Digging for (Writerly) Gold

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This is what writing is: I need to take a shower but I have to get this down first. I’m wearing my painting sweatshirt and old pants, and I have on two pairs of socks which never feels totally right. The house needs to be cleaned, maybe even painted here and there, but if I miss this thought, I’ll never get it back. And the dingy house will still be here, being dingy, and soon I’m going to want to be outside all the time, so who cares? I have emails to return. But I’d rather be moving crates around in the basement so I can get to that photo of the time I’m writing about. It’s research!

I started working on a story about my trip to Mexico in 1996 and it’s bloomed (not like a flower, more like a mold) into a much larger thing. First I delved into my journal, which I couldn’t put down even though it made me cringe many times. An added bonus has been all the flowers I had dried in the creases of my book: bougainvillea mostly, see above.

I’ve also been enjoying all the meals I’ve recorded: camarones and pulpo, so much papaya doused in lime juice, mango and cream cheese pastries, beans and eggs. Eggs and beans. Lots of Wonder bread.

Here’s a poem about that from my journal:

Wonder, Wonder Toast

Having white toast (with jam)

in Zihuatenejo (of all places)

makes me feel odd.

Here’s a piece of home for you, they say.

The wonder bread forlorn;

without substance.

We would have preferred a native bread.

I had put this morning aside for writing and by the time 10 a.m. rolled around I was in the basement digging through milk crates trying to find some old photos from that trip. A picture of papaya perhaps? But all I uncovered was one measly roll. How could that be? At that point I still hoped to be a photographer, and I know I brought my Pentax and lots of rolls of film. Did I lose something? I was inspecting my negatives to see if something was there and then I remembered: it was probably in the file cabinet with all my BW negatives! In there I hit gold, even though it was all black and white. It’s like an archeological dig of my past, feels like I’m peeking into an alternate reality. So now, armed with the past, I’m going back to write.

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P.S. On keeping a journal.

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