I'm Still Trying
Two years ago our travel trailer was parked on BLM land in the desert outside of Carlsbad, New Mexico. The famed caverns to our north, the sloped peaks of the Guadalupe Mountains to the south, this was a fine piece of country to make camp for a few days.
I took a long walk with our dog-- a little scouting trip to explore the territory. Other than some old ruts from an oil tanker, and the occasional loose cattle, this place looked so wild, so untouched, that I felt guilty about even being there. I felt guilty that I was leaving footprints in what I took to be this magical place where I didn't belong. But then I looked behind me and the wind was blowing so hard that it had blown away those footprints. Seeing that relieved the guilt, but it also brought a certain sadness. Of course people had walked here before me, lived here before me. There'd been civilizations and societies, distinct cultures and blended populations. There'd been Indians, Spaniards, Ranchers, Oilmen, and every one of them had a story to tell, about the land, and about themselves-- about how so many of our internal struggles have remained the same no matter how much the world around us has changed.
I went inside and starting writing. I wrote a couple of paragraphs about the country, then a couple about that yearning feeling that comes with being alive. Yearning for what? I couldn't say. But there's a longing that most of us feel, and I wrote about it. I wrote about that longing and a great many other things.
I wrote about poverty and equality and the beauty of the morning; about death and love and horses. I even set aside my ego (however temporarily) and wrote about how scared a man can get, how weak and lost the world can make us feel. I tried to tell a story of nuance (something I feel is most lacking in our society of extremes), of landscapes as magnificent as they are unforgiving, and of the way the day slips into night whether we're paying attention or not.
I feel our lives are layered in ways we may not even be able to acknowledge, let alone account for. I feel the enormity of existence is matched only by its impermanence. I took these feelings and tried my best to turn them into words. To describe the strength of a woman, the complications of family, the fear that makes religions seem both necessary and absurd, and the speculation that very few choices in life belong completely to the individual.
Before long I had a story that I could hold in my hand instead of my head. So I took a galley copy of the book and drove out to where the trailer is now parked (on a cedar-heavy slope near the Blanco River in Wimberley, Texas), and I thought about those things that led me to write the novel-- the same things that keep me writing, today. They’re mainly questions I don't have answers to (not only I have I not found any answers in those two years, I don't believe I've gotten any better at hunting for them).
But I don't read books for answers. I read them for the emotions, for the stories, and for that most holy of agreements between author and reader that says we're all human, we're all lost, but for the next 300 pages we're all in this together.
I love every one of you. Keep reading. Keep trying. We're gonna be alright.
Release Date: 6/16/2020