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I’ve had a good run with winter sports. The past few years have found me skiing (mostly lodging), snowboarding (mostly falling), ice skating (OWNED IT!), snow shoeing (good center of gravity), and now, snow tubing.
Snow tubing is one of those activities I wasn’t privy to in the midwest. For whatever reason I equate it with New Hampshire hills off highways. While I wasn’t immediately familiar with the concept it was explained to me as follows: you go down a big hill in a tube.
This seemed exciting. Tubes haven’t much height but offer cushioned support. I thought that because of a tube’s material there would be no way to exact speeds as fast as say, a toboggan, because the tube would rip. In all, it seems the perfect ‘sport’ for me. A leisurely ride down a gently sloped hill in a slow moving inner tube – on par with a day in a lazy river, just colder. So I enthusiastically agreed to go.
The day was unseasonably warm. Boston had it’s first hit of 50+ F and residents let it be known by going on runs in the tiniest of shorts, or wearing tees and tanks (sans jacket) and soaking up the sun as if all roads led to the beach. It was silly, and as much as I wanted to frolic through the streets I had a winter sport to attend to, so I donned my snow suit, packed a change of clothes and made way for New Hampshire.
Well, Amesbury. New Hampshire was a step over, but the weather took refuge there, too! Our snow park was reduced to a parking lot slush pool and a gaggle of children in light fleece tops and colorful snow pants. Because I went in thinking tubing was for wusses I didn’t worry much. It wasn’t until we pulled into the sports complex to find a towering hill with steep runs – each carved out of snow with ice tipped bumpers. There was a ‘magic carpet’ – or a flat bed escalator to take you and your tube to the top. There were children in helmets – some in hockey masks (WHY?)- pacing back and forth as we waited for the park to open – one upping each other in dares, each one sure to dive head first or double sure to make their tube fly. I don’t know why anyone would go down, much less draft a death wish by going head first, but the kids seemed resolute. With no one yet on the slope I watched the sport park employees trudge up the hill and stand guard at the dismount. They looked like frigid life guards with no cause for concern. Realizing how afraid I was I looked to the line to find someone, anyone, as nervous as I. This was a fools errand as I, and my cohort of three adult women, were the only unaccompanied adults. Meaning we didn’t have children. Suggesting that we were the only people in greater New England who thought it fun to throw themselves down a hill in a tube on a slick surface for the sheer want of it. Not because a kid in a hockey mask begged it of us. And of our small group only I seemed destined for panic.
I don’t know why I worry, only that I do. And that I have strange ways of attending to my phobias. For one I put myself out there, but I also make a spectacle. I took too long to choose an inter tube, and when I did my selection was curious. As we were some of the first people in line we had our pick of the litter! With so many tubes so late in the season it might be rare to find one in pristine condition but Moira and Angela found the brightest of blue tubes. Karleen, likewise, found one in a ruby shade of red, and I… without being able to explain myself chose the oldest, most faded, saddest looking tube in the lot. It operated and seemed as air filled as the rest, but this tube would never photograph well. This tube was probably the tube everyone left behind – statically growing into it’s shade of grey by way of hiding. It was a tube that spoke to my feelings and I dragged it along like I’d trained it in my own image. (More …)
I don’t agree with the subject heading. They are my words, even the fixed sub-text in the banner of my writing blog, but I can’t keep them close. You see, for as cry-eye and morose as I can be; for all the time devoted to sad movies and sadder novels and saddest music; for all the depression in the world, I am really an eternal optimist.
In the thick of a thunderstorm I might recall some source of shelter. Or when I think up something I might summon the strength to work it out – make it happen. It’s a blessing to be born this way. I allow myself to believe that things are possible. That I can really get up and be it. And while destiny may laugh at my naivety I can’t shake this optimism, which is what found me here, on an endless adventure trail chasing the tail of opportunities that I’ve long avoided.
