Friday, August 27, 2010

Anne and Her Daddy

I took this with my new cell phone, so the picture quality isn't that great. But I love the picture--Anne loves it when her daddy puts her on his shoulders. She beats on his head like it's a big drum.



You can see how fast she's moving her hands--my cheap cell-phone camera couldn't even focus on them!

This is for Jammie J.

... because she's interested in these types of things.



That is all.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Story from 10 Years Ago

When I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail 10 years ago, I wrote periodic updates for the website GORP.com. Those updates are now available on Trailjournals.com. Below is my update from August 26. It descibes my day on the trail for August 19--one of the best days I had in the six months I was hiking. I've added some links for those who are interested. Enjoy the story!

(Writing from Bascom Lodge, Mt. Greylock, August 2000)

This morning, I left Vermont and entered Massachusetts, my fourth state on the AT. I also passed the 600-mile mark. Today marked a series of milestones, but the entire state of Vermont marked an important physical and mental transition in my thru-hike. I'm hiking more and faster miles each day, and I'm feeling more and more comfortable with trail life. Vermont was also a special time of reunions with good friends. Not only was I able to spend some time with Mudbug (a northbound friend from Louisiana) and Datto (a northbound friend from AT-L), but I also got to visit with my northbound friends Belcher and Swamp Eagle, and with my fellow GORP.com hiker, Nimblewill Nomad. New Hampshire was tough, and it seems that my Vermont experience--with its nice weather, gentle trails, good friends, and lovely views--was the reward for surviving the Whites.

At first, Vermont was as rainy as the Whites had been. At 5:00 a.m. on August 16, I was awakened by a huge crash of lightning, which was followed by two solid hours of hard rain. I lay in my tent, imagining I was a wounded prisoner at the Battle of Borodino in War and Peace , listening to the fighting outside. I fell asleep with images of battle in my head; when I woke up again, the battle was over. The world was still and quiet, and the bottom of my tent was submerged in a huge puddle of water.

Despite the day's beginning, I had a good day hiking. The trail was a never-ending series of rivulets from the storm. As I walked that day, I found myself in constant wonder at the magic the storm had brought to the Appalachian Trail. Is there anything more beautiful than water flowing over rock? Or the way the sun reflects off wet leaves? Or the way the mist makes the forest seem like an enchanted place? Is there anything more sublime than seeing the sun in the sky, or spotting a patch of blue among the clouds? I walked with a continuous sense of awe at all the motion and loveliness surrounding me.

It's all so simple, I thought to myself. Life out here is so simple. I just hope that, when I return to the "real world," I don't cease to be amazed and moved by the small miracles that occur every day.

The more I hike, the more I realize how easy it is to be happy out here--despite the rain, despite the mud, despite the intense loneliness I've experienced throughout Vermont without Isis and jackrabbit.

It's weird. It's as if I have two levels of emotion. The surface level is the level that gets frustrated, irritable, scared, and depressed, all in reaction to the many punches that the AT throws at me each day. Then there is the deeper level. That deeper level is like a flowing stream, singing and rushing along with unstoppable joy. And at the same time, that sense of joy is as constant, steady, and strong as Katahdin. Even my lowest moments on the trail can't affect that sense of hope and happiness that is constantly mine as I hike.

As a result, nothing can bring me down for long. Each new day has promise. And the weather matters less and less. Still, I've been thrilled to experience the wonderful weather we've had throughout Vermont. The sun is beautiful, and its warmth and light do a lot to restore the spirit of the rain-weary thru-hiker.

The experience of nature's beauty is a big part of thru-hiking for me, but it's not the only part. Another big part is the people, and Vermont was a state in which I visited with old friends and made new ones.

The afternoon of August 18, I settled down at Minerva Hinchey Shelter after a relatively short hiking day. I was stuffed from a late lunch at the Whistle Stop Cafe in N. Clarendon, so I decided I wouldn't hike the 15 miles I'd planned that morning.

A few hours later, several northbounders arrived at the shelter for the night. I asked them the same question I've asked every northbounder since Maine.

"Do you know Belcher?" I blurted, referring to a good friend of mine who is hiking northbound. The two of us had talked for the past year about meeting on the trail.

"Yeah, she's a few hours behind us," they responded. "She and Puck (her hiking partner) had to go into Wallingford. They'll probably camp by the road tonight."

I was going to see my long lost friend, Belcher, the next morning! I couldn't wait!

The next morning, I was up bright and early, and I hit the trail at 7:30. I raced the three miles to the road where Belcher would be camped. I knew she would be asleep, and I planned to wake her up by pretending I was a crazed fan who was addicted to her journal on Trailplace.com.

"Belcha!" I would whine in a nasal voice. "Belcha! I'm your biggest fan! Can I have your autograph?" It makes me giggle just to think about it.

