Fleshing Out the Five: Lost in the Woods, Part 3

And, as I got into writing the story of being lost in Thatcher Park with my younger sister’s Girl Scout troop, I realized I was telling that story as if it was the first time I’d been lost in the woods … only to have a memory of an earlier experience of being lost. And so …

First memory of being lost in the woods: When I was 12, I was at summer camp in the Adirondacks. It was my sixth and final summer at camp. It was, in fact, my last night at camp. And a boy I liked who liked me asked me to skip that evening’s farewell event and sneak off with him to climb a rocky, wooded, giant hill we called a mountain. The mountain was on the edge of camp property, blooming up behind the ceramics studio.

It was crazy that anyone would ask me to sneak off and do anything. I was a painfully good girl at 12, and breaking the rules so dramatically should have been an impossibility for me. Should have been. But it was the last night of my last summer. There was no possible punishment anyone could hand down. And, even with the risk of punishment, I really liked The Boy. And I’d never see him after camp. That hike in the woods would be the only time we’d ever be alone together. I made a strong show of agonizing over his invitation — talked a girl friend, talked to a guy friend — and then I said yes. I mean, of course. Because that was always going to be my answer.

The mountain we were set to climb was the first serious hike many campers went on. It seemed kind of like a baby climb, but it was trickily steep in places and the trail was awkward. It was a small mountain, however, a baby one, and it seemed reasonable to think that, if we slipped away after dinner, The Boy and I could climb it and get back to camp before lights out. The Boy had arranged to borrow a friend’s watch so we could chart the progress of our evening against the timing we imagined for the big event happening in the Quonset hut.

And so, after dinner that night, The Boy and I — circling from different directions, naturally — met up near the big kilns, joined hands and headed into the trees.

It was nice. We talked, we made jokes, we wondered if anyone might have noticed our absence. I wondered if maybe, just maybe, I might be moments from my first kiss.

We stopped holding hands when the trail narrowed and we needed to walk singe file. And we stopped chatting when the climb got steeper and we needed our breath. And then we reached a small rock face and looked at each other and acknowledged that we’d never seen it on any of our times up the mountain in the past. We sat on a benchlike outcropping in the rock and determined — quite calmly, as I remember — that we’d gone off course and hadn’t been following the right trail … or any trail at all, perhaps, given how rough the path had been.

We sat for a while to look at the pretty view — trees, trees and more trees — and then decided to keep climbing. Yes, despite knowing we were lost, we chose to go back into the woods and wander around some more. Don’t try to make it make sense.

Unsurprisingly, this turned out to be a bad idea. We didn’t find the top of the mountain, and we didn’t find the trail. And, when we finally decided we should head back, we didn’t find anything we’d seen on the way up, including the rock face where we’d sat.

It bears noting that I wasn’t scared. As I said in the last story, I wasn’t afraid of wilderness when I was a kid. Being in the forest with no idea of how to get out and the sun setting … probably it should have frightened me. I even knew that bears lived in those woods. I’d seen bears more than once in my time at camp. I surely should have been scared, but no. I was fine. I was annoyed to be lost because putting energy into finding our way seemed sure to mean no first kiss. I was annoyed, but not scared.

As luck would have it, The Boy and I wandered around in a kind of perfect way. When we finally stumbled enough out of the trees to see civilization, we were right near The Boy’s tent. Who knows how we’d managed to walk horizontally across the side of the mountain when we’d thought we’d been walking down the mountain, but there we were.

And, upon checking the cleverly-borrowed watch, it turned out that we weren’t lost for as long as it had felt while we were lost. We had time, in fact, to sit in The Boy’s bunk and talk about how much we liked each other and would miss one another … and — HALLELUJAH! — share the all-important first kiss! All that before running down to the Quonset hut and slipping into the audience (from different entrances, of course) without anyone noticing we’d been missing.

And that was my first lost-in-the-woods story. A few firsts that night: breaking the rules in a big, kind of technicolor way, getting lost in the woods, kissing a boy. Quite the trifecta for meek-and-mild me.

