Hiking in Spring

Lately, I’ve been going on hikes to prepare for an upcoming road trip.  On the weekend, no matter the weather, I spend my morning at my local state park.  There is a five mile loop that goes along the river and up into the bluffs.  It’s a great place to train and an even better place to think.

This morning, rain was in the forecast and I had the trail all to myself.  One of my favorite things about hiking is the way the cadence of my footsteps pushes my brain to places that feel high and rich.  As I scrambled over rocks, past trees, and up high hills, I found myself deeply moved by spring.

In Minnesota, spring comes slowly.  It comes in waves of warm and cool weather, rain and sun, green grass and sticky mud.

On the trail, most of the forest was still brown and dead.  The leaves were just starting to peek forth–a green blush against the rainy sky.  The ground was scattered with little flowers–pink and white and purple and yellow.

What a miracle it is, that life emerges from the bare earth. It reminds me that there will come a day where there will be no more crying, no more pain, no more injustice.

Spring comes forth in quiet radiance, whispering of life and peace and, best of all, hope.

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The Drunkenness of Things Being Various

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to camp in Northern Minnesota.  A friend and I stayed in my uncle’s self-built rustic cabin in the woods a few miles from Lake Superior.  We had a wonderful time going on hikes, sitting by the lakeshore, exploring waterfalls, discussing morality in Game of Thrones, and reading poetry aloud at the campfire.

It was a peaceful weekend.  I felt all the clutter in my life fade away.  The sounds of daily life fade in comparison to the rush of a waterfall.  Alone time in nature, for me, is soul detox.

In my quiet moments, I reflected a great deal on how complex the human experience is–how beautifully multifaceted we all are.  I wrote in the margins of my sketchbook:   “Personhood is a complicated, beautiful thing–what an adventure it is to live inside myself.  There are so many corners, so many contradictions–How can I be so many people at once?” Continue reading

On the Road Beyond Hancock

Today, I’m trying something different.  Here comes a poem…

afternoon fog lingers over the countryside

———-

fields do not roll…

they stretch, one after another

after another

after…

———-

the air I breathe is solid and white

it glimmers and the sunshine cannot break its hold

———-

as I pass by,

the silver patches

of tree branches laden with glisten & glaze

loom from the haze

winking

———-

is this real? I wonder

or is it all a dream?

———-

As I drove across the prairie yesterday afternoon, heading home from a visit to my college town, I found myself on unfamiliar roads in an afternoon fog.  The sun was shining, but I could not see more than twenty feet in front of me.  The land in that part of the state is unbelievably flat, with a big, open sky.  Everything was white–the air felt fathomless and empty.  Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, the trees were covered in hoar frost.  I pulled over to the side of the road, got out of my car, and spent several minutes taking in the view.

It felt like I had been dropped into a fairytale.  I’ve never seen anything like it.

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300 & Counting

I’ve hit a landmark.  Recently, I reached 300 followers.  For many blogs, this number may seem small, tiny, inconsequential.  For me, though, it means the world.

When blogging, it’s always a challenge to straddle the line between creating quality content for the sake of your readers and quality content for sake of pleasing yourself.  I do my best to write posts that readers will enjoy.  I love you guys and want you to stick around.  At the end of the day, though, my ultimate goal is to remain true to myself.

I’m a selfish writer.  I really am.  I do this because it brings me life and I can’t imagine ever stopping.  I know that everyone who follows Keep Your Feet isn’t necessarily a reader.  That’s okay.  Although I try to follow only sites I will actually read, there is a tendency to follow others just for the follow-back.  I get that.

But for those of you who DO read, thank you.  For those of you who have not just hit “Follow”,  but take time to come along side me and spend time with my words, thank you.  By reading, liking, and commenting, you inspire me to keep going.  I’ve got a universe of words within me and there are days when I just want to throw them in a bucket and let them rot.  When this happens, the thought of you is what motivates me cherish my words and lovingly string them into coherent thoughts.  I’ve learned a great deal about myself and my identity as a writer over the past few months, and that would not have been possible without you.  Your words and encouragement mean the world to me.

I don’t know where Keep Your Feet is going.  I don’t know if it’ll stay at is it is or grow or shrink into obscurity.  Frankly, I don’t care.  I’m just thankful to be where I am today.

Lines and Dots (Writing 101, Day 18)

Lines and dots… that’s all a map really is.  Lines and dots printed in tiny colors on sheets of paper that you can never seem to fold the same way twice.  You don’t want to be seen with a map, else the locals pushing past you on the street mutter about annoying tourists under their breaths.  So you try to be as inconspicuous as possible, shoving it quickly in your purse, backpack, briefcase, or pocket to avoid notice.  The lines and dots are helpful, but can sometimes make you stick out like a sore thumb.

