Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Walk the Lane

As in memory lane. This idea is floating around neighboring blogs, and since I’m a lemming in this medium anyway….

Ten Years Ago

I am in the first semester of the Master of Urban and Regional Planning program at the University of Colorado at Denver, and am quickly gaining an appreciation of and—over the course of the two-year program—a love for well-designed urban places. It won’t be long before I get that same feeling in a good streetscape I get when I hike among a less-traveled mountain trail: exhilaration, passion, promise. I sense that urban design, more than energy planning which was my original academic goal, will be my life’s new pursuit.

I have been married to Billie—we met in college, worked at the same grocery store—for two and a half years, living in suburban Westminster, Colorado in a cookie-cutter, U.S. Homes snout house. I work for Western Area Power Administration as an energy services specialist, overseeing the distribution of energy conservation information and technical assistance to municipal utilities and rural electric cooperatives. It’s good fun, made even more fun by the fact that I’m only working half-time now while going to school full-time.

I haven’t written new poetry for a year, and the “Great American Novel” sits in a desk drawer, halted at Chapter 8. All free time is spent reading, studying, drafting.

Five Years Ago

I’ve been in Tucson now about seven months, and there are plenty of times I wonder if we made the right decision to move down here from Denver, undertaking a career change into web design with all the other big transitions of a relatively long-distance move. Billie and I have two beautiful daughters, ages three years and four months. The older daughter is still upset about having to share time with her younger sister, who seems only to sleep, nurse, or cry.

Two weeks ago I took a full week off to paint our new home in Civano. It’s a “university bungalow,” a super-efficient, well-crafted home in the nation’s first “sustainable, New Urbanist” community. Large front and rear porches, garage on a carriage lane in the back, solar water heating, neighborhood center, neighbors who are as passionate about community as we are—or at least think we are. We end up with nineteen different interior colors by the time I’m through, and believe it or not they work here in the Sonoran desert! We’re still unpacking loads of boxes, but it’s awesome to have this much space after living in an apartment for eight months—half our items in storage—waiting for the house to be built.

Still no poetry, but I have been writing a fair amount of creative nonfiction. Revising some old poetry, too. It’s time for the first major redesign of Terrain: A Journal of the Built & Natural Environments. An issue later, it’s time for another revision to fix problems with viewing the site on a Mac (who’d have known?) and to change the name to, since there’s a Terrain magazine printed by the Ecology Center in Berkeley (who’d have known?).

One Year Ago

Finally my two-year term as president of our neighborhood association is over! I was at risk of losing my family and many friends, it seems. More importantly, I was tired of being so absolutely frustrated that I truly feared I was dropping into clinical depression. Thank God for Return of the King and the entire The Lord of the Rings movie trilogy, which always give me hope. Now in my fourth job in Tucson—as web program manager for the University of Arizona’s management college—I’m really happy with where I’m at and with whom I work (and have found that to generally be the case no matter where I work).

I’m excited because the contract for my first book of poetry, Riverfall, is back on, and publication is just over the horizon: next spring or summer. Soon I’ll start reading poetry vigorously again, which will get me writing regularly again, for the first time in more than ten years. I “discover” poets like Billy Collins, and continue to return to poets like A.R. Ammons, Mary Oliver, and R.T. Smith.

I’m revisiting—as I do often—the desire to further my education: a Ph.D. or, a new thought occurs to me, an MFA in creative writing; both are options here at the UA. Do I hunker in for seven or eight years of graduate study to earn a Ph.D. in, say, geography—which is the closest field to urban and regional planning offered here? Or do I dedicate two years to an MFA, for poetry or creative nonfiction? Seems a glorious opportunity either way.


Now that Billie’s student teaching is done, I can be more of a slouch in the morning, as I don’t have to get the girls ready and take them to school. I roll out of bed and into the shower, dress, help a bit with the girls (but not as much as I should, I know), then drive the half-hour commute to the UA in my trusty Honda Accord, buzzing along at 159,234 miles and counting. Jim Dale reads Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone—I’m waltzing through the series again, which makes the drive a real treat.

I’m in a bit of a rut at work: turn on the PC, hook up and turn on the laptop, turn on the printer—I can feel the energy spike now—, look at the day’s calendar, check the requisite blogs and sports websites, and dig into the day’s work: some strategic, most tactical. Eyes tired from looking at the computer screen just an hour later, but such is the nature of the beast.

I am thinking about the upcoming week off between Christmas and New Year’s: the university shuts down during this time. I need to get everything together for my UA Poetry Center workshop, “Writing the Infosphere: Poetry, the Web, and You,” which begins in January. Just today sent the check for a copy of I Am Spam, indirectly recommended by a recent Ron Silliman blog entry. Think I’ll dedicate one of our poetry workshop sessions to email—poems by email, spam as poetry, poetry listservs, and the like. Should make for an interesting writing exercise, too.

Lunch at Café Poca Cosa with my GTA Panos, who heads off to London after earning his MBA and Master of MIS. Folks, this is the Tucson restaurant not to miss when in town.

Back now, I make a call to Island Press’s PR director and confirm, happily because I wasn’t sure it was going to happen, that former Arizona governor and Interior secretary Bruce Babbitt will do the interview for’s next issue, due out March 5. Think about Drum Hadley’s Voices from the Borderlands, which I just received from Rio Nuevo Publishing, and write the press coordinator to let her know we’d like to excerpt it for our next issue. She writes back, delighted, and also suggests another title of the same subject. Excerpt both, perhaps?

On the way home, Harry battles the jinx that almost makes him fall off his Nimbus 2000, then wins the Quidditch match by catching the golden snitch in his mouth. Ah, I love this fantasy life!

At home, with the temporary home theater still set up in the front room, we decide to watch Elf in bigscreen format as we eat dinner. Terrible Americana, I know, but so it goes. That movie is a riot, regardless!

Spend much time cleaning up—rolling up the screen, moving furniture back, vacuuming—after we get the girls in bed. Billie and I decide to unwrap The Lord of the Rings Monopoly she got for me back on Father’s Day, and we play for about an hour. She is Legolas and I am Gandalf; she wins by less than 100 powers. Finally, before entering the sweet darkness of bedtime, I tuck into the foreword to Babbitt’s new book, Cities in the Wilderness: A New Vision of Land Use in America. The writing is surprisingly enticing.

Alas, the pillow and warm comforter: even more enticing....

1 comment:

shann said...

I love Elf- it's just plain funny- sometimes that's all you need.