App. Trail : Part One (Carver’s Gap to 19E)

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The Appalachian Trail: Carvers Gap Parking. 

The day began with a two hour drive up the mountains (and a stop at Waffle House.) At around hour 1.5 we realized we should have heeded my mom’s warning and stopped for gas before we left… so we turned around to head back into town to fuel up which added about an hour to the trip overall. So in reality, the day began with a 2.5 hour drive up the mountains (and a stop at Waffle House.)

When we finally reached the parking lot, it was filled. Our hopes for solitude were questionable at that point. We soon found that once we left the parking area, being on our own became a usual occurrence. Groups passed us here and there, but for the most part it was just the three of us: my mom, my dad and me.

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We were met with this sign at the head of the trail.

I was beyond excited. I’d been reading about The Appalachian Trail for months now. I’d spent hours watching YouTube bloggers from the trail, reading posts from people who had been all the way from Georgia to Maine and using the AT’s interactive map (found here or if that doesn’t work, here) to scope out the trail virtually.

In short, this day hike was about to fulfill a new life dream. As we headed up the first peak I couldn’t stop taking pictures…

I was in full-tourist mode until I saw it – the first white blaze. For those of you who don’t know, the white blaze (or small white rectangle thing) is the Appalachian trail marker… it guides willful hikers all the way along the whole 2,190 mile stretch of the trail. Seeing it in person, on the path that I was hiking made it all real. 20170703_112850.jpg

The beauty of nothing but you and the task at hand, with no real way out except to finish- was what I’d come for. I’ve always been fairly good at letting fear rule my life, but I’m ever growing out of it… fear is the space between the life you know, and the life you’ve been waiting for. I was ready (am ready) for the life I’ve been waiting for. Hiking is the perfect way to face your fear of giving up, because once your in the middle of the trail, your basically forced to “nut up”. There is no magic way to get yourself back to the parking lot instantly. Your only way out is to push forward.

As we continued to ascend, I turned around and got my first good look at how far we’d come in just under the first half hour or so:

Turning back around, I realized how far we had to go. 20170703_111606.jpg

But I was completely okay with that.

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We continued on, ever-venturing further into the unknown of the trail and the capacity of our will. There were hills that never seemed to end, noisy groups of passing teenagers, and times when the packs we carried dug into our shoulders so much you just wanted to leave them behind.

And then it rained.

At first the light, pitter-patter of rain was welcoming. We were prepared with ponchos and the cold mountain rain felt good on a hot, sweaty face. But, as rain in The South sometimes (always) does…. the pitter-patter quickly turned into an all out downpour.

Torrential style.

And we were wet. About half way down our first tree-covered section of the mountain, maybe 4.5 miles in, we found ourselves turning around to head back. Relieved at the idea of getting out of the rain, but sad that we couldn’t have gone further. The trail of water rushing down the path ahead of us continued to grow. As we headed back to the car I found myself attempting to hop from rock to rock, but often succumbing to step in a mud pile since there was no better option.

The water level in the path deepened as we worked our way back up the mountain, at times taking what was left of my leg strength to push and pull my shoes through the mud. It didn’t take long for my running-shoes to become filled with water and the shorts under my cheapo-poncho soaked with rain. Between my mom, dad and myself, we kept saying we were going to find a semi-dry place to stop and rest… but we never did. The adventure pulled us forward.

When we broke out of the trees and found the open space (The “Balds”) again, the rain mellowed out to a light mist. I believe it was near Jane Bald that the clouds dissipated and we could once again see the beauty of the surrounding mountains.

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And then, while finally taking just a moment of rest at the top of the mountain we saw it. Out of no where, a tiny mongoose and baby rabbit appeared. The looked as casual as if they were out for an afternoon stroll, the mongoose just behind the rabbit. Then, just as quickly as they had appeared, the mongoose lunged at the baby bunny and started killing it. (Naturally, they were not in fact out for a stroll together and were in deed both apart of a hunt…but it did not appear that way at first.) We watched in horror as the mongoose continued to bite and cling to the rabbit, who desperately squealed to be let go… until the mongoose drug the baby bunny into the brush and the squealing eventually ceased.

Side note: rabbits are my all-time favorite animal. Ever since I was a baby.

