Falling Down on Purpose

By Mary Anderson

It has been at least 20 years since I have done a self-arrest with an ice ax. I thought some practice before my hike would be a good idea, so before leaving home, I went to a local ski area in search of snow. I trudged up the slope, aware that I was the odd one on that mountain. Everyone else was, of course, on skis. And while they were trying not to fall, I was purposefully throwing myself down the mountain.

I was glad to discover that I still had what it took to stop a slide, as long as I don’t fall head downhill, face up, at a high rate of speed. That one needs more practice. But still it was satisfying.

As I drove home I was aware that the satisfaction I felt was similar to what I experience after one of our writing workshops. While I often feel like the odd one out in the group, writing dark pieces filled with my emotional pain while others write about the beauties of spring, I am always glad for the practice. I come away with a renewed confidence to keep at it. I have learned that just as I don’t want to fall a certain way down the mountain, fiction writing is not something I am inclined to do. It would take a lot more practice. But who knows, maybe one day I will throw myself down that proverbial slope and have a go at it.

Mary Anderson is writing a book about her trek along the 3,000-mile Continental Divide Trail, a journey of healing that she began in her sixties. Mary hiked the southern half of the trail in 2020 and is undertaking the northern half this year.

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