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WRite - Moving On 

I began wRite almost two years ago. I envisioned it as a Rite - a community Rite. I invited Bend writers, poets, writing teachers, writing organizations, local bookstores and those of us who have to transcribe what's in our minds on cocktail napkins, bus tickets, and any other paper that is in range, to be part of the ritual. I asked you to send me press releases, announcements of poetry slams, readings and your own words. Almost no one responded.

A one-person ritual can become nothing but obsession. I've run out of things to write about writing, except for this: If you want to write, pick up a pen and paper and begin. Write enough that your mind and muscles remember how to move. When you can't imagine a day without writing, switch to the computer. Forget about whether or not you'll find an agent. A publisher. Just fuckin' write.

I've run out of things to write about the importance of supporting your local bookstores. Most Americans seem to have forgotten that we vote with every dollar we spend. For one last time: Camalli's, Between the Covers, Dudley's, Pegasus, Bookmark. Be there or be square. If I left a store out, write a letter to the Source.

I'm job-hunting here and in another state. There is no work for me here. I'm not alone in that. When Jimmy Santiago Baca gave a talk on Breaking Bread with Darkness last fall, I listened to him and I thought what a perfect place to speak of how it is for so many Central Oregonians. As soon as I have some work in place, I'll be leaving.

I'll carry away with me the kindnesses of more than a few people: Tina Walker Davis, owner of Camalli's; Terri Cumbie, owner of Dudley's; Hayley Wright, owner of Between the Covers; David Jasper, for a perceptive interview in That Other Paper; David Nogueras, for giving great public radio; Eric Flowers, my radical editor; Tom F., for walking his talk and writing in support of this column; my 2009 students at Dudley's, a gifted and courageous circle of women and men; my co-workers at the Deschutes Land Trust, my job training site; T.O. and Logan for reminding me of why I must keep writing; Lyn for being Lyn; Andy for being a no-bullshit neighbor; and Fisher and Marlo for showing me real community.

My dearest friend here and my shelter when there was one week till the water would be cut off - and I'd been invited yet again to blog for free - lies twenty miles east of Bend. There are no people there. Nothing has been cutified and charmed-up. There are OHV trails and cow pies and real estate signs that point to nowhere. Nobody drives a cute car with a bumper sticker that says: Be Nice. You're in Bend, Oregon.

I walk till I can't see my car and I'm scared. I go into a basalt chamber. There is violently orange lichen and the polished trunk of a dead juniper rising from the rock. I pick up beer cans and upscale water bottles. I tell the assholes that have dumped their garbage that I curse them. I remember hearing the great jazz saxophonist Rahsaan Roland Kirk tell a crowd of college kids that if they let President Nixon up off his knees, he'd curse them - "And you better believe I can do it. I'm a black Black man. And I carry rats and razors in my pockets." I touch the shotgun shells in my pockets. Right.

I tell the desert I'm sorry - not some sappy reflexive I'm sorry, but the ferocious apology of a human ashamed to be human. Later, I write my friend in Portland, who is in treatment to prevent skin cancer. She says my dispatches bring the scent of wet sand and sage through the crack at the bottom of a closed door. Last night's: Bone-cutting wind, storm clouds on three horizons... I come out of the basalt rock-pile, a sea-dappled moon catches me by surprise.

Note: I mentor writers one-on-one. If you're interested, write me at shebetsherlife@gmail.com

Mary Sojourner is an author and commentator who has appeared on National Public Radio among other media outlets. She is a published novelist who has resided in Bend over the past two years. This is the final installment of her literary column.

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