It has been a great year for me. I kept up running and began trail running; then I began hiking between runs. Though the past few weeks have been wrought with ice, snow, and a fractured toe, I’ve returned to running on a treadmill and hiked or snow-shoed in the snow. Coming home from work today I heard the song by Great Big Sea (one of my favorite songs), called When I’m Up (I Can’t Get Down), and it inspired me to write some thoughts as we enter a new year. This song captures my feelings throughout the year as several things happened that tempted to stop me in my tracks–such as a bad fall when running or watching Donald Trump get elected. Even the last few weeks have been tough because I haven’t been able to truly run in the woods, which I think I need to do!
For every let-down, there’s an up or something that moves me and encourages me to be thankful for the good things in life and thrive on them rather than the negative. Here’s my top moving moments of 2016, in no particular order:
- Love. My husband and I celebrated our tenth anniversary this year. We did so in the woods on a camp trip. This trip prompted more camping over the summer and to come in the future as we both have been life-long lovers of the great outdoors but for whatever reason had forgotten about the great experience of tenting. Or had been to busy to do that since we’ve known each other. My husband is an extremely kind and patient man, and a brilliant one, who I adore being around. We’re not the type to fight or argue; it’s a very pleasant relationship without stress. We are both supportive of each other. It’s an honor and privilege to know him, to be able to spend my life with him. Last night we were at a party and he was just casually talking with another guy about all his woodworking projects, and, like always, I was blown away by the mere knowledge he has about everything from strength of materials to types of wood to how to make so many things. He is completely self-taught outside of wood shop in high school (he went to college for programming). One of his long-time friends at the party said, “Yeah, he’s a walking encylopedia,” and it’s true. Engage him on any subject and he will have remembered when and what he read about it, even from years before.
- Travel. My trip to Ireland with my husband and Mom–it was great taking her there and watching one of her dreams come true. Along with the deepened bond with my aging mother, the Cliffs of Moher in particular offered some kind of epiphany for me: that I felt alive so totally, especially when running on top of the cliffs. I will always remember that time as defining–proof that I’m happiest in the outdoors among nature’s beautiful marvels. It sets me free, a nod to Yeats, whose poems have great nature themes that inspired me to visit certain places there as well.
- Family. I love seeing my family in person, but we cannot too often (because we are so geographically apart from each other), so throughout the years we’ve spent hours on skype video, either all of us as a family or sometimes just a couple of us at a time. I feel “at home” when being with these beautiful people. Also, my niece had a son, and seeing her bond with this baby boy–and the beautiful photography of the birth from another niece–made me realize how much they’ve grown and matured.
- The aftermath of the election of Donald Trump. I was in a stumped trance for a few days, but then right after the election decided to go to the rally and and walk in the Woman’s March on Washington in January. This led me to stories and discussions with thousands of other women as we plan this event; the affirmation is so positive. You, everyone, me: we’re a part of history and what we do next will define not only our generation but the future of this planet.
- Work. My personal work with ecofiction has gotten me involved in some great projects, including some coming up next year. I’ve been in touch with professors and researchers who are studying the literature, and worked with several others to finally get a wiki entry up on the subject. I have met authors I’ve admired and read with some at a huge literary festival in Vancouver. We just got back from Kamloops, where I got together again with one of them–we had coffee and talked and admired her Harry Potter Christmas tree. I’ve interviewed some amazing people and gotten turned onto ecological weird fiction, which led me on a path of reading older fiction in the same vein, which blew me away. I’m kind of a shy person overall, but meeting others and understanding that I’m not alone in my goals to study or read fiction that includes nature and environmental issues means a lot to me. I’ve been invited to panels and to submit articles in the media. The simple knowledge that stories set in the wild, or that advocate the stewardship of nature, is so important to others also makes me pretty happy. Also, kind of randomly I was playing a game recently and got on Discord and found myself in conversation with a woman from the Netherlands, who told me that climate change was already beginning to effect the low-lying country. We talked late into the night, musing on the state of the world that continues to deny climate change. What a refreshing thing to meet people like that.
- Publishing. This past year I published an off-grid memoir by Ron Melchiore, which is a great-selling book (Off Grid and Free: My Path to the Wilderness); the massive amount of work Ron and I did together, from editing to layout to book decisions, followed by the publication and continued marketing and ideas, solidified a life-long friendship. I’m looking forward to future projects with him and his wife. I also accepted two novels to be published in 2017, both of them by very talented women authors. Looking forward to it!
- A path. Being out on the trails is where I belong. I have found myself, throughout my life, being a kind of isolated person, not one for flitting around in a social capacity. I have several close relationships, but I have never felt drawn toward being center stage and eschew fashion, materialistic items, and anything of the like. I realized, even when growing up with privilege, that real happiness does not come from things but experiences. It’s a lesson my dad kept pressing. The experiences I enjoy most deeply are from things done outside. This leads to a mindset that brings me in touch with items outside societal riches, into what seems most rewarding–and that’s to live a life that strives to be in balance with, and in, the outside world. Commercialism, consumerism, capitalism–these things don’t seem like the best models to live by. And what has resulted is stuffiness, overweighted existences, and a great deal of depression and numbness among the human race.
- Music. I am a huge fan of Gord Downie Jr. and the Tragically Hip. I met the singer a few years ago at a small concert in Vancouver, and we later saw the band in concert. This past year he released the news he had terminal brain cancer. I was stunned and saddened, as he worked with us on water stewardship where I used to work and volunteer. Broke down again at this honoring of him at the Assembly of First Nations. This man truly humbles me. He is so right: we are not living a dress rehearsal…this is our life. Even though within our lives we fall, we get hurt, we make mistakes, and we get second chances, we do not get plan Bs, another planet, or another life to try it all out again. This is it, folks!
First thing we’d climb a tree and maybe then we’d talk
Or sit silently and listen to our thoughts
With illusions of someday casting a golden light
No dress rehearsal, this is our life
My new year’s resolutions? I normally don’t make them, but some of my dreams are to keep in shape, as the snow flies, by indoor dancing. I also want to learn to play the fiddle and make more progress on my book than I did in the past year! And I want to continue to save for that dream cottage in the woods.
The featured image is one I took while running above the Cliffs of Moher.