Outside

June 30, 2014

It had been two weeks since I ventured out into the woods. So caught up in my own head, in my own bullshit, I decided to take a break from being myself for a little while.

That might not make sense. I don’t really care. But I did go back into the woods this weekend, on a quest to catch some perspective.

There is this thing that happens, I suppose, at least it happens to me, when I am in the midst of a project, I might get a little too caught up in it. It could then twist me so much and turn me about that I don’t much care for anything else but thinking about the project.

I have been writing around 350 words a night, and have just passed what I estimate to be the halfway point of this current project. Even when I feel a bit stuck inside my own head, I write. Every damn night, I write. Afterwards, I like to get out of my comfort zone, go to places I have never been to before, or to places that have changed drastically since I last saw them.

I like to sit in places I’ve no reason to. Sit and think and stare up at the sky, at the surrounding trees. Listen to whatever sounds might happen, to whatever voices get carried to my ears. And really, really see. And truly, honestly hear.

Another important rule of writing: fill the tanks. I will jokingly refer to my brain as the factory of ideas. But it’s a fair enough assessment. And when the factory runs short on fuel, it needs more. The factory is a needful thing. And so I read whatever I can, absorb whatever words are not my own, get outside of my wheelhouse, and let all kinds of art filter into the void, filling the tanks, until they’re almost brimming with artistic energy.

Sometimes, I topple the tanks and fill them all over again. All the while, I keep writing something, even if it’s just a page a day, just to make progress, just to get some art out. Just to shake out the crazies.

And then there are days like today, when the tanks are full, but I am not sure where I want to go. Days like this, I really need to get out of my own headspace. So today I went walking around the neighborhood, letting the wheels spin, waiting for the factory lights to turn on, and for some words to spill out.

About halfway through the walk, the words began to take shape, or an idea began to form, really. Something that would push the stalled story along, get it moving towards the ending, especially now that the ending is nigh.

I went home, and I typed a mess of nonsense. It’ll all make sense in revisions. It’s all getting me closer to the ending of this project. And then the next one. And the one after that. Thing about this factory of ideas is that it’s taken a long time to secure the foundation, get it working all right. Now, I think it’s in a prime location, and it hits all the sweet notes in my head, and the writing is fine… it’s time to let it all outside, and see where it flies.

Recurring Themes

June 15, 2014

I have been having this weird recurring dream lately. For some reason, I am at my old elementary school, and it looks all different. I would expect it to look different, first of all, because nothing really is as you remember it from when you were a little kid. I don’t remember any specifics of the dream(s), other than the place.

I went to my hometown for awhile this weekend, and one of the things that happens when I visit my parents is that I usually take their little white dog for a car ride. It’s like her favorite thing ever, and it’s just fun to see her with her head out the window, tongue hanging out, enjoying the frak out of “bye-byes in the car.”

When I’m feeling lazy, I’ll just let the dog in the car, pull out of the driveway, back in, and then let her out of the car like she went on an actual car ride. Or I’ll just take her around the block. This time, I drove the full length of the street, and I thought about the lady who lived down the street when we were kids, who I rode the bus with to high school, who went to sleep one night this past February and never woke up. And I thought about walking to school with my mom, and riding bikes with my brothers. I noticed a lot more dead trees than I’d noticed last year, and places where trees used to be.

By the time I reached the end of the street, I thought about the recurring dream, and so I drove past the old elementary school. That’s how I found out it had a new name, and I was reminded of the name of the street where it is, which coincidentally is a name the street shares with my parents’ little white dog.

I drove around the block, taking a route my mom and I used to walk sometimes when I moved back home for a little while after my marriage imploded. I thought a little bit about paths walked time and again, old roads traveled, and the places they eventually lead.

All of this, I think, ties into the new story I am writing. I have been working on trying to figure out how to explain it to people. It’s about a journey, but it’s also about ending up places without knowing the destination. Kinda how a person can feel like their actions are taking them one place, but they find they have ended up someplace else entirely. And maybe that place is better than they had even imagined. Or maybe it is worse… but I think if the ultimate goal is to grow and learn and be better, the road is going to lead to a better place, somehow, some way.

The story I am writing is intended to be a bit like a fable, or a legend. Like a fairy tale handed down generation to generation. It is something I have thought about a lot, something to use as a unifying force in all my work, because that is a thing I strongly feel I need to write into my worlds. It works on several different levels, in many different kinds of stories, and it works in my head, because sometimes you get to writing, and you find you are writing the same story over and over, whatever one you need to tell. The characters and situations may change, but at the core of the tale is the same molten lump of truth. So I am specifically getting that nugget out there, in short bursts of just over 300 words a night. I like to stop when I am in mid-scene, so that I can pick right up the next day. I have never really written like that before, so this is a cool experiment with my process.

