Appointment with the Mother

4 07 2016

This is my mother:

amazing mom mothers day vancouver wa

She is one fabulous woman.

She added purple to her hair and flew half way across the country to watch me walk the stage and get my master’s degree. She has supported me every step of the way my entire life, even though I rudely moved so far away from her. On my list of amazing women, she fills the top slot.

This is my other mother:

mother nature mount adams wilderness wa

She may be your mother, too.

Mother Nature may not have given birth to me, but she does help support me and my mental well-being. As my real mother is in Kansas this weekend with my broski, and celebrating my insanely fabulous niece’s birthday, I didn’t want to bother her. So I turned to my second mother.

The plan was spend several fun days hiking around and playing outside with JBoo. I took a summer job with WSUV, so I still live in Vancouver, but I was able to leave Wednesday night and come home to Hood River early. Five and a half days with JBoo!! We haven’t spent that much time together since winter break!

And I arrived to find him in the fetal position on the couch, buried in blankets, sick as a dog. Poor thing. So I took care of sick J and got other stuff done…but J woke up Sunday feeling like a human being, so we quickly started making plans for a fun-filled day of hiking and swimming and playing outside. Before I even finished getting dressed, our plans came crashing down around us with a single phone call: a climber on Adams fell and broke his leg. J is not only the Wilderness Ranger on Mt. Adams, he’s also on the search and rescue team. He immediately took the lead organizing the rescue, and I silently packed mine and Simba’s gear into my pack.

We hit the road for Trout Lake, making a quick stop for food in White Salmon. With all the rush, I hadn’t had a chance to sneak any food or coffee, and it was almost 10:30. I was hangry and caffeine deficient. And therefore silent. J coordinated all the various pieces of the rescue as we drove, me eating all the while, then gave me a map and a Spot device at his office. He showed me a trail where Simba and I could hike.

“Uh, I’ve been on that trail several times. And it’s like two miles out of town. Give us a real trail.” I was antsy to go hike and might have given a little more sass than was necessary. But J just turned back to the huge map on the wall and pointed again. “Ok, you could hit this section of the PCT at William’s Mine.” He gave some brief directions and several “stay right” and “stay left” instructions that I tried to pay attention to, then Simba and I bolted for the truck.

Even as I drove up the mountain road, my anxiety started to ease. I don’t need J to hike. Simba and I can do just fine on our own. You go save people, we’ll play without you! But as I parked J’s truck at the trailhead, I realized my grumpiness was from missing him, not because I was mad at him. Dang it.

The last of my moody funk melted away as Simba and I stepped into the shade of the old-growth trail. Simba fell in behind me after his initial spaz-tastic run-around, and off we went. I took a deeeeeeeeep breath and sighed. Hello Mother.

Not far in, we came to a little bridge over a creek where three men had stopped for a rest. As I walked by with a smile and hello, one asked me, “Are you out here all on your own?!” They were all a bit older and seemingly innocently surprised by my aloneness, so I gave a simple, “Nope, I’ve got my dog” and kept walking. I could hear their surprised conversation fading behind me. “A young woman out in the woods by herself? That seems dangerous. She didn’t even seem afraid…..” blah blah blah.

Really guys? Where are you from? Three men are about the greatest danger to me in these woods. Why should I not be able to go for a nice hike in the beautiful forest by myself? Sheesh. I put them out of my mind quickly and got straight to business: my appointment with Mother Nature.

This was long overdue. Have you ever had that feeling where you didn’t know how much you missed or needed something until you finally did it again? That was me. As I breathed the pure air and stretched out my legs I felt a familiar calmness setting in. An almost forgotten calmness.

You’ve been gone too long.

I know, I’m sorry. Things happened. Life got in the way. Grad school got in the way.

I could have helped you. You needed me. You should have come anyway. 

You’re right, of course. I should have come. But I’m here now. I missed you.

As my legs settled into a rhythm, my shoulders relaxed. The last lingering tingles of headache faded away. This therapy that I used to rely on had been canceled when I needed it the most. The anxiety that has been waking me in the middle of the night, robbing me of sleep and joy, was no match for the Mother. She took it from me, filling my heart with song and my soul with light. My mind cleared of all the noise clogging my thoughts and opened to the simple purity of the natural miracles all around me.

