Archives for category: solo hiking

It’s a Friday morning. A busy morning. A mostly sort of routine-ish morning. I’ve got my coffee (#2), and a day of work ahead of me. I’ve got errands to run and a reminder on my calendar. I’m okay with all of that, and feeling mostly sort of relaxed, and generally fairly organized.

The noise of contractors here at the house is a bit much to take. Calls and meetings would be affected. I’m fortunate to be able to easily reschedule all but one. I focus on work, then catch myself holding my breath – too focused. I take a break.

Take breaks. Mean it when you do; really step away, and take a minute to “just breathe” and maybe even let your mind wander! When I returned to work, I felt fresh and comfortably focused without stress or anxiety. It’s enough to notably improve what is already a decent morning. I sip my cold coffee, content and relaxed. It’s enough.

Before the work day began, this morning, I embarked on what I hope becomes a regular element of my new normal, my new morning routine; I went for a walk. It was only a mile, and really just around and about my local neighborhood, brisk, cane in hand, smiling and waving to neighbors getting their day started. It was pleasant. I felt energized for the day ahead by the time I returned home. It’s not a hike in the forest or anything, but it’s a nice contribution to my general wellness and fitness.

I discover a pleasantly inaccessible bit of green space within the neighborhood.

It’s a nicely level walk, on suburban sidewalks, nestled in the countryside, tucked between a local highway and the “old” version of that route. Since I sometimes walk very early, as early as those last dark pre-dawn minutes, straying from the pavement would present needless hazards for my messed up ankle. I take my cane, and my patience with myself (and my middle-aged, less-than-ideally-fit-but-working-on-it limitations), and enjoy the journey for what it is. A gentle moment with the woman in the mirror as the way ahead becomes steps fading behind me. I see things I missed before, each time I make the trip around the neighborhood; it’s still very new.

I stop near where the creek that runs behind the house becomes a mere trickle, and wonder what is holding back the flow?

I walk on, wondering what “holds back my flow’ in life, love, and art… just… you know, “along the way”, and how can I “do more, better” without exhausting myself, or finding myself mired in resentment or resistance? I think about the need for healthy breaks, and how that improves my productivity at work… There’s something to learn here.

…I drink some water, and begin again. 🙂

 

The weekend ended, and it is Monday. It happened in that peculiar time-outside-of-time that some weekends can feel like they exist within. The weekend went by deliciously slowly, but also too fast, and now it is over. lol It was a lovely weekend. 🙂

I’m sipping my coffee contentedly, in the morning quiet. My Traveling Partner sleeps on. I think about the deep meaningful conversations we had. I think about the delight of soaking in the hot tub together. I think about walks in the woods, and the small, socially distancing, mask-wearing farmers’ market nearby that I visited on Saturday. I recall with fondness and love the time spent just hanging out together while my partner worked on a painting project.

…There were cloudy days…

We had some rain. We had some sunshine. True of emotion as well as the weather. lol It was a lovely weekend, rich in memories made, and experiences shared.

…There was time for watching clouds…

…Hell…I even got some time at home alone… 😀

Time spent well…and not just out on the trail…

…I totally didn’t write. Oh, I thought about it, but I spent the time in the moment – in each moment – just living life and enjoying the experience. 🙂 There would be (and turns out, there is) time for “words on paper” later on.

…I did mean to write actual letters and emails to friends and family members. I didn’t get to it, but I did mean to. LOL

…Is that a hint of chill in the morning and evening air I’m feeling… and an impression of color in the leaves of trees…?

I can say with confidence that I feel “well cared-for” after a weekend of love and self-care. It’s enough. I’m content that my time was well-spent. 🙂

 

I talk a fair bit about journeys, paths, traveling, my Traveling Partner… these are literal experiences, and also metaphors. I figure mentioning that is worthwhile, now and then. I use these concepts to give context to bigger questions. “Journey” is pretty vague… by intent. There are so many sorts of experiences of journeys, you see, everything from paved freeways with plentiful amenities along the way, and handy GPS, to unmarked trails through wild spaces, no map, no milestones, no safety net – you need something, you better bring it. The options are numerous, as are the choices.

How we prepare, and what we bring – as tools or baggage – matter to every journey we take, and ever day we live life.

