My novel starts on a cliff face with my character inching her way up, while her boyfriend continues an argument. As I think about my character and her journey into love, danger, and back into time, I realize just how central growing up in Colorado is to my attitudes.
I’m part of three small writing groups. The physical group is sadly not meeting right now. But my two virtual groups are. And they are challenging some of my easy assumptions about manliness, outdoor adventure, and what it is that sensible people do.
I think solo hiking into the wilderness is normal and pleasant and just what one does when one needs to escape the crazy corporate world. My idea of manliness is ultra-endurance athletes who take on extreme feats of endurance and who are also erudite professors. The part of that construction that I thought people might find crazy was the professor part. I thought smart guys were my personal kink.
In my early twenties, one of our friends solo-hiked the Continental Divide from Canada to the southern border. He was caught in a flash flood and broke bones. He crawled to safety, then healed up in a hospital before starting the solo hike again, becoming injured again, healing and trying again. Reasonably normal, I thought. That’s what any normal, red-blooded man filled with bravery would do. And so sexy!
I assumed that I would take on some sort of endurance challenge eventually. Before I moved east and learned about clouds of mosquitoes and chiggers carpeting every natural surface, I assumed we would thru-hike the Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia. I read every book I could get my hands on that talked about thru-hiking. It sounded easier than hiking the Continental Divide, which sounded easier than climbing Everest. Perhaps that really is the order of difficulty, but the truth is that it’s not easy.
None of this is easy, especially not for the ambulatory marshmallow that I am.
As I write about my character confronting the wilderness, time, and the emotional wounds that prevent her from finding love, I’m a bit grateful for the weird, upside-down values of Colorado that valorize feats of endurance and wilderness survival over monetary success. My perceptions are skewed just right to write this story. Which is a good thing since writing is the only extreme endurance activity I’m doing these days.
Steve, my ultrarunner husband, is doing a virtual race across Tennessee. As of yesterday he had run 440 miles. His goal is 635 miles (1,000 kilometers). He’s also an erudite professor who is almost finished with his latest book. I am so lucky to be with him. He defines sexy for me.
I hope whatever your endurance sport is, whether it involves wilderness survival, writing, or just enduring a long social isolation, you are moving forward through it and making progress. As Steve’s motto goes: “Persistent, Forward Progress.” May it be yours.
Be well, friends!