Copyright notice

All content copyright 2010 by Chelsea Biondolillo. Seriously.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

more on the glacier hike

it's taking every ounce of will not to go back and edit that last one. but this is FREE WRITING. It is supposed to have typos and verb tense issues and repeated words. these things get weeded later. when the good stuff is winnowed away from the chaff. too many "alone"s are definitely chaff.

that day at the ice field it started temperate. I had on a jacket, hiking pants. it was still the first half of the trip so we didn't stink yet... two showers in 10 days and only one chance to do laundry... the cold air saved us from a true funk, but still. luckily we weren't hiking with our gear, so we could over pack. but by the laundry day, over packing or not, we needed it.

exit glacier, where the trail starts, is a very popular tourist spot--only part of Kenai fjords natl park that is car accessible. the glacier spills out on to the land in huge fingers of ice. braided rivulets stream out from under its weight, they weave into larger streams and finally spill into the Resurrection River. a short mile paved trail takes even those in wheel chairs to view one of the edges of the ice field face to face. the hike up to view the ice field is considered an all day "strenuous" affair. it is a trail that is usually closed in winter, and can be closed for storms the rest of the year. it was completely ok that i was afraid. i should have been more compassionate with myself. every one was afraid, just some of the folks that went uo that day enjoy being afraid and some transferred that fear into blind faith in our guide.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

notes on coming down off the mountain, so to speak

Free writing on coming down off of the proverbial mountain and literal glacier. Back in 2005? I just bawled the whole way up, cause a scene--it was embarrassing, but I still couldn't stop. I was terrified to be left alone to climb that mountain alone, and too out of shape and timid to keep up with the group. The trail started steep, wet and rocky. There was a lot of scrambling, and my arms were weak. I thought about all that was waiting for me back home: ridiculously unhealthy relationship, a job I couldn't appreciate, and living scared of everything everyday. It's no wonder I considered the slick edge more than once, more out of intellectual curiosity than actual hopelessness. Like, wanting real hopelessness, instead of this whiny dissatisfaction. I climbed alone, snotty, weepy, wobbly. Up into the treeline, where the trail became brown packed dirt between scrub; the guide came back down to me for awhile to be patronizing and incredulous at all the things I couldn't do or was afraid to try (like driving and riding a bike). He spoke in my direction about just doing it and jumping in and how happier it made him, then left in a cloud of self-congratulatory stink to rejoin the other hikers, declaring me cured. My anger got me up most of the next mile. To the scree, with it's gradual sliding hills and marmots, nestled next to small scrubby plants. The wind picked up by then, cold. There was rain and the gusts were enough to roll the smooth round stones beneath my shoes. I stopped to get my rain gear out. Crying AGAIN. I could see the veils of rain just above me on the trail. The group had been visible for awhile, once the trail had opened up above the trees, but the storm hid them. I almost sat down at one point. The wind and rain, the ice in the rain, slipping, miles above the ice. And pissed. At the guide, at the group, at myself. Damn I am just scared of everything up on that rock.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Which sounds better: "Third place" or "Second runner-up?"

This year I entered the NYC Midnight short story competition. The contest works like this: at midnight on January 13th everyone who signed up was assigned a heat number, and each heat was assigned a different genre / subject. Writers had 8 days to write and submit a story (2500 words or less) and synopsis in their genre / subject; mine was "Horror / Pawnshop." Here's my submission...


A down-on-his-luck gambler commits a terrible crime to get back in the black, but instead of gaining a fortune he finds himself losing everything. Is he being tormented by guilt or something worse?

Elisa will save me. I just have to get to her. We are supposed to meet at the corner of Jefferson and 11th and she's bringing the money. For once, I'll do the right thing and get that damn ring out of hock. My steps become faster as I catch sight of Gino's Deli.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Dipping my toe in the proverbial lake

There is a bigger essay in my trip to Alaska. One I am trying to tackle right now, as a matter of fact. In the meantime, this was my first print publication that wasn't knitting related. This essay originally appeared in the Rio Review, Spring 2009 edition.

Leaving Alaska

Every muscle and bone in my body seems to ache as I settle into a scoop-shaped plastic seat at Gate C1. Out the giant windows I catch glimpses of the Alaskan wilderness that has been my home for the last eleven days. I feel a touch of vertigo as my mind bounces between the dense woods so many miles away where I broke camp for the last time yesterday and the shiny glass and steel that surrounds me here in the Ted Stevens International Airport. My notes tell me that I have hiked nearly 47 miles in the last week and a half. I have been up the side of a giant continental glacier, and down slick mud banks to the edge of more than one lake. I reread the notes to remind myself that it all really happened. The airport is so sterile that even the pine needles seem to have dropped out of my boot treads at the door.

I am excessively early for my flight but it is one of only 9 flights out of Anchorage today and I didn't want to miss it. But is that entirely true? I think about it, and am confident that I have not missed the city at all since I stepped out of the cab last Monday to meet up with the hiking tour group. However, last night, while trying to sleep in the modest downtown hotel, I am sure I missed the smell of cedar camp fire coals and the rustling sounds of sleeping bag against tent side that filled the nights outside.

The fifteen-year poem

This poem was published by the Rio Review, Fall 2009. I wrote the first draft in 1993 as part of a poetry seminar in art school. The editors wanted several changes, some of which I agreed with, some I didn't. Here is the version I would have printed.


In the darkness
he murmurs
something about rain
           his fingertips on her cool skin

like the light of one hundred
finches, parakeets, love birds
in Hawkes' Molotov cocktail
          whose feathers
swish and float
before the rush of fire

—This stillness
between them

a possibly skillful sound:
rain on the cool roof
wraps around the windows

as sheets twist
around bodies twined
tracing arcs
in the negative space

These moments
           between seconds

the clock chatters quietly
tick-talks to itself
but its black thin arms
aren't moving

Hair and hips sway
to the tune of fingertips
or cold clock hands
The rain echoes the rhythm
of dying songbirds
           against the glass

while quietly
between fingers
           feather light

two pulses whisper
to each other
something about the weather.

Not very literary OR journalistic

This was my first attempt at "literary journalism."  Despite the fact that it was rejected from every publication that I sent it to, I considered it one of my stronger essays when it came time to apply to MFA programs. I have to confess that I have grown to doubt it.

My Last (Whole) Paycheck
Yahoo Messenger: (08/13/2008 8:25:26 AM):
>mpress77: They are going to lay off 50 people today, Miranda heard it on the elevator.
>santafekid: Really? But not in IT.
>mpress77: She said they said in IT, too.
The instant messages were flying around all morning. My team was worried, even though our project was the only one still getting funding. Our CIO even told the entire Information Technology (IT) team—all 175 plus of us—that we didn't have as much to worry about as the rest of Whole Foods. He was finding the shortfalls elsewhere: in outdated service agreements, unnecessary licensing fees, and wherever else it was that a CIO and a team of accountants could find hidden pockets of cash. 
But the email from our manager (team leader, in Whole Foods Market parlance) had come as such a shock. The gist of it: There will be a workplace reduction today happening between 9:30 am and 2 pm. The way it is working is that a team member from the human resources team will approach you in your workspace and take you to a conference room to finalize paperwork. His tone was uncommon for a Whole Foods Market (WFM) team leader, the usual personal and personable tone that he always used with us had been replaced by sentences that looked like they had been cut and pasted from an official memo. It was unsettling that he should be talking to us like we were his employees and he our manager. On any other day, we would have all just been “the team.” And at WFM, the term team was not just used as a form of corporate lip service, we all meant it, most of the time.