Our Quiet Anniversary Began at a Gorge #quecheegorge #vtsites #deweysmillpond

Before our long day of hiking, Dave and I drove up to Quechee, VT.  We stayed at an old farmhouse with a long history. Built in 1793, The Quechee Inn at Marshfield was once the home of Vermont’s first lieutenant governor, Colonel Joseph Marsh. It’s now a lovely inn filled with rooms that hold the charm of its history. I almost wish we had seen a ghost…

After an early three-course dinner complete with wine, we headed out for a walk. Although I was hoping to discover the location of a nearby site purportedly containing ancient stone chambers aligned with the solstices and referred to as “Calendar II” on cryptic websites, it was apparently not meant to be. I am now quite certain it must be on private land, but if anyone reading this knows, I’d love to learn more…

Instead of searching for the illusive stone chambers, Dave and I headed out in search of  Quechee Gorge. There is a trail on the road across from the inn that extends 1.4 miles from a pond to the famous gorge.

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Dewey’s Mill Pond is just across the road from the inn

Mindful of the goose droppings littered throughout the parking lot, we admired Dewey’s Mill Pond quilted with water lilies.

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The Ottauquechee River feeds into Dewey’s pond

A small trail through tall rushes winds through the waterways of Dewey’s Mill Pond and Ottauquechee River. While we walked, goldfinch flitted across our path and tree spirits quietly watched our passing.

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It was an unexpected delight to find our path leading to the magnificent Ottauquechee Dam and Waterfalls.

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The hydroelectric dam is quite beautiful.

As you can see from the photo, the water level was not high enough to cause an impressive waterfall from the dam, but the impressive size of the rock face is evident.

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Another view of the waterfall from the dam through trees lining the path lends the illusion of a more robust stream.

Each step of the path from the pond to the foot of the gorge is lined with beauty. Soon after the falls, the trail leads into a forest that only partially hides a sharp descent into the gorge.

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It’s hard to capture the sheer drop-off lining the forest path.

At its highest point, the drop from Quechee Gorge is 165 ft. The couple of times I have been here in the past, the gorge and its surrounding areas were filled with tourists. It was a bit surreal and eerie to be alone for most of our walk.

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Built in 1911, The Quechee Gorge Bridge is Vermont’s oldest steel arch bridge. 

One gets the most impressive feel of the height of the gorge from Quechee Gorge Bridge, which is lined with an arched railing and is posted with suicide prevention hotlines. From the pathway beside it, though, you can get a look at its underside.

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Had it been springtime, or had we been in the middle of a very wet summer, the gorge would have looked much different than it did. Although signs warn of sudden rises in water from the release of the dam, we saw only a calm stream in the middle of its rocky bed.

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The bed of the gorge.

Beyond the rocky bed, the water collects into a pond. Here we saw our first glimpse of visitors since we left the dam. A few teens were out for an evening swim. We left them alone and began our way back to the inn.

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Dewey’s Mill Pond upon our return.

It was a lovely way to spend our evening. When it got dark enough, we tried to see the comet, but to no avail.

The call of a dragon and the pyramid stone(s) #sacredmountains #vthikes #pyramidstones #sacredsites #dragonlines

She stands alone in the vast echoing darkness, as she does each day. Her hair ripples a night without stars from her crown to her waist. “Ammon Ra!” She calls through the portal. “Ammon Ra!” She raises her scepter to the apex, heralding the opening. “Ammon Ra!” Darkness slips away to the effortless lift. Stones becoming an illusion to weight. Her body, the channel for the sun, her voice, the gateway.  “Ammon Ra!” Dimension collapses into waves of light, filling the great pyramid it searches for the veins. “Ammon Ra!” The scepter meets the floor and gold spills into the ground in a vast web without endings. Below the feet of the priestess, Earth pulses with energy. Tomorrow she will return. And the day after that…

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It’s a hot morning in mid-July and I am climbing a mountain that has called to me through the channel opened to the higher self. I am not thinking of Egypt or a long ago time that has rippled back to this one. Instead, I am trying not to think, allowing myself to surrender to whatever will be. It is hot. Airless. Just as it was a year before when I climbed another mountain with my husband on our anniversary because it called me from a place beyond logic.

