I drove almost 1,000 miles, starting in Los Angelos and driving across California, through the bottom corner of Nevada and the top corner of Arizona, up and into southern Utah, to Zion, to Bryce, to Capitol Reef and then up, up, up to northern Utah, almost all the way to Idaho. Alone in the car for that many miles, I played the same 13 songs on a loop, mostly Lord Huron, Manchester Orchestra, Joni Mitchell and Nathaniel Rateliff. I listened to just three podcast episodes and the radio only when my rental’s bluetooth refused to recognize me or my phone. I thought a lot, mostly about love, a little about loneliness.
It’s October, but this morning I ran in 100 percent humidity, so everything is a lie, I guess, but here’s a few things making life a little less miserable.
I spent a decent amount of my youth on a farm and even did some 4H things for a bit and so I love a fair, any fair, especially a big fair like the State Fair of Virginia. I love fair food, I love the colors and the people watching, I love the 1,000-pound pumpkins, but most of all, I love the critters. I love the horses and the cows and the pigeons and the pigs and, more than anything else, I love the ducks.
I’m so good at reading books in the winter. Then, spring turns into summer and it gets too hot to sit outside and read in the evenings, social obligations pop up, my work hours lengthen and flex and books that should take a few days to devour take longer and longer, full weeks, even. So, I’ve been in a reading rut. I’ve read some lovely things, especially lately, but this second reading report includes a lot of books I didn’t love or even like, a few I slogged through just so I could mark them as finished and at least one I loved until the end when nothing was settled and I threw the book across the room in a fit of disappointed rage.
This week, y’all. It has not been kind. Here’s a few things that have made this miserable week survivable:
Earlier this year, a brewery opened less than a mile from my house and I was instantly enamored. It’s my new favorite place and I’m there almost every weekend, sometimes alone and sometimes with friends, but always with a book. Their beer is funky and wild, and their small batch offerings are ever-changing.
Every year I line up a big stack of really incredible, much-anticipated books to read while winter slumps into spring. Then, I go on a book-reading bender. I stay up past my bedtime, I walk around the house clutching an open book, reading it as I put dishes into the dishwasher, sass the cat or just walk from one part of the house to another. I carry a book with me everywhere, reading for two minutes before my yoga class, reading while my computer restarts, reading, reading, reading.
I spent the last four minutes of the Shamrock Half Marathon telling myself not to cry. I’d done the math. I knew I’d made it, knew I was about to set a new personal record and so, when we turned right at the Atlantic Ocean, hit the boardwalk and pushed toward the finish line, my chest tightened, my eyes watered and I felt a lot of things.
Today, I am 35.
I feel simultaneously very old and very young, which, depending on who you ask, is exactly right. I feel grown up, but not all grown up. I feel like I’ve done a lot, but I know there’s still a lot left to do.
The day I turned 34, I hiked into the Grand Canyon then took myself to dinner in Flagstaff. I told the couple next to me, newly retired, that it was my birthday and we talked about growing up and aging. I told them how much I liked my 30s, how I gave fewer fucks and didn’t spend my days stressing about inconsequential bullshit, how I really liked the woman I was becoming.
Mercury is in retrograde and I’m about to turn 35. Here’s a few of my favorite things.
To be a total hipster dick about it, I’ve been following the Iditarod every March for the past 20 or so years. It’s a pre-birthday tradition of mine, to watch this 1,000-mile dog sled race unfold via the internets. I love it and it’s the only sport I can talk somewhat intelligently about.
I really, really needed this trip. I needed to get out of town, to put on my pack and walk into the woods. I needed to spend a few hours in the car, music up and windows down. I needed to be alone in the woods, to take myself to dinner, to drink new beers, to catch up with one of my oldest friends. I just needed to go.
After I wrote about a few recent hikes in Shenandoah National Park, Kate left a comment asking if I’d consider writing about my hiking gear, if I had any specific recommendations for someone interested in embarking on a forest scamper.
At first I giggled. I’m a native forest creature, yes, a girl raised by wolves who ran barefoot through the wildness nearly every day of my youth, but hiking still feels like a new hobby. I’m still acquiring stuff to make my hikes more comfortable, more enjoyable and that will allow me to go further and deeper into the wild. When I read her comment, I felt wholly unprepared to offer any sort of advice.