Thursday, June 23, 2011


Well, I've done it again - gone and failed to blog for nearly a month - and as usual, I'm far more compelled to write about small moments, small pleasures, than I am all the major, more drastic things that have been taking place.

The fact, for example, that my local Trader Joe's has started carrying kale, and I told my checker tonight how psyched I was about that, and he asked what I would do with it, and I said probably blend it up with all those peaches and bananas and kiwis I was buying too.

Or the fact that Lauren and I hopped on a bus yesterday in the afternoon sun and rode it all the way to Ballard - the complete opposite corner of Seattle, but a really spectacular little neighborhood - to get a couple microbrews during the Noble Fir's "Pints for Parks" night, where they donate a buck from every pint to an environmental nonprofit. This month's cause of choice is my beloved Washington Trails Association.

Doing our part for the environment

We followed that up with tapas and gelato and a nice evening stroll as the sun was going down. What more can you ask from one evening, really?

Or the fact that on Sunday, I discovered that the river is a fantastic place to practice my banjo. I can be there with friends, but also go down by the river on my own to play where the current is loud enough to drown me out, and I can strum my banjo as loudly as I please without offending anyone's ears.

I take lessons from these cats. Future string band, hello.

The big news of the month, of course, is that I'm now three weeks into my temp job with REI Headquarters, that I'm no longer in school, that I flew home to Kansas City for all of 40 hours to surprise my dad for his birthday, that last weekend I ran my second ultramarathon (third place this year, and almost exactly, to the minute, the same time as when I ran the same race last year), that my amazing friend Shari arrived in Seattle for the summer, that I went to a beginner's meditation workshop a couple weekends ago, that I've gone on some spectacular trail runs with friends (Zanna! Ron!), that I've seen some spectacular live music (Sarah Jarosz!), that I've read some spectacular books (more Ann Patchett!), and that despite it being the most hideous few months weather-wise for Seattle, summer is definitely in the air.

The snow has finally melted off Mt. Si! As seen from the airplane window on my way to Kansas.

I went for a long (for me) bike ride after work today. After starting to feel a little stir crazy about not running in five days (trying to let myself recover fully from the 50K; I have that persistent, nagging sore right shin again that I had last year after the ultra), I hopped on my bike and just took off for the lakefront. It felt good - all that wind and fresh, just-rained air, and the glorious sensation of riding my bike over the I-90 floating bridge, my tires so near to the sun-glinting waves of Lake Washington.

Once again, I can thank coworkers at REI for inspiring to challenge myself in new ways. Last week, as part of a "team building" day for the entire Product Information team, we went kayaking together. It was only my second time on a kayak - and what a joy it is!

Paddling on Lake Washington with new friends

One of my coworkers asked if I'd like to ride our bikes down to the kayak launch together, since we live in the same neighborhood and the lake is only a few miles away. We met up for coffee in the morning and then rode to the lake together, and it reminded me how much I like being on my bike - afraid of it as I am much of the time.

See, I have the same problem with biking in Seattle that I had with running when I first moved here: a sad sense of resignation that Seattle will take away from me one of my great passions. How am I supposed to like biking with all these ridiculously steep hills that I'm utterly incapable of going up and down? But, of course, as with running, it's going to just be a matter of building myself up to it. Not being afraid, not being impatient, and not giving up - just steadily climbing the giant metaphorical hill along with the literal ones. And one day I'll enjoy a chuckle at how epic my bike ride out to Mercer Island across bridge and back felt today.

The new job is going really well. It's straightforward work and extremely project-oriented, which is the way I work naturally, so the time flies by. Copywriting has forced me to stop evaluating my language in the big-picture way that I've spent most of my life doing, and start focusing on the minutiae of my words, my sentence constructions. Zinsser's "On Writing Well" has been on my bookshelf most of my life, since my father had the foresight and kindness to give me a copy, but it had been years since I'd cracked it open. I started rereading it, and wow, it has to be one of my favorite books ever written.

Why wasn't it required reading for any of my creative writing classes at Oberlin? We spent so much energy in those classes on big-picture discussions - on plot, on character development - but so rarely did we work on the bare bones of language itself. When did we relish in the many shades of meaning maintained by a single word? When did we discuss the uselessness of most adverbs and of many adjectives, the richness of active verbs? When did we pay homage to the origins of words, express gratitude for the delicious possibilities that the English language puts at our fingertips?

I need more practice with the craft itself of writing, with the art of decluttering, of editing, of sending half my words to the chopping block. There is value in this all, and I am grateful for the opportunity to work on it in my daily life this summer. (I should practice this decluttering business in my blog more often, I realize...but cut me some slack; 40 hours a week of stripping my sentences to their essential parts...getting to ramble a little on my blog is kind of like having a familiar, relaxing drink at the end of a long day.)

Speaking of which, it's well past my bedtime now...