Care & Feeding In Albuquerque

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At the end of September, I retreated. I spent four magical days in Albuquerque, New Mexico surrounded by other authors, learning and editing and talking and listening and laughing and writing and just being… still. Which is something I’ve talked a lot about14457348_10211129525020922_5240464678755916991_n here lately– this idea of rest and stillness, and the fact that it seems simultaneously necessary and a bit out of reach.

Leading up to the trip, I was very aware of what hadn’t happened since I attended last year. Most specifically that I hadn’t finished a book. I felt a little queasy about admitting I was still working on it. That it had been a slow year. That I still wasn’t quite sure where the whole thing was 14354956_10211120518395762_4196198396467923707_ngoing. And then suddenly I was in the Atlanta airport and there were familiar faces. People that I had become accustomed to seeing only as tiny square profile pictures were right there, in person. Giving hugs. And I knew instantly that this was going to be everything I needed.

Post retreat, Jessica Topper, wrote a lovely reflection in which she described the experience as “the care and feeding of writers.” I keep coming back to that phrase. About how really when I talk about rest and stillness, I think I’m talking about being kind to myself and seeking experiences that nourish instead of tearing down. I didn’t sleep all that much more than usual in Albuquerque, but I was heard, understood and encouraged. And I have rested. Now to finish that book …

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Huge thanks to Women’s Fiction Writers Association for creating this fabulous tribe (and especially to Orly Konig and the conference committee) and to Barbara Claypole White, Jessica Topper, and Mindy Miller for the photos in this post (because we all know I’m terrible at documenting my travels, or mostly anything except food & beer).

I’ve Been Trying to Do It Right

Last Friday night Mike and I went to see The Lumineers. The show was at an outdoor amphitheater and the evening could not have been any more perfect. Just a little heat from the day rising from the concrete and a cool breeze blowing those little hairs at the back of my neck that always slide out of the pile on top of my head. And if the temperature wasn’t enough to make me believe in the promise of fall around the corner, the moon hung low and full and orange in the sky. The band was everything I hoped for when I snapped up the tickets months ago: harmonies, and cellos, and accordions, and suspender wearing drummers, and powerful emotive vocals. And stories. Man, I love it when the songwriter gives a little of the “why” behind their words. And then there was the beer … Continue reading

How Do You Measure A Year?

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I was just scrolling through the pictures on my phone and found some from our trip to Portland. I had the thought: that was something really awesome we did last year. Except we went in March. As in March 2016. Six months ago.

Moments before this I was reflecting on the fact that next week I would be headed back to Albuquerque for a writing retreat and thinking how it certainly didn’t seem like it had been a year since the last one.

There are 24 hours, 1440 minutes, 86,400 seconds in every day. The same amount of time, no matter how it’s measured. So how is it that is can feel so different? Has there been so much going on these last six months that it seems like more time must have passed (as in: surely, all that could NOT happened in just six months)? Or is the time since Albuquerque shortened by the fact I’ve kept up with friends online and feel like I just saw them? Perhaps a little of both?

Or maybe none of either.

Maybe tomorrow Portland will seem like yesterday and Albuquerque light years away. Time passes, fast or slow. And maybe it doesn’t matter how close or far away events of the past seem. Yes, it matters that we made those moments and have those memories, but I think maybe what matters more, is moving on to make the next moment. The next connection. The next adventure.

Rest

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If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that today would typically be my Books & Brews post. For the last 14 months I have consistently posted a book and beer pairing on the last Thursday of each month. I LOVE reading and tasting beers and writing these posts. It’s truly my favorite thing I’ve ever done on this blog. In other words, rest assured, Books & Brews isn’t going anywhere. In fact I’ll be back next week with August’s pairing. (And really, it will barely be September then, anyway ….)

So here’s what happened, I was a little later than usual picking my book for August and I was still not done reading on Tuesday of this week. I still could have gotten the post out today– but here’s what it would have taken: Continue reading

Be Still

There’s this weird light in the middle of the night. It’s a different dark from the just post sunset twilight, or the pre-dawn haze. There’s a depth to it that you can just sense somehow without even looking at the clock. File this under things I wish I didn’t know, but it’s true. I seem to be waking up quite a bit in what my Mom has always called the wee small hours of the night. Those little hours that stretch long, during which those thoughts that seemed mostly manageable in the light of day become large, lumbering, unwieldy giants. And once they’ve fumbled their way in, boy is it tough to evict them. Continue reading

Roots

IMG_0772This is a perfectly healthy and thriving tree. I don’t know how it happened. Was there more dirt around that tree that has washed away over time? Maybe lots of trees grow over and around rocks like this but we just can’t see it. Or is it somehow possible that there was a little seed that fell in a tiny dirt filled crack in this rock and then just grew and grew and grew? Continue reading

In the Quiet, In the Crowd

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Weeks ago a friend invited me to a potluck. It wasn’t just any potluck. It was a Super Secret Talent Show and Potluck. In addition to bringing a dish to share, you were also encouraged to bring your talent– specifically a talent that very few people knew you had (hence the super secret part). Always excited at the prospect of sharing a meal and meeting new and interesting people (with super secret talents), I eagerly marked the night on the calendar. Continue reading

Stubborn Sheep & Rose-Colored Glasses

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I talk about city life pretty regularly here on my blog, so you may or may not know that I grew up in Madison County– a fairly rural part of Virginia nestled at the foot of the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains. Folks (including me) are still trying to figure out where exactly I got this huge dose of city-love that’s pretty much the polar opposite of my childhood experience (save for a week every summer with my grandparents in Roanoke, and lots of weekends with my friend Karen in a very walk-able suburb in Maryland– maybe that’s all it took?).

Anyway, all that to say, as a result of growing up on a farm, I had some awesome experiences, such as raising sheep for a 4-H project. Now, twenty-something-ish years later one of my friends, Becky, has a daughter who is raising sheep to participate in the very same 4-H show her mother and I did when we were her age. Naturally, when I was in my hometown last weekend, I had to go visit. Because– sheep. Sweet, kind little creatures that I named and fed, and walked and groomed and loved immensely. (Insert nostalgic sigh and wistful smile.) Continue reading

This is 39.

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Last week I went to a concert at a beautiful park in the middle of the city. The weather was perfect. Cool with just enough humidity that you couldn’t forget that it was June in Virginia. It also just happened to be my 39th birthday.

As I sat in my fold-up camping chair, eating a bowl full of quinoa/arugula/avocado and sipping my beer– I took in the crowd around me. Standing just behind the sound board in a more open space were two women with long wavy hair and pretty sundresses. They laughed and talked to some other people near them. They huddled close together over secrets and inside jokes. Later they took their shoes off and danced. They knew all the words. Continue reading

A Thousand Words

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I don’t always participate in those Facebook challenges that get passed around. You know the ones: answer a bunch of random questions about your favorite things, post a happy picture for 100 days, dump a bucket of ice water over your head. But sometimes I decide to play along (I’m a sucker for the writing ones, 7 Lines from Page 7 of Your Work in Progress, anyone?) Yesterday, the awesome Alexis Anne, tagged me in the I’m Beautiful Just the Way I Am Challenge in which you are tasked with choosing five photographs you feel beautiful in and posting them. I’m sure I’ve been tagged in this in the past, and just scrolled right on by, but this time I decided to pause and take the challenge. Continue reading