Friday, October 22, 2021

Larch March 2021

 
 
I was thrilled to be granted a weekday off work (and my second job, and school...) just in time to view the larches at peak in the North Cascades. We spent about a week scavenging on WTA and Gaia for a lesser known trail as larch marchin' has become an absolute fucking escapade around here. We settled on what looked like an intriguing pass and potential peak just beyond the crowds at Heather-Maple Pass, Cutthroat, and Blue Lake. Alarm set for 6, let's get it!

Things went downhill from there. Despite a clear but cold forecast, skies were gray and rain clouds hung menacingly. Passing through Darrington and the nearly half way mark, my tire pressure light came on. We stopped at a gas station and their gauge wasn't working. We drove on to another. We filled the tires, and the spare to be safe, then watched helplessly as the light continued to illuminate despite the miles passing. We stopped again.

We had to make a choice-or as my Project Management professor would say, complete a risk analysis. The North Cascades are fairly remote, and despite the throngs of people flocking to specific larch-laden trails there's no cell service or guarantee of quick assistance. Weather was chilly, snow on the forecast, and the idea of waiting hours for a tow was not appealing. Alex and I got into a tiff which didn't help the sour mood of a day planned perfectly only to be threatened by car problems.

When the day doesn't go as planned, the question to ask is What can be salvaged? We decided the best middle-ground option was to drive on to one of the closest trails, where there would be more people/help if needed, and less chance of the tires deflating while we were hiking a further out and less popular trail. Blue Lake it was! 


Surprisingly, the parking lot was less than full and the crowds weren't bad at all. Ignoring the odd rubber smell emanating from my rear tire well, off we went. 

This was my first time back in the North Cascades since 2017. I used to love camping at Newhalem and visting Diablo Lake when I was still living up north. The North Cascades will always hold a special place for me as they evoke feelings of independence and strength. I took quite a few solo trips here from 2015-2017 and gained an immense amount of confidence on these trails. Also ate a plethora of fresh ice cream from the Cascadian Organic farmhouse on HWY 20...


Things worked out great in the end- not perfect, and not to plan, but great nonetheless. We had a long but overall lovely day, and we weren't fighting our way through crowds as many were doing at Heather Pass and Lake Ingalls. Eventually, some 200 miles later, my air pressure light did finally go off. 

We probably all have work to do when it comes to setting the tone in whatever upsetting or unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in. Controlling our mind before it spirals into the abyss of worst case scenarios. Asking instead what can be salvaged, and scrapping together our best option or attitude even when things aren't going our way. We don't have to match the energies we encounter- we can rise above them like oil in water.

"So what if it doesn't look the way you planned? All of those days still belong to you, and even the greatest disappointments have their uses. Everything is a litany of things. A network of things, each with its own context and purpose. Be careful, when reviewing, not to strip the happenings from their larger meaning. Nothing happens on its own, and everything has potential for beauty. Is that not your life, huddled against your feet, lying in wait?"

-Yrsa Daley-Ward



*Thanks for the quote, Jasmin. Love you

Monday, October 11, 2021

Detox as Modern Renunciation

Why do unadorned, regular ass days have the tendency to feel so empty? If I don't "make" something of my day, or do something to set it apart from the one before, I feel painfully bored and lifeless. Lately I've become acutely aware that I crave more and more stimulation to beat those blues. The stakes are getting higher.

I've been thinking a lot about life and personal identity beyond compulsive behaviors- be it internet consumption/scroll culture, the need to be entertained 24/7, capitalistic desires, drinking, eating, and all forms of 'treating' myself.

Why do my days feel cavernously hollow if I don't have a drink after work, eat something particularly delicious, DO something, achieve, check things off my list? The gaping need to be stimulated and to feel pleasure/highs every damn day is driving me mad. This fever for more creates a recurring sense of lack and an immense distance between my spirit and my life

In reality the little serotonin "hits" I seek out to make my day something special (or maybe just to feel....something when I'm feeling rather empty) are never as good as I think they're going to be: whether drinks that keep me awake and ruin my sleep, or the fatty burger that makes me feel some combination of guilty and sick, or the clothes I overpaid for but don't even like a few weeks later.

