Aug 26, 2013

Grabbed

Creature comforts.

Usually I find mine in warm, fuzzy blankets, or clean, soft bath towels, or a well-made meal, or the corner of my sofa, or a warm muffler on a drafty day.

This time I found it in a pair of shoes I never meant to pack, let alone wear.

I have a friend in California who is basically my exact opposite: The yang to my yin. She has all the get-up-and-go I don't have, the creativity, the fearlessness, the curiosity, the desire to constantly be doing. Always taking an extra step and seeing a different view than the rest of us, always making sure she uses all five of her senses.

And I, I am no match for her. I am a whole head shorter, and a whole heart wussier. I'm happy walking pavements. And yet, we get along. We talk, we share, we love each other. Now she was less than 400 miles away, in the Norwegian town her mother was from, just a plane ride away.

We sat in the sun talking and got hot, so we decided to hike to a nearby lake. I got into my hiking pants, stuck my water bottle and bathing suit in my rucksack, grabbed the shoe bag and pulled out…the trainers that made my legs hurt.

I'd try wearing them walking to work, but they gave me shin splints, so I've been using them only as indoor shoes when I need something that cushions my feet on my hard floors. For hiking, I preferred my far more expensive and more solid Ecco shoes, even though they felt oddly stuffy on my feet.

But I hadn't grabbed my Eccos. I had grabbed the cheaper trainers. At no time during my packing did any alarm go off. At no point did I take a second look and realize my mistake.

So here we are, two girls of 50-ish, getting ready for a short hike to the lake on a late summer day, the sun in full force still. Well, I can't have come all this way to say I want to just sit under an umbrella with a cold one!

So we hiked to the lake, and not once did I notice my feet. At the lake, we discovered that low visibility, slippery rocks and an uneven bottom made walking out to where we could dive in rather risky. Since my shoes were not my favorite and bought cheaply, I decided they could be sacrificed. I put them on and waded comfortably into the lake. I did not stay comfortably there, though. Neither of us stayed at all. It was so cold we gasped for air. The nice thing about that sort of cold water is that sitting on the rock afterwards, drying off, feels so incredibly good. The sun heated our backs, a little piece of bun thrown into the water created quite the commotion among the tiny fish there, and we talked. My sure footing helped ferry towels, food and cameras safely from and to shore.

The shoes dried out overnight.

Our plan the next day was a 5-mile hike organized by the local hiking group. I was nervous about that. I know my physical condition isn't the best. My heart and lungs are fine, but a lot of uphill hiking tires my flabby thighs out. I knew I needed to be able to take breaks when I wanted to, and it's not easy to ask a bunch of strangers to wait up.

And I didn't trust my shoes. I'd felt a bit of the shin splints coming back from the lake. But maybe that was just because we were on pavement then?

I did consider copping out by blaming the shoes, but I really didn't want to disappoint my friend. So I told her I didn't feel like hiking in a crowd (which was true), that I needed to go with people who would understand my need to take a breather. Her 78-year-old uncle, who knew the trails well, suggested a nearby peak that gives a view of mountains 120 km away. The three of us ended up doing our own 5-mile hike.

Once again, the shoes were just fine. Gravel, tree roots, soft pine needles, squishy moss, smooth rocks…my feet stepped on it all, comfortably, easily. No shin splints. And even when I couldn't avoid getting wet crossing one bog, it was only deliciously cooling for hot feet. I had spare socks and knew now that the water wouldn't hurt my shoes.

We had another perfect day in the sun, picking blueberries along the way, noting the abundance of lingonberries (mountain cranberries) this year, smelling peat and pine, brushed by a few golden birch leaves set free by the breeze, heralding autumn.

It occurs to me, thinking back on the magic of moving through Norwegian woods so we can enjoy the view, talking sometimes, walking in silence sometimes, that if I hadn't packed those particular shoes, we wouldn't have had that hike, one my friend had never been on before. We both got to make a new discovery, and I told her I'd do it again.

Next time.

And I'll know which shoes to bring.

Aug 4, 2013

So while I've been gone…

Interests keep changing. Or rather, focus does. I obviously still enjoy taking photographs, because I kept my camera busy during my vacation. But even photography requires inspiration—and weather that won't ruin a camera.

And so I let Wordless Wednesdays slide. I stopped forcing myself and let my blog rest, too.

The nice thing about long days on the autobahns of Germany, is that it is very relaxing. Nothing to do but watch one field after another blur by, sometimes spotting a bird or a cow or a house. But sometimes even that loses its charm and I ducked into my Kindle, finishing three books during my trip.

But that—plus discussions about blog resuscitation with my good friend Alice—has given me inspiration.

I know now where I want to take this blog next, and I even have ideas for a visual make-over. I don't think blogs are dying. They are too useful to do that. Blogs may no longer lead the pack in social networking on the internet, but they definitely supplement it because they are still the best way to share lots of words with lots of people.

The devolution of the blog from eager writing to the occasional picture is not fair to the blog nor its readers. Nor to me. Because there's something about thinking and typing and getting thoughts out of my head and in front of my eyes that does me good, both intellectually and emotionally. Having invisible readers to consider also helps me focus and edit. Getting a comment from my readers is icing on the cake and always appreciated.

So the plan is this: Monthly writing, and the occasional photo post, and not just on Wednesdays. I've been reading about ho'oponopono, and it's worth sharing. So is other stuff going on, like life in Norway, which still has its moments ("no, Norwegian actually isn't a difficult language to learn…"—there's another blog post!).

I was practicing ho'oponopono on my trip. Man, when you start trying to clear up the spiritual cruft, the universe catches on quick and sends you more. Like housework. Start doing the dishes or laundry, and without fail someone else will come along with a pile of their stuff to add "since you were already doing that".

So my vacation was on the outside cobblestoned streets in medieval towns by German rivers with vineyards clinging to the slopes, and on the inside "I love you. I'm sorry. Please forgive me. Thank you."

Rüdesheim on the Rhine, Cochem on the Mosel. I don't know which was better. I want to go back to both. I want to take a river cruise and walk past grapevines again. Rivers and vineyards are oddly relaxing.