Mountain Climbing

I am beginning to think about shutting down my blog. I started it at a very different time in my life. I have since climbed many mountains, and have fallen off many steep cliffs. And while I remember what life was like in the foothills, wind blowing my hair about, cheeks rosy from exertion, these eyes are not those naive eyes of yesteryear. I am another person. Back then, I discovered that when I wrote for an audience, I found a voice. The words poured forth from my fingers and brain. I couldn’t get enough. Then, as the mountains grew steeper and more treacherous, it became more and more difficult to find that voice. For a long time it was time that kept me from writing here.

Now it is something different. I no longer have any desire for an audience. Sometimes when a person climbs many mountains, and they fall off many cliffs, clinging to the edges with a lone finger, barely hanging on, each breath a tremor that could make them tumble to their death on the stones below, pieces of them don’t make it. Parts of them are not able to climb up onto that ledge when they manage to find their way back onto their path. In my case, I lost whatever part of my ego felt the need for an audience.

And so, here I am. When I write, I don’t want to share it with the world. I write for myself. When I write for an audience, I feel such an urge to censor that the writing becomes stilted and confined. I don’t like stilted and confined. It does not agree with me.

I have until October to make this decision. It is then that the annual renewal is due. I am mulling it over. I shall see.

I’m a Naked Nun

Writing is a habit, and I’ve lost my habit. I’m a naked nun. I still have the thoughts I want to write, I just don’t write them. Many circumstances have contributed to this state of affairs: a baby who is now a small child (and heading into being a medium child), a teenager with activities and no driver’s license (but a bus pass, thank goodness) two jobs, two horses (and dogs, cats, and rabbits), a smartphone with Solitaire on it, my own house, a garden (a rather large garden), and books, always so many books (although that never stopped me before I lost the habit).

So here I am, habit-less and not really sure how to get it back because the external circumstances that make finding time to rebuild the habit still remain. Solitaire is easy to ditch, but not so much the rest and some of it I don’t want to ditch (priorities, you know).

Maybe it’s timing. I’ll just have to find the right time and hope I don’t die before that happens, because I do love writing. It is an outlet. It helps me to clarify my thoughts, even in fiction. It’s self satisfying. The urge can be overwhelming when the muse wants out. But it’s like exercise sometimes, and even though I know it’s good for me, and even though I know I’ll feel better after doing it, after slogging through the other tasks I must attend to, and performing the tasks I love attending to, it’s hard to muster the initiative to begin when bed beckons. Plus there is the matter of insomnia, my constant companion. She makes all tasks a slog, even those I love, except sleep. When I urge her to leave, she becomes morose and recalcitrant. How can you want to leave me? she inquires. “Oh, darling,” I reply, “Ours is a love-hate relationship; you love me, and I hate you.”

At this point I will keep it in my sights to build the habit again. I had a bit of trouble finding that verb, build. I typed get into, then erased it. Then I typed work at, and erased it. Build works. I’ll work to build the habit again sometime soon. For now, Oliver my poodle is lying on my shoulder snoring. Isabel has her warm legs pressed against mine, and George is curled near my feet. Insomnia visited for two hours in the wee hours this a.m., and the thought of hunkering down and going back to sleep wins.

Compression

My brain feels as if it has lost the capacity to write. In the lack of practice, I have lost an ease that allowed me to sit and compose and produce something of substance within a rather short amount of time. Having gone from being compressed most moments to actually having some freedom of time, I have not adapted. My brain doesn’t get it. It’s like something that has been squished into a package for so long it retains the shape long after the package has gone. I’ve gone hiking several times, went on a 3-day backpacking trip, have been riding really regularly and reading actually quite a lot, and still the brain is only gradually unscrunching itself. It’s not sure what to do. I suppose I’ll have to get into practice again. Perhaps if I write tidbits like this one I’ll get there. As it is, right now I just want to brush my teeth and crawl into bed with my three dogs.