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

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Be it ever so humble …

I enjoy being with other people … some of the time. I like groups, I like gatherings, I even occasionally like a crowd (it’s rare, but it happens).

All that is true. But what’s even more true is that I might actually have been born for social distancing, born to self-isolate. I responded to my job’s work-from-home email the way extroverts might respond to a party invitation.

I keep reading posts from people who are freaking out at all their alone time, tearing their hair at the prospect of having to stay in their homes. I feel for them. Their distress is real, is palpable. I feel for them, but I don’t feel them.

I have always loved being home alone. My cozy nest of an apartment — even though no apartment of mine has ever been super cozy or nest-like — is where I always want to be. I am incredibly good at staying home for days at a time and never feeling the need to be out and about, never wishing I had a houseful of folks to keep me busy, give me company. So this enforced home time is feeling a little like heavenly.

Yes, I have to work while I’m home. This is telecommuting, not a staycation. Still, it’s a complete pleasure to do what I need to do from the comfort of my bed or the seat of my exercise bike.

I was productive today. At times, I felt a little crazed trying to keep up with the flood of emails and the volume of calls — our move-everything-online plan launches on Thursday — but mostly it was a productive day. I missed my plants, wondered how they’re doing with their self-watering bulbs. I learned some annoying things about remote access to my work computer and realized how spoiled I am by the internet speed I enjoy in my office. Still, it was a productive day. And it was nice, when I was feeling annoyed or overwhelmed, to be able to lean back and see the adorable calendar Fox gave me for Christmas or to reach over and pet one of my cats.

One thing I didn’t do today was stick to the little sketch of a schedule I’d made. And maybe that sounds like I did a little work and then watched hair videos, but no. I had the opposite problem: I didn’t take any of the breaks I’d written into my schedule. Not one. That’s not a good way to work, and I’ll be looking to change that tomorrow. All work and no play … sucks.


So self-isolation is feeling okay. You know, today. We’ll gauge how I feel being closed up indoors when this lockdown has been going on a while, right? Let’s see how happy a hermit I am in a couple of weeks!

Wishing us all well, friends. Wishing us all well.

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Fleshing Out the Five: Into the Woods, Part 2

Because I am nothing if not stubborn af, here I am with another dive into the details of my Counting to Five post!

At the start of SOLSC month, I wrote about getting lost in the woods when I was at a writing retreat upstate this past fall. In my list post, the fourth item on the list divulged that my lost-in-the-woods experience hadn’t, in fact, been the first. And so I wanted to write out the other times I’ve been lost in the woods … and what I’ve realized as I started working on this “fleshing out” of those times is that I’m going to need, as it were, a bigger boat. There’s too much to say for one post! In any case, let’s get into it.

For all the fact that I have a really great sense of direction, there has been more than one occasion when a forest has turned me around and tried to swallow me. My sense of direction isn’t legendary, but it’s strong — so strong that my family used to rely on it when I was a child. But clearly, forests are able to throw me off my bearings with ease.

Fox, my sister, was in the Girl Scouts when she was a kid. I’d never been a Girl Scout, but she had a lot of fun with it, and sometimes I went along as almost-adult supervision.

One year, there was a picnic planned in a gorgeous park in our ara, Thatcher Park. My family went there for picnics sometimes, too. I remember it as huge and untouched-seeming. Yes, there were picnic areas and trails, but mostly it seemed like a hilly forest with streams and waterfalls and only occasional breaks in the trees for the sun to stream through. I loved that park.¹

The Girl Scout picnic was in a tiny half-clearing in the woods. A bunch of girls, a handful of moms, and me. There was a ton of food, lots of games. At some point, someone suggested a hike on one of the trails, and about half of us went.

I don’t know where or how we lost the trail, only that we for-sure did lose it. I don’t remember when we realized we were lost. I think some of us knew we were lost before anyone said it out loud and made it real.

I was a teenager and not the other of any child in the group. I can’t imagine how hard it was for the moms to know we were lost and to remain calm, to have to act as though there was no real problem and that we were all on an adventure. I know I wasn’t worried, but I realize now that my confidence was ridiculous, based on my ignorance. I acknowledged that we were lost, but I thought it wouldn’t be too hard to find our way because we’d all been to Thatcher Park and it was a park, after all. How hard could it be to get un-lost? We’d have to wander a bit and we’d be fine.

