A Requiem for My Wanton Words

The Purpose of this Delenda: A Limbo Between Digression and Deletion

During my last college semester I studied under a brilliant professor; he taught me to quiet my inner censor and to just write as I wish--despite my post-traumatic-professor-disorder which paralyzes me with self-doubt, these the war-wounds worn by so many students after years of terrible teachers, each either entirely apathetic or deeply entrenched within the utterly rote—their lectures just jaded regurgitations in Power Point, those slides cycling while the students fitfully sleep in-seat.I began writing a memoir for his class and I have yet to finish it; my writing has not been as clear and precise as it was while under my professor’s mentorship and I have more than doubled my original page length, though very little has actually been said therein. I am increasingly lent to my own obsessive compulsive writing tendencies. My prose has of-late been lost in loops and tangles of meaningless tangents—self-indulgent insertions of the beautiful words I love to taste in text.This blog is a collection of passages deleted from my memoir—an attempt to preserve wasted words, which are intrinsically sacred in spite of me. May they have their heaven here; may this final resting place, this Delenda, be better than nothing at all—better than true deletion.

If this unjust medium--this blog--be not the cure for my wild-fire writing, then surely The New School will be.

I was recently accepted to The New School in New York City for their MFA Creative Nonfiction Writing program for Fall 2010. Being accepted into such an esteemed university, being awarded such a coveted spot in their writing MFA program -- it's like winning the academic lottery. I have never been happier than I am in my dreams of a true academic setting. I know this will be the solace I have sought since being under the mentorship of my undergraduate writing professor.

This is me...

This is me...

This is me as well...

This is me as well...
In Death Valley, the Sand Dunes and Solitude Suited me Well.

January 23, 2009

For the Love of Sarah Lawrence

In applying to graduate school--at present, only to Sarah Lawrence--I've found myself more meandering than ever, writing entire pages under the title "Autobiography--My Life in 1,000 Words or Less" that has nothing to do with the arbitrary details of my life. I can't so much as manage a sentence giving my birth date, and the passage that began with "I was born in Tyler, Texas" was off to a fine start, but ended up 6 pages of shamelessly irrelevant musings. I cannot seem to commit myself to the simplest of tasks--like a truly obsessive compulsive person that cannot for all the world keep himself from washing his hands four times, or stepping gingerly over a crack in the pavement while crossing a sidewalk--I cannot even force myself to just say "My name is Erin Wheeler, I was born on..." even now I can't do it. It's so bland, it's blinding. I simply can't stare at a blank page and leave it with something so trite, so trivial, so essentially me in the worst of ways--the part of me that is so naked, stripped of the words that veil me in their light, the glow like star-spun twilight that radiates from my mangled passages, and I, but batheing in the beaming verse, hoping the lines that come from beyond me can seem my own, and can let me shadow in the path of their loveliness--their sanctity I can almost pass as my own.

And so as the deadlines grow nearer I find myself with pages of false starts, paragraphs on the red dust of East Texas when I meant only to mention that this is where I was born. But the words! Oh how they take me! I am ill with them, afflicted by them, in love with them. These words! These images! These pages and pages of battle between my mind and muse--it should not be so hard to make myself say just-a-simple-thing. Just the facts, ma'am.

But alas, I am weak-willed and cannot withstand the devastating temptation to hard on and on about absolutely nothing, just because it quells some plaguing inner thirst for a visible symphony of words which have so captured my soul and spellbound my mind.

My boyfriend wanted to test just how much I could possibly say about nothing at all, or about one thing entirely. So he devised a simple test: He asked me to take a subject that provoked a plethora of seductive imagery, about which I was really inspired to write, and then he told me to take just the tiniest minute detail about that subject and harp on that instead--I could talk about that one little aspect for as long as I wanted, and I should try and see how long I can really do so, but the rules were that I wasn't aloud to have what I call "chain-metaphors" (a metaphor that requires a metaphor that requires a metaphor until the original point and image are entirely lost to some image-laden simile-sick tyraid), only one metaphor per sentence. Also, I wasn't aloud to veer from the description or discussion of that one focal aspect upon which I had decided to write. Anytime I caught myself veering-off on some tangent, or trying to talk about something other than the focus, I had to stop the sentence right where is was and type [end]. This was supposed to show me some pattern in my logorrhea, hopefully to give me some insight into what it is that spawns the compulsive episodes.

