Before the hurricane

I recently left Boston, and my 9-5 office job. I packed my entire life into a 10×16 storage POD that I then surrendered to strangers. I brought the important dregs of that life (birth certificates, favorite mugs, my headlamp, etc) along with my dog and myself, down to Virginia Beach, a place I have only ever inhabited while on vacation.  I also shed my life’s work as a manager and leader of teams; now I’m part of a team to be led.

In short, except for me, my clothes, my pooch, and a few accessories, I left it all behind.

This leaving came after months, and probably years if I’m honest, of managing change. Organizational change (or lack thereof), and all the inherent anxieties of it. That’s been my life as an arts administrator and leader; trying to convince my staff, our audiences, and the organization at large, that change is ok, that we will get through it, that it’s ok to feel unsettled, etc.

Some of my finest moments as a manager and leader came in times of great change and fear. When I had to hold steady while everyone else around me was freaking out. I was good at this, particularly when it involved snowstorms or people being crazy on social media.

This makes what’s happening to me now even more unsettling. I find myself in a space I’m not familiar with.

See, a hurricane is coming. If you’re not on the east coast, this may not matter to you, but for those of us in its path, it’s a big deal. A “the-whole-Carolina-coast-is-already-being-evacuated” big deal. The kind of big deal that has gas stations running out of unleaded.

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Hurricanes bring big waves, huge wind and a ton of water. I currently live less than two football fields from the Atlantic coast. So yeah, this time, the hurricane is real.

And guess what? I’m a total mess about it. To be fair, the actual weather doesn’t scare me. That I could handle. What I can’t handle apparently, is leaving. See I have to go to a conference later this week. And that means leaving my dog behind.

People, I’m telling you, worry about this wrecked me today. I woke up anxious and I’m going to bed anxious. I never showered today. I just basically forced Sadie to come up onto the bed so I could snuggle her. There were several moments where I sat on the toilet and said to myself over and over “I don’t want to go, I don’t want to go” like a 5-year-old having a tantrum. So many kind people checked on me, asked if we were making plans, and each time I cried. This is not normal for me.

As I try to step back and assess just what the heck happened to calm and cool Jodi, I can only plead exhaustion.Exhaustion from months and years of convincing people that everything will be ok. Exhaustion from two weeks of moving, welcoming and entertaining friends and family (PS: lest any of them be offended I absolutely LOVED seeing them and having them be a part of this new adventure), learning a new job with no new office to go to, living in a strange house, and trying to make a lifestyle that used to be vacation feel like normal. Oh, and planning for a trip that will require me to be at my extroverted best when all I really want to do is sleep, hike, and maybe watch some tv with my dog for about two weeks straight.

I guess the hurricane was the final straw.

I’m writing this because I want my readers to know that it’s not always pretty pictures, life lessons learned and positivity around here. I am freaking out like everyone else right now and it kind of sucks. Feel free to tell me I’m being silly and that everything will be ok.

I intend to snap out of it. I do. But if I see Jim Cantore outside, all bets are off.

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Last night in Boston

It’s finally here. My last night in my favorite city, a city I’ll leave behind tomorrow afternoon.

I don’t really know how to feel, to be honest, but I’m full of words, so maybe typing them will help sort it out.

When my mom and I drove cross-country from Arkansas to get here, it was a three-day slog. We collapsed into our B&B and ordered Indian food. I don’t remember what restaurant it was. Tonight, we walked the familiar 10 minutes to the local Indian restaurant and got seated at the window, so I could people watch my fellow JPers. I do love this community; every size, shape, color, hairstyle and piercing strolled by. I will miss that.

Tomorrow will be another day of logistics, but somewhere in there I will have to take Sadie for our last walk in the Arnold Arboretum, and I won’t lie – that makes me really sad. Someone recently asked if I had a “place” in Boston, meaning a pub or a bar I liked to hang out in. I said no, and then another someone said “I think your place is the Arb”. To which I laughed and agreed and lamented that I can’t get a beer or nachos there. I think it says something that my “place” in Boston was a place I rarely shared with anyone other than Sadie or visiting guests..

My apartment is empty and dusty. All the lamps are packed so the overhead lights are bleakly lighting the place. There is so much dog hair. My mom wonders why Sadie isn’t bald.