So far, I am almost at 7k words into this project. I have nine parts mapped out, very vaguely, and pages upon pages of notebook scratchings about the story, most of which I jotted down while listening to bands at various venues around town. I am trying not to edit too heavily as I go. I can already get a sense of the revisions that are going to be necessary, and don’t even feel a bit daunted by it. I will just take them piece by piece, bit by bit, just like I did with my thesis. This story will grow, mature, and evolve, and I am looking forward to every single step of it.

Abandoned Rails

June 1, 2014

I have moved on from wandering the gardens at the park to wandering the trails. It was inevitable, as the trails are less crowded than the gardens, and I am not one for large clusters of folk. Also, when I wander the trails, I have a tendency to let my imagination run even wilder than usual. Maybe I am on an away team mission, exploring some planet, searching for a beacon in some old civilization… some old civilization that sure kept up its nature trails nicely, and had even removed the honeysuckle in places. When I am walking the trails, I usually don’t bother listening to tunes, I just enjoy the sounds of nature, the skittering of critters, the calls of birds. And I explore.

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I am a discovery writer. That is how I work best. I was thinking about this a bit the other night while watching a friend play tunes at yet another venue in this city I’d never been to before. I have been doing a fair bit of that lately, going to places that are new to me, and listening to things outside of my usual preference. In my head, this is another form of exploration, another method of discovery. And all of it twists and turns to the same destination: the joy of storytelling. Some of these paths are meandering and misleading. Some of them have so many obstacles they seem insurmountable. And all of them are combinations of these and other kinds of wanderings.

There was a post somewhere online of some pictures of some abandoned rails alongside the very same nature trails I have been exploring lately. I immediately looked up a map of the trails to see at what point I would need to diverge in order to find them. So last week, I set out to do just that. Only I hadn’t looked at a detailed enough map, and so I chose the wrong starting point for easily finding it. I have a pretty decent sense of direction, so I figured out pretty quickly that I’d gone right when I should have gone left.

Because I went right, I saw some lady stretched out on a tree stump, working on her tan. Nearby her, someone had scrawled some words into a felled log. It wasn’t anything profound or deeply poetic, so I don’t even remember exactly what it said… something along the lines of how it must feel powerful to saw down a tree that had been growing for years. I shrugged at the thought, because I guarantee that tree was cut down because it was dead, or dying. Doesn’t seem to me like there is anything all that powerful about laying the dead to rest, besides being alive enough to do so.

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Because I went right, I saw a stone being strangled by a root, quite the appropriate metaphor for things that have managed to upset my world in the not-so-distant past. At this point on the trail, I was pretty sure I had figured out where it was going to end up. And I was glad, because if I was right, it was going to end up near where I parked the car. As I walked, I thought a lot about this story I am working on. It’s a bit meta-textual, and a pretty bonkers idea, but given the source (me), that is not terribly surprising. I got this idea to create a story, based on this year’s garden and trails observations, and to thread it through everything in my writing backlog.

I walked along what I later discovered was called the “Cliff Trail,” stepped over a log and accidentally slammed my right arm into a branch. I hit it hard enough to know it would bruise, and that it did, epically so. A week later, it is still purple and finally starting to turn yellow and fade away. And, for the record, I did end up finding the exit was super close to where I had parked the car.

When I got home from trail walking last week, I searched for another map of the trails, and found a more detailed one that would have led me straight to the abandoned rail… which had I started where I started yesterday when I went for a walk, I could have saved myself the trouble. Sometimes, in discovery mode, bad choices are made. But there is something to learn from going right when left would have been the smarter choice, and I am definitely glad that in my life, most wrong choices haven’t exactly led me into an inescapable miasma of despair. Instead, I have learned, grown wiser, and hopefully learned how to be kinder, to both others and myself. Because I learned from my error, I re-calibrated and marched right back to the trails this week, determined to find the rails.

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I stepped over this metaphor of a stone partially encased in earth. This one is more about perspective, I think. This could be just the tip of a much larger stone. I think it works like that, and also like the glass half full… is the stone being swallowed by the earth, or escaping? Or maybe I don’t care, so long as I don’t trip over it as I walk along the path. And it didn’t trip me up.

