September is stressful!!

Holy moly! My stress level has skyrocketed this past month! How do people live like this on a regular basis? Despite two trips to the Apple Store and hours of e-mailing with various people on why my iMovie won’t open when connected to VGA (the only connection that nearly all of the libraries I am presenting at this month have), this issue remains unresolved! The first time I went to the Apple Store, one of the workers Googled it because he had never heard of that problem before (something I had already done on my own…). He told me there was no reason it shouldn’t open and that if I could get it to open on my laptop, there would be no issue on getting the screen to display it.
I headed out to my next presentation hopeful that it would work, but feeling confident that there would be a back-up plan if it didn’t, as the IT person there had told me they had a portable projector with an HDMI connection. We connected my laptop to the VGA cord and sure enough, the same problem occurred. iMovie wouldn’t open due to a resolution incompatibility with the internal settings on my laptop! The extremely relaxed and super nice librarian got out the 2 portable projectors, one of which did have an HDMI connection. However, they could not find a connecting cord for it! The audience streamed in and the clock ticked closer and closer to seven. She asked if I had my presentation on a flash drive that we could use on her computer. Unfortunately, I was unable to get the quicktime movie I had made onto my flash drive that I had bought for this purpose. It kept giving me the same error code! (I later learned this was due to the slideshow being too many Gbytes for the setting of my computer to transfer). I went to use the restroom, staying as calm as I could, knowing that something would work out.

Earlier that day, upon stepping out of the shower, I received a call from my landlord saying that the carpenter was waiting outside to get into my apartment. He was supposed to have come an hour and 45 minutes later to look at two windows that had broken seals and were collecting moisture and mold between the panes. I hurried to get ready and then let him in. My landlord had told me that they would need to come measure the windows first before coming back to install them at a later time. I headed down to Cambridge to teach yoga and then drove back, expecting to have some time to do a home yoga practice or go for a walk and practice my talk before driving the hour to the library. When I arrived home, I was shocked to find several men in my kitchen and bathroom, talking like construction workers do, and making a mess of my apartment! I had not expected anyone to be there at all! My sense of peace was non-existent! I wondered how long they were going to be there! I no longer had the opportunity to do yoga, or even be able to use my own bathroom! How was I even going to get changed? Despite the forecast calling for rain, I decided I would head out for a quick walk to get some space. I looked for my headphones on my dining room table, where I always keep them, to listen to some music on my walk, but I now I couldn’t find them! I swept over the entire table and then searched my pockets of the clothes I had worn the day before, knowing that I had brought them on my walk just one day ago. They were nowhere to be found! I wasn’t happy with the fact that all of these guys were in my apartment unsupervised! I hadn’t expected them to be there at all and my landlord had told me that his mother would be around to watch them when they were doing the work, in case. I didn’t want to accuse anyone of stealing anything, but after spending a good deal of time searching for my headphones, I didn’t see any other possibility! I always put them on my table when I get home from my walks. And how could I ask if one of them had “accidentally” taken them? I told my landlord’s father and he came up and looked around and said that no one would have a reason to take them aside from “the thrill of it.” His wife agreed. She told the leader of the group and he showed no signs of caring. Now, I had lost all time for a walk at all. After they left, I got changed and was about to head out when my landlord came over to talk to me about it as I was typing the address into my GPS. I was falling further behind and worried about being held up in rush hour traffic.

Moments before my presentation was to start, a kind woman in the audience went out to her car to bring in her laptop. She said she was going to link it to mine and then it would act as the intermediate between the projector and my laptop. When it came time for my slideshow to play, I stood in the back, cringing the entire time. Because this additional information source slowed down the time it took for the images to reach the screen, only various parts of my photos were shown. It was as if the computer was quickly trying to paint my photographs, but before it had time to finish, it was time for the next to be displayed. Luckily, my host was the sweetest, most delightful woman on earth, and she loved the slideshow despite the problems! I finally had to relax a little and surrender to what was happening. There was no other choice. I told the audience that it was an “extra” artistic display and that fortunately, they could fully see the photos on my blog if they wanted to. The energies of each of my audiences have been different, and this one was a sweet group. They were very kind and supportive of me, which I greatly appreciated.
The next day, I headed back to the Apple Store, where I was initially told that I would likely have to have my hard drive wiped! Frightening! I was able to get an appointment at the Genius Bar an hour later, and within 20 minutes, the woman seemed to have fixed the problem! She was able to fix the interface between the second display and my iMovie after rebooting my laptop. I felt so happy! I thought I was saved! For several weeks now, I have been thinking that I might need to buy my own projector- a huge expense!

