[Feature photo: Jorge Elías]
Maybe you are not traveling right now. Maybe you can’t afford to. Maybe there is business at home that needs to be taken care of: finding a job, caring for family or a friend, paying off the student loan that is screwing you. Maybe the only place you’re traveling is in your mind – and too often, that trip is a dead end.
Consider that where you live may be a destination for others. I’ve written about how to bring Roadheart to your writing here.
Re-read it and keep the suggestions in your mind as you read what follows. Every word of this piece came from my life. Every word is true. Nothing was hyped-up to seduce the innocent! As you read, pay attention to what works for you. Then, of course, write your own piece about your life at home. Let your writing carry you back. Let it bring you home.
What We Can’t Take With Us
Yesterday I picked up a carton of apples from the Cactus Wren used book store in Yucca Valley, California. The fruit was a gift from a man I have never met in person. He had not been able to ship the apples to my post office box. He is a writer and a teacher of writing, so he did the most sensible thing: he googled bookstores in Yucca Valley, called the Cactus Wren and asked if he could send them my apples.
The bookstore could have been the late Aradia Bookstore in Flagstaff, Arizona. Books filled shelves, tables and most of the floor. There was no resident white cat. There was a resident black poodle. The owner and I opened the box. A letter was tucked between the apples.
The scent of the fruit was as redolent as its names: Honey Crisp, Gala, Aurora. I was, for an instant, not in a little town in the Mojave Desert. I was 2538.68 miles and sixty years distant…
…I wandered in the old orchard behind my northeastern childhood home. I was eight. The scent of apples drifted in the late afternoon light. There was no need to steal an apple. The farmer and his wife gave them away. I heard my mother calling me to come home for supper. Her voice was gentle. It was not stretched tight by her fear. This Autumn she was home and she was not “sick”. I picked four apples, red for my mother, red-green for my father, yellow-red for my baby brother and yellow-green for me. I took one bite out of mine. Juice flooded my mouth. Sweet and sour…
Later I read the letter – its page scented with apple. My friend tells me that the apples are from the Auvil Research Orchard in Washington State. “The fruit has never been spayed with malathion, Alar or any chemicals; the apples are sprayed with water and clay at just the right times to prevent bug damage.”
I wrote back: “Dear brother, The Mahakala prayer flags tremble in a molten invisible breeze. Mahakala is Kali is Time is That Which Eats Everything. Mahakala lives in the west. I sit in the shade at the west side of my cabin. I eat grated apple and chunks of pepperjack cheese. I’m grateful that Mahakala has eaten the harsh times of these last years. Mahakala does, as is his nature, continue to eat. I think He finds the stock market particularly delectable. Others also find your apples delectable: The staff at the Angelview second-hand store; the women who work the super-market check-outs; whatever scurried in last night to nibble the damaged apples I’d scattered under the fruitless mulberry trees.
Yesterday I heard two of the wealthy talk of being terrified that the stock-market would eat “everything they had worked so hard for.” I remembered my own terror in 2007 as my world fell apart. Then I understood: Everything I have worked so hard for will never be lost – that is the blessing of knowing how to be poor, of choosing time over safety, of writing and being possessed by writing. As long as memory and pen serve me, I will carry countless riches: the moon in a slot canyon of sky over a desert gorge; basalt shredding my fingers as I haul myself up an impossible slope; how morning coffee tastes as a prayer moves out from my breath: “For the furthering of all sentient beings, and the protection of earth, air and water.”
Sunday I hung wash on the new clotheslines. Thirty minutes later it was dry. The only resources used were my muscles, sun, wind and my delight. I made the bed with clean sheets and I thought of another prayer: gate gate paragate sarasamgate. Gone gone completely gone to the other side, never having left.
Sun-scented cotton, aching shoulder, apple light, wind eaten by twilight. Woman breathing toward the unknown rest of her life.