from Q and A: Where do you get your ideas? Answer #1
by Julianna Baggott
I'm afraid of truth. Once it's given
it becomes a gift.
Memory cannot retain pure memory
I'd prefer to give away the replica, not a bit of the soul,
to turn the truth in my hand like a globed village snow-blurred.
But poetry demands the soul, and once you give it over, how easy
it becomes, an addiction to something like peeling fruit,
a simple disease, because ideas are simple.
You don't think, you listen. In the morning, I walk outside.
At once, the soul heaves and parts. Everything is talking,
even the rooted irises tonguing air.
--Compulsions of Silkworms and Bees, 2007--
This morning, I got out of bed and stumbled to the kitchen...pot of tea--check, journal--check, Pilot Precise V7 Rolling Ball pen (black ink)--check. The children still dreaming away, M. already traveling North up I-95 and that humming energy rolling through me to get it all down, how Rosie looked back once over her shoulder walking into school yesterday and I could suddenly see her fully grown--with that same confidence at departing from my regular company. I wanted to note how my son burst from my car when given the option to ride in his father's during a routine errand--the joy on his face and his casual exclamation, "It's a boy thing, Ma," as he slammed the passenger door shut. My oldest went straight to a friend's after school, for a homework session, dinner, and sharing secrets I am no longer privy to. This could be an opportunity for fear to creep in about the flight of time...I am getting older, they are getting older, days blur in constant forward momentum. Quite literally, it feels right now, blink and I'll miss everything. There might be perfect grounds for getting scared about it, that is, if I hadn't been writing down every single phase of our lives together thus far and realized I have felt this way before. I have worried about forgetting--but, with my journal, I remember. I record...I bear witness to the small things.
In addition, for the "larger than life" things, I've revisited a book I'd abandoned in my reading...and finally at Week 12, the last chapter--my reward for persisting came with one perfect passage to describe where I have been creatively this past summer: the glass-mountain. Cameron says, "Every project has a glass-mountain phase, a period when nothing is going well enough because the work is simply so hard...This delicate and treacherous stage, the glass mountain of creative doubt, is a slippery slope we face alone...Our glass mountain is our glass mountain, and, like most fairy tales, it is invisible to others, but very real to us." For me, rather than merely climb up this personal-Everest, what has worked is also looking through it and seeing that there is, in fact, another side. That, and catching my own reflection in the glass itself and finding myself there. I am in this book I have been writing. Not as any one character, setup, or situation...but as a mirror of how things look from here to me. I am over the fears I had about what will ultimately become of this work now because it is simply another form of short-hand about my own life: what fascinated me? What characters rose up through these years of finding my voice as a writer? Though it is veiled by the form of fiction--I am still, just as I always have been, bearing witness.
Baggott's poem says "poetry demands the soul", which I might revise to "art demands the soul". Whether we are painting, writing a novel, creating jewelry, taking photographs, raising a child, baking an apple pie, or loving someone without reservation--it is a form of art, and, to do it well means to invest our entire soul. I am only now just understanding this. Until I come through the glass mountain stage of Migration Summer, my nearly-completed novel, other aspects of my life may have to be pruned back a bit to prepare for this season of harvest. This might mean I am a bit more scarce in my online presence, but I come back to blogging again and again because it is another way for me to chronicle my obsessions and curiosities...another small way to honor the "simple ideas" I'm mulling over. I'm not actually making this a "blogging break" as I've done in the past--but, what you will be getting from me here instead will be "postcards from glass mountain"...photos and postcard-sized writing-glimpses at where my life is taking me. "I am afraid of the truth" Baggott reveals above...and I am afraid to switch up my blogging habits as I'm grateful for this space where my thoughts meet up with yours, all of you, reading along. Call and response, give and take--I have gained much by keeping this dialogue going these past years. But, my mountain is calling and I plan to "not think, but listen" because as Brenda Ueland wisely counseled "I have learned...inspiration does not come like a bolt, nor is it kinetic, energetic, striving, but it comes to us slowly and quietly and all the time, though we must regularly and every day give it a little chance to start flowing, prime it with a little solitude and idleness."