Mountain Oasis

 

20160714_190726.jpg

View of Mt. Lafayette from the deck of the house

We’ve just come off a 12 day trip to New England, most of which was spent in the mountains of Vermont and New Hampshire. I had been looking forward to the trip ever since we planned it in back in February. Not only were we to take up the challenge of a half-marathon in the heart of the Green Mountains, we were also reconnecting with our tribe-our children, sister, niece and closest friends.

Emily and I at the summit of Artist’s Bluff

I love the new life I am building with my husband. He makes me laugh every day; we are true partners in our relationship. I am grateful that I am in a situation where I don’t I have to prove myself with every breath I take. Also, I have really enjoyed exploring some parts of this new landscape in addition to re-establishing myself as an educator in a supportive and positive school community. But hiking and being in the mountains is one of the things I miss the most about living up north.

If you are neither a hiker nor a runner, it may be hard to understand the joy found in the challenge of a long hard run or a long hard climb. Or even the purpose of arising early in the morning to begin the trek! Although my half-marathon time was slow and the hills nearly impossible to run, the landscape raised me up and the weather cooperated by staying cool. I was so happy to be there! Rolling hills, farm houses, red barns, fields of green and friendly folk enveloped by misty mountains had a medicinal effect even during the hardest parts of the race.

One of the best cures for post-race muscle fatigue (besides yoga) is a good, solid, short hike. My husband and I chose the Sterling Pond Trail at the top of Smuggler’s Notch. At 3000′, it is Vermont’s highest trout pond. With a 1000′ elevation gain, it proved to be the perfect antidote to the previous day’s rolling roads. Slippery, wet rocks and muddy paths were rewarded by the view at the summit.

Sterling Pond, Smuggler’s Notch, Vermont

I knew this was only the beginning of finding my joy and, despite my aches and pains, I was ready for what the White Mountains had to offer us for the rest of the week.

Upon our arrival at the house in Franconia, we were greeted  by this view:

Mt. Lafayette on a sunny afternoon

My eyes welled up. I felt as if I was coming home. And indeed, home came to us in human form as well. My friends rented a place five minutes down the road and we shared many a meal and hiking paths together that week. My sons and stepdaughter arrived a few days later along with my sister-in-law and niece. We had girlfriends, boyfriends and other young adults added to the mix. At times, it felt like herding cats for hikes, but in a good way. Emily and my youngest  and his girlfriend (along with my sister-in-law) were always up and ready to go. And truly, everyone else was a good sport about heading out and attempting (and completing) the climbs.

We talked a lot about finding the joy in the challenge. For me, it isn’t only about reaching the summit, but in touching the earth along the way.

20160714_102222.jpg

Wildflowers across from Cannon Mountain

Being in the mountains makes it possible to be embraced by nature in ways that living here does not. The silence, the evergreen scents and sounds and the refreshing tingle of cool air are a reminder of how blessed we are to live on this planet and the need to preserve it.

20160715_101747.jpg

Arethusa Falls, Crawford Notch

 

March Madness

Credit: time.com

“I’m so angry about this snow,” griped my friend J, as we watched yet another round of white precipitation whirling around outside. We were having a luscious lunch at Maggie’s Farm and the spring afternoon was anything but. We are beyond tired of dealing with our record-breaking snow fall this year. Never mind the cold.

Up here, we pride ourselves on being tough and up to the task of winter’s woes. But when the guy who plows your driveway says he is sick of it, you know the limits of collective tenacity have been reached. In fact, I have been claiming that this season has literally shut down my ability to write a single blog post.  I haven’t even had the wherewithal to read the ones I follow!

The season was one of havoc and hazards. Ice dams that caused thousands of dollars worth of damage to friend’s ceilings, tires blown out by potholes, falling ice that collapsed a colleagues’ deck and ruptured a gas line just minutes after she had been out there with her dogs, cars totaled from numerous accidents caused by slippery roads…

When the weather rules your life every day, it’s hard to get out of your own way mentally. Each night I went to bed with the worry about the growing icicles along my roof line and the several feet of snow piling up on the garage and front porch roofs.  Each morning was greeted with what became a rite of layered preparation before heading out the door. I would wear the same four sets of clothing for weeks (with washing in between, of course!) because it was essential for getting where I needed to go (if I could get there). I spent a few weeks taking an alternate route  to work because the driving conditions on my normal route were too hazardous. Once, on the alternate route, someone painted “UNCLE” in blue on the snow bank at the end of their street!  Often, we would call one another from outside the house for a push up the driveway (not everyone has four-wheel drive). It takes three strong people to accomplish the task.  Running and writing were pushed aside-two important things that help to define me. We longed for our normal rituals and routines-the predictable rhythm of daily life that grounds us.

