In the past two weeks, I’ve dedicated a few hours each day to writing in a rotation of coffee shops around town and if you were to take a peek at my journal you will find mostly crossed out grocery lists, the start of a blog post on how to eat for day hikes at altitude, and instructions (for whom I have no idea) about how to not be a jerk-shopper at Whole Foods (put your cell phone away and take your sunglasses off, people). Mostly what happens during this designated writing time though is me, pretending to look busy, drinking five-buck pour-over, watching people come and go for three hours. Like right now, for instance. The girl who has been typing feverishly next to me with ombred purple hair just stepped outside to smoke a cigarette. She is wearing leg warmers and hiking boots and I’m pretty sure she’s the owner of the orange Vespa locked up to the tree on the corner of Broadway and West Ellsworth. How many cigarettes does she normally smoke? Is she a writer, too? Is she breaking up with her girlfriend who is researching peacebuilding in Bosnia? These are things I wonder about.
I feel like I slipped up a few weeks ago telling you all that I’m going to call myself a writer to strangers at the DMV, as if at 23 I have ARRIVED at my true calling. Writing, hopefully, will be the product of the many lives and many shoes I try on while I’m here on this planet. In fact, I think if I spent the rest of my life, let alone the next six months, sitting in cafes like this one, watching people, trying to beat words and wisdom out of my heart, I would be doing a massive disservice to the planet. Massive disservice insofar that my writing would be shallow and express only partial truths because I would not living a life (for me) interesting and/or challenging enough to know whole truths. I suppose we never really get at the whole of it, but I want to feel at least like I’m scratching back the wallpaper to find what lived underneath in a lifetime before me. I want to cannonball into environments and work that teaches me more about love and loss and integrity and hard work and passion and freedom and bliss. I want to see people, really see people. I want to come alongside and cry with them in their darkest hours, I want to balter with them drunk in the streets for no other reason than to celebrate that we have legs and arms and lungs that let us really move things in this world. I want to be around people who are bold enough to take me by the collar and set me straight when I’m being unreasonable. I want to be around people who are just blowing up with creativity and courage. These things, that work, those people will make me a writer.
Susan Sontag was quoted once describing that she became a writer because “what I really wanted was every kind of life, and the writer’s life seemed the most inclusive.” To me, this is poetry. It is poetry and permission to just buy the shoes and leap into every nook and cranny of the human experience you feel moved to explore. It looks at the multi-passionate person and says, “why yes, you may do and have it all, dear one.” I’m realizing more and more right now that I should stop asking questions like “what on earth do I want to really do with my life?” and start asking questions like “when are you going to start doing these great things with your life?” I’ve got the list. I’ve got the tools. I’m still idling. I just feel like I need a minute to let my engines cool before I make moves to conquer the world. I’d like to become a midwife. I’d like to buy a Westphalia, decorate it with prayer flags, and drive around Kansas with Shaun looking for tornados. I’d like to open a vegetarian cafe here in Denver. I’d like to move to Alaska and build a B&B between Homer and the Kenai Peninsula I’d like to work as a deck hand on a scientific expedition to Antarctica. I’d like to create backpacking food that is healthy AND filling. My degree in International Politics will be handy for one thing, and that is helping communicate and explain foreign affairs and the common thread of humanity to the people I meet in gas stations, airports, and diners along the way.
Anyway. My friend Rudy reminded me the other day that, no no, I’m anything but idling. I can’t really tell you where I’m going, but I can tell you who I am, and how I’m different than before, and that’s the best kind of start there may be. Over the next few months I will be zig-zagging across the country celebrating relationships in all shades and the kinetic energy surrounding around every wedding, brunch date, graduation, and genuine embrace is deepening my understanding of self and the world. Maybe there is no job more important for me right now than loving the ones I’m with. Life is short, but it’s also long. There’s no rush in choosing. Until then, I am a person who writes things. I am a person who sometimes sits in cafes in the afternoon daydreaming biographies of strangers. I like to set my goals out on a table like pretty and wacky Tarot cards, rearranging them in order to match the thump of my heart that day. I am a person who says no to publishers about writing a book because there is just way way WAY too much to do before engaging in any such activity. Sorry guys. You don’t want me yet. You think you do, but you don’t. I think I need to hang out with the purple-haired vespa-girl, deliver babies, climb K2, channel my inner Helen Hunt, and learn to like capers first.
Shaun and I haven’t been home at the same time for a bit, so there isn’t a recipe or photo-set for you this week. I have, however enjoyed making and eating too much of the following: Strawberry Cornmeal Loaf (fan-freaking-tastic with creme fraiche), Avocado Asparagus Tartines, Vanilla Bean Roasted Rhubarb, this Cioppino with fresh loot brought home from Seattle, Fava Bean Toasts, Collards and Quinoa with Sorrel Sauce, and this Kentucky Bourbon Cake. Plus, how good does THIS look from Bon Appetempt? It’s next on the list.
Murr -Ma (verb) | to walk around in the water searching for something with your feet.