Looking at Thatcher Park now — thank you, Google, a thing that didn’t exist back then in the wild and wooly pre-Internet days — I see how crazy my sense of calm was. Thatcher Park is aa few thousand acres big. We’d have had to wander much more than “a bit,” and that wandering wouldn’t seamlessly bring us to anything familiar. We were in trouble, but I didn’t know it. I’m betting the moms knew.

We walked in the woods a long time. The girls were pretty fine. At first, they surely didn’t know we weren’t on a real trail, but even if they knew, maybe they just trusted their mothers to get us where we were going. That’s usually a reasonable thing for a kid to be able to do. And even after we’d voiced our belief that we were lost, the girls were fine. For them, it really was an adventure. And I guess that’s a testament to how easy their lives were, how good a job their parents had done raising them to feel comfortable and safe in whatever environment they found themselves. That’s a gift. No one freaked out, no one cried. They stayed buoyant and game, kept marching along with a clear sense that we’d be fine. And that was a gift to the moms. I kind of love that, thinking about it now. It impresses me. Of course, maybe they just had the same false sense of safety, I had in that moment, believing Thatcher Park to be some docile little postage-stamp-sized park.

After we’d been hiking a LONG time, we came out of the trees into a sunny clearing full of some beekeeper’s hives. I’d never seen an apiary before, but somehow I knew what the hives were, knew to tell the kids not to open them or mess with them.² I thought it was cool to just suddenly come across a little colony of beehives.

Past the bees was a road and a choice — walk right or walk left? How were we supposed to decide? We chose to go left. Maybe either direction would eventually have gotten us back to the rest of the troop. Maybe turning right would have gotten us there faster. We’ll never know. What we do know is that the road eventually brought us to a  Park entrance and that entrance eventually brought us back to our group.

And the girls had had it right — it was an adventure. They had a lot of fun telling and retelling the story of our being lost, of finding the beehive nation, of the LONG hike on the road. I’m sure the moms were hugely relieved … and maybe treated themselves to hot toddies when they got home that night!

That experience of being lost was quite different from my experience in the finger lakes, the one I wrote about that inspired this post. At no point was I afraid when I was with the Scouts, and I’d definitely been freaked out last fall. And sure, that could be because I wasn’t alone when I was with the Scouts. And also yes, I had my completely ill-informed idea of the size of the park. But also because woods just weren’t scary to me then. I was in the woods a lot growing up. It was an entirely familiar experience for me, and being scared wouldn’t have occurred to me.


Thinking about my sister and her friends’ calmness when we were lost and about my own childhood ease with being in the woods reminds me of being maybe seven or eight and off at summer camp, hiking to John’s Brook. There were two counselors with our gang of kids as there always were on trips. In our eyes, they were adults, but they could easily have been only 18 or 19 years old.

During our hike out to the water, we came to a cleared space that was full of men with motorcycles. I remember being very excited by all the bikes, as were my friends — perhaps this is where my desire to have a Harley was born? — and I remember that the men were kind of … not warm-and-fuzzy looking. With their sleeveless leather vests, their tattooed arms, their ZZ Top beards, their long hair and sunglasses, they were like a caricature of a motorcycle gang. I mean, they were a gang, but when I think about them now, I think how “out of central casting” they were.

I wonder what our counselors — two young women alone in the woods with a bunch of kids — were thinking during those moments we spent with those men. Some of us kids asked to sit on the bikes and were lifted up and plopped down in the big saddles. We were having a great time. What terrors could have been in the minds of our chaperones? And, even once we continued on our hike, would those terrors have subsided? We were on our way to stay overnight in a lean-to by the water. Were the counselors freaking out all night, sitting watch over our oblivious heads?

The woods, y’all. You never know what’s going to happen out there!

