After being surprised by good news yesterday about my novel, Martin of Gfenn, of course, I felt like dancing, but my house isn’t conducive to it (too much furniture for a small room, too many dogs on the floor and my kind of messed up body) so instead I hugged my big white dog for a long time and thought about how you really never know. You just have to keep trying (and forgetting about your efforts).
In other writerly news, a few days back I took a look (after a several month hiatus) at what I call (working title) “The Schneebelis Go to America.” I was surprised. It’s a strong story.
I’ve been disgusted by writing for a while, disgusted by writing itself and by all the BS surrounding publishing etc. I had to come to grips with the external aspects of writing (that really do not concern me) vs. the seminal aspects of writing that concern ONLY me. I had to figure out what it means to me to write. Oddly, the answer came to me when I was thinking about the spiritual practice (newly acquired) of one of my friends.
She’s had a hell of a year and, though she’s hiding it, denying it, scared of it, she’s lost. One morning she got up and decided to take a drive. All drives here are long, though we are a “neighborhood” (as big as Connecticut) and she ended up at a meditation garden in San Luis. San Luis is the oldest town in Colorado. It was founded by Spanish immigrants and it is a very, very beautiful place.
This part of the American southwest is littered with churches, old churches, mission churches, ruins of mission churches and rebuilt mission churches. It’s a place that has an intense and somewhat scary spiritual past. In San Luis is an old church. There is also a new church on a hill built like an old church. On the hill is a trail with bronze sculptures representing the Seven Stations of the Cross. The figures are life sized.
But this place was not the objective of my friend; she was going to something else. There’s a labyrinth and meditation garden dedicated to Mary, the mother of Jesus. My friend had a major spiritual experience there and, when she came back, she came to tell me about it and invite me. I said I would go with her (and I would) if she needed me to, but I also know this is absolutely categorically not and never will be my thing. The mere thought of walking around in a labyrinth — even one that’s open to the sky and easy to navigate — well, life is already labyrinthine enough. I could see doing it for fun, but as a route to God? In my mind it was “Walk THIS path” and that’s not new.
Then I wondered, “What is my thing?” It’s kind of bewildering that I have written three novels about Christianity and I’m working on a fourth. I’m really intrigued (I guess) by the human search for God. I’m most intrigued by those who fall outside the borders of the established church. But I’m not “consciously” intrigued. I don’t go around thinking, “I’m interested in lepers and Mennonites” — not at all. I’m not even all that interested in Christianity. So where is it?
When I returned to my abandoned story, “The Schneebelis Go to America,” I also began, again, to research things I need for the story. The research was suddenly easy; sources appeared where they hadn’t been last time I looked. For me, that’s a “sign.” Reading (as I am now) an online book, Mennonite Immigration to Pennsylvania in the 18th Century by Henry Smith, Ph.D (1929) I finally had a linear narrative that ties together all the little pieces I’d assembled by myself AND more. I found other things, too. Somehow, I found the “open sesame.” I have no idea how — maybe by stopping and thinking things over.
My life hangs on two hooks; wandering around in nature with my dogs and creative work. These are whatever I have of a spiritual practice.