November 19, 2012

elephant Has a Crush on Laura Marjorie Miller.

‘The First Leg of the Journey. Photo by Jeff Frazier.

{Part of what I enjoy most about writing and working for elephant journal is that we really are a community! I’ve gotten to know many of our writers and volunteers—on and off-line and enjoy our little elephant family. This is the first in a new series by our editing team to go behind the scenes with some of our writers, staff and volunteers. ~ KB}

Last month, after much plotting and scheming, Laura Marjorie Miller and I met up for some adventures: lunching, walking around Hadley, Massachusetts, an art exhibit and a viewing of one of our favorites: The Last Unicorn. As a follow-up to our fun, I asked her the following questions:

1. What’s on your “desert island” book list?

The Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and The Silmarillion, and all of the attendant tales, because I would be able to dig down into all the complex histories without distraction. P.L. Travers’s What the Bee Knows, which is a collection of the essays on mythology that she wrote for Parabola magazine. David Abram’s The Spell of the Sensuous. Those last two because reading one page takes forever, because they are so packed with ideas that you keep stopping to think and free-associate. Leaves of Grass so that I would be able to know passages of it by heart. And Moby-Dick, which is the best novel ever written by a human being.

2. What’s the most daring thing you’ve done this year?

The most daring thing I did was go on a road trip on Route 66 by myself. I had bought airplane tickets to go with my boyfriend, but we had a bust-up the week before we were supposed to leave and he called the trip off. He’s a photographer and I am a writer and we had been working on telling our story of the Route together. We had done the road in sections: Saint Louis to Santa Fe, then Saint Louis to Chicago, then Santa Monica to Needles. What remained was the stretch from Albuquerque to Needles, on the California side of the Colorado River. I didn’t know if I would ever get to finish the road with him, so I had to decide what to do. My tickets weren’t refundable, and taking the journey of that magical American pilgrimage road had been on my life list for a long time. What if I died next month? So I took a breath, put on my big-girl pants and went.

All of my short day road trips and solo adventure trips had been prep for this, but they were nothing like being on the road alone for a whole week, far away from any familiar resource, without anyone I knew to help me if I got in a jam. I had only ever taken long road trips with Jeff. But now I had to make all my own decisions: about accommodations, where to eat, where to explore, how far to go in a day and to also face down my own loneliness.

It ended up being a profound experience: me and the desert, and driving hair-raising passes through the Black Mountains. The whole way, I didn’t even listen to the radio. I didn’t listen to any music. I didn’t need to. I talked to everything: to my car, to the beautiful old road, to my rooms in the old motor courts, to the sky, to the mountains. The silence became a long conversation with myself and the world around me. It was the deepest and most prolonged meditation of my life.

3. Who was your junior high crush?

Jud Ankrom! 6’4″ redhead with big brown eyes, size 14 shoes, lanky but with big sturdy bones, basketball player, smart and hilarious. His family moved to my hometown from Springfield at the beginning of the school year in fifth grade and he was seated behind me. At that moment I was overcome by the novelty of him because at my little small-town Catholic school we had all seen one another forever. When I was in eighth grade, I would go to the Dairy Queen with my Confirmation sponsor and beg her to drive me past his house on the off chance I could catch a glimpse of him mowing the yard; if I ever did see him, I would dive into the seat in thrilled mortification. I crushed on him all the way into high school. He was never interested in me, but we are friends now.

4. What is your favorite mythical beast and why?

I would have to say that the one which moves me to tears is the unicorn. Recently I got to see the unicorn tapestries in the Cloisters, which is something I had wanted to do my whole life. You know the tapestries are going to be big, but they are huge and absolutely splendid in their detail, these living, breathing weavings, ages old, which still shift with the light and the air. My favorite of all of these is the one where the unicorn is purifying the water in a fountain so that all of the other animals can drink it. He is kneeling down to immerse his horn, and all the other animals are waiting to drink, lions and a stag, birds and rabbits, while he performs this act of compassion and love for them. We tend to forget when we get caught up in the glam of unicorns that their real power is their ability to purify and to heal. They are as clear as angels and their purity is formidable.

5. How did you find your way to elephant journal?

Several years ago, I started a tradition of sending out emails to my friends on pagan high days. I sent them to people who were simpatico. When I joined Facebook, I started posting them also as Notes. My friend and yoga teacher Cora Wen, who was writing for elephant at the time, blogged one of them: it was a Winter Solstice post on the Krampus. And then she posted my Imbolc note as well. Eventually, she put me in touch with Waylon so that I could do my own writing for elephant, for the seasons but on other topics as well. I sent him a proposal for my article on smoking as pranayama. He liked it and let me start writing on a regular basis. I still keep my friends in mind as people I am talking to when I write, because they have the patience to listen to me! But writing for elephant has brought me so many wonderful new friends that I never would have known otherwise. Elephant has given me a great sense of connectedness and responsibility as a writer.

Thanks so much, Laura. Here’s to more adventures in 2013!

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