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.


  1. "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."

    When you think about it all the risk in life is almost all artificial risk these days. If you think about the early settlers who crossed the country to live out West, or in Alaska, every day they faced real risk in order just to survive.

    Nowadays life has become so easy that people seek out artificial adventures like races and endurance sports just to put some sense of adventure into their lives.

  2. Thanks for that sentiment, Jill! I struggle to take risks in my life, but I too fear that I'll look back 40 years from now on a boring, story-less existence. I want to take the risks, have the experiences now. While my body is still strong and my spirit is hungry. And I hope that attitude will grow as the years go on!

  3. hi.. just dropping by here... have a nice day!

  4. "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."

    I have not gotten to March on your blog yet but can't wait to read it as what you wrote it so true and I can totally identify.

    I came across your blog early this week and have really enjoyed it and just bought your book on Amazon as you are a gifted writer.

  5. " 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. "

    You are quickly becoming my hero. People like you are beacons of light for those of us who have lost our way. I understand now why your employer fought tooth and nail to keep you in Juneau.

  6. What's tougher, the big physical goals or the big intellectual goals?

    With my 2.5 year old I have been thinking lately what things I want to try to impart to him. You hit on one that is probably one of the biggest I can think of -- there are many things that you may fear but don't let failure be one of them. Sometimes failure is more of a friend than success.

  7. "The risk of failure,
    social or physical,
    is paramount
    because failure and dissatisfaction
    are the parents of thought.
    Success and fulfillment do not
    or require introspection."

    -Mark Twight

    There is a reason for the driving need to challenge absolutes, push the envelope and discover that most limitations are self-imposed. And that also goes double for people who make blanket statements about individuals who are adventuring, racing, climbing and exploring. Keep writing- you have a gift to share with the world.

  8. Having read your first book, there is no doubt in my mind (although the doubt is in yours) that you will be able to create another great work of art!

  9. “I would rather be ashes than dust! I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot. I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet. The function of man is to live, not to exist. I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them. I shall use my time.” -Jack London

  10. maybe your writings could dabble in magical realism. my life seems to dabble magical realism. like someone you're talking to suddenly starts hopping around like a toad, as a for example for you.

  11. Anon, good sentiment. But as the search for adventure goes, don't you think the same could be said about the early settlers of the West? Why did they leave their comfortable homes on the East Coast and seek out the great risks of the wilderness? How do their reasons really differ from those who go looking for adventure today (i.e., many of them were searching for fortunes, others, like my Mormon pioneer grandparents, for freedom from cultural repression, and still others for enlightenment.)

    There's the idea of artificial adventure, and there's the idea that life is an adventure no matter what you do. I was referencing that quote in terms of writing, which can, in its own way, open us up to a scarier kind of exposure than an adventure race ever could.

  12. What a wonderful quote, I'm going to have to put that on my noticeboard to remind myself regularly.

  13. I had to respond, as a woman who intimately delves into risk: as a woman who found cycling (or did it find me?) as a way to train myself to leave a violent husband. "Risk" in our lives means being willing to experience, sit with the fear, and let it gently rupture in such a way that it inspires us: like a dream calling us forward. "Adventure" is found in the ruined architecture of our own lives; authenticity earned--cherished--in miles of pavement passing under our wheels. You're finding your way; all of us are; creating, crafting our own "race." Great posts, everyone.

  14. I guess that beats the quote of "Life is what happens while you're waiting for something to happen".

  15. Rock it out! You've got what it takes, or I wouldn't still be reading your blog after how many years? All the proof you need is in the following you already have - your very own test group, you could say.

  16. I've skipped a lot of different things I could do out of fear of failing. I like being sucessful at my endeavors, so anything that has a high risk of failure, I tend to avoid...but I realize now that if you only do things that are easily successful...I.E Easy, how hard did you actually try in the first place? And what are we really capable of?

  17. Great shot of the whitewater trail! I imagine that after a couple of miles your bike would be pretty well cleaned off.


  18. You look tough in that pic.
    :) nl

  19. I'm into a similar project myself right now; the writing that is. My character is doing a lot less exercise though. he is more of a slug.


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