Adventuring

It’s scary how much I identify with Bilbo.

Longtime readers of this blog know my most favorite moment from the Hobbit movies is Bilbo waving that contract, declaring he’s going on an adventure. I, too, adore a good adventure – even if they usually happen from the comfort of my couch, surrounded by my tea, cats, and tasty treats (much like Bilbo, honestly).

When not tied to the book or movie I’m currently reading/watching, those adventures are sometimes new jobs or new apartments. Sometimes they’re just a new venture I’ve decided to undertake, a new local oddity to scope out, or new people (ok, it’s rarely new people).

A lot of times, it’s just an hour or two in the wild of a cultivated local trail. I grew up in the middle of nowhere on Lake Michigan, and I love to ramble about as if back there again – when I was the only human for miles on our rocky lakeshore. It’s not true, living in the city, but with some earbuds and a fairly quick pace, I can keep away from others and pretend pretty handily!

Then that pandemic hit – and it was its very own type of adventure, one terribly fraught depending on a multitude of factors, unfortunately. I’d love to say that taking mini-adventures in nature kept me sane, but I don’t think I left my house those first four months, beyond a quick 20 min at lunch once or twice a week. Of course, I was (thankfully) working and also finishing up the Changelings series – because pandemic-be-damned, I was keeping my publishing schedule.

I lost a few months in the middle – due mostly to the ongoing pandemic, the George Floyd uprising (so much I needed – and still need – to educate myself on), and oh yeah, the pandemic. Because time contracted around itself; days felt like months, months felt like years, but in the middle a week was a second and . . . you’d think writing time travel I’d be used to that, but alas. . .

Enter my sister.

It was the end of the year. Things were opening up ever so slightly in our area, and I was aware of some establishments taking such good care of their employees (and customers) that I was happy to patronize them . . . so we had lunch. In public. For the first time in at least eight months.

It was lovely – and definitely an adventure. But then my sister discovered I adore nature trails, so we made a point of getting together to explore some neat spots in Wisconsin, culminating in my Re-40 birthday adventure (I’m celebrating all year, so this might become a common theme…).

We ventured north – not so far as the boundary waters, but not so near as to be within easy access of either of our homes – i.e., we spent enough time on the road to split a bottle of champagne between us while my brother-in-law drove!

It was wonderful. There were waterfalls (I adore waterfalls), mini trails, and rock formations! There were secret lakeshores filled with driftwood and stones, and all sorts of good food and drinks. The B&B we stayed at had so much character, I want to rent the whole place out and host a murder mystery there – or write a book where the location is as much a character as anything living.

Next door was what had to be a haunted house. It was once a stately Victorian, now as dilapidated as Mrs. Havisham, and in the third-story porch is what appeared to be a burned porch swing, sitting idly, waiting for . . . something. I can’t get the place out of my head, and luckily I was able to snag a picture of it from my bedroom window. . . it gives the right level of spook I felt when we first pulled up to the place.

There was another ‘has to be haunted’ place just up the road, too – it was once a funeral home, I’m almost certain. But the town was filled with these oddities: thriving business on one side, dilapidated 70s storefront on the other. And through it all, some of the kindest and most welcoming people. I’ll definitely be back.

So, with all this going on, was there a highlight? Well, I’m glad you asked. There was.

Once upon a time, when I was but a small, anxious thing of 9, my dad took me whitewater river rafting. It was pretty tame, I’ve since discovered: rapids that ranked no more than Category 2, no helmets required, and long stretches of a placid river.

What I remember, though, was that the guide told us if we took the wrong branch, we’d end up going over a waterfall and risking serious injury.

That’s all he had to say: waterfall. Serious injury.

I was terrified the entire trip.

It was also drizzly and overcast, and I’m pretty sure it was just Dad and me. I’m not sure if I’d sent myself flying backward off the pier, missing the neighbor’s boat by *thismuch* already or not, but I had a pretty healthy fear/crippling anxiety of hurting myself at this point, and hearing those words was enough to set me off.

Clearly, we survived. There were no trips down waterfalls to be had that time. But I’ve never – ever – forgotten it. Obviously. It’s likely been amplified exponentially in my numerous retellings – but would I be a proper Irishwoman if that didn’t happen at least once?!

So, back to the highlight.

We went whitewater river rafting.

And not just any whitewater river rafting – those rapids ranged from Category 1 to 4 … 4 are waterfalls, ya’ll!

And I didn’t die.

We bomb-dropped into a waterfall.

Twice.

And I didn’t die.

I wasn’t even that worried. Or scared. I mean, I got back in the boat to do it again after the first disastrous attempt.

Nor did I fall out of the boat (I won’t say who did, because my sister has posted that video on her FB, and it is most definitely her own story to tell – hilariously!), but I think that had more to do with the grim determination with which I shoved my feet into the boat as described by our guide than anything else.

But ultimately, it was fun. And it was one hell of an adventure. As I continue to write around the Heresy of Before story – as I have for the last seven years because that plot is… tricky – I need that adrenaline. I need to know and own that feeling so one day I can mine the viscera for the words Samuel and Caroline will need to describe their journey.

So here’s to birthdays and adventures, and finding whatever one needs to refill their cup – whether it’s a creative cup, or just emotional. It’s been one hell of a year – year and a half. Be kind to yourself, and have whatever adventure is going to soothe your soul.

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Descended of pirates and revolutionaries, Katie Sullivan is a lover and student of all things Irish. Born in the States, she is a dual US/Irish citizen, and studied history and politics at University College, Dublin – although, at the time, she seriously considered switching to law, if only so she could attend lectures at the castle on campus. She lives in Milwaukee with her daughter, two cats and a pesky character in her head named D (but you can call him Dubh). Her first series, The Changelings Saga, a young adult historical fantasy trilogy is available on Amazon. She can be found writing with said character at her blog, The D/A Dialogues.