It can all come at a cost. One can over visualize, hyper expect. You can think your way out of a bad way only to find yourself in heavier boots. Nothing is more damning than letting your optimism down, but I’ve no recourse. I choose to believe in trying – to make better our circumstances if only in mind. And although I haven’t a solid track record – while you might find me bemoaning something at some point – I’m going to stay with the program and keep up the optimism. Because with it we find second chances, and with chance we find adventure.
That’s how I found myself back here. It starts off so easily, as it does every four years. I watch the Olympics. Really, I love the Olympics. I love the fervor and excitement and attention to celebration. I love that anything seems possible and that hard work is rewarded. And I love how throngs of tiny ice flower girls become inspired to be their next best version of Michelle Kwan or Lindsay Vohn or Bodie Miller. And because our tvs are bigger and the picture crisper, I love how I feel at one with the action. That I’m really gliding across the ice like a bladed centaur. When I see this – the pure athletic prowess, but even more, the crowd swell of support – the snuck smile whenever some athlete completes something special – well, I want for that. I believe that anything is possible. I feel the power of Horatio Alger and the American Dream and want to try, try, try. I wish the trying translated to writing more, or setting up a sustainable system or pattern in my life, but instead it takes wild turns.
On dock today, figure skating – or my impression of!
I watched all the figure skating and declared that TODAY WAS THE DAY to take to ice. I haven’t much memory of time spent skating, although I must have done so once or twice as a girl. Still, it seemed appropriate to make an effort and Hiro and I headed off to the Kendall ice rink in Cambridge to make our public debut.
Everyone for miles had the same idea. The rink was teeming with little girls and boys and men and women inspired by the latest quad sequence for Yuzuru Hanyo. The rink was filled with optimists gliding past one another in seamless streams. The collective energy, replete with artful falls and botched stop sequences, was endearing and I couldn’t help but think these are my people.
It’s not easy here in the cold northeast. The people can be mean. Everyone has an agenda and a privately guarded inner world. It was a hard transition coming to Boston with my midwest wide eyes and belief in beauty. I felt, and still feel, bruised by people’s hurried nature. Everyone has got something better to do, a place to be. I feel here, moreso than anywhere, people would sooner opt out of optimism. Dreaming derails progress. Get on the pragmatic program and stop holding up the line. The negativity sticks to you like mid-summer sweat and I’ve had a hell of a time finding a towel to dry off.
But here, if only for a moment, the ice was magnetic. It melded our skate blades to the ground and asked that we abandon inhibition. That we believe in a dream, even if not our own. That we allow ourselves a moment of reckless belief. And it’s obvious, from the throngs of skaters trying desperately to turn as beautifully as Mao Asada did. It’s so evident from the ecstatic smiles on their faces as they fall that THEY ARE TRYING. THEY ARE DOING. THAT THEY ARE BELIEVING the best thing anyone can: that anything is possible.And it occurs to me that what is crucial is to believein effort, to believe some good will come of simply trying,a good completely untainted by the corrupt initiating impulseto persuade or seduce – Louise Gluck
Hiro and I did two things with our Sunday. We watched the last Olympic leg of the Team Ice Dancing competition and we drove to New Hampshire and shot some guns. We didn’t do one to play off the other for effect. Nor did we do either with any planning as Hiro isn’t much of an ‘ice-dance man’ and I sit squarely in the liberal fantasy land that is Boston fully in favor of a full repeal of the 2nd amendment. Instead, we found our way into these activities and because they are of note, I thought I’d share them with you.
