Friday, December 25, 2009

If only in my dreams.

Merry Christmas to all... and to all a good night =)
From Montana, with love =*

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Waiting Rooms, a Crash Course

I'm holed up in a coffee shop in the ski town of Whitefish Montana. The 3 ish hour drive north from Missoula was scattered with snow, talk of government affairs and Tribal money, waterfalls in the Mission Mountains and wildhorses on Flathead Lake islands.
Montana is so complex. So beautiful.
I've come here to study and work while Emily and Josh ski big mountain. It's 10 degrees outside in the sun, and windy. Thank God =) Winter.
Winter is different in Montana than anywhere else I've experienced it - and I find myself craving that - needing a shift in seasons to feel grounded, and on time.
Paper star lanterns, and garland strung with Christmas lights adorns the front of this espresso bar. They served me a piping hot glass of Mayan Mocha, and here I stay, delved into sentence analogy drills and the treasure hunt of reading comprehension.... five pages into "Math Vocabulary: Numbers" I had to take a break...

Sometimes this all feels rash - sudden- crazy. Maybe it always is.... I mean... can I really pull off being in grad school, investing in a reasonable paying career and on my way to achieving life goals by fall? Test in a few weeks? Application packet in a month?
I take a deep breath... clear my head and heart... and attempt focus - on something positive, something constructive.

Truth? It seems like a ludicrous unrealistic plan - that's why it just might work.

Hahaha... for better or worse I'm an insatiable dreamer, it gets me into pickles, and it boosts my brilliance. I really believe if I follow my heart and trust God things will work out. I don't understand the process, I can't crunch numbers, and I'm not sure I'm capable of a long term plan. But maybe dreams are closer to plans than most grounded folks realize.
The idea of being surrounded by peers studying counseling is humorous and fabulous.
I wonder why I can't just pick ONE profession, one town to live, charm one man to love me. Maybe someone can explain this to me.
Maybe all of it will fall through and I'll continue to pull espresso shots in a basement in Montana for years, hanging with the pups, with no one putting their hand over my heart.
But that's the beauty of all of it - when you got nothing you've got nothing to lose. And when your waiting room is as awe inspiring as this wintry mountain landscape .... what's a few more unanswered questions?

Everything I wondered about - all of the basic primal things - while living in the woods were answered in time. If only I keep moving and walking.

I am SO thankful to have completed the 2,175 mile walk of the A.T. It taught me that it doesn't matter a helluva lot what's going on right now... I just keep moving through it, and things fall into place.

Being able to accept grace and blessing without understanding is one of my favorite qualities in a lifestyle and a person.

So maybe that's really what I'm after - grace, blessing, and laughter.

If that makes me an insatiable dreamer - so be it. If that leads to a life of disappointment - I'm willing to gamble on that.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Make You Feel My Love

My family is particularly poignant about their sentiment that unless I live within driving distance from them I cease to function as "part of the family". This is very puzzling (not to mention hurtful) to me because plenty of families live apart; different towns, states, timezones, countries, hemispheres.
I used to think I could change anything I wanted to - that I had the power and faith to move mountains, save the world. I'm wondering these days if it's more appropriate to pick and choose battles - that I can't in fact change everything, that maybe I shouldn't want to. Living in the woods teaches you - the only thing you can change is yourself- and living in the city supports that. Because really, we all have to be the change we want to see... right?
I don't think life is easy for anyone. We're all faced with choices, some feel open wider about options than others- but when you get down to it - choosing is tough. And this whole process of becoming an independent adult... what to wear, where to work, how to live, whom to love - laden with choices, big and small along the way. I would never claim that I make impeccable choices. My heart falls for hopeless romances, my questing takes me to desolate lonely places, my professional passions barely pay minimum wage, and the belts on my car squeal for at least a minute when I first turn it on. This is who I am. These are parts of myself and my life. I got myself here, and a lot of other people fueled the process. I try to do the best I can with what I'm given - I think we all do - but the thing to understand is that's very relative.
You're doing the best you can with what you're given - or anyways... I hope you are. It's all a question of how you process this, or realization : what are you given? What is the best thing to do with that?
That's the thing about bashing other people's life choices - how do you know if you had what they have to work with you'd be so very different?
How does my family know if they had a heart, head, spirit, and passion that I do that they would stay in the Virginias living impeccably conventional traditional lives?
I have no logical explanation for my journey, all I can offer is that I am sensitive to the movement- and believe in following your heart. Every time Jesus performed a healing miracle he immediately told the healed person to move - to go. I mean if we're LIVING the life God intended we're living in motion. Stability is one thing - stagnancy is another. It is my intention and desire to forbid stagnancy in my life.
In a life of movement, there is constantly a factor of heartache and disappointment from those that love you. But I believe I move when God tells me to; I drop the wedding photography job to work at Alta Mons, I move out of my Grandin Apt to hike the Appalachian Trail, I drive to British Colombia to see fall foliage and rocky mountain majesties, I house my divorced friends' furniture while she splits town to sort through heartache.

My favorite bible verse is John 6:15 "Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself."
I like the idea that even Jesus - the most divine creature to walk this earth withdrew from crowds to solitude on a mountain.
I do not know how long I'll stay in Montana. I do not know when I'll be in the Eastern Time Zone again - but I'm not particularly worried about that. This time in Montana is more clearly shaping into my withdrawal to the mountain myself, alone.

And being alone is lonely. Being alone gets you thinking, processing, figuring. Being on a mountain gives you a different perspective, a removed overlooking perspective.

Jesus doesn't come back to the disciples from his mountaintop withdrawal until they are on a rough sea and he walks across it, asking of their faith.

I wonder how he was recharged from his mountaintop, I wonder what he thought about, I wonder what his perspective was, to return to those he loved in such a bold fierce way?

I have never traveled anywhere that decreases my love for my family and friends. If anything those relationships feel strengthened by the distance, stripped of convenience and polished to reveal the brilliance of genuine compassion and concern.

So- you can see how confusing and hurtful it would be for people to tell me that because I'm not geographically near them I am choosing to not be part of them. And frankly- it's selfish to ask someone not to do the best they can with what they're given; to move, to seek. No one writes our story but ourself- and no one knows what's best for you - better than you- and every day we have to be the change we hope to be and there's nowhere that's more clear than a mountain.

So here I sit, in a financially relationally stripped humble existence, figuring, asking, seeking.
I think the answer will be given. I believe the door will be opened. I think this wait will be worth while.

To my family and friends- you may be on a boat in rough seas when I return- but I will - someday. Be not afraid, have a little faith. Understand I love you endlessly.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Support Bones

If you've been reading this for awhile - you know who Bones is. If you forget he's a brilliant vibrant baby raptor. I mean... he's one of my best friends, traveling companions, and favortie musicians. He recently released some original tracks, you should check em out. Even buy a few if you find you can't live without them.

Friday, November 27, 2009


For my birthday I am interested in becoming ... okay... dressing... like a lumberjack or a 80s euro motorcyclist.
Silly - I realize - but the fashionista in me seems to be blossoming with this college town / barista life.
I've spent this holiday doing all of my favorite Thanksgiving holiday things; road trip through the mountains, brilliant music, dinner with loved ones, door buster Black Friday shopping, pizza lunch, and cheesey Christmas movies. On top of all of that, I mixed in some napping, a bath, and lots of phone time.
The only issue is - I wasn't with any of my amazing family, and most of my friends are out of Missoula for the holiday. This Birthday has been very mellow and solitary, but I guess I'd pick that over working any day.
On my way home from the mall today I swung by my P.O. Box and found a card from my grandfather. My family (especially my Mom and Grandpa) have a really hard time understanding or supporting my life in Montana. But I was surprised to read this.

Life Legacies
Thoughts for my Granddaughter on her Birthday
Never stop learning, playing, or finding wonder in the world around you. Live the length of your life, but live the depth of it as well.
There is no use in carrying around worry and regret. They only weigh you down. Always keep yourself open to hope and to love. They give us wings.
in yourself and others. Imperfections keep things interesting. They're the cracks where the light shines through.
and not just in the drawer, tucked away for a perfect day. Surround yourself with things that make you happy, that remind you of the beauty all around us if we only keep our eyes open to it.
follow detours. Sometimes it takes an unexpected an unexpected turn to help us find the life that is waiting for us around the bend. Trust yourself and the path that is meant for you.
(penned in by my Grandpa... as no one else can) And sometimes that means you need the ice cream. Be good to your body, but also to your mind and spirit. You're the only one who can.
you are a gift to this world and a blessing to me. And that will never change.
Love, your Grand-Pa

So- I'm happy to report that I'm pretty sure I do all of those things. As I read the card and saw those beautiful feelings in writing - and realized that that IS how I live my life I was quite pleased.

I'm thinking I should work at a college or run a camp. I'm thinking as long as I'm poor I might as well take out loans and continue with my education.

I hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving and are kicking off the holidays season with all of your favorite people and traditions.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Saturday Night Fever... Trailhead Style

I toss chopped tates (po tatoes) in a skillet with Greek Marinade, let them soften up. I toss in yellow pepper, kidney beans, and let it all blend together with the fresh ground salt and pepper. Original recordings of Woodie Guthrie twang and bounce off the warm glowing faux wood paneled walls. Geronimo and Tikka have put themselves to bed. When my concoction is ready I grate feta cheese over my steaming bowl. Dinner with a side of Bluegrass- yes please.
Hillary is out with her boyfriend and others, doubting I'm sure, that I'll meet them downtown. Emily just walked through the door - home from her first Missoula Maulers hockey game.
I've waited years to have a home to myself, and ever since I've moved in here and acquired furniture I think of a lot of reasons to hang at home instead of go out. In fact I even printed some photos and ... taped them... to the walls of our living room the other night (I know, that's far less sexy than HANGING photos on the wall, but one step at a time).
I remember all the fun times Hillary and I had sneaking away from Field Camp this summer, and I think ... "you should get it together, put on some boots and a dress, and dance it up tonight".
I think about work today and how it'll feel early rolling into Southgate Mall at 9:30 tomorrow. We're already making big plans for Sunday, since it's the first one I don't have to work in a few weeks. We'll probably hit up one of the oldest churches around Missoula - St. Xavier Cathedral.
So with sleeping dogs, a full belly, Emily dipping into her hot cocoa canister, opening her book Captivating, and harmonica on my laptop speakers - downtown will probably have to wait for a night that feels more "weekend" to me.
Boring and lame? Maybe. But I feel very very content =)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

National Geographic

National Geographic is airring their special on the Appalachian Trail Tuesday November 10 6pm EST.
It looks like it'll be pretty good... especailly since my friends are in it. Most of it was shot in 2008, and the Katahdin summit footage was shot the same day I climbed the mountain, a few hours before I was on top.
I know you guys have been peeping my pictures and writing... but I'm sure I haven't even tipped the iceberg of all that is - the A.T.
So check out the show.
I'm not sure where I'll find cable to watch... any volunteers to record it for me? =)

Saturday, November 7, 2009


Thick stormy blue clouds hover just over the western mountains, seperating them between the dusky sky. They look like clouds I saw so many nights around Glacier this summer - dark, deep, gargantuan ... over Lake McDonald or the Middle Fork of the Flathead River.
We have quite a few picture windows in our home, and moments like these I'm not sure if I should bask in the view beyond the glass or savor what's on my side - The warm glow and candles and lamp light against wood walls. Emily, Tikka, and Geronimo all curled up, napping, on Kristin's futon, while a load of drying laundry tumbles in the background. Quiet - peaceful - like a Christmas Carol in the dead of winter.
It's dark so early these days. Almost 6, almost dark. SUCH a stark difference to our 11pm dusks in Glacier this summer. Sometimes I think we have a long cold dark winter ahead of us. Sometimes I'm excited for that.
After two days of wandering through passing storm clouds, wind whipped prarie lands, mountaintops, and the corners of my heart I thought I might sit to write - unload a bit. But sitting here and typing here I realize that's not where I'm at.
I climbed up, over, and down my first mountain since May on our family adventure today. To watch clouds race shadows over a landscape, have feathery larch needles shed in my fingers, and see the whole glacial lake missoula valley where I live... made me love Montana. Love mountains. Love the journey.
But at home now I realize I have little understanding of love and there is little to unload.
Just the blues of dusk, the glow of small lights, grunting dogs, and two captivating available women.
It is what it is.

Thursday, October 29, 2009


My bedroom is pungent with the smell of the "pumpkin Carnival" candle flickering on Kristin's beautiful dresser. Hazelnut lingers in the kitchen , the scents colliding somewhere in the living room. My second load of laundry for the night (and month) tosses around in the dryer.
Emily and I seem to be one futon pad short of a bonafide furnished home. How strange. Looking around, everything still seems to be Kristin's... just hanging out at my house... but I imagine sometime when I'm wearing freshly laundered clothes and serving Dacia breakfast off the kitchen table it'll start to feel part mine too. She's headed to Alaska Friday, with her Dad, and fresh perspective on M.O.T.H. (matters of the heart, that is).
My first weekend on Idaho St Dacia bussed up from Butte and we camped out- with nothing- on the living room floor. The next weekend I ran away to British Columbia. This "weekend" aka being off Tuesday and Wednesday have proven very domestic - took my first bath in the new place, cleaned, acquired furniture, paid all the bills, even hooked up a washer and dryer - much of that with help from friends.
Dacia's headed up again for Halloween Festivities =D Perrrrffeeeccctttt. I'm almost done with my outfit- Princess Lolly from the game Candyland.
Emily and I made a deal - October is for moving in and getting settled - November is for getting established. She reminded me tonight I have to get serious about my freelancing in the month to come.
I've recently picked up an old college habit- checking music out from the library. My freshman year at Emory & Henry I consumed music, I seem to be easily falling back to that- which brightens my day - lately almost every CD I skip home with is bluegrass - what can I say ? Appalachian at heart - always. But Low sent me some new tunes, and Jeremiah Johnson intends to (as soon as he unpacks some of his moving boxes).
And so it is- this wandering girl is stretching some roots...
November should be a pivotal month. My Mom told me tonight a 25th birthday is my biggest age milestone until 50. I guess I hadn't thought of it like that, I'm a bit more freaked out for 30. BUT if it must be a big deal... here I am, an accomplished long distance hiker and far reaching dreamer. I still have many more dreams to work towards- but I feel good about all my years. I hope my Grandma would be proud of me. November is a month for her, and me, and Thanksgiving, and family. Hard to say what I'll do for my favorite holiday this year, but I'm working that super important 25th birthday =/ Hahaha. Guess that's what you get for growing up - selling Patagonia clothes at the mall on Black Friday.
But for now, there are soft places to lay, elevated spots to sit, and cozy smells all around. One day at a time- and these days are for Pumpkins =)

Monday, October 19, 2009

past, present, future

I know it may be strange, but ever since the AT I often think "what was I doing this day, a year ago". Maybe it helps me stay grounded, and feel roots I often forget in this life of motion and vast geography the past few years. It's amazing- what we can make of life. I wonder how many others' realize this? I wonder if I fully appreciate it.

Journal Entries

"10/17/08 Standing Indian Shelter NC 9pm 'Do not look back and ask 'why?' look forward and ask 'why not?' ~Dark Chocolate Dove Wrapper ..."

"10/19/08 Rock Gap Shelter 32degrees 9am Jim aka Paul with Bunyans has been talking my ear off since I rolled in @ 8:45 last night - near running thru the dark woods singing to keep bears away. Started in my down jacket and rain pants - in my long underwear by the fire at the end of it. When night hiking a headlamp and a fire are two of the most welcoming sights imaginable..."

"10/20/08 Wayah Shelter 38 degrees 8am Glimpses of mountains and valleys thru the fall foliage are beautiful- the sun rose lovely today- and as I'm on a mountainside I can see deep golden rays - hopeful- instead of tucked in the heart of mountain hollers. 2 SOBOs Gabe and Energizer Bunny have left. EB was one of the first SOBOs I saw in Sage's Ravine CT/MA border. He was with 3 guys, they all quit. D.P. showed up- I didn't think I'd see him after Albert Mountain dinner the other night- nice for familiar company but I'm still not comfortable with him. Yesterday morning was lovely. I hiked fast with water views, some uphills but a lot of down, feeling good @ road to Franklin. Pushed up faster further than I should before lunch. Felt tired drained and defeated the rest of the day. Called Birdbath and Hot Cheese from a sunny field by a dirt road and found I wanted to cry. After a long lunch got up and to Wayah Bald- One of my favorite spots on the trail so far. Because the sky was blue and brilliant from the stone tower I could see Standing Indian, Albert Mtn - other side I could see the Smokey's Clingman's Dome. Exciting and daunting. Reminded me of the first view of the Whites from Greylock, but no Ryan to lure me forward. No more damn boys. Just this trip, this girl, make it or break it"

I haven't been writing much in my journal since my days of walking have shifted to driving and the travel across a space has hastened exponentially. I wrote a couple weeks ago while in Fernie. Sharing these entries makes me realize I should pick it up regularly again.

So... what am I up to in 2009?

I was off Saturday and Sunday this weekend (a rare occurrence for me to have 2 weekend days off in a row). Friday night I holed up with Emily and the dogs, cozy in our blankets on the living room carpet and watch One Hour Photo. Decent movie- but the major impression it had on me - was how much I miss my Dad. Ever since I was in middle school he's been a movie junkie - frequently coming home from the Pharmacy with 4 movies at a time. They were rarely movies I WANTED to watch, despite that and my high school homework and fatigue from running practice I'd stay up and watch with him anyway. While I was hiking Geronimo filled in as movie watching couch buddy with my Dad.

Saturday I spent the morning with Hillary hanging downtown at the markets and shopping for pieces for our Halloween getups. Princess Lolli of Candyland for me, and Miss Piggy with the swine flu for Hillary. The highlight of my afternoon was a long catch up phone session with my older sister. And in the evening Hillary and her boyfriend invited me to an Octoberfest party with Monte and Elvis. The party was outside of town through farm fields, and a quick walk down a tiki torch lit path over a creek, through the woods, to a bon fire with bluegrass musicians and just enough people.

