Wednesday, December 21, 2011

"Le temps qui glisse est un salaud"

That quote suggests that time is a bastard. But I say that in the most endearing way. Time will certainly slap us around a little, but it is such a wonderful teacher.

I wonder at the proximity of my birthday to the new year, to the solstice even. A turning of the wheel in so many perfectly synchronized ways. As I come to the end of another year of my own complex and beautiful existence, the earth comes into her longest night, farthest point from the sun. And the year comes to an end, as well. 2011, you've been one hell of a year. And so I reflect in so many ways, on what this time has meant to me.

The other night: a conversation about wisdom, compassion, and age. Of course appropriately timed. Several people suggested that compassion grows as we get older. And wisdom as well- which is intricately intertwined with both compassion and mindfulness. I feel these things abundantly in my life. Incorporating themselves into my existence. And I am grateful. Humbled.

Every year is epic, but this past year was especially so. I welcomed some of my most deeply buried shadows, found some of my most thoroughly hidden light. Some of the most important questions of my life thus far arose this year. And I was able, in many ways, to let go of all the futile attempts at answers.

I traveled long and far this year. And these journeys were physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual. 16 states, 6 months on the road, so many miles I lost count. So many realizations, moments of intuition, critical moments, crises even, and of course mistakes.

I found synchronicity again, though I'm not sure how I'd gotten so far away from it.

I lost all my dreams, and all my ideas of who I was or what I wanted my life to be.

And as I reflect on all these things, on selving and connecting, on places and spaces, on moving and shadows, I ultimately come to where I am right in this very moment.

Today I sensed what the dark half of the year is all about. I used to think it was about just that: darkness. But it's also about rest. As the earth moves through winter, she is not dead. She is sleeping. There is so much life still, only it's more subtle. More silent. There's a calmness there in the space where darkness is welcome. Where cold is welcome. Where we can drop our leaves and bare our limbs without shame. We let go of those things we cling to. Invite our shame, our guilt, our doubt, our fear, our sadness, our injury, and our lack to come to the surface. We welcome those aspects of ourselves, embrace them even. They are part of us as much as our love, our compassion, our faith, our joy, our healing, and our abundance are a part of us. And so at this time of year, we must allow ourselves to be whole. To find the sleep of slow and silent winters. A time of healing. So that with the return of the sun, we will be renewed.

And as I am on the brink of entering another year of this beautiful and astounding life, I want you all to know how grateful I am to share this journey with you. To be on this earth, living this life, having these experiences. I wish, for you, wholeness: a space where you allow yourself to be fully you. May you walk through this life with a whole heart and a whole mind.

And know that I love you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

A Giving of Thanks

It's been a long time. I've not been able to write this post. Life is such a labyrinth of experience, with shadows cast across our paths, unexpected walls, twists and turns, and of course the very human wonder if there really is a minotaur somewhere in there- or an exit for that matter.

As this is the week of Thanksgiving, I wanted to reflect on my gratitude. Gratitude is something that grows and grows in my life, and so the fact that there is a holiday to celebrate it just enhances its beauty. As I consider the many things I am grateful for, the things that come up first are those dark and difficult things. A separation from my husband of two years is not something I am grateful for, however, what I am learning about myself and about the world in general are things I am extremely grateful for. This has been a time of darkness, of twists and turns, of walls, of pain, but also of beauty. Destruction will always bring creation. In that light, I list my gratitudes:

A chance to experience something sacred with other human beings
The ability to help someone, so much that they express their own gratitude for you
The love and support of those who love me
A lesson in what love really means
Nourishment- mind, body, and soul
Beautiful children in my life
Rain and autumn and winter, after having missed those things in the desert
The chance to miss the desert
The changes I see beginning in our world- those people that are standing up for change
Synchronicities- the universe keeps lining things up just right
A job which allows me to do what I love
A place to rest my head at night
A reconciliation of my past
The absolute beauty that exists in this world, and our ability to connect to it
The simple things: leaves blowing in the wind, a crow's call in the morning, a foggy day
The space to heal

So I hope that as you consider your own gratitude this Thanksgiving, you will consider the beauty in the hard parts, too. It's all part of this beautiful cycle.


Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Full circle, again and again

It seems like things always come full circle. And sometimes they keep circling. And sometimes they lead to other circles altogether. Four years ago, I started this blog when I left Massachusetts to move west. It was to be a chronicle of adventure, of hellos and goodbyes, of life and love and a girl who wanted to see it all. Revisiting that girl is something I'm glad I can do. We are so different, she and I, and yet.... It's wonderful to have it all documented. It was in this place, in Western Massachusetts, where I am now, that I began this log. And so in a sense, it really does feel like full circle. It's trippy to be back here and walk these streets as the person I am now... ultimately because my year here was both the best of times and the worst of times. I was in some of the darkest places of my life, and I also blossomed into some of the brightest. And so. I knew I wanted to visit here on my way down the east coast, but fate landed us a three week house sitting opportunity, and so our stay here will be full of friends, adventures, memories, and hopefully a better understanding of myself.

But I'm skipping the part where we actually got here. After being in Indiana for a month, and managing to push back more than one estimated departure date, we finally made it out of there. It was bittersweet. Leaving the kids was a tough thing, but it's something I am, by this point, better at coping with. I was ready to continue the adventure, be on the road, see the next thing to see. And so. The morning we were to leave, I got an email from a friend explaining that friends of hers needed a housesitter, and were we still looking for a place to stay? Of course we were! Especially because the house is walking distance from downtown Northampton, one of my favorite places.

