Wednesday, August 26, 2009

New project

I have been taking it fairly mellow these past couple of days - low-key run on the Mount Jumbo trail yesterday, and a mud shower of a bike ride up the Perseverance Trail today. I was definitely starting to feel some muscle fatigue and soreness from the running. It was good to do something else today, although I have to say that after three months of basking in the blissfully ordinary weather of the Lower 48, I am not digging the rain riding, what with the head-to-toe mud splatters and big pieces of grit in my teeth (I know, I know. Fenders. Now where did I stash those?)

I took this picture today lest anyone accuse me of no longer riding my bicycle. I learned that if you place your camera on your bike seat and set the self-timer, you come out with an bike's eye image, as if your bike were taking a picture of you, rather than the other way around.

But now, with the reality of autumn sinking in, I have started sitting down with the 45 minutes of idle free time I have in the day (I can bump this up to 55 if I avoid Facebook, 75 if I avoid blogging), and begun to map out ideas for an autobiography about the stretch of time between March 1 and mid-July. I think if I can find momentum, this will be a really fun project for me. For me, writing about experiences is not just a creative outlet - it's a form of art. The experiences themselves are the initial photograph, the immediate capture of a moment in time. Blogging is the rough sketch, drawing from that photograph a form that is only beginning to take shape. But writing, something I only rarely do, is like painting. I look back at the photograph. I spread my sketch on canvas. Then I take out my paints, my best ideas, and I surround the sketch with color strokes, shadows, hints of light, until it takes on a deeper, richer meaning. I used to paint often, but I no longer own the art supplies, so now I write. I think writing will be an excellent way to spend some down time this winter, and it will give me an excuse to sit in coffee shops and look intellectual and maybe meet other people of this type. :-)

But all good writing needs to be about something, so I am trying to dream up a central theme. The natural beginning is my 12 ill-fated hours in this year's Iditarod bike race. It has all the good dramatic elements to set up a story ... the struggle, the danger, the failure, the frostbite. I want this to be about more than riding bikes, but I don't want to fall into the narrative trap of a story about losing a relationship and trying to find myself. There are other ideas bouncing around in my head. It's fun, actually, thinking of myself as the character in my own story. I have to write what's true, but the truth is so much more fun to paint than fiction.

But as with anything I do that feels more committed, I'm intimidated by the scope of it all, even if I never finish it, or if I finish it and hate it, or worst of all, if I finish it and love it and never take it anywhere. Since I started mapping out chapter one, I went back and read and re-read my early March blog entries. And already I'm learning valuable lessons from myself, namely something I wrote shortly after the race, when I was still on crutches:

I don't want to ever become the kind of person who doesn't dare to fail and fail spectacularly. I don't ever want to be unwilling to approach the unknown. I don't ever want to live a life free of risk.

So I'm resolved to finally take a pen to paper (or Microsoft Word, whatever), and I'm blogging about it to put yet another flighty goal out there in a way that will keep me at least semi-committed.