As Yet Unsorted

Writing to get where I hope to be.


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Hitting Walls (Of Snow)

 

This week, summed up.

All that snow was beautiful sifting down Friday night and Saturday, but since then, it’s mostly been something to get around, over, or through. It, or the freezing rain just days later, resulted in the driver’s side mirror being torn from my car and deposited in a snowbank a block away. I passed it on my way to pick my car up (I’m not parked at home, because I’m trying to avoid stealing a space cleared by someone else, between piles of snow still parked on my street.) the other evening to run an errand, and felt bad for whomever had lost a mirror, not yet realizing I was that person.

I’ll get the mirror fixed, and be thankful that the damage wasn’t worse, but it came on the heels of the decision to reconnect with a temp agency after having to truly face the fact that I simply don’t have what it takes right now to earn a living as a freelancer. I’m disappointed with myself, but I’m realistic, and unwilling to drive my finances completely into the ground belaboring a point.

That wall of snow appeared as I was returning from my reactivation interview; I was just happy to have put my boots back on, so that wading through the snow to the sidewalk on the other side of the street was a viable option.

The writing won’t disappear, but it’ll be reconfigured, for the moment. I’m not quite ready to go back to a regular full-time job again yet, and once I’ve shored my bank account up a bit again, maybe I’ll give it another shot. Hopefully, all of the walls I’m hitting are made of snow, and they’ll melt eventually, one way or another.


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Balancing Act

Last night, we finally got our first ground-covering snowfall of the season, which, within a couple of hours had turned to a glaze of ice. Since I am in no way sure-footed, it got me started thinking about balance, physical and otherwise.

Physical balance, particularly when it comes to staying upright on ice, I can make accommodations for fairly easily: I wear flat- or low-heeled boots and shoes with good tread, particularly when walkways are not clear and dry. For ice, I wear crampons — I went out and got this year’s pair of Yak-Trax today — and keep my hands out of my pockets when I walk. These measures don’t guarantee that I won’t go down, but they reduce the risk significantly, which is really all that I can ask, given that I will continue to leave my house whether or not walkways are clear and dry.

Other types of balance are, for me at least, a little tougher to compensate for. These include (but are not limited to): thought/action, caution/confidence, screens/real life, ideas/execution. I know all of these could be fixed with time and attention, but the thought of beginning is daunting.

Although I am out of balance at the moment, the fact that I am aware of it, and have identified at least a few areas which could use some work makes me think that I may be able to eventually draw a little closer to a point of equilibrium down the (potentially slippery) road. Wish me luck (and bring on the snow; if it’s gonna be cold, it might as well be pretty)!


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Still Figuring Out What I’m Figuring Out

It’s been two months since my last post, which is obviously far too long a gap. There was the rest of that thirteen-day, 4,000-mile road trip, during which I saw a lot more of the country than I’d ever seen before, had some stressful experiences (two deer running across the road in front of my car while I was doing 65 mph trying to outrun a huge storm in Kansas), and had some relaxing experiences (sitting under a ramada at the Mabel Dodge Luhan House, sketching and listening to the murmur of the water of the acquecia running below in Taos, NM), before returning home and spending some time dealing with chaos in my physical environment, which I’d ignored for far too long. That was September.

I’m still working on the chaos within the walls of my house, but there is noticeable improvement, and I’m also back to figuring out how to make this writing gig work for me. I began writing short posts for Things To Do Lancaster in October, and have a few more lined up, and will likely continue to come up with others. Please, feel free to take a look.

When I was doing some freelancing a few years ago, I was also writing about Lancaster for Lancaster-based publications. I enjoy writing about where I live, probably because, for the most part, I enjoy where I live. I am realizing, though, that I’d like to write about where I live for a wider audience, and from a wider perspective. It’s fun to let people know about things that are available for them to do and see in the city and county, and I’ll continue to do that, but I’m also interested in exploring where we are going, and how we are changing with the future in mind. People are not always eager to embrace change, simply because it means having to get used to doing things differently than they were doing them before, but change happens, one way or another, so we might as well try to be intentional about it.

