80º ~ hold on, friends and fans of the Kangaroo, there's been a wicked wind blowing for three days now and it seems to have an unlimited supply of energy, stripping the trees to about 30%, the yards are carpets of brown and yellow crunchy leaves, a fat storm to the west should usher in cooler temps tomorrow
I keep this picture on the side of the file cabinet at my writing desk. It was taken in the summer of '78 and my grandmother's inscription on the back states that I'm with Bonnie, probably one of the last ponies or horses that she and my grandfather kept on the farm.
I'm glad the details are fuzzy with age, although I did play with the color a bit as the surface has faded over time.
Why am I showing you this off-center pose? Because I've been thinking about what obsesses me and how those obsessions bleed through into my poems and deeper still how those obsessions began. Sometimes, when I do a reading or look at the manuscript I'm currently sending out, I get a bit shame-faced about recurring words / images. Then, I look more closely and try to be sure I'm earning those repetitions. Handling the patterns correctly builds cohesion; overuse or repetition without expansion build boredom. With revision, the shame fades and confidence returns.
What I noticed the other day was my fixation on the horizon. For anyone who isn't from the Midwest / Plains and wonders why my work is so full up with that demarcation line, I hope this picture informs you a little bit. Living in the South as I do now, I miss being able to see for miles and miles and miles. I miss the pure power of a wind that gathers strength uninterrupted (although we are getting a hint of it down here today). I miss the sunsets that stretched and stretched and stretched across my field of vision.
When C. and I were visiting Iowa a few years back, he commented on the lack of trees, and I was stunned. Couldn't he see that grove over there? Couldn't he appreciate the way those pines were planted to stop the wind from eroding the field we were driving past? Of course he could; however, down here in Arkansas, we live among the pines and hard wood forests of the southern edge of the Ozarks. (Timber is a huge industry, especially in the county where C was raised.) We both love trees it turns out, only I love them as individuals or in small groups and he loves them on a grand scale.
In any case, back to the horizon. How do these obsessions form? That's material for a psychological study, I suppose, but I do remember being fascinated with that distance even as a child, that sense that I could walk or ride for hours and not reach what I was seeing in the distance. And in that distance, anything at all might happen. There were no real boundaries, no sense of being closed in, which seems a bit frightening now that I think about it. I was nothing but a tiny dot on the landscape, even with the heft of Bonnie beneath me. On the other hand, with that distance all around me, I'd surely see any threat with enough warning to high-tail it home as well. Maybe that's what I miss most of all, the ability to be on the lookout for danger without having to build a fire tower to do so.
Finally, here's a Wordle of the weather manuscript so you can see my other obsessions. (MOM: Sorry that "dead" and "mother" are right next to each other. I promise, it's not that kind of book!)