A Fractured Mind Begins to Heal

Intro

I hope all is going with you. Things have been busy here. I am sorry about slowing down on the emails. Term papers, my Army Reserve commitment, working on the outline for my first novel and trying to submit other writings have kept me busy.

My work as a writer has been going full-steam ahead. I am working on two short stories for submittals to a local writing magazine and two poems. I never really submitted anything before, but figured now was the time.

I am still taking four English and Literature classes at the local community college. Awesome classes and every one of my professors has a PhD.

At night I am taking a few “free” on-line courses in writing. I am trying to get good at writing in a hurry.

A Healing

After getting blown up in 2008 in Afghanistan I had trouble concentrating. It was the second time in three years I had hit a roadside bomb.

I could not focus my mind. For years after the explosion I had tortured, fearful and fragmented thoughts.

Imagine a car windshield that has been shattered by a blow from a hammer. The windshield fragments create small islands. Each one of those islands is a thought.  is Like a misplaced child’s jigsaw puzzle, no two pieces fit together to form a coherent pattern.

Rather the pieces of thoughts form a constant racing of random feelings, thoughts and ideas. My mind never stopped racing, not even while I slept, if I slept.

My intellectual sense of geography was off. I had acres and acres of debris of knowledge from books I’d read, old memories and conversations. All of strewn over what was left of mind and memory on a beach.

The confusion seemed to get larger as the months dragged into years. I had a sense of timelessness punctuated by moments of clarity and cohesion.

Only after meeting my wife Muna did I begin to become fully aware of myself again. Muna infiltrated my dream world. She encouraged, prodded and asked penetrating questions. She was a force of relevance who made me put one foot forward at a time.

A Realization

Then I started to write. Not just write a few lines, or a potential book but really write. I realized I had a lot to say.

What I needed was a large blank canvas. A blank canvas where my mind could wander. A place where I could pick up the debris on my mind’s beach.

Writing allowed me to take the jigsaw pieces and put them back together. Writing stimulated my mind. Writing cleared up the fog and increased my powers of concentration.

Where there was clatter was now quiet. Muna’s love was gentle and healing. She passed her loving fingers over the scar tissue of my mind and massaged me back to life.

My life is better because of writing and my loving wife.

Immersion

They say the best way to learn a language is immersion. I am trying to learn the language of writing in all its forms. These classes are teaching me not just to write, but to make words snap to life. Writing is teaching me how to wrestle with the past and to build on the ruins.

I hope you guys like the outcome.

Visiting Vermont

Intro

Muna and I went to my Annual Spring Train-Up at Fort Dix, NJ last week. We stayed there for four days. Afterwards we made our way north to Vermont. We stayed in the idyllic Vermont village of White River Junction, pop. 404.

White River Junction, was an eclectic mix of modern boutiques and cafes alongside historic buildings. The tiny historic hamlet was unique destination. The town has preserved its history while looking towards the future. White River Junction had a small town vibe filled with a youthful energy. This is life in a tiny town where everyone knows everything, and everything is everybody else’s business.

So much of Vermont reminded me of the pastoral beauty of Oregon. Vermont, like Oregon, celebrates small-town life the way it really exists in our imagination. Private and secluded farmhouses cradled in picturesque settings on top of hillsides and clinging to mountains. A beautiful, unspoiled countryside surrounded by farms, cows and nice people.

The beauty of a pristine winter was over. The time of the year was “mud season.” The time of year when winter makes its exit, and spring slowly approaches. It’s a miserable and filthy time of year. An in-between time season tinged with a glimmer of hope for greener days ahead.

The days were misty and gray. We didn’t see any billboards or big chain stores in Vermont. We visited tiny Weston, Vermont with one of the oldest continuously operating country stores in the country. We met a lot of folks from “someplace else.”

An older couple we met was into their full immersion into rural life- swapping dress shoes for muck boots, raising chickens and sheep, and fighting off skunks and bears. They told us about living in a tiny town steeped in history, local tradition, and that dyed-in-the-wool Vermont “character.” They could have chosen to live anywhere but they deliberately chose Vermont, a hard-working, old-fashioned life.

