Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Writing for my rent

A portion of my rent, to live here in North Asheville with an old friend, includes writing one piece of fiction a month.

He insisted. I resisted for five months. He threatened to evict me.

My fiction blog, Then The Radio Died, pre-dated The Wilder Coast by three years, but has been more or less abandoned.

If you'd like to visit and read the ongoing saga of Eve and The Lunatics, head on over to this very strange little place. It can be a little shadowy and even sometimes smokey.
All the art you'll see over there is courtesy of Ali Walsh. It may haunt you.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The very slow

Spring came last Sunday and then it was gone. I went for a long bike ride with a girl named Holli. It was warm and sixty degrees out. We pedaled for miles, in short sleeves up a winding road to a junction of trails on the top of a mountain. From there we could see all of Asheville and the surrounding county, miles of bare trees beneath a blue sky.

The snow came on Wednesday, and the town shut down for days.
I loved the coziness, the park at night filled with people hollering and sliding on their odd assortment of makeshift sleds- cookie trays and canoes amongst them, but I no longer want school to be shut down. It just slow things down.

I want to go to school. I want to get through the text book as fast as possible. I want to finish this class and the next and the next, get into nursing school and then finish nursing school and become a nurse so that I can have a good income and be able to finally buy that really expensive blender that everyone has now.

You know the one.

But I'm at the bottom of the bottom of the bottom. I'm at the cellular level, chiseling away at things I learned in high school. Not that I can remember them, but I feel so thrown back. So completely humbled.

I'm starting all over with school, with my career, with these big pieces of my life. I go to community college in a mountain town in a state where I have no roots. The first day of class the professor asked if anyone had children, and just about every girl raised her hand. I have no children. And I have to study and study just to keep up. It feels surreal; I already went to college, I already have a degree. That doesn't matter. Being back in school is putting me in my place.

Silks is putting me in my place as well, which is to say it's kicking the shit out of me.
I love the nights spent at the aerial studio, with my instructor and a few other girls, the mirrored walls and the blue fabric hanging from the ceiling. It's been so cold at night and it's so nice to be in bright spaces. But it's hard, it's a harder sport than I ever imagined. And it hurts. It leaves angry burns behind your knees and across your chest. When Andrew pushes the knee of an upside down girl tightly against the silk you can hear her wince and cry out.

He'll say, "Don't worry, the spot will desensitize soon."

He told me I needed to wear cotton pants when I get to level two, because some of the drops are so fast they will cause polyester fabric to melt onto your skin.

When I first started, I didn't believe the twisted fabric could hold me up, so I clenched the silks in a death grip. I tried to fake my way through the climbs and poses by using all strength and no technique. The girls around me are doing mid-air splits and arching their legs above their heads, grabbing their feet.  I started waking up in the morning with stiff, swollen fingers. I would have to stop silks altogether if I didn't learn to let go.
I thought that because I already had a college degree, I'd never have to worry about registration dates and advisors and study guides again. I thought I'd already proved to the world that I was smart and responsible and that ought to be enough.

I thought that because I've been climbing for so long and people tell me I look strong, that I'd sail through aerial and blow everyone's mind and be asked to join the company. But I struggle with knee hooks and basic climbs, and I have to be reminded to breathe and to put my tongue back in my mouth, because it's an art, not a sport.

Starting is the most difficult part. Everything seems overwhelming and impossible. And I've started, thank goodness. But the long road to nursing school, the steady but so far paltry accumulation of knowledge, the painful practicing and tedious repetition of basic moves in the aerial studio, it all seems like very slowest process in the world.
I enjoy it mostly, even if it doesn't sound like I do. I love spending hours at the cafe in West Asheville, drinking coffee and coloring in sections of the human body. It reminds me of Seattle, of writing papers at Zokas at a huge wooden table with my friends studying at my side. But it's different this time, of course. And I feel like I need to rush, to get it done, like I've stared far too late and I'm already so far behind.

But there really is no speeding it up, there is only the very slow, the head down, the day by day.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

The Gloom

The gloom landed right after Christmas, as it always does. I was back in North Carolina, but the cold followed me all the way from New England and kept us all shut up in doors for days at a time. I worked from my desk, but work was slow, and there was very little to keep my mind occupied. Studying would have made the time go by much quicker, but school didn't start till the middle of January.

The dog curled into a useless crescent on top of my feet as I worked, alternatively sleeping and glaring at me, as if the polar vortex was a plot I invented to keep her penned inside. I took her for two brief walks every day, each one screaming cold for me, although she didn't seem to notice the freeze. They barely counted as exercise- we went around the block once, twice at most, and to assuage my guilt once back home, I'd treat her to excessive raw hide bones. At five dollars a bag they started to add up.
So did groceries. This is what I did with myself most days- drive to the grocery store a few blocks away and buy whatever I wanted, mostly stuff to make soup and bake. I'd go home, make it, eat it, burn the muffins, burn the cake, I burnt everything I tried to bake, but the soups came out well.

