Beth Meadows

Follow Along, Just Not Here

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Just like in the “real world,” I can’t seem to find the time to blog. I had a romantic idea about the AT, that I’d be able to relax, rest, and write each morning or night, or even just on my off days. My romantic idea was dashed within the first week. I thought things would change once I got stronger, but each day is still a lot of work. Thru hiking the AT is no joke.  

I have been posting about my days on Instagram, however, so I hope you’ll follow along there. I’m going a little deeper there than I had planned, and it’s working out well as a means to communicate what it’s like to be out here. 

I think that even if you don’t have an instagram

account, you can still visit this link. Instagram.com/slowburnat

Please let me know if you have any questions! 

Love, 

Slowburn  

My Why

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So why now?

At the beginning of December 2018, I went up to my parents cabin and had a Planning weekend for 2019.

I love planning.

I love goal-setting.

I love resolutions.

And I love this new-ish ritual of setting aside a weekend to think about the year ahead, in business and personal ways.

I knew I wanted to do something different, and I wanted it to involve travel. The three main ideas I laid out were:

  1. Apply to artist residencies
  2. Go on an art tour road trip. (Sort of like a budding musician goes on a house tour, I’ve had a similar idea for art.)
  3. Hike the AT

I did research on each and mapped out a general idea of what each would look like. And then I slept on it.

I chose hiking the AT in the end mainly because of how extended of a trip it would be for the least amount of money, and it could come the quickest. I also knew that it would help me build some much needed confidence to do the other ideas one day, because I do still want to do them. I also didn’t need to apply to anything, which I loathe doing.

While I have liked living in Knoxville, I’ve felt the need for a change. I don’t know if that means moving, but I figure I could give it some thought while I hiked. Well, a lot of thought.

I think the main thing I wanted from doing this thru hike was a nice transitional period, from the old ways of doing things to something new. I have a lot of ideas for how I want my art career to go, etc, and having a break before making those official changes feels like the right call.

I also want to build some self-confidence that, for whatever reason, I lack. I’m not sure how much I’ll go into detail about this here, but it’s something I’m thinking a lot about, and I’d love to be able to write about someday. As you can imagine, this is a difficult subject to talk publicly about.

But I will say this about it. Wrapped up in this issue of a lack of self-confidence is a manifestation of a lot of chronic physical pain that I intend to solve while I’m hiking. There is a calling I strongly feel, to heal myself by walking in the woods.

So here is my Why, which now that I’m on the trail, has been crucial to remind myself of. If you know your why, and it remains important and healthy, it will help you put one foot in front of the other. Again and again.

 

The “map” I made during my planning weekend that helped me decide to hike the AT. My why is up in the top left corner, the first thing I wrote. 

The “map” I made during my planning weekend that helped me decide to hike the AT. My why is up in the top left corner, the first thing I wrote. 

Being Present with the Pain

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“Icing” my knee at Lance Creek campsite, our first zero day

“Icing” my knee at Lance Creek campsite, our first zero day

I can’t wait to catch up on these posts, and to share what it was like to prepare to leave, but I tell you what! It was so hard to find any free time leading up to the day I left. I felt like a chicken with my head cut off, going from appointment to appointment, from Wal-mart to REI to Amazon, gathering all my supplies, reading and researching along the way, as well as making sure I was setting myself up to leave home for 5 months, shutting down all business stuff, or at least hitting the snooze button on it all.

I officially made the decision to do this in December of last year, so it’s been a mad dash to get here. I’d highly recommend giving yourself a full year if you’re thinking of doing this, and to follow a blog or vlog of a couple of people thru hiking so you can learn from them and know what to expect. There are 1 million resources online for how to prepare. I was also in need of a gear overhaul, as most of mine was pretty outdated. It’s expensive and a lot goes in to deciding the gear that’s best or you. 

Thankfully, Jacob, my boyfriend, who is with me now, has been my greatest resource. It was not the original plan for him to start the trail with me, but when I realized how much I had yet to learn, I asked him to come with me to teach me as I go. 

Now that I’ve left, I haven’t had much mental space to blog. I’ve always been an avid journal-keeper, and I’m not even finding the motivation to write for myself. I am around people a lot, Jacob 99% of the time, and then other thru or section hikers. About ten have walked past me as I sit outside this tiny town motel. And if we’re not in a town with WiFi and outlets, we are in the woods without cell signal, or I’m trying to extend the battery on my phone for as long as possible. 

I heard it, and read it, over and over, that it will take about 2 weeks to acclimate to the trail. I’d say it may take me longer than that, and even longer to train my brain.

knee brace a man gave me at Lance Creek, to get up and over Blood Mountain the next day!

knee brace a man gave me at Lance Creek, to get up and over Blood Mountain the next day!