We hit the road and managed to make it almost to Cleveland before hunger and fatigue overtook us. Thanks to HappyCow, we found a delicious Chinese place that had a completely vegetarian menu in addition to the regular menu. Their peanut sauce was absolutely to die for. Driving through Lakewood was pretty neat. It's a town I'd definitely like to explore a little more. Tons of unique houses and independent shops and restaurants, all along the beautiful lake.

The next day we made a slight detour up past Buffalo so we could check out the American side of Niagara Falls. Chip had been there before, but I had only been to the Canadian side. It was as breathtaking as I remember it being, and we luxuriated in the insane humidity radiating off the water for a while. We took a little walk (only little because of my ankle injury- did I mention that I twisted my ankle something awful in Indiana? It's healing, though, slowly but surely.), and enjoyed the view. A nice break from a day in the car.

That night we crashed somewhere just outside of Albany, and had only a two or three hour trek into Western Mass the next morning. We grabbed some delicious vegan food in Amherst, sat on the sidewalk, had a pot of tea, and I couldn't believe that we were actually here. Of course it all felt like a dream. The afternoon we spent at the Peace Pagoda- one of the most interesting places here, I think. It was so quiet, and nice to just sit and think. The weather was pretty perfect, too.

The next few days were spent catching up with friends, and visiting much loved spots. And three days after arriving, we were in the house that we will occupy for several weeks yet. It's sort of crazy to be in a big house, just the two of us- as we've been either in tents, or with tons of other people for the past three months. We spent the first several days sitting in silence, reading, and I even took an actual bath (it's been too long). The farmer's market is walking distance, as is the entire town, so we've also been luxuriating in having fresh local produce accessible by foot, several days per week. We've been eating so well- my body loves that. I've also been doing yoga every morning, slowly getting back into it after the ankle injury.

There are lots of places we want to visit that are day trips from here, so we'll be working those into our lives. On the fourth we headed out to the Berkshires, where we found this orchard we were wanting to go to only to find it was closed (even though their website said they'd be open). Helas. The drive was gorgeous, full of farmland and green trees and lakes and amazing old houses. We drove to the top of Mount Greylock for a pretty great view of the area, and a nice breath of fresh air.

It's weird being in a place like this for an extended stay- no family around, not staying with friends. We almost aren't sure what to do with ourselves. No tent to set up or take down, no obligations... it's kind of insane. I was actually feeling anxious about having no plans the other day. Guess that's something. So this part of the journey seems to be about relaxing, luxuriating, and enjoying the company of good friends at leisure. Not to mention the crazy dreams I've been having since arriving here, but that's a whole different blog. ;)

Monday, June 13, 2011

Every day is a new adventure

Let me just say that my life does NOT lack adventure. I am more grateful for this than I know how to express in words. Each moment in this context makes me less afraid to dive into the next. A valuable thing, for certain.

We left Nashville one morning after two-ish weeks of being there, and high-tailed it to Indiana, where Chip's family lives. We are in Northwest Indiana, which is about 50 miles outside of Chicago, though we've yet to make it to the city.

After an 8 hour drive, we arrived in the early evening with the intent to show up at a big family party that was happening and surprise everyone. The boys were going to park their trailer in the yard and then we'd head over to the restaurant. Chip's friends had mentioned that it had been raining really hard recently, so Chip decided to drive the car into the yard first to make sure the mud wasn't too bad for the trailer. Only his hand signal for them to stop when he turned onto the grass wasn't clear enough, and so just as the front wheels of the trailer got onto the grass, the whole rig immediately got stuck in the mud. And wouldn't budge. And kept digging the holes deeper and deeper. At this point we had 20 minutes until the party was over. Well suddenly Chip's friends all show up. Not even five minutes had passed since our arrival. It was insane!! One after the other, they pulled into the drive. (So happy to have Chip back in town that word spread like wildfire). And then the grabbing of boards and ropes ensued. The plan of attack was drawn up, and five men stood behind the trailer and pushed while one drove. Just as they successfully parked the trailer in the driveway, all 22(ish) of his family members pulled into the drive, car by car. The greetings were warm and loud and long. Everyone was so thrilled for our arrival. Exhausted as we were, I immediately took to jumping on the trampoline with the kids. Things have pretty much been non-stop from that moment.

Chip boasts a big family, with 5 siblings and 16 nieces and nephews and one great-niece. We are staying on his sister's property, so her house is home to her, her four children, her room-mate, and her two children. His mom's house is just beside theirs. And we are staying in the apartment that's above the barn on the other side of the house.

Chip and our youngest nephew

So, as you can imagine, life here is vibrant and chaotic. I am definitely in my element with all the kids around. I really adore these kids. We've gone hiking and fishing and shopping. They come over all the time to help me make dinner, eat with me, have movie nights, etc.

The first night we arrived, all the nieces got together and asked me if I would teach them how to bellydance. Well! I couldn't imagine what I'd want to do more than just that very thing. So, in those first few days I ordered all 6 of them coinbelts, and planned a class at the karate school owned by Chip's other sister. They were so incredible. I honestly can't believe how quickly they took to it during their very first lesson. I'll have my very own performance troupe in no time!! These girls are so fun.

Other than my spending time with the nieces and nephews, we've been working a whole lot. (I say "we" but mostly it's been Chip.) This place we are staying had so many things wrong with it, and Chip can pretty much do anything, so everyone has really long to-do lists for him when he comes home. So, between re-plumbing this apartment, putting up a new door, wiring the oven, doing the stuff at his mom's and sister's houses, doing stuff in the yard, fixing the mower, etc., it's been pretty busy. Luckily part of that includes paid work at his brother's place. I've been helping out with that too, and thus have learned a little bit about electrical work, amongst other things. Interestingly enough there was a moment when I was downstairs cutting and stripping wires and the thought crossed my mind, "What if these wires were live?" I just had this feeling that there was electricity flowing through. And about two minutes later, Chip yells down the stairs "Hang on Les, one of those circuits might be live!" So he came down and checked, and sure enough it was. So, that was certainly exhilarating.

Sealing cracks in the cement

Other than family time, we've also had a whole lot of friend time in this visit. The first week we were here, my best friend since I was 6 just happened to be crossing through here from Boston on her way to California. She just finished grad school there and is moving to Cali, except she's currently overseas for a couple months teaching in China. So it was wonderful having such a dear dear friend here, and for us to both be at such crossroads in life. We had some much need conversation while walking on the beach (Lake Michigan feels just like the ocean, by the way). And then we had an all out dance party that night.

Chip's friends have also been around a lot. A couple of them I've been able to spend time with previously, and I've had the opportunity to get to know some of the others. They are pretty wonderful indeed. The other night we built a big bonfire in the backyard, and I busted out the glow poi, and someone else had glowsticks, and I proceeded to embrace my inner child (ok, when do I not do that?).

Dance Party!!!!

And just yesterday, the kids moved all the living room furniture into the front yard, and then we spent all day outside dancing on the porch and in the yard. I even gave bellydance lessons in the front yard. It was an amazing and much needed day. Did I mention how these kids just blow me away?

Our niece in her bellydance attire, in the open air living room

So tomorrow our traveling companions part ways with us. They are heading on toward Massachusetts and we will stay here until the work gets done. Which may mean another week entirely.

The plan after that (as much as there is a plan) is to stay in Mass for one entire month. We are looking for a room to rent for that time, so that we can explore the wonders of New England in the summer (the best time, in my opinion). Who knows what that will have in store for us. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

The rest of our time here will be filled with bellydance classes for the girls, dinners with the kids, and hopefully a day trip to Chicago via the train (I really dig that city).

Hope this finds you all well. I send my love.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

It does not matter how slowly you go,

"It does not matter how slowly you go, as long as you do not stop." (Confucius, I think)

I've been thinking of this line rather frequently these days. Being back in the town where I grew up makes me constantly consider my life, and how it's changed, and how I've changed, and even more how I'm still the same. This journey that we're on now, it's more than a journey between states and sites and landscapes, it's a journey to try to find out what we want out of life. Sometimes that can be quite the overwhelming task, and it can get discouraging, and it is of course difficult, but I keep thinking "just don't stop." Keep going, keep searching, keep finding your passions and keep asking yourself what you want.

That said, we've been enjoying our time here in Nashville. But I still have yet to write about Florida. From Louisiana, we made our way to Gulf Islands National Seashore. Chip had been there before, and remembered loving it so we were all excited to check it out.

The place is an island with a campground in the center. It was absolute paradise. Beach on all sides, walkable from the campsite, and the weather was ideal. So our week there consisted of yoga on the beach, morning swims in the ocean, beach walks, music around the campfire in the evenings, good food, beautiful skies, etc. I really really enjoyed that place. It was so beautiful. Swimming in the ocean every day did wonders for my soul (and my skin). It made me seriously consider living closer to the ocean on a permanent basis.

The National Seashore used to be a State Park and before that it was just Fort Pickens, one of several forts in the area dates back to the Civil War. It is said to be haunted, and some of the ruins definitely had some crazy energy. One night we went exploring and climbed through and around some of them... definitely something going on there.

The Blue Angels are just across the bay, and so we were lucky enough to get to see some of their practices. Those guys blow my mind. One morning they were in the air for an hour, flying right over our campsite, so we hightailed it to the beach to get a better view of the whole show. I wished my brother could have been there too. He digs that stuff.

I decided while I was there that I wanted to go fishing. I've never been fishing (due in part to a traumatic fish experience I had as a child), and there was a pier at the park from which you could fish without a permit. If I ever eat animal products again, I want to be the bringer of death. I want to look that animal in the face and really understand the balance of life. So here's the chance-- my buddies wanted to fish, and so I decided to fish. I would eat what I caught. Because I want to experience everything I possibly can in life. So we were all fishing, and I said a little prayer to the universe, to allow me this experience, thanking the fish for offering its life, etc. And I caught one. I was the first one of our group with a catch. It was a pinfish- too small to eat but one of the other fishermen suggested we use it for bait, since the brined shrimp we'd brought weren't the best. Ok, then. If I was going to be responsible for taking its life, then I would take its life. So Chip held it down, while I thanked it and then cut off its head. It was hard and it made me feel weird, but I also understood that it was part of this cycle we as humans are in. So we cut it up and used it for bait. We never caught a bigger fish for eating, but part of that pinfish is frozen still, so perhaps there's still the chance that its life will bring the experience of eating a fish I catch myself.

It was sad to have to leave that place, but we did. We spent 2 nights in a state park outside of Montgomery Alabama. That place was the greenest place we've been yet, so it really felt like entering the South again. We've missed that lush vegetation. After a relaxing day, we made our way north to finally reach Nashville.