It turns out, the rails were even easier to find than I had imagined. There was a path to my left, a path that was rocky as frak, and littered with coal. As I climbed up, I steadied myself with a nearby plant, and let out a huge exclamation of “FUCK!” when I caught a look at the leaves, which were quite suspect for poison ivy. I looked a little closer and decided it had to be a young box elder, whose leaves are quite easily mistaken for poison ivy. Still, I was extra cautious from there on out, thinking it would be super lame to break out in a rash, being in possession of a botany degree and just generally knowing better.

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Once I was up on the tracks, I thought, “Well, this is pretty cool.” But honestly? The search for the tracks was more fun than actually finding them. I saw trees that had fallen over and crashed into other trees. There were trail joggers and folks with dogs not on leashes. Three of the unleashed dogs ran past me at one point, almost scaring the pee out of me. I also found a bench in a rather peaceful clearing, and I will probably return to that spot to chill and write some words someday soon.

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Once I was up on the tracks, I saw a lizard sunning itself. It let me get pretty close to take pics, which was cool. And it must have some damn good hunting grounds up there, from the size of it. After looking around for a bit longer, I decided that the trails themselves were a bit more fascinating than the abandoned rails, so I scooted down the path I had climbed up, getting coal dust all over myself.

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I got a new camera lens this week, and so I took it out into the trails with me, to see if I like it better than the one that came with the camera. This lens essentially turns my camera into a light-weight point and shoot, which is nice. It also gets some mighty nice details. I still want something with some zoom to it, so that is next on my list of things I am saving up for.

One of the things I have noticed when I choose to go right instead of left, or vice versa, is that I often pick the less traveled road, like some total dork who is super into Robert Frost poetry. The thing about the road less traveled is that while walking down it, you will break a lot more spider webs with your face than if you had chosen the other road. So all I am really saying here is you should be ready for that.

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I want to close this with these two photos, which I took last week in the “Garden of Old Trolls.” Or it might have actually been earlier in May that I took them. The roses were just getting around to telling their stories. A lot of the focus of my current writing project has been on this small stretch of land. Walking through the trails has pushed those ideas along a bit. But nothing has pushed them along like getting out into the world and watching my friend play music. It’s kinda weird of me, I guess, and might even seem weirder still to this friend, who is a pretty new friend. I have been spinning my wheels for a short spell now, and it feels awesome to finally be getting some traction. And I can’t honestly say what for sure has given me the push I needed, other than it is probably a combination of things, not the least of which is that I was ready to be nudged along towards some new discovery.

Half a Year in Blues

May 17, 2014

It has been almost six months since I dyed my hair blue. As it has grown back out, I have kept it cut short, freshened up the color every so often, and enjoyed being a chameleon. Right now, there is probably more brown than funky color showing, and I’ve re-dyed some of the blue to a deeper intensity, and all the rest, dyed purple over what remained of blue. I like to call whatever is going on now with my hair “blurple.”

Being blurple isn’t a lot different from being blue. I still get hit on by folks I am buying stuff from – hey there, two different dudes at two different bread stores. Most of the time, I forget my hair is any kind of weird color. I go to the park, and people look at me sideways, or smile and say “good morning” or whatever. The sideways glances trigger the reminder my hair is blue more than anything. And the polite folks always just make me smile and say “good morning” back because apparently friendliness is in my nature. Except when Team Introvert takes over.

Friday night, I was feeling stir-crazy and hormonal, so I went to see a coworker play some music on the outskirts of this really cool market I totally need to revisit sometime when it is actually open (and dang, I cannot believe I have never gone there before). Team Introvert held dominion over my actions, and so I just sat and listened, observed and wrote. And I wrote some pretty damn important things, all about cleaning up the chaos in my writing life, and setting up some structure on the projects I want to finish. Once I was satisfied with my organization in my notebook, I sat back in my seat a bit and looked up at the sky. Watching the clouds pass by overhead and not worrying about a damn thing while a two-man band played in the background was entirely peaceful and felt like exactly what I didn’t know I needed. And at that moment, nothing could break that feeling of serenity, except, in my head, one thing: engaging the other humans in conversation.

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This was my view for most of the performance. For awhile, there was a cat sitting in the window of a building just outside the right side of the shot. It looked like it was listening to the music, and it also looked a lot like my departed cat, Baron von Stinkerton. It cracked me up the way it just sat there, looking down at everything, most likely more interested in the birds that were hoping the humans would drop some food, than anything else.

And then, like a total dick, I left when the music stopped, instead of even saying hello to my work friend or telling him they sounded good (and they did, really nice ambiance). Selfish in my peaceful frame of mind, I returned home, sat for awhile in contemplation on my attempt at organizing my writing life. At the very least, I did end up messaging my friend to say the music sounded good, even though in retrospect, I should have just said so in person. Duh. Selfish writer brain. Seriously, it knows damn well that interacting with others helps spark ideas.

