Archives for posts with tag: the map is not the world

I came home from my camping trip a day early. No particular reason, aside from knowing my Traveling Partner was missing me, and the day looked rainy when I woke this morning, and honestly? I felt “done”. It was a great camping trip, filled with self-reflection, meditation, coffee-drinking (it was terrible), sleeping on the ground (with very comfortable mats, and it was deeply restful, if not continuous), birdsong, breezes, and aggravatingly long walks to well-cared for vault toilets. So… it was a good camping trip that met many needs, with few complaints (I’d have to really dig deep, and I don’t care to make that effort just now).

I got to the site on Sunday, earlier than I’d planned – and damn am I grateful that I made that change! The peak heat of the day hit 96 degrees, even out there in the trees, and there was no breeze to cool off with that day. The air was still and stifling hot. My gear felt heavy. So heavy. I broke it down into smaller loads and slowed down; 4 trips down the trail and back to get my gear into camp. By the end of that first day, I was exhausted. I was also fine. I made a point to drink ample water, and brought a good supply of my own on the chance that the water in the park might for any reason be limited, inaccessible to me, or not potable for some reason. I also stocked the big cooler with proper electrolyte beverages (in this case, Pedialyte). I was glad I did. That first day could have turned out poorly without good hydration – and a plan to stay well-hydrated in spite of the heat.

Time well-spent.

The days rolled by gently, and the weather cooled off for the rest of my time out among the trees. That first night several large-ish groups and several obvious families lugged their gear down into the camp site, got set up, got frustrated with the heat, packed up all their shit and headed back out before the sun ever even set. By morning, there were only three sites occupied (out of 21), and I may as well have been alone. The solitude was drenching and thoroughly delightful. I wiled away quite a few lovely hours just listening to the wind blow, the chatter of nearby chipmunks, and the buzzing of insect life all around me. I let everything else just… go. Once, during the night, on one evening or another, my anxiety began to flare up for no obvious reason. My brain chased after it, like a cat after a dangled string. I got up from my resting place, restlessly, and wandered out into the darkness. I spotted the fat golden moon – some “super moon” or another. It was lovely and large, looming over the night, peeking through the hemlocks and maples. My anxiety fled – it could not compete with that fat round moon. LOL

Lovely quiet days. Lovely quiet nights. I read a book my Traveling Partner gave me (Richard Feynman’s “Six Easy Pieces”). I drank dreadful instant coffee, smiling so hard my face hurt. I relaxed. Thoroughly. I slept well and deeply. I even managed to enjoy my stay without becoming a feast for the mosquitoes – only just found a couple bites this afternoon, on my shoulder in a spot I obviously missed with the Deet. LOL There’s a lesson in there somewhere.

I glance at my email. Messages from friends and former colleagues, things that can wait for tomorrow. Soon enough to begin again.

Sick time activities tend on the easy low-effort side, for me, and I’ve spent quite a lot of time the last few days (between naps and hot showers) looking over pictures of previous camping trips to the same general location I’ll be going next. I noticed fairly quickly that “the numbers don’t add up” – the campsites are numbered, and I reliably snap a picture of the site I’ve selected, and note the number in my itinerary and various writings. I tend to favor sites that are the most distant from other campers, wherever I go. As I’ve said before; I go for the solitude. 🙂

Like, seriously, out among the trees, camped surrounded by dense tall nettles. Manufactured solitude. 😀

During the pandemic, I didn’t get much camping in. (Duh) There was that last trip in August 2019 – before the pandemic – and then “at long last” another in August 2021, when pandemic restrictions were beginning to lift (rather briefly, as I recall, before returning for some while…I hope I am remembering that correctly). That most recent trip was not down into the deeper, quieter, hike-in camping – that camp ground was closed for substantial repairs, and even the trail down into that area was closed. There had been some serious storms that took down trees, flooded trails, and caused a lot of damage (I read, but did not see for myself). When I went to book my upcoming trip, I noticed something odd… there was a particular site I was considering reserving… only… it didn’t exist on the map at all, now. Actually – there are two fewer sites than there had been, and two of those that were removed were among the four sites that were singularly “remote” (by a notable distance) from the others (and each other). One of these now-missing sites was one I greatly enjoyed. Change is. The other I hadn’t yet tried out, but found visually very pleasing, and had considered it more than once. These changes briefly tested my sanity; could I really be remembering things this incorrectly?? Could I be so wrong about where that site was??