The camper is parked in my dad's back yard, and we've all been busy since arriving. I had boxes of stuff stored here to go through and get rid of (which I've done successfully). There's been lots of work to do, helping friends and family. And of course there's been lots and lots of time spent catching up with family and friends. I sincerely appreciate the chance to spend time with my loved ones here. My visits in the past couple years have always been only 3 or 4 days, so there was never enough time. While it's still been busy this time around, 2 weeks allows for much more quality time.

I'm enjoying cooking in a big kitchen, having regular access to a CLEAN shower, and being able to sleep past sunrise. But I do miss the clear skies of the west, campfires every night (though we have had one fire since being here), and sleeping in a tent. I'm really grateful for the rain and thunderstorms. Last night I sat on the porch with my dad just watching the lightning. I've missed Tennessee storms.

We're here until Sunday, and then we continue up to Indiana. Still things to do and people to see. And it'll be good to be on the road again.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Gator Bait

These past many days have been rather full of adventure. We've been at a state park just outside of New Orleans with some friends. In fact one of my dear friends from Massachusetts is doing sort of the same thing we are, except in the opposite direction- heading for California. So our paths crossed here, and we are having a riot (sans the mosquito bites).
This is swamp land, and so the wildlife is unreal. Like something off the discovery channel. We saw, late at night, an owl trying to get into the nest of some sort of egret, who was viciously defending its territory. Then, two owls snuggling- or something that looked very much like it. We've almost caught an armadillo, too. I say we, but I mean Chip. He actually touched it. And the alligators! Wow, oh wow! We've seen them up close and personal, and what fantastic creatures they are.

We took the motorcycles out to the Bayou Sauvage Wildlife Refuge. It was really beautiful- full of cypress knees and live oaks, and lovely birds.
We also went into the city for a while. Heard some phenomenal live music- two girls, a violin, and a guitar- on Canal St. Then we walked up and down Bourbon Street just taking in the sights and sounds. It's definitely sensory overload there- and wicked funny.
Most days we spent lots of quality time around the campfire- dancing, talking, the boys playing music, eating delicious meals, and generally enjoying ourselves. It has been quite a lovely taste of community. It feels so wonderful to have other people around after a month of just being the two of us. That sense of community is something I'm learning more and more about- what I want in life, in a home, and in a path. I'm grateful for this time and experience.
We are heading to Pensacola FL now. And we passed I65 today. Made me really miss Tennessee. I'm seriously looking forward to getting back there and seeing everyone.
Every day it seems like new possibilities open up for the future. It's scary and exciting at the same time.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Finding myself again, in the South

After San Antonio, we made our way down to Corpus Christi. I'd heard many things about Corpus, so I was excited to experience it. Since my uncle lives there, we got to stay for a few days and really check it out.

The aircraft carrier USS Lexington is there, a museum now. But it was quite interesting being on it, imagining this vessel of destruction in action. How many lives it had taken. How many spared. What capacity we have as humans, for war, for battle, for ingenuity. And how our curiosity is never abated.

We spent a lot of time at the beach. I hadn't been to the gulf since high school. It seemed saltier than the Pacific. Luckily the water was perfect, and we got to swim. We also got sand in our faces because the winds in Corpus are notorious. Apparently it's the place for wind sports.

The birding there was rather fantastic as well. I am so unfamiliar with water birds, so it was really cool to get out the books and the binoculars and have at it. The funniest birds are the Laughing Gulls because, of course, they truly sound like they are laughing. Every time I stepped outside and heard them, I'd question myself just a little- like what are they laughing at? Did I forget something? Did I miss something? They're in on the cosmic joke. And I'm not. Oh how lovely to be near them. We also saw them mating. Quite the hilarious ritual. I'd love to learn more about those birds. There were also many other types of gulls, herons, sandpipers, pelicans, and many more.

After taking a day to rest and do laundry and all the other mundane necessities, I was beyond ready to be sleeping outdoors again. I missed the moon and the stars and the sunrises and the sunsets. I'm starting to think of the tent as "home"- an interesting phenomenon.

My uncle gave me a GPS- something I never thought I'd have, but which has turned out to be very useful. We've used it every day since then, and although I was a bit resistant to the idea before having one, it's actually saved time and money. So we followed it into Bay City, TX, where we didn't spend much time at all, but did camp next to a swamp with the loudest wildlife I have ever heard. It was beautiful. All night long I felt like I was dreaming in a swampy symphony. What music! From there, we headed to a state park outside of Lake Charles. This one is also in the swamp land. The area was great, but the campsites weren't. Also, it turns out everyone goes to state parks for holiday weekends. We'd forgotten Easter was soon (it's hard to keep track of time like this), and so we could only stay one night because everything was booked. Other than the mosquitoes (I was eaten alive), it was nice.

We ended up asking around about other places to camp because none of the RV parks allowed tents, and all the state parks were booked. We were informed of a parish park. These are not listed on maps or the internet or anything, but apparently they are gems. Camping was $4 per night, and there were fewer people there. So- when in Louisiana, ask around for the parish parks.

And yesterday we rolled into Lafayette to visit my former and much admired French professor. We all went out to dinner at this delicious Indian place that had so many vegan options on the menu. It was so good. And our visit was so lovely as well.

Today we head just outside of New Orleans to meet up with some friends for a few days.

It's really interesting being back in the south. In Texas, I was catching the southern drawl, and here the accent is just intriguing- the whole creole thing. I want to ask people to keep talking just so I can revel in their accents. The humidity is really awesome. I'd missed it. Although I didn't miss feeling like I needed 5 showers per day. The mosquitoes are wretched, but I've learned my lesson with them. The trees and birds are exciting too.

