A funny thing happened when I decided to write a memoir of my journey of photographing, meditating and knowing Jizo.
For years, I was on what I guess you would call a spiritual path, a seeking kind of thing. It started when I was 8 years old but heated up in my late 20’s.
I went through varying degrees of yoga and meditation practice throughout my journey, especially upon hearing Thich Nhat Hanh speak of Mindfulness for Psychotherapists somewhere around 1990.
I had despaired at a therapist telling me to ‘own’ my stuff. I didn’t understand. I needed to understand in order to work with others. It wasn’t about just ME, it was about how to do my work and how to speak about my work. I remember the despair I felt when I realized, after 3,000 hours of training for my state license, that I didn’t know how to say anything more about my work that “I BE in the room with people. Deeply Be.”
If you have read anything I have written before today, you likly know that I was deeply influenced by Carl G. Jung when I was a sophomore at Webster College in St. Louis. I am a believer in synchronicity, which is “the simultaneous occurrence of events that appear significantly related but have no discernible causal connection” and which is the best evidence we have that there is some kind of creative, intelligent force unfolding the show. To paraphrase an early saying of Deepak Chopra: “the likelihood that this is a random universe is about as likely as a wind blowing through a junk yard and creating a Boeing 747.”
Which is why I wound up in the basement of our house today, clearing out unwanted artwork and purging a ton of papers that I no longer find necessary to hold on to. You know, the receipts one saves for seven years —files and files of them. What I also found in the basement was some frozen grief, which is either synchronistic or ironic. There are two files full of old writing of mine, the stuff memoir research apparently consists of.
I could not even fathom writing this so-called book project without Jizo. Why? Because writing in the long form is just too f-ing groundless for me. I am a poet. I like brief fiction, sudden fiction, two pages. I wrote screenplays in the 20’s: little images, some of them with conversations, but mostly a story told with pictures.
Last time I took on the long form was around 2001-ish. I will know more when I get into those two boxes. It doesn’t matter for now. The point is, I hung a photograph of trees disappearing into the fog because writing in a long form requires TOLERATING THE UNKNOWN, sort of like life. The unknown generates anxiety and anxiety provokes avoidance and procrastination, spiced with some hot shame and perfectionism: the perfect recipe for paralysis.
This time, however, I am not writing from a fog. I am writing from the voice of my body not my mind. Or you could call it my MindBody, I suppose, as they do in psychogenic/somatic medicine. Turns out there is a voice in there, a BIG VOICE, A YAWP as Whitman said. He also said, “I am vast, I contain multitudes.” He wasn’t kidding and he isn’t the only one.We are vast, we contain multitudes and I believe in the core of my soul that we avoid this depth with everything the ego can throw at us: addictions, compulsive tv binges, workaholism and its pathetic alter-ego: under-achieving. It has defenses built upon defenses, sort of like those little Russian dolls.
I will be sending postcards from the memoir as I write. I suspect I have been writing postcards my whole life toward this end. In fact, I’m sure I have. I realized that I began a novel in the 20’s whose working title was “Whoops” — about the process of falling down and getting up, making mistakes and learning, over and over and over again. It was pushing through me back then, but I couldn’t write it. I think, perhaps, because I had not lived enough at that point. Then, in my 40s, I wrote a project whose working title waffled between “Victoria’s Shadow” and “Stumble & Fall.” Again, same story. This seedling was waiting for safe ground to grow.
This time, it’s going to be born whether I like it or not. It’s pushing through me like poetry only more words, words and, still, more words.