And then, back at home, I fell asleep with my clothes on, which was weird, but thankfully I had taken my bra off because that would have been a world of ouch to wake up to. It was comfy, too, because the weather took a chilly turn this week and it’s like we’re having an actual spring this year. So when I woke up, I bundled up and went to the park, this time remembering my hiking boots, and that if I parked at the bottom of the hill, that meant the hard climbing part of my hike would be first. So there was this:
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And then I climbed up a massive hill when I should have gone sideways and up a little more gradually, and I ended up leaving the trails before I was ready to. I’d gone to find interesting nature bits for my sculpture class that started a few weeks ago. So I wandered through the park a little more slowly than usual. And then I sat down next to some flowers and took a selfie. Likeso:blurplehair
That’s me in the “Garden of Old Trolls,” beginning to wonder if it was going to rain.

I wandered around the grounds a bit more, found some nice acorn caps and a pinecone, and I pocketed them. There were tons of photographers in the park this morning, taking family photos and/or photos of kids. I was going to go check out the view of the sky from the top of the pavilion, but I was getting weary of the crowds, so I bailed. It began to rain as I headed to a plaza in search of Second Breakfast, and by the time I got done running errands, the rain had stopped. The air smelled rich and fresh of petrichor.

I went home to finish packing up some things that needed to go out in the post. I sat my acorns and pinecone on the floor and watched my orange cat bat them all to various corners of the apartment. I still haven’t found at least one of the acorn caps. And then I proceeded to fritter away most of the day lazily, getting a few chores done here and there. All the while, in the back of my mind, this writing that I am trying to push to the forefront. I am going to figure out how to focus my energies into that. And, since this post has deteriorated into a ramble, I’m gonna take this full circle, and do this thing while my hair is bright blurple.

In reading back through this a bit, I think the key point I figured out on Friday night when I was just sitting back and relaxing was how important the act of relaxation is. Just letting go for a little bit, sending worry off packing, was such a hugely positive moment. In the instance, where nothing else mattered, where I turned off my overactive imagination and just observed without comment, a glimpse at the sky a selfish act not to be shared with anyone… I feel like I am breaking free from whatever I have been letting hold me back.

Owl’s Nest Park

April 27, 2014

I used to drive past what looked like a tiny park called Owl’s Nest Park on the way to work. Just on the other side of O’Bryonville, right next to a sign that says, “Welcome to East Walnut Hills,” this quaint stretch of greenspace is 1.5 miles away from my apartment. It is also a gradual hilly bike ride up Madison. I biked up there today, after getting annoyed with a bunch of insects at Madison Park, where I had stopped to chill and think about some things.

This morning, I learned that one of my grad school friends, whom I worked with on Sugared Water, died in her sleep. Shawn was roughly my age, and is the second person I knew this year who just passed, so very suddenly. I had enjoyed seeing her posting artworks in progress, and the preparations she was making for her upcoming nuptials. It hurt a lot to learn that she won’t get to follow through on those things, but even more, I think it hit me hard because she was a lovely person who was very supportive of other artists… and I felt a bit of a kinship to that, I think, because it’s so very important to support each other. She also did an amazing painting for her final project in a Moby Dick course that looked incredibly feminine, and in fact was an exploration of Queequeg and Ishmael as female gender types, which I think is a rather interesting point to take in analyzing the novel (which I am totally going to admit, I have not read).

Anyway, so I thought a lot about this thing I often think about when wandering through the park and taking photographs, and that was the shadows cast by people and objects.

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I took this photo in the “Garden of Old Trolls” a couple of weeks ago. I am about a week behind on writing up posts about my park trips, but whatever, moving forward from this point seems best. I liked the shadows cast by these daffodils onto the sidewalk, and the story they tell about time of day, lack of cloud cover. You could maybe guess how late I had gotten to the park on this day, but you couldn’t know how crowded the park was, or that someone with a much nicer camera than mine had just walked past me, as I got ready to take a few last shots and head back home. You might not know that this group of flowers is on my usual last few moments in the park, or that one week, I started here and worked my way backwards from usual. And sometimes I think about the shadows we cast, and the paths we take in life that means we cast a shadow here or there, and then how it will one day be nowhere at all.