¹ Okay, so I looked it up so I could insert that link and a) it’s still there, thank goodness! b) it’s so much bigger than I’d ever realized, c) it’s not quite as trees-only as it is in my memory, and d) it’s just as beautiful as ever.

² Yes, I could have seen a picture somewhere, but it’s much more likely that I knew about beekeeping because of Mildred, my biology teacher/summer camp nature counselor aunt. Mildred was absolutely someone who would have talked about beekeeping and shown me how manmade hives work.

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

Fleshing Out the Five: Baby, You Can Drive My Car

Some more oversharing! I’m still working my way through the five random facts about me that I shared in my Counting to Five post. The second item on the list was the fact that I don’t have a driver’s license.

I am most assuredly not the only adult in the America without a license, and yet people are always shocked when they discover that I don’t drive.

I learned to drive in high school, the way most people do. My parents taught me, and I took driver’s ed. My parents were both good drivers — unflappable, good parallel parkers, at home with speed — and learning from them meant I took on some of those qualities, too. I was pretty comfortable driving … too comfortable, as it turned out. When I took my road test, I was a little too casual about a stop sign. As soon as I slid past it with the barest of pauses, the examiner told me I’d failed. “You’re a good driver,” she said, but you need to follow the rules.”

Not getting my license didn’t mean I didn’t drive, however. I knew how, and I knew I was good at it, so I drove when I had to. I took a friend’s keys and drove us home when he got ridiculously drunk at a party he’d invited me to. Drove a carload of us home in the wee small hours of a foggy spring night from somewhere in southern New Jersey after we’d played groupies and driven down to DC to follow a band we were all crushing on. I drove when I needed to. And certainly that wasn’t smart, but it also turned out okay. I’m not such a risk taker today, however. For all kinds of reasons.

I was annoyed to have failed my road test, but it didn’t make much of a difference in my high school life. There wasn’t any chance I was going to get a car. My parents couldn’t have afforded to give me one, and my babysitter pay wasn’t enough to get that job done, either. I could have retested, and I probably planned to do just that. Somehow that never, happened, however. There have been times I’ve regretted not being a legal driver — when my desire to have a motorcycle or learn to drive an 18-wheeler rears its head — but mostly I’m okay, and I’ve been fine relying on mass transit and the kindness of friends with cars and strangers willing to stop for a hitch hiker.¹

I’ve had a permit two times in my adult life, but I’ve never gotten serious about working up to take the test. I got the first permit in my late 20s so I could share the driving the summer some friends and I rented a house in the Hamptons. That was fun, as the car I got to drive was a Chevy Malibu convertible from the 70s! I got the second permit in my late 30s to have as an ID so I could stop carrying my passport around. I’m in my late 50s now (whoa! … that’s the first time I’ve said that!), and I haven’t had a permit in 20 years!

I’ve started thinking about getting a license. There are places I’d like to go (and places I’d like to live after I retire) where having/driving a car would be not only helpful but necessary. Some of the writing residencies I fantasize about applying to are pretty remote, and I’d have to get myself to and from.

So maybe, 40 years after driver’s ed, it’s time to take this driving thing a little more seriously!

¹ Stay calm, my hitching days are long behind me, and I’m right here telling you this story, so you know I survived. It’s all good!

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot

A Real One

Tonight’s slice is a snippet of conversation overheard as I waited to cross a street on my way out for drinks with a friend after work. I was thinking ahead to how nice it would be to see her — we haven’t seen each other in maybe five years — and then I became aware of the young women beside me. Two young, Black women, surely no more than 20, deep in a conversation that I was entering without context.

A: “And she doesn’t even have an ass, and he still wants her!”

B: “That’s what he says. All that matters is does she have a mind and is she Black. That’s what he wants.”

A: “That takes a real man to say that, to know that. These other ni***s out here only care if she pretty and will she do what I tell her.”

B: “So you know who to talk to and who you should walk on past.

And if you didn’t know, now you know.

It’s March, which means it’s time for the
13th annual Slice of Life Story Challenge!
Curious? Head on over to Two Writing Teachers
and see what the rest of this year’s slicers are up to!

Original Slicer - GirlGriot