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Breathing in Spring. Breathing Out Doubt.

We had 5 inches of rain here in VA over the last two days. The walk home from the train station has necessitated the need for my rain jacket – I’m not a big fan of umbrellas – and despite the washing it has received (does that make any sense? To wash a rain jacket?) it still smells terrible.

It smells like the trail.

Rain jackets develop a pungent odor of their own – stale sweat and body odor that is at odds with the crisp smell of rain.

It is spring now here. The cherry blossoms were in full bloom two weeks ago. Now they are on their way out – taken from the trees by the winds and the rain. But the smell of spring persists in every breath you take.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I stopped to take a deep breath on my way home. In that moment I stood and just listened. I could feel everything around me. This is what I was in those moments.

Breathe in.

I could feel the drops of water on my skin. It had stopped raining and was just misting. I had taken off my jacket. I had taken off my shirt and tie. I was standing in short sleeves, and could feel the wind tugging the shirt, washing the drops of water over my skin.

“We are clean and fresh, unspoiled by the world yet. Can you say the same about yourself right now?”

Breathe out.

I could smell the new life that the rain had brought. Everything was growing. The crisp smell of water, of fresh earth, of life. Flowers and trees. Grass and leaves. All happy to be breathing with me, contributing their own scent to the world in that moment.
“I’m happy to be here right now. I’m happy to be alive. Are you as happy as we are?”

Breathe in.

The bugs are singing their symphony. It’s the noise of dusk – crickets calling to one and other. Katydids reassuring themselves they aren’t lost. Anglewings saying hello. All rolled together, playing on endless loop. Drowning out the sounds of the distant city.
“We’re in our rightful place. Are you?”

The water is rushing, trickling. Carrying away all the cares and worries. Everything is moving. Aimlessly but with purpose. There is power in it and you can hear it.
“We are going to the ocean” the water says. “Won’t you come and follow us?”

Breathe out.

The fox that lives around here runs across the path. She’s done this every day for the last 3 days for me when I’m coming home. Where is she going?

“Come follow me. Back into the woods – into the mystery that is my den here. I am not the trickster that Coyote is in the West – but I will play with your mind here instead.

Breathe in

6 second was all it took.

Breathe out

I question everything I’m doing again.

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Three Years From Now

Alternatively – Trilogy Time

For those of you who watch How I Met Your Mother (Alternatively – the LONGEST, most drawn out story you should never tell your kids) there is a running gag regarding the gang watching the Star Wars Trilogy every three years and making predictions about the future in the process.

Douchey Trucker Hat Not Included

As a dedicated Star Wars fan, geek, nerd etc this idea holds appeal to me. Because lets face it – who doesn’t dream about what their life would look like in a perfect world three years from now. Not that I need an excuse to watch the Trilogy – as Damselfly once found out, I can recite Star Wars by heart… God I’m kind of a nerd aren’t I! Hooray for nerdiness!

Really though this train of thought – the “what will my life look like in three years” started over the weekend I shared with some old friends. I had gone to a friends house for a night of partying and was with people I’ve known for forever, and some I hadn’t seen in quite awhile.

Once we were all young and stupid

 

 

 

 

Among old friends, new friends and forgotten memories, I ran into an ex-girlfriend of mine.

 

 

 

I hadn’t talked to her since we broke up in 2011. Rather – since I broke up with her, shattered her heart and then moved on to other things.

Ok I promise this won’t be a mope-fest of introspection this evening. Morning I guess rather.

But seeing her made me start thinking. Where do I want my future to be in three years? This was a woman who I was in a relationship with for almost three years, lived with for more than a year and she at least, saw me as someone whom she could settle down with.

Fast forward three years from my breakup with her and I’m ready to consider settling down, thought I had found someone I was in love with and even considered marrying. Whuf. There’s a scary thing to say aloud. I was ready to marry someone 6 months ago. What’s different now compared to then? Where do I see myself in three more years, watching the Star Wars Trilogy?

I’m not sure. That’s an even scarier answer.

We all have moments, crises of faith. We wonder where our direction will take us. For me, three years ago I really started to realize my dream of a long-distance hike. I gave up a lot of things to follow that dream – I left a lot of people I love and care about behind to wander for more than a year. I’ve come home from all of that and now I wonder what I’ll be doing next.

One of the biggest deciding factors to everything is money. The high holy dollar bill. I need a job that not only pays the bills, but puts away a little more. Those jobs are hard to come by these days it seems – As of Wednesday I have sent out 172 cover letters in the year of 2014. I shaved my beard off so I’d look like a better candidiate.

Seriously. I shaved my beard. But still no job.

