Outside the train’s window the yellow dust fills the air, turning all the light into a golden glow. As I watch the land pass by I take a deep breath and find that some tight place in me has released. Some tension in me has softened. Maybe in all this open space I finally have enough room to breathe. Maybe I’ve left my cares behind at the station, if only for a while. Or maybe I am just glad to get the hell out of Utah. Salt Lake City was not my place.
I’m sensitive to atmospheric changes. Every place has it’s own character and that soaks right into me. Salt Lake City gave me a strange sense of ennui. I felt a little offthe whole time I was there. It’s hard to describe. The feeling came from small things, from a deserted plaza, a place designed for noise and movement that is silent and abandoned. Like a house that is too clean to really feel like home. I wandered through, waiting for my friend to get off work, and my footsteps echoed on the naked concrete walls and planter beds.
The feeling comes again as I sit on a packed train from Sandy to downtown. There are people in colors for a team I don’t know, families heading into town for a game. A guy sits in the seat across from me. From the corner of my eye I get an impression of torn jeans and dark tattoos. I glance at him and consider saying something, starting conversation in the hopes we might find some connection. I have this feeling, one I can’t quite explain, that the way we appear to one another puts us on opposite sides of something. Some divide of social circumstance. I wonder what he thinks of me and if it would change if he knew me. But he doesn’t know me and he gives off a palpable sense of hostility. He pulls a long folding knife from his jeans pocket, turning it over in his hands, opening, closing it. He doesn’t look at me but I have that odd sense that his attention is on me, even if his eyes are not. I stare out the window, arrange my face into a mask of boredom. Unconcerned. Whatever, the set of my shoulders proclaims. But I wonder what he means by it. I sit and wonder and he sits with his knife, folding, unfolding, folding again. When we get to my stop I stand, walk to the door. As I get off I glance back at him. He is still sitting, his eyes carefully trained downward. He snaps the knife shut and slips it into his pocket. I get off the train and it carries him away from me.
There are sharp edges hidden in this place and I’m glad that this train is putting miles between me and Salt Lake City. I stare out the window and there is nothing but golden light for as far as I can see. We cross the border into Wyoming and I think of what one of my favorite bloggers wrote in her new book. Every time she crosses a state line she throws her cares over her shoulder, leaving them at the border. There’s something to this, isn’t there? Going to a new place has a strange power, an ability to wipe the slate clean. So as we cross into Wyoming and then into Colorado, I feel I really have left my cares behind me. I am empty, wiped clean. Ready for a new beginning, where each day brings a new adventure.
“Sometimes there’s just anger in your lungs and you can’t help but breathe it out on everything around you.”
Did I mention I made a new website?
I’ve stopped double-posting everything to this site and my new location so if you’re inclined to keep reading my thoughtful ramblings please subscribe (through WordPress, email, or another feed) to my new site.
I hope you’re all having a good December and enjoying being done with Nano. I also hope you have slightly more comfortable writing locations than the one in my photo. What can I say, I like to write on location. This one is from Glacier National Park in the fall, where I thought and wrote about the movement of rain and water across the continent. There was a lot of rain to think about, on that trip. Right now I’m writing on location from my coach. It’s warmer here. And drier. Ned agrees.
After the mad dash to finish fifty thousand words last month, it’s been nice to slow down a little and think more about what I’m writing. I’ve shad some time to learn about how I might make my writing better instead of just spewing out words. I particularly enjoyed reading this article on using theme in fiction writing. Also, I’ve gone through a few of my favorite books and tried to dissect what it is I like about them. Since Nick Hornby is one of my favorite authors, I’m finally getting around to reading his memoir, Fever Pitch. It’s sort of incredible how engaging it is despite my complete lack of interest in the British ‘football’ scene in the seventies. I guess, in the end, it’s about people not players. About family, not fields. Sorry, I felt the compulsion to alliterate there. I won’t do it again. Probably.
I’ve also signed myself up for a writing class at Hugo House in January. I’ve been writing all by my onesie for a while now and I’ve been think I’m way past due for a little guidance. When I first started writing I didn’t worry about having no formal training in writing whatsoever. Who cares about that? Writing is just communication and we all do that every day! Then I read something that I wrote a few months ago. Have we invented time machines yet? Because I want to go back in time and tell myself to go take a writing course for ****’s sake.
Recently I finished a second draft of my short story. I sat there just sort of staring at it for a while and that’s where I still am, a week later. Just kinda staring at it with no idea where to go from here. I know it could be better. I just have no idea how to do that. So I’m singing the Hogwarts theme song over here (Teach us something please!) to the tune of Another Brick in the Wall.
