The weekend that wasn’t

I blame summer reading.

After finishing some serious stuff like The Nightingale and Into the Wild, I needed something lighter. With perfect timing, a friend recommended The Tradd Street series by Karen White, and I dove in.

I should have known, dammit. As soon as I realized the heroine was a gorgeous 39-year-old singleton with great metabolism from Charleston, South Carolina – who just happens to attract the attention of the perfectly-flawed 30-something guy who loves every one of her various neuroses, but insists on pushing him away, because boo-hoo, she had no relationship with her mother – I should have known.

I should have known I’d find myself needing some adventure, since romance is, well…about as far from my summer as South Carolina. So, on Friday, I made the spur-of-the-moment decision to head West.

No, alas, not to Washington or Colorado or Utah. Western Massachusetts. I’ve got limited time and funds here, people.

Anyway, since hearing about a waterfall out there called Bash Bish, I’ve wanted to see it, but it’s a solid 3 hours one way, and that’s a long drive to do in a day, by myself, with a dog who hates the car.

But on Friday, as the minutes at work ticked away, by god, I decided I was gonna make it happen. I found a campsite in the “western mass region” (those quotes will make more sense in a moment) that had online reservations, and with a flourish, I booked it. I was consumed with delightful visions of hiking through the glorious Berkshires with my dog at my side. My lungs could almost taste the country air. I knew nothing more than I had a campsite and I wanted to see that waterfall. Surely that was enough for the perfect spontaneous solo adventure. Surely.

As you’ve probably guessed, it didn’t quite work out as planned.

The plan was to rise at a decent hour on Saturday (say, 8 or 8:30), pack up and go. ETA at campsite – noonish. Perfect timing to unpack then get a hike in before dinner. Early to bed, then up early for another hike, then back home to Boston in time to do the dishes, do some laundry, cook dinner, and get ready for the work week.

The reality: at 7:01 AM on Saturday, the construction workers outside my apartment fired up their hammers and saws, and Sadie leapt onto the bed to poke me, so I took her outside, fed her, and around 7:30, dropped back into bed for what I figured would be a few more minutes of sleep.

2.5 hours later, I woke luxuriously (yes, friends with kids, I know, go ahead and hate me), and glanced in horror at the clock. Cue the accelerated packing.

We were on the road by 11:08, only a couple of hours behind. No biggie, right? As we headed west under a gloomy sky, I started to feel a little nervous about the idea of camping in the middle of nowhere by myself. Strangely, I was more worried about the scenario where I was the only loser in the campground, the rangers giving heavy sighs when they looked up from their card games and saw me, than I was about being in a crowded campground with a bunch of strangers.

And there was traffic. So much traffic. It added at least an hour to what should have been a 2.5 hour drive.

Somewhere in this traffic, I realized that I’d forgotten my first aid kit, extra batteries for my headlamp, and my pocket knife (see previous accelerated packing), all must-haves for a girl (or anyone) hiking alone, so I decided to detour to the nearest suburb with big box stores. At Walmart, I discovered a Coinstar (I’d been meaning to cash in those dimes sitting in a tupperware container in the backseat of my car for weeks now!), and then raced over to Eastern Mountain sports to get a knife and a first aid kit. Thus equipped (and $30 richer), I headed back down the state, just a tantalizing hour away from the campground.

Keep in mind that my long-suffering dog, who hates the car with the fire of a thousand suns, was strapped in the back whining her version of “are we there yet?”

But finally, we arrived at the campground, a lovely, normal place, with lovely, normal people camping there, and my nervousness faded away. For a few minutes, I basked in the fun of putting up my tent, noting the red dust still clinging to it from Utah, and then I just sat for a few minutes more, watching the light filter through the trees and thinking I would be perfectly content to just stay this way for the rest of the night.

IMG_0847

However, our late arrival meant two things: 1) we hadn’t hiked anywhere yet, and 2) I had nothing but a PB&J sandwich for dinner.

We half-heartedly wandered the park a little, but really, I just wanted to sit, so we went back and I did and I read a little more of the Tradd Street book, which is quite good, if a bit predictable. And then, remember those normal folks camping nearby? Yeah, they included 4 dudes in 2 pickup trucks with music blasting, which kind of killed my zen.

