girl in the woods :: new blog

I finally got a blog up and running for all my hikes and outdoor adventures. I wanted something separate but similar to this blog, so I started: girl in the woods. There’s also a link in the nav bar of this blog.

Here you’ll find short overviews of hikes I’ve done, mostly in the middle/east Tennessee area. There have been a few people asking about hikes in the area, so everything is here in one place.

Cool. Thanks.

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Fiery Gizzard Trail: an overnight backpacking trip

After discovering Fiery Gizzard and realizing that one of the best and most diverse trails in the country was only about an house away from Nashville, it was only a matter of time before this hike was under my belt.

Fiery Gizzard gets it’s name from legends about a turkey gizzard, Davy Crockett, and an Indian Chief but it probably really had to do with an experimental blast furnace in the area. So either way, it sounds pretty awesome.

This scenic trail clocks in at just under 13 miles. It’s a point to point trail that can be hiked from either way, the Tracy City side, or the Foster Falls side.  Traditionally it’s done from the Tracy City side, but who’s to tell you what to do? I’ve hiked it from both ways, though not all the way from both sides, and I do prefer starting on the Tracy City side, but I digress. A downside to a point to point hike is the need for 2 cars. One to park at the trailhead and one driven to the end. Also, a tip, don’t leave the keys to the car at the end of the trailhead in the car at the beginning of the trailhead like my friends and I did one time… Thanks to the park rangers for giving us a ride back)

Fiery Gizzard is part of the South Cumberland State Park, which is really just a scattered collection of trails and recreational areas. But, some of my favorite hikes in Tennessee are encompassed in this state park network.

The trail starting from Tracy City is accessed by the Grundy Forest Day loop, which, in itself is a great day hike if you are looking for something shorter. It starts from the Grundy Forest State Natural Area picnic shelter. You’ll see signs driving in and it will seem like you are winding around to someone’s driveway. But, you aren’t. It’s back there.

When you get to the trailhead, make sure to fill out the camping permit. Hopefully, the rangers actually check the cars that are there to make sure you haven’t been gone for 5 days. There are 4 campsites along the way, each with 5-6 separate areas. So, there should be plenty of room at each site even if there’s many people using the trail. There is one near each trailhead, the CCC on the Tracy City side and Father Adamz at the Foster Falls side. Raven Point campsite is 4.5 miles in from Tracy City and Small Wild campsite is 10.5 miles in.

If you are doing the trail in 2 days, which is totally doable and recommended, you’ll probably want to stay at the Raven’s Point campsite, about 4.5 miles in from the trailhead, which leaves about 7 miles for the next day.

The first 4.5 miles to Raven Point are definitely more challenging the the back 7. Almost all of the trail is just rocks and by rocks in mean boulders, not gravel. You are precariously stepping from boulder to boulder hoping that it won’t move under you.  It’s quite exhilarating, actually! You’ll obviously need good sturdy hiking boots. No Chacos on this guy. Which, by the way, if you a re backpacking with Chaco’s on, kudos to you. This part of the trial is challenging enough to please hikers of any level, yet somehow doable if you are still new to hiking.

There are a couple of waterfalls and swimming holes near this end of the trail if you’re feeling like a swim. Sycamore Falls, just over a mile in, has a great little swimming hole if you are so inclined.

About a mile before you reach Raven Point, the trail begins one of its arduous climbs. But, the view from Raven Point is well worth it.  I will venture to say that it will be hard to find a better view in Tennessee outside of the Smoky Mountains. At Raven Point, you are allowed to view sweeping Fiery Gizzard Creek Gorge. I also recommend taking breakfast and/or coffee out there the next morning.  The Raven Point campsite is about .5 mile from the overlook.

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There’s no water source at the Raven Point campsite. You’ll have to walk a bit farther along the trail to find a small creek to filter water. But, it’s an easy walk to the water. Also, right past the creek, Anderson Falls. You can climb a staircase down to the base of the falls. It’s a nice little detour and worth seeing.

