My Summer Vacation, or How Four Days in the White Mountains Totally Kicked my Ass.

I’m going to start out this story the same way I’m going to end it.  With Dylan, and Sky, my darling young one.

Oh, where have you been, my brown-eyed son?

Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Part I…..The Idea

Okay, so this past New Year’s, I had the two women who were in my pod over for dinner…

(here I have to put in a reminder to anyone who has so quickly forgotten about the whole pod thing, that in 2020 and part of 2021, we were forced by quickly spreading disease (COVID), and the vile political forces that allowed it to fester for way too long, into seclusion, only allowing a few trusted people into our homes and proximity to keep from getting sick and infecting other people)

back to the story…

New Year’s Eve.  With my friends Diane and Yuh.  A tiny celebration, and indeed a celebration it was, getting past 2020, the year from literal hell.  We ate a tiny meal, and chatted as usual, sharing anecdotes (antidotes?), and life stories, and in general, the meaning of life, and why do we even bother……

It sounds pretty depressing, that last part, and in a way it really was.  Having come to the end of usefulness, children gone, no longer married, at a crossroads work-wise, the whole existential angst of who are we, and what the fuck are we doing here, I mean really, what’s the point, and etc…..

Anyway, Yuh, a sort of hard-truth, no-nonsense, I’m not putting up with your whiney bullshit kind of person all the sudden makes this suggestion:

“What you two need to do is make a list of 100 wishes!”

“Wishes, do you mean resolutions? Like losing weight, or being more optimistic, or something?”

“No.  Wishes.  Wishes for yourself.  It can be anything.  Just make a list of 100 wishes.”

A couple of evenings later, sitting in my little cozy room, watching TV, I get a text from Diane:

“This is hard, I’m on #42…”

“Wait, what?  42 on your Wishing List?”

“Yes, and it’s getting harder…”

I hadn’t even thought about the list since that night, but inspired by Diane, I started my list.  At first it was easy, you know, stuff like:

“like myself more”

or

“learn a new language”

But 100 things is really hard.  Sure there are a lot of fillers you can use like”

“the power of flight”

or

“world peace”

But to find 100 wishes for yourself is harder than you would imagine….

I have stuff in there like playing in the World Series of Poker, and learning sign language, but at one point (I can’t remember if it was a filler or not), hiking the Appalachian Trail.

When I shared this whole 100 wishes concept with my son, Sky, he asked what some of them were, and when I mentioned (I didn’t share any of the personal ones, liking myself more, for example) the Appalachian, he jumped on it.  

“let’s do it!”

“What?  Hike the Appalachian Trail?”

“Well, not the whole thing, but let’s get together for a couple of weeks this summer and do a part of it”.

And that’s how it started.  As easy as that.  

Sky had moved to Boulder the previous summer, and I missed him.  I’m not going to go into the whole COVID thing, I’m sure a lot of people are going to talk and write about it.  Mainly because it really didn’t affect me that much.  I had pretty much already become a recluse, and was finding some kind of happiness (?) in my solitude, and still had plenty of work to do, but I did miss seeing especially my children.  We had months to prepare, and in hindsight, I really should have prepared myself more, at least by doing some kind of research about the segment we had chosen: New Hampshire, the White Mountains to be exact.  

In my mind it would be a snap, after all, I had easily hiked 150ish miles in the Mountains of Spain in 2019, so 100 miles would be no worries.

February through April I had a lot of work to do, and the weather was inclement a lot, so I didn’t do a log of walking.  But eventually Diane and I started intermittently walking 3 miles a day (very sporadically), and I would go up and down my stair case 10 times a day, and do 30 pushups and 30 sit-ups (also VERY sporadically). And that was the sum total of me getting physically ready for this challenge (yawn, easy, peasy).

And again, I did absolutely no research at all, other than glance at a map once in awhile, not a topographic map, or anything, just a map.  Oh, and I also listened to Bill Bryson’s wonderful “A Walk in the Woods” which is about hiking the AT, although there is no mention of the White Mountains at all!

I daydreamed about hiking along paths, paths to fitness, paths to enlightenment (with my spiritual son), paths to glowing beauty.  Eating blueberries as we sauntered along in fragrant hot pine woods, drinking out of streams, eating granola, sitting around a little campfire.

