Thursday, October 10, 2019

As Much Me

The one year anniversary of Mac Miller's death came in September, and as an homage to his time on the third rock from the sun, I spent the 7th of September consuming a collection of his interviews.

I love hip hop, and though I'm a real fan of Mac's, his story is significant to me not because of celebrity or talent but because it envelops the turmoil of addiction. For me- my mom's long term struggle, its crushing impact on our relationship, and losing one of my oldest friends in April to an accidental overdose.

Talking with music legend Rick Rubin just weeks before his passing, Mac said something so succinct and profound that I've been returning to: "It’s been an interesting journey for me to realize that the goal here is just to be as much me as possible."

The goal isn't to be the best, or even constant improvement, it's just to be as much me as I can be. Rather than obsessing over recognition and legacy, we can turn instead to the guarantee of our innate value. It's a radical concept, really-rather than earning love and admiration, we can receive it simply because we exist.

I know some people hell bent on self development will shudder at this thought. An earlier version of myself would. To say that you have innate value and are unequivocally lovable as you are is not to condemn self improvement or personal responsibility, however. Just understand that even if you do nothing at all, and garner no accolades or trophies whatsoever, your mere existence warrants love. 

As Mister Rogers famously said, "We can be loved exactly as we are." We don't need to accomplish our to-do list of self improvements, wear the trendiest outfits, or be the best at anything in order to be worthy of unending love. That's the very notion of unconditional. Far too often we believe that we need to produce constant output in order to earn or 'deserve' anything in exchange. Again, the man in the sweater knows better. During a commencement speech at Dartmouth College, he reminded the crowd: "You don't ever have to do anything sensational for people to love you."

Mister Rogers and Mac Miller aren't the only ones to share this message. Buddhists have been teaching the concept of innate value for a very long time. Famous Zen author Sharon Salzberg wrote, "To truly love ourselves, we must challenge our beliefs that we need to be different or inherently better in order to be worthy of love."

What a sweet and soft release; being as much you as you can be is the gentlest way to honor your life. The paths towards radical authenticity and unconditional love run parallel and strengthen one another in turn. When we share our whole self without restriction or desperate need for commendation we open our short and fleeting lives to real love rather than conditional praise.

"If you keep shining the neon light of accountability on the tender tissue of your belonging, you make it parched and barren" -John O'Donohue 

*Photos from local river ambles  - Lower South Fork of the Skokomish and Upper Big Quilcene*

Friday, September 20, 2019

Kaleidoscopic Collision

Good God, it's been a season of trial and error. Weird weeks abound, and I'm learning to combat a decrepit cynicism that aims to turn me into some kind of haggard witch of a human.

I planned to spend Labor Day weekend with my Dad at the park he's been hosting this summer in Oregon. That plan fell through, so instead we agreed to meet for a much needed hike at Rainier. Neither of us had done a single hike since we scaled High Rock in the end of June. Wow, what happened to July and August?!....

Some shots from that very lovely, albeit very crowded, trail:

High Rock tops out at 5,865 feet, and we both felt the gain from sea level in our lungs as we climbed the seemingly modest trail. An unmanned fire lookout balances at the top of the natural rock spire. With views of Rainier, Adams, Tatoosh, and St. Helens, it's truly a glorious peak. If you need a refresher as to my deep and abiding love for lookouts, click here: With Love From The Top

Back to Labor Day weekend, though. We started our journey early in the morning, meeting in Ashford and hopping into Dad's car to hike to Van Trump Park, a lesser known trail past the very popular Comet Falls which Claire had recommended. We both struggled up, feeling vastly out of shape and in need of training before we venture back to Utah. The trail provided a host of fun and unexpected wildlife sightings. Parting a sea of constant cobwebs, we were very clearly the first to tread the path beyond the falls that morning. I had seen a slew of recent trip reports regarding bear activity in the park, but instead of a lumbering figure in an alpine meadow, we encountered the following: an absurdly fat and lazy marmot, a family of questionably friendly grouse, three mountain goats, and a plethora of burgeoning fungi. We completed the day with something like 7.5 miles and 2300ft of elevation gain. Had the clouds parted, we would have continued on to Mildred Peak, but it just didn't seem worth it. Rainier showed herself for only a moment, just long enough to snap some proof of Dad's first visit back to Rainier National Park in two decades.