Dear Mr. Outside Magazine Editor

Dear Mr. Outside Editor,

Here’s a concept: Don’t put some teaser on the front of your magazine and then Oops! forget to put a table of contents into your magazine so the person reading the front of the magazine can’t find the article. Even going page by page, which was annoying and made me not want to read your magazine because it was so controlling, I still could not find the article teased on the front cover. Since the issue in question was an “Encyclopedia” I thought perhaps that I missed the point and that I was supposed to go to the “Encyclopedia” to find the article (this in spite of the fact that the article in question could not really have been about gear). Nope. Not there. The teaser in question was “Why Aren’t Millenials Buying Trail Mix.” Trail mix is not in the index to the encyclopedia. Millenials? Nope. (I suppose Millenials really aren’t gear, now are they? (Although I am pretty sure I could make the case that they are or that some of them could be.)) in any case, I still haven’t found it. Still annoyed.

As a reader, it is annoying to:

1. Read a magazine where the table of contents is 30 pages into the magazine, thereby requiring we page through 30 pages of ads and nonsense to get to the content;
2. Read a magazine that hides page numbers when they do bother to publish tables of contents so that again, we have to page through stupid ads to get to the content in the table of contents;
3. Read a teaser on the front of the magazine that is either a) not really there (which appears to be the case in this issue), or b) isn’t really what the teaser led us to believe it was (really annoying).

Since I am ranting about this and rather on a roll, I thought I would include all of these annoyances for you to consider when being a big shot editor. When these annoyances occur, I throw the magazine away (well, recycle it). I am not wasting my time paging through ads that thwart my effort to get to the content for which I bought the magazine. I will not let the advertisers win in this manner. You might have gotten me to purchase the magazine, but since the primary driver of budgets at magazines is ad content, and since advertisers choose magazines because those ads cause the readers to go buy their stuff, it follows that if I don’t read the ads and I don’t buy the stuff that eventually it will all trickle down and you won’t get any ad revenue when I throw my magazine away. SO…may I kindly suggest you make your magazine palatable to readers who actually like to READ your magazine (I happen to be one of those people who reads nearly every single article in a magazine when I am not so irritated by getting to the article that I can’t access it) and stop making your magazine mostly palatable to advertisers? Hmm? Do you think you can do this?

I’m going to give this issue one more chance. I’ll thumb through it one more time in search of the elusive article on why Millenials do not eat trail mix, and if I am not able to find it on this perusal I shall dump this issue in the trash (recycling). Too bad for me, I won’t get to find out what gear you got paid the most to say is the greatest…er, what gear you think I should go buy.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Lara Gardner

Post Script: After sending this letter to Outside Magazine, I received a response back from the editors asking if they could use a line or two from my letter in their online letters. (I gave them permission, but I have no control over whether they will make me look like an ass in their choice of words from my letter.)

In any case, I asked where in the magazine I could find why Millenials don’t buy trail mix, because I had not been able to find it. The editor responded that it was in the encyclopedia under “Y – Youth: The Young and the Tentless” (Outside Magazine, Aug 2015, p. 92). As a commenter to this blog post noted, “the entry explains that very few people under 35 are participating in outdoor sports, beyond a day hike or pitching a tent in the backyard. There is, however, no mention of trail mix whatsoever, nor is there mention of food of any type in the entry.”

Yep. The teaser on the front of the magazine is just that, a teaser, and it is therefore even more annoying.

Oh Boy!

Oh, boy! 10 readers today. I keep waiting for the day I reach 100,000 total reads. I’m close; less than a thousand to go, and all I want to do is shut this thing down. I don’t write anymore, not really, and especially not on this blog. My posts get shorter and shorter. I used to write pages and pages. Now it’s a paragraph here and there every few weeks. I don’t have any real urge to communicate my thoughts to other people. I don’t care what people think of me. I never thought of myself as egoist, but in having lost the desire to write for an audience, I have realized that I was somewhat of an egoist. Maybe not in a blatant self-promoting sort of way, but it was there. I came up with excuses for my need for an audience. Artists paint for an audience. Dancers dance for one. Why shouldn’t I want to write for one? Not sure, but whatever itch I had has been scratched. Maybe it’s the futility of it all, knowing full well that in the scheme of things I’m the spot on the ass of the flea on the back of the hair on the dog on the bump on the log in the hole in the bottom of the sea. But it’s more than that. Something shifted and I really do not desire an audience at all, so really, what is the point of this? There isn’t one. I’ll reach 100,000 views and I won’t even give a shit.

