Adding up the columns…

posted in: The Journey | 2


“One year for each card in the deck,” my big brother remarked, referring to my age as of this past Wednesday. He also opined, “Not old, but not young either.” Considering he’s eight years older than I am, his pronouncements are often met with gibes on my part. But not this time. This time, I feel that suspension, as if I am both looking forward and looking back at once.

It has to do partly with autumn’s entrance: this past weekend’s clarion of hundreds of sandhill cranes sailing out over the mountain passes and this morning’s dark sonata of great horned owls. To me, autumn, more than any other season, feels like a book being closed, a curtain drawing against sunset. Traditionally, I’ve used my birthday to assess where I’d like to allocate my time in the next year of my life. I have been considering what has brought me joy and what might be pulling me off the road to my mountain.


  • working on the poems in my new manuscript. Oh my goodness, those poems have just started to truly get their feet under them and the map spread out on the table. I can’t even describe the way it feels to sit down each morning and open up books and notebooks – maybe like the missing puzzle piece sliding with a snap into position. When I’m writing, I’m my best self.
  • teaching in the UAA MFA program. It was like summer camp for writing nerds, a whole passel of people interested in putting their stories into the world in the best possible containers. Plus, teaching at this level is making me a more conscious writer and reader.
  • teaching my Haiku Path course in January. Sure it was a long time ago, but I had so much fun crafting an experience for the intrepid first group of participants.
  • teaching at the Kachemak Bay Writers’ Conference and the Fairbanks Summer Arts Festival. These immersive workshops are so full of the joy of discovery and camaraderie.
  • meeting the Storyknife residents, each woman carrying hope that her story will find its place in the world.
  • walking under the open sky, being with my partner and puppy, digging in the garden, hanging out with good friends, listening to the sound the light makes.


  • mindless dithering on the internet. I am beginning to understand that the quantity of this dithering is directly proportional to how difficult the tasks in front of me feel.
  • catastophizing. Oh sure, our current political climate does feel a little like every house is on fire and we’re bickering over the last bucket, but how useful is it to let myself get so emotionally distraught that I can’t be effective in anything?
  • shopping for magic. This is a little pastime of mine involves searching online for the perfect talisman/shoe/shirt/pendant/tarot-deck/book that will finally keep me on track and remind me of my life’s purpose. Or at least make me look like I’m track with my life’s purpose. File this under “mindless dithering when terrified of the task ahead” but rarely buying anything.
  • the thousand things I do to earn money that take a lot of time but don’t pay very well. Or the various things I do for money that I can’t emotionally put down because there are dozens of emails, text messages, phone calls that come at every hour all week long (and the weekend, too). Or….

Mostly, the columns add up to lucky. Lucky for all the gorgeous opportunities I’ve had. Lucky to have amazing friends, colleagues, and mentors. Lucky to live in one of the most beautiful places in the world with a person who supports my dreams. And honestly, when I’m off-track, it’s on me. Last time I looked, a 52-year-old is a grown human being able to make decisions. Sure, deep inside me is the little girl who just wants to do everything that will make people like her. Good thing that there’s a woman in there with her who will remind her “Perfect is the enemy of good,” and “You need to like you, sweetie, more than you need anyone else to like you.”

Meanwhile, I cherish those early hours before sunrise (mostly) at my desk when my priority is poetry and everything that nourishes it.

2 Responses

  1. Kathy Smith

    As a fellow Virgoer, I’m going to keep your post in my studio as a reminder of oh so many things……….thanks again, Erin, and Happy Birthday Year.

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