Spooks and Gatherings

Friday, October 30, 2009
After a couple snowy weeks, the weather has shifted towards the upper 40s and rain – it feels like summer again!

The dark, damp, chilly weather looks very much as the end of October and the start of November should. While there’s no prediction of any snow tomorrow to rival the Halloween blizzard of 1991, a Halloween season doesn’t pass in this corner of the world without someone mentioning the storm that dumped more than two feet of snow in areas of the state over the course of four days. Most of the snow didn’t melt until well into May of the next year. I remember standing in my living room, dressed up as a dog that Halloween, while outside feet of snow fell down and, coincidentally, the cafĂ© across the street burnt down. Needless to say, our trick-or-treating was brief that year, but whether that was because of the snow or just the extremely small size of the town we lived in at the time (population: 140), I can’t remember.

Even when exorbitant amounts of snow didn’t fall for the Halloween festivities, trick-or-treating remained a unique experience in northern Minnesota. Let’s just say we never had the luxury to “wear lingerie, put on animal ears and call it a costume,” like Tina Fey jokes in Mean Girls. During second and third grade, prime Halloween years, I went through a ballerina stage and dressed up as a ballerina and a hula dancer, respectively. It was all fun and games at the school sponsored parties, in the heated building, but when the trick or treating begun, my costume disappeared as layers of long underwear and snow pants were pulled on. I no longer felt like a ballerina. I felt like any elementary aged kid headed for the sledding hill. Of all my Halloween costumes, only the Pierrot clown costume was conducive to being pulled on over the snow pants.

Nowadays, I don’t dress up for Halloween and we really do very little to celebrate other than a few decorations sprinkled around the house. I thought about carving a pumpkin, but when push came to shove, I didn’t feel like purchasing a $7 pumpkin that would sit and rot on the front steps and probably make the neighborhood fox and pine marten rather ill. I think there’s some semblance of a Halloween party at work tomorrow, but I’m not scheduled and frankly am relieved to not devote creative energy into thinking up a costume. The best I could think of was Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz and the only real costume component I possess are the ruby red slippers.

Instead, now marks the shift in seasons. On Sunday, the restaurant will close down for nearly two months, and I’ll shift to cleaning cabins and hopefully writing, more. Now is when hot cocoa gets made more frequently, knitting projects are paid more attention, and I start to look for a good book to read. With Andy’s birthday socks and mittens finished up, it’s time to starting thinking about the Christmas knitting projects. I’m making excellent progress on a hat I started yesterday (and not such great progress in the writing world) and on the Duluth trip, I laid in the yarn for my mother’s present. Although it’s only the end of October, I know it’ll be a race against the clock to get that particular present completed.

It’s also the time when we thinking about gathering. Thanksgiving is looming and life has settled into a gentler rhythm now that summer’s officially come and gone. Last night, a friend and I joined some other area young adults for trivia night at the pizzeria. We placed second place, losing out by a single point, and still winning a $50 gift certificate to the establishment. A tradition may have been born.

In other news, the resident pine marten is back. Last night, Andy and I heard him scampering around on the roof top. Right now he’s bounding about the parking area, no doubt planning all sorts of mischief.
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Bright Lights, Red Lights

Tuesday, October 27, 2009
For the first time in far too long, I ventured from the woods on Saturday to visit the bright lights, big city of Duluth. Compared to London, or even Minneapolis, Duluth’s a baby of a city, but any place that hosts establishments that can only be categorized as “martini bars” qualifies as a cosmopolitan hub in my book. I had a lovely visit, mainly catching up with some college friends and meeting all of their respective “manfriends” while sipping fizzing and foaming vodka creations out of martini glasses.

