Solo Snaps: A rainbow in a Virginia swamp

Welcome to a new series I’m calling “Solo Snaps”, exploring some of my favorite photos, their stories, and the musings on being solo that came with them. Click here if you’d like to know more. 

It was January 26. For weeks, I’d been fighting a persistent cough and annoying lethargy; I was starting to think that my body was in revolt after I put it through a fairly stressful last half of 2018. The beautiful treks of the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, my last real hiking experience, seemed far away and out of reach. I needed to get into the woods, and the sun was out that day. So I stocked up on tissues and headed into First Landing State Park with my dog, Sadie.

The trails in this swampy, sandy park are flat, which means that they get a lot of use. It seemed like everyone was out that day, and I enjoyed the smiles and nods of the passersby as Sadie and I stretched our legs with more miles than we’d done in a while. We did enough distance that I counted the hike as hike 36 of my #52hikechallenge, which is now in its 2nd year.

Right around mile 4 of our 5.5 mile loop, we hit a long, flat, wide, and usually dull section of the Cape Henry Trail. Runners and bikers started to replace walkers and hikers. As Sadie and I strolled along, I caught a shimmer of something purple-ish out of the corner of my eye. I gave it no thought other than to figure it was my polarized sunglasses filtering the light. Then something blue flashed, and I slowed down and looked into the swamp, lifting my sunglasses to be sure I wasn’t dreaming it.

This is what I saw.

IMG_0909Not much to write home about, right? But then I remembered an article I’d read weeks before about some kind of rainbow in a swamp. Since this was a swamp, and that appeared to be a rainbow, I looked closer, and kept walking.

Soon, I came upon this:

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Hold the phone. This was for real. I looked around; a couple was walking by, engrossed in conversation, and I made some kind of vague, stunned gesture at them to try to get them to look, but they just rambled past. I walked a few more feet, and then…there it was:

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A perfect rainbow…on the swamp. In..or on? the water. All of the colors. Laid out like something from a daydream. I turned again to look for someone to tell, but all I saw was a biker zooming by without a glance. I held up my phone and snapped, looked at the result, and then snapped again, because I was convinced it wasn’t real. I even took a video so I could prove to myself there were no filters involved.

At the beginning of this hike, I’d started at a new trailhead, and within the first few steps, came upon a hollowed-out tree with a gaping hole shaped like a perfect heart. As Valentine’s Day was looming, I rolled my eyes at the universe for taunting me with such symbolic reminders of my singledom, and then promptly forgot about it.

4-ish miles later, I stood gazing at this rainbow swamp that no one else seemed to see, gawking, taking pictures and wistfully wishing someone other than my unappreciative dog was with me. Then something happened.

I decided to take it all for myself. I drank in the otherworldly colors and stopped looking for someone to share it with. It became a sign meant just for me: the universe reminding me that even though I’m far from the mountains, there are still magical things to be seen in the woods, that I can see just fine on my own. Others may have seen the rainbow that day, but for just a moment, all that glorious magic was all mine.

The last mile of our hike went by quickly as we headed for the car; I couldn’t wait to read more about what caused the rainbow. Turns out it has to do with chemicals in the water, and a lack of wind that causes them to build up and refract the light…that’s about as far as I got in my research. Others saw this phenomenon before me, in other swamps; they even became Reddit famous, I discovered.

But none of that matters. I was there, I saw it, and I enjoyed the heck out of sharing it later. And I hope you enjoyed looking at it now. Unless you come visit me in Virginia, and it happens to be 2:45 on a windless day in January, and the chemicals are just right, it’s not something you’re likely to see in real life. So yeah, I’m bragging a little. That’s what’s happens when the universe manufactures a rainbow just for me.

NOTE: The photos above were taken with my I Phone 7. I didn’t edit or crop them, as I normally would; I wanted them to be as close to my memory as possible.

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Why can’t it be Scout’s story?

Let’s start with one clear, unalienable truth: I love Aaron Sorkin’s writing.

