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.

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

books

books

I was working on my book this weekend and was in a section where I wanted to remember how I thought and behaved when I was in my twenties. I flipped through some papers and journals (yes, I’ve been writing down my thoughts for that frickin’ long!) and ran across something I wrote on February 9, 1982. I was twenty-five years old, working full time, and trying to complete my BA — one painful class at a time. Fortunately, I had completed a year of college before I dropped out so I wasn’t starting from scratch.

This is what I wrote…

I have to write a research paper for one of my classes. I’ve had so little time to go to the library in the past several years that I had forgotten how much I enjoy it there. I love the way libraries smell, how the books feel in my hands – especially the big, thick, heavy ones, and  how the protective plastic covers crackle when you open them.

I stand in awe, lost in a forest of endless shelves. My eyes dart from side to side, trying to decide where to begin my search. However, I quickly forget my purpose in being there as I spot a book on the miracles of health foods and the beauty of backpacking in the Canadian wilderness.

A sudden whirring noise behind me jolts me back to cold, hard reality. This is no joy cruise; I have to find information for my paper!

The sound I heard came from a microfiche viewer, which replaced the card catalogues of my childhood. No more drawers of yellowed cards with bent smudged corners to flip through, trying not to think about whether the person who handled the cards before me may have licked their fingers to unstick one card from the next.

We now have the magic of microfiche. Push one button to go forward, another to go backward – titles and descriptions whiz by in a blur until you’re close to your destiny and start to pump the brakes, sliding to just the right spot in the frame. I scribble down titles, author’s names, and book numbers and start my search through the shelves again. But, alas, during my expedition I am captured by African natives, then a horrid witch casts a spell on me, but fear not, for I escape on the back of a unicorn.

Cautiously, I gather up my booty and make my way out of this strange world, perhaps to return another day.

books

Besides bringing back memories of old technology and even pre-technology, what surprised me about this entry is how much it sounded like me today. I expected more of a difference. I think maybe ten years ago, there was more of a difference. I lost some of that ability to see magic and to let my thoughts run freely.

I’m glad I’m getting the fun back into my life.

I’m glad that I’m reading and writing and traveling by unicorn…

bicycling home from work

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