The job market sucks. There are plenty of cookie cutter college grads just like me out there all waiting for a chance to prove themselves. Nothing is owed to me – but I’d like a chance to prove that I’m worth something. Because I know I am – I hiked quite a ways to prove it to myself.

But what are my bigger ambitions? What goes beyond money? I want something that makes sense to me – maybe a career is part of that. Maybe a family is part of that. Just being a part of something again is important I think. Maybe that’s another long-distance hike. Maybe it’s falling in love again. I talked to an Army recruiter a few days ago – maybe joining the Army is the answer. Maybe I should take the plunge and vagabond my way through Europe.

Things don’t magically get better overnight – they take work and time and energy. I’m willing to do that – spend the effort, but I have to know what direction I’m aiming at.

 

 

So I’m going to sleep now thinking of a direction. Maybe not planning it out, but at least setting a compass point to follow. Waving my hands and saying “that-a-way” to the distance.

I’ll be charting my new directions while smelling the pine tree forests of New Hampshire, Vermont and Maine in my dreams.

 

We were all young once. Sometimes I wish I could go back and do it all again

 

31 Days: #1 – Massive Attack: Protection

In honor of March’s “Music in the School’s” month, I plan on listening to a new album every day and then writing about it. You can find more information here and even suggest an album to listen to. Thank’s for reading!

I think it’s fitting that we start this off with an album that I’ve known about for several years now and never listened to. Massive Attack’s 1994 album “Protection”.

Massive Attack: Protection

Massive Attack: Protection


It took me a little bit to make a decision about this, I got so many different responses from so many people (thank you all by the way, keep them coming) that I had a hard time choosing. But this one stood out to me not only because of who recommended it, but because I have heard of it referenced but never listened to it. Amusingly, I’ve heard a remix of the first track at a party once or twice and every time I heard I went “Yeah. That’s good.”

So here we are. 49:57 of jazzy trip-hop chill-out music.

The lead off just cinched me in. The singers voice (Tracy Thorn) and the cold night air mixed so well. She’s warm, inviting and full of longing. Pulls you into her world of love and friendship, of wanting someone badly to be happy with them, or anyone. Wishing for them to be better, to shield them while they try. It’s beautiful. Haunting.

Now I can’t change the way you feel
But I can put my arms around you

I’m not sure though. Listening to her sing, if she’s trying to protect this boy from someone else, wishing the boy was in love with her, or that they were together at some point and now she’s trying to be the best friend she can while he’s with someone else. I feel the love in this song, but is it the deep romantic love or the love from years and years of friendship. It’s hard to define. I think on some level it doesn’t matter – if you love someone long enough as a friend they are your lover. You have shared so many things with them that they know you so completely, they become your rock that they love you fully.

“Weather Storm” hits me as I laid down in my bed with the lights off. I closed my eyes and was transported to a moment of looking at the sky. The piano played over me like the wind on a hilltop. Playful and dancing, while the bass reminded me that there was power out there in the wind. Throbbing. Subtle. I could see the clouds slowly racing across the sky and colliding into each other to form new shapes of their own, each special and independent.

“Spying Glass” was a bit of an abrupt change. I went from looking at clouds in the sky to the steady walking beat I have in the city. “Mind your own business! Keep your head down! No eye contact!” my brain instantly reverted to these things because that’s what you do in a busy city. Worry about yourself. Don’t get involved.

“Better Things” hit me right in the gut. Here are excuses you’ll hear when the relationship goes south, when they don’t know how to end it or you’re just don’t feel it anymore. He’s tired of her, she still loves him and all the excuses he gives can’t stop the pain she’s feeling. Because she knows he’s down with her, and he won’t give her the real reason.

And save your line about needing to be free
All that’s bullshit babe
You just want rid of me

I heard this before, once. “I need to be free”. You know it’s not that at all, but they’ll never tell you their real reason. Hell maybe there isn’t even a real reason. But you know it’s over when you hear something like this. They’ll say “it isn’t you, it’s me” too – but it all means the same things. I see this exchange in my mind – they went to a coffee shop, she knew something was wrong but didn’t know what. He dropped this on her without a lot of warning and there were some tears in that moment. Sad tears, then angry tears and that final moment of goodbye, where he walked away without looking back and her eyes followed him out the door. At least he left the tip on the table.

“Sly” could have come straight out of an acid trip. A steady stream of consciousness, train of thought straight from the speakers to my brain.

I try to believe what I feel these days
It makes life much easier for me

Preach it sister. I fell like we’re out of touch with what is around us a lot of times. We always try and dig deeper, discover a hidden meaning that sometimes just isn’t there. Sometimes a pizza is just a pizza – there is nothing more to it than that. We don’t accept that things just Are and it seems to bother us unduly. Reach out and touch the tree – that’s all it is. A tree. Part of something bigger yes, but still just a tree.