This past Tuesday, I had another presentation. First, I had to teach yoga in Cambridge again. The class was scheduled to be in the auditorium, but when I arrived, a presentation was going on in there! I took my student down to the basement room which has been the back-up room, only to find the door locked. I was able to find someone with a key for it, but when I opened the door, my student wasn’t happy with the space. She suggested we hold class outside instead. I told her that was fine if the other woman who had signed up agreed. We took mats, blocks, and straps outside, and I headed back in to make a sign to put up outside the auditorium in case anyone was looking for class. Then, I hurried back outside. At the exact time class was supposed to start, the second student arrived. I asked her if it was okay if we held class outside. She hesitated and then said she preferred not to as she had not brought a change of clothes and was wearing a dress. I had to tell my other student that we had to go back to the basement room… We got there, moved the chairs and tables, spread out our mats in the tiny space, and then I tried to get them into a calm, quiet space, and then lead them through some shoulder and hip opening. While in pigeon pose, someone loudly knocked on the door. “I have this room reserved in a few minutes and need to know that it will be clear by then,” a woman said. I explained our situation and she said she would see what she could do. Several minutes later, she knocked again, saying she couldn’t get another room and that a team of physicians were on their way and that we needed to be out. I finished off this very shortened class, apologized to my students, and offered to do another session outside for the girl who had originally wanted that. We put back the tables, packed up our things and headed past the group waiting in the hall.
Doing yoga outside for a little while was much better. Still, there was too much on my mind to be able to relax. After taking the props back in, I headed out for a bite to eat and then came back to the hospital to change for my talk. According to my GPS, I would arrive at the library at 6pm- a full hour before my talk. However, I did not realize that it would be routing me directly through the city and what a nightmare the traffic situation would be! I encountered a huge number of traffic lights that were completely backed up with idle cars. Do people really do this every day?! No wonder people want to stay at work! I watched my arrival time move from 6:11 to 6:23, to 6:35, to 6:47… I asked for help in being able to move through the congestion and get there on time. I reminded myself of the things I would later say in my talk…
Finally, I arrived at my destination, but couldn’t find the actual building! How is this happening? I didn’t have a number to call. I rolled down my window to ask a woman who was getting in her car, but she had already closed her door! I headed back the way I had come, looked into the building that my GPS said was the location and saw some books. The library! (there was no sign facing the road side!). I swept around to the other side of the building and heard Taylor Swift singing “Shake it Off”!). Where was that coming from? I turned my radio volume completely down and still I could hear it! When I opened my door, the volume shot up and I felt the rattling of speakers. Some kind of festival was taking place outside of the library! This was actually the perfect song to be playing for me at this moment! It has become my theme song as of late. I opened my trunk to take out my laptop and wished I could stay and dance out the song. But I only had time for one shake before I had to run in! Of course, I had no idea where the room was! I headed for the main desk only to be held up by two people talking to the librarian. “The presenter isn’t even here yet” she was telling them. While I tried to interject, they took no notice of me and proceeded to chat about the Appalachian Trail! I looked around for another worker. Who can show me where I am supposed to speak? I need to be there now! They finally finished and I was pointed to the room. Two men were waiting to connect my laptop to the projector in the back of the room. “I can’t bring my laptop to the front?”
“No.”
“I need to advance slides for the first portion of my talk.” They connected the cable and my desktop showed up on the screen. They thought everything was fine, but I knew the test would be in opening iMovie. And then- the same resolution error came up again!! Why?! I couldn’t believe this was happening after all that I had gone through to fix this problem! And now it was 7pm and the audience was waiting. I told one of the trustees that I would have to play the quicktime version and that he would have to advance my beginning slides. I looked around for some water. I had left mine in my car. There was none in the room. I asked the librarian if I could quickly use the restroom. I wanted to burst into tears! Everything was going wrong and there wasn’t a moment to calm down!
I didn’t cry, though. I held it together, walked to the front of the room without even the written version of my talk, and proceeded to deliver my presentation as calmly and stoically as I could. I did well. I have now given my talk enough times that it is ingrained in me. After the slideshow, I answered the questions from the audience, and then drove home to prepare for my yoga classes the next day.
During the drive into Cambridge, red brake warning lights came on in my car several times. A few months ago, I kept having dreams where I was driving and no matter how hard I pressed the brakes, they wouldn’t work! I had been worried about this happening in real life and now my car was indicating this was a real possibility!
Meanwhile, every morning and day back at my apartment for the last 2 weeks, I was awoken and rattled by men scraping the paint of the outside of my apartment! There is no insulation between the inside and outside of my apartment, so all of this banging and scraping has been quite jarring (and men are looking right into my windows!) Also, in the last three months, someone has turned up the water pressure so high that whenever my neighbors flush the toilet, it makes a tremendous noise in mine and shakes the pipes. And this happens many times throughout the night, waking me up from my sleep! I have told my landlord about it, but his plumber is not calling him back!

