Nov 152017

As autumn lingers and winter waits in the wings with its icy breath, I find myself pondering time again. The trees in the hardwood forest outside my office window are still leafy, but they are late-fall dun and backdropped by a slate-grey sky. All too soon, the branches will reach up bare and stark.

Here inside, it’s time at last (after three months of preliminaries) to start over again on my first book, Streetsense: Communication, Safety and Control, initially published in 1985. The digital version has arrived from PennWell (the publisher), research is underway to update the 1996 edition, and my personal life is being reined in to focus on generating the words of a fourth edition.

I wonder how many times I’ll look out my window in coming months. I ponder how the trees outside will be leafing out, green again, when the manuscript deadline of May 15th rolls around.

I have wrestled with my feelings about writing Streetsense yet again. A poll on social media last spring was overwhelmingly supportive of an update—so encouraging! So why the hesitancy? Finally, I realized that it feels a lot like approaching the flanks of a familiar mountain, one I’ve climbed many times before. This is a very different adventure than facing a brand new mountain.

Again? Really?

I’ve climbed enough actual mountains to know the gist: A plan is hatched; a peak is chosen, along with the route, the dates, the logistics. Good planning (always worth the time it takes) minimizes surprises and unintended set-backs. Honest assessment of skills, fitness, equipment, and mental readiness leads to training, build-up of weak skills, testing mettle in small ways in hopes it will stand up to bigger tests on the mountain. Finally, the climbers set out, head upward. Once, I was on Mt. Elbert, the tallest of Colorado’s 14,000 foot peaks. I was guiding a novice who had no mountain climbing experience, but she had impressive grit. It was an intensely daunting prospect for her, but she refused to give up. As the climb steepened and the air grew thinner, she focused increasingly only on the next step, nothing more.

And that’s what mountain climbing really is: just the next step. That’s all you have to do. Take one more step. Then another. Another. String enough solitary steps together and you look up and you see the vista changing, the horizon reaching further away, the summit drawing closer. With enough determination (and other factors such as skill and luck, true), summits are achievable. Do-able.

My Streetsense mountain is very familiar because I’ve been on it hundreds of times, writing and lecturing about its concepts. But the terrain has certainly shifted and changed in twenty years. I am aware how every trip up the same mountain is new. To borrow from a different metaphor, you cannot step into the same river twice. I know these things.

The personal journey of writing a book involves all the same idea-hatching, planning, skill-building, mettle-testing as a real mountain—and I love both journeys. Achieving the summit, of course, is deeply satisfying—in this case, finishing the manuscript on time. After production, sometime in February, 2019, you will be able to hold and read this slightly iconic book. My hope is that readers will find value in the words within. If you do, then the sweat and tears and effort will once again prove worthwhile.

Meanwhile, it’s time to start climbing this old friend of a mountain. It’s do-able.

The leaves of spring are coming.

  5 Responses to “A Familiar Mountain Named Streetsense”

  1. Climb on, as they say. The destination will reward both you and your readers. I am anxious to see how the EMS street environment has changed since my days. Semper Vigilans

  2. Your post made me think of all of the mountains we climb through life and the steely resolve and grit it usually takes to reach each summit and the hope and yearning that we will. It sometimes takes a steely heart.
    Wonderful metaphor for all of life’s journey’s. We want to be equipped!
    Thank you, Kate.

  3. Guess I will know where to find you these coming months – climbing a mountain looking at a hardwood forest! Yes there will be several new things to include in the new edition. Wish you a perfect climb.

  4. Hi Kate, loved reading this and the metaphors of climbing mountains. You’ll make it to the top and when you do, let’s celebrate. Kind of like putting prayer flags at the top of one of the big climbs in Bhutan@!

  5. Can’t wait to read this new edition. I know it will be worth the climb!

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