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. 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


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.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Anxiety vs. The Truth

What do you know that you wish you didn't?

This was one of the questions posed on a podcast I listened to recently with Ashley Stahl. She introduced a concept that I've been thinking about ever since: Anxiety or The Truth.

I dig this so damn much. I never tire of the fact that the most profound wisdom is often hidden in the simplest statements. Timely reminders delivered in quotes and cliches can be potent medicine. Hell, I have journals full of simple but significant quotes. Through attention and (more importantly) application, simplicity transcends to pure magic.

So again, what do you know that you wish you didn't? What burden of inconvenient truth are you setting aside to attend to on some future day when you're willing or suddenly more capable? As this unavoidable truth festers deep inside in your knowing place, is your anxiety growing wilder and more difficult to control? For me the answer is a resounding yes. Even if I'm able to scapegoat and avoid throughout the day, the moment my head hits the pillow a familiar, erratic heart beat and restless thoughts return.

I think anxiety come from two distinct triggers: 1. evidence or articulation of powerlessness/ lack of control, and 2. inconvenient truth being willfully ignored. Anxiety is a powerhouse sensor, warning with foreboding the shit storm that's coming if we continue to ignore, deny, and detach....

To be clear- living in sincere truth and making the kind of firm decisions that rarely yield instant gratification is fucking difficult. But a great deal of the indecision and confusion we feel in moments of division or transition are actually just hesitation towards owning up to a truth that's already revealed itself on a soul-level. The place we know as gut. We just don't want to give up that thing that's bad for us, or our back up plan, or alllll thatttt workkkk we put into something that somehow doesn't fit us anymore.

It's so hard to face the music in these situations. Most of us are willing to literally throw time away to avoid it. We can be maniacal about holding onto a place or position in life where we are small yet somewhat comfortable. Unfortunately no amount of waiting or external force can change The Truth. The Truth is: utter impermanence, often inconvenient, potentially hurtful, and always personal. My truth probably won't ever match yours, and that dissonance alone is hard to reconcile when our realities bump up against each other in unsavory and unfair ways. How much of our anxiety is really us suffering as we try to avoid letting others down?

By no means am I underscoring the insanely complex and physical manifestations of anxiety. I know them very well. Instead, I'm learning to honor the guidance that anxiety is struggling to offer. What if anxiety, rather than a limiting belief or mind state, is actually an intuitive road map to authentic living? Again, what do you know that you wish you didn't? What can be done today to feel better about the cacophony of 'problematic' feelings and needs within you? The Truth is often disruptive but determined to reveal itself none the less. We're stuck with icky feelings of anxiety and frustration until we reconcile our inner and outer truths. Authentic power requires responsible choice and decisive action, even though it's some of the hardest work we do.

I'm starting to imagine my anxiety as an intelligent being inside me, pulling puppet strings of heart thumps, tension headaches, and sleepless nights, begging me to remember the simplest sentiments: If it's not a hell yes, it's a No! Own your truth! Seize this moment!

Photo by Damon Porter

~Photos from a beautiful little hike to Franklin Falls a few weeks back. We saw a bobcat on this trail! My first legitimate wildlife sighting~

Thursday, January 24, 2019

The King of Roads

I had no idea that the Columbia River Scenic Byway is known as the "King of Roads" - Or that it was America's first scenic byway, and the nation's second official scenic area. Frankly, I knew close to nothing about Oregon until this year, as I started to explore my growing attraction to the state just south of home. Growing up I thought of Oregon as Bend and my grandparents' house there. I clearly remember writing an essay on the pond in their neighborhood when prompted with the school assignment, What is your favorite place? My own little Walden, it seems.

Last Summer I took myself on a solo road trip to central Oregon. There, I took in Painted Hills and Smith Rock State Park:
As Above So Below
Terra Incognita

Now that I live in Olympia, day trips and short burst trips to the Columbia River and NW Oregon are more accessible than ever before. I've been inexplicably drawn to this gaping gorge that cuts through the Cascade mountain range, separating states. Before settling in Oly I was hunting for a place in/near Hood River, which sits along the Oregon border. Alas, the job market isn't so hot in those sleepy lil' towns..

This week we headed south to take in some of the many waterfalls along the scenic byway, that King of Roads. Even the laziest human can enjoy some nature porn in this glorious pocket of Oregon. Dozens of exquisite falls line the road, most of which don't require any real effort to access. We had to seek out extra mileage and extend some of the little trails to lesser known, more "hidden" falls-like Fairy.

Fairy Falls

We easily took in four falls in one afternoon: Wahkeena, Fairy, Bridal Veil, and Latourell, along with a drive by of Multnomah. Can't get me out of the car for that one. It's not that I hate Multnomah, the highest waterfall in Oregon. It's that I hate the crowds.

Latourell was by far my favorite, and the most Icelandic of the gang. This whole area is reminiscent of my favorite Nordic country though: towering stacks of blackened volcanic basalt, highlighter-bright moss, and plunging, nameless falls of various size pouring around every turn.

