Tag: mountains

reading with mamawolfe: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Posted on December 10, 2012 by

Like many avid readers, my bookshelf overflows with piles of ‘to-read’ or ‘in progress’ titles.  Being one who cannot part with a favorite, volumes of old friends mingle with the new, making for quite a commotion in space.  I peruse, sort, and even dust the titles carefully, always wishing for more time, for those moments when no one needs me and I can cuddle up with someone else’s thoughts for a little while.
It is rare that I finish reading multiple chapters of a book in one sitting, let alone the entire book in the course of a weekend.  Moms and teachers just don’t have that kind of time.
Recently I found a book that wouldn’t let me ignore it.  I’d heard about Wild, by Cheryl Strayed – everyone seemed to be talking about if after Oprah announced it as her first pick for her revised “Oprah Book Club 2.0” last year.  The problem for me, aside from a disconcerting lack of time for myself, was that I always bristle at the mainstream.  When something becomes a big seller, it makes me nervous.  Not because I think I’m somehow more “ivory tower” than anyone else is, but because I’m really, really choosy about how I spend my time.
So when I cracked the cover of Wild, I was ready to be unimpressed.  I was surprisingly disappointed – not in the writing, but that I could not put it down.
After the first few pages, I grabbed my writing notebook and began jotting down quotes.  Like this one on page 51: “Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told.”  Ok, Cheryl, you’re speaking to me now.  To the woman who kissed a Komodo dragon in Indonesia last summer.  To the one who is trying to write and hoping someone is listening.  To the mom of two teenagers.  I’m hooked.
Wild tells the autobiographical story of Cheryl’s early twenties, when her life had absolutely spiraled down into a place where many of us would simply give up.  From an unorthodox, meager childhood, to the early, tragic death of her mother, to a young marriage and eventually hitting rock-bottom abusing heroin, Cheryl’s story was not unbelievable.  I could feel the absolute plausibility of her words, seeing many women who could have easily fallen into the choices she made.
What I could not believe is her courage.  And independence.  And her somewhat reckless decision to hike the Pacific Crest trail, alone, without any experience.
But I admired her courage, her independence, and reckless decisions.  I felt connected to her.  I, myself, have hiked day trips on the Pacific Crest trail, but never would I have considered going all the way from the Mojave Desert to Oregon.  That takes some guts.  I understood how she made her decision, “how few choices (she) had, and how often (she) had to do the thing (she) least wanted to do.”  I’ve been there-as a mom, an educator, and a woman.  Sometimes, it seems like I’m there on a daily basis.
Cheryl’s journey reminded me of the power of the human spirit, the struggle so many of us go through to find ourselves, and the power of mind over body.  While some might mock her for her reckless unpreparedness, none could fault her for her determination.  When Cheryl could have simply escaped into the depths of an anonymous life, blaming everyone and everything for her problems, she instead set out.  “I asked for the shelter of my tent, for the smallest sense that something was shielding me from the entire rest of the world…”
Through her journey, she discovered the shelter of the world, the gifts that the universe has for those of us courageous enough to listen.  If you’re feeling overwhelmed, overworked, or out of time for yourself, please stop and crack open the cover of Wild.  You’ll be glad you did.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: A Last Gasp of Summer

Posted on September 7, 2012 by

A quick bike ride down the lake led us to one of our favorite gazing spots.  We parked and climbed out onto the rocks.  The sun, rising quickly, warmed our faces and beckoned us with possibilities.  The wind whistled through the pines, and the waves lapped gently against the granite.  The hum of a boat radio drifted in the air, breaking the silence.  We sat, transfixed with the the horizon.  Crystal clear, icy cold water rippled and went still.  My breathing slowed and my heart expanded.  Gratitude for all we have had together, and all that is before us, led us back to our bikes, eager to go home.

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Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Friday Photo: In The Moment

Posted on January 7, 2012 by


Taking a road trip can be a stressful experience.  There is the planning, the packing, the money, the time, the scheduling – all that can make leaving the house a real hassle.  Adding into the mix any sort of scheduled activity just further complicates the matter.  Then, tossing in children, pets and a spouse and most moms would rather stay home.

This week all my best-laid plans completely turned upside down and I found myself needing to make an unexpected 260-mile road trip on Friday afternoon.  Logistically and rationally, it didn’t make any sense, but nevertheless I booked a hotel, packed my bags, took off from work a few hours early and loaded my daughter and her ski gear into the car and headed for the southeastern Sierras.

Being the type of planning oriented person I am, spontaneity can often really stress me out.  Having children 
is teaching me that sometimes life is unplanned, uncontrolled, and I’d better just learn to go with it.  I’m
 trying to take life as it comes, but sometimes it’s really hard.  Like many things in life, the more I practice
 the easier it becomes.  Still, stress otfen wins out until I’ve slammed the door shut and there’s no
 turning back.

