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Endings v. Beginnings

Last year I decided to attempt setting an FKT (fastest known time) on the Ouachita Trail. The beginning of that journey was the end of my inability to think of myself as an athlete. When I quit the attempt after 51 miles, that ending was the beginning of a year of doubt. When I began the trail again on October 28 this year with no intentions of record-setting speed, that was the merciful end of a long season of illness. When I finished the trail 15 days later, that ending was the new beginning that that old dream needed.


As we approach the end of the year, and the end of this writing project with the Rugged Outdoors Women+ Write group, this felt like a suitable topic to contemplate together.

 

Endings v. Beginnings

by Christine Reed

Should I even begin, when I know all good things come to an end?


I want to put myself in danger

Danger of failure

Danger of hurt

Danger of disappointment


I want to risk it all

I might not find what I’m looking for

I might not accomplish what I came to do

I might end up no better off than I started


But to begin is the only way to know how things might end.


Find Christine on Instagram and TikTok @ruggedoutdoorswoman

Read her memoir Alone in Wonderland for a journey on the Wonderland Trail.

 

This End, A Race

by Tatiana Corbitt

It’s the end of the book

You’ve turned the last page

Bergamot, lavender, sage

Mists the air

A sordid affair

And the king ran away with his mage

I could sit here and write

A soliloquy on flight

Bemuse over light winged birds

That, in their fright,

All at once, do alight

Whisking autumn,

A shiver,

A quiver,

A clenching of pearls.

Dear one, you’ve left

Like all things must

But in your wake

My palate tastes dust

I long, this winter,

For a warm hand to hold

I make up for the cold

This white, shivering, mold

Begging for a bow

From the bandstand

Mugs full of steaming tea

And sweet, dark, coffee

Keep my hands warm

Give me a handle to hold

To brace,

For this end, a race.


Tatiana is a writer and artist living in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. She graduated with her M.S. in Applied Biological Sciences in 2019 and is currently working on her debut novel. Her writing is frequently published on narcolepsy.sleep-disorders.net

 

Twenty

Saryn B. Schwartz

And now I witness as life begins again. My first apartment. Coats of white paint cover every inch of the building, so thick the doors don't open right and some of the windows are glued shut. A new kitchen filled with not-so-new appliances. 1950’s blue tiling in the bathroom and single pane windows on the walls.


New neighbors, the girls across from me have a kitten. I invite them over for dinner, they complement my lamps. I ask to borrow flour and then return with fresh baked banana bread, a signal of my desire for new friendship.


A new garden outside my bedroom window. A large old tree in the center of the courtyard, little plants at its base. In the mornings I sit on my front step, cup of tea in hand, watching the birds and autumn leaves.


Summer to fall, fall to winter, winter to spring, spring to summer, and summer back into fall.

The seasons continue to change. And so do I.

Maybe this new me is old now.

 

Where Bees Go to Die

by Meaghan Martin


CW: gun violence

Four days after the mass shooting,

I go for a walk to clear my mind.

A chill hangs in the October air,

Foggy silence settles into the soil.

I make my way around the perimeter of the hayfield,

The bright purple thistle blossoms,

Are all that remains of summer.

Even the trees are bare now.


Bumblebees cling to the thistles.

They have lived a full life, bouncing from flower to flower,

Pollinating wildflowers and farmers’ crops.

Now it is too cold for them to fly any longer.

The frost has settled in,

Leaving their wings sparkling.

They have come home,

To rest in the petals of the very flowers,

That once sustained them.

I gaze at the dying bees and think,

Of the eighteen people killed,

As bullets designed to wreak havoc on flesh,

Tore the souls from their innocent bodies.

Do fragments of their spirits live in the walls now?

Is it possible for a soul to pool in a puddle staining the floor?

Raindrops roll down my coat.

I wonder what it must be like for the bees,

To slip gently into sleep,

To go peacefully from one realm into the next,


And I wonder why,

We can’t all have the same.


Meaghan is a backpacker and writer living in Maine with loved ones and pets. You can find her on Instagram and TikTok at @meaghan_adventures


 

Begin Again

by Lauren Jones

“What brings you in?” my first acupuncturist, asks…..”I wanna make sure I can get pregnant”, I respond with slight trepidation yet quiet fierceness in my voice.


There it was. Right at that very moment. I went into my 35th year, went into our upcoming marriage, began our life together in a committed partnership with lack and scarcity as a mindset.


Society set up an expectation of what I might not be able to do at thirty five years young. Medicinal practitioners inform me of what might be wrong with my body without a solid foundation of it being true. Pure anticipated beliefs. Me, already suspecting that I was too old. Me, already feeling like a failure. Me, already not trusting, nor believing and not even thinking I would be, could be and will be pregnant on my own. My sabbatures speak louder than my intuition. My heart, silenced and my brain, ratified. I knew in my soul that becoming a mom was meant for me and yet, I began the process of our blended lives with doubt, insecurity, shame and a whole clown car of low vibe energy. Right there. There it was, the starting line of: My Infertility Story.