In late June, I finally started gathering the items I would need for the hike (by ordering stuff on Amazon), and then Sky arrived and we went up to REI, and bought a shitload of expensive (and heavy) gear….

food packets, and water filters.  A tent, an inflatable mat, cooking gear, etc etc.

We met with Yuh, who had hiked in those mountains, and she shared some gear and advise.

And we were ready.

We drove up to New England, and spent the night at Lexi’s (my oldest daughter), and then headed out for our 14 day adventure, which turned into 4 days.

Day 1

Getting There.

Oh, what did you see, my brown-eyed son?

Oh, what did you see, my darling young one?

I saw a newborn baby with wild wolves all around it

I saw a highway of diamonds with nobody on it

I saw a black branch with blood that kept drippin’

I saw a room full of men with their hammers a-bleedin’

I saw a white ladder all covered with water

I saw ten thousand talkers whose tongues were all broken

I saw guns and sharp swords in the hands of young children

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Tuesday, July 6

Sky had wanted to be on the trail on July 7th, the sad anniversary of his father’s death.  He felt the strongest connection to his dad when he was out in nature, and had actually been in the Whites (at summer camp, in Freedom NH), not far from where we started our trek.

We (now extremely optimistically) left my van in Hanover, about 100 miles from where we would be starting, and drove a beautiful scenic route to Bartlett, where we would spend the night before starting the next morning at Crawford Notch.

We stopped in Lincoln, and at last at a little map and bookstore, bought an actual Map, topographic and everything of the segment we were planning to hike.  There were a couple of geezers there (probably my own age).  The bookstore owner, who had a shirt on with, to me, a prescient message on it: “All who wander are not lost”, to us, instantly recognizable from our dear Lord of the Rings, and another man who had through hiked the Appalachian Trail.  We chatted for a few, and shared our plans, and they (very overly optimistically) were encouraging and said stuff like “100 miles in 14 days?  You’ve got this!”  humph

I never thought in a million years that I would soon come to think of these New Hampshireites as the most optimistic people on the planet!

That night we ate at a Thai restaurant, and stayed at a Motel.

This is who I am, right now, at this time in my life…..

My Inner Self

What I used to believe in:

Magic, True Love, and Karma (the kind of Karma where if you’re a super nice person, everything is cool, good things happen, and there’s a happy ending.

Here’s what I believe in now:

None of that…

So, science; although it’s kind of a combination of actual science I’ve heard about all my life, but mixed up with an almost woo-woo string theory, multi-dimensional science that goes down to nano particles (so not that far off from magic), spiritually – an amorphous kind of light that all beings, and in fact all objects in the universe share; and Karma, but not the above mentioned Karma, but the kind that whatever happens is just that, whatever happens.

My Meat Body

I learned this expression recently, watching The Kominski Method on Netflix.  I fucking love that expression.  Like our bodies are just these vessels, made of meat, for our inner selves (i.e. amorphous blob of light that we all share)….

Ok, I’m a small hard-headed woman in my mid-sixties.  And until this trip, the mid-sixties part of it hadn’t made too much of a difference (well, unless I looked in the mirror, and that achy knee thing).

I’ve popped out three kids in my lifetime, rarely been sick, have no allergies, and honestly, I’ve always done (physically) everything I’ve ever wanted to do, my meat body had yet to let me down.

And that’s who I am, or I should say, was, until my sojourn into the White Mountains.

And this is a small sketch of Sky, my son and traveling companion for the trip…

The most spiritual person in my family.  Kind, curious, funny, loving, and with the best laugh ever.  

His meat body is only 23, and he’s slim and lithe, and, did I say 23?

Wednesday, July 7

And what did you hear, my brown-eyed son?

And what did you hear, my darling young one?

I heard the sound of a thunder, it roared out a warnin’

Heard the roar of a wave that could drown the whole world

Heard one hundred drummers whose hands were a-blazin’

Heard ten thousand whisperin’ and nobody listenin’

Heard one person starve, I heard many people laughin’

Heard the song of a poet who died in the gutter

Heard the sound of a clown who cried in the alley

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

Maybe I should’ve done some research.  The day before we started the hike, we bought a map.  Just to see where we could get on the Trail.  But in hindsight, I should have looked at a topographic map, before we started out.  Hm…

Because here’s the thing we figured out, the second day in: the miles were figured out how the crow flies, not necessarily including the ups and downs (which was pretty much the whole trail through the White Mountains, no switchbacks, straight up and down).  If it was actual miles (and here you have to insert the pythagorean theory), one mile as the crow flies is actually 2 miles (more or less depending on the steepness of the ascent or descent…..math……).

