WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

WHEN THE WRONG ONES WILL DO

WHY DO WE WAIT FOR THE RIGHT CONDITIONS?

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

MAKES ME HAPPY

GROWING AND MAKING STUFF

AWARENESS...

STAYING AWAKE TO THE REMARKABLE IN THE ROUTINE

AWARENESS...

Hi. I’m Maery, a writer in the Twin Cities. Although I no longer have the body for extreme adventures, I love to bicycle, go horse trail riding and take hikes with my dogs.  

One thing you should know before you join me on my quest -- I don’t have a map. And I’ve been known to wander off course and stop to listen to birds and look for agates. I also have a few issues with fear and anxiety. In other words, I’m not a good role model or adventure guide. But in this time of uncertainty and polarization, I'm not sure anyone has a reliable map. We'll just figure it out as we go.

horse

horse

A Dream Within a Dream (excerpt)
by Edgar Allan Poe

Take this kiss upon the brow!
And, in parting from you now,
Thus much let me avow —
You are not wrong, who deem
That my days have been a dream;
Yet if hope has flown away
In a night, or in a day,
In a vision, or in none,
Is it therefore the less gone?
All that we see or seem
Is but a dream within a dream…

Last Saturday night, I dreamed that I had a baby — a beautiful baby boy, much like the one I had in real life nearly thirty years ago. But there were these people, there must have been five or six faceless beings, shadowed in dark hoods. They snatched my baby out of my arms and threw me out the door. No matter how I pleaded, they wouldn’t let me back in. I stood outside the building and could hear my baby crying. If they were going to keep me away from him, they could at least pick him up and comfort him, I thought. I pounded on the door but no one answered. I circled around the building, looking for a window I could push open, a door left unlocked. I spent days there, trying to find a way in. And still my baby cried. When I finally found a way inside the building on a day when the hooded guards left and forgot to lock the door, I ran up the stairs to my baby’s crib and lifted him up into my arms. I was so happy, but I soon realized from the confused look on his face that he had forgotten who I was.

Since dreams are more symbolic than literal, I wondered whether the baby could be my book or even my writing in general. Who knows? It could have even been me, lost to myself for too long. Forgetting…

If only the dream had given me an answer. Perhaps it did. Through persistence, I did eventually find my way to the baby.

horse

I read an interview with artist Rebecca Rebouché this week in an online magazine called The Great Discontent. One of the questions Tina Essmaker asked during the interview was “What advice would you give to a young person who is starting out?” I loved Rebecca’s two part answer:

“First, bold delusion… You have to believe in yourself in an almost crazy way… to think that your ideas are valuable, which is, of course, not delusional at all.”

“Second: You have to build the ship to sail on. In other words, you can’t tell people about the ship you are thinking about building and expect them to buy tickets for the first ride. Instead you must first put in the work.”

Even though I’m not a young person just starting out and I already knew the truth of this in my head, the way Rebecca put this wisdom into words turned a key in the lock that all my “knowing” had merely managed to fumble with. Thoughts and beliefs in the head have to be recognized by the heart before they click.

dog

Busyness-wise, I feel stretched to the point that you could bounce a quarter off of me. I don’t know how I can manage to put in more time on writing than I’m already doing. Maybe eat frozen dinners rather than cooking from scratch. Quit cleaning house. Eat on paper plates or from the plastic containers that frozen meals come in to cut down on dish washing. Not go bike riding so much. Quit taking so many photos. Take my laundry in to have someone else wash it.

I mean, there are things that take time that I could cut out. Except…

I don’t like frozen, convenience food. I especially don’t like all the packaging that ends up in the garbage. Cooking, biking, hanging laundry outside — they are all grounding activities for me. They help me transition from whoever I had to be at work that day and whatever happened ——- to home.

Not yet finding a daily extra hour of writing time doesn’t mean that I won’t find that elusive hour. I believe I will.

I’m boldly delusional that way.

dog

Balancing a life can be even harder than doing jumps and cartwheels down a balance beam. I envy the people who manage this well. There are such people, aren’t there?

