Friday, November 24, 2017

The Terror of Inertia


"Society is just a clearing in the forest" -Osho

I have been ready and willing to leave Seattle for so long now. I won't even bother equalizing that statement with all the things I do like about this city. It will forever be a place I return to, if only to take in the mountains in every direction and the people I can't live without.

Two years ago I was primed and ready to make Vancouver, Washington my home. I had a great job opportunity there with one of the finest cannabis companies on the medical market. I had a chance to work alongside some people I really respected and liked. Plus the entire area around the raging Columbia River is essentially a magical faerie dreamscape.

My boyfriend and I unceremoniously broke up maybe two months into house searching. This was the apex of disaster at the time: I was on crutches after dislocating my knee cap, my long term job was coming to an end as the business shut down, my mom was phasing in and out of treatment constantly, and now my great plan for escape was thwarted. I could have moved to Vancouver by myself, but I didn't. I stayed.

I stayed because my north star was flung far outside myself. I handed off the compass that directs and moves my life to other people, sure that they would be better equipped to make my decisions for me. They became easy scapegoats for my befuddling inertia. The boyfriend I didn't want to leave when I applied for colleges. My mom, always suffering. My best friends.

The faster the city parades around me and the higher the buildings go, the more I shrink into myself. Trapped, confused, unmoving. Each small victory met with a higher cost of living. Where do I go? What do I do with myself now? Why hasn't the lightening bolt hit me yet? Why do I seem to want to live totally separate from other people? Despite my issues with modern life and the human condition, I don't in fact dislike human beings or social interaction. I thrive off attention and rewarding bonds just like any other warm blooded mammal.

"I feel like I lost something there and the traffic is heavy and pointless. I stare out of the window waiting for something to make sense....I do not feel like the Saint I want to be, I do not feel like a prophet or even a priest. I feel like ET or someone left behind. I feel homeless, landless.....To see that it is all bullshit and not to clock off, that requires faith. Only faith will do. Only faith." -Russell Brand

See, I crave a living situation outside of the city (any city). I want isolation but occasional respite from this isolation as well. I want a warm house with a stove for fires and land for my dog. I want the sound and smell of water nearby and trails I can easily access. I want to write for long hours then stretch my body with crazy dance and bagging peaks.

Here's the thing. I've been able to access my north star and to pull it back inside myself. None of the things that held me back all these years have really changed, but I have. I am almost to  the other side of my commitments (lease and work and otherwise) and on the precipice of finally leaving..... Yet I have a stinking suspicion that the hole I talk about so often in my posts will still be there. That I could find the best bungalow to live in for an affordable price and still yearn for an RV to drive off in.

I think part of why traveling is so addicting and satiating is because we are confronting newness over and over. We are too busy experiencing something for the first time to default to habituation. When it comes to home and putting down roots, the newness will always evaporate eventually. The peace of knowing a place is addicting in its own right, in its sheer comfort. But the hole will still be there. The wondering about other places that might be better suited for us, especially as things around us inevitably shift and change. The desire for a different climate or commute, a larger or smaller space, a home that can be picked up and moved on wheels.

All that matters at this point is that I act and do rather than just wondering. I am currently asking myself how I want to optimize this leap of faith as I finally prepare to pack boxes and leave Seattle behind. I have to challenge myself to think beyond the scope of personal limitation and to create something, anything, that lasts beyond my own attention span.

5...4...3...2....1.


“there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled
a space
and even during the
best moments
and
the greatest times
we will know it

we will know it
more than
ever
there is a place in the heart that
will never be filled
and
we will wait
and
wait
in that space.” -Bukowski

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Magic Mystic Zion


After a few days of cruising down I-15 in my sweet rental Jeep (beep beep!), I met up with my Dad in La Verkin, Utah. He had set up a temporary RV home-base on BLM land nearby, outside the little settlement of Virgin, Utah.

