TO BE A WHOLE ARTIST?
As I am currently living approximately 2000 miles from home, it occurs to me that I am not native to this place. I consider this five year visit to California nearing its end and I long for a homecoming, back to a geographic location that I can make sense of and of which I make more sense within. Of the writer Willa Carther, in his book Wolf Willow, Wallace Stegner writes:
“I am reminded of Willa Carther, that bright girl from Nebraska, memorizing long passages from the Aeneid and spurning the dust of Red Cloud and Lincoln with her culture-bound feet. She tried, and her education encouraged her, to be a good European. Nevertheless she was a first-rate only when she dealt with what she knew from Red Cloud and the things she had ‘in place of all that.’ Nebraska was what she was born to write; the rest of it was got up. Eventually, when education had won and nurture had conquered nature and she had recognized Red Cloud as a vulgar little hold, she embraced the foreign tradition totally and ended by being neither quite a good American nor quite a true European nor quite a whole artist.”
Family aside, although perhaps at times included, when I left Mississippi I considered that place of the past and maybe of my formative years but not of the present. Now I am considering an indifference to present and past, formative and creative years, and instead thinking of a time span beyond myself. One in which geography is important. One in which where one comes from makes sense, and although we are encouraged to roam, to eventually settle down. And so I consider four southern walls a home near my family, those things that I loathe and love, those things that of my culture are mocked and mystified, to be the fodder from which I create. And if that is not what it takes, then at the very least I owe it to my two Basset Hounds, natives of Mississippi, to upon their death bury them in the soil from which they came.