Write First

March 9th, 2012

Thank you for checking in with this blog.  For a couple of years now, I’ve been posting here every Friday.  However, I’ve decided to make a change.  As much as I enjoy writing this weekly missive, it does take time.  Going forward, I want to use that time to work on writing another novel.

I’ve got the ideas in my head, and I’ve begun putting them down in an outline.  Yes, I’ve actually realized the benefits of outlining.  Certainly, my version of an outline is quite…interpretive.  Nevertheless, I’m doing it.  What has made this more enjoyable for me is that I’m actually writing the outline for my Word Document in Excel.  I find that Excel gives me lots of freedom to insert and move items around.  It’s quite amazing and satisfying to see everything line up in such an orderly fashion.  The few attempts I’ve made at hand-written outlines were always cockeyed messes.

So wish me well in my efforts to tap out another novel length story.  We’ll see.  In the meantime, if anything exciting happens on my end, I’ll be sure to write about it here.  This blog is always linked to my e-mail, so please feel free to check in with me at any time.  I’d love to hear from you.

Until next time, Terry Sue

Gaga For Gaga Sake

March 2nd, 2012

News Flash:  Lady Gaga came a visitin’ Sonoma last week.  Rumor has it that she’s considering some wine country property and was sighted here, as well as around the county.  She stopped into a local store, Sonoma’s Best, where this picture shows her with its proprietor:

Lady Gaga at Sonoma's Best

When I get past the incongruity of her extra-outrageous stage persona and an interest in, what we affectionately refer to as, Slownoma, I think she might really like it here.  You can’t beat it for natural beauty.  As a community, we are not a particularly pretentious group.  There is a great deal of volunteerism and philanthropy that goes on here.  The voter demographic in Sonoma County is a almost two to one democrats over republicans ratio.  And although Sonomans have a country folk side, we also have a great deal of sophistication.  At least three of our restaurants are world class:  The Girl and The Fig (Gaga ate there on this trip), Della Santini, and Cafe Le Haye.  We gladly patronize The Sonoma Arts Guild, The Sonoma Art Museum, Cornerstone’s Architectural Landscape Museum, The Sonoma Film Festival, The Jazz Festival, as well as our nationally and internationally recognized and appreciated raceway–Infineon.  An hour’s drive can take you to any number of terrific destinations, e.g., The Pacific Ocean to the west, The State Capitol to the east, and San Francisco to the south.  If Lady Gaga feels the need for balance, she could consider visiting either the Green Gulch Zen Center in nearby Muir Woods or Spirit Rock in Woodacre.

I honestly don’t follow pop culture very closely, but I have noticed Lady Gaga.  I like her.  I appreciate that she champions causes that call for compassion, kindness, and self-acceptance.  Just this week, from Harvard University, she launched her “Born This Way Foundation,” flanked by some impressive supporters:  Oprah Winfrey, Deepak Chopra, and Kathleen Sebelius, the U.S. Health and Human Services secretary.

The foundation’s mission statement reads:

Led by Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta, the Born This Way Foundation was founded in 2011 to foster a more accepting society, where differences are embraced and individuality is celebrated. The Foundation is dedicated to creating a safe community that helps connect young people with the skills and opportunities they need to build a braver, kinder world.

We believe that everyone has the right to feel safe, to be empowered and to make a difference in the world. Together, we will move towards acceptance, bravery and love.

She’s got the platform, and I wish her god speed.

I’ve taken it upon myself to highlight three residential properties that Lady Gaga might like to consider.  For her, they come in at bargain basement prices.

This first house is near one of my favorite places to hike, Bartholomew Park.  This Tuscan estate is going for: $5,295,000

Next is a contemporary option in Glen Ellen.  The asking price is $4,250,000

This third choice is my personal favorite because it’s on 81 acres of gorgeous land.  Currently, only the guesthouse exists; however, all of the permits have been approved to expedite construction of her very own dream abode.  This gem property is selling for $5.2 mil.

So there you have it; three dream homes for the fortunate 1%.  I hope you’ve enjoyed my selection.  If I can’t own any of them, at least I can admire them and be grateful that I live near such splendor.

