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Trying to write in these times of uncertainty...

Expedition 2011

For some unknown reason in 2010, every damn time I got in the river I managed to dump myself and go for a swim. And mind you, that's no mean feat in a kayak. Well, maybe EVERY time is a slight exaggeration, but not much...

But Wednesday, the first day of the National Committee for the New River's first day of the 2011 Expedition, I managed to stay upright the entire float. I almost bagged it on one little rapid/rock, but managed to save myself at the last minute. George was watching me and I think he was disappointed not to have to fish me out. I'm pretty clear that the reason it almost happened was the River Gods were warning me -- right before it happened we were talking about (and making fun of) people who come out on the New River with us and whine the whole time. All whining and bitching was noticeably absent on Wednesday -- keep your fingers crossed that this state of affairs continues throughout the Expedition. Read More 
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Returning

We're back from a wonderful trip to the Lake District in England. I think it's a story best told in pictures, so look for them to the right of this post and also by clicking the "photo essay" tag above.
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Starting to Get Ready

Yay! I am officially close enough to our trip to England that I'm starting the packing process, setting aside things, watching the weather... It has been said of me that I have as much fun in the run-up to a big trip as I do actually making he trip. I expect it is true.

Today I perused my trail maps and guidebooks. I even got out the road map to look over the route from the Manchester airport to Ravenglass, on Cumbria's coast where we'll be staying. I put an open suitcase on the floor of the bedroom, so I can start stashing things as they come to mind over the next few days.

All of my reservations are made. The seats are selected. I've figured out which suitcase and pack will go on the trip. The weather looks like it will be cool; at least the first few days -- mid-50s with possible rain.

I'm already having fun! Read More 
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Fun at Wildacres

I've been at Wildacres Retreat in Little Switzerland, NC, this week. It was the Spring Gathering when about 100 people from all over the country come to write, think, paint, make pots and jewelry and music. It's a wonderful place with miles of mountain trails. I wrote this essay on Monday, after Henry and I went on our first hike of the week along Deer Lick Gap Trail. I read it at the open reading Monday night, too.

(You'll also want to check out the picture to the right -- it's what Henry was up to while we were there.)

The Backs of Your Boots

This morning on the Deer Lick Gap Trail I said, “I know well what the back of your boots looks like. I’ve walked many, many miles behind you, seeing them ahead of me.” Hundreds of miles in fact.

You’ve got on a pair of Asolos today. They are the same brand and style as the ones you had on for that walk along Hadrian’s Wall path in England with Nick. You probably remember what the back of Nick’s boots look like. That’s our usual order on the trail. Nick first, Henry next, me brining up the rear. It’s a pattern we always seem to fall into naturally. Considering the trouble you had with the Hadrian’s Wall boots, it’s a puzzle how you would end up in another pair a few years later.

Your boots today have a beige color bit in the middle of the back, framed by black, with an orange slice across the top. The Hadrian’s Wall Trail version had a big vertical orange stripe of nubuck leather on them that formed the back of the heel. It was that orange piece that was rubbing the back of your right ankle one early morning, making each step along the road painful for you.

Try as I might, I can’t remember which day of the six-day trek the dreaded problem showed up. It wasn’t the first, or the last. It was one day during the vast-seeming middle -- where the initial excitement of the adventure had worn off, and the end was not yet in site. The middle of a days-long hike like Hadrian’s Wall tends to get all mushed together in your mind and it’s hard to place yourself along the landmarks of the trail in any kind of chronological order.

I do remember that you were frustrated and pissed off and wondering whether or not you could make it that day with this impediment. Nick and I really didn’t know what to do to help. Saying “Suck it up you pussy” or “just walk it off” weren’t going to help. I bet that’s what Nick was thinking. I went with sympathy, which was maybe a little helpful, but not much, and probably a little forced.

Nick and I just stood there looking at you for a while. Your stupid boot and your stupid ankle had us in a spot.

And that spot was “in the middle of somewhere.” That is to say, not “in the middle of nowhere.” There’s really not much of England anymore that could properly be called “the middle of nowhere.” Still, it’s not like we were near a town where we could get a bus, a train, or rent a car, either.

What do you do when you’re hiking point-to-point on a linear trail and someone has to drop out? It’s not like you can just say, “screw it” and get in the car and drive to the next planned stop for the night. And what do the others in the party do? Nick and I couldn’t just park your ass and go on… we couldn’t all just sit there… we couldn’t go back to the place we’d stayed the night before, because - what good would that do? We did not bring spare pairs of boots. We didn’t even have our main packs with us – we were using a service to send them on ahead to our evening’s destination each day – so who knows where on the road they were at that moment.