Tonight I attended the kickoff event for the new comprehensive plan for Lancaster County: places2040, and I am very glad I did, because it gave me one more piece of this puzzle of how to approach writing about where I live. I want to continue to get specific about what is available to us, which is what I’ve been doing over at Things To Do, but I also want to talk more generally about where we fit into the wider world, and how the things that are happening here will benefit us in the same way they’ve been benefitting other places doing similar things.

I’m still tinkering with how all of this is going to work, but I’m definitely feeling a little closer to figuring out what I’m figuring out than I had been, so I’m calling that progress.


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I Spent Some Time at the Lorraine Motel Today

I’ve been to a few new places this week, and have seen and done things I won’t forget anytime soon, but today’s trip to the National Civil Rights Museum has earned the distinction of being the most affecting experience thus far. I had idly noticed it on a map last night, but hadn’t given much thought to whether I would go to it; I didn’t know what I’d do in Memphis, beyond sleeping, honestly.

This morning when I moved my car before breakfast, I saw one entrance, and thought maybe I’d take a look after I ate, but I still didn’t truly grasp what I was seeing. I got my eggs and biscuits and grits at the oldest diner in Memphis, then still had an hour on the meter, so decided to take a walk. It was the vintage motel sign that caught my eye. I walked down the hill to get a closer look, and it was only then that I understood where I was. The Lorraine Motel is the site of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., on April 4, 1968. It has been both preserved and transformed, along with the rooming house across the street where James Earl Ray is said to have fired the shot from a second floor bathroom window, into the National Civil Rights Museum. At first, I simply stood in the courtyard, looking up at the balcony outside of room 306, and listening to Dr. King’s voice. It was already enough to fill my eyes with tears. Scattered across the courtyard are four listening posts, which provide short videos about the sanitation strike that brought him there that day, and about the day itself. I watched them all, and watched other people filter across the courtyard, pausing in the same way I had, then make their way into the building.

I only had about half an hour left on my meter, but I figured I’d at least take a quick look. I went in, bought my ticket, and 20 minutes later, left to move my car into their lot before going in to see the introductory film. I left again nearly four hours later.

The exhibits begin with the slave trade and Middle Passage, and work their way up to the Black Power movement and beyond. Over, and over, I found myself unable to fathom the depth of hatred involved over something as basic as skin color. I don’t understand, and my main reaction to that lack of understanding was the impulse to cry over the brutality and bravery in turns. I knew much of what was presented, but I had never seen it all in one place, at one time, and the effect, for me, was profound.

The questions I keep coming back to are: 

What could Dr. King have done if he’d had a life of a more natural duration (he was only 39 years old, he was killed just over two years before I was born, and yet his legacy is immense and enduring)?

What would he, and others who didn’t live through the turmoil of the time, think about the fact that, in many ways, we are right back where we were when they were fighting so valiantly for change and equality?

I don’t know the answers to either of them, but thinking of what I saw and heard today makes my hair stand up, and I can only hope that, one day, somehow, we will learn from the past and be able to embrace a vision of the future in which equality is finally a reality.


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Two Nights In Asheville, and Tennessee From East to West

My original plan had been to spend only one night in any spot on my way out, but changing plans on the fly is one of the beauties of a road trip, right? I got into Asheville at about 9 pm Tuesday evening, 13 hours after leaving Lancaster. I had expected 11, 12 tops, because of stops I knew I wanted to make, but I hadn’t accounted for a long, slow gps-induced detour. I now plan on using gps only for specific addresses within cities I am already in, because on the macro level of this trip, my instincts and the pile of maps in my passenger seat are already proving much more reliable.

  My decision to stay in Asheville a second night was eased by the fact that my airbnb room was available, which meant not having to move my stuff. And since I had driven out of my way to stay here in the first place, it made little sense to not see the place while I had a chance.

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon wandering downtown, ogling all of the Art Deco architecture and marveling at the fact that there seems to be a brewery every few blocks. If my stomach had been in better shape, I could have spent the middle of the day pinballing my way between breweries and chocolate shops, but instead I window-shopped and people-watched in parks, and bought carrot/citrus/turmeric juice at a farmer’s market.