As I wound my way up the hillside, the old-growth gave way to burn. Mother Nature’s scars seemed harsh at first, in the charred snags and crusty, black, peeling bark. But the clouds gave way to sun as the air sweetened and I noticed that the whole slope was covered in blooming bear grass. I smiled and chatted with Simba about how cool it was to see the forest growing back after the devastation of the unnatural wildfire. The constant panting and occasional tickle of fur against my leg let me know my faithful companion trotted along with me.

bear grass in a burn, mt adams wilderness WA

Bear grass everywhere!!!

J had told me as we scurried out of his office that he expected 4-5 hours to wrap everything up, so I decided to hike 2 hours up and turn around for 2 hours down. My trusty fitbit kept the time for me and conveniently tracked my steps. It was hard to turn around. The trees were getting fewer and the rocks bigger as we approached treeline, and it was one of those perfect days that made me feel like I could hike on forever. Canada here we come! We had set a nice pace and the day was just so perfect. Knowing J would be waiting on me, though, Simba and I snapped a quick selfie with Adams and reluctantly turned around.

mt adams wilderness, PCT trail WA

Selfie time! Simba, Adams, and me 😀

The trip down did have me daydreaming about hiking the entire PCT one day. My imagination ran away on me and I dreamed up all sorts of good schemes. By the time I reached the truck, I had planned out classroom projects and management systems and blog posts. While my brain drifted in a meditative state on the way up, it went into full planning mode on the way down. The optimistic, excited, ready for world domination kind of planning mode.

I felt like I had received a full-body tune-up. My legs had that sweet ache of working after long months of too much sitting. My lungs felt fresh and clear of the city gunk collected from a year away from my mountains. And my brain felt recharged, rebooted, and revived. The anxiety locking up my shoulders was gone and my thoughts clear and unfoggy. Why had I waited so long? Why didn’t I realize that I missed spending time with Mother Nature.

No need to contemplate on bad decisions, I’ve resolved the issue. J was excited to hear about our adventures and we compared my descriptions to the map. Based on time and what I saw when we turned around, he guessed our round-trip to have been 6-7 miles. My fitbit said we took around 24,000 steps!! I felt powerful and strong and super ready to take on whatever comes next!

Mother Nature, I’m sorry I neglected you for so long, but fear not, I’ll be back soon!!!

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Celebrating milestones

24 06 2016

Omg yall, I didn’t do anything yesterday. I stayed in my PJs and puttered around the house and did very little productive tasks. Ok, I did a little laundry and I bathed my wedding dress and I worked on stuff….but in the grand scheme of things, I did NOTHING!!

I’m not just bragging about being a total bum for an entire day, this actually has significance. I didn’t do anything yesterday because I didn’t have to do anything. For the first time in 14 months, there are no deadlines looming, no papers or projects or presentations awaiting completion. No articles or chapters are smuggly waiting their turn to be read and highlighted.

I HAVE FINISHED GRAD SCHOOL AND HAVE NOTHING TO DO!!!!!!! I just need a minute to relish this moment…..

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If you ever have to do something difficult, make sure you do it with amazing people. It helps.

….because of course, that’s not actually true. I have lots and lots and LOTS to do.

For example, I have a wedding in two and half months that needs to be planned. My wedding. Like I haven’t even mailed out the invitations yet.

I also have a job! A professor asked me to come back and work for the program my cohort participated in last summer as part of one of our classes. But whereas last year I had to pay the university, this year they pay me! I get to be on the planning side this time, mentoring the new grad students and acting as lead teacher for the program. It’s only for about a month and a half, but I get PAID. I will collect a paycheck and have INCOME! Maybe I’ll even put a smidge of that money back on my crippling student loans!!

Speaking of jobs, I actually got another one of those money-making things, but like FOR REAL. Like a real real job, like a teaching job to begin my career with the degree I just got. I’M A REAL TEACHER YALL. September 7th, I will welcome my first class of 5th graders. I’ve already started attending professisonal development days with my district AND I HAVEN’T EVEN SIGNED THE CONTRACT YET. To say I’m excited would be like saying an atom is small. However, it’s all a bit overwhelming and stressful at the same time. So much to think about, and set up, and figure out. But it’s all perfect.

