Tag Archives: writing

Window washer

I wish I was a better blogger, but I’m not. I like corresponding with you via this vehicle, posting thoughts and observations about things which seem important in life right now. It is good to put the words together, for it forces me to find some structure to the seemingly random cycles and acyclical events of humanity and ecology.

Not even photos have ever proven able to capture memory like writing and the act of have. My “true evolution to writer” happened when the act of writing became equal to the product. Writing is a means to make sense, to make art of reality, to make sure certain things do not slip by unnoticed, unremarked, unappreciated, and thus it is something done, rather than something that is.

It is a narrow path to walk. At times I have found my inclination toward written record superseding the living of the life itself. Or even if that’s not true, one is led to believe that constant documenting is in opposition to doing. Or that the mark of true greatness is to be able to do both equally, but yet more fully than mere mortals. Or not. Like I was saying, it is a narrow path to keep one’s footing on.

This weekend brought winter. The air is now dry and frozen, the dark sudden and deep. Six o’ clock feels like the middle of the night and mornings it is an ordeal to extract one’s self from flannel sheets and down comforter. I spent Saturday afternoon washing the big windows in the back of our house. I removed the screens and scrubbed the glass inside and out. They needed it badly and as I cleaned them it was like rubbing fog out from sleepy eyes and I could see outside little pieces of snow wobbling down to Earth, scattered against the sky and the dark green of the white pine in the backyard.

This was not the snow of last week, a sloppy rain-like precipitation that was really a last autumn rain just a little late, moistening dead leaves and making puddles for Lola to slosh through on our morning walk. Saturday’s snow was dry winter snow, sparse and sparing, and I watched the flakes fall to the ground as I washed the windows.

I listened to the stereo quite loudly as I worked; I was all alone for the afternoon. The music sounded great, clear as the cleaned windows and an unequivocal joy to know that when all else is stripped away, there is always music. The afternoon went by as such. No morn nor eve considered, just the gray afternoon, the task at the hand, and the rock and roll on the stereo.

Business and pleasure

I know I’ve been a negligent blogger for the past couple months, and for that I apologize to those who support and enjoy my efforts here. Work has kept me busy writing and thinking about woods and waters. I’ve also had the inklings of inspiration to save up some of my writing energies for a medium perhaps more tangible. Or maybe just another Esker.

For what it’s worth, I just completed editing my first newsletter for the Friends of the Boundary Waters Wilderness. While you won’t find my byline in this one, I think some of you might still enjoy it, and just know that my editorial influence is all over it. There are articles on all sorts of issues regarding the Boundary Waters, as well as a really interesting examination of the essence of wilderness.

Members of the Friends should see it in their mailbox in the next day or two, but it’s also available as a PDF here.

Our next newsletter should see a lengthy report by me on an adventure I have planned for later this summer… a stint as a volunteer in the bow of a canoe with a Forest Service wilderness ranger in the stern. I’ll be helping with routine maintenance on portages and campsites in the Boundary Waters. It should be interesting to see what all goes into preserving the wilderness character of the BWCAW, though it will also be a big change to work in a place where I usually go to play.

Lastly, there was a nice opinion piece in the St. Paul Pioneer Press last week about the state of the St. Croix River, 40 years after it was declared one of the inaugural Wild and Scenic Rivers. Written by John Helland and featuring the words of former senator and vice president and perpetual St. Croix aficianado and advocate Walter Mondale, it talks about the treasure that is the St. Croix, and the very real threats it is facing from development and pollution. The article was spurred by a May meeting of river advocates that I had heard whisperings of a few months back. It sounds like the outcome was the one hoped for: interest and energy regarding the formation of a new advocacy and education group that would work to protect and preserve the St. Croix. You can read the article here.

Esker Update

Esker: Tales of Woods and WaterThank you to everyone who has already ordered Esker. If you haven’t done so, you can still get your very own copy for $12. Not only have many people already ordered, several have been kind enough to spread the word via their blogs and I want to publicly thank everyone for doing that:

I’ve also gotten Esker’s “official Web site” up at www.gregseitz.com/esker. It’s still a bit under construction and there’s not much there right now besides what you can find here, but it will serve as the place to go to order copies, etc.

Thanks again for all the congratulations and encouragement and to everyone who has purchased a copy. It means as much to me as the number of sales. But, if you haven’t bought Esker yet, here’s that link one more time.

Introducing “Esker: Tales of Woods and Water”

Esker: Tales of Woods and WaterI am very, very, very, very, very happy to announce the publication of Esker: Tales of Woods and Water, a chapbook featuring my writings, as well as the works of several people I respect and enjoy.

