Mountains on My Mind

I dream of a woodland retreat.

A mountainous oasis.

Walking in the forest

Bathing in nature

as the green canopy of hardwood trees

sways and sings.

My boots help me find my way.

I pause and listen to a rushing stream.

As I  leap onto slippery and misshapen rocks,

I pray for balance.

I lean toward the outstretched hand of my son,

who seems to have danced on the water.

His fording is eased by the length of his body.

I long to be more limber and less awkward.

  My backpack hugs my body

I feel oddly at ease with its great weight.

 As I take deep, deep breaths,

I feel the tension slough off my body.

Can mountain air comfort you like a warm blanket?

The long granite beds replace the scrambled boulders.

Another summit

Another Celebration

We rest upon them and gaze into Infinity

At one with the Divine

 

Day 6: In 12 days I head north.  My spirit yearns for cooler altitudes and time with my tribe. The photo is from a hike to Camel’s Hump in Vermont that Emily and I completed. I have yet to write about that day!  One of the most mentally challenging in my life…

Safe Places

 

Is home just a place to live?  Is it just a place where we feel most safe?  Is it a place that makes us feel most strong? Is it a feeling, a desire, to be our authentic self? My ultimate desire, my safest place-my querencia- is to be at or near the mountains. Walking in the woods. Pausing to listen to a rushing stream. Jumping rocks to cross to the other side. My backpack hugging my body. My boots helping me find my way. Time is suspended here. Distractions are few. Troubles fade. Hopes soar and the Divine presents itself.

Last summer, I completed my first solo day hike. I had not told anyone of my plans ahead of time. I told my sons the morning I was leaving. I knew the men in my life would try to discourage me, not because of my lack of ability but because of safety.  But jerks exist off the trail and the mountain was one I knew well, having climbed it twice before.

The hike is easy enough, with some hopping over stream beds and slight switchbacks. It doesn’t take long for the sounds of the parkway that cuts through the notch to dissipate. I remember the heaviness of the summer air that day. It didn’t take me long to work up a sweat. My legs easily climbed up and over tree roots. I stopped to pause now and then to take in the green canopy of hardwood trees. I took deep, deep breaths, grateful that the air I was taking in filled me with peace. Can mountain air comfort you like a warm blanket?

The higher I climbed, the more I felt the tension slough off my body. Each step made me feel lighter. I felt nothing but joy as I moved closer to the summit. With this mountain, you know you are getting closer. The sky comes into view above and the long granite slabs replace the dark dirt and fallen leaves on the trail.  Suddenly-it seemed- I reached the top. A long granite bed greeted me with views of four mountains in three directions. The ledges have steep dropoffs.  I gaze into infinity when I look below.

I am alone at the summit but not lonely. I am filled with wonder and awe as I am reminded of the love I have for these mountains. I leave the summit with a renewed strength and the affirmation that this is home.

Long-Lost Equinox

Autumn Leaves

A rampage of  passionate pigments

A seasonal swan song

A long last life’s breath of viridian showings

before your shivering branches consent to a dance

in the November winds

Laying themselves bare

A brazen bold maple awaits its winter slumber

Watching while we rake the sepia remains

from the hills and green grass ways

beneath its outstretched arms

Autumn:

A lingering farewell to the year’s most scintillating suitor

An affaire de Coeur

Transitory and temporary and tempestuous

Till we meet again…

Day 23.  I am out of season, I know. I missed Fall in 2016 so a colleague who was making the trip up North came back with the leaves and rock captured in the image. Autumn in New England is something to behold. I took a photo because I knew the brilliance wouldn’t last long, much like a passionate love affair. I still have the leaves and rock:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At Home on Mother Earth

 

            The Atlantic Ocean on the shores of Plum Island, MA in December

We stood at the shoreline on a cold early winter day

drinking in the brilliant blues of water and sky

Love was born here on a windy November afternoon

our hearts just beginning to open once again

Looking north, we reimagined the sandy altar

where our vows were taken

It was June

a day much the same in its splendor

The early summer air kissing us with its warmth

The feel of the earth under our bare feet fed our souls

Still, there is nothing like the weight and protection of boots that help carry us over boulders and root-ridden paths

Welch-Dickey looking west

We stop and put our hands in a snow melted stream

amazed at its crystal clear color

Its extravagant cold causes us to sigh in gratefulness

Love grows here on the bare bluffs and falling waters

Arethusa Falls

When we climb in April, we arrive in time for Spring’s rebirth

as we once again mark our own

Seasons change but our zeal for hiking never wanes

Summer flora at the bottom of Artist’s Bluff, Franconia Notch, NH

The mountains await us

Mount Lafayette, Franconia Notch, NH

 

 

Day 22. A poem to honor Earth Day and pay homage to the March for Science. We went to a nearby Arbor Festival and came away with 2 more plants for the butterfly garden and a bougainvillea tree.