Besides the socializing, I had a chance to get run a few “big city” errands including a badly needed haircut. Currently, Duluth is riddled with road construction and the maze of not always clearly marked detours complicated things. It’s not that you can’t get where you want to go, it’s just that you’re better off taking the backdoor way and even that isn’t without some construction hiccups. On top of that, Target’s been rearranged since I was last there (shocking really, since I used to know the store like the back of my hand) and it took many trips around the store, as I’m sure was the intent of the new organization, to find most of what was on my list.

Not that things are so much simpler in the woods. Turns out there’s talk of putting stoplight up at another intersection in the county, at least if the rumors at work can be believed. And if there’s one thing deeply rooted in rural life, it’s the pride the local population takes in relatively mundane things like having only one stoplight in the entire county. While I spent most of Saturday wishing for better marked intersections in Duluth, I spent a good portion of Monday morning grousing with coworkers about how ridiculous another stoplight in the county would be because “it’s not like it’s even a blind intersection” and “the only reason accidents happen there is because people aren’t paying attention” and “maybe they could salt that curve on the hill better.”

Local residents have a chance to give a bright lights idea the red lights next week. Next Tuesday, we’ll vote whether or not to adopt a 1% tax increase that will generate funds for a few infrastructure-improving projects including a new swimming pool, a biomass energy producing plant and, perhaps the biggest to-do, broadband internet for the county. While we’ve managed to stay on the edge of the 21st century with satellite wireless internet and, gasp, dial-up we still lack the means for truly high-speed internet. To gain high-speed means replacing every telephone line in the county and has a projected cost of $50 some million. While the tax increase seems to have broad support among the county residents – trust me, as a writer flirting with freelance, broadband would be amazing – we’ll see where that stubborn rural pride falls on this particular technology.

What makes a big city and what makes a rural community? Martini bars? Stoplights? Broadband internet? It’s a little strange to think that it’s been our choice all along.
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Quietly the Winter Creeps In

Thursday, October 22, 2009
The pie pumpkin I bought a couple weeks ago as a Halloween decoration has turned into pumpkin pie for Dad’s birthday celebration tomorrow evening. Actually, it’s turned into a diabetic appropriate pumpkin pie since I realized – about a minute before the pie was slated to come out of the oven – that I’d forgotten to put any sugar in the pie except for a pinch in the crust. While upsetting at the initial time of realization, after picking at teeny bits of the pie filling along the crust, it became quite clear that the pie would be fine without sugar as long as it’s topped with lots and lots of Cool Whip! In a waste not, want not move, I roasted the pumpkin’s seed with some butter, cinnamon sugar and cayenne pepper. I’d grown quite fond of the little pumpkin and will probably have to find a new one for the counter, but I did find it rather amusing when I looked at the counter and saw a pumpkin pie and a bowl of roasted pumpkin seeds: the little pumpkin recomposed!

What with the pumpkin items and the batch of apple muffins baked yesterday, the Shack is smelling like autumn. Outside the Shack, things aren’t quite so sure what season it is. Yesterday, another couple inches of snow fell, once again covering the golden aspen leaves and giving me a second dose of winter driving when I headed to work this morning. Andy headed out to pull the first co-worker out of the ditch yesterday. As far as I know, the car’s still there; they didn’t manage to get it out.

Ready or not, winter breathing down our necks and it’s looking as if it’s going to be a very long winter indeed. Still, before the snow flies in earnest, there are some preparations to be made for autumn’s last stand: deer season. While men on my mother’s side of the family hunt, my father decidedly did not, making this, despite my 24 autumns in northern Minnesota, my first deer season.

I always knew deer hunting was largely tedious, I just didn’t realize the tedium begins months before the season actually opens. For the last month, whenever he has a day off, Andy has been out scouting deer trails while simultaneously hunting grouse, with minimal success on both accounts as of late. It’s not especially easy to find deer where, according to a local, “there haven’t been deer since 1971.” Our recent run-ins with moose might help explain that. Since deer have the ability to transport a brain worm that’s deadly to moose, deer and moose don’t co-exist terribly well.

