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Retired from what, for what? (Insert barefoot plans here)

June 6, 2017
barefoot in the paria.jpg

Little me in a big place (Paria River, May 2017, photo by S. A.)

Oh the irony: As of May 31 I have officially retired from my 20 years of teaching writing “to focus on my writing” and here I sit, metaphorically tongue-tied (there’s too much chocolate hiding in a certain unmarked kitchen cupboard for me to be literally tongue-tied, although I suppose if my tongue were actually tied up in a good half-hitch or two I could still figure out how to melt my Trader Joe’s 72% Dark Chocolate and dribble it into the corner of my mouth via some straw-like contraption).

Reduced to chocolate rambling, already. It’s gonna be a looong retirement.

But anyhoo . . . the pressure of finishing my last university semester, clearing my office of 20 years’ worth of books on writing, books of writing, books I’ve written (that was the lightest box), rocks I’ve collected, snake-and-lizard skins shed nearby on campus, student-thank-you knick-knacks (as well as truly fabulous art objects as created by the stellar student Sofia) . . . window-replacing posters of native plants and wild places (Imnaha country; the view from Shoshone Point). My much-appreciated air purifier to filter some of the fluorescent dustiness. Twelve file drawers full of: necessary/vital/world-might-end-without-them records of meetings, committees, classes. (Said the paper-hoarder.)

It’s all gone.

No it’s not.

Some of it did find its way to Goodwill (books) or the paper-shredder (about eight file drawers).

But the rest is resting uncomfortably on my living room floor until such a time as I feel I can spare from:

1. Hanging out with my hubby and/or grandkids
2. Answering two weeks of neglected emails
3. Processing those two email-less weeks of May spent in Grand Canyon country (photos to follow)
4. Running wild again on my good ol’ familiar dusty/dangerous-to-toads/wildflower-bedecked trails of Irvine Park/Barham Ridge/Santiago Oaks (definitely more photos to follow)

All the weighty, insightful musings of April and May (those annual Easter thoughts of suffering/death/renewal; all the everything’s-a-metaphor ideas from my recent double backpacking trips with geologists; such mind-blowing common sense awakenings from my latest self-help book dabbling (that would be Mindset  ) . . . all that stuff has been stuffed into my daily handwritten journals which immediately become indecipherable due to, shall we say, writing-implement-manipulating deficiencies (the worst grades I received in elementary school? for Penmanship).

But there’s hope: I have Big Plans to find the perfect voice transcription software/app and miraculously transfer all this past year of scribbling into computer-generated text that I will then enjoy playing with/editing until it all falls into place as my Memoir of a Lifetime: How My Last Year of Teaching Somehow Illuminated My Entire Life And It All Became Really Clear And Then I Published It And Made Enough Money To Replace The Really Good Income My Job As Professor Of English Was Bringing In, Albeit With Much Accompanying Stress.

In the meantime, these pictures remind me of many good recent (and old) things; may they inspire others to get outside and live:


The above images are (just a few) from an amazing six-day, 38-mile backpacking adventure through Paria Canyon with Grand Canyon Association Field Institute’s (GCAFI)  extraordinary Christa Sadler leading the way for eight of us fortunate folks.


Here at Phantom Ranch/Boat Beach–in the depths of Grand Canyon–Brian Gootee explains geology with wonderful enthusiasm and clarity.

Before that, I spent four days in Grand Canyon, hiking and learning with GCAFI geologist extraordinaire Brian Gootee (see photo, above) and an eager group of beginning backpackers, one of whom had the technology and artistic ability to capture this image of double-condor-grace as we hiked along the South Kaibab Trail:

two condors at Grand Canyon.JPG


What was also awesome about this adventure: the aid of some athletic mules to carry our gear down to Phantom Ranch (and from the mule corrals it’s just a few hundred yards to the group site at Bright Angel Campground, where we spent some delicious time under the influence of green-violet swallows and stars and even a rainstorm and rainbow).

IMG_1524 (1).jpg

Then it was time to drive home, to dive back into life in Orange County: crowded freeways, beautiful-but-dangerous trails:


A smashed arroyo toad with incriminating mountain bike tracks nearby . . .

But it’s rare-mariposa-lily season on Barham Ridge: the Intermediate Mariposa Lily is listed as “endangered, rare, or threatened in California” — and it’s such a wonderment to come across these lovelies every year at the end of May/early June as they cling to life along Barham Ridge/Irvine Park trails that are continually being widened by So-Cal-intense mountain bike use.

On a happier note: I am determined to keep in mind that all these late-bloomers (it’s June, long past the famed “So Cal Superbloom of 2017”) are part of the metaphors-everywhere world that we are privileged to inhabit:




Datura wrightii at the bottom of Grand Canyon

So plants and experiences and memories link it all; here’s the place from which the first photo in this blog post was taken; it’s impossible to show the scale of this high shelf in a spring-adorned alcove along the Paria, but if you go back and look at my size from my compadres’ vantage point . . . it becomes apparent that we are tiny critters, indeed, and any plans for retirement grandeur need to keep this perspective in mind.


Happy Grand Canyon, Paria, and/or Local Trails! (Preferably barefoot)

3 Comments leave one →
  1. June 6, 2017 11:32 pm

    Great to get to read from your blog again Thea! Happy Retirement!
    I just read Paul Krafel’s “Seeing Nature” and was really inspired by it. You most likely already know that one. Happy bare feet!

  2. June 6, 2017 11:15 pm

    Happy Retirement Trails…from one adventure to the next. The photo of the mule being pulled along looks like it was taken in front of a fake backdrop.


  1. Barefoot hiking, and just . . . hiking | Barefoot Wandering and Writing

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