Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Excuse me while I clean up the mental vomit

How many times have I said to myself in the past week, "It's okay, it's almost over"? How many times have I been told, "Only X-number of days until Y!" How long have I spent dwelling on the end and holding my breath through the process of getting there, willing time to pass by quicker so I can take my big exhale at the end?

That big sigh-of-relief that I've been waiting for, that I always wait for, is never as fulfilling as I build it up to be. My eyes are closed for days in anticipation of the beautiful bright light that will make enduring this struggle seem worthwhile, but why do I ignore the struggle?

Needless to say, the final days of school and the final (6!) days of packing have been some of the most trying that I have had in months. Writing my master's thesis was a fraction of the frustration that these times are now. Getting through a full MS seems to be on par though.

My life has been spent ignoring the present, willing myself to forget the struggle of the present to quicken the arrival of the presumed better future. When I look back at everything that I have done with my life up until this point I have a big black void staring me in the face. I've succeeded in one thing, and it's not the one I've hoped for.

Failing to recognize that pain and stress and struggle are part and parcel of the process has cheated me out of so many memories and character building opportunities. Doing so, looking at today and thanking it for helping me take one step forward to my goal, will make reaching my goal all the more fulfilling. But even then, that goal should not be seen as an end. Rather it is another giant step that I've taken in the right direction, on a path that does not necessarily have an end.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Into The Woods

Backpacking is very new to me, but I think if I had been exposed to it as a child, the nature-loving side of me would have the present Leah setting up permanent residence in the woods.

I shared with my partner yesterday (mostly out of frustration) that my only memory of camping with my family was sitting at a picnic table late at night, eating pizza with a flashlight while my father cursed about how inconvenienced he was at being there. We didn't last the night; jumped back into the car and drove to our safe haven in the city. Fortunately, my partner was an avid backpacker and took me out for the first time last summer, then again in early April 2010.

We spent Friday night at an established campsite not too far from the North-South Campground.
At some point we passed these ruins of an old home,
when I still had enough energy to take pictures

Campsite was set up a bit further south than the ruins,
about 500 feet away from the stream fed by this one, in
our fancy shmancy 3-season tent

The campsite we found had very obviously been used before, and that is an important part of the Leave No Trace philosophy. The fewer sites that are created, ideally, the lesser the impact on the immediate ecosystem. Unfortunately, a group that had camped there before us had left a right mess, and we did wind up cleaning up a bit. (Except for a bottle someone had urinated in.... we just threw that in the fire pit.)

When we woke up in the morning, I made quick work of brewing some coffee... some Trader Joe's instant coffee that is. It was the first time I had set up the backpacking stove by myself, and also the first time I had made the coffee myself. My partner had done it before, and I always thought the instant coffee was terrible... turns out that he, being a man, thought "more was better." Turns out Trader Joe's makes a pretty decent instant coffee!

In my non-leaching plastic backpacking cup, probably
not made for high heat, but it got the job done

The coffee was a much-needed boost to get us (at least me) through the day's hike. We decided to take Devil's Path over two of the four peaks that follow the 14-mile stretch. We hit the peak of Plateau Mountain, which is a misnomer given the extreme gradient to get to the 2-mile plateau, in about an hour and a half. From there we traveled further east to Sugarloaf Mountain, which was not quite as difficult a hike...

(Yes, this is part of the trail)

but still had some spots like this one along the trail where I was convinced that if Hell existed, it would be an eternity of climbing uphill.

It's the view from the top of the peaks that makes
the whole body-breaking ordeal worth it.

It was about 2 o'clock (we had left just after 9) and both of us were battered and bruised. We found a lean-to where I bandaged up a chaffed toe (and a flare-up of folliculitis that hit the day before, which I will not show off!), then rejuvenated with a ClifBar.
Note my awesome Kiowa Vegan hiking shoes, a gift
from my very obliging partner

At this point I was suffering from a bit of hypoglycemia that the rest of the trek, despite my better efforts to stay focused, passed by in a blur. We were lucky to run into someone along the path who exchanged making a call on my cell phone for a ride back to our car. We never caught her name, but in the woods, who really needs them? She showed us a fancy rock quarry, and we got another amazing view from the look-out.
The Twin Mountains, which barely look like twins if you
get them from the correct angle

Burning more than 400 calories per hour, 8 hours in one day, takes its toll on a body that has been more or less sedentary since the weather got warmer. I woke up this morning, back in my own bed, sore from my head down to my toes. I'm totally ready to do this again.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Losing the love-scene virginity

Three hours and 1900 words later, I finally sat down and did it.