For a long time, the best deer spot we’d found was in the woods behind my childhood home close to Lake Superior, but finally on Tuesday we found another spot a little closer to our neck of the woods that was up to Andy’s standards. In a true test of our relationship, we carried bits of Andy’s older deer stand (not the new one we put together in the cold shop a week or so ago) through a river bed and up the steep hill side to the perfect birch tree from which to watch the clearing crisscrossed with deer trails in the valley at the hill’s other side. I’m an apprehensive participant of manual labor on a good day, especially anything involving bushwhacking, but the whole process went so smoothly that the idea of deer hunting redeemed itself after all the “deer stand searching” in the weeks before.

We’ll see what deer season brings in actuality. If nothing else, the deer stand’s a lovely spot to watch the world go by and the ever-bold gray jays play. Just don’t plan on eating lunch in the stand; gray jays are notorious camp robbers.

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It's A Miracle!

Monday, October 19, 2009
When I was a teenager, my mother had a tiny book of gardening quotes floating around the house. It must have been a stocking stuffer sort of Christmas gift; it was the kind of book you pick up alongside the register at a gift shop. I don’t remember much of the book’s contents, which wavered on the edge of inspirational clap-trap, but one of the quotes has always stuck with me: If you would be happy all your life, plant a garden.

All the gardens of the summer have been turned in for the winter and now the ground is covered with golden carpet of fallen aspen leaves that will fertilize next year’s garden. The most I’ve done in a garden in a long time was to plant a few tulip bulbs in the garden at Andy’s mother’s cabin a few weeks. That hardly counts and we’ll see if anyone remembers where the red tulips came from when they bloom next spring!

We don’t have room, or really, the time, for a garden. For now, I have to content myself with some houseplants (a spider plant, a Christmas cactus, and a philodendron) all of which are doing admirably in the dingy Shack. I dream of a vegetable patch and more than anything I want another night flower garden – consisting only of flower varieties that open their blooms or become fragrant in the evening – like I had one year as a middle-schooler. Like or not, Andy and I are stuck being hunter/gatherers, although that doesn’t mean we can’t take advantage of the fruits of the forest and other people’s agriculture.

Really, we’ve done quite well for ourselves this year. It’s not unheard of to have grouse noodle soup, complete with onions and carrots from my parents’ garden, along with a batch of wild blueberry muffins for dinner. Last night, when he made kraut and sausages, Andy used a jar of homemade sauerkraut I’d made in September using a huge head of cabbage from my dad’s boss’s garden. Wild blueberries and raspberries fill the door of the freezer and alongside the other jar of homemade sauerkraut are jars of blueberry and raspberry jam. For the last month, Andy’s been scouting deer trails and making promises about venison. All of September saw my mother gifting us with more homegrown tomatoes and zucchinis than we knew what to do with. Last Saturday, I made a pie using apples from a coworker’s father’s tree.

A garden would certainly increase our ability to eat locally, and though I long for one, I don’t think we’re doing too shabby as it. There truly is something in the nature of gardening and subsisting off of the land that is inherently joyful. It greatly increases the sense of self-sufficiency and a deeper consciousness of what you’re putting in your mouth. When I make blueberry muffins in February, I’ll have memories of picking the berries in an August downpour. When I pull a couple grouse breasts out of the freezer, I don’t just have memories of grouse hunting; I also have memories of nearly having a run in with Papa Moose while grouse hunting. As the title of Barbara Kingsolver’s nonfiction account of locavore eating, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle implies, the acting of eating locally actively involves you in the miracle being. And that’s no small miracle to be involved with.
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Does Success Breed Failure?

Saturday, October 17, 2009
Yesterday, despite all of my moaning in yesterday’s post, I did everything on my to-do list which meant the first thing on the docket this morning was to create a new to-do list. Easy enough. But something about yesterday’s success made me uneasy.

