Writing memoir has meant wading into the swamp of my past. As soon as I began to write, in the very early stages of my first memoir, I had a dream of wading into an actual swamp. And in this dream, I did not linger in those murky waters. For I had only gone in there to retrieve what belonged to me, what I had already earned and achieved. The object I retrieved was a crocodile handbag. At its deepest level, this swamp water was chest-high. (As high as my heart.) I went into the water and emerged on the other side holding aloft a crocodile handbag. Displaying it like a trophy, a prize for going back into the swamp.
Crocodiles (and alligators) have lived on the earth for millions of years. They represent primal energies, the creative force of All That Is. They are known as the keepers of ancient wisdom. Their association with water connects them to our emotional worlds, and the importance of balancing earth and water. The Mayans believed that people born under the sign of the crocodile (or alligator) had access to primordial power. The Egyptians had a town called Crocodilopolis. They also had a crocodile god called Sobek, who was a symbol of ultimate power. It was Sobek who weighed the souls of the dead.
For some of us, and certainly memoir writers, the past never dies. We move on through the ever-present Now, while continuing to mine the past for clues that will explain and illumine our course through Time and Space.
I am currently working on a follow-up book to The Nancy Who Drew: The Memoir That Solved A Mystery, which picks up where the first book left off. Its working title is:
The Nancy Who Drew Herself Out of the Swamp
It is about how I both literally and figuratively drew myself out of the confused and murky waters of a life previously unexamined—by re-submerging myself in that same murkiness that had so befuddled me when I was younger. But this time I had a simple tool called a paintbrush, and the will to use it for all it was worth. Ultimately, I managed to paint myself out of all the dark corners I once found myself in, and locate a self in the cool rushing river, and then in the depths of the clear blue sea. Yet it all—all of it—depended upon that first willingness to once again descend into muddy swamp waters.
That crocodile handbag was mine. I had earned it. But I had to go back into the swamp to get it. A bag is a container, a receptacle—as we refer to the body as a receptacle for the soul. I look at the handbag as a metaphor for my new, powerful crocodile skin. When I was a young actress, they were always telling us that we needed to develop a suit of armor, a tough skin. That I failed to do so was perhaps one of the reasons my career, like so many other vulnerable hopefuls, fell by the wayside. But I got it, that crocodile skin (of unassuming primal power), in the end. And without ever having to sacrifice an ounce of my vulnerability. There was a way… There is a way…