After staying the night at Raven Point campsite, you will make your way across the top of the Cumberland Plateau for most of your 7 mile hike that day. It’s an easy and fast hike, except for .3 miles where you sharply drop into the Laurel Branch Gorge then immediately climb back out. I suggest having lunch at the bottom of the gorge. It’s a bit cooler down there and shaded. There’s plenty of huge rocks by and in the stream to relax.

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As you round out your last miles, be sure to stop at the overlook near the Small Wild campsite. The view rivals that of the Raven Point. The Small Wild campsite has a water source just north along the trail, if you need more water, or have chosen to stay the night there.

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Before you get to the Foster Falls trailhead, there’s a climbers loop that offshoots from the main path. There’s 2 access points for rock climbers, which is really neat. I don’t personally own climbing gear, but I’ve heard that it’s some decent climbing.

Foster Falls comes into sight and marks the end of your hike. It’s a nice view to end with and you can also hike down to the base of the falls, which includes a decent swimming hole, if you are so inclined.

Fiery Gizzard is one of my favorite hikes because it’s so diverse in terrain, close to Nashville, challenging, and has gorgeous views. I’m a fan.

 

walking: far & long

I think I’m finally figuring myself and this whole life thing out.

Just kidding, that won’t ever happen. But, I do appreciate stories and people that make me feel not so insane.

While listening to NPR the other morning, a story came on that immediately caught my attention. It was about Paul Salopek. He’s walking 21,000 miles. Yes. Walking. 21,000 miles. He calls is the “Out of Eden” walk because he’s following the path of human migration, from Africa to the Middle East, through Asia, down through Alaska and to the tip of South America.

John Stanmeyer/National Geographic

He. Is. Insane. And I mean that in all the best ways. Something about the way he thinks about life just makes sense to me. I have that insane thing built into my brain as well.

But, he said some things in the interview that really resonated with me, just made a whole lot of sense. It was about walking. About how magical it is, how intrinsic it is into the human body.

“On a psychic l level, it [walking] really builds confidence in your body. By and large after 10 months of walking, it is about the most natural thing in the world to get up at dawn, have a cup of chai and then plot a course to the next well, about 20-25 miles away.”

“There’s something about moving across the surface of the earth at 3 mph that feels really good; it feels normal and the landscape kind of sliding by your shoulders as you turn your head left and right. There must be something limbic about it, it must not even be cerebral. It’s in our backbones. It just feels like the right pace to be absorbing the landscape and information. So, its been a joy most days.”

Maybe this is why hiking feels so natural to me. It’s just what our bodies want to do, in a way. Out brains want to absorb, anything and everything.  And, most of the time we are moving so fast and have one zillion things on our mind that it’s prevented us from actually absorbing anything. The more things we can cram into our days, the more “productive” we feel like we are being. But, for me, my days are so full, I rarely have time to absorb the moments as they are happening.  Sometimes, I don’t think I know how to keep something in my brain for longer than a fleeting moment.

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Being removed from the normalcy of my day to day life, I realize that slowing down and absorbing rarely happens. Only when I’m surrounded by trees and lakes and mountains, do I realize that I am, in fact, capable of absorbing. To take in, to assimilate what’s happening at a  precise moment in time into my permanent mind bank and reflecting and molding myself because of the experiences I’ve had.

So, my challenge to myself is to walk.  To keep on walking and hiking and exploring the world around me at a slower pace. To step forward and realize how wonderful life is.

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Pseudo-backpacking Dawson-Pitamakan (an adventure narrative)

Cities call–I have heard them. But there is no voice in all the world so insistent to me as the wordless call of the Rockies. I shall go back. Those who go once always hope to go back. The lure of the great free spaces is in their blood.  –Mary Robert Rinehart

One thing I was adamant to do in Montana was backpack in Glacier.  When bear sitings and fully booked backcountry sites made this pretty unlikely, we decided to camp at a front country site and blast an entire 19 mile, 3,000+ feet elevation gain hike in one day.  It was a pretty lofty goal, but sheer will and determination made it possible.  This is the story of pseudo-backpacking in Glacier National Park.

I went to Montana mostly because two friends (Josh and Cara moved across the country to work with a YWAM base in Lakeside) had made the move from central Indiana to northwestern Montana and Mackenzie, Sam and I were curious. And we wanted to hike and explore and climb.  Also, it was the opportunity to spend time with some of the best people life has to offer. People that understand life the way that I do.  And that makes me feel not so crazy for a brief moment in time.

After a week of day hiking in Glacier with Sam, the best of day hiking companions, the weekend brought more serious hiking endeavors to be conquered.

Josh, Cara, Mackenzie and I rose early Saturday morning from our campsite at Apgar, though not nearly early enough for our 2 1/2 hour drive through the park and a 19 mile “day” hike. After a quick breakfast of instant oatmeal and coffee, we were off twisting along Going to the Sun Road on our way to the Dawson-Pitimakan trailhead at the Two Medicine entrance of Glacier National Park.  I was especially excited because I’d never quite done this type of hiking, so long and so diverse.  I was more than ready for the challenge. But let’s be honest, I’m always ready for a challenge, for pushing myself past what I think I can handle. Tackling a 19 mile hike in a day with significant elevation gain was exactly the kind of adventure I wanted from this trip.

We laced up our hiking boots, adjusted our trekking poles, and filled our packs what would hopefully be enough food and water for the entire trip. The trail started off relatively flat and spirits were high and my nervous excitement to be hiking a “real trail” was almost bursting. We passed through wildflower fields dotted with ruby red and sunny yellow buds, secretly hoping we’d catch sight of a grizzly (from very far away preferably).

The first parts of the trail follow Two Medicine Lake, a 3 mile long lake that butts up against the Two Medicine campground, one of the quietest and most scenic frontcountry campgrounds in the park.  We noticed a difference in the people here, they were hikers, not just tourists. Most of the other parts of the park we visited were overrun with families and people of all ages and sizes.  I still enjoyed every bit of these hikes, but the air here at Two Med was different.  Campers there buzzed about scrambling up Flinsch Peak  (elev. 9,225 ft), near Dawson Pass the day before or their encounters with Grizzlies.  This was real Glacier.

As we continued on, the trail rounded around the base of Rising Wolf Mountain, we saw Dawson Pass, looming far ahead in the distance, and the uphill ascent began.

We passed Upper Two Medicine Lake just as the ascent began, which we could have camped at were it not for an insane amount of bear sitings in the days before.  Beautiful and teal-blue crystal clear, like all of the lakes in Glacier, this lake was a reminder that the mountains aren’t the only thing that Glacier can boast about.

We were about 6 miles in, and the first twinge of pain was beginning to radiate from my feet, but we hadn’t completed even a third of the trail. I was, of course, not pacing myself and if I wasn’t careful, I would be sore and dehydrated. I distracted myself with the scenery that was becoming a new normal in my life.

Stopping at a bend in the trail, we took our first break, Clif Bars and gulps of water all around. We were still mostly excited and the task of having 2/3 of the trail left didn’t faze us, yet. We packed up and continued pushing forward.

Moving along slightly slower than when we started, mostly due to the ascent up to the pass, we passed No Name Lake and its backcountry site and for the first time, I realized that this wasn’t just a hike, it was a backcountry excursion. We were just crazy enough to do it in one day. For portions of this uphill climb, I forgot about my feet and the friends I was with and was actually completely present. Finding moments like this are very rare in my life and my brain, so I did’t let them pass by unnoticed. I am convinced this hike changed my life forever.  Maybe this sounds dramatic and crazy and pathetic, but something inside me felt at peace for the first time in a long time.

