Thursday, May 27, 2021

I've Changed My Mind

 

So much of life is how we define and present ourselves. Even to ourselves. Our identities can be held captive- not only by the most well intending of friends and family, but by us. Cultivating and sharing our identity can trap us in titles and beliefs that seem disingenuous to change abruptly. But actually, most self discovery is exactly like that- sudden bursts of realization and breakthroughs from which there is no turning back.

We desperately need to normalize changing our minds. This requires checking in with ourselves as often as possible about what we truly want and need. Asking tough questions, being willing to shock and even offend our previous thoughts and beliefs; statements and promises we've made with total conviction. Agreements, contracts, and commitments we made and now find doubt or disillusionment in. Stepping out of the shadows where we hide our most eccentric parts and allowing our ever evolving desires to see the light of day. Practicing saying "I've changed my mind" without needing to explain ourselves further in every instance.

It also means that we have to learn how to receive and accept the sometimes painful reality that everyone else will change their mind as well, even if they turn away from us in the process. Somehow we have to grow closer to an ultimate understanding that nothing is promised or set in stone, whether emotional or tangible.

“We are not the same persons 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

In the chaos of self development and expression, our truest selves can be pretty easily overtaken by outside noise, trends, and comparison. Often we default to wanting a version of something we've seen modeled to us already. We can be shaped by representation: what we see in the lives of those around us, or in the specific media we consume, rather than pure self discovery. 

Stripping ourselves of the programming of what "success"or "joy" means is hard to do when we're bombarded with imagery of what they look like for everyone else. Cultivating wildly unique dreams and goals that aren't pre-programmed takes sincere effort and an immense amount of confidence.

We have no idea how passionate and committed we can be- towards a person, interest or pursuit, until we discover it. Following a track laid out for us by example can feel safe and even good until we're exposed to something that rocks our spirit in an undeniable way. The more random our passions or ideas, the more suited they are to guide us on our personal journey.

Trust yourself and your instincts- even if you contradict a previous version of yourself in the process. Everything is temporary. It doesn't necessarily feel secure to acknowledge the constant change we are capable of, but it should definitely feel liberating. There is a limitless bounty of paths your life can take. A new one can start any time with the words I've changed my mind.


*Photo: Otter Falls*

Thursday, May 20, 2021

April and May

 

A beautiful day on the Hood Canal

High Steel Bridge overlooking the Skokomish

Weekly nature walks with Mac and Aga

Blue poppy

Rhody season

From the top of Mt. Walker- 2000ft eg in 2 miles

I live for the fruits of this season

Thursday, April 8, 2021

Better than Fiction

  

Life long reader here. Convinced that most people who "don't like" to read just haven't found the right book/s for them yet. One of my greatest joys is the art of selecting a specific book for someone. Really, my love language is literary.

I'm a lover of all genres, though all books are not created equal. In fiction especially, it's all too common for a book to start strong and captivating then fritter into something less than cohesive or enthralling. A story that loses its grip and becomes a thing I want to rush through in order to get to the end.

Because I HAVE to get to the end. I've always been this way with books, despite the fact that I've walked away from sooo many false starts and half done's in all other areas of life. I feel strangely indebted to the author. Imagine the tremendous sadness of a novel discarded and forgotten! Pushing through can be rewarded with a twist at the end or a spectacular finish but not always. 

 

Unlike my reading habits, I want my life to be interesting until the bitter end. I want it to be unusual, wild, supple, and captivating in its bleak and best moments. I can't settle for anything less. This life simply can't be a 3/5 on Goodreads. I need the absolute, consistent freedom to change my mind and my course at any time- even if all it goes is delay some inevitable destiny.

"Joy is not made to be a crumb."  

-Mary Oliver

Unlike a work of fiction, I don't imagine a grandiose or even succinct ending. Just a finite string of interconnected moments and discoveries, a story that begins and ends in an infinite middle rather than some standardized arc with loose ends tied up in an unrealistic bow. I want my life to read and feel like poetry rather than narrative. 

"Even more than bread we now need poetry, in a time when it seems that it is not needed at all." 

-Leon Staff

 

In this strange and uncomfortable era of COVID I've dived deep into apocalyptic literature. I've always been interested in sci-fi themes, but somehow reading about the end of life as we know it has become comforting in both a comparative and preparatory way. 

A few of my absolute favorites:

Station Eleven by Emily St. Mandel 

Severance by Ling Ma

Everything Matters by Ron L Currie Jr.

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy

Leave the World Behind by Rumaan Alam

Desert Notebooks: A Roadmap for the End of Time by Ben Ehrenreich


*Photos from Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada*

Friday, April 2, 2021

Fresh Eyes

 

Post vacation blues are real but there's a funny antithesis to them as well- a reacquainting with the norm. When you return home familiar things are ripe with temporary novelty. Your car feels different after driving another. Suddenly you appreciate the lighting of your home, how 7am hits different than it did in another place. Your space, and in ways your life, persist without your presence and feel oddly new again upon return. 

Sadly these feelings are as fleeting as vacation. We default back to chugging along, mostly unconscious of the bounty of our "normal." Novelty is so frustratingly fickle and fragile. Its opposing force of complacency is the silent killer of all good things, somehow managing to conquer our psyches again and again.

