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Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going There, Doing That, and Getting the T-Shirt!

Apparently, I'm a hiker now. I mean, maybe. Maybe I'm a hiker now. But I am definitely an amateur photographer wanna be who takes outdoor pictures in the woods.

I have been hiking four times. All in the last month. I have been to Sweetwater State Park (with Tara), Amicalola Creek Interpretive Trail (with Olivia), Kennesaw Mountain (with Lisa, Tara, and Pam), and Raccoon Mountain (with Tara). In that order. And, Sunday, I'm going to Raven Cliff Falls (with Tara). So that will be five journeys into the wilderness in a month. Obsessive? Probably. But wait until you hear what I've done since this began. Then there will be no need for a question mark at the end of that word.

I have bought stuff. Hiking stuff. I've been to REI and I have purchased. What have I bought?

A hiking pack. I have this thing with bags. I need them. I love them. I buy bags like most girls buy purses. So this sort-a makes some kind of sense, for me at least. This bag is amazing, though. Osprey brand, it is gray and has a pocket for everything! And it's big enough for pretty much anything I could take with me, but small enough so I don't weigh it down with useless shit, as I tend to do. It is messenger-style with a waist strap, so it is easy on my back and my bum neck. That's good. I think it is even waterproof (but not sure)! One thing is for sure, 80% of it is made from recycled material. And that's good.

Hiking shoes. Probably smart, though after only a month? Well, yes. My tennis shoes, in all their gorgeousness and reliability, are not really meant for rocks and trails and mud. I'll clean them up and continue their intended purpose at the gym.  To my credit, I got these at DSW, they were about $75 cheaper than the exact ones at REI. So I'm happy with this.

Dry Sacs. These are amazing! The keep all your shit dry! When empty, they roll up all itsy-bitsy and can fit anywhere (for example, in my new pack)! Just shake it out, put the stuff in it I don't want to be harmed by the lake I could fall in as I dare-devil across rocks to get a picture or as we are standing in the wake of a waterfall, and YAY! dryness!

One thing that won't be in my handy-dandy dry sac is my new Rite-in-the-Rain journal. Waterproof! "WATERPROOF?  What?   Really?”, you say? Well, I don't really know. I'll let you know, though. I haven't yet had occasion to test it out. But the idea of it superseded the price tag on it and I had to have it!

Convinced of my obsessiveness yet?  Well, I also bought a t-shirt from Raccoon Mountain last weekend.  It says "Chattanooga Survivor" on the back.  I don't know why I thought that was so funny.  But I still think it's funny, so it was a good purchase.  I hope to have it in the budget to buy more silly t-shirts as the journeys continue.

...“I made it through the wilderness...somehow I made it through...” keeps running through my head. I can't help it...

So all this. Four, soon to be five trips into the woods. But here's the thing. I don't even really know if I like hiking yet. How crazy is that!

Here's what I like about hiking. I like taking pictures. I like looking at the wonder of nature. I like to exercise. I like to see different things, things that are not cluster homes and mcmansions and strip malls. I like hanging out with a friend and talking the day away. I like going to places I would never go otherwise, small towns and back roads. I appreciate that we have not once eaten at a chain restaurant while on these excursions, except for the mandatory stop at Starbucks before exiting the suburbs.

Here is what I do not like about hiking: I do not like that I have lived here for nearly twenty years and had no idea that all this beauty and life was around me. I feel like my eyes have been snapped open. I'm serious – in nearly TWENTY YEARS I had no idea that hundreds of destinations of beauty were within an hour, maybe two tops, of my front door.

In spite of my indecisiveness, I plan to continue. In fact, Tara and I are signing up for the Canyon Climbers Club. Once we complete the four specified trails, they will give us a t-shirt! (I love t-shirts!) And we have an on-going list of hikes we want to go on, a list that seems to grow every day.

I'm looking for books about hiking, too. I'm a beginner and a reader and an English major. That means I must read. MUST READ. One of my character traits is that I must know everything about everything, especially if I am participating in said thing.

I am particularly interested in hiking in Georgia, Tennessee, and North Carolina. Maybe Alabama, too, if it is close enough to home. Day hikes only – I am not a camper! If you have any suggestions on books that have been helpful for you, please send the names this way. If the books are available used (as in not super-new, a year or two – maybe five? - years old), and I could get a stack for a reasonable price, all the better!  Or, if you have hiked anywhere you think I should check out, please send out the name.