On the way home from Rainier, I totaled my car, along with someone else's. Stop and go traffic at 5pm on Labor Day Friday could be to blame, or my deeply distracted mind state; realistically some combination of the two. I didn't have collision insurance, a clear indication of where my finances were already at, so I won't be getting a dollar for my VW. Sayonara, sista..

I'm so lucky to have the support of key individuals in my life, making this disaster bearable. My best friend lent me his extra work van, but I returned from a long (and ARDUOUS) work conference last night only to discover that it needs some immediate work done. Fingers crossed that my bad car luck is hit with a cease and desist stat.

So much more has been going on in my personal life, but let me be clear. I'm really, really lucky to have walked away from this accident in one piece, feeling mostly in tact. Life is all about money moves right now, which I can't help but resent. I'm almost 32 years old, shouldn't I be more financially capable by now? And- does it even matter, if I can't take it with me when I go?

In the mean time, I've written down this quote from naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace, and I keep it next to my bed to re-read every night. Powerful words to focus on:

"The essentials of a healthy and happy life...(are) ample relaxation, adequate change of occupation, and the means of enjoying the beauty and solace of nature on one hand, and art and literature on the other."

Monday, August 19, 2019

On Longing

We live in a system of meaning that isn't defined by our participation. A pulsing, collective vibration that continues to thump and surge long after we make our exit. Some days life feels like a strange sport I've been invited to spectate, rather than play. When this disconnection arises, there's a clear separation between what's happening in my mind and out there, in the world. An underlying sense of restlessness and disassociation takes hold. The feeling is like being tired, but different. I'm not depressed, or despondent, I'm just distanced. As if I've wholly forgotten the goal line: belly up, picking blades of grass and popping daisy heads on the field of life. 

Where do you go without a compass? When lost in the wilderness, there are useful tools to find your way. You can look upwards, towards the sky; use the sun to locate East and West, or the stars to find True North. You can utilize a peak in the distance or a memorable landmark to orient yourself. That is, if you have a general idea of where the hell you are, or where you're headed.

The problem is, in the emotional landscape of existing, there are rarely references as obvious as a beaming light in the sky. Though many look upward still when lost, relying on a belief in God or Spirit to direct their aimlessness and offer purpose. Others gather their gear and trek towards that reference point on the horizon; a goal or vision that helps them to see beyond their closest surrounding. Titles, career, babies, a summit. Something tangible in the distance that you can set your sights on.

But hey, if you're like me-lost in a desert with no clue what you really want most of the time-you can't use these survival techniques to wander your way out of the Sahara. I know I'm not alone, because I've spent a lifetime reading books penned by authors whose lives are defined by a similar sense of longing.

"We recognized in each other a common longing and lament-for the faraway and wild, for the loss of both from the world." -Katie Harris

Longing is a hunger, a thirst, an immovable lust. It's an odd and uninvited discomfort with what is, and a fantastical obsession with what is not. The discord between the two creates a valley of un-directed exasperation that can be incredibly difficult to slog your way through. What is happening in the space between us and the things we want, but cannot identify? What does yearning for something distant but unknown signify? How can it be so tender and fickle for some of us to just feel Good with a capital G?

   "Longing, we say, because desire is full of endless distances." -Robert Hass

Perhaps this is why we cross oceans and climb mountains, seeking a pinnacle or point at which we might feel different. We are trying to reduce the distance, the spacial concept of longing. We leave one lover for another, one job for another, one city for the promise of something unknown under different street lights. We crawl through this indiscriminate pining, grappling for a foundation or experience that calms our disenfranchisement. We ache to be at Home in a universe that spins regardless of whether we play or stay. My feeling is that some of us are born with a restless spirit; our lives will always be punctuated by the recurring discomfort of a longing for something we just can't quite qualify.

