Monday, May 2, 2022

Short But Sweet

 

I've fallen deeply in love with short stories. Reading one is like passing by an open window-a brief and ephemeral portal into a stranger's life, bits of imagery or conversation caught out of context. They often leave us, the reader, with questions rather than answers.

Nothing needs to be wrapped up in a bow. That's really the crux of it, what I find so appealing. The moment in time is what's important. Not a journey, an arc, or even an ending. When it comes to reading fiction nothing frustrates me more than a sudden and unrealistic resolution engineered to end the book. If you read quite a lot, you start to see how often a great book with good pacing suddenly comes to a point where pages or stamina run out and things are swept awkwardly into a succinct but unbelievable end.

As "they" say- everything has a reason or season. I know it's cliche (don't worry- not breaking out the Live Laugh Love signs anytime soon), but cliches can be valuable. They often communicate universal truths. Thinking about short stories and how powerfully evocative they can be makes me think about life in the bigger picture. Many experiences are impressionable, even life changing, without being long term, permanent, or providing closure. Some things just are, and that's enough for me.


 

*Photos from recent hikes to Lake Serene and Snoquera Falls*

 

Below are my absolute favorite short stories from The New Yorker. All are available for free online in both written and audio (podcast) form~

-Barn Burning-Haruki Murakami

-Stone Mattress-Margaret Atwood

-What the Forest Remembers-Jennifer Egan

-The Monkey Who Speaks- Han Ong

-Fjord of Killary-Kevin Barry

-Love Letter-George Saunders

 

More on my love for reading here and here

Thursday, March 31, 2022

Spring Break in Sedona

"SPRING BREAKKKKKK!" was the battle cry last week as I joined my Dad and Co. in Sedona, Arizona for my first Spring break in twelve years. My return to school has truly consumed daily life for the past six months. Mark, Bobbie, Dad, and I set about on the task at hand- spend a full week maximizing all hours away from Zoom meetings and group assignments. Two long books and five trails later, I flew home feeling mostly ready for another quarter.


Frankly, Sedona doesn't encompass the wild ruggedness emblematic of the desert. In comparison even Tucson, a sprawling metropolis, is surrounded by a proliferation of Saguaros and brown dirt perches rather than a sea of headlights and luxury hotels. I surprised myself with my own surprise regarding how popular and crowded Sedona proved to be. What did I expect? This is the outdoor scene nearly everywhere these days. At some point I'll have to stop feigning shock and awe. 

 "Zen pretty much comes down to three things- everything changes; everything is connected; pay attention." 

-Jane Hirshfield

Sedona doesn't fit the tranquil image of the American Southwest, the one Edward Abbey knew when he wrote "What draws us into the desert is the search for something intimate in the remote." Though that idealistic emptiness is replaced by people, pulsing traffic, and resort grade consumerism, nothing negates the remarkable 360 degree red rock surround. The scarlet earth and blood orange pinnacles are Sedona's saving grace. 


I researched quite a few trails that simply weren't doable on this trip due to overflowing parking lots and overzealous crowds. The ones we managed to take in were fantastic though, and I'd be happy to share a recommendation or two if you message me privately (@morelifelesswaste). Photos below from my favorite hike of the trip:





There's precisely one mug I drink coffee out of when I stay with my Dad. This mug, and my Father's particular type of benevolent minimalism (awfully necessary when you live in an RV), are important touchstones of soothing reliability. I've attached a mystic meaning to this mug for the simple fact that it persists all year without me, unscathed by so many miles of road traveled between visits. When I re-appear in the RV, so too does it on the little table by the window.

Forgive my innate romanticism here when I say that we are all in desperate need of something unchanging and steadfast like this mug in our life; a faithful constant. Some things, and if you're lucky-even people or places, are pure sources of unyielding familiarity. Perhaps this is also why it's so difficult to confront the crowds that surge to every trail, camp spot, and formerly unknown private place we may have fantasized existed for us alone...

Very little in life is unconditional, and I wrestle with impermanence a great deal. Hence why I find so much pleasure and power in the idea that we can go out into the world and live a little, and something or even someone will still be there, absolutely unwavering in the meaning or emotion they evoke. Some things-not many, but some- are irrevocably etched into the stone of our being.

 

Just like Sedona's coffeepot rock, a permanent fixture in the landscape of the red rocks, my mug at Dad's is an indelible feature of my our quality time together. The views from the window of the rig vary with each trip, but the fresh coffee poured into that "Two Stroke Coffee Co" mug remains a bedrock that provides the simplest solace.

It's beautiful to be submit to the tides of change, to release control and be swept up in the bountiful mysteries of what lies ahead. I also find it humbly necessary to have some reference point on the horizon-a thing that tethers me to who I am in the midst of so much chaos. This is the 'cure' for motion sickness, after all; training your eyes on that unwavering spot in the distance.

Click here for Bobbie and Ruthie's Youtube Channel- 'Getting High with Two Old Broads'

and here for Mark's long-standing blog, Box Canyon Blog

Saturday, February 26, 2022

Growing Pains

 

I tend to fall off blogging when I'm going through trying periods. 2022 started with a string of bad news, including contracting COVID (post-vaccination). I've been stuck in perpetual catch-up mode ever since.

