Welcome to my world and beyond...

A collection of snippets of the books I write and, occasionally, my life and the things that inspire my writing...

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Writing: The Pep-talk

Walking down the trail today, I was absorbed in the world. The creek gurgled next to the trail.  Blue Jays scolded, and squirrels complained at my approach.
There's a smell in the air on such days in Western Pennsylvania.  It's sweet and musky, and it makes me think of patchouli, never failing to take me back in time.  I'm made acutely aware of just how many autumns have stacked up behind me.
The fine, damp, packed gravel was not so hard packed under my feet.  I left little tracks where it lifted--flung from the soles of my shoes with each step  I took.  The sky was gray--not steel gray, but full of dimensions and features.
Beside me, a stream ran very low.  There's been little rainfall for months... and the world is glowing golden yellow.  I stop to watch the stream. 
Like so many people, I lose myself in my thoughts, around water.  
It was the summer of 1987. We took the boat downriver to a place I'd never been.  Everyone around the docks had, but I was a relative newcomer  at the river.  I was a small stream kind of girl :-) but the river was growing on me--somehow getting into my soul.  And I suspected that, at times, it coursed through my veins.
We pulled in close to the shoreline and dropped anchor.  There it was-- the rope swing.
I jumped out of the boat and swam for shore, taking in the scene before me. I was hesitant... it looked dangerous. There were huge rocks, limestone, the size of small cars. The railroad had dumped them there to fortify the riverbank.
There was a crowd on the bank, climbing up over the rocks...and more waiting to climb the rocks...all in line for that one rope.  
I watched a teenage boy stand on top of the tallest rock and then push off.  He yelled as he let go, swinging like a pendulum out over the water. 
His body was briefly suspended in mid-air, just before plummeting toward the river. There was a splash, followed by silent seconds hanging in time before he surfaced, mouth wide open with laughter. Hoots and hollers followed.  
Just as soon as he'd cleared the ultimate landing zone in the water, there was another person, the pendulum swung... and then plummeting, splashing and laughing.
My heart was in my throat. Such a cautious soul, I didn't know if I had it in me...I weighed the risks. Well, if my hands slipped on the rope, I'd fall onto the rocks.  If I got too scared to let go of the rope and tried to swing back, I'd crash into the rocks...
I could get really hurt.
Or I could just sit out there on the river bank, high and dry, and watch them laughing and having the time of their lives.
I was drawn from my thoughts back to the trail. It's not crowded today, but I do see two people approaching me.  Bright clothing seems to shine as they draw near on their bikes, a blur of high speed peddling.
The two young men smile as they pass me...they are enjoying their day, no-doubt. I think...don't we all want to do more than just exist?  More than just live until we die? Don't we all have something to do that evokes a passion in each of us?
I continue south on the trail... my steady footfalls have lulled me back into my thoughts...
On the riverbank, I watched, with heart pounding each time I thought I might actually do it.  I took a step, summoning the moxie to move toward the rope, and wordlessly announced my turn in line.  Time was flying.  Before I could even chicken out, I was holding the rope in my hand. :-)
I heard hoots coming from the boat now.  I took as many steps backward as I could, trying to gain the most height at the end of my outward swing... and then I jumped, grabbed, and curled up my legs to clear the rocks.  There wasn't time to be afraid.  The rush washed over me as I reached the end.  It was almost instinctive; I let go. I felt that split second when I wasn't going up, nor going down.  The butterflies in my stomach fluttered, and then I headed toward the water.
For a split second, I saw it, my reflection on the water's surface.  I shut my eyes.  The shadow of a soul approaching... and then I cannon-balled down into the murky Allegheny River.  I bobbed to the surface, full of laughter and exhilaration, and swam to shore...   Then I climbed back up the rocks to wait in line...
Life is a lot like that...letting go of the rope... and just falling... a shadow on the water's surface...
Another bicyclist zoomed past me, bright yellow, techie looking clothing.  Other than the three cyclists, I've been alone with my thoughts for this walk. 
I glanced at the stream, watching a yellow leaf drift lazily down, a brief moment of reflection, then land on the water. I turned back north; time to head home.
Life is short, and the days grow even shorter. The years go by.  And if we aren't careful, they take so many of the best chances with them. 
Writing is a lot like that, too.  You can stand on the riverbank your whole life, watching everyone else let go.
Best thing I can think is to grab that figurative rope and jump, tuck legs, and swing.  And when the time is right... we'll know...and let go of the rope! :-)


