To speak or not to speak . . .

Apparently there is a substantial body of research which indicates that if you talk about a goal — finishing your novel, climbing a mountain, eating all two dozen fresh-baked cookies in one sitting — you are LESS likely to achieve it. Whoa, that’s not been my experience, just the opposite. Then again, I’m often deluded. What about you out there in the big wide world? To speak or not to speak, that is the question.

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Greetings from Porterville, CA, where I am doing two weeks of author visits in schools. It’s a different world here in the San Joaquin Valley — orchards of almond and oranges, instead of Oregon hazelnuts; fields of grapes-soon-to-be-raisins, instead of grass seed and mint; feedlots of 1,000 dairy cows that confirm my lactose intolerance, instead of blue herons grazing the pastures for frogs that confirm . . . um, confirm why I don’t eat frogs?
Or something like that.
Anyway, the point is that despite all of the bad news we are constantly bombarded with, and multiple reasons to embrace cynicism, I just . . . can’t.
No, won’t.
Travel reminds me that America is both varied and beautiful. And not just the landscape. We are a nation of multiple shades. Any differences are far outweighed by the common thread of humanity. Our collective waters run deep. Yes, we’ve still have a LONG way to go, but that doesn’t negate the progress we’ve made.
Progress. A nice thought. And who leads the charge? Storytellers play a big part, I believe. Write on, my friends. Tell your stories in all of their glorious diversity.
Tom, who is prone to sudden fits of optimism, and glad of it.
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The amazing waters of Clear Lake, Oregon.

Relativity

I’m going back and forth between watching college football — Tennessee vs Georgia — and muting the sound during ads to read M.t. Anderson​’s Symphony for the City of the Dead — Shostakovich vs the Germans. True, both involve combat, but the stakes in besieged Leningrad were a hundred thousand times (no hyperbole) greater. The violence and suffering endured make football look like a soothing polite dance.

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Tough Love

Words of welcome chiseled in Gaelic into a hearthstone: “Tell a good story, tell a lie, or get out.” Yep, as a writer, you gotta earn your keep. It’s not just about a place, or a time, or a concept or theme. Something has to actually happen. Keep the story moving!

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This morning I committed to climb Mt. Rainier next August with a close friend. At 14,410 feet above sea level, Mt. Rainier is the highest point in the Northwest, and a training ground for climbers who want to ascend Denali in Alaska, and Mt. Everest. Why commit ten+ months ahead? According to those in the know, I’d better show up for the climb “in the best shape of my life.”

Wait, I’m 64. Before I launch on the climb I’ll be 65 and eligible for — this rattles my cage  — Medicare. The best shape of my life? At sixty-freaking-five? Hmm, is that even possible?

Well, I’m going to find out. Tomorrow morning I’ll head out on a 7-mile run, mostly uphill.

Okay, so it will feel like mostly uphill.

And that is just the beginning. Trail running, strength training, power hikes with a 40-pound pack — I’ll be pushing my body to be ready. Yeah, Mt. Rainier, I’ve got you in my sights. You are now a kedge.

Kedge? What’s a kedge? It’s origin is in the realm of sailing, but I’ll move on without a lot of explanation: a kedge is a goal that you put out there in the future to inspire you, like the proverbial dangling carrot. My kedge is tall. And massive. And will require that I be in the best shape of my life.

Oddly, this feels comforting to me. In the same way that writing a novel feels comforting. Both require commitment, perseverance, and a willingness to endure . . . well, okay, let’s be honest, it requires suffering. Climbing is not easy. Neither is writing a novel. I’ll just keep on keeping on — something I’m actually good at — until I reach the summit.

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Speaking Without Metaphor

I may be out of the mountains for awhile, but I hear their call, and am making plans to return. To not go back would be like not writing — both are part of who I am. So many peaks to climb, trails to hike, streams to ford, splendor to soak in. So many stories to tell.

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As long as I’m able, I’ll keep living life on the edge.

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