When I tell people I’m working on a Graphic Novel, the question inevitably arises: What is it about? At first I would try to summarize the story. “It’s about a stoic, bitter old man, who lives in the forest alone. One winter night, as he’s chopping firewood, he hears a strange sound emanating from the dark woods. He goes to investigate and finds a wolf pup, lost, weak, and collapsed in the snow. Being the thick-skinned mountain man he is, he turns away leaving the pup to die. But as he does, he has a memory of the woman he loved in his younger days, and it softens his heart. So the book is about these two separate story lines — one of the old man and the wolf, the other, his memories of this woman — interweaving back and forth.” At this point I would motion my hands like two snakes dancing. The person listening would usually nod thoughtfully, not giving much indication on whether they thought this was the basis for an interesting narrative or not. I think this description satisfactorily describes my book, but it’s also quite a mouthful, possibly more than they bargained for, and not a quick answer appropriate for such locations like, say, a grocery store line.
So I went the other way. When asked, I would simply say, “Memory…” letting the word float mysteriously, lingering on the air like a light forest fog. At this, they would give me a quizzical look, and I would have the feeling that I just failed at the authors’ duty to promote himself.
Now when asked, I just feel like grabbing their collar, tightening it around their curious heads and shouting: “It’s about my EX alright!??!? I’m wounded and feel like I’ll never find love like that again and this is a form of catharsis and what do you expect a lonely middle aged man who lives deep in the forest to think about except LOST LOVE?!!?” But this response probably wouldn’t be appropriate and might make me look more pathetic than I actually am.
Fact is, this story is largely inspired by my last relationship. Is this a bad thing? Well if it’s giving me the emotional energy to complete a 100+ page book, my first real attempt at completing something substantial, I don’t think it’s bad. My drawing talent and technique has improved greatly over the past 9 months, all due to this book, and I don’t think that’s bad either. I’ve had someone gently ask, “… but how do you expect to get over this relationship when you’re focusing so much time on it?” It’s a valid point. I guess my answer would be something like, “Hey, I’m a sensitive guy, and I’d probably be suffering anyway, so I might as well turn it into something productive.” But I do need to finish this book as quickly as possible. I don’t want to have this corpse hanging around my neck forever. I don’t actually want to turn into the embittered, hard-hearted old man of the woods.
And I don’t feel like I am. I have my moments of darkness, yes. I feel pangs in my heart when I see happy couples touching and enjoying each other. When bushwhacking though ancient forests, traversing wild rivers, walking down sandy beaches, or fixing dinner, I long to have a partner to share it with. But these experiences are still beautiful to me, not diminished in any way, just different. Life is beautiful and precious always, and I’m grateful I feel this. I’m grateful for the place I live, my friends, the bountiful food I eat, my ability to pursue art and words — my calling — freely. I live a rich life and the dull nagging loneliness is part of the richness of experience. In a way it is the fuel that fires my creativity.
Lingering over this book doesn’t make me unhappy, but it does, somehow, inhibit me from being fully present with another woman. Perhaps right now it’s impossible for another woman to compete with my Ex, my first love. Is this because I don’t let them, or because what her and I had was special, exceedingly rare, hard to replace? I’m trying to answer this. It’s probably a little of each.
My Dad is visiting and yesterday we were on the coast, sitting in a little driftwood hut near the beach. I was reading poems aloud: Goethe, Frost, Rainer Maria Rilke. A beautiful young woman came into view through the doorway, walking solitary down the beach. “There goes a poem,” says my dad. With those words I felt a sense of expansiveness, of openness. Yes, what is her story? What are her pains and her joys? Could we laugh together? There are millions of poems in this world, and though most of them may not be to my taste, should I exclude strange and unfamiliar ones out of deference and attachment to my favorite poem? Who knows? Who knows…? I figure it out as I goes.
In summary, it’s hard to summarize a book in a couple sentences. My story is about everything written here and more. Thanks for allowing the time to explain.