Foggy fall day

Winding down after a couple of weeks of nothing. Getting ready to dive back into the real world. So after class today, Ethan and I went up to the park. I played around with my watercolor pencils while he ran around like a madman. 

It’s fun and relaxing. They’ll never win any awards, but I like painting mountains. 

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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. 

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. 

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.

Coming home

Things I have relearned on this trip.  

My son is super easily amused. He found a rock. It is now his pet rock and he’s teaching it tricks. (Its name is Bob) 

Twinkies are gross. Like the texture is fine, but the cake and filling are so sickeningly sweet I don’t know how people eat them. 

It takes a long time to fill an air mattress. 

I’m thankful for an electric air pump. (But it still takes a long freaking time) 

The wind… is cold. Stand in 20 degree weather in the sun, and you’re fine. Let that wind blow through you and you’ll wish you were still safely tucked away in your mother’s uterus. 

A change of socks can change your whole outlook and give you more energy. 

Sometimes, nostalgia IS as good as you remember it. 

Going down is a LOT easier than going up. 

Be sure to bring yummy snacks for hiking lunches. Picnics are great. 

If you need a helping hand in the Appalachia, the rhodedendron will be there. Respect the plants and they’ll respect you. 

Attaining a long lived dream is amazing, but even better when you can share it with people you love. 

 At the top of Curtis Creek is a waterfall. You can only see this fall from the top of the road. I decided long ago that I wanted a different photo. One of the falls up close. So that’s what we set out to do.