Fearing A Walk In The Woods

I have long been drawn to the idea of a long hike in the woods. The Pacific Crest Trail is so close to my home. My older sister used to ask me to hike it with her, as I’ve mentioned before. I have a friend who plots out a solitary hike into the back country every summer, figuring out where she wants to go and getting the needed permit. And then off she goes, with all she needs on her back, up into places like the Alpine Lakes wilderness. I asked her once if she wasn’t afraid, out there alone, and this petite woman looked at me as if she didn’t understand the question.

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There are a lot of books about people who have gone off on long treks and I read many of them. Some, that are so popular movies have been made from them, like Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, I didn’t like at all. Some make me laugh, like Bill Bryson’s A Walk In The Woods, although there is a lot in that book that isn’t funny. And then there are some, like Walking Home, by Lynn Schooler, where every page is a story that resonates with me, even though it starts out with a terrifying bear encounter.

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Another friend of mine recently told me about a hike she went on. Two women, packs on their backs, take off on for a few days on their own, into the wilderness, like it’s just another jaunt around the block.

I even follow a group on Facebook called ‘Fat Lady Takes a Hike’. I thought it would be inspiring. But then I look at photos and think ‘Fat? Her?!?’

And so, like I’ve written briefly about before, I daydream about striding forth, life on my back, to daydream in the forest and find stories in the trees.

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Then reality steps in.

I remember the horrible story in the news a few years ago about a mother and daughter murdered on a hiking trail. Experienced hikers, but someone found them out there alone. The murder is still unsolved.

I think about gear. When we go camping we need a big truck. How would I fit all that into a backpack? Clearly I’d have to go shopping for equipment based on weight. I know many people base their needs on how many ounces that cook stove will add to the pack. And I wonder how many ounces my bottle of blood pressure meds weigh, or the pad of paper and pens. The camera. The extra pair of eye glasses.

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And what about the pillow? And the thick pad of memory foam?

I think about being old and definitely not the lean hiking type. Aching knees and hips. Sore lower back.

Then my thoughts wander down the path of fear. That would be easily solved by taking along the husband. He knows how to read maps and compasses. He knows how to orienteer. He knows how to tie a multitude of knots. He knows how to cook over a fire. He knows how to fix everything. I’m always, always safe when he’s around. And I’m never ashamed of my limitations around him. I wouldn’t worry about lagging behind or slowing him down or being a hindrance.

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But I don’t think he’s ever had any desire to, shall we say, shit in the woods.

Am I afraid to walk in the woods? Not as long as I leave my imagination at home. I love being out in the woods. But I do have an active imagination. What if a bear comes along? What if a cougar stalks me? What if I fall out there and break a leg? What if I got lost?They couldn’t use my cell phone to ping my location and find me because I have a little old flip phone.

What if I got out there and gave up and turned around and disappointed my companion and let myself down?

What if I learned my dream was just that?

What if I failed?

What if I was too afraid to take one more step?

What if I was too afraid to take the first step?

I think I’ll just go reread Walking Home and continue dreaming.

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The husband’s office

 

Let’s Talk About Age

I’m nineteen. I working at Edie Adam’s Cut ‘n Curl. I’ve had my hairdressing license one year and already I hate it. I’m about to leave for a trip to Scotland. Me, naive, a girl who has never even traveled to Seattle by herself (an hour away). Still living at home, kind of envious of friends getting apartments of their own. But not so envious I’m brave enough to do the same. Seeing friends fall in love and marry, but no envy there because I know better. A girl with frizzy hair and freckles and glasses.

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Writing secretly. Because I’m not good enough.

I’m twenty-one. Taking Scottish dance classes and for my big birthday, that milestone of age, they give me a giant cardboard key because girls get the key to the house when they turn twenty-one. Still doing hair and still hating it. Still living at home. About to leave for my third trip to Scotland. A little braver now, about traveling. A friend of my parents comes to the house one night when they are gone, when he knew they were gone. Because, after all, looking at me, it’s obvious I must be desperate, right? Luckily nothing happened because a dog foiled him.

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Still writing secretly. Still not good enough.