I’m sitting here trying to figure out how I feel. I’m not jumping for joy excited yet for my new home. But while I have some pangs, I’m also not drearily sad to leave this one.

Mostly I feel tired, and ready to feel more than that. I think it’s been a long, long few months of being tired.

Tomorrow I will walk and take a million pictures of the Arb. Tonight I’ll share some that I took a few days ago at Jamaica Pond, my 2nd favorite spot in my neighborhood. There is an outdoor fog sculpture happening, so that’s why some of these have weird fog in them.

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How appropriate that on my last night, I have to go climb 4 flights of stairs to put quarters in the dryer one last time. I will not miss those stairs, that’s for sure. 😉

Hike 21 of the #52hikechallenge: Last time at Ward Reservation

It’s been a while since…a lot of things. Since I took my camera out for a spin. Since I last went hiking. Since I last blogged.

It’s also been a while since I shared plans to leave Boston for a new job and a new adventure…and I won’t lie, it’s been a looong wait to get to this point. One more week of visiting and cleaning and then the final pack and drive and then finally, finally, I will be beginning this much-anticpated new adventure.

It’s also been a long 19 days for the family of Samantha Sayers, a young woman who was hiking in Washington State and vanished on August 1. I stumbled onto the #findsamsayers story thanks to a random post on social media, and I’ve been following it, dare I say, obsessively, since. Initially, I was following it because I was waiting for the interwebs to explode into self-righteous “never hike alone” pontificating (a sore spot for me), but surprisingly, that’s been minimal. What’s happened is a remarkable, wonderful/terrible thing, where literally thousands of people are following this story via facebook, and offering their prayers, hopes, and in some cases, ridiculous attempts at help.

In addition to my heartfelt hope that Sam is found alive, and my sadness for her mom, who has been doing heartbreaking facebook live video posts, I find myself goggling at the bizarre nature of watching this play out on social media. The idea of the virtual prayer circle isn’t new. And it’s pretty amazing and if it gives strength and support to the family, there is nothing I can say against it.

But I have been disappointed and appalled by a lot of the behavior I’ve seen; total strangers speculating that she was kidnapped with no reason to other than having watched too much TV, dozens of people saying some variation of “has anyone thought of checking her phone?”(as if that hadn’t occurred to anyone yet), and others actually messaging the mother – who’s daughter has been missing for 19 days, she has things to do, people! – asking for updates when they don’t think they are coming fast enough. It makes me sad that people feel like they have to somehow become a part of this story. But I guess that’s the world we live in. Everyone wants in on the drama, and everyone has an opinion and is going to express it. But just because we can say something doesn’t mean we should. This also applies to others, like, say, leaders of the free world, but I digress.

Anyway, this little rant composed itself as I was trekking through the woods at one of my favorite New England hikes, Ward Reservation in Andover, MA. It was an easy 4.3 mile ramble, and I couldn’t help but compare the tiny hills to the grand, glorious, dangerous peaks I’ve seen as I’ve learned more about Vesper Peak, where Sam was hiking when she went missing. I hope to someday be badass enough to hike there.

Anyway, I grabbed a couple of pictures of Sadie, but I wasn’t able to really lose myself in the woods this time. Of course, the fact that, just before I snapped this picture, Sadie rolled in something smelly and nasty, didn’t help. Ward Reservation AUgust 2018 (2 of 3)But really, my mind was moving beyond the familiar and lovely views; wondering where I will hike when I’m living near the beach, dreaming of a fall trip to the Smoky Mountains, running over my moving checklist, and yes, thinking about Sam and how much I hope that she is still alive.

So farewell, Ward Reservation, one of the few places I found where Sadie could roam free on the trails. Even thought I wasn’t able to give you all my attention today, I will miss your views of the Boston skyline, your Solstice Stones, your Elephant Rock, your quintessentially New England stone walls, your birches, and your tall, tall pine trees. Ward Reservation AUgust 2018 (1 of 3)

Ward Reservation AUgust 2018 (3 of 3)

Sadie will miss rolling in gross things, climbing the rocks, and sniffing all the ferns.

If you’d like more info on Ward Reservation, visit my previous post here.

