To those who fear:

I make dinner. There is a zucchini in the refrigerator from Monday’s farmers market and some rice in the cabinet. I cut the green vegetable into thick half-moons and listen to them sizzle in the oil, sliding over each other in the pan. The rice is boiling. Sporadic bubbles appear and are instantly gone beneath churning currents. I cover the rice and season the zucchini. It’s a warm and sticky Sunday evening, hours before another week. Tomorrow is another day.

There is little in the daily news that inspires hope. Recent personal events make me question the ifs and the whys in life; these two words have burrowed deep within my stomach. I feel the words beginning to rot, yet answers never come. Great trepidation for the future of which I have no control. 

What is this fear that seems to surround me? 

Zika. Terrorism. Death. The future. Family. Security. Money. Cancer. The “other”. Hillary. Muslims. Trump. Western thought. Death. Sickness. Guns. No guns. Climate change. The wrong choice. Betrayal. Loss of sanity. Loneliness. Inadequacy. Loss of love. No love at all. 

The zucchini is done. Using my wooden spoon, I gently flip each slice and check both sides have browned. The rice needs water. I use the electric kettle and add more steaming liquid before replacing the lid. My lunch for the week is nearing completion.

I wish we the inhabitants of the world could hold one another and ask forgiveness for all the things we’ve ever done or said and have yet to do and say. The longer I live in this world, the more I realize how the Many suffer.The Many have been abandoned by their parents, rejected by society or left to function with less than a whole self. The Many go to sleep wrapped in fury at those who have made them feel, in some way, less than. Less than loved. Less than smart. Less than respected. Less than human. 

The zucchini, rice and chickpeas are finished. I split the ingredients into two plastic containers: lunch for Monday and Tuesday. Snap goes the red lid. A mundane task completed for another day. Snap. A sound so complete. Snap. A moment without meaning. 

Snap and death, a thick black period at the end of a thought, a final punctuation on all that has come before. We lament the future that never will be. Now, we cry, when there is so much left unwritten? But the pen has come and accentuated the dot in permanent black ink. We watch it dry on the page and still we tear at the paper trying to erase what is already done. We think we need the story to continue. We weren’t prepared, didn’t have time to close to the book and place it on the shelf. We don’t know how we will go on.

Tonight before bed, I will imagine a bright star in the night sky, high above the street lamps and traffic lights. On this star, I will wish for the next president of the United States to have compassion, grit and superb listening skills. I will wish for all family members who have witnessed profound tragedy and grief to experience temporary freedom and peace. I will wish for a moment of clarity among the Many who feel life is cheap and tainted and unclean. I wish for you, dear reader, and all your precious beautiful moments that lay ahead. They will come again.

Tomorrow is another day.  

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Goodbye Astoria

Dear Astoria,

Do you remember when we said our first hellos? I was straight off a plane from Milan, re-teaching myself how to live out of dresser drawers instead of zippered suitcases. I still remember the bright November morning when I saw you, Astoria, for the very first time. My full bed and wooden couch rocked left and right past cafes, falafel trucks, banks, small groceries and streams of moving people. Steinway Street appeared to be another country: baklava in bakery windows, groups of men sitting stoically drinking tea and smoking hookah. Little Egypt, I would learn. The skyline of Manhattan loomed in the distance. I felt dwarfed by the noise and the power of this place, your buzzing soil.

That was one year and 4 months ago.

Each morning in the winter of 2014, I walked south past sleeping businesses-fashion stores Hug and Easy Pickins’, McDonalds, Modell’s, Starbucks, the prom dress store- all silent in the early light.

I took the R train all the way across Manhattan and down to City Hall. Do you remember? Everyone said I was crazy to take the local train such a long way. But I didn’t mind. It gave me time to read my books, borrowed from the local Queens Library. We shared many books, you and I.

Then the new job and a new commute. This time, I walked to the N,Q train aboveground or took the bus when my timing was right. I watched a coffee shop open and finally felt like I wasn’t the newest one on the block. In the summer, my roommates introduced me to the beer garden and the Greek restaurants along Astoria-Ditmars Boulevard. We ate at Sugarfreak, a New Orleans-style restaurant with beignets bananas foster, a memory of which still makes my mouth water. I joined a yoga studio and a gym while treating myself to fresh, hand rolled bagels on Saturday mornings. During one of my first 3 mile runs, I stumbled upon Astoria Park and slowed down to watch children playing in the grass and skipping along the river.

