I was in my garden today. And the song, “I come to the garden alone” came into my head. I sang the verses I knew. Then I just kept asking “why?”
And I knew I didn’t have to say more than that one word. Because it encompasses it all. I even started to type out some of the whys in this post and changed my mind. Because why stands on its own. The rest of the words seem to water it down.
My garden brought me some respite, but no real joy today. And later in the day I stood in my 6 feet+ tall Valerian patch and breathed in the fragrance of the flowers. A peace wash over me. I gave thanks. But after I left that patch, the pain of this world returned.
I understood today why many people over the years have retreated to monasteries and in other ways left society.
I contacted my soul sister today to ask her how she was feeling. She was feeling the same. I figured that would be the case. We feel the world similarly.
And so this tough day draws to a close. And my heart still feels broken and raw for this world. I need to disconnect. I can’t take any more pain. Not the circumstances. Not people’s reactions to the circumstances.
You lied to me today. You know it. And I know it. I watched you like a fish stuck in a net slowly wriggle free with a few words here a few words there. Finally, you breathed a sigh of relief as the net fell away. Only you didn’t escape. I let you loose. You weren’t worth fighting for.
In all these years I’ve lived a privileged life, I never realized something until watching two documentaries the other day. One, called Human. The other called Living on One Dollar. Both can be found on YouTube. The realizations were about poverty.
I remember my days of scraping to get by. Of working really hard to get ahead. Saving, saving, saving and going without. I wasn’t handed much by my middle class parents. I ate ramen noodles and grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch during college. I remember my mom giving me money to buy some clothes once, when I told her the story of how my two rich roommates would trade outfits with each other but no one wanted to borrow any of my clothing.
It was hard, but it wasn’t impossible. I did it, with sacrifice. And my dad pulled himself out of poverty by putting himself through college at Northeastern, back when that was the intent of the college, to allow people time to work to pay their tuition. My dad didn’t come from the middle class. His parents were blue collar and hard working but didn’t make money beyond paying for the necessities. They never owned a house.
So, this has always been my perspective. Work hard, make sacrifices, and you get ahead. Part of that sacrifice for us was me working much of the kids growing up years, and choosing a job that paid well even though it also demanded much and I would have much rather just have been able to focus on being a mom.
But, really, what a privileged life I’ve led. And I know it. When people complain about money, I know I am rich compared to most of the world. It’s all about perspective. I don’t think most of us realize we have enough money. We always want more.
So, back to the documentaries. In Human, there were a bunch of people talking about their work. And poverty. They worked long hard hours at terrible jobs and they didn’t know what else they could do. One man said he didn’t have the intellectual strength to figure out a way out. Another man told – with tears in his eyes – of how two of his family members died because they couldn’t afford the medical care they needed.
In living on One Dollar, a group of young men voluntarily went to Guatemala to live like the people there live. They brought enough money to live on one dollar a day and had a system where they pulled out a number randomly each day to mimic not getting paid some days. They started living on rice and beans. They quickly grew hungry and lost the energy to do the work they needed to do to survive. They interviewed a Guatemalan who said some days his children just had tortillas to eat. And during those times they didn’t get the nutrition they needed to have the energy to go outside to play.
Did you process that, dear reader?
There are people that are in poverty where it is so bad that they can’t figure out how to get out. Where, even if they can buy food, they have to buy cheap stuff to fill their bellies but it is devoid of nutrition which makes them what the privileged world would call lazy.
These people need our help. Period. As fellow human beings with compassion.
Yes, there are and will always be truly lazy people in this world. Just as there will be evil people. But do we want to punish those who could really use some help to make enough money to live because some people abuse that help? And do we really think America is great when this is happening on our own shores? Really, it is happening all over the world. Affluence and poverty, side by side.
I say it’s time for us all to wake up and snap out of this crazy nightmare. Reconsider your perspective on the truly poor and let’s all use our brains and other talents to figure a way out of this mess. And those of us with money also need to carefully consider how we are spending it. Are we buying things that perpetuate the system of slave labor on substandard wages? That’s what one man in Human said. That we need to hold ourselves accountable.
It’s a chore – a literal chore – being so different.