Almost all of the writing from me has appeared on The Dharma Blog over the past three years, though it is all freshly edited and revised. But there is also a brand new piece (written just for Esker) called “Return to Pebble Creek” and a previously-unpublished poem titled “Walk With Me.” I think anyone who reads this blog will appreciate both pieces, as well as enjoy having my “greatest hits” in printed form.

Esker also features:

  • Lené Gary, of Vermont, who was one of the first writers I connected with via blogging. Her poem, “This June Without You” just won first prize in the Poetry Society of New Hampshire’s annual contest.
  • Sam Haraldson, of Duluth, who was recently featured on this blog in my interview about his experience thru-hiking the Pacific Northwest Trail. Sam has contributed a short piece titled “Why I Walk,” which I know was a question at least one person said they were curious about after reading the interview.
  • Ed Haydin, of the Milwaukee area. Ed has been an unfailing supporter of my efforts on this blog and otherwise and has provided a sketch to accompany a story of mine about fishing the Trico hatch.
  • And my own lovely wife, Katie Seitz (“Rosie” to my readers), shared her poem, “Photos in Your Wallet.” It’s a beautiful piece.

Thank you to all of those folks for sharing their work and for their support.

The chapbook is pretty small, designed to fit into your back pocket or your backpack. But, at 80 pages, it has enough material to while away at least a few of these dark winter hours.

You can buy Esker for $12 by clicking here. I’m pretty sure you can still get copies in time for Christmas, but you better click quickly. My biggest priority with this book is to get it into people’s hands who might enjoy it, so I’d love it you bought a copy or two for other folks. If you want to talk about ordering multiple copies, I’d be happy to hook you up with a discount, just drop me a line.

I would be very grateful to anyone who could mention Esker on their own blog or otherwise help me spread the word.

This has been a project of considerable effort and I’d just like to say again how happy I am to finally be able to share it with everyone. Cheers!

A Call

It is a good thing to be surprised. Be it someone appearing when you least expect it (i.e. when Rosie and I traded surprise visits to each other during our long-distance college days… I’ll never forget walking into the coffee shop in Madison as she swept up after closing, without looking up she said, “Sir, we’re closed.” I stood there, not knowing what to do, she finally looked up and seemed to rub her eyes to make sense of it).

We went to visit our friend Katie’s partner Philip in Red Wing on Saturday. He’s going to school down there to learn how to build and repair acoustic guitars and the such. The night before Katie had driven down from Minneapolis and had been talking to him on the phone while she drove and he was at the laundromat. He thought she was still a ways away and when she walked in and tried to kiss him while he was talking on the phone to her and looking the other way, he apparently nearly jumped out of his skin.

On Saturday, after wandering around quaint downtown Red Wing, as I reached my cute shop tolerance, we mercifully headed a ways out of town to the Anderson Center for Interdisciplinary Arts. It’s a cool-looking old place situated right on Highway 61. I’ve driven by it a bunch of times before, but never knew what it was, or even that it was open to the public. It is surrounded by a brick wall that gave the impression of secrecy, that perhaps only heightened my curiosity.

But it is most certainly open to the public. It is a sprawling compound of buildings surrounding a beautiful old brick water tower. In a huge field that goes from the buildings to the edge of the bluff where the land drops to the Mississippi River below, there is a sculpture park filled with eccentric creations. Similar pieces are scattered around the grounds.

There was a sense of freedom to the place. It was okay that we didn’t enter through the main entrance right away. We wandered around the back of the main building where a giant hoist had sculpture pieces in mid-construction suspended. A long-unused basketball hoop surrounded by giant scraps of copper. A yellow lab greeted us, let us pet her briefly, then went back to her sentinel position atop a hummock where she could see the door into the kitchen.

Outside the main entrance stood a piece of sculpture about five feet high. It was different shapes of ceramic stacked into disjoined columns. I said that I liked it because it had color. All the pieces were painted vibrantly. Color is far too rare in most of the modern sculpture I see.

When we finally got inside, I was blown away. The main building serves as a gallery and a studio for artists-in-residence. The front room contained a clock that was unlike anything I had ever seen. I can’t, I won’t try to describe it, except to say that it was made entirely of hickory and the lines were perfect and beautiful. Everything happened gracefully and slowly, just as times is wont to do. I studied it for a long time. Anyone have $7,400 I could borrow?

The breadth of the art that was displayed in that building was breathtaking. Though all mediums and styles were represented, there seemed to be a consistent vibrancy and whimsy, and none of the artists seemed to be afraid of bright, bold colors.