In Astoria, I found the mixture of culture that I had dreamed New York City would foster and nourish. There were young millennials running in new sneakers and old college sweatshirts alongside Muslim men and women on their way to prayer. Greek grandmothers would shop on early mornings in the grocery store as I stumbled in for seltzer or eggs. Old and new. New Yorker natives and foreign immigrants. Spanish speakers. Italian sausage makers. Young married couples and single roommates.

Daina and I stayed longer than we had planned; six months quickly evaporated into sixteen. In the final days before I moved, my nights were spent sitting on the floor meticulously wrapping each plate and mug in bubble wrap and placing them in cardboard boxes. They clinked against one another as if to say, Where are you taking us? Why can’t we go back to our cupboards and shelves? I didn’t have an answer except to say,

because it’s time.

Thank you for all you’ve done. I found a great young woman to take my bedroom. Be kind to her, Astoria, as you were kind to me. Let her listen to your heartbeat, the percussion of daily life. Show her the fresh feta cheese and the best falafel truck. Let her walk the friendliest streets and find the best way home. Nudge her through the doors of your museums and coax her over the bridge into Sunnyside when she is ready to explore. Her heart is open and ready. I was a stranger once too.

From your shore, Manhattan feels both overwhelmingly close and light years away. We are both older and I’d like to think a little wiser too. Take care of yourself, Astoria. I’ll be back soon.

Katelyn

P.S. I moved to Jersey. Don’t cry. 

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Queens Comfort, made famous by Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, has a line out the door every Saturday and Sunday 

 

 

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A magical breakfast from Brooklyn Bagel 

 

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Morning sunrise in Astoria Park 

 

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Beignets Banana Foster 

 

Day 1: Funemployment

Today is Day 1. I am a kite, cut free of its string to soar and drift as I please before falling slowly back to Earth. And by Earth, I mean work. My parents forbid retirement at age 25. 

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I awake to a clear and sunny morning, the sun’s rays illuminating the rooftops of Hoboken’s yawning buildings. The dawn feels unlike other Monday mornings and from my position near the window, the bricks and facade seem to stretch in greeting the new day. Boyfriend Billy, however, is less overjoyed to hear the alarm clock buzz for the 2nd snooze and hurriedly rushes around the bedroom in the routinely frantic search for glasses and keys. I roll over and go back to sleep. Funemployment waits for no woman.

The sidewalks at 9:30am are all but deserted. The line at Starbucks contains a mere two or three caffeine-deprived yet relaxed individuals who patiently wait their turn without so much as a grumble or check of the watch. The world is completely devoid of morning commuters and I can’t remember the last time I’ve loved New York City so much.

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My biggest problems now consist of when to eat lunch, if I should exercise and just what exactly constitutes the maximum number of daily naps. My body’s significant decrease in stress restores harmony to my muscles and bones. In my silent apartment, words tumble from my thoughts and through my fingers; a stillness broken only by the street noise and gentle hum of the refrigerator. Without meetings to schedule and phone calls to take, time is made whole again. 

Why did I need to quit a job in order to reassess what matters in my life and focus on the people and activities that make me happy?  While I’m not gearing up for another backpacking trip through Europe, my time off feels almost as special. I finally have those magical minutes in a day to be a tourist in a city I barely know and reach out to people I love yet neglected for far too long.

So let that be a lesson to you, self. Stop using work as an excuse for failing to complete those little things you’ve wanted to do. 

Home

I don’t know the formula for creating a Home. I don’t know how long it takes for an apartment, a familiar street or a city to move beyond the physical to the comfortable and the safe. There are hooks near the door where I hang my keys. But those hooks could be anywhere, on any wall, waiting for any keys to give their existence purpose. 

A man yelled profanities from his seat on the 6 train, heading downtown. He wore socks, no shoes, and had draped an American flag towel over his face and body. I couldn’t see his face but I imagined the world from his eyes, light and blurred movement from the other side of his cotton curtain. The repetition of his words-such angry words-scarred me and I hurried off the train, leaving my high heels behind. I was going home. Was he? 

