Let’s Begin Again

Last summer I pulled into a campsite along the Pecos River in New Mexico. Driving into the Santa Fe National Forest I was welcomed by green mountains and clouded blue skies, a site I hadn’t seen in some time. The air was cool that night, and the sound of the river gave me some peace. I sat at the picnic table, ate some dinner, and began to write. That night I wrote a letter to myself covering what I had learned so far and it included a few promises. I promised myself that this year I would find a new job in a new location, I would honor my own happiness, and I would move toward adventure. When I was done I did a little yoga on that picnic table. It’s always nice to stretch after a long car ride. Then I laid on my back and watched the stars appear one by one while feeling a little sad that my trip was ending but also a little hopeful for the future.

As the summer came to a close I started getting my portfolio in order and updated my resume. I started telling my bosses and requesting letters of recommendations. For those who do not hold positions in education, this choice can be baffling. In the education world, it helps to have your bosses on your side. If they don’t know you’re leaving then the people looking to hire you won’t give your application a second glance. Not to mention that blindsiding the people you work for can burn bridges. And truly the people you work for should want the best for you. They all understood my motivations and were supportive even if they didn’t want me to go.

Once the year rolled over I began looking into having my certifications recognized in different states. It turned out to be a costly process so I chose 2 states on which to focus my job search. After a couple months of putting in applications and hearing nothing in return, I ran across an application for an overseas recruiter. I filled it out thinking I wouldn’t hear from them either. It turned out that they were very interested in me. Who would have thought? In a short amount of time with multiple Skype interviews and lots of research, I found a job in Beijing teaching Art and I couldn’t be more excited.

I have spent the last twelve years teaching in Warren County. During 9 of those years, I had a principal who began each school year by providing us with inspiration to start with a fresh perspective. Her annual catchphrase, “Let’s begin again” has become an important one for me. Each year it reminded me that I can make changes to improve, and it gave me the little boost I needed to kick off the new year with enthusiasm. This summer she retired and will begin again in a whole new way. I know her new beginning will be wonderful. And, I can’t wait to see what this beginning holds in store for me. I’ve started a new blog to showcase all of the wonderful things Beijing and beyond will teach me. You can find it here at Feed Me, Beijing.

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While I get my visa in order, pack, and do all of the things that need to be done when moving to a new country I continue to hike. I’m embracing the clean air, wilderness, blue skies, and my dogs as much as possible. Oh, if you’re still keeping track so am I. As of July 14, 2017, I have hiked 668.93 miles for the year with 116713 ft of vertical gain. I hope to pass 700  miles before I board the plane. I know my mileage will taper while I’m away, but I will find my way to some trails as often as possible.

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Rounding North

Am I coming, Are you going, Which way to North

To feel natural, To feel free

Skinned in fur, beneath a tree

Resting … Soundly

 

For the ground, I get dizzy

Clawing at restraints

Is it so simple, to be wanted

Or destined for complaints

Haunt me with your memories

Our freedom hides in the seeds

Sewn in paper printed pasts

Through naked visioned looking glass

Of rose hues and bluish grass

 

Are you coming, Am I going, Which way goes round

All the stress, Every tension

A bi-poll, what suspension

Waking … Globely

 

I’m going round, Which way confounds

Bathe me in fluid ease

Yellow sounds call out upon your breeze

Catch me, catch me, set me free

What is it that you want to be

Take me up into your hem

Drop the stitch and sew me in

Keep me just a little while

Treasure me … make me smile

 

Am I coming, What’s that sound

The hands are walking, which way round

Sounds of burning

Scorching … Earthly

 

I’m heading up, Correct me please

That fragrance resonates within

Triggering my puzzled grin

Flip me round

Cause me to spin

Vertigo shows me the way

Of travelers past my present stay

With the mischief tucked away

My direction waits another day

 

Poetry and Photography by A. Cusato
All Rights Reserved

 

 

 

 

 

 

Straight Off of Compton Peak

I am an avid hiker, finding myself on a trail three or more times a week. Until this year, I never thought to track my mileage. To keep myself focused on that goal, I joined in the #52hikechallnge. I’m counting my bigger weekend hikes toward this goal.

This weekend I hiked with a friend to Compton Peak on the AT in the Shenandoah National Park. We went a little beyond the overlook, and, because we have both lost our minds, we set up camp. Somehow we decided we both wanted to try winter camping. Daytime temps in town were forecast for the 40s. Nighttime was to be in the low 30s. We thought those were good temps to get us started. What happens in town is not always what is happening on the Drive. It got very cold and windy that night. It was likely in the teens. I did a lot of hiking back and forth to keep warm, which turned my 3rd hike of 52 from a short 1.5 mile hike into a 5 mile hike. I also did a lot of reflecting. It’s so easy to get lost in thought when social media, television and the distractions of the day to day, aren’t available.

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So I thought and thought, and admired the sunset, and experienced the ground freeze beneath my feet, and we conversed about life, and I thought some more. I felt my body change as the temperature dropped. I went numb, readjusted clothing and position, felt the blood flow return, and got lost in thought again. We poured water into a pot to boil so we could make dinner, and ice crystals instantly formed. It was cold, and it was exciting, and I felt a little bad ass.

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Sleeping was a challenge. There was a tarp below the tent as one barrier, a sleeping pad, and down mummy bag. I climbed into my bag with all of my clothes, socks, coat, gloves and hat. I stayed pretty warm, except for my feet. Oh my god my feet! The tent was vented at the head and foot, and a major draft was coming in at the foot. I didn’t develop frostbite, but the chill made it difficult to get a decent amount of sleep. I awoke off and on throughout the night. The dog offered us some extra warmth, but the poor thing was shivering too. We emerged an hour after sunrise to discover that it hadn’t warmed up all that much. But within an hour the sleeping bags were packed up, we were drinking coffee, and I was feeling toasty.

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We got word from my folks that snow was heading our way, finished packing and headed back down the trail. The snow began as we reached the overlook where this photo was taken. After the featured photo above, I laid down on that rock and, feeling downright warm in my skin, watched the snowfall with an overwhelming feeling of happiness. This park has become my playground, my escape, and my studio for meditation.

 

Feckless Desire

The peculiarity of your existence

Lies in my persistence

To calm your need with varied touch

And caress the quest, this is a must

 

There is a balance I struggle to find

Of singularity, one sublime

I have awakened to inner peace

Of mind, of body, of soaking sheets

 

Could it be forward, to the way it was

Before the meeting, the coffee buzz

Before the heat, before the flight

Before the confusion that made us fight

 

When did it twist and take my tongue

Replace my presence with a mug

To be so lost to grasp for nothing

And cling to it with hopes for something

 

This life, this life, it spreads like mold

It rings my neck and leaves me cold

It hides the nourishment I require

And teases me with feckless desire

 

Poetry and Photography by Allison Cusato
All Rights Reserved