Maps are handy… definitely bring one of those along on any journey… if one exists, at all. Sometimes, some journeys, there is no map and we’re utterly on our own, blazing our own trail through life’s wild spaces. It often feels that way, even when we have an actual usefully accurate map in our hands. Think that one over. How often has someone given you useful worthwhile truly helpful advice, or recommendations, that you disregarded… discovering too late that it really was just the thing to have done, to get the result you were seeking? 🙂

Sometimes I over-do the planning, packing, and preparation, and get part way along my travels heavily encumbered by a ton of crap I did not need to drag along with me. Baggage comes in a lot of forms. I definitely try to set as much of that down as I possibly can. “Traveling light” has this tendency to make long miles feel shorter. Everything we carry with us feels heavier over time. We become fatigued with the weight of what we carry, particularly if it does not serve an immediate necessary purpose.

The nature of the journey we set ourselves upon matters, too…

Sometimes the journey is a rough trail, steep, muddy, and treacherous…

…Sometimes the way ahead is obvious, the journey level, and paved…

I’m just saying, as metaphors go, journeys offer a nice assortment of meaningful options to reflect upon. 🙂 Where will yours take you? Do you know where you’re headed?

It looks like a good time to begin again… “Don’t forget to bring a towel!”

It’s a lovely drizzly Saturday in the Pacific Northwest. I ventured out for a walk along the bank of the Columbia, this morning. Lovely. First decently long walk at 57 years of age.

I’ve walked this path before, but may never walk it again. Somehow that makes the journey feel significant. 🙂

My birthday was yesterday. 57. Not a “fancy” sort of birthday, and it didn’t need to be at all. It was quite special without a lot of frills or elaborate plans. It was warm and intimate and joyful. I hung out at home with my Traveling Partner, who made his schedule work out specifically to be home with me to share the day. We talked about the upcoming move… Different community. Different views from new windows. Different view from a different deck. Different walks to be taken, down unexplored paths and unfamiliar streets. In 14 days we get the keys to a different house, we move to a different address. 🙂 I’m more excited than anxious, more eager than fretful. This is a change I’m delighted to embrace. A new home. Our home. At long last, a place that is truly ours (mortgage and all). It’s very exciting, and very busy. 🙂

…So much paperwork…

I look over my “to do list” for the weekend. I’ve committed to packing up the studio this weekend, and preparing the container garden on the deck for one more move. I’ve moved, now, 3 times in 5 years. 5 times in 9 years. Too much moving. lol. This move, coming up, though, amounts to “a promise kept” – to myself. I won’t need to move again for a long while, maybe not ever (although, change is, and one never knows where life’s path may lead). I hear my Traveling Partner’s voice in the other room, playing a video game online with his son. I smile. I enjoy the sound of his voice. I feel wrapped in love, and the promise of a shared future, together, feels safe and warm and full of fond conversation, affectionate teasing, and shared moments.

I think of the cynical 14-year-old young woman I once was and shake my head with a sad, tender, forgiving smile; she knew nothing of love, and could not have fathomed this feeling – or this moment. Her life was mostly about pain, and survival, and her bitter resentment was only exceeded by her impotent rage. There was little room for love to find a foothold in her wounded heart. I find myself wishing I could have “been there for her” then, as the woman I have become, now… She could have used some compassion, and empathy, some real concern, some reliable emotional support… from the woman staring back at her from her mirror. I’m still smiling; we enjoy this moment together. I’ve come a long fucking way from 14…

…57 feels very different indeed.

The shoreline has been lost to recent rains. Change is.

I walked along what was left of the riverbank. Most of the soft sandy beaches are lost to high water, after weeks of rain. I’m okay with that. Water levels rise and fall. Seasons change. Flowers bloom, then fade away. I walk, with my camera and my thoughts, enjoying a view I may never see quite this way again. I ponder how often that’s true, and I think about change.

I see blackberries blooming and think about the summer fruit that will result.

I smell the wild roses blooming on the bank, and wonder for a moment specifically which species they are, and whether they are native flora, or later arrivals, brought by travelers.

I sit for a few minutes on a damp log at the top of the bank, watching a passing barge.

