How to Date an Engineer

I have four exams this week: Physics, Environmental Engineering and Science, Calculus for Engineering, and Mechanics of Soils.  When my brain becomes saturated in calculations a weird thing happens – I HAVE to write.  The words push themselves out and I can’t help it.  Due to overexposure of engineering types and based on a few of my own experiences, I have decided that this Valentine’s Day the world can benefit from this non-comprehensive manual on how to woo your favorite engineer.

  1. Plans.

I’ve always heard it said that when you are dating, you should make plans that include dates, times, transportation, etc.  When you have your heart set on an engineer, though, don’t just have a plan:  you should have an entire set of plans.  I am not talking about simply coming up with an creative idea and romantic execution to the last detail of something that is individually designed for the object of your affection. (Which you also must do.)  You must, in fact, have a plan for almost everything.  Engineers love plans. Engineers love plans more than they love people. Continue reading

Conversations with God

I was in the Rutland Magazine recently.  It was an article about my Channel Swim.  I haven’t read it, yet.  I never read any of the articles about myself.  I try and I always think to myself that I will do it.  I should. I know I should… but I never do.  It makes me feel weird that other people want to tell my story over and over again.  Embarrassed.  Strange.

I am glad they do tell the story.  Er, rather, I am glad the story gets told. In whatever way they feel compelled to tell it.  I am always honored when people ask me to speak and educate and inspire – it was always meant to be a gift to my community and I love the impact it continues to have. That is what the story is for – to continue to testify and edify.  

That is the purpose of the story. Any story. It might even be my story – but it isn’t me. I am not there anymore.  I am not in that chapter of my life, any longer.  I am different.  Things are different. I have grown and changed so much in only the two years that have passed since then.  I want to share who I am now – the now me and all her depth and creativity and ingenuity and insight and courage and intelligence. I am keenly aware of the people nearest me who see me and allow me to be who I am today.

Some days, the now me wants to tell the story of my English Channel swim because there is a new lesson in it I have just uncovered.  A new depth.  A new place it has brought me to.  Some days, I don’t think about it at all.  I think about school and work and building a future that makes a marked difference economically and socially.  There are some people that I long to tell about it with words meant only for them.  Let me tell you the story this one particular way, just this one time.  I will speak every word as it flows from the deepest parts of the now me founded on the person who lived that story with the understanding of the now person across from me who is my audience of one.  It’s my gift only for you.  Nobody else.

The articles will always do for the masses, but you have the chance to know me.  You do.  The now me.  And I long for the chance to be known.  Today.  Tomorrow.  On Christmas.  New Years. Every day after that.

I wonder if Yahweh feels this way – kind of strange or embarrassed that people tell stories about who He was thousands of years ago while He is waiting for people to recognize who He is in His profound revelation and relevancy today.  Who is the now Him?  What is it like to be engaged with Him in all of His creativity and ingenuity and insight and courage and wisdom and love?  How does He wish to connect today?  Tomorrow?  On Christmas?  New Years? Every day after that?

What if we let Him tell the story this time – whatever story He wants.  Every single day of our lives as we live them together.  In growth and change and empowerment and excellence.  With courage.  Tenacity.  Intelligence.  Kindness. Love.

What if we let go of religion so that we can have conversations with God?  Conversations about science and our earth.  About medicine.  About government and education and media.  Justice.  Health.  Economics.  Business.  Maybe He still has something to say about that – in whatever way He still speaks in and through you.  Maybe He doesn’t want to talk about your issues.  Maybe He longs for somebody to converse with Him about the things that are important to Him now. Maybe that should be both our gift and our resolution.  Today.  Christmas.  New Years.

Every day after that.

 

Giving Thanks

I am ever so entirely grateful for this life I get to live.

I am grateful that when I wake up, that I am real.  I am in this moment as honestly as I will be in the next.  I am one whole being – heart, intellect, spirit – and perhaps not pure or perfect, but I will continue in my pursuit of right wholeness.

I am grateful that I don’t have to live in fantasies or dualities or lies or dreams.  There is no imagination, no fantasy world, that I can conceive that could ever compare to this real, present life that is mine.  There is no lie worth purchasing at the expense of my soul.  There is no dream that I would prefer more than the ones already added to my pursuit of the kingdom. I am exactly on the right path to the exactly right person I want to be.