It's time to hit the road, so more later. Love to everyone.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Photo update

Vineyard at the Val Verde Winery

Sunset over the Railroad Bridge at Amistad Reservoir

Rock Painting at Fate Bell, Seminole Canyon State Park

The Alamo!

The River Walk

Thursday, April 14, 2011

A fortnight, and still

It's been two weeks today of being on the road. I realized how much I'm becoming addicted to watching sunrise every morning, and sunset every night. And, gazing at the stars every night because that's what you see. You don't have to make an effort. We haven't used the rainfly on the tent for a while now, and so all night long I wake up, look at the stars or gaze at the moon, and fall gently back to sleep. How wonderful this is!
Monday morning we headed to Amistad National Recreation Area, which is a beautiful reservoir just west of Del Rio, TX. Our campsite was surrounding by water on 3 sides. And it was cheap! Our camp hosts there ended up giving us some excellent advice on what to see and do in and around the area. Camp hosts are incredible resources, and usually pretty amazing people- so make a point to talk to them! They are volunteers from who knows where, and we've realized that many of them know each other and can connect you with some cool opportunities as well as fill you in on history, local flora and fauna, and tips about the area. I have a deep appreciation for all of the camp hosts we've met so far.
So Monday we explored Del Rio a little, found a grocery store (the first one in TX to sell tofu!! Yay!), and did a lot of enjoying the cooler weather (relatively, anyway) and the beautiful lake. Tuesday we (on the advice of our camp hostess) found the sole health food store in Del Rio. It's called Nature's Medicine Shoppe, and was an absolute paradise for me. We were able to find nutritional yeast, among other things, and the store had so many products that I know and love. The book section was even incredible. I could have spent a lot more time and money there. The woman who owns the place is incredibly kind, and we were able to chat with her about where to buy organic produce in the area. Places like this are invaluable assets to a community, in my humble opinion, and I'm so glad that this place does enough business to continue to exist.
Later, we visited the local winery which happens to be the oldest winery in the state of Texas, the Val Verde winery. Every wine in the tasting was delicious, which is not typical, and the hostess was so nice.
We then spent a couple hours in the library, where I randomly picked up a book of essays by Barbara Kingslover (I love her) entitled High Tide in Tucson. The first essay shared this title, and just happened to discuss many ideas about the differences between being animal and being human. I highly recommend this read, as it went right along with many of the thoughts I've been tossing around on this trip.
After a brisk and brief swim back at the campsite, the rest of the evening I spent enjoying nature. The area is populated by an energetic group of cliff swallows, and several scissor tailed flycatchers, one of which graced us with his presence.
Wednesday morning was a 35 mile jaunt over to Seminole Canyon which boasts the oldest rock paintings in North America, dated at 4000 years. The tour took us into the Fate Bell Alcove, where the paintings, although fading, can still be seen. Our guide said that they are fading at a rate which suggests they won't be visible at all in 20 years, so we may be the last generation to be able to view them. The feeling in this place was, of course, ancient, and magical. The symbols have yet to be interpreted since they are so old and belong to a group of hunter gatherers we know little about. The paintings were beautiful, and I would recommend trying to see them before 20 years goes by.
That afternoon we left Amistad to head for Kickapoo Caverns State Park. The Stuart bat cave is there, and is home to 500,000 bats this time of year. This place is truly in the middle of nowhere. To my delight, armadillos were running around all over the place (first time I've seen them in the wild), and porcupines too. Racoons and scorpions bigger than any of the ones I've seen in Arizona were also taking up residence there. A hybrid boar that is the offspring of domestic pigs and some sort of German boar also roam the twilight. The many many birds include the black capped vireo, which is endangered in large part due to the parasitic cowbird. All these things I saw. Including the 500,000 bats fly out of their cave at dusk, and proceed to be hunted by 2 peregrine falcons (the fastest animal on earth), which definitely dined well.
One of my favorite parts about this week was spending time with a couple from Quebec. We were on the same tour at Seminole Canyon, and wound up camped beside each other at Kickapoo. We were the only campers around, and the only 4 people at the bat cave. We enjoyed good food and drink, and wonderful and enjoyable conversation and company. Since they are native French speakers, I got to pick up some new phrases.
They are taking a similar route through Texas, so we may run into them again actually. It's easy to get so caught up in the solitude of nature (even when you are with one other person) on a trip like this, you sometimes forget about the joys of dinner with friends, etc. It's really nice to get to share the wilderness with others who appreciate it.
It helped the transition into San Antonio today in the sense that I was happy to be around other people. Our day began with breakfast in the woods, and right now I'm in a hotel room right next to the Alamo, in the middle of the 7th largest city in the US. To say that my senses have been overwhelmed today is an understatement. From driving into town, to trying to check into our hotel (which had somehow had us booked for two separate dates in May and not today), to finding a place to park, to fighting the Fiesta crowds to see downtown, I am exhausted. I am not a city girl, though I appreciate some of the things cities have to offer. I just think I needed a gentler reintroduction into the hustle and bustle of a city. Everything is so loud and so fast (I know this), but it seems so much more so after a time spent away from it all. Especially having lived in Tucson for the past three years, where even the hustle and bustle is nothing comparatively. So, I did get to see the Alamo, which was, like everyone said it would be, smaller than I'd imagined. But, I am glad I was able to stand before it. I also got to experience the River Walk, which is lovely if busy. We attempted to go to a vegan restaurant for dinner, which google maps said was only 1 mile away (it lied), but that didn't work out. So one margarita and a dozen mariachi bands on boats later, I called it a night. Too overwhelmed to appreciate it right now, so I will try again tomorrow. (By the way, mariachi bands on boats are a bad idea because you can't actually hear an entire song. I have a soft spot in my heart for mariachi bands, and I will follow them around drooling if left to my own devices. See, I have this vision every time I hear one play, of myself dressed in a beautiful flamenco dress with flowers in my hair on a moonlit veranda with the band playing and my feet flowing. Luckily, I got to hear one song from a stationary band tonight. Ah, yes.)
So, all is well, and I keep being reminded to let every feeling come, to be in awe, and to be here now. I've been trying harder than ever to live fully in the moment (though today was much more difficult for me). Que sera, sera. Right?