The album finishes off with a remix version of “The Door’s” song “Baby light my fire”. Which was unexpected but did a good job of closing out the vibe and feel.

“I used to listen to this song coming home from work. We’d close up the restaurant and this would be my ‘chill’ music. I could have spent a whole day of wanting to kill customers, but this would always make it easier to go to sleep. It soothed me for 6 months at that job.” – P

It does. It really does soothe me. The voices, the beats and the flow just pulled me in, made me comfortable and welcome. I thought of summer nights laying on a hillside talking to old friends while you watched the fireflies danced, the day finally cooling off. Blades of grass tickling the back of your neck when you laid down underneath a blanket of stars. Things may not have been perfect – you had a fight with your girlfriend, out of money and broke or just a bad day at work – but those things didn’t mean anything right then.

You were safe and content in those moments. It was all going to be all right.

Waking Walking Dreams

I had a long discussion this evening with SingleGirlHiking about the Great Eastern Trail (GET), a 1600 mile long trail from Alabama to New York.

The pull is great. It is strong.

I justified it in my mind as well. The flu study I’m in the running for would pay for 4 months of hiking without any problem. I could be the third person ever to hike the GET on foot (no yellow blazing, no skipping for this one…). I could escape again to the wilderness and walk. Be free and whole again.

It’s a strong feeling. Being whole like that again.

I’ve felt good about myself before. In college I felt like I belonged, felt loved and accepted. I was loved and accepted, with many friends. They felt like family.

But out on a trail, I feel Whole. It’s hard to explain. Everyday I felt born again, every person I met never questioned who I was, or what I was doing. There wasn’t judgement on how I lived my life. My actions spoke for who I was, and nothing more.

I romanticize the Trail life quite a bit. I know I do. I remember how terrible the climb down the White’s was when I almost died. How it never stopped raining in the south for days. The feeling of dampness and wet that never went away no matter how much sun you got. The hunger and disgust when you had nothing but chicken ramen to eat that night. The pain of a 25 mile day.

But I have never felt more alive. More complete. More myself than I did out there. I had purpose and drive and love. Love for the people around me, the trees that grew over me and the smell of dirt and pines.

I can smell that freedom now when I close my eyes. I may be physically sitting in a basement in Virginia, but when I close my eyes I am in Maine or Tennese. Vermont or North Carolina. New Hampshire. I smell the pines, feel the dirt, pine needles below my feet. Feel the wind whistle around me and carry the scents of the forest while it tugs on my hair. It is as real to me in my dreams as it is to someone standing there.

Because I’m still standing there in those places. They never leave me. Even when I’m sitting in a basement in Virginia, crying a silent tear. Because of where I am, instead of where I am meant to be.

Forever onward

Forever onward

Light Pole Connections

While you shake off your hangovers, brush the glitter off your face and deal with the passed out friend on your couch (this was the routine result of New Years in my house for years) I’d like to share a story with you from last night. No, it’s not the story of the wonderful people I met and talked to (including a very smart and attractive teacher), it’s one of hope and missed connections.

Everyone today is talking about resolutions and their plans for the upcoming 365 days. What they are going to change about themselves, who they are going to become.

Instead we’re going to talk of the power of hope. Fate.

This was on every single light post for 6 blocks in either direction of the bar.

Every Light Post

Real-life missed connections are the best

Before we had such nifty things like facebook, craigslist missed connections or cell phones, you were so limited by ways you could try and get in contact with someone you missed. You could put an ad in the paper in the personals column. You could go back to the same bar every night and pray they would show up. You could try this tactic, and make posters and place them all over town. But all of these relied on hope that they’d see it, or that fate would bring them back into your life.

This lady made a mistake – I don’t know what it is, or how it came about. All that matters in my eyes is that she went so far, and tried so hard to rectify it. She made a grand romantic gesture and put herself out there. She used all of the means she had available and more than anything, wants things to work.

I want them to work out for her too. We all should be so lucky as to have things work out for us.

It’s a new year. You have all the opportunities before you that you wish to make. Some of us will sit back and let life takes it’s course. Let fate steer us along the path. Others will stand up and take action. Try and make the river flow in the directions we want, change the path we walk.

Some will learn that the directions they want to go in aren’t feasible, despite everything they wish and desire. They’ll build walls and dams to divert the flow as long as possible. But water always wins in the end.

I think the smartest among us will build boats – and follow the river. They’ll control their speed and course, make decisions on when to stop and what branches to take. They’ll work with fate, and become not as a master to the river of fate, but as a companion.

I encourage you to think about what you really want this year. What hopes you actually have that you don’t ever say – except in the dead of night when no one can hear. Those hopes you have? Those should be the ones you follow and act on. They are the ones I think that are important. Promise yourself you’ll listen to them.