I love them so much that I’ve got a rather large rabbit tattoo on the lower part of my leg…

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Essentially, i’m bunny-obsessed.

So the experience of watching not just a rabbit, but an adorable baby bunny be murdered by another animal – was less than ideal. I was so appalled at the sight and sounds that I couldn’t even talk about it (or anything) for the next twenty or so minutes of our hike. It was agreed that we were not to speak of “the incident” at all, but I figured that it was in fact a part of the trip… and so you should know about it.

[Remembering back now, I can recall that at the time of the incident, we had stopped for a snack and that unfortunately, we were eating Annie’s Bunny Grahams. Oh the horrific irony.]

Once I got over being heart-broken at the death of earth’s greatest creature… I realized that life is …at the end of the day: just a beginning, a middle, and an inevitable end.  I took a moment of reflection and looked around once again to see the beauty in my life at that very moment.

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Be apart of your moments.

As we drew closer to the car, I found myself breathing a little deeper. That deep kind of satisfying breath of an empty heart-spot finally being filled. A dream being touched, if only briefly. Surrounded by the loving company of my parents and the vast majesty of nature, I found myself feeling at home.

Nature is my home.

And I will be back again soon.

Though, I can assure you:
I’ll be leaving the bunny-grahams at home.

 

Much love and all things wild,

-H

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Always Focused on Tomorrow.

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Things I realized on my walk this evening:

I want to be in touch with my own life.

I struggle, at times,
to feel like I’m actually living my own life.

I’m often so focused on the next hour, the next day, the next weekend…
that it all comes and goes by so fast,
I’m left standing there – wondering where it went.

I just want to be so in love with every moment,
that is causes me to never again feel like, “where’d it go?”10-22-16-4

Why does it always take us util it’s too late to realize how good we had in in the first place?
To realize that we had it so good in the life that we had – the person we were back then…

I’m always so focused on the life I want to be living… the person I want to be…
that I let my days fly by without being a part of them – always wishing for the next chapter… the more improved, better ‘me’.

Maybe this chapter is supposed to be amazing,
Maybe this day – even if it feels insignificant – is supposed to be the best day of my life.
Maybe I’m supposed to love who I am now, before I try to “improve” myself.

…………….

I would like to take a moment, to write a letter to myself (and all of you.)

…………..

Dear You,

You are amazing and so brave. You wake up each day, trying so hard to improve on the cards you’ve been dealt. Sometimes, you don’t feel like it’s fair that everyone else seems to be doing so much better at life than you – and then you feel like a failure.
I truely wish you would see things as I see them. See you as I see you.

You are beautiful. You are more than blessed.

You’ve been given gifts and talents, that were only destined for your hands and your heart.

You are loved. Even more than you will ever be able to comprehend.

If I could reach into your heart and hold it – I would infuse into it the love that I have for you. I would show you how valuable your dreams are, how powerful you are, and how truely great you have been designed.

I know sometimes, you see yourself as a screw up – a failure – deserving of no more than the shitty way you feel now. But all of that is so un-true… the way I see you looks more like this:

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  • Honest
  • Good
  • Capable
  • Powerful
  • Blessed
  • Talented
  • Worthy
  • Peaceful
  • Happy
  • Successful
  • Nutured
  • Changed
  • Sacred
  • Stong
  • Forgiven
  • Loved
  • Perfect, exactly as you are. In this moment.
    With all your flaws and faults considered – still beautiful and perfectly you.

And I would hope that everyday, regardless how many things you think you need to achieve in order to be someone your proud of, I would hope with every bit of myself that you would truely feel how it is that I see you.

I want you to wake up tomorrow morning, walk over to the mirror and take a moment, with your eyes closed, to remember the list of things I have written above. Give them time to sink into your heart. Imagine those words flowing into your skin, absorbing into every ounce of who you are… Let the fill you with every ounce of love I have for you. Live in that moment – realizing all the greatness that flows through you.

Let the words sink in.
Feel them.

And then, when your ready – open your eyes… and see  yourself through the eyes of love: beautiful – exactly as you are.

Much Love,

God (and H)

……………………………………

 

I want to wake up to that tomorrow.

Those words.

I want to allow them to fill up every ounce of who I am –
I want to believe them so fully, that no one can make me feel otherwise.

I hope that you can feel them too.

