Winter is Here

You probably didn’t expect anything from me this late in the year. But I am full of surprises. And I have some things to say.

It seems my summer of big goals did not turn out the way I’d hoped. And that’s okay. I’ve been conquering more metaphorical mountains lately. Which brings me to what brought me here, to whisper thoughts across my silent blog on a sunny winter’s day.

Yesterday I went hiking for the first time since July. it was a short trek, no more than an hour round trip. I went with my boyfriend. The ground was blanketed with snow. The air was crisp and biting at my bareskin. My breath couldn’t quite keep up with our pace, lagging behind on the trail. I am out of shape it seems (unsurprising). It felt good to move. To surround myself in the trees, to strap on my hiking boots if only briefly, and just be with nature. My footing wasn’t great. I slipped a few times. I paused often to analyze the snow, trying to understand it’s curves and cuts, wondering if I would fall. I was never really and truly sure of my steps. And I carried on.

I kept putting one foot in front of the other. It’s what you do when nothing else makes sense. You keep going. You keep pushing forward into the unknown. Doing the very best you can with what you have.

It’s Thanksgiving break. We are only a few weeks from the end of the semester, and oh how I needed this break. Not just because I’m drowning in grading (which I definitely am), but because 2016 has been a big one. For all of us. And as it comes to a close I find myself wondering…how did we get here?

I just finished a book on mindfulness. Most of it centered around breathing exercises and creating awareness of your body in any given situation. I am in no way even close to being as mindful as I’d like. But I’m learning to forgive myself when I am not, and to quietly acknowledge when I am. It is in the small steps forward that I rejoice, instead of berating myself for all the times I am stuck in the busyness of life.

Because I find it is easier sometimes to be angry. To be sad. To be enraged. To be hurt. To be scared. It is easier to give into those feelings than it is to notice them, acknowledge them and then let them go. It’s definitely easier than fighting them. And I have been fighting for a long time–just within myself. Now it seems the fight is different. Not only am I fighting the same battles inside, but now I am fighting for space, for a voice (whether mine or someone else’s who has been silenced), for understanding.

I have for the most part not said much in light of the election results, especially on social media. I’ve crept gently through the real (and fake) news stories. I have tried to understand how this could have happened and what I can do in the wake.

I don’t know how we got here. I will admit to my own ignorance. My own blind faith. My own belief that people would draw the line, just as I do. I underestimated the anger and grief and pain and those who are left behind in the quest for progress and what they would do to be heard. What they’re willing to give up.

 

That Wednesday morning I sat in the cafeteria looking at our students. Some unaware of what could possibly happen now. Some rejoicing in their victory. Some terrified of campaign promises becoming a reality. I sat on the edge of sobs for most of the morning, exhausted emotionally and physically.

It’s only my second year teaching. I couldn’t even begin to deal with my own emotions, let alone comfort those of my students. I felt helpless, I still do. But I showed up because they needed me.

That’s the thought that dragged me out of bed for the last three weeks. They need me. Now more than ever I must teach them to be intelligent, critical thinkers who read, write, and argue. Who demand respect and equality. Who demand to be heard. Who not only have opinions, but can support those opinions with hard evidence–not just because they “Read it on the internet.” I must teach them to be good citizens who know their rights and will fight for them through debate and discourse and challenge the system that is now determined to shut them down and dismiss them.

And I know there are people marching the streets. There are people signing petitions. There are people who are calling offices incessantly. There are people getting tear-gassed and water-hosed in the name of justice. I want to be with those people. I want to fight. I want to show Trump and those who support him how wrong they are about so many things. But I’m at my own front line. With 150 students to protect and defend. To educate so that this does not happen again. And that is a terrifying thought…it is probably the scariest thought I’ve ever had. Because so much depends on how we teach our children. And I do not want to fuck that up.

My fight will look different than yours. But we are on the same side.

I acknowledge that we have arrived at this point. But I do not accept it. If I accept that Trump has won then I will have to lay my armor down. And I refuse to stop fighting. I refuse to accept the hatred and bigotry. Yes, I am terrified, but I refuse to give into that fear. I cannot afford to. Too many people depend on me (whether they know or understand that or not). And while I am new to this I am determined to do the best I can for my students. They are the future and I will not let them be raised in a world where Trump and his policies are the “new normal.”

