Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Writing and Place

It's been quite awhile, and I'm sorry to say I haven't ridden much this year, really. Most of the winter and spring I trained for the Pedal Petal Century, but the weather was sideways rain and cold. I made it through the hills, the first 35 miles, but then bailed. Doh! And over the summer and fall, I didn't do many rides. Now, the STP calls to me. I may start training in February.

Reviving this blog means writing sporadically. One of the reasons I want to start again is to record thoughts about writing, about change, about the interaction between creativity and activity, and more.

Returning to a piece of writing is like returning to a place. The rocks are still covered with lichen, the trees still textured, the Pondersosa towering over the Scrub Oak, and the sun makes its swing through the seasons. A piece of writing, like the first draft of a novel I started about Sylvia Plath and my Aunt Maureen, is still 160 pages long. It still moves horizontally through crisis and resolution, through complications brought on by jealousy and pride of characters bent on defining themselves in opposition to others. The metaphors are still fresh or mixed or flat. But I've changed.

In the 70s, On the Loose, a Sierra Club book about brothers who hitched across the country and wandered into wilderness, shot amazing pictures, and kept a journal, captured the imagination of those of us who felt trapped by cities and families. There was one piece, in particular, that stuck in my body. It was about returning to Big Sur. They wrote that returning to a place again and again showed you how you had changed, not how the place had changed.

In returning to the Plath novel, I can see how my writing has changed. At the time I had no clue how to write a novel, and so, I dove into the dangerous writing community and learned how to slow down, how to break syntax and create character, how to drag the nuance out of a gesture. I've learned to observe complicity. In some ways I've learned to see more like Plath, to see the complicity the observer has in the action observed. I'm a different person from the writer who wrote the first draft: I'm more willing to be vulnerable, more willing to blame and forgive and expose and deny.

I'm hoping I can write in the place I am now.