Walking in the Snow

One step at a time is good walking.
– Chinese proverb

It snowed last week. Pretty, soft snow that stuck to the trees and cars and sidewalks, wet and melty and cold and peaceful.

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Knee-high snow in my knee-high mukluks.

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Sometimes I can only take things one step at a time. Eight months ago, “one step at a time” was very purposeful, keenly directed, survival-mode walking. Get a job. Get a home. Get a car. Process. Grieve. Calm down. Breathe. Don’t forget to eat food sometimes. Once every few days, put on clean socks and get out of the apartment.

Things these days are a little more erratic and all over the map. Some days I feel so hopeful and have so many ideas, and I write really well and I run really hard and I feel so good that I think I’m maybe better off in some ways than I was a year ago. Some days I feel frustrated and sad. Some days I long so deeply for the life I left behind that it makes my teeth hurt. One step at a time means something different now. Go to work. Write poetry. Have fancy cocktails at fancy bars with girlfriends. Register for another creative writing class next semester. Cry and eat Nutella straight out of the jar. Walk around the icy lake drinking a latte, watching birds and talking with a great friend, dreaming about the future. Buy hiking boots for a trip that I haven’t even started planning yet.

My imagination of what the future will be, my 5-year “plan,” the fantasizing about travel and backpacking in Europe and going back to Antarctica and getting hired to work for a travel magazine, it’s going to my head. I find myself making plans that are loosely structured around things that I have no good reason to believe will ever happen. I guess that’s the point of dreaming though, right? What’s your 5-year dream plan?

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Single Ladies Go Downtown and the Shortest Taxi Ride Ever

As a part of my self improvement regimen I’m trying to become a little less rigid, a little more spontaneous, and a lot more fun. Not in a way that betrays who I am, just to relax a little and get out of my comfort zone which is, coincidentally, about the size of my couch. Last night I went to a show in downtown with a single lady friend and dropped fifty bucks to see a band I hadn’t heard of until last week. We danced as hard as we could in our assigned nosebleed seats of the Historic Orpheum Theater and Heather did her best to try and chat up the guys standing next to us, but they weren’t having it, so we just enjoyed our drinks and tried not to spill them on the heads of the folks in front of us. We spent a lot of time identifying from afar who looked like the most fun, and the prize went to the guy in the blue shirt who looked like he had literally just rolled out of bed, hair all sticky-uppy and a drink in each hand, rocking out, punching the air with his beer bottles. There was also the guy who spent the entire show glued to his phone checking football scores, which would have been less funny if he wasn’t dancing the entire time (maintaining a very steady hand and a straight gaze into the screen). It was a really fun show: there were banjos and basketballs and mohawks and a lot of great beats. Check out the chandelier: I looked it up online and the thing weighs 2,000 pounds.

We went out for a drink at the jukebox bar next door afterwards, mingling with the superfans, taking our time until it was time to go. We found ourselves just a few minutes later in a deserted parking ramp with a dead engine, lights left on in the car, and panicked a bit until we decided that, rather than taking a taxi home and avoiding the problem until tomorrow, we could pay the taxi driver to come into the parking ramp and open his engine to Heather’s jumper cables. Sweet, sweet success.

Open Book: on writing, on classes, on not-travel.

I took a writing class at The Loft in the Open Book building in Minneapolis, ascetic but warm and inviting. There are classrooms and workshops, huge heavy printing presses and stacks and stacks of art books that seep simple beauty.

One of the things I’ve been struggling with lately is finding my writing voice as a person who lives in one place and goes to a normal job—at least for the time being—if I don’t travel, what will I write about? If I don’t write, where can I go? Am I writing for myself or for other people? I’m perfectly aware that many great writers are not constantly deluged with stimuli the way you are when traveling; that a good writer can take a very ordinary thing and make it compelling. Traveling made writing easy for me because I just had to write what was immediately in front of me and there was always something new and lots of things that weren’t ordinary at all. I suppose my challenge now is to find a way to write about things that are not that.