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Bring the crystal you were given at America’s Stonehenge

Instead I have brought a packet of tobacco leaves, as I did when I climbed to see Chocorua. It is not yet time to bring the crystal, now I know why my daughter dug the wand of selenite out of a sandlot six years before I would find myself inside a vision of  life that is woven into this one.

It’s no big deal. There are others who call in the opening, collapsing dimension in the path to the stars.

Admittedly, despite the attempts to expect nothing, I am looking for signs along the path. At Chocorua I had several: the ghostly figures of Native Americans watching us walk beside the sacred stream, the white feather fallen upon the path, two snakes, the crow greeting our arrival and the pileated woodpecker, my “feathered seer” calling through the silence. And, finally, the face of the chief in the clouds just before we turned for our descent, not having quite reached the peak of our destination.

Today there are no ravens promising magic, only a woman and her dog who quickly disappear ahead of us and out of sight. I have a feeling it will be a quiet walk and I will be watched more than I will see. This is often how it happens, I am learning. A trust needs to be earned, and I am heedful of my steps and mindful of noticing where I feel the nudge to drop a few leaves of tobacco for the spirits of the mountain.

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But the energy is there. I can see the serpents in the stones we pass by and I can feel the lines of water, even though it is nearly dried up.

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We find the spring empty of people and I am grateful for the chance to linger beside the stones (who watch us closely) and cool my skin in the cold, clear liquid.

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It is a place I’d like to linger longer. Light dances with water here, creating alchemy with color on the stones. The veins feel alive with the pulse of the dragon and the stones eroded in a way that does not feel accidental.

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But we have a long way yet to go, and I am determined to reach the peak, unlike last year. I don’t know what to expect, but I am expecting something. Our walk, though, is quiet and intense in its ascent. The path we have chosen gives us few breaks from the vertical climb and the heat is strong today.

 

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Before we leave the waterfall, I notice the metal on the rock. The chiseled words feel, well, perfect.

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Ahead of us is more heat and the rigors of our climb. But we will not rest in one spot for too long. The stones watch us while we walk, and I leave my trail of tobacco leaves hoping it is enough.

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I still don’t feel home here the way I do in England, walking the newer lands of America, but I am learning to trust that the pulse that feels like magic beats here just as strongly. Even if it’s not quite as close to the surface. I have noticed during my walks through the mountains and forest paths of New England, that the land here is cautious of my footsteps, as it should be. Our ancestors here have left a troubled path, and my veins do not course with native blood. I am often acutely aware that I am an intruder who needs to earn trust.

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Yet, the stones show me their faces and forms when I look close enough, and sometimes a bit of unexpected magic is revealed.

Like the cube of quartz we find as though it has been tossed to be seen, just inches from our feet in the bed of dried leaves. It feels like a gift to be left, but noticed. Not photographed. A reminder of what I will bring with me next time.

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Instead I photograph the tiny orange mushrooms that look like a trail of the fey, and we continue our climb to the strange little hut that I cannot imagine falling asleep inside.

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“You’d need to bring a pad with your sleeping bag,” I tell my husband as I press my fingers into the unforgiving metal mesh. I’d rather not think of what else might venture inside the opening in the darkness of night.

Did I mention my bladder has felt the need for release before we began our decent? A minor inconvenience that my mind returns to each time I take a drink to quench my thirst. For some reason I can’t bring myself to relieve myself behind a stone. There’s no one around.

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Just the stones of a former habitation as we get closer to the top.

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And lots of large, curious looking boulders that call for a better look upon our descent. But we are nearly there, the signs promise us our feet will soon reach the peak.

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I am expecting, even though I have tried not to expect, a vast rocky face with clear vistas, but instead we need to climb once more. This time it is stairs up to a guarded platform. Here, finally, we meet more visitors and it feels crowded on top of this large mountain.

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But I am not wholly disappointed. Up here I can see the peaks beyond and take in the contours of the land from a point not seen from the ground. And, I can see the ripples on the back of the dragon.

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But we are hiking in the midst of a pandemic, and others are waiting for the view, so we don’t stay too long atop the constructed tower. Besides, I still have to pee, it’s lunchtime, and the stones below are calling.

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Although there is a great deal of the mountain remaining for me to discover at perhaps another time, this place beckons to me. And soon I have an idea why.

