Sunday, September 23, 2007

peru, c'est toute

i have no idea why this story is set in peru. i have never been to peru... never wanted to go to peru... though i do remember a three or four week fascination with the country around the time i was nine and was given a madame alexander doll dressed in what was supposed to be the native costume of peru. i spent a few weeks reading every entry in the World Book Encylopedia even remotely pertaining to peru and then i lost interest.

this story is set in peru. it won't move. i've thought about it - tried lifting the plot wholesale and plunking it down in some other place - even another planet - but it doesn't seem like it wants to work. it wants to stay in peru.

some characters are like that... they arrive with names and personalities, histories and pasts. they can be a little intimidating, sometimes... they are the characters who tend to take over stories.

but i've never had a whole story so insistent. it presents an intimidating challenge... writing about a place i've never been to... and it presents two answers. the first is the logical one - read, watch videos, talk to people who live or have visited in peru. but the second is much more difficult, much deeper, and beckons with a seductive whisper and a sidelong glance.

there is a side of me that says... forget all that stuff you think you have to know.... write about what you DO know... and let the details take care of themselves.

i don't know anything about peru. but i know what it is to be desperate. i know what it is to be afraid. i know what it is to fear what's Out There, and i know what it is to believe there's no where safe to go. it is an invitation to write from the inside out - rather from the outside in.
this is a place where i am invited to abandon what i know, and even the fear of what i don't, and simply go to what i do know... deeply, intimately, in my bones.... the place we all know, no matter where we come from.

i've been known to compare my writing to mining. frequently it feels like i go down, into the deep shafts of my life, and i dig... with blunt shovels and sharp picks, looking for what i call "a true vein"... a place where there's a scar, or a scab. and when i find such a place, i can always recgonize it, for the words start to flow.

but this time... writing about a place i've never been... i feel more like an explorer, setting off not to mine, but to discover a hidden, silent spring.

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