Every novel begins somewhere, and my novels/stories always begin with my poetry; and before the poetry my dreams. My current novel, SONG OF THE GOLDEN SCORPION, to be published October 12, 2013, began with this poem, Gracias. My journey from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico...the vast drive through the lonely, alive deserts, mountains, stripped of all green. Raw, stark as truth is; that's what it felt like. Stripped of all my belongings...given to Goodwill (good karma if/when I return)...driving down with the, literal, essence of mi vida stuffed into every corner of my Toyota sedan. From Gracias, at the El Paso/Juarez border:
"Alma Luz, with a name like
that, go," he laughs,
waving me through the
final border, Juarez to the Sun,
I crossed into the rainbow -
High winds, small tornadoes
whip the desert, lifting my car
slightly, I'm so alive, they
hiss, we travel side by side, so alive,
I crossed into the rainbow -
I was sixty-one, ending a twenty-four year marriage, my final fourth child off to university...I was alone/all one for the first time in forty years. My first child, my beloved daughter, was born when I was fifteen. My final child, my beloved youngest son, was born when I was thirty-six. I used to wake up at 4am to write when my kids were at home...small lamp, some candles, flute music, strong coffee, toast. Once I forced myself up, got everything arranged, the wonderful scent of fresh, strong coffee, I was the only human being in the world, up, awake and writing. It was addictive. My morning prayer, often starting with a poem, writing down my dream in my dream journal...the silence...re-reading what I'd written of the novel the morning before. To see the scene...what time of day, ocean, mountain, their kitchens, what are they cooking/eating. To hear their voices, the characters thoughts, dialogues...what did they dream. Inside the novel, the fictive dream, with my characters...me, their writer...7am came very quickly. And so, I was used to structuring my writing time/life around my children's schedules/lives. This was going to be new: alone/all one.
I drove from 8am to around 7pm for three days, passing through small towns where people waved at me, and when I stopped for something to eat/drink, they stared at me. In the larger towns, I was simply welcomed, fed and housed for a night, with that warm Mexican 'Bienvenida.' The constant sound of Spanish echoed my childhood language/music with my Yaqui Indian grandmother, mi Mamacita, who raised me in San Francisco. I never heard her speak English - I was her translator - but I could tell from her subtle expression that she often understood. "Gringos fregados," she'd mutter, which I would edit of course...clinics, welfare offices, banks.
Mamacita had been Spirit for forty-nine years, but she was so alive within me, teaching me dreaming since I could speak. And poetry by heart, stories of her Mexico lindo y querido, her beloved Mexico. She crossed the border legally with her husband, Pablo, who would be a pastor in an East Los Angeles church, pregnant with my mother. The story: when the customs officer undid all of her carefully packed luggage/boxes and asked her the contents of a sack she was holding, she emptied it, blew it up and popped it, shouting, "AIRE MEXICANA...MEXICAN AIR!" She was a curandera/healer, as was her mother (down the matriarchal line)...and a secret poet.
And so, as she crossed the border - ancient trade routes - over eighty years ago, I crossed it in the other direction. Feeling her within me. Bringing her Spirit home. Wondering what the hell I was doing...homeless, no furniture, my years of gathering my precious things gone. I did have a rental to move into, fully furnished. My youngest son Jules, and I, had visited the year before together at Christmas, and we both loved San Miguel de Allende. And I dreamt this place years before, so I also recognized it, this town, this slant of light. I rented the casita we stayed at...and I'm still here after eight years. Cobblestone streets, burros with rainbow spray flowers on their backs, the gas trucks, delivering cylinders of gas, playing their signature song, the garbage truck arriving with loud ranchera music...I hand my garbage to a young guy standing in it, I thank him, "Gracias," he smiles, "De nada." They're so obviously grateful for this pretty awful job (the illnesses that come with it); and I always tip them. The water guy yelling/singing, "Agua Ciel!" The ice cream vendor on his ice cream bike, ringing his bell, yelling/singing every flavor...the older man with roasted corn, another with fresh strawberries, another with avocados, a young guy with a wheel barrow of fresh vegetables, watermelon, papaya, the milk truck arrives and the women go out to fill their buckets.
And for the first nine months or so, I watched, listened, tasted this beautiful, often challenging, place...Mexico lindo y querido. I wrote my dreams and my poetry at a luxurious starting time of 8am or so...alone/all one. I felt questions rise up in me, which I've come to recognize as themes, vague story lines. I wrote them down as they arrived in a fresh notebook, and sometimes they clashed, but I just kept writing down the notes and the dreams that came, characters voice, their laughter. Yes, my characters laugh at me. And so, I kept gathering my notes, the books that magnetized to my themes, my central theme/question...What is our human journey into the Sixth Mayan World, the Fifth Hopi/Pueblo World? And where were the characters, my people, to populate this theme/question/fictive dream? I knew it would only begin once I had written the first line...that's how it always begins. But I refused. To write. The first line.
I dreamt an immense hummingbird, she filled the entire screen of my dream. I woke up remembering how my grandmother would hold absolutely still when she'd see one, praying to the hummingbird in her native Yaqui. I'd also left my country, the USA, Santa Fe, because my dreams were so violent...the then intense 'color codes' of our country after 9/11. Here in San Miguel de Allende, my dreams became more peaceful, more human. And then, the hummingbird...I knew she was an omen, to follow her, all that energy. I stood absolutely still and wrote a poem in English, with some Spanish woven into it. This hummingbird would guide me to the very end of SONG OF THE GOLDEN SCORPION.