I’m twenty-eight and have found my home in the woods. The parents have retired and we made a deal where I would live with them and pay their bills and eventually inherit. I’ve made my plans. It’s obvious to everyone, including me, and I’m looking forward to that future of being a spinster in the woods. I have it all planned out. I’ll be the eccentric aunt the nieces and nephews will love to visit. I’ll have all the dogs I want. I’ll write whenever I want and it won’t be secretly. I’m looking forward to that future.

Lisa with white Bear & chickens

I’m thirty-four and I’ve been talked into joining a fire department – so far out of my realm, so far out of my vision of my future. And a guy joins the fire department, with a dog that likes to go for walks. I don’t see what’s happening until he takes my hand one night. I don’t understand because, obviously, thirty-four years of never attracting male attention. Remember, frizzy hair, freckles, glasses.

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I’m forty-eight and diagnosed with lymphoma and getting radiation and a wife and a mother of a twelve-year-old boy, and both males in my life think I’m a writer and they love me and they see me. Even when I don’t.

Art and Arthur Vegas

I’m sixty and have books with my name on them. I am a wife and he’s the most perfect person (honestly, he is) and there’s a twenty-four year old male in my life that used to be a fat baby. I go to the doctor for an annual test and find out I no longer have to have them because I’m sixty. I guess at that arbitrary benchmark you are no longer at risk for female cancers so you can just quit worrying about those annual tests.

But wait. Sixty? Really? Have I spent sixty years not seeing myself? Sixty years self-conscious? Sixty years being less-than, never-will-be, not good enough for those who love me? Sixty years not looking in mirrors?

Fuck that. I’m done with that woman.

I don’t know what that means.

But it means something.

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Tradition and Quirks

Many years ago I read a moldy old Reader’s Digest magazine while spending the night with Auntie (our grandma surrogate). I’ve never forgotten this little piece I read, although I have no idea who wrote it.

A young woman always cut her roast in half before cooking it. When asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the mother was asked why she did that, she replied it was the way her mother had always cooked roasts. When the grandmother was asked the same question, she replied that she’d never owned a roaster big enough to hold the whole thing, so she had to cut it in half.

It stuck with me because it showed how we do things out of habit, and sometimes without understanding why.

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Aunty with three of us. I’m not the one eating her basket.

I have passed on a tradition to my husband and son about making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. You ALWAYS put the peanut butter on first, then the jelly.

My dad was diabetic and he loved peanut butter. Every night he would say ‘what are we having peanut butter on tonight, mother?’. (One time I suggested a spoon, which he didn’t find as funny as I did.)

Because of the diabetis, no jelly could contaminate his beloved peanut butter.

My husband and son aren’t diabetic. But still, the rule remains because of habit and training. Peanut butter first.

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Last night we had hamburgers. They wanted tomatoes. When my son was putting his burger together, he put condiments on the bottom half of the bun, added onion, and then waited for the burger. I said ‘don’t forget your tomato’. My husband and son both spoke at the same time, saying the tomato had to go on top of the meat. I asked what difference it made. They couldn’t tell me. It was just the way you had to do it. Not me. I don’t add a tomato. I go for extra onion and I don’t care what order it goes on as long as it goes on.

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But all that got me pondering about the little quirks we have, the odd traditions we follow, the habits we form, all without remembering why, or being able to explain why. ‘Just because.’ ‘It’s always done that way.’ ‘The world will end if you don’t.’

For instance, always leave about an inch of beverage in the bottom of the glass for the fairies. It doesn’t matter what I’m drinking. It doesn’t matter if the glass is full, or partially full. It doesn’t matter how thirsty I am. I have no idea why I do that, and I don’t even realize it until I do dishes. But I’ve always left something behind, even when mom would get mad at me for wasting milk.

Lisa and mom 1994

Always avoid stepping on black ants, but don’t worry about stepping on red ants. Another habit of mine that my son has picked up without knowing why. As a child I read a book about kids shrunk down to ant size. The black ants helped them and the red ants were trying to get them. Ever since, I have to help those little kids and their black ant friends.

And so it goes. Traditions without known cause, habits from forgotten reasons, quirks just because.

We’re so strange.

Us three taken by Kathy