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kilometers are better than miles

Those “km”s whizz by so much faster than those ponderous “mi”s.  And they sound far more impressive: “I just biked 20 km!”  versus, “I did about 12 mi. this morning”.  However one tells the distance, man, it feels good to be outside, moving, feeling the sweat on my back dry as I coast downhill, pedaling occasionally, watching the kilometers (or miles!) pass along with the huge, Pacific Northwest evergreens.  Orange needles coat the forest floor, and bright green ferns bloom in the understory.  I’m in Vancouver, Canada, visiting my traveling kindred spirit, Jeni.  She’s at work, and I’m taking advantage of the sunshine to borrow her bike and get out into the forest.  

I’m sure it’s a surprise to no one that a little bit of me-time in the great outdoors has made me clearheaded and inspired to return to this space.  Surprise or not, though, it feels good to be back.  There’s been this huge pile of landslide debris blocking my path for so long.  I’m trying to sneak over the hardened, dried mud without dislodging any rocks.  If I climb up high enough, maybe I can see to the other side.  Maybe I can slip right over it and then start running, leaving it far behind.  I’m a little bit shaky, a little nervous and shy.  I could spook at any second!  I’ve tried to attack this blockage, force it out of my way and yell it down with angry words.  The earth only rumbles again and sends more dirt and trees plummeting downhill on top of me, building the pile higher.  I’ve tried to ignore it.  Carry on with things on this side.  Pretend it’s not there and that I didn’t want to go that way anyhow.  It pokes me when I do that, though.  I can’t seem to move very far away, either.  I can still see it, no matter where I move.  I’ve tried dismantling it logically, but taking it once piece at a time only makes the rocks and roots multiply, and I get dirt in my eyes and I am blinded, overwhelmed by the size of the thing.  I can’t make it go away, but maybe I can get over it, move on.

So I’m back, then, or trying to be, anyway.  I’m not over the block yet, but I’m moving that way, stepping softly but confidently (trying to be confident, anyway).  Reminding myself that the only person with the power to move forward is me.  I watched that movie, “Julie and Julia” two nights ago.  It’s a story of a woman who wants to be a writer, but has never finished anything she’s started.  She decides to start a blog about her love of cooking and her admiration for Julia Child.  “524 Recipes in 365 Days!” was the challenge she gave herself.  Listening to the actress playing Julie Powell read bits of her blog, I remembered my own early blogging days, when I first went to NZ.  There was no art to my writing.  It was pure fun.  My only goal was to relay, as clearly as possible, the wonders, astonishments, lessons, and treasures of my first year traveling by myself in a foreign country.  My posts were honest and excited.  I described things as they had imprinted themselves on my eyes and soul, with only a few quick glances in the thesaurus when I was feeling particularly creative.  The excitement is tangible in those early posts.  No wonder so many of you commented back in the beginning!  I’m not sure when, exactly, this began to feel more like a job than a joy, but it’s been a sad, downhill ride.  The movie was a good one, very much a chick-flick (and I, being especially sappy these days, teared up during several scenes), but it hit me as more than a fun way to pass the evening.  There’s a scene where Julie and her husband have had a fight, and she’s alone in the apartment, lying on her bed, sulking, feeling sad, wallowing a bit.  She sits up, looks at her computer, lies back down again.  A second or two passes before she sits up again, and I imagined I could feel her taking a deep, resolved breath before she stood up, and moved toward the computer to write about the day on her blog.  The message I got?  It sucks, sometimes it really sucks, but if you just get off the bed, and do what you say you want to do, what you’ve committed to do, then good things happen.

Just do it.  This is not the first time I’ve heard that message.  Taped to the bottom of my computer screen is a small, rectangular piece of paper with the words “BE. RUTHLESS.” printed on it.  I wrote that little reminder over a year ago after reading a friend’s blog.  Lacy is a fellow artist, a professional actress in Chicago, whom I met traveling in Ecuador.  She was quoting yet another blog by yet another successful artsy person about the experience of learning to “be ruthless with oneself” in order to move forward and, eventually, be successful.  That little taped note has been staring at me for over a year, and I still haven’t been able to look it in the eye.  But today, I went for a (20km!) bike ride through the lush, tall forest that surrounds North Vancouver, and I thought about this space, and how perhaps it’s time to take the pressure off, and just write about what I saw and what I thought about today.  And today, somehow, it felt possible.

So I’m back, I think.  It probably won’t always be pretty, but I’d like to make it a habit again.  There are things that I get excited about, or frustrated with, and while I’d love it if you’d be willing to read about them, I’m mostly interested in simply being in this space and getting my bearings again.  It doesn’t matter if I’m writing into a void, what matters is that I’m writing.

2 comments to kilometers are better than miles

  • Lacy

    YES! Do it.
    We did a month in SE Asia this summer. It was gorgeous, but our fellow travelers were awfully stand-offish wherever we went. Certainly no one as lovely as you!
    Anyway, now my travel bug is in FULL EFFECT …and I’ve blown all my money. So. Let me (and others) live vicariously through your blog!

  • syreena

    Good luck to picking up old habits. Here’s something that I found in one of the million books that I’ve read this summer: ” The obstacles in our path are not blocking us- they are redirecting us. Their purpose is not to interfere with our happiness, it is to point us toward new routes to our happiness, new possibilities, new doorways”(De Angelis). She then mentions that pin the tail on the donkey game, where you are blind folded and everyone shouts directions at you. Well, what if the universe is trying to get you to go in a certain direction? How would it get your attention? I guess when we experience blockages (of any kind) that’s when we know it’s time to quite down and listen up!

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