All Things New

After weeks of behind-the-scenes work, I’m happy to announce that my on-line world is changing. My core passions are still strong: telling stories, finding beauty via art and photos, chasing adventures, mentoring others and spending time in Nature. But, as I mentioned in a previous post (click HERE to read it), I have found a new career that encompasses all of these things. To be more professional, I am expanding my presence on-line.

I have a new website with an easier to remember URL. Now I can be found at www.thebigepic.com. Everything is up and running (and looking pretty). I have told you before how supportive my husband is of me reaching for dreams. (Read blog posts about him HERE and HERE.) Big shout-out to hubby who once again rescued me! He did much of the tech-work to set up the website plus mopped up buckets of tears when I was overwhelmed.

The Big Epic blog will be a focus of the website. The stories and photos you enjoy will always be the centerpiece! We already have new adventures on our calendar for this spring and summer. (You ARE coming with us virtually, aren’t you?) In addition, there will eventually be stories and resources related to Forest Therapy. Current subscribers (who receive notification of each new post via email) are being moved along with the blog. (Don’t worry—no packing boxes required. I will do the “moving” for you!) *If you follow this blog via WordPress, you will no longer see new posts after this one. Don’t miss out! Please head to the website and subscribe for email notifications!*

Most of you know that I’m comfortable being very open about what’s going on in my life. I have been urged, however, that it would be wise to separate “personal” from “business” on Facebook. I’ve put together a new page for The Big Epic. (Click HERE to check it out. Please “Like” and “Follow” to see new things I post there.) Within the next few weeks, I will regularly add nature photos, links to new blog posts, tips for connecting with nature, mini stories of outdoor adventures, and more.

You’ve seen many of the photos I have taken of beautiful scenery and tiny wonders found on our adventures. Most of you probably don’t know that I collect quotes (pages and pages and pages of them…let’s not talk about all of the computer files, notebooks, and binders filled with quotes, okay?!) I am making collaged scrapbook pages to illustrate “Lessons from the Forest.” Photos of these pages will be gradually added to a gallery on the website. I’m also learning how to add quotes directly to digital photos. In the next few weeks, I will begin sharing these photos on a new Instagram account for The Big Epic.

I am excited about all the new things happening with The Big Epic! I so much appreciate the encouragement many of you have given me. I look forward to continuing our conversations in new ways and new places on the internet.

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Lessons from my Mama

In January, I participated in a snail mail group. Each week, we were given a topic to exchange notes with our assigned partner. The final assignment was to summarize life lessons we have learned from our mothers (or other women/mentors in our lives). Here is some good advice for anyone dreaming of living a life filled with “Big Epic” adventures:

Never Travel Without Your SwimsuitBe prepared to say yes to unexpected opportunities!

If needs be, Travel Cheap! There’s always a way to reach for dreams, even if you have to adjust your expectations to make it happen.

Spread the Love—Invite Friends to Join YouOne year even the mailman came to Thanksgiving dinner! … yes, really! (It’s a long story… )

Here’s the summary of Big Epic Advice I have learned from my mama: Be ready for unexpected opportunities to reach for your dreams—and invite others to join you along the way. THANKS, MOM!

New Year–New Adventures

Raise your hand if you have (yet again) set New Year’s Resolutions. Raise your hand if you have (yet again) already broken those resolutions two weeks into the new year. Tired of repeated “failure,” I decided to try something different this year. Rather than setting big goals, I chose to find what is working and build on that. I took time to look back through my planner and summarize the activities of past year. Next, I decided which things I wanted to continue in the coming year, and which activities I wanted to change or add.

Far too many days, I find myself wishing for something new, something different,  something more exciting. (Please tell me you do the same?!) The most interesting thing to me about this reflection process was realizing how content I am with my current life, overall. There actually isn’t much I really want to change!

LOOKING BACK:

  • Regular activities included church, getting together with friends, and taking Daughter to the city for church organ lessons (and visiting) with my Mom.
  • Significant time was spent getting Daughter to 4H meetings, homeschool co-op, Equine Therapy, and finding her an emotional support dog.
  • We continue to put down roots in our friendly small-town. In addition, hubby found a local job (after 4 months of unemployment) and we eliminated the hassles of commuting and of home ownership in multiple locations.
  • Family time included wonderful visits from grown kids, spoiling grandbabies, having our future daughter-in-law live with us for the spring, and celebrating their marriage when son got home from a semester spent in Ireland. On the other hand, there were far too many deaths this year (my dad, an uncle, and parents of friends and extended family).
  • Daughter and I had wonderful adventures last year: a few days at the Outer Banks for Spring Break (thanks, Sis!), taking my mom on a mini-adventure to celebrate her 80th birthday, dayhikes and local camping with friends. Of course, we spent time on another month-long AT adventure!

NO REASON TO CHANGE:

  • We enjoy regular contact with others and will continue most of the activities in the first three areas listed above.
  • Family will see changes this year as grown kids visit, graduate, change jobs and move around the country. But spending time together never gets old!
  • We are committed to enjoying Nature and going on adventures large and small. We will continue local exploration, hiking, and camping.