Later in the afternoon, at the suggestion of the guy I sat next to at breakfast (who showed me photos on his phone that his friend who had just returned from Taos had taken), I drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (via one of the steepest, windiest, narrowest roads I have ever been on — thanks for the white knuckles, gps) to Craggy Gardens, which is a heath bald, covered in hardy, gnarled rhododendron varieties, rather than trees. It was significantly cooler on top of the mountain than it had been in the city, and the short section of the nature trail I hiked was damp, because storms blow through there that don’t necessarily make it down into the valleys. The goal was to watch the sun set from the overlook, but storm clouds rolled in, and after the ride up, I wasn’t sure about finding my way back down in the dark.

After I made my way back down out of the mountains, by a slightly less nerve-wracking route than I took up, I went back to where I was staying so that I could research my dinner options. I chose Ben’s Tune-Up, which repurposed an old garage building, as well as the name of the business. The airbnb caretaker joined me to have a drink while I ate. As it happened, there was a band playing, so we got to have good conversation and good music.

This morning I got up to watch the sunrise from the deck again, chatted more with the caretaker, Elaine, and walked to Vortex Donuts for some sweet breakfast to go. Biscuithead had been suggested, but I was afraid of a heavy meal not sitting well on a long drive. On my way out of town, I stopped briefly at Downtown Books and News, and wished I’d found it yesterday.

All in all, Asheville was delightful, and I look forward to my next visit.

Today, I drove across Tennessee, and east-to-west, there’s a lot of it! The mountains and trees were beautiful, and I was perfectly content to drive along looking at them. The rest stops are cute, made to look like log cabins or mountain homes, complete with fireplaces and rocking chairs.

I was less charmed by Nashville, but that may have been because I really didn’t know what I was looking for, or was feeling harried by sports (college football?) traffic, or annoyed by having to pay to park for twice as long as I planned to be there.

I wandered into the Silver Dollar Saloon for a beer and to listen to a guy with a twang and a guitar. He wasn’t bad, but you know what doesn’t translate well to country? Reggae. Seriously. Just as I finished my beer, he started “Wagon Wheel,” which was my cue to be on my way. 

I found coffee and wifi a few blocks away, made arrangements for a place to stay in Memphis, and hit the road again… at rush hour. Timing was not working for me today, especially since it took me so long to get free of Nashville traffic that there was no way I’d make it to Memphis before dark.

I consoled myself on the last couple of hours of the drive by relishing the beautiful sunset as I drove toward it, and singing loudly and poorly along with hair bands (and others) on classic rock stations. Nothing solidifies your middle-age status more than hearing music from your high school and college years labeled “classic.”

I’m in Memphis, and in for the evening, because wandering around in the dark in a part of a strange city with very few people on the streets just seemed unwise. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


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Two Nights In Asheville, and Tennessee From East to West

My original plan had been to spend only one night in any spot on my way out, but changing plans on the fly is one of the beauties of a road trip, right? I got into Asheville at about 9 pm Tuesday evening, 13 hours after leaving Lancaster. I had expected 11, 12 tops, because of stops I knew I wanted to make, but I hadn’t accounted for a long, slow gps-induced detour. I now plan on using gps only for specific addresses within cities I am already in, because on the macro level of this trip, my instincts and the pile of maps in my passenger seat are already proving much more reliable.

  My decision to stay in Asheville a second night was eased by the fact that my airbnb room was available, which meant not having to move my stuff. And since I had driven out of my way to stay here in the first place, it made little sense to not see the place while I had a chance.

I spent yesterday morning and afternoon wandering downtown, ogling all of the Art Deco architecture and marveling at the fact that there seems to be a brewery every few blocks. If my stomach had been in better shape, I could have spent the middle of the day pinballing my way between breweries and chocolate shops, but instead I window-shopped and people-watched in parks, and bought carrot/citrus/turmeric juice at a farmer’s market.

