First Person Narration & Yoga

Ana and Emma are written in the first person.  I wanted their stories to be told in their voice, filtered and exposed in the way in which they view the world around them.  Perception is reality and so their stories are not meant to be the ultimate truth, but rather the honest retelling of a life, as it was lived.  Inside the River is about two women reclaiming their voice in order to heal and love; third person narration would have diluted their words.

How to write a story in the “I” without it sounding like a reporter’s account of a life…I woke up, I went to the bathroom, I felt sad.  Here I can give a shout out to my masterful Renaissance man of an editor, Jacob Miller,, who taught me the tricks of internal reflection, dialogue, and action to move things along at a pace that is kind to the reader.

I also have to give blog gratitude to my yoga practice.  For me, there is a constant discipline on the mat between effort and surrender, between suppression and indulgence, between the discomfort and the release.  In order to allow my mind to quiet, I must first be able to align and balance my body and oftentimes I come to the mat with all my emotions stuck in my hips, my pelvis, my jaw. I could stay in the past and dwell on how the tension grew in those places or I could throw my mind forward into the future and heap obsessive fear thoughts onto the tension until, like the sciatic nerve, the pain permeates throughout my body.  Or I can choose to accept the hard invitation of staying in the present moment, feeling my sensations as they present themselves and work from there.  I have to stay really “I feel” on my mat for the yoga magic to unfold itself. I can’t let external opinions of myself (including my ego) guide my practice.  It’s just me and my breath, weaving in and out of poses, transitioning with an intention of grace and compassion.

It’s the same for my book–the constant struggle to portray a life through moments of pain, joy, magic, shame, revelation, and hope without letting it dissolve into the narration of it.  So I let Ana and Emma be on their “mats.”


The Dream Drawer

I’m confident in saying that all of us have a dream drawer where we neatly hide the thing(s) that if lived out would connect our internal wishes with our external way of living.  For me, it was always this book.  For you out there it could be photography, or travel, or starting a hipster brand of sunglasses…

What I find interesting is the difference between me having a dream and letting it breathe as compared to those who are living their passion.  How did they take it out of their drawer?

Fear is an easy answer.  It’s scary to take what is closest to your heart and put it out there where you can be criticized, and where you can fail.  Even success can be scary and keep the drawer locked. The stress and constant change of life can make it difficult to pursue a passion when your responsibilities keep you grounded down in the basics of day to day life. These seem like simple answers that make a whole lot of sense, but I still think there’s something else.

Maybe successful people living their dreams are just smarter and more creative and braver than I am? Not everyone is talented or talented enough.  But then I look around, and I have to admit that many times the most talented are not the most successful. Music comes to mind and so does books.

So here is where I make my guess, after 20 years of having this dream of “Inside the River,” and if Ang Lee wants to read this and give me a different answer as to how he (a gifted visionary) took his dream out of the drawer, I will edit my answer if his differs from my guess…

I think those people, the Ang Lees out there, have drawers that don’t close.  They don’t say what if I could be…they act as if they are already.  They don’t use their fear to stop them, they use their fear to drive them.  The stress if life is unbearable if they can’t live what they love.  It’s not about talent (although of course it’s needed), and it’s not about luck (although it definitely helps); I think they have broken drawers and their dreams seep out and what is not hidden is lived.  They never asked what if I couldn’t do this or what if it didn’t work out or what if no one likes it…because their dream was organically leaking out into everything they did.

That’s my guess…a broken drawer. And so about four years ago, I smashed the lock and took off a hinge.


Antonio…I may write an entire book on this character

How does Ana, a girl born “once upon a time, a long time ago,” intertwine with Emma, a woman of present day?

Antonio, of course!

He’s an older man who meets Emma on the street and asks her to help him cross.

And their conversation begins, as written in my book:

           “I feel like I wear all the years of my life as layers of skin.  I am eighty, but I’ve been carrying my youth for many more years than my aged ones and so I am sometimes shocked when I look in the mirror.  How can I be so old and yet still smell my mother’s kiss as she leaned toward me to say goodnight when I was young and crying about my eyes?

“Your eyes?” I asked.  The color of his eyes made me forget that the rest of his face was deeply lined.  His cheeks drooped in surrender, but his eyes were alert and bright.  There was no shading or depth to the blue.  It was as if they were lit from behind.  

“Yes, the blue scared people.  They called me a demon.”  

I gasped and covered my mouth with my hand.  

“Are you ok?”

“Yes, I haven’t heard that word in quite a while, I whispered.  My mother’s words echoed loudly in my head.

Child, you think you’re so pretty with that wild, demon hair?  You look like a whore.  You’re just asking for it.  Now I see why it will happen.  

