Slippery, icy, slick, grey, cloudy, crisp, packed, frozen, cold, quiet, pleasant, satisfying.
This past week it was brought to my attention that I made a little blunder regarding the name of my blog. The trail I’ve been hiking is indeed not called the Bristol Cliffs, its called the ledges. (What? How do you name your blog the wrong thing and realize it a month later?! So embarrassing.) Turns out the Bristol Cliffs are not the ridge I can see from my backyard, but are just south of the village a few miles, above Lower Notch Road. What’s rather hilarious is that I actually knew this, but somehow forgot! I even lived in the nearby town of New Haven for a year before we moved to the village of Bristol, and our house had an incredible view of these lovely Bristol Cliffs, and somehow, well, I made a newbie mistake. (Rather publicly. Sigh, shuffle feet.)
This week I am reminded of what it feels like to be a beginner and to be new to the neighborhood. It seems like this theme has been resonating in all parts of my life lately. I am new to the idea of starting my own business. I am new to the process of starting an Arts in Education program from scratch. My husband got a new job this week. We got a new car this week. I have a handful of new voice students who are beginners and exploring voice for the first time. My lessons with them have been full of the notions of starting fresh, anew, being patient and kind and forgiving of early stumbles and the challenges of starting a new practice. Its only fitting that these very words should ring true as great advice for myself as I start my own new endeavors, like writing a blog.
My first response when a native Vermonter emailed me last week to kindly offer up the news of my mix-up, was deep embarrassment. Like, the kind when you want to shut the door and hide your head in your hands with eyes wide and a rather horrified look on your face. And then a few moments later my sense of humor returned – thank God – and I laughed out loud for a while and I imagined the town of Bristol chuckling at my post on Front Porch Forum the other night when I invited them to read about my adventures. I’m sure a handful of folks got a good laugh at a flatlander that night. I know I did!
What’s amazing to me is that it took 3 weeks for me to realize this beginner’s blunder of mine! This little time lapse says to me a few things… I’m not the only one who mistakenly calls the ledges the cliffs. I mean, it is a little confusing. And I may live and own a home in Bristol, but I’ve got a ways to go before I’ll be a local. And I’ve got no problem with that – everyone has to start at the beginning, and so I shall. I’m glad to know I can do it while laughing at myself and moving onward up and down the hill again this week. Slippery and wobbly though it was, it was still a great hike and I’ll keep chuggin’ along with a new blog title to boot: 52 Weeks of the Ledges Trail.
Today’s hike was surely a little piece of heaven! What a gift fresh untouched snow is. The snow fell yesterday so I didn’t expect it to seem so pristine on the hill today, but it was indeed. Sure, the trail had been hiked by a handful of others before me, but the little piles of snow on the rocks and fallen trees still held their newly fallen shapes and seemed serene and hushed.
I huffed my way to the top alone again this week and it felt good to sweat and create heat in my body in the midst of the chilly air. When I reached the top and looked down on the village, the sun was beaming and the sky was clear. As I turned around and began my descent, I saw the reverse view of what I had just climbed and my heart unexpectedly filled up with joy. I had my ski poles in hand, since last week had been a bit slippery, and in that moment I felt like a back-country skier, or as though I had just found the perfect secluded tree run that no one knew about. I flew down the trail and imagined skis under my feet. Skiing the trees is still pretty challenging for me, but in that moment I felt unencumbered as I hopped from rock to rock and the leafless tree trunks whizzed by. No wait - I was whizzing and the trees were still! A cold, broad smile was plastered across my face and I felt alive.
I kept cruising down the trail and began to think about momentum, and things in motion. With poles in hand I felt brave, and it was easy to keep a quick, steady, downward pace. I felt my body being drawn down the hill by gravity and my feet and the muscles in my legs would catch my weight and turn me this way and that. Before long, I began to wonder about an Arts in Education project I’ve started to develop and the momentum that is also starting to build there. This idea began as a dream or a wish over 10 years ago, and now I seem to be in a place and time to make things happen, and I’m nervous and excited.
