Boulder, Colorado: Part Two

12 hours in a conference chair and I’m at my wits end.  

I have been eating Nectar Bars and apples stolen from the hotel lobby display.  Cottage cheese from the grocery store.  Baby carrots. This trip is going down on the cheap.

I just tell myself it’s like I’m backpacking and the justification offers a little comfort.

The Silver Saddle has become a small kind of home. In the dark hours when I am there alone, the silence is a welcome companion. I read and write and sleep.  Wind gusts outside the window.  Mountains rise up.

I am reminded that a change of scenery is necessary every so often.  Travel is essential to my emotional well-being.  I forget because I am happy at home.  I forget because I have a small closet that is an office in my home and it is a cave that I get lost in.  

I return home one day and Sal says, “I have a surprise.”

That usually means that the furniture has been rearranged or a new planter box constructed. The constantly changing furniture stresses me out. The planter boxes make me happy.

Today is something different.

He takes me into the TV room and opens the door to the closet, which has formerly been home to jackets and junk.  It’s a big closet with a lightswitch inside and a window that gets northern light.  

The door opens to reveal a small vintage school desk against the back wall.  An old chair is tucked into it – gray steel covered in mustard-yellow vinyl.  We bought these things together but I never know what to do with anything.  Sal takes everyday objects and makes sanctuaries.

On the left is a magnetic board that has been out of use for some time.  It is dotted with carefully selected photographs.  Some that are my favorites, some his.  Sal in his chef’s jacket, presenting tapas plates. My best friend and I at the Getty mansion in San Francisco.  

It’s perfect.  Sal calls it "The Smart Box".

The next day I disappear into it to finish a copywriting assignment that is due.  After three hours, Sal knocks and says, “Are you ever coming out?  I miss you.”

“I like the cave.” I say.

Going into the closet-office is a kind of admission.

I never wanted to be a writer.  At least that’s what I always said.  I rejected the occupation in the name of my mother, who suffered at its hands. I have to acknowledge that hers is a road map I don’t necessarily have to follow.

She chose to write one way, and I can choose another.  

Back at the Writer’s Conference I become aware that we are all mired in self-doubt and hesitation.  I connect with other writers who echo my own fears and conflicts.  More than anything else, this is the biggest value. Affirmation and camaraderie.

I carry a shoulder bag with my mobile office.  Laptop, power supply, phone, copy of “The Rider”, a stack of copies of my first column in The Oregonian.  

Self-promotion makes me bristle the same way it does everyone, but I waited for years for someone else to take it on and no one turned up.  If I don’t tell my story, no one else is going to.  I have to get used to carrying copies of the Oregonian.

I sit through a classroom session with an editor from TrailRunner magazine. Writing exercises, critiques, powerpoint.  Six hours in a rooms with no windows.

The chair is fusing to my body.  My legs are sore from doing nothing. It’s the worst kind of aching.

Later, I’ll meet with three editors: TrailRunning (again), Outside, and Backpacker. I try to keep it casual.  I look for feedback, ask questions, chit-chat.  It’s a speed-dating, so there’s only so much you can do in ten minutes.  But you do get a feel for the editor, and that’s the point.

Back at the Silver Saddle, I crash hard in the quiet white light of late afternoon through the blinds. Later I wake up as the sun is getting low and pull out the Lomo, which is filled with black and white film, to document the location.

Boulder is a reset button and I feel renewed, despite the grueling schedule. Tomorrow I’ll fly out and reconnect with Sal after a seven day separation.

I’m tired.  Exhausted in that way that is meaningful.

I miss my sweet bike.  I miss my bed.  I’m ready to drop the keys to room 14 in the dropbox and head back in the big metal flying cylinder.

The next time I come back, Nonna will be with me.


Abima says: "Time to pack!!!:

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  1. Ahh, a writers conference. I’ve always wanted to attend one but with two children and all their sports…it’s sort of a big luxury for me right now. Perhaps when my thing gets off the ground it can be a business expense!

  2. Your writing often moves me to tears at the most unexpected moments. And then my heart feels like it’s going to burst out of my chest and all is right in the world again.

    Thanks for that.

  3. Your closet sounds divine.

    I love Boulder. Wish you weren’t in a chair all day…

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