Archives for posts with tag: L.L. Stub Stewart State Park

I’m still getting over being sick. It’s not COVID, though, so… there’s that. I figure I’ve got a good chance at getting fully over this with some summertime left for camping and hiking. I don’t think I’ll be up for it as soon as week after next – which is when I’d been planning on going. I wept some pointless childish tears over that, then re-planned my getaway.

Knowing I’m awfully sick, at least for now, I made two alternate plans. One of these is fully a month away (a bit more), well-past when I can expect to be over this and in fair shape for something as demanding as a decent hike… but… I couldn’t get my remote-ish wilderness-y spot that I favor for those dates. I could get a pretty good “plan B” tent site, though, so I booked it. I noticed that my favored location did have availability just 3 weeks from now, though… although I’m not nearly so certain I’ll really be ready for that level of exertion so soon… but… I booked that too. Greed? Selfishness? Maybe just yearning for that bit of solo time out in the trees, and the inescapable awareness that the “plan B” option is far less likely to really meet that need well. “Car camping” – more “glamping” really – and surrounded by others doing the same. My first choice favored site is quite a bit more remote, sufficiently so that on weekdays I’d likely be utterly alone save for the once daily drive through by the park rangers.

Sometimes “luxury” is just being close enough to the car to bring a giant cooler full of icy cold beverages!

My thinking is that if I’m up for it in 3 weeks, I go with the more demanding bit of hiking and camping, and the thrill of taking along my new camera for that experience. If I’m not quite good-to-go, I’ll cancel a few days in advance, giving someone else a shot at that choice campsite, and take advantage of the later date, easier location, two weeks later, and rely on hiking to choice locations for taking pictures, instead of being surrounded by it continuously.

The safety of a managed state park, the solitude of a remote hike-in camp. Me, the birds, the breezes, and the occasional chipmunk visitor.

I’m listening to rain falling. A drenching tropical rain, falling quite steadily. It’s a video, and I enjoy the sound of it. It’s not likely that I’ll be dealing with any rain on my camping trip, in August. More likely the afternoons will be quite hot, and the sunshine-drenched hiking will be miles of sweat and toil, and an occasional biting or stinging insect. Won’t stop me. Won’t make the coffee any less welcome at the start and end of each day. I do find myself thinking over my gear with great care; what I bring depends very much on which campsite I end up going to. A half-mile trek (each way) from car to camp that seems to be a steep uphill in both directions doesn’t allow for large coolers filled with icy beverages. I’m just not that young/strong/foolish these days. lol On the other hand, I don’t enjoy the car camping nearly as much since it reliably means I’ll be surrounded by other people, and the entire (100%) point of these excursions is getting some solitude to listen to my own thoughts for a while. So, I make two gear lists. Most of it is the same, and the differences are about balancing weight and convenience. I do like some luxury in my camping (really don’t like sleeping directly on the ground, is one good example; I generally take a cot).

I entertain myself while I’m still ill by thinking about the camping trip ahead – when I (hopefully) won’t be ill, and will benefit from having done so much careful planning. (I’m far less likely to get such well-considered planning done ahead of a trip happening with nothing but weeks of robust health and busy-ness in the days leading up to the departure.) So, I think very carefully about that long hike to the favorite camp site…

The signage says it’s 1/3 of a mile, but that appears to be “as the crow flies” – not overland, in steps. LOL

What can I comfortably carry on those steep hills? What do I really expect to need? What can I definitely leave behind (because I just haven’t ever used it if I did take it along)? What will I forget, and regret having done so? How many trips will I have to make to carry everything to camp? Can I reasonably expect to walk that many miles on a hot summer afternoon? Will I over-extend myself and end up forced to rest in camp most of the next day (I’ve got priors). Will I fail to prepare for some predictable misadventure that I knew better than to be unprepared for (looking your way blisters, water, fire management, toilet paper…)?

I chuckle quietly to myself as I listen to the rain fall over my headphones, gazing out my window onto the sunny boards of the fence between houses. Each new trail is a new lesson. Each mile is its own teacher. Each step I get to begin again.

