If you’re wondering why you haven’t heard from me, it’s because I’ve joined a convent. Ok, not really. Not totally really. But kinda really.
Rewind: I was raised on a mostly uninhabited mountain in New Mexico by preachers. We didn’t have a television. We didn’t listen to anything but Christian, hippie, and old country music. (Mom, I gotta be honest. I’m still not clear on why Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash got a pass, but I’m glad they did.) Visions and miracles were status quo. We had very few toys because my parents wanted to encourage creativity. It worked. My brother’s and my favorite game was booger factory. This involved pine sap and us pretending we were booger fairies that produced boogers and put them in children’s noses at night, kinda like the tooth fairy, only we left snot instead of money. (Fun fact: you can get pine sap out of your hair with nail polish remover.) Sometimes, we walked to a nearby abandoned hippie commune and “borrowed” books from the deserted library. Once, when my dad wanted us to have a rollicking good day, he dug a very deep hole and filled it with water so that we could swim naked in mud all day. Like piggies.
We raised all our own food. I can’t stomach even the campiest television violence—my children cover my eyes during certain portions of Family Guy— but I’d probably be stone faced if you shot a turkey through the head in front of me. I saw lots of that sort of thing. Interesting tidbit: turkeys keep running around like they are alive even after you shoot them. I never shot them myself, but I watched. This all sounds cruel, unless you consider the fact that those turkeys had ten acres of New Mexico paradise in which to gobble about, right up until the moments of their untimely demises. It’s way less cruel than what happens to the animals that go into making the meat you buy in grocery stores.
Anyway, let’s fast forward again, from the good ol’ 1970s to a few months ago. I was in Knoxville reliving my childhood over whiskey with my dear friends (and editors of my poetry book, Siren Song), Daniel and Jeni Wallace. I think Daniel has been mildly concerned about my mental health since the first day he met me in New Orleans, when he asked me in his clipped British accent (with no hint of irony), “How do you survive out here?” I said, “Jesus takes care of me,” and he said, “Jesus must be saying, ‘Oh, thank God, Jeni’s got her. I get a day off.’” But after hearing about my childhood, his concern seemed to expand beyond the parameters indicated by the word “mild.”
“Tawni,” he said, setting his whiskey on the table to cover my hand gently with his own. “You always talk about your childhood like it was some kind of heaven on earth. Are you sure it wasn’t some form of purgatory?” (Daniel’s British purgatory isn’t like the American purgatory. It has lots more syllables or something, and sounds way funnier in a sentence.)
Jeni, being Jeni, saw my childhood as a marketing opportunity. After crossing and uncrossing her legs in her slow, seductive, Jeni-esque fashion, she calmly poured more whiskey into my glass. “You need to write the booger fairy story as a picture book. You’ll be rich.” (This was an order, not a suggestion. I may take her advice.)
One more fast forward, and I swear to Jesus I will stop whipping you back and forth through time (though it’s kinda cool I’m doing this right before the day that Marty McFly went into the future. For the record, I don’t give a shit about my hover board or flying car. All I want is a diet pill that works without killing you, and maybe something that fixes hearing damage caused by standing in front of the speakers at over a thousand rock shows. Oh, and a new liver.)
That desire for a new liver, combined with other factors, drove me back to my New Mexico mountain a few weeks ago. I had been living on the road for a year, marketing my books and having adventures. But a girl can only take so much adventuring, it turns out. My body and mind were collapsing. The impending demise of my mortal coil occurred to me in Washington when I was lying in a rented bed (AirBnb), utterly exhausted but unable to sleep, staring at another unfamiliar ceiling, having just completed a week long rock-n-roll sojourn. That still small voice I trust implicitly whispered, “If you don’t slow down, you will die.” I knew it was true. My liver hurt. My back hurt. My head hurt. My feet hurt. My heart hurt. I looked like a chubby almost corpse. I was horribly depressed and anxious. So that night, I decided I was going home to my mountain heaven (purgatory?) to get well.
My mountain home is remarkably unchanged. I walk miles every day, and only once have I seen another person while walking. The flowers are still the color of the sun. The air still smells sweet and pure. (It’s a kind of cool that has nothing to do with temperature. Your lungs instinctively know there is no smog involved.) Some of the roads still resemble dried up river beds. The mornings are a brand of quiet I have never experienced anywhere else in the world—absolute silence, not a sound. The stars are close and profuse. They go on forever. And my mommy is still here, cooking juevos rancheros for me, worrying over me, giving me pep talks. (“Get up and do something, lazy bones.” Did I mention Mom isn’t really a “touchy feely” kind of girl?)
My brother is here too. He talks philosophy and theology with me (he’s the smartest person I’ve ever known) and lets me cuddle his puppies and goats, but he won’t play booger factory with me, which pisses me off. Oh, and did I mention I can still build a fire in a wood stove like a boss? You can take the girl out of the country, but you can’t take the country out of the girl.
In addition to cuddling my brother’s dogs (Harriet Pugman bit me on the boob yesterday) and building fires, I am also doing yoga, drinking gallons of water a day, walking, walking, walking, eating copious quantities of fruits and vegetables, meditating something fierce, sleeping a ton, and praying, praying, praying. I’m not drinking alcohol or eating any junk food. I feel better than I have in years. Yesterday, I weighed myself, and I’ve lost ten pounds. My skin looks younger. I only cried once yesterday, which is saying something, considering that for the month before I decided to return to my convent, I pretty much cried all day every day. So I’m getting better. Way better. And cuter.
The other part of my healing regimen is solitude. I’m not talking to anyone except my family. I feel guilty about this some days, but it seems to me like a matter of absolute necessity. I have to be alone for a while, focused on fixing what’s broken and tired in me. For an entire year, I had almost no time alone, and it was starting to make me feel scattered and lost, like I was leaving little pieces of me all over the world, on podiums and in bookstores and in bars, until there was nothing left of me for me. I’m trying to gather me to myself again before I go out into the big, bad world to love up on it.
So I wrote this blog as an answer to the question, “Where’s Tawni?” (which I have been asked in more than one email and text message). It’s kinda like “Where’s Waldo?” only if there were a picture book, I would be really easy to find even without a striped shirt and glasses because most of the time, there’s no one here but me. And Harriet Pugman. Who bit my boob. I think I was traumatized. It keeps coming up.
Someday, I’ll come down from my mountain. I pinky swear. Ok, I don’t pinky swear. But I think I probably will. Maybe. Anyway, until then, I leave you with this song. My brother played it for me the other day. He isn’t all philosophy and theology. Some days, he can be downright backwoods. All my friends are still in love with him though, even though he’s married and, quite frankly, old. Which also pisses me off. When we were kids, girls would make friends with me just so they could be invited to my house and sit on his bedroom floor making goo-goo eyes at him. Some things never change. (I’m kidding, girls. If you’ve recently told me you have a crush on my brother, I’m not really mad at you. He’s kinda awesome.) Anyway, I think he played this song to distract me from trying to lure him into playing booger factory.
Here’s a little flava (I’m trying to sound like a rap star—pronounce that “flave-ah”) of what’s going on in Tawni’s world. (You will have to click on the Youtube link in the middle of the fuzzy screen if you really want to see it, because apparently, Youtube has disabled the playback, which I find to be rather rude.)
P.S. If you want to buy that poetry book I mentioned, you can do it here. Not that I’m pushing you or anything. But I’m holding some turkeys hostage up here. And if you don’t buy the book, they’re goners. (Kidding. We don’t raise our own meat anymore. Actually, we don’t eat much meat around these parts. Still, buy the book.)