Monday, August 1, 2011

Why I Don't Like to Canoe on Rivers

A writer's blog is a place where readers can go to gain insight about their favorite writers, right?  At least, that's what I do.  (Yeah, it still freaks me out a little that people might be interested in ME.)  I live a pretty quiet life in the country and work with great kids at a high school during the winter and talk about birds at my father's museum all summer, and I have two beautiful and talented daughters and a wonderful husband and dear friends and I'm publishing novels.

Well, all right, weird things happen to me, usually through no fault of my own, that make interesting stories.  Like how this summer some random weird drunk or very mentally ill guy shows up at our house three times in a week and tries to get inside while we're home and it ends up in a whole hoopla with police from three different towns after him before they finally catch him.  And how my checking account got hacked into and wiped out right before we were leaving for a trip.  And how I get into bizarre car accidents that I'm lucky to walk away from just driving quietly along, and how doctors hate to see me coming because medicine doesn't work on me the way it's supposed to.  And surgery -- I had a simple operation to have my gall bladder out and ended up on a respirator and was told I might never breathe again.  And how I ran outside once in the night and snatched my bird feeders practically out from under a bear's nose. For a shy and quiet person, I've been in some strange situations.

But they all turn up in my writing in some form sooner or later.  Which brings me back to what I was going to write about -- why I don't like to canoe on rivers.  I love to canoe and I grew up in canoes, and both my parents are very serious canoeists and I know how to handle a boat.  I can make it go where I want it to, safely.  The problem is that I'm used to lakes, with wind and big waves.  I'm not used to rivers, with current and rocks and eddies and shallows and heaven help me, rapids!  My problem isn't not going where I want to, but not knowing where to go.  But this weekend, I unexpectedly spent six hours going down the Lamoille in my canoe with two people with less experience than I have, and I admit, I was less worried about breaking my record of never having tipped over than I was about killing all of us by making the wrong split-second decision.

Suffice it to say, I learned a lot about myself on that trip.  I learned that I don't like to go fast, I don't like to feel out of control, I get creeped out by underwater ledges and tree trunks and yes, a front fender of a car nobody saw but me, but it really was there.  I learned that I can summon up the courage to go down a set of rapids if I have to.  I learned that I could learn how to read a river very quickly after running aground once. And yes, my record is still intact and we did not capsize, nor did I kill my husband or my friend.  Though I did learn that people really can be so scared that they bite their lower lip until it bleeds and not realise they've even done it until later.  It still hurts, writing this two days after.

So what does this have to do with my writing?  Well, I was actually thinking about Cody from Under the Willow a lot on that trip.  He hates to fly, and I kept telling myself that if Cody can face his fear of heights and do it, then I can get down this damn river.  I gained a whole new insight as to how he feels in the air.

Which, I'll admit, is kind of bizarre, since I technically created Cody, after all.  If he gets his strength from me, and I get it back from him, is that some kind of weird mathy loop thing, since we're very different, but are coming out of the same head?  Which is mine, right?

And that is a little glimpse into my normal but very odd life.  Maybe I ought to just stick to writing novels  They're a lot easier to deal with than real life.

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