So, obviously I have things to do. Like a lot. But it’s different – the crushing weight of grad school has lifted and the light of employment is shining down. I’m planning the weekend when I get to marry the man of my dreams and wear the fanciest dress ever. I’m hoarding supplies and books and plans for my first classroom and pouring over my curriculum materials. It’s all so scary and magical and stressful and thrilling.

Also, in case you missed it, I FINISHED GRAD SCHOOL!!!!

🙂





Really Ronda

5 01 2016

Despite a few hiccups with the rental, we made it to Ronda in one piece.

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The countryside was once again just lovely. I sprang up in excited surprise every time we would pass a castle or a ruin. J lost count of how many times I squealed, “There’s another one!”

Then we pulled into the little town of Ronda, a white-washed village high on the cliffs with a deep gorge slicing down the middle. I was stoked to jump out and explore every inch of this paradise….but we had to park the car. And that turned out to be quite a challenge due to the insane amount of people EVERYWHERE. We finally found a lot and parked without running over any pedestrians or going the wrong way down all the one-way streets and checked into our place. Wow! Our patio looked straight the gorge!

We couldn’t wait to get out and about. We headed across the Puente Nuevo, the “new bridge,” to poke around the “old” city. I lol’ed all over the place when I realized the “new” bridge was built in the 1700’s! But the “old” bridge went back to the days of Moorish rule, possibly even Roman times, so I guess it’s all relative. 

New or not, the bridge is beautiful. It spans the Tajo gorge and is just under 100 meters from the river below. Being American, I had to convert that – over 300 feet yall! Great views, of course, of the valley below and much of the city. Once in the old city, we found walls still erect that we could clamber about on. The remains of the castle still stood quite tall and a church steeple rose high to complete the skyline.

I tried to keep my jaw off the ground as I gaped at everything around me. The town might have modernized as the years passed but it was basically still a little medieval village! We found our way down the hill to a cool little restaurant where we enjoyed a cerveza and people-watched while waiting for a table. We headed to bed pretty early (especially by Spanish standards!) to rest up for our next adventure…

VIA FERRATTA!! It’s not even our anniversary and J tried to kill me. We met our guide that next morning and geared up with helmets and harnesses. Routes have been placed up the cliffs: metal rungs that make it look like a ladder running up the cliff wall. The sport of via ferrata is like rock climbing; clip into the cable and climb the ladder. Easy enough….

Sort of. It wasn’t bad but still a bit nerve-wracking when you’re clinging to the side of a cliff, way high, with just your trust in the rung and your cable. But it was super fun – we hiked to the bottom of el Tajo, under the puente nuevo, and climbed up. After surviving that, we hiked along the bottom of the gorge, next to the river, and got a very different perspective.

I thought our day was done but when we piled back in the car with our guide, Ivan, we headed out of the city….? Oh no! We’re being kidna– wait, nope, just to a neighboring village to climb a second route. This one was a bit harder and included a monkey brjdge!!

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Such a thrill!! Afterward, we gathered around a table at the little local bar of this tiny village. There were 5 of us: our guide Ivan, his lady Sophia, and another woman that joined us for the 2nd climb. Beers, snacks, a shared plate of a potato salad-type dish and we had ourselves a true local experience. I almost waved to the group of old men on the patio as we left.

I didn’t think the day could get any better, but after freshening up, we explored the nooks and crannies of the old town a bit more. Many of the old streets can’t accommodate cars and we found some surprises tucked into some back alleys: churches, towers, walls, etc. We crossed the old bridge by lamplight and looked down on the ancient Arab baths. This place was magical!

Back up on the new bridge, hungry and near-bursting with the overdose of excitement crammed into the day, we paused to look down into the gorge again. Then J did the only possible thing that could out-do all the rest.

He proposed.

All I could say was really?!





Lessons Learned from Grad School

23 06 2015

Unbelievable. I have finished my first semester as a grad student. Wooooo!

Despite the fact that this was a summer session that clocked a super-short 6 weeks, I have to admit something: I feel vastly more smart than I did 6 weeks ago. I mean, SO SMART. And since I’m so smart now, I thought I would tell you a few things I’ve learned in my transition to brilliance. Feel free to take notes, I don’t mind.

1) I don’t know nearly as much as I thought I did about teaching or education in general. Like, nothing.

2) My brain really can function on only 4 hours of sleep.

3) My body will cease to function if I attempt #2 twice in a row.