Back into the car we went, and we headed north to see if any of the cute Berkshire towns had good takeout. Short answer – they don’t, or at least not the ones I visited. Each new idea I had for the evening got negated: oh, maybe I can sit on that beach for a while. Nope, no dogs allowed. Oh, how about we drive to the top of Mt. Greylock to watch the sunset? Nope, it’s more than an hour away. Despite all this, we took a lovely stroll through the town of Stockbridge, met some nice folks, growled at the lion statue outside the Red Lion Inn (Sadie, not me), and eventually wound up at a country store that had, naturally, JUST stopped serving sandwiches.

It’s worth pointing out at this juncture, particularly for those who live outside of New England, that even though MA is a small state, it takes forever to drive to places in the Berkshires – all those small country roads. So my campsite in the “western mass region” was pretty far to the east and nearly at the Connecticut border; thus all the driving.

A box of crackers and some chicken salad procured for dinner, we headed back in the fading sunshine. As we made our camp that night – the first time Sadie and I had ever camped out – I kid you not, somewhere nearby was shooting off fireworks. Sadie sat on me for a bit in terror, but they eventually subsided, and I fell asleep to the fading sounds of campfires crackling and car doors slamming and people settling in for the night.

I only woke a couple of times in the night – typical for me when camping – once at 3:12 am, and figured I’d catch another couple of hours and then be up and head out to Bash Bish, because, by god, at least I’d get that part of the trip right.

At 6:15am, I startled awake to the song of birds all around and Sadie snoring at my feet. That was pretty cool.

IMG_0851We hustled to pack up and headed out on what promised to be a lovely day – blue skies, a breeze, not too hot. In other words, perfect New England summer weather. I was mentally setting up my camera for the photo shoot that would come once we reached the waterfall, and we would be early, so the crowds would be light.

It took just over an hour to get to the state park housing Bash Bish Falls, and as I pulled up to the parking lot, I noticed that it was empty, and there were orange cones everywhere. Uh oh. A grim-faced ranger asked where I was going, and I said “well…maybe I’m in the wrong place?”

“If you’re going to the falls,” he said. “It’s all closed. They’re in search and rescue…er…recovery mode. Someone fell.” You could see on his face that it was bad, very bad. And just like that I could imagine the whole scenario – all the SAR folks, the family, the friends. I was glad I was wearing sunglasses so the ranger couldn’t see my eyes well up.

I turned around and left, and found a parking lot where I could google, and sure enough, a 21-year-old man went missing Friday night, and they still hadn’t found him as of Sunday morning. Ugh. How terrible.

Update: it’s now late Sunday night, and they found his body.

At this point, I couldn’t even be mad…all I could do was just shake my head and officially give up on my perfect Western Mass adventure. Sadie and I found a paved railroad trail to stroll along, because I had to get her some exercise before forcing her back into the car to go home. The good news was a nice couple told us it was ok to have her off leash, so she got to run a little bit, but that’s a long way to come to Western Mass to walk your dog on a flat paved trail for a few miles.

IMG_0855

And here’s the thing that gets me – the young man fell from the falls Friday night. I spent the whole weekend clueless to the whole drama. Those poor rescue folks were out there for 2 days looking for him while I was driving around and sitting around and generally taking up space with no purpose in mind. So of course I can’t be upset about my weird, nothing of a weekend. Clearly, there were other, bigger things going on in the southwest corner of my state.

On the plus side, I got over my nervousness at solo camping. Sadie and I figured out how to share a tent. I got lots of fresh non-city air. And, well, I have a new knife and first aid kit. Let’s hope I don’t have to use them anytime soon.

Advertisements

Great day hikes near Boston: Hiking Mt. Wachusett

Today, for the first time in a while, I feel a literal spring in my step. Also a metaphorical one. For weeks now, I have felt strangely weighed down, either by my actual body feeling stiff and creaky, or my head feeling clouded into inertia. I’m not a fan of this feeling, which is why it feels good to write this post.