Find your strength in who you are.

I hope that you see yourself, exactly as you are.
And love it.

-H

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“It’s no coincidence that Nature is beautiful, exactly as it is.”-H

 

Regret.

I have lived with regret, for far too long.

I have let it plague me; Filling my soul with negativity for too many years.

Each time I thought I’d finally moved past it, forgotten it, left it behind…
it would rear it’s ugly face again – reminding me that it was never really gone.

I’m not quite sure how other people deal with their regretful memories.
My thought process was always that if I could ask for forgiveness, I would be able to move on.

So I did. Time and time again. Each time, things would be okay for awhile. Then all of a sudden I’d find myself right back to doing whatever activity had started the regret in the first place.

It was like an itch I had to scratch to feel relief.
Somehow, taking part in something negative again made me feel peace with ever doing anything wrong.
Like, maybe I didn’t actually screw up so bad the first time.
It made me feel more normal… more accepted.
More like reality and less like a nightmare.

It would feel fine at first, though looking back now I think I was just trying to be naive. Trying to deceit  my own mind into believing that I didn’t know the harm I was causing myself.

But it never lasted….I would always come to sooner or later… and fall with a deafening crash into my self-dug hole of regret. Daylight further away than before. Each time I fell, I personally dug that hole another foot deeper.

That’s the biggest struggle when living with regret.
You don’t know how to break that cycle. And once you’ve fallen in the first time, even if you get out, it seems like that hole never really gets filled …you always end up stumbling upon it and fall right back in.

 

I’ve lived this cycle since I was seven.
Twenty fucking years of my life have been lost to regret.

 

What it all started with is no one’s damn business.
What really happened is something I will take with me to my grave.
I know better than to bring to light something that was born in the dark.

Sometimes things can fade away. Hurts….Sadness…Anger.
Some things actually can heal with time.

Regret is not one of those things.

 

It will eat you alive if you let it. I was told that it’s best to let it go, ask for forgiveness and move on. Move forward.
But it never worked.

I cannot count the amount of times I’ve prayed, face literally filled with tears, wanting with all I am to let this demon go.
For God to take away the memory, the cycle, all of it.
Just to let me finally feel freedom from my past.
In that moment I could usually feel it. When talking to God, I never felt judged or full of pain.
In those prayers I would say I did feel free.
But life crept back in… memories crept back in….. the way I remembered I felt about  myself always came back.
And that’s all it took, that and time, before I’d find myself saying yes to another adventure that would inevitably lead me right back into that stupid hole. That all-encompassing, soul-crushing, endless hole where all my regrets sat waiting for me. Every damn time.

 

Like I said, it’s been twenty years.
And I’m not 100% sure what started the cycle of events that lead me to this revelation.

But today I can say, I finally feel free.

It started like any other prayer.
I had been awake all night, unable to escape my own mind.
I thought there was no other way I’d find rest
than talking with God about what was going on in my head.
So there I lie, in bed, eyes closed and heart ready.
Ready to pour out all the things that I didn’t want to feel bad about anymore…
all the hundreds of memories that I couldn’t go on one more second living with in my mind.
I moved my hands to cover my face…
I think subconsciously I didn’t want even God to see where I found myself now.
I was just about to recount each thing that I knew He needed to hear,
in order for me to ask for forgiveness and try to move on again.

 

But He stopped me.

 

Before I could even begin to think about those things… about anything… he stopped me.
All at once, I felt peace fall around me like snow.
Drifting down so gently and settling into all my broken pieces.
The peace softened the tightness in my tired hands.
I felt my hands fall, tenderly holding my face like a parent would to calm a crying child.
I felt a clarity that I’ve never known before, drowning out all my once deafening thoughts.

Imagery flooded my mind with waves, crashing new life over me…
washing away any trace of darkness my regret had brought me through.
I felt myself removed from my current physical state of angst, and suddenly

He told me, very clearly, what I needed so desperately to hear
He Loved Me.

He told me through everything, He loved me.
He told me in spite of everything, He loved me.
He told me there was nothing I could ever do that would take that away.

He told me He loved me anyway.