4) The brain is a marvelous contraption. For instance, it can dig deep and pump out some impressively well-thought-out, thoroughly researched, high-quality pieces of work, while running exclusively on caffeine.

5) Caffeine really is an alternative fuel source. (“Addiction” is such a strong word…)

6) I have found a new love. His name is espresso and we’re going to live happily ever after.

7) Speaking of addiction, I need a support group for my new-found drugs: the crafty aisle at Goodwill and clearance stickers at Michael’s. I have at least a year before I start teaching elementary, but I’ve already started hoarding glitter glue sticks and packages of fancy paper, funky scissors and smelly-good markers, emoji stickers and random bags of string. You just NEVER KNOW when these things will come in handy!!

8) It takes no time at all to slip back into the diet that helped keep my girlish figure through my undergrad; the diet most commonly known as the “broke college kid” diet. Suddenly having no income besides my outrageous student loans sent me immediately back to this diet and the ramen aisle at the grocery store. Sad day. (My girlish figure of my undergrad days has not yet been located…)

9) Back to the amazing capacities of the brain: let’s talk about the wonders of skimming. The ability to cover 12 chapters that are due tomorrow. Totally possible! (And yes, caffeine may be at work here, as well.)

10) Will power is truly tested by the Procrastination Monkey that tries to distract me from my priorities. Pros: I’ve started running again! And I’ve learned to skim, and bust through the procrastination barriers, and git ‘er done when I need to! Cons: Netflix withdrawals are real, and they are painful.

11) I have no idea how to cook for one person. I either have enough food for the neighborhood or nothing and I eat crap. I really need to figure this out.

12) Spending 9 1/2 hours in class with 9 other people, even just twice a week, can in fact make you fast friends with these people very quickly. All 9 of my fellow cohort-ians already know more about me than many people I’ve know for years. (Just ask Tim about my spirit animal…)

13) Grad school is the greatest decision I could have made, and the timing was absolutely perfect. My fellow classmates of my cohort are all amazing people that I am so excited to be with for this journey. From Day 1 (ok, maybe Day 2 after I recovered from the overwhelming shock of Day 1), I have felt the excitement grow, and I am so relieved and grateful to have my decision validated. This is exactly what I should be doing.

And now I have to get back to my reading! Today was the first day of the second summer semester, and there’s no room for slacking. This time next year, I’ll be all done – gotta keep on chuggin’!

PS: For any of you parents out there – if your children have teachers even half as dedicated as those that I’ve met, your child will be one lucky student. 😀  





Being Grateful for Chaos

24 04 2015

There is no passion to be found in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living. -Nelson Mandela

It all started January of 2014. We were crossing the threshold into a brand new year, and I took stock of my life. I had the necessities: good job, roof over my head, plenty of food, loyal dog, handsome man.

As good as things were, life was not quite where I needed it to be. Mostly, working remotely was no longer working well for me, and I decided it was time for a little change.

Sadly, I’ve never been good at “little” change. Instead of rearranging the place settings on my table, I grabbed the edge, really put my back into it, and flipped the whole damn table over.

table-flip of my life, chasing dreams

The table symbolizes my life.

After tons of research, nights of pondering my options, conversation after rambling conversation with J, and a notebook full of discarded ideas, I emerged with a game plan.

Even at the end of my twenties, soul searching to figure out what I want to be when I grow up, what I want to do with my life, is a scary, complicated, maddening task. How do we ever know where to find the answers to the big scary LIFE questions?? And once we make a decision, how on God’s green earth do we know it’s the right one?!

We don’t. We pick a dream and we chase it. We take the leap to pursue our passions. We can always adjust the course along the way, but the dream is the important compass that keeps us going.

Right? I’m pretty sure I read that on a pillow once. But this is what I’m doing. Dream chasing.

So, I talked to an adviser last spring, and almost 9 months later, requirements finally met, I mailed in my application for the Master’s in Teaching graduate program at Washington State University.

A slew of tests, sleepless nights, and freak-outs later, I finally received my acceptance letter — WOOOO! But the happy dance didn’t last long…too much to do! That letter came at the end of March, and the first day of class is May 11. My to-do list still stretches about 5 miles long and I wish I had a device to measure my emotional mood swings like a seismometer measures earth quakes.