Sunday I popped some cinnamon rolls in the oven while Emily and I slipped on dresses and cowboy boots for church. She kept making cracks about "Our Sunday's Best" and after a tasty morning we found ourselves clapping and praying in the pews of First Presbyterian Church (my first time back since college). A few of folks I went to bible study with are kickin around - one has a child now, and there's a new River Runs Through It memorial our front. There was a lot of talk of fly fishing, rivers, and Philippians - "Life is Christ". We came home, had a family photo shoot with the porch rail as our tripod and those squirrely dogs. Eventually heading out to Blue Mountain to climb a small one and revel in the sun, ponderosa pines, and glowing grass. On our way home we splurged and whipped into Applebees.I digested while catching up with Ryan, who after much adventure and hurt has settled out into a great friend.

This weekend in my hometown was the Fincastle Run. My younger brother, his girlfriend, my high school friends, all ran through the Virginia hills and fall foliage. My mom hung out and took photos.

I am happy in Montana, I am glad to have come here, and feel like I'm finally settling in enough to create a community here. But I miss these things- these small things. Watching movies with my Dad, staying up late to jam guitars with Jam Spot, pumpkin patch field trips with my kindergarten teaching sister, how randomly my Mom bakes things. Sunday post-church lunch with all of them. Watching Cindy and Stewart play with their son Carson. Dragging Bethany downtown Roanoke with me to meet up with Stephanie and those Harwell boys. Matt Fischer's heatless cabin and dog play dates. Climbing mountains with Luke. The way Doug looks behind the register at ODT. Sydney Bean's Halloween outfits. Having my bankers at Suntrust harass me about my dating life and never need to ask for an ID.

And now it's Monday and I'll be selling Patagonia clothes at Southgate Mall within an hour. Which is less stressful than the idea of being downtown and selling Ski stuff I'm still a bit clueless over.

Do I dare wonder or ask... what next year? October 2010.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jer 29:11 (NIV)

This outta be good =D

Monday, October 12, 2009

Idaho Street

Yesterday seemed to be a long day at work, and I had to stay late to mop.
Eventually I came home to Emily on the living carpet with her Biochemistry book, her chocolate lap curled on a blanket beside her, and a 19 in TV with a movie going about 6 ft in front of her... also on the floor.
She joined me in the kitchen while I slid my spaghetti noodles and sauce into a pot on the stove top and popped some garlic toast in the oven (no microwaves around here). We talked about our days and our weekends... and by the time my dinner was ready she rose from our one chair - and offered it to me to eat at the kitchen counter. We chatted more while she perched on the counter, leaning against the kitchen cabinets.
After clean up she resumed her position on the carpet, and I brought my laptop in the living room. Somewhere in the middle of "Music and Lyrics" I glanced over at Tikka and Emily, and Geronimo curled up beside me on the floor, in our empty empty home and thought "This is beautiful, I couldn't ask for much more".

Monday, October 5, 2009

Quick Update

I have a roof and four walls in Missoula! You can still reach me via my PO Box. Geronimo and I will be living with the fabulous new Pharmacy school student Emily from Minnesota and her chocolate lab Tikka. We've got a lot of furniture aquiring and decorating to do =)
Work is great. On top of selling gear and clothes downtown and at the mall I'm also learning the very scientific complicated socially attuned art of being a barista. (how many shots of espresso would you like?)
Now that I've taken my yearly pilgrimage to Fernie BC and don't have to house hunt every spare minute things should mellow out into fall as Montana prepares for the winter.
But then again... you never can tell what God will put in your path.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Strength through Surprises

I'm sitting at Kristin's I mac at her amazing rental in Corvallis MT debating whether or not I should drink a hot cup of chai. Yes- because it's a chilly early fall evening, no because a year ago I was in the best shape of my life and a few weeks ago some woman I was selling shoes to asked when I was expecting...
My throat hurts, and I just returned Geronimo to the the kennel after an amazing weekend in the woods- full of surprises.
I'd intended, for weeks, to spend this weekend in Glacier. After weeks of emotionally taxing house hunting around Missoula I thought it'd be great to get away from all my stresses for a few days. I had plans to kick it with a fellow I met my last week in Glacier National Park, a funny fabulous human that captains a boat and hangs Christmas lights around New York City - I've been excited -to say the least. So when he called Thursday to let me know for a variety of reasons our plans weren't quite what we thought, I said thanks, I understand, I'll figure something else out.
See the thing is- through all the rejection of not being picked as a housemate, or renter, or having your buddy do something else instead of hang out with you... all this sort of rejection is bringing a MORE than healthy dose of humility to my life. I used to get upset about these things, and I still do a bit, but mostly I say thank you, that stinks, but I'll get along.
So I came down to the Bitterroot Mountains, to kick it with Geronimo, find Kristin, and check OUT of Missou for a few days.
Kristin is one of my best friends and few role models. I know that's kinda weird- looking up to someone your age- but I just can't help it. She's a dreamer and a doer, who has achieved amazingly great things in our short years of life. She is inspiring, sympathizing, inquisitive, and currently- going through heart break.
We've come to each other through hard times in our 6 years of a friendship since starting photojournalism school. We talk about ethics, philosophy, the wild, life journeys, dogs, boys. Most of our chats the past 3 years through huge life changes have been via phone, (Seattle-Maine, Montana-Virginia, etc). The opportunity to be in her home astounds me - and though technically I have no where else to go- I'm grateful to God and fate for us being in Montana, together, to go through this.
Funny thing about bad surprises- they grow you. See few people wish ill will upon themselves. You don't walk around saying 'I hope something terrible happens to someone I love" or "I hope I get terminally ill" or "I hope I job hunt for a year and end up barely making minimum wage" or "I hope I wander around my new town for a month couch surfing and creating awkward moments with my friends". No. No one wishes those things - because those things SUCK. But you know- ready or not- they happen. And when they happen- you get to find out just how strong you really are.
Sometimes I think I personally proved that while hiking the Appalachian Trail, other times I think I proved it when facing the guy that initiated my homeless streak while at work. But after a weekend in the woods with myself, Geronimo, and Montana awe--some ness I think strength- true strength- is not at all about proving.
Lately I think true anything has nothing to do with proving. If a thing is. It just is. I am strong. Kristin is fiercely wonderful. Geronimo is my child and best friend. Mountains are beautiful.
There is no justification. No explanation. I know that there WAS proof... I just don't care anymore. I can gracefully and faithfully accept and acknowledge these things.
Sucky surprises... they knock you on your ass for awhile. But somewhere in the cloud of dust and despair you feel a new, unknown strength putting you back on your feet (and if you're real lucky you've got a loving smile and hand reached out to you).
So you stand back up. Shakey- but more solid than you could've known.
I am strong. Needs no proof- but surprises me every time.
And Kristin... she's wintering in Alaska.
But tomorrow morning there is cinnamon streusel muffins, hot chai, and a new day.

Friday, September 11, 2009

PO BOX how hip

I'm on Hillary's futon in my new goodwill pj pants while Geronimo works on his rawhide bone. The Missoula night air is chilly - ushering in a new season, and I'm delighted for a night in with Audrey Hepburn as My Fair Lady.
I'm trying not to think about my multiple housing situations that have fallen through, trying to hold faith that something... soon... will materialize.
Like so many dreamers and doers before and after me I've decided to make the best of my situation and work with what I have, instead of dwell on what I don't.
That being said, I'm now the proud renter of P.O. Box 7216 in the stately downtown Missoula building (zip 59807 if you care to write =)
With which I've finally opened a Montana bank account, the first since 2003.
I'll save us both the rollercoaster of emotions ensued from my home hunt- suffice to say I'm still searching- and will let you know when I've landed somewhere.
Oh- and I do like my new job, but I miss my work family at Outdoor Trails.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Low feeds me music

and I leave the table more than satisfied =)