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It’s not just the stones piled into caves that will have to wait for my eyes to peer inside, it’s the stone in the middle, curiously shaped like a pyramid. In the distance, far beyond sight, a bird calls through the forest. It is a pileated woodpecker. My “feathered seer.”

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To be continued, someday…

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But is this a choice? #pandemic #NHwalks #dragonlines #gratitude

 

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Certainly the dogs are making the most of this time

Yesterday, I wrote, “Through no choice of our own, we are all being called to pull inward, to the comfort of the hearth fire.” Later, I began to think, Is this really an absolute? Aren’t we, in fact, co-creators of our destinies? Do our thoughts, along with our actions, not weave, eventually, into being? Invisible threads coalescing into paths that we will inevitably walk, whether we want to or not?

Few (I hope) would now deny that climate change is something that has been greatly affected by our collective actions (and thoughts).  In the hours after I wrote yesterday’s post, I found myself thinking about the thoughts that I have held inside incubation and then, at some moment, unbeknownst to my conscious mind, let go.

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During one of my recent walks, my husband and I followed a glacial rift and found the head of a dragon. How many times have I longed to walk the dragon lines here?

Some of these thoughts of yearnings and wishes have now become my reality. I cannot deny the gifts of their existence.

Held inside the rules of quarantine, is the gift of family time slowed down. Distilled into poignant moments. They are not always easy moments. Often, there are they are bursts of heightened emotions. The tumbling of fears erratic struggle for air. Letting go can also be a gift.

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A beautiful day offered a social distancing hike with the cousins. Off devices (mostly) and in nature.

We are walking more, together, hiking trails through the forest nearby our home. The four of us, plus our two dogs, who could not be more pleased with this enforced family time. How often have I wished for more of these walks in the woods?

And the excuse and time to grow our own food, despite our lack of sun? Or begin the daunting task of sorting through fifteen years of photos and keepsakes to create albums for my children before they leave the hearth fire?  And, what of the pull to break free of the comforts of the known and venture into the unknown with my own work?

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Cherry tomato seedlings sprouting in the kitchen window

How many of us have longed for something similar? To slow the rat race into a meaningful walk? Could this disease that threatens the lungs also be an opportunity for us to breathe together, with shared purpose? Joined, as we are, in isolation from the oftentimes maddening cacophony of our “normal” lives?

 

Distilled time. Seconds treasured for their ability to span into minutes, then hours, and days held in the embrace of the beloved. Gratitude for the simple gifts often overlooked. Certainly Earth is breathing a bit easier without her usual congestion from our created actions.

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The family together for a walk yesterday

 

 

 

Chocorua Part 4: Meeting the Chief in the Clouds #mtchocorua #NHhikes #snakesymbolism

As my husband and I continued our journey up the quiet mountain, I stopped now and then to place my offering of tobacco leaves in the nooks of trees and rocks. Noting, as I did, how sometimes others had made their own offerings. Small and large stones nestled into crevices of wood and stone, along with the more permanent and not so mindful markings of names carved into the skin of trees. I saw the carvings as a sad reflection of the ego’s need for permanence, forgetting that the mark that lingers is a mere shadow of the true self that never dies. How we yearn for something that is false, so often forgetting the harmony that beats around us. I found the buzz of the mosquitos oddly comforting, in its reminder of the cycles of life. The sacred spring below having given birth to the insects that followed my footsteps along a path older than the trees surrounding me.

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There are several large and impressive boulders near the summit of Mt. Chocorua, but they hold their stories in a quiet, watchful manner.

The mountain remained, to me, quiet and reserved. Welcoming, yet not offering too much. Not yet. This was my first visit, after all, and as the miles slowly rose, I realized that I would likely return someday. Perhaps not to the same trail. Perhaps not with the same companion. I didn’t yet know, and that was okay.

Life cycles as it will, and it behooves us to allow it to play its rhythm without resistance. When we push, we are often met with a counter-push. A simple law of physics. Perhaps this is why the snake appeared. Not once, but twice, as we hiked the long, winding trail, slowly losing the mosquitos as we gained elevation.

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One of two snake messengers we encountered during our journey. This one reared its head toward me as though reading for an attack as I ventured near to photograph it.

I have found the snake to be a frequent messenger that appears at points in the cycle of life that call for a surrendering. A letting go of the old “skin” I choose to wear to make way for the new, lighter sheath. They remind one of the wheel, ever-turning. Endings moving into beginnings, endlessly repeating.