And the Trail looked nothing like a trail to me:

It starts out looking like this:

 

 

But I swear to God you go around one bend, and it looks like this:

 

 

But la la la, we started out (and we also hadn’t really checked a WEATHER map) on a more or less sunny day, at the bottom of a hill and proceeded to climb and climb and climb.  At first it wasn’t too bad, but the trail transformed from more or less dirt with a few scattered rocks here and there, to total rocks.  Every time Sky went around a bend, and I heard him say “oh boy”, I knew it was going to be bad.  

Our intention that day was to “feel the forest” and “be in touch with the trees”, but honestly, I barely noticed the trees as my intention quickly became to not follow over (or backward).  We stopped at a beautiful stream, we passed a few hikers, and at one point, stopped at a campsite/shelter place.  There,  pride of place was a Privy, with the warning on the door “do not pee here, as liquid waste is hard to compost, if you need to pee, go into the woods”.  There was this guardian of the site there, a young man, who sort of reminded me of a young Vulcan (the Greek guy, not the Star Trek guy), but instead of tending a fire pit, he was tending The Compost.  He was dreamy sort of, in fact, so head in the clouds, Sky actually asked him if he was high.  His fingernails were painted blue.

We’d gone about 5 miles (not including the math part), and we asked him about camping further on….

He said, it looked like rain.

He told us we might be able to find a “stealth site” (the term used for camping not in a campground), but we couldn’t stealth camp in the protected areas.

He told us there was a hut about 5 miles on, because it looked like rain.

We tramped on and on.  Further (farther?) than we should’ve gone the first day, but could find no stealth sites (did I mention the whole mountain was covered with not just rocks, but boulders?) so we decide to make it to the hut, making our first day 10 painful miles.

We trudged on.  It started to rain.  We went around another bend, “oh boy” says Sky, and I shudder, because by this time, I’m totally spent, no legs left.  And I could see what he meant.  We knew it wasn’t too much farther to the hut, but it was almost straight up, with big rocks.

“I don’t think I can do this”, I say.  

Sky, wonderful, sweet, strong, says in imitation of Samwise Gamgee, paraphrasing from Lord of the Rings,  “I cannot carry you up the mountain, mother, but I can carry your burden.” and he takes both our packs, and climbs up the rest of the way, while I crawl up, hands and knees, to the glorious AT hut, manned by fresh, peppy, outdoorsy type young women, (who all introduce themselves thus:  “Hi my name is Al (or whatever name you choose), and I prefer being identified as “she/her”.

They were pretty full, as it was by then raining, and so we waited outside while everyone inside ate and were subjected to a kind of summer camp pep rally, to see if there was room for us.  

I was pretty down by then, and of course Sky gave me shit for being down.  

I’ll put that in later.

Thank god they had room for us, bunk beds three and four tiers high, in separate rooms.

I’ve slept in plenty of hostels, with strangers snoring nearby, but there were quite a few through hikers at this hut, so it was also pretty odorific.

But, god, it felt good just to lay flat.  So fucking good.

Thursday

Oh, who did you meet, my brown-eyed son?

Who did you meet, my darling young one?

I met a young child beside a dead pony

I met a white man who walked a black dog

I met a young woman whose body was burning

I met a young girl, she gave me a rainbow

I met one man who was wounded in love

I met another man who was wounded with hatred

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

This day was intense.  It was beautiful (although misty, rainy, misty).  It was a brutal climb up past the tree line.  I can’t remember what our joint intention was, but my private intention was to not complain (too much).  

We ate lunch on the side of the mountain, but there was no view, as we were above the clouds.

But it was brutal.  Cresting, above the tree line, there was a road of boulders through the scrubby balsam.  Balsam, used to remind me of Christmas, now it will remind me of the top of this cairn covered mountain, in the mist and rain.

Every step I took was tenuous, scary.  My whole body was stressed with tension, I was so full of fear of falling.

We saw a sign for a campsite/shelter .8 of a mile off the Trail, and decided (although we had only hiked about 5 miles, it had taken most of the day) to go for it.  