I set the mood by turning down all the lights. Made myself comfortable, set the mood by playing soft music and lighting candles. Then I dove into it -- I wrote my first love scene!

Okay. So the lights were turned down because all my lamps are packed away. And I wasn't playing music, I had a B horror film on the background that I more or less left on to keep me company while I struggled through this new landscape. Oh, and no candles in this househole -- the cats would set themselves on fire.

Wow. And after all those months of building up this moment, putting it in a mental category labeled "unattainable," and skirting around it, I'm a little disappointed that there weren't fireworks going off when I had finished.

Now that I know it isn't that daunting, I think my Muse may have been stirred up a bit! Keep her working!

Inspiration for today's love scene comes courtesy of Mandy Roth's "Goddess of the Grove." I love Mandy's writing because it is to-the-point, witty and suits my tastes just fine. She paces her scenes extraordinarily well, and I read GotG just before taking on this task of writing my own scene. (I think I borrowed the word "culmination" from her, but that's about as close a resemblance the two scenes share!)

Now it's nearly 1 a.m., time for this accomplished lady to get some rest!

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Veggies, Montauk, Running and Writing

Why do people have so much trouble fitting veggies into their diet?

Vegetable market swag today: kale, peppers, grapes, bananas, cherry tomatoes, carrots, apples.

Seemed like a lot to pick up for $12 ("This will last me all week!"), except the entire head of kale turned into this...

Noochy kale chips!

...and I just couldn't contain myself. They were amazing. I don't have a dehydrator, so I baked these in the oven. I found a recipe for these on Averie's blog, and modified it based on the ingredients I had on hand/wanted to clean up after. I mixed together in a food processor:

1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/3 cup peanut butter
1/2 green pepper
1 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup water

Threw it together in a bowl to fully coat a bunch of kale (stems removed, leaves cut in half). Spread it on two baking sheets at 300 degrees for 30 minutes, flipping a few times in between. I wish I had more pictures, but it's all gone!

This Saturday I meant to go backpacking, but with rain in the forecast in the Catskills, we decided to take our new car on a long test drive. So we drove from Queens to Montauk. We literally drove there, ate lunch at a fish and chips place, and left. (I had sweet potato fries; it was my partner's birthday that weekend and I went for him, but thoroughly ruined it when I started sobbing at a boiled lobster being brought to another guest.) It was a good test drive for our new car, before Aaron left New York to Florida yesterday morning, and I've never seen "The End" of Long Island.

I woke up at 3 a.m. (or at least that's what my alarm was set for) to make coffee and breakfast (failed) for us to get him ready to go. It was a nice good-bye, and though I'd promised myself I wouldn't cry, I did get a bit teary. On June 12 I'll meet him in Virginia to see his sister's graduation, and we'll drive back up to New York together, but in the last four years we've been apart one other time for more than a week. I like time alone, but I cherish time together! Or at least I need to learn how to!

After he left (and after getting a great pep talk from Ju) I looked out the window at the beautiful rising sun.


Not the best view from my balcony (no privacy either), living on a busy intersection, but all the elements were aligned. The temperature and humidity were perfect, the air smelled crisp, it was a holiday morning (Memorial Day) so it was extra quiet. A great morning for a 6.5 mile run!

Well, maybe not, because today I'm extra sore despite a nice 20 minute yoga stretch afterward.

Running is my meditation. When I need to plot, gain perspective, or just clear my head, nothing does it better than a middle to longer distance run. No music, no accessories, just pure meditative running. I'm a slow runner for longer distance (I have no dreams of qualifying for the Boston Marathon), I run with my breathing; that means that if I want to run a 10-minute mile, then I'll run a 10 minute mile, but if my lungs will put up with a 7:30, then that's what I'll run. I don't time, I don't race other people on the trail. It really is meditation, I'm focused inward.

Which can get rather boring. So partner runs are fun!

And on the writing front, I've procrastinated all day, but I will not stop until my MS reaches 1500 words. I currently have 300.