A Hike, A Hang Out and A Full Heart

So my last post was about this busy season I’m in right now, and it seems to be getting busier and busier.  But a sweet and fun part of this full season, is that it’s also my birthday season!  OK, I don’t claim the whole season for birthday celebrating, but maybe I stretched it out for at least the weekend.  And I might extend it even a little more still too.

I know a few other girls who were also born in May, so I took advantage of several reasons to celebrate and planned a little something.  I’d been wanting to host a get together at my house and also to do some hiking, (my spring hopes come true!), so I combined the two and we headed out after school on a Friday to hike and hang out.

IMG_6360We took the Continental Lane.  Washington’s army did a good job of blazing the trail long ago, so it’s a nice easy walk through the woods.  Which was good for us.  We had kind of a larger hiking party and lots to chat about, so we couldn’t really focus on rock climbing  or scaling boulders.

IMG_6364I had a few moments during the hike and at my house afterwards when I saw this group of ladies before me  and my heart was so filled with gratitude for the people in my life. All the people.  I feel truly blessed to have these gals and lots of other good, good souls in my life and many others who aren’t in my daily days, but who have crossed my path and I keep in my heart.  I wish they all could have been there.  I could probably go on for a while about something sappy like how walking this trail in the woods is symbolic of the paths of life we walk with each other, but you probably saw that one coming, right?  I’ll spare you.  Just saying, my heart filled up. And my eyes might have too a few times… and then someone was walking without a shoe (Not naming any names. Or even initials!) and we had to poke in tree holes and we laughed and talked and walked. IMG_6372I took my Ling Bling along and found a good place to leave it for someone else.  Part of me didn’t want to give it up, but I like the idea that someone else might find it, get a smile from it, feel gratitude and pass it on.

IMG_6369After we hiked enough, we went back to my house and some more friends came.  We muddled drinks and cooked on the grill, enjoyed the patio, toasted to birthdays and friendship, ate cake and lingered around the table.

IMG_6359Full heart!  And a happy birthday month to my May girls!

PS – I didn’t draw that heart.  We just found it there on our path.  I hope you find lots of love on your path today!

 

 

In the Way of Beauty

So, I stayed in on New Year’s Eve and didn’t do much of anything.  Well, to be honest, I did quite a few things, but not your typical New Year’s Eve agenda. It was relaxing, fun and even a little productive.   I made a really nice dinner–salmon with orange and ginger, roasted on a cedar plank, along with sauteed spinach. I also vacuumed. And I was asleep before the ball dropped. I did other things too, but since I already confessed to vacuuming,  I’ll try to save myself from appearing extra, extra dorky here and not list them all.  Let’s just go with my regular amount of nerdiness, ok?  Along with resolutions, I feel like there’s a lot of hype and expectation surrounding a person’s New Year’s Eve plan.  This wasn’t the first time that I’ve stayed home on New Year’s Eve though, so I knew that I could not go out and still be ok.  Better than ok actually. We all agree that waking up with no hangover is better than ok, right?

Still, I wanted to do something to celebrate and welcome the new year, to begin 2015 in a special way.  So here’s what I did…

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I woke up early,  I went out in the cold, I drove to the beach and I watched the first rays of the sun peek over the horizon and shine light on this new year.  It was beautiful!

I got the idea the day before when I was thinking about a quote I heard recently.  It’s from the movie ‘Wild’ which is based on the memoir of Cheryl Strayed.  I wrote about that here. I think this quote is in the book too, but I couldn’t find it when I went back and looked for it.  In the movie, Cheryl recalls her mother telling her, “There is a sunrise and a sunset every day.  You can choose to be there for it, you can choose to put yourself in the way of beauty.” That’s good stuff, right? And what better day to soak up some beauty, than the very first day of the new year?

I’m so glad I went!  I kind of felt like doing some sun salutations right there on the sand, but it was a little chilly for that sort of thing. (22 degrees!) And the Alaskan-grade boots and coat I was wearing don’t quite allow for maximum flexibility.  Then,  I remembered something that Elizabeth Gilbert (of ‘Eat, Pray, Love’ fame) has talked and written about – creating your own ceremonies to mark the beginning of a new year.  So I just made up a little new year sacrament.  I thought of some things I’m hoping for in the year ahead, for myself, and for my people.  I found a little piece of a shell and I wrote those things in the sand. Then as the waves came in and washed the words away, I made a little wish and entrusted my hopes to the world, to the universe…

Now, I worried that admitting this little ritual publicly would move me a few notches up on the dork-o-meter, but I don’t care.  Because it made me pretty happy and because I have some big dreams for this year, and I started right there at the very crack of dawn making them come true.  Happy New Year!

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I’m hoping for joy, love, health and beautiful moments for me and mine and that we will be truly awake to really see and feel all of these things this year.

 

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I also went for a little walk…

 

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… and found a heart-shaped rock, not a perfect heart shape, but that’s kind of the point, right?

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Sunrise, January 1, 2015 – “There’s a sunrise and a sunset every day, and you can choose to be there for it.  You can put yourself in the way of beauty.” ~Bobbi Lambrecht, Cheryl Strayed’s mom

 

 

 

#3 – Caving

Would you be afraid to go inside a cave?

I was a little bit...

I was a little bit…

Jen was a lot!

…Jen was A LOT!

It’s a good thing this cave was MAMMOTH!  I mean, it’s really huge!  No need for headlamps and spelunking equipment.  Not even any crawling or squeezing.  Just walk down 160 stairs and you’re in!  See here…

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Cave Entrance

Back in October, when we were in Kentucky for a weddin‘, a couple of my college girls and I took a little drive to Mammoth Cave National Park.  Now, the cave wasn’t scary at all.  But the drive, was a different story…

One time, we took a wrong turn and had to drive down a very, very, very steep, steep hill on a very, very, dark, woodsy, out in the middle of nowhere, scary, scary road. From the beginning we knew it wasn’t the right way.  It wasn’t paved.  It was barely even wide enough for our car to fit. There was a very steep hill.  There was no place to turn around.  There was a rickety bridge that barely held up as we crossed over.  We either passed no houses or houses that were so old and run down that it seemed like people couldn’t possibly live there but you could tell people did. You could tell because you could hear their music. Did I mention there was a steep hill?  It was very steep.  And there was NO CELL SERVICE!!!!!!!  We didn’t have any choice but to keep going.  The road twisted and turned.  I drove the rental car right over a log because it seemed like a safer option than getting out to move it.  Finally, just past the cemetery, the scary road intersected with a normal road and our phones began to work again.  So we called for directions. But then we found out that the only thing to do was to u-turn and drive back the way we came.  I couldn’t do it. My nerves were shot and I didn’t believe that our rental car or any car for that matter could actually make it up that steep hill that we had come down.  So I got out of the driver’s seat and let Nicole handle it.  While I had a panic attack in the backseat, Nicole figured that the best way to do it was as fast as possible.  So she gunned it along the road, past the cemetery, somehow the log wasn’t there this time, rattled across the bridge,  whizzing by the houses and straight up the hill.  Somewhere along the way a woodsman on a four wheeler started following us.  He didn’t seem concerned about the hill.  I thought he might flip over backwards.  Or kidnap us.  But no.  We all made it just fine.  And then we went to the cave.  Feeling brave.  Well, not the woodsman.  He went back to the woods. I think.

OK.  It may not have been that scary in reality.  But, "that's how it felt."

OK. It may not be such a  scary road  in reality. Maybe I exaggerated a bit. But, “that’s how it felt!”

The park ranger gives us cave instructions.  Sometimes I want to be a park ranger.

The park ranger gives us cave instructions. Sometimes I want to be a park ranger.

Ranger teaches us about the cave.  It feels a bit like Disney World inside there.  It's crazy to think of how it was all created naturally.

Ranger teaches us about the cave. It’s the world’s longest known cave system.  There are more than 390 miles of cave passages and “rooms” down there. It feels a bit like Disney World in some parts since the park system has installed lights and protective rails in the tour areas.  It’s crazy to think of how it was all created naturally.  It’s huge! Hence the name.  I think I remember that Ranger said they used to make gun powder in there.  We did not see any bats.  Ranger says they stick to lesser toured areas.

Comfy ancient cave slippers.  For when the cave people were relaxing.

Comfy ancient cave slippers. For when the cave people wanted to relax.

You have to walk on bio-security mats after being in the cave to prevent the spread of some fungal disease that affects bats.

You have to walk on bio-security mats after being in the cave to prevent the spread of some fungal disease that affects bats.

Here's some info...Did you know that some parts of Kentucky are in the Central Time Zone???   We didn't. Oops.  Good thing you gain an hour and we weren't late for our friends' wedding!

Here’s some info…Did you know that some parts of Kentucky are in the Central Time Zone??? We didn’t. Oops. Good thing you gain an hour and we weren’t late for our friends’ wedding the day before.

#23 – A Tour of My Own Backyard

OK.  So it wasn’t my actual backyard.  No tour needed there.  Walk out the door and you see the whole thing. It’s a tiny yard but I love it and I’m grateful for it because I love to be outside.  Lucky for me, there are lots of parks with hiking and biking trails and plenty of space for stretching out and exploring that are super close to home and feel just like part of my neighborhood.  Even luckier for me, my pal, Jenna, knows some of these trails like the back of her hand and way back in July, when it was summer play time, Jenna gave me a personal tour of Washington Crossing State Park.  Here’s the trail map:

Washington Crossing State Park

You can click it to see some details or I’ll just tell you a little bit about it.  There are about ten trails that crisscross and loop around each other.  There are horse trails and hiking trails and multi-use trails. Maybe you can mountain bike here? I don’t know.  There’s a nature center and camping and picnicking areas.  There’s even an outdoor theater where you can see plays and movies under the stars. (I haven’t done that though. Add it to the list? Maybe.) The park’s website says there are over 15 miles of moderate hiking trails in this area.  It’s definitely not the biggest park around here.  It’s downright small compared to some places I’ve been hiking, but I loved it just the same.  Maybe even more.  Why?  Because it’s home, it’s my backyard and because when you’re out in those woods, it’s not what people expect or think of when they think of New Jersey. Jenna and I talked a lot about traveling as we hiked that day and I got thinking about talking to people about my home when I’m not here.  I’ve traveled away to other states, as far away as Alaska, and people have actually cringed when I told them I live here. I blame TV.  Now I’m not gonna link to the Jersey Shore show anymore cause I’m sure these ladies aren’t helping much either (even though I completely admit to watching full day marathons!), but I’m just sayin, here’s another way to look at Jersey:Well, anyway that’s some of the stuff I like to look at around here…trees and green.  I’ll work on taking some better pictures, that’s #22.  You should also know that Jenna led the walk that day and didn’t need that map up there at all and I think we did about half of those trails in some combination, maybe more.  She just knew where to turn and connect them, to walk out on the road for a little bit and add an extra mile or two here and swing past the theater there and cleared the trail of logs and debris as we went and then looped back to where we started.  I think the total hike was around 7 miles.  PS- Jenna RAN that BEFORE she met me for the hike! Jenna, you’re AWESOME! Thanks for the tour! Where we going next?