It’s been brutal, y’all! I know that sounds dramatic, but everyone out here is hurting, so I know I’m not alone. And all that physical exertion, for me, is expending me mentally and emotionally. In the end, I really am ok with it (this is what I signed up for, after all) and I truly trust in the process. My process involves foot pain that I’m doing physical therapy daily on, new knee pain, most likely due to the new weight I’m carrying, a pretty stubborn blister, and neck pain from looking down at the rugged trail while holding a 30 lb pack. 

I know I won’t magically feel like a million bucks when day 14 rolls around, but I do trust in putting my time in. That if I monitor my ailments and pace myself, everything will “buff out in the end” (as my friend Gregg said who thru hiked a few years ago). I pray to God daily that he will give my body and my mind the ability to do this. 

Little phrases come to me as I process what’s going on in my life, and the one that came to me the other day while trekking up a mountain was “Be present with your pain.” 

The way I’ve been feeling has really made me fear whether I can keep this up. It makes me worry if I’m on the brink of breaking. Am I hurting myself beyond repair? These are worries I need to let go of, and focus on what I can do in the moment. The mental despair I tend to heap on top of my physical pain doesn’t help me presently. Time slows down to a crawl out here, and I am learning how not to worry so much about what’s to come, but to live in the moment. It is literally about putting one foot in front of the other, and not worrying about the steps I have to take tomorrow.

Ice a sweet church group gave me that also fed us at Neels Gap.  

Ice a sweet church group gave me that also fed us at Neels Gap.  

So, I just wanted to explain why these posts may not come often in the beginning, but I do believe I’ll find more time and energy in the future. I am finding the time to post on Instagram, which is so much easier to do. You can see those posts here: instagram.com/amyelizabethmeadows

Thanks so much for all your kind words of encouragement so far. It has meant the world to me!

How Did I Get Here?

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A few days ago, I began thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. This means I intend to walk 2,192 miles from Springer Mountain GA to Mt Katahdin in Maine.


How did I get here? Here are the three main inspirations:


  1. My dad always took my family hiking and backpacking, mostly in the Smokies, and even so far as the Wind Rivers in Wyoming. I’ve hiked more than I’ve backpacked, but I learned to love, appreciate, and respect the outdoors at a very young age. 
  2. On one of our trips in the Smokies, when I was about ten, we slept in a shelter on the AT and came across two girls who were “Thru Hiking.” This is when I learned what Thru Hiking was and when I decided I’d like to do it one day. In my eyes those girls were the coolest, and although I don’t know their names or faces, they set me on a path.
  3. Over the past decade, since college at UT, hiking in the Smoky Mountains has been my medicine. I work and hustle in Knoxville, then go to the mountains for respite. And every time I hike, I’d think about my future Thru Hike.

It’s a little funny that my dad has played such a large role in this trip, as he and my family are pretty terrified for me. But if they knew what it was really like out here so far, they wouldn’t be. It’s easy to fear the unknown, which is what I spent a lot of time doing leading up to this trip. Once I set my mind on this goal, the fear or every aspect came down on me. More on that next...

So close, yet so far

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It’s been pretty wild this week getting ready to leave. Here’s what things looked like yesterday. (It’s looking better today. Don’t worry.)

My pack is at 26 lbs without water and a few other luxury items I’d really like to take. But my boyfriend Jacob is carrying the tent, stove, and fuel for the first few weeks, until he leaves me at Fontana Dam. But we are also packing 5 days worth of food, which is a lot. It’s hard to know where my weight will settle. I have less clothes than I imagined starting out with.

So, no, I’m not an ultra-lighter, but I probably have a lot of things I’ll let go of during the first few stops. For now it feels good to have some emergency items on me, until I start to feel more comfortable. 

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I feel like I’ve spent most of my money just getting the first few re-supplies. It has been a mighty endeavor just to leave.

On my current feelings: I made the mistake of following the hashtag #at2019 on Instagram yesterday and seeing people who have made it to VA or mile 500. For some reason, that took the wind out of my sails a little bit. At this point, I realize I need to just focus on my journey, and take it one day at a time.

It’s been bizarre, the range of emotions you go through in the months leading up to a trip like this, and there’s plenty of time for me to share that with you later. In a nutshell, though, it feels like a beautiful and committed relationship. It doesn’t matter the lows or highs. I’m in love and I’m all in. 

Bon Voyage... but also Let's Keep in Touch

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From the end of April until October 2019, I will be thru hiking the Appalachian Trail. Please follow along on my journey by visiting this very blog.

I’ll be limiting my engagement on social media and closing down my online shop while I’m away. If you contact me, it may be a while before I respond, but I will definitely respond by the end of the year.

My artwork is currently on view and for sale in Knoxville at Frameworks off of Cedar Bluff and Lox Salon in the Old City. Go here for more information. Please contact each of them if you’re interested in purchasing any of my original works or framed prints.

You may also purchase fine art prints from the Art From the Hills website. They handle all the printing and shipping, so please contact them if you have any questions. Go here for more information.

Thanks for your support!

