not happy? I have a good life? Enter the mid-life crisis. Sometimes, if they're lucky and already have a healthy relationship, couples ride through it together and they both change. Often, they split because one will not change for whatever reason. Or worse, they stay together, yet grow apart, living a show within a show, for the kids, for the neighbors, and everyone is miserable.
Or... maybe you're still single, and none of that affects you at all, and you just feel like you're in a hamster wheel. Waiting for real life to start. For that ship to come in. For something to finally make sense and give you the unmistakable direction that you've been seeking. We've a got a wacky sort of society that breaks us apart and we scramble to put ourselves together again, later in life. And some of us don't make it that far, we become that system and lose our identities, altogether. (But not really, I truly believe that there is always a spark that stays lit.)
I'm not sure what I'm rambling about today, it feels a bit messy. And maybe that's the point, but it has to do with childhood, dreams, and how our fears and self-esteem are managed. I look at this little bright-faced girl and I wonder how she did it. How did she make it to now? And she can't tell me, because she had no idea. She was a child. Innocent. She just woke up and showed up. it was later that she started hiding and living in made-up worlds that made much more sense.
I've been doing this work, this self-study, this inner-journey for a few years now. And at the outset, it was about the present and the immediate stresses of life. And then it was about adulthood, in general, and then adolescence. And so on. It's like time-traveling, revisiting my life, all the way back to here... to early childhood. I think deep within each of us are these innocent children who want to play, dream, fly, sing, dance, and maybe see outer space. And it doesn't always work out that way, because we start believing in the limitations that others give us, throughout our growing up.
And this... is the mess. The bags, the burdens, the stifled dreams in our backpack, that we walk through life with. Unrealized dreams. Attention not given. Perceptions of love withheld. Mistakes, abuses, pain, trauma, fear. Carried forward, in our bones, in our minds, in our memories. Our...mess.
I first got into this intentional self-development, living with my eyes and heart wide open, fully aware, life-out-loud, hoping to heal. To get there. To that place, where I healed it all. And life would be a walk in the sunshine where nothing caused me trouble anymore, because I did all my work. Yay, I'm fixed, let's go heal the world! :throws glitter in the air:
:insert ironic laugh here:
No, unfortunately. And for me, freedom, epiphany, boundless creativity, inner change and transformation comes not in my ultimate and grand healing... but in deep acceptance that I will always have this pack on my back; my mess. My stuff. That stuff can change, things go in, things come back out. New experiences and joy go in, fear and pain go out. But then with adventure comes risk, and more sometimes more pain, so in that goes. And this, I think, is Life. That pack will always be there, it's my story, it's who I am and where I've been. And stories change... I'm constantly emptying and refilling the pack. But I'm owning it. Seeing it, knowing it, being with it. And traveling along anyway, open and trusting, knowing that pack will always be there. And that's okay. Because we've all got one. And I start thinking more about... searching through each other's backpacks rather than... feigning perfection. Because it's a lie. One I won't buy anymore.
And that little girl? That young, sweet, innocent little Stacie? She's still in there and when she's scared or nervous or overly exuberant or excitable, I just carry her too, with everything else. I pick her up, hold her close, and carry her with me (symbolically, of course). Because I can keep her safe and I can do my best to bring her what she wants. I think that's what all of our anxieties are about, really. That little young boy or young girl that has fears and anxieties and doubts and worries... but also, also... big dreams and hope and resilience and magic and wildness and that wonderful, playful, beautiful optimism.
Hello, heart. I see you. I'm listening.
It's been a minute.
I've been doing lots of reflecting, writing, regrouping, lately. As I reflect over the past year, what I've done and seen, what I've learned, where I've traveled, what I've come to see and understand about myself, and about my perceptions of others... I am just blown away, at the process. At who I am now, when I look back at who I was then. I've made another lap around the circle. The absolute truths I knew then, versus the illuminated and ever-changing perspectives that I have now. Oh, these blessed spirals.
And I'm writing through all of it:
Wild Horses and Mistakes: The Year I Followed My Bliss, Accomplished Absolutely Nothing, and How it Changed My Life Forever
(Subtitle is a bit long...it's in progress, but that's the feel of things.)