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.


February 24th, 2012

Quick and easy today.  We’re enjoying exceptional weather here in California, and I’m eager to go out and enjoy it.

So until next week, here’s a picture I took yesterday while on a mountain bike ride.

Sonoma, CA February 23, 2012

And how about a poem from William Wordsworth?  This is dated 1804.


I WANDER’D lonely as a cloud

That floats on high o’er vales and hills,

When all at once I saw a crowd,

A host, of golden daffodils;

Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine

And twinkle on the Milky Way,

They stretch’d in never-ending line

Along the margin of a bay:

Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they

Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:

A poet could not but be gay,

In such a jocund company:

I gazed — and gazed — but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie

In vacant or in pensive mood,

They flash upon that inward eye

Which is the bliss of solitude;

And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.

Have a great week and I’ll post again next Friday.

Stick With The Winners

February 17th, 2012

Whitney Houston’s death has affected me in a way I never expected; I’m envious.  I thought it was anger that I was feeling, but no; it’s envy.

Thirty-five years ago, on February 13th, my mother drank herself to death.  She was forty-three.  After a weekend of around-the-clock drinking at a sleazy bar on the corner of San Pablo Avenue and University, where her husband was a bartender and therefore had the keys, she suffered a heart attack.  Because she was so intoxicated, she couldn’t convey to him that she was in trouble.

They had driven down to the Berkeley Marina, possibly to enjoy the sunset.  The view would have been west across the shimmering bay that ebbs and flows from the mighty Pacific Ocean.  The city lights of San Francisco would have been flickering to the right, and beautiful Mt. Tamalpais would have been in silhouette to the left.  Thick, billowing fog may or may not have been tumbling through the Golden Gate.

By the time her husband realized that she wasn’t O.K., he drunk-drove across town to Alta Bates Hospital where she was pronounced “Dead on arrival.”  Peace be with her.

I was sixteen.

Heart attack or alcohol overdose, it really doesn’t matter.  What matters, and what I do battle with even to this day, is that she chose alcohol over everything else.  She didn’t just drink one day and die; she drank day after day after day.  She chose alcohol over and over again.  Why she did that is her business, but she repeatedly poisoned herself until finally her young body said enough is enough.

My business is to make sure I don’t do the same thing.  Oh, and FYI, in 1948, my maternal grandmother dropped dead off of a bar stool when she was forty-two years old from cirrhosis of the liver.

So, “Envy?” you might ask.  Yes.  Envy surreptitiously gnaws at my resolve to live a different kind of life.  I’ve made different choices, but envy tells me that I want what they had: abandon.  Oh sweet reckless abandon, checking out, total oblivion, not giving a damn, being free from inhibition, discarding all commitments and responsibilities, unthinking and uncaring.  Death is not too high a price to pay; come hither envy calls; you know you want it.

I must, must, must remember that I’m vulnerable to this sick seduction.  As long as it’s my choice, I choose life over death.  Of course I do.  Why shouldn’t I?  Life is so good.  I have nothing to run from when I remember to be honest with myself about the places that hurt and the pain I wish to hide.  I have friends who understand this.  They are my people, my winners circle.  I stay close to them because they save me from my own crazy thinking; they save me from my head that’s out to kill me.

My heart goes out to Bobbi Christina, Whitney Houston’s daughter.  It will be a miracle if she finds some perspective and is able to rejects those wicked, self-annihilating daemons.  I hope she finds a winners circle of her own.  I know it’s possible because I’ve done it.  I’m forever grateful.  Gratitude is what keeps tipping the scale in my favor.  I get to remember that it’s up to me to create a life that’s worth waking up for; thank you, thank you.

These twelve steps can’t fix my problem, but they help.  I think of them as a sieve.  I pour myself into them and what comes out is cleaner than what went in.

