Saturday, November 9, 2013

Headwaters - Found

I'm ready to begin again, but I'm not quite certain where to start. 
Julie Sucha Anderson

History tells us the white man searched for years to find the beginning of the Mississippi River. Most meandered fruitlessly, never finding their way to its origin. The Native Americans in the area must have chuckled as these explorers wandered aimlessly. Finally one explorer had the sense to ask the Indians where the headwaters lay. Eureka! The Headwaters were discovered.

Summer before last, my husband and I took a trip up to northern, northern Minnesota to visit friends. Even though I had crossed the Mississippi River countless times in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana and even attended Girl Scout camp on the backwash of the Mississippi in Wisconsin, I'd never seen the headwaters. Always wanted to see the river's beginning. To experience its grandeur.

I was born in Minnesota and lived there my first thirteen years. In adulthood I returned each summer  to an old fashioned resort of tiny cabins in Spicer, Minnesota -- my husband and kids, my parents and my brothers' families all in attendance. Too much fun!

But this trip with only my husband seemed very strange to me - bypassing the familiar roads leading to the lake and continuing north. To search for something new in a place beyond where I'd spent so much time. Where the before, wasn't anymore.

It had been almost a year since the passing of my mom; almost two years since losing my dad. I was soon to complete the task as executor of my parent's wills and the dismantling of their household to be distributed between my brothers and me. A most difficult time in my life compounded by not having the time I once had to pursue writing due to an outside the home job, my children heading off on their life adventures and me trying to find myself, while also trying not to think. I worked many substitute teacher days in order to take my mind off getting myself together. Doing everything I could by rote to make life simpler.

My writing disappeared. I had nothing to say.

The Headwaters of the Mississippi are located in Itasca State Park. Way up Nort, don't ya know. (You can take the girl out of Minnesota, but you can't take the Minnesota...) Unlike the early explorers, my husband and I were able to follow a wide man-made path down to the waters where we came upon the rock ledge that separates the Lake Itasca from the narrow beginnings of a grand river.

I took off my shoes and socks and wandered through the unseasonably warm water to have a seat. As the water passing over my toes began its journey to the Gulf of Mexico, I stared down its path, wishing I could ride down along with it. Embarking on an odyssey of something new from where I'd been. A hopeful journey of new adventure, discovering more and more as I floated.

I sat there and imagined that this could be the beginning of my release from the grief and stagnation of the past few years. That now, with my children out on their own and my parent's passing behind me, I could begin to think of myself, and what I wanted to do with my life.

I felt so hopeful.

Like the explorers floundering through the woods seeking the headwaters, my thoughts and hopes didn't quite come to fruition either. Sometimes my dreams are bigger than my mind can grasp. I forget those details that can cloud a big picture. Those details one has to plod through. And that sometimes the plodding can get mucky. And rest is needed for perhaps there is no strength to move forward.

I retreated to my rote world. I relished my friends and laughter.  Fun. Brainless complacency.

The two (Mom) and three (Dad) year anniversary of my losses has passed. My youngest son has settled in a school where he has found his passion and future.  I'm not teaching as much. The tangles around my feet have lessened. I feel lighter. The Wa I've sought has arrived. I like it.

A few weeks ago, my dear friend, Carolyn Scarborough, a writing coach and author of Backyard Pearls, announced a one-day writer retreat. She has facilitated retreats in the past, but I was not in retreat mode unless it involved a beach and a gallon of wine. But when I saw her announcement, a retreat where my brain had to participate seemed right. I signed up immediately. The time had come to get up off the rocks at the Headwaters and begin the new journey.

My writing goals have changed from years ago when the intense days of practice, membership in writing organizations, the pursuit and reality of publishing consumed me. I'm not that person anymore.

Now I want to write because I love it and I love me when I'm in writer mode. I have a novel I want to finish. For me. I have a journal with blank pages that patiently awaits my thoughts, aimless and empty as they often are. I have a blog that I often look back on and read my past entries, marvelling - "Wow, did I write that? I didn't know I knew words like that?" Maybe I should write more there.

I have a filing cabinet filled with finished, unfinished essays and short stories. They've been gathering dust since the whole Midlife Jobhunter deal came up.  I'm thinking I'll blow the dust off those files and explore what might lurk in there.

I'm ready to engage in the calm of my writing life. At my own pace.

