Sunday, June 27, 2010
Friday, June 25, 2010
Not long ago I read that there is a surprise in every day. While that may seem obvious to most people, seeing this in print has actually helped me to manage my stress in unexpected situations. Usually the surprise is not that great, even totally unpleasant-- but since the surprises are now a part of my daily routine I'm learning how to accept them and move on.
This week, I was surprised when:
My teen returned without her soccer gear even though this year we are sending her to soccer camp. It's kind of a big deal considering my fledgling business has miles to go before it pays the bills.
The driver's side window fell out of the track.
The dining room chair leg broke. By the way, why are dining room chairs so expensive?!
While attempting to avoid two early morning joggers who should have been using the sidewalk, my husband scraped his van on a pedestrian sign that was cemented in the middle of a road at a crossing where super elitist people send their kids to school. I don't think it's even legal to cement signs in the middle of roads, but obviously they have a huge sense of enitlement.
I was prepared to go to the pool this week, but *surprise* my son got pink eye.
After returning from our incredibly transformative hiking trip where we walked near seventeen black bears, not one person on fb commented on this amazing event. Thank you blogging friends, you are awesomer than awesome! Your comments rule!
I had a blast hanging out with my teen last night. Even when she asked "PLEASE CAN I DRIVE YOUR CAR?!"
Thursday, June 24, 2010
Wednesday, June 23, 2010
At some points on the trail I was able to lead the way, especially since I wanted to get to the secure safety of Corbin Cabin.
Safe from the bear families, but haunted by the sad story of hardship and a family tradgedy in the 100 year old Corbin Cabin.
Once we were safely out, we stopped at this Day's Inn in Elkins, West Virginia. It was a former hospital, still being used by doctors of all kinds! How appropriate! In the basement of this former hospital, some genius repurposed the morgue into a steak house. I was struck by this item on the menu:
Tuesday, June 22, 2010
Monday, June 21, 2010
Further research revealed a shuttle service for hikers in the park but we decided against this after learning of Corbin Cabin, a century old homestead near a spring fed river that was available for PACT members to rent for $25.00 per night. To get to it, one has to hike one hour downhill from Skyline Drive. This delighted my economist/naturalist/adventure loving guy. We joined the PACT and reserved it for three nights, and looked forward to experiencing this historic sanctuary in the middle of our vacation. We would use our tent for the first and last two nights of the trip.
After taking our son to my brother in Fariborn, Ohio, we arrived at the park as the sun crept behind the mountains. In the dusky evening, I strapped on my brand new pack. Everything felt wrong. I was immediately aware of what a horse must experience when a person sits on its back. My chest felt a sharp pain of constriction as the weight pulled me backward and down. I struggled to walk with ease on flat pavement but pasted on a smile for my dear one and snapped on my head lamp. In a matter of minutes, I was walking uphill on ankle twisting rocks in the quickly fading light. Soon, I was surrounded by dense woods on a narrow trail in complete darkness.
Bugs flew at my eyes and nose, attracted to the white light of my headlamp. Annoyed, I snapped off the lamp and adjusted my eyes to the darkness. Even during the darkest nights, tiny bits of light appear. At that point on the journey, the stars were obscured by tree limbs. Worse than the absence of light were the swishy, rustling noises close to the trail. Dear one played the harmonica to alert the bear of our presence. Startled by the sound, the big swishy noisemaker suddenly stopped making noises. My legs turned to water as sweat trickled from my forehead. Maybe it was just a deer. Maybe. After a little while, the swishing sound could be heard farther away. I somehow fund a way to step forward and to keep following the man who spent months planning and saving for his long awaited vacation.
I tried to hide my fear, but frankly, hiking in the darkness on a narrow, rocky, dense trail to the top of Brown Mountain where black bears live is at the very least, nerve wracking. My heart raced, I poured sweat and prayed mightily.
The darkness deepened until at last we saw the night sky and a huge gray rock that stood out like a bright beacon of safety. The rock had a wide ledge and we happily climbed to it, resting our tired backs on its solid surface. Back country hikers are required to camp away from trails, out of sight. To my dismay it would have been against the rules to sleep on that rock.
Not wanting to give into my fears the first night, I forced myself to relax a little and enjoyed the vastness of the night sky on the mountain top, full of stars and cool air. I made myself remember that was truly rewarding to do something so challenging and extraordinary with my husband. We were more than Dick and Jane and the white picket fence. So much more. We were alive and free in the natural world.
Even though I was beginning to discover that I had the power to control the waves of fear if I tried hard enough, my nervousness and exhaustion that night left me standing rather uselessly in the woods while dear one set up our tent and hung the food. I slipped into the tent with my head on the low end (where our feet should have been), and immediately felt like a caterpillar in a flimsy cocoon.
I was too tired to turn around but too nervous to sleep. Concentrating on the wind that sounded like ocean waves above my head, I reviewed bright memories of my idyllic childhood to comfort me between a series of light naps.
The memories were full of color and bittersweet. I ached for my Michigan home with its lush green lawn and cottonwood trees. I remembered the feeling of walking barefoot to the garden and seeing my dad work on his tractor. I remembered my mom's sheets on the line and my younger brothers playing an imaginary game near the deck. Then, to my amazement, the tent walls looked white. Morning had arrived on Brown Mountain and with it the wind had died down and the birds were chattering. I had survived my first night in the back country. With a head dizzy from lack of a good sleep and a soft supportive pillow, I braved the underbrush for a ideal place to pee while dear one boiled our water. Having finished these tasks, we climbed back to the big rock and drank our coffee, exhilarated by the air, the space and the view.
After breaking camp, I managed to adjust my pack so that I could breathe. The hike down the mountain was a feast for the eyes, but it was hard. The terrain was steep and filled with rocks.
We kept up a good pace and made it to a river during the heat of the day. Having only spotted one person all day, I felt safe enough to change into my swimsuit and rest in the shallow pools betwen the slippery rocks.
It was shortly after this refreshing rest that we found ourselves at an area of the trail were we had to cross the river. Dear one had already made it to the other side when I stepped on the first big rock and looked up to see a very large black bear bottom crashing through the trees away from me. I was stunned by his/her speed, awestruck by the black glistening fur that shook in ripples while it sped away. I knew without any doubt that I would never run from a bear. Running would be completely pointless against a beast of that size and speed. My husband was on the same side of the river as the bear. The noise of the rushing river had prevented him from hearing anything. He did not know that he was so close to the bear. To alert him of this development, I whispered his name.
I'm sure he couldn't hear me whispering his name above the gurgling rushing water, but he finally turned back to check on me. I was gesturing with my arms to show him "bear! Big Bear!
Due to the fullness of my experience on the trail, I've decided to share this story in a series of installments. Please check in tomorrow for Day Two: An eleven hour hike and our arrival on the Appalachian Trail.
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
Monday, June 7, 2010
In three days, the Shenandoah National Forest will be my home for a week. These pictures were taken on past visits to the mountains of Virginia. They are post cards for my blogging friends before our departure. Thank you for any prayers you may send my way as I will be hiking between 10 to 15 miles per day in high elevations with a fully loaded (40lb) pack. I have looked forward to this trip for months but, just like a bride on her wedding day, I'm experiencing cold feet. I wanted to be in better shape.
Thursday, June 3, 2010
I had been working night shift in an inner city library for several months, and despite the constant, draining task of keeping the local teens from disturbing the peace and engaging in nefarious group activites, I loved my work and the people I worked with. We did laugh together, many times. Perhaps my happiness at being a part of such a wonderful, dedicated group of people facilitated my tendency to let my guard down with the entire public I served. Not only did my library job fulfill my need for friendship, I felt deeply connected to the idea of being an approachable, open, safe person to whom children and adults in the community could turn to for information. I took a special interest in creating lists of contacts for those experiencing homelessness. My job was more than the shuffling and sorting of books. It was about being in the middle of a river of people, from all backgrounds, from all corners of the world.
But back to laughing at an inappropriate moment.
It was 5:55 pm, on a Friday afternoon. I was alone in the main area of the library, making my way toward the computer lab to lock up, when a man I recognized as a local homeless visitor walked in through the front doors, taking long strides toward me, with an urgent purpose. He said
"What are you doing?"
To which I responded,
"Sir, we close at six on Fridays".
To which he responded,
"What do you mean you're closing?" While placing his hands firmly around my throat.
What does one do when they are alone and being choked? Usually a smart person would have fought back with everything they had in them. I, on the other hand, laughed. With the remaining air left in my lungs.
My laughter caught him off guard.
He released a little.
With his hand still on my neck, I continued to chuckle. I said,
"We're closing because librarians have a life too. It's Friday. Time to grab a few beers."
The dumfounded look on his face proved that I had sucessfully broken his stereotypical image of the mousy, meek, vulnerable librarian.
He walked out the way he came in.
I locked up and went home. Later, I regretted not calling 911. After all, I had been physically assaulted by strangulation on the job. But somehow, in my nervousness and relief, I forgot to call for help.
Sometimes laughter, even at an inappropriate time, can be the best medicine. It may have saved my life.