I am a city girl surrounded by the woods. At home in Fall River I live amidst the trees, which I love, though I am never more than a few minutes away from a paved surface, which is my comfort zone. I am neither athletic nor “outdoorsy”. Who I am is a fifty-something, out of shape, adventure-seeking woman living a life that often feels frenzied, disconnected and overwhelming.
As a full-time high school counsellor, I spend my days supporting youth during exciting and traumatic periods and events in their lives. It is wonderful, demanding work that both inspires and exhausts me, and I am privileged to be doing it. As well as my counselling work, I am a visual artist and teacher, a mother of two teenage daughters and a wife to an amazing partner. I have a full and blessed life and often find myself challenged to slow down the pace and connect to myself. The easy option at the end of the day is to park it on the couch and turn on the television. All too often however, I find myself saddened that yet again, I have wasted my evening watching an already forgotten series of shows. There has got to be more.
The recent death of my cousin’s husband to ALS in August left me searching for a more meaningful challenge in my life. Before the cruel disease took his ability to move and communicate, Jeff was a dynamic man who ran marathons and pushed himself to live life fully. His death sent me into a reflective period, out of which came my new mantra, “Because I can”. Two weeks later, while browsing in a bookshop, I was taken by the idea of hiking the trails of Nova Scotia; Jeff may no longer be moving through life, but I can.
This quest of mine is comprised of the 60 hikes in Michael Haynes’ Hiking Trails of Mainland Nova Scotia; 9th Edition, the book I took off the shelf that day in the store. My original intention was simply to do all the hikes in the book within a year, no blog involved. Somewhere along the first hike however, I found myself saying out loud, “I’m bored!” Here I was in a beautiful forest, with an amazing man, exploring the natural world and yet somehow, I was apathetic to my surroundings. Even as the words left my mouth I was shaking my head in disbelief.
Throughout the next week I contemplated what had happened on the hike. What went wrong with my great plan to get outdoors and commune with nature and myself? And then it hit me- somewhere along the way I had slipped into “Get ‘er done” mode; the hikes had become yet another task to check off of my ‘To Do’ list. What I needed to do was find a way to slow down, be present along each step of this journey and embrace the worlds around and within me. I needed to stop and smell the proverbial tree sap. I decided that creating a blog of this personal challenge would force me to be present and take note of my surroundings, necessary if I was going to write about them. Making an artwork that depicts the things I see along the trails, will give me a visual record of the hikes and steps along the way. And thus the Trailing Spirit Project was born.
Please join me at Trailingspirit.com. Eight hikes in and only 52 to go… Because I can.
Wisdom From the Trail:
- We lose so much of the experience when it doesn’t measure up to what we had imagined. If we can slow down the living in the past and the future of our minds, and can be in the moment of our bodies, we will rarely be let down.
- In seeking out perfection, we forget that there is much of value in the less-then-perfect. Embrace the special in the everyday instead of always striving for “beyond the ordinary”.
- The beauty is often in the details. The sum of the pieces often adds up to greater then “the whole”.