In other news:

I’m learning to listen more. I’m learning to take my time. I’m learning that I don’t know everything I thought I did. I’m learning that even I, with the best of intentions, can still make mistakes.

We are all climbing our own mountains. We all have huge packs to carry. And we will carry on together. I believe we will conquer our mountains. I believe in us. I believe.

And I would like to close with a few quotes from one of my favorite authors, Elie Weisel.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference. The opposite of art is not ugliness, it’s indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it’s indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, it’s indifference.”

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented. Sometimes we must interfere. When human lives are endangered, when human dignity is in jeopardy, national borders and sensitivities become irrelevant. Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must – at that moment – become the center of the universe.”

 

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Blue Lakes

Sunday, for the first time since high school, I got to spend my best friend’s birthday with my best friend [we always seem to be states away on our birthdays…or I’m at camp]. I was delighted to go on a short hike with Robyn and her parents by the Blue Lakes at the base of Quandary Peak.

There were A LOT of folks hiking Quandary, I was surprised. But that is for another time–when I actually hike it.

We had a wonderful time. There were several others on the trail and we ran into a few dogs who were just delighted to be running around the hillside.

Also, WE SAW MOUNTAIN GOATS. Two of them. They were awesome and posed atop a hill for pictures. They were shedding like crazy.

The hike itself was relatively short, maybe 3 miles round trip, and didn’t rise in elevation too much. There were lots of small pools along the way. The trail basically ends in a bowl next to Quandary with lots of snowmelt running off in waterfalls…some even flowing underneath the rock fields. The technical climb for Quandary is on that side, and from signs we saw, it’s very sketchy terrain and hard to stay on whatever semblance of a trail there might be.

We hung out right below the snow line, eating and taking pictures, before heading back down. It was a delightful and relaxing time to spend with one of my favorite humans and her family on such a special day.

Robyn is such an incredible spirit and I’m so lucky she’s in my life. And I’m so glad I got to celebrate her existence in this world on the day of her birth. I love you!

The Dramatized Inner Monolog of Blue Bird Lake

This is a few days later than usual so sorry about the delay. Last weekend I went with my friends Rob and Rebecca to Rocky Mountain National Park to hike to Blue Bird Lake. And to be quite honest, it kicked my ass. This update will be a dramatized reenactment of my inner thoughts as we hiked…because it’s fun to mix it up a little.

Warning #1: This is probably the most ADD thing I’ve ever written.

Warning #2: This contains some unsavory language

Hiking Up

Okay here we go. Boots on. Sunscreen–or Mom will kill me. Camera out.

*turns on camera* — “NO MEMORY CARD”

Shit. My memory card is at home. Phone pictures it is then.

It is a beautiful day for hiking. No clouds. Nice breeze. Lots of waterfalls.

Wait. I’ve been here before. When was I here? It had to be camp. Oh I miss camp. When was it? Family Camp? Where did we hike to? That is going to bug me…

Bugs. Bites. I should put on bug spray.

*sees natural features that are familiar* When was I here!?!?

Gets to Calypso Cascades. Okay I’ve definitely been here…There were rangers working on the bridges and I was definitely with camp people…Family Camp. Yes.

*sees a sign for Ouzel Falls* HOLY CRAP WE HIKED TO OUZEL FALLS THAT’S WHAT WE DID. I CAN’T BELIEVE IT TOOK ME THIS LONG TO REMEMBER.

*Arrive at Ouzel Falls* I don’t remember that bridge but I do remember this waterfall.

I really want to hike Longs.

Okay we’re practicing mindfulness…

popular…you’re gonna be popular Wicked, WHAT ARE YOU DOING IN MY HEAD?

notice your arms swinging slightly…notice the strain in your neck because you’re looking down mostly…

you should look up more or you’ll miss the view…*looks around* oh it’s beautiful…***trips over a root*** LOOK BACK DOWN YOU IDIOT.

Okay don’t call yourself an idiot, that’s mean.

