Recently asked why I write in such a flourished style, I was stumped. If, in my prose, I bend rhythms and the usage of a word, how then could I have possibly written for Television? Was all that time spent with Jules on the efficiency of language wasted?
No. Not at all. One writes within the boundaries demanded by the forum. This forum is mine and so I fear my inner voice runs amuck.
The question stayed with me. My thoughts wandered to first influences. As stated earlier, newspapers and magazines were my initial entertainment in the hospital. That though was research, an investigation into the world around searching for answers that never came. First influence? No.
Then, I remembered Frank Waters’ MOUNTAIN DIALOGUES, the first book I read, at least, the first in my stunted memory. The copy was worn with a paper jacket clinging to life by strips of tape. Mr. Waters, a writer from the Southwest and among other things, the only Anglo allowed to witness the sacred rituals of the Hopi. He committed what he learned of their history, customs and theology in BOOK OF THE HOPI, a volume I unfortunately have never read.
My friend and savior, Ray tossed MOUNTAIN DIALOGUES at me one day while I sat looking out the hospital window, a funk squarely settled on my shoulders.
“Read that, man. He’s a good writer. Indians like him. You might learn something. Probably not. But if it keeps you occupied, maybe you won’t depress the rest of the patients.”
So, I picked it up from the floor and began to read. I didn’t know language could be used like that. His words were finely prepared meats I wantonly ravaged off of each page. He wrote of Jung, Ecology, Race Relations, and history, things small and large tying them all around his little adobe community in New Mexico. It resonated within me. I did not realize how much until I found my copy buried on my bookshelf.
Flipping through, his language silently sang off the paper. I stopped on a passage from an essay titled The Hopi Prophecy. There he laid out the Hopis’ belief that our world has been destroyed three times previously. And each time a new world came into being; only those who respect it were allowed entry. Four worlds in all with culture reborn each time. Multiples of lessons never learned.
While I would never assume comparison of myself to Mr. Waters as thinker or writer, I will credit him with the birth of my world view. I may not be the desert dweller he was, seeing the natural world in all its glory. But, prodded on by this one volume, I was given permission to look under rocks left unturned by others. His words gave me the confidence to look past the veil of sane and into the “what ifs”. He was my first influence and hopefully now the rediscovery of an old friend.