Julie Sucha Anderson
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 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