Today, I found a park bench in the shade, and locked my bike to it, so I could walk around the circumference of Owl’s Nest Park. I discovered that it had been renovated in 2010, which is not a time that I really ever drove past it. There is a staircase down to a second tier of the park, which has a baseball diamond and a really shiny, new looking basketball court. I hoped that there was a restroom in this building that overlooked the ballpark area, but all the doors had locks on them, so who knows what the fuck those are for? I walked around to the park sign, much more aged than the ones in Ault Park.

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I pretty much shot this onlooking the sun. And I didn’t have my fancy camera with me, so this was just my cell phone. The buildings in the background are part of the O’Bryonville strip, I think. Or maybe they’re not; they could be considered East Walnut Hills, for all it matters of neighborhoods in Cincinnati.

After this, I walked back to my bike and sat and wrote for awhile, finally beginning to make some progress with a project that had me stumped yesterday. I am aiming to finish this project by next Sunday. I think it’s weird that it’s something my friend would have enjoyed, and she’ll never get the chance to see it. I wish like hell that this wasn’t the way of things, but it is, and there’s no changing that. I am just glad I got to know her at all, and remember her fondly. And totally geek out about that time I went to a party at her house and got fangirled by a couple of people over a thing I’d performed at an open mic we were all at.

Anyway, trying not to be too sad. I let sad win for a bit today, then kicked it to the periphery so I could get things done, because what the fuck else was I going to do?

I sat around the park thinking for a bit, and then walked my bike across Madison to safely join the traffic. The whole way home was generally downhill, and it felt so good to have the wind whip through my hair, as I coasted along the tiny bike lane. When I hit the gradual hill a few blocks from my street, it was easier than ever before to pedal up it, having conquered much tougher hills just a bit earlier. In this town, every bike ride is a mixture of hills, and you’ll always end up having to pedal uphill, no matter which route you choose, on the way there and back again. It’s a strange little place, indeed, and I suppose this little Hobbit is stronger overall, for living here.

Getting Crowded

April 22, 2014

For the past few weeks, my trips to the park have been very peaceful. That changed a couple of weekends back when the cherry trees blossomed. Just after that, I started writing this post, but the priority of finishing it dwindled, and here it sat, tab open, unfinished. Roughly 10 days later, I am finally finishing the piece I started.

The weather was perfect that weekend, and the expected crowds arrived in drones, as did the bees. (pause for pun groan). It was the weekend of April 11th. I headed to the park on Friday night (the 11th), to catch a glimpse of the cherry blossoms, even knowing I was planning on heading back in the morning. A couple of people had tied hammocks between some trees and were just chilling in the grove. There were photographers, some professional-seeming, some much less so (like me), and then there were the folks taking snaps with their phones.

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I didn’t quite capture the awesomeness of the cherry blossoms with my camera. Never could quite catch the light how I wanted. On Saturday morning, the park wasn’t quite overrun with people, yet, but it was starting to be by the time I finished taking my final snapshots.

I don’t much care for the park when it’s crowded. I prefer to go there early, while most folks are still asleep. Selfishly, as I walk through the gardens, I like to think of it as my park. It’s a nice feeling, especially walking through the gardens, basking in the hard work of keeping them weeded and gorgeous, without having to have lifted a finger to make them so. And still, there’s the decay. Currently, decay gives way to new growth, which slowly turns into fresh decay. Which keeps me coming back to the park to observe more nature. So I took a few snapshots of some of my favorite things at the park.

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This is the garden surrounded by magnolia trees. On the day I took this photograph, the petals were beginning to fall, and the smell of them in random states of decay was overwhelming, so much so that I thought I might actually have to stop and take a puke break in the nearby shrubbery. The moment passed, and I got used to the intoxicating perfume of the flowers, and then moved on to other sections of the park.

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I call this shrub “the sweetgum catcher,” as it has managed to snag a few sweetgum fruits from the nearby trees and keep them save in its branches all winter long.

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Here, I saw two daffodils that looked as though they were about to have a swordfight.

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This is at the top of the pavilion, flowers growing in between the stones of the steps. This, I admire in the plants, a meager attempt by nature to reclaim the pavilion.

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This is hard to see quite what I was taking a photograph of. I really do need to upgrade to a better lens for taking closeups. And a better lens for far away shots, for that matter, but I am saving up for one at a time, like a smart, thrifty person. I saw this interesting growth on several of the Ilex (Holly) trees in the area, and tried to get a few photos of it, as a reminder to look into whether or not there is some kind of blight on this tree.

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Lastly, as I walked through the “Garden of Old Trolls,” I spotted this two-toned flower. I thought it was lovely, and again, enjoyed the balance of decay and new growth in this little scene.