Looking back at what got me to this point, my mind swims with memories and feelings that are hard to sort out. Family vacations to the Smoky Mountains, growing up near the Indiana Dunes, having a dad that adventured in the Boundary Waters wilderness, quitting Pharmacy school, moving to Nashville, moving back to Indiana, making friends that shared my passion for adventure, my unending strive toward challenging myself. These things and so much more led to this time in my life.  And from that point on, I looked at all of these memories through a different lens. Maybe I was created to do this forever.

Pausing to glance backwards, I realized the progress we had already made.  We had gained enough elevation that we could see where we had come from, a tiny indented trail snaking through trees.  I could no longer see the campground or Two Medicine Lake, only the mountain pass that loomed above our heads and mountain peaks surrounding us. Also ahead, snow. Yes, mid-July snow. Thankfully this trail was traversed enough that a path was cut out from this snow field. But, at least three feet of snow was packed up along the trail as we trekked through, gaining elevation in each step.

The elevations in Glacier are lower than in places like Colorado.  Glacier peaks are in the 9,000 and 10,000 foot range, where you’ll find 13,000-14,000 foot peaks in other parks of the Rocky Mountain range. But, the starting elevation is much higher in Colorado.  Estes Park sits at around 7,500 feet. The areas surrounding Glacier are at about 3,000, so the mountains look just as high in Montana as they do in Colorado.

The 1 1/2 miles from No Name Lake to Dawson Pass are the steepest, but the closeness of the pass urged me on regardless of my already throbbing feet tightly strapped in my dusty brown Merrell hiking boots. Talking between our group had drastically decreased.  We were spread farther out along the trial and focused on our next pit stop at the top of Dawson Pass. I stopped just shy of the top and waited for my friends, so that we could reach the pass together. A few more steps and we were drilled with whipping wind.  We had arrived at Dawson Pass.

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Trying to convey the scene with words or even a picture seems a pathetic attempt to capture greatness. The wind forced us to layer on fleeces and jackets as we were completely engulfed in mountain views. Directly in front of me was a steep rocky drop into Nyack Valley. Dawson Pass is the lowest point between Mount Helen and Flinsch Peak, at an elevation of 7,600 feet. I was straddling the Continental Divide. Off in the distance to my left is Mount Saint Nicolas, the most technical mountain to climb in the park, with deep gashes cut out of the rock near the peak. In front of me lies lies Mount Stimson and Mount Phillips, and the remains of Lupfer Glacier, which technically isn’t a glacier anymore. As I spin around, I see the trail that brought us up here, Rising Wolf Mountain and Pumpelly Pillar. The wind is fiercely whipping my body as we huddle together to take photos of our accomplishment. We celebrate for a short minute, then retire to a small boulder in the middle of the pass to eat lunch.  This boulder is barely large enough to block the wind from the four bodies that are hidden behind it, but we really had no other choice.

We pulled out our PB&J’s (prime hiking food), trail mix, granola bars and the like, and filled our calorie deprived stomachs. We chattered with renewed excitement. Most of the uphill ascent was over, but less than half the hike had been completed.  Somehow, we didn’t care about this, and I’m glad we weren’t fretting about what was to come. We packed up what we had left, adjusted our boots, clothes, and poles and readied ourselves for the rest of the hike. Then, the trek to Mordor had begun. (I only wish, but this was really the only thing I can liken the next couple of miles hiking to, trekking along a mountain pass).

As we set out from Dawson Pass, our feet traveled on a path about a foot wide.  Flinsch Peak shot up sharply to my right and plunged  below to my left. One foul step on the rock and shale path would mean a very not fun, though I can imagine quite scenic, tumble down to the bottom of the valley. Even though these conditions demanded watching every step my feet would take, I couldn’t manage to stare straight down.  My eyes were drawn every which way, except where they should have been.

Continuing along the Continental Divide, we deviated slightly off the well traveled path and scrambled up an offshoot with a flattened top.  We stood with our feet mere inches from a ghastly fall, feeling on the edge of some kind of mountain world. I felt completely limitless and fearful at the same time. I have yet to replicate that feeling anywhere else.

