Snapshots of Wisdom: Pythons, Spiders & the Uphill Climb

Photo by: Chen Siyuan

A couple of years ago, I was camping in the Australian Outback.  (You might have heard about my encounter with a python.  Spoiler alert: I totally won).  When I was there, my husband and I ended up doing a lot of hikes.

Fact: I strongly dislike hiking.

Fact: A sign at the beginning of the trail that claims to be a “moderate” hike is totally bluffing.

I can recall one hike where, amidst the poisonous neon blue spiders and the miles of searing hot sand, I was getting particularly tired of the uphill climb.  We had been hiking for a few hours now and as the unforgiving sun seared into the backs of our necks, I huffed and puffed my way through the rocky wasteland.  Might I add that we were totally and irrevocably lost?

“There’s no end!” I whined.  “We’re just going to be stuck out here forever!”

The husband was equally unimpressed, but ever the optimistic soul that he is, he insisted that we push on.  “The trail has to end sometime,” he said.  To which I replied “Yeah, when a crocodile has eaten us.”

Without a hint of irony, my husband said “In this part we’re more likely to die of heat exhaustion, I think.”

After some deliberation and a lot of backtracking, we did eventually find our way out of the sandy wasteland.  What we found was a pretty awesome sight:

Ubir, Australia

Ubir, Australia

Every once in a while, when I am knee deep in stories that don’t want to come together, I have to remind myself that all of the best adventures happen when we go a little further, step outside of our comfort zone and work hard to dig deeper.  It’s only when we force ourselves to keep going that we are rewarded.

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Roadblocks: Or that Time I Ran Over a Python

Cave painting at Ubir, Australia

Let me tell you a little something about roadblocks: they aren’t really like writers’ block, although I guess you could count that as one.  Roadblocks can take any shape—in your mind or elsewhere.  Right now, I have hit a road block with my writing.

…Did I ever tell you about the time that I hit a python?  It was just after dusk, and we were rambling along the red dirt road from Ubir, where we had just watched the sunset.  If you’ve ever been to the Australian Outback, you probably have some idea of what the terrain is like: flat, red and full of creepy crawlies.  You are not supposed to go night driving in a rental caravan, say the rangers.  Being young, foolish and eager to soak up as much sights as we could, we went driving at night.  The roads were quiet for a long time before we heard the noise:

THUMP.

It could have been a speed bump.  Peering out of the window, I blinked.  Speed bumps don’t writhe around.  Nor are they a pale, creamy white with yellow spots.  Or maybe they are in some places, but I’ve never heard a speed bump hiss.

Turning back to my husband, the driver, I said “That wasn’t a speed bump.”

“Oh,” he said.  “So what was it?”

“A snake.”

In comparison to other roadblocks, a snake is an unlikely one to encounter, but encounter it we did.  The thing about roadblocks is this: most of the time, they are in your head.

Five Ways to Get Around a Roadblock:

  1. Get a writing buddy who keeps you accountable: for me it is my cat, Salem, who bites my feet when I stop typing.  True story! (Or sometimes my husband, who bribes me with food).
  2. Meditate
  3. Do Yoga
  4. Record yourself talking: maybe you are a secret genius and you will surprise yourself with what you hear.
  5. Take a shower: things getting kind of chilly in the brain department? Take a warm shower.  At the very least, you’ll smell nice and fresh.

So what did I do with my roadblock? Maybe the PETA people won’t like this very much, but we just kept on driving.  After all, when there is an angry snake outside your car, do you really want to go outside?  Or do you tell yourself “I’ll do better next time” and keep on driving?