The next time I went to the park, it was later in the day than usual, and it was so crowded, I felt almost uncomfortable, so used to the silence and having the place to myself. So I decided, on a whim, to check out the nature trails before doing a quick walkthrough the gardens. Next time, I won’t do that without my fancy hiking boots on, and I’ll remember to bring water as well, and to apply sunscreen to my pale, white Irish/German flesh. Until then, I shall decay at my current rate, and watch the world as it spins the same.

Closed Doors

April 11, 2014

At my work, we have three doors that lead into our lobby area. The middle door is always closed. The door I sit across from is usually open and says “EXIT” on it. The door to my left of the closed door is always open and says “ENTER HERE” on it. There’s even theater-style roping that also says “ENTER HERE.”

The number of people who try to go in the closed door is kind of amazing. It’s not an insignificant number of people. The EXIT that I sit across from is often used as well, usually when we have longer lines and people are trying to circumvent having to wait.

So, basically, all day I get to watch people making these choices, trying to enter closed doors in favor of already open ones, or trying to skirt around the rules of the establishment.

I have looked very closely at the office doors, upon first arriving outside, and the closed door doesn’t look particularly inviting. Yet, people still make that choice. They pull on the handle, and it doesn’t budge. But if they push the accessibility button, the door will swing open.

Sometimes, the person will take a step back and see the other open doors. Usually, they go through the exit, then, rather than entering through the roping that clearly states “ENTER HERE.”

I think of the symbolism of these choices. I think about times I had made things more difficult than they needed to be, or didn’t see an open door right in front of me. Or worse, the times I didn’t see a rake until I stepped on it <— my favorite pun about my ex-husband.

Again, I think it comes back to something I mentioned the other day: the times we get in our own way, hold ourselves back. Some of this is simply by standing too close to the issue, or not looking at things on a grander scale. With myself, a huge way I hold myself back is by simply not giving myself enough credit for the things that I have accomplished. I fret a bit about the pile of things left incomplete, or the works-in-progress that “I will get to eventually.”

At work, I am one of those people who will absolutely do whatever random request immediately, and once that is completed, I will return back to the regular workload. That way, I am not holding up anyone else’s processes, or I have helped a student out while they are right in front of me, and everyone is happy. Do it now, it doesn’t pile up later. I find this an efficient way to get things done at my day job.

I think that I would also find this an efficient way to achieve my writing goals as well, but I find that I am experiencing a somewhat sad state of disconnect in this aspect of my life. Recently, I think I have devised some creative ways to circumvent my lack of accomplishments in my chosen field. You can’t, after all, have any successes in this field without rejection, but that’s not my problem. My problem is that I don’t know what to do with success.

So I am staring at two open doors, one closed one, and watching people picked the closed door, and I just, I know exactly how stupid they feel when they realize. Because it’s stupid not to try for fear of success as much as for fear of failure. Part of a lesson for the College Survival Skills class I teach even covers this, as part of the reason that people procrastinate or don’t take simple chances. I am going to start taking more chances. I have challenged myself to do this. I am going to start small, by taking chances that will amount to a pile of rejection letters. But you know, I can totally handle that, and one day soon, it will be time to learn to cope with successes, too.

Go Fly a Kite

April 6, 2014

Last year at this time, I decided it would be awesome to go fly a kite. Next, I will bore you with excuses as to why I didn’t. I was in the midst of defending my thesis (the anniversary of that was April 3rd and I passed without revisions, which was quite an exciting feat). At that time, I think I had a bit too much going on to actually take the time to do this thing that I thought would be so much fun.

In July, I went on vacation to visit a friend in Texas, and I bought a Sponge Bob kite just for kicks at a little shop in a tiny town. We didn’t end up getting to use it, and it didn’t fit in my luggage, so I left it behind at the ranch for someone else, hopefully some kids to find and take out for fun.

This year, after a much nastier winter than we have seen in Cincinnati in ages, I once again felt this yearning to fly a kite. Only, I didn’t want to just buy one; I wanted to make one. So I researched a bit online and discovered that all you really need is a plastic bag, some dow rods, tape, and some lightweight string. So I made a kite out of a bag I got when I was in the study abroad trip in London. It looks like this:
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I waited patiently for the weather conditions to seem favorable for kite-flying. One day this past week, they seemed fairly optimal, so I did a search for the best spaces in the area for kite flying. Someone mentioned a place I’d never heard of called “French Park,” so I researched it and discovered that it was right down the road from the gym where I took that Zumba class last weekend. I drove there after work on Tuesday and explored the full length of the park, looking for a decent spot away from trees. I noticed when I turned the car around that I had driven considerably up a slight hill, so this place was going to be even better than I thought, because it was at a higher elevation.