Thanks, Boston.

I’ve had a lot of time to think about this move I’m about to make.

In an effort not to bore you with details, I’ll just say that, in about a month, after just over 4.5 years here, I’m leaving Boston. Heading south, to live near family for a little while, and try my hand at a total life change. I’m sure I’ll write more on that later.

The job change that prompted this came fast, but the thinking about moving has been happening for years. Almost every year after the first, when I realized that, much as I might love Boston, it wasn’t going to give me all the things I was hoping for: a tribe, a partner, a job with longevity, a home, roots. No, like most of the places I’ve lived, it just couldn’t give me those. I suspect this has more to do with me than Boston, but regardless – it’s time for Boston and I to end our little affair.

And it really was an affair, one that sprang out of a terrible breakup with my previous life. You know the deal; you put on a good face when inside all you can think is…I failed. I misjudged the whole thing, and I put all of myself into something that wouldn’t give it back. And so I left, not quite tail-between-my-legs, but definitely needing to rebuild my life and my belief in myself.

Boston was the perfect rebound relationship. It made my heart sing every time I turned a corner and saw something new. It was big, messy, gorgeous, full of new sights and smells and a blissful anonymity; no one cares, walking down a busy Boston street, if I don’t have a boyfriend, if I screwed up at work, or even if I’m having a bad hair day.

In Boston, I started running, for real. Since I’ve moved here I’ve run two 10Ks and more 5Ks than I can count.IMG_7300

In Boston I learned the beauty of a (crappy) public transit system, and didn’t drive hundreds of miles as I went about my life. Instead, I walked them, and took the bus and the train, and spent hours observing my fellow travelers of all sizes and colors, wondering about their stories.

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In Boston I fell in love with my camera, and filled a creative gap in my soul that I didn’t know existed.

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In Boston, I finally came to believe, really believe, that I can both love my country and want it to be better.

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Everything wasn’t perfect in these years. I learned that racism is alive and well even in one of the most progressive states in the country. I learned that breaking into cliques is really hard. I learned that rats hang out in garbage barrels, and that too many dogs go missing every day. I learned that even walking everywhere, every day, won’t magically make me skinny. And I learned that a lot of people play music really loudly in their headphones on the train, which is really, really annoying. 😉

But I also learned that, despite our reputation for being cold and mean, Bostonians do say hi on the street here, and stop for pedestrians in crosswalks. Not every day. Not all the time. But l learned that one person thanking the bus driver as we exit makes at least 75% of the rest of the people do the same. And the drivers always wish us a good day.

But most of all, I learned that I am who I am. A girl who always takes up a bit too much space on the train, but tries to keep her eyes open for someone who needs her seat. A woman who will never be able to look downtown chic, but will stroll down town in her comfortable shoes with her head high. A person who doesn’t quite fit into any of the accepted categories of our culture, and has finally, after more than 40 years, begun to realize that there are quite a few of us wandering around, and that’s ok.

Two days ago, I was walking in the Public Garden on a humid, cloudy day. It was right after a thunderstorm. For those who have no visual reference for the Public Garden, its the park where Robin Williams sat on a bench with Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting. As I walked, I realized that, when my move is done and I’ve left this place behind, I will always be grateful that I lived here. That I was lucky enough to live here, even for a few years. After all, every small town kid in New England grew up holding Boston up like some kind of sparkling icon. It was our Oz, our big city. I never even considered that I’d live here; I always assumed I wasn’t a big enough deal.

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But I did. I got to live in the city of the Red Sox. I got to walk and run along the Esplande, cross the Mass Ave Bridge via bus, train, and by foot, and visit the top of the Pru. I took the train to Foxboro stadium. I watched the Marathon from 4 different locations, including high above the last mile as the runners approached the finish line on Boylston. I heard the Boston Pops at Christmas and the 4th of July, the BSO at Halloween. I paddled in the Charles under the sun and under the stars. I hiked in dozens of parks and reservations, and ate seafood on the North and South Shores. I took guests to see the Ducklings in the Public Garden, and to the North End for pasta and cannoli.

I survived 5 winters.

