Thursday, September 30, 2010

10 Great Dates for Introverts (Part 2)

Weekend is coming up! Not that you have to wait for the weekend to do something special--do it now, I say. But if you need the excuse of a weekend to get you going, I'm here for you.

I proposed finding 10 fun activities to do with your favorite introvert, or if you're the introvert, suggestions to show your friends or significant other. Look here for the first 5. Today's post will give you 5 more great ideas.

Just to recap: 1.) listen to music; 2.) read to each other; 3.) go stargazing; 4.) watch Jeopardy; 5.) take a hike.

6.) Flea Markets. I know I said I didn't like shopping, but for some reason flea markets are different to me. It's the opportunity to find some rare or unique item, an old treasure that's passed hands for generations, or something you can fix up or personalize if you're so inclined. Plus you can usually find good deals, make connections with the vendors, and get inspired for new creative projects. Find some flea markets in your state here.

7.) Museums or Galleries. Museums are nice for introverts because they usually provoke thought and they're quiet. Galleries are a great way to support local creatives. You can see what local artists are doing in photography, sculpture, painting, or textiles, and you can get involved by buying something you like and supporting them. You don't have to go into a big city to find museums and galleries, either, although those are good for getting a bigger picture of the arts or sciences. Check yahoo directories or just google "museums and galleries near [your town]" for some close-to-home artisans, or local history museums.

Autumn weather is on its way, at least here in Georgia, finally, so here are three more ideas specifically suited for the chill air and holiday spirit.

8.) Fireside Picnic. It starts getting dark earlier now, so I feel like winding down as soon as I get home from work. You could have a fireside picnic in the middle of the day, I suppose--in fact, that could be the "fun" version of this idea. But if you wanna go and get "romantic," wait until sunset, or, 5:00. Spread a flannel blanket on the floor and lay out trays of fruits, cheeses, and olives; keep a bottle of wine close by; light a fire in the fireplace; relax. 

9.) Hayrides. I grew up in central Illinois, where every harvest season there were guaranteed to be about fifty farms offering tractor-pulled or horse-drawn hayrides. Now I live in Georgia and I've been on a couple hay rides in the last few years. It's probably not too hard, no matter where you live, to find a farm within twenty or so miles that offers harvest-time hayrides. Bundle up, take a blanket. The farm will usually offer hot chocolate or cider. The bliss of hayrides is being out in the middle of the country where you can see all the stars, plus the biting cool air and the spreading warmth of a hot drink. Plus you get to cuddle with your significant other while the gentle jostling of the trailer lulls you into a peaceful state of mind. Most hayrides I've been on, everyone remains quiet, just enjoying the clean smell of country air and the sound of crickets or cicadas.

10.) Neighborhood walks. In the season between halloween and New Year's, neighborhoods and stores will be lit up with decorations. Take a cue from Lorelai and Rory and enjoy a stroll in the brisk air with your favorite friend, admiring creative decorations, privately mocking the cheesy ones, and generally enjoying the holiday spirit.
Stars Hollow in Autumn (photo courtesy of WB)

Feel free to chime in with more ideas. Introverted or not! I hope these 10 have at least given you some fresh incentive to try something different.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

10 Great Dates for Introverts (Part 1 of 2)

For the introverted individual; for those with an introverted significant other; for those with introverted friends:

Hear, hear.

Too much of American dating culture revolves around activities dominated by extroverts: dinner & a movie, bowling, miniature golf, dancing, cocktail parties, sports events, concerts, bars, even shopping (according to Dating Ideas--no joke!). Most if not all of these require you to be talkative, funny, and on-your-toes socially. Not that the introvert doesn't enjoy these activities from time to time, but let's face it. There are more dating activities well-suited for the gregarious, outgoing extroverts than for the quieter, contemplative introverts. 

I happen to be an introvert married to an introvert. We go to the occasional sports event. We've been to a couple concerts. We've been shopping together (although neither of us would call those times "dates," more like the "for better or for worse" times we vowed we'd love each other through). But when it comes to date night, time and time again we've faced these options, looked at one another, and said, let's just watch a movie. Now, introverts, let's get creative. We don't always want to watch Netflix for every date night, do we? As much as I love my movie nights...

