April 8, 2010

I shuffled nervously into the office of my thesis advisor, the excellent John Skoyles, to discuss the first draft of my MFA project in creative writing.  He’d assured me it was no big deal, really – we were just going to sit down and talk about some poems.  My poems, the ones I’d written during my almost-three years at Emerson and was now attempting to revise into some sort of cohesive whole.  I wasn’t afraid of John, but I still didn’t know quite what to expect.

“I have two words for you,” he informed me, peering over the top of his glasses.  “Up and out.”  He went on to clarify that I had a bit of a penchant for prepositions, one which was not apparent upon reading the individual poems, but over the course of a thesis, added up to something rather excessive.  He fanned through the pages to show me all those little words he’d circled, words pointing the poems in one direction or another, describing the path of a person or a gaze. Words that I loved and would now have to strike out or replace.

In retrospect, “up” and “out” are words that go a long way towards explaining me, or the me I’m trying to be.  Out of the house.  Up the mountain.  Out from under the doubts that hold me back far too often.  Up the ladder, through the clouds, until I can finally see a little of the road ahead, a little of what waits for me if I really work for it.

Since moving to Quincy last fall, I’ve rekindled an interest in hiking, something I always wanted to do more but could never find the time or place. Maybe everyone feels this way, or more people than I realize, but I’ve spent a lot of my life looking at the trees on the side of the highway, wanting to pull over and go run through the woods. I don’t follow through: I’ve got places to be, and I wouldn’t just abandon my car, and who knows whose woods those are anyway. But the first time I set foot in the Blue Hills reservation, it was like I was finally giving in to those urges, like I’d found exactly where I’d wanted to be all along. And the higher I climbed, the farther away from cars and buildings and people, the happier and more at peace I felt.

Madeleine L’Engle writes eloquently about the need for solitude, for reconnecting with the nonhuman, in A Circle of Quiet; when I read that book, I thought how nice it must be to have a giant sprawling farmhouse in a remote New England village, one where your own personal quiet place is just a few minutes’ walk away.  I feel incredibly lucky to now have a place I can go anytime I’ve got seven minutes to drive, where I can tromp around in leaves and pinecones, find the source of a bird’s call, watch a hawk glide lazily over a tree-filled valley.  A place where I can work through my doubts and fears as I walk, or leave them behind for a while.  I am hoping that the mountains I conquer out there (small ones, for now) will give me the strength and the self-confidence to tackle the ones back here in civilization.



  1. Brilliant blog title and subtitle. I will be a reader. 🙂

  2. Just so you know, you have another blog reader who even has your blog bookmarked on her tool bar.

    Love you –

  3. […] of favorite words in common. I certainly wasn’t thinking of Roald Dahl or the glass elevator when I picked my blog title, but it seems a thoroughly appropriate […]

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