Darling Ruby: tang, zest, a shot of pollen to the chest. The type of bullet, like words, that could raise an untethered body from gray depths. Not so definite as dead (who has certainty these days? Please, overnight it FedEx)—more like floating from one pretty thing to the next, filling a leaky cup. A bumblebee without natural instinct. It doesn’t mean to but it could sting.
Which want is braver? To be cremated after death or buried in the ground? I always thought I’d like to be cremated–something to do with my soul being freed from my body. Flying would be the ultimate treat. But that sounds delightful only if I don’t have to feel the inferno. Do people want to stay intact underground because they’re afraid of burning to ash? I figured I’d be dead by then and unable to feel, but if burning dead is just as traumatic as burning to death, then count me out. Flying won’t come to me at that expense.
Picture: a patchwork quilt. Charbroiled patches mixed in with clean white squares, the kind of fabric you make pillow cases with, or build a home on. Untouched zones full of debris, unwanted squares of land because they’re too barren. Barren. A negative connotation even though it’s strongest because a fire can’t destroy a land of nothing. Hurt doesn’t phase a body that has felt it all before. Words can’t make you cry when they’ve been thrown at you before.
That’s how this patchwork quilt wildland fire prevention is going to work, and I think they’re onto something. I imagine a neapolitan looking quilt–smoke gray as the dark chocolate, thirsty red pine needles as the strawberry, and a beige sage brush as the vanilla bean. Pine green sprinkled throughout–a pistachio topping, if you’re into that sort of thing.
Until now, they’ve been putting out fires left and right. North and South. East and West. It’s like your work email inbox on a Monday morning when you took Friday afternoon off except that people are burning to death, choking to death, getting trampled by evacuation orders.
Can you imagine: your neurotic, fear aggressive dog in an evacuation shelter? Your preemie baby having to leave their specialty nursery? Your grandmother on oxygen being moved out of her home of 50 years as waves of smoke move in?
They’re saying we need to drop the “new” from “this is the new normal.” This is normal. Summer wildfires are normal. I’ve been wondering when the wildland firefighter draft is going to start. Eventually, I’m going to paint my house sage green with a redwood stain trim, if it doesn’t burn down before then. Either way, it’ll fit right into one of those patches on the quilt.
I don’t believe in writer’s block. People who talk about writer’s block don’t see writing as a skill–they see it as a means to an end. Excuse you, but, the writing IS the thing. It’s not blocking anything. It’s right in front of you–word after word after word. Okay, being a bit more empathetic here: there is one tried-and-true way to beat “writer’s block.” Are you ready?
Look here. You can write as many shitty sentences as you want, then backspace them to smithereens. No one will know. I love this power. It reminds me of when I pick up a book that is absolutely not giving me what I want, and so I throw it on the ground. I have that power. I’m allowed to do that. Yas.
Fine, I have more tips. In my experience, writing flows more easily when you’re not stuck in your head. Whatever “gets you out of your head” is personal preference. For me, it’s getting the fuck out of my house, and drinking ONE beer (okay fine two) in the corner of the local brewery. They know me here, so they don’t care. The chairs are uncomfortable, so I don’t fall asleep. The beer is complex, so I sip and don’t gulp. This is the process. It lasts.
Of course, I’ve been hoarding my recent writing from all of you. Many pages of micro-nonfictions have been sitting on a virtual shelf, hiding in a virtual drawer, because I figured maybe one day I’ll turn these ideas into a book, so I must save them from the public. I’m finally calling bullshit on myself. I’m not going to turn these musings into a book anytime soon. And even if I were to, they would be different, polished, matured (just–way better. I am a writer for god’s sake. I know I write like a blogger here, but come on, I know my audience–are you there?).
Anyway, I decided to start publishing these little nuggets on my blog because that’s what it’s for, right? And because I listened to Jenna Kutcher’s Goal Digger podcast for the first time today. I happened to tune into her interview with Morgan Harper Nichols. It’s funny–one of my friends recommended Ms. Nichols’ music recently and I thought it was great, but it wasn’t tickling my fancy at the time, so I dropped it. When I heard her speak on the podcast today, I thought: “This woman is a kindred spirit to me.” And I rarely think that about anyone (I’m such a hater). Like, damn.