Sunday, August 16, 2009

National Parks and Malls

I'm sitting in the Kallispell Mall watching hipster teens pick out accessories at Claire's, old men talk to themselves as they wait on a bench, and middle age couples cruise around - new purchases in hand. Will I really be working in a mall in two weeks? Coming from Field Camp this people watching is amusing, I hope I stay removed enough from it to keep that view while spending 40 hours a week in one.
The last three days I spent in Many Glacier, a slightly removed corner of Glacier National Park, seeming to be more wild in scenery and wildlife than the already impressive going to the sun road regions. I saw three grizzly bears, three moose (cow, calf, and bull, a few hoary marmots and some folks in my group were lucky enough to encounter a pine marten! It was a wet chilly trip, temperatures between 30 and 50 most of the time with pretty consistent precipitation - sometimes rain, sometimes hail. The group I was with are visiting Glacier from the Adirondack Hiking Club (most of them living in upstate New York). My boss and I are both pretty thankful for that- they've been extremely resilient despite the less than ideal circumstances. So we hiked past lowland lakes into the high country to see glaciers cleaving into growing lakes and already deglaciated lakes with icebergs in them.
This landscape is quite certainly impressive.
After a few days I found myself less than satiated from the experience and wondering... why? Watching these neatly dressed folks walk around on the shiny tiled floor of this mall I think I realize why. National Parks - are a lot like malls.
Nearly every hike the Glacier Institute leads people on in the months of July and August (the only months the entire park is open and accessible) is teeming with people. Coveted destinations become that way for a reason- they are beautiful- people like to see beautiful places. The irony that more visitors detract from the "scenic wild beauty" everyone is coming to see seems lost on most folks as they amble along these well traveled paths.
Sometimes as I hike I wonder when I will see a weasel, or bear, wildcat, wolf. Lately I've realized - despite them BEING here I might as well count on NOT seeing them so long as I pass 10, 20, 100? people along the trail.
I guess it's more a matter of knowing what you're getting yourself into. It's good for folks to have a chance to see nature, for screaming babies to venture out with their parents and siblings, for city folk to see mountain goats. Are they seeing a wild place? Kind of. Being around them all- am I seeing a wild place? No.
I'm thinking I should get to know the Bob Marshall Wilderness. I'm thinking the romantic notion I've harbored about National Parks is mostly defunct. I'm wondering if it's possible to feel "wild" in a place where people from all over our country and others are corralled to stand in front of interpretive signs and learn about a place.
Beyond anything I know that I'm very thankful for cities. Cities and towns are absolutely where the mass of society should hang out in. Should everyone appreciate nature? Sure, that'd be great. But if everyone hung out in wild places all the time they would in fact be less wild.
I've had a lot of adventure buddies that have felt this way; I've always viewed it as cynical and selfish, but after living in a beautiful nature setting and having to interact with as many people as I see walking around this mall I know what they mean. I'm glad not everyone hikes the Appalachian Trail. I'm glad wilderness is scary to some people. And I'm glad the majority of folks passing this window, cell phone in hand, texting, will spend most of their time in corporated city limits.
One final thought, advice from Edward Abbey:
"Do not burn yourself out. Be as I am-a reluctant enthusiast... a part time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it is still there. So get out there and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, encounter the grizz, climb the mountains. Run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, that lovely, mysterious and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to your body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much: I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those deskbound people with their hearts in a safe deposit box and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this: you will outlive the bastards."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

August... already.

Evening sky turns grey/ green with lightening across the river. Upturned cottonwood leaves shake pale, almost white against the white bark and darkened sky. Families scamper out of the tipi, away from stories of native creation and fur trappers.
Hillary and I sneak away to the kitchen for late dinner, tea, and girl talk.
Eventually we find ourselves in the office with peanut M&Ms myspace music and dreams, while a near full moon illuminates dispersing clouds.
The kids claim to have seen a close lightening strike and baby beaver on their walk to Quarter Circle Bridge (where lower McDonald Creek dumps into the Middle Fork of the Flathead River) reminding me... I never went for that swim today. No matter - it seems almost enough to have clean shiny hair for the first time in.. 3? ... ? days.
I tell Hillary our time in Glacier will be done before we know it... leaves will change and we'll meet for a drink in downtown Missoula. Maybe I say it to convince myself... this is real... this is happening.
For those of you whom I haven't told I've secured a full time job at an outfitter in Missoula, starting September 1st. The work should be comparable to Outdoor Trails (the store I've worked in since it's 2001 Daleville opening). Gear shops are not professions to make one rich... but the side benefits are enough to invest in a happy well-rounded life. I get to stay in Montana. I get to work in Missoula. And I'm on the look out for lodging. If all goes well Dacia (my first Montana friend and roommate from college) will be living with me by February. Sometimes dreams really do come true =)
I know, I know, it's been too long since I've written, and it seems I'm constantly excusing myself for that... but you might imagine weather doesn't permit Glacier National Park to be open and functional much of the year. July and August are really the peak seasons and at Field Camp we've been insanely busy. We've just started getting days off again (something that didn't really happen the month of July) and the schedule looks promising to calm down towards the end of this month.
Highlights of life since we last talked have been hanging out with art classes here at field camp, spending a weekend fly fishing, being flipped 5 different ways at the cowboy bar, and spending time with Low and Bones on their way to Alaska.
Ahhh and the most important highlight... Geronimo is spending the month of August with a wonderful, kind generous family who has a few homes (farm in north central Montana and house on the golf course... just across the river from me). So that is a huge guilt and stress lifted from me. The kennel he was in took great care of him, but the thought of him snuggled in a 9 year boy's bed after harvesting grain all day makes me very happy.
So we are well. We are blessed. We are grateful at what has come and hopeful about what is to be.
I wish the same for you =)
Anyone want to take my yearly October British Columbia drive with me?

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Ralph Waldt smushes western hemlock needles between his fingers, puts it to his nose and passes it to me. "You can learn every tree in this forest by smell" he says. I laugh, but a only a little, my mind reeling with that possibility...
The brilliant two weeks I spent hiking with Jeremiah Johnson were peppered with tree knowledge, and sparked a growing desire in me to learn plant identification better. Since moving to Glacier I have been inundated with "calling each thing by its proper name". Wildflowers, wildlife, trees. I love it.
Western Larch are some of my favorite around the park; their chunky bark, stately trunks, juxtaposed against very small needles. Giant western red cedar and western hemlock also grace the old growth of the McDonald Creek valley. Ferns, moss and others blanket the dark deep damp forest floor... plants I adored and knew nothing about while hiking the AT... especially in New England. Here, in this crisp western air, it seems everyone is begging to learn. I love it.
I imagine lynx and mountain lion crouched in the undergrowth, feet from where I stand. I imagine pine marten and fishers scampering through the canopy hunting squirrels and birds. I am beginning to pick up on bird songs - the high trill of a thrush. A bald eagle has hovered over field camp at least twice in the past 4 days. I finally spotted Harlequin ducks in McDonald Creek this afternoon - a variety of torrent duck that plays and surfs rushing whitewater mountain streams.

In other wildlife news- Hillary and I went dancing at The Blue Moon last night. A cowboy bar 20 minutes drive from where we live. I watched in awe as young and old two stepped etc wearing everything from snap shirts to straw wedges and motorcycle regalia. Our first dancing partner was an overzealous cowboy in tight wranglers and a University of Montana T shirt. Either he was too drunk or too excited to care how Hillary or I could follow his lead. He scooped me up on a fast song and attempted fancy footwork and spins as I fumbled around... I was feeling pretty rotten about all my ballroom experience until I watched him go round with Hillary on a slow song- same story- guy's got no rhythm... We met a very nice old man named Dino in a SICK NASTY snap shirt. He bestowed old man knowledge about love, marriage, youth... and he was a much better dancer. After making friends with the band they surprised me by playing "Country Roads" , which H and I had a girl jam out to.
Drew just got home from rafting the North Fork... gotta go catch up with him.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Snail Mail

Hey everyone, just a quick post to let ya'll know my address in case you ever want to send some P.O. love!
Rebekah McDonald
PO Box 527
West Glacier MT 59936
Look forward to hearing from you =)

Monday, June 22, 2009

Call of the Wild

Sulking with the mean reds I traipsed out of field camp tonight. Gi Gi's folks are visiting from New Jersey. She and Paul made them a beautiful, delicious meal of red meat, grilled veggies, and tates. They invited Drew and I to join them, long taper candles lit and stuck in a sand bucket, with jazz playing in the background. Drew radiated excitement from his weekend trip to Many Glacier and the east side of the park, where he saw 5 black bear, 3 grizzlies, a fox, a coyote, I forget what else... probably a moose.
Excited, and amused at how much his being just - oozed - enthusiasm I watched and listened to him with glistening eyes... for awhile. And then the fatigue from my past two days of work (including about 6 hours of driving a 15 passenger van down washboard pot-holed dirt roads at about 20 mph) caught up with me. Listening to Drew, eating dinner with Paul and Gigi and their family I got to thinking my loon sightings, lion, wolf and bear scat findings and hundreds of wildflowers I saw- weren't enough. Not wanting to be a downer- I excused myself.
It is 11pm on the summer solstice, today, the longest day of the year, it has just turned totally dark. After excusing myself I snatched my trusty backpack, now suited for GNP instead of the AT with rain jacket, wildreness first aid kit, bear spray, binoculars, and map, and walked out of camp. I realized this evening I really miss walking - just being alone- on foot- in the middle of the woods with my thoughts, and everything else feral. So I walked down Drew and my fishing path, to the river, and wandered cobblestone and sandy islands and river banks, before setting up by a stump to watch the water, birds, clouds, mosquitoes.

No matter where you are, or what's going on in your life you are never immune to quiet inner loneliness- and here- in this remarkable place, in the midst of my very happy life- the past few days a quiet dreamy restless sadness has crept in.
Am I childish enough to sulk about not seeing wolves? An elusive controversial animal a man that worked in Glacier 36 years saw- less than five times. Do I miss Low and Bones and wish I could be with their Colorado trail expedition? Did I look at too many of my former roommate's wedding pictures? Or is all this talk of dogs just making me think far too much about my favorite dog- down in a kennel 5 hours away from me? I think it's that ridiculous book I'm reading about India...
Clouds grew dark and rippled with deep blue and grey, a little refreshed, or at least more grounded after reconnecting with Susanna I worked my way back upstream, in the margin of damp bank. Just before my creek crossing to mainland I caught a toad. Which is pretty special around here- seeing as how there are only 3 varieties of amphibians in GNP. Appalachian night echoed as a distant memory. Dewy dark walks down gravel roads in the USGS Pilot quadrangle. Bobcats, bullfrogs. Walking by faith, not sight.
Can I do that in Griz country? What is at risk here?
Uncertain, and too tired to work through that thought process- I kept my headlamp off - until I saw Drew's blinking red light emerge from his cabin. I flashed my light, walked up to his brilliant sweater and hat, chatted across his bike.
He cruised for a drink at Fida's. I came to talk to you.
And now, my dear. It's time for bed.

