Sunday, March 24, 2013

Flight instructions

I wrote this as I waited for the plane to go to Minneapolis this past Tuesday. I hope you enjoy it.

Safe travels,

-- Put your pocket knife and tweezers in the bag you're going to check. Find the lighter at the bottom of your purse, the one you keep there for emergency smudging, next to the tail end of the sweetgrass braid, and leave it at home. Hope that the shop at the airport, past security, sells cheap lighters.

-- Take the stones out of your backpack. Leave them at home. Your bags will be heavy enough without carrying rocks around. Put one small stone in your purse. It's probably okay to bring just one.

-- Fish around in all your pockets--in your coat, your purse, your backpack, all the nooks and crannies--for the things you have stashed there and nearly forgotten that the airlines will throw away: minty lip balm, lipstick, hand lotion, antibacterial lotion, cuticle cream, Rescue Remedy. Put them in a ziplock bag, quart size only, and put that bag in the front pocket of your backpack for easy removal in the security line.

-- Put your fountain pens in a plastic baggie inside your pencil case. They are not restricted items, not forbidden. But they might leak.

-- Wear slip-on shoes. Make sure socks are clean and free of holes.

-- Keep your wallet handy. Be ready to grab your driver's license and credit card. Show them; put them away; keep track of your boarding pass; put it away; take it out; once you get on the plane, fold it up and use it as a bookmark.

-- Get something to eat or drink if you have to wait a while--lord knows, they won't feed you on the plane. Be sure to have water handy. (The air on the plane is so dry.) But also be sure to visit the bathroom before you board.

-- Kiss the ones you love, hug them. But don't get maudlin. Don't think it might be the last time.

-- On your way into the plane, give the fingers on your right hand a quick kiss, and pat the outside of the plane, to the right of the door opening.

-- Stow your backpack under the seat in front of you, but first take out what you need--water, something to read, pen and pencil, something to write on, knitting. If your backpack won't fit under the seat, put it overhead. Do all of this quickly. Shove your feet on either side of your purse. Remember that this is the only place you regret having long legs.

-- Ask your guardian angels to help you not be afraid. Ask the spirits of the air to lift and carry the plane gently, and set it down again gently on the other end. Pray. Think about sleeping. Drink water. Read. Think about your destination. Think about your home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Do you wish you could write?

This is the question posed on the cover of Lynda Barry's recent book What It Is. I bought a copy with my birthday gift certificate and have been making my way through it slowly, savoring the images on each page and letting them sink in, pondering the questions asked and ideas raised... It's a wonderful book!

(My awesome birthday g.c. purchase...)

I have two things to tell you about this topic.

First: if the answer to that question for you is YES but you're having problems getting started on a project, or continuing a project, or finishing a project, you might want to take Alice Bradley's online course "The Practice of Writing." Here's a link; registration will be open for a few more days.

The course is, at the same time, very flexible in terms of your situation (whether you want to write a blog or short stories or poetry or whatever) and in terms of the time commitment (as little as, say, a half hour a day or as much as several hours--whatever you can spare).

And the course is both inspiring and practical. In addition to giving information about things you can do to help you get to your goals, Alice's motivational advice is just the right combination of kick in the butt and "there, there" if you fall down. She's a great teacher.

So if you're thinking about making writing a bigger part of your life, check it out!

Here's the second thing I need to say, though I won't say too much... out of superstition, I guess. I took Alice's course this past January/February, and the answer to that question above is most emphatically YES. Yes, yes, and more yes. Yes every day.

I hope you have an inspiring day. If you wish you could write, give yourself a little 15-minute break and go ahead and write. Make your wish come true.


Friday, March 8, 2013

The knee knows

On Tuesday afternoon, my knee said to me, quite simply: snow.

It was on one of the many trips I made up and down the stairs in my building, between my office and the next floor down, where our mailboxes and copy machine and water cooler and coffee machine and bathroom are. It was not a loud message, and it was not repeated. It was plain, and just once, but it definitely was.

I doubted my knee. It was only raining at the time, and didn't feel cold enough for snow. Turns out, I should not have doubted my knee. Also, it has a way better track record than any weather forecaster out there: every single time it says "snow," we get snow within 24 hours. This has been going on for, oh, more than 30 years now. (!!!)

(view out the front window, Wednesday, March 6th, dawn)

 (view out the back window, Wednesday, March 6th, dawn)

 (view out the kitchen window, Wednesday, March 6th, dawn)

So that started me thinking about some of the other ways I doubt or don't listen to or ignore my body, ways that I tell it: I don't believe you (no matter how right you are).

Lately, most often I ignore my body when it tells me I need sleep. (This is not good, I know.) Most often it's because I need to finish my homework--prepping for class the next day (reading the text or writing a lesson plan), maybe grading, or organizing other non-class things that need to happen (usually this involves being on e-mail). There's an urgency in getting that work done that allows me to ignore my body.

But sometimes, on the nights when homework is less urgent, I get this feeling I used to get as a kid, where I really, really want to stay up and watch some teevee or hear what the grownups are talking about. (I think the closest equivalent nowadays to listening what the grownups are talking about is looking to see what's happening on FaceBook or Twitter.) I feel that if I go to bed, I will miss something. And I don't want to miss anything! I want to be part of the party! I want to be part of the conversation--at least to listen to it!

Sometimes, on those nights, I'm able to limit the stay-up-past-my-bedtime time to one show or just a little time online; but sometimes it's as if no amount of time doing those things is going to satisfy that yearning. Somehow, I need to figure out, on those nights, how to convince my younger self that a) we are not missing anything, and b) we'll feel much better tomorrow if we just go to sleep. (Usually, though, my younger self is not a very good listener. Must figure out how to talk to it more effectively... Maybe I could convince it that the chance to come up with some interesting dreams will be entertainment enough? or a different kind of "let's see what's going on elsewhere" kind of activity?)

I hope you are getting enough sleep where you are, and that you make your way safely through whatever kind of weather you've got. Listen to your body.


(Edited to add: today, two days later, the snow is melting, the sun is out, and everything around me says spring is coming... I have been feeling the undeniable urge to dance! dance! dance! Okay, now I'm listening, body. Let's dance around the kitchen! Let's GO!)