In the meantime, life goes on. The weather has taken a cold and windy turn, but there’s still been beautiful outdoor moments. And I’ll be damned if I’m going to miss them!

bicycle next to cannon

So if like me,  you could use a bit of soothing balm for your soul, I suggest you listen to John O’Donohue read his poem “Beannacht” (Gaellic for blessing). It is a beautiful poem and even more lovely read by his lilting voice, which unfortunately only exists on this earth in recordings now.

bicycle

bicycle

Or so I felt after attending many of the AWP conference sessions on the craft and the business of writing and publishing.

It’s enough to drive a person to drink.

Betty Danger's Country Club menu

And then drink some more.

Betty Danger's Country Club menu

The photos are of the menus at Betty Danger’s Country Club in NE Minneapolis, where drinks and food choices are sprinkled between pages of a book. There is also a ferris wheel that you can ride, as long as you are not dangerously tipsy.

Betty Danger's ferris wheel

It took about an hour for Betty to serve up our food and since Steve and I were on bikes and the wind was very hostile and I was hanging onto my water glass for dear life lest it fly away like a crazed bird and I was starving, this level of waiting did not make me happy. But I’ll give the restaurant the benefit of the doubt and assume one of the cooks didn’t show up for work.

But enough of the restaurant review, back to my issues…

I am so fogged up with information from the conference, that I don’t know which way to turn. What exactly was I trying to do with my writing? All the answers I have to that question right now sound so ridiculous to me. I don’t even know what to blog about so I decided to fall back on notes from my journal, written while sitting in a session at AWP that I wasn’t finding all that interesting… and perhaps at this moment, I am not all that interesting either.

But I hope you’ll give me the benefit of the doubt, assume a section of my brain cells did not show up for work and give me another week to rally…


Minneapolis-7-Edit-1

April 10, 2015

My first day of AWP was exhausting! My two morning panels were excellent – one on writing personal essays in the age of the internet and the second on turning adversity into art. After that it was mostly tripe. My friend and I didn’t stay for the keynote speaker as that event didn’t start until 8:30 PM and ran until 10:00. Who planned this? Are they completely and utterly mad? Do they not know that I go to bed by 9:00?

I heard there are over 12,000 people at AWP. It is a bombardment of bumps and elbows and sitting too close to one another. You can’t even move your chair a bit further apart from the one next to you because the chairs are hooked together. Who thought of that torture?

As I sit in my third session of the day, listening to a reading of some sort of story that reminds me of abstract art, all paint splatters and squares on a page that I simply do not understand, I begin to study the hair styles of my fellow attendees. Should I go shorter? What about her hair? Or maybe hers? No, my face is too long and nondescript to pull that one off.

The hair I like the most is long and curly – a wildish mane that makes me think of an Irish lass, standing on a moor, her reddish hair streaming behind her like a flag, her stubborn, strong face staring out across the land, waiting for…

But I will never have that hair. In fact, I will never have that face.

So I look at the short hair on many women — so revealing, nothing to distract you from their expressive faces. These are women with strong cheekbones and impish grins. They look like they know who they are and what they want.

I think of my own hair… the in-between hair.

Which leads me to think of the suburbs, a place I swore I’d never live again. Yet that is exactly where I live.

Yes, long hair is country, earthy, and true. It is Mother Nature. It is Xena the Warrior Princes.

Short hair is city. It is funky and cool, especially if it includes pink and teal highlights.

And suddenly hair becomes this choice.

I don’t want my hair to say “Suburbs” “In-between” “I can’t commit” “I don’t know where I stand.”

I don’t want my hair to say this because everything else about me is screaming this very thing
Ordinary…
Nothing special…

And I know these thoughts are wacko. I am trying to decide about something and determine which way to go with my life, which frightens me. So my brain takes the ball and runs with it towards a new hair style, as if a scissors can free me from fear and say something about me that I can’t otherwise seem to define.

My thoughts are a herd of gazelles fleeing a lion. . .


I know that eventually I’ll be able to assimilate and settle in with the oodles of information that came my way during AWP. The most valuable lesson actually came when I realized that my favorite part of the whole event was the Wednesday before the conference started, when I attended an opening reception put on by Rain Taxi. There I met Erin Hart and her sister Julie Hart.