19800921_10155267384366900_301138668355281219_o

The literal spring comes from my legs feeling like they finally got some use as I hiked up, down, and around Mt. Wachusett in Central Massachusetts this past weekend. More on the details of that hike can be found below, if you just came here for the hiking details and have no need to hear my philosophizing about life.

A lot of folks out there talk about the power of a detox – and I sort of feel like that’s what yesterday’s 4-hour hike was for me. It was a chance to worry about nothing more than a few immediate, real-time things:

Sucking in enough oxygen to keep climbing up;

Placing my shaky feet to avoid breaking an ankle on the way down;

Watching (and occasionally helping) my dog navigate her way down some pretty steep rocks;

Oh, and of course, letting the gorgeous blue/green colors of summer in New England wash over my pale, office-bound, city dweller’s body.

I didn’t take a lot of pictures, and failed at taking a panoramic photo (see the really long and skinny photo I posted here), proof that I probably shouldn’t even have taken out my phone as I enjoyed a nearly perfect summer New England Day.

We talk of hiking as therapy, and I guess, in my case, it’s true. I definitely felt like I’d hit the reset button on my soul this time around.

Now, for those who are interested, here are details of this hike.

Mt. Wachusett is the tallest mountain (just over 2000 feet) within a relatively short (just over an hour) drive from Boston. I have a hard time making the trip to NH (for Mt. Monadnock or the White Mountains) in a day, mostly because of how much my dog hates being in the car (plus I am SO BAD at getting up before the sun when I’m hiking solo), so finding something with a bit of elevation a little closer to home is always a bonus. I hiked this hill last year but took a relatively short route that left me feeling less than challenged. So this year I scoured the interwebs for other hikes and found a good one. Here’s an abbreviated description – I recommend getting a map of the Mt. Wachusett State Park so you can either follow this or find your own route. There was a whole box of them at the trailhead, or you can download it here.

From Boston, take Exit 25 (140 South) off of Route 2. Follow the signs to the Mt. Wachusett Ski Area. Avoid the first parking lot you see and turn right onto Bolton Road to the main Ski Area parking lot. Look for a light brown warehouse to the right of the main lodge. The trailhead is right next to it.

Your first leg is on Balance Rock Trail (yellow blazes). You will, after a relatively short and mild uphill hike, realize why it’s called Balance Rock trail.

19989307_10155267384456900_7323618517923795632_n

There are lots of rocks and roots on this entire hike, FYI, so be prepared.

A little way beyond Balance Rock you’ll come to an intersection – take the Old Indian Trail. This trail will cross a few other trails, and also a few (4) ski slopes, and one summit road, but basically, just stay on this trail as it’ll take you to the summit. It’s about 1.2 miles long. There are a few places that are fairly steep, but nothing truly difficult, although if it’s rained recently, there will be mud and the rocks could be slippery, so it’s worth proceeding carefully. This was my first real uphill in quite a while, so I stopped several times to…ahem…catch my breath, but the good news about this hike is that it’s never the same challenge for very long. If it gets steep, it’ll flatten out pretty soon. Unlike a hike into the Whites, for example, you’re not facing 3 miles of steady uphill until you get to the good stuff.

Right before you hit the summit you’ll come upon a ski lift platform with a lovely view of a lake – if one of the gondolas is open for lounging, take it, and remember that these summer days are what make the long, snowy winter bearable.

19748558_10155267384356900_1812068209957077918_n

Anyway, the good stuff on this hike is 360-degree summit views that on a clear day, will show you the Boston skyline, the Berkshires, and Mt. Monadnock. The summit is likely to be crowded unless you’re hiking really early, but the views are worth it. Definitely make sure you climb up to the viewing platform and snap some pictures of the prettiness. There are plenty of warm rocks to grab a snack and a drink on as you soak in the views.

19905176_10155267384421900_5369218534670045051_n

There are several options to get down from the summit. You could turn around and go back the way you came, but I’m a loop person, so I chose a different way down.