Its amazing how things begin as a small idea or an experience that results in a feeling that lights you up. And then we think about it, we dream about it, we wonder what if. Maybe we tell our partner, friends, family. Maybe we tell no one. And life goes by, bills are paid, vacations are planned, careers change, wars are waged, babies are born… and still the idea lingers, or the memory of the experience patiently waits in the background until circumstances change or the opportunity presents itself for that memory to come to the forefront again.
For me, this idea has recently become a loud, rather pesky and persistent voice, so loud that I had to tell my husband about it. Then a few friends, then a colleague or two. And life works in just such a way that the people I happened to confide in also happened to be the people who could help me continue to move things forward. And the more I talked about it, the more I could feel a bit of energy building around this idea. The excitement and interest from others was adding to my own motivation to keep dreaming. And when/how did this idea based on an experience turn into a dream or even a vision? I’m not really sure and I don’t know if I care. But I do know that, like flying down the hill in the trees through the snow, the momentum of this project feels good, refreshing, invigorating, empowering, and I can’t wait to find out where it leads next!
I've never been a huge New Years resolution person. In fact, most New Years parties have left me feeling like I was missing the big deal of it all. The dropping of the ball, the fireworks... I love a good excuse for champagne and a party though, so you won't find me complaining! It was just never something I thought about much nor particularly looked forward to. However, one turning of the tide that did rock my world a bit came about in November of 2015 when I turned 40. I'd love to say that I'm too cool or wise to be phased by just a number, but I cannot make that claim! 40 years on this planet as Ali Dawson Gibson and there's still so much to do/see/feel/learn! What was I waiting for? So when this New Year began, I found myself motivated to make some commitments to myself that I used to just let wash under the bridge. These seemingly little shifts are, day by day, starting to rock my world. More on that in just a moment - first, a recount of yesterday's hike.
Wednesday was one of those glorious, blue bird winter days, and a cold one to boot. I checked the thermometer as I departed for Week Two of hiking 52 weeks of Bristol Cliffs, and it was around 13 degrees. Turns out this is cold enough for my smart phone's camera to stop functioning. Perhaps its not too frigid by most Vermonters' standards, but for this California native, it was chilly. The previous night we received about 3 inches of powdery snow upon the still mostly green grass. As a ski bum, this year's warm temps in the Northeast have been odd and disappointing, so I was happy to see the ground covered in white. I was so happy that I over-eagerly packed my snowshoes just in case a few hundred feet higher up the hill I might be presented with a couple more inches of the stuff. They turned out to be just an extra few pounds to carry, but my 7th grade Girl Scout self was satisfied and prepared.
After last week's blissful excitement to start this project, yesterday's hike brought on a little bit of an oh-shit-what-have-I-done kind of a feeling. As I began to climb and my out of shape heart started to pound, I started to wonder - what if we have weeks of sub-zero weather? What if I get an injury of some kind? What if I lose focus of the commitment I've made to do this every week for a YEAR. What was I thinking? I mean to make a commitment to yourself and tell a few people is one thing, but do it publicly? Yikes. My feet were feeling a little heavier, the hike was seeming a little longer. And since my supportive hiking partner husband from last week was deterred by a lack of good winter foot gear and impending job interviews, this week I was flying solo.
I continued up the hill. There's just something about putting one foot in front of another in a beautiful spot in nature that can calm the fearful mind and bring about inner focus. I might not have been flying up the trail like it felt I'd been doing last week, but the crunch-crunch of the snow was indeed meditative. The long branched, naked trees creaking with the wind brought to mind the immense root system supporting the forest, deep and intricate. I was reminded that although I am embarking on something new (well, manythings new) that I too have a deep and intricate root system to ground me when the wind blows. I think hiking this trail weekly is my journey of committing myself to reconnect to my roots and tap into my inner strength.
The subtle shifts that are rocking my world and helping me to have the guts to do this are things like 15 minutes of meditation everyday. Like quitting the destructive habit of inner-self-bashing that I've been doing since middle school and replacing it with the good habits of being kinder, more forgiving and more understanding of/to myself. Like loving myself not just when I look cute, or succeed, or doing something kind or worthy of society's praise, but all freaking day long, because I'm lovable and worthy god dammit. Like drinking water when I'm thirsty and eating when I'm hungry. Like tasting my food. Like waving at myself with a wink and a laugh when my perfectionist-self tries to take a dig. Like laughing it off. Like saying no. Like moving and stretching my body. The sum of these little gems is cracking open this funny thing called happiness!