Meaning, I didn't "do" anything but choose myself, my priorities, my health, my joy, my creativity. I didn't have a list to tackle or a pile of to-dos and must-haves. I followed my heart, my intuition. My wild horses. And that's a concept, in and of itself. It's never just about the horses, is it?
Anyway, I know you'll enjoy getting under the hood, peeling back my chest-plate and seeing my heart and my reassembled guts in this new sacrifice to the Gods of Creativity and Musing. I can't wait to share it and set it free, but I am deep into revisiting, mindfully, each place, chapter, and section.
The Soul writes; the ego edits.
The past year has had me up in the clouds, soaring with birds of prey as they watched the wilds below. Galloping across rugged terrain, not knowing where I was going, stopping at water holes, weathering storms and fire, and just knowing that I'd get there. Somehow. It's had me waking in new places to new faces, smelling and sensing and feeling new things, absorbing new vibrations, and healing on levels so deep that I didn't think I'd ever reach them. It's had me shatter illusions and chase new ones, only to see them disintegrate in my fingers and drip slowly out of my hands, back into the seamless expanse of energetic alchemy that surrounds us. Constantly. And it does. We are, at all turns, exactly where we need to be.
Hold out your hand, take one step, and begin. It really is that simple.
We are sublime players and doers and crafters and actors and creators...who can, at our best, move effortlessly through what may feel like a heavy minefield of pain, disappointment, shattered hopes, dramatic fears, deep loss... and we can get through, easily, with all that we need... when at our best, most true versions of who we are, as living, breathing, dynamic, sensing, beings.
The past year in question began last fall with a trip out to the east end of Long Island, the furthest trip I'd taken solely and purposefully on my own... it was an hour or so away. I stayed in a bed and breakfast and unearthed a sacred chest full of memories, pain, stories, and experienced powerful growth. And that trip began a quest, a Campbell-esque journey of my own. Because I saw that not just solitude, but the allure of the new and strange and unknown, brought the most amazing spiritual insight. In the way of facing our own demons, our most disturbing beliefs about ourselves and each other. Because it's all thought, really. Perception and response.
And I can't possibly sum up in one blog post all the truths I've witnessed, the stories I've rewritten, the deep healing, the pain. The numbing, seething, darkest pain that I never thought I'd see eye to eye again. And meeting it, head on... and surviving through it. And the freedom in that. Finding the most special souls who understood what I was experiencing, as I experienced it. Possibly keeping me in one piece and lending me their strength. Flashlights. Candles and Light and Love and symbolism and reminders and guidance and whispers and hope... and faith. Always faith. Just... keep... going. And the passing of Life before my eyes as we got rear-ended and sent back to the starting gates, at the peak of Bliss and perfection and understanding. Always, the pendulum swings. And the gratitude for those setbacks, for those life-changing illuminating moments: that remind us in such a powerful, unmistakable way... what is truly important.
Self, family, friends, community. And living through to heal. When we take that often painful, scary and tumultuous journey within, to know ourselves, deeply... we begin to heal. In healing ourselves, we heal others. But also, we heal the karmic past, the residue, the eons of pain that lingered heavy in our bones. Women who came well before me and were stricken down and cut out for their wisdom. And the gift that these times bring, in carrying that wisdom forward. In never letting that Light die.
I could write for days about it, and I do, in this new project. I write about a lot of things, though, because really... it's about a divine and very human balance. It's about seeing energetically and intuiting and listening, but it's about using that insight to sculpt the present moment, here and now. It's about meditation and self-love, and also about using your voice and knowing when to let your tiger teeth show, just a little. it's about loving and doting and giggling and cherishing our babies and kids... and knowing that we can also plan and strategize, make the right decisions, and plant our feet firmly in soil, getting it all done, while we dance in the clouds, looking down upon it all in gratitude. It's about a healthy, grounded, free-flying balance of all things. It's about equilibrium, and what it takes to find the right balance, for each of us. Because it's different. That's the key. One doesn't suit all. That's why we do this work. It's why I do. To find what works for me, and to utilize it here, now, in my Life, in my world, for myself and for those that I love. it's about authenticity. Truth.
