birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Going Nowhere Fast

I’m a brake tapper. I’m the type of person who can’t bear to be behind the wheel when the world is flying by outside the window. Oddly, it’s mostly when I’m speeding downhill. There’s a small mountain, a pinky toe of the last Appalachian foothill, that I cross on the highway most days. And most days I hit the speed limit going uphill, laying off the gas while gravity does its thing downhill. Though my speed doesn’t climb, the sensation of facing pavement or plowing into someone below frightens me. Hence, I become one of those annoying brake tappers, vying for control with each cautious pump. The sensation is even worse on a bike. I’m the weirdo who’d rather have my trusty Dusty Rose back, or a fat-wheeled Beach Cruiser, because the adult bikes with hand brakes freak me out. I’m sure there’s a life metaphor in here somewhere, but the ease of backpedaling to brake quickly is something I miss from my childhood riding days. On boats, I’m the same. Why the need for speed, I mutter, clutching my hat and my heart in my hands, fake-smiling at my husband who is beaming like a NASCAR champion as he pegs the odometer at 35mph. Isn’t it about the journey, instead of zooming into the destination with eyes watering and hair a fright?

Maybe it’s because I want to see the details, those roses we should be stopping to smell. Or on the water, watching the loons spelunking and spluttering as they catch their fill. Or maybe I have a discomfort with facing speed when I feel slightly out of control. I want off. I want out.

It was a similar feeling when I leapt from an intense corporate job. In hindsight, which is certainly the clearest vision anyone has, I could have simply pulled back on the throttle, pumped the brakes a little. I’ve learned I was an all-or-nothing sort who threw everything into one thing and that one thing happened to be a killer job. No, really, it was superb. But it also killed my ability to fuel other important pieces of my life. Eventually my creativity idled. I choked on my purpose. I looked around at my hard-working, well-respected colleagues, most of them twenty years my senior, and suddenly saw the invisible tethers to college tuitions, second-home mortgages, or therapist bills. I saw an endless merry-go-round of owe-work-pay-owe-work-pay, and the life outside of that merry-go-round was still a blur that went by too fast to enjoy the details. So, I jumped. All-or-nothing, remember? I landed squarely into the field of horticulture, making garden harvests my new ROI. I met a wonderful man I later married, someone I would’ve never seen on my prior merry-go-round, making a life together on a rural farm and nursery. I’ve traded chits for chickens, Blackberries for blackberries, heels for boots. And now, while things move pretty slowly and feel mostly uphill, it works.

Honestly Nice?

Sheer Necessity