Writing About Place

I step out of a straw-colored meadow smelling the minerals in 
the soil, over clumps of coyote scat, past an oak tree, its trunk split
open, through the heavy metal gate and onto to a concrete
sidewalk. Across the street I see a string of orange-colored
Halloween lights and a woman walking a dust-mop dog just back
from the beauty parlor.

I was drawn to fiction as a way to focus attention on the issues that have polarized Southern California. I had the idea that the place where I live embodies much of what disturbs us in our relationship with nature and what we think of as the natural world.

I wanted to investigate the idea that the environment is not something apart from our lives, separate and isolated, but a force that shapes us and influences our responses to the challenges we encounter along our daily way—and the extent to which we give back affects not only that resource but ourselves. And that I wanted to do this in a non-judgmental, storytelling kind of way,

I discovered I had a need to write in a very tactile way, to be precise and graphic, almost as if I were tidying things up, ridding myself of the dirt and dust that had muddled my thinking and emotions. When the dust began to settle and the dirt was cleared away, and although the house was far from being in order, I realized there was a common denominator in what I had been seeking, a purpose as urgent as any I had encountered before in my life: the desire to understand and be one with this place where I have settled and call home.

Southern California is a landscape of edges and contradictions set upon by a variegated human population that at times seems hell bent to leave its destructive footprints from desert to ocean, mountain to flat coastal plain. I have discovered that the sharp divisions and false syntheses of this place reflect the inconsistencies and unexplored edges in my personality, and that as much as I might have longed to live quietly in some less densely populated place, this would never do. Southern California, in all its disjointedness, is a hologram for my life, ever shifting and changing, surging ahead, twisting back upon on itself, unpredictable and at times frustratingly unstable. And so, despite other impulses to the contrary, Southern California is where I stay.