Peace be with us.  Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

Here are a few great “envy” quotes:

  • Envy is like a fly that passes all a body’s sounder parts and dwells upon the sores —George Chapman
  • Envy, like the worm, never runs but to the fairest fruit; like a cunning bloodhound, it singles out the fattest deer in the flock —Francis Beaumont
  • As a moth gnaws a garment, so does envy consume a man —Saint John Chrysostam
  • As iron is eaten by rust, so are the envious consumed by envy —Livy
  • Envy hit him … like lack of oxygen —William Mcllvanney


Writer Interrupted

February 10th, 2012

Even best selling, Pulitzer Prize finalist, internationally plagiarized authors lose their writing rhythm if they drift from the craft for too long, so attested the witty and perspicacious author, Cyra McFadden, at this week’s meeting of Left Coast Writers.  We were so fortunate to have her as our guest speaker.  Famous for her satirical novel, The Serial, in which Marin County during the 1970’s is portrayed and poked fun at, Cyra has a keen eye and ear for memorable and meaningful characters and their lives.  The Serial was later made into a movie staring Martin Mull and Tuesday Weld.  In 1986, Cyra nearly won a Pulitzer for her second book, Rain Or Shine: A Family Memoir, in which she describes her childhood and life on the road with her Rodeo announcer father.  During the 1980’s, she also wrote a biweekly column, as well as features, for the San Francisco Examiner.

During many of the subsequent years however, she has been a writer interrupted.  Life, with its myriad demands, has kept her from practicing the craft of writing, and she’s feeling it.  To hear her, a woman with so much talent and experience, confess to having trouble getting her writing mojo back up and running, was important for me to pay attention to.  All too often, I’m tempted to walk away from all this effort.  Life gets busy; it gets busy with truly important episodes and events.  Finding time to tap out a few lines or a few paragraphs on a regular basis is a discipline that can all to easily be sidelined.

I fantasize that there will be a time when I’ll be free from all the stuff that both expands and congests my day and my thoughts.  When that day comes, words will flow from me like water from a faucet.  I presume that I’ll be able to jump back into my writing groove, faucet off, faucet on.  But honestly, I’ve never had a faucet on experience when writing; the pipe is always somewhat clogged—drip, drip, trickle, trickle.  So what makes me think that a lack of use is going to improve the situation?  Hum.

Even when Cyra McFadden was at her most prolific, she said her writing efforts were like “cutting stone.”  What a relief!  I’m not alone.  I know we’re not alone in this fact, but it sure helped to hear her, a local icon, say it.  Icon or not, honing sentences into meaningful and entertaining creations is seriously hard work.  I don’t know if it will get easier as I go along, but Ms McFadden’s cautionary tale provided me with that little nudge to stay at it.

Her talk included much more than just what she’s been experiencing lately.  She read a little from The Serial, which was timeless, spot on, and hilarious.  The room enthusiastically agreed that she should consider re-releasing it as an e-book, especially since bootleg versions are circulating without her consent or profit.  She shared with the room stories about whole passages of her work being lifted and used by other authors as if it were their own.  She talked about getting qualified advice before signing any contracts.  The Serial has been sold in several languages beside English, but she hasn’t received a cent from many of those foreign editions.  Ms McFadden passed around an original, out of print, spiral bound copy of The Serial so that we could see its vintage formatting and sensational hand-drawn illustrations.  What a treat that was.  She also donated all of the proceeds from the evening’s sales of her memoir to Left Coast Writers, which was in turn donated to a youth literacy program.

Cyra McFadden was humble, honest, gracious, and exceptionally generous with her published work and life experience.  For me, she’s a role model.  I like her style and willingness to get back up on the wildly bucking bronco called writing.

As always, have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

Trash Or Treasure

February 3rd, 2012

All week long I’ve been concerned about what I was going to write in today’s blog.  At the end of each day I’d consider all that had gone on, and none of it seemed blog worthy.  My week has been filled with uninteresting duties and details—my routine work and volunteering responsibilities, laundry, groceries, bills, cooking, cleaning, blah, blah, blah.  I was officially voted in as property manager of the four-unit commercial condo complex where I do my hairdressing.  That role requires that I collect monthly dues and pay four bills—PG&E, water, landscaper, and insurance—big whoop.