Wild. It's not about being reckless and obnoxious and surly and crude and promiscuous. Although it can be, without apology, but not always. For me wildness is about nature. That includes human nature. Just as a wild mare runs through a barren landscape, she knows to stop for water when she sees it. She knows to rest. She knows to protect and teach her little ones. She knows when to run and when to fight. Intrinsically, it's in her nature. It's in her wildness.
So, finding our wildness I think, is more about finding...ourselves. And listening.
Good things coming. Wild Horses is writing itself, and I'll not rush it. But it's coming, more every day. Writing it, living it, has changed me. It's brought me back to my natural, wise-woman-wildness in all the most beautiful ways.
somewhere, out there
is a Love that is bigger
than what we Fear
bigger and broader than our
our grandiose, religious
oft' arrogant misgivings
our pointing, our preaching,
somewhere, out there
under this luminous Moon
is someone fighting the sharp knives of disillusionment, too
there are more of us, everyday
and sweeping the rest of it away
rise above the narrow rules set forth
when we were mere young fools
Great Spirit, Unconditional Love, have come through many great Ones in our time, here
to hold one over the other, to elevate idols,
to worship one and condemn another,
is to perpetuate further division
and so it goes
division begets divison
hate begets hate
arrogance begets more arrogance
when all we really ever need is Love
to be seen, accepted, acknowledged, appreciated
Indeed, Love...is all we need
if we could see beyond those surface, material ties
we are but one people, connected eternally, energetically, divided by labels and lies
if all of it were to vanish,
and we were left with
You and Me
no churches, no government
no internet feeds, no programmable TV
could we eat, play, ponder, gaze, survive, and love?
of course we could
and we have done
the way forward is with Love
the way forward
is as One
Trouble sleeping... midnight-write.
So. Here it is... My son. My love-bug.
It's been a while since I've shared some precious, divine insight from this little dude.
Every once in a while, he just comes out with something, that's so out there. Way out in left field, and at 3.5 years old, I just don't know where he gets it. But I do believe there is a thin veil that separates us from other realities, what some call the spirit world. Different planes, if you will. Dimensions, sure. Whichever. And I believe that children are closer to this magic.
So, this morning, he started talking about babies. Out of the blue. And he told me this:
"Before you were a real baby, you were a pretend baby. You weren't really here yet."
"A pretend baby?" I asked.
"Yes. You were still pretend, you were in the circle, still." My arm hair stands up.
"Uh huh. Actually it's more like a swirly hook, Mom. But before you're a real baby, you're in that big circle, see? Then... you become real again."
"Wow, buddy. I love hearing you talk, do you know that? What a beautiful way you have to see things..." He smiled, laughed, and ran off to zoom his cars around before school, after that. And just as quickly as it started, the conversation was over.
But, wow. Now, the analytical mind can take this apart and turn it into a lot of nothing. As such minds do. But I find it intriguing.
I'm just gonna riff for a minute, bear with me. It's one of those days where things happen like dominoes and say the same thing, over and over, from many sources. And it just itches inside, like you have to mention it, too. Just because. You know? Anyway. It brought all this stuff back up, from when I first started to really delve into energy work, healing, intention, manifesting, etc...
Let's just chat, here:
So, circles. I've always had this vision of the collective consciousness, right? Since I was a teenager. More on that in my next book... but for me, it's like... a galaxy. A... universe, maybe. A giant, swirling spiral of energy imprints. Memories of being, of art, of inspiration, of hope, of fear. Echoes of intangible essence of the endless multitudes, swirling in the cosmic goo, in some plane that we can't access directly, while in these bodies. Yet, when we meditate, when we create art, when we reach those peak and blessed flow states, when the analytical mind shuts off and we lose ourselves in creation... I think we tap into this spiral. This... circle. We channel, we direct energy into art, we understand deeper and deeper truths, we communicate with memories of loved ones. We step into the in-between: a foot in each world. In the middle. Perhaps, that's why they call it... medium. A conduit for energy, in the middle of two worlds.
So, cool. A recap of my view of spirituality and energy.
But to hear my son talk about pre-birth, and being part of the circle? It blew my mind. Back when he first started talking, I asked him for kicks: "what's the meaning of Life?" To which he answered, "circle."
Or...he is just closer to magic, and us? As we age, we grow cynical and creep further away from it.
