Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Solace of Words and the Natural World

Earlier this week I got this email:
Dear Ms. Lodge, I am pleased to inform you that your poems, "And one day you remember," and "When I go Home Again," have been chosen to appear in the forthcoming issue of Clapboard House. Please forgive the delay in responding to your submission.

Keep Writing
Jonathan Moore
Poetry Editor

It was a much needed email. It almost reaffirms my faith in the life I’ve chosen.


Something I’ve been thinking about the last few weeks: choice.

We all make choices that have led us to this exact moment in time. Circumstance and chance are part of it too, but really, choice makes us into the person we are today.

I think about these choices that brought me to this place mostly when outside; either biking, running or hiking with my dogs. I live in a beautiful landscape of mountains and sage. I watch storms approach from the west from my front door. Also from my front door, I can hike and ski. Choice. I chose this.

But chaos comes unwelcomed and I question all these choices. And, when choas comes I go to my words and the stories, quotes, poems, and articles, in the three ring binders. A few days ago I came across a photocopy of The Full Catastrophe by Laura Pritchett. I’ve heard Pritchett speak at writing conferences and have read every article she has written in 5280. I’ve also read her novel, Hell’s Bottom, Colorado and Sky’s Bridge. The Full Catastrophe is written for graduates, but it’s completely applicable to everyone going through a life change.

Here are my favorite excerpts:

1. Your life will be a catastrophe. Catastrophe is good. … the sooner I realized that catastrophe was the norm, the sooner I could dive in and embrace it. ..My point is to try to love the full catastrophe that lies ahead. .. Embrace the mess.

3. Choose your mate wisely. ….. try to pick the right person, because nothing in your life will feel right if you've picked the wrong one.

7. Simple stubbornness can take you a long way. …When I graduated, I set out to be a writer, and I became a writer not because of any great gifts. No, I became a writer because I am stubborn enough to believe I can do what I want.

8. You will meet failure. Because you are human beings, you are going to find disappointment, injustice, betrayal, and irreparable loss. You will find you're weak where you thought you were strong. You will experience times when you feel very alone and very afraid. Probably you already have, and you will again. I hope you will be able to live there, in the dark place, to embrace it for the full catastrophe it is, and to wait it out.

10. We live a full catastrophe, and then we die. That means that, in the meantime, we must be honest and true, raw and real, and honor our fundamental connectedness. ….we must believe in curiosity; we must believe in the power of beauty.
I wish I could remember her advice so sharing this story makes me hopeful that I will remember these things when catastrophe hits, again. For now, I know the solace that words and the outdoors can bring. I’m heading out for a hike right now, maybe in moonlight.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Book Review: Unless It Moves the Human Heart

Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing by Roger Rosenblatt.

I bought this book because I remember riding in an elevator with a woman who just discussed the book during a panel at AWP Conference in Washington DC. She had the book in her hand and was telling someone that the book made her cry because what it taught her was so important. I asked her what the name of the book was and she showed me the cover. A book that moved a woman to tears - I needed to know more. I bought the book a month later and just finished reading it today.

Rosenblatt’s chapters are from his writing class in New York. The best part was the end. I got a bit tired of reading all the dialogue during each chapter, but he did captured my attention on page 10 when he said the writing life practically guarantees writers “rejection, poverty, and failure.” I read and hear this over and over again, yet something continues to draw me to a writer’s life.

In this first section he tells us that he looks at his students and “can’t help but think that something deliberate and stubborn lies behind their decision to make artists of themselves.” (11) Stubborn-ness, a quality I have.

He says, “Writing is the cure for the disease of living.”

This book reminds me that writers have a story to tell and sometimes these stories assign blame and some attempt to explain things the writer can’t really explain. I like this idea and it makes me think of my novel-in-progress and how I write my character’s feelings and there is an element of assigning blame in their thoughts and actions. The characters attempt to explain things that I never really understood. I can’t wait to see what happens next, in this novel I am writing.

The final chapter of Unless It Moves the Human Heart: The Craft and Art of Writing is my favorite: Parting Shots. Rosenblatt writes about his friend Lewis Thomas and how he says at the end of his life he wants to be useful. He would “die content” if he knew he had been useful in his life. The author writes in response:

“for your writing to be great …. It must be useful to the world. And for that to happen you must form an opinion of the world. …And for that to happen you have to live in the world and not pretend it’s not someone else’s world you are writing about…nothing you write will matter unless it moves the human heart, said the poet A.D Hope. And the heart that you must move is corrupt, depraved, and desperate for your love.”(151)
The final words of the book [I just love them and will follow them]: “Both you and the human heart are full of sorrow. But only one of you can speak for that sorrow and ease its burdens and make it sing – word after word after word.”

These are the words that the woman in the elevator must have heard when she was crying.

How to Avoid Mud Season and Hike at 8,000 feet

It is 7am and I’m hiking with my dogs on the trails in Granby. The sun is shining and the dogs are running around happy to be off leash for a while. We are on the trails behind my house and the birds are singing.

I still can’t identify the birds by their call but will by the end of this summer; no matter what.

I’ve been a bit obsessed with the Osprey (see Osprey post) and my biologist-boyfriend saw the first one of the season near Shadow Mountain Lake on Hwy 34. Lucky him.

He promises to show me their nests. He has yet to learn that he will be teaching me bird call identification this summer.

I think of this while hiking on top of the frozen mud and realize that this is the best time of the day to hike in April and May at 8,000 feet. I know once the sun shines for an hour the trail will be a sloppy mess.

So here are my tips to Survive Mud Season in a Mountain Town:
• All hiking and trail running must commence at first light and terminate at 9am.
• In the afternoon, hike and run on paved trails such as the Paved Fraser River Trail from Alco in Fraser to Winter Park Resort. The sun hits the pavement and dries it by noon.
• In the evening, don’t attempt to run or hike on either dirt of paved trails especially if the temperature drops. Dirt trails will be muddy and paved trails will begin to get icy. It’s best to walk on road with cars, they will be the safest.

It is this thawing and freezing that captures my attention this morning. Much like my bike ride last week with my triathlete friend, Kim. She and I biked from Granby to Rocky Mountain National Park; about 30 miles. The sun was out, thank goodness, but the air was cold. It was also windy. The wind is fierce this spring. The wind and cold air froze my toes while riding.

The melting snow made little streams of water in the road and I rode through them. The water on the shoes froze and melted continually during the three hour ride.

Why would anyone want to come to the mountains or stay in the mountains during mud season?

Great question and I have a great answer:

The solitude. It’s so quiet here. The birds and wildlife are moving around. The sage is starting to appear under the weight of snow. It's a beautiful time to live here in Grand County, Colorado.

Remember my hiking tips and you will love the outdoors during a mountain town spring. Plus, there is no waiting in lines at the grocery store or coffee shop {Mountain Grind and Bistro] or waiting to turn left.

Spend your mornings outside and cabin fever will disappear; and you’ll remember why you live here.

Soon you will be chanting: I Love Mud Season, I Love Mud Season.

To view another story I wrote about Mud Season Click Here.
I love Mud Season.
When I first moved to Grand County last year people asked me how I liked living here and I told them I loved it. Then they said, wait until winter, I wasn’t quite sure what that meant.

Now I know. This winter was tough; windy, snowy, cold.
This story written in 2008. Nothing changes much here. We all think winter is tough, windy, snowy and cold.

You can also view this story, How to Have Fun in Mud Season, a story from last year about fishing in Lake Granby.