NEW ADVENTURES: We have a few big things planned. These are things you can expect to read about here on the blog in the coming year.

So many new possibilities to explore!

 

  • We anticipate an extended road trip to attend son’s university graduation in Montana in May. There are a number of National Parks we haven’t yet visited. We are updating passports so we can head into Canada for additional sightseeing. Heads up friends and family along the way—we hope to stop by for coffee, late night chats and sleeping on your couch!
  • Our AT Adventure this year will likely be a summer trip through the 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine. Looks like we may also get to introduce another friend to the joys of backpacking!
  • I found my “Dream Job” and can’t wait to tell you more about it! I’m working out the organizational details right now. I’ll share details soon…

What about YOU? What are your plans for the coming year? What things are going well enough to continue largely unchanged? What new adventures do you hope to have? I’d love to hear YOUR story in the comments!

Art from the Trail

Both of us look for beauty in our surroundings. Even though every ounce adds up on a long-distance backpacking trip, we chose to carry a small camera, sketch paper, and a variety of pencils. Here is some of the art we brought back from our time on the trail. Enjoy!

Daughter spends hours creating imaginary characters. While on this trip, she worked hard at adding action to her drawings.

tree climber

Influenced by spending so much time in the woods, she drew both whimsical and realistic images of things she discovered along the trail. One afternoon she dissected a number of acorns and drew what she found inside the shell.bug in bed

oak and acorns

acorn dissection

Scenes like this one near the Blackburn Trail Center led to both a drawing and a poem:

gap from blackburn trail center

the gap

Up! Down! Up again!

Steeper up!

When will we be there?

11:00. 11:45. 12:00. 1:00.

Finally!! (Oh,nice view…)

I prefer to use color in my drawings, like this reminder of a rainy day:

dripping leaf

Daughter remembered the day this way:

Storm

Wet, Cold

Pouring, Sloshing, Sliding

Walking in the rain

Drizzle

My heart sings when I see beautiful colors in nature, especially when the color “pops” out from a darker background. When trying to capture those scenes on paper, I love the saturated colors I get from Derwent Inktense watercolor pencils:

bright leaves

fall leaf

butterfly on boot

butterfly

sunset

sunsetFinding beauty and making art on the trail added to our enjoyment of our grand adventure!

“Little School in the Big Woods”

For the past 23 years we have homeschooled our kids. Over the years that often included extended travel. This is the first time, however, that we have tried “Little School in the Big Woods.” Outdoor education

While our primary focus for the past six weeks has been life skills in the context of daily backpacking, we have included relevant academics as well. Sometimes this was in formal settings such as visiting museums, earning a Jr Ranger badge at a National Park, or attending a historical reenactment event. Museum

Jr Ranger

Civil War Reenactment

Natural Science is obviously easy to cover.  (See blog post HERE about critters we have seen in the trip.) We also made time for drawing, journal writing, storytelling, and singing. Journaling

Drawing of Backpack

Schoolwork

Finally, we carried my kindle so we had access to literature about the great outdoors. Most evenings we read out loud: poetry by Robert Frost, Walt Whitman, Robert Service, and from Psalms; and historical fiction about early exploration and settlement of the Ohio Valley in “The Frontiersmen” by Allan Eckhart. (We would love to hear YOUR favorite literature or poetry about the great outdoors! We want to continue exploring this theme throughout the rest of the schoolyear.) Traveling library

Daughter was so enthralled by “The Spell of the Yukon,” a poem by Yukon gold miner Robert Service, that she now has it memorized. She gives dramatic recitations to all who are interested (and even to those who are just being polite!) If you don’t have the chance to hear her in person, you can read the poem HERE.

When we get home, we will continue to explore what we have learned in our outdoor education. Possibilities include making posters and brochures, writing stories or even a children’s book, building a model of an AT shelter, designing quilt squares, and more. We will keep you posted…

(Note: we finished this year’s epic adventure on Oct. 21 but still have plenty of photos and posts to share with you!)

Fun in the Forest…

Walking in the woods is wonderful. But eventually, it can get boring–putting one foot in front of the other, slogging up a mountain or down the other side. What is a teen to do when she wants a little fun?

Daughter has a new appreciation for critters. It can be entertaining to add “words” to the bird sounds we hear. And hopping toads are fun to watch. Even insects (the most common critters we see) can be intriguing to watch as they wander through our camp or across our path. Spiderweb spotting is another favorite pastime for daughter.

We brought a few art supplies and we sing many songs together. We read bits of poetry out loud from our kindle. A favorite right now is “Song of the Yukon” by Robert Service. (You can read it HERE.) These final lines are quite applicable to our journey:

It’s the forests where silence has lease;
It’s the beauty that thrills me with wonder,
It’s the stillness that fills me with peace.

Whenever we have extra time at a shelter (by hiking quickly or covering a shorter distance), daughter practices her favorite activity: SWORD-FIGHTING! Yep, her hiking staff becomes a lethal sword and she is the (s)hero of the hour.

Sword play 1

Sword play 2

Sword play 3