It’s what the dots mean and where the lines go that make a map important.

Consider the image below.  At first, it doesn’t mean much.  Can anyone guess where this is?

MyLondon Places (for blog)

If you guessed London, you’re right.  It’s nothing but a series of lines and dots.  In this case, the white and yellow lines signify roads.  The blue windy line is the Thames.  The dots here have numbers, symbolizing how many of my Facebook photos are tagged at different locations.

A map can tell you so much, but there hits a point where its meaning is different for everyone.

When you look at this image, you may see nothing but meaningless lines and dots.

When I take a peek, though, I see memories playing in the back of my mind of my semester abroad.  I picture myself walking through the campus of my host university, squeezing my way into a Tube train at Piccadilly Circus after attending the theater, and nipping in for a few minutes with my favorite paintings at the National Gallery.  The lines are paths my feet have taken.  The dots are places I’ve stopped to explore.  Part of my heart aches when I look at the image, wishing desperately that I could be back in that place.

A map can tell you all about a place, but it can’t tell you what it’s like to be there.  It gives you facts, but not experiences.

Great writers, though, can give meaning to maps with words.  Most fantasy novels have maps at the beginning of them, giving a guide of lines and dots to follow and the story fills in the details.

I don’t claim to be a great writer, so I’m not sure I’m able to give meaning to the map of London that I have shared with you.  However, being an English major has introduced me to lots of great writers who know the city even better than I do.  I have a complicated relationship with Virginia Woolf, but she gives you a pretty good idea what London is like in her novel, Mrs. Dalloway.

“One feels even in the midst of the traffic, or waking at night, Clarissa was positive, a particular hush, or solemnity; an indescribable pause; a suspense before Big Ben strikes. There! Out it boomed. First a warning, musical; then the hour, irrevocable. The leaden circles dissolved in the air. Such fools we are, she thought, crossing Victoria Street. For Heaven only knows why one loves it so, how one sees it so, making it up, building it round one, tumbling it, creating it every moment afresh; but the veriest frumps, the most dejected of miseries sitting on doorsteps (drink their downfall) do the same; can’t be dealt with, she felt positive, by Acts of Parliament for that very reason: they love life. In people’s eyes, in the swing, tramp, and trudge; in the bellow and the uproar; the carriages, motor cars, omnibuses, vans, sandwich men shuffling and swinging; brass bands; barrel organs; in the triumph and the jingle and the strange high singing of some aeroplane overhead was what she loved; life; London; this moment in June.”

There.  Do you feel it?  For a moment, you were right there with Clairissa Dalloway, Virginia Woolf, and me, walking the streets of London and basking in the bustle of life.

Do you have any maps with special meaning?  What places are most special to you and why?

This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

In My Happy Place (Writing 101, Day 6)

When it’s time to write, I like to be alone.  Crowded locations, even trendy coffee shops, are a definite no.  I used to bury myself in the basement of my university’s library.  Something about being surrounded by books helped me find my words.

These days, writing usually happens in my bedroom.  This summer, I got rid of the tiny desk that served me throughout childhood and upgraded to something I can actually USE.  I’m sitting here now, actually.  See the white chair in the photo below?  Picture me there, typing away on my laptop.

My bedroom is my happy place.  It’s the only place I can truly be alone.  I can hear noises from other parts of the house, but they can’t reach me here.  Not in my happy place.

I’m the type of person who likes to be cozy.  Part of this means lots of bookshelves, warm sweaters, and patterned socks.  Part of this also means surrounding myself with objects laden with memories.  Almost everything in the photo of my desk has meaning.  The bulletin board is covered with postcards, photos, and notes, each bearing its own story.  If you were here, I could tell you each one.  The wire hanging spelling my name was a gift from a co-worker during my camp counseling days.  Even the tiny objects bring back memories–rubber ducks given to me by a favorite roommate, a carved elephant a friend brought back from Africa, a plaque with a Bible verse given to me when I graduated high school.

When I’m cozy, I’m comfortable.  When I’m comfortable, words flow.

 This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

P.S. Part of today’s assignment included generating polls/contact forms to generate ideas for future posts.  I opted for the contact form.  If you have a topic or area you’d like to see me write about, you can find the new “Contact Me” page under my “About” heading.  Or you can email me at keepyourfeetblog@gmail.com.  OR you can do things the simple way and leave a comment.  Cheers!

The Marrow of Life (Writing 101, Day 4)

Henry David Thoreau once wrote:

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practice resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.

