creativity, figuring it out

A year of living (creatively).

“Put your ear down close to your soul and listen hard.” – Anne Sexton

I can’t do a Top 10 list as a blog post. Or even a Top Five.

They are so ubiquitous and from people with more refined tastes than I that another one from me would contribute nothing to the conversation. Not only are we inundated with so many “how to’s” at the start of the new year, but we also are given platefulls of what to read, listen to, see, do. How do I keep up?

Instead, I like where essayists offer snapshots of what they’re into in the moment. I almost always read, “What I’m reading now” or “What I’m listening to.” One doesn’t have to wait until December or January to proclaim a series of bests—music, books, places, etc. Another example of well-crafted

figuring it out

on run forever pace and seeking the answers to questions…

“The French word for wanderlust or wandering is ‘errance.’ The etymology is the same as ‘error.’ So to wander is to make mistakes. In other words, to make mistakes, to make errors is sort of the idea of learning through trial and error, allowing the mistakes to be part of the process.” — Robyn Davidson

When I was about 22, I read a book by William Least Heat Moon called Blue Highways. It was about his journey across the backroads of the country, avoiding interstates and encountering the characters he believed you wouldn’t meet traveling the main highways, the ones marked in red on most maps. I also read Steinbeck’s Travels with Charley, an account of the novelist’s 10,000-mile journey in a self-built camper with his beloved poodle Charley.

Both books captivated me. Ever since I have been fascinated by the concept of the road trip. Adventure. The unknown. Living by one’s own abilities with no agenda, no accountability to anyone but oneself…and maybe a dog. A journey of true self-discovery. Both writers felt compelled to seek answers to questions deep inside and believed the road would provide answers.

Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time in the car. Too much. Not for fun so much but for work. Driving to Indy. Driving to Madison. Driving to Iowa, Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati, Louisville. Downtown. Downstate. Up north. Middle-of-nowhere.

Odyssey / noun/ od-ys-sey/an intellectual or spiritual wandering or quest; an odyssey of self-discovery; a spiritual odyssey from disbelief to faith.

At some point I decided life on the road was not worth it, at least under the circumstances in which I found myself. Too much time away from family. I missed out on important moments in the lives of my kids and the people I cared about. In fact, it felt as though I was living separate lives.

figuring it out


“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”–Anatole France

I’ve buried two beloved pets in my life. It’s one of the least pleasant parts of living in this world. I buried Callie, my first dog, 15 years ago. A piece of me was buried when I lay her into the ground. Sorry for being so morose.

When Elin and I let our vet inject our cat Lycklig with the drug that would soon stop her heart it brought back in nightmarish fashion the same experience I had with Callie,  my sweet chocolate Labrador with whom I enjoyed years of three-hour walks and long runs and snuggling on the couch in violation of house rules. In that life, when I would come home from work, Callie came to me wagging her entire 90 lb. body and whining with joy. Sometimes she got so excited she peed.

figuring it out


“To some degree we all find life difficult, perplexing, and oppressive. Even when it goes well, as it may for a time, we worry that it probably won’t keep on that way.” – Joko Beck

We have a cat named “Worry.” He is the apple of my eye. Most cats meow. Worry chirps. Sometimes he moves his mouth and there is a delay in the sounds he makes, almost as if he is a feline ventriloquist. As a kitten, he fell off a lumber pile onto his head. Ever since he has been prone to stop and just cry out. It doesn’t matter if it’s the middle of the day or the middle of the night. It’s as if he is saying, “Hey, I’m here. Where is everybody?”

Elin and I chuckle alot about the irony of his name because most of the time he is one chill dude.

In humans, worry can be malignant. We are among the only beings who can envision the future and thus fear all the things that might happen. We fill our heads with worst-case scenarios, “what-ifs” that the science says are no more likely than positive outcomes. Yet our brains are hardwired to anticipate possibly harmful outcomes. It goes back to our days fighting sabre-toothed tigers.

figuring it out

standing at the bridge waiting to lead across

I am confident that, in the end, common sense and justice will prevail. I’m an optimist, brought up on the belief that if you wait to the end of the story, you get to see the good people live happily ever after.

–Cat Stevens

I have been trying to write this essay for weeks. It started out as a hopeful end of the year review. Then I was going to write about how 2016 felt like a sucker punch year, starting with such promise then dishing an unexpected uppercut: With the surprising–and troubling–election, the deaths of beloved musicians like David Bowie and Prince among other celebrities, and a seemingly chaotic world with shootings live on Facebook.

With so many sad and tragic things, how could anyone be hopeful for a better 2017?