I am grateful that I am single.  I am grateful that I don’t need to be in a relationship to find meaning and fulfillment.  I am grateful that I know love – real, true, deep love – and that it fills me up and overflows into every aspect of my life.  I am grateful for the strength it has produced within me – the strength to be alone and not lonely, to let go, to achieve, to pursue the best things.  I am grateful that at the end of the day, when I lay my head down and close my eyes and allow my spirit to sing me a lullaby – that I know this place and time and hour is all perfection.  It is well with my soul.  If I am meant to be alone all my years – it would be a joy and an honor and delight to continue on the journey I see before me.  I would not trade who I am for anything.

I am grateful.  I am grateful for the truth that has grown up in my spirit and produced such abundant life.  I am grateful for the things I have achieved, for the glorious and impossible things I have done.  I am grateful that I do not have to wish or want for a day that might have been, nor do I have to sit on the platform of my own achievements – but that, ahead of me, the best things lie in wait.

I am a peculiar treasure hidden in the heart of my God.

For that I am breathlessly, profoundly, deeply grateful.

All Day on the AT/LT

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My Final Course. It was not 15 miles, actually.

 

It was Thursday when I decided that Sunday seemed like a good day to hike from Route 103 in Shrewsbury, VT to Route 4 in Killington along the AT/LT.  Some research informed me that it was approximately 15 miles.  At my typical speed, I imagined it would take me eight hours.

 

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The Clarendon Lookout.

 

Eight hours, trekking through the woods. It’s peak foliage around here – makes doing anything except taking in the breathtaking world around me difficult.  My eyes are literally delighted at all times by the applause of color.  I was excited to spend all day melting into the forest that had dyed its leaves to become a redhead like me. I couldn’t think of anything better in the whole world… except swimming.

 

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It’s just so gorgeous.

 

 

I got off to a later-than-I-wanted-to start.  Mostly because I was just slow that morning. I was sure it would only take me 8 hours, but I packed a head lamp and extra water just in case.  If I’ve learned anything from adventure swimming, it’s to be prepared.

The first 4 hours or so were just what I expected – colors and deciduous trees, random rock walls, and dirt road crossings.  It was enchanting and breathtaking and hard to keep walking and to not stop to look at or take pictures of EVERYTHING.  The best part was that I scarcely saw 6 other humans the entire first half of the hike – it was just the brown dog and I.

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Guri.  My most favorite.

At some point though, I began to be aware that I was dawdling a bit more than I should and I tried to be more mindful of where I was going and less enamored of the whole experience.  But it was hard not to romanticize the bridges I came to, or the country roads and farms and all the trees and that beautiful blond boy by the river…

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The last vista I had time to enjoy.

I was just entering the Pico portion of the hike- about halfway through – when the landscape gradually changed.  Everything got quieter as I got farther from civilization.  The last person I saw was at a shelter just before I began my upward trek towards the ski resort.  I didn’t see any more people, had no cell phone service and felt myself pulled from enchanting fairy forest to something more wild and more demanding.  It might have almost been sinister, if I had stopped to think about the uneasiness I felt as I made my way deeper into a thought provoking silence.

It was so far away from anything human or machine that I found my ears reaching for sound as far as they could.  The wind was all I heard.  The wind and Guri and all my thoughts.

I thought about the folks I am coaching at swimming for a long, long time.  Water and kicking and breathing and strokes and what might work for one person and what might work for another.  I thought about school.  I thought about my house and the upcoming winter and surviving it all.

I thought about… about never getting married. Ever. I thought about how I’ve always wanted to get married and have children – about how I could not imagine a more noble venture than to be a wife and a mother.  But what if… what if some people are just supposed to be single?  What if they have to be single, not so that they can do whatever the hell they want, but because they just need to be devoted to something greater?  What if I build a business that gives 100 fathers the ability to raise their children?  What if that allows 100 mothers to stay at home?  Can’t I trust that that is enough?  Can’t I trust that my legacy will be carried on through some other means than genetics?  I could mentor or something. Nobody and nothing owes me my hopes and dreams.  Would it really be bad to be just me – all by myself forever?  None of my friends will let me go crazy.

Maybe… maybe it’s just finally time to stop trying.  What a relief.

