Losing Keys

Encountering locked doors 
in memories and dreams.
Covered with old scars
that I don't understand.
Stopping to breathe
working to forget the me
that i've been told I am.
Unlearning her stories.
Peeling back the layers
of perception and image
working to meet the me within.

"I've been losing lots of keys lately. I don't know what that means, but maybe I'd be better off with things that can't be locked at all." -Jack Johnson


Returning to the Woods

My lungs were burning angrily and my loud panting breaths sounded like those of someone who’d already hiked miles as I turned off the short road from the parking lot and headed into the woods. Our host had built a structure of sticks to point us to the path that he wanted us to walk. Lost in my body’s early struggle, it took me about a hundred steps to realize this was not the trail that I’d expected. My feet were not on the steep, narrow, made for goats Archer’s Trail that I’d fought my way up before. Instead, there were tire ruts and gentle inclines- we were walking up the road! I’d been to this wilderness camp nearly 25 times by now, and had spotted the road up the mountain no more than once. Relieved, my out of shape self settled into the walk. My huffs now dared to have a touch of confidence, I was certain I could handle anything that a 15 year old truck could also climb.

Making my way up the road to the lodge, the beauty of this hike at dusk pulled me into a daze. I had almost not come to this event. Upon receiving the invitation, I knew that I wanted to. Come on, a spelling bee in a mountain lodge on a January night, yes, please! I read, and then nearly sang the words of the invite aloud to my partner before practically skipped out the door on my way to work. I was gleeful at the prospect of such an evening and thrilled by a chance to revisit this place where I had so many wonderful memories. I could already smell the smoky comfort of the wood fire that would warm the lodge. I was wonderfully aware that without campers to care for, I’d be able to lose myself in exploring the displays of skulls, western history, archery tools and other artifacts that covered the walls of this deliciously rustic lodge.

Before hours of celebrating the possibility had passed, the critics who dwell inside me hopped up onto my shoulders and gave their thoughts about how I should respond. I remembered quickly that they’re heavy and opinionated little gits. “You can’t go to that, you don’t know how to spell. Remember, you missed the word cologne back in your eighth grade spelling bee?” offered a doubter holding a clipboard close to his wee little puffed up chest. Letting his words sink in, I felt my buzz of excitement begin to subside and was again the student standing in front of my school cafeteria being told my answer was incorrect. At that moment, the others chimed in, “You don’t know anyone who will be there. Or if you do, they’ll be from you-know-where and won’t that be uncomfortable for you...” “Psst. Hello, have you finished making that movie for him yet? That’s why he invited you, Snufflebrain. You’re just going to disappoint him.”  Running from all the thoughts this simple invitation had stirred up, I ignored it for a couple of weeks. Finally I responded on the day of the deadline, with a grateful acceptance that I typed rapidly as to avoid waking my inner critics from a rare nap.

The road turned again and I was rewarded with my first sight in nearly two years of the familiar lodge. The burning in my lungs eased as the path below me became flat and easy. Walking past the pump where I’d watched dozens of children learn a new way to get water during past camping trips, I smiled. Images of spilled water, tears, victory dances and at least one good spirited muddy battle flashed before my eyes. As I arrived at the lodge, I reached out to touch one of the trees that support the metal roof of its porch. It was no middle of the woods mirage, I was back! And the smells coming from inside were better than I remembered. Leather, exposed wood and the scent of a fire all offered the promise of warming my body after its subfreezing walk.

As darkness fell over the woods, bouncing flashlight beams approached from many directions and other participants appeared.
Names were shared, distances of travel compared and then the lodge door opened inviting us in from the dark. Shedding coats, scarves, gloves and all of our other cold weather battling gear, we let our eyes adjust to the light and warmth of the welcoming lodge. People continued with their introductions as we fixed ourselves mugs of tea with water from a kettle sitting on top of the woodstove. Then Mark, our host and a well respected naturalist and wilderness educator, called us to our seats and explained the rules of the night’s Spelling Bee and Vocabulary Contest.

As soon as Mark’s calm voice filled the cabin, all those memories of standing nervously in front of people having to spell words correctly began to melt away.  It became clear to us that this was to be a night of laughter, wit, challenges and a mostly friendly competition of words written and checked by only ourselves. I crossed my legs, settled back into my woven wood chair, sipped my cinnamon apple tea and breathed deeply. Peace. Even better, peace perfected by the sound of British accents. I smiled, thankful that I’d ignored the doubters inside me and come to this magical evening. 

Wondering what some of the words in the contest were?

The spelling focused on often misspelled words, including:
penitentiary, questionnaire, nuisance, transferable, idiosyncrasy, and weird

The vocabulary was wickedly challenging. For most of us, it was a chance to learn new words or gain a better grasp of the meaning of words we’ve occasionally encountered. Here are a few examples you might like:



I'm baaaaack!

Hello, friends. I apologize for disappearing as a writer, a reader and a tweeter over the last 20 days. I've missed the wonderful community that you are all a part of. During my time away, I've been quite busy. I've mourned the loss of a dear friend, fought off a funky cold, survived Atlanta's IcePocalypse and taken some important inner journeys. Thank you for being patient with me and forgiving this long absence!

I'm honored to have received the award below from my talented friend Emily of the beautifully diverse blog Broke Down Artist.  I was planning to return to posting today, and this was a lovely welcome back! Thanks, Emily!

Upon accepting the award, I'm supposed to share 7 things about myself.
     1- I don't believe a city is a real city if there is no river running through it.
     2- I love to cook when I am in the right mood.
     3- My childhood favorite color was purple until every gift I received became
         purple and then I overloaded and turned to blue.
     4- My favorite animals are prairie dogs, hawks and turtles.
     5- I once traded cheese sandwiches for peace in a holding cell.
     6- I can rock the game Six Degrees of Separation, if I get to use IMDB.
     7- I'm happiest in a hoodie, jeans and comfy sneakers.