Sipping coffee, planning for camping, and feeling contented; it’s a pleasant start to the morning. 🙂 I’m excited about my camping trip – and it’s almost here! Next week. Whether I write or not, I’ve no idea, I do know there’s no cell signal available through much of that large beautiful hike-able acreage. Just… none. If my recollection is correct, there’s a hint of a bit of a signal now and then, but only at this one particular spot, and it’s a trek of a couple miles (uphill) to reach it, and it’s not reliable…so… I most likely won’t be posting during that time, regardless whether or not I do write. 🙂

Honestly… lots of past posts to explore, and it’s not as if I’m truly writing wholly original content, is it, since I generally write the same things, most days… drinking coffee… breathing… good self-care… choices, verbs, practicing practices, and beginning again… right? 😉 Don’t let yourself down on my account; I’ll be right back. 😀

There are paths yet to be explored – where will yours take you?

I’m eager for the break in routine, and for the days and nights among the trees. I’m eager to hear bird song, and not traffic, and the loud peeps and chirps and calls of chipmunks and squirrels, instead of the conversation of commuters and random human beings out in the world. I’m eager to read the weather, the actual weather, instead of the news. 🙂

I remind myself not to forget coffee!

I have a list of gear I need to either double-check that I do still have it, or pick it up before I go. I keep adding things to it, and crossing things off. I enjoy camping much more when I am prepared…and I also enjoy traveling light, and without excessive weight or baggage dragging me down. I’ve got a list that makes sense. It’s an observation that doesn’t last long when the next question hits me…

…What if it rains?

I laugh so hard I snort coffee, which is less than pleasant, but now I’m giggling; I literally haven’t made any specific effort to plan for any sort of significant rain. It’s August. Why would it rain? Only… it may, and it could, and it’s been known to happen, and… it’s in the forecast. lol So…?

Like a lot of life’s circumstances, preparedness makes an easier journey, for sure. Also like life, and circumstances, it’s not particularly easy to be prepared for all of everything that could be part of my experience than I might want to… while also traveling light, and keeping baggage to a minimum. The more I am inclined to carry, the more verbs (and effort) will be involved in the journey, itself, and the more there will be to manage, deal with, juggle, find space for, when I arrive at my destination. There are choices to be made. Some circumstances are best accepted, than prepared for in advance in any notable way. (I’m not actually saying rainfall is one of those, I mean… it’s possible to shove rain gear into my backpack without adding a ton of weight to my gear!)

Don’t let a little rain stop you. 🙂

Anyway. Rain is a thing that happens, even in August. I’m giggling because I enjoy the rain… but… I also dislike being soaked to the skin, catching a chill, and miserable because all my gear is soaked. lol There are definitely choices to make, and planning is a useful tool for making them. I give some thought to the rain, and my list, and make some adjustments to also account for chilly nights, and dewy cold mornings. Will I be warm enough? Cool enough? Dry enough? Will I have coffee for the mornings? Will I want paper books, or digital books? Don’t forget to bring a towel! What about tea? Broth? It’s nice to have something hot to sip on that isn’t loaded with caffeine – or sugar. What about sleep…? Do I want my cot, or an inflatable something or other? (I already know I don’t much feel like sleeping directly on the ground, on a thin sleeping mat; I’ll be out there for 4 nights.)

Everything I take on this journey, I’ll have to carry, myself. That’s a hell of a metaphor, right there.

I look at the time. Yeah. Already. I smile, and finish my coffee, and put aside my list. Same path, different day. I smile, and grab my keys, and my backpack, and get ready to begin again. 😀

3 days, two nights, one purpose, and I return to my apartment by the park with sore feet, aching muscles, stiff joints, and a smile that  won’t quit.

3 mosquito bites, two unexplained bruises, 1 blister over 17 miles of trails, and I shot more than 100 pictures, and spotted a rainbow’s worth of different wildflowers in bloom.

