Take a Hike

When the pressures of life start smooshing your head like a vise, when outside forces conspire to turn your stomach into an ulcer factory, hold your head high, take a deep breath and run like hell. That’s what Amadeus and I do, and I swear, it works like a Harry Potter spell.

Where you run is important– obviously, a crack house is not a good destination for stress-relief. Bars are smoky and can be quite expensive. Retail therapy is good if you have money, but if bills are a cause of your distress, it’s not a realistic solution. This is true of Caribbean cruises as well. And hookers.

Our cure for the blues, and our escape from the daily grind is hiking. We literally head for the hills. We throw on our jeans, pack a few sammiches, grab some bottled water and take off.

When the weather’s warm, we fish and camp out. When a chill hits the air, when the leaves turn to fire and start pirouetting  from trees, we hit the trails.

I love doing this. I love the fact that my husband grew up here and knows these hills and valleys like he knows his phone number. We discover new places, and revisit ones that he’s seen and wants to share with me. Seeing the world with him– even these small patches of the world– is one of my greatest pleasures.

Yesterday, we traveled about two hours away, to a fantastic trail head along the Buffalo River, deep in the Ozark Mountains. We took our cameras and clicked over 500 shots between us. What’s funny to me is that, when we get home and unload our SD cards, we discover that a lot of the same things have caught our eye– we often take the same shots at identical angles, at different times. A million things to see on the trail, but the same stuff grabs us. We’re spooky that way.

I wish I’d done this with my children. I wish I could have instilled in them a love of the Great Outdoors, but I never did. I was too busy trying to keep us afloat at the time, and a big backyard or football practice field was as close as we got to nature. I take comfort in the fact that I was raised a big city girl. When I first arrived in the Ozarks, twenty-something years ago, I had to inquire as to whether sheep bit. I couldn’t identify a robin and I thought eggs grew in styrofoam boxes. I was a new bride, and my new groom moved us to a God-forsaken trailer in a God-forsaken pasture, where goats frolicked on the hood of my Volvo, chickens laid eggs in our living room and snakes occasionally greeted me on the porch. For some reason, the marriage didn’t last, and those years didn’t attune me to nature. That came later, when my son and daughter grew up and I had time to consider the things that made me happy. I fell in love with bicycling and bike trails, which led to walking trails which led to hiking and camping and fishing and tree-kissing.  When I met Amadeus, I found someone who loved being outdoors as much as I do, and it’s an integral part of our lives. Maybe there’s hope for my kids yet. Maybe one day, they’ll find solace in nature. I know that at their ages, I’d rather have listened to the Sex Pistols and chugged tequila. As my daughter points out, at this stage of the game, packing a bunch of crap into a car, wrestling with fish and sleeping on the hard ground is not her idea of relaxation.

The beauty of the woods is overwhelming. The shapes and textures of the trees tell us stories. There are boulders as big as A-frames and plants so stubborn they could grow through steel. Every leaf is a masterpiece. Animals are standing around, peeking at us through the brush, though we seldom see them.* Water bubbles up from deep inside the Earth and trickles over silk smooth rocks.  Emerald green moss clings, fungi sprout like lace. Below is the river, as ancient as the world, winding like ribbon around bends and turns. I stop often as we walk the path, breathing the pure air, listening to the sounds of the rushing water and the wind pushing through the leaves. I’m in the moment. I can’t think about anything but the woods. At the same time, my ADD does double time, because everywhere I turn, there are a million treasures– it’s impossible to take it all in.

It’s the most glorious art form. We joke about taking so many photos, but really, I understand why we do it. We’re attempting to capture the thing that’s making our hearts sing. We’re trying to preserve it and take it home with us. Though it’s impossible to recreate through a lens, we try. We sit in our living room and transfer the mementos of the day to our computers. We’re tired and happy, our legs ache in a nice way. As we study each shot, we talk about what we were thinking when we took it– why a particular tree spoke to us, what a cutie the little snail-shell was, how impossible it was to capture the altitude of the trail or the gargantuan size of a rock.

When we hike, we’re enveloped in a soft cloud of serenity and beauty. It rides home with us at the end of the day, and we float on it as we fall asleep at night. We wake up Monday morning, and our worries are greeting us at the door again, but somehow, they just don’t seem as bad.

