This year—2017—I sensed, early on, it’d be the kind of year that would go best if I gave the horse her head & let her run. I was starting a full-time job, snow had stalled the Pacific Northwest, we were about to have this new… president. So I loosened the reins. I left my stash of projects in their “for now” box, and let the year show me what to do.
I’m peripherally aware that NaNoWriMo is in full swing, which means the end of the year is coming, full gallop. But I’m not working on the novel I started researching this summer. I thought I’d rein in to catch my breath & do some early year-end looking back before looking ahead to 2018. First, a confession of waylaid plans: I’d intended to publish my second book of poems by now. But the horse took a fork somewhere & I let her.
The trail ended up in Connecticut in October, for saying good morrow to yet one more of our country’s WWII vets and very good man. There was time to slow to a walk on a path of autumn trees. Life goes fast. It’s tempting to feel discouraged not to have accomplished plans exactly as intended. Life also goes too fast to linger long in discouragement, disputes, doubt… any of that. Regroup; where are we now?
Loosening the reins lets you notice your ride’s impulses, and this year I felt & followed mine to write more publicly about commuting by bicycle. Bicycles in a land of cars demand to be written. At least, my bicycle does. So in January I wrote my first of several posts for BikePortland.org. They’re a mix of news & opinion drawing on the reporting internship I did with Beaverton Valley Times years ago. That’s a newspaper I realized I’d come full circle with when I went to be interviewed for an article about the 2016 Beaverton Library author fair, and Miles Vance was there to photograph me; he was on staff back when I interned. The paper has changed hands a time or two since then.
Following impulses can lead into new territory: I’d never before had the pleasure of interacting with readers the way I could with my BikePortland posts. Huge kudos to Jonathan Maus, who has cultivated a highly-read, award-winning blog and indie news source; he makes hosting a diverse & evolving readership look easy. He also makes being a writer in the public eye look easy.
When you bring other people into your creation process, or join theirs, it’s like you’re announcing to the muse you’ll allow the unexpected to create itself through you. In a way, no creation is isolated from the society it’s created in, but working with others to create—whether making a film or building cycling infrastructure in a city—is different than, say, writing a poem alone. You learn or experience new things, about yourself and about them.
And previous creations can flower. When I self-published Portland Light, I suppose I gave it what they call a “soft launch” in the PR biz. I was giving it existence for existence’s sake. And I’d sort of forgotten it was out there in the world.
Then, an amazing thing happened: in February, Victoria Haiboniuk, a young woman from Ukraine doing graduate work in Portland, contacted me about using one of my poems in her video. She said she’d come across my book on the shelf at Powell’s.
Just that—the image & idea of my words finding someone in the quiet of reading, on the shelf of a bookstore aisle I too have spent many hours in, with words finding me there, mattering, is one of the most rewarding outcomes of my writing life thus far.
I wrote back, and she sent me links of a few of her other short videos. Her films are stirring, storytelling at its most inspirational. I hope she makes many more.
We found a few hours free to record & film together, and we found some forests we could walk to, rain falling softly, to fulfill her vision for the film. Watch: