Thursday, January 6, 2022

Centennial Triumph

New Years has come and gone, thank goodness. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of self flagellation with countless questions regarding resolutions and goals. It's our collective tradition to take stock of where our lives are at as we turn the page on a new calendar year. New years seems the prime time to cast spells into the ether about our dream lives and best selves. How lovely it would be, to filter all the nasty and unlikable bits of ourselves! To wipe from the collective memory our mistakes and tragedies, regrets and rejections, a'la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I find it such a bummer- all this obsession with what we are not and how much work we have to do. I think this is a huge part of why I've rarely celebrated New Years Eve (well...that, and I hate fireworks).

Though our lives are constant works of art, they do not necessitate constant improvement. Definitely not self-hatred. Try as we might, we will never be perfect versions of ourselves. Life will always get in the way, and opportunities to debase and defame ourselves won't go away. We can't delete every mistake and regret, or what ripples from them. There are literally no lessons to hold onto without them. 

In what author Yrsa Daley Ward calls the "tender, shocking business of life itself" we struggle deeply with making choices. We speak and act without thinking. Impulsivity can be medicinal, but it can also be terminal. To be human is to be fallible, FLAILING, extreme, contradictory, explosive, brilliant, and often annoying. As my friend Josephine said to me recently, "We are not cages, we are oceans."

This year my only resolution is to practice self enjoyment. I will continue to hold counsel only with those who welcome all of me and nothing less. For once I kicked my New Years off in style, surrounded by 4 close girl friends in a beautiful space with an incredible spread of food and drink. Did I also have to go upstairs and take a nap before the clock struck midnight because the red wine gave me a runny nose and I was experiencing a bit of sensory overload? Sure! Regardless, it was a beautiful and memorable way to welcome 2022.

"Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

-Leonard Cohen

And you know, because I'm deeply passionate about etymology and words in general, please allow me to remind you that a foible is quite literally 'a minor weakness or eccentricity in someone's character.' Without a handful of those, or stories of regret that allow inspiration for growth, you're bloody boring. Bring all of yourself on this journey. Anything else is a loss.

We seem to have a driving desire to annihilate anything that isn't good enough. The things that don't look or feel the way they're supposed to. I've always struggled with honest record keeping. I usually end up throwing away journals once finished because of negativity and criticism that makes me wince. These things don't feel worthy of permanent print. There's an urge to crumple up the bad days and toss them away. Yet, a journal is a necessary outlet for even the worst feelings and thoughts. Otherwise they live in our bodies, corroding us from the inside out- and that's no place for them either.

Somehow, when it comes to this blog I refuse to edit or dismantle even the worst of my  previous posts. In fact, I quite enjoy returning to the beginning and watching my progress. This is my centennial blog, by the way. 100 pieces shared! Something to be proud of. Something to leave alone and refuse to adjust, fix, or improve. 

Happy New Year, y'all.

"You are starting from yourself, and it's the self that contains all the answers. So you have to give up on the idea that you must go from A to B...The one reality includes everything in its tangle of experiences, and what we are trying to find is the experiencer who is present no matter what experience you are having."

-Deepak Chopra

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Liminality

The South Eld Inlet bestowed me with a victorious send off in the form of a glorious final sunrise. Making the choice to leave something good is always an interesting experience- be it home, job, relationship. Sometimes we feel in our bones that something else, something grander or more precious, awaits us. When the siren song of the other beckons, you simply must listen.

"The heart has reasons that reason does not understand." 

-Blaise Pascal

I was held so tenderly by my life on Steamboat the past ~4 years. Somehow I stumbled into a niche community that immediately wrapped its arms around me. Landlords who became family, friends made effortlessly, neighborhood baristas who cried with me when my pup passed and saved boxes for my move. My little bungalow by the water was the antithesis of my former life in the city and saying Goodbye to it all was much harder than expected when the time came.

Moving is an emotional experience whether we go willingly or not. I'm trying to welcome the sheer discomfort that comes with inhabiting a new city and home. Honoring the curiosity that led me out of my bubble and the desire for change that propelled me here. It's been a week of both thrill and sadness, certainly some tears.