Promise of a greater hope. Promise of a better day.

Roller coaster ride

If nothing else, one day you can look someone straight in the eyes and say “But I lived through it. And it made me who I am today.”
― Iain Thomas

At this time of year, we are all in the habit of looking at where we’ve come from in the past year, what growth we’ve made. We ponder what the new year will bring, and make promises to ourselves about what will do to improve ourselves.

For myself, 2013 was a roller coaster ride. I went from depressed and longing, to utter happiness and accomplishment, then back to being morose. I started the year in my eyes as a failure and ended as a winner when it came to hiking.

Highlights of the year 2013

  • Walked 2185.7 miles
  • Met some amazing people
  • Saw sights I never had before
  • Made discoveries about myself, and the person I am
  • Feel in love
  • Was cheated on
  • Made a grand romantic gesture, sans boombox
  • Started playing music again
  • Accomplished what I set out to do

Everything on that list, baring one, were things I did. I had ups and downs, good times and bad. I followed my dreams and was rewarded. I was also punished for decisions I made along the way.

In the end though, after 365 days I’m older and a little wiser. I’ve accepted the fact that my parents know what they’re talking about, and mom is usually right. I should follow my dreams and make plans for the future, budget and commit to things. I should let people know how I feel, and especially tell the people that I care for that I love them.

I don’t know what the new year will bring. I can’t look into the future like that, though sometimes I wish I could. All that really is for sure is that you can’t change what has happened, nor can you forget the things in the past. Embrace them. Accept them. Make them part of who you are. Take the things that hurt, the people that you miss and use those good memories of them to plug the holes in your heart and soul.

The things that hurt you in the past year have made you stronger – I know that because we’re still here.

I hope the coming year brings joy and happiness. It limits your sorrows and dulls your pain. May we all heal a little in the year 2014.

Rays of sunshine always break through the clouds somewhere, somehow.

Rays of sunshine always break through the clouds somewhere, somehow.

 

Thank you for reading.

 

 

Journey to the Northern Limits

One thing I have a lot of from this trip is video. Moments that I was able to save. They tell only snippets of what happened, but sometimes when you string them together, they tell more of a story then you ever thought.

So this is an attempt at a story. Just like these writings are trying to tell a story. I hope you enjoy it

Dreams for the dreamers

Have you ever awoken from a dream so powerful that you can still smell the forest? You can still feel the touch of the wind on your face? The warmth from the lover next to you?

I feel like everyday has been a dream recently, and I’m going to wake up anytime now, only to find that what I thought I was dreaming was reality, and the reality I thought I’d lived was just the dream.

I mention this only because the dreams I’ve had when I’m not out in the wild have been the strongest things. I can smell the pine forests, so crisp and clean on the air. The cool clean feeling of spring water as it trickles down your throat, cooling your mouth and belly. The snap and rush of streams and rivers as the flow past, power that leaves you behind. The taste of the woman I loved on my lips as she parts from a kiss.

When you wake up from something so strong, so real and you find yourself back in the reality of shopping malls, cars, frantic paces and people with no idea of the beauty around them, you can’t help but wonder.

Why am I here? What is the reason? Why did I chose to return here when all I want is out there?

When you hike long distances, going months on end in the woods you want nothing more than to go to a town. You dreams of nothing but TV, hotel rooms, greasy terrible food and air conditioning. The modern conveniences that America takes for granted on a daily basis. When you get those things, you love them, never want to let them go. You gorge on Chinese food, drink coca-cola until your stomach hurts. You watch the worst kinds of trashy TV, because it isn’t what you’re doing, has no basis in the reality you live in. You sleep in rooms that don’t let you hear the outside world.

And when you’re done with a day or two of that, you return to the woods and it’s majestic beauty. You wonder why you left town – it has all the good fun things that you want! You don’t remember months ago when you were trapped in that world of computers and tvs, flashing lights and advertising. When you yearned for nothing more then an open road, a direction that didn’t lead to suburbia or cubicles.

Delorean

We find our adventures everywhere, and even the shortest walk can bring it to you.

 

 

Sometimes we miss things right in front of us, while we look ahead to our yearnings. I know I’ve missed important things that stood right in clear view, important things that led to terrible consequences because I didn’t notice them. But even the little things you miss; the sunset, the drop of water falling from a branch and catching the light, a secret smile between lovers, are so very important.

Open your eyes. Look around and go explore a little. Find the secret spots that are just around the corner, the ones that let you know the world is full of hope and love. Power and beauty.

I think that is part of what life is – finding those moments, making those memories that last forever. Because they are all you can carry with you in the end. They don’t weigh a thing, but are also the biggest burden for a soul to have.

And they are all yours.