It’s been a long time since I’ve posted on my blog. I needed some clearing and gathering time. And time to determine what to clear and what to gather.

This has required a great deal of thinking — thinking while I’m driving (distracted driver), thinking while I’m walking the dogs, and thinking while I’m trying desperately to get some sleep.

It has taken some wandering, experimenting, and hibernating time as well.

In September, I received an email from Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew, which was the prompt that started me on this journey. Elizabeth facilitates a writer’s group that meets once a month. It’s different than most writer’s groups as we don’t read each other’s work or do critiques, instead we talk about the sorts of questions that a writer might ponder.

Elizabeth’s email prompted the group to think about the word “play” in relationship to writing.


As I thought about this word, the words that popped into my mind were free, light, uninhibited, unworried about outcome, adaptable, unrestricted.

And I realized how little time I spend in the state these words bring to mind.

fat bike

I work hard to get from point A to point B. The goal is usually for me to become an expert on something or at least good at it. I want whatever it is to become something that comes naturally, that flows and is no longer difficult for me. If I can’t reach that point of flow or at least reach the point where I no longer feel self-conscious about my lack of skills, I will often decide that it wasn’t that important anyway and quit to move on to another it.

During our discussion about playing, some of the writers used the example of music and how you gain muscle memory where you no longer have to think about the notes and which fingers go where. Instead you play freely, taking the energy you put into learning the music itself and putting it towards infusing feeling and personality into the piece. By doing so, you make a song that has been played by millions of musicians into your own unique creation.

And that is how I’d like to think about life.

walk in the woods

I think that playing freely and making my own unique creation means that I need to make some changes. Like…

  1. On the days when no one seems to value or appreciate me or my unique creation, that it doesn’t mean I, as a human being, have no value. More than likely, the people who don’t appreciate my Maeryness don’t see any value in the things I’m good at. They may not even see those things are even there. I think (I hope) this just means my real life is somewhere else.
  2. Believing that I am more than the things that don’t come naturally to me. I want to quit striving to mold myself into something I don’t even want to be.
  3. For my own sanity and well being, I want to play around with the things that I enjoy and I feel good about. If I feel the need to define myself (which is limiting and I should stop it), but if I must, define myself by those things.
  4. I am the person who alone has lived my life and knows the lessons it has taught me. I would have preferred to be oblivious of some things, but life has granted me a certain set of wisdoms whether I want them or not. I am a conglomeration of what I have lived and I’m tired of trying to pretend that I am something else because something else has been seen by me as being better than what I am. It’s time to find value in the tools I’ve been given and stop looking for the ones I don’t have.

I’ve been trying to remember what it was like to be a kid — to remember what I played at and imagined and loved. I want to see if the things I started out loving provide clues to how to bring those playful feelings (free, light, uninhibited, unworried about outcome, adaptable, unrestricted) back into my way too serious life.

And so I’m returning. Slowly. But playfully.

bicycling in woods

Mississippi River pollution

Mississippi River pollution

As much as I love to walk my dogs or ride my bike at the park and on trails, one thing that bothers me (okay, it downright ANNOYS me) is that some people don’t seem to appreciate the privilege of having a touch of nature amongst the housing and business developments. Lack of appreciation is one of the reasons I can come up with as to why people toss their soda bottles, chip bags, etc. on the ground as soon as the contents are empty. Laziness or anger at the world could be other possibilities.

My logic is that if I can carry a stinky bag of dog poop to the closest container, carrying a soda can there SHOULD be doable. Yet I find trash on the ground only a few yards away from the garbage containers. I get how it can be frustrating when there are no garbage containers in sight (as they seem to remove most of them as it draws closer to winter), but then carry your garbage out the same way you carried it in!

Now that I’ve got that pet peeve off my chest, here’s a more effective approach to the problem: I’m starting to carry plastic bags with me to pickup the litter I see and toss it into a trashcan myself. Yes, this feels somewhat futile because litterbugs will keep doing their thing and there will be a new mess on my next walk and it’s not fair that I should have to clean up other people’s garbage. Except that the mess that detracts from the natural beauty and the threat that trash can bring to wildlife is bothering me, not the people who made the mess. So if I want something to change, I’m going to have to take the steps to change it myself.