I haven’t read beyond the first chapter of Walden, but I’ve been to Walden Pond.  I saw the place Thoreau built his little cabin.  I walked the same paths, put my feet in the same water.  The funny thing about Thoreau’s escape into nature is that he really didn’t go that far.  The pond by which he spent two years is only a couple of miles from Concord.  My friend and I walked there from town.  So, although it made for some beautiful self-reflection, Thoreau wasn’t in any serious danger.  But I digress.

I’m no scholar of Transcendentalism (my focus is actually British literature), but I love what Thoreau gets at here.  He goes to the woods to find what it is to live.  He strips life down to its barest essentials.  He digs deep, gets his hands dirty, and finds what it is to be truly alive.

Have you ever gone to the woods?

When I pose this question, I’m not talking about a stroll through the forest.  Nor am I wondering if you’ve spent two years living as a hermit in the wilderness.

Have you ever, to use Thoreau’s words, sucked the marrow of life?  Have you ever started a journey, forged a relationship, created something with your hands, that made you understand what it feels to be truly alive?

I know that I have tasted the marrow of life.  I have glimpsed life’s bright light.  I have experienced moments of complete wholeness and peace.  But it has always been fleeting.  It is always a taste, always a glimpse, always a moment.

I want to live like Thoreau.  His words aren’t those of someone who is timid.  His words are bold.  He doesn’t want to exist; he wants to thrive.  He wants to cut broadly, shave closely, to drive, to be sturdy, to be strong.

I don’t want to live what is not life.  I want to bask in the simple pleasures of every day.  I want to find work that brings meaning not only to myself, but to others.  Although I wish it to be, I’m starting to realize that life doesn’t have to be large.  It doesn’t have to be filled with excitement and movement to be meaningful.  Thoreau certainly wasn’t having epic adventures as he tended to his garden and walked through the woods.  Richness can be found through simplicity, through solitude, through taking time to be still.

So, dear readers, let’s be like Thoreau.  Let us go to the woods.  Let us suck the marrow of life.  Because what an awful thing it would be to reach the end of our days and discover that we hadn’t lived at all.

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This post is inspired by an assignment for the Blogging University class Writing 101: Finding Everyday Inspiration.

Bill Nye comes to Morris!

A couple of days ago, a certain scientist/t.v. show host dropped by my small town on the prairie!  He found himself face to face with a full gymnasium (1,700 people in all… that’s nearly 2/5 of the town!) of students screaming “BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!  BILL!”.

Bill Nye gave a fantastic talk.  He was a charismatic, engaging speaker.  I was surprised at how genuine he was.  Most speakers I hear are used to the speaking circuit, and each talk is just another stop to get through.  I fully expected a fairly dry hour of science talk that would go over my head.  That was not the case.  He spoke for over two hours and seemed genuinely interested in us.  He cracked the stereotypical Minnesota jokes about cold winters, ice fishing, the Vikings, and promised us that there are such a thing as hills.  (Morris is known for being very flat.)

Photo taken from UMM’s photo archives

Instead of sticking to facts and figures, Nye’s talk followed a narrative.  In essence, he basically told us stories for two hours.  He took us through his family’s history, including his father’s obsession with sun dials, and lead us in stories about deep space exploration.  He was a passionate speaker and continually told us we could: “dare I say it, CHANGE THE WORLD!”

The one thing about his talk I didn’t like was that I felt he was unnecessarily harsh towards Ken Ham, Creationist opponent in a debate that took place last February.  I thought he could have shown more kindness and respect towards Ham.  I wasn’t offended by what Nye said because, although I do believe in Creation, I don’t side with Ham’s extreme views that the world is only 6,000 years old.  But I thought bringing Ham up was unnecessary.

One of the questions at the end of the talk had to do with being taken seriously by an adult audience after being on a children’s show for so long.  Bill said that, yes, the transition is sometimes difficult, but it’s a process.  He also said that he never regretted the t.v. show.  I realized that, twenty years later, he was still speaking to the same audience.  Most of the students in the crowd grew up with his quirky show.  Now, here we were twenty years later, and he was still speaking to us.  It’s come full-circle.

One of the cool things about the event was that it sheds VERY good light on my university.  Being a tiny liberal arts college in the middle of nowhere, we often get sidelined, despite the fact that we are one of the most academically rigorous institutions in the state of Minnesota.  And having a nationally known cultural icon like Bill Ny did, and will continue to do, wonders for our public relations.  I mean… we got a hashtag trending on Twitter!

Taken from UMM’s Facebook page

It was a great night, though.  Although I’m not a science major, I loved his excitement as he encouraged our generation to engage in the world of discovery.  I grew up with Bill Nye–he’s the man who taught me all I know about magnets and nuclear power.  I used to run around the house singing his theme song at the top of my lungs.  Countless study-worn students, myself included, left the talk bright-eyed and refreshed to learn all they can and, dare I say it, change the world.