By the way, this internet connection and the fact that I left one of the cameras in the car means that I will have to post photos later. Ah well.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Leaving the Last Frontier

Today we rolled out of Big Bend NP. It was getting so, so, so, so HOT. The park is half in the river basin and half in the mountains. At the river, temps are over 100 already, with limited shade. In the mountains it can be up to 20 degrees cooler, and there is shade to be had. Anyway, it was magnificent, but I would like to return in October. When they haven't been in drought for almost 8 months.

Friday night, we took a little hike into Boquillas Canyon. The trail winds down along the Rio Grande, with a great view of the city of Boquillas (the Mexican town just across the river). You climb down into the canyon and see how the river gouged out this beautiful place. There were horses that had crossed the river grazing on the grasses beside. It's a majestic place.

The next morning, it was the hot springs again. Trying to take advantage of them as much as possible. Fortunately, not many people frequent them- maybe they don't know about them. But you should certainly visit the hot springs if you are ever in Big Bend. Then, during the hottest part of the day, we headed up into the cooler Chisos mountains. We did a little hike out to what they call the Window, which has a great view of the park. The Chisos mountains are unique, and it was hard to get any photos to do them justice. The trail wound down the mountain, through several different types of terrain including a nice green treed area full of birds that I didn't know. The rocks were so many different colors because of all the minerals, and the sky was overcast meaning we were able to stay relatively cool.

The trail opened up to the window quite dramatically. The wind was crazy strong through here, and at the edge it just dropped straight down. It was a bit unnerving actually. But incredibly worth it. This is one of the more popular spots to see in the park, so I hear. And the hike is not difficult.

We took our time heading back to the hot river, though it was still burning up when we got there. We took a little walk before sunset on this trail next to the campground that had a great view of Boquillas and the Sierra del Carmen mountains.

Then last night one of the rangers gave a presentation on mountain lions. It was so so incredibly educational. This guy was a wildlife biologist and a ranger at Big Bend in the winter and Yellowstone in the summer. He explained the behavior of lions, the territory habits they have here in the park, and how to tell if a lion could pose a threat to you just by observing them. Apparently their coat turns reddish if they are nutritionally deficient (due to old age or the inexperience of youth, or injury). Typically this is the only time they would pursue a human (out of extreme and desperate hunger). I've seen mountain lions 3 or 4 times in Tucson, and they are so beautiful. It was nice to learn so much about them and know that they have an undisturbed home in the park.

Heading out of Big Bend, it's just more desert. Chihuahuan desert. There are a few small towns. We are in Sanderson now. When asking locals what there is to do here, they say "sit inside." It's just too hot to do anything. So I'm taking this time to be on the internet. Who knows when it will happen again.

Day 11 of being on the road, and the first night in over a week that I'll be sleeping within walls. It feels a little weird, but I'm grateful for some cool air and a nice shower. Living outside changes your skin so quickly- sunburn, bugbites, dirt, cuts, wind, etc. And I think it changes your soul even more quickly. Puts you more in touch with the elements, with the extremes. Makes you more pliable in a sense. Stronger, too. Part of the animal nature of being human. So many people try to deny this, but I think it is important to embrace this aspect of our existence. As important as embracing our divinity.

Well perhaps that's enough contemplation for one blog post. I hope this finds you well and alive and living your life to the utmost.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Shoot first, ask questions later

Here I am in Texas. In Big Bend National Park, actually. The irony now is that there is absolutely no cell phone service for at least 30 miles, but there IS free wifi. So.
We've been over a week on the road now, and I love this life of no agenda, sleeping outside, facing the elements. And we've certainly faced them. It reminds me that I'm alive- it makes me realize that mother nature is so much more powerful than people give her credit for- the extremes, and the way the weather can change in a heartbeat. Living outside of walls and roof is the only way you could ever truly understand this.
We left Cloudcroft freezing cold and wound our way down the mountains and east.

We headed out to Bottomless Lakes State Park, just past Roswell. I've always wanted to see Roswell- I have a fascination with anything to do with the cosmos. Bottomless Lakes is a cool place because the lakes were formed by sinkholes, and they are full of gypsum (and they are not, in fact, bottomless). It was quite the abrupt weather change, rolling up to the park. It was pushing 100 degrees (and we'd come from 40ish). Luckily one of the lakes that we camped near had a swimming area complete with sandy beach, so it was

nice to just relax and enjoy that. The water was freezing cold but it felt so good compared to the sun. The weather stayed warm even after sunset, and the stars were super bright. I was even able to do yoga on the beach, under the stars. That felt really nice, being able to look up at the night sky from triangle pose... ah, yes. So all was nice. Then about 2 a.m. I woke up abruptly to the tent bowing in on us. The winds had reached 30 or 40 mph. It was extreme, and at the same time a cold front was moving in, so the temperature dropped into the 30s or 40s within half an hour. Frigid winds and bending tent poles kept us up for hours. We couldn't jump in the car because the car is full of junk. So we just hoped the tent poles wouldn't break. We unzipped the "windows" to let the air flow through, and that helped a bit. I can't even explain how intense the whole experience was. It actually felt like the wind could have picked us up. Finally the wind calmed enough to doze a little.

