Today I like: Swim team
Not so much: Eye strain
We took our kids for a walk along the Potomac River this past weekend. As much as I’m looking forward to leaving the DC area in the rearview, I will miss the Potomac. People do not realize the beauty of that river just west of DC. The waterfalls and rock formations are like something out of the Last of the Mohicans. If one uses one’s imagination, and ignores the McMansions on the VA side and the smell of the C&O canal, one can catch a glimpse of what it must have been like in the days before the Potomac wrapped its arms around the capital of the free world.
My kids ran ahead, along paths worn down by thousands of tourists and locals alike. I called out the usual mommy-isms: “Don’t get too far ahead.” “Watch out for the prickle bushes.” “I can’t see you!” and of course, “Watch where you’re going!”
That last one didn’t hold. Within minutes my oldest daughter had tripped on a tree root and bashed her knee. I knelt beside her and rubbed the sore spot. “Are you alright? You have to watch for the roots.”
She looked up at me with her brown doe’s eyes. Strong soldier, she wiped them and said, “I’m okay. But I like to look at the trees.”
I had to agree with her as she got up, and kept on with her eyes dutifully on the ground. I’ve always found it frustrating that I spend more time watching my feet on these woodsy walks that watching the world around me. The roots and rocks are always there, waiting to catch the toe of my shoe or turn an ankle. Last fall I took a tumble on the last mile of a long run that left me with scars on my knees and elbows reminiscent of a bad slide into home by a first-year Little Leaguer. So I remember to watch the earth below me.
But what am I missing? I’m missing the depth of the woods around me, especially with my newly LASIK-ed eyes. Individual leaves on unique trees a hundred yards and a thousand layers of foliage in the distance. I’m missing spider webs and woolybears and blue dragonflies like winged bits of spun sugar that must, must, must find a way into one of my stories. And maybe I’m even missing a few of the prickle bushes. I have the scratches on my legs to prove it.
In the writers’ life there are many proverbial trip-ups. They come in a constant progression, and sometimes they repeat themselves. Writer’s block. Realization that you’ve spent a month taking your plot in the wrong direction. Rejection. Difficult-to-swallow criticism. Rejection. More rejection.
We can’t let those bumps get in the way of the triumphs. Fixing a plot hole. Finishing a first draft. A request for a partial or a full or a revision. Great feedback. Landing an agent. Give yourself time and credit to enjoy the good, and it’s there, even if it’s just the joy of rereading a scene that you know just rocks. We need to take time to savor the victories.
Of course, I also need to take my own advice! So I will do my damndest. I started on that walk, by watching for the roots but pausing at the spiderwebs. Sometimes you have to look up from the ground and risk falling to take in the view.