I will probably be writing a good bit about hiking in the coming posts. Other than my sister's bachelorette party in Florida next weekend and her wedding the weekend after, that's how I'm spending my free time. Please feel free to leave your experience (if you have any), concerns, well-wishes, funny stories, encouraging words, or criticisms of my new hobby below. I am sure I will benefit from each one!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Sheer Fucking Pride and Stupidity

“I wanted to be a writer, that's all. I wanted to write about it all. Everything that happens in a moment. The way the flowers looked when you carried them in your arms. This towel, how it smells, how it feels, this thread. All our feelings, yours and mine. The history of it, who we once were. Everything in the world. Everything all mixed up, like it's all mixed up now. And I failed. I failed. No matter what you start with it ends up being so much less. Sheer fucking pride and stupidity.”

~Richard Brown, character in The Hours by Michael Cunningham

This is my goal. Well, up until the line “And I failed...”

I want to be a writer. I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was thirteen years old. Good god, has it really been twenty years? Wow. Sometimes, I just don’t know where the time goes...

I found out that I could write by accident. But I loved it immediately. I found out that this crazy imagination and my ability to store everything could turn into something amazing if I put it in sentences and applied the rules of grammar. When my humor seeped through my pen, it was magical. When I put that pen against the paper, I felt a freedom I had never known.

Why did it take so long? Why didn’t I know this before I was thirteen? Mainly because I spent the first years of my little life riding my bike and playing on the playground and climbing trees. I love the outdoors. I was too busy to sit down and concentrate on a thought. I lived in a small town and I didn’t ever have to be home after school. I played.

When we moved to a larger town, that kind of stopped. I still played sports, but the freedom and bike rides and tree climbing had to stop. So I became a home-body. Then, in seventh grade, I had an English teacher that blew my mind. She taught us parts of speech and grammar and writing. I totally got it! Though I already knew about the parts of speech (I can still name all 23 helping verbs), there was something about her style made it really interesting. And she liked my writing.  I found it effortless, which in my young mind meant I wasn’t really trying. She pulled me aside and told me that one does not equal the other. It is, in fact, the exact opposite. Effortless equals gift.

I began to try this thing out.

Was I a poet? Sort-of.  But not really.

Was I a non-fiction writer? No.

Could I make up crazy funny stories? Yes.

Could I write if you tell me what to write and how long to make it and exactly what it is supposed to be about? Only well enough to get the grade.

Does writing soothe me? Most definitely.

Does writing excite the hell out me?  Oh yeah!

I began trying to write like the writers that inspired me. I thought I could be the next Virginia Woolf (minus the drowning in the lake part). I have been reading since I was three, so I had vast material to go on. I thought maybe I had a little Shel Silverstein in me, crossed with some Judy Blume.

I wanted my writing to be relatable. But, at thirteen, how do you know what relatable is? I knew I related to Judy Blume books more than The Babysitter’s Club, but only now I know it is not because I wanted freckles, and I certainly did not want boobs!. (For the record, it is because Ms. Blume wrote about real life, all wrapped up in a funny little bow.)

I continued to read. I would spend hours in Barnes & Noble, searching for the perfect next read, or maybe two. I am notorious for reading three, sometimes four, books at once. I can’t stop reading, and if I don’t have the book I started with me, I’ll just pick up another one. (And I’m not very organized in the morning, so that happens a lot!)

Somewhere along the line, I picked up The Hours by Michael Cunningham. Wow. That book turned me around. It gave Mrs. Dalloway an amazing life – a human life, across three time periods. It nudged me read Virginia Woolf’s books again, and fall in love with her all over again. It brought pen to paper, seeing things around me again, as I had not seen them – from the writer’s perspective – in many, many years.

As I related to Richard, a famous writer though totally dissatisfied with where life had plopped him down, I began to feel. When the movie came out, I rushed to the theater and came out rejuvenated. I wrote like crazy for a long time.

But then I majored in English in college, thinking it would only reinforce me. Not so much. I became discouraged by the necessity and the rules and the lack of freedom.

So I stopped.


Writing was no longer fun, it was for a grade.

I graduated eight months ago. I’ve been doing this blog for about a month. I really wanted to start writing again. I really began to miss it. And so far, it gives me the high I remember.

Why do I tell you this? All day Friday, this quote was in my head. I watched the clock, counting down the minutes until quitting time so I could write about wanting to be a writer. Sometimes a thought comes to me, and I have to write it on my wrist to remember it. (I usually don’t write on my hand because I am obsessive about washing my hands.) This one required no wrist-notes. I knew it. I knew that I wanted to tell you about how I came to write. I knew I wanted to share with you how one little paragraph in a great big book and a movie that changed my life.  I wrote it as soon as work was over Friday.  This is the first chance I've had to type it in.

I guess I am a writer in cycles. I am happy to be back in the circle of writing again. My life is tons better during the days and weeks and months when I am actively pursuing this. I have an outlook on life that can encompass life from many perspectives. I see life differently when I’m writing, because little things inspire me. I want to write about the big things, yes. But also the little things – “…This towel, how it smells, how it feels, this thread.…”

Thank you for indulging me in my quest.