Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A word about writing.

It doesn't matter what I write. It matters that I write and write for myself. Like a discipline of yoga, this requires dedication, concentration, commitment. So, today is the beginning. I can write 15 minutes each day.

Yes, I have a long project nearly finished and need to gather courage to take it to the next step of actually sending it out. The characters are present almost physically, and I gave the whole mess to a friend for a first real read. But it's not a mess really, for me writing that story was a diving in and letting go, even healing, a process over three summers of daily writing. It's just when we come home, real life returns, teaching becomes immersion, but this time the novel doesn't want to stay quiet until next summer. My characters borrowed from snippets here and there, the imagination, all that childhood stuff I don't like to think about, now have taken on a life of their own. And they want my attention. Write the little vignette that opens the story. Now.

It's fall. The birds outside squabble over the seeds, swaying on the little wooden hanging feeder, tossing sunflower seeds over their shoulder as if winter were not closer every day.

Imagine a community fair with lots of food booths, colorful balloons, old car exhibits, a climbing rock for the kids, lots of strollers, a few on the fringe, and a sunny day. Yakima was reopening a bridge with city celebrations. A police officer explained why there were bars on the back windows of his patrol car. "They come in so out of control," he said, his eyes squinty, on the defensive, as if I couldn't understand, "they don't want to be caged. Even with cuffs on, they kick the windows out. And that's a cost of $120 per window." The front seats were protected from the back with heavy plastic shield, pretty common, I've seen this before. The front seats were also pushed way back; the limited leg room meant a reasonable person would have a hard time moving. No barrier to a person on angel dust, not even bars.

"I haven't killed anyone," he explained, his black uniform pulled tightly across his belly. "But we had an incident last week. A bad one. He was out of control. We had to restrain him." The words spilled out as if he had told this story many times. "So we tied him down, you know, on one of those gurneys, to immobilize him, so he wouldn't hurt himself." His hands moved ineffectually in the air, sketching the flat gurney. "And then he was gone. He just died. The first report said he died by asphyixiation, like he choked on his own vomit. But the coroner's report came in, and it was like he cooked himself. His body temperature went up to 109, from the adrenaline surges they said." I found out later that the second report shifts liability from the police to the individual. But the officer said, "You don't know what it's like. Every year a little bit worse than the year before. Even in a town as small as Yakima."