We loved it.

King Arthur Flour

Muna is many things: a great wife, an extraordinary event planner, but she is also a baker and foodie. I wanted to take her to one slice of foodie paradise just off Interstate Highway 91 in Norwich, Vermont that knows no season.

Folks outside New England might know King Arthur Flour Co. mostly by the paper bags of its signature product. King Arthur flours are sold in many supermarkets, and the company has a catalog that’s an excellent resource for bakers. The company headquarters is just off Interstate Highway 91 in Norwich, Vermont.

In spring, there is the maple syrup. In summer, there are tours of artisanal cheese makers. In fall, it’s all about the foliage. And in winter, you’d better have skis strapped to the roof rack.

As odd as it sounds, the 220-year-old company’s headquarters, you can shop, dine and even sign up for a range of baking classes with King Arthur’s experts.

This is no soulless corporate HQ. That’s obvious the moment you pull up to the sprawling but beautiful post-and-beam building that looks like a renovated barn. Waves of freshly baked goodness waft out to you in the parking lot. First, you whiff bread, then maybe scones. Or is it muffins? Definitely sugar cookies in the mix, too.

Step inside and the aromas intensify. Dead ahead is a cafe backed by a wall of freshly baked breads and pastries. To the right, an open kitchen where cavernous ovens produce heaps of carby treats. I felt like I gained ten pounds just standing in the front door.

But you need to resist and head first to the left. There a massive store offers endless baking gadgets and supplies. You have every variety of flour and baking mix a home or pro cook could hope for. If you time it right, the demo kitchen in the back corner will be showing off and sampling all manner of goodies.

Once you’ve shopped up an appetite, return to the cafe. The baked goods, of course, are the stars. There are daily soups and salads, as well as numerous sandwiches made using the artisanal breads baked on-site. Much of the produce comes from a farm down the street. And of course, there are plenty of those wonderful Vermont cheeses.

If you can afford to build a bit more time into your visit, plan ahead and check out the Baking Education Center’s class offerings. The classes, which range from quick flatbread and cookie courses to intensive, weeklong baking 101 immersions, are all taught in the beautiful kitchen classrooms right next to the cafe. Warning: Classes fill up fast.

Now that you’ve had your carb fix, you might want to wash it down with some cool and refreshing fat. Less than 2 miles away over the river in Hanover is Morano Gelato, which serves shockingly good gelato. Owner Morgan Morano spent six years researching gelato in Italy before opening the shop in 2010 on this college town’s quaint main drag.

The ingredients are local, and the gelato is made fresh daily, all of which shows. This is killer gelato. Not just killer good for New Hampshire, but killer good for Italy.

 

Many of the flavors tempt, and while you could mix and match them (as Italians love to do), consider getting nothing but the sea salt chocolate. It is rich, creamy and smooth in ways that verge of obscene. If you get a small, you will regret it.

Dartmouth Writing Program

King Arthur Flour is nestled in a rolling field just over the Connecticut River from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, a must-stop destination.

We looked at the Dartmouth University Writing Residence Program. The program takes place in for two weeks in July. It provides aspiring writers an opportunity to get instruction by immersion.

Participants will live in a Dartmouth residence hall and attend writing workshops. The program encompasses the academic dimensions of Dartmouth with classes and interaction with our faculty from their English Department.

There’s ample time for meaningful conversation with successful local writers and staff on how to improve your writing.

In addition to attending scheduled classes, you attend special sessions led by featured faculty members about how his or her writing experience. Additionally, faculty show the relevance of writing classes and fiction to the great issues facing us in the world today.

We toured the campus, to help us gain a general orientation of the Dartmouth campus. The program helps aspiring writers to decipher the vocabulary of “fiction” “short stories” “creative nonfiction” and other writing genre terms. This course empowers a new writer to make a smart choices while navigating their first book through the hectic publishing process.

I am not sure I am going to sign up yet, but I sure am thinking about it.

We had a great time.