I reached my campsite and set up camp well before dusk settled in, on Wednesday evening. I managed more than 4 miles of hiking that evening, just getting my gear to the hike-in camping area, and exploring the nearest trails after making camp.

A coffee well-earned, an evening of quiet.

It rained most of the night, and I laid wakefully, contentedly listening to the rain fall, more than necessarily pleased that my tent doesn’t leak.

The rain-drenched morning didn’t quench my enthusiasm for the day ahead.

I spent Thursday meditating, after morning coffee and a short hike to stretch my legs, and didn’t do much else. I brought a journal to write in, and a notebook, a sketch pad and colored pencils for drawing, my camera, my kindle… and other than my camera, I didn’t touch any of the distractions I brought along to pass the time; I didn’t need them. Time passed just fine without any help from me. 🙂

Given the necessary conditions, I bloom in my own time. It is often enough to sit quietly and allow the moment to unfold.

I spent Friday hiking, departing fairly early in the morning to walk a new path. The trail I chose was sufficiently challenging to push me, lovely enough to be utterly worth it without any other “reason” to go the whole distance, and totally within my ability. I returned to camp in the afternoon, got my boots off, put my feet up, and made coffee. Out among the trees, coffee doesn’t seem to keep me from sleeping, ever, however late I may be drinking it. I bet there’s something to be learned from that…

Where does my path lead? It’s helpful to have a map, but the map is not the world.

…Instead of learning anything about coffee, though, I learned something different. As campers arrived to fill nearby sites for the weekend, I learned that my needs were met, and that I was “done”. I learned that I didn’t really want to sit through a chilly evening overhearing loud conversations about corporate headaches, challenges with the kids’ teachers, or sports. I learned that I didn’t find value in enduring another camper’s choice to bring a generator into the forest for the weekend.

Ultimately, we each choose our own path…

I learned, this weekend, that it really is quite okay to make my choices my way, without any pressure from my own expectations, or anyone else’s; I broke camp late that afternoon, taking my time, packing up skillfully and efficiently without feeling at all rushed. I packed my gear out of the park (taking the same three trips it took to bring it down to the campsite in the first place), still smiling when the effort was completed. I let the park rangers know I was checking out, so they could release that camp site to another camper – it’s a great spot.

The beauty in the world exists whether or not I choose to observe it. My choice to observe the beauty in the world is necessary only to my own appreciation of it.

I got home before the sun set, unpacked enough gear to begin properly unpacking a bit at a time. First, a leisurely shower. A fresh salad. A hot cup of coffee. A moment to begin the upload of all the photographs. No music. No social media. No TV. Patio door open to the breezes and the sound of birdsong. A quiet evening, alone in the stillness, aside from a few minutes checking in with a friend from next door.

Roses blooming on the patio welcome me home, rain-drenched, fragrant, and lovely.

Yesterday I woke, still feeling fairly wrapped in my own purpose, and disinclined to be particularly social. I wrote a dear friend. I unpacked some things. I meditated. I gardened. It was a chilly gray day, and I enjoyed the morning with a crackling fire in the fireplace – which I might also have done if I had remained out in the trees another day. There seemed no urgency to connect to the digital world with any haste – no one was expecting me to, in any case. (Good expectation-setting for the win!) I watched the birds come and go from the feeder.

It was a lovely day of bird-watching.

Here it is, today. (Isn’t it always? 😉 ) I figured I’d sleep in… I didn’t. I woke with the dawn. I figured I’d move purposefully down a long list of things I’d like to get done… also not happening, at least not so far. I sip my coffee, smiling softly, watching the birds at the feeder with my laptop balanced on my knees, writing from a slightly different perspective – though whether that is a matter of my laptop, a chilly morning, and cold coffee on the patio, or simply that my perspective remains altered by my time out in the trees is neither known, nor relevant to the experience.

What now? Just this. Isn’t it enough? 🙂

A patio with a view.