These temporary highs are small plugs for the hole in our hearts. The aching desire to feel good or alive-even just to experience novelty when life becomes redundant or stagnant. But if the hits don't really hit, I think we can agree they're a sham. I'm sensing more often the trick my mind plays on me: placing the idea of a treat or spark or high and what it could do for me. Yet each time we achieve or give in to a desire, a new desire awaits. Satiation is temporary. This is a lesson I've learned time and time again and will probably continue to learn into oblivion.

 

I want to be a vessel for satisfaction and gratitude. I want my identity to exist separately from compulsive habits, short bursts of adrenaline, and consumption. I find myself wondering whether others feel as concerned about the intensity of grasping in their lives as I do.

I want to enjoy life and be playful but I also want to be conscientious of how I'm living and what has become habitual or unsafe for my spirit. I don't always know how to be both playful and mindful at the same time. Surely there is a middle path and I'm working diligently on finding my footing. These sorts of pursuits are really important to me- questioning reality and my sense of "normal", cultivating strong values and self worth, and re-wiring my brain towards simple joys.

"The ground of renunciation is realizing that we already have exactly what we need, that what we have already is good." 

-Pema Chodron

Detoxing plays into my fascination with renunciation: cleansing, stripping down, and returning to center. I have always been someone who leans into practicing bouts of abstinence from any form of consumption that has become unhealthy or obsessive. I've taken long periods of detox from many things that can, at their best, provide pleasure and joy: dating, drinking, smoking, eating certain foods, social media, TV, shopping, etc. 

My intention in these periods of 'intermittent fasting' from behaviors has always been to peel back the layers of life to reveal and remember the essential ME beneath. Reclaiming my core self from under the weight of external habits and impulses that seem intrinsic but are actually learned and often outdated.

"I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle not to stray."

 -Stanley Kunitz

 

None of these musings will be of any surprise if you know me well or read this blog often. After all, it's titled More Life, Less Waste. Questioning and adjusting my reality and behaviors is a cyclical practice for me, and often intensifies as my birthday approaches. Each year offers the opportunity to rise from the ashes of accumulated bad habits like the Phoenix. I know that some people will find this level of self analysis unnecessary and even annoying, but I wholeheartedly believe that the (often sudden) urge to change our ways is a powerful signal from our Guides and a necessary part of our spiritual journey. 

"Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out breath, that’s fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back." 

-Pema Chodron

Photos from a glorious hike to Noble Knob in the Norse Peak Wilderness









Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Now

At times Now feels too tender and fragile a thing to hold. Maybe looking ahead and behind to the future and past are just easy out's I developed to avoid the weight of Now. The absolute and total potential of it.

In truth, Now is so soft and so breezy when we manage to exist in it with awareness. It requires no vigilance or preparation. It's a state of brief flow buoyed up by our appreciation of the moment. I can't do better or be more in Now. It exists as a sole entity, free of comparison.

Sometimes I just need to say the word. Now. Bring it back. Now. I'm alive. Now. This is a tender moment. Now. The light feels so good as the sun shifts across the sky. Now. Stop wasting time thinking about what's next. What's next is an egg that hasn't even cracked.

Repeating Now to myself throughout the day, especially when my mind wanders to areas of concern or anxiety, is a powerful way to reset my attitude and absolve my grievances. Now has become a sort of hymn, a rhythmic anthem pulling me back from the past or future and into the moment.

The most effortless access I have to Now is the moment I wake up. Opening my eyes, I sense my inner consciousness as my true self housed inside my body. For mere seconds I hold a particular inside-out view of myself and my life that's both liberating and amusing. In the spaciousness of these first moments I seem to forget the agreement I've made with "reality"- of my body as my self. I feel like a Russian nesting doll, consciousness attached to a soul nestled in a physical form of flesh, housed within a universe wider than I can understand. It's silly and pure and bewildering, and makes me feel like magic.

If I were able to capture the feelings and thoughts that often define my first minute (or less) of being awake, I would exist on a higher plane as a happier version of myself. Now really connotes wonder. Wonder at the oddity of our souls existing within a physical avatar capable of everything from climbing mountains to splitting atoms.

