Wednesday, February 27, 2008

ideas run amuck (in the desert)

Okay, the churning brew of eternal ideas and spinning streams of possibility is at work again:

So...I've been reading paranormal romances, urban fantasies, and the like. This is an enormously popular genre that has been around for ages. I read these books when I was a dreamy teenager, wishing for a more interesting world than the one I lived in! Recently, I decided to rediscover it, much to my delight. The urban fantasy world is extremely accessible to all, and actually more commonly read about and dreamed of than most of us would perhaps realize. (Think of a world in which our government was kind, compassionate, honest, open, and had never heard of W. You've just imagined an urban fantasy!) Neil Gaiman is an urban fantasy author whose name is quite familiar to many. Laurell K. Hamilton is another. You get my point.

Anyway. So thoughts of shapeshifters, ancient legends from the high desert country, and boundaries between our world and others have been taking shape in my head, and I'm loving every second of it. Last night, a friend and I got together for a reading and book-signing by Bill Plotkin, founder of Animas Valley Institute, author, and landlord of the friend I was with. During his talk, my friend turned to me and said, "You need to incorporate that idea into your books--the connection between people and the earth."

Of course, she's right. (Thanks, Michelle!) That's one of my driving passions--to explore, offer up, and revel in that connection. It's something we have lost sight of in this modern, nerve-jangling world of ours; our connection to place, to earth, to soul, to self, to source, to center. If I can bring that message across in a fun (and profitable, natch!) way such as through a series of urban fantasy (well, mine of course will be more of a "wildland fantasy") books, sign me up!

Actually, I've already signed myself up. The characters and the ideas are flooding my head and exciting my writing muscles. Let the good writing times roll.

And if anyone out there has any ideas of funky characters or plots revolving around a quasi-real world set in the high red rock country, let me know....

Thursday, February 21, 2008

elegy for a wanderer

I discovered yesterday that someone I would call friend died several weeks ago. He was a writer, and a talented, fearless one. He was a wandering philosopher, willing to instantly pull up stakes and leave if the whim so took him--even if it was perhaps not the best time, nor in his best interest, to do so. His personality was unique, quirky, fun, and curious. He could be passionate in argument and sublime in mulling over new concepts. He had a pair of the brightest blue eyes I have ever seen. I met him when he was 19 or 20, and I still recall my introduction to this scruffy young man as he kicked a hackey-sack by himself in my backyard for what seemed like hours, content and meditative in his solitude, yet so bright and engaging when finally drawn into conversation.

Talking with another friend earlier today, we considered the challenges of being different, sensitive, and perhaps more deeply in tune with what is actually necessary and right in this world in order for it to continue into any semblance of balance and light. Such perspectives have many differing labels, correct or not. Unique. Bipolar. Creative. Genius. Insane. Writer. Philosopher. Free spirit. Bum. Drifter. Genuine soul. I am reminded, in a way, of Chris McCandless of Into the Wild fame--the young man who could not stand what he saw in the world he inhabited, and who left it in search of something more. Marching--or, more accurately, dancing and singing and laughing--to the beat of a defiantly and solidly singular beat, people who may carry those labels, and more, might be our ultimate salvation, no? Meeting those of cookie cutter ilk is not exciting. It is not new. It does not make us question our lives, our views, our beliefs. No, it is those who look askance at this world, and then do whatever they can to rock it, who help nudge more consciousness into our minds and hearts.

Dusty's ashes are scattered, I am told, in the red rock land very near where the photo on this blog was taken. It makes me smile to think that I can say hello to him that way, the next time I am there. I imagine him knocking around a hackey sack, writing with intense concentration, and smiling with earnest gravity at the kids he tried to help in the field.

This is for you, Dusty Quinn. I hope you're still writing, wherever you may be now.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

a room with a view

I just attended yoga class (hot vinyasa, baby--who's your momma now?) at the new building where my yoga studio is, and must say I was quite impressed. The old place was tiny, stuffy, and windowless. Certainly made for a lot of sweating during class, which was good to a degree, but I feared hitting my fellow yogis in the face with an ill-flung foot or arm during some poses.

