I went to sleep before Wheel of Fortune.
At three a.m., precisely three a.m., a flash of light illuminated the room, silhouetted my open laptop on the desk next to the bed. By the time the thunder followed I was awake, staring into the now dark room, wondering, electrical storm or preliminary sign of stroke?
The slap of thunder was, thus, a relief.
There was only the one flash of light, the one rumble of thunder. I decided this was God’s way of telling me to get up and write.
Most of you know that, in August, after five years in the area, Jack and I moved from beautiful Northwest Arkansas back to my home town. Eureka perches on the Pacific Ocean, in the coastal redwood forest, about a hundred winding miles south of the Oregon border. My people have been here for eight generations. Not as long as the beautiful Yurok, and Hoopa, and Wiyot my ancestors attempted to exterminate, but still, people of my blood have lived here long enough that this is where I breathe easiest, this is where I know the name of every weed and tree and plant, where I have a half-dozen memories of each street, and creek, and beach, and lagoon, and forest path.
Humboldt County is home.
Still, in many ways, my tribe is in Arkansas. Arkansas is where I came into my own as a writer. Arkansas is where, with a few notable exceptions, I made the best friends of my life. Arkansas is where I was a respected member of a talented and generous group of writers who encouraged and lifted each other up each week at the Northwest Arkansas Writers Workshop, and out of which a half-dozen or so deep friendships developed. I knew when I walked away it was going to be a loss. A real loss.
People in Eureka love me, but to them I’m still the scruffy, gangly child who chewed on the front of her shirt until she was five.
In Arkansas I’d often run into people while out and about, people who would approach and say things like, “Oh, I heard you speak at the Missouri Writers Guild. You encouraged me so much,” or “OMG, I finished Noisy Creek last night and I love that book!”
Here in Humboldt County folks who approach are far more likely to say things like, “Aren’t you the one who rolled down the hill at Fort Humboldt when you were a kid and broke her tailbone on a redwood stump?” or “At Alice Birney Elementary, didn’t you write that love story about Kevin Young, the boy up street from you, and then lose the binder in the cafeteria where Kevin’s brother Jimmy found it?”
Why yes, that was me. And that last incident might go a long way in explaining why I have never written another Romance.
So, I’m home. Fat, rather than gangly, but no longer prone to rolling down hills.
After a six month period of adjustment, I am ready to slip back into writing mode. Like a shedding snake, perhaps I’ve grown to fit a new skin. Sometimes I think we humans need a period when our eyes cloud over and our metabolism slows and we transform ourselves, once again, into our next incarnation.
My new self is a study in the need for balance. Jack’s health has deteriorated, though his humor and mischief-making talents are stronger than ever. This does not always make things easier, though I suspect it makes life possible. He has recently been diagnosed with Parkinson Disease. A new challenge for both him and for me. Parkinson and Post-traumatic Stress are not the best of companions. Just my opinion. He has chosen not to take the dopamine medication for Parkinson. Instead we are beginning a journey of Tai Chi, and bicycling, and no-impact boxing, and even a little weight lifting.
To everything there is a season.
In my last life, I wrote six to eight hours a day. Now I’m lucky to release the voices in my head a couple times a week. But, they do cause a racket, so I do my best to let them dance across a page or two whenever possible. I have a couple of books due out this year, am hoping to finish the third novel in my Bigfoot series. Living again in Eureka for the first time in twenty-five years, my goal is to integrate all the people I have been over the years – the confident writer and speaker and mentor, the joyous scuba instructor, the nurturing mother, the tough wife of a Marine, the loving and frustrated caregiver, and the lonely child.
Come along with me if you’d like. I’ll try not to chew on my clothes.