I took time for me, to breathe, to reflect, to consider changes to come, and the relative value of preparedness (in moving, and in life). Nothing complicated, although there were verbs involved (and choices). Safely home once more, showered, and dressed in soft comfy clothes, I sit smiling with my thoughts and pictures. It’s enough. 🙂

 

The sun is up. I slept in a bit. Sipping coffee, barefooted, on a weekend morning, late in the spring. It’s a lovely moment. I’ve got nothing to bitch about. Nothing nagging at my consciousness. No drama. No baggage (in this moment). No chaos. The morning is quiet. My mood is calm. My outlook on life is merry. I’m okay, right, in every sense of the word that matters. 🙂 My coffee tastes good. My roses have begun to bloom. My aquariums are thriving. The computer my Traveling Partner built for me while we share Life in the Time of Pandemic, together, is working beautifully – and by that, I mean it is both a wonderful upgrade in performance, and also a beautiful technological piece, aesthetically. I smile every time I sit down at my desk, feeling very loved. I feel content.

“Baby Love” blooming in a pot on the deck. 🙂

Let’s be super real on this notion of contentment and ease; I’ve worked years to get here, and there have been many verbs involved, and many tears shed, over time. My outlook matters more than material details. I could live this life, identical in all practical details, and be mired in misery. PTSD has that power. Healthy emotional wellness practices really matter that much.

No click bait here, no “secret practice your therapist doesn’t want you to know about” in an eye-catching thumbnail. I’m not about that. I’m just saying, perspective matters. How I treat myself matters. How I treat others, and how reciprocal those interactions are, matters. It’s been a long journey, and I’ve often felt I was stumbling haphazardly through the darkness, quite alone. I’ve known despair, and futility and frustration and sorrow and, yes, madness. I’m not alone in that – and that’s why I write. Reminders for me, and maybe, just maybe, a light in the seemingly endless darkness for someone else. Someone that I’ll likely never meet. There have been so many such souls on my journey… human beings on their own journey, helpful co-travelers, sometimes unrecognized until much later, because I simply wasn’t ready to hear what they were saying to me, then. We all walk our own hard mile. (You too.)

Life is pretty good these days, even in spite of the pandemic. It’s not about material success (I’m not wealthy), or finding one true love (I’m fortunate to enjoy a great relationship with someone I love very much, but in dark times love does not “cure” our sorrows, or ease the weight of our baggage). Life is pretty good these days because more of my choices take me in that direction, than choices which don’t. Verbs. Choices. Beginnings. Perspective. Sufficiency. These are only words, but the words represent concepts I’ve found key to making my way, a bit at a time, to a life that feels, generally, characterized by contentment, and joy.

I’ve put in many hours of therapy and study. Reading books isn’t enough; the ideas have to become changes in behavior and thinking. The epiphanies and “ah-ha moments” have to become new practices. Practices that work have to be sustained over time. There is a commitment to treating oneself well involved – this may be the biggest challenge (it has been for me).

Where this really started, back in 2010, and a moment of gratitude for the love of the man who shared it with me, then, and remains with me, still.

I think I’m just saying… “you’ve got this!”. Unhappy with life? Choose change. Rethink your most basic assumptions. Re-examine your expectations of life, of people, of yourself. Try a new combination of real kindness and firm boundary-setting. Ask the hard questions. Consider all the options. Take care of yourself – because you matter to you. No reason to expect it to be easy, or that you’ll never cry again, or that “the world” will ever be “fair”. Be your own best friend – and your own best self, because you can make that choice from moment to moment, and when you fail (and you will, I promise you that), begin again. Just begin again. Don’t beat yourself up over your fundamental humanity – examine your errors with some emotional distance, gain understanding of yourself (and others) from your mistakes, learn, grow, and move on with increased perspective. Accept that you are human – then also accept that everyone else is, too. Make room in your thinking for what you can’t know, or don’t understand; there’s nearly always something new to learn. Check your assumptions.

There’s a lot of baggage to put down. There’s a lot of bullshit to let go of. It’s easier to give yourself closure than to seek it elsewhere. Don’t drink the poison. Tame your own barking dog. Consider your outlook on life, generally. Yes, it’s a lot of work, I know. It probably seems so much easier to get a prescription for some boldly advertised new drug. I’ve tried that, myself. It didn’t work reliably well for me, which is how I found myself at 50, filled with despair, trying one more therapist, one more time, unconvinced that life was worth living. A huge stack of books and a few years later, life looks (and feels) very different to me. I’ve made a lot of changes – to practices, jobs, relationships; I rebuilt basically my entire life (and lifestyle) to better support becoming the woman I most wanted to be, living a life of contentment and joy. Worth it. So worth it. (Not infallibly perfect – that’s not on life’s menu, right?)

So… what do you say? Are you ready to begin again?