Sunday, February 20, 2011

Catharsis

This weekend has brought with it a relief that feels like a long dry season quenched with the coolest rain: I finished a short story.

This particular story has taken an extraordinarily long time to finish, even for me. The protagonist is a character from an epic and I have been struggling to figure out where and how to end it, how to begin it, and how to tell it. This is the common problem when the epics call out to be told, because the story governs the teller in a unique way.

First, the pre-made character comes with all the responses and attitudes of centuries. Then, the plot is sacrosanct, which can largely restrict character development. At the same time, the re-telling has to provide a perspective not included in the popular renditions of the epic, yet has to resonate with the reader.

I was worried about these issues when I realized that I'd have to write this story. I haven't been happy with this telling for many months now. I struggled with many issues: what parts of the plot to tell? How to tell without repeating the story that everyone knows so well? And most difficult: how to develop the character without changing her? Besides the fact that my character embodies too many archetypes to change her, I didn't WANT to change her in any essential way.

The story ended up being, cut, uncut, re-phrased, re-tried until I was ready to just forget about it. Characters were made ancillary, rounded, flattened, waltzed in and out of the first person perspective the story follows. I got quite dizzy and realised that this waltzing distracted from the intensity the narration mandated.Ultimately, things came together in the most natural manner, and the magic of the epic manifested itself with very little interference on my part.

I still got up last night out of sheer habit, trying to remember if I replaced a word with a better one, or if that comma belonged after a problematic phrase, or if an allusion should be removed.

I remember a similar condition from many years ago, when my child was an infant, and I found sleep more elusive than it was in graduate school! Last night, I kissed my story as it left my care to try out its luck in the world, and it frightens me as I realize that my child shall soon be ready to do the same, much sooner than I shall be ready for it.

I dedicate this entry to all stories that give us sleepless nights and take their own time over maturing, all stories that refuse the insistence on a predetermined time line and fight all fetters that would smother them with too much worrying, all stories that grant us so much relief and pride when they finally grow up, in spite of, or maybe because of all the mistakes, stumbling, and agonies.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bubbles

It is a normal, predictable Thursday. The same plots are being re-enacted on the television; the cat is napping in the same posture as yesterday; the same kids rocket by the window on various wheels; the mail carrier greets me in the same way; my back hurts in the same place; and the same star shines first in the west.

But something IS different today: I have, in my hand, the final copy of my first book of poetry.
It has been a long Odyssey, and even though I have been expecting the shipment, nothing comes near the actual feeling of holding the copy in my hands.

I am not ecstatic and I don't expect my life to change in any way. This is not some kind of pinnacle or a point of no return. This is one of the clogs ticking and clanging in place, a recognition. There is a comfort when a part of the self gets affirmed, like when one confirms a part of how the world works. For instance, I'd never seen an entire row of blue jelly fish being washed on the sand like I did last weekend. But the sight reaffirmed what I should have known: of course, that's what it's supposed to look like!

We watched the jellyfish rolling in with the waves, trailing their laces behind them, quivering as they burrowed deeper in the sand, the ink swilling like a little ocean contained in a balloon. A little unsuspecting bubble is all that can be seen once they are settled. One would have to consider one's next step very carefully.

Today my joy feels like the bubble scattered on a sandy shore, one among many, constantly being worked on by the motions of the waves, sand, the busy rocking of the very earth as the cosmos scuttles around in the important business of living. I send my feelers out towards the horizon, the line that defines our very realities but doesn't need to exist. I try to catch a wave that has passed over me: a time when I first realised that holding my book would be a part of who I wanted to be.

I dedicate this entry to that moment when I lay on that swing in a house called Horizon, watched the clouds swilling across the sky, and as the swing swept the winds over the pages of the book on my lap, I wished and vowed that one day, I'd hold a book of my own in my hands.

The house called Horizon, along with its swing, is gone and cannot return.

So I stand at the edge of the ocean, my book in my hand, and fling my image onto the horizon, to reach that house, that swing, that girl, that sky.
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