Friday, October 22, 2021

Larch March 2021

I was thrilled to be granted a weekday off work (and my second job, and school...) just in time to view the larches at peak in the North Cascades. We spent about a week scavenging WTA and Gaia for a lesser known trail as larch marchin' has become an absolute fucking escapade around here. We settled on what looked like an intriguing pass and potential peak just beyond the crowds at Heather-Maple Pass, Cutthroat, and Blue Lake. Alarm set for 6, let's get it!

Things went downhill from there. Despite a clear but cold forecast, skies were gray and rain clouds hung menacingly. Passing through Darrington and the nearly half way mark, my tire pressure light came on. We stopped at a gas station and their gauge wasn't working. We drove on to another. We filled the tires, and the spare to be safe, then watched helplessly as the light continued to illuminate despite the miles passing. We stopped again.

We had to make a choice-or as my Project Management professor would say, complete a risk analysis. The North Cascades are fairly remote, and despite the throngs of people flocking to specific larch-laden trails there's no cell service or guarantee of quick assistance. Weather was chilly, snow on the forecast, and the idea of waiting hours for a tow was not appealing. Alex and I got into a tiff which didn't help the sour mood of a day planned perfectly only to be threatened by car problems.

When the day doesn't go as planned, the question to ask is What can be salvaged? We decided the best middle-ground option was to drive on to one of the closest trails, where there would be more people/help if needed, and less chance of the tires deflating while we were hiking a further out and less popular trail. Blue Lake it was! 

Surprisingly, the parking lot was less than full and the crowds weren't bad at all. Ignoring the odd rubber smell emanating from my rear tire well, off we went. 

This was my first time back in the North Cascades since 2017. I used to love camping at Newhalem and visting Diablo Lake when I was still living up north. The North Cascades will always hold a special place for me as they evoke feelings of independence and strength. I took quite a few solo trips here from 2015-2017 and gained an immense amount of confidence on these trails. Also ate a plethora of fresh ice cream from the Cascadian Organic farmhouse on HWY 20...

Things worked out great in the end- not perfect, and not to plan, but great nonetheless. We had a long but overall lovely day, and we weren't fighting our way through crowds as many were doing at Heather Pass and Lake Ingalls. Eventually, some 200 miles later, my air pressure light did finally go off. 

We probably all have work to do when it comes to setting the tone in whatever upsetting or unfortunate circumstance we find ourselves in. Controlling our mind before it spirals into the abyss of worst case scenarios. Asking instead what can be salvaged, and scrapping together our best option or attitude even when things aren't going our way. We don't have to match the energies we encounter- we can rise above them like oil in water.

"So what if it doesn't look the way you planned? All of those days still belong to you, and even the greatest disappointments have their uses. Everything is a litany of things. A network of things, each with its own context and purpose. Be careful, when reviewing, not to strip the happenings from their larger meaning. Nothing happens on its own, and everything has potential for beauty. Is that not your life, huddled against your feet, lying in wait?"

-Yrsa Daley-Ward

*Thanks for the quote, Jasmin. Love you

Monday, October 11, 2021

Detox as Modern Renunciation

Why do unadorned, regular ass days have the tendency to feel so empty? If I don't "make" something of my day, or do something to set it apart from the one before, I feel painfully bored and lifeless. Lately I've become acutely aware that I crave more and more stimulation to beat those blues. The stakes are getting higher.

I've been thinking a lot about life and personal identity beyond compulsive behaviors- be it internet consumption/scroll culture, the need to be entertained 24/7, capitalistic desires, drinking, eating, and all forms of 'treating' myself.

Why do my days feel cavernously hollow if I don't have a drink after work, eat something particularly delicious, DO something, achieve, check things off my list? The gaping need to be stimulated and to feel pleasure/highs every damn day is driving me mad. This fever for more creates a recurring sense of lack and an immense distance between my spirit and my life

In reality the little serotonin "hits" I seek out to make my day something special (or maybe just to feel....something when I'm feeling rather empty) are never as good as I think they're going to be: whether drinks that keep me awake and ruin my sleep, or the fatty burger that makes me feel some combination of guilty and sick, or the clothes I overpaid for but don't even like a few weeks later.

These temporary highs are small plugs for the hole in our hearts. The aching desire to feel good or alive-even just to experience novelty when life becomes redundant or stagnant. But if the hits don't really hit, I think we can agree they're a sham. I'm sensing more often the trick my mind plays on me: placing the idea of a treat or spark or high and what it could do for me. Yet each time we achieve or give in to a desire, a new desire awaits. Satiation is temporary. This is a lesson I've learned time and time again and will probably continue to learn into oblivion.


I want to be a vessel for satisfaction and gratitude. I want my identity to exist separately from compulsive habits, short bursts of adrenaline, and consumption. I find myself wondering whether others feel as concerned about the intensity of grasping in their lives as I do.

I want to enjoy life and be playful but I also want to be conscientious of how I'm living and what has become habitual or unsafe for my spirit. I don't always know how to be both playful and mindful at the same time. Surely there is a middle path and I'm working diligently on finding my footing. These sorts of pursuits are really important to me- questioning reality and my sense of "normal", cultivating strong values and self worth, and re-wiring my brain towards simple joys.

"The ground of renunciation is realizing that we already have exactly what we need, that what we have already is good." 

-Pema Chodron

Detoxing plays into my fascination with renunciation: cleansing, stripping down, and returning to center. I have always been someone who leans into practicing bouts of abstinence from any form of consumption that has become unhealthy or obsessive. I've taken long periods of detox from many things that can, at their best, provide pleasure and joy: dating, drinking, smoking, eating certain foods, social media, TV, shopping, etc. 

My intention in these periods of 'intermittent fasting' from behaviors has always been to peel back the layers of life to reveal and remember the essential ME beneath. Reclaiming my core self from under the weight of external habits and impulses that seem intrinsic but are actually learned and often outdated.

"I have walked through many lives, some of them my own, and I am not who I was, though some principle of being abides, from which I struggle not to stray."

 -Stanley Kunitz


None of these musings will be of any surprise if you know me well or read this blog often. After all, it's titled More Life, Less Waste. Questioning and adjusting my reality and behaviors is a cyclical practice for me, and often intensifies as my birthday approaches. Each year offers the opportunity to rise from the ashes of accumulated bad habits like the Phoenix. I know that some people will find this level of self analysis unnecessary and even annoying, but I wholeheartedly believe that the (often sudden) urge to change our ways is a powerful signal from our Guides and a necessary part of our spiritual journey. 

"Every time we are willing to let the story line go, and every time we are willing to let go at the end of the out breath, that’s fundamental renunciation: learning how to let go of holding on and holding back." 

-Pema Chodron

Photos from a glorious hike to Noble Knob in the Norse Peak Wilderness