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As we rounded down off of the Divide, we were faced with a snowfield. It was a very tiny and mild snow field, and also pretty well traversed, but we had to cross snow nonetheless. We had a 3 second lesson on how to attempt a self arrest with our hiking poles, just in case the worst happened. We all crossed safely and I reached for my cell phone to take a photo only to realize that my phone was no where to be found. It could be anywhere, at the bottom of the valley, covered in rock and shale, or it could just be at the top of that flat precipice where we sat for a couple minutes. Thankfully, it was the latter and Josh graciously volunteered to make the 2 mile roundtrip trek back along the path we had just traveled. Of course I would leave my phone sitting on top of a mountain. After the phone was safely in my hands, we continued on towards our next mountain pass.

We came upon Pitamakan Pass fairly quickly. The saddle through the pass was thin, and gave way to mountain and lake views all around. Because it lies along a thin ridge, both sides of the pass and their valleys make for another stunning view that words fail to describe. Leaving there pass, our downhill descent began.

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In front of us was a layered zig zag of switchbacks. In the next mile, we descended close to 1,000 feet. My trekking poles became my knees’ best friend. Each step was lightened with the help of my poles and my eyes could drift upwards to see Oldman Lake dip behind Rising Wolf Mountain. By this time, my legs and feet were finally beginning to realize the torture that I was putting them through. But, I was getting a bit delirious from not eating nearly enough and exerting myself that past 11 miles. Mackenzie and I bounced our craziness off of each other and cancelled out our aching feet with fits of giggling. We were planning how we would use our trekking poles were a bear to attack us, singing about subjects that can’t be remembered, yet still marveling at the environment we found ourselves in.

The next few miles were all jumbled together. We were trying to beat the sunset because, remember, we started later than we planned for doing a 19 mile day hike. I remember passing through a very thick huckleberry patch, half expecting to see a grizzly with every glance. At one point, I remember standing and slowly turning myself about in a circle taking in everything.  Among the short grass and huckleberries, I paused to stare at Pitamakan Pass, now far off in the distance, appalled that I actually crossed a mountain pass. We passed through meadows reminiscent of scenes I’d only seen in my dreams. The terrain quickly changed into thick forest hiking, the smell of pine, a lovely intoxication, my favorite scent in all of the land. We ducked in and out of forests and meadows until finally the campground came into sight. Despite thinking we were almost done, we still had over 2 miles left, which may have very much been the hardest 2 miles. I had seen the end, my mind and body thought I was done, so it stopped pumping adrenaline.  Those last 2 miles felt like 15.

But, alas, the bridge crossing over to the parking lot found our feet. Finally. We were relieved. We had made it well before sunset and all had went as planned. But, at the same time, I was sad that this adventure was over.  I knew I would never experience something exactly like this again with 3 close friends trekking mountain passes, meadows and forests.

After stripping our boots off and letting our feet breathe for the first time all day, we climbed into the car and sped off to find food.  We all wanted one thing, meat. Meat to replenish our bodies and muscles, especially after eating only nuts and oats and fruit all day.

The drive back “home” to Lakeside was one of tired excitement. Conversation was a faint buzz of the leftover adrenaline. It was probably one of the most gratifying times of my life. I wasn’t over thinking anything. I was present. I was there fully experiencing that moment. All of those things are hard for me, yet in that moment, it all came so easily.

My trip to Montana, and specifically this hike changed my life.  That sounds dramatic, but it really was a turning point in the way I view my experiences. I spent a week with some friends who are so close to my heart. I explored the mountains. I hiked 45 miles in one week. I actually relaxed on a vacation. (Yes, despite the 45 miles of hiking…) My pull to the mountains and the outdoors grew and was even more intertwined into my life. I’ve learned to be thankful for the outdoors that’s close by in Nashville, but still long for those white capped peaks every day.