Later in the afternoon, at the suggestion of the guy I sat next to at breakfast (who showed me photos on his phone that his friend who had just returned from Taos had taken), I drove north on the Blue Ridge Parkway (via one of the steepest, windiest, narrowest roads I have ever been on — thanks for the white knuckles, gps) to Craggy Gardens, which is a heath bald, covered in hardy, gnarled rhododendron varieties, rather than trees. It was significantly cooler on top of the mountain than it had been in the city, and the short section of the nature trail I hiked was damp, because storms blow through there that don’t necessarily make it down into the valleys. The goal was to watch the sun set from the overlook, but storm clouds rolled in, and after the ride up, I wasn’t sure about finding my way back down in the dark.

After I made my way back down out of the mountains, by a slightly less nerve-wracking route than I took up, I went back to where I was staying so that I could research my dinner options. I chose Ben’s Tune-Up, which repurposed an old garage building, as well as the name of the business. The airbnb caretaker joined me to have a drink while I ate. As it happened, there was a band playing, so we got to have good conversation and good music.

This morning I got up to watch the sunrise from the deck again, chatted more with the caretaker, Elaine, and walked to Vortex Donuts for some sweet breakfast to go. Biscuithead had been suggested, but I was afraid of a heavy meal not sitting well on a long drive. On my way out of town, I stopped briefly at Downtown Books and News, and wished I’d found it yesterday.

All in all, Asheville was delightful, and I look forward to my next visit.

Today, I drove across Tennessee, and east-to-west, there’s a lot of it! The mountains and trees were beautiful, and I was perfectly content to drive along looking at them. The rest stops are cute, made to look like log cabins or mountain homes, complete with fireplaces and rocking chairs.

I was less charmed by Nashville, but that may have been because I really didn’t know what I was looking for, or was feeling harried by sports (college football?) traffic, or annoyed by having to pay to park for twice as long as I planned to be there.

I wandered into the Silver Dollar Saloon for a beer and to listen to a guy with a twang and a guitar. He wasn’t bad, but you know what doesn’t translate well to country? Reggae. Seriously. Just as I finished my beer, he started “Wagon Wheel,” which was my cue to be on my way. 

I found coffee and wifi a few blocks away, made arrangements for a place to stay in Memphis, and hit the road again… at rush hour. Timing was not working for me today, especially since it took me so long to get free of Nashville traffic that there was no way I’d make it to Memphis before dark.

I consoled myself on the last couple of hours of the drive by relishing the beautiful sunset as I drove toward it, and singing loudly and poorly along with hair bands (and others) on classic rock stations. Nothing solidifies your middle-age status more than hearing music from your high school and college years labeled “classic.”

I’m in Memphis, and in for the evening, because wandering around in the dark in a part of a strange city with very few people on the streets just seemed unwise. We’ll see what tomorrow brings.


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Talking In an Empty House (and Other Accomplishments)

IMG_1449I begin my odyssey tomorrow (though, presumably it won’t take me 10 years), but today I did at least 10 things in preparation:

  1. Paid a ridiculous sum for a registration card and sticker, since mine has yet to arrive by mail.
  2. Emptied the car of all sorts of stuff that didn’t need to come along
  3. Washed and vacuumed the car. It’s cleaner than it’s been in ages (I skipped the air freshener, though.
  4. Broke down and confirmed a reservation for the first night, and (probably) decided on the in-between stops.
  5. Accepted help from friends. One did a once-over of my car, just to be sure it was as road-worthy as I hoped. One loaned me a hammock, in case I come across some convenient trees. Others will be keeping eyes on the house, and harvesting tomatoes as they ripen.
  6. Wandered around the house, speaking aloud the things I needed to find and pack (am I the only one who does this?)
  7. Cut my grass, so as to make it look less derelict from the back.
  8. Washed my mini cooler, in anticipation of scenic picnics.
  9. Downloaded books and subscribed to podcasts.
  10. Took a few deep breaths and tried to relax.

I know I did more than that, but it’s still nice to see it all laid out that way, to know I got things done, and am ready to roll when the time comes.