The BLM (Bureau of Land Management) oversees more than 200 million acres of Public Lands in America. Full time RV'ers like my Dad often stay on these patchwork sections of land strewn across the Western US, intersecting with private property and bordering some of our national parks and forests. They are free campgrounds/open spaces where stay is usually limited to two weeks. The BLM is responsible for managing protected conservation areas, government owned recreation space,  and underground minerals. It has been in the news quite a bit lately as President Dipshit attempts to withdraw both funding and acreage from public lands in his efforts to open up the fracking and oil industries, and generally be an even greater source of destruction than he already is.

But, I digress.

After a delicious dinner at a local cafe, we headed to Dad's little home on wheels to get some sleep before our first day of hiking together in Zion National Park. From that first sunset drive, I was astonished to witness the remarkable greenery and foliage of Southern Utah. Big, blooming, yellow cottonwood trees lined the Virgin River that snakes along the highway towards the entrance of Zion. For early November, it was still wondrously and bountifully colorful.


Utah was like that though; altogether unexpected and ripe with a remarkable beauty that I couldn't have predicted. Although I've been to the Southwest, this area was completely different from my former experiences. Perhaps it was also due in part to the season; When I think of childhood summers in New Mexico or Arizona, I think of dusty desert sunsets, watching the cacti and raptors from my dad's porch hammock, adobe houses, red clay, and green hatch chilies sold on the side of the road. I remember vast, empty, flat landscapes that stretched on forever.

Zion and its surroundings are far from empty or flat. I had to stop often in awe of the unbelievable magic and total saturation of color all around me. I think I averaged one photo every 4 minutes because I was having a hard time processing the sensational explosion of light and color in the moment. Each time passing clouds cleared, sunshine would highlight the brilliant rock faces surrounding us in an illuminating golden hue; Basically the equivalent of having a halo surround these monoliths.

The upper left corner of Washington is lush, green, overgrown, littered with ferns and low hanging leaves, mossy, and wet. Southern Utah is everything at once: diverse, monumental, dry, with staggering peaks and canyon crevices that seem to spiral down to the very center of the earth. Sporadically rainy, yellow, orange, red and white at the same time, with sand stone hills and geological oddities at every turn.

Zion National Park feels like the ancient settlement of Gods on Earth. There is something strange and supernatural about the park itself. Yes, it is crowded with people from every country imaginable, all desperate to witness the same grand design as you. Yet more than any other public land or national monument I have ever been to, it felt like a gateway to another world full of anthropomorphic wonders. I could imagine the court of the patriarchs (three huge sandstone cliffs) coming to life any moment as kind giants re-awoken. Looking down on the incalculable vistas of the valley below Angel's Landing, I imagined dragons and mystical creatures hiding out in the wide open and far slung corners of the park. If there is a safe place for magical and wonderful beasts in the modern age, Zion is it.

It was nothing short of a blessing to experience this magic with my Dad and his incredible friends. He is beyond lucky to have found the sincere, adventurous, and knowledgeable Red Rocks Gang. I saw a side of Zion that only the experienced and well-trodden visitor gets to see thanks to Mark and Bobbie, who led us on some trails outside of the core zone. On our Many Ponds hike the second day, we encountered a large group of big horn sheep but zero human beings until the very end of the trail! I can't wait to meet back up with them again soon.

Hidden Canyon

I loved these exposed ridge lines

Laura Lee






 Echo Canyon:

THE COLOR






 Many Pools:

Those are some biggg horns in person!

Target booties

So many intriguing rock formations, carved by water and time


Dad and I

Mark!
Love my Dad
Mark and Bobbie are relationship goals

Keep your fingers crossed for no flash floods

Angel's Landing and part of the West Rim Trail:

Headed up to Angel's Landing


Spectacular views
Made it!





The white sandstone of  the West Rim




Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Hot Springs Hound


Thousands have lived without love, not one without water
— W. H. Auden 

I've been a hot spring hound for what seems like my whole life. The first natural hot spring I ever visited was during a summer visit to my Dad's in New Mexico, around age 8. I'll never forget that first dip in mineral rich waters, or the name of the resort; I proudly brought home a bumper sticker that remained on the back of my mom's old Kia for the next decade: You're always in hot water at Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs.

