Last night, warmed by the heat of the wood stove, I sipped peppermint tea and awaited one more trip to the city. My mind could not be any further away from the bustling metropolis…thoughts of epic mountain passes, powdery snowflakes, ice cold beers and good friends…
But the “real” world called: DC-bound. Of course, this morning, my flight was canceled.
So, instead of hustling out the door for one more airport run, I did what I always do: worked from the old Black Forest German table that has been handed down from my parents, to my sister, to me. I sat and I worked and tonight, I still can not get my mind off what is to come as I think about what has been.
I am welcoming winter with open arms. For all its chill, this time of year warms my heart and pushes me to explore in a new way. Explore not just places, but my own mind, my own beliefs and what I value in a season. In my profession, I talk about phenology a lot – the timing of events in the natural world (you know, seasonal stuff like when flowers bloom, leaves change color, birds migrate…the list goes on) – and I have realized that moving to a new place challenges you to learn the “new normal”. Apparently, exploring the hills in November is “normal” in these parts. And, as new residents of this state, Sam and I decided to go with it and explore the mountains for his birthday. We slept in cars, drove tractors, embraced the burn of a 4-brush pile bonfire, and gave thanks for the lives we get to live at this year’s Thanksgiving with friends up north.
I look forward to learning the new annual events in this place. And if each year, during the last weekend of November, we can fire up a tractor, ski a mountain pass, or sit around the table with delicious food and good friends and loved ones, I think I will be okay.
We celebrate anniversaries, new life, life lost, the first snowfall, the first peeps of spring frog calls, the longest and shortest days…but of all the annual events, we should also remember to celebrate each and every day and the people you get to spend them with. Get outside, go walk, ride, scoot, sit. I’m not picky…just get outside.
I am a lover of topography. Rolling hills, towering mountains, it does not matter. But something has changed…
I was raised in the rolling valleys of Pennsylvania. PA was my life blood, the place I called Home, and in many ways, will always be. Growing up in the north – with a mother from the south, a father whom I occasionally mistake for Jimmy Buffet, and two siblings who would choose sand over any other earthen matter – we would travel to southern shores on an annual (or more) basis.
When I hit my mid-teens, the thought of wearing a bathing suit terrified me. My preference: layers upon layers upon layers of anything that would cover my body, and the faster winter set it, the better. When I got over the self image issue, the heat and humidity still hung heavily over my winter-filled heart. My decision was final: Mountains.
After a short stint in the central Colorado high country in 2009, the east called me back. Well, a boy headed east called me back, if we are going to be honest with ourselves. From New Jersey to Pennsylvania and finally coastal Maryland: the Eastern Shore. I lived on the coast for two l o n g years. Twenty four of the longest months of my life. One hundred and four of the most get-me-out-of-here weeks you could ever imagine.
So, to make an incredibly long, eventful, and emotion-packed story short: we left.
Forward to November 2014…
I am lucky enough to work for one of the greatest land management agencies in the federal government: the National Park Service. My job takes me all over the country and to some amazing places. This week, I spent four days on the outer banks of North Carolina at Cape Hatteras National Seashore.
In all honesty, I was not excited to go to NC or the coast. Thoughts of humidity and sand were almost too much to bare. But then, I talked to my mother…
You may not know this woman, but if you met her, you would quickly understand the whirlwind that is: Marla. She is a force and I love her every day for it. As my mind and body felt the stress of work travel, my phone rang.
Me: hey mom…
Marla: video chat me when you can!
Me: i am super busy with work…not really sure when ill be able to. but i will.
Marla: you know youre visiting your grandmother out there.
As I watched the sun set to my back and the waves break at my bare feet, with no one else around, I was reminded of just how grateful I should be for every moment in every place no matter what the scene may be. My mother gave me a new perspective on the land, the sea, and life.
I thanked the grandmother that I never had a chance to meet.
I have been dreaming about escaping into the wilderness since we arrived.
Five years ago, I got my first taste, and I have been craving it ever since…it draws me back, my soul, my body. To be the only person for miles, to hear nothing but rustling branches, wild calls in the distance, the howling wind; to watch the night encompass the world around you.
One more week.
For as long as I can remember, I have been inspired by the world around me – nature, my family, my husband…it wasn’t the words I read that were written by others or films I watched created by people I didn’t know (though these too have a place in my heart), it was the life I was living at any given moment. And with eight days into my twenty-eighth year in this world, I am no different.
Six days ago, I moved into a home in what feels like the middle of nowhere – the San Luis Valley – and I love it because this, too, inspires me. A 1909 farmhouse overlooking a high alpine desert. Inspirational, right? It inspires me because it is a giant leap from what my “normal” was a mere week ago. Just nine days ago, I was nestled in a cozy house on a 26 acre horse farm in central Pennsylvania: Home. I was surrounded by familiarity; familiarity which never ceased to inspire: maple trees and Eastern Hemlocks, meandering creeks like Slab Cabin Run filled to the gills with stubborn trout, Red-tailed hawks and Blue Jays, Musser Gap in Rothrock State Forest and the seemingly never-ending Appalachians rolling into the horizon.
Today, I rest in unfamiliarity, but I am still surrounded by inspiration. Today, I miss my friends, I miss having a community of people to explore with, eat with, drink with, celebrate with. The sadness that comes from missing these things makes me think about regret and I believe the only regrets we may have in life are those from inaction – the what if’s. What if we didn’t move here? What if Sam said no to this job? What if we didn’t leave the people and places we love to explore for new opportunities? I guess we may never know – but that’s the best part. What I do know is yes, I miss a lot of things about where I am from, but I’m ready for the challenge of this new place and the inspiration that may come with it.
As my forester of a husband travels across the state, it is my responsibility to hold down the fort – to feed the dogs (to feed myself), mind the house, unpack our belongings, clean up, to…explore? I hope so.