I had thought that the mountain might harbor hurt. A long held wound from the legend of the chief who fell from its summit. Cursing, as he met death, the white man who had poisoned his son. As I walked the first half of the mountain, I found that I was also, in essence, curing the “white man” who had felled all the trees, and placed the wall of stone beside the path of the sacred waters. Yet, as the snake reminded me (twice), time moves on, whether we allow it to or not, without judgement. The cycle weaves its circle of life and death, over and over again, and we can be a part of it, or we can use defiance to try to resist its flow.

I could not forget that I had breathed acceptance into my body before I had left my hometown that morning. There are no true accidents to life. I realized, as I walked, that it mattered little, if at all, that I was not seeing the faces of the long passed in the rocks, or feeling the pull of the familiar through my cells. Instead, there was that quiet harmony of belonging. Of being present with my beloved in human form, and the sacred landscape around us.

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A guardian along the path

There was no denying the many gifts that had been offered. The crow who had welcomed us, the “ghosts” beside the stream, the white feather in the path before the call of my feathered seer, the snakes of renewal, and even the mosquitos buzzing life. There were also berries, full and ripened to the deepest blue of truth as we approached the final mile. Tempering greed, we reached, now and then, to pick small handfuls of the fruit and felt the renewal of life in each magnificent bite. Agreeing that there was never a better blueberry than those grown on the nearly soilless top of this mountain. A grateful gift that was even more welcomed when we discovered how little water we had left and how warm it had become during our journey, as well as how unsatisfying the apples were that we had brought. Mealy and soft, whereas our mouths hungered for a cool, crisp bite. I thanked the land for the blueberries as I offered it more tobacco in return.

As we sat on the granite ledges and took in the views of the landscape around us, my husband and I noted the time and how far we had come. We felt the ache of the climb in our bodies and the hunger in our bellies. Ahead of us was the head of Chocorua, perhaps another half mile away, we could not be sure. Its side looked steep and a bit dangerous as we realized we would either have to make our way around it to find a more gentle side, or allow ourselves to finish our journey below its peak. I was surprised that I did not feel disappointment. That there was no resentment bubbling up inside at the possibility of not “completing” our journey. Instead, I felt acceptance. It was enough, all of it.

We did not turn around then, though, but decided to walk a little further. I was grateful, as we continued on for this small final leg of our journey forward, for the soft presence of the land and it’s hallowed feel. For the berries that continued along our way, and for the knowing that we had just enough daylight ahead of us to get back down, and just enough water to quench our thirst if we needed it. I thought of that sacred stream and the yearning of my body to feel its cool release. And, as I turned my gaze one last time to follow the path of a vulture around the neck of the mountain, the mighty bird moved toward a cloud that hovered beside the rock face. Perhaps it was my imagination, but to me it looked like the head of a chief in profile. Its face pointing away from the summit that would need to wait for another day.

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Where we stopped to rest with the cloud formation of the legendary chief in profile. It was a bit more clear in person.

 

 

 

Chocorua Part 3: The Feathered Seer Returns #mtchocorua #NHhikes #pileatedwoodpecker #sacredwalks

I had brought one more thing for my journey, which was not mentioned in Part 2. In the pocket of my shorts was a small bag stuffed with tobacco, the procuring of which is a small story by itself. When I asked my friend Darlene what I should bring for an offering, her definitive answer was “tobacco.” There was no budging her, but I tried. The thought of buying a tin of tobacco, or a packet of cigarettes, filled me with mild terror. Irrational perhaps, but a childhood that involved the illegal growing and smoking of “pot” by my parental figures turned me against all manner of smoking. The only cigarette I’ve smoked was in one very vivid dream. That was enough for me.

So, here I was faced with one of many tests during this journey, before it even started. How to procure some tobacco. And, as I was thinking about how best to find some, a little voice inside my head came to the rescue with one word, “Etsy.” You can find just about anything on Etsy and sure enough a quick search led me to a source of natural tobacco. Perfect. I could handle buying tobacco safely through the internet with the happy knowing that it would be packaged as pure, unadulterated leaves. My little bag of tobacco arrived within a couple days of ordering, accompanied by a lovely handmade floral magnet. I had my offering.

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Although all of the trees were “young,” no doubt from the logging of the settles, there were those that held the presence of the past, and I left my offering with them. 

