Category Archives: The Great Outdoors

33 Days of Dying

I awaken in the darkness. A corpse, a living corpse.

The dim stars emit light from the body of the cosmos.  Imperceptibly dead.

The dawn’s first light creeps up on the horizon; the pointed rays of day have come to slay night.

An eternal battle fought between the sun and the moon.

Each day– fearless– sun and moon gracefully embrace death.

In all their wisdom, they understand that death begets life.

Each day I Die with the moon and Awaken with the stars. A living corpse,

I am Reborn anew with the sun.

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El Camino: Talking the talk, walking the walk

The first time I ever heard about El Camino was from a German couch surfer I hosted in Sete, France in the early spring of 2012. From the way she explained it to me, El Camino was a “really long walk” across Spain.

Why would anyone ever want to do that?

Slowly but surely, however, without even knowing it, the Camino started to work its magic on me. I started meeting walkers left and right, all with different tales of how the trail  enriched and changed their lives forever.  The Camino snowballed into my life, getting bigger and bigger. The more people I met, the more experiences they shared, I began to feel excitement in the pit of my stomach at the idea of one day walking it too.

As I set off for Morocco in September of 2012, I was already mentally walking El Camino. I had spent the summer obsessively perusing the REI Web catalog and finally bought my boots and pack just before leaving the States. I also carried with me my rock–the one meant for the Cruz de Hierro. It was a beautiful slate-green rock I selected with care from the top of Mount Mansfield in Stowe– my home, and a symbol of my roots. This rock travelled with me, absorbing all of the energy I put into it for months on end.

As time ticked away, a year and a half flew by and I traversed continents, cultures and languages. In this time, I also told everyone and the mother that I planned to walk the Camino Frances.

Fast forward to the last week of August 2013. I’m sitting in my friends apartment in Paris, wondering if I’m really cut out for this. I was filled with doubt. My mental conversations went a little something like this,

“500 miles…that’s like, really far.”

“Will my knees hold out?”

“What if I get lost?”

“I’ll  be fine…I might die…No no, I’ll be fine…Right?”

“I have to walk, I told EVERYONE AND THEIR MOTHER I WAS GOING TO. Fuck.”

But the fact that I had told everyone I was doing it propelled me forward. I bought a guidebook. That made me feel in control. I bought knee braces and blister kits, a quick dry towel, and a camel pack. I felt sporty. I had train tickets and plane tickets and then one day, after a verrrry long  day of train transport,  I arrived in St. Jean Pied de Port, a green on green town cradled in the bosom of the French Pyrenées.

Still not sure if I was ready, but I was there nonetheless. I had talked the talk, and now it was time to walk the walk.

Camino lesson number 1: Just show up.

Honestly, nobody is ever truly prepared. You are not alone. No matter much (or little) physical training you’ve done, you’re feet will still hurt at the end of the day. No matter how light you think you’ve packed, there is still something lurking in the depths of your bag that is utterly useless. You will meet hundreds of people with suggestions on how to ameliorate your experience. Take some of them seriously, take others with a grain of salt.

So if you’re like me and you’ve over packed and under trained, fear not! You have approximately 33 days ahead of you to fine tune the details, to be blindsided by even more challenges you never could have anticipated, and to work through (walk out) the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual kinks you showed up with.

So just show up. A journey of 500 hundred miles begins with a single step.

Buen Camino.

ImageDay one: 765 Kilometers to go!

Monkey Mind

The other day I decided to take a walk in the woods out to Sterling Gorge Falls. I knew approximately the direction I was going in based on a mental image I had of a trail map, and I figured it couldn’t be too far from my launch point on Maple Lane. With the trail map in my minds eye and my two chipper canine companions, Sadie and Ben, I felt secure and confident as I headed off down the narrow logging road. I knew the road turned into the trail, which I hoped that would lead me to the falls. Having left my usual distractions behind such as my cell phone and my iPod, I set an intention to walk with purpose and relish in the present moment. I busted out my ujiyii breathing (that’s fancy sanskrit for “ocean sounding breath”) and counted the length of my inhalations and exhalations. I also made mental notes of my physical being. How were my knees feeling? Achy. How was my psiatic? Twingy. Apparently I’m a grandma in a 23 year old’s body… But that’s beside the point. I was being present. Or at least I was trying really REALLY hard to be present.

Like most times I meditate, I experience what we yogis like to call monkey mind. My thoughts jump and flip and dance around my brain like a chimpanzee at the zoo. With my impending move to Morocco creeping up on me, I’ve had a lot on my mind lately. This fueled the schizophrenic conversation I started having with myself as I walked. It went something like this: “What am I doing going to Morocco? Am I crazy? I’m overwhelmed. I should stay.”  Then it would quickly turn to Lizzie #2 justifying and supporting my decision to go. She would say things like, “follow your dreams”, or “trust your intuition” and “you are going to be just fine.”  Then Lizzie # 3 would step in somewhere mid thought to remind Lizzie 1 and 2 that she was supposed to be meditating and therefore should be clearing her mind of all clutter and thoughts and focusing solely on her breath. Lizzie #3 would win out for a good 30 seconds to a minute, before the chatter would start again. Thankfully I was the only person on the trail that evening, because I’m sure if anyone witnessed me and my ocean sounding breathing evidently struggling to contain the voices in my head, they would have turned on the heels of their sturdy hiking boots and walked in the opposite direction.