I mean, I didn’t just do yesterday’s to-do list; I cruised through it. I made copies and sent out queries. I wrote. I revised. I got through with the list and kept on going. I researched and organized. I even had an idea approved by an editor, giving me a new article to work on over the next couple months. And all this from a girl infamous for drafting static “to-do” lists that generally gather more dust than checkmarks.

So as I sat down at the computer this morning with my pen and my pad of Post-its, poised to compose today’s to-do list. That’s when I forced myself to confront the dark truth of yesterday. If I’d managed to complete every thing on my to-do list, then I just hadn’t been asking enough out of myself.

Because really, I don’t make to-do lists, I make wish lists of all the things I wish I did if days had 36 hours in them and life wasn’t so chock full of interrupters and my mind wasn’t oh so very capable of creating any plethora of distractions. Yesterday spoke of focus and, dare I say, productivity, possibly even sustainability. It was all very shocking.

So I decided to put in some meatier goals in today’s to-do list. No more “revise a page of this essay” or “finish editing a chapter of that novel.” Nope, today, I’m revising whole essays and entire chapters. Well, at least on paper.

In addition, I decided it was high time to find publications for a few spec pieces that have been rolling around with the proverbial mothballs in “My Documents.” I once heard a writer say that she finds a home for everything she writes, no matter how long time it takes and at that point in time, I vowed to do the same. Of course, that writer probably isn’t trying to place, say, an 800-word biography of Granuaile written in 2005 with a youth audience in mind. Finding a paying market for any of these pieces probably depends more on divine inspiration than on me researching publications, but every once in a while, I like to pretend it’s a worthy use of my time instead of really just a distraction from other more productive goals. It can be hard to admit the ship has sailed.

I’ve got a ways to go with today’s to-do list. There’s been banana bread to bake and recycling to take out. And after all, there’s always tomorrow.
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Friday, October 16, 2009
Theoretically, to write (and write well) you only need three things: a pen, some paper and a decent imagination. This morning, having composed a query and needing to print the letter as well as make some copies of previously published pieces to accompany the query, I stomped through the two inches of fresh snow over to the lodge where Andy works to make my copies and prints. Copies and prints made, which involved somehow restarting Andy’s computer while he was in the midst of payroll, I headed back to the Shack to slip the paper packet into a large, hand-addressed manila envelope along with a SASE. Then back into the snowy wonderland to trudge up to the mailbox. It may take just three things to write, but after this morning, I wouldn’t mind having: a large stapler, a printer, a copy machine, a Pitney-Bowes machine, a larger desk, a filing cabinet . . . .

If you want to write, general opinion seems to be that you should sit down, write and then find someone willing to pay for what you’ve just churned out. However, there are plenty of hoops to jump through months before composing your opening sentence. All the running around I did this morning could very likely come to nothing if the publication rejects my query and even if they do accept my idea, it will lead to only a teeny article between 200-300 words, not to mention a teeny weeny paycheck.

There are three main ways to write: on assignment, by querying, or writing “on spec.” Writers dream of writing on assignment, when an editor seeks you out to write on a particular subject for their publication. Not only does writing on assignment mean a paycheck, it also means you’ve established yourself as a credible and reliable writer.

Most people from outside the writing world seem to assume that writers write mostly “on spec”, that is, composing completed articles and then pitching them to publications. There are a few publications that prefer to see your completed article (rather than just hearing about your great idea for an article) and I’ve been published “on spec” before. The massive downside of writing “on spec” is that if the publication you’ve tailored your article to reject your article, you’re left with a specialized article that’s not making you any money and which will need heavy edits before being pitched to other publications.

But most writing takes place through the query system. I abhor it. To query, you send a publication a letter about your idea for an article for their publication, explaining how you plan to research and write the article and also selling yourself as the best candidate for the job. Generally, you also attach a few clips of your writing. It seems simple enough, but you need to research your market extensively to make sure your idea isn’t repetitive or just plain boring to the audience you’re trying to market and at times, you need to be thinking at least a year in advance to stay on track with the publication’s publishing schedule.

