Growing up, I knew that my story was stored in my bones. As I climbed every tree branch and felt the sure footing under my feet as I walked under a golden night with a full moon overhead, the wilderness had become my playground; I knew the land and the story were one. As I aged into a young girl, playing with my only sister, riding horses, and chasing after my three older brothers, I longed for something besides the land and the tight-knit family that lived alone in the woods.
I longed for things of the world, to be with other girls, and to discover who I was outside of growing up on that mountain. My dream of leaving the mountain would come true, but it would not happen in the way I had wished. Be careful what you wish for, they say. That quote goes deeper than we may realize. There are so many variables that become a plot twist in our story. My life had several plot twists by the time I was twenty years old.
Imagine living the first twelve years of your life in the wilderness. Imagine that your father, a musician on the verge of fame, gives up a life of opportunity to walk with your mother right out of San Francisco and into the far-off woods of Northern New Mexico. Imagine that he is granted a lifetime lease to live on property owned by the actor Dennis Hopper for the price of one original song. Wild horses run on these native lands where pink, purple, orange, and yellow clay mountains rise vibrantly from the earth. Imagine a mother giving birth to six children with no medical support. Imagine how this family forms a pack, all helping one another survive until one of the pack dies.
That was my first major plot twist—losing my brother at the age of eight years old. It shifted our whole family. Naturally, losing a young child shifts a family, but what becomes of the family on the other side of that shift? The outcome differed for every family member, and for me, my story began to occupy my bones in a whole new way. I was learning about death at a young age. Even more than death, I learned about life after death. I knew that my brother still lived somewhere in those millions of stars that cradled my broken heart from above. I had hoped these same stars comforted the others, especially my mother, who lost her firstborn.
Grief grows into a part of us, entangling us with its lessons and tears wrapped around our organs, softly waiting for us to allow healing. Every human is unique, though we all have such universal tendencies. Many run and hide from the story stored in their body. When I reached the world at the age of twelve, I had already learned to hide from my grief and my scars. There were many scars, both physical and emotional. There were too many to unpack.
At the age of eighteen when I started college at the University of New Mexico, I had learned to wear my mask well, hiding my scars under a pretty teen face. I did not want to feel the beauty that was within. I tried to perfect the beauty that was on the outside. By eighteen, I had experienced three major plot twists in my life that are shared in detail in my book. Another shift was about to take place in my life—while taking poetry classes and creative writing, I had started to unpack my story. I didn’t even know it was happening. It was a soul knowing, and I was simply learning to express myself.
Very quickly the desire to write my story became a pulsing vibration pounding on my heart. But the resistance to unpacking the pain was heavy, and it plagued my mind and my insides, telling me that I was not capable of writing my own story. I fought my way through the resistance, one writing class at a time. I was now fully living out the plot and the desire to be a writer. I took writing classes all through college, as well as psychology classes, to understand the trauma that I had survived, and as a means for a career, because I didn’t truly believe I could make it as a writer.
I graduated college and went on to work with children at a place called The Cornstalk Institute, where children learned to connect to the land and become resilient through wilderness trips and high ropes courses. It was a perfect fit for me until I became pregnant with my first child—this was the last plot twist that pushed me fully into writing my story. I could no longer work the ropes course with my belly pushing out over my feet, and my husband supportively offered that I quit and focus on my writing.
I didn’t understand writer’s block until I was thick into the trenches of writing my story. After my daughter was born, it became more and more clear to me that the story was stored in my body, not just in my rote memory, but in my emotional memory. I traveled back up the mountain to see my father and to let my daughter run wild on the land. There, my voice grew powerfully, and a compelling narrative flowed from me, instead of being pushed out of me. I let the New Mexico sunsets and the land melt into me, and as I wrote, I found my own story medicine pathway by forgiving my father and allowing Mother Nature to hold me. I finally made room for the grief and the story that was stored in my body, and this was the catalyst for my becoming a successful writer.