When we were small in Alabama, my father took us camping up on Green Mountain. I had one job: Don’t get lost.
Camping on Green Mountain was The Wild. We drove up the road from the tornado-stricken valley where our house repeatedly survived, through dense vibrant forest, all the way to the top, to the lake. The winding trail. The little cabin left open for hikers to explore, take shelter, or pretend they were, say, a female Civil War soldier hiding from the enemy in need of a fire, more bullets, and a burlap curtain to peek out from. We would drive to our site, pitch the tent, take out the pizza box, and pull up the antenna from Dad’s mini portable TV. I was assured that my survival skills were up to scratch as I ate processed cheese, watching black and white TV, on a Care Bear sleeping bag IN THE WILD. Later once, at dusk, I went to the bathroom (a building) and forgot which way our tent was. For a terrifying moment I knew, in the core of my being, that I was alone. In The Wild. Well, I thought, standing on the gravel path, surrounded by tall trees, an outhouse, and the distant voices of unknown humans, this is where I live now. I was lost.
In the fall of 2020, so… 5 months ago, seems much longer…, my brother Charlie told me he’d finished a new EP inspired by Anne Bronte (of course, love it), Anne Carson (LOVE it, want to be her), and me (awesome, love–what?) ~Reader, I wish you all health, happiness, and a brother who believes in you.~ He then asked me to be ready to come up with some sort of craft, because he was asking our brother, Chris, to write a folktale based on the prose pieces and the spirit of the music. To which I was all:
There are only four written springboards.
“As Simple as Water” is inspired by Anne Carson’s “Camino“, from her brilliant Anthropology of Water. In it, the journey itself is what gives direction. The road asks the only thing you long to give; I believe that is the thing you love that gives you life, your purpose.
In “If This Be All,” Anne Bronte’s heartbreaking and beautiful poem, there are no friends around; love must happen from far away; there is wandering and toiling, constant care, frequent pain… You’re nodding your head, Reader. She writes, if this is it, God, then come get me. I wanna go home. Or…give me the strength to get through it. Because I know You can.
I wrote the piece leading to “A Marked and Mended Sign” for a friend who has become as close to me as any sister could be. We’ve never met. It began with a business related email, which continued on to messaging, and has resulted in a meeting of kindred spirits. I never saw it coming. I didn’t know anything was missing, and I have no idea how I’d come so far without her. She had me at:
When I took a 6 week writing class in Italy, (you can hate me a little right now, I know I do), I went with some girls to the Academia to see Michelangelo’s David. While in line outside, there were three fascinating middle aged women, cousins, behind us. One was very athletic, no makeup, lousy outfit, an overbite; one was small, mousy hair, smiled a lot, agreed with everything, kept adjusting her purse strap; and one was tall, long dark hair, dressed to kill, bejeweled within an inch of her life, talked forever, danced with teenaged Italian boys, wore large glamorous sunglasses to shock said Italian boys with her age as she removed them, and also, she had cancer.
I lost track of the women as we funneled into the museum. Before I could get to the David, I had to go through corridors filled with unfinished, brilliant, sculptures: Michelangelo’s rough drafts. My mind was blown. I wrote a heartbreaking short story about three middle aged women seeing the David, filled with detail and meaning and character development and emotional tension. It was rejected for the next 15 years. And not “high tier” rejections, Reader. These were hard passes.
I kept thinking, But–The David scene! The Camping scene! They’re so good. Can’t anyone see that?
Nope. They couldn’t. Because they were hidden.
I joined a Facebook group in January last year whose sole purpose is to get 100 Rejections within the year. I made it to 78. It was a real mindscrew to not just be ok with, but excited for a rejection. It, and I don’t say this lightly, changed my life. It gave me a direction as clear as any map. My list of rejections grew quickly and my spirits actually lifted. I took out that “boring three women in Italy story” and deleted everything that touched them until I had only the parts I couldn’t stop thinking about: The David and The Camping. Then I just talked to myself on paper.
It was the first thing to be accepted. Read it here
Waterwheel Review (Love them, wish all magazines were like them) asked if I had any preference or knew of any artists to post as a companion piece. I messaged Charlie. “Until the Charm Fades” was born.
Sometimes hiding is neither cowardice nor preservation, but fermenting… gaining value.
I’m not the only one who did a lot of hiding last year. Some was forced, but a lot wasn’t. Also, my little fermenting metaphor isn’t 100% literary device…
but I know that much of what’s been written, composed, painted, discovered, created, purged, ignited, realized, and accepted would never have happened without the isolation, fear, discouragement, and frustration we’ve all been through and continue to go through. We don’t have to believe it will get better. We just have to believe it could. That’s the only way to put a foot forward one more time.
On the Green Mountain trail, toward the end, there was an open-air chapel. Our dad was a minister, but more than that, he believes. No matter how gross we were, how tired, how whiny, or how exasperated he was with us, we would stop there and at least sit on the splintery benches. We’d still be fighting, but we sat down just the same. Somewhere in my child heart I knew: This is where I acknowledge Him. In the Wild. Even though I knew He was with me the whole time.
Anne Bronte was the baby of her family. She was quiet. Kind. Devout. Proper. But she wrote revolutionary, theologically-questioning, society-shattering prose and poetry. She knew how to acknowledge her hope while challenging everything that stood against it. I believe her faith was ironclad because she questioned.
Belief is a quest. If something doesn’t line up mind, voice, and heart–then I know I haven’t found the answer yet. There’s a lot to allow, to concede, to compromise on a journey. Preparation involves choices in equipment, nourishment, necessary comforts. Know your route. Take a map. Check the weather. Anticipate what you can, and decide to power through what you can’t. It’s difficult to stay on course, questions and all, no matter how we get burned. There’s so much out there that we can’t see coming, but it’s not all bad. In fact, it’s probably a lot better than we can imagine from our spot in The Wild. The Good is hidden from us now, waiting. But that’s what treasure does.
Charlie Rauh’s EP, The Silent Current From Within, will be available from Destiny Records for pre order February 12, 2021. BUY IT HERE A limited run of 36 packages will be offered at that time as well. Each package will include a hand written segment of “Note the Wind” ( a folktale by Chris Rauh, written in response to the music), a full version of the story as a PDF download, a hand-drawn map detailing the landscape of the story, a compass, and a digital download of the EP and art work by me and Cameron Mizell. Each segment of the story is also part of a larger image of the map, making the individual pieces completely unique.
For more from Christina, visit www.christinarauhfishburne.com