I’m not sure about the time, but the crowd is counting in reverse—three… two…one—so I throw my head back, sucking down the tequila kiss, and taste the New Year’s tradition in full, my trade-in for another’s lips. Burning booze glides down my throat, rests in my gut—oh you serpentine embrace, I feel your sting. I regress. I slither back to a more basic belief in myself. I’m drunk. And what a fucking year it’s been.
January and February scratched an itch, New Zealand, and March was Samoa. April birthed spring—thawed land—and I began building a cabin; May gave me my thirties. June a trip to Texas (Big Bend specifically, my 43rd national park). July a dead body prostrate in the boulders of Colorado, a fallen stranger from the cliffs above. August: Banff. September a loop around the country as a musician’s tour manager. October: repose. And November was quality time with my family.
Now this, the next morning, writhing to a heightened sense of awareness—a particular type of sickness only born from the bottle—with fragments of light seeming sharper, sounds more piercing. And yet my body is numb to the call and response I’m sending through the synapses.
I puke in my mouth as I sit in on an online writing workshop. No one can see me so I rest my head in my folded arms. My mind wanders.
Twenty fourteen left in a flash flood and I’m left floating in the debris, at least until I sober up, half drowning and half wondering how such a cleansing could be so uncomfortable. I shed skin this past year and, looking back at this bread-crumb trail, I smile at the collection of false carcasses, the empty exoskeletons, littering the hallowed path.
“I want you to look around the room at eye level,” the online facilitator interrupts, “and write about the object that most catches your eye—the object that holds the most heat in your mind.” I swallow the vomit but its flavor remains. I write:
The haunches sit at the end, a stoic countenance to the front. This marble beast, a rhino, has been divided with the purpose of keeping my literature upright. A bookend. And this rhino is pissed, having lived through a vivisection and having been stretched and pulled across this entire shelf. The result? A goring of all the pages that I hope to someday read…because this rhino is me. I am running through this endless wonderland of words, hoping the right ones will cling to my horn just long enough for me to read them, the wrong ones shedding to the hooves. I’m on stampede. Never slowing. Only forward. And I’m pissed, having endured this pragmatic pain. But I’m proud—because feel that weight. Can you feel it? That’s me—and I finally have a purpose.
This past year taught me to love reading, which might sound frivolous, but the act had only previously reached enjoyment. Now it’s love. And I’m resolved to read one book a week this year. 52 in total.
That said, here are my top five books read during 2014 (in no particular order):
- God Laughs & Plays by David James Duncan
- The Drifters by James Michener
- Tales of the Unexpected by Roald Dahl
- The Moth, an anthology
- The Best American Travel Writing of 2013
My other resolution is to ask somebody for something every day. It sounds selfish, but I promise you this is only a half truth. Asking, I think, can be a form of love, but more importantly, an invitation to let others love you. This resolution could therefore be me asking literary journals to publish my work, asking agents to represent my book, or asking for public speaking gigs around town (I’m already scheduled to speak at my local REI in March about the history of the National Park Service). Other asks could be inviting friends to participate in art projects with me, to schedule a phone call for catching up, or simply requesting a hug. I’m excited to see how the experiment plays out.
As far as my writing goes, this is what is happening with my current book (a collection of travel essays): I finished the revisions I've been working on for the past couple of months and now I'm trying to write five new pieces to give the collection a more holistic feel. After that I'm gonna re-organize the essays and give it one more full proof read. I'm also caught up in the endless pursuit of trying to get some of these pieces individually placed in literary journals and magazines.
I recently had a website called Maptia approach me and ask if they could use one of my stories for their site. This was the result: Incandescent Earth
. You should fully explore their website, however, because it is quickly becoming one of my favorites.
Lastly, I'm currently working on a zine (defined as a noncommercial and often homemade publication). As a preview, here is the cover design (created by Phillip Harder):