This past weekend my husband and I were in Anchorage for a conference where he was presenting and where I was contemplating the Last Frontier and how I wish I were made of the stuff that would make a life there a possibility. As it is, I had to return the F 150 Truck we were given at the rent-a-car counter for something smaller because I wasn’t woman enough for that much machine. (Since Z is from Zimbabwe he has no ‘driving on snow’ privileges when I’m in the car.)
When he wasn’t conferencing and I wasn’t contemplating, we spent time with two of his friends from Minnesota, one of whom now lives in Alaska and has her very own Alaska-born toddler, who came down from Seward with his momma to see the ceremonial start to the over 1,150 mile Iditarod. The last great race.
To say I was excited about getting to see the beginning of this race with my own eyes would be an understatement. It’s one of those things like Burning Man that for about thirty seconds before I remember who I am, I actually think I might be capable of participating. But I like amenities. I complain loudly if the temperature veers beneath 40 or above 75. My idea of roughing it is staying in a hotel with Flex shampoo and a bedspread instead of a down comforter in a white duvet. When I hear the word “camp” I think of John Waters, not sleeping outdoors with no porcelain in sight. So seeing the start of the Iditarod gave me a few moments of feeling like I was at one with the participants, both human and dog, before recalling that really I'm a girl who wears UGG boots because someone told her she should, not because they keep her warm.
We lined the street and waited for individual musher’s names to be announced. The dogs would bound down Fourth Street amid cheers and waves, and then we’d stamp our feet, blow on our hands, and wait for the next announcement. It was a happy day. I didn't see a single miserable person the whole time we were cheering.
In case you were wondering, this is where I tie the Iditarod to writing. Ready? Okay.
If every time I sat down at the keyboard, a crowd of people were standing around me happily clapping and cheering for what I was about to do (note, not what I had accomplished—these mushers could have steered their dog sleds into the nearest McDonald’s and called it a day for all we know--the cheers were all about anticipation), well, then, I suspect I might produce more. Or at least have better self-esteem.
I know, I know, the mushers care passionately about their dogs and make them wear little booties and the dog’s comfort comes before their own and yadda yadda yadda, but I do the same for my words. I make little nests for them in which to rest on the page. I arrange them carefully in order of cleverness and strength to make sure they can pull the sled of my essay from start to finish. I check on them regularly for physical problems that may impede our chances of making it to the finish. (All dangling modifiers and split infinitives beware.) I'll stop the metaphor there, but here's what I want to know: where’s my triumphal launch every time I hunker down in my Writing Chair?