Which, as I walked along the wooded trail filled with mosquitos, kept creeping out of my shallow pocket until it finally dropped somewhere not too far away from the white feather. Like the crow, the feather seemed perfectly placed before me, another sign often found during my journeys. And, although I had yet to feel the familiar nudging of spirit through my left hand, which may be because it was too busy grasping a walking pole, I took it as another positive omen that I was on the “right path.”

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The white feather on my path, which appeared freshly fallen. When I passed it hours later on the way down it looked worn and tired. Its fibers matted together.

It is sometimes said that true signs come in sets of three, and number three that day came in the form of a song. Sharp and sudden the voice of the pileated woodpecker pierced the silence surrounding us. Once again I found my breath stop inside my throat. My “feathered seer had appeared. I should not have been surprised, but somehow I had forgotten the dream of this sacred messenger seven months before when it flew before me atop a “Native American hill.” Looking into my eyes with the message, “Don’t be afraid to see.” Weeks later, I had met Chocorua capped in snow. And now, here I was upon its oldest trail.

Funny how the mind works, only now I am recalling the dream through my old blog post. Putting the pieces together as I write. “Do not be afraid to see.” I had been thinking, as I walked, how much I was trying to see with my outer sight. The bent trees to give me clues to the sacred places. The faces in stone. “Are the bugs flying into your eyes?” I eventually asked my husband through frustration as I every time I brought my sunglass to rest atop my head, my eyes became magnets to the swarming insects.

No doubt another messenger, but not a wholly welcome one. Sometimes we try too hard to “see” outside of us. I am thinking of the “ghosts” I glimpsed while walking beside stream that felt sacred at the base of the mountain. I had felt the impulse to pause. To look back as the outer eyes blurred to the inner. And there they were, a small group of people from the time before white men, gathered at the waters, their heads turned slightly sideways towards me. “We see you,” they seemed to be offering in a welcome without judgement.

I did not linger, but took the gift of their presence and tucked it inside. It would be a mostly quiet walk. The other hikers not making their presence known until 2/3 of our way to our destination. Instead, we had one more messenger waiting to greet us as we worked our way uphill through the heat and bugs.

To be continued…

Chocorua Part 2: The First Messenger #mtchocorua #NHhikes #sacredmountains #crowsymbolism #crowtotem

The plan was to stop for brunch along the way, but our late departure called for lunch. I hinted at the opportunity to save more time by picking up sandwiches, but my husband’s quiet response told me he had his heart set on a sit-down meal. As we neared our destination, we spotted a diner offering “All day breakfast” inside a homey log cabin facade, so we pulled in beside a queue of locals.

A “cash only” diner, the service was friendly and quick. The food ample and satisfying. And, there were bathrooms, which might not have been available had we followed my meager suggestion of “just grabbing sandwiches.” Later, I would be grateful for the full meal, only wishing it had been less laden with sodium, and those bathrooms.

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Photo Credit: Pixabay

We pulled into the dirt road leading to the trailhead at about 1:30pm, and found ourselves face-to-face with our first messenger of the day. A large crow sat in the middle of the roadside looking staring at us through the windshield. I sucked in large gulp of air as it raised its black wings into the air. Flying towards us, and then away, before it disappeared into the woods where we would soon future. My husband turned to me, “Is that a good sign or a bad one?”

“Good.”

Crows have a way of preceding my arrival in magical landscapes, and the presence of this one did not seem to be a coincidence.

The parking lot, if you can call it that, was full with five cars, so we squeezed over on the side of the dirt road, nestling in behind a large pine. We gathered our two, not quite full, metal water bottles and stuffed them into the sides of our backpack, which also held a small first aid kit, two granola bars, two apples, and a can of animal deterrent spray. Just in case. As we pulled our hiking poles out of the back of the car, I spotted the bug spray I always keep in the trunk and threw it into the pack. Just in case.

It wasn’t long before the bug repellent made its way out of the pack as we stopped about 1/8 of a mile into the trail to shower our heads from the invading army that buzzed around our ears. “The comments said the trail was buggy and to bring DEET,” my husband offered belatedly. Our spray did not contain DEET, and proved to be less effective than my sunglasses, which did a fine job of keeping the invaders from diving in for a swim in my eyes as long as I kept them over the bridge of my nose.