I propose 10 fun activities to do with your favorite introvert. Or if you're the introvert, suggestions to show your friends or significant other. Here's the first 5.

1.) Listen to music. Share an artist, album, or song you've recently discovered, and let your friend or special someone share one with you. Spend time listening to the songs all the way through, then talk about what was unique or innovative. Talk about what you each enjoyed about the music. Don't be afraid to say what you didn't like, as long as you do so respectfully. Differences are what make relationships interesting (in a good way, usually...hopefully).

2.) Read to each other. There are a few ways to do this. My husband doesn't particularly like to be read to. But if neither of you mind, take turns reading chapters of a good book together. Or, like we do, you can find a second copy at the library, read them simultaneously, and discuss what's going on. If it's fiction, what characters do you like or not like? What kind of tension is going on? What do you think might be cooking up behind the scenes? If it's non-fiction, what are you learning? What kinds of information or anecdotes do you relate to? If it's poetry--way to go! Talk about the imagery that struck you as original. Talk about the feelings you felt as you read the poem. Did you hear sadness coming through? Anger? Loneliness? Did you hear joy? Pride? Humor? Since this is particularly my cup of tea, pick a novel to start with from the New York Times 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die list. ( I suggest fiction because I think good fiction takes us somewhere in our understanding of the world that all the self-help books in the world can't get us to. Of course, I also strongly believe poetry and well-wrought essays can do the same thing. Enough from my soapbox.

3.) Go stargazing. On a clear night, take a blanket or two, find a patch of ground clear of the trees and the lights of civilization, and look at the stars. The American Meteor Society ( has a whole page about upcoming showers, so you can plan a date around wishing on some shooting stars if you want. Even without nature's fireworks, it's quiet, contemplative, and very romantic. This is also fun for a group of friends to do together. Take some hot chocolate in thermoses, some quiet tunes, and enjoy.

4.) Watch Jeopardy. This great suggestion came courtesy of a friend who enjoys this date activity with her husband when their two little ones are finally put to bed. It's not just watching TV. Oh, no. It's interactive. You can even make a little competition out of it as long as you don't get too heated and end up sleeping in different rooms. I don't think this has ever happened to my friend. Just sayin.

5.) Take a hike. Together. Find a state park nearby and spend a day or afternoon enjoying some nature. Go at your own pace--it's not the destination, it's about the journey. If you're allowed to take food in the park (always check regulations), pack a couple pbj's and apples, take a thermos of wine, and have yourself a merry little picnic under the trees, or on the beach, or in a swamp. Whatever your local habitat affords you. Just make sure you pack your trash out and leave no trace of your visit. My husband and I recently took a whole day to hike at some beautiful state parks nearby. You can read about that here.

Check back later in the week for 5 more fun things to do with introverts. I hope this is getting some idea wheels turning! If you have any other introvert-oriented date ideas, add them in the comments section! There's way more than 10 good ideas. To be continued...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Poetry in Web Video

The other day I wrote about the innovative power of web video, especially the potential for writers and other creative voices.

"There's something electric about hearing the author's voice in the words they wrote. There's something intimate about publicly sharing words that were written in private."

You can't listen to a well-wrought story without being engaged.

I proposed that more emerging writers should record themselves reading their work and share the videos on the web, reconnecting the written word to the stream of our oral story-telling past.

My good friend Georgia has already done just that. This is just one way to share words, but I love the way the rhythm and pacing and tone of Georgia Pearle's poem, "Lil' Allen," falls in step with original music by Marcella O'Connor. Visit Project Words and Music for more videos like this. But first, sit back, listen, and enjoy.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Web Video Revolution

Web video is nothing new. People have known how to post their home videos to YouTube, Vimeo, VideoEgg, etc. for years now. But what if we look at how web video can fuel innovation? I love TEDTalks videos. You could say I'm a junkie. The curator of the TED Conference himself, Chris Anderson, shares what he believes is the force for positive change behind video sharing. (FYI: It's nineteen minutes long, but worth every second.)

