Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Shedding Skins

A reader of Writing Begins with the Breath in Sydney, Australia e-mailed me and wanted to know who Necahual was. The quote in the above photo is from Necahual, a character in my novel Bone Dance. I used the quote as an epigraph for chapter 16 in Breath. I laughed. I made her up. Necahual means "she who was left behind". The idea that readers in Australia were googling her made me (and Necahual) very happy. I forwarded the e-mail to my agent with a note -- Maybe we should try and publish fiction in Australia!

But the reader's e-mail got me thinking about the novel again, though it's been two years finished. She got me thinking about Necahual, about why I wrote the book, why I seem to only be able to write magical realism. What is it about magical realism that serves me? Why do I have to have a ghost in everything?

Cast off what doesn't serve you before it robs you of your life.

Maybe magical realism allows for the possibility of things that just don't seem to happen in "regular" life. Maybe it allows for a freedom of the spirit that seems more natural to me. Maybe I'm really just a Gothic Southern horror writer and need to get over my bad self. :-)

I've been doing a 49-day daily practice of shaking. I'm in another yoga program with my teacher, Cain, and this program is Taoist based. We're working with the energies within the body. The first thing we have to do every morning is shake. We take our minds through the body, beginning with the scalp and ending at the toes, and we shake into them. There's nothing complicated about shaking. You just stand there, tongue on the roof of your mouth, teeth lightly touching, and shake. At first, it's the most annoying thing you'll ever do. Everything jiggles and wiggles and itches. Then, you notice that you're at your essence, a pretty cranky person. The shaking stirs the pot. It brings up things that have been hidden in your liver, in your veins, in your small intestine. The shaking leaves you no more places to hide.

After about two weeks, something shifts and the shaking moves to a new level. You shake spontaneously. You intuitively know where you need to shake things free that morning. You walk down the stairs at 6:30 and look forward to twenty minutes of shaking. When you're done, the day is fresh and your body is open -- every organ, every joint, every cell is singing. I feel free in my body and in my mind.

My writing has cranked up a notch since the shaking began as well. Just like I noticed a huge leap in my writing after I began practicing yoga, this shaking practice pushes me even further. I feel safe to explore issues and ideas I haven't been ready to do before. I feel like the channels for writing are open.

Cast off what doesn't serve you before it robs you of your life.

And beautiful Necahual, my ghostly skeleton woman, shakes with me, her bones clattering a beat both of us can dance to.

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