I had let my husband worry about the minor details, you know: getting to the trailhead, figuring out how steep the climb was, and how many miles the Hammond Trail was…while I had let my head fill only with the legend of Chief Chocorua. Which meant neither one of us had really and truly prepared for the full journey of eight miles it would take to reach the summit of the mountain via Hammond, followed by, we soon discovered, another trail or two, doubling our anticipated hike. I was soon thinking about the four miles to the summit the sign had promised, and four back to the car on this hot, humid July afternoon. Our lodging for the night another half hour car ride away.

We are not regular hikers. Instead, we are those intermittent types. Dragging the teenagers up a modest mountain or two maybe once a year, and every other year or so getting a chance to climb without them. Eight miles. I tried to do the math in my head as I walked along the buggy trail that was eerily quite aside from the mosquitoes whining in my ears. How long would it take us? And, would we make it to the top?

To be continued…

 

 

Chocorua Part 1: The Journey There #mtchocorua #nhhikes #sacredmountains

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Chocorua in early August

Sometimes the spirits of the land study you before you are allowed to study them. Their secrets held inside the membrane of earth and stone until you have proven yourself worthy of receiving.

Before we left that morning, I sealed acceptance into my aura. There was the knowing that I would be given what I needed to receive and perhaps not all that I yearned for. There is no rushing the land and its protectors, but a grateful, open-heart is always accepted.

I had met Chocorua over the winter, when I had turned a bend in the road and found myself faced with its head of stone, balded in patches of white from the snow, looming before me. It was one of those moments when the body defies words. My daughter looked at me, and I at her, with the same knowing. Someday, I would return. There was no discussion.

We drove the rest of the way to her ski meet immersed in our own thoughts, my eyes blinking away the moisture bought on by our encounter with Mt. Chocorua. Why, I wondered, have I not seen you before? 

I have lived in NH since I was nearly five years old. The mountain I had just passed, a mere 1.5 hours from my childhood home. I must have heard of it, even “seen” it in my travels.  I have learned, thought, that we do not truly see until the land is ready to be seen.

And, so I found myself traveling the roads to Chocorua six months later. Now mid-summer, there was no snow, but plenty of heat. We had just over twenty-four hours for our trip, and this would be our first night away without our children, ages 14 and 15, since they were born. A strange way to celebrate a slightly belated 20th wedding anniversary, perhaps, but my husband, like my daughter, understands my desires even if he doesn’t entirely comprehend them. When I found out he had booked us a night in North Conway so we could celebrate two decades of marriage by hiking the legendary mountain, I was deeply touched. My only reservation was that we would not have enough time.

Which was part of the letting go.

The morning began with tension after the release that yoga brings. I had a morning class to teach, and when I returned home, it was to find my husband nowhere near ready to go. I have a long history with time controlled by the minutes that tick by on the clock. I loathe being “late,” in whatever circumstance that involves. It’s not easy for me to let it go. I had breathed acceptance into my body at the start of the day, and it was not going to allow me to forget it.

When finally we got on the road, an hour after I had hoped we would leave, my husband and I found ourselves doing our individual best to release the threads of tension between us. That is until twenty-five minutes into our journey he realized he had forgotten his dress clothes, and, true to his nature, blamed it on my long-battle with time. Once more I found myself breathing into acceptance as we turned the car around.

It was a mostly wordless journey back home. When we arrived our daughter, just recently having woken, greeted us with some surprise as she smiled above the top of the couch. We had now lost about two hours of the day, by my calculations with the clock, but my body knew it was what we needed. This test of letting go of what we tend to hold onto, if we could.

And we did, gradually at first, as we settled back into an uneasy silence. My husband making the first offering of peace by placing his right hand on my thigh as he navigated the road back toward the mountain with his left. I felt the letting go as I met his offering with the wrap of my hand around his. Our journey now officially underway with all we needed packed in the car, even though later we would lament not having brought more. Not in terms of clothing, but in terms of supplies for the long walk ahead of us. In our determination to hike 3.5 thousand footer, we had not given much thought to the long, indirect path we had chosen to get to the top.  Chosen as though it was not a choice, because it was the path walked before the white man had landed on the shores of New England.

