I’m taking a writing course with Natalie Goldberg. Her method is to get you writing, to keep your hand moving across the page, to ignore the “Monkey Mind” that tells you that you have nothing to offer, and to heed the “Sweetheart” that tells you to just keep going. A big part of the course is 10-minute writing prompts. Here is my response to the prompt, “What is something you tried to repair?”
In El Dorado, California, I tried to repair a fort I was making out of branches and leaves. I’m thinking of it now because it’s raining in Santa Rosa, and it was raining that day I tried to repair the fort in El Dorado.
We had moved to California from Vermont. My dad arrived 6 months earlier because my parents had separated and he wanted to start a new life, not necessarily without me and my sister and my mom, but away from all of the old influences of New England and Chicago. He had taken a huge risk leaving us and moving across the continent. My mom also took a risk packing up our things in North Bennington and moving to this small town in the Sierra foothills.
We lived in a manse, a minister’s house. The house was on High Street, a street that was a hill. At the bottom of the hill was Main Street. Our house and church were halfway up. At the top of the hill was an old miners’ cemetery.
Just outside the gates of the cemetery is where I built my fort. I was 7 or 8 years old. I stacked up some cut branches like a teepee around a thin tree. Despite my efforts, the rain seeped in. I trudged around to find more branches. No matter how many I gathered the rain kept coming in. I sat and tried to enjoy my fort, hoping it would provide some shelter. It did not. The branches only served to gather the rain so that it poured down in rivulets. I gathered more branches, along with handfulls of leaves and mud, in a deserate final effort, but to no avail.
Eventually, I trudged back down the hill to the manse, a small house as far as houses go, but it was warm and dry inside and my reunited parents were there as well as my sister and our two cats. A well-suited house to shelter me from the rain.