A Question of Imagination
Sometimes a story flies into your ear. And like a fly, she buzz buzz buzzes, until you are able to hear. The heart of the matter. Stories are not like facts. A fact is something thrown at you, that you simply accept. A story burbles and gurgles and buzzes and swarms. It grows teeth. It grows weeds. You have to be discerning. Do you let it bite you? Or do you pull its weeds? Do you eat the weeds? Do you listen to the fly? But what if all you hear is buzz buzz buzz?
Yesterday a story flew into my ear. It had flown in my ear in 2006…while I was thick in chop wood, haul water, deep in the winter woods, in a cabin near Lake Superior in Northern Wisconsin. Where wolves howl and owls nested in the pines above my house. Where the 100 year old cabin told stories. Where I had set myself to the task of writing my story, weaving in a mythopoetic thread. Magical realist coming of age memoir, if you will. Only it was cold. Thirty below windchill for a month, and I had never before lived alone in a cabin with no running water, and large hearth for warmth. I moved in in January. All the wood was already sold. I got me some that was part oak, part linden. Part green in truth, but nonetheless it would do the trick. I spent many nights waking up at 2 or 3 am, blowing on the dwindling fire, getting smoke in my eyes, cursing. I had never before relied on a wood stove, and the joke was definitely on me for attempting to during a brutal cold snap and a pile of green wood.
Stories. They can be thick and multitudinous. Spiderweb threads telling not only the spider’s tale, but also the fly’s, and each branch upon which it hangs, as well as the dew and the ingredients in the soil that nourished the tree and the changing seasons and stars sprinkling stories upon the glistening threads at night.
While writing a memoir about my stuck and abandoned stories, I was still experiencing the power of my own catalytic awakening a few years earlier, when I tried Ecstasy for the first and last time, and it sent me to hell, not to heaven, for almost 2 years. Story. Crack one open and another emerges. My story shell had been cracked hard and the yolk of the cosmic egg was dribbling out, everywhere, half hazard. Taste a drop and your eyes and ears open to Mother Goose’s realm where Everything…Every Living Thing tells its Story.
Writing a memoir is a strange experience because typically one is navigating the spider web of one’s own life history as a spider, drinking the blood of the flies of your own story victims. It requires you to both re-live the original story wounds and challenges, crisis and traumas, but also, to dance upon the thread of the story a heroine, a hero, a warrior, a spider. Writing a memoir also shows you the labyrinth of your own mind, the dusty webs, the nooks and crannies where strange beady red eyes by the thousands look into you, the corners you wish to avoid, but must dare to tread. Your life line is story. Your life line is imagination. Your life line is determination. Your life line becomes one. word. at. a. time.
It’s tricky business to re-enter the story. I had realized during my Ecstasy crisis that the only way through hell was through the mind, through story, through my own unfinished business of story. The unintegrated stories that I had disowned and threw away to rot on the side of the road, the way folks used to throw their trash out the car windows without a care.
But if you try to escape your stories, they will chase you. They will nip at your ankles. They will snare you in the forest when you thought you were simply out foraging for berries. They will trick you into a story excavation when you decide to trip on ecstasy only to find yourself tripping on devil’s breath.
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