I have to make myself separate meals, because everybody else I know eats dairy and eggs and meat and wheat…and fat and processed foods and sugar.
I’m the only one at the party not eating the cake.
I have to request going to a restaurant that will have something I can eat. (That’s a friend you want to hang with, right?) And what a hassle to be at the restaurant and ask for special consideration. And by the way, I didn’t ask for whatever it is that makes me feel so crummy when I eat the Standard American Diet. Or consume the Standard American Diet of entertainment.
I feel like the canary in the coal mine.
I’m someone who doesn’t like to make waves or stand out. I’d much rather blend in. You can be different and quiet. I’ve done it for years. I should know. And in some ways it’s easier.
Because I have to expend so much energy just to live my values. And I wonder why more people don’t share them. I’m so thankful for the ones who do. My tribe. It’s a small one, but it’s a tribe.
I can’t turn it back off, you know. I made the decision to let myself out. To be okay with who I am and not keep it quiet anymore. To truly listen to my soul and buck the system to which I was domesticated. My inquisitive, sensitive, quirky self was domesticated. I can look back and see it.
I was the reader, the dreamer, the artist, the writer, the thinker.
I wasn’t like the rest of the kids. I knew it. And they knew it. Eventually you figure out how to fit in. Until you decide not to, anymore.
And so here I am now, realizing it again. I’m not like the rest of the kids. I know it. And they know it.
Some days, I feel so lonely.
And some days it’s just so much easier being alone.
I almost hesitated to post this, because I am not unhappy. I have wonderful friends. I have a wonderful family. I feel blessed, and thankful, and appreciative of every day. But I occasionally feel like this, and I’m actually pretty sure I’m not the only one. My tribe is out there. Different, and quiet.
Each year it gets harder for me to write a chatty Christmas letter. But I don’t think that’s a bad thing. The older I get, the more I appreciate each and every day and realize that life is a precious gift. I am thankful for so much.
This year we watched little Landon grow and discover the world. It is always so important to have a little child in your life so he or she can remind you how exciting the world really is. Landon especially loves lights, and all the animals in his life, and a couple of his favorite words are “oh, wow!” Just yesterday Kelly was saying, “do you think he thinks it’s magic when you flip a switch and the lights go on?” I think he must, because it amazes him every time.
The exciting news from the Samoiloff household is Greg and Kelly’s engagement this year. An August wedding is planned, and we are beyond thrilled that Greg is officially joining the family (he was already an unofficial family member). Kelly and Greg have been together since their sophomore year in college. They are a wonderful couple.
All the kids (Tracey, Roberto, Alex, Kelly, Greg) are doing well in their job/careers and are healthy and well. What more could anyone ask for?
Andy and I are busy with life in Princeton. Andy with his sports, me with my gardening (and I hiked every trail on Mount Wachusett this fall). I couldn’t do my piece without Andy, though. He’s built chicken coops and an additional duck house and cuts down trees to let more sun into our young orchard. The ducks are to help with the slugs, which we have in abundance. This permaculture adventure is one learning moment after another, and every success and every failure contributes to the learning.
After all, that’s what every moment in life is about!
I wish you a Christmas full of wonder and love and a joyous new year full of amazing surprises and abundant health.
Last entry in the hike-Mount-Wachusett hiking diaries!
Today I finished hiking all the trails on Mount Wachusett. It was my “project” for the fall. And it has blessed my socks off, including the fact that I finished something I set as a goal (I tend to get these grand ideas and then get bored and move on to the next one).
Here are the trails we hit today:
I needed to hit the remaining section of Semuhenna Trail and the rest of Balance Rock Road.
Plus, I realized I hadn’t done that little piece of trail (off of Harrington Trail) that goes up to the wind farm. Stopped the car on the drive back to do it.
You will note Dickens Trail is not highlighted. That heads in the direction of the bird sanctuary, not up the mountain, and after a little ways in, dogs aren’t allowed. So I didn’t bother.
And here, in all it’s yellow marker glory, is the physical map I’ve been carrying with me and highlighting:
I hiked dirt roads but not the paved roads for driving to the top. No fun walking on pavement and dodging vehicles when you have trails at your disposal.
So I entered at North Road and hiked up to the Mount Monadnock view.
(I wanted to get a panorama but making it small shrinks Monadnock to almost negligible. Look hard and you can see a blue bump.)
You can see the sign for Semuhenna Trail in the distance, to the left once you hit the road. There is another one across the road for heading up.
We begin by entering into a pine forest.
I knew that some of these trails would be slow going with a couple of dogs. But I took them both, anyway, because there was also a lot of road. What really slowed me down was a huge amount of leaves on the ground. And look at this! Ice!
And so it begins. I finished this last hike just in time.
The dogs like to try to rub off their haltis (their “bridles”) all the time. I wish I could just walk them on their regular collars, but they’re too strong for me. I’ve been pulled down. So, they’ve brought this on themselves and I don’t feel guilty. Although I do feel sorry – for all of us. And especially because I’d love to walk them off-leash.
We transition to Old Indian Trail for a bit.
Another one of these markers. I’m beginning to wonder if they are part of the Mid-state trail system. (BTW, I’m considering that for next year’s project. That’ll have to be mostly on weekends, though, but maybe I can hit some of the closer part of the trail on weekday mornings.
A piece of bark with trail marker on the ground.
Now we’ve hit Balance Rock Road. We turn left.
I was looking for my tree picture of the hike. This was it. I couldn’t help but feel it was a metaphor for life after being with an older woman yesterday that has real trouble walking and getting up and down from a sitting position, and yet she is still standing.
Half of the bottom of this old tree has separated. But it is still standing.
There were a couple of groups of kids hiking with their parents/group leaders. I loved hearing their happy voices. And I loved the fact that they were out here hiking. (I’m going to bring all my grandchildren hiking!)
Then I heard a little boy’s voice: “I don’t like walking. Why couldn’t we have driven up to the top of the mountain?”
Hopefully after this hike he’ll change his mind.
These two people were mountain biking. The mountain has something for everyone! And, being a Sunday, there were lots of people there. Saw a few townspeople I knew hiking, too!
This pond was filled with water. In the spring, there is a waterfall over the rocks. In the summer, it dries up to a skanky puddle that I won’t let the dogs in.
But today, they got to go for a swim.
Here we come back to North Road. We head right to go back to the car.
Then we drive to Harrington Trail to hike up to the windmills.
I had really trying to capture the scale of them. There is actually a little kid in this picture, but he’s only the size of a dot.
The windmills were moving today, but I braved them and went up and touched one of them. This is the view looking up.
And the second windmill.
And the view from up there, looking south-ish.
The dogs were walking around trees and each other like doing that dance around the may pole where you braid the ribbons. They were especially bad on this part. Either because it was new to them, or because they were bored with hiking. The leaves were also really slippery here. At one point I looked and saw that the dogs feet were covered. Then I looked at my own and couldn’t see them, either!
So, we end with this. Time to stop the hiking on the deep woods trails, for my own safety. Well, until the snow falls, at least. I bought myself these:
Plus, I have snowshoes. I’m ready for my next adventure!
Hiking. And trying to train Columbus at the same time. Regrettable decision.
Last weekend before babysitting Landon, I squeezed in a morning hike. We’ve been bringing Columbus for training and he’s so good in class. I decided I’d switch to his slip collar instead of the halti, and work with him walking nicely on that.
Not doing that again.
Okay, here’s the hike we did:
Balance Rock Trail to Balance Rock Road and last minute I decided to hike Donbrowo Trail because it’s kind-of an orphan trail. There are a few of those that just connect one spot/trail on the mountain to another. This connects the administration building/parking to the ski lodge (although you have to walk down a ski trail to get all the way to the lodge.)
Here’s the parking lot at the entrance to the trail. You’ll notice on the map that I didn’t highlight the trail all the way out to Mountain Road. That’s because it’s just walking across a parking lot. That really wasn’t part of my goals of hiking all the trails. Doesn’t count.
That’s my Forrester….
Balance Rock Trail is part of the midstate trail.
And thus has yellow and blue markers.
There is a trail behind this sign. The sign points you to NOT take it. I learned further along that it connects to Balance Rock Road. But if you take it, you miss the balanced rock!
Which you can see in the distance.