This is no longer site #9. This is the past. Gone now.
This site is gone, too. I wonder what reminder of the past may linger there now?

Now there are just two sites in the hike-in campground that truly stand out as being quite a bit more distant from any other camp sites. One of those is a “walk-in only” and can’t be reserved at all (and is generally occupied any time I’ve gone there). The other? My personal favorite spot. The thing that I found amusing-confusing is that the numbering (of course) had to be updated to “make sense” on the ground for folks seeking their reserved site… and now, the carefully recording numbering of prior visits that I see in my notes and pictures makes no sense; it doesn’t match the map as it exists now. My preferred site was #23, which “no longer exists” but strictly speaking it’s right there on the map – just bearing a different number. So many lovely visits to #23… only… now it’ll be #21, and of course the one trip I had previously made to #21 would be better numbered, now, as #17. Sites #22 and #9, as they had existed, are simply gone now. There is no need for a #22 at all and #9 is attached to a different site altogether. Vexing. But… change is. These are certainly the sorts of changes that can screw with a person’s memories of the past, though. lol

Sometimes I get hung up on such details. What something is called now versus what it used to be named. Street names. Business locations. Changes in which streets are one-way. I sometimes struggle to reconcile what I recall with what I see in front of me. I don’t think that’s unique or unusual; I think we all deal with it because change is. Sorting out these photos and getting them organized by camping trip has been fun and I love the reminders of each one. The pictures take me back down trails as they once were, and each visit has its utterly unique and splendidly different moments… on the same trails. Different weather. Different light. Different flowers in bloom. New or old signs. Well-maintained or falling into disrepair. These small variations don’t reflect “poor memory for details” at all, they simply remind me that “change is”, and that this affects us all, with every experience. The map is not the world. The trail is not the hike. Each moment is an experience all its own.

Still the same favorite, but the number has changed. LOL It’ll be #21 on the new map. The map is not the world.

I’ve camped at this place in March. I found it a bit chilly (and definitely unpleasantly so at night). It was rainy. I find that I would rather wait for later weeks, generally, instead of camping in March. lol

I’ve camped here in May. May was also rainy, but the nights were pretty comfortable, and the thimbleberries along the trails were ripe. It’s a lovely time for wildflowers. The trails are sometimes muddy.

I’ve camped here in July. The summer heat often hasn’t really gotten going, and everything is lush and green, and the trails are dry and easy to walk.

I’ve camped here in August, several times. Comfortable nights, followed by cool mornings well-suited to long hikes. The afternoons are hot – good for napping after a hike. The birdsong, crickets, and peeping frogs make a delightful racket.

I’ve camped here in September a couple times, too. Chilly evenings develop from warm afternoons. Sometimes it has rained briefly, most often it has been dry. Creeks are at their lowest flow. Trails are dry, and so are the meadow grasses. A few wildflowers remain.

Funny thing… while it makes quite a bit of sense that I don’t typically camp earlier than March (don’t like being cold all the time)… looking over my photos, I am a little surprised to see that I have not camped later than mid-September, either. Why is that so odd? Well, the weather around this location is quite mild and suited to camping well into November before it begins getting properly chilly again. Not that it matters relative to most other things, I just found it peculiar, and find myself wondering if I should plan something for October this year? Catch the autumn in her glory, perhaps?