So my boyfriend decided to give me a little help, a prompt, if you will:

This is a picture of me when I visited the Lost Coast, CA. I will go in to detail about this place when time allows me to do it justice, but as it were, I haven't that luxury as of now. Still, suffice to say it was a place of unwavering beauty, with black-lava-sand beaches sheltered amid the King's Range mountainside and the Humboldt County Redwood forests so beloved by Julia Butterfly and the like, this place is a refuge for all the brave souls who make it here--though uninhabited by man and ravaged by wild bears and lions, from the rock-cast rookeries -- seals that sing their siren songs from the stone-crest cove and the elk that bedded outside my tent, it was a place that few had stepped foot, most never even finding the place and others becoming lost along the way, being that there are no real roads going to the lost coast, only winding, contorting unnamed, unpaved roads that quickly wither into little pot-hole and pit-fallen trails, herding paths mostly, that made a narrow pass through the 8000 ft elevation of the unforgiving King's peaks, where Highway 1 planners had intended to hug the coast the entire length of the Pacific, and upon finding this 28 mile stretch of land, the mountain heights and sudden drops, the wild beasts and relic redwoods, the tsunamis that thrashed the shorelines creating the nightly thunder you hear from the forest, the washouts that often take the lives of adventure-avid surfers, and everyone who has tried to build here (with the exception of a small community called Shelter Cove) has died or been otherwise brutally thwarted in their efforts. This place is the last of forsaken shores, the only real untouched land--at least as close as we can get. The last of the secret places, where the little roads that tangle themselves across mudslide mountain-sides are only known by rumors and word of mouth, tips from traveling surfers and backpackers having survived the hike. I hiked ten miles of the coast with a 103 degree fever, sick with strep throat--after that, the fevers befell me too fiercely, and I was forced to turn around. Nothing will ever shake from mind the frightening frigid night spent camping on the coast, my selected site being in an abandoned national park over-taken by the bears and wild elk. This elk slept just outside my tent, nearing the fire in the midnight frostful hours to listen as I read "On the Road."

Anyway, the point to all that is so as to say this: The Lost Coast is, if anything, a place about which one could write endlessly (as I have thus above demonstrated), and it would be difficult then to write about only one aspect of such a strange and mysterious place. So that was my task.

I was to take all of my poetic images of the Lost Coast, and with all of it swirling and clamoring in mind, I was to write about only the sand. Just the sand. Nothing but the sand. The sand in every possible literary light, all the ways I could think to describe, define, relate or recall it, and to keep doing this until I absolutely run out of things to say about sand, or my fingers fall off from typing--which ever came first. But I was not aloud to break the rules:

1) no chain-metaphors

2)no tangents that lead off-topic

3)if I stray from the topic or find my metaphors leading to more metaphor, I was to stop the sentence immediately and simply type [end]. (this was supposed to give me some insight as to when and where my tangents start, and hopefully then, why.)

4)I could talk about sand as long as I wanted, use simile and metaphor to describe it, but I could not veer too far from this topic or write about some other aspect of the lost coast--a very difficult thing to do, even for one who likes to harp.

So here's how it went:

The Lost Coast
A Comprehensive Summation

(A Diagnostic Exam of the Extent of my Logorrhea)

In the end, it really all begins with the sand. The Lost Coast is lost to the greater population of the world, and even to those who seek it’s secret shores through mountain tops and countrysides, along roads unpaved, unnamed, twisting and contorting through canyon crevices until these snaking trails collide as if by mistake in an intersection made impassible by the [end].
The sand is what sells the secrete of this forsaken place, a wound worn on the western shoulder of our country, sported with a weary sense of pride, like the soviet shrapnel forever sunken to the shallows of subdermian flesh and from this tissue entombment you can see the profiled encasing wherein the seeds of war still wait for water to grow, still in the arms of the few, the proud, each more likely to sport a lost-coast scar, shoulders of erratically-limbed soldiers showing off war wounds and saloon tattoos framed by rolled up cuffs and blue collars, a bomb’s everlasting eulogy in a fibrous encapsulation embracing the twisted tufts of metal beneath the arm, [end]
The sand is a solemn wind-song cyclically oscillating on the beaded breathe of sirens, sunken ships swaying near the gray-cast ghost that will slowly sluff it’s silken robes of sea-breeze and the lapsing distance waning beneath the tidal chariot of rabid waves like arms outstretching to pull closer the shore, grasping at the black sands of the shore as one would if they had fallen down-cliff and as they cling to the crumbling sediments of salty mountainside they find the strangest of strength to cling to the heights above their heads and with all that amounts to man they force the rockcrest-mass to their chest again and again, and so as though in some dark hour clinging to cliff and life the ocean pulls its heavy ship mass closer still to the coast that intrepidly awaits to ensnare [end.]
The sands are sweet in memory but course upon the step of real-time, and the feet soon grow soar and sloughs the skin from generations protected by the secrete Zulu means of French-defeat, and as this forms it makes for terrible abrasions invisible to the eye but delectably to the blood-lust seas, and as it laps at your ankles your amble becomes more aching, the tongue of the tides milking painful steps and as the beastly blackness in all its sullen charm seek to strip the wayward walker of their chance to navigate the earth-havened shores we were never supposed to see, the step becomes more of a fluttering than a footprint in the echoed wakes trailing the traversions of our trepid path, each time becoming more and more crescent in impression until the foot-print like a ghost that clings to attics in old houses where furniture sleeps beneath insipid sheets or the way a canyon consumes the voice shouted in shallow-lung, [end].
The sand erodes the mountains and eats away at the metal cans that surfers bury from the bears and the feet upon which we livenly laud a beach of normal caliber, of normal stature, which with pearly clusters of silken sand caresses our feet like a whisper from wing-beats as a summer lark loftly-looms anear. But not here. The black sand of this sacred shore, both disparaged and divine, will eat the feet of the western traveler, and even the Zulu step tender-footed here. A chalky residue begins to foam on the skin when the sea is kept to far at bay—and though to ones back it is always best to keep the wind, there too will the ocean stray, if one is not mindful to cast a stoic stare to the salty beast that tastes the air, that samples the strangeness of flesh, a carnate delicacy which, to the pallet of this shore is rare. The sands are ashes from the depths of hell of itself, the poetry of an ocean birthed-floor; the sands themselves are granule deposits washed up from the fires of the pits and purgatories of our earth’s very core, where all is molten weeping furrows of festering underworld cascading along the forever inflamed, a river not of old world religious tales where devils feast on stolen souls in a brimstone enclave; no; this real world centric cove is far worse than the feeble mind of purloined zealots and Puritans of more inquisitive times—there is a world beneath our feet which writhes with a perpetual burn and in the moments of belly-woe the beats with bellow with the breathe of real-world hell-fire, and though the obsequious sea will shake with the fevered trembles of fault-lines feathering the ocean floor, from a jutting ascension of rocky crust and reefin-coral the mouth of our world will incite from a livid locus a magma labor from which our treasure lost coast sand is born. This volcano, ill with liquid-earth, will turn old and black, a tar-baby splathering will make nursery on the cold ocean shallows and there will the water reer the sands our children will see. Like a smoker’s lung, carcinogen-curdled with doughy doldrums black and bubbling in the tissue pockets where cavities of air flee the reach of the noxious tar, so too does the lava leech the sea-floor, casting a dismal darkness like depths that aren’t there to even the most shallow-sheltered water of wake-pools and the banks left behind in the evening recede.[end]