Mountain Crawl


Easter rose

We alighted to nature’s sanctuary

Our place of peace and resurrection

Away from the egg hunting crowds and feasted tables of obligation

The route took a detour

The conditions too muddy

A sure sign of Spring in mountainous country

A quick check on the GPS found a return to the ledge ridden twins of Welch-Dickey

We could not afford to be too picky!

Granite slabs in various conditions

Some slick with snow melt made the ascent a chore

 Forcing at times a climb on all fours

Still others were bone dry

 Standing straight in momentum

Surely we could fly!

Then what looked to be easy was deceptively so

As we found ourselves down on our backsides in the snow

Trails puddled and muddy

Leaf covered and ruddy

Narrow passages filled with slippery slush

Our day grow longer than we would have planned

 Yet it was worth it, as it ended with beers in our hands

Day 17. I should be asleep. The hike was exhausting but absolutely fantastic! Our original hike to Morgan-Percival had to be cancelled due to muddy conditions. We returned to another spot which was hard the first time due to rainy conditions. For some reason we thought it we be easier this time around. Not so much! My last full day here in New  England with my sons. Both boys were along for the trek today with blessed Izzy with us as well. My oldest gets the Mountain Goat award!

Unburdened

The final resting place for the uncommon

Though only in body

Dust and tinges of bone remain

beneath the knobby spring terrain

Markers bearing just a snippet of an earthbound vitality

Entry and Exit

Beloved wife

Former headmaster

Dedicated alum

Distinctive author

Her verse exposed this land’s second original sin

Time-worn graves

mossy and copper stained virescent words, faded

An existence forgotten

These spirits rattle and hum

The sound carried in the first season’s whipping winds

I settle in to listen

Day 15.  A walk and a picnic in a campus cemetery. Spring is just beginning to speak.

Hometown Run

Image result for hills in andover ma

Photo courtesy of: Trip Advisor (Ward Hill Reservation)

The brisk  mid morning air rushed at my bare arms and legs

The nip a welcome amazement

A bit of bliss

I smile as if kissed

My heart in full surge

Feeling the urge

An unquenched desire to move through the breeze

The hills, rises, and turns feeling familiar once again

The tower bell tolled ten

Its chime a reminder of a lost moment

and the comforting rhythm to our days

 I cross at the light

forgetting the long span of street that lay ahead

Houses and yards void of winter’s white

Daffodils and crocuses rounding out the renewing green of lawns and red  brick pathways

The downhill speeds my pace-

I am used to its more arduous climb, not its effortless decent

I turn on the road where the cemetery lies in the grove

My legs just starting to slightly suffer

I approach a rare flat surface

Relief briefly in store

A left turn into town

Churches white-steepled, granite stoned and russet brick

One last incline then the finish

The high road to where the boys now call home

Day 14: Already Running, Hanging and Cooking with family and friends.

Between Two Worlds

Image result for april in massachusetts

                                            Image courtesy of: AllPosters.com

 

She inquires

Are you coming back or just visiting?

I ask myself

Have I ever left?

My spirit resides in cold, granite rocks and crisp, gripping air

I stood outside at the airport

Basking in the north wind

Rejoicing in the sky that bore more clouds than sun

The southern nights have been restless in anticipation

Sleep elusive

I toss and turn in the stifling and stuffy night air

Rains of  sweat beneath my forehead and between my breasts

My body longing for the chill of a drafty house

and the warm pile of a fluffy comforter

The tip of my nose cool to the touch

Nostalgia keeps me coming back, I know

But the tug and pull of my  new life

reminds me of a joy that I am just beginning to sow

Day 13.  I am back in New England for a few days to visit the boys and my friends. My legs need some hills and a mountain to climb. I have been greeted with “Welcome Home!” already. Although in truth, I now have two places that bear the same name.

 

Hot Spell Hibernation

Image courtesy of: http://www.skymetweather.com

My stepdaughter once said to me, “We have only two seasons here: hot and really hot.” We are well into the second season here. Unlike the Northeast, where an ocean breeze feels like air conditioning and the heavy surf is bracing cold (maybe 65 degrees if you’re not on Cape Cod) the beaches here do not provide any true relief. The breeze is torpid and the water temperature is 89 degrees! We are at the height of heat and the new school year is just around the corner!