Because the conference room in the hospital that I was supposed to teach in on Thursday was booked, my classes were canceled that day. I decided I could take that day and drive up to the White Mountains to hike Franconia Ridge, which I had hoped to do the weekend of my talk up there, as a last (second) hike for the year. However, with all of the accumulated stress over the past few days, I felt so drained that I was not capable of gathering my hiking things together on Wednesday night. I decided to see what I felt like in the morning. I would have to wake up at 5am, which is something I never want to do. At 1am, when I was still awake, I knew I wouldn’t be getting up at 5.

By Friday, I kept looking forward to a double session of yoga classes with my teacher, Todd. He had just picked up the 4pm class in addition to his 5:45. Several times in the past several months, I tried to make it down there for his 5:45 class, but couldn’t because of the ridiculous amount of traffic. I figured it might be a little better earlier in the day. I kept saying to myself, “Todd, take me away!” (instead of Calgon, you know?). But wouldn’t you know it, the traffic was horrendous earlier, too! The last 4 miles was completely jammed. And when I finally arrived at the studio, there was nowhere to park! All of the streets had signs saying “Tow zone” due to construction! So, I couldn’t even get to my de-stressing time!! Just unbelievable! Eventually, I did park somewhere and got to class 15-20 minutes late. At least I got a full class in afterwards!
Again, my warning brake lights were coming on during the drive. I had hoped for a final attempt at hiking on Sunday, but after looking in my car manual to see what those lights meant, I knew it wouldn’t be a possibility. It said that I was supposed to check the level of brake fluid, and if high enough, I could drive it with “considerable caution” to the nearest authorized dealer. If the fluid was too low, I could have it towed!!
On Monday and Tuesday, I need to drive to Cambridge to teach, and then drive to libraries at night to present! I also need to drive it on Wednesday and Thursday to teach.
By the time I got home from grocery shopping after my yoga class on Friday, I finally understood why people feel the need to drink! This stress is way too much! (Because of the new iphone coming out, I wasn’t even able to get another appointment at the Genius Bar until next Tuesday!) And never mind the fact that I still don’t have a means of making a basic living!

It has taken me several days to reach a state of more balance and understand that I can only do one thing at a time. I will have to get up early tomorrow and bring my car to the repair shop to at least be looked at first thing in the morning. Then, I will have to figure out what to do about my classes and how I will be able to get to my talk.

Somehow, someway, everything will fall into place.

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What Life is About

I came across this beautiful story on Facebook this past Thursday. It was written by a member of a band called The Lone Bellow. To me, it expresses so much of what life is about. How do we respond when our future unfolds so differently than anything we had hoped or planned it would be? How can we remain hopeful, open, and loving, when the obstacles we are faced with are so large? How can we become more compassionate to one another? And how do we access our inner strength and resiliency to not only meet and rise above the challenges we are faced with, but to create something beautiful and meaningful out of some very dark places.

………….

“Zach here.. Today I celebrate a very special moment that happened in my life.

Ten years ago, my wife fell from one of my family’s horses and tragically broke her neck.

I remember running out into a deathly quiet field after the horse silently came back with no rider. I remember running with my best friend by my side looking for her. We found her and time stood still. The following month was spent in hospitals, preparing for a very different kind of life than what we had pictured. An amazing place in Atlanta GA called “The Shepherd Center” took us in. We had been told that my wife would no longer be able to move anything below her neck.

Living in this reality, I had the great privilege of meeting other spouses who had been taking care of their loved ones for years. The bravery in their words were powerful enough to alter any definitions I had in my mind of the human condition. They we’re filled with hope, passion, beauty, fear, and wisdom. A few days a week, the hospital would bring in dogs who had been trained to comfort people who grieved beyond words. The nurses had a supernatural ability to speak hope and truth into the most hopeless situations. I remember the sounds of these conversations shooting through the walls of the hall my wife called home. We had come to the conclusion that it would take nothing short of a miracle to heal my wife’s spinal cord.

She was incredible. Her zeal to be alive shook me to the core. There were moments when I had given up. I went through the different phases of grief over and over again. I would get angry, sad, delusional, then hopeless. This is where I started writing music. This where I had some good friends say to me “If she gets better, let’s sell whatever we have and move to New York City.” Shortly thereafter my wife started getting the feeling back in her hands. Soon after that she was able to stand up. This was beyond the understanding of the doctors, but I do not see this as the miracle.

The miracle I was able to witness was watching the loved ones, nurses, and patients love one another and see a beauty that only they have the honor of truly understanding. Today I pause to say thank you to our friends, family, and the amazing souls at The Shepherd Center. You are a light in a dark place. I am grateful.

I had the opportunity tonight to tell our three little girls the bedtime story of their brave mother and all of the beautiful and strong people we met at The Shepherd Center—tonight we celebrate the power and grace of the human being.”

Perspective

The day after Labor day was one that was filled with stress for me. Over the course of the past few months, I managed to schedule 8 library talks for the month of September (the culmination of 8 months worth of work: four months to make my slideshow and then compose my talk, and four months of slowly building up courage, writing a proposal, looking up contact information, and sending (and re-sending) my letter out to 109 libraries, two Appalachian Mountain Club locations, and 6 high schools and colleges). I was lucky that the projectors at the five places I have presented at so far have have an HDMI connection. However, seven of my eight upcoming talks only have a VGA connection. I have been EXTREMELY worried about this because of my experience at the library in July in which I could not get my iMovie slideshow to play due to a resolution error with this type of connection. In the past few weeks, I have spent countless hours communicating with various library directors, trustees, and IT departments, as well as visiting Best Buy and Apple stores. On Monday, it seemed as though I was going to have to buy my own projector, which would be a huge expense for me, as well as a lot of time researching models and hoping it would arrive before Tuesday!
I also just discovered that I did not receive dental or vision benefits when I applied for MassHealth insurance earlier this year, and with a dentist appointment scheduled on Tuesday and the need for more contacts around the corner, I knew I was going to have to find several hours to start the application process with them again. I also had to drive all the way to Cambridge only to have no one show up for the class I was scheduled to teach yet again, which never makes me feel good. And in general, I am still feeling stress about how I will be able to make a living during these upcoming months.
Although I have finally managed to work my way up from teaching one yoga class a week for the past couple of years to five beginning in June and now 7 in September, in combination with my eight presentations this month, I still need to make 2-2.5 times more income per month in order to cover my basic living expenses, pay taxes, have a couple of dollars of spending money, and then finally begin to save a few.

I was happy that by the evening, I had managed to subdue my stressful feelings and feel thankful for the challenge in front of me- because really, that is all that it is- a challenge. This summer, I learned that there are many people in the town I live that have never had to work a day in their lives because of the money they inherited from their families. This fact astounds me. It is something that I can’t even fathom. I wondered for a moment what I would do if my life was like that and I quickly became grateful for the challenges and opportunities to grow that I have been faced with in not having this kind of security. I am starting to learn and remind myself that there is no limit to what I can offer and that the harder I work and the more confidence that I build within myself, the more I will receive back.

Late that night, my friend Amanda posted the following on Facebook:

“I cry at the illusion of it all to awaken to the preciousness of each moment .

I was meditating tonight after a particularly challenging end to the day. With my husband pursuing his business and our savings dwindling, we are faced with tough choices. I was allowing all my feelings to bubble and one that was coming out strongly was rage. I meditated on this and saw coming into my vision the tiniest particles we as humans are made up of. Protons, neutrons, etc These particles I understood are the same particles that make up the trees, the air, the stars the universe – this great expanse called life. I felt rage around the understanding of how all we hold onto is an illusion. All our masks, our judgment, differentiation of this and that. I felt how similar and yes insignificant we all are yet at the same time how brilliant that makes all of us. I cried at the pain of so many humans mistaking their brilliance.”

I almost couldn’t believe how parallel her expression was to my day and its ending! It is so important to keep reminding ourselves not to close in around fear. The more we can remain soft, open, and trusting, the more we can allow into our lives. Her meditation experience reminded me of the one time that I sat in meditation in my living room for an hour a couple of years ago. It was the first and only time that I have sat that long. Whenever my legs began to fall asleep or become painful, I would remind myself that it was only temporary and that I could sit through it. My mind kept wanting to attach to particular thoughts, but I would keep gently reminding myself to return to the focus on my breath each time I noticed that happening. After 45-50 minutes, something changed. It was like a thick, dark velvet curtain was drawn over the front of my brain, after which, whenever my thoughts tried to wander, they were immediately stopped. I COULDN’T think about anything! If my mind tried, it received a message that was similar to- “Wendy, your little problems don’t matter.” Instead, I felt part of an incredible vastness. It was a very peaceful, very connected to the entire expanse of the universe feeling.

It’s a process to remember to take a step back whenever we are feeling stress. We often bring more suffering to ourselves than is necessary. Because what will happen in the future can not be known, most of the energy spent worrying about how things will play out is really just wasted energy. When we bring our awareness back to our breath, back to the present moment, and understand that everything in life contains a mixture of good and bad, we can return to a calmer, more peaceful state very quickly.

Mt. Washington dayhike

All summer long, I knew that, at the very least, I would get one long hiking weekend up in the White Mountains, as I had scheduled a talk at Pinkham Notch on Saturday, August 23rd. I had planned on driving up to the White Mountains after teaching my yoga class in Cambridge on Thursday afternoon, staying with some friends from the PCT for a couple of nights, getting in a few hikes, hopefully learning some navigational skills, and then giving my talk on Saturday evening at Pinkham Notch. I really hoped to have some of my friends join me for some hiking time after a year of trying, but I once again had to adjust my hopes and try to stay open to yet another solo experience. That Monday afternoon, one of the librarians called me to ask if I would come to their bookclub on Thursday night to discuss “Wild.” I wished that she had asked me earlier as I like to plan my schedule ahead of time, and this short notice didn’t give me enough time to re-read the book before then. I was also still quite sick, in the depths of my cold, at the time. After thinking over my options, I decided to go to the meeting. Since Friday was supposed to be a rainy day, I figured that another day of rest wouldn’t hurt. I cut my one summer trip down to 2 days. At least I could squeeze in a climb up Mt. Washington and do a loop on Franconia Ridge- my two favorite hikes in the White Mountains.
However, after eating my usual breakfast early Saturday morning, I was suddenly and surprisingly gripped by extremely intense intestinal pain! While taking a couple of courses of 200 billion probiotics, my stomach pain finally began to lessen, but after returning to the 80 billion strength, it started coming back. On this day, it was as worse as it could be. I didn’t even know if I could drive! I hoped it would dissipate over the next three hours, but when I arrived at Pinkham notch to a completely full parking lot, the pain had not subsided at all. I waited until someone pulled out of their space and then slowly walked into the visitor center with my hand over my belly to find out if my room was available. In exchange for my presentation, they gave me a night’s stay with breakfast and dinner. I was told to go over to Joe Dodge Lodge and ask there. I could barely move due to the intensity of the pain. The woman at the lodge said that it was too early for my room to be ready. Maybe I would have to lie down in my car or on the lawn. All I knew was that I needed some place to lie down immediately. Then, she looked up my room and said that maybe it was ready after all. It was in another building, which she drew a map to. “If the room isn’t clean, just leave your luggage in there.” When I reached the room with the two tiny twin beds, I decided that it was clean enough and immediately got under the covers of one of the beds. It was so cold in there! I wondered why there weren’t any towels, but figured I could ask for some at Joe Dodge Lodge. At some point, I noticed a pillowcase sack with something inside it on the other bed. Maybe my towels were in there!
At 1:00, I decided that I should get up and at least go outside and be in the sun like a normal person. I could continue reading my book and then go over my talk. I got up and looked inside the pillowcase. Used towels were inside! I peeled back the comforter on the opposite bed and realized the room had not been cleaned yet! While I was using the bathroom down the hall, two girls came to my room to start preparing it! I was so glad that I had gotten up when I did! I walked out to my car, ate a snack, and then took my rain jacket and bottle of water and headed across the street. I knew there were a couple of short walks on that side of the notch and I decided that I could check out the Appalachian Trail as it headed toward the Wildcats and see what memories came back. I quickly regretted not bringing my poles with me. What was I thinking? Every step of the AT is uneven surface, requiring a lot of dexterity and balance. It’s also a very muddy trail! The moist forest was a great contrast to the PCT! I took in the smells and feeling of the forest and then paused in front of the Square Ledge sign, wondering if I should head up there or continue walking toward Lost Pond. I decided I would hike up to the ledge after re-visiting the AT. Along the way, I practiced my talk. Memories of my Appalachian Trail hike did not resurface as I walked the path, but I did remember the time that Erik and I walked to Lost Pond the day after climbing Mt. Washington one year. Our legs were too sore to attempt another big mountain the following day. I remember sitting on a rock in the pond, looking at the beaver dam and feeling that If I just came out and sat quietly in nature like I was doing then, I would feel like writing. I continued past the pond until the trail became too tough to maneuver without poles. The AT is difficult! I have never had a desire to hike that trail again.
I saw a squirrel nibbling on an acorn and sat against a rock, enjoying its company for the time it remained there. I miss having animal companions. Once I reached the Square Ledge junction again, I turned up its path. Mosquitoes bit my legs as I ascended. Then, suddenly, in front of me, I saw a man couching down, facing me, with something pointing at me from his chest. Something was happening, but I couldn’t register what. He stayed in the same position, aiming the large object straight at me. I thought it was a gun he was pointing and although I couldn’t understand why, I thought he might be about to shoot me. Then, I realized it was a large camera, and he was facing me without moving to alert me to the presence of an animal nearby. I held still and looked into the trees, not knowing what was over there. A bear, maybe? It took me at least a minute to see that it was a moose, casually chewing on the leaves of the trees! A smile came over my face and the man, his girlfriend and I exchanged silent expressions of awe. When they started moving to get a better view, I moved too. I wasn’t able to get a picture of it with my little camera, due to the tree coverage, but it was nice to be in its presence for awhile. “Amazing!” the man said as he passed me. I discovered that this couple was from Germany. The woman was very pretty, smelled really nice, and wore a fashionable scarf bunched up around her neck. I wondered why I never looked like that! We continued to whisper after the moose had turned back into the woods and then parted ways. Once on top of the ledge, I reflected on the extraordinary timing of the day’s events so far. Had I been feeling okay, I would have been climbing up Mt. Washington at that point. Had I not chosen to get up from my nap when I did, I would have both startled and been startled by the cleaning girls! What if I decided to climb up to Square Ledge before I walked to the pond? I probably would not have seen the moose! It was all so fascinating.