I’ve been having some exceptional moments, lately. Some are small and really of no consequence to anyone but me. In some cases, these are the very best moments – gifts of heart, and love, from me, to me, myself. Those are sometimes oddly poignant, particularly if they are experiences colored by the realization that I could have been there for me, in some way, all along. They aren’t unpleasant moments, but sometimes they are uncomfortable.

Each having our own experience...

Each having our own experience…

Lately I have been really throwing myself into being who I am, by choice, supported by my values and actions, and wholly enjoying the enjoyable bits of this amazing creature I have become over the years, while steadfastly working toward my personal goals one practice at a time, investing in great self-care, and taking time to savor this amazing journey. It feels good, and more than that, it feels a bit as if pieces of heart and soul torn from me by circumstances or maltreatment are somehow ‘finding their way home’. I feel more whole than I have… ever. No, life isn’t ‘perfect’, whatever that means, and I will likely spend a lifetime healing, and sorting myself out from the chaos and damage – but it no longer feels like an exercise in futility; I feel hopeful, and better, I am often content.

Life is. Change is. Action is. Choice is. Love is. There are lots of things that are – and it’s a busy world, with each of us having our own experience. I am practicing a couple of practices to simplify my daily experience, because simpler is what suits me best, at this time in my life. I am enjoying making choices that truly support my needs over time, and learning to do so more easily has been worth the ongoing challenges with doing so. It’s still difficult, sometimes, to stay true to taking care of me when it isn’t easy, or faces the obstacle of expectations, assumptions, or agendas held by others. Practicing improves outcomes over time.

Contemplating where this journey might take me, and considering the path ahead.

Contemplating where this journey might take me, and considering the path ahead.

I have the luxury of planning an early spring solo camping trip. I am yearning to be free of steel and pavement and society’s needs and conventions. I am yearning to be among the trees, and the quiet of the world without humankind’s urgency and complicated details. I am craving stillness to the point of lusting after the sound of breezes and birdsong. I am ready to take a few days free of any agenda but my own serenity and survival. My reservations are made. My transportation plans have been confirmed. This weekend I’ll do a preliminary gear check, and make a list, and check it – perhaps a few more times than twice, just for the fun of handling the gear. 🙂

This particular camping trip is an opportunity to test new limits and current endurance; I am packing my lightest gear, going for a longer period than I generally do, and camping at a time of year when inclement weather and extremes of temperature are likely – and likely to be variable. No cot – will my arthritis be a problem? No camping chair – will I miss the luxury of my fancy folding chair, even though the campsite has a picnic table? Colder nights – will I sleep? If I don’t sleep, will I slowly allow strange noises to fuel vague fears into becoming panic and spend sleepless nights worrying about imaginary monsters in the night forest? Will I spend 4 days huddled in my tent hoping to avoid drenching rain? Will I run out of coffee? Will it matter if I do? Assurances from family members that I “can always come home Friday if…” are met with a smile, and the confidence that I’ll be out in the trees the entire time. I know me. I will learn some things about who I am now, over a few chilly spring days in the forest.

I only have one reservation - the only one I need.

I only have one reservation – the only one I need: campsite #21.

Today I plan; it’s a good day for planning, and anticipating fun. It’s a good day to enjoy the world I create with my choices, and my actions. It’s a good day to change the world.



Sunday already? Yesterday managed to feel both busy and leisurely, fully occupied and still including many lovely chill moments of stillness and contemplation. Sometimes I find that harder to manage when the house is filled with people, and I have to untangle shared or overlapping agendas and somehow still take care of me. The occasional solitary day, evening, or weekend often serves, as much as anything, as an opportunity to check in with myself and ensure that my needs remain my priority, and that I’m not allowing them to be swept away by someone else’s moment, or needs. Does that sound ‘selfish’? It did to me, too, for a long while – and well beyond when I’d moved past ‘selfish’ being some sort of secret swear word. I sometimes struggle with a hell of a gap between intellectual understanding and putting something in practice; mindfulness practices are a powerful way to close that gap.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

This matters more than I understood when I started.