The next morning we took the bike (in freezing cold) into Roswell to check it out. The UFO museum there is a trip. It posts sworn statements from eye witnesses the night of the crash, and the President's radio broadcast that night. It also displays newspaper articles from that week. There are photographs of UFO's, and all sorts of interesting displays. There's also a research library open to the public. I was sort of hoping to get abducted or something, but no such luck.
That night the wind was a little bit nicer to us, but it certainly made its presence known. The next day we headed down to Carlsbad Caverns. We didn't make it in time to hit the caves before they closed for the day. We camped in White's City just outside the park, and it was overpriced and really weird. The whole "town" right there is completely run down. Apparently there is also no fire department to respond to emergencies. We are getting more and more remote as we go. The wind reared her majestic face again that night.

It woke us up just as the sun was rising (thankfully, because sunrise was beautiful), but it was so bad this time that we actually had to rush to get our tent taken down and pack up the car. It was really hard because everything was blowing like crazy, and you could barely keep your feet on the ground. As I was putting the tent in the trunk, a gust of wind slammed the trunk into my face- right between my eyes, to give me a nasty gash, blood and all.

So after getting everything shoved away, we took the bike up to the caverns just in time for them to open. It was crazy because we were alone in the caverns for most of the hike (it's a self guided thing). The stillness of the caverns was profound. Carlsbad is one of the largest by volume caves in the US- so the rooms were HUGE and expansive. I felt so much peace with the earth all around me like that. What a great morning.
That day's drive brought us into Texas- oh the flat dry expanse, and oh the oil trucks and oil rigs and oil everything. We stopped in Pecos, and a couple other tiny Texan places. (Good luck finding tofu off west Texas highways!!) That night brought us to Balmorhea State Park (a pricey place, for sure). The wind was nicer to us that night, and we were able to see the night skies quite easily. The coyotes sang me into and out of sleep all night long (I love that).
That brings us to yesterday. We headed straight to Big Bend NP. We stopped along the way. Alpine was the coolest little town so far. A great bookstore called Front Street. Check it out if you have the chance!

So we finally made it to the campsite around 5 p.m. and it was still 100 degrees. So hot and dry. This is the least visited National Park- it's in the desert, it's completely remote. And we are a stone's throw across

the Rio Grande to Mexico. The border used to be open, and apparently the little Mexican town just across the river is in trouble because their entire economy revolved around tourism from this park. It's pretty sad. They warn you that you can be arrested if you buy crafts from people selling them at the river- illegal commerce. So you see all these crafts laying on rocks (with no people around) and jars for money because they want you to just leave it there and take the item. If they catch you with these items, they confiscate them and fine you. So sad.
We went to a ranger presentation last night about the history of the last frontier, and the Texas Rangers. It was pretty awesome. I really wished my dad and brother could have been there with me for that. They would have LOVED it. The NP Ranger told stories of the wild frontier, and talked a lot about the type of person it takes to live in a place like this: rugged, courageous, forbidding, rough, etc. I like that alot. I like the idea of being at frontiers, of choosing to go forward into unexplored area or of running away.
So after a good nights sleep, and a twilight view of the Rio Grande, and bullfrogs and trespassing burros singing all night, we tried to find an owl we heard calling this morning (no luck) and then made our way to the hot springs (yes, yes!). They are amazing. Sitting flush up

against the River, you can bask in 105 degree water while staring across the river at Mexico and envying the birds that cross so freely. Ah, so nice.
And that just about catches everything up. Love from the last frontier!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

On the Road Again (and again)

Well, here we are. Day 3 of being on the road (again). I feel more wild and free with each passing moment. It's a process, though. Everything is, I suppose.
We've only been driving about 140 miles per day, which is nice in its own way. Taking it slow. I cried my eyes out leaving Tucson- her beauty and love will be with me always. But slowly as I got out of town, the feelings of loss upon leaving turned steadily into feelings of welcome from the open road. It's an existence that I adore and long for, and while it is always hard to leave a place, sometimes it is harder to stay. Movement calls to me, I will ever answer.
So Thursday, we finally managed to roll out of town close to 1 in the afternoon, after cleaning the apartment, packing the car, shipping a box, and saying goodbye to one of our favorite neighbors. We headed east, with the intention of going to visit Leslie Canyon, which is in Southern Arizona. I wanted to spend a night in the wilderness named after me. As it turns out, the roads to get there are unpaved, and my car being as loaded down as it is, this was not an option. So, instead we headed into the Coronado National Forest, to Chiricahua National Monument. The campground was full except for one site, which had orange cones blocking the right side of the drive. We weren't sure if this meant we shouldn't use the site, but I felt like it was the universe saying "don't stop." So we ended up driving into the Forest Boundary (on an unpaved road, as it turns out) for about 6 miles, and camping off the road in the wilderness. The spot we found happened to be next to a small windmill which pumped water into a trough for the many many cows who were ranging free around us. The only sound (other than nature) all night was the sound of the windmill whirling. How lovely!! With cows for company, and a magical forest, the evening was full of soulful feeling. A twilight walk past the windmill brought me to some beautiful trees. And the stars!! Oh! Orion seemed to be pulsating with energy, brighter than usual.

