Once upon a time there was a little girl growing up in Blueberry Country where the swamps breathe, the trees stand like soldiers, and everywhere there are jeweled lakes. The land is so beautiful it forces her to learn language so she can speak of this beauty. By seeing she becomes intimate with tiny, white spiders on a wild rose. By hearing she learns to sing a song of wolves and birds. By feeling she discovers the intricate design of a single snowflake on the back of her hand. Finally, out of sheer frustration and unrequited love, she learns to write.
For one hundred years she writes, scribbling words on paper, filling page after page attempting to capture the beautiful gifts earth has given.
Later, she sees the Beautiful People of the land linked also in some mysterious ways to the trees, and lakes, and sky. She watches them, seeing lines and colors form landscapes of emotion on their faces. With pen and ink she paints them. She writes of the sigh, the tender thigh, and the repose of sleep. She writes also of hidden cruelties, sticky loyalties, and the power of a single tone of voice. All is caught in her search for the right word, the turning phrase, the rhythm of language and souls.
When the girl comes of age, she tucks pen and paper into a pouch, asks her parents’ blessings, and leaves Blueberry Country to seek her fortune in the City of Writers.
For years she wanders, seeking her place among the unfamiliar tribes known as writers. Many try to discourage her from this foolish path. Only one in a thousand, they warn, find the hidden City of the Writers. Others, False Prophets of the pen, read her babbling-brook stories and explain that she really must not let the brook flow so freely but contain, restrain the fluid thing. They torture her pretty prose until she no longer sees it as her own. Some who live on the shadowy edges outside the City of Writers ply snake oil, luring into the promise of fame and fortune—for a price. It is a painful time for the girl, and she relinquishes the scrawling pen, determined to turn away from this dangerous pursuit.
One day she enters the vast empty lands of the Great Plains. The girl is profoundly confused by the lack of trees, the missing lakes on this dry, rolling land and thinks perhaps she has found the moon. Surely there can be no danger here of the land itself coaxing her to speak.
All is well until, alas, she drives into the Black Hills only to find the hills themselves begging for the use of her voice and her pen. She begs them to release her. “I simply can’t. Writing breaks my heart.”
But the wise, ancient hills ask the fated question, “Can you not?”
And so she turns again to the empty page and submits. She submits to the hills, and to the land; she submits to the blue ink pen, and the lure of her own soul; and she submits her pages to their fate.
After many years, she takes her simple stories to the Grand Council of Literary Writers, bows before them three times, and asks their exalted opinion. The weary Grand Masters hum and sigh, nod and smile. They offer little—leaving the truth and its pursuit entirely up to her. The girl gathers her stories and leaves, more unsure and discouraged than ever.
Along the weary road, the trees again stand like soldiers along her path. They too hum and sigh in a language she cannot grasp and, once again, she submits, aware only that she knows not.
Returning home, at last, the girl goes to the river where the current is strong and flowing, and the water crystal clean. She strips naked, shedding all the garments and coverings of her body and soul. She strips off all desire, disappointment, her greatest aspirations, and lays them beside the pile of garments. And then, at last, she steps like a newborn into the river and dives, seeking now only the deepest part of the river and her own understanding.
(Note--This was originally published in Byline Magazine. It was the first time I made an editor angry enough to publish my work. She didn't like my take on the literary world. Leave a comment, please!)