  1. This is a wonderful post. I admire you for jumping! I think I wouldn't have been brave enough to do it, maybe only by force. ;) "There wasn't time to be afraid." Unfortunately, there never is. Reesie, I'm wasting time being a chicken! One question: did you jump in 1987?

    1. Dana, yes. I jumped in 1987. It's odd, how doing it never seems to prepare us chickens for the next jump. ;-)

      Yep. We are wasting time being chickens. In the midst of my insecurity, an online friend--and future editor of ATNS, left a comment under this fb post. That if I fall, there are people who care who will lift me up--so I can try again.

      I know you have that too...and I'm one of the people who will be picking you right back up. I think that all writers are insecure now and again. And when we really entertain the idea of putting it out there for public scrutiny, it scares the heck out of us.

      Maybe we need to twist around the sentence you quoted, "there ISN'T time to be afraid" ? Yeppers... there isn't. Time really does race past...

      Hugs, dearie. I am glad to be part of your support--and am grateful to have you as part of mine. :-)

  2. Very evocative post, Teresa.

    So you're in western PA, huh? I'm in Western New York. :D

    Some of my favorite summer memories involve water too, Lake Erie. When my sisters and brother and I were little, our dad would sometimes drive us all down to "our spot" on the lakeshore so we could run some steam off while our mom got some peace and quiet back home.

    We were told not to go into the water because it was polluted and in fact it was, but it didn't look like it or feel it, and we'd run in up to our knees. Dad couldn't watch all of us every minute!

    Never learned to swim but whenever I see water, I have to touch it, look at it and listen to it. Our lakeshore beach is long gone in fact, but in memory, still welcomes me to its rocky, sandy expanse.

    1. Hey Marcia...we are danged near neighbors! We used to choose a day in early July, and go to the town of Northeast Pa to pick cherries, every summer. And then we'd go to the beach there and have a picnic before we headed home. Several times we included Niagara Falls as part of our trek north. :-)

      Erie was pretty bad, huh? EPA and zebra mussels had some impact...but, now the mussels are a problem. Summer memories are such good ones. I guess, really, they all are in their own way...

      Sorry about your lakeshore spot. So many things are gone now. Sometimes I recall my grandma's face--well into her 80s, and I have glimpses now and again of why it looked so sad. By the time a person is old, they've seen a lot of things change...a lot of things pass by them...

      Sometime, we will have to meet. That would be so cool. :-)

    2. It would indeed. BTW, my mom's name was Theresa, and I got my love of reading from her.

      Ooh, I forgot, on our way down to that beach spot, we'd drive down County Line Road--had a roller coaster drop. As we drove toward the top of the hill, the road beyond disappeared, and we always got a shiver of excitement. Then we'd roll up and over, and do this controlled plunge. Loved, loved, loved it!

      We used to see glowing plumes of goodness-knew-what leading down from Bethlehem Steel into the lake--really! Frankly, thinking back, I'm surprised anything could live in that water. But they've done *a lot* of cleanup since then.

      Yes, as I get older, I understand why I met so many cranky "old" people when I was a kid. Still, we can't stop time from moving forward. Autumn always comes. It's a hopeful time, a break from the intense heat, a time to reflect. Among the sad things there are some very happy things too.

  3. Letting is my problem. It's just so hard to do.

  4. Letting go. Oh my...yes, indeed. Thanks for visiting, Tanya. :-)

  5. Perfect! Hooray for you and exactly what I needed to read today. Thank you Teresa! :-) xx