Paradise and Panic


For four days, I held my breath. For four days, I stared out windows

at the endless cobalt sky, at the snow crusted mountains, at the two

white buffalo, the black horse.  For four days, I kept expecting a siren,

a knock, handcuffs, a police car!  Surely this would disappear!

What’s that Springsteen line:  “You’re born with nothing, and better off

that way, soon as you got something they send someone to try and take it away.”


But every morning, there were the animals, there was the mountain, there were my two feet on Mexican tile.  From Sunday through Tuesday, I told myself I had to write for 6 to 8 hours every day.  Every day for the next two months. I told myself I could only go into Taos once a week.  I had to keep my nose to the grindstone, fingers on the keyboard.  I could explore the area only once a week.  Other than that…eyes on the screen…ass in the chair.  And when by Tuesday afternoon the 6 and 8 hours weren’t yielding the results I hoped for, panic crept into my bones, shame clawed up my spine, doubt snarled I told you so repeatedly in my ear.  Somewhere not far off, Marley’s chains were clanking!

I knew instantly what I had to do:  Contact Residency Writer Extraordinaire, Laura Didyk.  Lucky for me, I didn’t wait a week or two to do so!!!!  I told Laura my predicament and she instantly informed me that my expectations might be a bit beyond reach!!  She told me that everything I do during my day: hiking, staring, reading, dancing, journaling, watching a movie, will only help me with my writing…will only feed it!  Hallelujiah!!! I didn’t have to be so miserly with myself!!!

When I awoke this morning, I was reminded of my first six months in the Catskills, in the fall of 2000, as I finished my MFA.  I wasn’t working any actual jobs….I was spending all my time reading poetry, writing poetry and critical essays, fashioning a manuscript.  But I wasn’t JUST doing that.  I was exploring the area every day.  I took hikes every day with my dog, Magic.  Not just down the road.  We drove to Hunter Mountain, and Slide Mountain, and  North/South Lake.  And I stared at deer out the kitchen window, three times a day.  I cooked good meals; I sat for hours over topo maps of the Catskills.  I watched all my father’s favorite westerns.  And I finished my work.  It all got done, I was 100% productive, and Magic and I enjoyed everyday.  Everyday I was generous with myself.

As Laura said to me:  Whatever else you do….it is not wasting time….It is medicine for the soul.  Once again, I’m back at my desk, back at the laptop….reading, re-reading, adding notes to early chapters, and generating new stories to include in the memoir.  I’m working…as Jesse advised:  into the doubt….through the doubt…despite the doubt!  I’m doing as Leah and Bev suggested:  I’m eating the elephant one spoon at a time!!!

I don’t want to leave New Mexico with just a finished manuscript….I want to leave, if I must!, with a wealth of new adventures to write about.  I want to leave with a smart phone overflowing with pictures of the area, of people I’ve met, of places to which I will always want to return!  I want to leave here having fallen in love with EVERYTHING…..not simply 400 pieces of paper, of words on the page.

I want to follow Noche’s example: he doesn’t just stand in one spot all day…he peruses the many pastures….visits nearby horses, sniffs out the different meadows, hangs in the shade of the biggest cottonwood.  And if someone tosses him an apple, he’s heads-up ready for it!!!!



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