In three short weeks, nothing will be the same as it is today. I will have moved out of my house with J to a new house in Vancouver, WA – a city I know almost nothing about. I’ll be living with two dudes I found on Craigslist instead of with my beau and my mutt. Each weekend, I’ll drive back to stay with J in a new house I’ve not yet even seen. My career at G5, where I’ve worked for 5 1/2 years will be over, and I’ll now be a part-time barista at a little local coffee shop. My first grad school classes will have begun.

What the hell have I done?

No, this is good, all these scary things are good. These massive life changes are all in pursuit of a main goal: to become an elementary teacher. See? That doesn’t sound so scary! All this stuff in the middle is just temporary, the stepping stones paving the path which I use to chase this dream. (Too bad a drunk, blind, inexperienced elf laid the stepping stones. Does the path really need to be this stressful?!)

Even though I know it’s temporary, I’m stressed about J and I’s impending geographic separation. He’s been my daily constant for 4 years – now I have to do without?? And what about my sweet little Simba, my furbaby, my constant companion? I only get to see him on weekends? So not fair! (Ok, not fair to me. But Simba will now become a Ranger Dog and get to hike with J all the time, instead of being cooped up in my room waiting for me to get home from class…)

And quitting my job – saying I was unprepared for that would be the understatement of the year. I thought I was ready, finally done with the place, done with the glass ceiling I’ve been smashed against for about 3 years now. Working remotely sounds awesome to those who don’t do it, but having no opportunities at all because you aren’t in the office – not awesome. But when the time came to break the news to my boss – the same boss I’ve worked under for 4 years now – I almost cried. Thank goodness the quality of Google Hangouts is not that great. My team is a tight-knit, well-oiled machine, and I have grown and learned so much with and from these guys, it’s almost impossible to think of moving on without them. Maybe they’ll all come to grad school with me?! I can only hope to find myself in a group with such talent, passion, and humble accomplishments sometime again.

Ok, now I’m going to cry again.

My friends and family have all been so encouraging and supportive – I really wouldn’t have made it this far without them. They have given me the courage to take the first steps, and then been there all along the way with advice, hugs, cards, Kleenex, high-fives, long phone conversations, and never-ending support. I wish I could find a bra that held me up as well as the amazing people I have in my life.

And J. My sweet J. I would never be here, hurtling myself head over heels after a dream I’ve hidden in the back of my heart for most of my life, if it weren’t for my J.  He reminds me why I’m doing all this, tells me it’ll all be worth it, and repeatedly encourages me with “You can do this”. (Even in the middle of the night, as I lie awake worrying.)

So yes, I am grateful for the chaos. I’m grateful for the brains and courage and ambition that have landed me in the delightful mess. Despite all I’ve made it through so far, I know this is only the beginning of the hard work, but I’ve made it past the first milestone, so I’m celebrating that. I did not settle for the life that was easy, but lacking in passion; good but not great.

Never settle for ordinary, friends, when we were created to be extraordinary.

 





#tbt to Texas

9 04 2015

Since I’m super “hip” and “down with it”, I’m posting a hashtag today: #tbt. Hopefully this will convince you of my “hip-ness” and increase my “street cred”. (Is it working?!)

J and I took a nice trip down to Texas a few weeks back for lots of “throw back” – tons of trekking up and down memory lane!!

J has never been to Austin, so we jumped at the chance for a reunion with my college buddies. We took off work for a full week and I began mapping our course across the massive state. The goal: see as many friends and family as humanly possible.

Stop 1: Wichita Falls, to see my family. My mother was not pleased that I only gave her a day and a half, but she did alright. My big Broski drove down from Kansas with my insanely fabulous niece (she obviously inherited her auntie’s brilliance), my middle sister B took off work (oh yo, oh yo!), and my Daddy waxed his mustache – party time!

Though our visit was super short, we made the most of it. I spent every second with my little Hopey, hugged my Momma every time she was within reach, snuggled my niece as much as an 18-month-old will allow, and punched my brother every time he walked by. A perfect day and a half. Even both grandparents made an appearance for some pulled pork, super tight hugs, and catching up.

big sister little sisiter, dallas tx

Cruising around with my little Hope-ster!

I could write a whole post on Hope alone. She crawled into my covers each morning to snuggle, did some impressive living room yoga with me, showed me her wicked dance moves to “Let It Go”, and generally refused to be more than a foot away from me at all times.