The Olympics themselves are the first hurdle. I love the games and the sad sappy commercials that oft accompany them. I love seeing athletes recognized for their abilities no matter how niche or otherwise uncelebrated. I also love the emotion that comes of winning AND losing. There is no moment like the one moment you have opportunity to prove your worth. As sad as it is to see someone fall, tumble, foil their way through their event it’s ever more uplifting to see them comforted. To see human spirit in its purest form come to the aid of one another blindly and with good faith. These games are a tall(er) order, what with the human rights violations and seeming disregard for said companioned vigor by the host country. I was all set to boycott the games! No games! Not in my house! But, besides my fervent need to feel kinship with all that hope, I felt it a great disservice to those athletes that are there based on their merit. They did not chose for Sochi to host. They only chose to be good/great/best in their field and can still use all the support we, as their adoring fans, can muster. At any rate that’s how I justified that. And that’s how we found ourselves ice-dance aficionados.
We don’t know anything about ice-dancing, and if I hear the phrase “side-by-side twizzle sequence” once more I’m afraid I may never hear anything else. But we were into it. It was graceful and athletic and synchonized. Before I knew it Hiro had fully seated himself at my side and we TALKED A BIG GAME at the Jonny Weir about what it takes to truly execute a side-by-side twizzle sequence, thank you very much.
In all honesty I could have devoted my whole day to that, but ice-dance knows how to make an exit and Hiro and I were left with two choices. Make a further dent in the sofa and become intimate with insane ski jumping or do something else with our day. Because I’d sooner defer to adventure I chose the latter.
Let me build off my earlier disclaimer. I don’t like guns. I hate them, really. I want only to live in a place without them and can’t imagine having one anywhere near me without a lock, and a box, and another lock and a safe. I have, however, shot one before. Two, actually. It was years back at the ranch of a then boyfriend in none other than Texas. Then BF and I were already fading fast and my trip to meet his parents did little more than solidify the fact that this whole trip was going the way of my journal and a memory store I’d work extra hard to purge. That may be why, when offered, I agreed to shoot those guns. Even when my judgment told me to go back in the ranch house and read a book and let the boys and the ranch hand point big shot guns at clay pigeons with the right hands, while holding firmly onto bottles of Shiner Bock(s) in the other. It seemed unsafe and reckless and my anxiety was mounting. I was sad to be stuck in a place I didn’t belong and mad to have made that choice. I felt alien and prudish and frustrated so I took that shot gun and did as they said.
I did not shoot the clay pigeon. I shot off into some vast air target never to see my bullet meet matter. I did, however, feel some crazy backfire in my shoulder from the butt of the gun and quickly gave up.
That was six years ago and I’ve long since forgotten the feeling, but somewhere in the back stores of my mind I must have equated the release of a trigger with that of frustration. I may have mixed memories and convinced myself that all the trouble I had with the former BF was made palatable, or at least unleashed some irritation by way of firearm. I don’t know if that’s the leap I made then, but I think that’s what I convinced myself today, as I found myself asking Hiro if we could go to a gun range. (More …)
I enjoy going through customs. I like the confirmation. A declaration of adventure. Too often travel ends in a whisper. I spend hours and days planning a trip. Dreaming up scenarios: a blue bird London sky; a pop-up Parisian dinner party; the glory of a Tanzanian mountain descent. I dream these up more than I take them on, but the fantasy satiates. I visualize a passport thick as a Thanksgiving belly and friends and new family on every corner of the globe.
So I always welcome the customs line. I waltz through there like the queen of all things because I am, if only for a minute, the world’s best traveler. I am an ambassador of my own memory and I relish in the opportunity to confirm that I put into practice at least one fantasy.
But it is never as expected. My travel is calculated. I buy Fodder’s and Let’s Go’s in the hopes of staying safe. I go off the beaten path in as much as my mass-produced guide has instructed me to go rogue. I stay in clean hotels, and fare well with my own language. This is the stuff my family lives for. A Disney sanctuary of pre-fab comfort and top-grade assurance. It has effect. It gets me to go, go, go when I live to keep moving. This is good/great/ best less the end result; a mere crawl to the finish line – a hoarse whisper of thanks to whatever locale welcomed me that trip.