Friday, June 19, 2009

De Bugged?

PHEW I may have worked through most of my technological difficulties. After purchasing a new wireless card and getting a new church buddy, Gavin, to streamline my computer. The Internet is slow, but steady at the Glacier View Golf Course. Our Internet at field camp is another story entirely... So I probably won't be online OFTEN, but hopefully more than I have been since March.
I've spent a lot of the past week growing roots in this area. I rearranged my cabin to a set up I'm really comfortable and content with, purchased a foam egg crate to make my bed sleepable, and even got some 4x6 pics printed up to stick on the wall. I'm working on putting animal tracks around my walls, hopefully in paint, so I can quiz myself with identifying local wildlife.
I'm surprising myself with this nesting business, but it makes me feel happy and more settled having a home base to adventure out of. Speaking of adventures, Drew and I are becoming enthusiastic fly fishing students, Hillary and I have been having quality girl time and adventures, and Gi Gi hooks me up with a kayak paddle every time we can sneek away to Lower McDonald Creek.
I haven't been writing or journaling much since Bones started hiking with me at the end of April. I think now that things are working into a better groove I'll pick that up. I have however been photographing a lot - which you can check out on the slide shows at the bottom of this page and top.
I'm assistant teaching my first class this weekend!!! Wolves!!! with Dave Shea, and his wife Vivi in the North Fork! SO excited about that.
Gi Gi has been helping me immensely trying to get Geronimo in a home nearby so I can see him. I'm hoping to bring him back to the West Glacier area on my way home from July 4 celebrations with Dacia! Please send some prayers up about that.
That's really all for now. Peep the pics, they're worth - millions?? of words ;)

Tuesday, June 9, 2009


It has been three weeks since I left Virginia. Hmm... where to start this story...
In an effort to support and adhere to the "where ever you are, be all there" philosophy, I think I'll start here, in a library in Whitefish, Montana, and perhaps work backwards. Today is my first day off from my new job at the Glacier Institute Field Camp since our trainings started LAST Monday. Trying to take full advantage of my free time I slept til 9 today, ate a bagel, and went for a bike ride (18 miles maybe?) on Going to the Sun Road. GTSR is a face melting scenic drive that connects the west side of Glacier National Park to the East side. Every fall and winter it is covered with snow and ice, and every spring the park spends much money and man power to unearth it from avalanches etc. It usually is drivable again sometime in June. It is only open to vehicles about 18 miles deep into the West side (where I live) Today I biked past the car barrier, about 9 miles through glaciated mountains to the hiker/ biker barrier. It's a beautiful ride, past clear swift creeks turned milky turquoise and baby blue from the rock flour of snow melt, through avalanche chutes poignant with the smell of uprooted trees, dirt and rubble, wing upwards and through a geologists dream- layers of unique rock and natural forces. It makes my mind wander, and my belly feel nauseous with elevation gain. I stop for a drink and to consult my map, wanting desperately to learn this place, to love this place. It is no Virginia, Tinker Mountain is time zones away, but some wild part in my being has a hope I can someday feel at home in this scene, like I once did in the Appalachian's Blue Ridge. I hop back on my bike and cruise down hill, nervously pumping the brakes. Until... stop. A cat-size bear cub scampers across the road, followed by its Mom. I wait, then pass and stop again, watching. It runs back across the road to where it came. I wait. Momma crawls over the concrete road side, followed by two more cubs. It's awfully high up and rocky for black bear this time of year, but they seem about black bear size. I tell my boss when I get home to camp. He thinks it's grizzly. One Mom with 3 new cubs- Grizzly. Paul's jealous of the sighting, I write it on our dry erase board on the kitchen wall above GiGi's writing of "4 coyote pups and Momma", smile, and head to town in my cowboy boots.
It's 50 and rainy now, it's been chilly for about 10 days. It makes my heatless cabin and training rooms tough to tolerate, but I'm thankful I brought my down jacket to my summer job. I've been hiking, fly fishing, even got out in my kayak with GiGi (Paul's wife). Our field camp is a cozy set up, a small compound with cabins, a bathhouse, kitchen, and a tipi, all on the river. Myself, my 4 co workers, and the wilderness EMT group staying with us until next weekend all seem extremely content in the personal space, and out communal areas.
After a month on the A.T. and two weeks on the road (and everything else the last year) I feel the more settled than ever since leaving my apartment at Allendale April 2008.
The drive west was a brilliant exploration or the northeast, Midwest, and northern Rockies, taking me all the way to British Columbia before scooping back south to Glacier.
I'm working through some logistical and technical bugs with my computer and camera situation, and the library comp timer is blinking at me. I'll try to update more soon, sorry communication has been so sparse.
Know that I am in a beautiful, restful, wild place. Treasuring the verse where God brings you to spacious place beside cool clean waters.
Miss and love you =*

Monday, May 11, 2009

This is how the story ends. Or perhaps begins?

I started dreaming about a long walk from Georgia to Maine as a high school cross country runner. I picked college at Emory & Henry because of its proximity to Damascus. Graduating from Montana, I returned east, hoping to reconnect with friends and family, and finally hike the AT. Befriending Hasty had a profound effect on embracing the idea of a thru hike as a reality, and by the time I walked out of Daleville May 15, 2008 I was nervous, excited, and looking to understand the meaning of "home".
Many of you have been part of this journey since then, you know the hardship, awe, humility, and adventure I've found along the way. A lot of folks hike long distances to prove self sufficiency, for the record- that was never my intention, and I could never tell you all enough how much I have loved and needed you to be part of this journey.
My life since returning to the Appalachian Trail has been overflowing with adventure and surprises- and I'm sorry for not keeping more up to date on here- but sometimes I find myself too busy throwing up my hands and living to self-reflect.
The first two weeks out were a surprise of snow and friendship with 2009 northbounders. We all bonded in the 2 feet of powder dumped in the Smokies, and until Erwin I traveled, sang, and laughed with Jeremiah Johnson. From Erwin to Damascus VA I shifted gears and traveling companions to the fascinating Wendy, and charming Hellbender. We sampled native vegetation and rapped silly rhymes, walking through fog and rain and sketchy hikers, and hilarious monopoly players. By the time I walked across the Virginia border my heart was scattered and full about being back in VA and 135 miles from wrapping up this journey.
The plan was to jump up to Bland and walk back to Daleville. Mom and Dixie drove to Damascus to bring Geronimo. I was a bit sullen about having to finish the journey alone - but knew- I gotsta what I gotsta- and after all- this whole crazy journey is- my own.
THEN Bones showed up- after hitch hiking for two days from Hot Springs to finish this hike with me. AND Jeremiah Johnson got into town after hiking in five days what took me seven. Then I found Hellbender and Wendy. As it turned out, everyone I adore that is on the trail this year was in Damascus at the same time, such beauty and joy as we took pictures, hugged, and drove away singing to the ukulele I cannot find words to describe.
Bones, Geronimo and I hiked out of Bland around 10 pm, and crashed out to sleep at the first available camping spot. The next few days revolved around shifting our hiking to accommodate our new fellowship and the harsh sun unfiltered by barely budding trees. We took long afternoon breaks; 4 hour swimming at a waterfall, eating frozen lemonadeat a country grocery stores, and napping in the shade. After a few days the rains came, and stayed for the rest of our hike. By the end we were just pushing to wrap this up.
Finishing a journey that has consumed my emotional, physical, geographic, and spiritual location and health for the past year is (as everything with the Appalachian Trail) mixed, beautiful, and surprising. I always thought completing this 2,175 mile walk would be invigorating, that I would be amped up beyond any espresso shot I'd ever had. In reality- my entire last day a peaceful excitment consumed me. The last familiar miles of my hike were more like heart beats, pulses, of my childhood than "thru hiking". Friends, landscape, laughter, tears, so many moments across this terrain scattered, replaying, culminating, but in no way ENDING with the last miles of this thru hike. Perhaps I still have not grasped the scope of what I've done, but I felt like a hobbit returning to the Shire. Knowing now that home is fluid, but passionately connecting with THIS place all the same. I sent Bones to Tinker Creek to wait while I hiked across Tinker Ridge and descended the mountain alone. I thought about cross country, and my favorite running buddies; Susanna and Carrie. All the love that has fostered and found me in this place. I nearly cried, but was so tired and excited the tears could not surface. I came to Tinker to find Bones in a plastic lawn chair playing "eye of the tiger" on his ukulele, dedicated to me =)
Bones, Geronimo, and I walked into Daleville around 6pm Cinco de Mayo. Sarah drove us to my parents house, and before we knew it, we were clean, happy, and drunk at the Mexican restaurant with old and new friends. Since then we've been bumming around my folks' catching up with tasks and people, and scheming for our drive to Montana (which starts Sunday May 17).
So the chapter has closed, but the first pages of the current, this new chapter are pretty alluring. Stay tuned for details =)
Trails Days May 15-17
Drive to Montana summer job May 17-28
Montana summer job May 29-Aug 31
then???? God only knows =)