Theoretically, you only need three things to write, but a home office, a heavy dose of patience and maybe, a bit of luck, never hurt any aspiring writer.
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The Urge For Going

Tuesday, October 13, 2009
“I awoke today and found the frost perched on the town
It hovered in a frozen sky, then it gobbled summer down
When the sun turns traitor cold
and all the trees are shivering in a naked row
I get the urge for going but I never seem to go”
– Joni Mitchell

A couple of patches here and there in shady spots are all that’s left of our weekend snow. The cool and rainy summer we had this year has many people thinking we’re due for an Indian summer but after the gorgeous September weather, I’m not so sure winter won’t be flirting with us for the next month or so.

It’s this time of year, when the mornings dawn frosty and the nights grow long when I get the urge for going that Joni Mitchell sings of. Always at this time of year, at least for the six years, I’ve left my hometown for other places. For four years I left home to head not so very far away to college. Two years ago, I left in the first week of October to spend six months living and working in London. Last year at this time I found temp work in the Twin Cities and shared a townhouse with a college friend.

This is a year of staying and burrowing deeper into the woods. Today I bought a pie pumpkin which I set on the kitchen shelf next to one of two (two?!) Beanie Baby Draculas. Yesterday I finally finished the second sock of a pair Andy will get when his birthday rolls around in a month’s time. And, miracle of miracles, I’m staying on track with October’s writing goals. Sounds like nesting, indeed.

But I still feel that familiar tug at my soul to go. Somewhere.

Today as Andy and I came down the hill into town to run errands, a moment passed when we both wanted to keep going, to press on to Duluth or other places. Work and volunteer obligations kept us from making it any farther than the grocery store, but there are plans for much bigger adventures, albeit in the somewhat distant future.

A couple days ago, we booked plane tickets to Seattle next April. We did a two-week road trip out of Portland last April to see the sights and visit a friend who attends college at Lewis and Clark. We’ve been planning to return ever since we got back. This time we’ll fly and rent a car. Now we’re in the process of figuring out how we’ll divide the week and a half we’ve allotted ourselves amongst Seattle, Portland, the California Redwoods and possibly Vancouver Island. I want to go to a winery this time. And a cheese factory. . .

April’s turned into my travel month. At the end of the month I have plans to spend about a week in New York City, catching up with some Canadian friends I made while I was in London. No tickets have been bought just yet; we’re still in the process of hammering out specific dates.

April is an awfully long ways away and there’s a lot of snow and cold to come and go between now and then. My urge for going must be sated with booking sleeping accommodations, researching museum fares and Broadway show prices, and making (and saving) the money I’ll need for all of this hoopdeedoo. It seems as though I’ll never go, but soon enough winter itself will be gobbled down and until it is, I’ll knit another mitten and write a little more.
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"Highly Unusual"

Sunday, October 11, 2009

One of the biggest faux-pas of blog writing is to solely relying on the weather to provide you with writing material. But when you live in northern Minnesota, sometimes the weather is worth mentioning because it quite frequently does some pretty strange things. That said, a lady I work with right now, who grew up in the South, said that for the past twenty years, no matter what the weather is doing, one of the locals will tell her that the weather is “highly unusual for this time of year.” So maybe I’m just part of homegrown cult with a deeply ingrained belief that our weather is unique.

Whether it’s normal or not, it snowed about two inches two nights ago and the night before that, I fell asleep to the sound of “grouple” (not quite rain, not quite snow) falling on the shed roof outside the bedroom window. Snow flurries are fairly normal any time from mid-September on, but the snow rarely sticks on the ground for any period of time before November. This morning, there’s still about an inch of snow on the ground, covered with yellow and green leaves. It reminds me of the time I frosted chocolate cakes with white frosting and topped them with autumn leaf sprinkles when I had a summer bakery job during college.