 

Never in my life have I felt a love so pure, strong and real all at once.
In an instant every ounce of regret I’d held on to for years simply didn’t matter anymore.
I knew that all those moments had still happened.
I knew that they were not magically gone or removed from my memory.
But I finally realized that they truly did not matter.
Love is the only thing that can overcome anything. Specifically, for me, it was God’s love.
I’ve since realized, that I kept messing up because I felt like I was unworthy of being loved ever since that first screw up. I felt like damaged goods.
I felt like if anyone else knew the truth about what I’d done… they would never love me again.
I kept a secret hidden for fear of losing love. But it didn’t matter if no one knew, I knew…
and that lead me to not love myself.
For that reason – I have continued with no end to harm myself over and over again because I didn’t feel worthy of anything better.
In fact, I would go so far as to say that sometimes hurting myself made me feel better.
I felt validation in the negative way I saw myself.
Telling myself inwardly that somehow, this negative place is where I belonged now.

 

I always thought that moving on from regret  was about being forgiven.
But I’m not sure if you can ever fully forgive yourself.
The deeper issue is love.
Can you love yourself again?
Can you realize that regardless your past & your mistakes
that you are worthy of love?
Maybe some people can do that on their own-
but I tried desperately for twenty years and never could.

 

God had to remind me,
that He loved me anyway.

And I realized something, if He can… so can I.

-H

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“You love me Anyway”

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Finally Free.

 

You Love Me Anyway – Sidewalk Prophets

Love (yes another “LOVE” blog has entered the world)

Love, it’s not pretty… not clean… and certainly not lovely.


Love IS messy, chaotic, painful, ridiculous, stressful, difficult, a trial, confusing, and downright hard!

… but alas… worthwhile. 

People give up so easily on love because it isn’t what they thought it would be. 

Growing up I had a lot of ideas about the man I would fall in love with:

  1. He will be Charming. 
  2. He will follow me when I run away from an argument. 
  3. He will be romantic.
  4. He will be adventurous. 
  5. He will talk through things and not yell. 
  6. He will go to great lengths to make me smile. 
    ….so on and so on…. 

Can I, for just a second, give you the realities of love?

  1. You will yell and say things you don’t mean.
  2. You will feel the need to leave them forever at some points.
  3. You will feel like your not sure it’s all worth it at some points.
  4. You will forget what it felt like to be 100% happy with that person.
  5. You will miss your first months together. 
  6. You will wonder what you saw in them. 
  7. You will cry, scream, and possibly throw things at each other. 
  8. You will find instances where you swear that you actually hate each other. 

But, if at the end of all that… 
your still together.
And both still willing to make it into tomorrow together.
To say your sorry,
to try and make amends,
and promise to redirect your efforts into love and forget the hate.

If your BOTH willing to do that.

You just might be in love.

Love means not giving up.

Love means realizing that shit gets tough…
Love means realizing that love is not something for the faint of heart.

Love is the single most beautiful and powerful thing in  the world,
when you realize that love is nothing you thought it would be. 

And realize that together , your willing to make it everything it should be.

………………………….

Can I share with you where this is coming from?

Last night, out of nowhere I said some horribly hurtful things to the one I love (that’s been happening a lot lately, for the both of us.) And I apologized, but sometimes words cut deeper than apologies can fix. And when my apology was not taken seriously, I got angry (also happening a lot lately.) I went to bed alone… and the love of my life went to bed alone as well. 

This morning I woke up and remembered all the things we have been through, scenes and words I wish I could take back and feelings I wish I could forget about. But they are all there… and both of us remember them vividly. We have to fight everyday to keep from letting those hurt feelings beget more hurtful moments. But knowing that were in this together, knowing it’s not easy… but knowing it’s better than not having each other at all…. that gets us through it. 

So now, we’ve said our true apologies…and again made amends to work on saying good things, and not letting our hurts rule our hearts. And today, we move forward. It’s not easy or perfect- it’s love. 

This is not a letter to say that love is something wonderful, 
this is a letter to try and make people realize that love is hard…
and if you aren’t willing to work for it,
you probably are not ready for it.

I would rather die than live without the love of my life.
Every harsh word and painful memory,
is worth all the playful touches, laughter, and joy he has given me over the years.

 To the one I love:

We are in this together, 
and always will be.
I look forward to fighting with you,
and making up with you.

Cheers to all the hard times,
for they are what make the good times so great.

I love you forever and Always.

– Heather