Over the last several years, life has taken its twists and turns. As the scenery around me changes, so too have the ways I define myself. I’ve been chubby and miserable inside my own skin. I’ve been lean and healthy and strong. (That one is much better.) I’ve been a teacher. I’ve been a runner. I’ve been the mother of a screaming baby and the mother of an adult (This one, too, is much better.) Each season of life has its benefits and challenges. Sometimes I do miss the Old, but there is something exciting about the New.
Professionally, my New is becoming a Writer Girl. I’ve spent the last 22+ years teaching some pretty incredible kids how to get the words out of their heads and onto the page. That was a terrific season, but as happens with seasons, change arrived. Now I am seizing the opportunity to put into practice all those things I learned from teaching them. Some days the words come blazing out of my mind and onto the screen almost faster than my fingers can type. Other days, like a bashful kitten, they have to be gently coaxed out of hiding. Whether short or long, easy or difficult, each finished piece leaves me in stunned amazement to see that something I have always dreamed of is becoming a reality.
In my personal life as well, there is another New. I am becoming a Hiker Girl.
I remember a few years ago when we started going to a new church, we were invited to a big overnight camp-out. In the woods. In a tent. Without a restroom. There would be nature all around. That’s right, bugs and dirt. I really liked this group of people and wanted to get to know them. Certainly I didn’t want to wimp out. But, did I mention the bugs? I had it on good authority that spiders were allowed to roam freely in these woods. I would not have access to a stationary toilet or electricity or running water. What kind of Deliverance prototype were they luring me into???? As if those things were not enough, there was much talk of the previous year when an ice storm arrived during the night and people were trapped inside their tents the next morning, zippers frozen solidly in place. The temptation to fake an illness was strong.
We went to that camp-out, in spite of all my misgivings. While I would be inclined to emphasize the incredibly rustic nature of these surroundings, it is only fair to admit that someone made allowances for prima donnas like me. There was a generator and a port-a-potty. Several of the men arrived early to clear up debris so there was a nice, neat camping area. Women brought crockpots of chili and several varieties of homemade pound cakes. After dinner, a pied piper led a group on a quest to tree a raccoon, a southern rite of passage of sorts. All night there was a roaring fire, carefully tended by those who chose not to go traipsing off into the woods after dark. The night was cool, but there were no frozen tent zippers or spider attacks. We all awoke, wild hair and backs a bit stiff from a night on the ground. The faithful stoked the fire, while the rest of us stamped the cold from our limbs and waited for a hearty breakfast of pancakes and sausage.
It. Was. Awesome.
A couple months ago, Jeff and I decided to hike the Appalachian Trail. I’m not even sure how the subject came up, much less became a “good idea.” I’ve matured a lot (OK, a little) from those prima donna days a decade ago. I’m more active and physically fit, and not one to back down from a challenge. So, hike the infamous AT we shall.
Part of me is really looking forward to this adventure: Jeff and me out there in the great unknown, taking on a huge challenge, with nothing but our wits and an overstuffed backpack to draw from. Part of me is keenly aware that we are in the honeymoon phase of this venture. We take daily walks (2-5 miles based on the time available), strengthen our muscles at the gym, become students of AT survival, and buy one vital piece of equipment at a time. The reality is, after our Daily Hiking Practice, we enter our air conditioned home, have a popsicle, take a shower, then sleep in our incredibly comfortable bed. Something tells me the Trail won’t be quite that easy.
Our initial plan is quite simple. We are going to begin with a day hike this fall, about five miles out then back again. Based on how that goes, in the spring we will try camping for two or three days. Before that happens, we will most likely do an at-home camp-out to practice getting water and eating and sleeping in the Great Outdoors – with the equally Great Indoors nearby, just in case that prima donna rears her dainty little head.
(This post was originally published on my Facebook page, Running After His Heart, but fits the scope of this blog as well.)