I was talking to a friend recently about writing. He asked if reading my blog would help people get to know me better. I had never thought about this question before. How personal is my blog? How personal do I want it to be? How do you really know someone anyways?
I have been thinking about my neglected blog lately though. Normally my blog has been stories and photos of travelling. My travel life has slowed down a little in the past year due to my own desires and in turn, my blog postings have slowed down too. I just moved in with my partner this year, and I'm trying to find a healthy balance between travel and home. Then the pandemic hit, and now everyone's travel plans are tenuous.
So I'm wondering what my blog page will become if I'm not constantly on the move. I spent a solid month chipping away three layers of old wallpaper off my bedroom walls this year, and I found so many thoughts, ideas, and metaphors in those eccentrically floral layers that I almost wrote a blogpost about wallpaper. But I second guessed myself, because that subject is a little out of the norm for my usual blog.
But perhaps I will write more about the things around me. I love to write, and my brain is always searching for lessons and metaphors wherever I am. You can tell me what you think. Do you know me any better? Do you want to hear about my wallpaper?
I will slip in one travel photo though. On July 4th and 5th I played patio shows at The Purple Fiddle in Thomas, WV. Afterwards, my partner and I slipped off into the Monongahela National Forest for a few days of camping. This overlook took my breath away.
I've been swimming at the river this summer. I've realized that swimming has slipped away from me the past few years. Honestly, I can't remember the last time I really craved and enjoyed swimming like I have been this summer. Sure, I've paddled a boat, walked ankle deep creek beds with fifth graders at camp, strolled the shores of Lake Erie, and soaked my body in hot springs under the stars. I'm no stranger to water. But, swimming? Ah, swimming. I have realized how much I missed those long arm strokes, the breath, the kicks, the bouyancy, the entire body working together. Alive. Light. Floating. Flowing. Full body immersion.
The river is alive and moving. It is not a swimming pool. It is murky in places, silty in others. Swift in the current and calm in the eddies. Shallow over the rocky riffles and deep in the sandy middle. I love to find those deep spots where the current is moving and then swim upstream. Like an endless pool, I can swim upstream for as long as I like and never go anywhere. I backstroke and stare up at the canopy of trees alive with King Fishers and Cedar Waxwings. My ears under water can hear the soft clicking and I imagine freshwater mussels lodged in the rocks and soft sand down there.
And just like that the water flows by. Just like thoughts. Just like the news. Just like the ebb and flow of emotion. I'm suspended in the rushing water. I'm breathing. I'm moving. I'm not going anywhere. But I'm not getting swept downstream either.
There is a quiet surprise and gentleness in a spring wildflower. Cut-leaved Toothwort, Spring Beauties, Dutchman's Breeches pop their dainty heads up early while the forest canopy is still open. They are such a welcome sight after the dark days of winter. If you don't take time to notice them they'll be gone again. They get their work done in that short window of forest floor sunshine and they don't make a big deal out of it. Once the trees leaf in the eastern deciduous forest they'll be shaded out, and you'll have to wait until next spring.
The summer wildflowers are in no such hurry. They seem to have all of the time in the world. They stand tall in the open fields and roadsides in the long days of sunshine. They can spend their energy getting tall, big, beautiful, full. They are not shy and dainty. They are not hard to miss. They shout at you from the sun soaked world all day. They are the deep dark purple of the Ironweed, the bold red intricacies of Cardinal Flower on it's erect raceme, and the ever wandering rhizomes of the spreading Yarrow as it stretches out like a lazy hound dog on a hot summer day taking up the entire walkway.
I am trying to learn from them. There is no hurry. Be big, be bold. Take your time.
A few nights ago we drove to a open area and hiked up a hill to try to see the comet. The sunset burned a striking deep pink into a horizon full of clouds, but the clouds did not lift in the west. We counted stars as they appeared. We found the Big Dipper just peaking above the clouds. I pointed out Antares, that red supergiant star in the constellation of Scorpio. We listened to the hum of mosquitos in our ears as we lay in the grass. We hiked out in the dark through a warm summer night air. We drove home comet-less yet content.
We live next to a park on the edge of town, and when we pulled in our headlights scanned across parking area where there are a few picnic tables and a trailhead. Slinking around the tables were two grey foxes. Darting, sniffing, moving swiftly in the night. They scouted the perimeter. Noses following the ground then pointing out. Fluffly tails almost as long as the rest of their body held out parallel with their smooth backs. They stand together looking east. They split off again and scour the perimeter. We open a car door. They meet back together and disappear into the woods.
The unseen, the seldom-seen. The ghosts in the night. We had originally ventured out in search of a rare thing, a distant comet passing through our solar system. In the end the journey led us back to our own yard for a rare sighting of a visitor that is almost certainly always near, skirting the edges in the night just several meters from where I sleep. I look out at those picnic tables in the daylight now and watch family gatherings, dog walkers, hikers, joggers, and mountain bikers pass by. Etched in my mind in black and white, in greyscale, in graphite simplicity is the wildness of the foxes in the night slipping in and out in the quiet hours. There is always more present than meets the eye.