Then there was Boop, my niece. She’s quiet and intense, watching everything with her wide-eyed, innocent intelligence. Then she’d jump in to play or dance or chase the bubbles and we would finally be rewarded with her delightful giggles.

My little mop-head, watching the family madness, waiting for her chance to jump in the middle of it all…

After soaking up the family time like a parched sponge, it was time to move on to Stop 2: Dallas. One of my closest BFF’s from college, Little L, was putting us up for the night and road-tripping with us to Austin for the big reunion. We squeezed in a visit to my first college friend and old roomie, who introduced us to her 2-week-old bebe. Much has changed since our shenanigans in the dorms freshman year! I almost wept at the sight of her beautiful family. But AIN’T NOBODY GOT TIME FOR THAT!

And off to Austin we went! My sweet bestie, KDub (yes, everyone in this post is a bestie), now lives in North Austin and gives the best hugs – how I missed all these faces! We ladies shut the boys out in the living room, cranked up the throw-back jams, and set up shop getting ready for our big night out on the town. Oh, such memories – how many times have we done this together over the years? Once upon a time, this was our weekend routine! When did I learn to get ready on my own, without their expert assistance and advice?!

Finally gorgeous, we caught the monorail downtown and had our first big-city experience with Uber to get to the restaurant where we were meeting the gang for dinner. We were first, and as folks started trickling in, my blood pressure steadily climbed. Friends I hadn’t seen for YEARS walked in that door. Pals that were once my friend-family, that saw me through my college years, that transitioned me into adulthood – they were suddenly all there again. By some miracle, I managed to smile my biggest smile, instead of cry like a baby in a corner.

How time has changed us! Marriages and babies and careers had somehow happened. We’re all strangely older, though our 23-year-old selves came out to play with us all back together, like no time at all has passed. It was simply incredible having all these people in one room together, laughing, celebrating, reuniting.

friends reunited, Austin TX

My life would be all the better if I saw more of these amazing people – now married AND expecting!

besties reunited, tearing up sxsw, austin tx

Two of my best friends in the whole world. ❤

And the group is now complete! A window to my early 20’s…

After dinner, we headed downtown. (Crazy.) South By Southwest (SXSW), the mega music, film and tech fest, was still raging, so people were EVERYWHERE. We didn’t care – MUST.DANCE.NOW. We found the first club with no cover and the booty-shaking began! (Aw, just like old times again!)

girlfriends reunited, SXSW 2015 austin tx

Added Ash to the mix during a dance break, but photo-bombed by S (and B’s eyebrow) ….

group reunited at SXSW 2015, austin tx

More of the group, this time getting photo-bombed by ME!!

After such a great night with such great people, it seemed like the trip should be over, time to pack it up and go back home to real life.

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE!

The trip, in fact, was only half over! More friends need to be seen! We recovered the next day with amazing breakfast by KDub, then hopped in the car with MAsh to continue south. MDawg took us through San Marcos, home of Texas State University, where I spent some of the best years of my life. We took J on a little trip down (my) memory lane, gasping at the massive changes, sighing at the sights that remained the same. Then we roamed back through the hill country to Canyon Lake, to Ash’s mom’s house, where we relaxed the day away. Towards evening, we loaded back in the car, destined for the awesome historic town of Gruene!

For 4 and a half years now, I’ve done my best to convince J that Texas can be quite beautiful, charming, even incredible at times. This trip finally proved me right. The bluebonnets carpeted the roadsides this far south, and the recent rains had turned the fields a lush emerald. We drove the back way, along the Guadalupe River, past limestone cliffs and tumbling hills and a zillion tube rentals and campgrounds. It’s easy to imagine the zoo this place turns into during the summer! Even J was impressed.

Once we arrived, I felt like a proud mamma, showing off her babies to a stranger. Gruene was one of my favorite places to go when I lived in this neck of the woods – the creaky wooden sidewalks, the historic buildings full of gimmicky wares, the best food around served in the remarkable grist mill renovated into a restaurant – and Grune Hall. The oldest dance hall in the state of Texas. All the greats have played on that stage, from Willy Nelson to Merle Haggard to Lyle Lovett to The King, GEORGE STRAIT! I wish I could have snuggled up to J for a twirl around the uneven dance floor, but not this night. We whisked next door to the Grist Mill instead, meeting the fabulous M again and my dears SB and G.