To be continued…

Slow Time #merrymeetinglake #nhlakes #waterhealing

It’s been a week of slow time. Minutes unhurried as they spread languidly into hours that stretch the boundary of day into night. I find myself shedding worry easily. It falls like dead strands of hair ready to let go with the lightest tug. I do not miss its absence, but find myself welcoming the lift of its weight as it releases.

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I needed this week beside the lake, where my eyes can travel the surface of water to meet the rise of Earth before it gives way to sky. Clouds pass by winged travelers. Sea gulls catching gold on their wings, even though the ocean is miles away. They too care not for time or place. Blue dragonflies skim the horizon in search of mosquitos. A cormorant puffs out its chest on the raft we have just anchored as though we have brought it just for him. Another displaced traveler. Or, maybe not. I allow myself to believe I belong somewhere else most days. My home an hour away, holding a calendar of scheduled dates I choose not to think about while I am here. Trading it for this slow time beside the water.

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Most days, I slip inside the fluid molecules to swim. The build of heat releases and the body cools as it finds the memory of origin. I realize how much I need its enfolding.  When I return to land it is to feel the soft, sticky floor of pine needles beneath my bare feet. My soles will be blackened by the end of the week. Tattooed by the reminder of slow time that will inevitably speed up again.

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This week I have found myself thinking, when thoughts slip through the moments, of how much we carry and do no need. How even when we are meant to be relaxing and letting go, we pull out the phone to snap and share. To preserve and even boast, as though we must believe that our time is better than someone else’s. Forgetting that the less we carry, the freer we are. Forgetting that when we let go of all these attachments, there is no separation.

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When I open the artificial screen, I feel its drain. The body constricts. And, so I close it in favor of the easy breath outside doors and windows. Here, where light arrives from sources beyond our grasp, and I can soak in the vast expanse of being. Just being. Present sometimes with just the self, and sometimes with my beloveds and their companions. I find that it is not so challenging, here in this slow lake time, to be a parent to teenagers. To be wife. To be a woman in this stage of life called middle age. I find that it doesn’t matter what I do so much as how I present. That mostly, it’s this letting go. This slowing down, that matters most. This living in time and not through time.

Trading the high price of hedonism for hope #hedonism #ercolano #vatican #pompeii #colosseum #rome #italy

Since my recent visit to Italy, I have been thinking about the trap of hedonism. From a yogic perspective, hedonism is a concentration of energy in the sacral and solar plexus chakras, or areas of the body. Here is where individual lust, when it is allowed to, takes over the bloom of ever-lasting life. The mind-body forgets that life is not individual, but a collective and infinite rebirthing.

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Ercolano sits unearthed in the middle of a crowded Naples

I keep thinking about Vesuvius covering civilizations at their peak of hedonism in layers of ashes and dirt. Over and over again. We unearth the remains. Stare at the walls still painted in lust, and forget.

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Hedonism on the walls of Pompeii

We forget that we are still here. Captured in our lust. We are not doomed to repeat history, we simply choose to do so.

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This photo was taken in Rome, near the Vatican. If you look closely you will see a bride being photographed in her white gown near underpass where the tents of the homeless are huddled. 

Today, Naples sits piled in apartments filled with crowded life whose waste litters the streets. Plastic discarded after a single use blows amongst piles of dog poop and cigarette butts. In the cracks of pavement, green life stretches to find air and water before it is snuffed out by passersby who are thinking of yesterdays and tomorrows filled with want.

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Live blooming in the cracks of Pompeii 

Three hours away by car, Rome’s streets pave over more lost civilizations. What is left reminds us of the individual ego’s striving for power. Huge monuments raised to its mighty hand stand erect, guarded by machine guns slung over shoulders. Reminders of wars waged, battles for life lost and “won,” and the many, many spoils of victory.

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What was once Egypt’s is now Rome’s

A vast city inside a city houses the spoils of wealth stolen in the name of God.

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Vatican City crowded with visitors

Gold halls lined with painted angels watch over a vast fortune robbed from distant and not so distant lands. Lesser gods trapped in a fortress that has room for only one ruler. Yet, we walk the halls in awe. We  cannot help it. The splendor overwhelms and consumes us.

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A feast for the eyes, even the ceilings of the Vatican are lined in gold opulence.

Below, the echo of the goddess can only be heard when the feet are still and the many voices clamoring to be heard, mute. The want for air is nearly unbearable. Yet we hold onto our crowds, striving, always striving, to get ahead.

