Naturific Reflectioning

It’s been almost two weeks since I’ve had a good hike. The last one was 7 miles of fun in the sun. Then I got sick, which really slowed me down. Today I got back into the swing of things with 6 miles on the AT. I’m trying to connect two sections I’ve done recently, and I got pretty close. It felt great to back out there huffing and puffing up a mountain.


As usual, I spent most of my time watching my step. A little after a mile of walking the outer perimeter of the National Zoological Park Breading Center (eerily like Jurassic Park) I turned a switchback and came upon the above down tree. I had an instant connection and had to stop. Something about the smooth ripple of its trunk struck me. I placed my hand on it as I noticed the thin lines that made up a pattern. I admired the skewed rings of its life and wondered what had caused it to grow so far off from center. I imagined what it may have seen in its lifetime. I felt my breath pumping through my chest. I felt connected to the earth and to myself.


In that moment of reflection I realized how lucky I am. I am free to grow in which ever direction I please. My happiness is tied only to me and the trees.




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







What’s your weapon?

Today we returned to our post Jonas spot on the Appalachian Trail, and, once on top of the mountain, I let the dogs off the leash. That’s right, I gave it a whirl, AND ambitiously attempted to do some yoga. Turner was not having the handstand (see image above). Wow, I have not seen so much joy cross their faces in quite some time. They raced up and back along the trail, rooted around in the brush, and, to my delight, returned to me every time I called them.


As we turned toward the car I realized that I wasn’t ready to head home yet. It seems the more I hike, the less I want to do anything else. So, we passed the car, and kept traveling. This section of trail was still coated in several inches of snow. With every step I thought of my connection to the earth, to my animals, to others, and to myself. My love for hiking seems to lie in the silence of the wilderness. In the calm, I can pick out an odd sound and recognize something that flashes by my periphery. I can identify things that feel off through my intuition, and know when to head in the opposite direction. And, when I doubt my own intuition I can always observe the behavior of my dogs who always know what’s up, and instinctively have my back.


I saw a post on Facebook the other day asking women who thru hike if they carry a weapon. So many of them said yes, and referenced a favorite gun. I can’t help but wonder what there is to fear in the woods? Do these women also carry in their everyday lives?  I have only felt scared in the woods once, that being the first time I came across a bear. It has happened since then, and with each occurrence I feel a little less afraid and a little more knowledgable on how to keep a cool head and do the right thing. Which is to say, keep my dogs from dragging me toward a bear and her cubs, while maintaining a safe distance and shrieking in a high pitch like a little girl. Okay, that sounds ridiculous, but really, bears hate little girl screams. I mean, who doesn’t? The only instances I’ve encountered people that cause my hairs to stand on end have been in a concrete environment. Urban, suburban, and sometimes even rural, it matters not. People are some of the most deceptive and untrustworthy animals with which I’ve come in contact. I might argue that this little bit of information is a large part of why I retreat to the woods so often. It’s probably also a big reason as to why many other hikers are out there. I get that there will sometimes be random people out there who will cause me to go the long way around in order to steer clear of them. That happens anywhere. And if I’m not going to carry a gun in my civilized life, I’m certainly not going to start carrying one during my time of meditation. A gun would cause me to feel paranoid, fearful that I will accidentally shoot myself or one of my pups. Fearful that I may harm someone or something else and live to regret it. When I’m afraid my body temperature changes, my attention turns toward the thing causing me tension, my senses become preoccupied. For me the safety in fear comes when those characteristics are brought about by a real threat. If the fear comes from something I am doing, then it is simply a distraction. It could even cause me to appear off to other hikers. So, I will continue to walk this earth in a manner that will cause me to be mindful of peace, to project a sense of calm, and not to disturb my connection with my best defense, my intuition.



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.


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


A repost for the Daily Prompt: Peculiar


To be Rescued

Rescue me from my sins

Remove this cancer from within

Who holds the truths to lead the way

To take his hands upon me lay

To feel his hands within I pray

Rescue me from the sins

Remove this hell from deep within

What twisted stories, who makes them true

Those woven pasts in dreams of blue

That sink beneath the faded hue

Rescue me from my skin

Save me from my own within

Drown out the buzzing

Feed us our worth

Un-soil the feet that trek this earth

Answer me, request my skin

Reward my journey through within


Poetry and Photography by Allison Cusato
All Rights Reserved