Afternoon has settled long and heavy on my shoulders,” Sarah Bareilles sings about December, and I listen to it the same way one bites down into a lemon wedge.

December has a way of leaving things raw. It has a way of sharpening the lines and heightening everything on one side and the other.

December has a way of making you feel like you’re about to pick up a heavy weight — or perhaps more like you’ve just been reminded of the weight you’ve been carrying all along. And I still don’t know if all the White Christmas and Jingle Bell Rock help push back against it or if it creates a glare with their tinsel and lights.

It’s a heightened time. It always is at this point in the year. The sun seems to shine brighter, more sharply. The overcast days bring more of a sense of gray. The darkness from the setting sun is saturating and dominating. The music pings a little more at the soul, the resonance lingering in the air just a little bit longer. The wind cuts a little harder than its January and February counterparts. Every sensation is just a little more alive, for better or worse.

May all be heightened and bright, and may all your Christmases be white.

Continue reading


When I was a teenager — when I was the only one of my friends with a car, albeit a bedraggled former rental car with terrible brakes and not even a tape player — I would drive my friends through the South Shore, finding random roads and seeing where’d they go.

Depending on the night, we could get as far as the Cape, before eventually finding a route we knew would bring us home. We didn’t have so much as a road atlas in my car. Just blind faith that eventually we’d find 3, or 93 — or a gas station attendant that could get us to where we needed to go.

It felt like everyone around us was showing their rebellion by throwing parties that we were never invited to. We hit the road instead, wandering the roads, straying and getting lost, never doubting we’d find our way back. Continue reading


Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

I remember saying that to myself after failing the prelim jump for the airbag jump at Attitash. I had looked down, psyched myself out, and jumped feet first instead of flipping onto my back. I said it to myself when I first learned drops in aerial, when I’d clutch the silk tight and refuse to let go, every inch of me screaming, “You’ll die if you do this.”

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

It’s a cold, windy day on the structure. The other jumpers are bantering in French. I’m the sole English-only speaker on the rig. I’m trying to focus on the cadence of French Canadian dialogue, the rolling hills around me, the peaceful highway to the right of me.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

The man strapping us into our harnesses switches to English when he realizes I don’t speak French. The people around me shift in how they speak, too. We get to talking about jumping and sky diving and adrenaline and nerves. For most of us, it’s our first time. We all have that giddy energy, the kind that deliberately forces the rise in adrenaline towards a specific path: excited. Certainly not anxious. Certainly not.

I’m third to last, which gives me way too much time to ponder. As the numbers dwindle, the conversations get a little more intimate. Like the last people on a sinking ship, absorbing as much humanity as they can before it’s their time.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

When it’s my turn, they ask if I want to dip into the water. I’m shivering, but I agree. I’d rather be even colder until I can change my clothes than regret not adding that in.

I think I’m ready, but I realize how unprepared I actually am when I’m strapped in. I shuffle to the edge. Now I understand: this is why people chicken out at the last minute, why my friend’s girlfriend had to be literally tossed off the edge when she did it.

Don’t look down. Stare straight ahead. Clear your mind and do it.

I’m the only one who gets an English countdown. I attempt a jump, but it ends up looking more like a lean. Doesn’t matter. Either way, I’m off the rig. Canada’s highest jump. No going back now.

I think of all the times I’ve wondered what it would be like to jump from something really high up. Not just a cliff by the water or the airbag jump at a ski resort. Hundreds and hundreds of feet up. Now I know — I know the gut-dropping shock and the sensation like you are now above the laws of physics.

That is, until cord catches you. I hit the water — my forearms and forehead submerge, the water shockingly warm — and flip back up.

I yell more on the flip than I did on the jump. I go parallel with the water before falling again. At this point, it all feels like old hat. Which is funny — didn’t feel like old hat 30 seconds ago.

I’m like a little kid by the time the boat takes me and drops me off at the dock. Darting up the stairs two at a time and skipping when I reach the top, giddy. I practically shout out to Isaac, “And THIS is why I do stuff like this!!”

Stuff like this. Stuff that surges the adrenaline and makes me panic at the last minute and makes me go, “Why the hell did I sign up for this? Why the hell do I do these things that I do to myself!?”

