|Self portrait, art school. Washington DC.|
The turn of the year's wheel inevitably stirs up ghosts. Last night we walked after dinner. Curled paper leaves scuttling the uneven side walk. Something in the air reminded me of New Mexico. And I remembered a day we drove to Taos, just to get out of our heads and escape the particular tunneling isolation of the artist's life.
The autumn afternoon was golden and soft, almost balmy. The kind of day that lulls you into believing winter is still far off. The trickster wind spun burnished leaves and pinon smoke around us with fingers warm and cool and so dreamy we almost floated along the crooked streets of Taos center, bumping elbows with straggling tourists in beaded earrings and adobe hued scarves, and locals in scuffed cowboy boots barking Spanish into cell phones.
We wandered through empty galleries and a well-stocked kitchen store. I spied a set of engraved silver measuring spoons but put them back on the shelf (too expensive to justify). Steve ordered a cappuccino to go, and we drove home along the Rio Grande listening to Steve Earle and watching the late afternoon sun dart down the canyon walls, back-lighting the almost bare cottonwoods, grayish brown and silver.
That night I dreamed of Russell Crowe. He was in town that month, filming 3:10 To Yuma up in Abiquiu. In dreamland we spoke about our fathers. He listened with his eyes, I wrote in my journal, grasping the loss of never knowing my father with a depth and muscle that held my pain. Fiercely.
This morning I woke feeling less heavy, and relieved of my usual east coast bruxism. For the first time in a long time I felt the urge to pick up a paintbrush. To smooth a raw canvas with palms, flat and expectant.
But in the meantime, I wait.
To wait, to surrender to this thing, this process, this road home to myself- it's not an easy thing. But if you offered me a pill to swallow, some cure, some promise, some magic bullet, I doubt I would be tempted. Because there is a part of me- some stubborn, rusty, ancient part of me- that understands I must go through it, not around it.
I must go down.
Not up in a flight of fancy.
I must get muddy and singed and hollow and exhausted.
I must tunnel through and scrape away with the tiniest of tools- my will- toward some small, shy truth. Excavating, digging past the illusions, the Resistance, the denial, the desire to please, to be light, to be pretty, to be approved of.
It is my Holiest Grail. And why it is so hard to find it, I don't know.
For some of us, it just is.