*One bear sighting and I’ll be simultaneously crying, running, screaming and peeing in my pants.

M is for Meme

marilynmonroeI love this meme that I found on MusEditions’ blog. I think Joan Harvest is the one who originally  came up with it. You don’t get tagged for this one– you jump up and down and say, “I wanna play!”

RULES: “You leave a comment on this post, and I’ll assign you a letter. You write about ten things you love that begin with your assigned letter, and post it at your place. When people comment on your list, you give them a letter, and the chain continues on and on.

You can leave a comment and not be assigned a letter if you want.  Just let me know if you want a letter to keep this going.”

Muse assigned me the letter “M.” Of course, my brain always seems to take an alternate route before arriving at its destination. So at first, all I could come up with were “M” things that I would love, if I had them. Once that was out of the way, I came up with ten more M’s that I actually do love.

1: Me, as Marilyn Monroe- I figure that if I looked like MM in her heyday, a lot of my problems would be solved. From what I can see, blondes really do have more fun (at least until they OD).

2: Men would swoon and swarm me and make many offers of…

3: Matrimony, which I’m really not interested in, unless maybe it was to a…

4: Millionaire, which would solve my money problems. We’d live in a big, shiny…

5: Mansion, and that would take care of my current personal housing maids-and-manservants55crisis.  Of course we’d have many…

6: Maids, manservants and masseuses,
who’d do the housework and pamper me endlessly. It must be hard work, being wealthy, and I’m sure that ordering my servants around would cause my delicate muscles to tense. Massages on demand would cure this. Afterwards, I’d grab my keys and drive off in my…

7: Mercedes convertible.
I’d head to the mall and buy much merchandise.

8: My mutt, Theodore, would accompany me everywhere, of course. He’d sport a new diamond collar and cuddle happily in his mink-lined carrier. I’d take him to the…

9: Metropolitan Museum of Art,
where we’d view paintings by Matisse, Modigliani and Monet. Perhaps I’d phone my art dealer from the lobby and ask him to put in a bid on a cute little Miró.

10: Mega-plastic surgery would keep middle age at bay and make me most merry. My mammaries would be majestic.

Since I woke up a short, impoverished  brunette today, I’ll return to reality. Here are 10 “M” things that really do make me happy.

1: Memories-
light the corners of my mind. I actually travel with a box of old family photos. I love looking into the faces of my ancestors (and my children). They provide a lot of writing inspiration.

2: Martinis-
dry, dirty, three olives, preferably consumed in the company of good friends.

3: Magic- I have a lot of it in my life.

4: Magnanimousness- I can’t believe the number of people I meet who possess this trait. They are generous with their hearts and time, and lately, even their homes. This applies to people I know, but also to strangers, like the waitress at the Ol’ South Pancake House (motto: “SHO GOOD EATIN’, CAIN’T BE BEATEN!!”) who went back to the kitchen and made my friend and me a complimentary Dutch Baby (this scrumptious little dessert pancake), just so we could see how delicious it was.

5: Makeup- Thanks God, for creating the person who invented cosmetics.lipstick55 I can leave home without my American Express card (mainly because I don’t have one), but I seldom step out without at least a little lipstick and mascara.

6: Music-
jazz, punk, classical, big band, ska, funk, hip hop, two tone, reggae, world, rock, zydeco, blues, even gospel (if there are no white people involved). You have no idea how sad I am that my computer’s become mute. I miss seeqpod.

7: Meat- I love cow, but I’m weaning myself off of it after reading a book at my daughter’s house that describes how animals are housed, what they’re fed and how they’re slaughtered. Ugh.

8: Mountains- specifically the Ozarks. Driving through the mountains of Northwest Arkansas is a lot like getting hugged by a  million trees. It’s so incredibly gorgeous, and somehow comforts me.

caffeine5529: Morning coffee-
That same book that described the meat thing  also insisted that we don’t need coffee. Screw that. Unless I find out that coffee beans are put on hooks and suffer like crazy until they die, I’m having my morning brew.

10: Moonbeam McQueen-
My blog, my therapy, my creative outlet, my connection to great people. Like you.

If you want to do this one, let me know, and I’ll assign you a special, limited edition, hand-chosen letter.