I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m going to write a sonnet series about the creation of California. I’m using the dual stories of William Mulholland and John Muir to tell the story of water in California, what really made it what it is. Ann’s a visual artist, so she’s going to do the graphic art work for it.
I’ve been planning and researching this project for so long that it’s a little strange to get to the actual writing. I’m about a tenth of the way through the first draft of it, and I’ve already changed a couple of things.
I don’t know why, but I had planned to have the Mulholland and Muir sections completely separate from the Harrison section. Harrison is the character I come back to again and again in my work. He’s the protagonist of my book Let Us All Pray Now to Our Own Strange Gods. He’s the character telling the story and reflecting back on the two other characters.
It became quickly obvious that separating them made absolutely no sense. Why bother having the three main characters in the same book then? So I’ve modified it, and they’re all going through roughly the same thing (in Harrison’s mind) at the same time. Here is a sample from the first part:
Heading out this morning in the blue-dark,
I think that maybe I’m less Muir and more his
father, or maybe I should have been like he was.
Muir never got in real trouble, never attacked
a kid with a bat. Stan has his reasons
but so does everyone. William Mulholland
drained vast regions of water, killed hundreds
when the St. Francis dam released its tons
of water on the valley. Mulholland
wasn’t a bad man. He had his own visions
of how he could help the world. He wanted
to make water free for everyone want the land
to grow enough food for the millions
of people who had relocated or planned
to move to LA. I think about him
and Muir, each in their own paradise, Muir in
what he saw as a natural perfection,
Mulholland, trying to carve an Eden
out of the arid scrub, but that’s what we
all want. As I turn onto the road at
Puddingstone Lake, I realize that
I’m trying to find it with Stanley.
Maybe it’s flawed. Dreams always are. I guess,
nothing is ever what we imagine it or
want them to be. When Mulholland brought us
water he thought he had done the best
thing he could have possibly done for
LA. He never thought it could be such a mess.
This is, of course, a first draft. Maybe these poems will be altered. Maybe the style will be. Who knows? Maybe I’ll scrub these altogether. I’m pushing forward however, and it feels great.