Wand’rin’ Star

“Not all who wander are lost” — JRR Tolkein

In case you haven’t noticed, I am a Wanderer. Sometimes I can fake “normal” and stay in one place for months at a time. But then the compulsion hits and off I go.  Even a houseful of kids never stopped me: traveling with a large family just meant more logistics for this queen-of-lists to organize.

Going on adventures has always been a guilty-pleasure. I love the planning and the going. I enjoy the coming home. It seems so reasonable…at least to me! But each return brings questions from family and friends: “When will you stay put?” “Did you get that out of your system this time?” “Why can’t you be stable and put down roots like everyone else?” I laugh about being a “free-spirit.” I joke that others need to look outside-the-box. But deep inside, these comments continued to erode my confidence. Obviously, there was something wrong with me. Surely I would “grow up” someday and be content where I was planted. the mountains are calling

There were times I wondered if I harmed my kids by doing so much schooling on the road. (Others certainly thought so…) Sometimes I imagined how my husband’s life would have been different if he had married someone who was more consistent and bound by routines. (Time after time family questioned how I could leave him home alone while the kids and I traveled…) I tried. Really, I did! But then the next adventure called to me; the next location pulled my heartstrings. I had to go, wandering again and again. AT trails

This summer, in an attempt to continue being outdoors as much as possible, youngest Daughter and I lived in an RV at a campgrounds close to a small town. We fell in love with the people and the places around town. We were welcomed and invited to dive deeper into relationships. We began to put down tentative roots. It felt right, but there was a feeling of grief as well. What would these new friends say when they discovered my broken urge to wander? RV travels

In the past few weeks, I’ve had some aha!-moments. Hubby sent me a link to a song and affirmed that I really was born under a wanderin’ star (and implied that this was okay…) See video clip HERE

Last week, I commented to the pastor of the new church we are attending (in the small town we love) that it felt like we are putting down some roots. And maybe I would finally stop running. He firmly told me that there is nothing wrong with wandering. It is a gift and a privilege that so many never experience. A few days later, Daughter’s psychologist affirmed the same idea, telling Daughter that it is a privilege that she gets to wander with her mother. Every time I remembered these words, I cried. Maybe I wasn’t broken after all. Maybe this urge to wander IS “normal”…at least for me. texas river walking

And then…while I was pondering how to celebrate my wandering spirit, an artist friend posted a painting for sale. I’ve wanted to buy something from this artist for quite a while, but couldn’t decide if I wanted a mountain scene, a view of red mesas from Navajoland, or a southwestern landscape. See Sharon Baker’s art HERE. When I saw the title of this particular painting, I just KNEW this was “my” painting. It is called “Wandering Star” and was painted many years ago in response to the same song my husband sent to me. I will hang this painting with great pride in my home, to remind me who I am… Painting by SKay Art

I’m no longer lost. I am a WANDERER!

Spring in the Mountains

It is spring in the mountains. There is only a mist of green on the trees at higher elevations. We miss the bright glowing colors of fall leaves…but are enjoying the treasure hunt to find wildflowers blooming on the forest floor.

We know the first three: buttercup, lily of the valley, and lady slipper. We will look up the rest when we get home.

Spring Flowers_buttercups

Spring flowers_lily of the valley

Spring flowers_lady slipper

Spring flowers_red

Spring flowers_white

Spring flowers_pale purple

Spring flowers_purple flowers

Spring flowers_pink

Happy Hobbies! (Combining Hiking and Scrapbooking)

It is a happy serendipity when two hobbies can be combined. I relax by being outdoors or by making time for creating vibrant art. Gradually, I’m figuring out ways to combine these two hobbies. (Sometimes I work at the dining room table. More often I head to a coffee shop or to my favorite fireside seat at the local library.) AT_place to craft_Northwest Library

Taking hundreds of photos on our backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail this past fall felt reasonable at the time. However, every time I looked at those files on my computer, I was overwhelmed with how to best organize and use this many photos. For the first time ever, I used a scrapbooking “recipe” to streamline the process. (This means I used one basic layout, with different papers and colors and occasional variation in the orientation of the design.) Here are the pages I made to summarize our trip:

These first two spreads highlight the beauty found along the Appalachian Trail:

Title: “Walk in Beauty: for the one who has eyes to see…LET her SEE!AT_walk in beauty_scrapbooking_leftAT_walk in beauty_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We both enjoyed being surrounded by beauty and pointing out new discoveries to each other. Whether it was miles of mountain views, jumbled boulders, a dancing stream or tiny wonders, it all became scope for imagination. When we quit noticing nature’s beauty, it was time to get off the trail!

