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The Claire’s Afoot

So here’s the thing:

I am the Incredible Hulk.

I suppose that requires a little bit of background. To wit:

I’ve lived in my adopted village of Yellow Springs for a little over a year now.  In that time, I’ve made some great friends, found some trusty haunts, and discovered that life in a place where acceptance, rather than its flaccid, wan sibling, “tolerance,” is the watchword is pretty damned sweet. I’ve had a few stories published, picked up my first serious editing gigs, and landed a writing coach job. I’ve also slowly crept toward abject poverty and struggled with depression stemming from the isolation that accompanies the writer’s craft, but I wouldn’t trade a moment of it. Living here has been transformative in so many ways, not the least of which is the way in which it has taught me to strenuously examine my belief system, my values, and my priorities. It has led me to refine my personal philosophy – a credo which has, traditionally at least, been limited to “Be a giver, not a taker; be nice to people, even when they don’t deserve it; always, ALWAYS take free food when it is offered – if you can’t use it, you know someone who can” – and to ask myself the hard questions that separate the examined from the unexamined life.

Now, lest you dismiss this as the sort of navel-gazing prattle that characterizes many a jailhouse conversion, let me ease your mind by saying that some of these choices have been hardheaded and pragmatic rather than merely self-serving.  Even when inspired and full of (relative) bonhomie, our heroine still requires some sort of filthy lucre coming in to keep the lights on. Hence my writing coach and editing efforts (and, coming very, very soon, a Kickstarter page). Despite my niece’s assertion that I am “the aunt who went to live with the Hippies,” I remain firmly connected to reality (or at least as firmly connected as I ever have been, which is to say “tenuously but significantly”).

Yesterday was Earth Day, and it marked the date when I finally implemented a long-brewing plan to get serious about several ancillary aspects of my life that, while not directly related to the craft of writing, play a direct part in keeping me alive while allowing me to be the kind of person I want to be. Having long been a fan of George R.R. Martin, I’m well acquainted with his pet phrase, “Words are wind,” and living in the Springs has brought home to me several ways in which I am talking the talk, but not walking the walk; I’m just making wind (and not even wind that can be harvested at the windmills). What does one do when one examines their convictions and finds an alarming lack of personal integrity? What is one willing to sacrifice to be their most honest, best self? The answer, for me, was to start making serious changes to improve my health, my ecological footprint, and my outlook.

So I took another bold step (it’s been a year for command decisions at Casa Claire) and canceled my car insurance. Lola has been my primary conveyance for a dozen years, but she’s near death, and I’ve decided that I won’t be buying another car. Not only is a car beyond my financial means in the near future, but all of the ancillary costs associated with it are beyond my financial means. For someone who’s forever nattering on about eco-responsibility, driving anywhere in a village whose main drag is a mere 15 minutes away by foot from Casa Claire (ten if I cut through campus and risk pissing off my neighbors by tromping through their back garden) seems foolish and wasteful. Add in the fact that writers do a GREAT DEAL of sitting, and that I occasionally forget to eat until I am sufficiently ravenous to devour food without peeling/unwrapping/killing it, and well…let’s just say adding some walking to my daily routine can only be a good thing.

I’ve combined my computer bag and purse into one magical backpack (left over from my days in art school). I’ve changed my schedule to factor in my slower pace of travel (this way, I will merely be as late as I would have been if I’d taken the car). All I really need now is someone to play sad piano music while I walk down the roads of Yellow Springs, occasionally turning to face the camera, thumb out, as I travel from adventure to adventure.*

So, this morning, after doing my stretches and going through my rather protracted morning prep routine, I donned my lavender Bag of Holding™ and stepped out my front door. It should be noted that Yellow Springs on foot is, like most places, a very different village than it appears to be from a car. I was greeted enthusiastically by a few friendly dogs (and aggressively by one tiny Norwich Terrier with a Napoleon complex). I stopped to commune with a tiny Buddha surrounded by donated marbles in a hand-carved yard alter. I was surrounded by a rich melange of olfactory stimulants, borne on the rather chilly springtime breeze – lilac, freshly turned earth, and, with the recent rains, petrichor. I said “good morning” to the handful of folks I passed at a leisurely mosey, cheered by their friendly responses. I even stopped, literally, to smell the flowers (a mistake, it turns out, since, “smelling the flowers” turned into “stab myself in the eye with a stray branch I cleverly failed to notice”). Instead of letting the scenery wash past, I looked around and savored the sunshine, the bracing breeze (Xenia Avenue is something of a wind tunnel), and the sense of being connected to the Earth instead of merely viewing it through the window Robert Piersig once called “just more TV.”

And you know what? It was AWESOME.

One year into my Yellow Springs adventure, I’ve become accustomed to the rhythms of the place. I’ve come to appreciate the friendly faces and cheerful greetings, the crazy conversations, and the simple joy of belonging. This morning’s exertions only enhanced that feeling. It only took me fifteen minutes to walk to my “office” this morning, but I feel as though I’ve taken some important steps on a more important journey – one that, ultimately, leads to the life I want to live.

*See? I TOLD you I was the Hulk.

Published inBlogBloggingEssaysFitnessUncharacteristic SincerityYellow Springs

8 Comments

  1. I hated Yellow Springs (it didn’t deserve it) and it’s really heartwarming to read about it through your eyes.

  2. Thanks, buddy. It’s not a perfect place, but it’s perfect for me, if you can dig it (and I know that you can).

  3. Walking around Yellow Springs is wonderful, especially when you don’t stick to the main streets but wander through some of the back alleys, and small side streets. The smell of Lilac is very strong this year and it’s lovely. Glad you are enjoying Yellow Springs.

  4. It really is gorgeous. I’m so, so lucky to have found this awesome community. 😀

  5. Great stuff, Claire—I love your writing. Keep up the good work!

  6. Thank you so much, Sam! Some days, awesome readers and their equally awesome support are the only things that keep me going! 😀

  7. You make me miss living in town, Claire. And your writing is just swoony!

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