Nostalgia as a Home. At brunch on Sunday, I sat across from three people who I’ve known and loved since I was 16 years old. Each of them are living dramatically different lives from the nights of summer bonfires and drive-in theaters. We don’t speak often, me and these three people, but time melted with each cup of steaming coffee until I saw them again as the people who knew me best. Despite all those years. I left the restaurant and felt a sense of longing as if I’d forgotten something but couldn’t remember what it was. Shoes on a train. 

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As migrants and refugees continue to bleed over the borders of their own lands into a watercolor of checkpoints and fading hope, I wonder about Home. Leaving Home. I imagine these people saying goodbye to every familiar Home they have ever known. Will the immune system of foreign government accept or reject these transplants? 

As long as they have each other…I traveled soundly knowing my parents were thinking about me, were wondering about me, were keeping my Home safe inside their love.

“It was a million tiny little things that, when you added them all up, they meant we were supposed to be together… and I knew it. I knew it the very first time I touched her. It was like coming Home… only to no home I’d ever known… I was just taking her hand to help her out of a car and I knew. It was like… magic.”

Sam Baldwin (Tom Hanks), Sleepless in Seattle

On my daily commute, I see the same people sitting on the same sidewalk and standing near the same Starbucks entrance with their cardboard signs. I see them every morning having left my apartment for the day’s activities. I wonder about these people, wonder about their definition of Home. I do not pretend for a moment to imagine how it must feel to lack a roof over my head or a space to unwind from the world. A private place to call my own. Nor do I know the stories of these people as they kept their eyes focused on the ground in front of them.

Homesick (def): the sickness caused by the perceived lack of or longing for Home. We have a human understanding to help those who suffer from such an illness, never knowing when we might fall victim to such a disease. 

And I’m back.

For the 2+ months I haven’t blogged. Not once. And there is no excuse as the pictures piled up on my iPhone and words ran through my head. So what was going on all that time?

  • I got a cold and went to bed at 9pm for a week.  
  • Boyfriend Billy and I had a delicious sushi dinner on the Upper West Side. 
  • My mom and I decorated the bunny cake for Easter. 
  • I traveled back to Northampton, Mass to visit my former home. 
  • The weather got warm.
  • I planned my 25th birthday party.
  • The weather got cold. 
  • I made friends with my co-workers. 
  • I finished reading No Country for Old Men.
  • Some Bucknell ladies and I booked plane tickets for New Orleans. 
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Easter bunny cake

New York finally had its first 75F degree day. The sun comes streaming through my bedroom window earlier each morning, eliciting movement and disgruntled groaning. The restaurants on 30th Avenue in Astoria are beginning to put out tables and chairs for outdoor seating. Spring feels so close I could hold it. 

And with the coming season, I’m still learning the same lesson I’ve learned countless times before:

Things take time. 

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Financial District

Accomplishing an item on my To-Do list–consolidating bank accounts, building a gym routine and planning weekly lunches–feel like mini accomplishments. I’m realizing that building a life here in New York is more challenging than traveling alone or moving to Massachusetts. What does it mean to own a New Yorker status? I’ll have to learn the subway lines without looking at a map and stretch my budget to include infinite happy hours and monthly rent. I’ll need to stop fumbling at work among experienced sales professionals and stop gazing in awe at the skyscrapers downtown. It’s been almost five months (FIVE MONTHS?!) and my daily life still feels delicate and new. 

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Boyfriend Bill & Me

But my people are here and that had made all the difference. With help from the darling roommates, I rented a private room for my 25th birthday party (on Saturday!) and the overwhelming list of RSVP yes’s made my heart swell. Friends from college and high school are scattered throughout the boroughs and the boyfriend makes plenty of time for me despite the one hour commuting difference from Queens to Hoboken. New York has the only thing my European adventure lacked, a core group of individuals with whom I can share my highest highs and lowest lows. This place and these people had captured my heart despite the frigid winter and gnawing reality of an unknown future. 

There are cherry blossoms in Newark, New Jersey.

Anything is possible. 