And then Mitt Romney made yet another off-handed gaffe.  His blunders are all over the internet and news.  We see over and over again how casually he proffered the $10k bet with Rich Perry during a national debate, how almost $400k annual income from occasional speaking engagements is dismissed as if chump change, he earns almost $60k every single day from capital gains and yet he brushes that off as if it were dandruff on a black jacket.  His latest, that the poor of this country are of no concern because they have a “safety net,” is outrageous because it’s like saying a crippling car accident is no big deal because the people had car insurance.  Huh?  I think Romney is suffering from an inability to distinguish trash from treasure.

It’s not my intention to editorialize on Romney.  What I want to say here is that his error has helped turn my own thinking around about the week I’ve had.  For the last seven days I’ve been hunting for something big to talk about.  I’ve tossed off the richness of my life as if it were some inconsequential accounting.  I’ve traded gratitude for greed.  Greedy for that big-fish story, I’d lost sight of the immeasurable blessings I receive daily.

I live in a house that has absolutely no bullet holes in it.  If I’m sick I get to go to my doctor, not the emergency room where they by law have to attend to everybody regardless of ability to pay.  I go to the grocery store and buy what I want, not what I can afford.  I have a loving husband who I can depend on and friends who smile when I come through the door.  My professional neighbors trust me with the condo association’s money.  I remember a couple of years ago when I converted my guest bedroom into an office for myself.  I sold the twin mattress in it to a Hispanic woman who was amazed that it was only my hubby and I living in this 1100 s.f. house.  I have an enviable life.  It’s not the details of my life that matters, it’s how I feel about them.  Whether I’m in an 1100 s.f. house or an 11,000 s.f. house, I need to remember how fortunate I am.

What I have is golden.  Thank you Mitt Romney for reminding me to count my blessings, because not doing so, is hell.

A detail from "The Garden of Earthly Delights" by Hieronymus Bosch


How Does Your Garden Grow?

January 27th, 2012

Adversity, a nine letter word for shit.  Shit happens, it hits the fan.  There are little shits and big shits.  We can give a shit or not give a shit.  There’s bullshit, holy shit, shitty shit, eat shit, and full of shit.  So when my friend Cara Wilson-Granat told me she was writing a book titled It Takes A Lot Of Shit To Make A Garden Grow, I thought she was shitting me.  She then said that the subtitle was going to be “Shoveling Your Way Out of Manuretia To A Sweeter Smelling (And Living) Life,” and the book was to be about transforming life’s crap into fertile wisdom.  During that discussion, I volunteered a personal experience that I had many years ago.  Without hesitation, she asked if I’d write it up so that she could include it in her forthcoming book.  Today that book is a reality.  It has the same title except the “i” in Shit is represented with an asterisk (*).  It Takes A Lot Of Sh*t To Make A Garden Grow is currently available through her website: http://wordsfromcara.com/

Paperback $14.95

Cara’s done a beautiful job with her book.  Because crap and crisis are a part of being human, this book has something to say to anyone who’s interested in turning troubles into triumphs.  Whether we are in the midst of it (sh*t) or have loving concern for somebody who’s knee deep in a stinking heap of life’s “manuretia,” this book offers friendly advice and fifteen personal essays from individuals who have turned adversity into advantage.  When we say “misery loves company,” this is the kind of company that can help.  The book focuses more on the gardens grown than the “manuretia” it took to get there.  It’s not a 911 call,  it’s a 411.  Cara suggest facing troubles head on, “What if, you could take the challenge you’re dealing with right now and look at it as a kind of compost to help you re-landscape and ultimately grow a brand new perspective?”

I found the book to be uplifting.  It acknowledges a wide range of challenges from the loss of a child to the big gulp we experience when we look in a mirror at our aging selves and see the reflection of a person we don’t recognize.  There are inspirational stories dealing with health crises, financial nightmares, lost weight, and lost love to name a few.

My contribution to It Takes A Lot Of Sh*t To Make A Garden Grow is titled On And On, where I recount a transformative experience I had while at a spiritual retreat center back in the 1980′s.  This is what I wrote:

It was the mid 1980’s and I was in my mid 20’s.  New Age was still new, and I was spending a late fall weekend at a spiritual retreat center nestled in the coastal mountain range east of Mendocino, CA.  Broken hearted yet again, I was looking for some unknown something to soothe my pain – words of wisdom, direction, higher consciousness…possibly a new boyfriend who possessed a little more sweet and less cheat.  