Some highlights:

  • Cisco estimates that in four years, 90% of the world's web data will be video. 
  • Video is more powerful than text or pictures because of our innate connection with face-to-face communication.
  • Potential innovators in developing countries can feed their ideas from the web and share their ideas through the web. 
  • "The dark side of the web is allergic to the light."

As a writer I asked myself how I can use video. Traditionally speaking, a writer's medium is print. There's beauty to that--the one-on-one exchange when the reader sits down with your book. But there's also the public side of a writer's life, when they travel and read selections from their work to an audience.

I've been to several readings, and I've even read once. There's something electric about hearing the author's voice in the words they wrote. There's something intimate about publicly sharing words that were written in private. Now, there are such things as poorly done readings, but in general, I can't leave a reading not engaged with the author's story, even if I wouldn't have engaged had I read it.

What if more emerging writers recorded themselves reading their work? And shared it with the world? There's less risk of someone on the web copying and pasting the work as their own (unless they went through the effort of transcribing every word). And there's more chance that the stories and poems would reach the souls they were meant to touch. Plus you've added that spark of face-to-face communication, the relic of our oral story-telling past.

You might see me try it--though I need practice with video making and editing before I'd post anything. Why don't you try taping yourself sharing something you are passionate about, something you want to put out in the light? Just make sure it's coming from a true place inside yourself, and you'll do it excellently, and the world just might be changed.

(Related Post: see Taste Life: Poetry in Web Video)

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Modern-day Treasure Hunting: For the Love of the Cache

A friend of mine recently mentioned that she was "nearing 30..." and the first thought through my mind was that she can't be nearing 30, cause we're the same age. But regardless of whether I acknowledge it or not, life is moving forward and I'm caught in the stream. One way I plan to avoid getting caught in the shallows is to try new experiences. Be adventuresome. So we decided to try geocaching!

On Friday, my husband and I took off work and drove about two hours north to the Piedmont/ Blue Ridge region of the Appalachian mountains.

Amicalola Falls State ParkOur first stop was Amicalola Falls State Park in Dawsonville, GA. We had two objectives here: (1) hike down and then back up the (alleged) 600 steps along the waterfall ravine, and (2) find the geocache hidden near the lodge.

[About geocaching: Some friends of ours (I'll call them S & S) are big-time into geocaching, driving around all day with a handheld GPS, hunting down hidden caches by their coordinates, logging in, moving on to the next one. They were the ones who finally convinced us to try geocaching by lending us their little Garmin GPS. Here's what it's all about.]

The Georgia State Parks has a Geo-Challenge, which states if you find all 42 caches hidden in that many parks and historic sites, and stamp your PassPort with that park's unique stamp, you get geo-coins! A bronze coin for 15 caches, silver for 30, and gold for 40. Since we enjoy (and need an excuse) to hike in parks anyway, these are the caches we'll do, rather than those hidden in people's yards or in parking lots. We'll save those for days we're really bored.

So first we hiked the falls. We are also part of the Georgia Canyon Climbers Club, which means if we hike all four state parks that take part in this club, we get bragging rights. Oh yeah, and a t-shirt. (We're really not suckers for kitschy prizes, I promise!)

We parked at the top of the falls, climbed down about 425 steps to see this:

Amicalola Falls

From the bridge straddling the falls, we enjoyed the cool breeze and a chance to stretch our legs. (Going down stairs is a lot harder than you would think! Especially if you're nearing 30.) Andrew took lots of pictures with his classic "continuous shot" technique, so the above picture is one of 20 that look almost identical. While we were there, our GPS caught enough satellites to coordinate our position. Apparently a basic handheld GPS doesn't work very well under tree cover, but once we'd been on the bridge for a while it finally locked on. So, satisfied that we had a few good pictures and that the GPS worked, we trudged on. Down 175 more steps and a long downhill path to a reflection pond.

Friendly nature-people pic
Along the way we met another couple hiking uphill. We stopped to chat and take each others' pictures. Afterwards, Andrew said, "Why is it that nature people are so much nicer than regular people?" Food for thought, folks.

At the pond, Andrew apologetically fielded a work call (we needed another rest anyway), then we headed back to the top. I claimed we couldn't really call ourselves "canyon climbers" unless we actually went up in elevation. Right? I found that I much prefer going up than going down. I'd rather get a cardiovascular workout than have creaky knees and rubbery calves and quads. But that's just me.