When we achieve genuine presence, even if fleeting, life is a marvel; a parade of Nows suspended into oblivion like a string of bright lights punctuating the dark sky of space.

"Oh, to love what is lovely, and will not last!"

-Mary Oliver

Sunday, September 5, 2021

A Surplus of Solitude


This blog is chock full of endless references to my utter love for time alone. I've always been someone who requires an incessant amount of retreat & recharging. If life was like a dating profile where I'm asked to define myself in offensively small boxes, 'independent' would without a doubt be the first word come to mind. I've lived alone for quite a long time, traveled alone, and grew up an only child with strong skills in self entertainment. 

The thing is.. the last 14+ years I wasn't really living alone. I always had the companionship of my sweet baby dog Macaroni. My heartbeat outside my body, dictating our daily schedule and providing a constant sense of presence and camaraderie. Life is vastly different without him. 

Appraising Eagle Peak

This newfangled sense of loneliness didn't start with his passing though. It definitely began with quarantine. Pre-pandemic I was an avid proponent of both working from home and long stretches of solitude. Welp, the pendulum swings always- if we can count on nothing else in life, we can surely count on that. In the past two months I've been more restless and lonely than ever before. I've taken to working in coffee shops and cafes again, willing to pay my way in caffeine and pastry fees just to be around other humans. At times I feel completely stir crazy.

I even took on a second job bartending at the local tap house. I've loved meeting so many of my neighbors and chatting with regulars but I'm avidly searching for a place to live in Tacoma. At this moment my browser has open tabs on Zillow, Apartments.com, and Craigslist. 

Life is full of moments where we fortuitously change our minds. What we want or need can shift so drastically that we feel like imposters in our own lives. If I've learned anything in my thirties it's to NEVER SAY NEVER. Life/the universe/the all/God has a way of laughing at us when we make definitive statements. Irony seems to be the language of the divine. Though I said time and time again that I'd never move back to the city I'm now trying to stake a claim in the closest metropolis south of Seattle. I miss my people! I don't want to spend another Winter out here alone-this time for real for real, without Macaroni's company.

Tahoma from the Eagle Peak saddle

“Life is eternal. We have stopped for a moment to encounter each other, to meet, to love, to share. This is a precious moment. It is a little parenthesis in eternity.” 

-Paulo Coelho

Yesterday I was lucky enough to spend the day hiking with Claire after way too long apart. We climbed to the saddle of Eagle Peak at Rainier- one of the most challenging trails I've done in awhile. It was blissful to get outside with a dear friend and to not be left to my own devices. More of that good good friend time to come this week as I depart on the annual Takhlakh Lake camping trip tomorrow! Time with our chosen tribe is truly the most life affirming medicine.

Claire    

Trail Specs:

7.2 miles

2910 ft. elevation gain

Friday, August 20, 2021

Summer Skyline

In Summer it feels like almost anything can be remedied with a cold, crisp beer or a breezy night by the water. Old burdens hibernate temporarily and a constant air of possibility abounds. What more can be done with the added hours of sunlight? Days are drawn out like a hand cranked film wheel and sleep often eludes.

Summer is the season of Now - saying yes because the daylight and options will soon recede into Autumn's arms. Precious weekends bear heavier price tags as August unfolds. For awhile our time outdoors is unconstrained by the weight of gear and heavy coats. Hands free of gloves are ready to splash, seize, and climb-up, up, up into the Summer sky.

Summer is a love letter to spontaneity. Leaping into after hours fun and last minute trips. Admiring sandal strap tan's as proof of time well spent. Staying busy sweating out the humid heat and detoxing all that doesn't serve us. Especially here in the PNW- where a record breaking, model defying heat wave was only the beginning of a season defined by an average 83F, often dipping into the mid 90's; totally unprecedented in my 30 years of Seattle-area living.  

It's already August 20th and I'm asking myself what I want from this last month of Summer, while also reveling in the past few weeks of delicious time outside.

Wahclella Falls (Oregon)



Beacon Rock




Camping & Silver Falls




Skyline Trail at Mt. Rainier






"We are all on The Path-and the road leads upwards ever, with frequent resting places." 

-The Kybalion