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Cherry Blossoms in Newark, NJ

Juno: the #blizzardof2015 or #Snowmageddon2015

“It’s here! Winter Storm Juno’s First Heavy Snowfall Arrives.” -The Weather Channel 

The blizzard is here. From Boston to New York, wind whips along carless streets as last minute shoppers trudge home with the most necessary kitchen staples. Eggs. Bread. Milk. Beer. Schools and universities have closed for tomorrow. Travel bans are in place and public transportation has shut down.The snow, which started as light flurries in the morning, increased steadily and by early afternoon most offices in NYC had sent their employees home. Since I was never put on the company wide e-mail chain, I missed the important memo and went home an hour later than necessary. But that’s just the kind of dedicated employee I am. From the office to the streets and back at home, it seemed everyone was talking about the #blizzardof2015.

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View from the office

And now? Peeking outside of my little Astoria apartment window, I see

…not much. 

Apparently the worst is yet to come. My roommates are in bed asleep, hoping a winter wonderland will await them in the morning. Nothing better than a “work from home” kind of Tuesday. Daina, my dear roommate, faced the crowds of the local grocery store and we now have days worth of delicious chicken tortellini soup. Our stash of red wine, while depleting rapidly should last another couple of days. And tonight our little group of four (Daina, Megan, Sam and I) sat around the coffee table playing Jenga and watching The Bachelor on TV like any normal group of people preparing for the worst storm of their lives. 

All of this–the shopping, the wine, the food, the great company–reminded me of the evenings spent in Northampton around our wood stove. I remember Nemo and Hurricane Sandy, holed up in 38 Henry St. with good friends and a cozy home. The Nor’easter of November 2012? I blogged about cookies and Election Cake. This year, I bravely attempted smitten kitchen recipe for Salted Carmel Brownies:

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Did I use a plastic spoon to stir my homemade caramel sauce, successfully melting white plastic into my browning sugar? Maybe, maybe not. But my multiple attempts at melting sugar and 9pm dash to the grocery story for parchment paper seemed like small prices to pay for the delicious dessert that eventually came out of the oven. My stomach is full, my head is sleepy and my heart is full knowing I have a snow day for the first time in a long while. 

During the 11:00pm news, a politician warned people to stay inside since people who fall down on the sidewalks may be invisible to emergency crews. Invisible. Refinery29 has some tips for ladies needing a list of things to do during their snow day including lounging in pjs, catching up on reruns and fitting in a squat workout. Swimsuit season is coming.And me? I’ll wake up in the morning, open my window shades and hope to be dazzled by the early morning brilliance of snow on a January day. I’ll try to clean the house and answer those pesky e-mails but hating tying myself down to “productivity.” Plus there is online shopping to do since the bf’s birthday is coming up way too fast so tonight I’m just thankful for newsworthy blizzards…and Amazon Prime. 

Stay warm. 

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Snow in the Big Apple

New Yorkers saw their first snowfall of the season on Wednesday and like true New Yorkers, they put up their black umbrellas and trudged on. It was my lunch break and, desperately in need of soup, I ventured out into the world of wintry wind and overcast skies. The afternoon bustle was no different that the mornings or late weekend nights and people moved along the sidewalk, hurrying on their way.

I found soup at a cafe just a couple blocks from the World Trade Tower and my City Hall subway stop. The hot, spicy broth warmed my stomach and when I left the cafe, the air was filled with fine, white flakes. I put up my bright red polka dotted umbrella and headed back to the office. My office in New York City.IMG_2206

How quickly life can change. For the first time in months, routine has reentered my life. Monday through Friday, I take the subway and read my Kindle through countless R stops from Queens to downtown Manhattan. Like millions of others, I have joined the ranks of employed commuters. In my neighborhood, the Astoria community plays holiday music from large speakers hung from tree branches over the sidewalk and in the evenings, lights gleam in green, red and gold over the busy streets. It’s a working holiday wonderland here in the Big Apple.

I’m still the girl who looks up at the skyscrapers in open-mouthed awe. I have not yet adjusted to starless skies, constellations hidden from view amidst the flashing advertisements and glowing signs. This city, filled with sky high promise of glamour and power, buzzes with an energy I’ve never known before. Despite the warning signs of my body (coughing, stuffy nose), I move on to the next holiday party and early morning shuffle. I’m the first to admit that I’ve been caught up in the constant flurry of movement and activity that is simultaneously intoxicating and nerve-racking.