Litter in the woods

The first time I picked up trash, I discovered that one plastic bag isn’t enough. I also discovered that I was getting a few odd, prolonged looks from people passing by and it is possible that I will be nicknamed as the “Crazy Trash Lady.” But there are worse things in life.

The Path Less Pedaled has a video about how to fold and carry plastic bags so they aren’t just an annoying ball lumped into your pocket or backpack. It sounded like it wouldn’t make that much difference, but I tried it and they do fit better and more neatly in your pocket.

The other thing I discovered was that rather than feeling more angry and frustrated as I picked up cans and wrappers, I felt happy as I saw more patches of the woods and river shore free of crap. I haven’t yet figure out how to fish the garbage out of the river, beyond my reach. I was thinking that if I start carrying a net, I’ll really look conspicuous, but not really. There are a lot of people fishing. In fact, it’s along the areas people fish that I’ve found the most trash. So now I’m back to not getting it. If you want to catch decent fish to eat, why would you throw shit in their watery home?

Mississippi River pollution

It’s beyond understanding. All I can do is keep packing my shit (and my dog’s) out and work on packing out other people’s shit now too.

I hold onto the hope that these little actions matter, even if I can’t actually see how they do. Maybe the path is improved for the next person passing through.

Biking along Rum River

Dee Wright Observatory

Dee Wright Observatory

At the end of September, Steve and I took an Amtrak train from St Cloud, Minnesota to Portland, Oregon for a destination wedding. The following posts are about our experiences on the train and in Oregon, which I wrote down in my travel journal. You can read previous posts here:

Monday, October 5, 2015

Dee Wright Observatory

Monday morning, we headed north from Bend towards the Dee Wright Observatory to see the lava fields. This ended up to be another visual beauty and marvel overload mystery tour. Beauty is perhaps a strange word when describing the lava fields as they mainly look like a bunch of black rocks piled up. And yet…

Lava Fields Mckenzie Pass Oregon

This would be our last real day of sightseeing before getting back on the train in Portland Tuesday afternoon. We drove through the town of Sisters, named for being near the Three Sisters Mountains, which in tour bus language are “a complex volcano of three volcanic peaks of the Cascade Volcanic Arc and the Cascade Range.”

Three Sisters Mountains

The Dee Wright Observatory is at the highest point of the Mckenzie Pass. This photo was taken looking out one of the observatory windows.

Dee Wright Observaotry

There was a path to walk over the hardened lava. Signs explained what happens after a volcano erupts — such things as how cracks form during the cooling, how the vegetation comes back, and what animals live there and how they survive.

Lava Fields sign

Okay, who doesn’t love the description of the “jagged clinkery surface” of the A A Lava?

Lava Fields sign

And I had to take a photo of this for the sign poetry on the right side…

Dee Wright Observatory sign

As we walked around the area, I admired the tenacity of nature to come back after such devastation. Small evergreens contrasting with black rock kept drawing my eyes. A sign informed me that the trees were much older than they looked but were so small because there isn’t much nourishment there for them.

trees growing in lava field

And yet they grow.

It made me wonder about the belief that God individually engineered all the diversity and crazy adaptation we see in the world. Maybe what God really did was instill one thing in everything he created — the will to survive. To me, that would be more interesting, to see what each living thing came up with. Interesting, and more of a risk.

McKenzie Pass Lava Fields

There was such a big quietness to the lava fields.

McKenzie Pass sign

We continued our journey towards Portland, taking the “Over the River and Through the Woods” scenic byway. We stopped in Sweet Home, Oregon at a pizza place called Spoleto’s. It didn’t look like much on the outside but the pizza was fantastic.

Spoleto's Pizzeria & Wine Shop

I had the Portland Pesto with fresh organic local basil pesto, local hazelnuts, mushrooms, parmesan and fresh tomato. The hazelnuts were an unexpected and excellent touch.


Page 3 of 21« First...23451020...Last »