Landscape Stepping Stones is a journaling tool created by Dr. Progoff. It is a list of 8-12 places that have been important, including residences, environments, places visited, and other significant landscapes. I chose to write a landscape of stepping stones that led to the current drafting of my memoir. When choosing what stones should be on the list, I asked myself: 1) if this place influenced or even altered the trajectory of my work and 2) if I am still living with the result/impact of this place.
Here is my list:
- It was a place where I got up every morning—one of my mother’s finger lakes painted tables, now in her basement apartment—where I would get up at the crack of dawn to revise my manuscript—The Margaret Project. I was also escaping from a violent marriage and this table was safe for me, but also hidden.
- It was a room where the book covers in the special collections library were glossy and vibrant and full of red and green peppers. Where the tables had lamps with soft lighting. Where the architectural details were wood, and influenced by the Spanish invasion of New Mexico.
- It was an outside experience when I slipped on the ice, stepping down the front stairs of our Pine Tree Street house—the perfect house, for the perfect couple, who wanted to live a perfect dream of an interracial marriage. I now remember this falling moment as a symbol of the fatal cracking of our marriage and the memoir as a place of solace.
- It was a town where I noticed the weeds in the sidewalk, a town, Albuquerque, that was re-enchanting my life, even as I was letting go of monsters, villains, and real-life predators.
- It was a house where I learned that I could feel safe in my own body. More than this, It was a house where I learned that someone else could provide a safe place for me to rest, and we could be safe together—our bodies together safe, so that I could write out of a place of tranquility and not danger. Drew’s house.
- It was a visit to United World College that put me on the path of reversing former regrets, mistakes, and fucked up experiences where I was alone. This visit to former co-worker Marianne showed me how strong I was and that I would be saying a lot of goodbyes over the next few years, that I needed to do this to rebuild, to create the life I needed to create for Remi and I, and ultimately, to create the manuscript I was always meant to write. Her house was full of cats, incense, day beds, ingredients for Thai coffee, and a potpourri of shampoos and conditioners!
- It was a setting where I could see my mother as a woman and not my mother—the Atlantic Ocean—this big vast and deep and still place of aliveness. I want this to show up on the memoir page. And it will! It is in me.
- It was a landscape where I could cultivate conversation—the gardens at the Unitarian Church in Lynchburg, VA and Anne Spencer’s writing studio her husband built for her. This admiration of another woman’s backyard is something I have carried with me and now it is becoming a dream! This place has showed me how possible it is to manifest a dream and for it to be heard and executed. If I trust and take risks and share my heart and be open with my emotions, the people in my life care for me and surround me with love.
Reflection on landscape stepping stones related to my drive to complete my current memoir manuscript:
I am aware that some of the most difficult places have been some of the most fruitful (e.g., the steps of a former house where I slipped and injured hip is seared in my memory as the beginning of the end of an emotionally violent marriage). I am aware that some of these beginnings took a while to develop and that the beginnings and endings frequently overlapped. So while I was starting on a path to writing the story of becoming a mother, I was saying goodbye to the ideal of a perfect family, the perfect job, the perfect interracial couple identity. I notice that I am a complex woman who is more open with her emotions now than at any other time in her life, and with this openness, comes love and support from those who care for me. I am surprised by the continued tone of forgiveness and healing when my mother pops into my journal. There is a continued softening, tenderness towards her. My body wants to smile at this list of landscape stepping stones and pay homage to its path and to giggle at some of the everyday pleasures I experienced, the orange globe mallow weed I saw on my walks that were re-enchanting my life at the same time that I was mythless and looking for new stories to fortify my life. I feel determined to continue to create a life that is pleasing to me, to seek out places that cultivate aliveness, and to embody this pleasure and aliveness in me so that it oozes into the stories I put on the page.