This week, I'll be blogging from Headlands Center for the Arts near Sausalito, CA, where I'm an Artist in Residence. It's been a great time out here, and I'd encourage writers to apply. They gave me a big bedroom with adjacent writing room, and one gourmet organic meal a day. We're surrounded by hills and hiking trails, and right next to the ocean. It feels like I'm a million miles from civilization out here, but the Center is only four miles from the Golden Gate Bridge, so I can have it both ways. The city is there if I need it, but I can also get away. No chance of a cell phone signal, which is a good thing for the most part.
There are wild turkeys here. I've never encountered one before, and I wanted to see how close I could get. I ended up getting chased — literally chased, as in running. Those are some ugly, mean creatures. And they fly, that's the ungodly part. I'll see them sitting high in the trees. It's unnatural. I don't know where those things come from, but they're supposedly part dinosaur. And Headlands is located on the grounds of an old military base, so maybe it's some radioactive mutation thing.
We also have lots of deer, who seem relatively comfortable around humans. California deer have actually been looking kind of feeble compared to deer back home (upstate New York). I think I could almost outrun them.
I've been here for about a month now, with a few things to work on. In December, I made the pilgrimage to Mecca, which wrapped up a year of wandering (Pakistan, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Saudi Arabia). When you're a pilgrim, you withdraw from the world and your usual role within it, which are reflected by all of the ritual markers, such as discarding our clothes and uniforms for the white ihram garb. While in the purified pilgrim's state, a hajji cannot cut his/her nails or hair, use cologne or any scented soap, have sex, kill animals (even insects), or cut down trees. It's like we stop whatever we once did to maintain ourselves and society, making the pilgrimage our only responsibility.
This residency is kind of like that. Out here, I'm not anything but a writer. Removed from any social expectations, I'm kind of weird. Exhibit A: South by Southwest was what, two weeks ago? And I'm still wearing my green wristband. I'm in the mountains and I don't have scissors. It'd be easy enough to go to one of the offices at Headlands and borrow some, but it's become a thing now.