Saturday, August 20, 2016

The real thing

Yesterday I returned from a magical week with my friend, Sandy, in Sedona, Arizona.  It’s hard to completely describe the incredible experiences I had while hiking in the red rocks, but in the next few weeks, I’ll try to share with you as much as I can put into words.   Until then, here’s a blog I wrote about a trip to Yellowstone…and all the ways I’ve been trying to keep it real since then.
Have a wonderful day…and look for “It takes a Virgo” sometime next week.

The real thing
Originally published on June 16, 2014

A few years back my friend, Sandy, and I were on vacation at Yellowstone National Park.  Having been there many times before, Sandy wanted me to enjoy all of the incredible attractions she had experienced.  The majesty of Old Faithful.  The uncommon variety of the natural hot springs.  The plethora of wildlife.
Ah, yes, the wildlife.
On our drive into the park, Sandy and I saw a herd of bison on the horizon and, finding a safe spot to stop, we pulled over and took countless pictures.  The zoom on my camera isn't that great, so all of my shots ended up fuzzy -- or the group shots appeared as though I photographed a handful of enormous raisins scattered on the prairie. 
"Don't worry," Sandy said.  "You'll see a lot more."
And sure enough, an hour or so later we were on our way to check in at the lodge when Sandy stopped at an intersection. 
"Look over there," she nodded, indicating the passenger window.
Turning my head I saw an enormous bison sitting on the grass, not five feet from our car.   "Oh, that's not real," I replied, thinking it was simply a stuffed replica, welcoming us to Yellowstone.
Until it snorted and my eyes shot open. 
"It's real," Sandy laughed as she drove across the intersection.
"I guess so," I stammered, not used to being so close to a beast that could gore a hole into Sandy's sidewalls if it had the notion.  I swiveled around to watch the bison regard the next car and the next and the next...never moving from its perch on the side of the road.
As the day unfolded we saw many other bison, and one scene in particular was truly spectacular.  A short rainfall had thundered through the park, leaving behind several rainbows in its wake.  We stopped by an outlook and took a plethora of pictures.  This time I was able to capture the majestic beauty of the herd as it grazed and rambled across the dewy grasslands.  
"They're all real, Katie," Sandy teased.
"Yep...sure are," I agreed. 
Never again was I to doubt that what might look imaginary or artificial was the real deal.

In a world of virtual reality it's often difficult to discern what's real and what's not.  You're reading this blog on your computer, your I-phone or mobile device, and the only thing you can touch is the screen or your keyboard or mouse.  There's no book to hold.  No pages to turn.  You're not sitting with me on my porch while I regale you with stories or insights from my often unusual life.  But does that make what I'm writing any less real?
While I've been elated to put my work into the publishing world, there's another side...a darker one...that reveals itself in quiet moments when my computer's been turned off.  When I'm talking with friends who say, "I wish I had a real book you could sign."  When I look around my office and see no evidence of the work I've put into my books for the past three years.  Everything's been saved in a folder on my hard drive, then backed up on a thumb drive I keep in the desk drawer.  The printed versions of the books that I used during the editing process have been boxed up and stored in my basement. 
It's like being pregnant for eons, going through the pain and elation of giving birth, and then having nothing to show for it.
But is that perception real...or not?
Can I be like that peaceful bison and sit by the side of the road, knowing I'm real -- and that my books are real -- without having to prove it to everyone beyond a turn of my head?  It's an interesting thought...and one I'm entertaining more and more as the summer unfolds.
A while ago I tried internet dating and absolutely hated it.  While I put a lot of time and energy into my profile, it seemed the men I was matched with had a few drinks, took a selfie at the bar they were inhabiting, wrote a bunch of snarky crap, then called it a day.  Not that all of them were horrible, but the majority were and after a short period of time, I dropped my membership.
"I'd rather have the real deal than the virtual version," I lamented to my girlfriends.  "Guys can be anything they want online.  But then again, so can anyone."
I decided that this summer I'm going to dip my feet back into the dating pool, though it's not been as I imagined.  Internet dating services haven't changed all that much, but I sure have.  Yes, I go through the matches eHarmony sends my way, weeding out any man who answers, "What are you looking for in a woman?" with "A pulse."  Blocking any matches with men who say their occupation is "Astro traveling."  (I'm not making that one up...I swear.)   Still, I'm considering any man who looks kind and at least seems honest in his personal bio.  Sadly, there aren't many who interest me.
For this picky lady, it's slim pickins out there.
Yet, I've noticed that since I put myself out there in the virtual world, men in the real world are noticing me more and more.  They chat me up in the grocery store.  Stop me at the park and ask for directions.  Even roll down their windows at an intersection and nod my way.  (When that happens, I embody the bison -- i.e. I sit stoically, lift an eyebrow and smile.)
"My light must be on again," I told my friend, Lisa, the other day.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
"It's like I'm a taxi and I've been driving around with my light off for years," I explained.  "Only now I've turned it on and men are noticing it."  After a short pause, I then added, "Only this time I get to choose my passenger.  I'm not taking on any more men just because they need a ride...or I need the work."

So now I'm traveling on into the often unfamiliar world of virtual publication and publicity, venturing into the endless possibilities that are open to me as I search for a new agent and publishing house.  I'm dipping my toes into the dating pool where I've learned to navigate the precarious sharks and gravitate toward the friendlier dolphins.  And through it all, the mantra in the back of my mind echoes, "Keep it real...keep it real."
I'm sure that when my productivity meets providence at an intersection in the near future, I'll look around and be able to recognize what's true and what's fiction.  And if I'm having any trouble with that discernment, I trust I'll be guided by Sandy or Lisa or a host of friends who know who I am.  Who know the real me...and want nothing more than to see it reflected in the life I'm now creating.

Keeping it real at Red Rock State Park, Sedona, AZ