The Valparaiso summer concert series is back and in full swing! With all the Corona closures it was a treat to be able to kick back at the Central Park Plaza surrounded by families munching on picnic dinners and listening to Rosie and the Rivets lay down some of my favorite retro Rock and Roll. As it occurred on a week night and having no one to go with, it was such a struggle to force myself out the door to make it to the event. However, I arrived well before the show began to claim a comfy spot on the grass safely six feet away from everyone else in attendance. I spent nearly an hour quietly reading on my little square of lawn and checking the time on my phone every ten minutes.
However, my hesitations at my solo picnic experience vanished when the band took to the stage. Nothing helps you cut loose like a little old time Rock and Roll and I wasn’t the only one loosening up. Couples bounced and twirled to the band’s lively beats all evening and every foot in the audience was bobbing in time. I look forward to many barefoot summer nights of music in the plaza.
When walking familiar trails in the mountains of Colorado I love to imagine my favorite fellowship of nine led by a wizard in a tall pointed grey hat traveling similar paths. It brings me no end of entertainment to picture a hoard of orc warg riders charging over the distant ridges to meet the cavalry of the Rohirrim. The scenery while journeying to hidden icy lakes and craggy mountain peaks is the stuff of fantasy. Great tales of legendary battles and mythic creatures are set in places like this.
On this clear mountain day I wondered what the giant had been playing when he tossed these boulders in a pile. Perhaps sunlight on the surface of the adjoining lake caught his eye, distracting him from his game. Maybe someday he’ll come back to finish it. I haven’t met any mountain giants yet but I’m always on the lookout. Happy trails!
I used to spend a ridiculous amount of time analyzing every social encounter, replaying it in my head for hours, years in a few cases, trying to pinpoint the exact moment when I messed it up. Surely there must have been a misplaced chuckle or, more likely, a butchered punch line. I’m prone to those. I made a point to explain each and every one of them, justifying my unfortunate knack for shutting down a conversation and attempting to fix it by apologizing profusely.
I realized recently that all of these sticky, seemingly inevitable situations are only as awkward as one allows them to be. Accept ownership of your fabulous oddities, not blame for everyone else’s silence. Do not allow yourself to become someone that others associate with uncomfortable conversation lulls. It takes two and you’re not as bad at it as you think you are. If you convincingly fake a laid back, easy confidence no one will ever question the strange phrases you’re known to spew from time to time.
Have you ever been engaged in conversation with someone so visibly uncomfortable you felt bad for them? That small figure at the very end of the table hugging themself and looking anywhere but the faces of those present, clearly terrified of being accused of staring. That was me once, with a quivering voice borrowed from the most timid mouse, cracking with every other second-guessed sentence.
I’ve since vowed to never again use my small mouse voice. Don’t be the person in a conversation that others feel sorry for. They won’t remember the shy words you stuttered but they will remember the swell of sympathy they felt when you went the color of a ripe pomegranate immediately following your fumbled sentence. For the most part, the accidental words that fall out of your mouth don’t matter nearly as much as you think they do. If you shrug it off others will too. Maintain an appearance of unrattled ease and it won’t matter that every emergency siren and panic light is blaring in your brain.
You are who you are. It needs no explanation. Stop wasting time justifying your personality to people you just met. You should never ever apologize for those little moments in life when you don’t quite fit in. How boring would life be if you were just like everybody else?
Don’t ever be afraid to celebrate the good moments in life with food and cheer, even if you’re ordering for a party of one. Such was the case for me when I enjoyed this mouth watering masterpiece from The Rolling Stonebaker. Savoring this Italian tomato, mozzarella, sausage, woodfired pizza while people watching at a picnic table in Central Park Plaza was just what I needed after a long work week.
Parents rocking strollers kept a watchful eye on the kids playing hopscotch on top of the water jets on the plaza’s central splash pad. A few teenagers took turns practicing jumps and flips on their skateboards at Urschel Pavilion. Couples of all ages meandered along the sidewalk or lounged on park benches, waiting for their own pizza orders to be ready.
I was happy observing all of this while digging into my new favorite pizza and chatting with my parents over the phone. Although they weren’t physically present it was still nice to enjoy a little familiar dinner conversation while immersed in the hum of downtown activity. Once I’d relished every last bite of my dinner and licked the residual oil from my fingers I set off down the street toward Designer Desserts for a cupcake. After all, it’s not a celebration without dessert.
Likewise, it would hardly be considered a date without a romantic evening stroll through Ogden Gardens Park. I couldn’t resist snapping a few flower pictures. Even in the fading light, the flower beds were a riot of color. I stayed long enough to see the fireflies twinkle to life but headed for home when the mosquitos started biting.
One thing I’ve learned during this pandemic is that you don’t need to rely on others to make plans. If you wait to go out until you have a group to go with, you’ll never leave your apartment. What are you doing for date night?
This was a freewrite I wrote one quiet evening while sitting on a park bench watching the Sun retreat from the treetops. However, there were plenty of other lights that came out in the twilight. This was the product of some happy, random dabbling with words. Enjoy!
The silence of the smallest fireworks
pirouetting in the air
on soft summer nights.
That sparkle in my peripheral
letting me know that I’m not alone.