Harrington Trail, my way down, gets pretty steep and rocky. It reminded me a lot of coming down East Oceola in the White Mountains. There were a few times when my pooch watched me slide down a big rock on my butt and gave me a look as if to say “I’m not jumping that.” Dogs should be on leash in the park, but on the hike down, I did let Sadie off occasionally because it was simply safer for her and me to let her find her own way.

This trail heading down was significantly less crowded than the Indian Trail heading up, but it was also later in the day so that probably contributed to the relative peace and quiet. Anyway, Harrington Trail will cross two “roads” as it descends, and you want to take the 2nd one and head right. This is West Road, and it’s flat and goes on for a while. I was getting pretty zen at this point, so I don’t know the mileage, but I’d say it’s at least a mile or a mile and half before you reach the gate marking the end of the road.

There, you’ll turn right onto West Princeton Road, which is open to traffic, so be careful. You’ll stroll along here for a bit, and then you’ll want to take a right onto North Road, also marked by a gate. This road climbs a bit, but it’s gentle.

There will be an intersection relatively soon, and you want to take a left onto it. This is Balance Rock Road, and soon you will find yourself back at the intersection of Balance Rock Trail. Take a left onto the trail and head back past Balance Rock to the parking lot.

I read that this hike should take 5-6 hours and is rated moderate/difficult. I would say that, unless you are with kids, stopping frequently, and/or having a several course meal on the summit, it’s more like 4+ hours. The total mileage was about 6.25 miles. There are only two parts I would call “difficult”: one stretch of Indian Trail near the summit, and coming down Harrington Trail. Otherwise, this is a pretty easy/moderate hike, with the benefit of a lot of different terrains so you never get bored, and plenty of flat strolling that allows you to just zone out and enjoy being in the woods.

So if you can’t make it up to the White Mountains, this is a nice alternative. It’s not a 4,000 footer, but it’ll get your heart pumping and give your legs a little challenge.

If you do this hike, let me know what you think in the comments! Have a great day, everyone.

Random rainy Saturday musings

Lately, I’m pretty bored. Not because I don’t have work and activities going on…I do. But they aren’t really lighting up whatever region of my brain is supposed to light up when I’m thoroughly jazzed about the spin our home rock is doing around the sun.

This, of course, prompts my tendency to think deep thoughts about life, society, and where, if at all, I fit. Today I feel like writing some of these musings down, in no particular order and without any plan to resolve them. You’ve been warned.

So, it’s Saturday. A Saturday after a fairly long week, made longer by having a show last weekend. A show where I didn’t have much to do other than be present and show support for those around me who were working their butts off. Aside – this is called “management”, for those who’ve always wondered what managers do.

It’s Saturday, and rain is in the forecast. I woke up and immediately (well, more like after 30 minutes laying around in bed checking facebook) decided that Sadie and I need to get a walk in before the rain begins.

Interesting factoid: Since she came into my life 6 years ago, there have probably been fewer than 50 days in her life when Sadie hasn’t been walked by someone. That is remarkable, and represents some serous mileage.

One of the things I dearly love about my life…I can choose to walk the dog whenever I want, and I live in such a wonderful neighborhood in which to do it. I have walking/breakfast options of all kinds: short jaunts to Dunkin and the local pastry place, a slightly longer jaunt to the local co-op followed by eating by the pond, or, like today, a few miles round trip to my favorite, the Ula Cafe, where they have biscuits with sausage gravy that I’m only allowed to eat after I’ve run within the last 24 hours. Yum.

On said walks, I run in to all kinds of people: other dog owners, parents with kiddos, college kids, retired folks. Today, I think everyone had the same idea as me; get out for some exercise before the rains come.

I love being part of that bustle, but I also can’t help but feel that age-old sense of being alone in a crowd. I don’t know any of the people I pass. I don’t know their names. We don’t hang out. We might share a smile or a pat each other’s dogs, but they aren’t my friends. It’s a lonely feeling sometimes.

I came home to two boxes of cookies outside my door, with no idea why they were there. I noticed some by a neighbor’s door too, so maybe they came from our landlord? Weird. I left them out there. I’m not sure what to do with them.