Still, we remain hopeful for the sweet smell of spring. The sounds of melting snow and chirping birds. The glimpse of color on the trees. I miss the wildlife. The ducks on the pond (too frozen for them-many have been rescued this season, very unusual), the deer at the far end of the yard, even the wild turkeys who have been known to block my running path in the morning!

April is around the bend. I dream of spring hikes, short sleeves and sauntering soliliquys.

Firsts and Lasts

 

autumn-dark-vintage-grainy-leak-Favim.com-1018974

We loaded the old boiler onto the truck Sunday night. It died two weeks ago during the last of summer’s heat. A few mornings of cold showers were tolerable, keeping us grateful that we weren’t enduring the endless cold snap of winter. A chilly house is an entirely different story during the dead season. Truth be told, we’ve been hanging in there with the old girl for at least two years. Replacing worn out  parts here and there and enduring the fickle temperatures of the house’s water was all I could financially and psychologically manage. The day the new one was put in was drenched with unusual humidity. My youngest son was called to a job in the city first (but not before his vehicle was hit in the drive-thru getting his coffee!) to fix the clogged drains of helpless college students, leaving his boss to literally do the heavy lifting.  A day of limbo-too hot to move or get things done in the house, so I watched and waited.

Daily life here has taken on a form of time out of mind. September began as and continues to be a state of fervent motion. My job in education this term has found me in a vortex of all-consuming energy leaving me little time to write. My house is full of people. My sons and their loved ones who are in need of shelter and peace take up space. Finding my groove this last autumn season here has proven to be challenging.

Perhaps this is how it is meant to be. I find myself in an acute state of high alert and awareness, this all-knowing sense of the last go round before the birth of a new life in a new place.  (Truly- nine months from Sunday is the wedding day! ) I hear myself saying “This is the last time…” more often.

With that in mind, I am disconnecting and reconnecting to people and places which I’ve known for more than half my life. The town I live in and raised the boys no longer fees like home. The neighborhood-almost a last holdout for regular working class and middle class folks- is undergoing  the transformation to over-sized and up-scaled  new homes. The prices are ones I would never pay even if I  had that kind of money. I no longer frequent the coffee shop  in the busy center either. The familiar faces are scarce and the chances of running into my ex-husband and/or his current girlfriend keep me on edge. Not worth the trip! The shift is palpable; I feel like a stranger in a strange land.

That said, I am rediscovering the mountains that loom just a mere two hours from my house. My youngest son (and my dear friend Emily as her schedule allows) are hiking some of the 4,000 footers. The experience is always unique (see Trails, Tales and Tails) . Labor Day weekend found us hiking on Mt. Liberty, a rugged and steep climb culminating just above tree-line.

Summit

Credit: http://www.summitpost.org/summit/461392/c-151121

The descent was challenging as well and we were briefly entertained by a hiker holding court on the trail wearing only his tighty-whities! I guess Captain Underpants does exist…

Our most recent hike was an easy one; it’s purpose purely preparatory for the 5,000 footer we hope to ascend in October. The packs were heavier and the climb not as steep but we were moved by the bravery of a ten-year old boy with spina bifida who was climbing his first mountain with his family. Tomorrow is a new mountain, higher in elevation than the last with a day that promises to be brilliant.

These excursions (and others in June and last weekend with my fiance’ to other places that I hold dear to my heart) have helped remind me of the beauty in the surrounding region. It is the place where I grew up and grew older- and hopefully wiser! The time spent with my youngest (my oldest works on Sunday afternoons, unfortunately) takes on a deeper meaning and allows for new memories to be born.

Being wholly present during this shifting paradigm has continuously been a goal for me. Allowing myself to partner with the universe keeps me grounded and prepares me for the harder decisions and changes in plans for the future of my home and loved ones. Mostly it is empowering!  The turn of events to come both sheds more of the past and sows the seeds for the future. One where we can all marry simplicity and strength.

 

(I’d like to thank all of you who have continued to follow me as well as my new followers during this unplanned break in my writing. Happy to be back with Kellie’s prompt! )

#FWF Free Write Friday: Image Prompt

by Kellie Elmorefwf kellie elmore badge

Sideways Stories in Life

Credit: sachakalis.deviantart.com

Did you ever feel both present and nonpresent? Did you ever notice the rapid passage of time and more so, the rapid changes all around you? Do you ever feel sucked into a vortex where your life as you knew it no longer exists? Do you feel that your world is spinning out of control because of one powerful person’s decision that you cannot change? Do you feel that when you’ve already experienced the worst another rogue wave in the tide of life knocks you down?