When I got to the road, I found a note that Belcher had written the night before. "Waterfall," it said, "Puck and I had to go into town. We'll either go to the next shelter if we have time, or camp by the road. See you soon!"

I looked. No tent. And they hadn't been at the shelter. They must've stayed in town. I looked at my watch. 9:00. They should be back any minute. I sat down to wait.

So I waited. My hopes went up each time I heard a car, but they were dashed when the vehicle would pass without slowing down or depositing Belcher and Puck at my feet. I got more and more depressed. What if they haven't even woken up yet? What if they were enjoying a long, leisurely breakfast while I waited here, eating stale gorp, watching the rain clouds gather above my head?

Finally, an hour and a half later, I gave up. I wrote Belcher a note that I was hiking on, and I started to hike south. Each time I heard a car approaching on the road, I would stop, hoping it would slow down at the trail. But no cars stopped. I finally hiked up and over the hill, my heart heavy. I had looked forward to seeing Belcher for so long, but I needed to keep hiking.

I reached a side trail to the White Rocks Cliff overlook, but I kept moving. I was too depressed to stop.

Several miles later, I saw a familiar northbound hiker round a bend in the trail.

"SWAMP EAGLE!" I yelled.

"NINA!" he yelled back.

What a much-needed surprise! I had met Chuck "Swamp Eagle" Wilson, a Key West-to-Canada hiker, while hiking the Pinhoti Trail in April. I'd nearly drowned in a flash flood the night before, and he'd found me on the side of a hill, huddled under the makeshift emergency shelter I'd built in an effort to protect myself from unceasing rains and temps in the 30s. I had been looking forward to seeing him on the AT, but I didn't realize we were so close.

We chatted awhile, and Swamp Eagle invited me to have dinner that evening with him and his wife Betty ("Honeycomb"), and to stay at their RV that night. I would hike 10 more miles to the next road, and he would call Honeycomb on his cell phone and have her meet me there.

With my spirits lifted, I began hiking down the trail again. A few minutes later, I was overtaken by a southbounder named Easy Rider.

"Hey Waterfall, I met your friend!" he said.

"Swamp Eagle?"

"No, Belcher."

"Belcher?" I was flabbergasted. (Well, not really, but I love using the word"flabbergasted" in my writing, and I don't often get to do that at my technical writing job at IEM!).

"Yeah, she ran up the mountain to White Rocks Cliff overlook. She thought you'd be there."

"Sh*t," I yelled. "I can't believe it."

"They got to the road about 45 minutes after you left," he said. "She was so upset that she missed you."

Easy Rider and I hiked together for a few minutes, and I rationalized aloud that, if I had taken the side trail, I probably would have missed Swamp Eagle. "You can't win 'em all, I guess."

But maybe you can.

Easy Rider hiked ahead, and I was soon overtaken by two more southbounders, Firebreather and Fall Girl.

"We met your friend," they said.

"Yeah, Easy Rider saw Belcher too." I replied, dejected.

"No, we saw Swamp Eagle. We told him about Belcher, and he started running down the trail to catch her so she can meet you for dinner tonight."

My spirits soared! Swamp Eagle, I am convinced, is part-human, part-angel. He appeared on the Pinhoti when I most needed help, and now he was chasing down Belcher for me.

I hiked with Firebreather and Fall Girl until we reached the road, and they went on down the trail while I sat to wait for Honeycomb. Several minutes later, a southbounder named Shepherd emerged from the woods.

"Hi Waterfall," he said, his Tennessee accent strong. "There's someone behind me who's been trying to catch up with you all afternoon."

"Huh?" It couldn't be Swamp Eagle, and Belcher had headed back north after missing me at the side trail. "Who is it?"

"Just wait--you'll see," Shepherd drawled with a grin.

Totally confused, I looked expectantly at the trail. Soon, a man with a long grey beard emerged from the trail.

"Nimblewill Nomad, this is Waterfall," said Shepherd."Waterfall, this is Nimblewill Nomad."

Nimblewill Nomad! We hugged as if we were old friends. I felt like we were, since we've corresponded by email numerous times and have read each others' hiking journals.

As it turned out, Swamp Eagle had met Nomad on the trail and invited him to dinner as well. Nomad and I talked about our hikes as we waited by the road, and Honeycomb soon showed up in her "Key West to Canada Support Vehicle." She informed me that Swamp Eagle had finally caught up with Belcher, and that the two were waiting to meet us at the Whistle Stop in North Clarendon.

An hour later, the five of us were sitting at a small feast, talking and laughing as if we'd known each other for years. What a change from that morning! I'd been crying and depressed that morning, and Belcher actually had streaks of dirt on her face from crying. Now, we were all together, happy, well-fed, and surrounded by friends.

