Depression is a place outside Reno by Marie Lo Duca

My writing space comes to me in the valleys between emotions—I live there, in the low, hot desert, sometimes. When I’m lonely, I climb the mountains growing around the basin and write poetry, there, too—it helps me return to the valley at the end of the day, craving the emptiness. Sometimes, poetry helps me put my emotions into words, to emerge from a place that I don’t recognize: when I feel panic for no reason, or when I don’t even know how I feel, caught somewhere on a cave wall. I crave the desert of the valley, the smell of mesquite and creosote.

Sometimes, I’m afraid of the valley, of its pink morning skies; sometimes, it is a home I crave.

Sometimes, I walk the valley even when I’m with others, write down what they say, turn it into poetry to meld the image of the world together, expand it. If I am obsessed, it is with knowing every inch of this landscape, owning what is my own, but sometimes, I worry that I have no obsessions—no high peaks, but deep caves, hidden between cracks on dusty paths. I worry my obsessions are hollow, worry that I do not work to fill them with sheet after sheet of my words that I slip through the cracks like mail until it’s full. I am obsessed with where they land.

Sometimes, I find the writing space by accident—wander in, aimless, between peaks at some low point. Other times, I climb whatever peak I come upon, scale the unknown mountain and find that I’ve returned, like a home I’d lost somehow, to the same valley I’d never left.

But the peaks are always growing—the valley floor stretches out sometimes beyond my limits, beyond my vision and I see the valley curve into the Earth, the peaks around swallowed by the horizon. Sometimes, as I walk in the flat desert, peaks grow as I walk.

When this happens, I change direction. I turn to climb them.

Or, I have to watch in awe as they grow over me, let them pass me as peaks, for now, and find them later, in a new part of the valley when I am ready.

There, I find music, sometimes. It’s always a windsong; one I’ve heard and add notes to for the next time a breeze brings it across my ears. This is always when the valley is green, overflowing—when there doesn’t seem to be any limits to its expansiveness; when its newest peaks don’t seem as high, or the oldest seem higher than I remember when I climbed them. This is when the valley fills: with dancing, music, with small, tender-leaved plants and small trinkets that hang from pendulums off the branches of the sweet trees and their tiny, fern-like leaves. I rest in the shade, in these moments. I collect what pollen I can, press it between pages of books to write later.

When I climb, I put the pages into the cracks I know open to the deepest caves, fill them up another notch, and return to the valley, strumming.

Marie Lo Duca is a second year Fiction student at Sarah Lawrence College.

Marie Lo Duca is a second year Fiction student at Sarah Lawrence College.