I don’t want to whisper. I want to yell from that Tanzanian mountain top. I want to crawl into a yurt without shower and dance in the moonlight and fight for my right to speak at a dinner party. I suppose it’s the experience I’m after. The fall without net sensation of really living that keeps me on Expedia and believing, imploring, unabashedly reaching for a customs line that will stamp my passport ‘life well lived’.
What are we without dreams? But even more, who are we to scrutinize our best efforts to reach them? Day in and day out I’m hard on myself. I’m a lame traveler. A failed adventurer. I’m not working the job I want; not making the money I thought. I’m not reading nor writing nor living. Not, no, nor. I allow these as refrains in my daily shower song. But I don’t want a negative to sing to me. I just want to dream without consequence.
That’s what I carry to customs. The realization of dreams deferred. The overweight parcels of expectation and regret. But, if anything, I’m in line, which has to say something.
“Do the things that interest you and do them with all your heart. Don’t be concerned about whether people are watching you or criticizing you. The chances are that they aren’t paying any attention to you. It’s your attention to yourself that is so stultifying. But you have to disregard yourself as completely as possible. If you fail the first time then you’ll just have to try harder the second time. After all, there’s no real reason why you should fail. Just stop thinking about yourself.”
I once wrote that I couldn’t small talk my way out of a doll house, and the sentiment sticks. I’m so terrified of judgement – of saying, doing something that might inspire ire, or prompt people to think of me as a failure, that I don’t do anything at all. I don’t finish my novels because I’ve convinced myself they aren’t worthy of an end. I especially don’t share my words for fear that the reader may raise a brow and say, aloud, ‘You’ve spent all this time on what?’
This is silly. I should write for the love of writing. I should share in reverence a craft I’ve come to love. So I’ll try to do that now. Scary as it is, I hereby open up shop for bespoke, tailor made stories. I’ll write with the intention to share. I’m setting up my own business so I may put myself out there. Get better by practice. Learn to love my readership. And, ultimately, to keep doing that thing I love most.
Here goes trying, at least:
Of course referring to it this way is misleading. The set up: the suggestion that I travel professionally, and could call out districts in Tokyo by name is absurd. I rely wholely on my husband, who just yesterday answered a friend’s question by calling on our hotel by name and location. He said this in Japanese, and then translated for me, because he is a Japanese man.
But that doesn’t make this locale any more unknown, and I’m pretty proud of myself for waking too early and taking to the streets. In jeans and an unadorned face I left a silent lobby – taking pains (and because I was hungry, pangs!) to follow the path of my husband from when we first arrived. I took escalators down into the subways underbelly, using as lifelines the still closed shops I saw the day prior. Shops as small as a bathroom – shops with logos in minimalist paisley fonts, and absolute French names, “Le Petite Monseur”, “Rue d’ Arc”, that sat sandwiched between ticket vending machines and early to open- late to close ramen shops. They’d look like an afterthought if not for the slight slice of light breaking through the closed curtain fitted against the door frame. To look in was a show in itself, a key hole diharama of perfectly placed pencil holders and lace outfitted hand bags. The pretty positioning of merchandise – the unabashed need to be seen as something so French – had all the hallmarks of forethought. Somehow this shop, in many different iterations – of different names and with varying doorways – seemed to be everywhere.
You can get lost in this dawnbreak window shopping. And I did, so much so that when I turned around the subway grew. What was two men in short sleeve white oxford shirts, racing escalators when I first left had grown into a militia of salary men and women! The steady stream of determined faces blanked past me at dizzying speed. With few exceptions I saw man after man after woman, stony faced, moving mechanically toward some turnstile – some running, others progressing rank-in-file. Because I’d returned to trace my steps I was one of very few walking opposite this mass. (More …)
Because I’m wild for literary quotes this fits:
“I must be a mermaid, Rango. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.”
― Anaïs Nin
And also, this video.
Silly, perhaps for inspiration to come by way of Jelly Bean(s), but if life has taught me anything it’s that wisdom comes suddenly. And to always be alert.