That is a really cool boulder. I wonder if anyone has tried to boulder on it. Probably not because that’s probably not a thing in the park. But still the overhang. Man that would be hard.

Okay halfway there. We’re making good time. Doing well.

*2 miles to go*

This shouldn’t be too bad.

Holy shit. Why are there so many hills?!?!

*trips over a rock*

My legs are not happy with me right now.

You can own the earth and still all you’ll own is earth until you can paint with all the colors of the wind

It is fucking hot today. Good lord.

I should reapply sunscreen.

We have got to be getting close right? It has to be just over that curve.

Just around the riverbend…I LOOK ONCE MORE, just around the riverbend, don’t know what for

How is it not RIGHT THERE?!?!

WHY GOD WHY.

I just want to fall over and never get up again. Sweet release for my legs.

I am never hiking again. This hurts my whole body. Okay that’s not true, but it will definitely be awhile before I can forget about this.

This trail is never going to end, is it? We’re just going to walk forever aren’t we?

I’m so tired.

***Just keep swimming Just keep swimming***Just keep hiking hiking hiking***

We can do this. We’re gonna get there. please god let us get there.

Those hikers are coming BACK already?!?!

CLIMB EVERY MOUNTAIN. FORD EVERY STREAM

My legs…oh god.

Okay Rob is out of water. Hmm…

ARE WE THERE YET?!?! NO…WHAT THE HE…

*trips again* I didn’t realize how clumsy I am

*asks a hiker how close we are* ANOTHER .5 mile! WHAT.

Snow field. Okay. We can do this. Do not slip. *slips* Damnit.

*Rob raises his hands in victory* THANK GOD WE MADE IT.

Sees lake. Takes pictures. Why do these pictures look blurry? Guh, figures.

GOOD GOD IT IS WINDY.

FOOD. I LOVE FOOD. This sandwich is delicious. I love apples. I should eat more of them.

Hiking Back Out

Oh god we have to go back down the snow field.

This hike is treacherous…

And my knees…seriously I feel so much older than I actually am.

Okay this is going to go by so quick. Right?

No…not right. So much walking. All the walking.

Make it stop. I’d like to go home and sleep for days.

Rebecca is out of water. I don’t have much left…hmm

Oh god my water tastes like bug spray, the nozzle does anyway. How did this occur? Will I die if I ingest bug spray? But…water…

It’s gonna feel so good to take these shoes off. Is that a blister forming on my heel? ugh. probably.

THIS IS THE LONGEST HIKE EVER. Oh geez, miss dramatic, can it. It is not and you know it.

Shade, I just want shade.

It’s so hot. Water. Sitting. Rest.

How am I ever gonna hike an entire 14er when I can’t even do this?

**long string of thoughts about my insecurities and anxieties and responsibilities**

Hiking gives me too much time to think…or maybe that’s what I need…what’s going on in my head?!?!

Are we there yet…let us be there.

Oh I remember that boulder. *tries to remember how far in it was*

Oh hey Ouzel Falls. You look different in the afternoon light. And we’re still not even close. I mean we are closer. and we’re getting closer with every step but we’re still not close.

The Cascades. 1.8 miles left…that’s gotta go quick, it’s mostly flat. RIGHT. WRONG.

So many humans here.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming…in my own sweat.

Okay I think I’m out of water…

Finally sees trailhead ahead. SWEET RELEASE.

Shoes off. Socks off. Feet free!

Okay it’s time to pass out. Also gatorade.


That is what my brain is like in a nutshell…hope it’s not too scary, and that it’s a little entertaining. If not, oh well.

Other reflections will be in the next post.

Have a lovely Thursday folks.

Black Lake and After Thoughts

Man, am I sore.

 

Yesterday started with an early morning drive to Estes Park. The drive was quiet and calming. The clouds sat low on the mountains and I marveled at the world as it it shook from its slumber and the sun peaked through. It was a patient morning.

I rolled into town around 8:30am to pick up my friend Wittney who is working up there this summer.

The clouds were a bit low and a bit dark as we headed to Rocky Mountain National Park. The weather didn’t look promising but we decided to try our luck with the understanding that we could head back to town at any point and just hang out if the weather got too bad.