Where has my mindfulness gone? With this season’s holiday spirit and growing list of un-purchased presents, maybe we all need to remind ourselves of our own “presence of mind”. This week I wish all of you some time to reflect, homemade candy cake brownies and an early bedtime.

Home (Sweet) Home

On Monday night, Emirates Flight 250 from Milan Malpensa Airport landed safely in New York City at JFK. The city glittered in the crisp November evening and passengers unbuckled their seat belts in a chorus of clicks and clacks. Bags were removed from overhead bins and children, woken from their airborne sleep, cried and whimpered in their parents’ arms. I leaned my face against the glass of the airplane window and watched my reflection faint against the black tarmac. The eyes in the window formed tears which spilled into the orange traffic cones and blinking safety lights far beyond the well-lit cabin. I willed the plane back into the sky, wished a reversed path east over the Atlantic and a safe return back to Italy where the journey had begun three and a half months ago. My desperate pleas were in vain. I bundled up my belongings, powered on my phone, and joined the line of weary passengers as they exited the plane.

Ciao Milano

Three days have passed since then. The subtle awareness of returning to the United States happens unexpectedly in the most mundane ways. The waiters at the restaurant speak English. My computer and phone charger no longer require thick boxy adapters. My mornings are spent deciding what outfit I will wear, overwhelmed by the sheer number of clothes and shoes, before returning to my pjs and slippers. Most things–my parents’ house, my friends’ lives, the life I left– seem relatively unchanged and I catch myself wondering if this adventure was all just a dream. All that remains from my European excursion is an opened box of Turkish Delight and the small collection of dirty clothes still stuffed into dusty backpack in the living room.

P1060391But this life, the life back home, is filled with new and colorful sweets as well. This weekend I’m spending time exploring the new apartment in Queens and preparing for a job interview with a sustainability company in Manhattan. I missed my friends and still relish the luxury of texting them from the same time zone, catching up on promotions, new adventures and graduate school applications. They have welcomed me back with open arms as if no time as passed at all and it is these people I’ve returned to that make the loss of others somewhat easier to bear. P1060389

I’m baking again with a full kitchen at my disposal and countless pumpkin muffin recipes to try. I have a plethora of blog posts to write and newfound time to write them (thanks unemployment). And I have yet another city just waiting to be explored with a new wide-eyed, friendly, curious traveler self to take into this new chapter of my life. Maybe I’m not traveling across country lines at the moment but I’m still exploring every day.

Thank you, dear readers and dearer friends, for welcoming me home. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that in some ways…

it is good to be back. 

Rabbit Rabbit

I tried to warn you earlier and fear it may be too late. Something tells me that you, dear reader, have already spoken today. Did you whisper “good morning,” rubbing Sunday morning sleep from your eyes or leave a phone message after a leisurely breakfast of scones and rhubarb pound cake? Most probably. But if you haven’t yet exercised your vocal chords, let this be the first thing out of your mouth:

Rabbit Rabbit.”

Maybe I should have posted this blog 14 hours earlier. This superstitious transition originated in the early 1900’s and was practiced by the likes of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Gilda Radner. I’ve only managed to accomplish “rabbit rabbit” effectively once and cannot remember if March was a particularly fruitful month. But here we are, standing on the precipice of Spring, about to jump into the luxuriously lazy river of Summer. So let the good times flow.

My summer is starting off HOT HOT HOT. Texas hot, to be exact. On June 12th, Bobby* and I will be flying to Austin for BBQ, music, bats and beer. I’ve heard so many good things from Austin visitors that by the time Toby and Amy decided to move back to TX, my Google searches consisted exclusively of Austin rental houses and Top Ten lists.

I’ve done two important tasks in anticipation of my upcoming trip (arguably not in order of importance):

Hot Texas Nights1. Started reading Hot Texas Nights, a 1990’s romance mystery that takes places in Austin. With such powerful literary reviews, I just had to pick it up.

‘Though the book is a pleasant enough read, Baxter’s characters are stereotypical, her pacing choppy and her dialogue during lovemaking scenes ripe with cliches such as “You like what you see?” and “God, but you fit me like a glove.”’