I have found it strange not to have a clear demarcation of the four seasons. Even in the darkest, coldest and snowiest of winters, we knew it would eventually end.(Although if you lived through the winter of 2015, you might beg to differ!) Winters are the hardest part of living up north for various and valid reasons, not the least of which is hoping that your roof doesn’t cave in from too much snow or your pipes don’t freeze if the power goes out. Of course, if you live in the city and depend on public transportation to get to your job, and the conditions shut everything down, it has the realistic potential of your losing a few days’ wages. When you live there, you just have to be prepared as possible for the worst weather and it is often very disheartening and depressing.

Still, I cannot help but compare. I’m looking outside right now and it’s gorgeous. What the heck am I doing sitting here? Well, for one thing, I’m wiped out from my long morning walk and back yard weeding. It’s 91 degrees with a dew point of 80. It’s damn hot!  The current conditions just sap away at my energy. When I lived up north and it was sunny (regardless of the season), I went outside for as long as possible. Why? Bad weather was always around the corner. Sometimes it was weeks away, sometimes days, sometimes hours or even minutes. My body and mind were in sync with this practice. Plus the air was so refreshing and invigorating! Even on a zero degree day with the sun out, it was tolerable. Trust me, I have done it.

In contrast to where I currently live, we hibernated during the season when most of Mother Nature goes dormant. Those deep, dark December days when the sun sets at four can are at once agonizing because of the lack of light or pleasing because it’s a great excuse to get into your jammies and curl up with a good book.

So, is this a matter of synchronizing my body to the fact it will always be less dark and more hot here? Is it also a matter of adjusting my mind to the idea that despite of how the day looks, it is just as bad as a cold and dark winter afternoon? Perhaps. I’m just grateful that we have good air conditioning!

In the Meantime….

Do you ever notice your shadow when you’re outside on a sunny day? I’ve never paid much attention to it; perhaps because cloudless days are fewer in New England or perhaps because I no longer have that childish wonder at the sight of it. On a run last week, I noticed the full and extra long length of mine and it got me thinking about my current life’s path.

I still remain surprised that I live in a place of palm trees and low lying land. I drive to work as the sun makes it debut (it rises just a bit later on this side of the Gulf) and wonder, “How did I get here?” (A line from the Talking Heads “Once in  a Lifetime” comes to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98AJUj-qxHI.)

Then I start to think about the  2016 Lenten theme of my faith community up North. “Walk with Me” is the one for this season. Admittedly, I missed the deadline for getting it published in the booklet so I decided this post would be an alternative means to share some thoughts.

I am old enough to know and accept and embrace that life’s path is never straight.  Even if you operate under the illusion of the straight and narrow, sooner or later you wake up to the fact that you actually may be going nowhere. (Again, cue another Talking Heads classic “Road to Nowhere”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0.)

It occurs to me that the precursors to the seismic changes in my life came about on walks with friends or other loved ones. I distinctly recall a question posed by a friend back in 2005: “Are you spiritually hungry?” Realizing that I was in fact in great need of fulfillment, I entered a community that opened my heart, mind and spirit and, in turn, helped my sons gain some safe ground in a time of severe turbulence.

Then I think of the long walks I took with my husband before we were even dating. First, a morning  hike in the woods and later, a longer walk on the beach (the very same one we were to be married on years later!). Intense, open and honest conversations took place that day in late 2008. Our lives were never the same after that time together; we began a journey that overcame distance and trying times in our independent lives.

A steadfast and true walking companion will always be Emily. My heart warms at the memories of Sunday afternoon ambles in the bird sanctuary with her dog Blaze. These trips were never wholly planned; usually a text or call to drop whatever and go. Things were shifting both in small and large ways during those times. Mother Nature allowed for openings in the clouded spaces of our thoughts and worries.

Surely, I would be remiss if I did not speak of those wondrous mountain hikes with my youngest son (joined on occasion by Emily and older brother). I have written about all of them in previous posts but in looking back, I believe they were symbolic of a relationship that had come full circle. The rough patches were behind us; we could manage the toughest and steepest paths knowing the reward was waiting for us at the summit.

Still, there was something larger at play, I think. A force or spirit or a higher power that reminded us to stay present because it was present. The moments became richer and sweeter as a result.

So here in this new place and space, I bring my full self. Each day is different; I feel as if I am in a tremendous labyrinth with many paths I can follow. So I do. I remain open to new possibilities along the way, knowing my journey and my destination are one and the same.