Dinner was a very lonesome affair for me. I couldn’t even make proper use of the buffet because of the way my stomach was feeling. I decided to head back to my room and read for a bit before returning to set up for my talk. One girl told me to be there around 7:30, but at 7:40, another one said to come back in 10 or 15 minutes… About a month ago, I had asked if they had the connecting cord I needed and was told yes. Now, the girl said, “Hopefully we have it…”. There wasn’t much concern about how or what I was about to present.
After a lot of trial, the connections were finally made, although the cord wasn’t long enough for me to have my laptop near the screen. It had to sit on top of the projector and I would have to keep walking back and forth to advance the images for the talk portion of my presentation. It was scheduled for 8:00, but no one had come into the dining room by then. When the first man arrived, I said, “My audience!”. Gradually, several more people trickled in. It was the first time that I was not introduced in any capacity. I explained that I would have to keep walking back to the laptop to advance the slides. I had to compete with the loud clanging of clean-up in the kitchen while I talked, and I realized that this was not a good environment for my presentation, as it is more of a formal one than the ones usually held here and one that requires the full attention of the audience. One thing that did strike me as my slideshow was playing, was that the scenery of the west coast greatly contrasted and stood out against the scenery of the Appalachian Mountains- something not apparent in a library setting. Several of the kitchen workers came out to watch at various intervals. One woman stood by me, staring at the screen. “Did you do all of this yourself?”.
“Yes.”
“Where is that?”
“That’s Yosemite!”
“What’s your name?” “Have you written a book?”.
“Not yet. But I will,” I said assuredly.

One man had to leave about 1/2 through the slideshow to check on his daughter. He rubbed my back on his way out and thanked me for sharing my story.
Another man came up to me afterwards and said that, coincidentally, he was on his way to Yosemite the next day and showed me a piece of paper in a ziplock bag. It was his PCT permit from his 1981 thru-hike! He said that he was interested in seeing how it had changed since then. He asked what I am doing now and when I said I wanted to build my own life, he said he could tell. “I can see that you’ve been through a lot,” he said, rubbing my arm.