That was always a pleasant few hours each afternoon, coming home with groceries and opening up a Porter or a Black Mocha Stout and starting to chop onions and celery, the radio playing in the background. Then the soup would be done, provide a good degree of satisfaction, then I'd eat it, clean up, and be back to nothing. Around dinner, I'd repeat the whole process.
I said to a friend, "I feel like my days are made of this: making little messes, cleaning up after myself, doing it again. I need school to start."

I really needed school to start. I hadn't been to school in seven years, since graduating college, with the exception of the EMT class. The idea of returning was making me fidgety, especially because I'm looking at three years of straight math and sciences.

Once there was a snow day called, and all the schools were cancelled. It wasn't really a snow day because there was no snow on the ground. It was a cold day. Due to unprecedented cold....the announcement began. It was below zero. My boyfriend got to stay home, and we played card games and drank orange liquor and whiskey out of little glasses. I hate the taste of whiskey but it seemed right for the situation. That day felt more cheerful than the others.
January is a gloomy month wherever you are. Here in Asheville we tried to break out of it by going skiing at Cataloochie mountain. We went at night to beat the crowds, but the crowds were there anyway. It was black and icy with people falling down the mountain all around us. It was like playing a game of human dodge ball. We decided not to go again. Save the lift pass money in a jar and one day have enough to build a cabin in the cascades. Or go out to a movie.
I've had a few more of those Seattle dreams, always the same. I'm back in my old neighborhood cafe, staring at my phone deciding who do call first. I'm overwhelmed to tears to be back in that city, but I can never get the numbers on the phone to work. I always wake up with wet eyes, feeling like I just cried for a long time.

But they're just dreams. As much as I miss that place, I'm so desperately happy that I moved here. January is January wherever you are.  My life is cranking away here, towards something tangible, it feels much closer then it ever has before. That feeling provides an overwhelming sense of relief.

Monday, January 6, 2014

13 awesome things from 2013

Here are 13 phenomena that I was introduced to, or happily re-introduced to, in 2013. 

Very different than 2012 I'd say, but still phenomenal. 
1. Rope swings. Cliff jumping, deep water soloing, and other ways to end up from air into water. With friends and dogs and cans of good Seattle beer. 
2. Blue glass. In the spring, I asked for donations for the blog. The response was stunning; I was overwhelmed with generosity and support of all kinds from readers. The next few months were spent searching for sea glass on the washington beaches and writing thank you letters at the anchored ship cafe.
3. Mountain biking. I dove into the sport as a beginner, and it has allowed me the endurance, exploration and independence I desperately needed in this new place. 
4. Writing. At the beginning of the year, this blog was my life. I wrote openly about almost everything and was rewarded with connections from across the world, the instant satisfaction that comes with daily publishing and reading all the comments as they pour in, all types of recognition, and a platform that always seemed a heartbeat away from springing me towards writing a book. It was thrilling.

When my friends and the people around me found good jobs, got engaged, bought houses and had kids, I had this blog. And even in the face of all their achievements, that felt like a real accomplishment.  I believed that if I could keep up the wicked pace I was writing, I could turn this thing, somehow, into a career. 

Sometime around my move to Asheville, which I intended to write about in great detail, things started to shift. Not everyone in my daily life wanted to be written about. The inundation of climbing and back county ski trips ground to a halt as I felt my way around a new corner of the country. I chose not to write anything about things that happened between me and other people, realizing for once that they were not entirely my story to tell. 

And while North Carolina is spectacularly beautiful, I'll say this: nothing photographs as dramatically as Washington state. 

By December, I realized I could not have a popular personal blog and a happy and peaceful personal life, so for now, I'm choosing the personal life. One that includes more fiction, and writing on the side that I really hope becomes a book some day. The blog is not going away, it's just getting scaled back a whole lot. For now. 
5. IRL. This year I met other bloggers in person. Jenn, Kelle, Melody, more visits with Nici and (virtually) Anna Lola. People who I can talk to about phenomenon #4, and they get it. Some people will tell you (right to your face, directly after you tell them you write a blog) that writing on the internet is a waste of time, but I can't agree with that. There are real people behind these sites. They are very funny and smart, and some of them have beach-side condos and really nice espresso machines that they are very generous with. 
6. Goodbyes. To a city I lived in for 11 years. To all the people who lived there. 

Although that one hasn't settled in yet. 