The trees changed.  No more leaves crunching under my feet.  Pines everywhere.  I was thinking about Christmas for over an hour when I realized that it was probably because of the pine scent in the air.  The terrain was much harder here, too… narrow and rocky and severe.  Many, many trees had been uprooted in some violence and had been tossed to and fro every which way.  The forest was denser, stranger.  It gave me pause.  I did not stop for photos. Something about the aura, I knew, would never translate through an image.

And then suddenly the miles of quiet, dark forest opened to the Killington Shelter and I knew exactly where I was.  The familiarity was strange, but welcome.  I briefly debated about going a different, shorter route down, but I thought I should have enough time to make all 15 miles.  It was only about 3 o’clock and I should have only had about 3 hours left.

I continued on my path.  It wasn’t much farther up the trail that I misjudged the step off a wood walkway and violently rolled my ankle.  I fell to my knees and gasped.  I waited as the pain subsided.  My first thought was that that wasn’t good.  My next thought was that it’s a good thing I have swimmer ankles – all flexible and limber – and maybe I didn’t hurt myself that bad.  But I knew that my ankle was going to hurt.  If not now, then later.

I got to my feet and put some weight on it.  It hurt, but supported me.  I let out a sigh of relief and kept going.

I have always been surprised by the things that do and don’t scare me.  I am not afraid of spiders or open water or public speaking or snakes.  I am not afraid of heights or flying.  I am not all that scared of the dark, anymore, either.  I am not afraid of walking miles in the woods by myself with my dog. But this – this ankle hurting in the middle of the woods with night falling in October – had all the components to be a real problem.  Every step hurt just enough that I was becoming evermore concerned.

I began to run scenarios.  Who did I know who could come and get me if I couldn’t continue?  I thought of several strapping young men who could rescue me and quickly checked their calendars to find them all too busy.  But if I really, really needed help, they would come.  I know people who would come.  And what would they do for me when they got here?  I’d still have to walk out.  I’m a freaking Viking – they aren’t going to carry me out of here.

Somewhere after mile 12, I realized that I wasn’t going to be going the speed I wanted down the mountain.  Additionally, based on the map on my app, it was definitely farther than the 3 miles I should have left.  I was glad to see that I now had cell service and I quickly texted Apostle Jim and Natalie to let them know where I was and what had happened and my concerns.  Just knowing that they knew put my troubled heart at ease.

I guess that was all I needed to do to settle back in for the final few miles.  I was already planning a three day hike over the Fourth of July next year.  I’d bring my brother.  Brothers are good for adventures.  We’d camp.  On the trail.  It would be awesome.

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Somewhere in between rolling ankles and before nightfall.

Darkness began to fall.  My steps began to be more and more painful. I rolled my ankle a second time, but I didn’t cry.  It was obviously becoming more unstable.  Micah had arrived at the car parking lot meet up point and texted me.  I was glad I still had cell phone service and called him.  He started up the trail to find me.

 

I was never so excited to see anybody ever as when Micah appeared on the trail, calling Guri by name.  For her part, she stopped and stared at him, bemused or bewildered or something – as if she didn’t expect to meet anybody she knew out here.  It took her a moment to realize that it was Micah and she did her happy dance greeting – wiggling in delight and rubbing her body against his legs.

We continued on down together in as night took over.  Just talking with Micah was everything I needed and I walked my way out of the woods without help.  I don’t know if it was pride or just that I really didn’t need any help.  I am a redhead and we are more pain tolerant – I think.  I wondered if it is a bad thing to be so fiercely independent…

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The swelling was much better last night after icing it.  You almost can’t tell which one!

 

But I think, sometimes, you just have to walk your own path out.  It doesn’t matter how you got wherever you got, you just have to keep going until you finish.  I did the responsible things and informed the right people and had all the right equipment with me.  I kept my discomfort from becoming fear.  That was the key.  Because fear just becomes panic and panic makes you even more stupid than religion does.

It was one of the best days I’ve had.  Spending all day in the woods with my dog… it is a beautiful, beautiful life I get to live.  I wouldn’t trade it for anything.  Honestly.

Rolled ankles and all.

The Dog, The Heart

I have been afraid, lately.  I am facing a very long layoff this winter and with the investment of time and money for school – it troubles my heart more than my mind. My intellect sees the risk and the reward  and I am looking forward to navigating the future with excellence.  I am excited to make the most of this gift, but the emotional weight of it is heavy.  I have been exploring the option of leasing my house and moving away. It feels like losing my home.  My safety and security.  My comfort. A place where I belong.  Home – it’s my home.  And, ultimately, along with that home is all that hope I had for a family of my own.  I feel like I am losing all of that.  The feelings are not true, but they are real.  I feel like a failure unable to care for that which is mine, which is also not true.  This is a season and it will pass.