I can’t quite explain it all even 6 months later, but I know I feel different. I’m trying to decipher what this means for the course of my life. I haven’t quite figured anything out yet, but I’ll let you know when I do.

re: passion

I watched the documentary 180 Degrees South, which tells the story of a few people taking a 6 month sailing journey down to Patagonia in Chile to climb Corcovado, while learning from the founders of The North Face and Patagonia.

Before I even realized what I was doing, I started Katy Perry: Part of Me, which tells the story of Katy Perry’s music, career, love, and heartbreak by following her year long ‘California Dreams’ tour.

I chuckled at myself for the irony of the two juxtaposed one after the other. I thought to myself, “Seriously, who am I??! Climbing deadly mountains straight into pop music about teenage dreams and fireworks.” Just as I was in the middle of composing some clever tweet about how I’m “so weird” because I somehow managed to absolutely adore both documentaries, I stopped and thought (which, by the way, I should do more often before I tweet things).

Halfway through Part of Me, I realized that the sentiment behind these two seemingly very opposite things weren’t actually opposites at all. I watched Katy fight through whatever was thrown at her to keep her dream alive, to have her words (in the form of songs) heard. A few record labels didn’t believe in her or tired to make her something that she wasn’t, so she left them, or was dropped. She desperately tried to keep a failing marriage alive, but also knew when it was time to cut ties. She has a very distinct picture of what she wanted from herself and for herself. From what I can tell after watching a short 90 minutes of her life, she never strayed from that picture. “Thank you for believing in my weirdness”, she screamed at a crowd at one point during the film. (Just stay with me now, ok?)

I thought back to the previous 2 hours and connected that very drive and passion to Yvon Chouinard and Doug Tompkins, founders of Patagonia and The North Face respectively, and their dream to both explore and save the Patagonian wilderness. In the 60’s, they first traveled to the raw wilderness of Patagonia, and their lives were forever changed. They said, “It wasn’t the apex of their lives, it was a turning point.” Both men have explored those mountains extensively and have contributed to preserving the wild in Patagonia to this day, despite push backs  from the country of Chile itself, and probably a whole slew of other people who thought they were crazy. Their intense fervor for wilderness and climbing more than overcame the adversity they faced, both physically and mentally.

And I think that’s why I can connect with both situations, because what’s behind their dream, that raw passion that no one could ever imagine ripping from them. I am an extremely passionate person. I am driven by an extraordinary belief in myself to do the things that I feel will make my life more meaningful. I may not always be sure of exactly what that dream is, but that doesn’t keep me from running wildly and blindly towards it.

I resonate with people like Yvon, Doug and Katy because they made something that seemed nearly impossible, come to fruition. I often find myself complaining that people don’t understand me or getting frustrated when I think friends don’t see life the same way I do. I imagine this is the burden of all dreamers and fighters not willing to compromise any part of the person they made themselves to be.

I have worked very hard on the Jess you see today. It’s part of who I am to work on who I am. I have laughed, cried, adventured, wrote, read, climbed, ran, and loved my way through the almost 8 years I’ve “been on my own”. Although some of my hobbies and desires have changed, one thing strings them all together: I want to make something real and true out of the things that excite me.

Because I feel strongly about living life this way, I both intentionally and unintentionally surround myself with people who also want to make their lives look this way. I have friends who are extraordinarily real writers and storytellers (Banana Damage), friends who both climb mountains and love God fervently (In Search of Mountains), friends who are teaching English halfway around the world (The Adventure), and friends who run meaningful nonprofits (Red EarthTrading Co.), and so many more that it would taken me hours to name them all. I have crazy wonderful friends that only further my desire to make reality out of my dreams.

Now, the only thing I have left to figure out is what ‘thing’ I am going to chase.  And that thing has changed far too often in the past 8 years for me to even begin to pick one. But, that’s my burden to bear.

stress & peace

Who’s ever heard of being stressed out because you don’t have enough going on?

Welcome to the insides of my head every day, fervently researching new hiking or camping spots within a few hours of Nashville, constantly heckling my friends to join me on day trips, overnight camping, and backpacking endeavors (I mostly fail at these attempts). Not a day goes by where I don’t think about being somewhere else.