We shouldn't need bad things to happen to rattle us into gratitude and exultation for what we have. Finding wonder in our lives without being provoked by physical or existential threat can be oddly difficult. It's a gift to be able to look at our lives and surroundings with fresh eyes. This is so true of our relationships as well. Complacency is often at the root of separation between people who mistakenly think they know all there is to know of one another.

I was lucky enough to relish in that particular feeling of returning home this week after a fantastic trip to Nevada to see my Dad. It had been a very long year since our last reunion at the onset of the pandemic. I missed him terribly and really wouldn't have flown for any reason other than to see him. I didn't get nearly enough time with my Dad growing up, but now he's one of my best friends and the person I most love to spend time with outdoors. 

It's especially nourishing for me to spend time with him as my relationship with my Mom remains so incredibly difficult and distant. The strain of the schism between us has not gotten easier. This is an emotional time of year in general as we approach the anniversary of Lauren's death. She is a constant presence in my mind and I grieve the absence of her wit and love fiercely. 

I'm grateful for the forces of nature and family as they hold the pieces of my heart together. Thank you, Spring, for the blooms and accompanying sense of hope in a cycle as old as time.

Well, friends. I feel a bit sheepish returning to this blog after such a long absence, but I have many more photos to share from Nevada, and as always thoughts that need processing. See you soon I hope, with fresh eyes.

Sometimes I need

only to stand

where I am 

to be blessed

-Mary Oliver



*All photos from the two days we spent in Valley of Fire State Park. A dream of a place painted with a pastel palette by the Universe itself*








On treasures in plain sight

Wednesday, January 27, 2021

Light Touch

We've ushered in a year doomed to feel anti-climatic after the constant besiegement of 2020. The clock struck midnight and many of us found it difficult not to project Cinderella-esque dreams onto a new year and fresh start. That blazing, irrational hope for a lightning strike moment where life ends and begins anew in tandem.

Instead, the Groundhogs Day continues in many ways. Same problems, same joys. Same institutional discord. Same roller coaster ride I can't seem to dismount when it comes to maternal conflict. Money comes in! and so do constant expenses. I make a plan! The plans are hijacked by Covid. Life is life is life. 

I've been thinking a great deal about how to move through the grit without being worn down to a smaller version of who I once was. How the geology of my being is at times beaten brittle and barren by the gusts of external forces and cyclical weathering. 

Many of the challenges and losses we experience leave us feeling robbed of a part of ourselves. As if we begin whole and are slowly stripped down over time. This just doesn't seem right, though. In many ways we are born and exist more as a container, where parts aren't added and subtracted as we trudge forth but instead exist simultaneously, infinitely.

 “To feel the pain of now and not look away. To act not with the hope of moving forward, always forward, but to see the wisdom of stepping sideways." 

-Terry Tempest Williams

While ruminating on staying soft in hard times, I've thought about the wisdom of earthquake proofing in modern architecture. Buildings are retrofitted with shock absorbers and joints are reinforced to tolerate being bent and swayed by cataclysmic disaster. The taller a structure, the more flexible. Perhaps you've seen videos of earthen ground rolling like waves or Tokyo skyscrapers swaying during an earthquake. Thoughtfully constructed buildings are built in preparation for the worst; ready to withstand as much seismic activity as possible. 

What lessons, overly literal or not, can be drawn from this insight? Flexibility seems to be a key ingredient. Standing tall allows for less energy to be spent in prevention of collapse, since the force is dispersed across a larger area. Rolling with and through a threat secures a better outcome than a stiff and unbending defense. This idea seems reinforced by the popular advice that you're better off in a car accident you don't see coming than one you do, since bracing for impact can cause more tension and injury than not. 

I have found great comfort in the adoption of a new mantra in this quote by St. Francis of Assisi: "Wear the world like a loose garment, which touches us in a few places and there lightly.” I encourage you to really think about this line. We often make the subconscious choice to cling to the baggage we carry, or even the weight of the world, as a badge of honor or an excuse. Though we are weathered by the things that happen to us, how we wear and withstand that pain is ultimately a choice. We can experience anger and frustration authentically by sitting with them, but if we hold that heaviness too long in our hearts it becomes embedded in our identity. 

Wear the world like a loose garment, never constricting into a smaller version of your sacred self. Don't hold your breath or squeeze your way into something that doesn't fit. Allow life to hang loosely and delicately rather than acting as a porous sponge, soaking up the water weight of every inconvenient and unfair experience. Aim to embody a light touch rather than a firm grip. Dig into any ease and comfort you find and be there wholly, completely while you can. 

 

Above all, I want to be soft. To grow more supple with time, not hard shelled. I want to flow, not contract; to be spacious rather than constricted. Allowing the sadness of an imperfect world and life to exist more as silk against my skin than wool.

"We're on a planet that somehow knows how to rotate on its axis and follow a defined path while it hurtles through space! Our hearts beat! We can see!...We live in a limitless Universe overflowing with miracles! The fact that we aren't stumbling around in an inconsolable state of sobbing awe is appalling." 

-Jen Sincero

 ***

Photos from a three day adventure to the Oregon Coast just before New Years. I read about the Tahkenitch Dunes trail in Backpacker magazine and had to check it out. An absolutely incomparable trail, both for its peculiar mixture of forest, dunes, and coastline, and for the excitement of spotting black bear tracks in the sand.

Tahkenitch Dunes

From Siuslaw Forest to zero coverage. A balmy 52 degree December day in Oregon

Where the dunes meet the forest

So many Sitka Spruce

Black bears love coastal views