Just Because

On Thursday June 8, my husband and I did something that was so much fun. We provided trail magic for 2017 Appalachian Trail Thru Hikers.

We arrived at Pen-Mar County Park at approximately 1050 in the morning. Our drive was seventy miles and we’d left the house an hour later than I’d wanted to but we’d been going non stop that week and were up late the night before so I guess we needed the sleep. In anticipation of of wanting to relish each moment of this experience, I was worried we’d miss the hikers as they walked through the park.

Pen-Mar County Park has a charming appeal. There are multiple pavilions, grills, picnic tables, concessions (that were not open) a play ground, a scenic overlook, restrooms and plenty of tall trees that provided shade and a nice breeze. To be there for the day was peaceful in itself.

¬†After we parked the car, we decided to walk around the park to find a place to set up tables and get a grill started. My husband drove my Jeep in the grass so we didn’t have to carry our supplies so far and immediately got screamed at by a ratty old man who identified himself as the park ranger and threatened us by stating we are lucky the other park ranger wasn’t here because we’d have been thrown out. I decided immediately to ignore him and tune him out because his energy was negative. Once he realized what we were doing, he wanted to stand around and talk for what seemed like an eternity. I wanted him to leave so my husband I could focus on spending time with the thru hikers. Not to sound rude but I wasn’t about to offer him food either. It was for the hikers. He came around periodically and once the hikers realized he wasn’t with us, they ignored him.
We spotted a thru hiker immediately. I asked him if he was a thru hiker and told him we had food. He helped us unload the car and kept us company while we got the food going. Soon other hikers began to appear and before we knew it we had eight hikers joining us. We served hotdogs, chips, watermelon, oranges, brownie bites, honey buns, soda and coca cola and watched them chow. The hikers came in waves during our six hours at Pen-Mar County Park. We fed a total of 25 hikers that day.

The hikers that arrived as we were setting up were the hungriest and stayed the longest. It was lunchtime. The ones that arrived later were there to snack and stayed less time. They told us how many miles they had to hike to get to camp for the night. They told us their trail names and how they acquired them. They told us where they were from and what their plans were after they summit Mt Katahdin. The ones that came later in the day, knew the ones that had come earlier in the day. The ones that came earlier in the day told us who we could expect later on and sure enough they appeared. They knew each others eating habits, how many miles their “tramily” does in a day, what time they leave camp in the morning, what they eat, who hikes ultra light, who’s a loner, who’s a loud mouth know it all, etc. What I read about the culture of the AT was validated through my conversations with the hikers.

Through the course of the day I made a mental note of the different reasons they were thru hiking. Some were thru hiking for the adventure. There were three hikers from Germany and one from Israel and they all planned on returning to their countries after they summit Mt Katahdin. There were some that were using their thru hike to figure out their next steps in life. Some were retired. My nurse radar also zoned in on a few that seemed to be working through things in their lives by the way they carried themselves, didn’t offer much information and through the looks in their eyes, enjoyed the solitude of hiking alone. Whatever the reason for their thru hikes, I wish I could have talked to them all day. We had a little notebook and some of them signed it.

The picture that I have enclosed is the only one I took. The paper on the tree is a sign I made and put near the white blaze so they’d see it as they came out of the woods and into the park. I had planned on taking more but I decided I didn’t want to photograph the hikers and publish it on social media. I can picture them now in my mind, where they were sitting, when they arrived, what they looked like and what their stories were. The fact that they let me into their community if only for an afternoon is enough for me.

It is a known fact that I am fascinated with The Appalachian Trail. My fascination began last summer when I read “Hiking Through” by Paul V. Stutzman because it appeared as an advertisement on my Barnes and Noble Nook and continued with more books, blogs, websites, you tube videos and Instagrams. When I learned what trail magic was, I knew I wanted to provide some. Just because.

 

Trail magic is defined as, “an unexpected act of kindness” and according to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, it is a quintessential part of the AT experience. The people that provide the trail magic are defined as “trail angels”.

This experience was definitely one that will keep my husband and I smiling for years to come and something we plan on doing more of, hopefully two or three times per year if time allows. In September we’d like return to provide trail magic for the SOBOs making their way to Springer Mountain Georgia.

One of the female hikers was open about what she and her boyfriend’s plans were for after their hike was complete and she was interesting to talk to. She even invited me to follow her on Instagram. She asked me what role we played in the hiking community and if we hadn’t thru hiked, why we were doing this. My answer was simple; pay it forward when you can, I love feeding people and most of all, because I wanted to.

Pause.

