Saturday, October 19, 2013

Know your limits--but don't limit yourself

"It's a mile and half!" wailed the woman next to me at the trailhead kiosk. I found the dismay in her voice nearly comical, since I'm several decades older than she was and I had no qualms about hiking to the top of North Pack Monadnock.

On the flat, I can walk a mile and a half in about forty-five minutes, but North Pack isn't flat. It rises about a thousand feet in that mile and a half, though the actual climb is more because of dips in the landscape. My best time ever for the trail is an hour, on a day when I was impelled by some pretty dire stress. On average, I figure it will take me ninety minutes or a little more.

I don't know what limits that young woman had. Maybe not enough time; maybe not enough water. Certainly her footwear was inadequate for the rocky, root-snagged trail. I hope she looked at the contour map and judged herself not yet fit for the climb, and I hope she embarked on a shape-up plan. I hope I'll see her on the summit next year. 

Most of all, I hope she didn't just give up on hiking.

In the woods, knowing your limits is a survival skill. Reaching your destination without the time or energy to return can kill you. Many's the time I've stopped short of my goal because of fatigue or bad weather or because I overestimated my fitness level or underestimated the challenge. Many hikers are faster than me. I step aside with a smile and let them pass.

Some limits are immutable (I can't fly) and some change over time (I'm slower than I used to be). The neat thing about most limits, though, is they're not rigid. I can improve my fitness, return another day, get better boots. I can choose another trail to the top. 

The one thing I can't do is stay off the trails. If I stop hiking entirely because one mountain defeats me, I limit myself. And that's one thing I refuse to do. I accept that I'm aging, but the rocking chair can wait. It'll feel good after I come down off North Pack. 

Friday, October 11, 2013


Forget January; my new years start in the fall. After the languid days of summer, I’m ready for the renewed energy of autumn. I break out the more substantial clothing, hoard my garden’s bounty, and turn inward. If I regret summer’s freedom, I welcome autumn’s focus.

This year the ends of things are more prominent than usual. My grandson is leaving toddlerhood and becoming a preschooler. The salmon restoration project I’ve worked on for years has shut down. I lost a dear friend and my publisher in July.

Likewise, the beginnings are prominent. Toddlers are great, but preschoolers are real people. The salmon project will raise eels and shad. No one can replace my friend, but I’ve found a new publisher.

When Linda Houle of L&L Dreamspell passed away this summer, the publishing world lost a bright star and many of us lost a warm, caring friend. The company closed and all rights reverted to the authors. Lisa Smith, Linda’s partner, moved quickly to give us all as much opportunity as possible to re-issue our books. One of the things I loved best about being a Dreamspell author was the community Linda and Lisa built, and I feared it was lost forever. But Lisa, despite her own deep grief, kept our Yahoo! group alive so we could support each other. I will miss Linda forever; I hope I will work with Lisa again in the future; and I’m delighted I can still be in touch with a group of authors I’ve come to treasure.

In another generous gesture, Lisa arranged for Dreamspellers to submit their books to The Wild Rose Press for re-release, and TWRP graciously offered to fast-track those that suited their line. My cozy mystery, Framed, has found a new home, and I’m excited to be working with a new team of professionals. Their energy has even reinvigorated my rewrites of the sequel, A Thousand Words.

To cite a truism, every ending is also a beginning. Janus, the two-faced god of doorways and changes, may claim January, but the prime number seven, September, wins my devotion.