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Erwin TN !!! (a long time coming)

I am in Erwin Tennessee. Jeremiah Johnson and I have pushed hard, big mile days for nearly two weeks to get here Friday to meet his friend. My left knee is bothering me a bit, but I am taking a day off from hiking today to rest and hang out. I went absolutely huge last night and slept in a king size bed at Holiday Inn Express (thanks grandpa!) and JJ's friend Rex even drove us to Johnson City for dinner! A broccoli Cheese, butter, sour cream baked potato and bbq baked beans went down well as the waitresses cruised around in Firehouse- ish suspenders. The miles and smiles are coming quicker and easier than I could have hoped. All seems well with the dream of a Daleville return before May 15.
After leaving Holiday Inn Express JJ and Rex dropped me back at Uncle Johnny's Hostel. Joe Kick Ass and his girlfriend are graciously grillin up burgers, and hot dogs along with other snacks (candy bars, cookies, chips, cole slaw, beer etc) as some amazing trail magic. The crew I was hiking around in the Smokies have caught back up; Truckin, Wendy, St. Patty's etc, and an afternoon of food and fiends in the sunshine makes me feel like perhaps, finally, the AT is as it should be.
My cornrows are still holiding up. It's strange to be in town showering, but not washing my hair. Dancruff is definately setting in, but having them tight, reasonaly snag free, and hair out of my face seems worthwhile to keep them in longer. As long as bugs don't stat crawling around.... I should be set to keep my hair up till.... dare I saw Daleville?
I beleive the count down is 260 more miles from Erwin-Damascus + Bland- Daleville. I can scarce believe I'm so close to finishing this journey, but as always, am embracing and accepting the principle of not counting my chickens before they hatch.
Low and his girlfriend Erin sent me an incredible Easter- themeed goodie box to Standing Bear Hostel. In his card he said "when it don't come easy, pray for strength, and when it does- ask for humility". I keep thinking of that, journeys coming full circle, and the most exciting part being just around the river bend.
I used to think Erwin would be bittersweet and sad for me, it being one of my first trail towns visited during Hasty's 2007 hike. As it turns out, that is a pale memory to the vivid dream I'm currently living.
Life is lovely, companionship is fufilling and delightful, the music is jamming, and the weather is brilliant. Happy and grateful, I couldn't ask for more =)

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

A walk in the park?

WHOEVER made up that saying in reference to Great Smokey Mountain National Park was off hteir rocker! I've been having a great time back on the AT. It all started with a static-y but fulfilling and surprising roa trip with Maggie and MAtt to Fontana Dam. (pics to come later). Cowboy camped under gorgeous stars an hiked on a buggy warm day the next day. Monday snow started, Tuesday snowed all day. I'm making good time and miles - all things considered. But all thingings considered I traveresed the highest peak on the AT today and cruised 12 ish miles in 2 feet of snow. It's goot to be in Gatlinburg tonight, warm, with new friends! More to come later! Gotta get some sleep and hike again tommorrow. Pushing hard to get out of these high elevations and get my easter candy CRAB Low and Erin mailed to Standing Bear!!!

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


Low says to me from Massachusetts "I hope you are aware of how crazy your life will be starting Saturday until at least the end of August" ... I smile from a warm early spring evening 14 hours south in Virginia. Yeah, I know, I think I'm ready.
Hot Cheese is in Mass too. I am becoming increasingly cognisant of the fact that a core group of supportive adventure partners are from or living in Mass. I remember my original smitten ness with Henry David Thoreau... and start to think... hey... maybe I should live near Mass one day. Anyways Hot Cheese tells me she's proud of my decisions and would probably make similar ones if she went back 5, 10 years with hindsight. I remind her of where her path has led her, how awesome her new husband Birdbath is, and we decide on the thought that each person's path leads them just where it ought.
During a campfire worship circle with my high school age youth group I talked about timing and paths. There have been many moments, opportunities, and relationships in my life that have seemed right... if only the timing was better. It hit me Thursday how right all of this is, what Bones and Low have known all winter... Tom Dunford (my great friend and trail Angel from Burkes Garden) was driving Luke, me, and Geronimo to where I skied off the trail in November. I watched in careful awe at the greening landscape springing, winding before me. Rain drizzled, the road twisted. When last on this road it was dark and snowy out the windows of Fischa's Volvo. Some very loud classical music billowed from a symphony through his car speakers. I emerged from my thoughts and daydreams with familiar love and recognition - he was playing Claire de Lune - my favorite song of all time.
I ardently believe God plants seeds and whether we participate or not, ,finds a way to nurture them. How was I to know back in November when checking my blog after my AT withdrawal Tom would see that song, remember it, and use it. I believe in signs. I think everyone needs sources or encouragement. As last week unfolded with Claire de Lune, a rainy 8 mile night hike very reminiscent of my Katahdin descent, 12 miles the next day in five hours... clouds dispersing through the valley in much the same way as my last days in North Carolina, the clouds distorting the truth and being of my life also seemed to disperse, and lift.
It is spring. The days will only get longer. The Earth will only get warmer. And you, you, will do what you were always going to do - spend a year journeying through yourself and Appalachia. Seek companions and your God. Return, return to Montana.
Am I prepared? Am I ready?
My heart and head cartwheel. But Low and Bones don't...apparently they've known all of this all along, and while I've been stressed in a darkened existence, like an ostrich with my head in the sand, since November they have been anxiously and excitedly awaiting this season.
It isn't Springer Fever.
It's just Spring, perhaps a fever, and like the Christopher Walken SNL sketch... the only prescription is more cowbell.

Monday, March 30, 2009


I obsessively check my phone, email etc to hear from people. Perhaps this is a nervous habit developed from a winter of waiting for life to paddle out of my eddy and into the current. It seems even now, as the current slowly picks up and river swells I am still in search mode. Is it excitement? habit? addiction? Perhaps somewhere in between.
I am trying as best I can to savor my last remnants of winter around Daleville. I have been spending as much time as humanly feasible with friends, family, working, and getting my stuff together for- the leaving.
The best possible way I can explain this anticipation is cartwheels. At any given moment almost every day I feel it absolutely necessary and appropriate to throw my arms up, tumble towards the ground, kick my feet over my head, and land right side up... blood rushing from myhead back to my feet. To prove my world can go upside down and land right side up? Because I've always loved that song by the Pixies "with your feet in the air and your head on the ground" ? Or because my Alice in Wonderland fetish draws me toward a world full of cheshire cat like nonsense? I don't know... but cartwheels... that's just what I'm working with =)
Last week I had a great portrait session with a high school senior, returned to the spot of my snowy Nov AT exit, and introduced my youth group to Alta Mons. A really great week overall, and an exciting preview for the adventures to come starting Saturday.
I don't have a lot to say right now, but just wanted to update that Bound has warmed up, and is getting mark, set, GO for Spring / Summer Epic ness!

Friday, March 13, 2009

Window- OPEN

Winter and directionless has finally broke!

April 4 return to Fontana Dam, walk north on the AT to Damascus, drive to Bland, walk to Daleville by
May 15 Trailaversary (day I started this whole journey 2008)
May 16ish Trail Days in Damascus VA with many close friends from my Daleville-Katahdin stretch, including Low and Bones!!! just in time to grab Bones and
May 18 ish start the epic westward drive to Montana (with a few stops in between naturally)
May 29- end o August Work and live in Glacier National Park for the Glacier Institute Field Camp

Only two huge questions linger:
Who will keep Geronimo May 29- late August?
Where will I work after Glacier Institute?

Many thanks to all of you for your constant love support and prayers (especailly my extended family, The Botetourt Commons community, and my PENMAR FAMILY!!!). If you have suggestions as to the answer of my lingering questions ideas are mucho appreciated!