My friend reminded me that I am in the liminal space that accompanies life transitions. The word liminality is derived from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold. Perhaps author and Friar Richard Rohr defined it best: "where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown." Suspended on the cusp of something new that you can sense but not quite see. Every great journey requires these in-betweens as rites of passage. Nothing to do now but bow at the alter of ambiguity.

Inertia is the tendency to do nothing or remain unchanged. Seeking external forces that shift us into motion is essential to a life well lived. Life often feels better when you're in motion. Stillness is promoted a lot these days as the foundation of peace, but for some of us stillness straddles a fine line with inertia. Too much of it can engender overthinking and disembodiment.

Liminality, though uncomfortable to the point of painful, is charged with intensity. Pushing our way out of a rut or leaping from a safety net invites opportunities for future synchronicity and unknown blessings. We stand on the threshold of the next great adventure, the next great discovery. Perhaps the next loss or failure, but certainly not stagnation. 

As Einstein informed, energy and matter are essentially equivalent; two sides of the same coin. But if you could choose one, which would you be? I for one would be energy. Energy doesn't sit still, though matter may.

“I want to keep walking away from the person I was a moment ago, because a mind was made to figure things out, not to read the same page recurrently.” 

-Donald Miller

 

And a past entry on liminal space, which also happened to be penned around New Years. Is it coincidence? Hmmm...is it ever?

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Ape Canyon Trail

Recently I spent a weekend in Cougar, South of Mt. St. Helens, in an area I've only driven through. Four of us stayed in cozy propane powered cabins that would have brought tears to ol' Hank Hill's eyes. Lights, heat, stove, hot water - all powered by propane, and incredibly effectively. I was expecting a rustic and chilly abode but it was much more like glamping.

While sitting around the fire our first night, Claire suggested we take on the Ape Canyon trail the next day. A new trail for all four of us, plus Mango the dog, so why the hell not? We didn't have internet, no AllTrails or WTA to check for recent conditions or reports, but we had Claire's uncanny memory for directions and a hiking book she brought with her.

Thus, I didn't know until a later Googling of the trail specs that Ape Canyon was named after a supposed Sasquatch sighting in 1924. Regretfully, we saw only hare and elk tracks in the snow. The area does have a perceptibly haunting quality to it, though. We hiked until the sun began to set and coyotes howled somewhere in the distance- that time when light stops filtering through the trees and you sense predators awakening out of daytime slumber. There's a particular sensation to the woods at 4pm in Winter- hard to describe, aside from the way your senses heighten in response.

[Note: if Sasquatch lore amuses or intrigues you, I highly recommend the movie The Dark Divide with David Cross]

The Ape Canyon trail begins alongside the Muddy River lahar flow, which is lined with new growth in every shade of green. After a few miles it transitions into one of the only old growth areas left at St. Helens post-blast. Gigantic pine cones littered the ground, and somewhere around mile 4 we began to encounter snow. Claire's book put the trail at 9.6 miles round trip, but most sites I looked at later said 11-11.2. It was a wooded, quiet, and somewhat overcast climb to the top. Once we got within about a mile of Ape Canyon the clouds began to part as if for us alone, exposing stunning mountain views. 


 

Eventually the trail emerged out of the forest and onto a wide plain of soft yet jutting volcanic stone. The canyon was finally in view, along with Helens, Rainier, Adams, and a volcanic monitoring station. A fair reminder that we were in fact recreating on an active stratovolcano, hiking earth that erupted a mere 40 years ago. The sky screamed blue. It was frigid but fantastic, and fully worth the climb.

We stopped to devour sandwiches before turning back down the way we came. The trail's official end is about .2 miles further where it intersects with the Loowit trail, which circumnavigates St. Helens. 

FR83 closes annually on December 1st, so we made it just in time to explore the area. I've always been someone who leans into over-preparedness for a false sense of comfort, but saying yes to trails and places that I know nothing about is becoming more common practice. Like my trip to Idaho this Summer, going after something with close to zero expectation makes it pretty easy to be impressed and delighted. 




More blogs featuring the St. Helens wilderness:

Hireoglyphics and Harry's Ridge

On Longing

Harry's Wild Wisdom

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 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