In other news, Andy and I aren’t the only ones reaping the benefits of the grouse population surge this year. Andy’s taken to cleaning any grouse we get on a large window right below the window my desk is next to. Yesterday, I watched a pine marten dart around on the rock and hillside, gathering up neglected grouse bits. It’s not the pine marten’s first forage into freeloading. Last week Andy watched the pine marten surreptitiously hide a grouse wing under a shingle on the shed. I can only guess where he’s squirreled away all the other bits he’s been helping himself to.
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Running When Chased

Friday, October 9, 2009
All the men on my father’s side run. In high school, they ran for the cross-country team and they kept right on running, several days a week, during their adult lives. Just last spring, my father and his two brothers – who are all hovering on or above age sixty – as well as my brother, ran the 8K Shamrock Shuffle in downtown Chicago.

I have tried to run. I have wanted to run. I have made goals and bought running clothes. But I don’t have the knees or lungs for the sport and the best I could ever muster was running a 5K in half an hour, once. “Do you run?” people will ask me, more often than I like to answer. “Only when being chased,” I would quip. I always thought it was a cute answer, at least until yesterday.

Since the opening of small game season, Andy and I have made a habit of walking the nearby ski trails for an hour or so in pursuit of grouse each afternoon after work. It’s been a lovely way to get some exercise. But for the last two days, we haven’t been the only ones on the trails.

Two days ago, we walked through a pasture of young red pines and aspen saplings, bordered on its south and north edges by two separate ski trails. As we tromped along the southern trail, joking about something, Andy suddenly stopped laughing and ground to a halt. “What?” I said loudly and obliviously. That’s when I looked to the left side of the path and saw Mama Moose nonchalantly nibbling some aspen leaves. We stood very still for a moment, looking for Baby Moose or Papa Moose. But Mama didn’t care much about us and after waiting a little longer we jogged past and continued on our walk, glad for the peaceful nature of the encounter.

Then yesterday, on the northern path, we came out of the woods into the pasture and saw what appeared to be a couple of large fallen trees in the distance. At least that’s what I thought they were until one of the tree trunks began eating aspen leaves and the other turned around, displaying a small rack of antlers: Mama and Papa Moose! Currently it’s the season when moose are in rut and bull moose are known to be aggressive to vehicles and not always understanding of human hikers. Neither Andy or I needed to get any closer to the pair, so we backtracked and decided to take the southern path instead.

Right before we reached the pasture on the southern path, a grouse ran across the path. Andy hurried after the grouse into the woods and I crept forward on the path to see if the pair of moose were visible from a more appropriate viewing distance. I couldn’t see anything. I crept a little farther up the trail. I looked behind and saw Andy gesturing frantically with a look of sheer horror on his face. He gestured some more.

A large bull moose, much larger than the one we’d see moments before, stood on the edge of the path, twenty yards away from me. In the scrubby brush to the side of the path, another cow stood. And the bull wasn’t just standing on the path, it was ambling slowly towards us. So we turned on our heels and ran. We ran until we were nearly back to Andy’s truck.

When I was on the swim team years ago, I remember seeing a t-shirt that depicted a shark closely following a swimmer down a pool lane. “Motivation,” the t-shirt read, “That which inspires.” Yesterday very well may have been some of the most inspired running of my life. But that doesn’t mean I’ll be doing an 8K any time soon.
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The Balancing Act, or, Housework is evil and must be stopped!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009
It’s always a balancing act: the need to be outside and the need to park my butt in my chair and write. With predictions of snow in the weekend forecast and the fall colors nearly at their peak, it’s easy to leave the writing for another day. However, the October writing goals I drafted yesterday turned out to be a pretty ambitious list. If I’m going to make any progress with them, more time needs to be spent in the chair and less time gawking over the fall foliage.

