Love or hate

Working in the east coast mountains, you encounter endless laurels. Rhodedendron, mountain laurel, azaleas, blueberries… 

They grow quickly, over take trails and bald and water ways alike. Much of our job consists of cutting back the laurels, or tearing them out completely. Many people develop a deep disgust for the plant. 

But they’re native. They help with erosion. They give nesting and shelter to birds and wildlife. They provide a pollen source for bees and butterflies in the spring and summer…

And let’s not forget that their magical. The low hanging branches in full bloom over a trail gives a whimsical feel to what would otherwise be an average day. The rhime frost clinging to their limbs in  the winter is truly enchanting. They provide shade to weary travelers in the summer. 

No matter how much of it I have to tear out, or blaze through, or get stuck in… I will always love the laurels. 

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Pleasant surprises

The universe has a way of teaching us lessons that we never expected to learn. People have a way of surprising you. I used to believe I was really good at reading people. Turns out, I’m not perfect.  Turns out, even I can be wrong. Big surprise, but no one tell Terry that I said that. 

Some of you know, and some of you don’t, but Terry and I are in a poly-amorous marriage. We’ve had an open relationship off and on for about 5 years. The problems we’ve faced have been mainly from a couple of mistakes, miscommunication and ego. Mostly my ego, but I really can admit my faults. 

I inform you of this only to really set the scene… And because to hell with it. I’m not ashamed of our choices. If more people opened up about things like this, poly and open marriages wouldn’t be frowned upon so much. There wouldn’t be so many misconceptions about it. The idea that any 2 people are so perfectly suited to each other or that they will COMPLETELY fulfill every need is laughable at best.  Ask the couples that have been together for 40 years or more. Was their relationship easy? No. They fought and argued and compromised and had to give up a lot to make it work. 

But some things shouldn’t HAVE to be sacrificed. Like your desire to fall in love. Intimacy. New beginnings. Fetishes. Stupid movies. Coddling. Cuddling. Game night. Empathy. 

Every relationship shouldn’t have to be scrutinized with jealousy or suspicion. Be open with each other. Meet the other people. One big happy family, right? 

Segue finished. 

I learned humility recently. Sure I’ve had my fair share of embarrassment and let downs. But it’s good to be knocked down a peg or two because we forget. I don’t regret asking, but I did gage everything wrong. More than anything I was worried I wouldn’t see this person again. Friend or more, I was hoping to prevent that. Now it seems though that fate is for the best.

The weekend before, someone I barely spoke to, started to open up. He turned out to be smart and funny and easy going. I told him what happened that afternoon just to make idle conservation. I didn’t expect him to get close, but we did, and had a fun night. He turned out to be a wonderful person. 

So maybe I haven’t lost my touch in judging people. Maybe just judging the situations and circumstances. Judging people’s reactions to things. We meet so many new people, it’s impossible to know them all, to win them all, or even have all of them like you.  Just don’t be upset when you’re wrong. It’s no one’s fault. 

The creek’s secret

There are times that I truly forget I’m not in my twenties anymore. It occurred to me especially today as I sat on a rock on Curtis Creek with a fishing line in the water. As I sat there, I thought “I remember doing this and how fun it was and it’s been… twenty… five… years. Not 10 years not just a couple years ago. Its been 25 years since I have dropped a line into Curtis Creek.  Hell I’m currently working with people as old as the last time I’ve done this. And for a heartbeat… it was depressing. 

Then I laughed. 

There a few things that I have learned today. Well, perhaps I learned them some time ago, but I was reminded today either way.

  1. I’m comfortable with my age. I may not have had a  exciting life, but I have an Ann amazing family, wonderful friends… And I don’t feel old. Therefore, I’d like to believe I’m not old. That age, like time, it’s just an abstract construct. 
  2. You can’t change what’s already been done. This is an obvious point but sometimes we still dwell. 
  3. Fishing is very relaxing. I don’t know why I haven’t done something like this in those 25 years. Even when you don’t catch anything it’s comforting to listen to the water and think of everything, or nothing, or whatever you need at the time. 
  4. There’s no point staying mad over things. Learn a lesson from those situations that have made you mad? Certainly. But staying that way? It only causes needless stress. 
  5. Nostalgia… is deceiving. I remember some things so clearly… But between the passage of time and changes to the woods, things are nearly unrecognizable. 
  6. These mountains are my grounding. They will always bring clarity and rejuvenation. 

In one hour, the sun will be eclipsed by the moon. By the time anyone reads this, it will have already happened. I wish Ethan could be here with me. Although I didn’t start this little venture in a good mood and I don’t think it would have been a fun trip for him. 

I did however find a perfect little secluded meadow, propped up my folding stool and am ready to go. The temperature is already dropping, it started about 30 minutes ago. There are currently clouds covering the sun, but again, there’s an hour to go. 

My office

My office is different than most people’s. In my office there is the rustle of a breeze blowing through the leaves on the trees. I have the trickle of a stream or roar of a river. The dawn chorus is my soundtrack with foxes and black bears as my visitors.

In my office, I restore trails. I build stone steps and walls. I construct fences and drains. I make the wilderness more accessible to families so that more children can fall in love with the outdoors as I once did.

After a day in my office, I can go home with a smile on my face. I’m tired and sore and dirty, but I can see the work I completed. I can feel the pride of knowing that hundreds of people are going to benefit from what I did, even if they never realize it themselves.

Only six months?

Six months ago, I loaded up the little Blue Traveler and set out to change my life… To learn new things, find a new me, find a new home and a new career.

I left in March, and I can’t believe it’s already been six months… I have one more to go… just four more weeks until the adventure with ACE comes to a close. But that’s not where this path ends.

I didn’t find a new me… but I found my voice, I found my strength, and I found that I don’t have to be afraid that my life is passing before my eyes. My biggest fear upon joining this program was that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with the other members, who are all 10-15 years younger than myself. The only thing that my age has held me back from however is the ability to extend my term since ACE will no longer receive any additional funding for me.

I have had the opportunity to travel all over the Southeast and even out to California. I knew I wanted to work outside, but it wasn’t until I actually started the work that I realized just how fulfilling it would be. I step back from each project with a sense of accomplishment. Sure, I may have only affected one small section of trail, but it’s tangible and visible. I’m blissfully tired at the end of the days. I sleep better, I eat better, I breathe better and because of all of this feel a thousand times better.

Between the work, hiking, sleep, and limited stress, I’ve gotten in better shape than I’ve been in thirteen years.

Never have I felt such gut wrenching anxiety than the prospect of being trapped back in the hole that is Florida. I can’t go back. Keep your fingers collectively crossed for me that I can secure the job that I just applied for, that I can find a place for my family to move up to, and that all of this wasn’t just a temporary escape from a soul crushing fate.