Sunday, 9 December 2012

Loki´s Daughter

Jörmungandr was a horrible, beautiful snake who lived in the earliest age of Norse myth. She was the daughter of Loki, the tricky, shape-shifting semi-god, and Angurboda, a wolf-haired giantess. Jörmungandr slithered on land for a while, but returned to the depths of the ocean to grow into a thick, ravening monster.

One day on the dark sea floor, Jörmungandr bit down on a great dark moving thing. The pain was paralyzing.  She had grown so long she´d wrapped the width of the the world -- she had torn into her own tail. And so she stayed that way for eons, her hunger blindly binding together the world beneath the waves. 

I am writing the myth of our first years here at The Peaceable. Like any creation story, our beginning was terrifying and wonderful, at least to us. Passage of time and much telling have given our tales a golden glow. I am trying to keep it simple. I am telling the tales the same way we tell them around our table when the pilgrim asks the inevitable: "How´d you get here?"

We have dozens of stories. 

I have tons of resources. We kept daily diaries and accounts. We wrote letters, clipped photos from magazines, circled things in catalogs. Half a year into the adventure we managed to get internet installed here, and I started this blog.

So I went back into the blog. I looked at the entries that drew the most response. I tried to see the issues that came up over and over.

It is very difficult work, looking for a road through a forest you grew yourself.  I need wings, I need to fly above it all like a hawk, but I am bound to the ground. I follow clear paths over ridges, and there I see again the light blasting through the trees, the dappled mud. I hear the dogs bark -- dogs now dead --  I hear tractors rattle and roar in the background. I follow the familiar paths til they stop at the highway fence called "the present."

I am distracted. So many sweet details I want to put in there, toothsome, crusty characters. I am slowed by accounts of anxiety, rejections, misunderstandings, boring painful months I do not want to remember and I assume no one wants to read. It is ugly and slow. I don´t want to go there.   

But I want to stay true. The story is rolling forward down those farm lanes, but it wobbles and veers, its wheels are barely holding to the axle.

I wonder if it is worth it, I wonder why I am doing this to myself. I wonder why I worked so hard on the Zaida novel, why I have anticipated this writing project almost since we came here. I wonder why this is so hard, when I´ve wanted it so much.

And then I see I am the sea-snake, biting my own tail. Years ago, I wanted so much to leave America and come here and start this work. When I arrived and settled into the labor I wondered why this was so hard when I wanted it so much. I wondered if it was worth it, why I did that to myself. 

But I stayed with it. I lived through the hard parts, I suffered and rejoiced and learned and grew, and many other people benefitted, too. A cycle began and peaked and is finishing, like so many things seem to be winding up and finishing these days. I was a pilgrim, and became a hospitalera, an instructor, a guide-writer, a counselor. But hardly any pilgrims stop here now. I cannot leave here for two weeks to volunteer at a pilgrim albergue, and I don´t think I want to any more. No one wants to take the hospitalero training course. Publishers aren´t interested in new camino guides. I face a blank wall, a loss of the identity and ego-fulfillment those roles gave to me.
I still am a writer, though. Our story is worth telling. I will stay with this. I will live through the hard parts. I will suffer and rejoice and learn and grow. Maybe it will never be published, or maybe only a few will ever find it in the great ocean of dreck that publishing has become. But already I have benefitted.

I will have to become comfortable with repeating myself, with meeting my own tail in the darkness of the deep. It is hunger, the myth says, that bound the world together.   

Or, as a poet says: 

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.

"Love After Love," 
by Derek Walcott


Timecheck said...

You are publishing day after day, year after year in this very blog. I and many others love it. Don't stop.

Re a big project, if you know someone with the skills to maintain a website, i.e. understand what files are, and a little about html, you can put out a print version on with minimal costs other than your own time. Then you take that same file, tweak it, and put your book out on Kindle, again at minimal cost kindle site.

Gerry Snape said...

i love your posts and thankyou for this poem.

Susan Alcorn said...

Leave to my husband, Timecheck, to give practical and supportive advice. My inclination, as a writer, is to identify with your angst. I cried as I read your blog--I have so often been there.
"Warning"--cliches to come: Hang in there, this too shall pass.
Love to you!

Lynne said...

Your story is one I look forward to reading every single week. To read it all together in one place would be an immense pleasure.

EileenHamer said...

Write on, Reb, because your story's worth the telling of it. Also know that as much as you think you'll tell the whole story, you can't, because I don't think you realize how important you've become to so many of us around the world. People talk about leaving their comfortable world and going off on a great adventure, but almost none ever do. You did. You are. You give us hope.

Anonymous said...

I got all weepy seeing that picture of you all and Una..from the first days of the Peaceable, before it was named...and I look forward to all of its incarnations...and yours!

love, k