It’s raining now, and I’m ensconced on the couch thinking that I should do some housecleaning before settling in for some movies/tv. This is another thing about my life that I (most of the time) love – more often than not, no one needs anything from me, so a Netflix binge is allowed and acceptable.

But once in a while, I wish there was someone here to need something from me.

As I tried to talk myself into doing the dishes, I came across a facebook post of a friend that included the words “parenting can be an isolating journey” and I had to pause for a second. Parenting is isolating? That panacea of procreation, that miracle that will give life meaning after long, cold years of living only for oneself? I thought being single/kid-free was the ultimate exercise in isolation.

Then I laughed at myself. Because such comparisons and generalizations are silly. Life can’t be put into such boxes. It simply doesn’t work that way. Sometimes, while alone, a person can feel totally fulfilled. Sometimes, surrounded by people, a person can feel completely isolated. That’s just how it is. That’s just being human.

And it’s a comfort to me, in a selfish way, that I’m not alone in feeling alone sometimes.

End random musings. I’m off to do those pesky dishes and put away the laundry that’s been sitting in the basket for two days. Have a lovely day, everyone.

Peak-bagging in the White Mountains

Living alone can be wonderful, empowering, freeing, fun.

It can also suck.

Like, for example, when you’ve just done something fairly epic and you have no one who is forced, by virtue of his/her being trapped in the same space as you, to listen to you retell the story, adding the occasional “wow” or “uh huh” at appropriate intervals. Dogs don’t count, because, well, they can’t speak.

Blogging just ain’t the same. But we humans are nothing if not practical and persistent, so I will use the tools I have and blog on, because, dammit, I want to tell someone about my Saturday hike in the White Mountains.

I don’t understand my recent obsession with hiking lately, but luckily, I am able to indulge such whims without it negatively impacting my, or anyone else’s life; after all, the laundry left languishing on the floor at home is mine alone. Sadie would probably argue that her life is negatively impacted, being that she’s often left behind when I embark on longer adventures, but, well, I will just have to accept that dog mom guilt. Because I’m pretty sure the tortuous 7 hours in the car would have erased any joy she’d have gotten from the 7 hours on the trail.

Anyway, I set out at around 5:45am, with a 2.5 hour drive ahead of me. Driving in Boston early on a weekend is bliss; I zipped through town and onto the highway. The sun was rising to my left, the harvest moon was setting to my right, mist was rising off of various ponds and rivers; it was magic, pure and simple. A wonderful start.

I-93 is so eerily familiar – I drove it a million times in my youth. It’s still a little weird to drive by exit 23 without my car automatically taking the exit…but it’s only a little bit weird. I feel pretty remote from that part of my life these days.

Anyway, I arrived at the Edmands trailhead around 9am and it was already fairly full of people. It was a beautiful late-summer-not-quite-fall day, and I set off with a spring in my step.

A little background for those unfamiliar with the Whites: there are 48 “4,000 footers” up there, and those tall (for us East Coasters, at least) hills have been calling to expert and would-be hikers for hundreds of years. I was headed for Mt. Eisenhower, which according to most articles, is one of the more “moderate” 4,000 footers, because, well, I’m still building up my fitness and skill for difficult mountains. If I felt good when I got up there, I planned to bag Mt. Pierce, as well, about 500 feet lower and a mile and a half away, and then loop back on the Crawford trail.

This is the 2nd time now that I’ve been lulled into the idea of “moderate” by a White Mountain (the other time can be revisited here). And objectively, it wasn’t like I was scaling a vertical cliff. Nope, the first three miles were just…up. Sometimes mildly up, sometimes more severely, but unrelentingly, steadily UP. There were no switchbacks. The trail showed a lot of use, which meant it was full of roots and boulders and mud and so I trudged, waaaay slower than I’d hoped, up the first couple of miles. I stopped a lot. I was passed more than a few times, and I’ve gotta admit, with no one to talk to other than the occasional fellow hiker, I was a little bored.

But eventually, I passed a trio of older hikers who informed me we were 500 feet from something (I didn’t catch what we were supposedly heading to) and that put some life into my legs. And finally, I saw a hiker ahead of me get out his camera. Yes!