I remember fishing out some blister prevention band-aids or something from the daypack - a half-assed attempt at magically fixing your ankle and your boot. I honestly don’t remember there being a moment where a solution obviously presented itself. Ta da!

We simply limped on ahead. One foot in front of the other. One painful step at a time. After a while, it just got easier for you to put up with the pain and, anyway, what choice did you have? You went on, picking up the pace little by little, and pretty soon you stopped talking about it all together. (Yay!) Eventually, by late that morning, all three of us forgot about the problem. The morning’s drama having concluded, we got on about the rest of the day’s hike, enjoying the landscape, the stones, the fields, the sheep poo, and the welcome breaks for good food, welcome company, and a place to put up our dogs that night.

You probably remember it differently.

The two things I remembered this morning, when I was walking behind you along Deer Lick Gap Trail, were the orange strip of leather up the back of your boots, and the way you just went on that day on the Hadrian’s Wall Trail. Read More 
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Night of the Spoken Word

Ashe County Arts Council holds a "Night of the Spoken Word" each year. They invite area writers to read the latest of their work to a very nice audience of 100 or so. The event, which is very well-received, and which I participated in last year as well, was the inspiration for me, Julie Townsend, Scot Pope to create "Wordkeepers" writing salon during the winter months, which I've posted about here on my blog.

Last night was 2011's "Night of the Spoken Word" and as in years past, we all had a wonderful time listening to area writers. I read an essay about Soap Operas, the reading version of which I'm posting here. (Those of you who know me will have to imagine me reading it aloud.) Sorry I don't have any pictures of any of the writers, once again, I forgot in my nervousness, to bring my camera.

NIGHT OF THE SPOKEN WORD MAY 14, 2011

I see many of you here tonight who have joined Scot Pope, Julie Townsend and other writers from around the area at Wordkeepers – a reading salon we started over the winter months at Bohemia coffee house. Back at January’s Wordkeeper’s, I read a confessional essay about watching soap operas. At the time, I WAS a reformed soap opera watcher – a bone fide member of ABC Daytime Anonymous. I’m sorry to have to report back to you all now that I have fallen off the wagon – but it’s for a really really good reason… Read More 
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Henry and Edith and Me

Photo by Tom Jones.

This is my next door neighbor, Edith. (And my Henry, of course.) Actually, she's not our neighbor right now, she's at the local assisted living place these days. She came out with her son for a visit the other day. The flowers here are bulbs I planted across the street at the city park. They're in the "Edith Jones Flower Garden" planter. I put them in last fall since Edith isn't around to do it herself. Read More 
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Cleaning Up, Cleaning Out

Stuff. Everywhere. Inside the old concrete block walls, table after table in the old elementary school gym was stacked with stuff. Good stuff, stupid stuff, old stuff, new stuff, what-the-hell? stuff and five car loads of stuff I'd brought, too, were arrayed in a vast organized mess of stuff. By the day of the sale, all of the stuff I'd help arrange and price had gotten up my nose and given me a massive allergy headache.

The last of the stuff from the leftover remains of Henry's mother's house made up the five car loads I'd contributed, providing a decidedly gilt-encrusted theme to the stuff displayed.  Read More 
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Blank Square Days

The end of March brings completely crap weather around here. One day it's 60 degrees and the very next I'm turning on the heated car seat and it's snowing. OK, well not snow in the sense that you have to shovel it, but enough that the top of Mt. Jefferson is white, the deck out my window is dusted, and school in Ashe County is going to be meeting on yet another Saturday to make up for a snow day.

Meanwhile, my crocus are blooming, the lawn guys have done the heavy work ripping up the old landscape fabric and the mulching is done. We've put the bright red cushions out on the newly stained and spruced up outdoor furniture on the porch, and, thus far, on the warm days we've resisted buying any fragile plants.  Read More 
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Back from El Salvador

I made it back from the Habitat building trip to El Salvador very early on Monday morning, about 1:00 a.m. It was a great trip. Believe it or not, no whiners! Good folks all, including especially the masons and the homeowner families. No one got hurt. And, we accomplished quite a lot on the two homes we worked on.

I had a momentary panic attack when I found out that one of the team members was a Lutheran pastor. Shit. How was that going to work?  Read More 
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Here's my "wordkeepers" essay from Saturday.

My reading at “wordkeepers”
Saturday, January 15, 2011

More Viewing Confessions, by Chris Arvidson

Those of you who joined us here at Wordkeepers in November will remember my confession regarding the viewing of both crappy and excellent Christmas movies. Today, here and now, I’m going to make a further heinous confession. What I reveal to you here however, holds the promise of redemption.  Read More 
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