We parked at the Park and Ride and took the bus up to the Glacier Gorge trailhead. Our intended destination was Black Lake, which I had never been to before. Our backup was The Loch which is a much shorter route, a little under half the distance to Black Lake.

The weather held on our way up, even with some ominous looking clouds hovering over the mountains. At one point we saw a gorgeous elk. Some other hikers pointed her out to us and said they had seen a male hanging around too but we did not spot him anywhere. We made good time and arrived at Black Lake late in the morning. The last stretch was a little treacherous. The rocks on the trail were wet and there were still patches of snow in places. We did end up veering off the trail a bit and made it a bit more difficult than necessary as we climbed the rocks near the waterfall. I looked back and realized the trail, a set of rock stairs, was only a few feet away. This trek did not deter us and we made it over the crest to find Black Lake waiting for us.

We stayed long enough to eat a snack and take a few pictures before heading back down. The trek back down near the waterfall was better now that we knew where the trail was, but it was still a little sketchy with the wet rocks and snow piles. It was definitely an adventure and neither of us are very graceful, especially with everything being as damp as it was.

The weather was still not great and soon after we left, it started to rain. We pulled on our rain jackets and kept moving (shout out to Jana and Craig who helped in the purchase of my new rain jacket by the way, I love it and it does the job wonderfully). I did have a small tumble onto my butt thanks to a wet rock and over confidence in my footing, but recovered well with little issue.

It was a great hike, 10 miles overall. Wittney and I decided it was an intermediate level–mostly flat in the beginning with very short steep areas scattered throughout. I could definitely feel my body struggle with the exercise and it was invigorating at the same time. I’ve missed that feeling.

Hiking with Wittney reminded me how much I like going outdoors with other people. I struggle hiking alone because I am not a great self-motivator. I don’t push myself nearly as hard on my own as I do when there are other people with me. It’s nice to have another set of eyes and it’s just more fun with a friend to talk to and laugh with. Wittney and I got to catch up on the last year or so of our lives. We helped each other stay on trail. We walked in silence at times. We laughed about our clumsy moments. It was wonderful to hike with her. And I thank her for coming with me and for making it such a great experience. Wittney is the best!

Now I’m hoping to have at least one buddy on the rest of my hikes this summer so if you’re interested in joining me please let me know and we’ll coordinate!

We hung out in town for a while before I took Wittney back to camp. I visited with some other friends before heading back home. The drive back was not as relaxing and wonderful as the drive in. The hike had been so good for my stress levels–giving me a break from my usually anxieties. It was exactly what I needed–a reprieve from life’s craziness and daily struggles. And then holiday traffic to the mountains kicked in as I got onto the highway and it started to rain pretty soon after. My three hour drive turned into four and by the time I got home I was exhausted, drained, already sore from the hike, and was stressing yet again about all the things I’m “supposed to be doing” and all the things other people expect of me.

I made the decision not to decided anything until I got a good night sleep. Which worked out alright for the most part. I did sleep better than I had in recent days. I woke up early though. And all my anxieties came back. All the stress was there sitting on the other side of my bed.

So I hid. I decided to have “a day.” I gave myself time and space to breathe. I adjusted my expectations for what I’d be able to do. And I mostly kept to myself. The only person I actually talked to was our mailman.

I was actually quite productive in spite of my mood. I started prepping for school. I started packing up my closets. and I ate all three meals. Yay self-care! So despite the difficulty of the day, a lot of good came out of it. I gave myself permission to take care of myself instead of trying to do too much and wrecking the careful balance sleep had given me.

I need more sleep. I need more time. Or I need to use my time better. That is a continuous battle.

And I am also constantly reminded how glad I am for days out in nature. I am glad for good friends to share the mountains with. I am glad for silence. I am glad for laughter. I am glad for brief reprieves. I am glad for future possibilities. I am glad for this crazy weird life I’m living.

Until next hike. I wish you all enough.

#Flow

I haven’t been hiking lately.

It’s a fact. And while I’m not particularly thrilled about this fact, it seems the universe has other ideas about what I should be doing with my summer and instead of fighting it…I’m going with the flow–working around all the responsibilities, spontaneous hang outs, and wonderful adventures.

