Saturday, October 20, 2012

Randomness and a really good speech...

First, my apologies for the lapse in blogging but this week has been quite busy. Lots of preparation for my two weeks in the Grand Canyon coming up along with getting students wrapped up with the first term and ready for final exams. I've tallied up my itinerary and it looks like we'll be doing a grand total of 74.2 miles over 10 days and 49.2 of those miles will be with full backpacks on (packs will weigh between 50-70lbs). Woot! I'm going to be in excellent shape just in time for Thanksgiving gluttony, score! On a more somber note...

Lots has been going on this week politically and I have no interest in jumping on the bandwagon with analyzing the presidential debates. There's so much ridiculousness from both parties that I wouldn't even know where to start and I certainly don't want to rehash any of it here. 

Yet there are some political issues that I feel strongly enough to share my views on. Gay rights is one of them. I'm not a fan of legalizing treating people like second class citizens. Apparently neither is this guy: 

Please watch the video to it's conclusion or you'll miss the good bit. 

I normally refrain from sharing my political views online because I think that people are inundated with enough of that without finding it in unexpected places; such as a blog by a writer that is generally just a blog about life and writing. However, equal rights for all humans is something I feel rather strongly about, and how we can still be discriminating against so many different minorities in a country that claims to be the leader of the free world disturbs me to no end. 

I think the Reverend in that video makes the point far more eloquently than I am making it here, so I'll just let you watch that video a second time, savor the awesomeness, and I will go to bed.

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Flaming Oak

There were two trees at the end of the world. One was a desolate clawing thing, that grasped at the clouds on the edge of the world and clung to the cliff side in a desperate attempt to stay among the living. The other was a tree of fire, a tree so alive with color that it danced against the sky, raged against the dark grey of the storms that played around it, a tree that screamed that life was joy, celebration and a struggle against the pain and darkness.
Everyone understood the first tree, the first tree was predictable, the first tree you could depend on. It was what you expected of the tree at the end of the world. You saw it and thought, “Ah yes, here I am, world’s end.”
No one ever suspected the second tree.


*To access the remainder of this story check out the short story collection Rain on a Summer's Afternoon on sale now for kindle and coming soon to paperback

Getting it back...

It's been over six months since I had surgery on my knee; almost eight months since I tore my ACL. Today I finally climbed 5.10 again. For those of you who aren't familiar with climbing ratings that won't mean much. For those who are familiar with climbing ratings, you'll probably think, "whoopdee doo" and I don't blame you, especially because it was in a gym and not on real rock. Still, I've only had a few chances to climb since my knee has been well enough to do so, and I was pretty sure when I roped up today that I would be struggling on routes that I would have found easy 8 months ago. I am pleased to report that this is not the case. I was just getting back into climbing shape after a two year hiatus before I injured my knee, so I was flashing 10s consistently and working my way into the 11s. 8 months later, I'm just pushing my way back into the 10s but that's still a lovely achievement.

For those who know nothing about climbing think of the following: anything from 5.0 to a  5.4 is like walking up steep scary stairs that you might need to use your hands on occasionally 5.5 to 5.6 is like climbing a ladder made of rocks. 5.7 is like climbing a ladder that is missing a rung or two. 5.8 is climbing a ladder missing a rung or two requiring a bit of creativity. 5.9 is climbing a ladder that's missing quite a few rungs and may have consumed some illicit substances just before hand. 5.10 is either a ladder with very few rungs that's trying to lean over to touch the other wall and possibly also kick you off, or a ladder that has almost no rungs left, but which you can sometimes get to the top of by shimmying between the legs or digging your fingernails in deep. 5.11 has never met a ladder in its life and wishes you stop trying to climb it. 5.12 thinks that you're very silly for trying to climb it and would like you to know that that tickles. 5.13 wants you to know that unless people are paying you to climb you're probably barking up the wrong tree. 5.14 laughs in your face if you even think about climbing it and if you can climb it and people aren't giving you money to do so they really should be. 5.15 is the hardest climb in the world.

For those wondering, yes, the decimal scale is clearly stupid if it's going to go past 5.9. When it was started it wasn't supposed to go past 5.9, now it goes to 5.15 (and yes we're pretending that that's higher than 5.2 - it's not a mathy thing).