The next day we headed into New Mexico, on the lookout for Rockhound State Park. We have this atlas we found at Bookman's that is a camping atlas, so it marks all the campsites on the atlas and gives descriptions of the parks. It's coming in really handy. So, we made our way through the New Mexico desert, and it is so beautiful. Different than the Sonoran of course, but it holds its own magic. Yucca and prickly pear, scraggy mountains, and vivid horizons. Coming into the park, there were plenty of open spots, so we chose a spot uphill with an incredible view. Dinner has been consisting of reconstituting dehydrated meals I've made over the past several months. So they are all vegan and delicious and full of the energy that we need. Plus, it's so simple to make dinner. I also got to make use of the shower here, which was most welcome. Funny how good showers start to feel when you're not sure when you'll get your next one. The stars from this campsite were pretty phenomenal as well. I spent a long while just watching them. I think I'm starting to recognize more stars and constellations just by observation, which is great. Then, all night long, I awoke to the beautiful tones of coyote song- one of my favorite sounds in the world. It was wonderful!

This morning, we woke up there in the New Mexican desert where temperatures where getting into the upper 90s, and now I'm writing this at 10,000 feet elevation in Cloudcroft, in Lincoln National Forest, with the heater running and an ice skating rink down the road (outdoors). Our trek here involved a stop at White Sands National Monument, which I just love, and insisted on stopping at again (it's nice having the Annual Pass for National Parks, Forests, and Monuments because these things don't cut into the funds). We dumped the stuff on the back of Chip's bike into my front seat, and I hopped on the motorcycle with him, and we drove into the dunes.

That place has such a cleansing energy about it. Maybe it's the purity of the white sand that makes me feel so pure myself. I don't know, but I love it. So after that little jaunt, we wound our way up the mountains to check out every campground on the map (they were all closed). We found the ranger station, only to discover that the majority of the campgrounds up here don't open until May. So we found the one that was supposed to be open, turned around and drove there, and found that it was, in fact, closed. Helas! We could have either tried to make it to the next campground (outside of Roswell) or settle into a motel here. Since Chip is on the motorcycle, and its not the most comfortable thing, or the warmest, we opted for checking on the motels. We stopped at this old mountaintop place, and the guy inside was willing to be talked down in price since it's not their busy season. In fact, I think we're the only guests. The hotel has been around since the 1930's and the bar next door since the 40's. Clawfoot tub and everything- it's kind of cool. It does feel weird to be inside right now. But I am looking forward to a bath and some quiet (and warm) time.
So far so good. This journey is making me feel many things. Mostly, I feel like I'm doing what I want to be doing. That is very important to me right now. I am realizing that I do not have a destination, and I do not want one- not a physical one anyway. My destination right now is more about the spirit- to honor the sacred, to have faith in the universe and myself and life, and to be the person that I am (not the one that I think I should be, or that others think I am). Uprooting myself makes this a lot easier. Like you can breathe and think outside of the context of all the things we get caught up in living in civilized society. Sure, there are hard parts and dark parts and scary parts, but that's the point. To not be ruled by these things. To trust that all is as it should be. And that is definitely true right now.
All is as it should be.
I will keep posting whenever I get a good internet connection- so far this is the first time. I can update my facebook via my phone, but otherwise that's it. So stay tuned. Love to you all.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011


Well. Where do I begin? Having neglected this blog for four months is nothing compared to other parts of my soul I have been neglecting for even longer. But it's time. Transition time. In so many ways, I am yet again on the brink.
Jobless, houseless as of Thursday (I do not say homeless because I always have a home), destination-less (for the most part), and answerless (to all the questions I have for the Universe). I am ecstatic and thrilled and sad and growing. Saying goodbye is never easy, especially when you have to say it to beautiful, amazing children who you don't think truly understand (but probably understand more than you do).
We hit the road on Thursday, and the only goal is "east." We will camp or crash couches along the way, deciding on our route each day. What do we want when we get "east"? To be determined. Soul searching is in progress on so many levels. This epic journey will symbolize many internal journeys as well, and so I am excited. I will be posting updates as to our whereabouts (and probably hinting at the whereabouts of my soul) along the way.
Let me begin this ending with an ode to the Sonoran Desert, most beautiful and magical of spaces. In fact, if one could be in love with a place (and why couldn't one be?), that is how I would describe my feelings for this place I called home for 3+ years. She makes me want to be a better person. She reminds me of the magic inside myself. She makes me feel beautiful. She teaches me to be strong. She sings me songs in the solitude of the night. She whispers poems to me. She inspires an extreme range of emotions in me, and her mood always suits my own. Oh beautiful desert, magical place, with your golden sunsets, your purple mountains, your wonderful spines, mysterious flowers, hidden life, incredible creatures, your thirst, your storms, your wind, your dirt, your endless horizons, your piercing stars, I am yours. I always will be. I will miss you in the depths of my being, but there is no way I will not be back.
I remember so clearly the first time I came to Arizona, summer after senior year of high school when my dad took my brother and me to the Grand Canyon. I recall riding in the rental car as he drove us from Flagstaff to GC, and as I gazed out the window I recognized the magic here. I thought to myself "I want to live in Arizona some day." Well, life brought me here, and I have learned so much. It has all been rather epic, and I was lucky enough to meet some indescribably amazing people. That said, you (dear desert and dear desert friends) will be missed greatly. I hope you all will accompany me on my journey, and share your thoughts. They will be greatly loved. :)