New work, new cracks

“Looking out over the expanse, it didn’t seem like I had any time to make art with. But up close, in the everyday moments, I started noticing the cracks. And in these precious spaces there is no writer’s block, there is no self-doubt, there is no reason not to try.”

This is a line from my one-woman show, The Interior. I am talking about finding “cracks” of time to write when I had a small baby. A brief moment to write would present itself and I couldn’t dally. I had to quickly say what I needed to say. Although I had very little time for working, I produced quite a body of work.

It’s different now.

Now I have more time to let the fear set in, the second-guessing, the convincing myself that I don’t have anything important to say. When I wrote that show, I was living in the interior of Yellowstone National Park, and now I live at its headquarters. In the interior, I was enveloped in anonymity. I didn’t have the internet at home and I wasn’t digitally connected to anyone around me. My blog and online publications were accessible only to strangers or friends and family from other places who were more-or-less already on board with my politics and my past. I was writing for people who already loved me.

When I moved up here, everything felt different. They call this place “the fishbowl,” and I suppose that means that everyone has a front row seat to your life. In the interior, I was lonely. None of my friends there had children, so I always felt on the outside. Also, I don’t drink so that adds to my incompatibility. The people I lived with there were wonderful, and I miss many of them, but anyplace where the community turns over about every six months will always feel transitory. Its soil just isn’t conducive to roots. Up here, I was welcomed immediately. I was invited to the weekly mom-group, and I went every week. I watched my shy two-year-old—who had rarely been around other kids—blossom. These women became my friends.

This place is far less ephemeral, far more family-friendly. It feels less like living in a far-flung national park, and more like just living in a really small town. A really small town on the border of rural Montana and rural Wyoming. A predominantly white, predominantly straight, predominantly Christian small town. A place where I do have the internet, where my online persona is wide open to the people I see in real life. This has made it hard to write.

It’s been almost two years since I moved here and in this time I have written very little. What little I have written has been about how hard it has been to write (present document included). I would sit at the computer and all I could say was how I didn’t know how to be true to myself without worrying about making waves. I wanted to be accepted in this idyllic place that had welcomed me before even really knowing me.

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to perform The Interior to a sold out audience at a local cafe. For one hour, I stood in front of my community and told stories from my life. I told stories about being broken by motherhood, about struggling to reconcile my past with my present, about trying to be a better person than I am. This isn’t my most controversial show, to be sure. I could have told stories with a heck of lot more shock value. But I stood there, eyes and heart open, and told some of my truth.

With every word that came out of my mouth, I felt lighter. With each line, the subtext was here I am. (As these three words so often are in what we say and what we make.)

The Interior was about having a baby and starting a new life. I have again just had baby; I have again started a new life. The Interior was about the perseverance of artistic expression: so I am called again to persevere. My version of “making work in the cracks” looks different this time around. This time it has less to do with my schedule and more to do with my fear.

When my horse-obsessed daughter turned four, I bought her a wrangler-led horse ride. But when she sat on the horse, it was oh-so-much bigger than she had imagined. It was oh-so-much-scarier than she expected. It was impossible for me to hold her hand. I said, “Sometimes we have to do things that are scary.” She took a deep breath and she rode that horse.

So now it’s my turn. Here we go. 


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