stuck in a moment: a morning walk at little difficult run stream valley park

Saturday, October 22:  This Saturday morning in late October, a walk in the woods.  It’s been Indian summer and the leaves have been slow to change. Things feel muted, quiet, not jubilant, not exciting.  Dull, quiet, intractable.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

Last October, I was excited to be back home in Virginia after my year in China. I looked forward to spending more time with my family. Now, a year later, I’ve lost my enthusiasm. I came home hoping to spend time with my kids, but alas, they are growing up, slowly, and growing away.  I came home to spend time with Mike, but alas, he is working long hours and on weekends doesn’t have the level of energy or wanderlust I have.

Last year, Mike and I went to Chincoteague for my birthday, October 25, and to Antietam for our anniversary on November 13, but this year he’s been inundated with work and we are combining my birthday and our anniversary by going the first weekend in November to Fayetteville, West Virginia to see the supposedly beautiful Babcock State Park and the New River Gorge. We had a wonderful time in Iceland and we renovated our house this year.  All of these things I should be happy about. I am pleased about these things, but it’s not enough. Something is missing — a sense of purpose, a sense of moving forward, a sense that I’m not bogged down in stagnation.  A sense of love, belonging, acceptance.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

I look around me at an America that is teetering on the edge.  I fear that instead of progressing in our values, we’re going backwards.  I’m afraid that the upcoming election could be the start of regressing to 1950 or before.  I look around me and see nearly half of all my fellow countrymen full of hatred and fear and anger.  I am uneasy and anxious.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

I am carefully considering whether go abroad again.  When I go abroad, I meet people of all nationalities who are generally more open-minded than many Americans.  I learn that most people are not that much different than I am.  I learn that though cultures may vary, people are the same.  They want justice, fairness, love and success. They want opportunity and acceptance for who they are.  They want to participate in the wealth the world has to offer.  They don’t want to be struggling to put food on the table.  They want to be happy.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

No matter how much I try to escape it, the old reverse culture shock is kicking in.  I’ve talked about this phenomenon before, upon returning home from abroad, that uncomfortable and disoriented feeling you get when you don’t quite fit back into your own country after spending an extended amount of time abroad.  Though at first I was happy to be back, that old feeling is creeping in. I try to shake it off, to ignore it.  I’ve tried to assimilate, to melt back into America.  But I can’t quite do it.  I feel acutely the need to escape.  Wanderlust is like a genie dancing before me, enticing me back out into the world at large.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

I need a purpose.  I need adventure.  I need to have like-minded, progressive people around me.  I have been waiting until our disgraceful election is over, then I’ll be making my decision.  Leave or stay?

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

This October has been the worst one I’ve ever had, as far as my outlook, my mood.  Usually, I love the fall.  I love the freedom, the change that is promised with cool crisp air and the bright burst of color in the leaves.  But this year, I just feel trapped, bogged down, frustrated.

I don’t have a complaint about the people in my family except that their lives go on without much understanding of how I feel.  Maybe it’s because I try to put a smile on my face and pretend I’m fitting in. But inside, I don’t really feel that.

I think whatever feelings you have in life, they’re bound to rear their heads and make themselves known.  No matter how much you try to put a lid on them, to deny them, they sit percolating beneath the surface.  I just love it (not!) when well-intentioned people say, Get a job!  Get a hobby!  I have tried to find a job to no avail, and I occupy myself with writing (my blog, a memoir), daily walks, and cooking.  These are solitary pursuits.  I need to get out and interact with people and have a purpose and an adventure.  I don’t want to volunteer my time at this point in my life, as I have experience to offer that I should get paid for!  My hobbies — travel, writing, photography — all call out to me. They’re intertwined, my three loves, and they’re beckoning me, as a package.  I find it dull doing one without the others.

I’m lucky to have a good husband who will support my dreams.  He will support them, but of course he really doesn’t want me to go.  This means I’ll feel guilty, as if I’m abandoning him.  I feel bad that he might be lonely while I’m away.  But he has his hobbies too, and he can do them perfectly well without me: biking, watching sports, and of course, work; though it’s not a hobby, it’s a time-consuming activity nonetheless.

Mike at Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Mike at Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

I’m reading a cute Swedish book, A Man Called Ove, by Fredrik Backman. In the book, 59-year-old Ove is informed at work that they are “retiring the older generation.” Suddenly, he’s not a person, but a “generation!” Ove is a curmudgeon, that’s for sure.  But he speaks some truth when he thinks, later in the book, “This was a world where one became outdated before one’s time was up.”

I’ve talked to many people of my generation who are not seen, not heard.  I want to be seen as a person who can contribute, not a burden, not a has-been!  I often think back to the disheartening time when I faithfully applied for 250 jobs, every day for a year, only to never hear anything back.  At that time I had just completed my Master’s degree at age 52.  Now, though I haphazardly apply for jobs, my heart isn’t into going through all that hassle for no return!  Especially now that I’m 61.  I have the best chance of finding something abroad, although I know I’ve aged out in many places.  But at least I know I have a better chance of finding a job in some far-flung place than in the “land of opportunity!”

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

I’m waiting.  After November 9, I’ll decide whether to begin a search in earnest either here or abroad.  I’m not ready to call it quits yet.

Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park
Little Difficult Run Stream Valley Park

You can find my previous post from 2013 about this trail at: a weekend of indian summer & work, & a little walk in nature.

weekly photo challenge: earth

Saturday, May 7:  The Weekly Photo Challenge: Earth invites us to share: On this day, between the global Earth Day celebration, and Mother’s Day in the United States, share your vision of our glorious Mother Earth.

To celebrate the earth, here’s a walk among the skunk cabbage carpeting the Difficult Run Stream Valley along the Fairfax Country Cross-County Trail.

skunk cabbage
skunk cabbage

Skunk cabbage is a flowering perennial that is one of the first plants to emerge in spring, especially in woodlands, wetlands and near streams.

The Difficult Run stream
The Difficult Run stream

Apparently, skunk cabbage gets its name from the unpleasant odor it emanates.  The scent attracts pollinators that are attracted to rotting meat.

I do have to say I didn’t smell anything unpleasant on our walk. 🙂

skunk cabbage galore
skunk cabbage galore

It’s amazing how the earth is a living, breathing system that abides on its own terms, beyond our understanding.

Difficult Run
Difficult Run
Skunk cabbage and tree branches
Skunk cabbage and tree branches

Happy Earth Day and Mother’s Day! 🙂

weekly photo challenge: layers

Sunday, November 17:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge is layers: Layers can reveal, conceal, and make something more complex. They can vary in size, texture, color, or functionality. Each layer can have its own story, meaning, or purpose. They can overlap, blend, or be distinctly separate. A layer doesn’t have to be a part of a single object but can even be a slice of a multifaceted image or scene.

Here are some layers I found this weekend on the Difficult Run stream feeder trails and the Fairfax Cross County Trail.  The world is looking browner these days; it won’t be long before it turns a hundred shades of gray.

layers of groundcover
layers of groundcover: I think it’s pachysandra 🙂
layers of colorful but dying leaves
layers of colorful but dying leaves
layers of brown
layers of brown
layer of a pine cone with layers of forest behind
layer of a pine cone with layers of forest behind
layers of roots
layers of roots
layers of dead leaves
layers of dead leaves
layers of leaves and ferns
layers of leaves and ferns
layers of leaves and rocks
layers of leaves and rocks
layers of dried grasses
layers of dried grasses
layers of moss-covered logs, plants and leaves
layers of moss-covered logs, plants and leaves
layers of leaves
layers of leaves

weekly photo challenge: infinite

Tuesday, October 15:  The WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge for this week is Infinite.  Writes Ben Huberman: We continue to encounter these moments of wonder as adults, too, when the infinite catches us by surprise. We stumble upon it in things both big and small: on the beach, staring into the horizon; in the depth of a loved one’s eyes; or even drowning in the emptiness of a Berlin subway car.

IN A NEW POST CREATED FOR THIS CHALLENGE, SHARE A PHOTO THAT SHOWS US A GLIMPSE OF THE INFINITE.

Infinity can produce contrasting effects on (and in) us: it might make us feel dwarfed or amplified, afraid or empowered. It might take the form of a wide panorama or a zoomed-in fraction of an object. A starry sky? A sea of commuters on a train platform? Rows of corn in a field? No pun intended, but the possibilities really are endless.

Infinite leaves on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
Infinite leaves on the Fairfax Cross County Trail
Infinite leaves and trees
Infinite leaves and trees
Infinite leaves
Infinite leaves
Infinite Torii gates in Kyoto, Japan
Infinite Torii gates in Kyoto, Japan
Infinite torii gates in Kyoto
Infinite torii gates in Kyoto
Infinite lotus blossoms at the Summer Palace in Beijing
Infinite lotus blossoms at the Summer Palace in Beijing
infinite arches in Cordoba's Mezquita
infinite arches in Cordoba’s Mezquita
Boseong Tea Plantations in South Korea
Boseong Tea Plantations in South Korea
Suncheon Ecological Bay in South Korea
Suncheon Ecological Bay in South Korea

a weekend of indian summer & work, & a little walk in nature

Sunday, October 6:  The first weekend in my favorite month of October was marred by a lingering Indian summer and all-encompassing work because of midterms this week.

starting out in the evening
starting out in the evening

High humidity and temperatures in the high 80s are not exactly hiking weather, in my eyes.  No matter, I hardly had time to hike, because nearly every minute of the weekend was taken with work.  I did manage to carve out a little time to take two brisk morning walks in the neighborhood, to shop for some new (& bigger) jeans 😦 , and on Saturday night, to go to out Mom’s Organic Market for a quick dinner followed by the thriller Prisoners at the Angelika Film Center at the Mosaic District in Merrifield with Mike and Alex.

The Cross County Trail of Fairfax
The Cross County Trail of Fairfax

This evening, I was able to snatch an hour out of what was left of the weekend to go for a lovely walk along a small bit of the 40-mile long Cross County Trail (CCT) of Fairfax County, Virginia, starting in the middle of Oakton at Gabrielson Gardens Park.  The trail connects the entire county from one end to the other, over hill and vale, and through streams, meadows and urbanized landscapes (Fairfax County: The Cross County Trail).

Click on any of the images below for a full-sized slide show.

It was relaxing to walk outside and get a bit of fresh air, though it was still humid.  I could see little tinges of fall in the leaves on the path and in the stream, as well as some yellow bits on the trees.  Thank goodness a cold front is moving in tomorrow. 🙂