It’s not that I have been sitting on my butt…quite the opposite. I’ve been really productive actually. And it feels good. I’ve been working with my aunt to stage their house that will be for sale soon. I dog sat for a friend last week and had a blast with Sofi. I’ve been cleaning a lot. I’ve been biking around town. I’ve been making care packages. I’ve been making list after list about what I need to do before school starts in August. I’ve started packing my stuff for an August move. My schedule is filled with awesome events and spending time with friends and family.

It’s not the summer I planned for. Life tends to redirect my plans more often than I’d like. And that’s okay. It’s teaching me to be more flexible and openminded to the possibilities. It’s still unfolding–providing me with rich experiences and meaningful moments that I will cherish throughout my life.

I still have plans to get some hiking in when I can between the packing and the trips and adventures and all the prep for school, but my goal is definitely in an adjustment period. I won’t get as many peaks this season as I’d hoped…and I think the important thing is to keep trekking on even if the trek is slow, even if the way is difficult. Even if the trail involves some bushwhacking.

The goal is still in sight, if not a little farther down the road than I’d thought initially. It’s all good, my friends. It’s all good.

It wouldn’t be an adventure if it didn’t challenge me to explore and learn and grow.

#flow.

The Best Laid Plans…

Maybe I was over confident. Maybe I was overly excited. Maybe I didn’t quite plan as well as I should have. Maybe it’s June and apparently snow is still a thing. Maybe it was a combination of all these things…

I got up bright and early after a fairly decent night sleep. I did my stretching and morning work out routine. I ate breakfast. I had my directions and my pack was ready to go.

And I drove past the trailhead. To be fair it was a tad hidden off the road and there was another trailhead just beyond with a big parking lot out in the open. I got a little distracted. And the directions I got were not very detailed (nor were signs posted in any helpful way).

After realizing this I did end up at the right trailhead, Native Lake Trailhead. I parked and read all the signs, slightly confused by the permit requirement at first, then found the permits in the box. I got all that done and was ready to go off on my adventure only to reach the beginning of the trail to find LOTS of snow. FEET of it. I carried on, faithful to my determination. I trudged into the snow, the deepest parts going up past my knees which my bare legs were not happy about at all. I stopped a few feet in and pulled out my rain pants, because if I was going to do this, I was going to avoid freezing my legs off.

And my rain pants didn’t fit.

(This, after months of anxiety about my clothes no longer fitting, did not help build any confidence).

I mean they fit eventually because I tried to walk like a gangsta for awhile and I felt foolish and honestly…it is not comfortable. Anyone who wears their pants below their butt…WHY? WHY DO YOU THINK THAT’S COMFORTABLE? IT’S NOT. AND YOU LOOK RIDICULOUS. STOP IT.

I did eventually get them up onto my hips with a lot of effort. And they did help with the snow. But that didn’t really make the hike easier.

There was a LOT of snow. A LOT. And because of that the trail was pretty much nonexistent. And on a hike that I’ve never done before, this really isn’t good news. I actually attempted to find the trail twice. The second time I went a little further but nothing came to fruition.

It was discouraging to say the least.

I got back to my car trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my day. I knew I didn’t want to waste this gorgeous day sitting on my butt in my apartment. So I moved up to the trailhead just beyond where I was. This was the starting point for the Windsor Lake trail. Thankfully there was much less snow. The trail was pretty good starting out.I walked awhile with no complications or issues. There were signs keeping me on track. Then I came to a huge waterfall, probably increased flow from snowmelt. There were fallen tree branches that would be easy to walk on if the current were lower. After everything this seemed like another sign I shouldn’t be hiking today.

I hiked up the other path for a bit but the trail disappeared and going off trail is strictly forbidden in the area. I turned back disappointed, and already tired from all these unexpected hiccups.

