I hope the electricity goes out again today.
I hope the electricity goes out again today.
Ten Questions features Terra Trevor, author of We Who Walk the Seven Ways (University of Nebraska Press) with the inside story of how her book was written, edited, and published with insights into her creative process.
The morning our belongings were loaded into the truck, I walked through the empty house thanking the space, saying goodbye to the home that sheltered my family for three decades. And before I got into my car to make the long drive, I checked my email. The editor at the University of Nebraska Press, sent an email saying she liked the manuscript for my new memoir, We Who Walk the Seven Ways. They were interested in publishing, and asked for revisions.
Oh, for joy. Happiness. And crazy-making. Take on the task of revising my book manuscript when I was in the process of uprooting my life?
Time driving alone in the car settled my thoughts.
When I arrived at sunset I was filled with calm, strength, trust.
The trailer was parked by the barn, in a meadow with other homes nearby. Still, it was more off grid than I expected.
Multiple times each day I walked uphill to the houses where our families live, downhill to the car, up again with groceries, to do laundry, to take a shower. We didn’t have trailer hookups and needed to be mindful of gray and black water waste. But we had electricity, internet, and plenty of cold well water running from the tap. I gained respect for my privileges and felt positive I would become a better person, and I have.
Every day and most nights are bookended with writing. Writing backed against hiking hills with my grandkids and the dogs, or house hunting. I reached wide to be tender, loving, with my husband, and my family. When I write, I go deep. It’s not easy to move between my mind-world and the outer world.
After a day of writing my daughter’s kitchen is the place to be. Not all of our meals are complicated. Yet the days when we cook from scratch, gives us time to focus on gratitude. The dogs are at our feet, watchful, my grandkids help chop, mix, stir, then dash off, lost in play, then return to the kitchen. We clear the day’s clutter off the table, sit down and savor every bite.
Some people sit and meditate in silence. Others climb Kilimanjaro. Along with my 2-mile morning walk in the redwoods, I hiked to and from the trailer often. When we first arrived, the ground was muddy with rain water. Soon yellow, white and purple flowers dotted the earth and my footsteps formed a path. The flower season was short, the weather warmed. Green foxtails appeared, and quickly dried, sticking in my socks. At first, I grumbled about daily supply hikes in the rain or heat, my arms loaded, and then it became my mediation. I enjoyed the journey, paying attention to the earth, sky. Walking mindfully, stepping carefully.
I am thankful for love and shelter, but we are too crowded in the trailer. We brought too much stuff and it's packed into a too small space. I'd planned to bring only what we needed into the trailer. But instead we included all of the things we "might need" but never did need. My friend Stacy referred to this as a “soul polishing” experience. On my low days I cling to her beautiful words. Stripping off the old expectations, shedding, growing, reaching. I look up and see the trees, the beautiful trees all around me.
Eventually we found a tiny place near the ocean, and for the last few days we lived in the trailer, I worked on my memoir.
On my last day writing in the trailer, I opened the window wide. The wind played in the trees and the air was heavy with the scent of mountains and earth. I had the window open to keep me company. I was lonely.
I love being with the people I love, and I am also happy alone, and I am never lonely. Yet for the past week I felt like poor me, I must sit down all alone and write.
Then I started thinking about how the characters in my favorite books are my friends. Relationships I remember long after I finish reading the book. My most loved books leave me feeling the author invited me over for a long chat at her kitchen table. I favor memoirs so intimate I feel myself leaning over the shoulder of the writer, feeling her thoughts and sneaking into her life.
Thinking about the characters in my favorite books opened the window wider for me, and I found the root cause of my loneliness. With revisions nearly completed, already I missed the characters in my memoir.
While writing I had intimate chats, wandering back over time with Marie, Ann, Mary Lou and Irene. Dancing with Irene long after the moon was full, wearing moccasins beaded in colors of sunrise, clouds and blue skies, her buckskin dress swaying. Irene danced the powwow competitions, Women’s Buckskin style, Northern, in the Golden Age category. At seventy-five with her tight jeans, blue-black hair and flirty personality, Irene reminded me so much of my aunt Jo, I had to keep reminding myself that she wasn’t my aunt Josephine.
I missed the flow of these women, the ones with the grandmother faces, walking the seven ways. How they made me laugh, and told me the truth even when it was hard for me to listen. While writing, I brought them all back, made them come alive again. The women who over three decades, lifted me from grief, instructed me in living, and showed me how to age from youth into beauty.
First published in Women Writers, Women's Books
Copyright © 2023. Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.
There were difficult times too for this oak tree, when she witnessed wild fires raging, drought years with dust rising against the clear sky. The times when her branches sheltered human arguments and angry outbursts, but mostly she is surrounded by love and caring.
I stand high upon a flat rock, my eyes roaming, taking in the day, the years. Filling my lungs with sweet fragrances of the damp Mother Earth. Feeling my body grow light, like the feathers of the red tail hawk touching the soft clouds.
For the record I am not California Indian. I am an Indian born in California, mixedblood Cherokee, Lenape, Seneca, and for forty-three years I lived in an area that makes up the traditional Chumash homeland. I spent those years walking gently, a guest on this good land and I hold the culture, traditions and history of the Chumash people in my heart. For my Chumash friends this is their landscape of time.