From there we drove over to the park lodge. The description said the cache was hidden about 60 feet off a short, easy trail loop nearby. Using the GPS coordinates we found the closest point along the trail. "Sixty feet? I thought we weren't supposed to go off the trail!" I said. All along our hikes so far were signs saying basically,

"Leave trail at your own risk."
"Stay on the trails for your own safety."
"It is against the law to leave the trail."

Well, it didn't really say that last bit, but the young-Hermione-Granger part of me believed it was reckless and unfair to invite geocachers to wander around the underbrush of the forest trying to find an ammo box with a bunch of trinkets inside. Also, you've gotta understand, I'm a nature-loving city girl who incidentally HATES catching a spider web in the face and is paranoid of getting a tick.

our first cache!
But I followed Andrew off the trail anyway and we wandered around for a minute. There was a subtle footpath from the other cachers that helped point us in the general direction. We kept saying things like "It's gotta be around here somewhere," and "I think that's poison ivy." I was afraid we weren't going to find the cache before the spiders and ticks and poison ivy found us, but then I turn around and Andrew's looking smug and pointing at the ground. At his feet lay a pile of rocks and small logs--conspicuous enough to be the obvious hiding place, but natural enough to make it tough to spot, especially for caching virgins like us. We opened the box, I signed the log book, we stamped our cards, snapped a picture, and left a plastic jewel thingy I had found along the trail.

After a hiatus in civilization for some wine-tasting at Wolf Mountain Winery (they didn't card me--another indication I'm clearly nearing 30) and yummy pizza at Gustavo's in Dahlonega, we drove to Vogel State Park to fit one more cache in our day.

giant veggie slice

We arrived at Vogel and walked straight to the trailhead of the 1/8 mile loop the cache was on. On the way, I turned on the GPS to let it catch some satellites. We wanted to enjoy the hike, but it was also 7:00, and nearing sundown, so we were kind of in a hurry. By the time we got to the trail, the GPS had 2 sats--not enough to triangulate our position. Then once we got under tree cover, reception was worse. It lost what signals it had, and wouldn't pick up anything else. Remember how it didn't get enough satellites in Amicalola until we'd been standing on the bridge for a while? Apparently the best way to let it get set is to stand still until the GPS picks up 3 or 4 satellites. Nice to know now. (Thanks, S & S!)

From the trail, I veered onto what looked like the same kind of footpath that led to the last geocache. We looked around there, but not knowing whether we were anywhere even close to the location, we kept going.

Near the highest point of the trail was a sort of camp circle with benches and logs, and we thought for sure the cache had to be there! The GPS even picked up enough satellites to tell us we were 50-some feet from the coordinates of the cache. We spent probably 20-30 minutes absorbed in the following activities: looking around the kumbaya circle, then continuing on the trail, then determining that doing so led us farther from the cache, and then retracing our steps to the kumbaya circle to look some more. Meanwhile, it's getting darker.

Finally, after resetting the GPS, we got a more accurate read that we were more like 100-some feet away. And we found that retracing the path the way we came in took us closer to the cache. But once again, as we descended the trail under more tree cover, we lost the signal.

centaurs might emerge from a dark forest
In the growing darkness (doesn't that sound scary?) we tried to search out what we might have missed on our hurried trip in. I followed the same footpath I had tried before, looking harder this time, fearless of spiders or ticks. (We were that desperate to find the cache before it got too dark.) Andrew ventured further than before, across a little gully, and found a familiar pile of rocks and small logs at the roots of a tree. We were so excited to have found it finally, in the near darkness under all those trees. But then when we opened it, the stamp for our cards was missing. Someone apparently thought it was one of the trinkets to trade and took the stamp! Consoling ourselves with "It would have been worse to leave without even finding the cache," we packed everything back in the box and made our way to the exit of the trail.

When we finally left, it was nearly 8:00, mostly dark, and we were tired and thirsty. On our way out of the park Andrew said, "I bet that's the most harrowing, frustrating state park geocache we'll ever do." I hope he hasn't jinxed us.