Pick your poison.
What Sobriety, Top Writer, Camels, and Perception All Have in Common
An interesting thing happened on the way to earning top writer status in Travel — I decided to not tinker with the ending of a piece to give it a better takeaway for the reader. I also discovered that my initial hesitation with landscape images floating to the borders of the page was outdated and disillusioned.
As an agoraphobe, it tickled me to have bragging rights in a category normally reserved for people who leave the house. So I wrote Confessions of an Agoraphobic Travel Writer. In the end…
When I opened my inbox and clicked on a message that told me that I had earned top writer status in Travel, all I could think was: isn’t this ironic?
Agoraphobia is defined as an, “. . .extreme or irrational fear of entering open or crowded places, of leaving one’s own home, or of being in places from which escape is difficult.” I have lived with agoraphobia most of my adult life and experienced it on a wide and ever changing spectrum.
After years of self-work, I am often able to leave the house with ease, but at my worst…
And, in turn, make me a better human
We’ve got this horse, Penny, who comes into the riding ring every day and forgets that she can walk over a pole. And, like Groundhog Day, we spend some time coaxing, coercing, and coddling her until she crosses the low pole on the ground with a tentative step. The same thing will happen tomorrow.
As a horse trainer, I am conditioned to conditioning. Horses (and humans) learn by pattern recognition. Penny has a glitch in her patterns. We had her eyes checked out. We noted the light conditions on any given day…
I like to think of Charleston, South Carolina as New Orleans-light. I can satisfy my need for deep-south, gritty, gothic, haunted ambiance without feeling like the devil is following my footsteps.
I’m the kid who spent one night in New Orleans and changed my flight the next day. This empath just can’t take that much voodoo. But Charleston — I feel at home there. I’ve spent a lot of time in that city, but until last week, I’d never experienced it sober.
My aunt and uncle restored an old house in the city center and I remember them talking about…
“Ride like something is chasing you.”
I’ve said these words to so many people over the years as a horse-riding instructor. Navigating a massive, complicated creature is a careful relationship of energy output. The human is a generator, pushing amps of power into an animal with the hope of creating forward motion.
But many of the beautiful actions humans love to see in a horse — a curved neck, prancing legs — are motions of an animal that is in a heightened state of alertness, a prey animal ready for flight.
I’ve spent a lot of my life living like…
My experience in the Old City Jail, Charleston, South Carolina
I sat with my feet dangling in the water of a pool at a house on the South Carolina coast. My friend had moved there from the mountains and was settling into a new routine of ocean life. An avid gardener, she told me about the trials and tribulations of Lowcountry vegetation.
She pointed to a shrub the lined the tall, iron fence around the pool. “The oleander needs trimming all the time.”
“Where does it grow?”
“Everywhere. It’s hard to contain.”
Distilling my writing down to one topic.
I asked a client to imagine what her ten-year-old self would have to say to her today. She thought for a minute and said, “That I’m still obsessed with the older, untouchable guy down the street.”
Yeah, me too sister.
I had a big, giant footlocker where I stored all my old writing journals. The only time I opened it up was to stash another notebook filled with my scribblings. …
“When we’re old, let’s be like those women who refused to leave Chernobyl,” my friend said.
It became a mantra for us and other women we knew, juggling careers and lives and relationships. When we reached the end of the construction— when we’d arrived — what wisdom would our aged selves tell our younger versions?
The women who refused to leave Chernobyl were grandmothers who banded together to raise crops and live peacefully in familiar surroundings. Past the age where radiation exposure would shorten their lives or damage unborn children, they looked the evacuation soldiers in the eye and said…
Recent folklore from the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
As a child, I stared at the line where the brown scrub field met the cool shade of the forest. I watched and waited for something to step out from the quiet loam of the trees.
I knew I would recognize this thing I waited for, tall and ancient as an oak, when I saw it. I imaged him with human features, his head antlered, regal. He would be a curious stag who gathered stories, an unlikely librarian of a land that held the patent on secrets.
The land that…