Blogging has changed significantly since I started this. It was more fun back then. People actually communicated with one another via blogs. I met some cool people who commented on my blog and I read and commented on theirs. Now it’s all facebookified, with “likes” and “following,” which is just another marketing tool. I really can’t stand it.

It has passed its prime. Maybe I’ll wait until I pass that mythical 100,000 views, then shut the whole thing down. We shall see.

Maybe Pre-Dawn

My mind fills with so many thoughts I want to write down, need to write down, but then I’m sitting in the car or on the way to work or bathing the child or running or grocery shopping and then it’s the end of the day and I have not played my cello or practiced my language lesson, and most certainly I have not written down those thoughts and then they just fritter away. The difference between a real writer and me is that they find the time, make the time, take the time to sit and write the thoughts. I’m filled with story ideas, then consider the prospect of finding the time to write them and my mind nearly implodes. I don’t want to be this, but I feel nearly powerless to change it. Holiday season almost makes it worse. I don’t watch television and I wonder how anyone could have time to do so, even if there were something on that I would want to see, which there isn’t. I do read and read and read and read, in bits and snippets and pieces. Sometimes the New Yorker is folded open to an article for weeks until I finally finish it…Ah, it’s done. I could write during that time if I could get into the focus and get it done as quickly as I can with reading. Then I run across nights like tonight where the small child falls asleep early and the older child is entertaining herself and I could actually do it, could actually focus on writing, but I’m so out of practice I don’t even know where to begin, and so I end up here, jotting down nonsense and going nowhere. I have got to carve time for this, got to find some way to make it a habit again, but I just don’t know how or when. Maybe pre-dawn. That might work.

I can imagine getting to the end of my life and looking back and seeing all the time I could have done it but didn’t. Or living through a near-death experience and seeing those frittered moments. In this, I see the forest and not the trees, quite the opposite of how I am usually. I also used to be able to drop into focus immediately. I haven’t been able to do this for years now, not since I was pregnant with Isabel. That pregnancy sucked out my brains and they never came back. Isabel is extremely bright, maybe she got them.

Today I got some chocolates from another lawyer in my community. It was a little 6-pack of See’s. The funny thing is that it arrived in a box 16″ x 10″ filled to the brim with packing peanuts. All that to send a bitty box of chocolates. Silliness.

Changing the Name

I no longer want my blog to be Lara Gardner’s Weblog. I want a new name. I don’t want it to be my name anymore. I am going to change it.

I have lost my writing habit, and writing is a habit. The more habitual one is in it, the easier it is to answer the call of the discipline of writing. All of my habits came crashing to a halt the day Ava died and I have been struggling to regain them. I ran religiously every other day and it’s been like moving through cement to reform that habit. This was the first week since her death I was able to do it as before. I would regularly cook a soup on the weekend, ensuring lunches to last the week long. I’ve cooked three since her death, one this week. On and on, daily life changed and I haven’t been able to solidly regain my footing. I keep thinking of her. She comes to me at odd moments. I think of that exact minute and force my mind away.

But this wasn’t to be a post about Ava dying. It is about wanting to change the name of my blog. There are many reasons for this. Too many acquaintances think it is who I am, and it’s not, and this frustrates me. Perhaps if its name is not mine, this will lessen. Also its purpose has shifted. It used to catch the random bits, force me to build and maintain the writing habit, but I’ve moved that habit on to specific projects. It also began as a need to work through life’s lessons, a place I would mull over what I was experiencing and work out what it all meant. Over time, my boundaries shifted and I no longer desired to put most of those thoughts in a public sphere. Most of those posts have been made private and I keep a journal for them that is not on the internet. Finally, I’m bored with it. It isn’t what it was. It used to be a redesign gave it a charge when it felt sloggy, but this doesn’t work any longer either.

It might go through several incarnations. I can’t say for sure. All I know is that the name will change. Soon.