Latourell Falls
Latourell from afar

The Columbia plateau and river, along with the ancient lakes that surround it, were formed by millions of years of expansive lava floods emanating from as far away as Montana. Large basalt skyscrapers that remain, like Beacon Rock and Crown Point, offer the best views of this phenomenal little corner of Earth. There's a unique comfort in the climactic beauty that only cataclysmic disaster can create; Arresting light and moss bursting through the ruins, like Tupac's rose from the concrete.

At 31, I've become way more interested and invested in the geologic (and indigenous) history of the places I hike. These days I research each new area I visit and try my best to understand what I'm reading. Yeah....wish I had paid more attention in Rocks for Jocks, aka Geology 101, rather than writing it off as my one and only Science credit at UW. Yay, Bachelor in Arts!

Bridal Veil
Bridal Veil

I'm exceptionally grateful to experience this Columbia byway after the devastating Eagle Creek Fire of 2017 blocked access to much of it. The blaze was ignited by a 15 year old who threw a firework into Eagle Creek Canyon. It charred through 50 acres, an area larger than the metropolis of Washington D.C. Some of the most spectacular sections of this wilderness are still inaccessible, including the magical Oneonta Gorge. Oneonta is the miniature, PNW version of Zion's Narrows. You hike up a creek bed, under a log jam, through waist-high water to a climatic waterfall that drops into a swimming hole. Then there's nearby Tunnel Falls, with a giant waterfall you can walk behind (Icelandic indeed).

Wahkeena Trail
Charred trees

Though disappointing, the ongoing closures will allow some deep healing for the Eagle Creek region, and a much needed respite from human trampling. The Gorge may well be the next stop for me in stationary living. Otherwise, without a doubt a frequent haunt if I go the way of van/RV life. Until then, I'm really enjoying hiking in it as much as possible. Heading South against traffic ain't so bad either...

More on waterfalls

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Guide Thyself

This will border on sounding like a page out of the Narcicistic Personality Disorder handbook, but bear with me: At times when I'm funneling through a loop of indecision or conflict, I look back on my journal or blog to remind myself of my former wisdom and advice. Lessons I've learned and misplaced. I whole heartedly believe that writers write what they most need to hear anyway. This purging has to serve some actual purpose, right?!

We live in a time where self help and personal development is a multi-billion dollar industry: books, courses, retreats, podcasts, yogis, etc. It's not just Tony Robbins or Deepak Chopra now. Rather, vast swathes of people seem to be clambering for a career in the semi new age sector-as an Influencer, Life Coach, Speaker, or Healer. If not, they're probably imbibing some array of these offerings. Everything from the self-help section of Barnes and Noble to Reiki, $10k yoga teacher retreats, and weekly therapy.

Seeking for the sake of seeking is a benevolent enterprise, but it can also consume the weaker aspects of our spirit. See, there's a limit to the effectiveness of other people's advice. Not just people we hire or buy into as our Gurus either. At times the well meaning advice of those we love and respect can create the most debilitating disconnect from our often soft-spoken inner voice.

The risk is this: sometimes guidance outside ourselves creates an inner chaos rather than an empowering consensus. Other people's opinions begin to bleed into our consciousness as we move forward in our own lives. Lives that we are ultimately responsible for. Suddenly we aren't sure who has it right- the little voice inside us, distant as it may be, or the seemingly smart advice of those we genuinely respect.

"Confusion is a gift from God. Those times when you feel most desperate for a solution, sit. Wait. The information will become clear. The confusion is there to guide you. Seek detachment and become the producer of your life." -Rza

We have everything we need within us. We know ourselves more intimately than anyone else can or ever will. Yet we also impulsively rush decisions and ultimately, untimely results. Waiting is sooo dammmnn uncomfortable. Thus we crave an end to the manic pause. For me, coming to a conclusion that feels righteous and livable requires removing the deadline, or even a time frame.

We try to hand off the consequence of making our own firm decisions by asking for guidance that we don't really need. In fact, input from others can often distort a vision that would otherwise be clear (though rarely immediate). And even if not would certainly be ours.

We humans are such dynamic creatures of light and limbs. We need to practice honing our intention and discipline, without constantly relying on authority. It's hard work, maneuvering life and choices with tender execution. I have to be careful to enforce my own beliefs and dreams, rather than being imposed upon. We are forever responsible for ourselves and the decisions we make. It doesn't mean we won't fuck up, or wonder about a path we discarded, but I find myself easier to forgive than others. It's pretty hard to keep a wall up against your own soul.

"Does this choice enlarge or diminish me?" -James Hollis

We had another lovely Sunday in the church of Mt. Rainier. Actually this trail to High Hut is just outside the park boundary, and part of the Mount Tahoma Trail Association. The hut itself is available for rent but we simply used the stove inside to service our coffee addiction. The views from the top of this steep little snow climb were so astounding! Besides the obvious, full frontal Rainier views we also caught sight of The Olympics, Anderson Lake, the Nisqually valley, St. Helens, and a slightly obscured Mt. Adams. 

Even at our weakest, we are still fully capable of commandeering our own story. Sometimes I need to reflect on past moments of powerful unblocking to re-align with my inner conductor. Relationship is essential to life, but friends and lovers and even sages are meant to be adventure partners, not the authors of our biography. Take every bit of advice you receive with a grain of salt. Or better yet, a dead sea dose of salt.