In a room in the basement was the permanent collection. Here, there were several Picassos, a de Kooning and a Warhol, amongst others. The artists I hadn’t heard of were all innovative and displayed a high, but unpretentious, aesthetic.

For one reason or another, pottery seems to be a big thing at Anderson. There were several galleries and studios. One of them, Angela Foley, had a wonderful artist statement on a printed piece of paper on a shelf by her work. I wish I could remember it better now, because she briefly described her aesthetics and the traditions she saw herself as working in, but then moved on to talking about calling and passion and the importance of pursuing what she was good at, and what was good for her.

I’m not a potter or a painter of a sculptor. I don’t know what I am. I write. But, the Anderson Center was a very timely surprise. It got me thinking about my own priorities and the things I choose to do and the things I should be doing. How we all are born with some calling, whether or not it is obvious to us or the people we are close to. I realized that my own calling isn’t hard for me to understand.

Before we left, we climbed up into the tower. Seventy-six steps winding around the inside of the tower brought us to a small circular room with a table and chairs in the middle and an observation deck going around the outside. On a shelf in the room was a paperback dictionary and there was a fan and a heater. I imagined the artists and writers who come here to work for two or four weeks coming up to watch the sun rise over the valley from this room, thinking about their calling, which they hopefully get the chance to really pursue while staying at the center.

A calling is a question, we are all born with one (or two or three or more). It is a question, the answer to which is what I believe are supposed to spend our lives trying to answer.

“Do what you love. Fuck everything else.”

I don’t normally blog about blogging, but please excuse me while I briefly do so. I have made a pledge to myself to post something every day between now and our canoe trip in two weeks and to continue a very heavy amount of posting through the end of October. I think it is worth making that goal public.

As anyone who follows this blog knows, I have been posting infrequently at best and rarely at worst for almost the past six months. It has been difficult for me because I have frequently felt uninspired, empty, unmotivated and apathetic during that time, so I haven’t written. I still feel that way in many regards, but rather than trying to fix those problems first, I’m hoping that by forcing myself to write, it will have an effect on the other end of the equation.

I choose to do this now because the next couple months present much for me to be both excited and nervous about. After this weekend, I will not be at home on a weekend until the end of October. I will first go to Camera’s bachelor party at a cabin a couple hours north of the Twin Cities next weekend, then to the Boundary Waters the following, with a stop in Voyageurs National Park the following weekend. I’ll be back for about three days and then off to San Francisco for a couple days of work and then a weekend with some old friends, including an overnight trip to Big Sur that I’m very excited about. The next weekend will hopefully include a canoe trip with a bunch of friends home for Camera’s wedding, which then comes the following weekend in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

That’s all pretty good stuff, right? Absolutely. So, what am I nervous about? Well, for all my love of adventure and travel and seeing new sights, I’m also a homebody and it looks like the wanderlust in me is going to get a lot more exercise than the homebody in September and October. And “nervous” might not even be the best word… “Curious” might be better. I’m interested to see how such a schedule and series of adventures affects me. I really don’t know. Though if I could do two months backpacking in Europe, never staying in the same bed for more than three or four nights at a spell, I imagine I’ll survive a couple months of weekend travel.

I’ve gone on about this more than I should have. The point is that it would be easy to let my blogging continue to slide during all this, but I’m not going to let that happen and I hope you all will hold me to that. I feel out-of-practice with writing after just a couple months of not doing very much. I’m pleasantly surprised by the kind words regarding yesterday’s “Stomping” piece… I really didn’t think it was very good. Trying to compose it was a harsh wake-up that I have to keep writing to be happy with what I write.

Most of my slacking on this blog for the past couple months has probably been in some indirect way the result of being distracted by thoughts and worries about long-term stuff. My career, my dreams, stuff like that. Yet, the another night, Rosie and I were out walking and she tried to ask me about my thoughts about some of that long-term stuff and I just couldn’t answer. Without meaning to, I’ve switched into a more near-term mode of thought. Come November, I hope to be able to think about some of that other stuff again, but, for the time being, it’s either think about the present and the immediate future or miss the chance to make the most of some important experiences.

Hopefully, with all this Experience (yes, with a capital “E”), I won’t find myself writing about writing (or devoting large chunks of entries to rationalizing shoe purchases) during all this posting in the next couple months. But I will write, and not use having nothing better to write about as an excuse for not. So I hope you all will bear with me.

In closing, and because this post was probably pretty devoid of entertainment value, I have a recommendation: go see the movie Little Miss Sunshine. There’s entertainment value there to make up for the vast absence of such on this blog lately.