What I was getting to, though, is that each experience has been quite different for reasons other than camp site or season. That March trip? It was dreadful, and I cut it short. I was out there primarily doing a “gear check” for longer more remote trips into wilderness areas with only dispersed camping available, and no “conveniences” (like potable water and vault toilets). I utterly failed to be adequately prepared even for the chill of a pleasant March weekend. lol I forgot my coffee. (Nooooooo!) Seriously? I even forgot any sort of hot beverage, even tea or broth. Forgot my bee sting kit (omg, bees in March??). Couldn’t start a fire – just, for whatever reason, completely forgot how to make that happen on this whole other “do not go solo camping you nitwit” level. The ultra-light cot I had such high hopes for? Flimsy and would not support my weight. Fucking hell. After one overnight I was tired, stressed, and miserable. After two? I called my Traveling Partner to come get me. Embarrassing. I still get occasional teasing about that one. lol

Most of my camping trips are just excuses to hit trails I can’t easily reach on a weekend morning, and to get away for some “me time” and take pictures of flowers. They sort of blend together – until I see the pictures, and look back on each trip as its own thing. A singular experience. Each one of them is quite different, and by making a practice of savoring every pleasant moment at great length, my longer-term memory of all of them is of these wonderful experiences out among the trees – even that March trip.

How often do we taint our memories of the life we live by focusing on the shittiest moments with the whole of our attention, picking them apart, re-analyzing them, talking and writing about them at length, thinking of them often – while failing to do the same for all the pleasant ones? When I stopped doing that, and started putting more of my focus on the choice moments, joyful moments, a-ha moments, and wow moments instead, my experience of life over-all improved quite a lot. I recommend it. When I catch myself ruminating on some bullshit moment of chaos or unhappiness, I make a point to follow that with reflections on lovely moments. Legit. Real. Mine. Doing this has definitely changed my “implicit memory” of life and the world for the better. It’s a choice I make regularly. It’s been very effective as a strategy for ensuring that life feels worth living, every day. Figured I’d share that with you. 🙂 I hope you find it helpful.

…The tl;dr? Don’t get mired in your own bullshit. Reflect on your joys, your wins, what works, and what you love. Take time for that. Sip your coffee (or tea, or… you know, whatever you like) and focus on what delights you in your surroundings right now. I mean… I’m not telling you what to do, just sharing what has been working for me. 🙂 You’re walking your own path, of your own choosing. You can begin again.

Choose your path and walk it. Your results may vary.

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.

It’s a lovely Saturday. My Traveling Partner and his son are in the shop, doing things with tools and wood. I am in my studio, taking time for art, study, meditation, and writing. My second coffee is down to it’s last tepid sip, and sunshine filters through the leaves of the pear tree beyond the window. It’s a nice moment. I sit with it awhile. I don’t need more, or different. This, right here, is enough.

Nothing fancy, just a view.

I don’t know what the rest of the day holds, or the week ahead, or what next year will be like. Right now, none of that matters; I’ve got this moment, here. It’s not fancy or exciting or extraordinary. It’s actually quite simple, a bit unremarkable, and there is nothing much about it significant enough to be especially share-worthy. That’s actually why I am sharing it. We get so used to chasing “happiness”, seeking novelty, excitement, or diversion, we forget to enjoy the simple pleasant moments life offers up pretty generously, much of the time. We wonder when life feels constrained, frustrating, disappointing, or filled with futility and sorrow, why there’s nothing pleasant to rely on… but don’t often acknowledge what we did (or more to the point, didn’t) do to build that “reference library” of personal joy to reflect on, and savor in less satisfying times. I can’t honestly “help you” with that, though, aside from pointing out how much importance your presence in your own experience really has for you.

One moment, experienced thoroughly, savored in recollection. Still nothing fancy. Just a moment.

In the simplest terms, if you want an implicitly pleasant and positive sense about your experience of “life in general” – an “upbeat outlook on life” – you’ve got to cultivate that, and one sure path to that destination is to be truly present, conscious, and involved in living the small pleasant moments in life. There are verbs involved. Practice. Incremental change over time. It’s the sort of thing others will observe has changed about you, before you are wholly aware a change has occurred. Savoring the moments, however simple, of contentment, quiet joy, or everyday satisfaction, builds that database of positive feelings and experiences that become the foundation of our outlook on “life in general”. It’s not all about the extreme joys of great moments; those moments are beyond “every day”, and we know that.