I have a bump out room off my kitchen. We call it the sun room. It’s about 10 feet by 12 feet. It has a sliding glass door on the front wall and a deck attached. On the left wall is windows. My desk and writing space sits up against this wall. I can open up the blinds and gaze out the window when I write during the day.  My husband’s Ikea Poang chair sits in the corner between the sliding glass door and the left wall. The right wall has a futon and a television. We have a throw rug on the floor and the walls are painted with a warm oatmeal color. The roof is slanted with sky light windows. In the sixteen years and six months I’ve lived in this house I’ve watched plenty of bad weather through those sky light windows.

Tonight while watching an old season of Top Chef, I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed that the sky was gold. I asked my husband to pause the television and we rushed outside the front door to look at the sky. On the left, the sky was dark and grey. On the right it was yellow. In the middle of the yellow sky was a patch of clear sky as if the other side of our neighborhood was experiencing a sunny evening. It soon began to rain hard and we went back into the house.

I returned to my futon and continued to watch television. I glanced up at the sky light windows and noticed sky was now completely grey and it was pouring down rain. I listened to the rain hitting the glass. One of my favorite sounds, especially when I am home. At that moment it occurred to me that there was no place on this earth that I’d rather be than cuddled up with my dog watching a storm through those windows. An intense feeling of gratitude embraced me.

I’ve learned to pause what I’m doing and observe in silence moments like this. For me, they help me experience gratitude at a deeper level. Sunrise, sunsets, nature, weather. These moments come to us for a reason. Stop. Be silent. Enjoy.

 

 

The Overthinking Perfectionist

Today I did a paint night with my mom. I had purchased these tickets as a Mother’s Day gift for last year but the event was cancelled and we finally got an opportunity to use the vouchers we were given. I looked forward to this for two reasons: time with my mom and a chance to nature my inner artist as a writer by doing other forms of creative activity.

My mom and I had a nice lunch with poor service at the restaurant the paint night was being held at. The poor service at the restaurant had me a little worried. Sometimes when I get bad vibes about something that annoys me before a writing session, my writing session ends up being crap because it throws my ju ju off. I was having fun with my mom though and that was the positive thread that held this together for me.

There were only six of us, all women and we sat in tables of two. Almost immediately, one of the women stated she would not be painting the painting that we would be doing, instead she’d be painting a picture for her girlfriend of twelve years sitting next to her. It wasn’t the relationship that annoyed me, it was the fact that she had to draw attention to herself. People who have to be the center of attention in a group annoy the shit out of me. Every relationship is meaningful in some way. I don’t indulge information about my personal relationships in public to a room of strangers. She frequently interrupted the flow of the painting lesson to ask which colors to mix up to get the color she wanted. At one point the hostess artist came around and asked her to tell her about the painting and it’s meaning to her. Everything in the painting represented an aspect of their relationship. The painting was symbolic to her, ok. I can accept that, but I still didn’t want to hear about it.

The selected painting is wine glasses . We began by making a basketball sized circle with white paint in the center of the canvas. Next we mixed blue and white together to make a blue circles around the white circle in the center and mixed a little blue in the middle. After that we began to draw the wine glasses. We started by drawing the oval shaped opening of the glass, followed by the body of the glass and the stem. I quickly became frustrated with how my strokes were looking how my wine glasses were shaped. The painting wasn’t coming together for me and I couldn’t envision what the end product would look like. I was on the verge of a temper tantrum and this painting was headed for disaster.

The hostess artist came around and made some suggestions and also said something that resonated with me. She said, “you are over thinking your strokes”. That was it. That was my problem. I’m a perfectionist who was over thinking her paint brush strokes and trying too hard because I’ve never considered myself artistic and I wanted to make a pretty painting. I had lost the essence of the activity. I looked over at my Mom. Her painting was awesome and she was having fun. That made me happy. Here I was about to act like an ass and throw a fit because my wine glasses didn’t look right. So I quickly regrouped. I used a few tips that the hostess artist had showed me and I fixed my wine glasses by outlining them with black paint using the smallest brush. The strokes I outlined the glasses with in black paint came more naturally and I added some of my own color to the top. The painting came together nicely and in the end I was pleased.

The other added bonus was that we had a short intermission where we went outside to take one shot at Corn Hole. Whoever got their bean bag in the corn hole won a free ticket to another Paint Night. When it was my turn I took my time, aimed for the hole and swung my arm in alignment with the hole the same as I do when I play Skee Ball. I won myself a free ticket to Paint Night. Even better than that though, this hostess is at this restaurant every Sunday. After football season ends my Mom and I agreed to come back again. I look forward to taking the time to nurture my relationship with my mother and my inner artist. If you haven’t tried a paint night, I’d highly recommend it. Even if you don’t consider yourself and artsy artist, you’ll surprise yourself.

It made me happy to look at this painting as I was writing this blog post. I am also proud to announce that I am on a writing streak. I have written sixty five days in a row. I journal and practice gratitude. I am nurturing my inner artist and getting to know myself again through my writng. Today was perfect.

Off to bed now. Tomorrow I have to be nurse.