We emerged to a brief view of the brilliant blue-green that is the signature of the White Mountains. I saw no evidence of changing leaves, by the way.

img_9550

And then, I turned back to the trail and blinked. Gone was the boring woodsy upslope – instead I faced a cliff of wet, black rock. It’s a sign of how I’ve changed that I said to myself “FINALLY! Something fun to tackle!” and up I went, slowly as always, but grinning nonetheless.

After I cleared the slippery rocks, I found myself on a flat ! trail that was clearly winding around something…and that went on for a bit. There was a slightly hairy place where I was stepping over boulders that were part of some kind of rock slide, completely exposed and at the mercy of a fairly steep cliff to the right. I wished for hiking poles in that moment. A few more big boulders to scale and then I reached the junction of Edmands Path and the trail to Mt. Eisenhower’s summit, which looked pretty steep from where I stood.

img_9552

However, there were a few dozen hikers at the junction, and they were loud and chatty, so I lit out for the top of Mt. Eisenhower pretty quickly. It was a short trek up, about half a mile, and not nearly as hard as I’d thought; just some scrambling and long rock faces. I saw this view along the way…I mean…come on.

img_9559

And then, the summit, marked by a huge cairn and 360 views of the mountains, including Mount Washington, the highest peak in the Northeast, just two peaks away, looking tantalizingly inviting. The weather was completely perfect, which is saying something at a place where it (the weather) has killed people when it’s bad. But not today, it was sunny and windy but not too cold. So, so, so gorgeous.

img_9554

One sandwich and a bunch of water later, the gaggle of loud hikers had reached the summit, and I layered up and prepared to head down the mountain and on to Mt. Pierce. The trek down was as fun as coming up, with some helpful wooden ladders dropped in occasionally when things got too steep.

img_9557When I reached the bottom of Mt. Eisenhower, I found myself at a crossroads and had to get my map out. I set off along the Appalachian Trail (also known as Crawford Path), and had one of those moments that the chronically directionally-challenged among you will understand – even though I’d checked the map 17 times and confirmed with a passing hiker that I was indeed heading to Mt. Pierce, I still had that niggling fear that I could possibly be going the wrong way. So out came the map again, and this time I even got out my compass, confirmed that Southwest was the direction I wanted, and continued on my way.

Crossing the ridge between Eisenhower and Pierce was wonderful. Gorgeous views, easy hills. The biggest adventure on this stretch was remembering how to use the bathroom in the woods, which I’m happy to say I achieved without incident.

img_9558

Mt. Pierce was full of lovely views, too, but by this point, about mile 6 into the hike, my feet were starting to hurt, and I was feeling tremendous dog mom guilt, so I didn’t linger, and headed down Crawford Path, which is, for those who care, the oldest continually in-use trail in America. This path was basically a reverse of the Edmands path – a long, rocky, muddy slog through the woods that, I’ll admit, sort of kicked my butt. I’m pretty sure that every muscle in my legs rioted on me at least once on the trek down. I might have whimpered once or twice as the 3-mile trail seemed to go on FOREVER. It was also crowded, and several times I encountered lithe, gorgeous teenagers hauling giant boxes of supplies up to one of the huts, which of course made me feel totally lame for being tired.

However, I did reach the bottom eventually, only to have another 2 miles of road to trek before I got back to my car. I passed one couple who were talking about how much they couldn’t wait to take off their boots (YES!) and another group who asked me if they looked as bedraggled as I did (NO, they looked positively chipper…bastards). Despite my niggling fear that I’d again taken a wrong turn (even with multiple map checks), I did eventually make it back to my car, where I might have collapsed on the hood for a moment or two before violently tearing off my shoes and socks and nearly weeping in relief.

Then it was the drive home, which was made nearly 1.5 hours longer by traffic and other nonsense coming in to the city. By this point, the dog mom guilt was at its peak, but Sadie, the awesome pooch that she is, had not peed in the house and was super glad to see me.

However, going down the stairs to let her out that night, and the next morning, and the next night…yeah…ouch.