Title: “all of nature is AFLAME: Be fearless in the pursuit of what Sets Your Soul on Fire!AT_nature aflame_scrapbooking_leftAT_nature aflame_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We loved the peace and tranquility of hiking in the cool, green woods. But the surprising “pop” of bright oranges, reds and yellows made our hearts sing with joy at the brilliant, flaming colors. Quote: “Give me a spark o’ Nature’s fire, That’s a’ the learning I desire.” (Robert Burns)

Whenever possible, daughter and I chose to stay in shelters. That was less work, we met more people, and it kept us dry in bad weather. However, we also enjoyed the times we camped in solitude at official camping places or in the woods between shelters too far apart for us to reach in one day of hiking.

Title: “SHELTER: [shel’ ter] something below, behind, or within which a person is protected from adverse conditionsAT_shelter_scrapbooking_leftAT_shelter_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: There are more than 250 Backcountry Shelters along the A.T. for use by hikers. Most have only 3 walls, come in a variety of sizes & styles, have a privy, and are near a water source. Accent: “Haven, Hideaway, Protection, Refuge, Sanctuary: No matter what you call it, it’s a WELCOME SIGHT at the end of the day!”

Title: “Happy Campers on the Appalachian Trail: “inTENTS” adventure in the WOODS” AT_tent camping_scrapbooking_leftAT_tent camping_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We enjoyed the social aspects of staying in shelters. Chatting around a dancing campfire was a bonus…but there was something special about being alone in our little tent, all cozy and comfy, away from everyone!”

The next pair of spreads celebrates the partnership between my daughter and I on our hiking adventure. As I have commented in other posts, I wasn’t sure how well this would work. However, we learned to use our strengths to balance the other’s weaknesses. I was frustrated that when we took selfies, I couldn’t figure out how to turn off “beauty face” so edges were all blurry. But I like how it became illustrations for a dreamin’ page!

Title: “Hiking Partners: my mini meAT_hiking partners_scrapbooking_leftAT_hiking partners_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: We are well matched. We both love to be outdoors. We find beauty—and whimsy—around us. We enjoy meeting other hikers at the shelters. Daughter has more physical strength & agility. I have more mental determination. She sang songs to life me up. I made her smile when she was grumpy. good partners Accent: “Storyseeker (53) and Andowen (13): 1st AT adventure 9-7 to 10-21-16”

Title: “dreaming of the Trail: Nothing stops the Dreamers: fairytale funAT_Dreaming_scrapbooking_leftAT_Dreaming_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Obstacles or Opportunities 1-meandering trail, 2-beware the “roller coaster,” 3-singing in the rain, 4-fern “fairy crowns,” 5-mountaintop exhilaration Accent: “wandering in the woods: fall 2015”

The final two spreads focus on my experience and my daughter’s experience of this adventure. For me, this trip was a way of expressing that I am moving from a focus on family to making time for me and my dreams. For my daughter, our adventure became her favorite imagination-land come to life! (She is a huge fan of Lord of the Rings and other fantasy books and movies.)

Title: “it’s time for ME! the middle passage: …if you can’t leave ‘em behind…BRING ‘em with YOU!…AT_ME time_scrapbooking_leftAT_ME time_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Time for DREAMS to Come True I’m tired of waiting. I’m ready to reach for dreams—long backpacking trips, making art, writing stories. With just one child still at home, she can join my epic adventures! Accents: “finally finding my own way,” “go into the world, explore, LIVE,” and “free yourself”

Title: “nature girl—wild child—forest fairy: andowenAT_Nature Girl_Wild Child_scrapbooking_leftAT_Nature Girl_Wild Child_scrapbooking_rightJournaling: Anna has always loved being outdoors. 6 weeks of backpacking on the Appalachian Trail took this to a whole new level! As an equal to everyone out there, she gained confidence & had FUN! Accent: “Explore”

What are YOUR favorite hobbies? And how can you combine those interests with adventures you pursue?

Leaping into the New Year!

I’m an all-in, jump-right-in, leap-before-you-look kinda gal. The changing-of-a-calendar and moving-to-a-new-year transition always feels like the perfect opportunity to reinvent myself. So I make audacious, big-dream lists of a zillion new things I plan to explore and I fill my days with commitments. A few weeks into the new year I step back, take a look at my calendar and my to-do list, and freeze. There aren’t possibly enough hours in the day to achieve everything I want to accomplish!

A radical new look for the new year!

A radical new look for the new year!

