I just started a new category called Writing Life. If writing is in your realm of interests, yay! Read on. If not, I hope you read this anyway—and consider writing. Everyone has a story.
Mine, today, is this:
Mama always said that she felt closest to God when she was picking blueberries. Thinking about this recently, I wondered: when do I feel closest to God? It happens when I’m paddling in a canoe. It’s a long, complicated, yet sweet story—but one for another day. Suffice to say that if I could not paddle, I would be bereft of hope.
I especially look forward to wilderness paddling trips. This year, I planned two spring trips into The Tobeatic Wilderness. Although I would feel perfectly safe doing those trips, I decided to cancel them. For starters, we had planned for six-eight people (three or four boats) and we’d have to travel several kilometers to get there. The current government directive during this pandemic is to curtail travel, maintain 2 m “distancing”, and limit gatherings to five people. So there’s no way we could do these trips and comply. But another reason for canceling back-country trips is that in the event of a serious accident or illness requiring a rescue by helicopter and medics, this would tax an already burdened health care system.
However, thinking that paddling in my own backyard would still be OK, two days ago, a paddling friend who lives close by on a lake sent me a DM on Facebook: “Hi, … good morning … we are planning to canoe from your place to ours … Be at your place around 12noon … want to join us?” I replied, “YES!” then threw together a couple of sandwiches , a jar of walnuts and raisins along with a thermos of coffee, my First Aid kit, bag of dry clothes, water bottles … then I made sure “Miss Ebony” (our new canoe) had ropes on both ends, a bailer, and a sponge. Oh yeah. And I rooked husband Barrie into coming along.
I shuttled our car over to their place (5 km) where we would pull out of the water, and got a lift back home. My friends arrived ready to launch from our place, only, they also had their son, his girlfriend, and their son’s friend with a kayak. Now we were seven people, three canoes, and a kayak.
Although it didn’t feel “right,” in my excitement to have my bum in the water, I ignored that feeling, and off we went. It was a glorious 2.5 hour paddle on a perfect spring day—virgin blue sky, 15 degrees C, and a slight wind in our backs. We stopped for lunch midway on the riverbank under some large oaks and spruce trees (and, yes, we kept our distance.) It was story-book perfect–until a few hours later when my friend’s neighbour called. She’s a nurse, and she was upset. Didn’t we know the premier had issued a “no travel” advisory? Why would we be trucking our boats around? And how many people were on our excursion? Etcetera.
That smacked. And it should have.
In retrospect, transporting our boats around was not kosher, despite being in our own “backyard.” Nor should we have been more than five people. Then I read “Why we didn’t go canoeing today” in the Chicago Sun Times and felt crummy all over again.
Last night, I decided that I would simply put up my paddles and PFD until the world righted itself. But, while on my morning walk today, I thought my decision was a bit draconian. I didn’t have to go to that extreme to a) uphold government directive and b) do the right thing for the larger good. Mind you I also recognize that paddling is my drug of choice, so was I rationalizing? In the end, I decided that Barrie and I could paddle by ourselves, in our “front yard” where we don’t have neighbours upstream or downstream for a couple of kilometers. It’s safe, and will continue to contribute to my self-care.
Problem is I feel guilty that we have so much and the rest of the planet has so little. Imagine. Within a minute of opening our front door we can step into a canoe or walk in the forest. I’ve never felt so blessed. I am both grateful and humbled. Now thinking of ways to share both our forest and river once this pandemic has released its grip on the world.
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Well, that was a bit of a babble.
Now for the Writing Life.
My focus this year is to improve my writing (in general), and to focus more on personal essays/memoir (in particular).
Thrilled to have discovered the following authors and their books/sites:
Marion Roach authored the book on the right, The Memoir Project ~ A Thoroughly Non-Standardized Text For Writing & Life, which I’ve devoured. Her site is loaded with memoir topics and tips. Be forewarned: she pooh-poohs writing prompts and considers them a supreme waste of time. (More about this in my next post.) She also gave a free webinar last week which I enjoyed. Kudos to her for compiling 40 questions we had during the webinar, and responding to them on her blog.
I’m also a huge fan of Brenda Miller and Suzanne Paola’s book, Tell I Slant~ Creating, Refining, and Publishing Creative Non-Fiction. Although it’s not dedicated to the craft of writing Memoir, everything in this book is applicable to the genre. And every chapter ends with a “Try It” section (loaded with prompts.) They also have a site dedicated to the book, including some outlines for classes.
So my next post will be looking at how these two different books are helping me along my journey … and why I’m about to burn seven binders of writing (poetry, fiction, non-fiction) that I’ve done from prompts over the past twenty years. OK. So I won’t just blindly burn them. But you can bet that 90% will be stuffed into the wood stove between now and the next time I show up. I’ll then tell you why, and what my strategy is “going forward.” Lordy I loathe that term, although I suppose it’s better’n “going backwards.”
Do share your thoughts about this post!