A couple of days ago I was talking with a friend about my memoir. I must have sounded frustrated, and she’s the sort of friend who calls things as she sees them. I cherish friends like that — they are rare gems.

“Why are you writing this?” she asked. “What are you trying to prove?” That sort of stopped me. In fact, the last part of the question stunned me.

“Trying to prove? You think I’m trying to prove something?” I had that buzzy feeling like I was rubbing my old shorted out mixer, or standing on a rug about to be yanked.

“Well, aren’t you? You have yourself tied up in knots about this story that you already told me isn’t likely to appeal to a huge readership, but you sound like you think a Pulitzer is hanging in the balance — or Oprah’s standing there waiting to pounce on it if you don’t mess up.”

“You’re kidding … I sound like that?”

“Yep. You do.”

“Yikes.” I made a face.

“So, what are you trying to prove?” I had to think for a good long minute and a couple of sips of tea as I scanned the ceiling for an answer. She held the space for me to continue.

“I guess I’m trying to prove that I can do it … that I can finish this project that has become tedious, but I made a commitment to riding it out.”

We went on to discuss several other angles, like credibility (for what?), losing face (so what?), competition (against whom?) and creating a written legacy for future generations (they are more likely to appreciate and understand a simple autobiography than a complex memoir).

With those superficial reasons out of the way, we finally got to the fact that I’m writing as much about time and place as person. She understood that I want to honor that spot on earth that was so sacred to the Indians and so desecrated (de-sacreded?) by modern scientists. I’ve already experienced heart-healing and liberated power by revisiting my experiences there. Further writing is unlikely to add much to that equation, though I remain open to surprise. If I want to continue rapid self-discovery and transformation, it may be time to move on to more recent material. But how can I be sure this mound of mental relics is thoroughly excavated?

As we continued to delve, I remembered that my passion for writing this memoir  was lit by the matches of people who spoke evil of my heart home. I got in touch with my hope that by writing about my love of the land, the place, I will somehow contribute to the healing of the scar upon the face of the place I know and love the most. I pray that as my Mother Earth nourished and comforted me in my youth, I may be of some comfort to her as she heals from the inferno she endured.

Yes, that’s why I write. To help restore a sense of sacredness to that place of current scarredness. My story is a bit of worship, a love song, a tribute of gratitude. Knowing that … should make all the difference and help me focus and weed what I include.

Thank you my friend. Thank you.


Last night I couldn’t get to sleep. Experts say not to lie in bed if you aren’t sleepy. Since I was thinking about The Book, I got up and wrote a story from my list about the first time my sister and I went down in the canyon alone. Against the rules. Since I prided myself on being the obedient daughter, this is a stunning admission, to the public, and to myself. It’s not that I had so many illusions. I generally was quite obedient, but there was generally no reason not to be. Does that count?

Don’t know what I’ll do with this simple story, where I”ll put it. But it reads well as a stand-alone. It will nestle in well somewhere as things further unfold. As it stands now, it includes one short flashback.

Over the last couple of days I’ve read several references to memoir as a “way” or “path.” Indeed. A path to self-discovery, a re-stor(i)ed past, re-vision of personal history … and probably much more. For some, it is a path to healing and wholeness. For others, transformation. Or is that trance-formation? One thing is certain — it is definitely not dull!

I’ve filled more than a dozen paper journal pages the past few days, and I don’t recall seeing a white rabbit, but I must have followed one. I slid into this hole while revising a story I wrote a couple of years ago about a birthday party I attended when I was ten. The story didn’t show little old me in a very flattering light to begin with, but kids are kids, and I was okay with that.

As I worked, with the thought of chinking in a few related memories, several additional memories about the birthday party bubbled up, and I began asking myself questions like, was (she) really that bratty? What would she be saying about me if she were writing a memoir? (That won’t happen. She died about twenty years ago.) Suddenly the story sounded mean spirited. She may be dead, and I may be changing the identity sufficiently that nobody would recognize her. But as I looked afresh at the thoughts I had written, even though they accurately reflect the thoughts I had then, I felt mean and spiteful. Those thoughts may accurately reflect the thinking of ten-year-old me, but sharing them with the public fifty some years later is another matter. It’s not a matter of covering up. It’s a matter of feeling mean and ugly all over again. The story is not about my transformation from then to now.

That led me to reexamine not only that relationship, but many others, and … I grew alternately tall and short. I’m still seeing lights fade in and out — and these are not lingering artifacts of my recent cataract surgery. I expect to be invited to play croquet any moment.

What is real? What is True? What is the story and where are its boundaries? The tension mounts.

This (confusion) too shall pass. I keep writing, whether on the manuscript or in my journal. My current inclination is that the birthday party is not at all related to growing up in Los Alamos, and might well be left out of the memoir. Perhaps it will work well in a later volume with a different purpose and focus. Or maybe I’ll find the right slant to tell it with a magic combination of historical and current Truth.

Yesterday I discovered the term Transformative Narrative in a brand new  Yvette Hyater-Adams’ maiden post on her new blog, Transformative Narratives. I plan to explore this writing/storytelling niche more deeply. As I read the post, a whole bell tower began pealing in my heart. I do believe memoir writing falls into this corral.

If my hunch is correct, when I emerge from the rabbit hole once again, I shall be a butterfly!