7. Road trips. Just the dog and I. Around March I realized if I moved around a lot I never felt to sad, so off I went: Whistler, the San Juan islands, Montana, Florida, and the ultimate American road trip, The Great Pacific Northwest to the Appalachian mountains in eight days. 
8. Skiing. A few friends and I, mostly girls, set about teaching ourselves how to ski in enormous powder- backcountry and lifts. We celebrated every day of Vajanuary at Steven's Pass, did our work from the lodge, filled four hours in the car together each day with talking and music and coffee. We met a lot of new people, studied avalanche conditions, skinned hungover into the Alpental backcountry, celebrated the New Year at Whistler, volunteered for races and festivals, slept in yurts, basked in sunny inversions, poached hot tubs, and ended up in the ER from time to time. 

I'm not sure anything has ever brought so much excitement into my life in one huge season.  
9. The Southeast. I moved to Asheville in August just to try it out. I spent a lot of time on front porches and ate a lot of biscuits, the sunlight appears to be year-round, the town is small, I fell in love with a North Carolina boy and there are more christian radio stations than I can count. 
10. Climbing trips. After a whole winter away from the climbing gym, I sort of exploded into the outdoors as soon as the sun returned. Every weekend from spring until mid summer when I left Seattle. We topped out in Squamish, Idaho and all over Washington. Mostly with my friends Amber and Rip, and with a roving cast of characters who were mostly new to me. I led a lot of pitches and read a lot of guidebooks and continued to fail at bouldering.      
11. Green smoothies. Actually more of a life changer than it would seem.  
12. I had a job. A real-life tech job that did not involve boats, kids, or kayaking. I visited Milwaukee, and fourteen other cities in less than a year. Microsoft Excel terrified me when I began this job, and it terrifies me only a tiny bit less now. This job entailed a huge amount of airplanes, hotels, stress and new stuff, but it enabled me to move to Asheville, to afford a season of skiing, and to go on a hundred road trips.   
13. Brand new people. Starting from scratch in a new place is lonely, but I got really lucky. Erich spent almost every work day studying next to me, and we took elaborate lunch hour field trips. I also re-met my boyfriend, who is a ridiculously awesome phenomenon in and of himself.  But he doesn't care to be written about. Or have photos posted. Which is too bad, he's gorgeous. 

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

FAQ - Round 2 - raw dogs and north dakota eludes me

Ladies & Gentlemen, boys & girls, lads "n'" lasses, here is round two of FAQ - Finally Answer the damn Questions. Round one is here, although I could sum it up for you right now: I have this job and I went to UW, go dawgs.

6. Have you been to all 50 states? 
When I was a precocious 19 year old, I began a quest I called '48 before 21.' My goal- to visit all the lower 48 states by the time I was 21.

I failed. By the time I could legally drink alcohol, I hadn't even been to Montana, which was two states away. Also, at the time, I was counting airport layovers as a legitimate 'visits' which I've since been told is truly reproachable behavior.

I'm almost 29 now, and I've been to every state except Hawaii and North Dakota. I keep hoping work will send me to North Dakota, but I don't see that happening. Still, a girl can hope! Come on, Bismarck public housing authorities!

7. What happened with the raw/vegan thing?
So I never intended to go completely raw or vegan.

I did think about eating primarily raw because at the time I lived in Seattle (it's big in Seattle) and I was rather heartbroken, and when I'm heartbroken I like to temporarily immerse myself in severe nutrition trends.

I quickly became disenchanted with the idea. The 80 dollar pan of raw peanutbutter and jelly bars put me over the edge.

Also, I'm completely un-heartbroken now and I eat whateverthehell. Absolutely whatever I want. It's become an issue. Just yesterday, I had to talk myself down from buying a bottle of champagne to drink while making dinner with my boyfriend.

I really think, said rational me, that you should save Champagne for when you have something special to celebrate. 

Something special to celebrate? Irrational me shot back.  We're making soup together! 

What could be more celebratory?

 Either way, I didn't buy it. Victory.

8. How did Hometeam get her name?
I once visited the distant island of Western Samoa. While I was there I built a toilet or something.

One of the islands was infested with cute puppies. The islanders spoke Samoan, but they had an English nickname for all the puppies- they called them all 'Hometeam.'

I decided this was the best name for a dog, ever. Hands down.

Five or six years later I had this terrible boyfriend. Just terrible. He had his moments, but still. Anyway, I told him my very special and secret dog name. He thought it was fantastic. When we broke up, he told me "I'm going to steal your dog name. And I'm obviously in more of a position to get a dog, so I'll probably get one first."

Three weeks later I picked out Hometeam.

Him: still no dog. I should add he's no longer so terrible.
That concludes round 2, thanks for playing everyone!