IMG_5018playing in waterfalls in Short Springs Natural Area

And for some strange reason, it stresses me out not to be able to do those things. My mind gets a clenched up and I find myself day dreaming of the sweat soaked supposedly “breathable” clothes and achy back that comes along with hauling a backpack with everything you need for 3 days. And why? Why, does this make me feel so fulfilled? When I am immersed in nature, hiking, camping, and the like, I forget about what I think matters and realize what actually matters.

But, I don’t think I can put what actually matters into words, its more of a feeling, and you have to feel it to know what I mean.

IMG_3714Smoky Mountains outside of Gatlinburg, TN

Therein lies the stress. I’m stressed because I don’t know how to find peace when I’m not outside. I desperately search for it in quiet evenings at home drinking tea and reading, in journaling, in writing, in watching Parks and Rec on Netflix for the bazillionith time. And, I have yet to be able to replicate the peace that I find when I’m out there.

So, what I try to work on daily is capturing those moments of peace, so that I can perhaps not be so stressed out when I’m in “regular life”. Because regular life is stressful and not peaceful and hard and everything that being immersed in nature is not. But, this “regular life” is also a reality that I have to live with well, regularly. So, I’ll have to keep pressing on and working hard to not work hard, to learn to be peaceful in the midst of anxiety.

IMG_2806Sunrise at Percy Priest Lake

what she read // poems by Mary Oliver

Sometime, I wonder how I’ve missed the boat on some people for so long.  Mary Oliver is one of those people.  I heard her name being bounced around with some of my friends for a while. I finally decided to delve into her writings, her poems that interlace mind, soul, and nature so effortlessly.

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Her heart is so similar to mine.  She just finds a much more eloquent way of getting those thoughts out of her head. She is an inspiration to me in every aspect of that word.

I think the reason that she is one of America’s best selling poets is because she doesn’t seem to try to hard.  Her poems are accessible and easy to read.  They mix the dark, the witty, and the real into poems about her life and her passions, which mostly include the outdoors.  (No wonder I love her right?)  People connect with nature, whether they realize it or not, and I think Mary Oliver realizes that in its truest sense.

She has almost 30 collections of poetry.  I’ve only read a few, but can’t wait to continue to build my (very small) poetry collection.

Here’s some of my favorite poems:

I Have Decided

I have decided to find myself a home
in the mountains, somewhere high up
where one learns to live peacefully in
the cold and the silence. It’s said that
in such a place certain revelations may
be discovered. That what the spirit
reaches for my be eventually felt, if not
exactly understood.  Slowly, no doubt. I’m
not talking about a vacation.

Of course at the same time I mean to
stay exactly where I am.

Are you following me?

Sleeping In The Forest

I thought the earth
remembered me, she
took me back so tenderly, arranging
her dark skirts, her pockets
full of lichens and seeds. I slept
as never before, a stone
on the riverbed, nothing
between me and the white fire of the stars
but my thoughts, and they floated
light as moths among the branches
of the perfect trees. All night
I heard the small kingdoms breathing
around me, the insects, and the birds
who do their work in the darkness. All night
I rose and fell, as if in winter, grappling
with a luminous doom. By morning
I had vanished at least a dozen times
into something better

Three Things To Remember

As long as you’re dancing, you can
break the rules.
Sometimes breaking the rules is just
extending the rules.

Sometimes there are no rules.

And also short excerpt quotes:

forgetting, as men have always forgotten,
that life’s winners are not the rapacious but the patient;
what triumphs and takes new territory
has learned to lie for centuries in the shadows
like the shadows of the rocks.
-Sharks

I am
Possibly dangerous, I am
Entering the kingdom

The dream of my life
Is to lie down by a slow river
And stare at the light in the trees–
To learn something by being nothing
A little while but the rich
Lens of attention.
-Entering the Kingdom

It’s no wonder she won the Pulitzer Prize, right?