Up close. Columbus may be a lot of work (gosh, I feel that’s an understatement), but he sure is handsome. And those rocks are HUGE.
Here’s where we join up with Balance Rock Road. And we headed left. Across the way is Old Indian Trail. I’ll be taking that again another day to finish up the other part of Balance Rock Road.
This is the trail heads back down to that sign that pointed us not to take it.
Balance Rock Road crosses a bunch of ski trails. I didn’t take pictures of all of them.
But here’s me on one, looking onto another.
And a panoramic view looking both down and up the trail.
I never get to see this because I don’t downhill ski. (Well, I have, but I don’t think I ever have at Wachusett.) This is Bullock Lodge. I think they serve hot coffee and cider and donuts here, maybe? Not really sure. But we went up to explore.
This is the front, with some nice seats, which I took advantage of (wasn’t really tired, but wanted to drink in the spot for a moment).
This made me smile. I spotted it on the side door.
These are on the lawn in front of the lodge. Some ski-themed things. Love that snowboard bench. People are so creative!
There was a pond near there. Columbus took a dunk.
Such a beautiful time of year!
We surprised a bunch of turkeys laying on the side of a trail. At the point of this picture they all had started getting up.
Here’s where I checked the time (the kids were heading up with Landon and I was meeting them in Worcester for lunch). I decided I probably would be rushed if I hiked this trail but then remembered Tracey usually runs late so took the chance that she would again this time. She didn’t let me down and I wound up with plenty of time to spare.
This is the end of Balance Rock Road (to to left of where I was standing when I took the above picture). It goes out to Mountain Road but there are “no parking” signs there. So you really can’t start at that end.
Donbrowo Trail hugs Mountain Road at the beginning.
Here are the remnants of an old house! Behind it is a ski trail.
The trail ends at the parking lot where they have the check-in station for driving up the road.
There picnic tables there. Never noticed them before in all these years of driving Mountain Road.
Here’s the sign to head back. We retraced our steps.
At this point of the hike I was getting very fed up with Columbus’ pulling. So I decided make him heel. Only he kept edging forward. So I started swinging my arm in front of him. That wasn’t working so well, so I started swinging the leash. That wasn’t working so well, either. So I picked up a dead branch and swung it in the space he needed to be behind for his heel.
The darn dog kept edging up anyway. He eventually got it for the most part, but boy is he either dense or stubborn.
Back at the end of Donbrowo, we got to walk down the ski trail to get back to the parking lot.
Then we headed home, I showered, and headed out to meet the kids and Landon and begin our babysitting fun!
Today is my day off from work. I was actually planning on working this afternoon, but I was really consumed by work this week and neglected taking care of my body. So I went for a long hike and then, when I went to sit down – my body barked “too much sitting this week, get back up!” So I did.
Love non-work days, though, because they mean I have time for longer hikes. I’m finishing up the trails on the mountain. I decided to complete the east side. Or maybe it’s more south than east. I actually didn’t know if I was going to do as much as I did. Was playing it by ear on whether or not I’d do the Stage Coach loop (I did). Here’s the map….
We entered at the parking lot for Echo Lake Rd. Took a right on Administration Road, a left onto what looks like Lower Link Trail on the map, but it’s actually Jack Frost at that point, continued straight on Lower Link, left onto Harrington, right onto Administration Road until it ended, then turned around and walked all the way down to the parking lot. Went up Stage Coach Road, onto Stage Coach Trail, right onto Harrington, right onto West Road, right onto Administration, left onto Echo Lake Road back to the car. Phew! We were gone for about and hour and 45 minutes.
Now, let’s go through it pictorially (and I’ve got a video for you, too!).
The first picture was from home, when I realized that a squirrel had used my hiking shoes to store his nuts.
One hickory nut. One acorn. Left them there for him. Done leaving my shoes on the porch, though. The squirrels can find another place to store food for the winter.
Here’s the entrance to the trail. It begins on Mountain Road, next to the old superintendent of the mountain’s house. I knew him from church. His name was Russ Vickery. Really nice guy. He used to live there. No one has, since.
