I am that girl who grew up on the wrong side of the tracks.
What was a quaint if colorful neighborhood as a child in my hometown has long since crumbled into decay within the territory of the Southern Pacific Switchyard and the web of rails it casts.
The wail of the locomotive and slamming of boxcars into one another were the acoustics of our neighborhood. The Switchyard dominated one end of our street and a local swamp filled with old tires and pollywogs the other. Tattered travelers passed by from unknown origins, riding the rails to whatever opportunity called.
I walked those rails with my sisters, climbed the sidecars and picked plump blackberries growing wild along trails winding through vacant fields long since replaced with affordable housing.
The old Bethel Schoolhouse No. 52 sat in the midst of one of these fields, just off the main road offering entry points into the web of humbles homes. It was a historic building, built in 1926, but progress marches on and it closed before I was born.
I alway supposed it haunted as I passed under the shadows it cast, lonely behind boarded windows and peeling mossy paint, feeling a chill that quickened my steps.
My parents awoke me one night as they did when the occasion called for it, namely the stroke of midnight ringing in a new year.
But that night the sky was lit with a more ominous omen.
We watched from the back windows as an eerie sunset lit up the night sky fed by hungry flames. The old No. 52 burned to the ground that night and who’s to say it didn’t release its phantoms into the air?
For it seemed this was the beginning of change.
And the quaint little neighborhood that was a place where dreams began became the place where dreams come to die.
If I have any gift for writing, it’s Transference.
Transference is my greatest tool, putting my soul into a person, a place, a time.
I am a 6-year-old child in the pale afternoon sunshine of Eugene, Oregon, feeling the cold cement beneath my bare legs;
I’m the disillusioned traveler shuffling down the street past a little blond girl making chalk drawings on the driveway, now the pollywog who feels a shadow pass over as the traveler continues by on his unforeseen path.
It can also be a writer’s greatest curse, to see and feel everything acutely as if it were your own.
This is the price one pays for being an artist.
The question is, are you willing to pay that price?
And if you don’t have an answer for that question, how about a more generalized question:
What price are you willing to pay?
I mentioned in previous blogs I had to slay a few dragons on my way to here; that is, if not yet a serious writer then at least taking the craft seriously.
Distractions will constantly knock on the door. Invitations to adventure await with people who epitomize the word fun and your decision determines your direction.
Your decision to say “No” and close the door (perhaps even bang your head against it for good measure) knowing your friends are heading off on a grand tour of Maui culminating in a not-to-be-missed moment with sea turtles cresting out of the waters on the shore of Ho’okipah is a sacrifice you must be willing to make.
I did not take that picture.
I stayed at the hotel to write.
Your daily decision becomes a habit which becomes a lifestyle which becomes your destiny.
I look at the landscape of my childhood home where my parents still live and feel a great sadness.
Aside from my parents’ home which blooms among the thorns,
the people who live there gave up.
They settled in front of the glass box to watch someone else live out their dreams while the grass in the yard grew taller, weeds choked out the flowers and paint peeled off the house.
“I’ll do it Tomorrow” is the chorus of all dreamers.
In the meantime, Dancing with the Stars is on.
You have today.
Otherwise ten years will go by and you’ll be staring at the landscape of your life with the sudden realization that you are now living in the place where dreams come to die.