It is August 1st. The last August in this house for me. Having been away for most of the summer, I have a different perspective on my hometown of 25 years. Some of it is physical. Newer and bigger houses are being built next door and across the way along my tiny and narrow road.  The selling price is beyond belief and the socioeconomic divide just got wider. We miss our old neighbors; the ones you could borrow sugar from or the ones who brought you homemade chicken soup when you had the flu. The ones whose kids you watched over when they were all so young. The age of McMansions has finally cast its net on our side of town.

All change is hard. Neighbors eventually leave. New families move in, taking advantage of the good schools and prime location. Who can blame them? But we already miss our quiet and the working class feel of our spot. What this means for us in the shorter and longer run will soon reveal itself.

The sons continue on. Moving forward in their jobs with possible newer prospects on the horizon. What this means for  them in the shorter and longer run will soon reveal itself.

The responsibilities of my job will be changing at the end of the month. What this means for me and for future job prospects elsewhere will soon reveal itself.

All of what we are experiencing is the natural flow of life. We try not to fight it. We stay positive. Old anxieties creep in, of course. But Heaven knows we have had it so much worse (and this is not bad at all, it is all good, good, good). That helps keep everything in perspective and gives me the energy and wisdom to be there for others.

It is my turn to pay it forward. To give back to others when others gave back to me all those years ago. Good and loving friends are experiencing tough upheavals and wrenching turmoil in their lives presently. I can identify with their pain. I am witness to how it changes both their inner and outer selves, as at one time that was me. Their children were my children.

I wish I had a magic wand. Saying it will get better seems trite and untrue.  Better how? They wonder and worry and grow weary by the moment. It is hard to be present when your past feels like a lie and your future appears bleak. You not only feel like life has gone sideways; you feel sideswiped.

When yet another problem arrived at my doorstep, my father would tell me that it was just another rock in the road that I needed to move. Sometimes those stones were pebbles and sometimes they were boulders. Looking back (and yes  forward, there will be more!), I have come to understand that those obstacles became the foundation for my new life. They didn’t break me. I fashioned them in the form of hope and an inner strength that I never knew existed.

My friends far and wide and those near and dear, you are in my heart and mind as I write this meditation. Stay strong. Be well. Look up for inspiration. The Universe has a message just for you.

 

Keeping the Homefires Burning

campfire

 

I’ve been thinking a lot about connections lately. Connections to people, places, things. Ideas and dreams. Hopes and wishes. My life has been beautifully busy since the start of summer. No time to write or read my favorite blogs. I have been out in the world soaking up moments and memories. Even as I write this, I am in between events. ( It’s the Fourth of July after all!)

My connection to my adult hometown is breathing its last breaths. This will be my last full summer before I marry and move to a whole new zip code and climate. Even so, I am not really spending much time at the house. Last week saw me in the mountains with my fiance’ and some of his family. I had spent time as a youngster and young adult hiking in the region, a mere two hour drive from my town. Last time I was there was a decade ago in wholly different incarnation (married with adolescent children). I recall a brilliant and grueling hike-one of the few bright spots that trying summer (see The Summer I’d Like to Forget). The 4 days in my present life were jammed packed with movement in the great outdoors, running and hiking and horseback riding for the girls. We were nestled in a cozy farm inn; its lack of pretense and absence of noise adding to our relaxing moods and quiet conversations.

Back at home, we’re relishing the heat (for the most part!). Late and leisurely suppers in the backyard, a small bonfire, watching the deer and catching fireflies. I’ll miss these things and that southerly breeze that flows in my back window by the kitchen sink.

Today, I sit and write in the heat of the tropics. Funny how the summer’s sultriness here forces people inside for relief  much the same way the winter’s bitter chill and darkness does up north.

Independence Day was a just right celebration. A cookout with my dad at the grill, the meal shared with happy strangers who quickly became familiar. No need for best behavior! Amusing conversation was the centerpiece of the day (along with this outrageous roasted pineapple guacamole, YUM!). Later, fireworks at the beach and nature’s own lightning show.

I am still straddling two worlds. The campfires burn strongly in both places and that is perfectly fine with me.

 

#FWF Free Write Friday: Fireworks | Image Prompt

 

I decided to combine two of Kellie Elmore’s Free Write Friday prompts since I missed last week’s. Hope you enjoyed this complete stream of consciousness drabble!