What a coincidence that the four of us would be within several miles of each other on the AT today. But that's the way the AT is--numerous thru-hikers have reported that happy coincidences like this occur all the time out here. So many of us feel as if we are being led somehow, and not just by white blazes. There's something guiding us, and our job is to walk, and to listen to our intuition in order to better sense whatever it is that's leading us. The more I follow my intuition, and the less I mentally struggle against the rain, mud, loneliness, and difficult sections of trail, the more I find that happy coincidences occur, and the stronger that river of hope and joy inside me flows. I wish I could express these experiences and feelings more succinctly, but this update has already gone on too long, and I'm tired. This is all I can say for now: physically, I feel stronger than ever. Mentally, I'm feeling more and more prepared for the punches the trail has in store for me over the next four months. All I need to do is listen, walk, and wait for the magic to happen.

~ Waterfall

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Daybook for Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Outside my window... It's gray. Can't tell yet what kind of day it's going to be. I want to stay home all day so I can read, write, and think.

I am thinking... that school is starting already. Makes me feel a little homesick. I always loved school. I kind of wish I was teaching. It is, after all, Beowulf season.

I am thankful for... answered prayer. I've had to make some hard decisions recently, and several things have happened unexpectedly in the last few days that will make those decisions a lot easier to carry out.

From the learning rooms... There are no learning rooms. I think that's a homeschool term, and since these little prompts are from a site frequented by stay-at-home homeschooling moms, it applies for them. I haven't decided yet what we're going to do for Anne's education.

From the kitchen... I baked up a storm this summer. I'm teaching a class at work Thursday morning, and I'm wondering what kind of cookies I'll make Wednesday night. I'm thinking of trying Peanut Butter Banana Oatmeal Cookie Sandwiches, which I found on The Crepes of Wrath, one of my favorite food/recipe blogs. Or maybe I'll do chocolate chip; the sandwiches seem a little labor-intensive, and Wednesday nights are not the time for labor-intensive. Or I might do lemon sugar cookies; I can make and roll the dough tonight, and then cut and bake the cookies tomorrow night.

I am wearing... hiking shorts and a t-shirt from a recent 5K. One thing I love my job: I can wear hiking shorts and a t-shirt from a recent 5K to work.

I am creating... I can't think of a thing I'm creating. Need to work on that. I am, however, thinking of starting a poetry group of geeky English-major types who want to sit around, maybe every two weeks, and talk about poetry. I've also thought of starting a group to discuss Christian apologetics. And I've also thought of starting a writing group, where a bunch of geeky English-major types get together and talk about writing, do writing exercises, etc. If you're in my town and are interested in joining any of these types of groups, please let me know in the comments, or e-mail me.

I am going... to leave for work in a few minutes. First I need to drop off Miss Anne at her sitter's, then I'll head for the office. I hate having to be away from Anne all day. Fortunately, she's only about 12 minutes from work, so I can go nurse her at lunch. And sometimes her sitter brings her to me at the office, which is always nice.

I am reading... Southbound by the Barefoot Sisters. And several other books. But that's the main one.

I am hoping... our Maggie Valley house will sell, now that we've dropped the price to a ridiculously low amount that we never would have considered a year ago.

I am hearing... the cat scuff around in his litterbox.

Around the house... everyone's asleep--Hubster, Anne, and our guest, Brian. The floor to the play area needs to be vacuumed, so I guess I'll do that tonight. And our nice garden tub is full of cat hair and Q-tips; Beau's latest game is to chase Q-tips in the tub. Ah, the joy of being a cat-mama ...

One of my favorite things... Lately, Anne has become wary of strangers. Two months ago, she would go to anyone. Now she clings to me. She holds me tight and rests her little head on my shoulder and just ... snuggles. It's the most wonderful feeling (though not so great for the person who wants to hold her, but can't). Yesterday, when I was holding her like this, I thought, "People would pay big money for a drug that could make them feel the way I feel right now." Motherhood is hard, but I love being Miss Anne's mom more than just about anything.

A few plans for the rest of the week: Hubster has a late meeting tonight. As I said earlier, I need to bake tomorrow night for Thursday morning's class. Thursday is open, and Friday we're going to have company again. Anne's been going to sleep a little earlier (9:00), so maybe I'll have a few minutes each night for reading, writing, and thinking.

Here is picture for thought I am sharing...



This is one of my favorite pictures of Anne, taken about a month ago, just after she turned 7 months. She's playing on her activity table, one of her favorite toys.

Want to read daybook entries from Moms Who Are Not Like Me (i.e., stay-at-home moms, many of whom homeschool)? See The Simple Woman's Daybook.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Another Rare and Uninteresting Update

Friends, I have so much to write on this blog. I fear all of it will never get written. For the time being, I'll continue to do what I've been doing: writing little snippets here and there once every week or two, just so my five faithful readers know I'm still alive.

