Notes from the woods...

May 22, 2019

Wow, this year is flying by! Quick life update:

So, that New Year's goal of hiking all of the Virginia State Parks, has been a bit life-changing. As of today, I am 28 parks in and have just returned from a week long training as a Virginia Service and Conservation Corps member with AmeriCorps! I am spending the summer serving at my home park in Virginia Beach as an interpretive program ranger. I could never have imagined on January 1st when I sat down with my map of Virginia and started planning my hikes that it would lead me to quit my full time job and apply for an AmeriCorps position. 

This year has been about following my joy and right now I am bursting with it. Stay tuned for updates from the woods!

January 26, 2019

As I'm writing this I am slowly recovering from a week-long stomach virus, that has left me sapped and a little jello-y. It has been an emotional couple of weeks with the passing of Mary Oliver, though I have been heartened by seeing her words in my social media scroll, photos of her and her beloved Percy and even cafe chalkboard signs that remind us "You do not have to be good/"


My husband puzzled over why I was so wrecked by the passing of someone I did not know. It took me days to be able to explain my grief.  When I read "The Summer Day" as a teenager, it shook me thoroughly by its honesty. I devoured Mary Oliver's words, her perspective on the natural world,  and somehow her ability to seem to be speaking directly to me. This intimacy is the gift of a brilliant poet. I believed in Mary Oliver's version of the world and it made me want to write down the poems that had been in my head. 

I shared my love of poetry with my grandmother, who was raised by a woman that recited Keats and Coleridge even in the midst of advanced Alzheimers. My grandmother and I were lifelong pen pals sharing near weekly letters with each other. We talked about books, poetry, the number of nightly primrose blooms, everything and nothing all at once. I have kept many of those letters and even though she passed more than two years ago, I continue to find her notes tucked into various places around my home.  When I read the news of my favorite poet's passing, I went almost immediately to my bookcase to find "When I Wake Early." I read this book, over and over again, poem by poem on a daily basis for nearly a full year. It was a terrible year. One of death and divorce and change and anxiety and becoming finally myself. It was a wonderful year, too. It was a year I was convinced I would not have survived without that book.


So, on January 17th when I curled up in a chair with that book, it should not have surprised me that a letter from my grandmother would have fallen out. A letter that had also sustained me through that challenging time. With that letter came another round of tears for what is lost, for what is found, for the gift of words and for knowing with certainty that the course of my life was changed by a person I had never met, but whom I knew.  Farewell Mary Oliver, may you wander the woods of paradise forever.

January 2, 2019

Happy 2019! I love the optimism and possibilities of a New Year. Fresh starts and second chances and 12 pages of a calendar to fill with opportunities. 

2018 was a year of flux and learning, making mistakes, shifting priorities, embracing rejection and writing and submitting more poems than I ever have in a year. 2019 brings two forthcoming full length poetry collections, which I'm still trying to wrap my head around.  

I'm experimenting with this website of mine and since this is my first entry, I'll keep it light and highlight some of the best books I read in 2018. Some of them were published years ago and I just got to them last year, but they each in their own ways were stunning, startling, inspiring, complicated and lovely. Here's the top 15 list:

Calypso - David Sedaris

We are What We Ate – 24 memories of food – edited by Mark Winegardner

Assymetry - Lisa Halliday

Yuki Chan In Bronte Country – Mick Jackson

The Power - Naomi Alderman

The Transformation of Bartholomew Fortuno – Ellen Bryson

The Buddha Wonders if She is Having a Mid-Life Crisis (Poetry) – Luisa Igloria

Beast, to be your Friend (poetry) – Jennifer Moss

Solve for Desire (poetry) – Caitlyn Bailey

When I Grow up I want to be a List of Further Possibilities (poetry) – Chen Chen

The Goldfish Window (poetry) – Lisa Beech Hartz

Vox – Christine Dalcher

The Shock of the Fall – Nathan Filer

Incendiaries – K. O. Rown

Florida – Lauren Groff

I have long list of books to tackle for 2019 and that is one of the many beautiful things about a new year.

Finally, one of my 2019 goals is to complete a hike in all 38 of Virginia's State Parks. Stay tuned to this page as I expand on my notes from the woods and track my way through this state, writing, learning, falling, and getting back up. 

© 2018 by Kindra McDonald​

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