I See Trees of Green

Last spring I began exploring the idea of a new creative project. I purchased a Go Pro camera and started experimenting with making little videos of my run adventures. It was mostly out of pure, silly fun and curiosity more than anything. Not long after, my world turned upside down. It was the end of a relationship and end of an era. Suddenly I had no idea what my future would look like, which felt like a scary thing. I like having a plan, and the plan got thrown out the window.

Aside from the emotional mess of it all, there’s the practical and logistical aspect of figuring out what’s next. I had to have a plan, and I wanted one immediately. Of course, the world doesn’t work like that. The past year has moved as slow as molasses. It has involved a lot of waiting, speculating, and problem solving in the midst of auditioning for school, selling my home, moving cross country, and working through grief.

The other day I came across an accessory for my Go Pro, which at that point I’d completely forgotten about. There have been hardly such things as “fun little projects just because” in my life for some time. I’ve kept up the practice of writing, running, and playing piano in a ritualistic sense. They’re like coping mechanisms; they provide familiar routines and long term goals to focus on, like learning audition pieces and training for races and FKT attempts. Writing has for sure been an emotional outlet and a way to process everything.

Recently I became enthralled with the reality television series Alone, in which contestants are dropped off by themselves in the wilderness with limited supplies. They have to figure out how to survive and live sustainably on their own, with the option to call up the producers and “tap out” anytime. Whoever is the last one standing wins.

It was fascinating to essentially observe Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs play out in the contestants’ choices and what they prioritized. I was struck by this description of the “Safety” need in a Simply Psychology article, “Once an individual’s physiological needs are satisfied, the needs for security and safety become salient. People want to experience order, predictability and control in their lives.” It quickly became clear how it important it was psychologically for the contestants to have walls around them and a sense of home and comfort. And once some sense of stability was achieved, they took to doing little projects around camp.

Observing this was a bit of a lightbulb moment for me in the sense of, well of course I haven’t been overflowing with ideas in the creative department since the priority for the past year has simply been getting my life in order. At this point, thankfully, I feel as though I’m in the homestretch. I’m enrolled in school. I signed a lease on an apartment. Soon enough I’ll get to move in the rest of my furniture and belongings, which I’m packing up and shipping from Oregon this week. I’ll be able to surround myself with all the familiar things, “nest” in my new home, and hopefully feel settled and get into some kind of routine in the very near future. To have a sense of being grounded is more valuable than I ever imagined.

This summer, I did finally take on a little “just for fun” project while spending time in the Green Mountains and training for the Long Trail. I brought my goofy, bulky polaroid-style camera with me on my runs and took a bunch of photos of some of my favorite places on the trail (pictured at the top). They’re not amazing photos by any means, but I love the idea of having in-the-moment, one-of-a-kind photos on film that I personally carried in and out of the wilderness with me. I distributed these, along with little handwritten notes, to my monthly members (the photos have little magnets on the back so you can display it on your fridge or wherever you fancy).

On a related “note”, and maybe another sign of the creativity starting to flow again, I recently shared a little piano composition that you can listen to here. Sometimes words can’t adequately describe a feeling and this piece has just been swelling in my head over the past few days as I’ve been sorting through mementos in my old home and deciding what to keep–and what to leave behind.


New podcast alert! I was happy to return as a third-time guest on the Day Fire Podcast. I always enjoy getting to chat with hosts Dawson and Clint and hope you enjoy the conversation too. Check out more of my interviews/media here.

Thanks for reading. If my writing resonates with you, please consider buying me a coffee or becoming a member for $5/month. As a thank you, members receive some lovely MOTR logo stickers and a handwritten note from me, along with periodic surprises like my little Long Trail polaroid project above. Your support, however big or small, keeps this newsletter going, for which I’m so grateful!

Another great way to support is by sharing this with someone that might enjoy it too. New readers may subscribe here. ‘Til next week! ~Mercury


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Who is Mercury?

Liz Derstine, trail name “Mercury”, is a distance runner, endurance hiker, writer, and musician residing in Boston, MA. She holds fastest known times for women on the Appalachian Trail (supported, northbound), Long Trail (self-supported), and Pinhoti Trail (self-supported).

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