“For many years, I have been moved by the blue at the far edge of what can be seen, that color of horizons, of remote mountain ranges, of anything far away. The color of that distance is the color of an emotion, the color of solitude and of desire, the color of there seen from here, the color of where you are not." -Rebecca Solnit

Mt Adams peaking out in the distance

*Photos from the Boundary West Trail at Mt. St. Helens*

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Creative Creatures

Your voice is the most powerful tool you possess. Nobody exists or expresses like you. Your word, born from the perspective of your existence, will be the force of your craft. You can't create shit from the voice of someone else. can, but it will suck, and fall short of resonating with anyone in a real way.

Even if you're a visual artist rather than an author or poet, the lyricism of your singular and specific narrative will define you- in ink, on paper, in paint, and form.. Your voice will unleash itself through any medium you imbue.

The most appealing thing about you is that nobody has ever experienced the order of things exactly the way you have. Your ability to sing out loud what makes you atomically and emotionally unique is essential; both to your expression of self and to your personal success. You can't tone down for any audience-real or perceived. That's poison. That diminishes your calling. We simply aren't capable of creating great things with the objective of being appreciated by everyone who witnesses.

I'm going to say something that your ego may not like; especially if you consider yourself an artist of any "success." We are all creative creatures. Existence and survival are endeavors of creative problem solving and personal expression. I'm not buying into the concept of 'you have it or you don't' anymore. What it takes for my art to be good or worthwhile is for me to be honest and pure in creating it. What it takes for someone else to be touched by it, is often a sense of synchronicity or relatability. Finding recognition of themselves or their story within mine. Feeling that universal pulse of connectivity that awakens the core of our ancestral belonging. We don't need everyone to love our voice or what we have to "say" though. What we need to do is focus on this equation:

Curiosity > Creativity > Connection

Ultimately, creativity is any expression of our innate curiosity, and it requires nothing else to be of relevance. If we withdraw the need for a finished or flawless product in order to prove our creative ability, we can focus instead on those building blocks of wonder and awe. We can fashion an investigative approach towards existence in which creation and art are natural byproducts of our sublime intrigue towards existence.

Creativity isn't a mythical enterprise. It's our birthright as living, breathing beings. Our voice is one of the few things we are born into this world with and actually get to leave with at the end. What gets in the way of executing from this truth is over-consciousness. On the other hand, what stimulates excitement and assuredness towards our craft is aggressive authenticity.

Glorious opportunities to create and shine our light don't come knocking at the door, desperately seeking Susan. It's your responsibility, and also your joy, to pursue what enlivens you. There are great, opening questions to meditate on if you're uncomfortable with the fact that you are an undeniably creative creature. What do you feel strongly about? What's your guilty pleasure? What makes you laugh? How do you solve problems? What could you talk animatedly about for fifteen minutes or longer with no preparation?

The things that stir us and the things we love tell us who we are. It's not just what we experience or where we travel, or what accolades we receive, but rather what we are divinely drawn to that shapes our voice. Thus, what we are curious about becomes a spotlight we shine on what we create, which allows us to connect with people who actually really fuck with the same things we fuck with.

Tuning our instrument of creative capacity can be a really fun and enjoyable task. You don't need to embody the stigma of the tortured, starving artist to be a creative. Explore what you're curious about-literally anything and everything you are curious about. Focus on the absolutely random but also accessible things that rouse a sense of spectacle and novelty in your heart.

Consider the etymology of the word novelty. It comes from the 14th century French word novel, which meant "the quality of being new or innovative." By the beginning of the 20th century though, it had come to reflect something different in Modern English-where it often referred to a "useless but amusing object." i.e. novelty shops, which sell random and niche goods.

From innovative to amusing; not all art requires creating something life-altering, mind-bending, or even original. The things we love and the way we live bleed into everything we produce. Our voice is a montage of infinite influences, and because of this, it's utterly irreproducible and incomparable.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Knowing Place

Each of us has a formidable landscape deep within.