In other areas of my life, I was a success.  I had a thriving hairdressing clientele, I was putting myself through college, I had a nice apartment, drove a nice car, had money in the bank, and plenty of good friends.  But when it came to love, I was a loser.  Regardless of how hard I tried to be sexy, smart, funny, mysterious, tough, hard-to-get, or easy-to-get, the results kept turning out the same; he’d run off with somebody else, and I’d wonder what I’d done wrong, or what I should’ve done differently.  My feelings of abandonment were pervasive and acute.

Now I can’t exactly remember what the retreat seminar was about, and I’m not trying to mock, but I think it had to do with “astral projections,” i.e. channeling energy from outer space.  I remember it involved some “laying on of hand,” and that was when I became a little uncomfortable and excused myself from the afternoon session.

While the group was doing its thing, I went for a long walk into Hendy Woods State Park.  The day was overcast, every plant dripped with foggy dew, and my path was spongy and fragrant from millennia of accumulated forest mulch.  In a melancholy mood, I moved slowly and meditatively, listening to the lively orchestra of breezes and birds in the trees, small streams trickling over stones, squirrels and chipmunks scurrying about in what appeared to be more play than hunt. 

At one point, I came upon an enormous fallen redwood.  The giant had been down for many years judging by its crumbling, pulpy decay.  Along its massive trunk ferns had taken root, so had grasses and moss that produce easily missed, teensy white flowers.  Baby timber offshoots were eagerly reaching for the sky.  Clusters of plump, yellow-orange mushrooms found footing where the composting tree was most wet.  I was certain that under the remaining bark must have lived teams of mites, grubs, spiders, and ants.  There before me lay a most noble exchange of life, and in that moment my mind opened up as if it were a bloom in a desert rain. 

It dawned on me how polarized my thinking had always been; there was good or bad, right or wrong, yes or no, love or hate, life or death.  On another day, I possibly wouldn’t have even noticed the prone conifer, or if I did, I might have thought, “That tree is dead, how sad.”  But on the afternoon of my somber, late fall walk, when my heart ached desperately for true connection, I suddenly saw life differently.  Instead of sorrow and loss, I saw a magnificent display of continuous life, forward movement, on and on.  Nothing had been abandoned; it had only been changed, transformed.  What I had to do was stop abandoning myself.  I had to stop trying to be something I wasn’t.  Nothing in nature was pretending, and I could follow its lead. 

When I returned to the retreat center I felt restored.  I had been given wisdom, direction and higher consciousness, it just didn’t come the way I expected.  My all sweet, no cheat arrived many years later; he’s my husband. 


Cara lives in Southern California, but there’s a good chance she will come to the Bay Area during her book tour.  When she’s here, we have talked about linking up as a team to talk about overcoming adversity.  I’ll be sure to post date and location information when it’s available.  Until then, let me know if you’d like to receive a personal invitation so as not to miss the gathering.

There’s just one more thing I have to share.  While forming my ideas about today’s blog, I looked on the internet for “shit” related topics.  One site was a kids say the darnedest things site.  The quote was from a little girl after she had farted.  She said, “I just burped out of my butt.”  LOL

With that, have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

Last evening I took a hike on the Sonoma Overlook Trail. This cell phone picture shows the fog coming in from Petaluma to the west.

Answering The Call

January 20th, 2012

Cafe Royale

Answering the call in this case was actually a matter of answering a last minute Facebook message from my new friend and the founder of InsideStorytime, James Warner.  InsideStorytime is a literary event that takes place the third Thursday evening of every month and is held at Cafe Royal on the corner of Levenworth and Post in San Francisco.  I’ve been admiring James Warner’s writing since last summer when I heard him read at another monthly SF lit event, the Portuguese Artist Colony.  That evening he won the “Live Write,” a contest where four authors are given an audience-selected prompt just before the intermission break and must write their hearts out while the crowd is mingling and yakkin’ up a stormg all around them.  After the intermission, each author reads what he or she came up with, and the audience votes on a winner.  The winner is then asked to return the following month to present a more polished version of that pressure driven first draft.  It takes a special kind of talent and confidence to nail such a contest, and James has what it takes.  His short story “Middlegame” is available through the on-line magazine called Narrative, and his novel, All Her Father’s Guns are worth checking out.