I ended up at Turquoise Lake, sitting on a rock reflecting on the short attempt I’d made. And this is what I’ve taken from this experience:

  1. Despite poor signage, my instincts are usually right and I need to trust them more.
  2. My rain pants don’t fit anymore…at least not comfortably. That was a blow to my confidence.
  3. Snowmelt is really cool
  4. I am not a risk taker…as mush as I’d like to be (or just think I am). I don’t like bending the rules. I don’t like breaking the rules just to get where I want to be. I don’t like taking chances –and it’s possible if not probable that these choices to not risk are entirely led by my own fears.
  5. Nature is incredibly peaceful and amazing. I need to settle into it more.
  6. People ruin the peace without even realizing it.
  7. Getting lost in the moment is important–but so is finding your way back.
  8. There’s a strange dichotomy in my desire and need to be alone and simultaneously wanting someone to share the moment or experience with.
  9. “We forget we’re mostly water till the rain falls and every atom in our body starts to go home.” -Albert Huffstickler
  10. Bugs freak me out.

I left the lake and headed home to find both my sink faucets fixed, yay no constant dripping or leaking! I made a quick change of supplies and headed into town on my bike. Needless to say…I am out of shape. And the altitude doesn’t help. My goal is to not have to walk my bike up big hills by the end of the summer.

I got a lot of work done at the coffee shop, made a pit stop at school and the library before returning home to eat a late lunch and watch Game of Thrones. And man was that a crazy episode.

I’m going to start meal planning this next week to help organize my life and keep me on track with eating healthier…or at least be aware of what I’m eating and how much of it I’m eating.

I’m trying to balance my desire and need to be outside and in the midst of any sort of tranquility with all the responsibilities and plans I have undertaken. It’s possible I put too much on my plate. I know everything will work out, and I’m still anxious that I’ll be able to handle it all, but as I did today…I will take time to assess the situation, adjust, and make a well-informed and confident decision that is best for me and my well-being.

Today was not what I planned for, but it was a good day anyway. So I call that a win.

Native Lake, I will be back for you, count on it.

Adventure is Imminent

Tomorrow I’ll be heading out to Native Lake. According to my research it is 8 miles round trip and is an intermediate level hike. I’ll be leaving relatively early in the morning to get a good start which will also allow me time in the afternoon to get back and do some more errands [because what is my life but a never ending list of errands and responsibilities].

I’ll be taking my camera and a notebook for some quiet reflection time. I’m planning to be back mid-afternoon depending on my pacing. I want to be back no later than 4pm.

Fun fact #1: I got my bike back from the shop today and it’s all fixed and shiny and beautiful and I’m so excited because it means no more driving in town! I’ll only be using my car to get to trailheads and making the drive to Denver. Yay saving gas [and in small ways…the environment]!!!!

Fun fact #2: This morning I started a new exercise regime. It involves basic stretching and a few rounds of different cardio, strength, and toning exercises. I’ll also be stretching before bed each night. I’m starting off small to help me settle into the routine [because I’m notoriously horrible at sticking with routines for longer than a week] and then I’ll increase the difficulty and length of my workouts once I’m comfortable with the process itself.

Fun fact #3: I am looking to change my eating habits. This is in no way me wanting to go on a strict diet, I just want to become more aware of what I’m eating and ultimately cook healthier for myself. So if you have any fun, easy, healthy, and delicious recipes for any meal send them my way. I don’t have any dietary restrictions and while I am picky I will try anything once.

Happy Hiking!

A Lesson in Mindfulness

I didn’t go hiking today. Not really anyway. I was going to. That was the plan. And then yesterday I went into full-fledged cleaning mode.

I rearranged my living room. I cleaned my kitchen [it’s still dirty but it’s much better than it was…] and I organized my bedroom [piles of stuff are still to be put away]. I took a break in the evening to talk with my best friend and then got distracted by pinterest…which I knew would happen now that I’ve signed up for it.

So today was a day to finish my to do list from yesterday, get some errands done, eat healthy, and finish resetting my soul.

I “fixed” my bike this morning by taking off the kick-stand so that I could actually ride it down to the bike shop to be looked at. On my arrival and initial look-over we discovered many issues with it that need to be attended to. I left it to be fixed over the weekend…it is a great deal cheaper than buying a new bike I know, and yet I am antsy in the repair.