My solo trip to Iceland last year really solidified my love of natural hot springs. Most people conjure up Pinterest style images of the Blue Lagoon when they think of the infamous hot waters of Iceland. As soon as I found out that the Blue Lagoon is actually man made (and astronomically overpriced), I scratched that off my list. Instead, I visited multiple natural hot pots across the country. Sitting and steaming in a hot river (for free!) after day hiking through Landmannalaguar Highlands was completely satisfying and utterly unforgettable. The Secret Lagoon-aka Gamla Laugin- was my second favorite destination: shrouded in midst (rather, sulfur steam) and surrounded by greenhouses growing some of the only natural Icelandic vegetation- tomatoes. I met an awesome couple at the Secret Lagoon who I ended up traveling with on another day of my trip.

So you see I had to make a visit to the infamous Mystic Hot Springs on my first trip to Utah. I flew into Salt Lake City to meet up with a friend and after a few hours in the city (and the best vegetarian Ramen of my life! Including a miso-beet broth), I made the two and half hour trek to Monroe, Utah.

Mystic Hot Springs, like Iceland, is one of those rare places that words cannot do justice. It is one of the most unique hot springs I've ever visited-and I have been to quite a few! Just last Winter I almost got myself stuck at Breitenbush Hot Springs in Oregon after a tremendous snow storm. Sitting naked in 106 degree hot pots, and a communal wet steam room, with snow cloaking all vision was an indelible experience to say the least.

I was lucky enough to get Mystic almost entirely to myself. There was one other couple there but they stayed in one of the two large communal pools the entire time. I made my way from tub to tub trying out the different levels of heat. And by tubs, I mean actual, literal bathtubs set into the red rock hillside where the natural hot spring bubbles up.

Besides the incredible setting and the mingling of indoor and outdoor space, the property itself is brimming with all kinds of unique oddities. There are wild turkeys and peacocks roaming the grounds. Buses and shacks/mini cabins are scattered around the water source and available for overnight rental. Some of the buses were deadhead transports used to track the Grateful Dead on their cross-country tours. 

Mystic Hot Springs is quite likely the closest experience you can get to a hippie commune in 2017. That really sums up the overall vibe and the innate feeling of stepping back in time the second you enter this property.





I've always been a true water baby, born under a water sign. There is something about being surrounded by and cloaked in water that brings me the greatest sense of calm achievable. I used to struggle with intense anxiety and recurrent panic attacks. I learned that if I got into a hot shower or bath when the anxiety first started creeping in, I could almost always abate the fear inducing feelings before they got out of control. This worked better than my Xanax prescription ever did. I would sit in the shower for long periods of time and enjoy the simple, healing feeling of water beating down on my back.

Sitting in the bath, or better yet a natural hot springs, feels like a portal or perhaps emotional deja vu, welcoming me home. I subscribe to the evolutionary theory that we could have evolved from a fish (or at least, gill breathing) species. Many believe that humans originally lived at least a partially aquatic life, but I'll let you do your own research on that. I highly recommend the book The Ancient Secret of the Flower of Life if you have always suspected that you are in part a water mammal ;) I won't get into the biology of our bodies or this planet we call home and its overwhelming make-up of pure water since you probably learned about that in third grade science glass. Or even about the symbolic relationship between the moon and water, currents and time, oceans and space....

I will say that there is an undeniable effect of water making me feel strong and magical. I never feel more vibrant or proud of my human shell than I do when I'm soaking in hot water. The feel and look of wet skin glistening in sunshine, of beads of water dripping from our human forms, is intimate and electrifying. The late great Vonnegut (my favorite) said it best: “In the water I am beautiful.”

***

I leave you with a few of my absolute favorite quotes about water, followed by photos of the next few stops I made on my road trip before the one and only Zion (blog coming soon!)
 
You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.
-Alan Watts

Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.
-Margaret Atwood


Human beings are a way that water has of going about, beyond the reach of rivers
-Loren Eiseley

You must be shapeless, formless, like water. When you pour water in a cup, it becomes the cup. When you pour water in a bottle, it becomes the bottle. When you pour water in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Water can drip and it can crash. Become like water my friend.
-Bruce Lee


Cedar Breaks National Monument:




Red Canyon:




Bryce Canyon National Park: