In angsting over pondering what to write about this week, it occurred to me that I needn’t labor so hard. After all, it’s Labor Day weekend for us Americans, and the only work we should be doing is squeezing every last, sweaty drop out of summer before she packs her bags and says sayonara for another year.
So, from the bottom of my Jersey girl heart fringe top, I wish you a safe, healthy and happy holiday. And to my fellow chipmunks across the globe sharing in the season’s end: Yes, yes you have every right to judge us.
Recently, my quiet and respectful human and living neighbors, with whom I share a very, very (did I say very?) thin wall, moved out. I recall overhearing something about “carpenter bees” and “allergies,” but I was too busy Googling Yankee candle scents to appease undead livestock to fully appreciate their rationale.
Strange families were suddenly perusing the now-vacant apartment next door. This past weekend, I stepped outside and nearly collided with an older gentleman.
“You’ve probably surmised that I’m looking at the apartment,” he said in an I’m-just-a-guy-who-likes-hugs-and-hey-I-wonder-how-many-human-heads-will-fit-in-that-freezer tone.
“Ah,” I replied, avoiding eye contact and wondering why his tour included my half of the yard.
Uncle Jesse, my dog, barked loudly from inside.
Since this run-in, I haven’t been able to shake the nightmares of what who might move in next door.
Please, help prepare me: What’s your worst neighbor story?
You know how golfers love to compare their sport to life? Heavy-handed metaphors about taking aim, working with the winds of change, etc.?
I’m starting to do the same. With hiking.
I realized this weekend, while battling an unrelenting swarm of gnats for over 3 hours in the New Jersey highlands, that every hike this summer has provided a new challenge. If it wasn’t one thing, it was another.
As soon as I was sure, fitness wise, that I had a trail in the bag, something would come along to knock me off course. (See what I mean about the heavy-handed metaphors?) This past weekend, I thought the pests were going to do me in, despite toxic levels of bug spray coating my red, soaking wet, weary limbs. By mile 5 of one of njhiking.com’s most challenge trails, I couldn’t see for all the gnats.
I came to a crossroads.
If I went straight, I’d knock 2 miles from my remaining distance. By turning left, I’d have 3.6 miles -and another steep mountain climb- still to go to complete the originally planned trek. I stood there for 5 minutes, waving my arms in front of me fruitlessly, chugging warm water, studying the trail map.
I looked up at the brightly colored green and yellow trail markers painted on a sturdy oak.
“Fuck it,” I said aloud, wiping away the 8,000th gnat who’d suffocated in a pool of my sweat. “I’m no quitter.”
I turned left.
Why did I do it? Week after week, no less. Clearly this was torturous. Was I insane? A glutton for punishment? Just plain stubborn? Even Hub #1 had taken to calling me Forrest Gump.
I watched a video this weekend on why people hike. The filmmaker interviewed a series of hikers on the Appalachian Trail. Their answers to that million dollar question sounded familiar.
I needed to shift my perspective; it helps me let go of the day-to-day worries and focus on the immediate. You don’t worry about work when you’re trying to find a dry place to sleep.
I wanted to clear my head.
I’m trying to figure out what to do with my life.
That’s the thing about hiking. Walking for walking’s sake may seem a little pointless, but that’s exactly what makes it so powerful. For that time in the woods, however brief, the only thing you’re responsible for is staying alive. To again paraphrase what fellow hikers have said:
Hiking allows me to push myself farther than I think I can go. I bring that back with me into the real world.
It’s not about how fast or far you go, but just that you keep going. In the end, I may wind up right back where I started (at my car, hopefully), but I know I’m one step closer to who I want to be.
Alternate titles: R.I.P. Big Toenail; I Can’t Feel My Butt; Who Needs Heel Skin, Anyway?
I logged 17 miles in hiking this weekend, Chipmunks. (And I saw you! Yes. I saw my first chipmunk since December!)
You’re probably wondering who I am and what I’ve done to Jules. I have a confession. When I’m not drinking and Googling bacon recipes, I like to go outside and get my sweat nature on. I can’t stand running, and cyclists make me think devil thoughts, but give me a dirt path, some shady trees and a mountain view payoff, and I’m there faster than you can say, “Does this trail mix have chocolate chips? Because that’s really the only kind worth buying.”
It’s been a while since I’ve hit the hardcore trails , but in order to combat the three B’s (boredom, bumming and broke-itude) that have slammed me lately, I decided to get my Timberland mojo back. I’ve been tackling the relatively tame local trails over the past couple of months, and had planned on spending the summer working up to trails like the steep ‘Stairway to Heaven’ in northern New Jersey, with the ultimate goal of hitting Mt. Monadnock in New Hampshire this fall.
The stubborn Taurus in me had other plans. “Did the 6+ mile loop again today,” I told my first husband, Peppermeister, on Saturday. “Doing 10 tomorrow.”
Then I picked this trail:
Then I drove an hour there. I was ready and rarin’ to go.
6 Things You Need to Know Before Taking Up Hiking
1. Just because a sign seems to promise bears, this does not mean you’ll finally carry out that long awaited convo with the Shakespearean meme bear.
2. Hiking Guide Books ‘under’ embellish.
3. By mile 7, you will not look like someone from an LL Bean catalog. Even though everyone else you encounter, inevitably, won’t have broken a sweat.
4. In New Jersey, you can run, but you can’t hide. From cicadas.
5. Some Most times, you’ll see some cool ass shiz.
6. You will have every right to come home and do nothing but act superior, drink champagne and eat all of it. Just… all of it.
Is there a sport / activity you think is borderline insane, but you love it anyway? Or one that, no matter what, you’d never be caught dead doing?
We’re pretty spread out here in western New Jersey, and there’s a kick-ass balance between “what you do is your business” and “but I am curious about that package, so I’ll help you carry it inside.” Our next door neighbors, Dave and Judy, threw us a welcome party when we first moved in, complete with a homemade banner, and, more importantly, Sangria.
Our neighbor around the corner, Linda, dropped off a bushel of apples from her orchard this fall, while the ones across the street gave us a discount on our Christmas tree (yes, there’s a Christmas tree farm across the street! It’s amazeballs out here, Chipmunks, I’m telling you…even if you do lose power every time an owl sneezes).
As if that wasn’t enough, then there’s our neighbor, Jeff. He’s close to our age, and lives behind us in a gorgeous house. He’s the quintessential neighbor: He owns every power tool under the sun and knows how to use them all, helped us clear trees post Hurricane-Sandy, and leaves delicious food in the mailbox. Peppermeister doesn’t even mind the pepper-growing competition, with Jeff’s garden in plain sight.
This Valentine’s Day, I thought it was time to show Jeff how I really felt. It started with my famous homemade double-chocolate cookies:
And ended with this note:
I must be quick, for Peppermeister does not know of this!
Your seafood sauce was the greatest thing I’ve ever tasted. Bestill my heart!
I’m slowly poisoning Peppermeister.
Happy Valentine’s Day!
-Go Jules Go
Psst…between you and me, Peppermeister is looking a little worse for the wear. It’s only a matter of time, Jeff.
What’s the nicest and/or creepiest thing a neighbor has ever done for you?