The stuff that makes me giddy, reminds me how wonderful it is to be alive, to be able to experience such things. Stuff that reminds me to look straight ahead, clear your mind, and be bold enough to do the jump, even if it looks more like a lean into the unknown.



Sunday afternoon. It’s the first cool, crisp, sunny day in a long, long time. My neighborhood stretches out before me, the clouds wisping in slight arches, making the world feel circular, make me feel like I’m watching what’s in front of me through a fish-eye lens. Or maybe it’s the strange stirring in my soul that creates the illusion.

My hand is intertwined with my husband’s; we’re taking a quick stroll during a small pocket of free time in what is turning into a busy Sunday, a stroll that started by my husband getting up from the couch and going, “The weather’s nice. Let’s go for a walk.” A man who understands how much I need to be on the move in some way, how tough it is to be cooped up.

The world in front of me feels new. In a way, it is: it’s been a over a month of downpours and thunderstorms and oppressive humidity. This sudden calmness feels like someone switched out the movie, and now I’m witnessing a completely different scene.

“Everything feels so different,” I say, “even from just a year ago.

…but it’s a good different. This is a good evolution.” Continue reading


“You always make me so nervous when you hike like that.”

I had some pretty strict rules when I started hiking solo.  I could only hike well-worn, well-known paths, and always south of the Whites.  The rationale there was I’d be less likely to get lost, and, on the off-chance that I did get lost, I wouldn’t be in that much trouble.

It was an objective understanding of my inexperience.  I’d been hiking since I was a child – since I was a baby in a backpack carrier, technically – but I can name a whopping total of two trails that I ever traversed as a child, and never to summit.  Granted, I did those two trails many, many, many times, to the point that the sound of the water over the rocks on the Falling Waters trail is distinct from others, and the sound carries me home like a reverse Siren.

I’d only done a handful of hikes when I lived in Boston as an adult, and only a handful more after moving to Nashua.  And the last thing I needed was to be yet another poor sap who gets lost in the White Mountains and perishes.

But eventually those rules started eroding.  With more experience under my belt, I started going for the more obscure trails, the less-populated trails – but still south of the White Mountains, in case I got lost.  And then it was trails along the southern perimeter of the Whites – again, if I got lost, I could venture south, and be in relative safety.  And then it was trails within the Whites – but only the popular ones, the easy ones, the ones that you make you feel like a runner at the beginning of the race who was put in the wrong pace group and now you’re spending the first few miles weaving around the crowds.

It was only a matter of time before I’d want to start scaling the 4,000-footers – New Hampshire’s notorious set of 48 mountains, ranging (no pun intended) from the relatively moderate to the potentially deadly.

There was a part of me that smirked at the decision.  Hiking, camping, the wonderful outdoors, those were all things from my childhood that I kept sacred.  And my parents had scaled all 48 mountains, joining the 4,000-footer club as a result.

I had spent so much of my life making sure I never repeated the same mistakes they made, and here I was about to follow in their footsteps – almost literally. Continue reading


Sometimes the best way to define something is through the negative.

Sometimes the best way to know what something is, is to know what it isn’t. You can learn every standard definition but sometimes the only way to really understand something is to figure out exactly where the borders are and skim your fingers along the edges.

Sometimes to really know what something is, you have understand what it’s not. It’s something I’ve been using for my own self growth and have been slipping it into my classes as food for thought. Receptivity is not passivity. Neutrality is not pretending your emotions don’t exist. Rewiring is not forced change.

(I wonder how many of my students know that the majority of what I pass on to them are things I had just figured out for myself. The lamp illuminating the next step forward is just an extension of my own arm.) Continue reading


Perhaps it’s because I grew up next to the ocean, but it’s always been something I’ve known.

In the event of a riptide, don’t fight it. Don’t try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the shore until you’re out of it, then take a diagonal path back to dry land.

Granted, my hometown is nestled in a cove within a cove — by the time the water came to us, the mighty Atlantic had been tamed into gently lapping ripples. You could get bigger waves a few towns over in Nantasket, but not by much. Continue reading