(PHOTO: E.F.R.'s inquiry notebook)
Foot recovery is going well. I'm mobile (always a plus), and I'm doing all the rubber band exercises I was told to do. It looks like I'll be making a serious attempt at climbing by mid February. In the meanwhile, I'm intensifying my workouts. Just this afternoon I bought a serious pair of walking shoes with all the geriatric support a woman recovering from an injury would need. They ain't pretty, these shoes, but they keep my foot in the right position and that's all that matters. Not quite orthopedic; not designed to make my butt better; these Avia walkers are the Volvo of shoes: "Boxy but good."
As part of my recovery, I joined Nebraska Writing Project veterans for the 2010 Winter Writing Marathon on Jan. 23. Each season, the NeWP hosts one of these writing/walking events that encourages writers to claim spaces/places, write for awhile, then move on to another place/space. There were just under thirty participants this winter - a marathon record - and we began our journey at the Sheldon Art Museum on the UNL campus. For me, one who has been forced to rethink physicality while waiting to heal, who has been craving climbing the way some crave recreational drugs, it was a magic day. Not only did I write and take photographs, I walked!
After dividing our large group into five smaller ones, we hit the streets of Lincoln. The day was balmy for January, though the sunny sky gave way to the gray of winter just as we set out. My group stopped first at The Coffee House for a cup of joe at our first forty-five minute writing session. We sipped coffee and wrote, then before heading off to our next destination we shared our writing. NeWP marathon participants are asked to simply say, "Thank you" after another writer shares a draft. It's an intimate way to get over the fear of writing and sharing your work. I think this is why I like these marathon opportunities so much. And I must admit, it just felt damn good to be out walking in a pair of real shoes, even as the tendons in my foot and ankle ached. Recovery that involves writing is the best kind, I think. My first poem of the day:
(PHOTO: "Torn Notebook" by Claes Oldenberg and Coosje van Bruggen, 1996)
The bones don’t carry the load
and my curves are wider than they used to be.
The hairpins are now straight-aways,
the pert mountains have eroded to drifting
foothills – or what could be foothills if
gravity proves as constant as Newton claimed.
Such is the topography of middle age. I can’t
decide if my body’s failing me or coming into
its own, like the Roman Coliseum or the
Greek Parthenon. Sometimes, it seems
my mind leans like that Tower Pisa –
an architectural wonder, true, but
not where you’d want to set up shop.
I don’t know why I am so surprised
to learn I could not stave the evidence
of time, that my doctor would say, “mammogram”
and mean it every year, that my old bones
wouldn’t bear the weight of my young ideas.
But I am. I look for time the way
I look for my car keys – late –
with someplace to go, wondering
what else I’ve lost, forgotten.
(PHOTO: "Fallen Dreamer" by Tom Otterness)
From the CoHo, we moved on to try to get into the Tugboat Gallery, one of the many studios occupying the floor above Novel Idea Bookstore and Gomez Art Supply on 14th street. Unfortunately, the gallery was closed. So my group hung out in the commons area among the studios, listening to artists work on projects as we worked on our own. In that forty-five minute burst, I created a poem best described as an "ambitious mistake" (a designation that goes to most of my errors).
We then moved on to the Great Plains Art Museum - an architectural monument to honor the color beige. The bran interior leaves one wondering if the interior designer was colorblind. Sitting there for half an hour, I wrote this poem:
Ivory, beige, taupe, wheat, shell – so much
Sensibility in this textile interpretative Plains dance.
I wish there was some amber, perhaps
the brilliant blue of April sky, maybe
the swaying red of seductive summer sunsets.
Is this a Cornflake museum in sensible shoes,
an architectural ode to utility?
This is not the Nebraska I know.
It’s not the palette of my colorful life ripe
with artists, poets, writers, and musicians.
My wagon ruts lead to smoky jazz
underground poetry potlucks
and the burnt umber of my poor choices –
But the mural of my great plains,
the tapestry life led to settle,
isn’t hung in this burlap place.
At the end of the marathon, all the participants gathered at Misty's to eat dinner together and hold a public reading of their favorite writings from the day. If you've never done a writing marathon, I highly recommend trying one the next time you're out in rock country or chillin' in your favorite town. Sitting around, taking in the sights of everyday life can focus one's writer eyes, make small things grand, important.
After dinner and goodbyes, I headed to Indigo Bridge Books in The Creamery Building at Lincoln's Haymarket - my new favorite place to hang out. Not only is this place an independent bookstore, it's got a fantastic and cozy coffee shop inside. I bought the one Kerouac book I didn't own, sat down with a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the night sounds of my writing life even as my foot ached from a long day of walking into words.