Row 14, Seat F

MVIMG_20180305_175015.jpgJetting after the sunset,
A misplaced belief that our
Hurtling metal-light skin,
Buoyed by air,
Or hope,
Maybe belief,
Could outstrip time, itself.
Red flashing eyes score the nothing while
Wagon train ruts, now traced by
Sulphurous orange glows,
Score the destructive path of
Progress.
Shrouds of exhaust fumes
Exhaled from so many
Someones,
With someplace to go.
And I want.
I want.
For once my imagination
Outstrips what it knows,
Beating time, place, chronology,
Until the best of our
Pastpresentfuturefantasies
Converge in this moment.
Here in row 14, seat F.
There is peace on Earth.
With a side of
Goodwill to so many someones.

About Leaving

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My friend and I were joking over texts last night about being a “ying” to the other’s “yang.” I was cooking up a special “last” dinner as my husband packed for yet another long training that will keep us apart for months. My friend and I are Myers-Briggs “twins” except for that last letter where she is a “P”and I am a “J.” That makes her the one who goes with the flow and I’m a pretty rigid planner—qualities we admire in each other.

But planning for yet another leaving makes me weary. He’s leaving. I leave in the middle.  His is training for work. Mine involves a conference, three and a half weeks of a section hike with my brother while he thru hikes the Appalachian trail, and an academic lecture for me at the end. My “J” is in full swing. There’s a suit for the later talk swinging its way down I-70, hanging in Vern’s truck. That means I have to see him at some point. That makes the leaving a little less difficult. I’ll mail the suit I’ll carry to the first event back home. And in the middle will be me, my backpack, and my brother. I’ve planned for rain and cooking, sleeping and hiking, everything but the part where I will enjoy the woods of Georgia, North Carolina,  Tennessee as well as the company of the adult version of my brother—my friend.

Vern’s departure, this morning, was the first milestone of an eventful spring I’ve been planning for almost a year.

I’ve written about change quite a bit in this space. Change is wrestling with ying and yang. Most days I would like to be right here, making a home with the man I love. But both of us also want to be making a life together. A life worth living.

And so he’s leaving, for a while, and I am too. He will come back a fully trained ranger. I will come back having learned more about writing as well as talked about Willa Cather. Also I will have a few hundred miles of the “Green Tunnel” beneath my feet and a stronger bond with my sibling. All of our lives will be fuller for the experiences we gave them.

But what is it about leaving? Maybe it’s because it lets us come home.

Excerpt (memoir)

IMG_1608I’m writing bits and pieces of what will become a memoir.  Here’s a snippet from my college days….

 Survival

We arrived at the training site late and I was already falling head over heels for the creek.  The other cadets in my 10-person group didn’t seem to notice the water racing below us, the winter run-off on this chilly June night making its rushing passage a chattering crowd. They hurried to collect branches. The sentinel heights of the Ponderosa pines, their color leeching in the fading light, loomed black over sepia-needled footing—ancient watchers familiar with our game. Although we were learning to build shelters in a deepening dusk, everything seemed familiar, comfortable. Racing against night when our military-issue flashlights would only provide watery micro-spheres of vision, we were directed to gather foliage, prop it into spiny protrusions off of the trees, preferably with a corresponding hollow in the ground, and make our new beds. I don’t know why the deep breaths of piney twilight sparked me to life. I felt at home.

Survival training. A summer military education program for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. This part of the program, out in the woods treated us like pilots who had ejected from aircraft and were trying to make our way back to friendly lines through enemy territory.

Cadets.  I was one that summer, even though I never felt like one.  Looking back across three decades, what I remember most was that USAFA was looking for some sort of ideal prototype (probably a young man, six feet tall, athletic and brilliant) and that I would never measure up. A cadet should have blood that beats Air Force blue and want to act out the poem we had to memorize, “High Flight,” to “…slip the surly bonds of Earth.”  I didn’t find the Earth’s bonds surly.  And slipping them tended to make me airsick.

There were nine-weeks between the spring and fall academic semesters at USAFA and each block of the three-period summer was dedicated to three weeks of training or a three-week period of military leave, a.k.a. vacation. In 1988, between my freshmen and sophomore years, three weeks of survival training were mandatory.

As I slid inside the relic that was my military- issue sleeping bag listening to the forest night sounds and my rustling neighbors, I thought about the challenge ahead of me. I knew these programs were challenges for even that ideal, six-foot tall cadet the Air Force had in mind, so would I be able to do this? In that moment drifting off to the night noises, my fears dissipated, replaced by the unexpected euphoria found in my surroundings. I knew I was an “outdoor” girl—riding my horse no matter the weather and fearlessly walking the grocery store aisles in my dirty riding clothes and muddy boots, my filth more a badge of honor than something shameful. I wasn’t worried about dirt out here. Inexplicably, now I wasn’t worried about anything.

Survival training had portions back at school that involved learning to resist enemy interrogations and study survival tactics, but this next week would be what I considered the real test. After only a few days of teaching us about edible plants, how to signal for help, and camouflaging our appearance, the cadre of instructors would turn us loose to evade enemy captors in the middle of the night.  We would spend four nights and five days moving between “friendly” camps where we would sleep during the day and avoid enemy soldiers who were looking for us while we moved under the cover of darkness. What could go wrong? Never mind that, tonight, we were forced to race against darkness because a cadet from the first group that went last week had been lost for almost two days and whose late recovery meant that my group was launched hours after we should have left for our own week surviving in the woods.

Learning to survive in a high-altitude Colorado forest in the first weeks of June was the equivalent of drawing the short straw in terms of USAFA summer programs.  In the following days, I would eye the American Strawberry plants vining near my feet with envy, picturing their snowy blossoms as tiny bursts of red sweetness. After all, survival training meant we would mostly be living off what was now a prepubescent, spring landscape. Other cadets would tromp over these same pine needles in late July. I envisioned their experience something akin to Maria spinning about the Austrian Alps in The Sound of Music, lips stained with berries and full bellies sagging over their belts

(to be continued)

Show Don’t Tell

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Isn’t it strange?
We’re inescapably here,
In these bodies, 24/7.
And still we’re trying to find ourselves?

I’m thinking about creating a character.
Someone for a novel or a short story.
Who is she?
(who am I)?

All the fiction handbooks say to
Show
Don’t
Tell.

If we’re inside this character we see
The woman who will daily
Exercisewritecleanknitpaintvolunteerworkplay
Love.

My character browses the internet,
Full of dreams and hopes.
Races out for just-in-time pet food.
Loves her family and friends.

Falls into bed at night
Clinging to a list of accomplishments:
Vacuumed. Graded papers. Fixed insurance.
Unaware of what showing her actions tells.