The Mississippi takes a certain, well defined path. The water behind the water pushes it along its way. I don't have that force behind me, but that's the way it goes. Sometimes you find the flow and sometimes you just have to paddle. Can't begin unless you find the headwaters, though. And the paddle.

I found them. Wonder where they'll lead me.

I'm ready to begin again.  I now know where to start.
Julie Sucha Anderson


  1. Welcome back. . . I know how long and hard the road has been. I look forward to reading where your floating takes you.

  2. Wow. A fabulous new beginning. And the headwaters are the best analogy ever. You're the best floater I know. You're going in the right direction ...keep on floating.

  3. Welcome back! You seem different, more mature and more stable and more focused. Your words and writing style convey this. Congratulations! Looking forward to going on this journey with you. Writing is such an addictive calling.

  4. A idea I feel when close to waters is it is carrying many thoughts and ideas over the3 eons it has been around. The headwaters are great on a favorite river for me.I was married bluff above it in Lansing, IA.

    You have been gone for a bit and maybe don't know they added word verification which many have taken off. It is annoying to type a hard to read passage,sometimes over and over when one can't read it.

  5. I like the way you began and ended this piece with thoughtful quotes from one of my favorite authors!

  6. Good to have you back! Your river of words is wide and deep. I look forward to floating alongside you.

  7. Hello, Ms. Roadtripper. You have visited me and now I am visiting you and yes, it is never too late for a journey to begin again.
    That is what I am hoping, anyway.

  8. Grief holds us in a stranglehold. You needed to find your way back to the headwaters; and your journey couldn't be rushed.

    One cannot rush thoughts/words; like water, they'll find their way to the ocean at their own pace.

  9. Wow, this post is really powerful! I am so glad you have passed through the difficult journey you were on and have found your personal headwaters. I look forward to your new travels.

  10. Wow, Julie, so glad you turned up again! And it feels like you're really back this time. I'm so sorry for all your struggles~~we all have to deal with them in our own ways.
    Also, it's so fun to know that you started life in Minnesota. As I did. And I know all about the headwaters at Itasca State Park. Walked those stones a number of times :) I once wrote a short piece about the Mississippi waters flowing from Itasca to the Gulf...
    Loving to have you back and I look forward to your free-flowing writes :)

  11. I'm SOOO glad you're back; truly, you have been missed. This explanation of the journey you've been on is very satisfying to me, as a reader of your words and, inasmuch as blogging allows, a follower of your life. You have good insights on yourself here, the kind that can and should result in genuine motivation.

    Here's my favorite line from your post (because it speaks to me):

    "Now I want to write because I love it and I love me when I'm in writer mode."

    YES. That's all that really matters.

  12. You are so brave to write this to us. Rather than "welcome back", I'm thinking "happy jumping in!"

  13. I'm so happy for you, and for all of us who now get to read your words again. Grieving leaves us on unfamiliar shores that can hold new treasure once we can see again. I love this metaphor. So glad to have you here again.

  14. What a journey back to your writing. And the way you wrap into the Mighty Mississippi....great stuff.

  15. Yay! What a wonderful, uplifting post! Here's to new beginnings.

  16. Hello Julie! It seems that you've been teasing us with a quarterly post-and I have enjoyed hearing from you. This time, you sound as if you're "totally back." We may not see it via future blog posts, however, your novel and other aspects of your life will surely benefit.

    My father died in 1999, a day short of my 42nd birthday. My mother and stepfather, both 80, are still with us. I imagined your lack of direction (if that's what it was) while grieving and adjusting to your parents' passings and wondered if I'll experience the same when my mother leaves.

    Your post expressed everything so vividly and beautifully. I'm glad you got to the headwaters and that you included the pictures in the post. What a great (unintended?) metaphor for your next phase.

  17. That's a beautiful essay, expressing the feelings during that "in between" part of life so well. I love the River headwaters analogy.

    I hope that the new beginnings bring new wonder into your life!

  18. Thanks for popping by - so lovely to meet you!. I loved this post and was so so sorry to hear about your parents. With all you have going on, no wonder you don't have the emotional or physical energy to write. I know about writers block though have not worked on my "novel" since I started back at work, though I do find joining Book Writing World has been amazing

  19. I love your words. I'm glad you found them again.

  20. Blessings on you, on what you have discovered and where you will go. Such an honest, and inspiring, post.


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