I've been living in Vermont for just over a couple of years now and here in Bristol, I finally feel like I've found one of my spirit's homes. Whenever I drive out of the state, I literally feel my energy shift, like I'm driving through a force field or something. Ha! OK, now you're thinking I'm a total wacko. Well, I can't deny that entirely, but I swear I really do feel this way! Its like this warm fuzzy feeling that surrounds me when I'm here, physically dissipates. And whenever I drive back in, somehow, even if I'm in a bit of a driving daze or mid-conversation, I notice immediately when I'm back in the state. Maybe its a feeling I get, or maybe I just notice the disappearance of billboards and recognize the state road signs subconsciously. But one thing's always for sure, I'm so glad to be home.
I'm starting this blog today, in this new year of 2016, to document a journey. And as I write this I can hardly believe I'm doing it. I do not profess to have a great talent for writing. I journal, I write a song here and there. But a whole blog? For a year? A public confession of, well, how I am going to chase and hopefully catch my dreams? Ummmm, yeah. Let me lay it out for ya... (big breath!) Each week, that is 52 of these bad boys, I will climb the Bristol Cliffs (my darling town's local hiking trail) to clear my head, breathe the fresh Vermont air, and edge my way closer and closer to the life I dream about. And I'm going to tell you all about it! So what is this big dream you may ask? I'm working on that one, I'm working on that one...
4 years ago, the most darling, stubborn, hilarious, observant, sweetness of my heart was born. With the birth of SJ, I became a stay-at-home-mom. My career had certainly not ended, rather it went on sabbatical for a while, and quite honestly and thank freakin' goddess, is being completely re-evaluated. Mothering and wife- and/or partner-ing has been a wild journey too, and certainly has been a part of my dreams, but now I find myself feeling a tug at my heart to get moving in the direction of fulfilling career dreams again.
For many years I studied as an opera singer. And then for many years I was a teaching artist in NYC. I was lucky to meet, befriend, and work with some of the most incredible, creative, and caring people along the way. I was also so completely stressed out and I felt totally frayed at the edges. I think I even started to see and feel how those frayed edges could completely unwind, and that really scared the crap out of me. A different way was calling, nay, beckoning to me!
No, this is not the most original story you've ever heard... Artsy City Girl Flees the City to Find Peace in the Countryside. Truth is, I was never a city girl. And I'm not so sure I'm really a country girl either. But I know my heart sings when I'm here, and hell, just the fact that I can even HEAR my heart singing, I consider this to be a major accomplishment! But here's another truth: I'm not just seeking peace, I'm seeking adventure. I'm seeking MY adventure. And the great news is that I'm already on it! I think sharing it with you, (and I'm guessing that "you" might just be my mom and dad?!) will kick my ass in gear and start to shift my shit. (Thank you Allie and Steff and the BA Nation!)
And let me tell you, I could seriously feel my shit shift as I hiked up the cliffs trail today. With SJ tucked in at childcare, my husband (who is footloose and fancy free at the moment as he is currently between computer programming gigs) and I took up the hill after lunch. As we climbed he let me blab, and I unfolded my grand plan to blog by way of motivation to dream chase. And the dreams even started to show themselves... an arts partnership program in Addison County, an aromatherapy and therapeutic music business, even a deep rooted desire to perform and sing again. I swear I could hear all the hiding squirrels and forest creatures cheering along as said aloud so much of what has remained dormant for a while. It wasn't the first time I'd said, felt or thought these things, but I felt clarity, and in the midst of the Hogback ridge, I felt safe and guided to get on my way.
Hi, my name is Ali Dawson Gibson. I'm a healer, a singer and a teacher. This Blog, 52 Weeks of the Ledges, is from 2016 when I hiked this awesome Bristol Ledges trail once and week and shared my experiences. Enjoy!