When She Was a Girl

For the second year, I’ve submit a short essay for consideration to World Nomads Travel Writing Scholarship. My essay follows the theme of making a local connection. Should I be selected, I’ll be heading to Argentina with two other writers and a mentor, courtesy of World Nomads and Say Hueque Argentina Tourism. Winners are announced April 4, 2018. Stay tuned!

The hair on my arms was standing straight up, despite the warm sun shining on us. My throat tightened up as I listened, my eyes watered as she spoke.

It was a summer afternoon in Arromanche-les-Bains, a small village nestled among the D-Day beaches. Remnants of the infamous Mulberry Harbour are here, and we had spent the evening before gazing on them in the sunset. We’d been exploring the coast and D-Day beaches for a little over a week so far, stopping at monuments, museums, plaques, and seeing remnants of the destructive war on farm structures and walls as we bicycled by.

We were tenting in the municipal campground, soaking up the sun, drinking wine, cleaning our bicycles and doing wash. It was in the laundry room that I met her – an older woman, shorter than me with sandy blonde hair and colorful shirt. I initiated a clumsy conversation that progressed from laundry to pleasantries in mediocre French, and eventually found it’s way to English.

She was from Brussels, on an annual RV trip with her husband. She asked about our bicycle tour, and where we were from. To date, no one had cared that we were American. It was Alaska, our home, that caught their attention. Not that we could blame them – Alaska is a slice of paradise, and we were happy to speak to it. But not this woman. She honed in on America, and told me a story I could never have anticipated or asked for.

She was a child in Brussels during World War II. The war touched her town, her life, and made her frightened. There was no future – just surviving the present. She told me that she didn’t know if she would survive, and tried to explain to me the emotion, the fear, the electricity she was producing during those days. She was relaying the history she had lived to me, and it was holding me in place on the walkway.

“Americans…” she started. They liberated her. They saved her life and her family’s life. She was indebted to those soldiers. I was silent, locked on her eyes, face, mouth as she told me this story, and I watched her eyes water and her mind go somewhere else. “I come here often, to Arromanche. We go to the cemetery. And I walk from grave to grave, as far as I can, saying ‘Thank you for your service’ to each headstone.”

No plaque, short film, or cannonball hole could have prepared me for her story, and our shared emotional responses. I took in the weight of history resting on her, and despite the still air, I shivered. We wiped our eyes, shared a smile and went our separate ways.

Glissading Gone… ?

If sliding down a mountain slope on your butt is wrong, I don’t want to be right.

What goes up, gets to come down.

IMG_8155
Little O’Malley Summit, Anchorage

Glissading is by far the simplest, and most fun way to get off a mountain summit* until I learn how to paraglide. By it’s definition, glissading is simple: the climber sits on her butt, leans back, lifts feet, and slides down the angle quickly and efficiently. Of course, there’s technique and considerations if you’re on a steep angle and/or carrying an ice ax (checking Climbing.com for that information). And if you know me at all, that ain’t my game.

For your viewing pleasure:

Glissading done well:

Glissading done… not well (sound on):

As if I ever do anything with style and grace… A nylon skirt, well packed trail and a just right angle were ingredients for one seriously fast and funny trip to the bottom. You’re welcome!

*I am not a mountaineer, ice climber, or other high-octane adventure seeker. I stick to low angles and elevations. Glissade at your own risk!

Riding Out of the Rut

IMG_8137

Like so many others, I was/am having a tough time staying motivated and active this winter. When you overlay the slippery slope of a cold, dark winter with holidays, work, and ol’fashioned excuses – it doesn’t take long before you’ve found yourself at the bottom of said hill, and need to work double-time to get back up to the top.

Supplemental Reading: 20 Ways to Bust Out Of Your Workout Rut

Respecting that we all have different tolerances for that rut, how deep down we’re willing to go, and how long – I hit the end of my rope in January. Feeling lethargic, irritated, uncomfortable in my clothes and skin, and some gentle-but-firm direction from my doctor, was my catalyst. Time to make some adjustments.

If you haven’t caught on yet, my most beloved way to “get after it” is riding my bicycle. Biking is the easiest way between two points normally, and commuting provides a simple way to maintain some baselevel physical activity.

Bicycle Magainze: 5 Reasons to Ride Your Bike Every Day

So I’ve made a big show of packing my panniers, loading my lunch, and layering up for rides between 4 and -4 Farhenheit. I logged ~ 22 miles on bicycle last week, waking my hips up and getting to-the-bone tired. Naturally, my seat clamp broke over the weekend and set me back a few days. But, the cobwebs are being dusted off and I’m heading OUT of the rut, not into it.

 

 

IMG_8119
My attitude, all the time.