Morgan’s last bit of advice was to not hide what you have to offer the world. Stop hiding your story, blah blah, put it out there because someone might benefit from reading it. That’s how she got started. Of course, she’s a wonderful light of a human being who brings people up without trying… Well, I’m not going to humor myself–let’s be honest–my writing is cynical, self-centered, and comes from a privileged perspective (check yourself). But the thing that both Morgan and Jenna beamed about with their work was finally feeling like they were writing for someone instead of for no one. It reminded me how good it feels to have people read your work and say “I liked that.” I’ve felt it before, and who knows, maybe I’ll feel it again. I’m going to stop hiding my words. They’re just words.
I thought having dogs while working from home would get old one day. Seeing the same faces, doing the same thing, being forced to live in routine for once. I’ve found out that it won’t get old.
Dogs love routine—they need the one, two, three, sit, wait, break kind of life to excel. Humans need some sort of in-between. Not too much routine. Not too much instability. I think this is why I roll in and out of my writing life, and all other parts of my life for that matter. Food, drink, friends, pastimes, book styles, movie genres, location, obsessions, even lovers. Living in a four seasons region helps. You can’t snowboard year-round. You can’t mountain bike year-round. The solid two months of sweater weather must be taken advantage of. Frumpy and comfy lasts all winter if you want. But you have to switch it up eventually and buy razors come spring.
I’m finding the in-between: spontaneity alongside stability. Forever learning and forever making, yet figuring out how to forever be content with the anchors I’ve placed into my life. Reminding myself that forever is a relative term and that time can be short or long. At least I know the dogs will make me smile every morning, forever for them.
Essence comes only after existence. You have life, but what will you make of it? This is what old white dudes like Sartre and Nietzsche thought about. Despite their relative distance from my own life (in time and society), this maxim holds truth, especially when it comes to physical health.
If you replace “existence” with “exercise”—I’m not a fit freak, just go with it—what do you choose as the essence, the significance that stems from exercise? Like any good philosophical dialogue, these ideas can be difficult to put into words. But for me, the essence of exercise is—essentially—to have fun in nature with good people. The idea is simple enough, yet it envelops all the activities I do for exercise: backpacking, biking, snowboarding, splitboarding, paddle boarding, etc. 1) I get to have fun, 2) I get to be in nature, and 3) I get to hang out with cool people.
Your “essence” could be the family-type community that comes with being a member of a Cross Fit or cycling gym. Or it could be the accomplishment of training for and finishing triathlons or other races. Existence comes before essence, and exercise shows up somewhere in between.
In essence, most of us who exercise do it for the process as well as the effect—much like art, or any other task that takes you on a journey involving many emotions and states of mind. Just as the effect of exercise has been existential to my physical health, the process of exercise has been existential to my mental and emotional growth. It has helped me to be calmer, to be tougher, to create lasting relationships. It has taught me to—in the words of contemporary female philosophers Salt-N-Pepa—”push it real good.” And it has been very good.
On the closing weekend of Sierra Club’s Bradley Hut, nine Tahoe Backcountry Women hiked and skied miles of high sierra terrain, sipped on whiskey and tequila, slept on crinkly air pads, took their socks off, put their heads in, built a brand, cooked delicious backcountry food, “made” water, gambled away money, laughed ’til tears, and picnicked the sh*t out of a sunny meadow. I was lucky enough to have been in on the fun.
I went into this backcountry ski touring trip thinking it would be one of the coolest things I’ve done. It was. The experience was inspiring, motivating, encouraging, hilarious, memorable, and needless to say, skwerly.
I’m grateful to have met Ariel, Rochelle, Lisa (Cheesel), and Shannon—now I have more badass women to play with. Robin is the funniest diva mom out there, and holds it down as the Ultralight Face of Skwerl. Whitney is the Queen of All—creator of Tahoe Backcountry Women and crossword extraordinaire. Last but not least, a shoutout to my beautiful and smart lady-buds Jenn and Kellie, who are always down for a ride or hike or beer, who listen to my bullshit, who I’m proud to call my close friends. Here’s some shaky-hand, bad-angle footie I threw together.