One coffee, one moment – but the picture is not the beverage.

I don’t grudge myself the contented moments “just sitting” with a soft smile on my face, contemplating some little thing my partner said that warmed my heart or supported me. I don’t grudge myself the contented moments “just sitting” watching fish swim in my aquarium, or how the light streams into a particular window in a particular way. I don’t grudge myself contented moments flipping through the pictures and origin stories in favorite cookbooks. The time spent is meaningless out of context, and precious beyond measure enjoyed whole-heartedly on some small thing that satisfies. It’s not the time itself that matters, so much as what it is spent on. 🙂 Time spent content or joyful is definitely worthwhile, however simply spent. My opinion. Works for me. (Your results may vary.)

Still smiling, coffee finished, and having written a few words on a quiet Saturday… I think about the world beyond these walls, and wonder about taking a walk. Certainly, this feels like a good time to begin again. 🙂

 

Today is off to a rough start. I’m writing early, with tears on my face. This morning begins with a challenge. I’m not always ready to measure my words, to smile accommodatingly at the world, or to be prepared for things to skid sideways unexpectedly over some random thing and handle it with grace and diplomacy. I’m not that skilled or resilient, yet. I’m taking my coffee in the studio, this morning, as far from other human beings as this house permits. Fuck humans. This morning I have already had enough of people.

…That didn’t take long…

An innocent seeming remark, taken personally, wrecks what had some small shot at being a good morning. It sucks. Weekday morning. I’ve got work in a little while. I’m wreckage. God damn it this sucks all kinds of completely.  We’ve got a house guest too, on top of just sucking generally, so on top of the general sucking – we’re having an argument at 5 o’clock in the morning while a guest tries to sleep through our bullshit. Fucking hell. Not okay. On top of the stress of this, generally, I’m also deeply embarrassed by our basic rudeness.

Fuck people. Fuck relationships. Fuck having to deal with any of it, ever, at all. I am feeling bitter, and I am feeling blue. I am angry that a small well-intentioned observation that was emotionally neutral at the moment it was spoken, turned into this shitstorm of emotional sewage so early in the morning. I feel robbed of a pleasant morning. He does too, enough to make a point of expressing unhappiness that I would choose to be in my studio, writing, instead of hanging out with him, even as things are right now. (I admit, I don’t get that – I don’t even want to be around me right now.)

…I slept like shit…

…I woke up feeling cross and headache-y…

…I was already “not in a good place”…

…I’m in pain…

Realistically, I can’t put this morning on my partner. My emotions? Mine to deal with. I apologized to him. He didn’t hear me. He apologized to me. I didn’t hear him. We repeat the cycle. Eventually apologies are audible. We hear each other. We acknowledge those words. He wants to talk. To engage. To restore emotional intimacy. I want to withdraw to the safety of solitude. He feels hurt by my rejection. I feel hurt by his lack of understanding that I want to provide myself with some basic self-care right now. We repeat the cycles we’re most familiar with. Doing differently is serious work.

…I haven’t even had my first cup of coffee…

Making predictions about the day may tend to “lock in” the assumptions I’d have to make to do so. It’s a poor choice. I breathe. Exhale. Let it go. I keep at it. Breathing. Exhaling. Focusing on my breath. Letting my shoulders relax. Pulling my posture upright. Breathe. Exhale. Relax. I hear my typing cadence begin to become even. Regular. A steady beat. Less chaotic and tempestuous. There are choices here. Verbs. Effort. Will. The journey is not always an easy one. The road ahead is not always smooth under my feet when I walk it. There is no growth or forward momentum in what is easiest, only joy and contentment. My results vary. I need more practice.

…I’ve gotta admit, I do like the joy and contentment, though…

I sip my coffee. Contentment can be built. More verbs. A lot of practice. We become what we practice. What am I practicing? (I can’t do a fucking thing about anyone else’s practices, only my own, that’s just real.) Am I, as I sit here, the woman I most want to be? (I could do better.) Still human. So human.

It’s a fairly shitty morning so far. I could definitely do better. I guess I have to begin again.

…Time to get on with that…