Zen

I found my Zen today. The rush of the stream, the autumn wind roaring through the changing leaves. One distinct chapter of my life is coming to a close. And while I made what will probably only be facebook friends by and large, I’m overjoyed to have made one amazing connection that will last a lifetime. 

You take this moment, and live in it. Find peace in the little things. Accept that your path is already laid out in the tapestry of the universe and enjoy the ride. Many people don’t like to Hear it, but everything happens for a reason. 

I get back to Asheville tomorrow. I’m ready to put my life back in play. I feel like it’s been paused for six months, but those six months have taught me more than I’ve learned in the last few years. 

The plan is job, home, and life given full attention. There’s too much going on right in front of me to waste time day dreaming about what may or may not happen. 

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Working the trail

You don’t decide to work on trails for the money. It’s not the notoriety, the appreciation, or the benefits. There’s no real job security and there’s rough competition. 

You do it, because you want to hike to work. Because when you have free time, you spend it in the woods. Because you enjoy coming home filthy dirty and exhausted. You do it for the pride, even if no one else ever notices. 

You fall in love with it… or you don’t. There’s not really an in between. And once you know this is what you want, you’d do anything to keep doing it. 

I’d be content living out my life in the side of the mountains. Swinging in my hammock each night, listening to the birds. Building, renovating and hiking these trails. 

I want to teach Ethan what it means to leave no trace. To have the same love and respect for the forest as I do. Then maybe once he’s old enough, he may choose the same rewarding life. 

It’s not easy. I’m sore and bruised and bug bitten. I’m covered in dirt and sweat. I eat the same things day in and out. But I’ve never felt more alive. If I could have my family with me, I think I could truly feel whole for the first time in my life. 

Characters

The things we hate.

During my time here, I’ve met hundreds of people. Most of them amazing, but only a handful could I begin to call… unforgettable. Fewer than that could I call friend.

That being said, many are characters in and of themselves. People come through to teach us lessons, care for us or give us something to care about.

One such character made me laugh more than anyone in a very long time. Be it stories, jokes, actions, or even just day to day griping (of which there was a lot). So much griping in fact that I started a list of all the things he hated. And then it kind of dawned on me that his list wasn’t so specific. It was a reflection of things many of us despise.

We yell at other drivers on the road. Grumble about people refusing to take personal responsibility. All of these characters… we all have things in common. It’s how we band together and make connections.

But sometimes we end up being so self absorbed, that we forget to allow ourselves to learn from others. The differences. We get closed off, set in a rut and let our who dictate life. There’s always something these characters can teach us. It doesn’t matter if those people are our elders, or in this case ten years our junior.

I’m thankful for the lessons I’ve learned, professional, technical and personal. I hope you all strive to be open and learn something new every day. Learn something new from every person you meet. Don’t let your ego get I  the way. And appreciate those you meet, even if you don’t expect them to be around for very long.

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. 

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.

Looking for a sign

It’s difficult to write when it’s hot. All you can focus on is how stifling you feel. That’s how Caribou is at the moment. Because the weather is kind of temperate, and the place is old, no one messes with the AC. Oh well. I finished submitting my time sheets and I’m heading out for the day.

Last weekend was pretty dismal for me. I was lonely, and depressed. Missing my mom, my family, familiarity in general… I drove up to the top of Mount Pisgah all alone to think about things and ended up sitting there eating my amazing French Onion Soup (go get some) and crying the whole time.

I sat out in the rocking chairs over looking the blue rolling mountains and asked for some sort of sign that I was on the right path. That I’m doing the right thing.

Well flash forward to this week… Dream of dreams came true and I found myself scheduled to work on top of Mount Mitchell. My absolute favorite place ever. It’s partially nostalgic, and partially sheer majesty… I commented to my crew mates that it would be a dream come true to be able to work seasonally at the Mitchell Park.

Our project partner wanted us all to appreciate the work we were doing so he wanted everyone to hike up to the summit for a good view of everything. Because of my pace, I wound up hiking to the top alone, which is fine for me. As I turn one of the corners, there carved into the sand is the word MOM with a heart around it.

I stood there for a moment, staring at the message from the universe with a smile on my face. Thanks for the reassurance… I kind of needed it.