2. Asked my recently Austin-bound friends of places to go, things to see, and BBQ to eat which brings me to Katelyn’s Top Ten Things to Do in Austin From a Girl Who’s Never Been.

  • Hill Country Wineries- I’m assuming to consume wine.
  • 6th Street- “Dirty Sixth” where the drinks are strong and the memories are weak.
  • Whole Foods Headquarters.
  • Rainey Street- Streets of houses that they have gutted and turned into bars. Adorable and hipster positive way.
  • Barton Springs (in Zilker Park)- great swimming hole with picnic-ing outside the park. Daytime funtime.
  • Congress Bridge at dusk- 1.5 million Mexican Free-Tailed Bats emerge into the night in a flurry.
  • Uncommon Objects- A fun shops on South Congress, this shop have antique photos and other funky stuff.
  • Red River-famous Barbecue and Music place with Austin-famous food trucks.
  • Eat BBQ-At any of the following places: Franklins, Salt Lick, Stubbs, Country Line etc. Be prepared for long waits.
  • Amy’s Ice Cream- enough said.

For anyone who has been to Austin, I’m very open to suggestions. Update to list coming soon. And just remember, even if you forgot “rabbit rabbit” and your June is doomed with bad fortune and missed opportunities, there’s always July.

*Names have been changed for humorous and completely unnecessary purposes.

On Hiking

Hiking can be intimidating. First there is the gear: Camelbak packs or Nalgene water bottles, Columbia hiking boots , the North Face wind resistant pants, and obscure maps with contour lines like thin strands of hair marking the receding elevation. You need necessary snacks, torn between Cliffbars, trail mix, and varieties of dried fruit that you imagine other experienced campers eat on a daily basis. One must also choose the location. Do you travel long distances to the Rocky Mountains or attempt to navigate the trail behind your house in upstate New York, hoping your deer hunting neighbor will not mistake you for a young doe.

Of course, the real fear is not the brand names of waterproof clothing, the food or the specific location of the trail. It is nature itself. Weather is unpredictable, bugs are prevalent, and Googling “beautiful nature views” takes a fraction of the time it takes to actually go out there yourself. But stop for a moment and think. Think about the most beautiful sight you have ever witnessed or the most beautiful place you have been. How many of those memories took place in nature, watching the sun slip behind the gently rolling waves or smelling the violets on the first day of spring? We have become so removed from nature that outdoor adventures are increasingly unknown and dangerous experiences, saved for mountain men and expert campers. Go ahead. Reclaim nature for yourself.

My college roommate and close friend is not a hiker. While Jen is outgoing and very athletic, her favorite experiences in nature are laying on the beach and reading a good book. However, she dressed the part and was more than willing to try a number of hikes during our week in Aspen. The Maroon Bells are some of the most photographed mountains in Colorado. Towering over 14,000 ft, they are a magnificent sight seen with ice patches at all times of the year. Jen and I did the Crater Lake Hike get a special view of these natural wonders. The 3.6 mile hike was a moderate trail, taking less than 2 hours. Our pictures were spectacular and our memories were unforgettable. 

Two days later, I attempted Aspen Mountain which begins at the base of Little Nell and climbs 3267 feet up the Aspen Mountain ski area finishing at the Sundeck Restaurant at an elevation of 11,212 feet. The benefit of such a climb other than the incredible view is the free gondola ride, bringing you safely down the mountain back to where you began your journey hours ago. Our four person group became two about halfway up the steep ascent. The combination of unyielding vertical climbs and high elevation made me question my sanity and physical conditioning more than once as I continued to the top. Many Aspen locals and expert athletics jog up the mountain for exercise, racing during the America’s Uphill spring ritual. Who are these people with the lung capacity and mental stamina? In my mind, they tower over me like gods with large wings and a golden aura around their dusty running sneakers. 

Most of us will never reach this caliber of hiker/jogger/athletic extraordinaire. But each of us can look on a map and pick out a trail that is right for them. Look for opportunities locally. Hike a mile to a nearby waterfall or walk through your local bird sanctuary with a bottle of water and a pair of binoculars. The natural world has sights, sounds and wildlife for everyone to experience. Even if you don’t want to run up Aspen mountain.