Rarely, while writing my memoir—this is another iteration of obsession—I was as calm as God, solemnly inscribing words as if on tablets. But usually, writing my memoir was like being possessed. At certain points when I was working on it, I was in an alternative universe. During such periods, my husband poked me and said, “You’re not with us. You’re in a parallel world.” It was truer than he knew. I was off with my lover in the thatched hut. These times, I was just barely able to listen to my children. It was like they were calling from somewhere far off in a fog. (It was really me that was in a fog.) And I couldn’t hear them until I got the day’s burden of memories unloaded from the ship whose cargo hold was bottomless, infinitely re-filling. A ship that seemed to re-fill to the brim the minute I scooped out the day’s box of k-rations, or slab of death-by-chocolate cake.
Nabokov describes writing as “a private mist.”
When I was irrevocably committed to finish my poem or die, there came the most trancelike state of all. With hardly a twinge of surprise, I found myself, of all places, on a leathern couch in the cold, musty, little-used room that had been my grandfather’s study. On that couch, I lay prone, in a kind of reptilian freeze, one arm dangling, so that my knuckles loosely touched the floral figures of the carpet. When I next came out of that trance, the greenish flora was still there, my arm still dangling, but now I was prostrate on the edge of a rickety wharf, and the water lilies I touched were real…So little did ordinary measures of existence mean in that state that I would not have been surprised to come out of its tunnel right into the park of Versailles, or Tiergarten, or Sequoia National Forest.