And here’s the house. All boarded up. On state land. Such a shame, it would be a beautiful place to have a home. Or an educational center. They tried to get someone to live there and spend their own money to fix it up (for free rent). I never thought that was such a great deal. Apparently no one else did, either. Because they never got any takers. I know a friend that looked into buying it when she was looking to move. They didn’t want to sell it. So it sits there, a silent sentinel of Echo Lake Road and a reminder of days gone by.
Here’s my tree picture for the hike! Half of this big ol’ tree had broken off. Oh! I forgot to mention that I spotted red apples on a leafless tree on the side of the road on my drive to the mountain. I stopped and plucked one and plan on planting the seeds on my land.
Here’s Echo Lake. It really does echo if you are in the right spot. I tried a couple of times. I wasn’t in the right spot.
The theme of my walk seemed to be water and leaves. And leaves in water. It was beautiful.
We passed by the entrance to Echo Lake Trail. (We’re on Echo Lake Road.)
Hard to see this sign, but we’ve reached Administration Road, and we headed to the right, up the mountain.
The one thing I don’t like is that they re-graveled Administration Road. I keep forgetting that. I think it’s too rough on my dogs’ feet. Koda wound up limping last year because Dot and I walked it a lot. So I tend not to hike it much anymore.
I knew Lower Link Trail joined up with Administration Road here (although, technically it’s Jack Frost at this point), but I had forgotten my map and wasn’t sure where it ended, so I decided to hit that piece of the trail I hadn’t hiked first, and walk back down Administration Road.
Jack Frost goes to the right, Lower Link goes straight.
Shortly after (it’s a very short trail) you hit Harrington, and go left to get back onto Administration Road.
This is usually as far as I walk on Administration Road. But the map shows it going further. You hit grass and picnic tables.
It’s a nice picnic area, complete with outdoor grills. And I guess someone left their cigarettes and lighter (if that’s what that is, hard to tell. Wasn’t me. I hate those things with a passion, growing up in a house filled with smoke (from my dad).
There is a parking area for this spot.
And on the other side, I had intended to continue hiking, but this sign says they are regenerating the area and humans aren’t allowed. So we turned around.
This picture is blurry, but it’s a favorite spot for the dogs. It’s a little pond right near where West Road meets Administration Road. They went for a quick dunk. I always want to get a picture but I’m holding onto two leashes and making sure I don’t get pulled in. So no picture of them in the water.
This is also the point I decided I was going to extend my hike and not head back on Echo Lake Road when I reached it. We hiked to the bottom of Administration Road. This it looking back at it from the entrance.
Directly to the left of that entrance is the entrance to Stage Coach Road. It’s not a very friendly entrance. Warnings about the windmills and enter at your own risk.
So I did, but it kind of set me up for weird thinking. Hey, it was sunny. The sky is starting to look ominous up there. It was like the mood setting of a movie! And I looked to the left, where we had just been and it was blue sky still. Freaky. I guess I was a little spooked.
Here we are at the top, and here is your movie. It’s even hard to tell just how HUGE these things are up close. I was going to try and hike the little trail from there down to Harrington Trail (because I didn’t hike it when I hiked Harrington). But in my slightly freaked out state I didn’t want to go under the windmill. (They aren’t really that intimidating when they aren’t running.) So I left it for another day. We entered onto Stage Coach Trail, which goes by the second windmill (trail sign is in the video).
Eventually we joined up with Harrington, took a right.
We are missing pictures for hitting West Road, taking the right, and hitting Administration Road and taking another right. We walked down Administration Road until we hit the junction with Echo Lake Road.
And headed back home. We hiked for an hour and 45 minutes. It was a great way to start my day!
Since I am writing this much after-the-fact, this hike will be mostly pictorial. Because I don’t remember much of what I was thinking, although it did spawn this blog post. But that was just my thinking on the last part of the hike.
So, the last few hikes I’ve mapped out how I’m going to hit all the trails, and for awhile I knew I was going to do this one. Here it is:
Bicentennial Trail from the mountain’s administration building, past Pine Hill Trail and on to Loop Trail, then Mountain House (hit that already, same with Bicentennial) up to the top, then Pine Hill down. How I usually do Pine Hill is up and back down. Or, sometimes up Pine Hill and walking back down the Summit Road. So it was fun – and rare – to just walk down it!