What you give to the world is what it keeps of you.
-Noah and the Whale
Except, it was a breezeless day. “Light” was how the MIT sailing pavilion volunteers referred to it. They and Brad all but assured me that the boat would do little more than slightly turn.
Considering the list sequence of activities accomplished in 2010 it’s surprising that I’d approach sailing with such resistance. But resist I did, from as early as 8 a.m., when I picked up Brad and found myself in a foul mood – primed for drivers seat expletives and Starbucks bemoanings.
I said that it was a bad morning and that I was irritable but someone Brad was able to coax the true concern out of me. I was scared of sailing.
But how? Why? Sailing seems so simple – so run with the wind free that it hardly bears fear. But that same reticence that accompanied sky diving, trapeze swinging, horseback riding, crept in. I was worried I would capsize. Or, worse yet, that I might fail to understand the fundamentals of boat manuevering and make a fool of myself – sitting static in water with a boon of proper sailors with bull horns announcing my defeat.
Brad said that this was crazy. That is was a freakishly light day and that capsizing was all but impossible, given the weather conditions. He calmed me some.
We started the class with little instruction and were asked to set up our boat. Thankfully Brad’s a skilled sailor and he talked me through the stunsail knot – the bow line set up – the rigging and checking. With his expertise I felt like a real deal. I stood cooly by my boat imploring the class instructor to let me take the wind. I thought it could really be as simple as moving forward.
Not so fast, as we were subject to some warnings and ‘safety’ instructions. We were then led outside, subject to a minimalist demo and told to queue up to sail.
At this point I thought (to myself) ‘ I have no idea what I’m doing but I’ll try ‘ . Then some anxious volunteer with no capacity to explain himself asked me to demonstrate tacking.
I tried. He got irritated and corrected me. His corrections were nothing but a jumble and I tried again. His irritation doubled and he spouted some quick, incoherent directives that I couldn’t understand. I tried again only to meet the same fate. Just as he was about to go down the same rabbit hole I gave up and switched seats with Brad. I said I wouldn’t skipper – that I felt stupid. Brad, trying to make the best of the situation took the helm (?) and we pushed off to sea.
Well to the Charles River. Brad demonstrated turns and manuevers. It was fun having him in control. We sailed like we’d been doing it all our lives and I really felt one with the water. When we again docked it was my turn to skipper the vessel. I felt good about this go. I took the tiller and steered us in the direction of a bright orange buoy. I turned and switched seats as instructed, but no sooner than I did that did the wind carry and the boat feel like it would soon capsize. The rush of wind – the power of a hand polished vessel fighting resistance – took hold and I panicked. I dropped the tiller. I dropped the sail. I started to scream, “Brad fix it! I can’t do this!” only to have Brad completely assume control.
This is embarrassing – to type and to relive. We were in no imminent danger. The worst thing that could come of that situation would have been us veering off course, but it felt like a personal failure. I sucked at sailing, and because of this, I had NO INTEREST in follow up laps.
We were given opportunity to skipper again and again but each time I declined. And with each decline some volunteer, or the instructor, or the instructor’s assistant would ask why. The incoherent man mentioned earlier bothered me further but asking me to again assess my failures. It seemed so simple! Everyone seemed to be getting it! I can not say what was wrong with me except that all the attention and all the misadventures left me little choice but to cry.
It was a sunny day and I wore sunglasses so few knew, but still the association stung. I felt like I’d ruined sailing. Everything that seemed so free and wild and exciting about it was now permanently imprinted in my mind as a chaotic springboard to crying. I was relieved when we were called in for further class work.
Class made me more anxious. The instructor, trying to explain the mechanics of sailing, only succeeded in demonstrating all that could go wrong. We could capsize. We could hit our head on the boon. All the arrows and angles he drew on the board meant nothing to me, less a promise of my inability to comprehend. I could only focus on my failure. I knew I didn’t want to take the boat out again. (More …)