It all started with the spark of this article that resurrected—literally—a character from my past. He was one of those mythic wanderers who blew in and out of my life as a child, one of many colorful people who influenced me then and even now in the landscape of my writing.
I often say jokingly that I was raised by hippies, but I’ve realized lately that I was actually raised by artists—both the frustrated and the productive kind—as well as intellectuals who prized the arts, reading, and philosophical discussion.
A lot of this talent and intensity got hijacked by the drug culture of the 70s, and derailed these painters and musicians and writers for many years. Some of my most beloved “extended family” never recovered and never went on to create.
But I grew up in this intensely artistic, wildly creative (and I mean wild as in uncensored, rebellious) group of adults. I was an only child in a cast of young adults (At nearly 39 I now realize these were barely more than kids in their 20s) who were giving their parents’ post-war ideals and values the bird. Their boundaries were diffuse, and I believe that they saw themselves as pursuing higher consciousness and elevated art, activism and world change. And some of them kept at it and succeeded, though not many.
Though my upbringing was full of uncertainty and even outright terror at times, I’m coming to see the gift tucked inside the darkness. For the last four days material I’ve long chewed on has come pouring out of me. Nearly 100 pages, a flow so profuse it has taken over my waking and dreaming life, etched in the imagery of the lush, wealthy, wacky community of Marin County, California, where I grew up. After years of slogging at writing with occasional euphoria, exercising it with the same struggle I endure to get my actual muscles in shape, I know how rare and tenuous such an outpouring is. I can’t remember that last time I wrote so much in a single day since I was a child.
I’ve spent years trying to find entry into the material of my past that isn’t judgmental of these key players; only since becoming a mother myself 5 years ago, have I come to understand how hard life can be under the best of circumstances, with all my sober faculties about me. I believe they knew not what they did at the time. More than that, I’ve started to prize the infusion of creativity I inherited from them, without the addiction to boot.
For it is that child, steeped in literature and free expression, hedonism, drugs, exuberance, terror, awe and confusion who is speaking in my pages, telling a story at last, that doesn’t mean to point fingers of blame, but rather to say: I was there, it was wild, and it shaped me. And what’s more, now that I have lived away from my origins for over a decade, as I write it into being in the pages of this raw baby novel, I realize that for all my annoyance and frustration, I will always love where I come from for making me who I am.