I am inspired and humbled by people who selflessly help their neighbors: the woman in my previous neighborhood who laminated children's books and left them in the playground for parents to read to their children; my gay neighbor who looks out for the 70-something former marine whose wife died recently and whose conservative beliefs somehow don't interfere with their connection; my mom who gleans produce from her garden to give to the local food pantry. (And on a larger scale, I'm inspired by people like Mandela and his incredible forgiveness of his captors and his lack of bitterness after 27 years. Sometimes I pause to really consider that fact -- 27 years. With the fullness of that example in mind, how can I ever justify getting impatient or resentful towards someone over petty things? I just need to remember to think of this when those petty feelings make an appearance...) I'd love to hear about your heroes.
My favorite vacations have all been backpacking trips. I love that feeling that I am totally self-sufficient -- carrying my world on my back for a few days. And I love how the rhythm of backpacking forces me to slow down. Setting up camp, getting water, unloading food from the pack, priming the stove, etc. Everything is deliberate and everything takes longer than when I'm in the world of refrigerators and running water.
After my first year of teaching, I spent a month hiking the Long Trail in Vermont as a reward for myself. I spent lots of trail time reflecting on my work and how I could be a better teacher the next year, but I also spent a lot of time thinking about how to keep my socks dry (it was a brutally rainy summer in VT!), whatever perishable fruit I was craving, and the incredible (verdant!) beauty of the woods in Vermont. Hiking provides a great mental break from my intense work and has become a reliable way for me to decompress. Ultimate frisbee is another favorite way to clear my mind of work.
Despite lots of time in the woods, I am a lousy outdoor cook. I can usually do mac and cheese without screwing it up. I have to admit I'm not such a gourmet cook at home either, so I guess it's not so surprising... However, I can follow a recipe just fine and am slowly being smitten by the SmittenKitchen blog. I recently went on a homemade granola bar kick.
I respect people who are thoughtful, humble and honest. I appreciate conversations that push my thinking about important issues. I am a shameless promoter of one of my college heroes, Cory Booker (who has now gone far beyond his student government role in college).
I gravitate towards people who laugh easily and unselfconsciously, are not wedded to their TVs, frequently talk about what's going on in the world, care deeply about how to address economic and racial inequalities in our country, listen carefully and want to know what I care about, also enjoy spending time alone, will tell me when the scary part is over in a movie, don't hesitate to admit when they screwed something up, love watching the stars, are compassionate and good neighbors, and would probably tease me about this ridiculously long list.