After several hours of cruising down highway 395 we crested a pass and before us lay the most awesome expanse of Mono Lake.  Descending the hill and climbing closer and closer to the shore the sun began to set, encircling us with a cotton candy pink glow.  As the highway lined the lake I began to see a white edging against the jade green water, and ice cream cone shaped ivory turrets starkly jutting up out of the lake.  Snow?  The rest of the landscape was dry and brown, so I began to look deeper.  I stopped to get a closer look, and realized that what appeared to be snow was simply rock taking on a different hue at that precise moment as the sun went down.

 Hopping back in the car, I realized how lucky I was to be in that exact place that exact moment with
daughter by my side.  I realized that if I hadn’t let go, if I had resisted and refused to change plans, this
 day would have been very different.   What I saw with my eyes was awe-inspiring, and what I saw with
 my heart was awe inducing.  That simple moment with my daughter reminded me of the power of being
 present, and the weakness of being in control.
 So when you think of the days and plans you have in front of you, imagine what would happen if 
you stopped, let something slide, and slipped into the present.  What would take on a different hue for you?

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Uncovered Beauty

Posted on January 4, 2012 by


At this time last year, I was drowning in snow.  Every weekend I slogged, dragged, shoveled, pushed and slipped my way around the Sierras during a record setting snowfall season.  Snow was the center of every conversation and the focus of every day.  I grumbled, complained and wished it would just go away.  

This winter, however, is a completely different story.  Dirt lines the path to our cabin, and rocks and trees jut out of the mountainside.  Lack of snow is the topic of every conversation now, and the gloom and doom its absence brings to our local ski resort and mountain communities.  Everyone whines and gripes and wishes it would come back.

As I spent another afternoon in the lodge, preferring a table and chair to skiing in snow that sticks like butter, I decided I needed to reframe my outlook and headed outside.  The lack of snow makes taking a walk much easier than ever, and as I headed away from the lodge and out of the parking lodge, I found myself breathing more deeply and seeing things I had never noticed before.

Snow does a good job of covering things up.  It hides imperfections, blankets trash, and mulches out the summer debris.  Everything small disappears, covered by something so soft, pure, and beautiful that most people don’t even notice what is missing.
Everything has changed this year.  Nothing is hidden.  The baby conifers don’t have to struggle to stay upright.  The mule ear leaves, brown and withered, line the sledding hillside.  The rocky peaks stand majestic and sharp, and the creeks and riverbeds glow green and mossy.


Wandering down a path I had never seen before, I suddenly realized the new beauty that surrounded me.  What last year was shrouded in white, today gleams rich with earthy greens, browns and greys.  I began to think about all that I had missed last year, and how much there was to see with this reframed perspective.  Leaving the path to go deeper into the forest I stopped, inhaled, and looked back at the mountain.  It began to snow.  
Instinctively I turned towards the warmth of the lodge, then paused, and continued down the road.  Once uncovered, I wasn’t going to miss this chance for beauty.  
It’s all in how you look at it.

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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Another Day

Posted on December 22, 2011 by

Her face is turned toward the window, nestled on a deep feather pillow.  Long dark lashes flutter as I kiss her cheek, brushing back soft strands of hair from her forehead.  It is dark out, yet she will rise and greet another day.

His face is face up, eyes closed, arms thrown back over his head in the same position as when he slept as an infant.  I reach down to kiss the sweet spot between his jaw and neck, and he groans and pulls the covers tighter.  It is dark out, yet he will rise and greet another day.

Sleepily she pads downstairs, honey colored hair still in a messy braid.  Too early to eat, she sips cold orange juice as she pulls on long underwear and ski socks.  It is dark out, yet she will go and meet another day.

Groggily he pulls on his fuzzy black and white skull patterned bathrobe and gulps down fresh water.  He trods down the stairs, too full of chatter for such an early start.  It is dark out, yet he will go and meet another day.

She dresses quickly yet deliberately.  No worries about appearances, she thinks only of the snow that awaits her.  It is cold out, yet she will be brave and face another day.

He pulls on his layers, sweet grapefruit juice dribbling down his chin.  Thinking only of the countdown to Christmas, he hugs me in anticipation.  It is cold out, yet he will be brave and face another day.

Methodically she unscrews her ski helmet face bar in the dark lodge, preparing for the morning workout ahead of her.  Layer upon layer upon layer she bundles up and heads towards the lift, tousled braid whipping in the wind.  It is dawn out, and she gets to have another day.

Slowly he prepares for the snow, insisting on doing it alone.  His fuzzy brown head disappears beneath a royal blue helmet and goggles, contrasting the lime green and black of his jacket.  We kiss goodbye, my assurance I will be waiting for him when he returns.  It is dawn out, and he gets to have another day.

Yet as I sit by the window watching the sun crest the snow-covered hills, I cry for the mother and child who are apart, who will never feel their arms around each other again, and who cannot brush away each other’s tears.

It is bright out, and I get to have another day.

 

Jennifer Wolfe

Jennifer Wolfe, a writer-teacher-mom, is dedicated to finding the extraordinary in the ordinary moments of life by thinking deeply, loving fiercely, and teaching audaciously. Jennifer is a Google Certified Educator, Hyperdoc fanatic, and a voracious reader. Read her stories on her blog, mamawolfe, and grab free copies of her teaching and parenting resources.

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