The initiation of my journey with ‘beginning again’ for, what would become, nine more years in the future.


My period came every 28 to 31 days. Each time, we began again.


Five months of taking the ovulation stimulant, Clomid, with no positive pee sticks. Begin again.


Three months of trying the alternative ovulation stimulant, Letrozole, with bleeding that started late. Just enough lateness to be a tease. We still were not pregnant. Begin again.


Five IUIs with that celebrated trigger shot in my butt cheek. Each one, negative. No. Not this time. Ugh,not yet. Begin again.


Change acupuncturist. Begin again.

Change clinic. Begin again.


Invest in holistic medicine, weird foot soaks, odd clearing rituals while holding words and tapping various points on my limbs. Reiki. Functional medicine. Chiropractic adjustments. Nothing. No positive outcome. Every invoice, every bill paid, every month a “no”. Bank account draining. Begin again.


Change acupuncturist another time. Begin again.

Abstain. Moderate. Sober. Clean. Healthy and radiant positivity. Begin again.


Undergo our first IVF. Believe big. Feel our family growing. Visualize holding our baby in my arms in nine months. Compile a list of names. Negative. ‘She’ didn’t stick. Stop. Enough. No more.


Cease

Halt

End

Take a break


Thru-hike the Colorado Trail. Every step, a new beginning.

Pandemic pause.

Three years later. Begin again.


IVF Round Two. Defy the odds. Forty three years young. Miracle mama in the making. Sixteen eggs. Thirteen fertilized. Two promising embryos. Look at us! So glad we began again. Our babies were waiting for us. We got ready to welcome them home.


Pregnant.

Pregnant?

We got pregnant!


Seven weeks later. No heartbeat. Blood commenced. Goodbye little one. End again.


Thru-hike the Collegiate West. Solo Northbounder. Every mile stronger than the last. Pant, wheeze, sigh, scream. Exhale defeat. Gulp in prospective possibilities. Huff and puff fearlessness. Whisper nervously and prevail.


Talk to our babies. Speak stories of their future lives, our future plans together as a family. Anxiously hike out of a rainstorm with their presence as my present. Descend from high exposed peaks having just welcomed their spirits into my soles. Every voracious, driven step brought me closer to beginning again. I chose to end early. Ready for another chapter to begin.


Third IVF. Forty-four trips around the sun. Another year older, another year to begin again.


Miracle meatballs. Mini-day three embryos. Two of them. My body flourished with natural producing hormones. No need for supplemental shots. She’s got this. My strong rockstar fertile body. We’ve got this. Our tenacious, enduring, stronger than ever partnership. They are coming back to be with us. Our petite family is about to thrive.


The phone rings. It’s been eleven days. “You’re not pregnant”, she says. “Do you want to begin again?”


“Give us some time”, I retort with a quivering lip. I could tell I wasn’t carrying our babies this time. I pretended to feel them there. They were not there after all.


We will begin differently now.

A different beginning is on the horizon.


Plato said it best: To begin is the most important part of any quest and by far the most courageous.


At some point soon, our courageousness will arrive and we will begin again.


Lauren ‘Yardsale’ Jones works professionally as a Colorado state employee and School Counselor. For a living, she hikes, strolls and saunters with her pup Journey on the daily; meanders with her three chickens and nurtures her mini-urban farm with a newly acquired 1956 Canned Ham named Xanadu parked in the backyard. Her husband joined her for many parts of the Colorado Trail serving as the BEST trail angel on the planet and they now have adopted 5 miles of the CT in Segment 9 and are still aspiring parents-to-be. Yardsale’s chosen footware includes crocs, Altra Lonepeaks and ExtraTuf boots. She is also an aspiring author writing casually with the Rugged Outdoors Women Group aspiring to eventually finish her infertility, thru-hike memoir-like sort of self-help/inspiration mini-book. You can follow her venutres on Insta @stillaspiringjourney and @sol_y_luna_soilpluslove

 

Ellipses

by Kristy St Germaine

Slogging backward (back?) three miles, emotional tail tucked between my defeated, proverbial legs to hitch OUT from a *trail I’d breathed, dreamed, and planned to trek for the last six months of my mid-life crisis was more than a single blow to my ego; it felt like the end of who I was becoming.


The 21-mile spiral from Grace seemed a rude slap in the face to the magical 42-mile coastal, trail in the Upper Peninsula of MI.


How could this be the end?