This morning the day will be gently balanced between the things that must be done – adulthood is filled with those – and the things that I will do to support, nurture, and indulge myself, before another work week begins. I have a list. Keeping – and efficiently using – a ‘to do list’ is an important detail for me, otherwise I just don’t remember moment to moment what it is I intended to do. I rarely forget what I am doing mid-task, but while I am completing task A, however mindfully, I am highly likely to completely forget the existence of tasks B-Z altogether, or perhaps just one or two of them, and in that case without any predictable pattern to what is forgotten. Important things are as easily forgotten as unimportant things. Things I offered to do for someone else, that they are counting on, are as likely to be forgotten as something I promised myself, and that my heart is set on in some other moment. It can be very frustrating for me – I don’t doubt it is maddening for others. So. A list. This morning my list is filled with all manner of practical things; my partners are away, and no one likes to come home to a house not ready for the next week. I know I don’t care for that, myself.  Similarly, I dislike the experience of suddenly giving up on everything important to me, myself, to rush through a quantity of house work in a day that would impress a superhero if it got done in week; it drives anxiety, panic, and discontent, and I inevitably end up not doing some one thing that will prove to be the only thing the person I wanted to impress ever noticing. Fuck that. I prefer to clean as I go, as much as I can, and tidy up in a calm and mindful way, doing my best, and being satisfied with that. Simple basics that I would usually get done on a weekend will get done today, and I’ll still paint. I’ll do some nice things for each of my partners, small stuff that matters to them, each, as individuals, and I’ll still take care of me, too, ensuring that my needs for the upcoming week are met as well as the needs of my partners. It’s enough.

An opportunity to reflect in stillness and solitude.

An opportunity to reflect in stillness and solitude.

Next weekend I am solo camping. Learning to take care of me has also meant a frank acknowledgement of how my PTSD affects me in some circumstances that previously I would have just gritted my teeth, and endured things, hoping for the best and trying not to be a jerk, or lose my temper. Next weekend is the weekend of a local airshow. Rather than take Rx pharmaceuticals for the anxiety that the military aircraft overhead for 3 days causes me, I’m going camping and taking advantage of the time to invest in other needs. Fall camping feels different from summer camping. I’ve continued to build strength and bring new life to old skills. I’m eager to tackle more forested trails, and meditate under the stars. Camping is more practical, too, than a weekend getaway in a coastal cottage, and I am far less tempted by the world. I’m eager to have the work week behind me so I can head into the trees – so much so, that I am already entirely packed. lol. I’ll finish work Thursday, load my gear into a vehicle, and go.

See, the thing is, my Big 5 relationship values aren’t just about building relationships with other people, they are simple basic good treatment of humans; I try to apply them to myself, too, through my actions, my thoughts and my words. Can you see it? Let’s take a look together…

1. Respect is one of my Big 5. I respect my need for solitude to recharge, gain perspective, and invest in me creatively and emotionally by allowing myself to take advantage of rare solo days and weekends utterly guilt free, and without over-committing to things other people would like to have, or have done.

2. Consideration is possibly the most important of the Big 5; without Consideration, how is Respect even possible? I am considerate of my needs and experience, and of others, and by taking that approach I ensure I do small things that matter without stress – like taking out the trash and not overlooking the small trash cans in each bedroom, or work area, and ensuring the dishes are done and all put away before the house fills with people again, and making sure the household linens are washed, dried, and restocked in bathrooms and linen cupboards. Small things matter, and generally fit neatly between things I am doing for me – like writing, painting, meditating, or yoga. When I consider my own needs, and the needs of my partners, mindfully and in gentle service to hearth and home – without excluding me from my loved ones in my thinking – so much more of what matters gets done, and far fewer projects that don’t really matter end up on my list. When I am treating myself considerately, I also know when to stop and accept that I’ve done my best, confident that my partners will be content, and considerate of my limitations in return. (That’s the ideal, anyway… and when humans are human, and fall short of the ideal? Ah, yes…)

