Joya: AiR / writer / Nita Noveno / USA
‘In August, you arrive at a radiant homestead on yellow terrain, roam along fertile fields, scramble up a mountain, find light seeping through small cracks in dark rock, see seeds everywhere and nowhere, once buried and wind tossed. Semi-arid, yes, and wholly aromatic this place: lavender and thyme, pine and rosemary.
What more? Before the conceptualizing and narrating, there is the still mind. One that is tranquil, observing. Undisturbed and unencumbered. What you hoped for. Time to revise and edit and you do, fastened for hours to the page and the screen. You return to a story about memory and a father’s journey. You trace the making of identities and communities in a small Alaskan town. (The silence here connects you to the woods of your childhood home.)
By the late afternoon, a delirious wind slams shut the bedroom shutter, begging you to nap, but you stay awake in those fiery hours in a kind of trance until a cowbell rings. Close the notebook and the laptop. Set down the pen. Follow the clang downstairs. Your frenzied appetite, which has taken over, is filled by stunning bounty, bowls of white bean puree, ripe red garden tomatoes and pasta, savory onion pizza and hummus (and more and more). Seconds? Thirds? Yes, please!
Talk around the table with your cohort of wondrous creatives dips into origins and accents, family lore, that (or the next) day’s hike, the humorous and the intimate. You learn of the host’s arduous and, thankfully, successful efforts to locate water underground and bring it up, up and into the house and around the farm. In this history of viability, persistence is vital. Water is everything.
“All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was,” observes Toni Morrison. This luminary passed just days earlier and you wonder more deeply about her words and this place, about extracting memory like water from the ground.
When an inky sky arrives, so do the Swan, the Great Bear, the Harp. (You’ve identified them on your phone’s app!) Music streams from inside out, the DJ youth favoring Spanish trap and reggaeton. We drink water, sip wine, mountains melting into black. Look up again. At bright Saturn. The daylight’s buzzing wasps gone now, replaced by cricket song, cats skittering along wall tops and roof edges, laughter rising”.
Hey, JOYA: Simon, Donna, Soli, Sessi; my fellow residents/artists/explorers: Zoe, Claudia, Alessandra, Simon L., Kazumi, Sylvia, Thibault, Samra, Rich, Jaron, Delia, and Susanne ;furry, four-legged friends, Frida and Fou Fou; the grand Sierra Maria - Los Vélez, sunsets blazing, mantises praying, agua fresca y corriente, muchas gracias y abrazos!
Nita Noveno teaches composition and literature at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, City University of New York. She is a graduate of The New School MFA Creative Writing Program and the founder and co-host of Sunday Salon(sundaysalon.com), a long-running monthly reading series in NYC. Nita writes about memory, culture, identity, and immigrant lives. Her work has appeared in Kweli, About Place Journal, and the Asian American Writers’ Workshop’s Open City Magazine, among other publications. Originally from Southeast Alaska, she lives in Queens, New York.