I parked the car in one of the small lots and checked to see where the sweet spot was on the bridle. I tied the line on and set about making the damn thing fly. After about twenty minutes, I realized the knot I had tied wasn’t secure enough for the winds, even though I had thought I did a pretty good job on it. I had a sliding bridle line. But I planned for this contingency, so I cut the line and tied a new one. (And I just realized how much this entire paragraph sounds like a metaphor for my failed marriage- LOLZ.) This new knot was much more secure and had minimal slippage. And after only about ten minutes of playing around with it, this happened, with very little effort from me:
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I was ecstatic. Such a thrill of delight rushed through me as the wind pulled the kite, made it dip and dive and shake a bit. The shakiness of the flight indicated how I can improve on the design, and so I look forward to making new versions of this same design before I branch out into other shapes and styles. It is a pretty neat hobby to have, I think.

And what, then, of the park where I first got the idea that flying kites would be fun? Of course, that was Ault Park. And the remnants of kites in the trees inspired me, both to learn to make and fly my own kites, and to choose a location other than Ault Park to fly them. Because this place is vast, but it also seems too have too many obstacles. Here is a photograph I took yesterday morning:
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And here, three of the remnants of kites that I like to look at whenever I go on my Ault Park explorations:
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I guess right now it might seem an appropriate time to say, “You know that thing you’ve been wanting to do? Go do it. Just find a way and go do that thing. Stop making excuses. Be awesome.” I could say all those things, some other things with similar sentiment, and some combination of encouraging words to try to get someone, anyone to just get up and be awesome. But really, is anyone going to really hear what I am saying here? Do I have to expel this many words just to say, “Shake off your complacency and go do great things!” It’s all very assuming anyway. You might already think you’re achieving optimal awesomeness. But you know what? You’re probably not. And that’s really okay. As for me, I’ll be over here, trying to do something more than okay. And maybe that’s not for you, so my response to that is that I’m not judging. I’ll just be over here, trying to make a better kite. Because you know what? That metaphor about my failed marriage kind of works here, too. That entire experience was holding me back, and once it was over, I began to soar.

I think that anytime is the perfect time to assess your situation and see if there is anything holding you back. Maybe you didn’t even see it because you were so entrenched in making a non-working relationship seem functional. Or maybe the stress levels of your day job have filtered into the rest of your life. I know that has happened to me before, and it isn’t a thing I really let happen any longer. Maybe it is something else entirely. Maybe there is nothing. Maybe you are doing everything you want to do, when you want to do it. That’s pretty cool, I guess. As for me, in my current state of mind, the only thing that holds me back is me, and I do that less and less. And I definitely see a correlation between getting shit done and whether or not it is winter. Spring is nigh, y’all. For me, that means it’s time to get to flying.

Being Unique

March 30, 2014

I went to a Zumba class this morning. It was at a Jewish rec center, and offered through a Yelp event to introduce folks to different types of fitness classes in the area throughout the month of March. Out of the classes offered, this was the only one I actually thought I could do. I had to skip out on skating (because that is how I break bones), and aerial silks and rock climbing (simply because I currently lack the upper body strength for such things). I also skipped the yoga offerings, because, eh, yoga, not really my thing. If I am going to bother going to a fitness class, it is going to be dance related, and I am going to shake dat ass.

I noticed a sort of awkwardness around the room when I walked in. The event station had a check-in gift of a free water bottle, so w00t for that. There were the rec center’s regulars and the invasive Yelpers. You could tell the difference not just from the name labels of the Yelpers, but because we all hung out around the periphery of the room until class started. The regular rec center folks were spread out across the room, probably in their usual spaces.

Almost everyone who was there was wearing black or dark grey yoga/workout pants. A few ladies had on shorts. I was wearing bright blue yoga pants, a purple shirt that totally clashed with it, and of course, there’s my bright blue hair. Without the crazy hair color, I would have been a stand-out in this crowd anyway for subverting the apparent fitness class boring-ass dress code. And not even for being the fattest one there. That might have been a tie between me and some lady up front, but whatever, who even cares about that, right? Okay, me, a little bit. Because I like being that fat girl who is dancing her ass off, from start to finish of the class.

