I have big calves.
I’m not being self-deprecating or indulging in a moment of low self-esteem. They’re big, and I’m reminded of it every time I try to tug on skinny jeans or almost bust a zipper pulling on a pair of knee-high boots.
The natural response, I guess, would be to dislike them. And I won’t lie, I’ve cast an admiring glance or two at thin-legged ladies. But, I’m proud of my calves.
My body is a gift from people whose names and faces and stories I will never know. Somehow, all the things that they were have come together into one big compilation – and that’s me.
Just like riding a bike. Once you know how to do something, you’ll know how to do it forever. Easy peasy.
But you know what’s not “just like riding a bike”? Riding a bike.
When I was a kid, I was nearly inseparable from my bike. From the time I figured out how to get the wheels over the bump between our driveway and the street without falling, my bike and I were unstoppable.
I would ride down the four roads in my neighborhood, pushing myself to top speed as I circled the cul-de-sacs. Those were the best days. I would entertain myself by singing random songs as I pedaled (clearly, I was a bit of an odd kid), often meeting up with my neighborhood friends, Alex, Kelsey, Carrie, and Tensi, as I patrolled my neighborhood territory.
Then, I got older.
The first mile is always the hardest.
It doesn’t matter that I walk everywhere – to the grocery store, to the metro, to restaurants – it’s always hard for me to get started. I tend to be stiff in the beginning. I feel it in my stance. I do this weird thing where I start tensing up my right foot, flexing it too much until I start getting that uncomfortable pre-Charlie horse feeling.
And then, after the first mile, I start to relax. My foot chills out, and I settle into a rhythm. I start to exist just from the waist down. Everything that I am is focused on my hips, my thighs, my knees, my calves, and my feet. It becomes harder to slow myself to a stop than it is to keep going and going and going forever.
Early morning view of Rock Creek from inside the Zoo.
I almost didn’t set out on an outing this past weekend. I had way too many plans and I didn’t want to end up being too tired from hiking to enjoy them. But my favorite weatherman kept telling me that the temperature was going to be out of the park on Saturday — an unseasonable 63 degrees! It would have been a crime not to try to squeeze some time in for urban hiking before the rain and the cold took over again.
I left bright and early on Saturday morning. Since I didn’t want to overexert myself, I picked a short route and was focusing more on taking photos and pretending to understand my GoPro than going far. Lingering on the bridge between Beach Road and the Zoo, I took shot after shot until I got tired of the stares from the Zoo worker manning the entrance.
Thirty-six hours after this was taken, I was in urgent care getting diagnosed with a staph infection.
A few months ago, I had an unfortunate and unforeseen accident while hiking. To make matters worse, I also broke one of the cardinal rules of being an outdoors lady: I went on a hike unprepared.
When you choose to hike you also choose to take on the responsibility of being prepared for anything that might happen while you’re out on the trail. Sure, some circumstances might be beyond your control, but there are steps that you can take to mitigate those risks. And I didn’t take any of them.
No one in my group had a first aid kit.
None of us were ready for a worst case scenario.
We just had a lot of Jewish holidays. A lot. In the height of the Jewish holiday season, it feels like every day is a holiday. But to be honest, if I didn’t work in the Jewish community, I don’t know if I would pay attention to most of these holidays.
This year, we did a major Sukkot push at work, which was new for me, since I typically don’t spend a lot of time thinking about this holiday. The way we approached the holiday and its themes was unique, and it kept me thinking about it – even now that the holiday is over.
One of the things you’re supposed to do during Sukkot (full disclosure, I did not do this) is build a sukkah, a temporary dwelling reminiscent of the fragile structures we lived in during the 40 years we spent wandering the desert. More than that, it’s a symbol for the fragility of the structures in our everyday lives.
And the sukkah does seem fragile. With all the rain and wind last week, I kept watching the sukkah outside my window at work and expecting it to blow down (it didn’t).
Sometimes I forget that most people are inherently good. It’s easy to forget in the city where it’s easier to slide into the every-man-for-himself mentality. And here’s the truth: I may recognize my neighbors, but I don’t wave to them; I sit next to the same people on the bus every day, but I don’t talk to them; and I see the same surprisingly well put together homeless woman on the corner every time I walk up to Columbia Heights, but I don’t know her and I don’t help her. It’s cold here in the big city, and if I think too much about it, I start to miss the easy warmth of the people in my hometown in North Florida.
On the trail, for some reason, it’s different. We tend to hike close enough to D.C. that unless someone has an accent, I usually assume they’re also day tripping from the city or its suburbs, but out in nature all of that city coldness seems to go away.
Sireen and I conquering Old Rag.
It’s like we all form an unspoken temporary pact when we’re out on the trail. Each and every one of us woke up in the morning and went, “I’m going to climb a mountain today,” or “I’m going to go on a disturbingly long walk somewhere.” We don’t know each other, but when I see these strangers out on the trail (unless they’re extremely annoying), I want them to succeed. I want them to feel as awesome as I feel. I want to be able to help if they’re struggling. I want to open my first aid kit and pass out my emergency meds. If only for a few hours, I want to be their trail friend.