The Frog's Song
I have heard it said that writing a memoir is like trying to knock yourself out with your own fist. So, let’s not call this a memoir; it’s a journey. A journey has a beginning, middle, and an end. You know it won’t ramble on forever. Besides, a journey is fun, or at least that’s the idea of it. If you follow Joseph Campbell’s model of The Hero’s Journey, the first step is to kick your hero out of paradise or, in other words, their comfort zone. Remember Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz? That tornado forced Dorothy, already in trauma over her dog Toto, out of her common world into an extraordinary one.
Luke Skywalker of Star Wars fame, had a similar fate. A rebel by nature, Luke stayed with his aunt and uncle out of loyalty until one day everything changed. Shortly after his uncle had purchased two droids (RD2 and C-3PO) containing plans for the Death Star Superweapon, he and his wife were killed. That left Luke with no reason to stay on that desolate planet. He set off to deliver the plans, to receive training to become a Jedi, and ultimately to save the Empire.
Most of us desire to be Jedis of one kind or another, and so we leave the comforts of our own homes to go on a quest.
Even before our adventure began, friends encouraged me to write about it, and so, I began, not knowing, of course, as is the case with adventures, how it would end. In truth, it was more like Ray Bradbury’s advice, “Jump and build your wings on the way down.”
“Call your book fiction,” my daughter had told me. But I decided, no, it was better to write it as we lived it—it has angst enough. If this were fiction, though, I could have a naked lady run through the narrative every page or two; I could have a shot ring out; I could have a gratuitous sex scene.
I remember one writer, whose name I have since forgotten, describe an incident with his publisher; the publisher told the writer that he didn’t have enough sex in his story.
“But,” said the writer, “there’s sex on the first page.”
“Yeah,” said the publisher, “but not until the bottom of the page.”
Sorry, the only sex I can promise here is the breeding of mosquitoes as we will find later on. No naked ladies either—unless you count the day I showered in the yard. And regarding bullets, when our island solar power clicked off, it felt as though one had zinged past me and lodged into the wall. More than likely, however, the jolt I felt was my fear of being without power.
Readers are discerning people, and if they want a sexy book, they will find one. If they want a grand adventure, I will try to provide it. I have to admit, though, that this is the unvarnished accounting of one husband, one wife, one daughter, and one seven-month-old grandson—plus two dogs and two cats—who sailed away to live off the grid on a tropical island.
Henry David Thoreau wrote, “Most men live lives of quiet desperation, and go to their grave with the song still in them.” Yes, Thoreau, observant man that he was, said that men live lives of quiet desperation, but he made no mention of women who run with wolves, or Newfoundland’s, or poodles. If I have a song within me, I’m going to croak it no matter how discordant it sounds.
Strange how it is that sometimes we ask God, the Great Spirit, the Universe, whatever you wish to call the divine, and no answers come. Once in a while, we ask, and the answer slaps us with such vigor that we end up falling on our face.
Our lives are made up of many journeys—childhood, college, marriage, parenthood, and eventually for me, a writing career. Don Hahn wrote that when a Disney Imaginer was presented with a task, often they had no clue as to how to begin, but they respond with an optimistic, “Okay.” Then, they sit down, beat their head against the desk, and do it. For me this writing process began similarly. I sat down, beat my head against the desk, and then did it.
Elizabeth Gilbert has said that all journeys begin with a question, and I figured she must be right, for in our case, a question did begin it.