Luckily for us, this inner locale isn't akin to our national parks and landmarks, diminished by visitors and flashing bulbs. Quite the opposite- it's a place of total freedom and sovereignty, a topography of our own fantastical creation.

This is The Knowing Place.

I imagine my KP to look like the immortal garden from What Dreams May Come. Yours might be a tree house or a bonfire on the beach. It could be the whistling summit of a massive mountain, or a cabin loft with stripes of sunlight beaming in.

In any case, The Knowing Place is your womb of intuition. 

With 'paranormal' senses that extend beyond the three dimensional world we're accustomed to operating in, the KP can be aware of things long before the body or brain are willing to enact them. Its environment is illuminating, vibratory. Speaking at first in a whisper, the KP's guidance can eventually cause sensory overload until you tune into the frequency of its message. We can only ignore its wisdom through great conviction and even then-only temporarily. Science has begun to recognize this power of the mind-body connection, and the pain & sickness caused by a dire disconnect between the two.

In the inner terrain of the KP, there is no hierarchy of right and wrong, good and bad; just ease and alignment, sincerity and originality. There is no obligation to 'do right' by anyone. It gets to a deeper essence of life, a baseline that extends to the soul-level. In fact, an inconvenient truth may well be the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The KP often leads us to decisions and desires that speak to our heart but disappoint someone else.

More on that here..

Obviously, it takes a shit-ton of courage to live in the real time, ever changing truth of our individual Knowing Place. But we are the rightful heirs of our divine destiny! How sad it would be to miss out on what is ours.

The KP isn't a stagnant position. It doesn't register as a democrat and forever vote that way. It requires diligent recalibration and openness to the freedom of transmutation.

"We are not the same person this year as last; nor are those we love. It is a happy chance if we, changing, continue to love a changed person." -W. Somerset Maugham

Geometry (bleh) teaches that the shortest distance between any two points is a straight line. But the inward path to the KP isn't a clear route on a well paved highway. It's a very potholed forest road and often, a feeling of going in circles until you arrive. Sometimes we have to figure out what we don't want, or what doesn't fit, in order to work our way backwards. We may be asked to extricate ourselves from situations that are okay, even good, but not expanding.

Alignment is a journey, requiring the crossing of many bridges, speaking to a few sphinxes along the way, and transformative fires through which we walk. These include ownership of our authentic vision and compassion towards our impermanent feelings.

Being in alignment with your Knowing Place feels like: Ease. Relief...YET...Pure fire; embodying ourselves so strongly that the reverent light that shines from our eyes is undeniable.

It is...
Reclaiming our choices as our own.
Re evaluating our commitments.
Remembering our needs and wants, many of which we may have forgotten through a process of acquiescing.
Understanding that the possibilities for our lives are limitless. That atoms are energy, not matter.

Otherwise, all that remains is compromise.

Further thoughts on self-guidance..

Wednesday, May 29, 2019

The Magic Mundane

Let's be frank.
I'm back in a lifestyle that I was avidly avoiding; holding down an office job Monday through Friday, clocking in at 830 to stare at a screen that buzzes with Blah. Fueled by caffeine (mandatory) and an early morning dog walk through the haze, I feel capable of tackling the tediousness for maybe three good hours before I hit a formidable wall of desperation. Suddenly I start to feel claustrophobic despite the spacious office and fair privacy I'm granted. Every day I find myself offering to do anything: excessively dumping the trash and recycle, making as many cups of tea as I can, followed soon after by necessary pee breaks, just to walk. and move. and discard the feelings that stack of....something. Not quite boredom, not quite despair, just...something.


Maybe I'm scared that this slow pace will allow (or even invite) the feelings I've been trying to compartmentalize over the past months: grief, anger, and honestly-fear. Life is a bit like a vintage Grandfather clock right now, ticking loudly yet slowly from one moment to the next. Much ado about nothing, aye?

It seems that to go deep is not always to go wide, or high, or to cruise to Indonesia to find yourself....but rather to go low, into the cavity of life, and to take the necessary time to authentically rediscover a pure wonder towards existence. False urgency can be so misleading and destructive. I have no choice but to honor my current condition as it stands. As it is. Anyways, my life is far from BAD! It's merely simple, quiet, and compact.