So, anyway, I'm excited to be back to climbing 5.10 and looking forward to pushing back into the 5.11 territory. It is a life goal of mine to one day climb 5.12. I'm never likely to climb harder than that, and I'm very much ok with that. Getting back into climbing at all is a huge relief and I'm seriously looking forward to making progress this winter and getting strong for the Spring. A big part of this for me is losing weight (via running, biking and swimming) because it's a lot easy for me to haul my ass up a rock face when my ass doesn't weigh so much. It's all about strength weight ratio, and as a female it's easier to close that gap by losing weight than by building muscle.

Anyone who isn't a climber has probably had their pants bored quite off their bodies by now. I apologize for the breeze and hope to make up for it by posting a new short story in this next post. If you'll just put your pants back on... we'll wait...

Ready? Good. See you in the next post!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Did I just wash curtains?

My mom would be so proud; I just threw my curtains into the washing machine, by choice, because I thought they were a little too covered in dog fur and red dirt to be presentable for a guest that's coming to visit. That feels a little too grown up.

In the meantime the rest of the house is immaculate and I think all is ready for our guest. The husband is taking a nap and I am considering going for a run, the only problem is that all my running clothes are currently in the dryer... They've been in there a while though so I might be able to dig some out.

I've been pretty good about writing and about working out, but this week has been thrown slightly by parents' weekend and the subsequent long weekend. I didn't get a run in yesterday (though I got in a decent hike) but I'd like to get one in today if possible. Which means instead of typing this I should be off running. So, I guess I'll go.

I'll let you know how the curtains turn out.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Beauty of Life

The sun was just setting as I finished my run and the light was perfect. The tall grass and wild flowers, juniper trees and cacti, were lit in a warm glow and the breeze was blowing just enough to dry the sweat from my body as my feet padded down the trail. My dog was running full out ahead of me, her tail stretched in the wind created by her own speed and the smell of earth, sun and wind filled my lungs and made my spine shiver.

Students excelling at things that they're trying for the first time. A boy who has never played music becomes the star of the rock band. A girl who has never acted before takes the lead part in a performance. Students show off their talents and have fun together on a stage, the joy they take in their parts contagious to each other and the audience.

A hard earned, cold beer consumed after a long day of things well done. Laughing and talking with my partner in life while the dog snuggles quietly into the bed and sleeps off the exertions of the day.

Healing puts things in perspective. Things that were once easy, are now things I'm lucky to be able to do at all. Progress is sometimes hard to see, but it's always there. It seemed, after surgery, that I would never walk again. That was never the prediction, it's just how things felt. For a procedure that to me appeared instantaneous (the beauty of anesthetics) it changed my life considerably. Of course, what it really did was enable me to once again be able to walk, run, hike, bike, play, to have a functional left leg. Yet it seemed, at the time,  to disable me completely. Post surgery I could do nothing. I couldn't even get in and out of the bathroom on my own.

Recovery has been long. Or, at least, it has seemed long.

But here, six months later, I can do all the things I used to (though perhaps without the same vigor and with the use of a brace). Every day I get stronger. Every day I can do a little bit more. Between me and a knee that is as good as it was before I tore it lies another three months, but I finally appreciate what these six months have done for me.

I can run again.

Let me repeat that: I can run again!

Life is beautiful.

Monday, October 1, 2012

September was tougher than I thought it would be...

I suppose I should have known that the first full month of school would be busy enough that I failed to write as often as I hoped, but I still find myself disappointed in my performance. I not only failed to write as often as I wanted (though it was still a vast improvement over the month of August and most of the rest of the year) I also failed to exercise as often as I wanted to (again an improvement over the last few months, but not as much as I should have done).  Even at this reduced rate I still managed to write 10 short stories, some of which may never see the light of day. It's a warm up for November at best, but it's better than nothing.

After the struggle of September I decided that this month, I would give myself no excuses on either count. I wrote out a schedule with all of my classes and other obligations for work and then I added in scheduled times to run, bike, swim and write. I left weekends open to do whatever I like, but now during the week I am obligated, by my own agreement (with myself), to run four times a week, bike and swim twice a week each, and write five days a week. On weekends I can do all or none of those things as I choose (I generally choose to do some of each), but during the week, it's part of my schedule. Thou shalt not mess with my exercise and writing schedule. So sayeth Gwen, so shall it be done. 

October, watch out.

