An Encounter with Altitude: A Non Sequiter

When Kansas came to visit us Slash Piners, each group knew approximately one thing about the other group. I’m not sure what Kansas knew about us Alabamians (although I have a few guesses), but I know that we knew that the Kansanians lived in a land without altitude. The other thing we knew? We only had a week to plan a totally awesome whirlwind of writing, bonding, and poetry reading. If anyone ever wanted to know how such a thing is done, I can say that all it takes is a little knowledge of space and a lot of knowledge about people. So, we set to work trying to draw meaning from the relationship between high and low lands, and, understandably, with Slash Pine’s natural inclinations toward space-making we thought it would be fun to take the altitude-deprived Kansanians to a mountain, make them walk around a lot and talk to us a little, and hopefully gain some sense of communion with some like-minded, poetry-lovin’, outdoorsy people from across the nation.

If I learned anything from this exchange, it was that I am NOT a special snowflake, which I was told by Kansas’s teacher/mentor Megan Kaminski when I insinuated that geocachers (who I have lots more respect for after our failed attempt to find a geocache per-instruction to follow a path while vaguely having to “look down and then up”) might not appreciate opening a box full of undergraduate poetry after a similarly long trek through the wilderness. I choose to interpret her comment to mean that spatial distance between people does not create interpretive walls between them. It applies to both the people in our exchanges and “mugglers,” a geocaching term, meaning: people who are not geocachers and steal things that geocachers work hard to place so that only other geocachers can find them. I think it’s important to not forget the mugglers of the world– the people who we writers assume have no desire to understand writerly doings. In this way, we remember that we are most certainly NOT special snowflakes, but that all snowflakes are special and so none of them are. Writers didn’t get the way they are by being special, they got that way by wanting to be special.

A great exchange requires a commitment to immediate openness and a will to accept the weirdness that inevitably comes when writers interact. I think after Chicago, Kansas, AND Fairhope, Slash Piners have developed more than enough moxy to be able to do both successfully. We’re practically world travelers by now. And our experiences have led us into more strange situations than I’ve entered into in (probably) my last 5 years of life. Seeing Joseph Wood bathing mermaid-like under a waterfall in the middle of the landscape of the greatest altitude Alabama has to offer with the sun coming down in all the right places through the trees is an image I’ll never forget. Slowly, intrepid Slash Piners and Kansanians alike became bold and forewent heavier articles of clothing to be able to plunge into the freezing cold waters. I couldn’t help but look at us all, suddenly, as a full-fledged group of special snowflakes, being young instead of writers and being people instead of Alabamians, Slash Piners, or Kansanians, each individual slowly becoming entrenched in the fabric of each others lives and becomingone giantic, spectacularly special snowflake.

-Summer Upchurch


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