Who knows. But I thought you'd enjoy the story. The whole thing filled me with some sort of connection and hope and Love. So, I thought I'd share... as I do. I think I'll doze off, now.
xoxo Goodnight, dreamers xoxo
I thought I had come to California looking for horses. That's what drew me out here; the wide open land given to these majestic creatures; throwbacks to a wilder and forgotten west. I swooned for their photos, I fell into them. The wildness that was still in these creatures, the neighing and bucking and kicking and running into the horizon, manes in the wind. Unbridled. Free. Charging mares, leading herds, tending foals. And perhaps I will still find them when that time is right.
But upon landing out here, I was taken by the water, foremost.
The Atlantic shores are beautiful, but for some reason, these waters...the Pacific...are different. The shores she touches. The stories she swallows, the secrets she holds. Oh, these waters hold so much. They have seen and felt so much. And in that, as a whole, as a body of water, a being in its own right... she is that much more calming. It's a powerful, cleansing presence. A deep healing. Not to mention the sheer majestic and aesthetic beauty of the area; it's no wonder writers and artists flock here over the decades. The vistas are unmatchable.
But Steinbeck. I was first hit as I toured Cannery Row, which is now a giant consumer-wonderland. Which is fine. I bought a souvenir or two, some t-shirts for my son. A refrigerator magnet. I'm a sucker for that stuff, within reason. My first day there, as I was walking up and down the streets, weary from a few hours in the car after leaving San Francisco, I snuck around back, behind a closed shop, to the boardwalk. Or pier, whichever. All the chairs were turned upside-down on the tables; this particular deck was empty.
I considered Steinbeck's writing, his growing up in Salinas, and his visits to this very bay and other points along the coast. And the man, the good friend Ed Ricketts, who inspired Doc. His trouble with marriage and relationships, in general. And the water! Oh, it's impressive. Overwhelming.
I had read a little bit about Steinbeck the night before, because someone in San Francisco mentioned that the area was great for writers, being that it's "Steinbeck-land." Now, of course, I knew who he was, I read Of Mice and Men in school. Grapes of Wrath. I did the assigned reading, but never delved fully into the man that he was: his motivations, his sorrows, his dreams.
As I toured the area and the Steinbeck exhibit in Salinas, and as I read more about the man... I felt such heartbreak. Disillusionment. Internal battle. Here was a man who saw great injustices and great stories and he had to get them out. He had to. And they were good stories with great themes. What I found heartbreaking, nearly tragic, was how his novel The Winter of Our Discontent was received and critiqued, as it won the Nobel Prize for Literature. But it was more than that.
John Steinbeck was a highly sensitive man, it would seem. A deep, mysterious, brooding, Piscean artist, who felt that the world was spinning off its rails, losing its morality. He saw the coming of the fifties and sixties and to him it was a breakdown in society and decent values. He felt things deeply. He felt his world crumbling and wanted to write about it. Fight it, perhaps. But at a minimum, provide a chronicle. He went out on the road with his dog, Charley, and wanted to revisit and recapture the America that he once knew, after spending time away, in New York and Long Island. he wanted to see real people, small towns, local bars, not the affluence and facade that he'd been living in.
"I nearly always write - just as I nearly always breathe..." - John Steinbeck
And later, when his novel was shunned so hard, despite praise from others, he put his pen down and never wrote another novel. And to feel that kind of pain and humiliation inside, is just heartbreaking to me. And I could feel how soothing those waters were, and must've been, to him. And to so many.
In reading Travels With Charley, just now, being that I was so taken with the man and his story and his need to see the country... I can't help but reach back and pull some lessons out...or some parallels, at a minimum. It's what I do.
Steinbeck came from a family of Republicans, and changed a bit when he saw more of the world and got out his his hometown. His perspectives on Life changed. When he'd returned home, arguments would ensue:
"Let's just be friendly and loving. No politics tonight." And ten minutes later we would be screaming at each other.
And so it was, and so it still is. Steinbeck knew he was nearing his last days. He felt his world deteriorating. I can't imagine the ache inside. Well, actually, I can. I think so many of us can, which is why he and so many writers like him are so resonant. Particularly now, in this climate, when the world feels divided and torn up, much like it did then. Those of us who truly do feel deeply want to find things to mend; to help that ache. And it's a humanity-sized ache, a global ache. There is a real and dire need to heal someone, something, anything, everything. Or a touch of madness grows in the absence of that longed-for resolution. And in that madness, oh, does distraction blossom. Numb, numb, numb the ache. With a drug, a habit, a spoon, a television, a drink, an over-zealous need to disappear into something other than what is, rather than live a healthy balanced life. And it's not easy, we've all got our things. Hopefully our addictions don't harm and make us ill.