I took the goober with me.
And what a goober he is. Just look at that face!
Here’s the Administration building, in a sun-blown out photo.
And the trail head.
The markers are…wait for it….blue!
This time we went up Loop.
Which has this incredible view. (There is a farm house out there. Tough picture to take with the sun in that direction.)
And where we saw this funky tree. Or it was somewhere along the hike. But I remember it being near the beginning.
And I took a few pictures of oak leaves. I’ll just post one.
It kind of amazes me that even baby oak trees have grownup-sized leaves.
Loop Trail hooking up to Mountain House Trail is actually at the juncture of a few trails.
Which way, Columbus?
This is where we met up with the road. You can see the sign across the street.
And up at the top? Columbus’ reward. Only they don’t want dogs swimming in the pond. I tried to just have him drink. But the goober – did I say he was a goober? – jumped in before I could stop him. At least he didn’t pull me in with him.
Then there is the real top. Where the sign they put up in place of the brass compass that was on top of the summit marker that someone stole is gone now, too. Say that three times fast.
Every picture looking toward the east had the same problem. I was trying to get a picture of the sign for Pine Hill Trail. There are some picnic benches on the other side.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Pine Hill Trail is an outdoor stair master. Literally.
This is where we cross the road. The stair master started being built on the lower part of the trail. The stairs on the top part of the trail, which is me looking back at where we just came down, is fairly new.
And this is us looking at the trail sign on the other side of the road. Where we are headed.
Some parts of the trail they can’t make into rock stairs, because they are solid rock. Massive rocks.
And so, we made our way down the rest of the trail and headed back home. Columbus did okay!
It’s getting later in the fall. And I’m trying to beat the snow and frigid cold with hiking every trail on the mountain. This hike, because I didn’t wake up early enough, I picked a relatively short trail. The rest of Bicentennial Trail. But it was a little more challenging than I expected.
See that little trail that goes from the highlighted yellow part down to Mountain Road just to the left of the Parking and house symbols? I looked for that trail. The best I can figure is that it is a shortcut up to Bicentennial Trail from behind the administration building. But everything is covered in leaves. So I couldn’t really find that trail, and I don’t want missing that one little piece of trail to count against me hiking all of the trails on the mountain. Okay? Deal? Because if anybody is going to hold it against me, I’ll go back and find that dang trail or walk through the leaves and trees and pretend I found it.
Okay, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way…
I hadn’t remembered that Bicentennial was so rocky on one part of it. Luckily (or maybe not?) Koda was my dog of choice for hiking it.
I say “maybe not?” because at one point, on the rocks, she jumped too far ahead, pulled me off balance and I smashed my shin into the rock she had jumped to.
After that, we worked on “follow.” Koda doesn’t like to follow. So while distracted by making sure she followed, I also slipped on a leaf-covered rock – didn’t go down, phew! – and lost balance another time and smashed my finger into the rock I went to steady myself on.
Yeah, so that all was fun, and totally worth the hike. Always. Minor injuries are a small price to pay for this:
The golden color of the oaks leaves all turning.
The earthy smell of fallen leaves this time of year.
That “like a kid again” adventure of climbing over rocks.
The surprises that reveal themselves as you follow a trail.
The workout your body gets, even on a sideways trail.
I was actually surprised at how much of a sweat and heart-raising hike it was. Although it was sideways, there were ups and downs and all those rocks to navigate. Great for the joints, too, not just repetitively stepping along. Which is a big way where hiking differs from plain ol’ walking.
Here are some pictures from the hike. I forgot to get a picture of the trail head, which starts at the mountain’s administration building.
This is at the junction with Pine Hill Trail, although I took it from a different angle, so you can’t read the Pine Hill sign. We came from the left of this sign and we are headed to the right.
And here is where we meet loop trail.
We head down to the left.
Eventually we get past the rocky part.
A grove of some kind of mountain laurel-ish bushes.
When we hit Mountain House Trail, we turned around. I would have loved to have gone on to the meadow, but didn’t have enough time.
Those stone walls. Love em.
It was a great hike. I really am enjoying hiking in the fall. What a great time of year.