Like riding a bike

Santa Fe

Craig and I are back from a weeklong arts workshop in Santa Fe, him life drawing and me nature writing. We drove from Kansas City with our bikes strapped to the car, watching the land grow from Kansas prairie to New Mexico mesas, from Flint Hills to the Sangre de Cristo range, from 1,000 feet of elevation to 7,000.

I hadn’t ridden my bike in a year. I hadn’t written outside of work since our last blog post two years ago.

Our first morning at the dorms of St. John’s College, I uncoiled the lock and jumped astride my Schwinn to ride to a nearby prayer labyrinth and begin our week in solitude. I remembered the route as being fairly flat – memory developed five years earlier while riding in a car. I reached the labyrinth quickly, not realizing until my return trip the gravity of gravity. I felt the weight of the earth’s weight against me.

I shifted to first gear within a few hundred yards. Before the first of three turns, my rate of breathing outpaced my pedaling. By the time I reached the college turn-in a mile later, I was moving so slowly I could barely balance. I dismounted and wobbled past the student center and classrooms to the upper dorms, my quads and lungs burning, rewound the lock and realized how much more meaningful it would be to pray on campus the rest of the week.

The writing wasn’t any easier than the riding. I’m not really a nature girl.

Day 1 exercise: Write about a powerful experience with wind. I live in tornado alley, so my mind went to … nothing. Toward the end of our 10-minute time limit I wrote a few disjointed sentences about a ferry ride and the need for ponytail holders.

Day 2 exercise: Write about a powerful experience with water. I had a great first line, “I take a drink and begin,” followed by … nothing. I started listing the ways water benefits me and blessedly ran out of time just as I began praising my soaker tub.

Day 2 invitation (i.e., homework): Write about your homeplace. I started 10 different times and went to bed with … nothing. Until 6 a.m., in my waking up, when I could see my scratches coming together into a unified piece, a piece that included both wind and water.

I never acclimated to the hills and altitude. I climbed the 92 steps from our meeting rooms to my dorm room three or four times every day, gasping each time. But I eventually found breath for my writing, remembering my process and seeing how nature can fit into my suburban-life stories. I’m eager to tell them again.

So I’m doing my exercises. I’m back in my writing seat, watching where the road leads, thankful if you ride along.

Comments

  1. Kathleen Connors says:

    Thanks for sharing your trip – it sounds like a great experience. I am going to Albuqurque and Ghost Ranch in October for a painting trip so I really enjoyed seeing Craig’s lovely watercolor. The colors really are different out there. It was also interesting to read about the writing exercises – such a different process than drawing or painting. Keep posting!

  2. Thanks, everyone, for all the encouragement!

  3. Norma Ericson says:

    Yes, love the metaphor about jumping on the bike again, kind of like life- sometimes I’m cruising at high speeds down a hill, other times I am gasping for air and light as the wind is in my face and I’m climbing a hill. I always long for the open stretch with the sun getting low in the sky. I know I enjoy that more thanks to the hills and valley’s. I treasure your words that ring true and the picture that brings me to where you are. Hugs, Norma

  4. Mary Hamilton says:

    I thought I might have unblogged you! Thanks for braving the altitude, stairs and clouded thoughts to get back to sharing with us. I enjoy reading your words.

  5. Cindy Meyer says:

    Rhythms come and go for us all. I’m glad that this rhythm has come back to visit you again. Enjoy!

  6. Linda Kruenegel says:

    I am so happy to see this awesome site again. Had no idea that you were taking a break from it. You’ve both got what it takes to follow your passion. Keep on Keeping on, love you both, Linda

  7. So good to hear from both of you. About both of you, and your passions. Keep after this, as God is in the air, the mix.
    love to you,
    Lori

  8. Marianne Ensz says:

    Welcome back to the blog site! Always glad to hear from and see you!