As yesterday was Sunday I was not obligated to write, but as those of you know who read yesterday's post I wrote a bit anyway because I was having trouble sleeping. So, here's a small taste of what two in the morning writing gets you, and now I'm off to do some of my "scheduled" writing. Yipee!


There were two trees at the end of the world. One was a desolate clawing thing, that grasped at the clouds on the edge of the world and clung to the cliff side in a desperate attempt to stay among the living. The other was a tree of fire, a tree so alive with color that it danced against the sky, raged against the dark grey of the storms that played around it, a tree that screamed that life was joy, celebration and a struggle against the pain and darkness. 

Everyone understood the first tree, the first tree was predictable, the first tree you could depend on. It was what you expected of the tree at the end of the world. You saw it and thought, “Ah yes, here I am, world’s end.”

No one ever suspected the second tree.

Insomnia... not something I'm generally afflicted with, but tonight seems to be the exception. My brain refuses to shut off, and as I was lying in bed for the last hour I was unable to stop thinking and rest. So be it, it must be time to write.

In fact, I don't want to spend the time that I'm awake writing this blog, so I'll head over to Scrivener to get some creative writing done.

I'll leave you with another (longer) excerpt from the story I so briefly introduced the other day. The story is entitled Pretty Chains and in this next segment we find out more about the past of Asha, the same woman who hates the silver bells that adorn her. (As usual this is an unedited work in progress, so please ignore all typos, run on sentences, misschosen words etc.)

As they wandered the halls that led to the Sultan’s chambers she tried not to think of that day so many years ago when she had briefly tasted freedom, but it was too late. Once those memories surfaced they were impossible to suppress. She let them float up as she followed Ravi’s dark bulk through the corridors, passing rooms full of light and laughter, rooms full of the Sultan’s harem, the Sultan’s chefs and food, the Sultan’s menagerie. She let the sounds and smells that came from those rooms wash over her and she watched the memories bubble up in her vision. 

The light faded from her mother’s eyes and her throat worked convulsively to contain the grief that was threatening to erupt and raise the Sultan’s ire. Ravi stood behind her, a young man still, and still untrained enough that his effort to keep from embracing her was noticeable. 
The knife that the sultan held clattered to the floor and he left the room.

“Bring her to me, Ravi. She should know why her mother has died,” he said as entered his bedchamber.

Asha sobbed and turned to run away. She didn’t know why she was being summoned to the Sultan’s bedchamber, but it didn’t matter, whatever that man wanted with her was not something she wanted to give. Her mother had died trying to protect her from it, and the blood still ran on the floor. Ravi’s shaking hand clasped her shoulder.

“I’m sorry, dear one.” He said, his muscles shaking with an effort she could not fathom. “I’m so sorry, but I cannot disobey… it would cost…”

Asha raised a hand to his lips and shook her head. “I know, Ravi. It’s not only your life that would be forfeit if you disobeyed.” She sobbed as she spoke for there was no way for her to resist someone of Ravi’s strength, and even then, she would have to pass hundreds of the palace guards before she could be rid of this place. There was no avoiding… whatever was coming.

Ravi grabbed her shoulders more tightly and began to turn her towards the Sultan’s bed chamber. She shivered and Ravi hesitated. 

“Perhaps it won’t be so…” His arms convulsed as though fighting an invisible enemy. “Your mother died to keep you from him. I should not let you go to him.”

Asha held back a sob. Her mother was dead, DEAD. The realization wracked her body, but she resisted the temptation to collapse.

“And should your mother die too?” She asked, searching the depths of Ravi’s eyes, as if it might hold some secret weapon she could find and use for protection. “And your sisters? Your father? Should they die to, just to protect one girl?”

She sighed and stepped forward. “My life isn’t worth that much.” She said, as she approached the door to the Sultan’s room. Sobs still wracked her, but she moved forward. The pain of her mother’s death was just beginning to sink in, but she already knew beyond doubt that she would do nothing, NOTHING, that would lead to Ravi, or anyone else, feeling the way she did at that moment. Nothing. Not even to feel that sweet absence of pain, that sweet breath of freedom that she had felt so briefly. So very briefly, when her mother had removed her chains.

The memory faded as she stepped to the entrance of the Sultan’s chambers. Memory mixed with reality as she felt the strong hand of Ravi on her shoulder. 

“Where are you, child?” He asked as she shook the last traces of memory from her mind.

“Another time, old friend, another time.”