Sunday, July 21, 2013

Thought Bubbles, Random Squiggles

While hiking in the mountains with friends, I began to take notice of how much my mind jumps around from subject to subject on those steep, uphill climbs to the summit. On the flatlands, the chatter of family events, summer plans and work headaches dominated our easy pace. 

Planting our walking poles and placing one foot in front of the other, the elevation change began to take root, and our lively conversations  stopped. Instead we turned our thoughts inward, attending to each footfall, and coveting every breath as the hike took on a more strenuous note. 

It got real quiet, and I imagined thought bubbles floating above everyone's heads. 

If memory serves me, the order of my thoughts (unrelated) went something like this: 

First...what is the cause of autism? This most puzzling and increasingly prevalent disorder is on the rise, and I wonder what is its origin. 

Second: What was the last Ingmar Bergman movie I saw?

One night I did an Ingmar Bergman movie marathon. His films are in black and white, with high and low camera angles, disturbing shadows and overall an minimalist effect. Big bowl of popcorn in my lap.  

He said (paraphrased): No art passes our conscience in the way film does; (it) goes directly to our feelings, deep down into the dark rooms of our soulsGreat stuff. 

Then a Game of Thrones marathon with my son, Zachary. Big bowls of popcorn in our laps. 
Egret shoots John Snow with her bow and arrows (I about died, rolling on the floor).  Khaleesi, proud and beautiful, frees the slaves. Great stuff…brilliant and engaging. 

Third: I would love to walk the streets of New York just to see all the lovely clothes people wear. And jewelry. Like in Italy. While on a train in Tuscany, I couldn’t stop drawing women and their loud jewelry, big beads, colorful scarves and purses, sensible shoes, and very very nice skirts. 

What would it be like to dress up everyday? I think it would make you feel grand. Where I live in Alaska, we’re grubby on a day-to-day basis, which equates to comfortable, but essentially boring.

Bear tracks. The girls and I stop for a look. Are we standing upwind? 

Fourth: Remembering things on my 2013 To Do List: 

1).  Finish poems (in the file cabinet and on the computer for the past year and a half). 

2).  Finish illustrating a children's book, titled Bananas Are Moons. No publisher yet; 
      consider self-publishing with CreateSpace. Anyone out there have any experience with  

3).  Learn how to make Time Capsules.

A Time Capsules is a video of small things in your life…soft rain on the windows, an orange coffee mug steaming with hot chocolate, Coral’s flowery rubber boots, the pink afghan Susan made for me, kids crushing the Slip N' Slide on a hot day. Snapshots in time strung together to make a beautiful little film.

Fifth: Things I miss: deciduous trees, walking sticks (the alive kind, literally, sticks that walk), violent thunderstorms, lightening bugs we used to catch and put in Mason jars. We don’t have these things where I live. We worry about other things, like cranky old bears and  moose with an attitude. At least you can see them coming.
A ground squirrel darts across the path. We stop for a look. Drink some water. Swat the pesky mosquitoes (I could never be a Buddhist). The trail gets pretty steep. A most outstanding view. 

Sixth: A memory: On a trip to Paris I made a grave mispronunciation (in French) by asking a man on the street where is the train station? Or so I thought. Instead, I asked him where is the war? 

Oh, the look on his face. Some things you just never forget. 

The girls and I stop again; this time for photographs. Mary smiling. Jean standing on a huge rock, Ginny calling her dog who’s running all over the tundra, frantically sniffing the ground

Seventh: For some strange reason, I have a thought about smoking a cigarette. One of those additive-free Native American brands. 

I am not a smoker. 
Hope it's not a sign of something (gravely) imminent.

Eighth: I worry too much about all manner of things. Like pesticide drift (we’re spraying our children who breathe the air), affordable health care for everyone, did I turn the stove off before leaving the house? 

Ninth: A post card collage is my next thought. I will make a postcard collage when I get off this mountain. I have a big stack of them: hotel postcards, beer advertisements, old ladies in big hats. Boys showing off their muscles-retro cards. Waterfalls in Hawaii. Famous monuments. Collage time!

Tenth: A memory: Pulling shrimp pots out on Prince William Sound. Julie and I bathing in a freshwater stream...screaming with exhilaration it is so cold.

Uh oh. Bear scat on the trail...still steaming. Make noise. Sing. 
Mary Poppins. Fiddler on The Roof. Oklahoma. Any musical will do.

We are:  a nurse, a teacher, a widow, and two retirees. We carefully pole (several pairs of bad knees) back down the mountainside. Inhale. Exhale. One step after another. A walking mountain meditation. 

We sing. The hills are alive with The Sound of Music.

Back to ground zero. Back to our daily lives. Back to important, purposeful thoughts.



  1. hi monica! it's been a while—i'm not around here much anymore. yes! to nyc and clothes and jewelry watching, yes! to violent thunder storms and fireflies and affordable healthcare for everyone, no! to too many chemicals leaching and blowing and yikes! to still steaming bear poo.... ;-)

    1. Thanks for stopping by; glad I got to read your gorgeous poetry!

  2. My gosh, this writing journey was so captivating I forgot to look at the pictures and had to go back to see them! Thanks. It felt like I was hiking in Alaska.

    1. So glad our experience shone through; we've been having perfect summer temperatures, and I can hardly force myself to stay inside and get any work done. Thanks for your comments.

  3. Glad to know that I don't have the corner on the "wandering train of thought" market.

  4. Interesting to watch them come and go...which ones to follow, which ones not.

  5. How perfectly -- and delightfully -- the rhythm of this post captures the essence of a mind distracted and a body in need of distraction -- until they come to that point where working as one is the only way to go.

  6. Isn't it amazing that "thinking" isn't just "thinking"? It's also: pondering, musing, turning over, considering, analyzing, figuring out, dreaming, remembering....

    We have so few opportunities for some modes of thought, and it's so hard to move beyond that purposeful, goal-oriented thinking that's so necessary in the course of a day. Giving ourselves permission to wander in thought is as important as wandering in the wild, I think. When we're wandering, there's no reason at all to worry about reaching a conclusion!