Iris lived with her mother, father, and sister in the Sea of Tranquility, which is an ocean on the moon. Sometimes, her sister would play computer games with her, but mostly, her family all worked too much to play with her, so Iris was bored and lonely a lot of the time. One of her favorite things to do was to stare up into the sky, at the Earth, far away. She would look through a telescope, and she could see this one light, but she didn't know what it was. She imagined all sorts of things--maybe it was a giant, glowing animal or a great jewel.
One day, Iris thought of a plan. She asked her dad if she could ride to work with him in the family submarine.
"I don't know," he said. "What will you do all day?"
Iris' sister worked near where their father worked, so Iris said she'd swim over to meet up with her sister.
"I guess," Iris' father said. Actually, he was glad to be able to spend some time with her. He missed her because he had to work so much, but there wasn't anything he could do about it.
All during the trip to his office, Iris paid attention to how her dad drove the sub. When they got there, she left her door unlocked and swam in with him.
"Just wait right here for your sister," he said as he left her in the lobby.
But Iris didn't wait. She swam back to the submarine and went in through the door she'd left open. Then, she drove it! She drove it up and up to the top of the Sea of Tranquility, and as she drove it, she went faster and faster, until it shot right out of the top of the water, all the way across the sky, and straight to the Earth. It floated through the atmosphere and plunged straight into the ocean.
Iris steered the submarine toward the light, wondering what she'd find. Eventually, she came to a little house by the beach. She parked the submarine, popped the hatch open, and swam to the edge of the water. Then she crawled onto the sand and to the house.
She could see the light through a window, and when she looked inside, she saw a little girl's room, just like her room back on the moon. There were toys and there was a bed with a little girl sleeping in it--except, she wasn't sleeping. She was playing on the bed. Iris knocked on the window, and the little girl jumped up and then hid behind the bed. Iris waved when the little girl poked her head up, and the little girl came and opened the window.
"Who are you?" the little girl asked.
"I'm Iris. Who are you?"
"Jenny," the little girl said. "Do you want to come in?"
"Okay," Iris said.
At first, they kind of sat there, awkwardly, not really knowing what to say, but eventually Jenny asked why Iris was there, and Iris told the story of seeing her nightlight.
"Oh!" Jenny said. She motioned for Iris to follow and ran over to a telescope. "I like to look at the moon!" Jenny said.
Iris looked and she could see a little, faint light on the moon, in the Sea of Tranquility.
"That's my house!" Iris said. "That's MY nightlight!"
* * *
Iris and Jenny played a long time until they were both so tired they couldn't play anymore, and then Iris put the submarine on autopilot and headed back to her father's office. He came out just in time to find her sleeping in the backseat, so he drove her home. She woke up when he was carrying her inside the house.
"Did you have a good time with your sister?" he asked.
Iris was quiet for a moment because she was still sleepy, but then she realized what he was talking about. "It was great," she said, and when he put her to bed, she snuggled into the covers. She looked up into the sky and could see a tiny light, far, far away. It made her feel like she wasn't lonely anymore, and she drifted off to sleep.
Thursday, March 10, 2016
Someone messaged me on Facebook—one of those mass messages sent by a stranger to a bunch of other strangers—asking if I’d contribute to her blog about “Sacred Writing Spaces.” Well, I had to go be overcharged for a pre-peeled orange at Whole Foods and get my Chakras aligned (I’d had a blowout earlier on the highway and had to have one of them replaced) before I could answer. Maybe Mercury was in retrograde, but I wasn’t feeling it. I wrote her back and said I didn’t really think I had anything to say she’d want to hear, in the politest way possible, though I thanked her for asking. The truth is, after publishing a dozen books with a couple more on the way, I don’t have a Sacred Writing Space. I used to, back when I didn’t actually write or have a life. But I’m a single dad, working three jobs, living in a cramped apartment I can barely afford. I write when I can, where I can, and with whatever time I can scrounge.
The idea of a Sacred Writing Space reminds me of those people who drive three blocks to the gym to run on a treadmill, the kind of people who buy special pans to cook eggs. It stinks of bourgeois privilege and spiritual laziness. But wait, says you, how is a Sacred Writing Space spiritually lazy? It’s a spiritual space; it’s got the word “sacred” in it! Well I’m sorry to have to tell you this, but no, it’s not. In the same way that one doesn’t need to go to church to be religious, that church can actually get in the way of spirituality sometimes, one doesn’t need a sacred writing space to be a writer. The idea that it’s essential—she didn’t ask if I had one, she assumed it. All real writers must have one, right?—is damaging because it’s setting up a situation in which this space becomes a crutch. If I can’t get away from the world and focus on my Art, well, I can’t be a writer. It’s more of a status symbol than a tool.
Now, I’m not saying the opposite is true, that a person who has an SWS isn’t a “real,” OG writer, though I may be implying that I can beat them at arm wrestling. But you know what? People who do, they’re doing fine in life. They’ve had some breaks. They don’t need to be coddled, so let’s set them aside. Maybe they worked hard for it, and that’s great. Go sit in it and enjoy. Have a scone. I’m talking about the implication that it’s necessary, that a person can’t write or do any kind of art as part of their normal, let’s be honest, working class, lives. I reject this idea, not just because of philosophical differences, but because I’ve had to. I don’t have time to sit for five hours while the morning light makes up its mind to flutter in through my hand-made curtains (ordered from Etsy) in my Writing Nook, as I sip coffee whose beans have passed through the digestive system of Venezuelan monkeys and been sifted out by workers paid a fair wage—though really, what would be a fair wage for that, one wonders? I write in the living room when my daughter has finally gone to sleep, while my own eyes droop, and I know I’m going to pay for it tomorrow. It means I don’t get to read as much as I’d like, go to movies, ever, or just relax. I write on my lunchbreak, a sandwich in one hand, typing with the other, ruining the keyboard, I’m sure, with the crumbs. I jot down ideas longhand in the parking lot while I wait for my shift to start and passersby look at me strangely. Sometimes I don't write because I don't have time. There’s an implied bias in the idea of an SWS, that I’m not a real writer because of this, that I’m somehow lesser. And I’m not just talking about me. I’m doing okay. I’m having a scone, as we speak. I’m talking about women throughout history who weren’t born rich, who were expected to dedicate their lives to others. The idea of an SWS might seem like a reaction to that—now, they have time and can focus on their own pursuits--but you know what? There are still plenty of women, and men, and non-gender identifying people, who haven’t achieved that kind of luxury. How many of them might be encouraged to steal some time to write if they only thought it was legitimate? I have known them. I have met them. I have loved them. I have been them, people who thought you have to go to college to be a writer, you have to have been born in a certain place, you have to have time, because those are the prevailing myths. They’re the ones I care about, and their stories, I think, are a hell of a lot more interesting than some time-travelling lycanthropy romance or Great American Novel written in a Sacred Writing Space by someone who didn’t have to fight for every second it took to write it.
I could really go for a pre-peeled orange right now, though.