I don't love writing, or even journaling, when life is strained. At what point do you call more bad luck or struggle into your life by identifying with it a bit too much? In the manifestation realm there's a great deal of focus on the power of the spoken word; speaking what you want into existence. The general rule is to be especially cautious with your use of "I am" statements. I am wealthy! I am worthy! Are preferred to, say, I am a failure! I am so unlucky!

But....how do we authentically experience (and share) our struggles and trauma without identifying with them? Are we calling more in through the use of our words, be it in despair or complaint? Is it true the Universal All is always listening? And anyway...is manifestation actually transformative or utterly delusional?

It goes without saying that I don't have the answers. What I do know is that the Universe doesn't have a personal vendetta against anyone, regardless of its tendency to strike thrice with the lightning of bad luck. We need struggle to build character, right?! (Who even said this infamous quote? It's oft repeated but I don't know its origin)

I've written many times before about staying soft in hard times, so I won't expound too much. All in all, shit begets growth. Things will get better as they always do. Both feet on the ground, hand on heart, let it be. As Vonnegut succinctly said, "So it goes."

Nothing is ever one way- despite the tornado of trouble that 2022 has been thus far, there have been good days amongst the rubble. Photographic evidence below from a few recent adventures. After years of avoiding the quintessential PNW activity-skiing, I finally tried x-country and absolutely loved it. *gasp*

Claire's thrifted jacket received dozens of compliments

Looking out on the Enchantments from Manastash Ridge

Alex enjoying a new region

 More to come soon after my trip to Sedona. Ready for a full week of  Dad Days!

"In life you have to learn to count the good days. You have to tuck them in your pocket and carry them around with you. So I'm putting today in my pocket and I'm off to bed." 

-Richard Osman

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Centennial Triumph

New Years has come and gone, thank goodness. It's all too easy to fall into the trap of self flagellation with countless questions regarding resolutions and goals. It's our collective tradition to take stock of where our lives are at as we turn the page on a new calendar year. New years seems the prime time to cast spells into the ether about our dream lives and best selves. How lovely it would be, to filter all the nasty and unlikable bits of ourselves! To wipe from the collective memory our mistakes and tragedies, regrets and rejections, a'la Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind.

I find it such a bummer- all this obsession with what we are not and how much work we have to do. I think this is a huge part of why I've rarely celebrated New Years Eve (well...that, and I hate fireworks).

Though our lives are constant works of art, they do not necessitate constant improvement. Definitely not self-hatred. Try as we might, we will never be perfect versions of ourselves. Life will always get in the way, and opportunities to debase and defame ourselves won't go away. We can't delete every mistake and regret, or what ripples from them. There are literally no lessons to hold onto without them. 

In what author Yrsa Daley Ward calls the "tender, shocking business of life itself" we struggle deeply with making choices. We speak and act without thinking. Impulsivity can be medicinal, but it can also be terminal. To be human is to be fallible, FLAILING, extreme, contradictory, explosive, brilliant, and often annoying. As my friend Josephine said to me recently, "We are not cages, we are oceans."

This year my only resolution is to practice self enjoyment. I will continue to hold counsel only with those who welcome all of me and nothing less. For once I kicked my New Years off in style, surrounded by 4 close girl friends in a beautiful space with an incredible spread of food and drink. Did I also have to go upstairs and take a nap before the clock struck midnight because the red wine gave me a runny nose and I was experiencing a bit of sensory overload? Sure! Regardless, it was a beautiful and memorable way to welcome 2022.

"Forget your perfect offering. There is a crack, a crack in everything. That's how the light gets in." 

-Leonard Cohen

And you know, because I'm deeply passionate about etymology and words in general, please allow me to remind you that a foible is quite literally 'a minor weakness or eccentricity in someone's character.' Without a handful of those, or stories of regret that allow inspiration for growth, you're bloody boring. Bring all of yourself on this journey. Anything else is a loss.

We seem to have a driving desire to annihilate anything that isn't good enough. The things that don't look or feel the way they're supposed to. I've always struggled with honest record keeping. I usually end up throwing away journals once finished because of negativity and criticism that makes me wince. These things don't feel worthy of permanent print. There's an urge to crumple up the bad days and toss them away. Yet, a journal is a necessary outlet for even the worst feelings and thoughts. Otherwise they live in our bodies, corroding us from the inside out- and that's no place for them either.

Somehow, when it comes to this blog I refuse to edit or dismantle even the worst of my  previous posts. In fact, I quite enjoy returning to the beginning and watching my progress. This is my centennial blog, by the way. 100 pieces shared! Something to be proud of. Something to leave alone and refuse to adjust, fix, or improve. 

Happy New Year, y'all.

"You are starting from yourself, and it's the self that contains all the answers. So you have to give up on the idea that you must go from A to B...The one reality includes everything in its tangle of experiences, and what we are trying to find is the experiencer who is present no matter what experience you are having."

-Deepak Chopra