Without a mode of transportation I walked to the school on my way home to check in. I then started my trek home realizing with excitement that I have never explored this area between work and my house before. There is a large forest with several small cemeteries along the way. After meeting the trail I quickly found myself at the entrance of a Jewish cemetery marked 1880.

Many of the graves I came across marked the resting place of an infant within the first days, weeks, months, or in a few cases years of their lives. There were too many for me to fathom. And still others marked of teenagers and twenty-somethings. It’s hard to remember that life spans weren’t nearly as long back then, while grieving the loss of so many strangers.

As I walked around I wondered what stories were hidden in these stones. I wondered about the heartbreak that shook the wind because time had forgotten it. Lives barely lived still mark their place and while I did not know any of them, they pulled at my heart. It is difficult to say I understand the world when so much confounds me. These graves…those lives that ended too soon—I’m still not sure of what to make of that feeling.

It’s a hard thing for me to dwell on, death. It’s a hard thing for me to name, to face, to explore. I don’t think this is the time to dive into that particular topic but it does carry me into another thought about mindfulness and enjoying what I have in this moment.

I recently started reading a book on the subject and I took this walk to practice being present and aware. I put my phone in my bag and fell into step on the trail toward home. I listened to the crunch of my steps on the dirt and gravel. I acknowledged the itch from two mosquito bites on my leg and the sting from a small cut on my finger. I could feel the sun beating down on my shoulders and neck, the gentlest breeze against my face, the sunglasses resting on my nose and ears. I could hear birds singing, dogs barking, cars driving off in the distance. My skin sweat, my hair clammed against my forehead. Even though my mind still raced with all the errands and responsibilities that are currently stressing me out, it gave me a quiet moment of tranquility to focus on how truly beautiful our world is and how lucky I am to experience it every day. It is one step toward becoming more mindful and while it was not perfect, it was good practice.

It wasn’t the hike I was planning on today, but it was the hike I needed.

Now that I’ve had lunch I can set my sights on finishing the mass cleaning project I’m in and check a few more things off my to do list. It’s easy for me to get overwhelmed by everything I want and need to get done, not just today but in the coming months. My anxiety is ebbing and flowing as I type. I remind myself that it is one thing at a time.

One moment, one task, one experience. Take deep breaths. Everything will be fine. Be in this moment, now. Because it’s all you’ve got.

 

Welcome to the Warm-Up

We are officially a GO! Summer is here and I am ready to rock those hiking boots!

The summer hiking extravaganza started in Twin Lakes, CO with my friend Tara and a spirited black lab mix named Bishop who Tara is taking care of for a few weeks.

I’m so glad this was my first trek out. It was relatively easy, short, and had a wonderful newness to it as we explored the historical site of the 19th century Interlaken Hotel and Resort. It also was a BEAUTIFUL day. Like, crazy stupid beautiful.

We headed out to the lakes around 9am. Got to the Colorado Trail on the southeast side of the lake and started hiking. This trail merges with the Continental Divide Trail [aka CDT] which we hike on for a ways before veering of to find the Dexter House which is the first of many buildings connected with the resort.

We estimate that it was about two miles overall, mostly flat with some rocky areas. Tara and I both hiked in our Chacos as it was not overly difficult terrain. We only met one real obstacle…a tree had fallen across the trail, roots out and everything and we had to go around. It took us about 2 hours round trip including exploration. Great relaxing half day hike…

The resort was fascinating, if a little creepy and weird [glad that we were there in the morning and not near dusk or night because I probably wouldn’t have handle it very well]. The Dexter House is open and visitors are allowed inside to look around. There’s nothing incredibly amazing as far as hidden relics [most I believe are underwater] and most of the rooms were empty. In the back there was a bathroom that had a tub built in…would not recommend using it [neither would the restoration organization most likely…]. We signed the guest book and headed out to discover more buildings further down the trail. All of them were boarded up, but in one window we did see a bunch of lumber strewn about.

It was cool to see the history of Twin Lakes. I’ve driven 82 so many times in my life and never knew what lay on the other side. I have a soft spot in my heart for old places, abandoned or not. I’m intrigued by the stories they tell. I’m intrigued by the absence, lonely and empty, and yet full of yesterdays.