Don't Let Me Live in Limbo

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I’m giving my first talk about my home organization business next Tuesday at IJAMs Nature Center. It’s free, there are still spot available, and you can go here to learn how to register.

I recently packed up all of my belongings to put into storage. I’m between houses right now, temporarily living at my parent’s cabin in Townsend. It’s been a goal of mine for a while to live here, and I’m so glad to finally be doing it.

My studio was located in the house I just moved from, as well as a woodshop in the basement, so it was my first time to move my personal belongings along with all my art supplies and tools. The process was incredibly overwhelming.

I’m going to talk more about this at my presentation, and you can learn a little bit about why I started an organization business here, but even though I personally started the organization process several years ago, I’m still very much in it. I have boxes from my childhood to go through, and items that I know I don’t want, but I know I don’t want to just hand over to a thrift store (an old computer, antiques I could sell, vintage jewelry that may be gold??). These boxes of “unprocessed” items are much fewer than they were before, but seeing them in storage on top of boxes of things I want to keep, on top of all my art supplies was a big dose of reality. I have a lot of “stuff” for one person!

I’m grateful to have friends who could store my big furniture and boxes in their basements, and for my boyfriend who gladly took all my books. And for people who swooped in to buy artwork just so I wouldn’t have to store it.

This phase in my life is temporary, but it’s a strange feeling for me to have so many things in storage because of my beliefs about this very subject, and it’s giving me time to think through it all.

I don’t think you should ever force yourself to give up things you aren’t ready to give up. Our belongings have a lot of emotion tacked on to them and it can be a slow process to navigate through that. I have seen first hand that if I store sentimental things for a year, and I look at them again, I am often ready to let them go. This is a good feeling, to trust in time and distance.

The biggest hope I have for my clients and myself is to quit living in limbo, or if we have to live in limbo, not to live there for long. For instance, don’t store things just to store them, but rather live within the means of the space you have. If you know you will have a bigger space within a year, I think it’s fine, but if it’s years, do your best to accept your present state of life by letting go of what can’t fit. I think this simple rule of thumb can change your perspective on life. The opposite of limbo is living in the present. When we live within our means financially and spatially, we allow our minds to rest and focus on the most important things in our lives, and these things are different from person to person.

I know my set of circumstances is temporary. I plan to move in to a new place within a year, and there, all the things I put into boxes will go with me. While I’m not a huge advocate for minimalism either way, I do daydream about owning less, and, as a result, moving around in the world a little more easily. I hope this process, will help me put some things into perspective. When I open those boxes again, I want to be able to let go of many of the objects in them.

I am pondering the vision I have for my life. What is yours?

Studio With a View

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View from the deck in Townsend, looking at the Great Smoky Mountains.

View from the deck in Townsend, looking at the Great Smoky Mountains.

This past December, I made a decision about what my plans would be in 2019. I’m not ready to share them publicly yet. I’ve been anxious to, but there are hurdles that keep popping up, and I want to get through them before I make any grand announcement.

But I would like to share with you the precursor to these plans. I’m on the road to something, and it’s exciting to have made it this far.

At the end of January, I moved out of my house near downtown Knoxville, put my belongings in storage, and drove to my hometown Memphis. There I lived with my sister, worked with new clients, sweet friends and family who hired me for my home organization services ( The Empathetic Organizer), went to Disney World, for the first time!, with my sisters, and hung out with old friends.

But now I’m back in East Tennessee, doing something that’s been in the back of my mind to do for many years now: I’m living at my parent’s cabin in Townsend, Tennessee, right next to the Smoky Mountains.

Make-shift studio, with a view.

Make-shift studio, with a view.

As soon as I pulled in the driveway, it felt so good to be here. I realized my desire last year to live alone. On top of that, I’ve lived in condensed neighborhoods for the past decade. I’ve been so ready to be secluded, not devoid of friends or society, but to have my living space out of arm’s reach of the next dwelling. It’s also nice not to have punks speeding down my street, blaring their basses, etc etc, because I have become very set in my crotchety old lady ways.

I hope to share about my plans by the middle of March. My two hurdles are these, which will give you a couple of clues:

  1. I’ve been ordered by my doctor not to walk for two weeks. It seems I may have a stress fracture, and to avoid the unnecessary cost of an MRI and a boot, I’m trying to do what it takes to heal up on its own.

    This is SUPER hard because my plans involve physical training. Ok, that’s the most I will say.

  2. I never know how much money I’ll owe once I file my income tax, and it could kill my dream. I hope to have everything my accountant needs for her to file in the next week or so, so hopefully I’ll know soon if I’m going to get crushed or not.

In the meantime, I’m enjoying this time so far. I haven’t been lonely in the least. My dad and my parent’s dog Fern are here, my boyfriend has come up to visit, and I’ve all ready gone into Knoxville a couple of times for First Friday, to see friends, and to run errands.

I’ll let y’all know the minute I get lonely. I have this feeling it may not come. Been ready for this.