Saturday, March 7, 2009

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:

Time seems shifting to those who are waiting. As my life has little structure or markers right now I have little reference to what makes a day, a week, a month. This isn't new, walking the Appalachian Trail morphs time too, but in a more grounded biological way. Here lately moments linger in my mind.
I have had two brilliant interviews with two amazing companies in Montana for summer positions since January. I have job searched nearly every day since I November withdrawal from the AT. Sometimes I search for immediate jobs in Virginia, sometimes I search for more long term positions in Montana. I comb classifieds, environmental job boards, informational newsletters, searching, wanting, waiting on something.
These two positions are the best I've found. Both in western Montana, a place my heart has ardently longed for since this summer. It's funny, sometimes you just want things, other times you have innate gut feeling that IS what's to be. It's not to say I am tired or resentful of Virginia. I have and always will love it here.
I spent the afternoon walking brick sidewalks laid before William Clark journeyed down the Missouri River with my best childhood friend (walking w my friend, sorry to say she didn't kick it w WC). We laughed about past and present while swinging at an elementary school playground. Afterwards we piled in my car to get the best Sno Cones in the universe, only to find the Sno Shack closed, and settle for iced coffee and a smoothie from the new doughnut shack. Yesterday I met another life long friend in the middle of a country road both on our bikes, she left her parents, I left mine, we met in the middle 'neath that old Georgia pine... (that's a song reference we didn't really meet under a pine, but nonetheless once together we biked around for awhile). Life and love are beautiful in Virginia. But I strongly feel, it is time.
I have two plans right now. Both are a financial stretch but faith is going out on a limb... right?
Plan A (if MT comes through): work here until April when I return to Fontana on the AT, walk back to Daleville by May 15, catch up with friends at trail days, drive to Montana with Geronimo and Bones for sidekicks, and start working there beginning of June
Plan B (MT job rejection): work here until mid June when I return to Fontana on the AT, walk back to Daleville for however long it takes, back to the grinding stone on a job search (Missoula / MT focused by the fall)
For reasons inexplicable via this medium I desperately hope for Plan A, and those that hope are not put to shame... right? Regardless any prayers would be mucho appreciated. I should here in the next 7 days which path will illuminate.
I've been thinking about that a lot lately, paths and illumination. The bible says thy word is lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path. Scriptures like this constantly find their way to my fingers, eyes, and heart. I spent half of last week labored on hiking trails at the camp I love. A methodical mind and body consuming task that enraptured me with purpose and joy. I found myself laughing to Geronimo "okay God, teach me about paths, literally and metaphorically, I'm here, tell me what you will, just please, please, send me a light".
While I wait it seems fate has humorous tests for me. I spent the last half of this week nearly crippled and immobile with back pain. I have the great fortune to have a Dad who has coped with acne, receding gums, and back pain the majority of his life... genetics... what a beautiful thing. Normally I tough out pain or sicknesses, but as someone too poor to have health insurance and too busy to say no to jobs if sick I have been popping pills like no body's business. I'm happy to say that the back pain died down last night which is fortunate because I awoke this morning with a very goopy eye. Sorry to say my dad, the pharmacist, deemed it pink eye, and as the day progressed I'm thinking it is in both eyes. Alas, more pills. I won't go into how sick the preschool class I subbed for Friday was... but I wouldn't be surprised if those germy sick kids were the ones to infect me.
It's not all doom and gloom however. I has been about 60 degrees here the past 3 days. Tomorrow I plan to lead my youth group over the section of the AT my brother started about a year ago; apple orchard mountain, the guillotine, and Thunder Ridge. And if that wasn't good enough my brilliant friend Issac plans to come along too!
So I should get some sleep. Low's much anticipated daylight savings will rob me of an hour, small price to pay for the hope, light and joy of ... SPRING =)

"When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window. ..."~SoM

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Don't panic

Bones sinkin like stones all that we fought for. Homes places we've grown, all of us are done for...
We live in a beautiful world, yea we do, yea we do.

Last week I spent 3 out of 6 days walking a path you call the Appalachian Trail. That is its official name, sure, but I'm beginning to wonder if that is a sort of- scientific name. Perhaps the A.T is its common name. But even still, some of us have nicknames for objects we are intimate with, animals, people. Our names for these things surpass science and common, these names stem out of the intimate fondness, affection, reverence, humbleness, and sometimes anger, otherwise known as love. I am not sure what to refer to this path as anymore. It has become something bigger and more profound than I can conceive.

Day 1. Bethany agreed to hike MacAfee's Knob on a freakishly warm afternoon. She is not much of a hiker, but nonetheless crawled into my car wearing a tank top and yoga pants, purse, bag, water, and Georgia Tech long sleeve T in tow. Heidi and Geronimo tagged along too. We laughed and meandered down the fire road, then the AT. Bethany has been my friend, occasionally enemy, since 2nd grade. We talk about boys, jobs, family, dreams. We say ridiculous freakish things that we would censor in other company. I am so happy to have her in this, my world, of sorts. We break under a power line to let a young glowing couple pass us, and a trail runner with his backpack wearing - tail uncropped- larger than Geronimo weimaraner. It is a short hike (for me, probably endless for her), but we snack on OCPs (oatmeal cream pies) hummus, crackers, cheese, like I'm in the middle of a 15-20 mile day. The dogs get jumbo chewy snack bones. We rise refreshed, and walk the last hardest bit, weaving through huge boulders to the much photographed, always beautiful overlook. By now what started as a 60 degree day has turned windy, damp, with temperatures dropping. We anticipate looming grey clouds working thru the Catawba Valley towards us. I put on my hooded softshell Santa brought that I have become (in true gear junkie style) smitten with. I loan her my mittens and hat. We descend faster. I have been nervous it may rain. I had decided to defy it, defy that fear, venture outside anyway. The fear of weather ; understandable, irrational, a helpless fear. Well. Our final half of the fire road was in snow. Perfect beautiful huge flaky snow. Cold and wind burnt there was nothing to do but smile and laugh - FINALLY.

Day 2. I went to my pre AT home, Allendale, to pick up my black and white photographs from the "Star City Project" . These images were part of the FIRST public showing of my photography, an entire coffee shop with about 20 some matted framed prints - beautiful. Anyway there's another gallery I'm trying to get them into and needed to pick them up from my friend and neighbor (I stashed them in her place instead of storing them before leaving to hike). So I carefully wrapped the frames in blankets, put them in a box, and stayed for hours talking to Sheri and my old landlord. Two guys moved into my apartment last week. Geronimo tried to go in, as if to think, HEY we're home finally!!! Part me thought that too, but I didn't press for the opportunity to walk/look around. "Leave it" I thought, "let it be". So eventually Mo and I left, I wanted to take the long way back to my parents. I drove through Salem to park and walk the ridge south of the 311 parking lot. We just went to the first overlook. It was getting late, Ben (my brother) was on his way home for the weekend, and really I just went to wonder. I let my mind and heart wonder. wander. I asked big questions. Studied this landscape. The drive was soaked in warm red winter sunset light. I rolled the windows down.

Day 3. I woke up KNOWING this would be my day to climb Dragon's Tooth. I put a roll of infrared film (that I bought in Missoula in college) in my 35mm camera just before New Year's. I started that roll on the Tinker Cliffs, shot it at MAK, and really wanted to triple crown it, with DT (the three popular highlights of the Appalachian Trail in this area). It was another beautiful sunny day, and despite it being a Saturday, and my loathing of how crowded it might be, I knew TODAY must be the day. I pestered my family. Hopped in my brother's bed to wake him up, get him in on the adventure. He's a big climber and (because of me and Alta Mons) loves the woods. I thought, YEAH how could he NOT come to Dragon's Tooth?! He had safer, more ordinary plans with Dad though - haircut- golf. He said no. Dad was also busy being ordinary, and turns out my Mom was busy keeping things in order on her one day off from a job and church. I threw a bit of a depressed rejected tantrum, took a breath, put myself together, grabbed Mo's jacket and hit the road. I can't explain this hike to you. This hike was intimate and personal. I continued my questions from Day 2, I reverted to my thru hike mode, quick steady methodical movement. Heart. Body. Feet. Dirt. Sky. Water. Pulse. I must have passed 20 people in the hour it took to get to the top. Once there I slipped my climbing shoes on and played around. I finished my roll of film. I read scripture. I sat upright, on the rock pinnacle, noticing the southern valley for the first time. A quiet calm anxious wisdom came, and I knew something would happen. It did. But instead of being rattled, spiraling out of control, and falling apart like I might've predicted I simply photographed more, wrapped up the walk, slipped into flip flops, and drove to the library to get Eat Pray Love on CD (I've been meaning to read that!). My family met at the Homeplace for my sister's birthday dinner. I scarfed down food, but remained mostly quiet.

These experiences have served as a catalyst of further prayer and mediation. I have a hopeful excited faith this week will bring a directional answer as to where MY path will lead the next months.

I've heard if you take a domestic pig and drop it in the woods it only takes a matter of weeks for it to return to a primal feral state. Pretty impressive I think, but I have noticed my threshold of "how long can you be outside before you become wild again" is dramatically shorter. Moments. It only takes me moments of a breeze on my face, into my nostrils, before it is permeating back through my pores; wild. Is it because I am that or want that? Is it because beauty reflects and attracts beauty? Is it possible that this landscape and natural world is so grand and overpowering that it transforms me?

Lastly, I was late to church so I decided to do something different, take this spirituality and make it personal. I sat alone in a quiet dark room where I could hear the worship but see nothing. The hymns were about grace and spirit. The sermon was about what to do when our bubble bursts. The preacher talked about this looming- dare we say- depression the US is spiraling into. My practical side was annoyed with contempt to be job searching in the worst economy of my life. But my dreaming side - was excited. For the same reason my friend Low was excited about a devastating New England ice storm. Something you may not agree with, that I can only explain as - out of deep tragedy, hopelessness, poverty, disillusionment, and darkness something pure simple and real arises. Something that I have learned is the essence of what to strive for during our time on this planet. My time on the AT echoes these principles, but that was chosen. Many people will never CHOOSE to live a life like this. But as it turns out- something else may have chosen for us. Because nation-wide economic depression seems to be settling in, just like a New England ice storm. The sermon continued until this preacher said something -

Bound together we can survive.

everybody here's got somebody to lean on

just like Coldplay said...

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Winter like that can change your life...

