Thursday, September 18, 2014

Rules for Hiking (and…you know…life too)

1. Pack out what you pack in. And vice versa.

2. Drink lots of water. Water is nearly always the answer. 

3. If you start to fall, turn it into a slide. It hurts less and looks cooler.

4. Remember: Up is hard, down is frightening, level terrain that never changes is easy and a nice break…but dull.

5. Never hike alone. Except…do. Do hike alone. Definitely hike alone. Yes, it is risky, but life is risky. It’s risky to get out of bed in the morning, drive a car, boil water for tea, love someone. Life is full of risks. This is one you should take.

6. Tell someone your hike plan. Except, sometimes don’t. Sometimes do things just for you, not because you need to tell the world about it. Go for a hike and then don’t update your Facebook status, tweet, write a review on Yelp, and for god's sake, please do not blog about it and some nonsense of how hiking is like life….This can also be risky (see #5).

7. Bring snacks. Snacks are the best.

8. Read Mary Oliver. Maybe not while you're hiking--seems dangerous. Maybe sit on a fallen tree trunk or large rock first and Mary Oliver.

9. Don’t worry about the serious hikers. When you see them coming, just say to yourself—Serious hiker alert! and then move to the side to let them pass. Yes, they’ll get there faster than you, but you will have heard more birds sing, smelled more raindrops on leaves, felt more wind on your face, fallen more, and have more blisters.

10. Have a map, but only let it be your guide. Have a plan, but sometimes veer from it.

11. Don’t worry about the way you look—sweaty, red-faced, muddy—nothing like those women in the Eddie Bauer catalog. You look truly god-awful, who gives a crap.

12. When you get to the top of the mountain, panting, gasping for breath, clinging to tree limbs to pull you up and you see a little old lady up there chatting away happily in rapid-fire Japanese and you think to yourself—How the hell did she get up here? Remind yourself: You are a wimp.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Doing Time

I took a month off from my novel. Saved it on a thumbdrive <outside.revision4> and vowed not to open it again until I had distance. Fresh eyes.

I became unbearably lonely without it, didn’t quite know what to do, who I was, without <outside.revision4> open on my laptop. I was uncomfortable, itchy, lost for a few days.

Then I made a list of books to read. I inhaled the books I loved, labored over ones I didn’t, forced myself to finish them. Made another list. Another and another.

I went on hikes through green woods, scrambled up the sides of mountains, searching for toeholds to propel me up. When you really need to move forward, any ole toehold will do. It doesn’t have to be fancy. I saw the true beauty of a 360 degree view—nothing in the way. I got lost and followed two highly-educated, super-fit, upper-middle class ladies until I realized their path wasn’t the one I wanted to take. Besides, they were moving too fast for me. I slipped and fell on the loose, treacherous path I ended up choosing and then soaked my scraped body in the sea.

I wrote all my words on notecards in pencil. Notecards began to pile on counter tops, dresser tops, any horizontal surface in the house and then in my car. They acted as bookmarks with my long-forgotten handwriting on them. They hid in my sheets, stabbed me in the leg in the middle of the night, waking me. The words didn’t necessarily have meaning for me. Most of it was useless, a reflection of a thing, not the thing itself.

I sat on my porch and watched construction workers on the street below—covered against the hot sun, moving dirt from one spot to another, and then a jogger sped by, gone before I even fully realized he was there.

I sat in silence.

I listened to the same song on repeat for hours, never tiring of it, but hearing something new every time—one art teaching another. I wrote a story no one will ever read based on the song. I wrote it not because it needed to be read, but because it needed to be written.

I ate no meat without even realizing it until supper one night when I picked all the chicken out of my portion of the chicken casserole I’d made. I asked myself: When have you last had meat, self? Self could not remember. So, what, are you a vegetarian now, self? "I don’t think so," self answered back.

I walked down seashores, initially insecure in my solitude, and then finding comfort in it. I wrote on notecards about it. I discovered I forgot how to spell and I really like the word choke. It kept coming up—choke. I conjugated it in my head, just because it felt good bumping around in my mind: I choke, you choke, he/she chokes, we choke, they choke. Choke.

I wasn’t taking time away from my novel. I was doing time away from it. Precious time to ask myself one question: Do you write, or are you a writer?

Thursday, September 11, 2014

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