Now, the pleasure of sharing this award with 5 bloggers whose sites I've recently discovered.
     Raw Food Passion an elementary school friend's blog about healthy living
     Queen of Arts  have you met the Rock Fairy? I adore the work this woman
                              does in the world.

     Becoming Bendy   a new blog by the fabulous Patti Digh. I too want
                                    to become bendy.

     Operation Beautiful  what if we all left one note a day?

     Gluten Free in GA....Finally!  okay, this isn't a recent discovery for me,
                                                     but if you're gluten free, you'll thank me!

Thanks to all of the fabulous people for the work they do. Go forth and visit their blogs. Enjoy!


First test of 2011

When I wrote that one of the four things I wanted to focus on this year was healing, I should have known I was inviting a challenge from the universe. January 1 brought me not a hangover, but my first cold of the year. The days since have been an uphill battle to regain my ability to breathe and swallow without pain. Two boxes of tissues, twenty one tea bags, thirteen vitamin C tablets, eight therapeutic inhalations, a chicken’s worth of broth later, and invaluable support from my partner later, I am making progress in this wee war!

When I finally kicked off the toasty sleepwarmed comforter and crawled out of bed this morning, I began my recently adopted cold blasting routine. A warm steamy shower to wake up and attempt to open my nose to this new day. Then, a new addition to my healing repertoire: a gargle with warm water, apple cider vinegar, honey and a bit of cayenne (Thanks for this idea, Shirley!). Wow! Trust me, that will go a long way to waking you and your throat up. I follow that with a bit of bonding with my Neti pot. After those thirty minutes of cold fighting fun, there’s little I’d rather do next than tip my head over a bowl of warm water to inhale tea tree, eucalyptus and peppermint oil. Finally, and much to my neglected cat’s relief, I sat beside her on the couch to sip my peppermint tea.

I have to say tackling all of those steps three times a day has taken about all of my energy. Thankfully, my love is just as determined to see this cold fade as I am. She has had her head buried inside our books about nutritional healing to find wonderful cold fighting foods and recipes like the cabbage, potato and garlic soup I ate for dinner and breakfast. Take this non cabbage lover’s word for it, it is delicious and almost as powerful as a dose of Dayquil. Thanks to her research and shopping efforts our refrigerator and my body are filled with all sorts of anti inflammatory, cold fighting produce. Leeks, bell peppers, cucumbers, radishes, lemons, cabbage… many of these are things I normally wince at when they appear on my plate. No wincing now. I get it. I understand that these undesirable tastes and textures are part of  the food medicine that will aid my mission of healing. I sit taller at the table as I chew determinedly.

Yesterday, I was feeling a bit cocky about my proactive approach to all of this. When *thwap* the universe threw me a few reminders that sent me right back to the drawing board. A well timed tweet from Dr. Andrew Weil “Exercise may help prevent the common cold,” elicited a few choice words from my lips and then a sigh of resignation. Yes, of course that is true. I know that and it is one of the “should”s that cartwheels through my mind regularly. I suppose that got my inner voices talking. I’d just about forgotten Weil's tweet, when one of them crept out on my hoody encased shoulder, tugged on my earlobe and whispered, “Hey, why are you only taking care of yourself when you are this sick?”

Palm to forehead, tail to chair… thinking material enough for ages. It is absolutely true. I have shelves filled with books about healing foods and remedies. I live across the street from one of my favorite health food stores in the city of Atlanta. If you have a question about what supplement would help with a certain ailment, I often know the answer. But here I am, only applying the bulk of this knowledge only when my body forces me to. I make do with daily aches and pains, joking that I often feel “like an 80 year old trapped in the exterior of a 29 year old.” The joke is on me if I don’t start applying the things I know during my daily life.

I am grateful that if I squint I can see the end of this cold approaching. I’ll spend some of this time sitting with the lessons it has brought me. I don’t want to waste the understanding I have of food’s healing powers. Even buried beneath the cloud of this cold, I feel the difference these whole foods and teas are making inside my body. I don’t want to continue accepting my “normal” achy, creaky, cracking, popping body. My healing mission for the year has broadened and I have this cold to thank.

Now, if I could only get this dead tree out of my living room...



This will be the year in which I celebrate my thirtieth birthday. I'm determined to spend it growing into the me that I've long wanted to be. The words I've shared in my Reverb posts will be on my mind as I move forward each day. I've not made any resolutions this year. Even by itself, that word makes me cringe a bit, because resolutions always bring into my life a pattern of striving and falling short. Instead, I sat with pen and paper at hand and wrote down the things I will focus on this year:

Movement     +     Healing     +     Creating     +     Simplicity  

Sitting here and coughing the type of cough that tries to turn your body inside out, I am even more deeply connected with these paths and their importance. Each of these words is at the very core of what I want from my moments and days. I want the story that I tell myself and those around me to drip with the evidence of these things in my life.

I also created lists of things that will help me further each aim. For once, I've not written long and check box littered "to do lists." Instead, these lists simply contain things that I believe will keep me moving towards these elusive principles. I'll hand write copies of many different sizes and keep them near me. I will turn to these lists of actions when I am twiddling my thumbs or feeling trapped inside a storm of doubt. As I reread my lists this morning, I smiled, realizing they echoed and honored much of what I've already written here. This track that I am on feels right and worthy of celebrating.

As I journey through this year, there are also many intentions that I will hold in my pocket and my heart:

This post was written in response to Reverb10's December 31 Prompt – Core Story What central story is at the core of you, and how do you share it with the world? (Bonus: Consider your reflections from this month. Look through them to discover a thread you may not have noticed until today.) (Author: Molly O’Neill)