This is not the piece that I expected to post here, but upon rereading the original piece needs some major overhauling. This instead is a reflection on a piece of writing by Sandra Cisneros. Consider it a placeholder.
Cisneros tells us, and I believe, that a writer’s, a human being’s, sense of place is not always rooted in where they are or where they are from. Sometimes older roots connect us to a place we have never been. I, too, felt the pull of roots older than my own and followed them. Because of that pull, I have lived in the places that made both of my grandmothers. In New Orleans, I walked streets my ancestors walked, lived in a house across the street from a school where my great-great grandmother taught, took the streetcar like they did, and ate the same food they loved. When I lived in Asheville, I felt the pull to the wild places. I ventured deep into the woods where my grandmother’s people hunted and fished and lived as subsistence farmers. I gathered ramps and service berries and gallons and gallons of wild wineberries, blackberries, and blueberries. I drank from streams and camped under thickets of rhododendron. It is a strange and wonderful feeling to simply feel your way in a place you have never been before.
Looking back, it is easy to see that my life, like Cisneros’, has been guided and sometimes made difficult by creative urges. Marrying and having children were fraught propositions that left my writer’s mind strained and closeted and confined to first-draft poetry and the occasional short story that could be pecked out in a closet when no one was looking. The marriage failed early and often and lasted 18 years. When that was over and my children flew the nest, curiosity, intellectual engagement, the desire to see and experience as much of the world as possible led me to two other continents and all over this one. And I have no intention of being done. In my writing, I try to capture some small part of the joy I feel in the observation and experience that feeds the creative urge. The wider I throw my net of experience, the farther my imagination can go. I don’t have to know what life would be like on Mars, but I know the joy and trepidations of travel and of moving through the world thousands of miles from my home. Art imitates life imitates art.
In her early life, no one was there to tell Sandra Cisneros how to be a writer. Instead, she wrote and wrote and worked and moved and wrote. As a result, she developed a unique and distinctive voice. By the time people were ready to tell her, she had already become a writer. The lesson here is to write. Just write. I am fortunate enough to finally be in school again, but the thing I have to do is write. Just write.