.8 of a mile.  That’s like from my house to the river, 10-12 minutes, easy.  But again, it was almost straight down, and took almost an hour.

By the time we got there, it was raining, so we spread our sleeping bags in the shelter, a beautiful log cabin like structure, open so that if there hadn’t been clouds, would’ve had a beautiful view.

Oh, and here’s something else.  We had packed for hot weather, t-shirts and bug spray.  Although we both had rain gear, Sky didn’t even have a long sleeved shirt.  And it was cold, and wet.  Luckily for Sky, who also didn’t have a mat, a woman had left a down jacket at the site, and the kindly campsite minder lent him an extra sleeping bag.  He said the next day that it saved his life.

But we cooked a meal under a tarp, and while I went to the shelter to get supine, OMG, it felt so good to lie down, Sky hung out in the cooking area talking to some other campers (a boy scout troop it turned out), and I loved hearing his wonderful laughter floating up to the aerie where I lay.

Friday

Friday started out hard, having to scramble back up that .8 of a mile, a fine way to start the day.

I remember someone defining Einstein’s theory of relativity like this:  (a man of course), one minute looking at a pretty girl seems like no time at all, but one minute sitting on a hot stove can seem like an eternity.

Well that .8 of a mile, going up, wet, rocky, with heavy backs seemed like an eternity.  And then we were back on the crest of Mt. Guyot, and as far as we could see, our path was this river of boulders through the cloying balsam.

We met other hikers, going the other way, who said it got easier, and then it would get harder.  Our goal that day was another 5 or so miles to the next hut, because by then we were totally sodden, and we knew from the other hikers, we had yet another summit to climb before a descent almost straight down of over a mile.  It did get (slightly) easier for awhile, and then: “oh boy”, and we climbed and climbed and climbed.  We summitted, and I wish the day had been clearer, because we knew we were up pretty high.  Some other young people met us on top, and we all pretended we could see the view…..

We sat and smoked and ate some nuts, and headed down.

When we got down to the bottom, Sky said, “almost there” (I’d heard that plenty of times, so no longer believed it), and when he went around the next bend, once again I heard, “oh boy”.

I almost wept looking straight up the side of this mountain, rock faces and boulders.  I might have mentioned in my meat body description, that I’m a small woman, so big steps, and trying to find hand holds, was really difficult.  But Sky urged me on.  “you can do it, mom”.

We reached the hut.

*okay, so I’m writing this last part a few weeks later, and where I had thought to put in a whole bunch of philosophy, ephemeral memories, and descriptive allegories, I’m going to have to save that for another day (when I can remember what I was going to say).

Our Last Night on the Trail.

When we got to the hut, all I could think about was lying down.  

But first, Sky said, “mom, let’s talk.”

“Ok”

He said, “Are you having fun?”, and I answered: “Whatever fun is, this is opposite of that.”

And then he said he didn’t feel like we needed to keep going, that we should find a way down the mountain the next day, not to feel bad about it, but it was supposed to be fun, and he was worried about my well-being, etc.

I was bummed, but I knew he was right….

the mind and the meat body were no longer willing…

I was more exhausted than I’d ever been in my life.  So I went and laid down, while Sky, hung out in the dining room talking to a couple of guys.

They turned out to be super nice.  They had hiked all over the world, and pronounced this terrain as the most brutal terrain they had ever hiked.  (Which made me feel slightly better).

And then later, eating together with those two guys, Jay and Beck, we were joined by three teachers who were part of some 40 something (I forget 42? 46?) club who had as a goal to hike every Mountain over 4200 (or is it 4600?) feet in the East, and told us we could be members as we had summited two of them.  Who knew?  I felt slightly better again, but still when I lay in my cot that night couldn’t help but feel like a total failure.  I had to come to grips with what? Aging? Lack of planning? Weakness?  Fuck!

The Last Day

I woke up the next morning to Sky yelling, “Come on, Mom, get up!  Come see!”

Outside the other Sky, Jay, Beck and the three teachers were all looking up.  And there it was.  The sun, briefly, for the first time in days, and briefly, the mist cleared, and we could see not only the last mountain we had climbed, South Twin Mountain, 4890 ft., thank you very much, but a beautiful vista all around us.  But, sigh, it didn’t last, and not only that, but because there had been no sun the whole time, I hadn’t been able to use the solar charger to charge my phone, which was as dead as a doornail, so I couldn’t take any pictures.