I spend a lot of time ordering my thoughts – over and again.  I haven’t been so successful at being a well adjusted human being this week.

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The other night, I decided to go for a walk.  It wasn’t cold, yet, but the moon was sharp and bright.  I left the farmhouse and walked down the driveway, past the pond.  My restlessness was not a friend to me, but the fresh air and the stars were.  On this particular moonlit walk, I watched as Guri scampered ahead to play.  Her sleek form went stalking through the grass and bounding through the brush.  She would resurface on the road some paces ahead and turn to look at me.  Her tongue hung out of her mouth, panting for joy as she waited, quivering with delight, to see where I would go next.

“Are we still going this way, mom?” She seemed to ask.

When my feet continued forward, she took her cue and bounded into the grass and brush again.

I watched her watching me.  I watched her awareness of me.  She kept me in her sights, kept me in her senses.  She was content to roam around me without bolting to some wild freedom.  I am her anchor.

She is tied to me.  Without leash.

Here, she can roam and run freely because she is safe.  There is nothing to hurt her here on the happy land that is the farm where we have found our temporary rest. That brown dog was such a picture of what I wanted for my poor, pathetic heart.  She doesn’t care where we go or if I happen to leave her for a time.  She trusts me.  She knows me.  She knows I will come back.  That I am doing what is best.  If only my feelings could be so certain that I am going to be okay, that this is not failure…

Someday, I want my heart to realize that my spirit is its anchor.  Not a house.  Not a farm.  Not an idea of a family someday that it so desperately hopes for.  None of those things.  In fact, I will let them all go for the path that takes me toward my purpose. I want my heart to keep me in her senses and awareness… to not be so afraid that it can’t do anything except fight against me with all its might.

Because we must go forward, little heart.  Because this is the best option.  Because it will all be okay in the end and maybe it won’t be what you expect… regardless, there’s nothing to fear.  Nothing.  Nobody will let you fall.

Trust me.

Recovery

I overdid it.  Again.

It started as a tightness in my neck and ended with me physically holding my shoulder in place with my opposite hand.  I listened to it crackle and pop. I tried to keep it still and in place.  I tried to convince myself that it wasn’t that bad.  It doesn’t hurt too much.  It’s fine.  It will be fine.  I need to swim.  You don’t understand.  I need…

To recover.

Again.

Too much energy.  Too much passion.  Not enough strength.

But I need…

I don’t know what I need.  I need the moonlight.  I need to listen to her silent echo across the black sky.  I need the stars.  I need the crisp, cold air.  I need the trees to hide me in their beauty.  I need the mountains.  I need to sink into the cold water with breath and will power alone.  I want to be lost and found, wild and free.

It takes so long to gain the strength particular to the journey.  The one comes as you participate in the other.

When will these steps forward not be marked by steps back?

So we stop.  But we don’t stagnate.  Back to step one.  Strengthening.  Devote your passion to the pursuit of wholeness.  Funnel your energy into embracing the earth without injuring yourself.

You are not taking a step back.  All of them are leading forward.

It’s not too much to ask to take just a little more time.

The Mountain

I hear the voice of the Mountain.  Close your eyes and feel the blood pumping just below the surface of your skin…  A current.  A whisper. I can hear my own heart beat in that river; a steady rhythm that gives me life.   Just below the surface of my skin with my eyes closed…

That is how I hear the Mountain.

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I have to go.  I have to go and be in the wilds and the woods and the waters.  I have to.  My spirit needs the silence between the gusts of wind.  The gentle cascade of water.  The creaking trees and their tousling leaves.  The footfalls on the path…

It is home.

I know I am soft and small in her vastness and we are not friends.  I know I am not disciplined or strong the way I ought to be.  I know that I do not understand the voice I hear. Still there are barriers between us…  I have been sheltered and safe for so long.

But I know that you have a voice, Mountain.  And I know that I hear it with my alien ears that long for understanding of what the earth would ask of me.  How can I serve you?  How can I shelter and steward and bless you?  Tell me.

I must go.  I must press into the sound I hear all around and within me.

Oh steady rhythm.  Just below the surface of my skin.