Interlaken is a place of stories forgotten, or maybe never told. The signs that explain the history are merely vague outlines of what once was, with anecdotes yes, and yet there is so much left unsaid.

It was a great first day out. Nice, easy terrain to settle into…a beautiful morning of sunshine and cool breezes. Thank you to Tara for inviting me. Thanks Bishop for all your sniffing of plants and dirt. I couldn’t have asked for a better start to my summer hiking adventures.

 

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The First Summit–Year One

Today I completed check out and officially finished my first year of full time teaching.

I’m exhausted. I’m elated. I’m proud. I’m probably in shock. I’m stressed. I’m free. I just want to sleep. I want to run around yelling and screaming until I’m blue in the face.

I’m a lot of things and a lot of feelings all tangled together in semi-crazy energy and also fully relaxed and looking forward to a busy summer of hiking, art, biking, music, books, and moving…[yeah that’s also happening].

I started off the school year working hard to reflect on this experience frequently…and then time got away from me and my journal was left quiet for several months. I’ve always been bad at keeping journals. So this is my full year reflection instead.

This year was…incredible. Difficult. Hilarious. Baffling. Confusing. Infuriating. Fun. Challenging. Inspirational. Overwhelming. Paralyzing. Moving. Beautiful. Loving.

At the beginning of the year none of my students liked to read. None of them wanted to read. And most of them could not read above a third grade level.

Through the use of our new reading program in just the last four months I have seen the majority of my students rise in reading level at least one grade. I’ve seen others who have just grown more confident in their reading. One student who refused to read anything that wasn’t written from the perspective of a dog for the majority of the year, fell in love with The Giver which we finished at the end of May. Some of his classmates begged me to let them read more when I had to stop them to start other activities.

Last week many of my 8th graders called my class one of their favorites during their passage interviews. They acknowledged their own growth–some stating that they actually like reading now, and they actually know what’s going on in the stories they read.

It is a small step in creating a culture of reading that is desperately needed in our district. We have a long way to go and I’m hopeful that we can keep the momentum going next year. While I’m apprehensive in my grade level move I am also excited for the new possibilities it gives me to create and implement curriculum that is relevant, engaging, and challenging to my students.

I am so incredibly grateful for this experience even when it was hard, even when I wanted to pull all my hair out, even when I felt like I was making no difference at all.

I love these kids. I really do. And these kids need more love, but they show it in the worst ways. They frustrate me. They push me. They lash out at me. They curse and scream. They don’t do their work. Because they don’t think they’re good enough. Because they have so much inside them that they don’t know what to do with. Because they need more love.

I love these kids. I really do. And they show it in the best ways. They leave notes on my board about how much they love me. They leave me handwritten [and typed] notes apologizing for their behavior on their bad days. They give me high fives in the halls. They talk to me about video games and tell me that they dream of going to college and becoming a surgeon. They hug me and tell me I’m their favorite teacher and that reading isn’t as bad as they thought.

My last class on Friday surrounded me in a hug, all of them, right before the bell rang. Those are the moments I cherish and will keep forever. It makes it all worth it.

This year was hard. Really hard. Moving to a new town. Meeting new friends. Basically becoming a full blown adult. It was really hard. There were days when I didn’t want to get out of bed. Days when I collapsed after school thinking I couldn’t go on.

This year was amazing. Truly amazing. Moving to a new town. Meeting new friends. Basically becoming a full blown adult. There were days I woke up feeling so lucky to be here and getting the chance to teach students who really need me. To end each day knowing that I did my very best to give them a good well-rounded education, and help them become better human beings. That is truly a wonderful feeling.

I am so blessed to have made it through this journey, to have seen all the things I’ve seen. To have done all the things I’ve done. To have met incredible humans who I now can call my friends.

This was not a mountain you can see. This was not a mountain that stands on the horizon when I look out my window. This was a mountain without height, without patience, without trails mapped out. This was a mountain all its own, daring me to peak it. And I did. It was a difficult trek, long and laborious. It cut and scratched at me. It left me breathless on it’s incline. It challenged me beyond what I thought myself capable of. I got lost on the ridge more than once, but found my way on a different route from where I started.

And the view from the top…there’s nothing else like it.