As a writer, i.e. an unabashed thesaurus nerd, I love constantly expanding my vocabulary. I look up synonyms for words all the time, for the unadulterated FUN of it. Through editing, I've also learned that each of us have individualized, fallback language we rely on and tend to overuse. Especially when it comes to qualifiers and intensifiers-words like really, very, always, never, certainly. These are our written fingerprints.

So, let's look at the word simple, otherwise known as: effortless, manageable, uncomplicated.

Through this lens of language, a 'simple' life seems quite alright. Especially when paired with a genuine curiosity for the unknown of the future. It reminds me of an Abraham Hicks manifestation tool (and a hell of a mantra) I once read: "I am satisfied where I am, and eager for more."

Can we just agree to stop glorifying being BUSY? As if once we stop moving we'll all keel over and die. Or that without a constantly updated highlight reel to show how important and essential we are, our lives are trivial. Are you ok with conceding to a 'manageable' life? Or at least, an easy-going phase in your story-because you already known that absolutely nothing is permanent.

We are all indisputable, ancient star stuff; no matter our apps or apparatus, or how trendy we consider ourselves to be. There is an ancient wisdom and significance embedded in every one of us. We don't have to be in movement to be of purpose or worth. Our value is intrinsic and irrefutable, even on the most regular of days.

Someone I respect messaged me last night with this question: "How do you work through blocks when you're writing? Been feeling stuck in my process lately."

My reaction was a literal guffaw. Then a long pause. Then a very honest answer about my relationship with creativity and creative blocks. The truth is, it's been way too long since I put pen to paper (which is in fact, the precursor to nearly every blog or short story before it's typed out). Maybe being asked the question awoke something in me. I've had a craving to write all day, despite feeling like my current days are more mundane than magical.

Sometimes all you need is a good kick in the ass, posed in the frame of a question that begs answering.

Photos from my solo adventure to Hurricane Ridge on Sunday. What was I thinking, going to the Olympic National Park on Memorial Day Weekend? Honestly, I wasn't thinking. I just drove and blasted podcasts and drank Hoodsport Coffee until suddenly I was in a LONG line to enter the park. No matter, I finally got to do this trail which has always been on my list for the Olympics. Though it's short, it's a nice little burner with insane 360 degree views up top. Sitting at the summit, I typed this note into my phone:

A couple hours of striding up hill to stand around huddling hordes of humans almost laid flat by wind to peer out in praise at the most high: mountains. 

Ah, the magic mundane.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Spiritual Warrior

I know a handful of people will click on this blog curious for possible details on the recent death of my friend. You won't find them. I feel your hot breath on my neck, your hungry eyes scanning my Instagram stories despite not reaching out. I'm full of anger, don't make yourself available to my irrational wrath.

Grief will tumble in and find you straddling an invisible line between utter numbness and panic fueled OUTRAGE. Nothing, nothing-yet everything, everything matters. Not regardless of, but because of, the end.

In this strange and obscene past year I've been training to become a Spiritual Warrior. I've learned how to show up and face the senseless fuckery of death and despair. The intimidating, horrible, beyond uncomfortable moments that we crawl through during the worst anguish imaginable.

Death comes- and stricken with a pervasive helplessness, we send flowers that wilt, commemorating human expiration. Instead, consider that your presence in the midst of sickness and loss will never be forgotten. Avoiding the sheer awkwardness, the nausea inducing interaction that facing other people's grief entails, is for losers. Toughen up. Show up. Cry, cuss, hold each other, sit in silence, suffer in solidarity. Don't send a goddamn text and call it good.

There are no great answers for why we are the way we are- why we die, or why we're here in the first place. Each death is a transformative experience for every single person it touches. Suddenly our lenses are divergent, our aperture expanded to a size where almost nothing is in focus.

All I want to do is honor you. By living, and persisting through the brutality of existence with fortitude and generosity. Oh, and with the quality of sheer bluntness that only you possessed...