When contrast turns to conflict and reclaiming balance

3 min read 2 Comments

Today I saw a flock of wild turkeys, 2 of the sweetest long horn cows, and a funny snorting fat pig here in Virginia. I’m taking a respite day at Woods Hole Hostel to write this (and let my knees recover from the last few hard days).

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As you might know, I’ve been hiking the Appalachian Trail with my boyfriend Ken since mid July. It’s an interesting test of a relationship - embarking on such an epic journey. 

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While I love hiking and backpacking, turning it into your day job kills the joy. And since this was Ken’s dream first, and his goal is to finish by thanksgiving (which means hiking 25 miles EVERY day), we’ve changed our approach. 

After backpacking 800 miles, I got off the trail just after Bear Mountain in New York. 

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My brother had the best analogy - Ken is like a Ferrari stuck behind a school bus when we hike together. It became clear the bus needed to pull over and let the fancy sports car take off, full speed, on open road. 

Originally I thought of our contrasting goals and personality traits as strengths. But as the miles wore on and we grew more exhausted, they turned to conflict. 

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Just like the blue of the sky contrasts the beautifully changing orange/red leaves - I prefer to think of contrast as a good thing. 

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So instead of hiking every mile, I am now driving along, supporting my man with a combination of day hikes/car camping (which allows him to hike easier with a lighter pack) and the occasional overnight backpack trip to enable me to catch the highlights (and not feel I’m missing out too much), like the last 26 miles from Tinker Cliffs to Macafee Knob and Dragon’s Tooth. 

Now I am back to appreciating the way we compliment each other - the way a coral sunrise compliments the grey blue mountain range or shades of yellow and orange add to the beauty of aqua blue water at sunset. My night owl takes care of tasks later in the day, while Ken’s early bird serves me coffee in bed.

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As I mentioned here and here, I love color and see endless inspiration in the nature I’m immersed in along the trail. But when you bring contrasting colors together, possibilities are endless. Instead of clashing, I see opposing colors as compliments to each other. 

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Likewise, after 3 months of backpacking, as a couple, on a deadline, I started to lose perspective of our individual colors and how they can work together, instead seeing them turn to mud. 

Now, as Ken trudges forward, enjoying the rigorous physical challenge of 20-30 miles a day, I take my time day hiking, looking around and taking in all the views. In doing so, I see the millions of ways nature creates contrasts that work together to compliment each other…

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The contrast of negative space of sky to the solid curvature of mountains 

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The lineal trunk of a tree compared to its rounded, almond shaped leaves

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The agility and adaptability of a root vs the rigidity of a sturdy rock

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Intricate infinite pattern of a seed or flower vs the simple arc of its circular overall shape

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The contrasting shapes of scalloped fungus to the elongated trunk of the tree

The harmony nature achieves in opposites is endless.


When we step back and look inward, we can find many ways to create balance, even if it means giving up the ‘dream’ and manifesting a powerful new one in its place.

We can learn a lot from nature!

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2 Responses

Susan Seutter

March 07, 2021

Catherine, this is an exceptionally beautiful post. Your insightful words paired with gorgeous photos of nature and your art are a joy to see! Can’t wait to see you and hear more tales from the trail.
Hugs, Spotter ?

Shannon Hughes

March 07, 2021

Agreed…you capture color, texture and emotion so well with your camera…and you have such as keen eye for design in your jewelry. Can’t wait to hear of the stories that accompany some of these incredible hike photos.

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