Saturday, April 29, 2006

On-line Love

Some of you may know this about me, others may not: I met my husband on the Internet.

Now, in the 21st century, this is not a source of shame. In the 1990's, when we first met, it was. I still feel a little embarassed admitting it. The Internet was new, it had a seedy air about it for many people, and there was a prevailing feeling that only desperados went looking for love on-line. (We didn't meet in a chat room, but through an on-line dating service called Webpersonals. I think they've gone belly-up now, but at the time they were thriving and thousands of people were signed up.) I joined the day after my divorce was final, not even seeking a long-term relationship (I'd had one of those, after all, and look how it turned out), but just wanting to ease back into the dating scene slowly, get my feet wet, ten years and three kids after my last attempts. Also, I was living in an extremely small one-stoplight town, and all of the eligible men in my age range could be ticked off on one hand. They were also either highly sought after...or...not. Anyway, my preference was to cast a wide net.

For me, it was a very freeing experience--it was suddenly raining men, and as a result, I was able to be myself. By first connecting anonymously, I had no vested interest in succeeding with one over another, and I had no reason to be anything other than exactly who I am. As a result, I found a man who loves me for all the reasons I want to be loved, a man who knew my cranky side before he met me in person, and who knew exactly what sort of woman he was talking to. Rarely in face-to-face introductions do we show our true selves or see into the heart of another. Often it is hormones that guide us in person...and I can't speak for everyone's hormones, but I can tell you mine will lead me astray every time.

It also turned out to be a very old-fashioned way to connect, despite the new-fangled medium. When I "met" my future husband on-line, we emailed for two weeks before I finally gave him my phone number and then it was another two weeks before we met in person. (He flew down from NY for the day--I was in the mountains of VA--and took me out to lunch at a local winery. Very nice.)

Why am I telling you this now? Because for some time, I've been feeling like the agent search is a lot like that relationship search I embarked on in the '90's. There's the initial connection, the cautious feeling out of the other, then, perversely, the gosh-I-hope-he-likes-me, and the why-doesn't-he-call? But all of that anxiety was what I was feeling when I was too caught up in the process. And oddly enough--just like the cliche says--love only came after I quit trying so hard, quit waiting and hoping, and was just myself, that's when everything clicked. So that's my new strategy with agents. Keep looking, but don't hold my breath, don't wait for "the right one" to call, don't work excessively to impress, and don't attach great hopes to any one until that one proves himself (or herself). What I want is just as important as what he or she wants and I need to find the right fit. True love will come when it comes, and that will be the right time. I'm going to trust the process and surrender.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Over the Edge

This is a great book, especially if you are a hiker and have ever considered hiking in the Grand Canyon. It describes all the recorded deaths in the canyon, their causes, how they might have been prevented, and what can be learned from them. It's a fascinating read and I guarantee you will learn something.

I, for instance, had no idea how prone the canyon was to disastrous flash floods--it's how much of it was formed, even. And what's worse, the rain that causes the flood can be happening more than 20 miles away. You can be sitting down in a bone dry culvert, in bright sunshine, when a roar like an approaching freight train begins and you have seconds to scramble to safety before a rolling wall of mud and debris engulfs you.

I also didn't know that some people approach the edge and just fall over into it from vertigo, or from some other sort of mysterious attractive force that makes people flirt with death. Some people have even died in the old cliched picture-taking way: "That's step more, back up, back up..." Boom.

Oh, and that tourist-stop-dead-body-attraction that I mentioned in my previous post? That's a picture of it, there in the lower right of the cover.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Grand Canyon, The

Our trip to the Grand Canyon was amazing. Backpacking in the canyon is a completely different experience from standing at the edge and snapping pictures. As grand as it is from the rim, you still can't imagine the true vastness of the place until you have hiked down inside it...spent the night under an equally vast sky, filled with stars...and then hiked back up and out.

Our trip started as we hiked down the Grand View Trail (carrying far too much stuff--we'll go lighter next trip, promise) to Horseshoe Mesa, which was itself a daunting, 2,000-foot, downhill hike for two winter-pale northerners fresh out of their cocoons. But from Horseshoe Mesa we still had to hike down another 2,000 feet to Cottonwood Creek where we had been told we could find water and several flat places to pitch a tent (yes, we had a permit).

But somehow we missed the turn-off for the shortcut to Cottonwood Creek. (In the continuing saga of dumb-luck-stories that is my life, this turned out to be a good thing, as a "shortcut" that involves a 2,000 foot altitude change with a 40 pound pack on one's back down a steep gravel path is not a happy shortcut.) But this meant we had to drop three miles down the back side of the Mesa without another human in sight. (How quickly "no one around" can go from inducing a calm, peaceful state to causing out-and-out panic really would be an amazing timeline. Someone should do a study.)

Our water supply was quickly dwindling. Hikers in the canyon must diligently replace body fluids lost from the sweat of exertion, the heat, and even from the low humidity. It is possible to become dangerously dehydrated in the Grand Canyon, even without sweating, and not sweating wasn't an option for us. The canyon's 7% average humidity was responsible for preserving the body of a hapless hiker whose mummified corpse became a tourist stop for more than sixty years before the body suddenly disappeared in the 1970's. And we passed several conspicuous piles of tin cans left over from miners and prospectors who had tried to conquer the canyon in the 1800's (an era when man's dominion over nature was believed to be a biblical imperative). The cans were rusted, but completely intact, with the method of opening obvious to the point of being able to picture the miner cranking away at his stubborn tin with a pocket knife.

Contrary to what most people believe, the temperature at the bottom of the canyon is much hotter than the temperature at the rim. About 40 degrees hotter, on any given day. And three-quarters of the way into our first day of hiking, we started to ration water to make sure we would have enough. Seems reasonable, doesn't it? But we learned later that this is not a good plan. The rule of water in the Grand Canyon: If you save it, you might not make it. It turns out the dividing line between "I've got a powerful thirst" and "I'm speaking gibberish and walking off alone into the desert because I think I've found a good shortcut" is a very fine one, and it can happen much faster than you would think. Never save your water for later. Many a delirious hiker's remains have been found with a half-full water bottle that--if he had but consumed it--would have given him the strength and the presence of mind to locate the water source that was often just over the next rise. As a Park Service Ranger put it to us the following day, "In the Grand Canyon you don't hike to water, you hike from water."

[More tomorrow.]

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Doreen Baingana

I met Doreen last year at Bread Loaf and found her to be a delightful conversationist (and beautiful, as well). Her recent book Tropical Fish: Stories Out of Entebbe is a fabulous read and one I highly recommend. The Monitor has a profile of Doreen here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

Laila's a Fulbright Fellow!

Over at my good friend Laila Lalami has just learned that a) she's won a Fulbright Fellowship to live and study in Casablanca and b) the new paperback cover art for Hope and Other Dangerous Pursuits is done. Good news all around--the cover is beautiful!!

Abide with Me

Elizabeth Strout's newest book Abide with Me is such a wonderful, redemptive read. When I finished it, I was sad to see my time with the characters end, so real had they become to me. I highly recommend it.

Blue Peninsula

I've just ordered this intriguing book by Madge McKeithen, which I've had recommended to me by too many people to count. I am so looking forward to reading it!!