Road Rash And Natalie Goldberg


On a breezy almost-summer day, I walked from the University of Minnesota to the Loft Literary Center to hear Natalie Goldberg speak (author of Writing Down the Bones, The Great Spring, and many other books). I was wearing a new sassy dress and feeling happy to hear one of my writing rock stars.

Then my sandal caught on the sidewalk edge and I could not catch myself. I biffed. Hard. My knee became my brake, using friction like a cheese grater to stop my momentum. The rough concrete sliced my fingers and hands. And if that wasn’t enough mortification, my flouncy dress was up over my butt for all of the Washington Avenue traffic to see.

I took a deep breath and checked for serious damage – none except for my pride. Then I walked the next few blocks to the Loft to clean up.

“Can I help you?” asked the receptionist behind the Loft’s front desk.

“I have two questions,” I said. “First, do you have any Band-Aids?”

“Of course! Let me get you one.” She retrieved one from the first-aid kit in the closet—and that’s when she saw my bloody knee and hands.

“You need to go to the doctor!” she said.

“Nah, it’s just road rash.”

She laughed, but she wasn’t so sure. She returned with her arms full of bandages, gauze, tape, cleansing pads, and antibiotic cream. After thanking her, I said, “I had another question, too. Did I need to print out my tickets for tonight? I only have my email confirmation on my phone with me.”

“You’re still going?!” she asked.

“It’s Natalie Goldberg! Of course I’m still going!”

She shook her head. “You sure sound happy for being all banged up.”

Later, I thought about how writing makes me happy on good days and on the days when I’ve shown my Buicks to the world. Writing helps me to endure washing out the grit, to treat the wounds, to heal. At the event that night, Natalie said, “Pain is the energy of writing.” Now I’ve got a scar to prove it.

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