The last stop on our grand journey was east of San Antonio: SB and G’s house. (I like it to call it The Estate.) We stayed up that night as late as we possibly could, trying to catch up on the months gone by since our last visit. (Despite the fact that SB and I chat regularly…) The next day, we had a relaxing morning in their amazing house with their adorable pups, before finally setting out to hike the hill country. Mud, sweat, sunburn, and lunch later, we plopped back down in their living room to recover.

government-canyons san antonio tx

My crew up ahead in the lovely oaks and aromatic mountain laurels. I was busy getting sun burnt.

* * * * * *

For the last 5 1/2 years, I’ve been working on making the PNW my home. It’s not hard – the mountains, the rivers, the coast, the changing seasons: all sing to me and made me fall in love long ago. Even my mother has come to terms with the fact that I will likely never move back to my birth state of Texas. (Ok, she pretends to have come to terms with it…)

Strangely, most folks from Texas do not understand this and will fight to the death trying to prove that Texas is the GREATEST state ever in the whole entire world and I am obviously completely insane and utterly stupid to not only leave, but not want to come back. Think I’m exaggerating? Then you aren’t from Texas.

And yet, I return to the great country state as often as possible. Why? Roots. Family. Memories. Bar-b-que. Friends that became family.

I wish I could find the words to relay how important these folks were to me, and the depth of my gratitude for getting to spend even one evening with them again. It was like living in a #tbt post but better.

Now I’m all the more motivated to visit them all again!!

😀





Saturday Morning Explorations

1 03 2015

Saturday is arguably the best day of the week. A day of possibility and potential. And after a rough week and a dreary, rainy Friday, waking up to a Saturday morning full of sunshine brings balance back to my life.

This was one such Saturday, and I had no choice but to get outside and soak it all in. The rest of the country (Texas in particular) might be getting buried in snow and ice, but not up here in the PNW. The rain of yesterday now sparkled in the morning rays. Simba spun in circles while I pulled on my heavy snow rain boots and out the door we went.

J has done the preliminary work to hack a trail through the undergrowth and blackberry brambles between our house and the cliffs of the river. I inhale the crisp, cold, fresh morning air as Simba tore around the corner, running at full speed in the reckless manner of a happy dog with no leash on, and we set off down the trail.

The rain has made my whole world a muddy mess. I try not to slip as Simba zooms past me, sniffing every leaf and blade of grass. The trail is marked with deer tracks; a stray vine snags my boot laces. A cacophony of bird songs fill the air with their sweet tunes – a soundtrack to our morning. Sunlight breaks through the trees in bight streaks, piercing the dim haze under the canopy of branches.

We crunch along, Simba exploring every off-shooting game trail and marking every rock (he acts so proud of himself). Occasionally he manages to fall behind me on the trail, racing by me once again when he notices. He likes to lead the pack.

The sounds of the river rapids down below soon compete with the trilling birds. The rains have lifted the rushing waters, giving them more speed and momentum over the rocks in their way. I want to dip my fingers in the crystal-clear waters, test the frigid temperatures, lose myself in the tumbling drops. But the cliff prevents such adventures and we watch from above instead.

Bare branches and naked vines surround us, but the mist and dew and leftover rain give the forest the coolest shine. The sun becomes a strobe light as I make my way across the mush of a little stream fed by a spring bubbling out of the ground just uphill from me. The staccato of light makes me squint and I almost fall on the slippery rocks. Simba tries to continue down towards the river, following the wrong path, as is his way. A quick whistle brings him back and we climb the last little bit. I want to laugh as we break free of the forest, out into the glittering rows of the orchard.

Simba turns back to check on me, confused by the halt. I just need a minute, I need to fill my lungs with the intoxicating morning air, I need to absorb all the vitamin D and happiness the sun will give up. Impatient, Simba zig-zags back and forth, investigating the edges, circling back, sniffing the air.

I finally follow, winding through the dormant pear trees, glancing down the deer paths leading back into the tangle, laughing at Simba chasing a fly, still taking the biggest, deepest breaths. Life is flowing through my views in full force again, the strength of my muscles carrying me along, and I want to put my arms out and spin until I’m dizzy and drunk with laughter.

So I do.

😀

Join me on my walk: