In junior high school, I wrote “writer, artist,” on my dreams and plans list, and the rest is history, as they say, though not really, not if you consider history some kind of a linear path. During high school I flirted with law and veterinary science, returned to English literature as a major in college (along with art history), and went off to fly Apache helicopters in the Army for the rest of my twenties. In the midst of school and flying came skydiving, big-mountain climbing and long-course triathlons. To turn all that into something practical, I went to business school, and worked in the corporate jungle for a few years. Then I started an MDiv (part-time), and decided not to pursue it. I’m sure I’ve missed something, but that’s mostly it.
I came back to writing for a few reasons, not in this order:
1. I felt embarrassed to admit where I worked to anyone who might be able to discern how inauthentic it felt (though Microsoft is almost a check-the-box living in Seattle. So: box checked)
2. Stress related illness didn’t seem like something indicative of the right lifestyle and I didn’t want another colonoscopy before I was 50.
3. My husband and I wanted to have children, and I want for them to live lives true to who they are, so I thought I should start with mine.
4. Writing a book turned out to be really, really hard work, and took a lot more time than a few minutes in the evening still stumbling under the weight of Powerpoint and Excel-spreadsheets, and
5. I was writing trying to understand something that told me in part that life was short.
Returning to writing, I was crushed by my heroine Annie Dillard’s recommendations to young writers essentially not to go to Nepal, but to go to the library and write, and refreshed to read later (as I believe, because I must) that the Hemingway mystique of experience first, write later was back in vogue. Because it was too late for me not to go to Nepal: I’d been in Bosnia and Korea, Arctic Alaska and the hot tarmac of the southern US, and I wouldn’t do it any differently all over again.
Either way, I write about the difficulties of navigating borders, borders between life and death, between reality and dreams, between self and other. Terry Tempest Williams points out this is the “ecotone,” that place between ecosystems, the place where change occurs. The important things in life turn out to happen in those liminal places on the borders, the margins, the fringes, the shores, and I’ll be forever trying to figure them out. “Where is an edge,” asks Annie Dillard in The Writing Life, “–a dangerous edge–and where is the trail to the edge and the strength to climb it?” I’ve started with creative non-fiction, but sometimes wonder if truth isn’t easier to tell in fiction and harder but most important in poetry, so hope my keyboard will lead me down those windy paths one of these days.
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