I remember the words of my aunties and my grandmothers, about how each person is a connection to history and when we gather around the area and form a circle around the drums, singers and dancers we are all connected, and it's our way of saying that American Indian people are still here. This is our celebration of life past, present and future.
"To begin making new friends, I made it a priority to put myself in a wider range of situations and places where I would have an opportunity to meet a variety of women.
At first I went in search of women my age, someone who might mirror my own image back to me, to find someone similar to me. And then I remembered how long ago I’d stepped away from my comfort zone and allowed myself to be drawn to women whom I perceived to be different, women who might have intimidated me in a previous time of my life. It brought me into a community of elder women who fed my soul.
They embraced me and guided me through the cycles of my life, from motherhood toward elderhood. Over three decades these women lifted me from grief, instructed me in living, taught me how to find richness in living every stage of my life, and showed me how to age from youth into beauty. I felt beautiful. The women I had grown to love all had grandmother faces and flying clouds of white hair.
They grew smaller as they aged, wrinkling into buttery skin. But I only saw how beautiful they were and how they were at home in their bodies in a way I was becoming more familiar with.
To find new friendships, I began looking for ways to connect with others and let go of my old habit of viewing differences as an obstacle. Slowly, my circle of friends expanded and included women who were younger than me and a few who were older, all with qualities I admired and hoped to gain."
University of Nebraska Press
My desire for a moderately minimalistic wardrobe began six months after my fifteen-year-old son on died. It was 1999, and I was doing laundry. I walked past my son's bedroom, a room that was immortalized with everything in place exactly as it had been when he was alive.
Next I began tossing things from my own well-stocked closet, giving away good quality clothes that I seldom wore—clothing that no longer fit the newly evolving me. Each month I eyeballed my closet and convinced myself to part with more and more. At the time it didn’t occur to me that I was beginning to walk toward a stress-free lifestyle of owning less. Back then I wondered if maybe my grief and sorrow had taken a dangerous turn. My family also worried about me.
I was forty-six years old, and the gentle, generous part of me that cheers for myself wanted me to have a plentiful wardrobe. But I wanted it to be small, no excess, and only what I loved and needed. At the end of each season I edited my closet, took stock of what needed to be replaced. I removed any neglected items to give to thrift stores or to friends. I was getting to know myself with a new identity. I was a mother without her son, and I craved simplicity, to own less, to be surrounded with beauty and find my rhythm without a lot of clutter.
In addition to my work as a freelance writer, I also worked in a corporate office environment and the majority of my wardrobe centered on work clothes. There was a strict dress code requiring a tailored look with structured jackets. In following the guidelines somewhere along the way I lost my sense of personal style. I had no idea what would be in my ideal wardrobe, so even if I could have tossed everything out and begin anew I didn’t know what I wanted other than for my wardrobe to be smaller and more workable, with everything worn often and loved. But other than that I hadn’t a clue. With frequent editing, although my closet was not bare, it had a forlorn look. My family members encouraged me to shop for new clothes, and I did.
To map out a new me I gathered purples, reds, earth tones, and hues of tan and green. I searched for travel friendly clothes that hinted of a well-used passport and would not wrinkle, versatile clothes that could be accessorized for work, yet casual enough to wear on the weekend. Most of all I wanted clothing I’d feel happy wearing. With my husband and daughter urging me, I began the process of updating my wardrobe. But I always stayed within a careful budget, and never had credit card debit.
At home I dumped the contents of my shopping bag on my bed—a steel gray sweater to glide over a jersey skirt or to pair with jeans. I cut the tags off, and a few minutes later I tied them back on with a piece of clear plastic thread.
Jenny-dog curled by the door, gave a low growl and the red-brown fur on her neck stood up. Outside I could hear weeds rustling and I grabbed onto the dog’s collar so that she wouldn't move. And that’s when I saw the coyote, young and lean sprint off down towards the creek bed. I scratched my dog’s neck and raked my fingers through her fur and found a flea, and then another. Usually I never forgot to give the dog her medication, but this time I had procrastinated. Without a doubt I knew I must get back in the car and go to the vet’s office and buy what we needed to rid the dog of fleas. And while I was out I could return the sweater.
That afternoon was a marker moment. I didn’t know what, but I could feel something take root within me—an awakening. I was moving further and further away from what I wanted most—to own less.
From a rocker by the open window I spent the rest of the day watching Scrub Jays dart from branch to branch, until the afternoon shadows melted into liquid dusk, and the wind turned wild. Then I removed the tag and pulled on the new gray sweater, feeling its silky texture against my skin, and I said a vow to keep the sweater, to wear it on any ordinary day, instead of saving it for good, because my life is now.
I sat while the stars, one by one, began to light the sky, and let the chill air of mother earth embrace me. It would take me a few more years to break the habit of saving clothes for good, and to find Project 333 and learn about a community of good people who embrace the concept of living with less, and to reach the good place where I am now— but that afternoon was a beginning.
Copyright © 2014 Terra Trevor. All rights reserved.
“The poems and stories in this anthology offer necessary anecdotes against hate. They are inscription, instruction, witness, warning, remedy, solution, even solace. This anthology is relief.” —Diane Glancy, winner of an Amerian Book Award and the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry
“We can regard Take a Stand: Art Against Hate as a print-form peace march, an ongoing campaign for justice for all of the struggles embodied in these writings and depicted in the artwork included here.” —Carolyne Wright