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Crowds outside the Colosseum 

I keep thinking we are one fiery breath away from annihilation. Again. We have thinned the air with our crowds and choked it with the pollution of our breath. We have chosen to guard the pillars of our mighty past and erect more as we overlook the goddess who sustains us.

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Mother Earth birthing and supporting life

Instead of honoring the Mother who brings forth new life, feeds, and provides for all our many wants, we trample her to near death in our quest to strive ever higher in dominion.

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A memorial to war in Rome is carefully guarded by men with guns.

It is difficult not to be cynical in this world so focused on the outer it has largely forgotten what sustains it. A world that fears so much what unites it, it would rather destroy itself, over and over again, for want of division. For want of lust to feed the false self. A temporary pleasure of the body that has forgotten the soul housed in light who choose not to see.

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The imposing remains of the Roman Colosseum 

And so I find myself sitting in my comfortable home in America, looking around at all that I have and all that I am in danger of losing. I find myself thinking about my individual choices and if they serve only me, or something greater than my individual self. I live in a town that has recently decided that recycling is not worth the monetary expense, and has chosen to override the planetary expense of not doing so. I live in a nation ruled by a man whose lust for power strives to over-ride all that is of the common good. It is easy to be consumed by the ugliness and despair of what feels like an impending doom. I would not blame our Mother if she  decided it was time, again, to swallow us up.

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Vesuvius in stasis 

But, there is little good to come of wallowing in despair, and much to be gained when one reaches beyond the darkness to grow the light. There is an empowerment of the inner that can be awakened when one looks beyond the myopic lens of the individual wants and sees that choices can be made to grow this light that we all share and that feeds all life.

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A male hummingbird in my garden drinking nectar from peach blossoms

I know that the old ways are not enough. That for me living in my small town in New Hampshire, it is not enough to simply rinse cans and separate paper and food waste anymore. That I must search for ways that are more sustainable, such as growing vegetables and joining a local CSA. I know that I can move beyond not just buying nontoxic and organic products, to making more of my own as I search for those that I must buy in biodegradable and reduced packaging. And, I know that I can search for more innovative ways to reduce and reuse and share ideas that I find with others. There is that realization that “more” can always be done to nurture the good of all, and not just the one. And, that in doing so, one can find not only hope, but joy.

 

Walking with Timeless Ghosts #Pompeii #Ercolano #italy #travel

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A modern centaur sculpture evokes the powerful Roman presence layered into Pompeii

I didn’t know what to expect, except for what I had heard. Vast cities unearthed after centuries of stasis preserving the moment where life bowed down to death. A death of searing heat and suffocating ashes poured forth from the might mountain god Vesuvius.

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The casts of the dead are preserved behind glass and bars in Pompeii

I had thought I would see more bodies preserved in the moment of futility. A sensationalized warning for all to see in the middle of cobbled and broken streets. It’s funny how the mind works.  What I found instead were the many textures of life woven into a timeless tapestry.

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Much of the lasting art of the lost cities depict hedonistic scenes 

In these ancient cities, which began to form in the years before Christ, the endless tale of time is told. The struggle for the basic elements of life are encased within the mortared rock walls of crowded settlements only footsteps removed from vast halls revealing pillared windows to outer glories of wealth.

The themes of life remain unaltered; the patterns only woven with different threads.

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There is a pathos that pervades these spaces, which extends beyond the death of the body. One cannot help but feel the struggle of man with the god-self.

It is nothing short of exhausting to walk the ruined roads of Pompeii. It’s a feat impossible to do in its entirety in one day. After awhile the step feels monotonous and insignificant, despite the many who tread with you. There is a feeling of isolation. Voids that will never be filled. Wonders only partially discovered and mysteries that will never be fully unveiled.

The five of us walked without a map or guide, yet it I was not surprised to find our path leading us to the Villa of Mysteries. Here the the gods overlap through time, and Roman influence is layered with Greek and Egyptian. Although I took just a few photos, many more can be found online. Instead, I found myself wrapped in the arms of the familiar for the short time we explored the villa, which sits quite removed from the central city of Pompeii. It is where I would have lingered, had I been alone. Instead, hunger called to all of us and we sought out a late lunch before we continued on.

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The Roman Amphitheater of Pompeii predates the Colosseum in Rome by 100 years