I blinked, collected myself, then noticed the old man was waiting for me to speak.  “So I look like this Ana your father told you about?”

Yes, mfather told me the story of Ana because it was the story told to him from his father.  Each of us, he said, will take a part of Ana and carry it with us and that piece will become the instep of our stride. It is the thread of a family, whether told through story, through drawings, through the invisible traits we pass down. It is like the quiet breeze on rainy day.  You don’t quite realize the soft wind because you’re wet.  And then before you know it, you either start enjoying or fighting the storm as the air moves through you.  I’m not sure that makes sense.  I don’t talk to people that much anymore and I’m starting to realize I have a lot to say.  How about I tell you a secret?”

I don’t want to give up the secret…just wanted to share how deeply this character means to me.  I have written about Ana and Emma, the two main characters, as well as Eloisa and Antonio, their teachers.  The rest you will have to read, inside the river, where all our stories flow.


Eloisa, the red-haired gypsy fortune teller of “Inside the River.”

So, what does Ana do after the fish sing to her and carry her away? She meets Eloisa, a red-haired gypsy fortune teller who teaches Ana how to use her gifts — the magic that is already inside of her.

Upon their meeting, Ana serves Eloisa tea, and as it is written in my book:

I poured the hot water onto the mint leaves and rested the cup beside her.  The top of her left hand was painted in a blue design of two circles with a dot inside and dots all around.

“Your hand is beautiful.  What does it mean?”

“It means one drop of water can create a ripple of change.  I had it done to remind me.”

“Remind you of what?”

“To keep looking for you.”  Eloisa gently touched my shoulder.  “I didn’t want to leave The Great One.  I spent many seasons learning the ways of truth from Him.  He taught me in order to teach the one with blue hair.”

“What will you teach me?”  I looked up.

And so the story goes…

What I love about Eloisa is her fierce sense of teaching.  All my greatest teachers have,  in subtle and more obvious ways, forced me to ask myself…

What do I want to learn?

To Bear Witness

“I left the morning I turned old enough to leave.  My father’s death bequeathed me my freedom.  I left the bay I’d grown up beside where my blood was washed away.”

-Emma Part 2

I’d written the short story about Ana twenty years ago.  Emma wasn’t in it and she wasn’t in the many attempts that came after, but when I sat down to write my book three years ago, she was born.  You see, Ana’s story needed a reason to be told and retold through the ages.  Ana needed a witness so her healing could be a reminder of what’s possible with a touch of magic and the willingness to forgive. Ana returned to Emma what was lost.

Don’t we all deserve a witness –to the joy, the heartache, the healing, and the laughter; a witness to our courage, our failure, our embarrassments, our shame. I guess that’s what this blog is about, why the itch to write this book had never sated, why my words, hidden for so long and now unleashed, matter.  And that’s why Ana needed Emma just as much as Emma needed her.

To the many people out there, who have been my witness…I am truly grateful.

Ang Lee is directing the movie version of my book, “Inside the River,” (he just doesn’t know it yet)

Ana, one of the women characters in my book, is a girl who lived a long time ago, beside a river.  Her mother thought her a demon born from those waters and made her wear her hair up tight in a cap, as some of the strands shone blue in the sunlight.

And as I write in my book, “She felt the blame of color in her hair.  But the fish swam beside her and kissed her legs, bearing witness to her pain.  The fished stayed beside her until they understood.”

“Understood what?”

“That shame was something the river couldn’t clean.  And so the next morning, the fish sang to her.  They forgot their pact of silence and popped their heads up and called her back to the water…”

Ana was a short story I wrote twenty years ago while I was getting my Masters in Education.  It was only a few pages long and yet her life began to percolate inside my head.  I took a hiatus from my degree to write my book, my neatly folded dream, tucked away inside my secret drawer — you know that place you keep all the dreams you wish for but think could never happen? I tried writing different versions of Ana, all placed inside the drawer, until life happened: marriage, kids, going back and getting that degree…you know, the real stuff.

About three years ago, I had a health scare.  As I sat, first inside the terror, and then inside the exquisite gratitude, I knew Ana could no longer sit inside an invisible drawer.  I gave up all the “real stuff” I was doing and began to write.  And as I began to write, I began to dream again, but differently this time — this time out loud, boldly, and with conviction.  At first, I just wanted to get Ana out of my head and onto the page, then the tickle started with the wispy thought it will be published,  then came the belief that Ang Lee will direct the movie version.

Of course, he doesn’t know it yet, and the book hasn’t been published yet, but anything is possible once you clean out your drawers.