The sand is sheltered by the tossing tides, tumbled by the roaring waves, thrashed to stone and shore and ship-deck by the tide-treading tempests of the unseen seas, each becoming more and more the precious stones they are in their true infancy as sand, these kinder-kindles of cast-off mantel evoked to the surface of the rushing, receding waves, and eventually they will cleave from their grounded childhood place, the coral reef beneath, and from there they will dance lock-step in tandem with the tides and each jostling gesticulation of an ocean dancing without regard for some judging eye, these shards of charren core will become salt-shaped and water-polished, like precious stones we mine for trade, these lava beds the ocean bears bringing after decades of disquiet among the jigsaw-pieces of the mantle, each negotiating the hostile heart of the world itself, will burst forth in a birth of someday-sand, and from the pits of pergatude comes forth every human-lifetime or so an unseen devastation muffled by an abandoned stretch of coastal gulf, and in this silence sand sleeps in the shroud of surfs and shallows, few every venturing to their shore. Each ember-dance dislodging of lava will churn with the turmoils of the tides, lost to moon-lust and fitfully provoked by the lunar pull, livid or lulled with her. Each piece will be sparkle-shone with moon glow and strange treasures of the sea, giving it a captive rarity admirers will not be able to place though will readily be able to see. They will become finer and finer, smaller and smaller, and each time they will be more weightlessly suspended in the throes of tsunami-saunters and sickly storms, weathered still by the winter winds and wake-pool wash-outs they will be polished to dagger-like dust until they are swift and smooth like the breeze itself, light and breathable just enough to scratch the lungs; in night-terror telling of the coast, surfers sleep through the high-winds of summer storms safely beached on a hillside embankment, only to have the warm-gulf gales sift the finest grains of sand through the air, and the cherub breath of summer sleep befalls the surfers for the final time, black breathe in a last listless tuft of sea-polished cooled and powdered lava core, their lungs seeped with the cancerous tar of intrepid wind-whirled sand, the embankment area veiled in unnatural nightfall darkness, a black like cooled lava from the earthen-heart at times of illness, the frigid frost left in place of ashes when it is the fire of our planet that stretches silt and soot across the forsaken west coast shore. A fear of black air is always there, but never has it robbed me of the romance inherent to the black sand beaches of this treasured god-havened shore, absconded from the road builders and realistate developers by the centric flames of hell-fire from our liquid core and by the incited trill of trembling exchange that the sky encourages between the warm tropic winds and the cool Arctic fronts, causing even the heavens to seem at hand in the taking back of what humans never deserved: the lost coast, a place beyond us and beside us, a place that rightfully kills us
when the earth is awake and when heaven and justice—not this and mercy—are in accord. [end]
like the air that ate out the eyes of school boys road-side of the dust bowl sand-swells that came in swarms more than storms, like locust in biblical lore. until to the beach itself they are sorn. [end].
From the ocean void rumbles a pit-trebble sound as the waves awash the newest polished stones. Smaller and smaller they become precious still, but always will they hurt us slightly, and never will they lose their shadow-cast pour which all things retain from the womb of which they came, the blackness of heat never meant to dull or cool will always blazen these sand-stone pieces with the fiendish fellowing glow of the underworld hidden beneath the ocean floor, which, like a seawater-blanket, covers the unsightly innards of our otherwise gutted world. The glow of the deepest fire pits clings to the shine of each grain of sand and every sauntering stone, always vaguely there, like the glimmer of a vacant gaze, as with a pair of eyes that meet your own in an unfriendly stumbling of your sight across a crowded saloon, those old-west eyes old trivialized in bad movies now days, the ones black as cultured soil, or smithered steel or more so, as in the cold blank stare of your own eyes into the empty blackness of those belonging to a body wherein the soul no longer resides, a black eerie presence that can only be the presence of nothing at all, of real void, of black sand on forsaken beaches and boy who will never see again; of the old west and it’s warriors, roughed up and whiskey-wise, staring back into the face of their conquest, into vacant black Indian eyes... [end]
The sand is really where the soul of the lost coast lies, the dirt underbelly of a world-rocked wasteland too beautiful not to compulsively describe, and each little grain of sand, every last piece, is a precious, precious stone, the diamonds of the earth, the coveted of the sky, each spec of hushed liquid earth is the lava tears of all that is black and beautiful. A mournful countenance does this hue lend the stretch of shore, and in this sack cloth does it spread ashes where there was but sand before, and the black ashy arch of hostile forests and mountainside shelter the last of poetry in nature, and it is all from the sand, I’m sure. The coast is lost in doleful isolation, only the bears and redwood beasts to groom and rouse the slumber-seaside, the staggering solitude of the sand draped in sandy self-slashed robes, that anemic pasty gray replacing the distant visible curl of cove, the vibrant blackness of the death-dark sand towards the fore withering with distance and mountain fog til it seem sickly at first sight, cast in that particular flesh-hue of grayish blue that we absently associate with illness and impoverishment, with infant jaundice, with the long since dead, with those who have died by the most gruesome means—by suffication, by the sea, by sickness and starvation and disease. The coast looks increasingly pale as it creeps into the distant king’s range shoulder, and just before it disappears, it dons a last look at the sand, still slightly gray with that color of shiva shorn attire, the coast itself takes on a soul. This is that upon which the few who tread the lost coast trails trepidly tread, upon a raw-jewel harvest where the crops of crimson swells hushed the heated embers of upturned molten-earth that weeped from the world restless below. [end].