A fellow Yelper came over and asked me about Zumba because she’d never done it before. I told her, “It’s pretty fun, I have done it before. Pretty much just aerobics with some flair to it.” I managed to refrain from making an awkward statement about how Zumba sometimes feels kinda racist. Once the music started, I proceeded to dance my ass off. Sometimes, they go too fast or the steps are difficult to follow, but if I have learned anything at all from my burlesque instructor, it is to just keep going with your head held high, confident with whatever moves you are making. And anyway, it all moves so fast, no one will see you when you fuck up, because they are too busy trying to follow along, too. There was a moment during this one song that had a line about taking your shirt off, and the dance move mimed stripping and twirling your shirt around your head. I really, really wanted to just go for it, take my shirt off for real, twirl and toss it, but I thought, “Lauren, no. This is not burlesque class. Be good.” Let me tell you, being “good” feels pretty stupid a lot of the time.

After the class was over, and I was dripping with sweat, as I walked back to my car, I thought about my unique blue pants in a sea of black/grey ones. I loved that I stood out, that I didn’t match the crowd. That all these other ladies got up and dressed themselves in the bland boring standard workout pants, and I put on bright blue ones. Of course I did the unique thing. And something about standing out against that, made me dance harder, made me more confident, enjoying every moment of this imaginary subversion.

I drove to the park afterwards to check on the progress of growth and decay, and it was more crowded than usual. I wished I had been able to go on Saturday, but it rained all day, and I had to work an event in the morning anyway. I wished, then, that I had gone to the park before Zumba, that maybe it would have been less crowded. But then I also wanted to see the angle of the sun after noon, how the shadows fall a little later in the day than my usual exploration time. So if I had to share that massive green-space with more people than usual just to see that, so be it. Kind of silly of me to wander through it like I am all alone anyway.

The first photograph I took was of a newly budding tree. I really like the way this photograph turned out. It has a somewhat dizzying effect.
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The next photo that I really took time to shoot was of this purple flower. I honestly don’t even know what it is, which, I know, terrible botanist. There was just something that reminded me of me in this flower, a feeling of it subverting nature, which, clearly it isn’t. It is just a flower growing. Poo on me for trying to personify it, for trying to own it.
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The next photo was a study in shadow. Of the midday sun contorting the shadow somewhat, making it pudgy and rounding it out.
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And last, before leaving the park, I visited the “Garden of Old Trolls.” I found a lock and key underneath a shrub while I was wondering around. Pretty sure that is going to help me write the story that my brain is dying to unlock. I observed the sign more closely this week, and discovered that the back and front sides match. Three weeks now, and I had assumed that the back of the sign was flat. Sometimes, being wrong is pretty awesome.
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As I was making my last trip around the “Garden of Old Trolls,” an older lady in a bright peach jacket who kinda looked like Rose from The Golden Girls told me my blue hair was fantastic. That is when I realized I hadn’t brought my MP3 player into the park, that I had observed it fully, not introvertedly in my bubble of my own sounds and thoughts. I also smiled at that lady and thanked her. I thought, “Now that lady gets it.” Whether she complimented me for the reasons I would like to think, I will never know. But I like to think it’s because it is true that when you get older, you truly understand that giving zero fucks and dressing how you want, doing your hair how you want, and being who you want is the best. Life is too short to not do that awesome thing you want to do. I mean, that is what I got out of it. Maybe that lady just really likes this shade of blue. But then again, there is always more to something than its surface layer. I am not just the lady who wore bright blue pants to Zumba class and then shook dat ass the whole time, with a smile on my face. I am confident, I am happy, I am unique, and I am infinitely more complicated than all of that.

Curiosity

March 24, 2014

I was trudging through some work this morning, when I noticed a nearby school had listed a course’s pre-requisite as simply, “curiosity.”

I was feeling a bit grumpy before I noticed that, and it made me happy for the rest of the day.

The other cool thing that happened today was that I signed up for a sculpting class being offered on Tuesday evenings in the summer at the college where I work. Hopefully more people than just me will sign up for it. I am a bit worried at this point that it might get canceled since I’m currently the only person enrolled in it. Then again, silly to worry about it. If it gets canceled, I will try to find something else cool to take. And anyway, today was only the first day of open enrollment, so there’s still time for people to sign up.

What got me interested in sculpture was an event I attended last year with the local Yelp group. There was a gathering at an art studio in my neighborhood, and we got to throw pots, hand-build some things, and paint an ornament. I got added to their email list, and every time they send out an email blast for new classes, I get all excited. Then I see the price, which is a bit out of my range, and I simply delete the email. So when I saw the school where I work offers the class, I thought, “Oh, maybe I can just take it here, with free tuition.” Except it was only offered during the workday, until this upcoming summer session. If I get to do this thing, I suppose posts from art class are to be expected.

In the meantime, to bring this back to the original point that cheered me up this morning, I will be keeping myself curious, and continue to write, observe, and learn.