Although my calendar for January is already too full for comfort, I have managed to avoid most of this drama. This year, I stepped back, took time to ponder (and pray), and chose just two new guidelines to follow in the coming weeks and months. Rather than leading to a place of being overwhelmed, I hope these simple things will help me continue to explore new things in a slower, saner way.

My overarching goal for this year is to SEEK BEAUTY. Although enjoying beauty in nature is certainly a necessity for me, this also includes looking for beauty in relationships, in being creative, in learning new things. Beauty is never merely sugary-sweet, but includes the pleasurable with the challenging. I made myself a reminder of this goal based on a photo I took of a little vignette my daughter made at the top of a difficult hill along the Appalachian Trail. Goal: Seek Beauty

To help remind myself of my goal to seek beauty this year, I also chose one word to focus my intentions for the year: PAUSE. I will always be an enthusiastic, look-at-the-positive person. But I hope to preface that leap-before-you-look tendency with at least a momentary pause to consider. I’m certain there will be no fewer adventures, and I will always be working on the next “Big Epic” in my life, but perhaps there will be fewer false starts and failed expectations. I’ll let you know how it goes! Intention: pause

I’m curious. How do YOU approach a new year? Are you cautious and careful, slow to change course? Or are you a “leaper” like me? I would love to hear your views in the comments below…

Child in the Woods

“God has given me this child…and she is in God’s hands!”

I have had many folks question how we could consider taking our young teen on a long distance, multi-week backpacking trip. Although I usually just smile and make some inane comment about how much she enjoyed the trip, my thoughts scream out “I had no other choice! This is exactly what she NEEDED!”

We have tended to be “outside-the-box” parents, homeschooling our kids, letting them explore interests, and helping them pursue passions. This one, our youngest, has extra challenges. She is very smart and learns some things quickly. At the same time, most “book-learning” takes extraordinary amounts of work. She craves social contact, but lacks many of the skills needed to be successful in building relationships with peers. She is often at the center of a hurricane of emotions, made more unbearable and unmanageable with extreme anxiety. Life sometimes feels like a never-ending series of appointments with therapists and doctors to find the help she needs to manage daily living. That’s no way to feel strong and successful in life…

child in the woods

Then we decided that she and I would spend a few months backpacking on the Appalachian Trail. As journaled here on this blog, I researched, planned, bought gear, and off we went. Along the way, we discovered that this is exactly what she needs! Being in nature brought anxiety and emotions to manageable levels. We could walk peacefully through most days. She enjoyed the social contacts along the way, with little of the stress that debilitates her in town.

Folks questioned how we could make her take this trip, focused on the physical dangers. We now realize that she and I will take many more adventures along the AT, focused on the personal healing that comes when this child is in the woods…

Lost and Found

Life changes when one takes on a “big epic.” A significant part of adventure is moving out of one’s comfort zone. Obviously, during that time frame, life is different than the usual routines of home. However, with most good epics, some changes are longer lasting. They continue even after returning back to “normal” life. Here are some of the things we lost…and found…on our backpacking adventure on the Appalachian Trail earlier this fall.

LOST:

  • Fears (of snakes, of spiders, of walking in rain, of the dark, of getting lost!!)
  • Long to-do lists
  • “Need” for lots of “stuff” (except books…we still need books…)
  • Weight (if you find it somewhere, please don’t send it back…)
  • Tastebuds (everything tastes great when you are starving and tired at the end of a long day of hiking…fortunately we have regained these now that we are home!)
  • Need to be in control of even small details (okay, so this is an ongoing battle…) LOST

FOUND:

  • Outdoor Skills (reading a topo map, making a campfire, pitching a tent, and more)
  • Confidence
  • Courage
  • Perseverance (gotta keep walking until there’s a flat place to camp!)
  • Muscles (and hip bones…who knew I actually have hip bones?! HA!)
  • New Friends
  • Attitude of partnership and companionship between daughter and me
  • Enjoyment in simple pleasures
  • Ability to reframe frustrations by choosing a different attitude
  • Need for regular exercise (We are working hard to not lose this one again. Hubby asked this morning what I had planned for the day. I was shocked to hear myself say that I *needed* to get out and walk, that I was feeling jittery without exercise. What a stunning change from the couch-potato I was before this hike!) FOUND

We look forward to returning to the Appalachian Trail for another long-distance adventure. (Is it spring yet?!) We want to reinforce the attitudes and life skills we found this fall.

Have you taken on the challenge of a “Big Epic” recently? What things were lost and found for YOU along the way??

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!