First of all, yes--clearly the first problem we can see is that when there is no spellcheck to keep me shackled to sanity and the OED, I go on a word-invention feild-day, and start making up words (or at least altering them until they are but my own soulless bastardizations) just to suite my alliterative needs or beat-of-verse or whimsical fancy. Shakespeare did this often, and from his made up words we get some of the most beautiful in our language today--I believe the word "tempest" meaning "storm" is one of those words, and also one of my favorites. But, needless to say, I hardly fancy myself a Shakespeare -- ha, laughable even to type -- for I am less than dirt that sits atop his grave today. But that is, I suppose, still something.
Notice all the times I typed [end]? I didn't even get passed the first line before I was off topic. Had the topic been about the water, I could have written a novel on sand without trouble, but wouldn't have been able to say a word about the water. What my boyfriend and I concluded is that I place entirely too much importance on a single sentence, struck by some subconcious fear that any given sentence could be my last, or the only one ever read, and therefore each must be able to to bear the weight of the entire subject matter, and each much fully represent the best of my skill, style, voice and ability. This is why I can never write simply "I was born on October 6th, 1985, in Tyler Texas" without deviating from the topic at hand to go on a tangent about the red dust of the town where I was born. The pressure of worrying that any given sentence may have to represent me fully as a writer, I feel such responsibility to the words I love, it's crippling.
Also, notice how LONG I was able to go on and on and on about SAND (veering sometimes from the point, but mostly, sand.) I didn't even run out of words, my boyfriend just said, finally, "ok, that's enough, this is ridiculous. What could you even be saying?" I have no idea.
Keep in mind that the above musing on sand is not meant to be representative of my best work--it was free writing, writing in my most raw state, without spell check or grammar check, without page count or concern for punctuation, paragraph, or formal structure. It's not a poem, not an essay--a musing is all I can think to call it...and that's a bit of a euphamism.
It's rough and raw and vaguely awful, like seeing a picture of myself when I was thirteen and still awkward and unsightly--recognizing my face in the pictures from that time, but only in a vague, somewhat disgusted sort of disconnected way.
If the sand-musing is me at my very worse, me with no holds-barred, me where my censor and even my spell check is utterly silenced--well, there you have it then--I stand naked in my craft before the world; thank god no one's reading. If someone is reading, thank god you find me amusing enough to have read thus far. Forgive my fledgling prose.

Alas, I know not what the anwser is, what medicine or magic spell or parlor trick could possibly hold the cure to my writting's delay, and I fear it is dying under the burden of my verbosity.

If only I could do this place real justice, rather than just exhausting the topic of sand...

More tangents soon to come--they're stacking up qucikly as I pretend I'm trying to write my autobiography. Who's ever heard of a memoirist who can't write their own autobiography? If only I was alotted 5,000 words...maybe then....