Our house is tall for a one-story home, with all but it’s rust-red roof obscured by a garden gone-wild. The grass was covered by pine cones from our lanky pine tree, by flowers from our crape myrtles (Waxahachie is the crape myrtle capital!), and by round pears from the sickly fruit tree in the backyard. Ferns, bushes, and poison ivy insulated the gray walls of the house. In the summers the porch is covered by the carcasses of dead and dying june bugs.
When I was a child, mom and dad would joke that I couldn’t find my way back home if I were dropped off a 1/4 mile away. We owned the 52 acres surrounding the house, so, I would have still been on family land. I really felt more at home in fiction than reality. I understood where the Lonely Mountain was in relation to Rivendell better than I understood where my school was in relation to downtown Waxahachie or where either were in relation to our house.
I would study the maps in front of my adventure books. I read the English Runes and the names of the towns and traced my characters’ journeys with my finger. When I wasn’t immersed in other worlds, I would create my own. With the same sort of random whimsy I used to draw my home-state, I would sketch out countries and continents each place with its own features and personalities. Places were simple—easy to understand—and at the command of all powerful characters who could control the elements.
As I struggle to understand real places, even now, I think the struggle is in part because places are not two-dimensional or static and resist (my) human attempts at control. I sat down in a real place (a clearing) and I sketched. Then I wrote about the sketch. For me, it was a process of filtration. A complicated three-dimensional place caricaturized in two-dimensional charcoal sketches, then again abstracted into short captions and notes (which were further distanced by my publishing them online).
I’m working to expand my definition of reading. If braille is a language people can understand by touch, how can touch (or smell or hearing) help me to read and understand the physical world around me? And how can this process of filtering, of tracing my own journey on a map, or placing my words by tagging them in a place help me be/become in the so-called real world?
(The source text for my black-out poem above discusses inhabitory ecopoetics and is part of a prompt given to me in a graduate class here at the University of Idaho).