When Sam got shot by the SWAT team up Ten Mile, I decided to go ahead and write the Ten Mile book. I’ve been working on it this summer. I’m supposed to write in my blog at least once a week, according to what I read about blogs, but clearly I don’t do that. I’m writing about Ten Mile, that beautiful place, and I’m writing about the people there: odd, eccentric, capable people. I’m writing about the Indians and the homesteaders, the CO camp nearby which was where the Beat Movement began, the battle over the forest,and poverty. I’m writing about Agent Orange and how, when it was outlawed in Vietnam, Dow Chemical and Monsanto marketed it as a herbicide and brought Agent Orange home to poison our forests and our rural communities. I’m writing about the fact that the worst elements of our culture can sometimes find their way into our most remote places. I’m writing about wilderness and the difference between the responsibility of a person living in the time of Thoreau and the responsibility of person living now. I’m writing about what it means to live within the context of the fact that we are, as Derrick Jensen points out, murdering the planet. I’m writing about Sam and all the things that converged to make his death not inevitable, as the newspaper said, but likely.
Last week a woman sitting next to me on the train was reading my book. I’ve always wanted this to happen.
Last night I was at a party and realized the man I was talking to is the ex-husband of the woman on the train.
I’ve been depressed and I think it’s because I’m in school and don’t have a moment for my own thoughts and have only written one small paragraph of my new book in the past two weeks and also because I’ve started looking for a home for my novel, Watching Rhonda Honey, which is nerve-wracking, and most of all because we wanted to use our air miles to go to Hawaii over spring break but realized we only had $8 in our checking account and surely that’s not enough.
It’s Sunday, poetry day. This is from Sara Backer.
I heard there was a fat skunk, all white,
who waddled in the yard followed by two kits
the men called babies.
I heard about a pair of chipmunks and raccoons
that hung around the kitchen.
A hummingbird appeared one morning,
a gray-tailed hawk at noon,
and at night, feeding on mosquitoes, bats carved
dark curves in the darker sky.
In the concrete room without windows
where we held class, I was impressed the men all knew
each bird and animal the others mentioned.
They could pinpoint their location
in the prison they inhabited.
Sometimes people have complained that my characters who are working class are too smart to be working class. This complaint illustrates the very same class bias that I was hoping to illuminate. It made me wonder if I had failed. Also a woman whose husband cheated on her wrote me a heartfelt letter saying that my book completely expressed how she felt. Which made me grateful but sad. A man at a reading asked me how I came up with a character who has the crazy obsessive kinds of thoughts my protagonist has and I had to ask him: doesn’t everyone have thoughts like this?