There’s ragu simmering on the stovetop and I’m back to my regular spot at the kitchen table, beer in hand, the place where I sit to think and to write in the fall and winter months. Sometimes I think that I get my best writing done when the weather turns cool. Maybe it’s the shortening daylight (only 6:30 and already dark!), maybe it’s the desire to retreat, hunker down, put on my slippers and a long sweater and sink in.
And so, back to writing it is!
Despite not posting a ton of content here lately, I think about this blog a lot. I have dozens of ideas for posts, a whole bunch of drafts and half-written things, and dreams of a grand return to blogging. At one point I was tempted to challenge myself to write a post every day for a month (who knows, it could still happen!)
In the meantime, we’ll start here, with a monthly recap. It’s my intention to start doing this every month, to put out a post that rounds up all the little things that I want to share: weekend trips and my latest hikes, what I’m reading/watching/listening to, the things I’m writing and the photographs I’m taking.
It feels like I’m always saying something like- “I can’t believe it’s ** already!”. Wasn’t I just saying that about the end of summer, or the month of September? But now we’re at the end of October and in some ways it still feels like spring. I’ve said this before and I’m still feeling it: it’s as if COVID froze time, as though it were still spring or that it’s one long extension of a very strange season, and that life- real life- won’t begin again until this virus is somewhere behind us.
It feels this way, and yet, life goes on. Real life, as strange as it is, is right now. And October was full of some good things!
I went on a couple notable weekend trips this month: up to the Adirondacks of New York, and out to the Pine Creek Gorge (often called the “Grand Canyon of PA”) in north-central Pennsylvania. Both trips involved hiking and finding good food and lots of time outside. Plus a chance to soak up the beautiful fall foliage! I think each trip caught the tail end of peak foliage, but even under overcast skies, the landscape was stunning. I might not love cold weather, but I still really appreciate living in a place that has four, distinct seasons.
Moxham Mountain (near North Creek, NY), a 5.5 mile hike featuring expansive lookouts over the Hudson Valley and the Adirondack mountains. There were so many scenic viewpoints and the climb up was gradual/steady, and never very steep. I loved it!
Mt. Joy & Mt. Misery, Valley Forge National Park, PA, 6.5 miles: my local Camino group met for the first time since February. The group limit was capped at 10 and we all wore masks throughout the hike (it was easier than I thought it would be! Sometimes when I was a bit out of breath on an uphill section I’d pull my mask down but for the majority of the hike kept it on). Our leader for the day took us on a great loop through the park, including a section on a ‘border trail’ that’s not marked on any of the official maps. Valley Forge can get busy, especially on weekends, but once we got into the woods the people thinned out and it seemed like we had the trees to ourselves. And it was so good to see some of my Camino buddies, and be in a small group again. I was a little nervous heading into the gathering but a hike in the woods- with masks and social distancing- felt safe and good.
Great Falls Loop, Ricketts Glen State Park, PA, 4 miles: On my way to north-central PA to meet my sister for the weekend, I stopped by Ricketts Glen State Park, known for it’s waterfalls. I’d heard of the park before but had never made the trip- now I’m wondering what’s taken me so long! (like so many others, it’s taken the pandemic to get me exploring more in my own backyard). The 4-mile loop wound past 17 waterfalls- 17!! Just when I thought it couldn’t get better, it did. With dappled sunlight and leaves fluttering down from the trees, it was truly a perfect fall hike. (There’s a longer waterfall loop hike- about 7 miles- but if you park in the Lake Rose lot it’s possible to do a shorter loop and still see all- or nearly all- of the waterfalls).
It’s taking me forever, but I’m loving Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle‘. I was reading a ton in late spring/summer, but now that I’m back to work in a school, my energy is sapped at the end of the day. But I’m determined to finish and then start on some of my current library requests: on the docket is Elena Ferrante’s ‘The Lying Life of Adults‘ (still on a waiting list but I can’t wait to read this!), and Yaa Gyasi’s ‘Transcendent Kingdom‘.
I mentioned this in my last post, but I’m really enjoying David Smith’s new podcast– Clearskies Camino. His blog is a great place for all-things-Camino, and the podcast is proving to be more of the same. Each week he interviews a different pilgrim about their experience on the Camino, and it’s been so much fun to hear the voices of some people I’ve been “following” (blog/social media) for years now. I’m gathering up the courage to be one of his guests- I think I would love talking about my experience but of course these kinds of things always make me so nervous!
It’s October, and that means scary movies! I watched Netflix’s ‘The Haunting of Bly Manor’ and it was the perfect thing to get me in a spooky kind of mood. Along with my annual viewing of ‘The Shining’, of course. On a completely different note, I’m also watching the new season of The Great British Baking Show (I love, love, love this show).
This month’s essay on Patreon is a reflective piece, about how an encounter on the Pennine Way got me thinking about what my version of heaven might look like. I’m having a lot of fun working on Patreon essays, and love that I have a place for these writings to land. You’ve got to ‘subscribe’ and sign up as a patron to get access to these once-a-month essays, but levels start as low as $1 a month! The support I’m getting here means the world to me, and I love that a platform like this exists.
I blogged about what it’s like to walk the Camino as an introvert, and as ever, I’m continuing to make slow progress on my Camino book. (An early chapter is up on my Patreon site, and it’s a public piece so you don’t need to be a patron to read it. Check it out!)
Over on Instagram, I’m revisiting my first Camino- my 2014 journey on the Camino Francés- and it’s been fun to share some of those memories. Otherwise, my camera roll is full of tall trees and fall colors: oranges, reds, yellows. This is one of the most beautiful times of the year in my corner of the world, and I’m trying to get outside everyday for a walk, even if it’s often the same loop through my neighborhood. What a beautiful loop it is!
Two additional, quick highlights:
1: My grandmother turned 90! Happy Birthday Baba!
2: I voted! Election Day isn’t until November 3rd but this year, millions of voters are getting their ballots in early. I dropped off my mail-in ballot at a local drop-box (I was able to walk down my driveway and onto a path through the woods to get there- what a way to vote!), and I got confirmation that it got to where it needed to go. Hoping, praying, for some good change to come to this country.
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