3. …Compassion makes the Big 5 because we’re all quite human. Lacking perfection I turn to compassion, for myself and my very human limitations, for my loves and their own humanity. They will return home tired, and possibly very late in the evening. It’s so easy to get home, relieved just to stop driving, and quickly unload the car into the living room without taking a look around. It’s easy to collapse into bed after a shower, and an exciting weekend, without taking a look around. To wake, thoughts still buzzing from events, and eager to share those…still not taking notice of the small details that make a household ready to welcome travelers home, or understanding that the reason everything is lovely and tidy is that an actual person took time out of their own agenda to  make it happen. Compassion is what lets me smile without a thank you or a word of acknowledgement, and gives me a secure heart, content that the effort mattered regardless of a lack of words. Compassion is what I bring to my own experience, a gift to me from me, if I feel a moment of hurt or doubt if I feel ignored or lacking in importance. I will have done my own best, which is the only piece that is really ‘about me’.

This serves me well, again and again, on the path of treating myself, and others, well.

This serves me well, again and again, on the path of treating myself, and others, well.

4. Reciprocity is a big deal for me, and it makes my Big 5 because it is powerful. Reciprocity speaks up when I prepare for my solo camping next weekend with an equal priority to any piece of housework intended to make a traveler’s homecoming comfortable. I matter to me. Reciprocity is what results in my own return home next week being as comfortable as my partners’ homecoming at the end of this weekend, now. Ideally, we exert equal will, and invest our efforts in each others needs in a way that is consistent with love and loving. Reciprocity doesn’t necessarily mean “I did dishes Tuesday, so you must do them Wednesday” – it could mean “I really hate doing dishes, and seeing them done promptly is a big deal for you, and I know you detest cleaning the bathroom, which I don’t mind – if you’ll take care of the dishes, I’ll similarly keep the bathroom clean.” and then investing a similar effort in those tasks.  Reciprocity in a relationship is pretty easy to determine, too; look at sex. Any sex act that one person benefits from far more than the other and isn’t balanced by ‘returning the favor’ in some clear obvious way is a decent indicator that the relationship itself may not be reciprocal. Some people may not need reciprocity in their partnerships…for me it is non-negotiable, and the lack of it is a strong early warning indicator a relationship will end, although I’ve actually only ever had one relationship, one partnership, that was truly reciprocal, on a relationship defining level.  It was such an incredibly positive defining characteristic, that all my relationships since that one are measured against that standard, and it is what I look for in partners, and strive for in my own actions.

5. Openness makes it all work. Openness to conversation, openness to sharing emotions, openness to shared experiences, openness to considering another view-point, openness to trying new things; openness is an act of will. If my relationship is failing, openness brings my concerns into the open. If I am struggling with my own experience, openness allows me to share it frankly and be comforted. If I feel disrespected, or that my needs are not being considered, openness brings will and words together to express those feelings compassionately and with consideration, and the understanding we are each having our own experience. Openness is even there for me if I must consider that my needs are not met to the point of having to consider other choices in order to respect myself, or treat myself well. Openness is important.

"Some Distant Sunrise" 16" x 20" acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

“Some Distant Sunrise” 16″ x 20″ acrylic on canvas w/glow 2014

The Big 5 are good relationships values, but they are not the only relationship values. Other people make other choices. Your results may vary. What I have found, myself, is that perspective and balance are important, too; my relationship values are what they are, and if I don’t value myself enough to also apply them to my experience with myself, and show myself the same courtesies I show others, or expect them to show me, the outcome is resentment, anger, and discontent. None of that sounds good to me at all. This weekend I’ve been taking care of me, treating myself well, and enjoying the one relationship I can’t escape, or walk away from, and I’ve been doing it using the same Big 5 that I practice in my relationships with others. It’s been nice.

Am I just stalling? This is a pretty long to-do list… 😉

One choice. One change. One moment.

One choice. One change. One moment.

Today is a good day for action. Today is a good day to get a few things done. Today is a good day for mindful service to hearth and home. Today is a good day to love. Today is a good day to change the world.