birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Sports bra and dork shorts

I half-laugh, half-cringe when I see photos of myself exhausted but smile a 'glowing in backpacker/hiker gear: The dorky short khaki shorts with the zippers not so seamlessly tucked along the bottom edge, where I zip on the bottom half to restore them to being slightly baggy pants. The "spots" bras - and I am a sport to wear them. The "wicking" tee shirts made from some chemically induced material that are great on the trail, when you've been lugging 30 pounds up a 1,000 foot gain in half a mile. And, oh, the rain gear. Sheer style massacre. You sweat and drip and are clammy and cocooned all at once, in yards of yellow or drab green or tan (or once, fushcia) poncho-pant numbers.

But you know what? After cresting and diving between gap and peak, gap and peak, steep mile after mile on the Georgia Appalachian Trail for the second spring, I hit my stride by Day Three (days deserve capital letters out here). I stripped off my odiferous clothing by a trailside stream and splashed and washed in the trickle just enough to feel thoroughly refreshed, finishing by drenching my bandana in a small pool and dumping it over my head again and again, water running in shockingly cold rivulets through my scalp and down my back. That's nothing new for me - I crave water daily, and where it is, I go. But this time, ablutions complete, I left my tee-shirt off and hiked a long ways just in my sports bra and dork shorts, a cool breeze wafting around my newly freed skin, the sun shining through dappled forest. Complete freedom. Strong legs pumping, mind clear of daily stress, shoulders numb or finally adjusted, stomach shrunk in good ways. The best. (The hiking boots are worthy of a whole separate musing, but add them and athletic socks to complete the picture).

Dateline: Harlem Avenue