Tangled up in blue

Flowers and trees
  • Aperture: f/4.5
  • Focal Length: 32mm
  • ISO: 125
  • Shutter: 1/250 sec
  • Camera: NIKON D1X

Northport, Alabama

Water courses through my spirit, bringing the echoes of distant lands to my ears when I’m up, luring me with its siren song when I’m down, sending my blood rushing in a pell-mell torrent that means nothing to most people.

Even as a child, the water spoke my name — awakened a stirring within that left me dizzy with want, wild with something that had no name, half-crazy for something I knew even then I would never find.

I grew up on a bay I rarely saw. Spent weekends on a bayou I glimpsed from the rolled-up windows of my grandparents’ red station wagon. I lived in a city with rituals and traditions that had no meaning in my world beyond scattered newspaper headlines and imaginary snapshots culled from car rides where my feet never touched the ground.

Every afternoon, storms rolled in, deepening the sky from blue to gray to purple to green, lightning ripping open heaven’s floor and sending torrents of rain down to wash the ugliness away and make everything clean again. At night, outside my window, heat lightning traced ragged messages across the blackness, comforting me and promising something — anything — to break the silence, the God-awful dead stillness, the sticky-clammy, hot-cold of twisted bed sheets, the lying awake watching, waiting.

In the darkness, when I couldn’t sleep, I drew tornadoes on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes, margins of textbooks, photographs. I drew blinding rain and lightning setting the world on fire. Tidal waves destroying houses, hapless — helpless— people standing in awe of the vengeful God I had created. In the morning, I tiptoed past my mother’s door, paused to hear her slow, even breathing, walked through the living room and looked out the window at the sun rising rosy pink in the sky and slipped back to my bedroom to get ready for school.

The crashing tempest followed by smooth as glass tranquility made sense to me in a way that nothing else did.

And then I became a writer.

Suddenly everything I felt, all those emotions I couldn’t quite reach — the manic wildness, the tranced-out calm — it suddenly worked, blending with the rhythms of my blood and finding release. Sometimes it was a ribbon of pure white taffy, cascading over the rocks with dazzling power. Other times it was a laughing brook, bubbling through lush green fields and winding meadows. Sometimes it was inky black, a dangerous riptide lying just below the surface. Other times it was shallow and clear, sunlight shining through to a sandy bottom, schools of fish flashing silvery-swift in the depths.

I loved it for whatever it needed to be at the moment. Drank it in like life itself. Cleansed my soul with its purity. Dragged curious toes through the mud again and again, testing. I let it suck me under, just to see where it would take me. Let it wash me ashore, spent, drained, half-conscious, gasping for breath.

It didn’t matter that I couldn’t swim. No one had told me, and I didn’t worry about it too much. I walked into the depths until I couldn’t see the shore, lost in the wonder of a horizon I could never quite touch.

It’s not working for me now.

All I see are rejection slips. Day after day, I pitch stories to editors who don’t bother to respond. I call people who don’t call me back. I frantically cast storylines in every direction and no one bites. I’m sailing into waters that are starting to feel like quicksand, crashing my head into rocks that leave me dazed and wondering why I keep doing this to myself.

I’m going home in a few days. Back to a city with water I won’t see. Back to rituals and traditions I’m sick to death of following. Back to a suffocating vortex of chaos — a world I can’t seem to escape.

I miss my Boo boy with an unholy longing. I dread this trip with an unfathomable revulsion. No one understands (AY, A, IKYU. INTAY). I don’t know why I try to write it. I can shoot pretty pictures all day long. It doesn’t make a damned bit of difference and has little bearing on how I feel in general.

At the moment, I’m the worst kind of writer you can be. The kind that’s not writing, just stuck staring at her reflection in a mud puddle, drowning in two feet of water because she can’t get her bearings long enough to find the horizon. Dazed and confused by too many storms and too little direction. Daunted by the clouds gathering in the sky. Disillusioned by journeys that held promise but went astray. Afraid of the storm I’m never quite sure I’ll survive.

All I want is one good story to immerse myself in — the life-saving rush of words carrying me out to the unknown and dragging me back, over and over until I’m sated — the only drug I’ve ever found that helps me get lost enough that I can find myself again.

I want to submerge myself in someone else’s world for a little while so I don’t have to live in my own. I need the distraction because I’m losing my head. I need the boost because I’m losing my heart. I need the salvation because I’m losing my soul. I need the escape because I’m losing my mind.

I need a life preserver because I think I’m drowning.

Music: Late Train to London by Darden Smith (lyrics)

Words: An Interview with Noah Grey 

Pics: Denied! by Mark at Mark My Shots

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