I’m ready to start learning in a more formal way. Maybe someone will even tell me what the hell to do with my novel draft from Nano 🙂
Frankly, the notion of creativity makes me a little grumpy. I’ve always preferred logic, science, things that can be explained. Things that can be quantified. So I started Nano this month with the notion that if I sat down at my laptop every day and worked hard, that would be enough. So I sat down. I put my fingers to the keyboard. You know what came out? Crap. Uninspired crap. I’d like to think that I am occasionally capable of communicating stories in a way that might resonate on the page, but I sat and I wrote and wrote. Words filled up the page, yes, but there was nothing in them.
Read more… at my new location.
Ned says Happy Friday!
I hope everyone had an argument-free Thanksgiving and nobody gave anyone else smallpox. I appreciate the idea of a day for giving thanks for what you have and spending time with friends and family—even if it might have a pretty murky history. I have a lot to be thankful for and it’s nice to be reminded of that.
…Read more at my new location…
I’m watching the sun rise this morning and realizing that it’s winter. Well, fall, technically, but it’s feeling a lot like winter here in Seattle. The sun is rising so far south, it’s traveled all the way across our living room windows and is rising just out of my sight. I’d get up to see it, but Sprout has settled herself on my legs and I don’t want to disturb her. Not yet. She looks too pleased. My cup of coffee is within reach so she’s in luck for a bit.
I took an overnight train from Chicago to Memphis. I didn’t sleep much because the guy next to me wouldn’t stop moving. He was constantly twitching or talking or fiddling. It wasn’t hard to see the monkey on his back. I almost asked him about it, but it sounded like he was trying to shake it, heading to his mom’s in Memphis for a bit. If he didn’t want to talk about it I didn’t want to make him. He was nice too and I was glad I hadn’t just shut him out after first glance. He tried to help when my phone froze. He offered me his blanket. Part of me wishes he had told me his story but mostly I just wanted to get what little sleep I could. It was the first full train I’d been on and that made it a lot harder. So I slept fitfully and woke to a sunrise coming into Memphis. I got off the train and walked over the edge of the parking lot to take a picture of the sun rising over the rougher side of Memphis. Turned out Memphis had a lot of rough sides. After I took a photo of the sunrise I started walking out of the train station, but a guy who was unloading baggage on the train ran over and stopped me.
“Don’t leave in that direction, you’ll get robbed as soon as you leave the station.”
… Read more
It was a strange feeling, walking around Temple Square in Salt Lake City. There were so many ways for me to feel unwelcome. I was not from there, I was not mormon, I was not male. Those things that I was not seemed louder there, like the echoes of a bible dropped in a Cathedral, the sound amplified by the space around it.
I know what it is to feel like an outsider.
I’m attempting to move my site to a self-hosted page and I haven’t figured out how to redirect this Wordpress blog to the new location. Yea, I’m not the most tech-savvy at this point. For now, here’s my new post on my new site: http://www.girlinvestigates.com
I don’t get this sign. I saw it in a coffee shop in Omaha. I got off the train at 6:30am after a restless overnight ride. I took an extended nap on the couch, then I wandered off into Omaha. I ended up in a coffee shop full of hipsters. Omaha hipsters were a little behind, hipster-wise. They still carried a hint of goth and hadn’t really gotten their ironic scarves sorted out, but they had the hanging-out-in-coffee-shops-all-day thing down. So I drank some strong coffee and watched the locals out of the corner of my eye. And saw this a sign on the door with tiny print at the bottom.
See my new site for the rest 🙂 Here’s to a new online adventure where I (once again) have no idea what I’m doing!
I only spent one night in Iowa but it gave me a lot to think about. I found a host to stay with on Couchsurfing with a nice condo with a spare room in “downtown” Burlington. It’s very quaint. I think there are less than ten restaurants, total. Iowans don’t really have an accent, but they have a distinct way of speaking. It’s a quiet tone, with odd syllables lengthened here and there like they’re in no hurry to finish a sentence. It made me slow down a bit and that was a good thing in my book. My host told me a bit about his life, his son and his business, and then he asked me ten thousand questions about my life. It was immediately obvious why he liked to host travelers. He just loved to learn about people. He wanted to talk about ideas. He made me really think about things.
We ended up talking about money and how that’s not what I want to value in life. He asked me what I valued instead and, at the time, I didn’t have an answer for him. Well I’ve thought about it a lot since and now I think I do. I value stories. I find meaning and beauty in life through them. I don’t think its possible to communicate the deeper truths of our world directly—they’re too big to be defined easily. But through telling stories about who we are and what’s important to us I think we can begin to sense their shape. Like the shadow of a whale under water, you can’t see it directly but you know it’s there if you learn what to look for.
That’s why I’m out on this half-baked adventure. I’m here for the stories. I’m here to skim the surface of this world in the hopes of a glimpse of what’s underneath.