I returned to my room and finished my second reading of “Wild”. After having hiked the trail, myself, in between my first and second readings, having learned a lot more about Cheryl Strayed in the meantime, as well as about life itself, my experience of reading the book was different this time around. A couple of passages really struck me. Many of my life experiences are quite similar to hers.

The following morning, I slept in a bit later than I had planned on, ate another lonely breakfast, packed up my things, returned my room key, and started up Tuckerman’s Ravine at 9:12. I was carrying about 13 pounds on my back with just extra clothing, water, and snacks. Since I hadn’t hiked in nearly a year, had been sick and just resting for the past two weeks, and thinking that all traces of competitive feelings had been removed from me, I just steadily walked. I hoped that I could make it to the top in three or even three and a half hours and didn’t try to race in any form. Steadily, I began passing each group of people, one by one. At one point, there were three guys behind me (one with a bear bell) that weren’t dropping behind. I continued to press on and soon enough, they fell back. I passed another man who was profusely sweating. “Is this almost over?” he asked. I told him that we would reach a nice break spot soon. His companion, who was obviously overweight and out of shape, raced ahead of me, jogging up the rocks with a smile on his face. I wanted to suggest that it might be wise to conserve his energy… He still had a long way to go. But I kept my thoughts to myself. It amused me to see former spots that Erik and I had taken breaks at in earlier years (or saw other people resting at) because it seemed so early on in the hike! I also realized that not everyone has the capability of climbing this mountain. “Have I gone as far as I went last year?” an older man asked his companion. I reached Hermit Lake in just over one hour, took off my pack to finally put my hair up, and adjusted my pack that had been chafing my back. Then, I continued on.
There was one group of younger people who I let pass me as I climbed beside the melted snow. We overlapped a couple of times. At the base of the cone, they all stopped to take a snack break at the base of the cone, but I did not need a break. (Aha!) And so I kept climbing. A mass of people was spread out in all directions, unable to find the path to the summit. I remembered that in earlier years, I was so out of shape, that I had to crawl up these rocks like a beetle! This time was the easiest of all for me. Just before the top, my shin hit a rock and bruised. Only the wooden steps remained and a big smile spread across my face. My legs felt heavy going up them, but I did not feel tired. I looked at my watch outside of the visitor’s center. I had reached the top in 2 hours and 35 minutes! And I wasn’t even trying! At my oldest age, my body seems to be in the best shape of my life! And I don’t do cardio exercise anymore!
Inside, I perused the snack bar and decided on a hot chocolate and chocolate chop cookies. I headed towards a table by the windows and spotted a man in a kilt. I found the thru-hikers! My people! I headed over to them and drew in their scent for a breath, which was just as familiar and attractive to me as the flowery, clean scent of the German tourist! I sat and watched them when they sat back down at their table. They looked tired and zoned out. One of them was entertaining himself (and me) by flipping his water bottle into the air and catching it on his forearm. I was fascinated and amused. Thru-hiker self entertainment! And then, they were off- to who knows where!

As I ate my cookies, another couple asked if they could join me. The young man looked very tired and said he was so happy to sit for awhile. His shoulders slumped forward as he opened his tupperware container of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I remembered what it felt like to be tired like that after the climb, but on this day, I felt perfectly fine! I headed outside to take a few pictures on this beautifully clear day (those thru-hikers lucked out!) and even witnessed the moments just after a marriage proposal. The wheel of life keeps on turning.

An hour and a half after I arrived, I headed down. As I looked below me, I saw a mass of people on their way up! I veered off at the Lion’s Head turn-off, avoiding the majority of people ascending and descending Tuckerman’s, but a number of people took this path, as well. I realized that I probably seem a bit competitive when climbing this particular mountain because it is SO crowded and I desperately crave my own space. Steadily, I made my way down the mountain. I am still so slow and unsure while descending, but I realized that I am very consistent. Towards the bottom of the mountain, a younger couple who had been in my vicinity a lot acknowledged me for the first time while taking a water break. “You keep a strong pace!” the young man said.
“Me?”
“Yes!” the woman said. “We were impressed with your pace going up.”
I told them that we all essentially hiked the same pace and they seemed to like that. Three hours and 15 minutes later, I reached the bottom, threw my things into my car, changed into my sandals, headed to town for a solo dinner, and then drove the 3 hours home.

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