Yesterday was my volunteer day at Hanna Boys Center.  When I came home at lunchtime, I saw the Facebook message from James saying that two of his five scheduled authors for InsideStorytime had cancelled at the last minute, and he was asking if I was available.  That was unexpected.  I had a little nervous heart flutter, but then decided to just go for it.  The theme for the night was “Castaways,” and my characters in Pearls My Mother Wore definitely qualify as being, if not adrift, certainly unmoored.  Being added to the author lineup for the night gave me an opportunity to step in front of a spotlight and share what I’ve got, and it’s all good.

Never mind that I had two hours to prepare and it was essentially the first day of winter—yes, it was the first day of real rain around here since the little bit we got back in November—not my favorite driving conditions, but I wasn’t going to say no to the opportunity.  The other stand-in for the night was a lovely Russian young woman, Zarina Zabrisky.  She presented the audience with a choice.  She could read a short story that was funny, dark and funny, dark, or seductive.  The audience voted unanimously for the dark and funny choice.  We were thoroughly entertained by a fantasy tale that involved an Italian chef whose prayers for a trip to the wilder side of life were answered when he found himself in Mexico drinking and dancing with one hot tamale—the devil in a red leather dress.  When he discovers that he’d been dancing with the devil, he became appalled, freaked out, and insisted on scurrying  back to the safe hell he’d come from.

The three other authors were each fantastic.  Zarina kicked off the night.  After her was the poet Maw Shein Win whose CV includes many awards, scholarships, and published poems.  Maw is also  a co-curator for a show at intersection for the arts called “Broadside Attractions,” she’s an Affiliate Artist at Headlands Center for the Arts, and she’s currently working on a book with artist Mark Dutcher.  Following the intermission was Joshua Mohr.  He read from his recently released novel, the third in a trilogy, Damascus.  During intermission, Joshua gallantly introduced himself to me and thanked me for my reading.  It was so gracious of him to extend his hand and chat me down from my stage jitters.  The evening concluded with Alvin Orloff reading from his humorous and insightful 1970′s throwback novel, Why Aren’t You Smiling?

At the end of the night, despite the dreary conditions outside, everybody was smiling and content.  The event had gone off well.  It’s been exciting for me, getting to know other writers and letting them know who I am.  The San Francisco lit scene is definitely flourishing.  I’m glad it’s only an hour away, so I can attend perhaps not all but some of the happenings down there.  BTW, last Friday night, my Sonoma pal Bonnie and I went to SF to check out the internationally traveled literary hullabaloo, the Literary Death Match.  It was wild.  Standing room only at the Elbo Room in the Mission where four authors were judged by a panel of three on literary merit, presentation, and “intangibles.”  It’s all done in good fun and the “intangibles” judge was able to ding one of the writers for a past grievance over her misspelling his name.  Todd Zuniga, LDM’s founder and producer has the stage presents of a circus barker.  He’s probably in his early thirties; tall, skinny, perfectly attired in his early Beatles style suit, he’s smart, funny, and quick, quick, quick.  It was a high-octane night bordering on raucous, but it was a definite must for me, a person who likes to be in the know.

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday


January 13th, 2012

Now that the holiday hubbub is over, I’ve got a new diversion to assuage my winter blue-blahs.  Epic, an overused word that truly applies to the annual two-week wilderness road race called The Dakar.  Almost two hundred competitors gathered on January 1st at Mar Del Plata, Argentina to embark on a nearly 5,600 mile endurance adventure that continues into Chile and Peru.  Using specially equipped motorcycles, cars, trucks and quads, these competitors and their support personnel traverse extreme topography of desert dunes, riverbed canyons,  and treacherous mountain passes.  Racing over unpaved terrain, they endure both blistering 120 degree heat in the Adacoma Desert where there has never been any measurable precipitation as well as oxygen deprived elevations of 15,000 ft. at Paseo de San Francisco in Andes Mountains.