It is starting to become more real to me that I am not leaving for Antarctica this year. As my friends and colleagues scramble to get their contracts, to pack their lives into boxes to place in storage, to fill their suitcases with belongings they need for many months away from home, to get their medical screenings taken care of, I am very aware of things settling down in my life, not winding up. For the past two years the end of summer was the end of my time in Minnesota, and the beginning of a huge trip with long plane rides and new cities and cold, breathtaking arrivals heavy with meaning. Even though I know it’s the right decision to stay home, and even if only for a few seasons, it still hurts to remove myself from the velocity of that lifestyle.

And I have to think harder about what to write.

I always enjoyed school and I like taking classes like this one at The Loft because it helps me to hear other peoples’ takes on similar assignments. I like hearing other people read the same poem I just read, but in a different voice, because it helps me pull back from my own myopic interpretation of its words. I like being immersed in the output of others because it makes me think harder about what I produce, and because for me creativity begets creativity. The more I read and look at art and listen to music and watch performances, the more excited I get to write, to make, to dance.

NPX-ZCM-CHC…&MSP

I left as the 24 hour rotating shadows were starting to become a little longer at South Pole, the wind getting sharper, the population getting smaller and more saturated with people getting ready to stay for their winter, bonding with each other and letting go, in a way because they have to, of summer contractors.

From the plane, hearing the drone of the props, watching the map underneath us change from flat white nothing to the volcanic soil of the mountains and coast, glacier tongues literally melting into sheer, vast open water, to sea ice. The view, visually overwhelming, seems to elicit poetic thoughts from even the most unlikely of mouths.

Being on McMurdo’s runway, letting comparatively temperate air and sun touch our ears, cheeks, necks, starved for that sensation. We watched firefighters shoo a penguin off the runway.

The stress of work peels away on that plane like a sheath of irrelevance—things that were immensely important just a few days before mean nothing at all now; it’s a blissful release, an absolution but also a kind of sad amnesia, because friends are invested in the same issues for the length of the winter season and it feels like giving up, abandoning them in a way.

Off the aircraft and though customs, the sweet New Zealand night air smelled like grass and flowers and rotten leaves, fresh or perhaps imminent rain (rain!), the sky dark and the moon ringed in a cloudy little rainbow. The group made the motions of the unceremonious chaos, dropping gear off at the CDC and boarding a shuttle, realizing that for the first time in a long time, you’re surrounded entirely by people you’ve never met.

The next day, waiting for and sitting through Daniel’s surgery, wondering at the pigeons outside the windows and the wind agitating the mature trees, wondering what happens if there’s an earthquake and they’re mid-surgery; wondering who was in the middle of surgery during the last earthquake and what happened to them, and then trying not to wonder that. And then it was over and he came rolling back up the hall in his bed and hospital gown. He’s totally fine now, no evidence of anything ever having been wrong.

We spent a week in Wanaka, south of Christchurch, soaking in a hot tub with friends and eating avocados, drinking bloody marys, decompressing from the season.

And here we are at home. It’s good to be back. Keep watching for more photos… there are plenty I want to share with you now that I’m back in the lands of plentiful internet.

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

I traveled to Romania to tour the castles!

Well, not exactly.

I work at a kids’ day camp in Minneapolis and St. Paul called Leonardo’s Basement– a really cool organization that focuses on art, science and technology for kids of all ages. Every year, we have a one week class dedicated to building a cardboard castle from lumber, screws, refrigerator boxes and creativity: a full size, two story, five-towered beast of a playhouse.

We start on Monday morning with a few puzzle pieces laid out for the kids, get to know each others’ names, go over safety (basic safety and also use of specific tools).

Monday

 

Tuesday Teamwork!

 

Catwalks and Towers assembled, Tuesday

On Wednesday, we added cardboard walls.

Wednesday

 

Wednesday

On Thursday we practiced swordplay…

A student practicing safe swordplay with Julian, the teacher responsible for the magical mayhem

staged scrimmages…

and put a few finishing touches on the castle.

On Friday, we went over rules and prepared for battle.

Handcrafted by the kid himself: duct tape armor

And then, we scrambled to our defensive posts…

and fought off the attacking army…

Attack!

and there weren’t too many casualties…

Don't worry, he's just pretending.

and all around had a pretty good time!