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 at night to find True North. You can utilize a peak in the distance or a landmark, such as running water, 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 can cause a sense of immobility, driving you into a hole that's hard to climb out of. Longing is an essential aspect of existence for so many of us. It's an odd and uninvited discomfort for 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, and our lives will always be punctuated by a recurring discomfort and 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. Errrr...you 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.

~* J *~

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...

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Composting



I'm nearly always reading, writing, or reading about writing. As a self proclaimed writer (the only kind I know), I know no other way.

This week, re-reading Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down The Bones, I thought a lot about her chapter on composting. "Bad" writing, words that go nowhere, pieces that don't move-they're still worthwhile. Somehow, they become a layer of fertile soil from which stirring pieces are born. Sometimes it's a line; a single line in a paragraph of otherwise-crap, that bleeds through and sparks much better prose. Everything is worth thinking and writing and turning unto the earth in a blessing for future inspiration.


This concept works because it's not much of a metaphor at all. Shit engenders new life. Shit begets closed doors, followed by open ones. The same way farmers plow their land with literal crap to prepare for future harvests, so too must we-with not only our words and thoughts, our stories-but with every single challenge we encounter.

A cavernous faith is necessary to accept the complex reality that lame, hostile, even horrible things enable the grandest leaps in our evolution. That bullshit and failure can expand the vision and scale of our life in ways that allow us to see new possibility. New solutions. New versions of the future bursting up from the mud.

Composting transforms trash to treasure. The sole, not so secret ingredient is time. Keep writing uninspired pages of boredom and complaint until a breakthrough happens. Keep wading through your crap with the mind state that it will invite wildflowers in the Spring.


Great books on Writing:
1. The Great Spring -Natalie Goldberg
2. Writing Down the Bones-Natalie Goldberg
3. On Writing- Stephen King
4. Bird by Bird- Anne Lamott
5. The Artists Way- Julia Cameron


I've been struggling through a crisis of identity: and by that, I mean of passion. Outside of writing, everything else is a revolving door of concentration and intensity. Many things have stepped into the light of being that one thing, as I tend to hone in on on one identifying hobby or fervor at a time.

For the past 4 years, my biggest passion (and self-presenting image) has been hiking. Constant hiking. Nature photography, writing about hiking, reading trip reports, planning hikes. It says a lot that nearly every gift I've received over the past few years has to do with hiking. It's certainly the main way I relate to my extended family; suddenly the Uncle who never spoke to me carries on long trail talks with me over holiday meals, and that's great.


The truth is, my dedication to hiking has been slipping through the sands of time for awhile now. It used to be something I needed with a quality of desperation. It was essential to my mental health in so many ways. Through circumstance and time, along with a quieting of suffering, I've become used to life without it. Though I crave the trails after a month without, it doesn't have the same lure it used to.

Life is a process of falling in and out of love with nouns: people, places, things. So often that which we were desperate for fails to fulfill us, and instead turns to mulch. It's all a Zen experiment in impermanence, I'm sure...a process of detachment from the false narratives that we are any of these: our hobbies, jobs, let alone our feelings. We know these change unequivocally.



To be embodied is to be clear on the fact that we are rivers unto the earth, constantly moving and changing. Inscribing the landscape around us as we carve a place for ourselves in time and space, hoping our fossilized imprints cast a permanence beyond anything else we know.

It's time to find something new to dump my abundance of love into. Something to do, then write about. A passion or project that awakens and invigorates me the way that hiking used to.

"I write out of total incomprehension that even love isn't enough and that finally writing might be all I have and that isn't enough. I can never get it all down, and besides, there are times when I have to step away from the table, notebook, and turn to face my own life. Then there are times when it's only coming to the notebook that I truly do face my own life." -Natalie Goldberg

Monday, March 4, 2019

Perched on the King


The Olympic National Park has about a dozen emblematic, notorious trails. These span from the Southern "staircase" entry of Hood Canal, just an hour outside my front door, to the tip of the Northern Coast.

The park encompasses 1,500 miles and includes a handful of distinctly different ecosystems: alpine forest/wildflower meadows, two coastlines, forest, and temperate rain forests. From roadside coastal views to mild forest hikes to alpine lakes, long river ambles, and mountains to summit, there's something for nearly everyone. Save for maybe the true peak bagger, because in all honesty the Olympics are about the most accessible of any national park I've traversed. Though the crown jewel of the range-Mt. Olympus-is a mere 8,000 feet, it has the second greatest glaciation of any non-volcanic mountain in the U.S. It's a Mountaineer's delight, with wide glaciers to cross and plenty of ice climbing.


Each separate section of the park has a gorgeous trail worthy of your bucket list. Some of the top dogs include:

Northern Coast- High Divide-Seven Lakes Basin, Hurricane Ridge & Mt. Storm King

Pacific Coast-Enchanted Valley, Shi Shi Beach and Point of the Arches, Ruby Beach, Rialto Beach and Hole in the Wall

The Rainforests-Hoh River Trail, Hall of Mosses

Mountains-Mt. Ellinor and Mt. Olympus

Hood Canal-Lena Lake and The Brothers, Lower Big Quilcene and Skykomish River trails


Last week, on a lovely little trip to Sequim, I finally made it to one of the epic Northern Coast hikes: Mt. Storm King. I've been warned about this beast of a trail, and it didn't disappoint. Storm King is around 2,500 feet of elevation in less than two miles, with a full on hands-to-rock scramble at the end. Multiple feet of compact, icy snow and a skinny little ridgeline created quite the shit show for our climb up. Snowshoes would have been impossible on the thin trail, but we made the way successfully, albeit slowly, in crampons. Post-holing off and on created soaking wet feet and numb toes that induced the fear of frostbite.

Towards the top of the summit, the maintained trail comes to an end. During warm months, the area that follows is made more accessible by climbing ropes that have been added to assist in the final scramble to the peak. Unfortunately, after the biggest Washington snow storm in years, most of these ropes appeared to be buried under fresh pow; we could only find two. I stopped a few hundred yards past the signed end of trail, staring up at a ridiculously exposed, steep, and icy climb. I don't have a significant fear of heights, and I've done a few epic trails that compete with this one, like Angel's Rest in Zion. But this had me alllllll the way fucked up! The climb looked spooky but possible, but the coming down appeared to be a near death wish.

Eventually, after hemming and hawing and debating the stupid scramble, I decided to go for it. Luckily for us, the sun was absolutely glowing and though temps were still near freezing, there was no wind blowing. Had there been, I don't think I would have chanced full ascension on this incredibly exposed peak.


Finally cresting the top of the balance beam ridge, its easy to forget how much work you've put in to reach the infamous view of Lake Crescent below. It's a small but stunning summit, with only enough room for a handful of people to hang. Mt. Storm King feels incredibly removed from the rest of the world, and the unobstructed 360 degree views reminded me of paragliding. The water below flows into the Strait of Juan De Fuca, separating the U.S. from Canada. Lake Crescent is shockingly clear and blue, thanks to an absence of nitrogen in its deep waters, preventing the growth of algae.



After climbing Storm King, I was sore for a good two days. Trudging up the stairs to my apartment was a tangible reminder of the steep elevation we'd tackled. It felt damn good to get some much needed training in as Spring finally comes into view around the corner. Two days before this trail, Claire and I had attempted a little climb to Lena Lake, with my car getting stuck 2.3 miles from the trailhead. We ended up doing an unexpected 9 miles that afternoon, which probably contributed to my extreme soreness.

Next up on my Olympic NP checklist is Mt. Townsend, which we've been hoping to access for a few weeks now.