The highest levels of skill and strength are required for this marathon, and still many will not see the finish line.  On day-one, Jorge Boero, a motorcyclist, suffered a heart attack after crashing, and he died.  Death has occurred 21 times in the event’s 35 year history.  Despite that grim statistic, The Dakar continues to draw enthusiastic support from sponsors, drivers, crew, organizers, governing bodies, and fans.  On stage three, my personal favorite in the motorcycle class, American Quinn Cody crashed.  While his injuries were not life threatening, they were serious enough to force his early retirement from the event.  He’s a great competitor, and while deeply disappointed, he conducted himself in exemplary good sportsmanlike fashion during the post disaster interview—blood, bruises, stitches, and all.

Watching the half-hour long highlights show on the new NBC Sports channel is such a teaser, but it’s all we’ve got.  I’d find time to watch hours of coverage if it were possible.  The scenery is so spectacular and the competitor’s determination is so complete that I stare at the TV in utter amazement when it’s on.  As totally far-fetched an idea as this is, I think it would be an opportunity of a lifetime to go in as a volunteer, perhaps serving up food in the bivouac or being a part of the team that tears down and relocates the camp daily.  The enormity of logistical details is impressive, and I think I’d enjoy being a part of it, maybe just once, someday.

Here are a few Dakar 2012 pictures off the internet.

Dakar 2012 motorcycle

Dakar 2012 motorcycles

High centered in the dunes—waiting for help

Robby Gordon forging a river

Mini Coopers appear to have what it takes

Even these lumbering trucks compete for glory

I’m drawn to The Dakar in the same way I’m drawn to The Tour de France; both depict the beauty of perseverance.  In each case, it’s impossible to overlook how much more spectacular the journey is compared to the destination.  Completion is great, but getting there is great too.  As a writer, I appreciate that.  There are no shortcuts.  Epic tours, whether on a bicycle, a motorcycle, a Mini, or a semi truck, are hard work, but they deliver gifts that can’t be found elsewhere.  Every time I sit down to write a short story or something bigger, it’s like heading down the road on an exciting but challenging journey.  If I can remember the gorgeous scenery along the way of Europe’s Tour de France or South America’s Dakar, perhaps I’ll stay at it even when that wicked voice in my head says to give up.

Until next time, have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday.

Hello Twenty-Twelve

January 6th, 2012

If this is the year that the world is suppose to come to an end, it sure isn’t starting out that way.  I’m pleased to report that I spent the 2011/2012 transition hiking in the high desert terrain of Carson City, NV.  The crisp and clear winter air, big and open vistas, gentle colors and textures of the local flora all lifted my spirits and put me in an exceptionally optimistic mood.  It’s not always easy to turn off the barrage of negativity that comes my way via the internet, TV, newspapers, magazines, and general conversation, but get me huffing and puffing on a long hike or mountain bike ride, and that stuff all falls away.  I can’t do anything about Afghanistan, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Somalia, Russia, China, Downtown Oakland or any other other hot spot on the planet when I’m miles from civilization with nothing more than an extra layer of clothes, a bottle of water, and a ham sandwich to carry me on.  Some people get high on drugs and alcohol to find that kind of escape; I sweat in beautiful places to make it happen.  I’ll trade muscle ache over a hangover any day.  Yes, it’s still avoidance therapy, but is there really anything wrong with that anyway?  I don’t think so, especially because it fortifies my soul for when I’m in the real world, the fussy world of people and personalities.

Here are some pictures from my New Years Eve and New Years Day hikes, my soul food:

Kings Canyon valley floor

Lutrell and I high above Kings Canyon

Valley floor at Ash Canyon

Icy stream along the way

Up, up, up

The area was named Ash Canyon long before the 2004 Waterfall fire

Lutrell and I over 7000 ft above Carson City at Ash Canyon

Have a great week, and I’ll post again next Friday

P.S.  Lutrell set up and took all of the pictures.