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Many times when I go hiking in new places I experience feelings of doubt. Though I usually I have a vague sense of where I am headed, I often find myself wondering if I am going the right way. When that feeling of doubt sets in, it can easily pervade your whole being. You get this feeling of anxiety; an uneasy feeling right in the pit of your stomach. Often it urges you to turn back. It starts telling you that it is getting dark out, and that there are bears or woodchuck serial killers that are just lurking in the woods waiting to attack vulnerable weak-kneed girls. Just then, you spot a trail marker indicating your proximity to your destination. The little white paint on a tree is a comforting sign that urges you to press on, and suddenly you are flooded with relief because you know you are still on track.

On this particular walk I simultaneously experienced doubt in its literal and mental forms. I felt equally unsure of where my desired destination was on the physical trail I was walking and the metaphorical journey I am on. However, what I learned from the trail that day is that I need to trust myself more. Even the vague mental image of a trail map I had was enough to coax me forward, and to eventually be successful in finding my desired destination, Sterling Falls Gorge. It was gorge-ous to say the least, and I was thrilled to sit quietly at the edge of the falls and listen to the water rush by.  

As I was walking back I recognized the symbolism and I chuckled. Obviously the trail was a journey… just like the one I am travelling on every day of my life. The doubt was there to try my commitment towards forward progression and it made me anxious and uncomfortable. But I’m stubborn when it comes to my dreams, and I am not the kind of person to succumb so easy to fear and doubt. All it took was just a few trail markers and some trust in my intuition to bring me safely and successfully to my desired destination where I could sit enjoy the gratifying view for a while.

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I’ve learned many things from the woods this summer—trust and gratitude and presence—to name a few. I’m thankful that I was actively participating in seeking the present moment that afternoon, because had I not been, I could have easily missed the symbolism of the trail and its direction markers. As soon as I made the connection I felt instant relief about my upcoming adventure to Morocco and what lays unplanned thereafter. I also realized that everything could be much simpler if we can stay present. The answer I was seeking was playing out before my eyes and it was so simple that it shut Lizzie 1, 2, AND 3 the eff up!

Equilibrium; a recipe

It’s been a good 3 months since I’ve sat down to write a blog post. This is mostly because my “ordinary”  life in the U.S. didn’t seem worthy enough to be catalogued in cyberspace along with the rest of my adventures. Upon reflection, however, my ordinary life has proven to be anything but ordinary. In fact, it’s pretty freaking extraordinary! This summer has been hectic, and I’ve been forced to wrestle my type A personality  into a go-with-the-flow rhythm, which has suited me very well these past few months. Striking a balance has been very important to me, as the past two years have had me oscillating between extremes. In SF I was lucky to clock 5 hours of sleep a night, because of my desire to do it all. Whilst this past year in France, my red leather-bound planner was so free from any black ink rendez-vous’s  that I could sleep 12 hours a day, 5 days a week.

Thus, this summer has been all about equilibrium; finding a nice balance between the chaos and relaxation  …and I think, dare I say, I’m succeeding.

Here’s my recipe:

  • 3 parts work
  • 3 parts yoga and meditation
  • 2 parts hiking
  • 3 qts. music
  • 2 cups radical people
  • 3 big doses of gratitude
  • 1 part excellent reading material
  • A touch of wine and a pinch of dark chocolate
  • “Mix it all together and put both feet in!”

 … ET VOILÀ ! 

Not having a car, though initially a royal pain in the butt, has been blessing in disguise. Not only did I get to grease up my bike chain (which reminded me that I LOVE biking), but also made into a morning person! I know, crazy, right? I’ve had to get my booty out of bed early enough so that I can enjoy a sit down breakfast and a cup of coffee with the cows, while still having enough time to pedal to work. I’ve actually become so fond of my morning routine that if I don’t get my heavy dose of caffeine and blue grass music before heading to work I feel ungrounded. “The Traveling Song” by the Avett Brothers has been making regular appearances on my cup o’ joe playlists. In preparation for their upcoming headline with Grace Potter at the Grand Point North Festival, they’ve become a religious part of my morning routine.

The Green Mountains have also been a key ingredient to my repose. Whether I’m admiring their majesty from the base or the summit, I feel so incredibly grateful to call these mountains my home. I’ve never been more appreciative of these hills in my entire life. I feel like I’ve been scooped up and hugged by the scenery here. Having taken Vermont for granted in the past, coming back to my roots after 5 years has provided me with a renewed love for the great outdoors and all of God’s creatures… especially Woody and Charles… my two woodchuck friends living in the backyard.

Mount Hunger Summit. Killer on the glutes, but SO worth it!

At any rate, I am leaving home again…. sooner than soon. I am off to Rabat, Morocco (just bought my plane ticket today!) on September 20th. The reality is setting in, as is the excitement. With one month left to enjoy Vermont, I plan on getting in a few more big hikes (a Mansfield over night at Taft Lodge and Camel’s Hump are on the agenda). I’m also anticipating the GPN Festival, which will be my big send off !  Of course, a big thank you  is necessary to the 802  for providing me with a safe green haven to relax and find my balance. I’m hoping to carry forth the spirit of equilibrium and gratitude into my upcoming Moroccan adventures.

Gros bisous,

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