From Moss Point, MS, to Caldera, OR

I am sitting at my computer in a small A-frame cabin in the Cascade mountains. Beside me a fire blazes in a small black wood stove, and outside snow is falling gently on the pine trees and into the stream that rushes past between the two lakes that flank this isolated artists retreat. I am at Caldera, in the middle of my third day here, and it is absolutely lovely.

I am currently working on the aforementioned Confessions, which are currently only about half done and already eight pages long, and are beginning to look more like a book chapter than the magazine article I originally envisioned. But the writing is coming along well. I have divided the piece into chronological sections, between which I go back and consult my diary entries from the appropriate era in preparation for writing the following section. Reviewing my diary entries from middle and high school is sometimes a painful process, as I lament how foolish I was in so many ways, but writing this article has been a healing process—it makes me feel that perhaps some good will come out of my struggles and silliness, that perhaps there was some reason for it all.

I’m not sure what I’ll do with it after I’m done. It’s one of the most personal things I’ve ever written, which makes me nervous to show it to people. And it’s getting so long, I’m not sure what kind of publication would be seeking something of the kind. Perhaps some sort of compendium, a book of collected stories on themes of love, of desire, of womanhood. I’m sure there is something of the sort currently in the works somewhere. But I will see what it turns out as when I’ve made my way all the way through.

But Caldera is lovely. My cabin is very cozy, and I have met two of the other women artists here—a sculptress named Chris and a filmmaker named Joanne. They are both professional artists from Portland, and have been very welcoming to me—last night they had me over for dinner, which was fun. I have thus far spent most of my time holed up in the cabin writing away, although yesterday I went into the nearby town of Sisters, a quaint mountain village, in order to print out and mail my application for McCarter Theatre’s literary management internship, and to make some phone calls, as there is no cell phone reception out here in the trees. And I do have intentions to explore the area here with some hiking as the week goes on, because it is all incredibly beautiful.

And the week before I arrived here I was in Mississippi, back in Moss Point--to which I had not imagined, when I left there last March, I would ever return, and once again it was an absolutely wonderful experience. I had the chance to reconnect with some people I had met there last time—the spirit-filled Pastor Jerry, my South African sheetrocking mentor David, and the family whose house I worked on last year, the generous and friendly Lydia, Nick, and Paul. There were seven of us from Tacoma, and we bonded amazingly during the week through our travels, our tiredness, through hard times and hilarious ones.

We were set to work on the house of a remarkable woman named Tristan, single mother of a darling four-year-old boy named DJ. She is currently working two jobs to support herself and her son, while simultaneously attending school to become a surgical assistant—and not just attending, but excelling at it: she is on her way to the President’s List, and during the week we worked at her house she got a 97% on one of her exams and a 105% on another. She is truly incredible. We pulled down the remaining old drywall on her walls and ceilings, removed old screws and nails, put in new insulation, and got on to our main task of installing new sheetrock. This was exciting because it was the job I learned to do last year, so I was able to help teach the new people how to do the work. They learned incredibly quickly, and soon we had completed the walls and ceilings of the living room and kitchen, and had moved on into the den before our time at the house was done.

We also got to visit the town’s Projects, and play games with the kids living there. I carried a darling four-year-old boy named Chris around on my shoulders and pushed him on the swings, and then I was taken over by a group of girls who asked if they could undo my braids and proceeded to attack my hair with combs, barrettes, and firm fingers, each with her own idea of what the eventual style should look like. Some of the kids also discovered my camera, and took enough pictures to fill up my memory card, documenting the entire hair-styling process. It was great fun.

We made our way home starting early last Saturday morning. I returned to Seattle in time to answer some e-mail, pack, nap, shower, and attend the St. Patrick’s Day ceili on Vashon--which made me immensely happy. It was a glorious time, naturally--and then I did my best to get a solid night’s sleep before the drive down here to Caldera. I’m not sure when I’ll actually be able to post this particular blog entry, as I’ll have to go into Sisters and purchase a library card in order to gain internet access, but I wanted to at least get some of my stories and reflections down before time washes the crispness from the outlines of the memories. If you have been awaiting contact from me, I should be able to oblige you at the beginning of April, but probably not before.


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