projects and writings of Tracy Burkholder
In September, 2016 I started a year-long personal challenge of doing something each week that I’d never done before then writing about it. This is week 1.
I finished writing a book this year. Unlike the novel I wrote (and almost immediately threw in a drawer to forget), this one is a very personal long form essay/poetry/memoir hybrid. In other words, a weird little thing born from somewhere deep in my bones.
There is still work to do to find a publisher, but once I’d licked out all the marrow, my creative output came to a screeching halt. The framework those pages made inside my life suddenly collapsed. The result? I’ve been sad a lot lately. And a little lost.
I’m not ready to dig back into a new writing project, but one thing these last few years has shown me is that projects are good for me. They give a creative and challenging structure to my days. They make me nervous and excited and frustrated and scared. I’m lucky to have such a calm and well-supported life that I need to go looking for such things, plucking my challenges from a pretty basket instead of being bombarded with shit flung by someone else.
I didn’t expect to start this new project until after my birthday, but then I ended up with the house all to myself this week. In the recent past, this might have spurred me to scramble around looking for fun, but there was no physical scramble this time, only an old, familiar mental one: Here’s the drag of the dark hours ahead of me. Here’s the sharp quiet around me. And I want someone else to fill it. Someone else to soften it. So tell me you miss me. Tell me you love me. Tell me I’m beautiful or sexy or smart. Like my post. Heart my pic.
I fell asleep frustrated at my inability to provide better company for myself. The clingy, distracted grab and lunge I went through reminded me of my much younger self, one I thought I’d grown out of. But no, not entirely. She still shows up now and then. I know it.
This morning I got up and decided to shuffle off that sad, lonely girl, back to 1989. In her place I would put something new for my body to move through, something new for my eyes to fall on. Instead of heading up Mt. Tabor, my preferred extinct volcano in Portland city limits, I headed out to Powell Butte. I’d actually been there once before, maybe twenty years ago. Back then, all we did was walk up a short, paved trail to the grassy summit, point a finger at Mt. Hood and head home. Today I pushed further, out to the edges of the park.
I moved from the high-pitched buzz of open sky, pale grass and dead flowers to the deep, green blanket of forest. I stepped into that calm of tree and moss and instantly felt my breath settle back into my lungs, my heart slip back into a sweeter rhythm. I passed only a couple people on the path. The traffic sounds in the distance became ocean. The flat, gray light made every fern glow. Without the dapple of sun, brown was only brown, green was only green. Everything was thick with its own color.
This was where I belonged. In the hold of the woods. In the comfort of my own body. This was enough to start with.