Misty damp night lingers through Botetourt. Molly purrs on the bed next to my ear. I'm sitting in the laundry basket full of dirty clothes under my window. I open it; immediate access to what high school friends call my "fairytale world". The darkness is warmer than you might imagine. Horses beat heavy hoofs against a landscape covered in ice. Amanda meows in the hallway. I let her in the room too. The cats have lived together more than eight years and don't like each other. They live outside, but I let them both in the house, and my room (I'm a sucker). It's impressive really- for not liking each other they manage to purr in unison; Molly now on the carpet below my laundry basket, Amanda in my right ear. Appalachian night to my left.
One of the things I love most about my bed is that I can lay on my back and see the stars. Moon and star gazing is crucial to me and in the winter that view from the comfort of a queen size pillow-top mattress is next to unbeatable... until I open this box of a house to the great outdoors.
Most of my October was spent in the smoke and haze of damp southern Appalachia. Tonight is like those days and nights on the trail.
Poor Virginia.
Botetourt has made futile attempts to represent our season. The winter weather advisories local news anchors have fretted over have only manifested to this so far - less than an inch of ice. No snow since I got off the AT near Bland.
Another manifestation: no cars on the road. A few halogen windows glow from neighbors' plots. There is no speed. There is no agenda. Etzler has slowed to a foot and sleep pace. Glen's horses run and I think about Grayson's wild ponies.
Acoustic twinges out of laptop speakers, songs from a brief affair summer 2006. I think about beating my heart soul and body up and down stairs; four flights of Brazilian Mission. Thirteen? fifteen? times up and down. I remember the music, tears, and longing more than the count. "Is it wrong to not hold on if nothing ever lasts?" my speakers ask.
I lost my passport, and consequently my five year Brazilian visa when I moved out of Allendale. I need to replace it, life without a passport is just not how I want to live =)
This time last year I bathed in a 1920's porcelain tub to counter act the cold of an apartment without heat. I miss that bathtub more than the tiny kitchen where you couldn't open a cupboard, oven, fridge, or backdoor at the same time. I miss it more than the fan that brought Geverstraminer into my life, more than oreos/ Sex and the City/ couch time with Ang.
The chill slick coating slightly shimmering under night's mist brings me back to the ice storm at Emory and Henry freshman year of college. Campus power crashed, and my group of friends skated down 1800 brick sidewalks to the waterhouse to celebrate the first cancellation of classes since Pearl Harbor.
Ice. Glisten. Silent night...
Point? there isn't much of one. Just thoughts.
But I'm wondering, remembering, how much these states of water shape the memories replaying on the midnight of my mind.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

'I Galapa. I magic-man. I wizard-man! I sing you to me.'

I took a position as interim youth director January 8. The pay is small, transition rocky, and self-questioning immense. I've had two official meetings with a group of 4or less high school students.
The pastor of this church calls my life, the AT, shoot probably everything I'm about right now my "walkabout". Those of you who saw Australia know where I'm going with this. Those of you who haven't- should. (see the movie that is). Humor me. Google it. Wikipedia will tell you
Walkabout refers to a rite of passage where Australian Aborigines would undergo a journey during adolescence and live in the wilderness for a period as long as six months.[1] In this practice they would trace the paths, or "songlines", that their people's ceremonial ancestors took, and imitate, in a fashion, their heroic deeds. Merriam-Webster, however, defines the noun as a 1908 coinage that refers primarily to "a short period of wandering bush life engaged in by an Australian aborigine as an occasional interruption of regular work", with the only mention of "spiritual journey" coming in a usage example from a latter-day travel writer.
He never says hike, walk, AT, journey. He says walkabout. He doesn't dwell on my unassuredness of what life may bring the next hours, days, weeks, months. He seems amused, and perhaps in a small way, delighted.
Sometimes I wonder if God has revealed something to him I've been left out of the loop on.
I read something in my Esther bible study today. I was sitting in a comfy arm chair in the church lobby. It was after I spilt my "choffee" all over everything, before a church member cornered me with another idea/ task. Beth Moore basically said the Devil takes delight in replacing our potential for joy and content with stress and worry.
Light bulb.
Let's save you and me both from the wordiness of fleshing out details of applying this to my life. Sufficient to say I've been hugely stressed and barely joyful lately.
A day away from the house afforded me fresh perspective on a full but hungry plate I juggle : youth director, freelanced wrestling pictures, studding Geronimo, census tests, Glacier Institute, Center for Structural & Functional Neuroscience Program Coord.
Lonely, but eyes starry I've made it through another day.
Somehow I am sick of AT lingo, sick of wanting and not knowing, sick of feeling sad.
Hike your own hike?
or just... walkabout.

~ some of you no doubt have opinions as to what I should do with the remaining 440 miles of my AT journey. some of you find me edgy about this topic.One of my favorite restaurants in Missoula is Food For Thought.~ Consider:

It's not that we're scared
It's just that it's delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place you've know
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?

We might live like never before
When there's nothing to give
Well how can we ask for more
We might make love in some sacred place
The look on your face is delicate

So why do you fill my sorrow
With the words you've borrowed
From the only place you've know
And why do you sing Hallelujah
If it means nothing to you
Why do you sing with me at all?
(DR lyrics)

Sometimes walkabout spans something larger than you intended it. Rivers wind. I'm just flowing.


Sunday, January 18, 2009

Left Behind

I'm sitting on my Grandmother's couch drinking tea. The tea-before-bed-thing started my last summer at Alta Mons. With cicadas, friends, bobcats, and a hint of romance in the damp Appalachian night, tea was the claire de lune of the day. This couch sat in at least three of my grandmother's houses I can think of. The house has sold, she's passed on; a sleeper sofa, birthstone ring, and more memories than I can count are left to me.

Life twists and turns in ways we never imagine. Going through my bible study on Esther tonight I found myself amazed at Persian custom and wondering what she did during her "one night with the king" to "find favor in his eyes". It was hard for me not to think about the obvious implications of this sleep over. My bible study asks me to write a paragraph in Esther's diary after her first day as queen, feasts in her honor, and being tucked in by a maidservant... I scribble "how did my life come to this? what now?"

I read it back to myself- realizing I'm not writing in Esther's diary, maybe I'm just writing in my own.

I wonder if I'd read the story different if I didn't feel estranged spiritually. I wonder if I'd read the story different if I was coming from a wholesome romantic background. Last week's major point (for me anyway) "you cannot amputate your past from your purpose". As Low would say - food for thought- I'll help with the dishes (although I'm still not sure what that last part means).

I've found a couple of promising job opportunities this week. My bank account grows hungrier and bleaker and I try to fight the urge of depressed acceptance of my current circumstances.

Phew. I wrapped up the fourth out of five days of bible study homework. I flip through scripture instead of calling someone I love who will not find me.
Tea, I think.
I drink, hold, smell a comfort and wholesomeness of a once vibrant moving yet steadfast life. I wonder if God will use these mementos of a life left behind as instruments I always needed to fulfill my purpose. Curious about the orphan exile he made a queen, do I ask or hope I get a glorious transformation too.


For now- the best thing I can come up with is to drink tea. Perhaps the rest falls into place?

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009


To those of you who actually read this:
Thanks for caring and believing in me. Your thoughts and support are strength and comfort.
Two jobs have been applied to, more are in the works...
I'm jamming out to Ryan Adams thinking
I ADORE the harmonica

Life turns out alright if you paddle when you need to, right?

Monday, January 5, 2009

Balance Games

Dark blue-grey clouds patch work themselves over a diffused sun. I hear the heat wave is coming to a close and by this evening rain and sleet will settle in. I'm in a wicker rocking chair on a wrap around front porch. Grey paint chips from the boards beneath my feet, Geronimo and Heidi sniff around the yard. A chill sets deeper than my middle school gym shorts and high school track sweatshirt have protected me against. The air is moist.

I listen to Lauryn Hill; because I need to get my groove back and it reminds me of Camp Brown Bag. In Desert Solitaire Edward Abbey builds an outdoor living space beside his park service house trailer. I'm brainstorming constructing a similar structure here. Life at this house is safe, comfortable, and full of the latest greatest modern distractions... I mean.. conveniences. Memories, dreams, desires of a life of travel and exploration float to the pinnacle of my consciousness like a bloated body thrown overboard.

More time than I can justify has been spent in front of some variety of LCD screen; job hunting, Wii Fit, Email, TV. The most redeeming factor of this intermission of quiet financially grueling restlessness has been the time I've spent with my family. I try not to think much about them returning to their jobs, schooling, normal life after the holiday. Mostly because this holiday has become my normal life.

Even too much of a good thing can be harmful? Even water, my Dad says. Even a holiday, I say. My goal for the week: find and apply to a handful of jobs I'm very serious about and interested in. My goal was to winter in Botetourt, return to the AT (Fontana-Daleville)) in the spring, head west by the end of May. If I don't find enough work in the next few months an AT return will not happen in 2009. College is spent working towards graduation. Post college I've spent working towards the AT. The next chapter is turning, and I've GOT to find a goal to propel forward motion. My eddy out has become stagnant. Where's the current?

If only finding life and inner balance was as straight forward as Wii Fit Balance Games.