After a huge breakfast, Sky and I started on a side trail down the mountain.  5 miles down.  By then, for me, every step was treacherous, not only because of my general exhaustion and my whole body ached, but it was again, all rocks, so I had to be careful.  Our packs, boots and clothes were so wet and sodden too, everything was heavier and heavier.  I had to stop every 15 minutes or so to put my pack down and rest.

But then something happened.  The terrain started flattening out, the sun shone, and there were fewer and fewer rocks.  Sky told me he was taking his boots off for the rest of the hike, and I didn’t blame him one bit.

And watching him, barefoot in front of me, is when it happened.

I started singing…

Oh, where have you been, my barefoot son?

Oh, where have you been, my darling young one?

And he answered me right back:

I’ve stumbled on the side of twelve misty mountains

I’ve walked and I’ve crawled on six crooked highways

I’ve stepped in the middle of seven sad forests

I’ve been out in front of a dozen dead oceans

I’ve been ten thousand miles in the mouth of a graveyard

And together we sang:

And it’s a hard, and it’s a hard, it’s a hard, and it’s a hard

And it’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

And for the first time in a really long time, I was really happy.

Epitaph

Oh, what’ll you do now, my bare-foot son?

Oh, what’ll you do now, my darling young one?

I’m a-goin’ back out ’fore the rain starts a-fallin’

I’ll walk to the depths of the deepest black forest

Where the people are many and their hands are all empty

Where the pellets of poison are flooding their waters

Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison

Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden

Where hunger is ugly, where souls are forgotten

Where black is the color, where none is the number

And I’ll tell it and think it and speak it and breathe it

And reflect it from the mountain so all souls can see it

Then I’ll stand on the ocean until I start sinkin’

But I’ll know my song well before I start singin’

And it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard, it’s a hard

It’s a hard rain’s a-gonna fall

So we hiked 25 miles (more or less), and summited two mountains, and that was enough.

 

 

Sky and I are heading up to New Hampshire to hike the Appalachian Trail for a couple of weeks!  Stay tuned for what’s new when I get back.

 

xo

Faith

 

 Recognizing that now times have changed.  Galleries Close, no shows…

We have to make our own way.  I’m going to try to add news to the website, who knows, I may even start to write about life in general……

But for now, here is a flyer about our upcoming Outsider Arts and Entertainment Sale…

A box for random words…..

What a strange year, what a strange world. Just a little over a year ago, there were vague intimations of a pandemic. I did the ACC Baltimore Show, as usual, went to Vegas, where I zip lined through the air to strains of “Strange Magic”, and drove up to visit my daughter to see her new little baby, Aria…..

And then…..

Everything changed. Masks, Purell, isolation (which should also be capitalized). The sudden need for toilet paper and Ramen noodles. A schism in the country, we became The Sneeches in a Dr. Seussian dystopia. It was the maskers v. non-maskers…..the people concerned with others v. the people who seemed only to care about themselves.

If that wasn’t enough, the dark underside of our country’s deep-seeded racism was brutally exposed in multiple deaths not only by police, but other citizens who for their own terrible reasons can’t seem to recognize other human beings as equals. We held up a mirror to ourselves, and it wasn’t pretty. Not only the obviously racist people, but those of us who float through life on a cloud of privilege.

Yes, we met the enemy, and it was us.

How do we respond to things? We feel helpless, and frustrated and fucking angry.

I don’t know.

I do know all I can do is be an example to my children. To raise their awareness, and to just try to do the next right thing.

Haiku…

One of the joys of the past year has been going back to bookbinding. I love the materials….paper, thread, glue. All materials that can be found just sitting around the house.

I have a friend, Beth Dulin, a poet, who became part of my “pod” this last long year, who would come over and we would work on bookbinding projects, and talk talk talk about life and art.

One of my favorite projects was a tiny book I made for writing daily haikus…

The photo on the cover is of my grandparents…..if you saw the whole photo, you would see the only thing I inherited from this lovely pair was Pappy’s workbooks…..

Writing a daily haiku (good, bad, and ugly) has become an exercise, almost meditative.

I love words…..

I would post one of my haikus, but they are mainly pretty bad……