Erin wrote one of my favorite books, “Haunted Ground,” which is about discovering a red haired girl in a peat bog. Because of the nature of a bog and how it can preserve a body, the mystery surrounds discovering who the girl was and how and when she died. I also loved Erin’s book “Lake of Sorrows,”  and need to catch up on some of the other books Erin has written more recently. Julie Hart’s work has been published in such publications as Five Quarterly, Denim Skin, PANK magazine, The Rumpus and Floor Plan Journal. And she lives in Brooklyn, where I want to go to visit my son, and I think perhaps when I do, we can go out for coffee…

I realized that meeting the two sisters was actually the highlight of the entire conference for me. During the conference itself, I was busy trying to get as much information as possible out of the sessions. I had my head down, with my fingers punching my iPad to snag all the gems.

I forgot the other point of being at AWP — to meet and greet the other attendees. It wasn’t that it completely slipped my mind. I didn’t believe I had the credentials for anyone to want to spend their time talking to me. Certainly they had come to meet people who would lend them a hand up the publishing ladder, and I wasn’t one of THOSE people.

But perhaps the only way to become a person worth talking to is to be a person that reaches out and speaks. Perhaps commiserating about the strange, frustrating, yet wonderful world of creating stories has value too.

I do hope so, because that may be as far as all this goes. And I am approaching the point of feeling that that’s okay.  Because living the story to tell contains rewards of its own.

bicycle

bike commuting

It’s April. Time for April showers and 30 Days of Biking.

Taking the pledge to ride my bike every day in April last year is what got me started down this road of bicycling in all four seasons. It was the getting out every day – no matter how windy, rainy or snowy – and discovering how much I loved riding that has led to some unexpected changes in my life.

train station with bike

Being that I started bike/train commuting at the end of last month and have been fat biking through the winter, saying I’d ride for 30 days in April 2015 didn’t hold the same challenge as it did in 2014.

Still, there are challenges — like time. Some days it’s tricky fitting bicycling into the day. It will be tough this week with the AWP conference Thursday through Saturday (and recuperation on Sunday).

bike commuting

I’m reading May Sarton’s book, “Journal of Solitude,” and in it she wrote:

“I am proud of being fifty-eight, and still alive and kicking, in love, more creative, balanced, and potent than I have ever been… Wrinkles here and there seem unimportant compared to the Gestalt of the whole person I have become in the past year.” ~ May Sarton, “Journal of Solitude”

Perhaps just turning fifty-eight myself in March, this is the perfect time to be reading Sarton’s story again. I too feel more vibrant, balanced, and strong than I did when I was younger. Not really physically stronger but a strength inside that I didn’t have previously.

fat biking

I’m still fearful, but am better able to face my fears and not let them stop me from doing the things that are important to me.

I actually credit bicycling with many of the positive feelings I have now. Something about being able to navigate the streets and bike paths with all the obstacles and rough, pot-holed pavement, and being able to deal with the threat of cars while maneuvering through traffic has helped me better navigate through life. It has built confidence in myself that wasn’t there before.

road bike

I’ve been surprised by the way my bicycling has improved. I’m surprised because I didn’t think there was anything to improve. What is needed to ride a bike besides some balance and turning pedals?

A lot more, it turns out, if you are making left turns in the lane with the cars and trying to avoid people unexpectedly backing out in front of you or pulling too far out at a stoplight, right into your lane.

road bike

I was like a newby driver at first, riding my brakes out of fear of picking up too much speed and then slowing almost to a stop to turn a corner. It’s not that I’m now overly confident. I’m aware that my age means I don’t bounce back from falls the way I did thirty or more years ago. But with experience I’ve learned how fast I can make a corner, how much I can lean my bike into it. I’ve become more attuned to my surroundings, which is always a good thing, whether you are on a bike or not.

Decisions come more easily and quickly with practice. This is true for anything in life, not just bicycling. And that ability to see, think and act has leaked over into other areas of my life.

Midwest Mountaineering

And one more thing my bicycle (and my helmet) has done for me, it starts up many a conversation with interesting people on the train, at work, at stores, on trails, at traffic stop lights — all over the place! I’ve conversed with people I never would have met or talked to, all because I’m bike riding and somehow it makes talking to people come more naturally.

So when people wonder why I ride my bike when it would be easier and more comfortable and convenient to simply hop into a car, those are my reasons. The skills and confidence I’ve gained have done so much more for me than just make me a better bicyclist.

It’s had a positive effect on my life overall. I’m so glad 30 Days of Biking in April of 2014 got me headed down this road.

fat biking

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