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As I get ready to leave, I’m comforted that while I wander the city in my last weeks, I’m finding that I’m not sad. There’s no regret in my heart as I realize there are many corners of the city I haven’t explored. I’ll miss my favorite places, but I have received what they have to offer, with gratitude, and will use all that they’ve given me to move on.

Boston was my home for nearly 5 years. I will always sing Sweet Caroline at the top of my lungs when it comes on, I will never forget how the skyline view always makes my heart jump, and I will always claim this place as my big city. In all it’s wonder and contradictions, Boston is the place where I put myself back together, and found the guts to change everything. I’m grateful.

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Hike 20 of the #52hikechallenge: Mount Monadnock

Two years ago, Mt. Monadnock kicked my ass.

So, when a break in the heat was forecast, and with an office-mate eager to join, it only seemed fitting to try again.

We set out “early” from Boston, in an effort to beat what we knew would be big crowds. We only marginally succeeded, but on a nice weekend, hikers everywhere flock to Monadnock.

Monadnock means “mountain which stands alone”; it’s not part of a mountain range. What an appropriate 20th hike for a girl like me, generally adrift alone in the world. Because while it may stand alone, it also stands tall and proud and is worth every minute you spend with it. Kind of like me. 😉

Having been roundly smacked down by the Red Dot trail in my 7-ish mile hike last time, this time I decided to go with the crowd and do the White Dot to the White Cross Trail loop. This is the hike that everyone does, with good reason. For example, while the hike is pretty darn steep, it only lasts for about 2 miles. Even stopping and starting as we did, it simply can’t take all that long to get to the top of a 2-mile hike at less than 3000 feet of altitude.

Also, once you get up high, there are incredible views every 5 feet, which offers plenty of chances to “admire the view” while gasping for air.

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Monadnock does this little head-fake that crushes the souls of unprepared hikers: after slogging up some pretty serious rocks and boulders, hikers reach what “should” be the top – a nice open space just at the edge of the treeline – but instead, it gives you a view of the summit, which looks at least 5 miles away. In reality, it’s only .5 miles.

On this hike, I was prepared for that tantalizing view, and even could appreciate the dad warning his pre-teen daughter that, when they reached the open spot they would “have a discussion” about if they were going to go on. It’s worth pointing out that this little girl was hiking about twice as a fast as me, so I had no doubt she’d make it all the way to the top. We’d also been lapped by a troupe of boys and their handlers, as well as a dude who thanked us for letting him pass by proclaiming: “It’s just hard for me to stop once I get going. And I’m carrying 25 lbs of climbing gear”, thus making me want to smack his smug ass right into the woods.

But soon we reached the point in the hike that makes most folks wonder “why do I do this again?” The slab of granite stretches above, with nothing for it but to trust our shoes, enjoy the calf stretch, and get it done.

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As we were trudging up this, we ran into the leaders of the troupe of boys, on their way down, who seemed genuinely delighted to see us, which of course made me wonder if they thought we wouldn’t make it at all.

But we did, with a few dozen of our closest friends.  We reached the top of the world, with 360 degree views of NH, VT and MA, and a cold, whipping wind that felt great after the sweaty heat of walking above tree line in the sun.

I didn’t get very many photos from the top, because, to be honest, I just wanted to look at the view. At one point, I actually felt my head sag with relief, and it’s not exaggerating to say I felt all the crap of my daily life fall away with a huge sigh that took me by surprise. There is something about the view from the highest point – there is something about it that makes me feel better, no matter where I am.

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We spent some time agreeing that the payoff was worth the effort, and then it was back down those pesky rocks, which is a different kind of stress on the legs. By the end, I was longing for the sandstone of the canyons of Utah, because even if you’re going up or down out there, more often than not the stone is somewhat forgiving on your feet. In the granite mountains of NH, each step jars, and by the time you’ve done 2+ miles of clamoring down, you’re just glad you don’t have 2 more.

Hike 20, even thought it was short, was the hardest one I’ve done yet of the 52 Hike Challenge, and I hope that the rest of the year brings more such challenges. As anyone with a bit of math skills has figured out, I’m pretty behind on this challenge, and moving to the beach in a month isn’t going to make finishing any easier. But I am going to stick to it, because, well…I started, so finishing is the next thing to do.