Twinkling to life,
startled by my footsteps
and always travelling up.
Their journey begins
on the tip of a blade of grass.
They flare to life around my knees
before flickering out of existence
on their quest for the stars
like angels pointing the way.
“Above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.” – Roald Dahl
Life is full of its ups and downs and it’s maddenly easy to get caught up fretting about things that are completely out of our control. Especially in society these days, we spend so much time worrying about public sanitation, the price of toilet paper, and all of the friends we haven’t seen in a while. Businesses are running at half capacity and all of the regular summer celebrations have been canceled or postponed. It’s enough to put anyone in a funk.
However, I’m of the opinion that there are bright spots present every single day even if at times they’re a little harder to see. It’s important to stop once in a while and notice all of the little magical moments that give color to the world. Some of them are obvious, overwhelming you with bliss and gratitude for loved ones. But most of the time they are small, everyday occurrences that quietly slip past when we’re not paying attention. That kind of attention takes practice but is bound to put a smile on your face. What do you do to harness your everyday magic?
Posing for pictures can be a tricky business when you get far enough away from paved roads. Snapping the perfect photo often devolves into an animated romp through the trees, picking a path across gurgling streams and balancing atop the ridges of boulders. In my experience, it’s an all terrain test requiring sure footing, concentration and a bit of cardio strength. However, scrambling over rocks and creeks is much easier with a helping hand and the right pair of boots.
These boots were made for walkin! I recently returned from a fabulous vacation where I spent the better part of ten days hiking in the mountains of Western Colorado. This time was affectionately and aptly titled Colorado bootcamp by my parents. As any prepared hiker knows, it’s important to have the right tools for the job and I celebrated this trip with the purchase of a much needed pair of hiking boots. I dedicated the rest of my visit to breaking them in.
We set out from Glenwood Springs nearly every morning before 8am in order to beat the heat and arrive early at the trailhead. Our hikes ranged anywhere from twenty minutes to two hours outside of town and spanned distances between two and eleven miles long. Some of these were familiar paths that my family has been returning to for years while others were completely new to me, discovered by my parents when I was in Indiana.
With each mountain adventure, we tried and failed to pinpoint our favorite trail but always agreed that to do so would be like choosing a favorite child. Every hike presented unique terrain and its own brand of spectacular views. The mountain scenes were breathtaking in more ways than one, all leaving me completely exhausted from the physical rigor of several thousand feet of elevation gain on our quest for remote alpine lakes. No two trails were quite the same but each one left me with aching feet and a happy heart.
True freedom is mastering the airport. Once you do that anything is possible. The sky really is the limit. You’re no longer constrained by where you can get to within driving distance. You don’t have to set aside huge blocks of time for hours of muddling along endless stretches of highway. You’re free to go where you please and arrive in time for dinner. Facing your fears of enormous aircrafts thousands of feet in the sky is one of the most liberating things you will ever do.
Of course, if you’re scrambling to your gate as the flight crew sends out the last boarding call, it may also be one of the most stressful things you ever do. There is no need for this. Be kind to yourself and leave plenty of time. In my experience, the number one best thing you can do when flying is to make a day of it. I tend to operate under the mentality that if I’m not early, I’m late. When it comes to air travel I always plan to arrive at the airport no less than two hours before my scheduled departure, although I’m perfectly happy to hit the road even sooner if I’m packed and ready to go. I have absolutely no problem with sitting in the terminal for three hours. Where better to enjoy some heart-warming people watching?
Once through security I find my gate and double check my flight status for my own peace of mind before meandering through the food court to find a bite to eat, preferably one that is accompanied by a nice steaming vanilla latte. I’ll find a quiet corner or window nook to enjoy my meal and call my mom to let her know I arrived safely to the airport. I’ll also note any restrooms or snack shops on my way. I return to these shortly before my flight begins boarding to grab some grub and fluids for the plane. I can be migraine prone on travel days and it never hurts to have extra munchies and water in my carry on in addition to my usual Excedrin.
Don’t be afraid to leisurely stroll about the terminal if you have some time to kill. Chances are you’ll be sitting for quite a while so you might want to stretch your legs. When the flight calls to begin boarding don’t be in a hurry to be the first one in line even though others will be. You already have a ticket and are standing by at the gate, listening intently for your boarding group. Even if you let a couple people cut in front of you, it ultimately won’t make much of a difference and rushing to the front of the line to claim your spot is sure to kill the relaxed, easy-going attitude you’ve maintained up to this point. Again, flying doesn’t have to be stressful. Don’t let the impatience of other people negate your good vibes even a little bit.
Throughout the day always be sure to say please and thank you to all shuttle drivers, security guards, shop clerks, cafe baristas and of course your lovely flight crew. People are generally happy to help and to answer any questions. If you set out with hours to spare there’s very little that can ruin your day, whether it be a traffic jam or a few oblivious fellow airport pedestrians. You have time. Just relax and enjoy the ride.
Nothing soothes the soul like dipping your toes into an icy mountain lake after a long hike under the July Sun. When hiking in Colorado with my parents I like to kick off my boots and soak my feet in the clear glassy water while drinking in the views that you can’t find anywhere else. This was one of those days during a recent Rocky Mountain vacation.