I’m about to roll on out of San Francisco in my new-to-me Subaru. My last day receiving grocery pallets was Friday and since then, I’ve been busting it to get my things together. A stockpile of food, camping supplies, camera, audio recorder, banjo, and music. Yesterday I got flashes of being 23 again…
Only it’s nearly a decade later. And this time I have an almost-mid-life plan. A plan living in so many cracks and crevices, I haven’t even begun to unpack what it all means to me. Shifts and changes are bound to happen, but the ground from which I continue to sit, leap, spin and fall seems to be rather steady. The steadiness will be my stronghold and if I can manage to return to that place, everything will fair ok. I got trust.
A rather large piece of my personal goal is to refine my skills as a story-listener and story-teller. In some ways, I feel like I’m going back to school…only I’m not quite sure yet who my teachers will be. I like the idea of re-visioning what school can look like in my thirties. At the sharp age of 26, I moved to San Francisco to attend graduate school for a degree in Cultural Anthropology. Eight months later I left the program due to its shortcomings. It’s 5 years later, over 15 students have either disappeared from classes or abandoned the gig, and the faculty have recently been fired. The program is in total reconstruction-mode. I wish I had the energy to be part of the civil lawsuit building, but I just finished paying off my loans, have finally come to terms with my anger and frankly, my time is much better spent. So here I am….returning to school, only this time I don’t have to jump through misguided hoops.
I’ve always been interested in the lives and stories of others. Not only does it make my own life more interesting, but my reserves of compassion usually become exponentially larger in the process. This compassion may create space for purpose and if I can remain open and fearless through all of it…the moments where I come eye to eye with creativity will happen. For this project, my aim is to share a purpose graced with artistry. I hope to place a finger on a story, or series of stories, that are tangible and needed. An expression that will remain…at least for a little while.
So tomorrow I’ll start my spring jaunt through the desert, in anticipation that I’ll get to see a few cactuses blooming. Friends (and hot springs) will house me along the way and eventually I’ll end up in Marfa, Texas…Donald Judd’s blank canvas. A town fashioned in the middle of the Chihuahuan desert where there is less than one person per square mile. This is the part where I won’t miss squished-together-San Francisco for one second. A wide-skied, open-spaced town adorned with eccentricity and airstreams, tumble weeds and strange unexplainable lights in the distance. I was graced with an exceptionally great price to attend a 12-day documentary film workshop here through Barefoot Workshops. These folks are incredible and I’m feeling the gratitude come at me pretty strongly. Nearly two weeks immersed in documentary & film training with a group of others who are equally passionate about creating a canvas for stories to be seen/told. This is exactly where I want to be.
From here, I’ll be heading to my grandparent’s house where a family reunion happens every year on Good Friday. Here we’ll be boiling crawfish and new potatoes with spicy sauces, dumping the red exoskeletons on newspaper-lined tables, and eating for hours under the humid sun. Can’t wait to break my stomach in. Kale, I’ll miss you. But I’ll be back…probably with a need greater than ever.
As for the rest of my time: I have a few interviews lined up and enough connections to give me a place from which to saunter and/or leap. The email interactions have been inspiring unto themselves…I wonder what will begin to unfold when I’m actually there. In-person. Cooking in the pot thus far is: a 3rd generation cattle farmer whose barn has been transformed into a Cajun/Zydeco music hall, a family from the Acahafalaya basin who are treating me to a tour of the largest swamp in the United States, professors who have written books in Cajun History and teach Cajun French, a museum curator, and an accordion builder. I’ve been gifted with a list of elders who range from folklorists to farmers, hunters to craftspeople. I have no idea where I’ll end up. Perhaps this is the beauty in all of it. My adventure and goal will become threaded together by curiosity and necessity. Life will be a real find, in whatever shape it takes.
I’m a little nervous. I can’t lie. But mostly…I feel extremely lucky. I’ve got an entire community who have supported this project from its beginning stages: a work community that will hold my job for me until I return, a friend community who give me confidence just as fast as I continue to loose it, and the people I’ve yet to meet who are willing to trust that this project is worth something. Honored with all of this: I’m ready.