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Sunday, May 10, 2015


Someone asked me if I have ever gotten so frustrated that I want to give up this book.  I told them that there is a point every day, usually in the morning, where I try to convince myself that I am taking on too much, that I will do more harm than good with this, that people in this community will hate me, throw rocks at my door, that I won't be able to go into Ben Lomond anymore, etc.  Frankly, none of that may happen.  I fear a lot of things, and most of them have never come true.

I feel now that it is too late to stop, that I have gone forward into this journey past the point where I can drop it.  Driving by the house where Asha lived out the remainder of her life consolidated that feeling: though I knew her, a little, I never had a real glimpse into the life she led outside her workplace until I drove the other night by the small house on a gravel road: it is white, well-kept, and a honey-gold light shone in the windows; I could tell by glancing inside that it was neat and clean.  The house was sold in 2013, so I have no idea what it looked like when Asha lived there. I assume it was nice, even then.  I have thought a lot about her roommates; in such a tiny place, a cottage, really, it might have been hard to have privacy and personal space.  Still, I wonder if the presence of others in the house might have provided a small sense of safety, even if they did not know the reasons why she had moved there. 

Seeing her house brought something into my consciousness: in order to write her story, I have to metaphorically step into her footprints and, for a while, walk in her path as best I can, the way I used to walk as a child in my mother's footprints, pressed into the sand, a lifetime ago on a Southern California beach.  That is why I was so saddened when someone described this as a "project": something my heart has gone into so deeply is not a "project".  It is far deeper than that to me. Only a thread separated my fate from hers, and perhaps I write from the depths of a survivor's guilt.  Why her and not me, when she was by far braver and more sure than I ever was: I won't call myself a coward, but I came to Santa Cruz so entrenched in a lack of self-worth that I believed I could not live on my own with my child.  Plus, the one thread I want to connect compels me: did her killer also kill Juanita Nelson, who disappeared when he got married?  Everyone I know feels that he did: but so far, there is not a real thread that connects him directly to this crime.

Soon Thistle will be out of school and I will not have time for my long walks where I think about things: I read the court papers and news accounts, my notes on what people have told me, and I walk, think, and somehow some thread I can follow coalesces for me.  Sometimes I find a feather on the ground: when I really want to give up, usually that day I find a feather, often a raven's feather; there is a vase of feathers now, blue, gray, and black, next to the candle I made for her, to illuminate my way through this story.

 Often as I write, I am reminded of all the myths where a person is given a thread or a piece of string to carry, which spools out, held by another person at the other end of the path.  It is possible to walk in the dark, in an unfamiliar place and not be lost, by holding such a thread: in the long-ago, it was called a "clew." There has to be trust in the person who holds the other end of the line, a belief that they will not drop it.  Who is the person holding the thread, and who leads the way into this path? I do not know, but still I hold on to my end of the line, walking all the uncertainties and unknowns that surround this story, for me, trusting that I will find what I need along the way.