Tell the Truth


How does this pen feel in my hand? Can I pay attention to the physical, aesthetic aspects of writing? Can I face the power and excitement of my own mind when I later transcribe what I have written? I am surprised by the beauty of physical movement, hand on page, on keyboard, come to read the large loose fluidity of thought let out of the heavy oak door of the frontal mind which stands guarding the oceans below. Natalie Goldberg says that to learn to write is to learn sanity. We want to write with anger, with hope, with frustration, with solitude. We write to touch the soul of the world, to not be so alone. I make allowance to relearn, acknowledge the brokenness of the forced in writing, the non-intuitive ways we have surrendered to believing in, accepted as our full-time job, forgetting to ride dragons in dreamtime. But nothing of great work happens quickly, and writing is a practice like meditation or sports. Writing-practice embraces your whole life and doesn’t expect anything logical. It is the whole loving arms of the world. The earth lifts her dark skirts. Slip underneath and be sheltered.

I used to write only from idealism. I used to let my internal editor take over my creator and everything was too pretty, got boring quickly. Always sparkling this-and-that up in the head without meat and heat on the bones. My writing sounded airy because I was depressed and I could not let out the truth. It was too overwhelming. I spoke only of what I wanted to be –cured already– without knowing that to tell the truth of in writing is to reclaim the sensual world. Reality does not suck: it is the source from which all great stories come. My fears, a desperation to be strategic in my thinking and actions, to be not seen as weak or easy emotional prey in business. But how normal it is, for survival’s sake, to want to project a sketch of who we think we are instead of the riveting truth of our human lives. This comes with a cost, but neither will I begrudge us for the need to do it. That, too, is simply life.

Before, in my writing, I thought I was so unedited in my display of affection to the world, but I was unable to say what I urgently wanted to. I was a writer who wasn’t writing. All that talk, those shining mountain peaks, without getting to the point of the long cathartic embrace I was aching for. Sometimes the truth is painful or angry and the good Pagan way of dealing with it is to know that those shining peaks of wholeness don’t go away just because you are telling the scary truth of some other part of reality. It’s infantile to fear that the good flees with the bad. I am Christo-Pagan. I combine worlds, the whole of reality is a sacred space. Meanwhile the shining mountains stay where they are, un-anxious and holy in their own time, undisturbed by human emotions, not needing our reverence. They know what we need to do. When we got truth to tell in writing we’re fucking liars if we do anything but tell it. The mountains, our mothers, smile patiently saying, “Go, do and say what you must of the truth. We will not be shaken by it. We will stand here, ready to welcome you when you are home from the long road.” Tell the truth in your writing, and fear not that the good should flee with the frightful. The good will remain.

The truth may be that often I get anxious and have suicidal thinking and it’s my own ill pleasure to stew in it, though by steeping like tea in the potion I am finding a way through it, I see now. The truth is I walk between worlds. If I tell the truth I will draw closer to the good of the holy mountain, who herself is often shaded in mist and in night. The forest especially I will come to understand better by unglamorous truth-telling, for the ground of the forest is fed on such compost as this. It is a recycler of death and decay; it turns a corpse into green life. It is good thick grave soil for life. The forest is dark with death, and I am bewitched with the love of the forest’s description. It constantly shoots up from the ground of my writing.

What happens if I get into the habit of emotional lying in writing? It hurts the ground of the forest. A lie is bad for things that grow because el duende, who is the force through which the green blade pushes, requires good rainy compost to turn death into life. You may end up with a Middle-eastern desert that never gets any real rain because they made a plea to their god long ago to save them from darkness. So Creator withdrew the clouds and showed only the sun, and the land became barren and cracked. “We want light and only light!” they demanded. So the Lord their God sent light and only light onto that land where the moon, too, became vilified and fur-bodies and circles and wet, black wombs and the blood of the mother was contraband. Their earth became a red desert, out of whom Adam was pulled. And now from this too-much light there is a more fearsome darkness, the unnatural darkness of war and rape and civilized famine without the sensual dark, and what is female is feared and degraded. There is not enough rain because people do not want truth-telling, so the ground dries and loses its round woman curves, for seldom grows there now but the terrible imbalance, for people did not want the truth of the natural good darkness, the swelling rain and black clouds.

Now I learn to love the luxury of being a truth-telling writer. I say luxury and I am a writer which are unexpected luxuries each, treasures and treats. I didn’t know it could be without struggle. For a long time I didn’t write because I was afraid of not getting if perfect the first time (“perfect”! The word is a famine!). I wondered if I might become too absorbed in either writing or the world around me so that I would miss the other. I used to write beautiful words but be afraid to say them because I thought no one would believe I had written them, so I would write them and share them and falsely attribute them to others instead of I myself who was the author, because I believed that nothing so eloquent could come out of me and be honored.

At lunch I steal away to the empty children’s library near where I work, for thirty minutes to occupy and make my kingdom this quiet expansive place which is at once cozy and stretches out to full possibility. A children’s library is a place we go to learn to read and write truth. For children it is like the open breath of your beating chest when you’ve touched into some great understanding in long conversation with a friend. Out of nowhere wisdom comes over you and the world is beautiful and glows with vibrating newness, and you see with clear eyes. When you write you let out from inside you the conversation between all the parts of yourself and truth and freedom are found because your words are the shapes of the world, the world’s pulse and impression. Anything can take place on the page, anything can come out of hiding to stand in the light of acknowledgment where it has been yearning to live. I come into this sanctuary of a half-shadowed library. Taking off my shoes to feel the pulpy utility carpet through the socks on my feet, the ground, even here in a room, invites me to step into a different headspace for a time. This realm becomes mine, and here I open in power to dwell for a half hour. Pen moves eagerly across paper like paintbrush, eager to squeeze its words from the wet spaces of memory. Yesterday somebody came by, peeping their head in to see who goes here, what am I doing in here, but not minding as I was a church-mouse. It was only I, a writer abounding in worlds yet unseen to others. I was currents and labyrinths trailing earthward to crystal caves, snake patterns of mouth biting tail in circles of purple etchings, in spirals on cavern walls, turquoise bulls leaping at spear-shamans who hold fire, women who see, and who speak. Walls of starlight, fixed into dappled rock carry stalagmites, stalactites to under-land fossils. Go all the way through the caverns to the other side where there is the night-ocean, an ocean of stardust eternally deep. We carry oceans inside us, and love-forests in the core of our chests. Tell the truth in our writing: the whole mountains, the star-cave of torchlight dipping candles back into the galaxy.



photo by sammi-jake. CC0 Public Domain.

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