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{As a disclaimer, I’m sitting down to this post with no idea what I am going to write. Consider yourself fairly warned.}

There is a picture of a Frida Kahlo self-portrait on the corner of my desk. It sits to the left of my computer, the backdrop to a shrine of dreams and wishes. The title of the image is Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird (1940). It graces the cover of a mailing announcing a showing of Kahlo’s work at SFMOMA in 2008. I (nor my housemate) did not attend this showing. The mailer lived on the refrigerator until, in a frenzy of cleaning, she asked if I wanted it, or it would be recycled. I snapped it up, thinking I might use the image in some future art project. {I’m always doing that, picking up postcards and mailers which look interesting because I might use them some time in an art piece. Is that strange? Compulsive? Do you do this?}

Desk Altar, Blackberry Curve

For a while, the mailer lived in a drawer of my desk, with all the other miscellany. After I finally felt settled (meaning all my belongings were under the same roof, no more moving), I decided to set up my desk. I’m a person who can easily allow her desk to become a disaster, with pile upon pile of papers and writing and art ideas and photos. It can get pretty harrowing at times. I try to keep some handle on the desk, usually by placing things I like on it in sacred ways, turning my desk into an altar, a shrine to my muse and my art. This idea keeps me from accumulating crumpled papers and bread crumbs across the entire surface. Mostly.

These days, my desk is pretty clear. I’m trying some new things, which include more writing by hand (especially outdoors, as spring shines into our craggy hearts) and less wasting time in front of a monitor. It is also somewhat difficult to spend time at my desk, as it faces (a very lovely) lavender wall — I am used to, and prefer, a window. In my previous home, the desk sat in a corner with four windows above it, so this is a bit of an adjustment.

Frida Kahlo inspires me because I can feel her art. Even a reproduction of a painting screams at me in color and sound and smell and taste. I can feel the hackles of the cat’s arched back, smell the trickling drops of crimson on her neck. She is not smiling in this painting. She is an artist, she is painting her experience, she is alive and yet not alive at once.

I know this feeling. For many years, my writing induced this same “alive and yet not” experience. I was often overcome by words: walking to class, driving the car, running in the morning, showering, rock climbing. It was never predictable, never consistent. Sometimes I would write for days, only stopping to walk to or from class. My notes would be in the center of the page, my poems and stories, the margins. Other times, I would be dry as the deltas of the Colorado River. Wouldn’t write for weeks.

When I graduated university, I moved to the Olympic Peninsula. I lived on a island at the top of the Sound. It was my dream (I thought). I was so profoundly absorbed in Annie Dillard’s Holy the Firm. I wanted that life. I manifested that life for myself.

But it was not all dreams and roses. It was dangerous and scary and filled with trauma. I left the peninsula a battered woman. A woman with no words.

This is how I have been since. Three and a half years later, I am finally circling back, cycling through, returning to my center, to my words. It has been a journey of incredible strength, facing the same demons (my own, and those I seek in others) over and over until I am left weeping in the center of my soul, without resistance to the lessons, to the gifts.

Here I stand, just past the threshold of 25, young in body but oh-so-old in spirit, ready to take my place among the writers of the world again. I am here. I am waiting.

I am alive.

Thank you, Frida.