And how did moderation become such a rogue idea?
We seem to be commanded by a world that favors extremes. Extremes in diet, in entertainment, in lifestyles, in just about everything. Nice, easy, simple living has become a lifestyle choice, something that has to be taught and remembered, rather than...just how things are. We have to be told and reminded with blips and beeps and timers and gadgets to relax and breathe and sleep and eat. I get it, John Steinbeck, I get it. The players have changed, the scenery is different, but it's the same game. And now, we have the internet. And do you know how often you're meme'd John? A lot.
I walked the coast again, and thought, in imaginary conversation with this writer I'd become enmeshed and obsessed with...
Despite the flack you got about that one book, John Steinbeck, I mean... wow, man. You did it. Didn't you? Your books are required reading in schools and libraries. Iconic. Champion of writing the proletariat. Great sense of place and giving voice to the everyman. You are part of the canon, good sir. I wish you could've seen it happen, in the flesh.
For the ladies:
I am asking for your input. I've opened a poll, with great results so far. If you can spare the time, I would greatly appreciate your feedback. If the answer is yes, then simply head on over HERE and submit your responses.
One thing I've found so far, is that we're mostly the same. We have different priorities, goals, and dreams...but the same sort of things hold us back and keep us in place.
I would love to gather as wide of a sample as I can for this; the results will be used for reference in Wild Horses and Mistakes, which is a project largely about women learning to love themselves, accept themselves, find their innate magic, and pursue their dreams with passion.
The poll will be left open through the duration of this writing trip, until about September 24.
Thank you in advance! xoxo
The link, one more time... https://goo.gl/forms/oYdsyfxN6BxMUPs23
I am changing. This is me embracing joy. Saying YES.
It would feel natural to say that I'm "improving," but really what's happening is that I am stripping away layers of nonsense. Incinerating parts of me that were never true. Unlearning things that I took on to get by when things were different.
I am ... more me.
I wrote a novel once. And I didn't feel super-driven to write another, at least not right away. What I've been doing, is working on me. I've spent a year, four seasons, diving into my fears and phobias. Traveling. Observing. Feeling. Writing. Healing. I've discovered in this year of me, that I am a singer/songwriter. This is such a huge part of who I am, and it vanished... once I entered academia and prepared for "a real job." A common tale for creatives.
Side-note: higher ed can be great and I have no regrets. It got me to now, which is great. But it's not everything. If you feel a calling, answer it. Honor it. Hone it. You may wake up one day and wonder why you spent all that time and money for paper and memorized jargon. This is common. On the flip-side, pursuing higher education is a saving grace for some people, it's the perfect recipe to provide growth, independence, freedom, and validation of Self. Follow YOUR path.
I have a new new trunk full of originals, they pour out of me now. I'm addicted to it again. But there was that lingering monster... stage fright.
I am baby-stepping it. I sang an original for my mother, to the delight of positive feedback. But that's my MOTHER. Then, I had a coaching appointment this morning and I schlepped my guitar across the parking lot, feeling quite strange the whole way. And I played/sang my newest for her: it's an ode to the dreamers who are also parents, and it's got 💯 of my heart and soul in it. My coach nearly wept as I finished it, and something happened inside... listen... it's not about me and my nerves. Although my fingers quivered and my feet shook uncontrollably and my voice cracked a few times and I felt my neck starting to gather sweat... my heart also cracked wide open. Wow. What magic was this? Yes magic.
It's about sharing what I've been given.
Indeed. It's about purpose. Again, the world seems newer. Brighter. Beautiful.
Hoping to start recording these little nuggets of deep feels and stories and moments for you. A two week travel/writing adventure starts on Thursday and I should be close to a finished first draft of Wild Horses and Mistakes. I'm so freakin' excited about this. Like, feet-shaking-knee-knocking-excited.
That must be good...
More soon... xoxo
With so much love,