I’ve been chronicling my project with my wife on this blog. I’m writing a poetry collection about the creation of California. I’m trying 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.
The farther I get into this project, the more that this project becomes the filter for my reality. That is always the way. That is the muse, the recognition that whatever a person focuses on, that becomes his or her reality. The muse can be sex, depression, justice, violence, or anything. For me right now, it's the poetry of water.
Each day, each moment prompts my memories of water. This morning has me thinking back to when I lived in the mountains. Someone had plunged a rod into a spring and the water bubbled out of the earth and formed a stream that disappeared into the ground in about twenty-five feet. My dog and I would walk there every day to wait for a bear who would come sometimes to drink. We'd see her once a week or so, and always it was a gift. The dog felt it too. He'd stare at her calmly, the only animal in the forest he didn't feel it wasn't his duty to hunt.
I remember the most dangerous moment of my life as well, when my friend and I had been hiking through the High Sierra. We were way back at the source of the Kern River. It was early summer and the waters were rushing. He and I balanced beamed our way over the waterfall and logs we had pointless faith for. One slip would have meant our death, but it felt so natural we just chatted about our girlfriends as we circus performed our way across.
I remember hiking all day and falling asleep next to Buck Creek, just a nap in the middle of the woods. When I woke up and looked around, I saw a marmot lying near me on his back, imitating my sleep as though he saw me and realized what a good idea it had been.
I remember being cut off from my job by the mudslides that came in an El Nino year after years and years of drought. Every day for a week, all the commuters in town would line our cars up and walk forward so we could stand and chat and worry about not being at work. We all thought about our bosses and clients and how much we would lose and we created a kind of society of anxiety based on how the water had cut us off.
All of these memories and more like them have crammed themselves in my head, and that's the nature of a long term project. It's reframing the way that I look at the world just as all of my novels have and short story collections. It will imprint itself on me, and I know that it will change me forever. How could it not? It has become the new reality of my consciousness.