I waited too long to post about the camaraderie of Squaw because now I'm too sentimental about it. I miss them. I miss everything.
The high points of Squaw come from the professionals and from the natural surroundings, but the sustained good times come from the other participants. We all come bug-eyed and eager. We're scared. We huddle together, and we talk. Lord, do we talk. We encourage, we critique, sometimes we're awed, and we connect. Mainly we tell each other stories. After the workshops and the lectures, after we've read the manuscripts for the day and made our notes, we merge back together. We call it party time, but my non-writer friends wouldn't call what we do partying. They don't believe a party entails earnest interest in everyone's exact progress of their novel, or reciting parts of books, or talking about which characters in literature we wished we were, or which books inspired us to become writers. We play word games for god sake, and parties usually don't include readings; funny, serious, good spontaneous student readings. (Of course we all brought something!) We do drink, ok, we drink quite a bit, we stay up late and sometimes we dance. We burst out spontaneously, unprovoked. Like the night I danced alone on the deck of a house that overlooked the valley. The mountains were black and the valley was blue and sparked with moonshine. I danced directly to the white moon (and Los Orishas on the iPod) while other participants sat on the deck too, talking and not phased at all by what the moon and I needed to work out. There was another time when a Russian woman, a poet, who is enamored by salsa music asked me to dance because she wanted to show off her moves. I was like, sure, knock yourself out. She led and I let her, though, to be fair, I don't know how to lead. She's was all elbows and smiles and tight curls in her hair. She was endearing, and we cut a rug something fierce.
Mainly we told stories.
Friends who I've known for years told me how they answered one of those spam emails from the Nigerian dude telling them they'd won $10,000. My friends emailed the guy back, knowing it was scam, and they went back and forth with the guy asking him how they could collect their winnings. The Nigerian dude, as predicted, instructed them to wire $3,500.00 so the money could be released from a secure bank account, then the full $10K would be sent. My friends wrote that they would do that as soon as he wired THEM $5,000 as an act of good faith. It went on like that for twenty emails and man, I laughed so hard at this story.
I told the story of how I spent two years baking feverishly -- like a mad person -- thinking I was going to become a great vegan baker, and they said, To avoid writing? like it was so obvious to them when I haven't even fully admitted that to myself, but I did answer, Yes, to avoid the inevitable. They laughed at that and I guess I had to too. They patted me on the back and then told me their stories of procrastination and bullshittin'.
I have to say that reconnecting back to the real world after being at Squaw for seven days was not smooth, and in fairness to every real relationship out there, I want to report that I had a complete meltdown on Husband our first night back together. I liken it to crashing back through the Earth's atmosphere. Husband and I hardly ever argue so when I pulled a complete outta-left-field emotional attack, the likes of which I haven't done in about a decade, he was blindsided. He doesn't respond well to blind siding. I didn't even know exactly what was welling or brewing and I just let it rip. Fuck it. I let it run its course when usually I'd be rational and thoughtful and logical. In the moment, I did not know how to articulate my own monumental self doubt. I didn't know how to tell him that I was worried that I won't ever have time to write anything of value and that's embarrassing mainly because I think that's just an excuse, and I hate when excuses fade away the things we say we love the most. I couldn't tell him in a rational way that I know I'm a good writer, and I have a lot of people rooting me on, but maybe I can't do it. I wanted to hear that he didn't think being a writer was a useless endeavor, that it is pointless and frivolous. Did he even think I was interesting (because, I was thinking, I was just so goddamn interesting to many people just days before). This was the question that pissed him off the most. It was a tornado of feelings that I don't feel now. They were feelings I wanted him to know I felt, but as I was feeling them and expressing them in incongruent and tangled ways, I was slipping into an abyss of isolation. I panicked at the thought of feeling alone in these thoughts. It's not that I mind being alone, but I don't want to be alone from him. It was like I was unanchoring myself from him and floating away and god! That's the last thing I wanted. After two hours of melting and crying and confusion, I asked him to just tell me it was going to be ok. That’s all I really wanted. He turned towards me, finally, and I could feel his energy soften. I nearly cried harder at the relief of that. He put his arm around me and said,
"It's going to be ok, baby. I love you. You're the most interesting person I know."
Almost instantly, the steam released from my meltdown. I had missed him so much. The crashing back together, in hindsight, was worth the severe closeness I felt for him right then. I love this man more than any adult I have ever known. Trying to put myself on a misunderstood island was a terrible idea, but the vomiting of the rawness felt good then, afterwards, in his arms.
Anyway, I have heart, again.