Today dawned sunny for the first time in a good week and today, both Andy and I have the day off. Andy grabbed his shotgun, I grabbed a research book and we set off for the morning and the early afternoon searching for grouse and deer trails. We found plenty of both, along with bear droppings and moose tracks. On the way home, we saw a family of three wolves alongside the road. Now there are three more grouse breasts in the Shack’s freezer and I’m holed up in the Shack’s loft, butt on the chair, thinking about editing.

Besides work and fall foliage, I determined something else is keeping me from writing: housework. A place as small as the Shack can go from clean to disgusting in about five minutes flat; it only takes one winter-clothing de-robing to have just about every passable floor surface covered with boots, socks, hats, scarves, jackets . . . . Add in washing dishes, doing laundry, and cleaning the bathroom to the general “picking up” and we’re talking an amazing amount of productive time wasted on the concept of cleanliness. So yesterday, I left the sink full of dirty dishes.

A friend gave me a little flip-book I keep on my desk entitled “You Say I’m Bitch Like It’s A Bad Thing.” Today, the book is flipped to a page that reads “A Clean House Is A Sign of A Wasted Life.” With that resolution in mind, I should be able to make time for both the writing goals and the lovely autumn weather, although the Shack’s limited dish supply and my general intolerance of clutter may quickly put the kabash on the entire scheme.

In other writing news, I sent out a general query to a regional publication yesterday, soliciting my writer wares and received a very favorable response today. The pay is negligible, any clips that ensue are certainly not. I’m glad for any writing gigs that come my way.
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What Happened To Thoreau?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009
“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.” -- Ralph Waldo Emerson

In the years leading up to my college graduation, I took to reading writer self-help books. Besides the dictionary and Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, books like I’m an English Major – Now What? and The Well-Fed Writer began to appear on my shelves. With a bachelor’s degree in both English and Communication, I’d been dreaming of making a life for myself with a pen and love of literature since my early teens. But like any English major, by the time I graduated, I’d heard enough unsolicited advice to fully acknowledge the multiple (mostly economic) hurdles of an artistic life. I figured I could use any help I could get, self-help books included.

And as I read the various “how-to” books, I was struck by another perceived aspect of the writing life. It seemed Thoreau remained an anomaly. Anymore, the woods had been forgotten, while starving writers congregated in the metro area’s damp apartments, eating ramon noodles and wrestling with their less than lucrative muse.

While I never got too excited about Thoreau’s Walden, I do live in the woods of northeastern Minnesota in 12 x 20 shack with a “manfriend." Though our Shack is at least two-thirds again as big as Thoreau’s one-man cabin, there are plenty of parallels. We live a quiet life reflecting on observations and interests, removed to a certain degree (but far from completely) from the hustle of modernity.

Where there are people, there are opportunities; I understand why the city claims so many. Employment’s not easy in a rural area – especially one focused on the seasonal tourist industry – and a career that dovetails with your education is more often than not out of the question. So, in a precarious balance of finances and dreams, I work a seasonal job in the summer, currently waitress, and always spend my free time writing. The writing self-help books, with their advice on how to hawk your writing skills to your locally-based corporation, aren’t much help to me. I have a novel in its first edit and plenty of fictional works in progress. I also work on freelance articles, usually for the regional market.

I’m far from the only rural writer. For centuries, writers retreated to the peace and productivity of a country cottage. Thoreau, Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson were all rural writers. In recent years, Annie Proulx has achieved enormous success and Michael Perry’s writing of rural Wisconsin has been well accepted.

These writers have left huge footsteps to follow in and I can’t pretend I’ll be encroaching on their shadows any time soon. But they prove the best career advice for writers may in actuality stem from the American Transcendentalists Thoreau hobnobbed around with: to find what is inside by going outside and immersing ourselves in the beautiful. This blog serves as my personal study of writing and the rural life in a world run by metropolis. I don’t expect to find romance or glamour. In truth, I don’t know what I’ll find, so I’ll keep to this record of my experiences, a memoir of sorts, of woods and words
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