So, all in all, a good adventure. Can’t wait to get back up there and bag some more 4,000 footers. Thanks for reading and hopefully adding your nods and “uh-huh”s at the proper intervals.

PS: Summiting more than one peak is called, appropriately, peak-bagging, and it’s cool to say you’ve done it. I won’t lie.

 

Meteoric thoughts

As I write this, the sun hasn’t yet come up, and I’ve been awake for two hours. Willingly. Well, mostly willingly, at any rate. This is wrong on so many levels.

And right on some others.

My social media (and traditional media, too) has been filled with the Perseid Meteor shower for the past few weeks, and if you listened to the hype, you’d think that there would have been stargazing parties everywhere in the wee hours this morning, the so-called “peak” of the shower.

You’d be wrong. At least in my corner of Boston. No one was out watching the meteors. They were sleeping like sensible people.

But I’d committed. I’d set an alarm, hauled my bleary-eyed self out of bed, and determined that the cloud cover wasn’t too bad, so I was determined to see it through.

I’m aware that living in Boston, there’s lots of nasty night pollution, so Sadie and I hopped in the car and drove a few miles out of town to one of our favorite parks, built atop a landfill, actually, but with a big open field and parking close enough to the field that I felt I could escape with my life if I was threatened by marauding meanies just looking to attack random people in an isolated city park at 3:30 am. For the record, I was completely alone and safe – more on that later.

Anyway, as insects hummed and a little breeze stirred the incredibly soupy air, I spread out a blanket and looked up.

Everything I’d read said it would take a while for my eyes to adjust to the dark, and I have to admit that it really wasn’t that dark to begin with. There was low cloud cover ringing my field of view, and so the sky was actually pretty light. But I could see stars, some of my favorite constellations, and I did see meteors. Maybe 10-12 of them over the space of an hour or so.

Not the shower of magical streaks I’d hoped for (clouds, ambient light, and I should have been out around 1am instead of 3:30), but enough to prompt all of the existential thoughts that you’d expect of an introspective girl alone in a field, stargazing.

Thoughts about how long 20 minutes is when you’re doing nothing but staring at the sky.

Thoughts of how hard it is to just stare at the sky and not think.

Hamilton lyrics. Always, always, Hamilton lyrics these days.

Thoughts about how my field of vision, even when directed upward with total focus and clarity, can’t come close to seeing the whole sky. At least 75% of my meteor sightings were outside of my direct field of vision; just a streak of light that vanished before I could look directly at it. Teasing me as if to say “You sure about that? You sure?” (that’s a metaphor for life and business, in case I didn’t make that clear).

Thoughts about fear, and how fear kept me from completely relaxing, because even though I knew I was totally alone, and I knew I had a dog next to me, and a pocket knife at hand, and a phone that could dial 911 in moment, I have been taught that I should be afraid because I’m a woman alone in a park in the dark. That’s kind of crappy, but it didn’t stop me, which I think is kind of cool.

Yummy thoughts about the last time I stargazed for real, more than 20 YEARS ago, lying next to my first college boyfriend, on a hill on a chilly early winter Maine night. We had our first kiss that night. I remember it was awkward, but the memory is also sweet and romantic and delicious.

Thoughts about why didn’t I choose to be an astronomer? (that would have required math and science courses, obviously) and how the hell did early explorers make sense of the stars enough to make sure they didn’t fall off the edges of the earth? Answer: math and science.

Thoughts about what the sky is going to look like next weekend when I’m as far from city lights as I can get, high up in the mountains of Utah and Wyoming. Eeeeek. I can’t wait. I feel like my 8-year-old self counting the days until Disney World, when 7 days feels like, literally, FOREVER.

Thoughts about where I belong in the world, where I’m going in life, how much I wished I had a bagel and some tea. You know, the important stuff.

Anyway, it’s now light outside my window, and I’m pondering heading back to sleep for an hour since I have to, you know, be an adult and a boss for one more day before the glorious weekend arrives.

It occurs to me that very little of this morning was about actually seeing meteors. I guess that’s the wonder of stargazing; it’s really not about the stars at all. It’s about us, and if we have the guts look up, feel small, and think all the thoughts.