Anne: Anne turns eight months old today. I'm not going to write things like, "My, how the time has flown!" and "Where did the time go?" Truth is, time has pretty much crept along since Anne was born. I'm happy about that--I really feel like I've been able to savor every moment with her.

Anne and Solid Food: Last night, Anne decided to start eating solid food. We first tried to give her solid food when she was just shy of six months old. She would have nothing to do with it. So we tried again a few times ... then she turned seven months old and still wasn't eating solid food. I tried every night for a week or so, but she was adamant. "No! Solid! Food! Mommy!" (She said this in baby body language.) So I stopped trying. Hubster was away for ten weeks, I was working full time, and Anne was healthy and growing on breastmilk alone, so I didn't push the matter anymore.

So I haven't tried to give her solid food in several weeks. Last weekend, my mom gave her a bit of a saltine cracker. Then another bit. Then another. Anne seemed to like it.

Hello, Sweet Potatoes! So last night, now that she's a mature eight-month-old, I presented her with a spoonful of strained sweet potatoes. Her sweet little mouth opened, like she was a little bird waiting for a worm. A fluke? No. I gave her a second spoonful, and her mouth opened again. She ate as if she'd been eating for weeks. I gave her a bit of a saltine cracker, and she chewed it with her two teeth. It was very cute.

I'm still breastfeeding her and plan to do so for at least four more months, and possibly through the winter so she'll have a good, strong immunity to the colds and flu viruses out there. It's a challenge for me, but so worth it. And I love breastfeeding the Li'l Boo.

So that's the latest on Anne. She is the sweetest, most delightful child, and I am one hundred percent in love with her.

About Waterfall ... Here's the latest on me: I'm a tired mommy.

Work: I'm working hard when I'm at work. I love my tech writing job more than ever, partly because I've been able to "branch out" this year. For instance, I got to teach a couple of classes this summer: one was a primer on our company's style guide, and the other was a class on basic business/technical writing.

It was so nice to be in front of a classroom again. If I could learn how to set limits for myself and not push myself too hard, I think I could go back to teaching full-time. I truly loved teaching, and I think was good at it (for a beginner, at least). I was just really horrible at balance.

I've also been given the opportunity to do some writing and editing for a magazine published by my company. This has been a nice break from the usual tech writing.

"Me" Time? What's That? I haven't had much "me" time since, oh, December 12, 2009. There is no "me" time anymore. I'm strangely okay with that. Very strangely. I wasn't okay with it a month ago, but I am now. I guess I've hit the "acceptance" stage or something.

Reading: I'm managing to read some books. I'm currently reading Spurgeon: A New Biography, by Arnold Dallimore, as part of a group-reading effort on Tim Challies's website. I'm also reading Southbound, by Susan and Lucy Letcher, a.k.a. "The Barefoot Sisters." It's about their southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail in 2000. I hiked quite a few miles with them, so I'm in the book. It's been so much fun to read about their adventures and to re-visit my own hiking memories--some of which I haven't thought about in ten years.

Funny--I read this same book (or thought I did) in the few weeks after Anne was born, but I remember very little of it. I'm so glad I picked it up to read it again. Clearly, my mind was elsewhere back in December/January. I actually read several books during that time, and I don't remember much about any of them.

Other Things I Used to Do: I'm not running (much), and I'm not playing piano (much). I'm a backup pianist for my church, so I've played for once service so far and will be playing again for a service in September. If it weren't for that obligation, I probably wouldn't play at all. Not that I don't want to play. I'm usually just so tired when I'm at home. And I can't play late at night because I don't want to wake up Miss Anne. So piano will have to wait awhile longer.

I'm also studying the book of James with a Bible study group. That's been interesting. It makes me want to start a blog, just to write all the insights and thoughts I have. Then I remember that I don't even have time to blog here, and that it would be crazy to start yet another blog. So maybe I'll post some of those thoughts here, if I ever find time.

And the Hubster's Home: My husband is home after ten weeks away. That was rough for both of us: He missed Miss Anne (and me, I guess), and I got to be a single working mom for ten weeks. I'm glad he's home.

Thoughts Lately: My challenge lately has been to embrace life as it is. I keep finding myself wishing that things were different--that we lived in a different house, that I was in school instead of working, that Hubster and my jobs, much as we love them, didn't keep us apart from each other for such long periods of time. And then I really waste my time wishing I'd done things differently before: that we had rented, and not bought, that house in Maggie Valley; that we'd stayed in that house instead of buying a second home here; that we'd planned financially for a child; that I'd had Anne at 30 (when I had more energy) instead of 40. It does me no good to entertain regrets about what might have been, but I still manage to do it anyway.

That's it for now. Sorry about the lack of cute Anne pics this time around. Oh, here's an old one that I don't think I've posted here yet.



Don't let her smile fool you. She was still in her "No! Solid! Food! Mommy!" phase at this point!

Thursday, August 5, 2010