In the five months since embarking on my first backpacking trip, I have worn a path in my mind and a hole in my gut over the initial 21 miles of my path. I have mentally - shed the ridiculous weight off our packs, said things I wished I’d said, and done the things I didn’t dare to do on the trail. I’ve heard the ethereal blow of the foghorn on Lake Superior as I envisioned that last night in our tents and imagined the verdant forest, reminiscent of something straight out of LOTR. I’ve seen the light from a new perspective.


As in life, despite unplanned endings, so goes the trail. Forgiving myself, forgiving the killjoys, forgiving myself again - For underestimating, overestimating; for missing the whole point -The trail goes on and every end, if we allow is a new beginning…


Kristy is a soon-to-be front desk agent for Marriott, an Uber driver by day, and a screenwriter by night. She is writing the final draft of a Western and working on a new screenplay with her 78-year-old dad. She's been married to the same hunk of a man for 25 years and is the proud mama to two beautiful young adults, Josh and Heather, and heart-meltingly known as Gramma K to the cutest, budding artist, Jackson Logan. She loves hiking, backpacking, camping, kayaking, watching movies, and flipping furniture in her spare time.

 

Something New

by Anne Whiting


This piece is an original song with music, available to listen on Youtube

Starlight after sunset Sunrise after moonset Even rain brings out the brightest blooms All hikes end with new dreams Oceans come from small streams ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new Travels end coming home Seeds don’t stop untill full grown Only death can birth the plants brand new ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new Hard work breaks up new soil Losses sift the true & loyal Bitter tears can bring the brightest joys Sunlight follows deep fogs Fallen trees make nurse logs ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new Hurting can build great strength Stretching can bring great length Only winter brings the green brand new ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new Travels end coming home Seeds don’t stop untill full grown Only death can birth the plants brand new ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new ‘Cause at the end, there’s always something new


Anne Whiting has been creating adventure opportunities through trail guides since 2010. She publishes her guides on her blog and in book form. When not dreaming up new trails, she likes to play music with her band and dabble in digital art and website development. Follow Anne’s past and present adventures on Facebook, MeWe, Patreon, and Instagram @viewjunkieanne

 

Endings are the Answers

by Belinda Arndt


The ending seems too final.

Never able to come back.

Too permanent for my liking.


Every time I am on a plane heading home, I tear up. I get overwhelmed by the emotions of my trip. I don't want this trip to end. I don't want that person I met on my travels to go away when she lands home. My freedom is gone.


Whenever I am in a relationship, I hold on to them like dear life because I don't want another person to leave me like the others. Who knows when the next person will come?


Beginnings are when there are unlimited opportunities and, most importantly, freedom.

New jobs, new places to live. New adventures. It's not sad, like an ending. Its growth.


But…


As I learned over the past few years.

Ending is growth and freedom, too.


When I walked out of my office over a year and a half ago, I knew I would never return. I was happy and liberated by the ending of that chapter.


But life in twisted events brought me back here again for different beginning.

Or when I finally allowed that relationship to die to have color back in my life.


Endings may have more freedom than a beginning. Maybe that's how the beginning gets their freedom, their opportunities. Endings are the answers to the beginning's possibilities.


Endings are ever in motion with beginnings because nothing in life is permanent.


Belinda Arndt is a solo traveler and adventurer based outside of Washington DC. Her tagline is "It's always an adventure with me!" Catch her adventures on her website WanderingBel.com which aims to build a community of solo travelers to share their travel stories. You can find her on instagram @wandering_bel and Facebook at Wandering Bel Blog

 

Ends

by Maggie Seymour

Dear reader,

how do we start thoughts on the end? Does such a start dismiss the beauty of a finale? Strip an end of its essence by beginning to describe it.

But ends do not exist without history, without beginnings. They are reliant. Co-dependent. Secondary. Among their other sullied pseudonyms. But can something be two things at once? How can it ever only be one?

A morning is brimming with hope and promise

An evening is ripe, ready to be plucked, enjoyed, and put to bed.

The exhausted end of the day. The full belly. The expanded heart. A finish line. A goodbye. What we thought, hoped, wished for…

Gone.

The dissolution of anticipation, of imagination. The erasure of an ideal.

And in its place, reality. Soaked into the bones. Alchemized into memory. Stark. Disappointing. But ours. The end marks what we get to keep. It is our reward for leaving everything, throwing it full force into the day. The end is our reward for trusting that a new beginning will come. That we will be replenished. And if a new beginning fails to arrive, the last one was well spent.

"Your life exhausts me" I’m told.

But who wants to go to bed energized?


Maggie is a mother, diplomat, Marine, partner, writer, runner, student and wanderer. She lives along the east coast. She is currently working on her first memoir set against her 2017 transcontinental run. You can find her on instagram @runfreerunner and on her blogs www.runfreerun.com and www.motherfeminist.com

 

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