The new place is fabulous. Large...airy...and views to die for. Huge windows line two walls, affording body-centering and mind-calming vistas of the local mountains, bathed in sunset light if you take the evening classes as I do. Meditation altars are set up around the room...candles flicker on the windowsills...incense tickles the plays, a little too loudly in my ears since I placed my mat right by the speakers, but I managed. I recalled how inspiring and necessary a view is to life. I surround myself with gorgeous natural vistas where I live, and have done so for many years now. I find them balm for my soul, and I imagine most others must as well.

And yet there are millions who choose to live in windowless boxes, enveloped by views of cinderblock and exhaust fumes. (And when I say choose, I use the term loosely, in the greatest stretching of the word's meaning possible. There is always a choice--it just sometimes seems like an untenable one, a fact with which I am quite familiar!) I wonder how truly happy those people are? I'm sure many of them are happy--I'm just wondering how many.

I have to quote Everett Ruess here again:

"I prefer the saddle to the streetcar and star-sprinkled sky to a roof, the obscure and difficult trail, leading into the unknown, to any paved highway, and the deep peace of the wild to the discontent bred by cities." --from his last-known letter, sent to his brother Waldo in 1934.

And that's 'bout all I have to say on the matter. Hoorary for views.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

the price of a soul

I watched a movie last night called Side Effects. It's about the pharmaceutical rep industry, and all the inherent villains, misinformation, deceptions, callous disregard for quality of all human life, etc. While unfortunately a choppy movie rife with problems, its message is simple and clear: When faced with a choice between one's morals and the "golden handcuffs" (that is, moola and its attached demands), many of us might reveal ourselves as being merely human. Ultimately, which path might we follow, and to what eventual end? There is no question that money does indeed make life easier, no matter what the feel-good gurus of our era would have us believe. It's extremely difficult to savor the weighty matters of the soul if one's belly is empty or one's roof is tenuous.

The movie made me think about those choices in my own life. Lately I've been feeling tremendous existential angst, and much of it revolves around my lifestyle and my life choices--and those all revolve around money in one way or another. If presented with those golden handcuffs at this very moment, what might I do or say? Would I accept their tempting embrace, if a little pain and bending of morality for a little while led to financial abundance and stability for a long, long while?

Not sure. I faced that opportunity last year, when presented with a job opportunity of ample proportions in all areas--paycheck, benefits, perks. I initially accepted the position, even though my stomach and heart both protested, violently. Ultimately, my choice was to walk away, morals intact, as I questioned (rightly so, as it turned out) the integrity of the company. I was left, however, with a gaping money hole, and that definitely was, and still is, one of the most challenging aspects of living one's life with the kind of morals and integrity that can make one walk with head held high.

All my life I've been taught that I can have, do, be, get anything I want. I'm an American, after all! My family came to this country because it offered more choices than their own. (It also offered less war, at the time, although given our current horrific circumstances, that is a rather bleakly laughable prospect.) I saw clearly, however, the high price for such luxuries as money can buy, and I mostly shied away from the prison of the cubicle, the 9-5 not-so-merry-go-round that deadens the soul and extinguishes the light as we struggle to just keep up with the mouth-watering offerings of commercials (HDTV! Golf vacations! Shiny new cars! Gadgets! Toys!), let alone with basic necessities such as rent or mortgage or food or utilities.

In retrospect, I wonder who was the more foolish? Those who submitted themselves to that essentially meaningless round of duties (really, will it matter 100 years from now?)? Or me? I may have my morals and my integrity and my "freedom," but I also have flat bank accounts, a truck that needs work, and a studio apartment that is beautifully lit but small. And that's about it.

Just food for thought. I really have no answers. Just questions, and observations, and feelings, and bewilderment at this thing called life.

Maybe I'm having a midlife crisis? Hmmm...I'll cogitate on that one and get back to you!