I love SportsNight, A Few Good Men, Studio 60, and of course, The West Wing Seasons 1-4. I haven’t seen The Social Network, The Farnsworth Invention, or Steve Jobs, but I’m sure I’d love them. I mean, this is how much I love Aaron Sorkin’s writing: when I am re-watching The West Wing, which I have done many, many times, I find myself falling into Sorkin-esque speech patterns, so much that I have to stop myself lest my friends think I’m a pompous erudite with way too high an opinion of myself, like so many Sorkin characters. When I heard he was going to write To Kill a Mockingbird for Broadway, I was thrilled.

101032-11And then, I read this article. In his lovely, self-deprecating way, Sorkin talks about how terrifying and difficult it was to write the play, for all the reasons you’d expect when you’re trying to remake something that never asked to be remade because it was epic all on its own. He describes the moment when he figured out how to do it – he decided that Atticus Finch needed to be a protagonist of the story.

I haven’t read the book in a while. After I finish my current book, I’m going to. Because all I remember about it is that it was Scout’s story, and her dad, Atticus, was almost too perfectly heroic. I’m pretty sure that wasn’t an accident on Harper Lee’s part.

So when I read that Atticus needed to go on a journey that he didn’t take in the book, at first, I said “ok, sure, that’s storytelling 101.” And then, Sorkin wrote a couple of casual, almost flippant sentences that made something uneasy creep into my stomach.

In the book, Atticus isn’t the protagonist — Scout is. Faced with the brutal realities of the Jim Crow South, Scout loses some of her innocence. Her flaw is that she’s young. But for the play, I didn’t want Scout (or Jem or Dill) to be the only protagonist.

Later that day, I was walking my dog through the neighborhood. Apparently the article was in my subconscious, because suddenly, I stopped walking and said to myself:

WHY THE HECK CAN’T IT BE ALL ABOUT SCOUT? WHY DOES IT HAVE TO BE ABOUT ATTICUS (OR JEM OR DILL)?

As I’ve done all my life when experiencing such feminist flareups, I shoved it away as being “too reactionary.” And then, I stopped myself, and allowed myself to really think about it: Why can’t it be Scout’s story? I would LOVE to see what Aaron Sorkin would do with this story, framed by the innocence of a child, in today’s America. Why can’t he write that?

I don’t know the answer, and I’m not going to pretend to try. It’s a free country, and Sorkin can write whatever he wants and I will definitely go see it, and likely be swept away by his words and storytelling.

But I’m not ignoring that little voice that stopped me in my tracks.

It’s the same voice that popped up when I first heard the Hamilton soundtrack, and despite how much I adored it, wondered if the women had anything to do other than be in love with their men.

It’s the same voice that wishes Lin-Manuel Miranda had chosen to cast one of the founding fathers as a girl in drag. He broke tons of barriers with that show, so why not that one?

It’s the same voice that wished the Fellowship of the Ring had included a couple of Female Fellows.

It’s the same voice that has made me always want to play the role of Enjolras in Les Misérables, (other than that brief phase where I was convinced I was Eponine), or at least see some fabulous female play it.

It’s the same voice that wonders what the impact would have been if J. K. Rowling had created Hannah Potter, the Girl who Lived.

Today, also while out walking my dog, that voice piped up with the perfect encapsulating question. Aaron Sorkin begins his essay by sharing that a famous Broadway producer called him when he got the Broadway rights for To Kill A Mockingbird, and asked Sorkin if he wanted to write it. If we’re being honest, we all know that producer was not going to call any of the young, brilliant, not-famous playwrights out there today. He was going to call one of the best and most beloved writers of our age. I get that.

So why didn’t he call Shonda Rhimes? Now that’s a play I’d like to go see.

 

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.

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.

JP Fog sunset 2018 (1 of 5)JP Fog sunset 2018 (2 of 5)JP Fog sunset 2018 (3 of 5)JP Fog sunset 2018 (4 of 5)JP Fog sunset 2018 (5 of 5)

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.