Nearly There

We have been on the road for weeks now and our journey east is nearly finished. I have so much to share, so much to tell you and show you from this time on the road. But bear with me a bit longer as I savor the last of this unplugged time...when next I write, it will be from New Hampshire and I promise a few peeks from Montana and Wyoming and Idaho and South Dakota, from paradise in autumn.

In the meantime, a few final images from our last trip. Mount Rainier National Park is one of my favorite places on earth and we spent a few days simply being there, simply savoring it's enormous trees and grand beauty of a mountain...

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For The Trees

The trees. We were definitely in it for the trees.

It began with towering red firs and western white pines and mountain hemlocks in Lassen Volcanic. They greeted us along the winding two-lane highway as we approached the park and with every rustling wave of their limbs, we were welcomed, waved in with a ruckus as if returning weary from the wars. We breathed in their scent and lingered in their shadows and felt the first stirrings of release in our too tight shoulders.

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After taking that respite, on we searched, until the cool of coastal fog and deep shade heralded giant country. There we laid our cheeks against the redwood ancients and felt the fingers of time draw us closer for embrace. In the damp crumble of rotting timber, we witnessed new life spring forth from the death and were reminded of the inescapable nature of cycle and season.  In the perpetual gloaming cast by these great elders we found sanctuary and belonging and the whispers of home, wisdom sought and found.

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We traveled on, as travelers do, and we came to the places where fire turned us back. Heat and milky smoke blocked our path forward and we paused to grieve the fallen armies of douglas fir and white pine even as we acknowledged that some beauty, some life, can solely be forged, be born, of fire.

We veered back to the west, to the water, fleeing the flame and the smoke. Through Pacific mists we saw the great Sitka spruces and patient western hemlocks teeter on the cliff edges as the mountains rose out of the wild sea. Unable to resist the siren's call of forest floors carpeted in sword fern and narrow trails winding through soaring spires, we ran. Clumsy, heavy steps lightened as our own rhythms began to fall into sync with the endemic cadences enveloping us, and we felt leggy and fleet as the deer as we moved. 

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And north we continued until we came to rest among the silver firs and yellow cedars and white pines and mountain hemlocks growing in the shadow of the mighty volcano. Among the huckleberry and Sitka valerian and Seussian pasqueflower pods we laid down our burdens and leaned our backs against fat trunks. We found there, among Patriarchs and young friends both, a renewal of courage and faith and timeless devotion. And it was there, among sentinels standing guard against the fallacy of thinking ourselves important, that our shoulders and our humor and our creative spark fully shook loose. 

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We were definitely in it for trees. And like any travelers in search of Avalon, we met mystery and fire, solace and water, magic and healing along the way. For the trees are nothing if not arcane. And in their shadows, in their depths, our follies and triumphs fade allowing us to begin again and begin again. And still begin yet again.  

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Unknowable

I’m working on a personal project right now that has to do with my family’s history. It revolves around a family incident that happened when my mother was barely out of toddlerhood, a tragedy that changed the trajectory of, well, everything really. 

When I sat down and began writing, I had this image in my mind of who each of the players were. I began to sketch out these people I knew, my grandmother and my grandfather, people whose expressions and voices were so familiar to me. It didn’t take long, however, before I remembered what we all have some basic awareness of: that knowing someone and knowing someone are hardly the same thing.

I was struck by all that I don’t know, all that will forever remain a mystery now that they are gone. The grandmother that I knew was a woman in her 50s and 60s, long-since divorced, forty years after the incident I’m writing about. The grandmother that I’ve heard about through my own mother is someone else entirely. And the woman who married at 17, the one before her husband went off to be damaged in the way only war can damage a person, the one who had yet to lose her children…who was she? Where do I find her? Hidden in the shy smiles in old photographs? In the words of love scribbled on the backs of photos shipped off to her man in uniform gallantly serving overseas? And what of that man? Who was he before the war, before the guilt and the loss and the heartbreak? He’d already known hardship and trauma by the time they married, but isn’t there some kind of inherent hope in the mere act of matrimony? A belief that the two of you can build something new, something strong and fresh together? When did that hope die, exactly? Somewhere in the rubble he photographed in Hiroshima, or did it suffer its final death throes alongside his son?

We live our lives surrounded by our loved ones, parents and grandparents and siblings and sometimes aunts and uncles and cousins and lifelong friends. We spend decades saying goodnight to a beloved partner or our children and we can so easily forget that knowing their voices and precisely how their eyes scrunch up at the corners when they smile, or what their favorite song is or how they take their coffee is different from knowing them. Is it even possible to really know another human? Hell, it feels nearly impossible most days to be truly honest in my knowing of myself. So I suppose not. 

But isn’t that such a beautiful mystery? The slew of tiny memories and hidden corners and buried treasure hidden within each of us? To be able to spend a lifetime next to those we love and discover newness and uncharted depth within their hidden realms? We are all such messy swirls of dark and light, such untidy tapestries full of the pinprick holes made by the small hurtful words and little rejections, of the tears created when our hearts are ripped by pain, of the stitches where kind words landed at just the right moment or our love was reflected in another’s eyes or a forest showed us how to begin to mend ourselves. For every piece of ourselves that we share with the world, there are an infinite number that never see the light of day, that live within us weaving the complex beings that we are. 

To recognize our inability to know or be known is to recognize that each person holds within them a magical mystery, an infinity of possibility. This we have in common, this each of us shares. I do not know where your ragged edges might be frayed, or when my hasty words might add girth to what had been only a pinprick hole, so I will do my best to tread carefully and with compassion. I will do my best to truly see you and treat you as the wondrous enigma, the boundless promise, the unknowable and undoubtedly flawed human that you are, that we all are.

Some small bits can be gleaned from faded sepia photographs and handwritten scrawl. Some bits can be inferred from empathy and attention to what is said between the words. But I will never know who my grandmother was, not the 17 year old and not the 63 year old whose voice I can still hear clearly after all these years without her. I will never know my mother or my sweet husband or my dearest friends. Their innermost selves will remain always out of reach, sparkling starry skies full of infinite galaxies, always a mystery, always a wonder.

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Dreaming...

...of pink skies and flowing water and all that the coming year might hold.

Farewell, 2016.

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From My Journal Recently

A few little snippets and scribblings out of my journal of late...

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“It is sometimes better to travel hopefully than to arrive” {a fortune cookie fortune that I glued in}

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Summer is a time of fast, hot metabolism…fertile, fecund growth at rates that are downright alarming. It’s also a time to embrace the change that comes with that growth…even when some growing pains are involved. I’m seeking everyday to embrace these growing pains, to stay with the discomfort and look it square in the eye. I want to be brave and step into this new life with my eyes and heart wide open, to greet Fear and Uncertainty as the entwined lovers of my dear friends, Adventure and Living. I want to live in the wonder of a life that says YES (even if sometimes with a slight tremor) rather than the wondering of a life that says “no” or “not now” or “someday.”

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I commute to work now. It’s been years since I had a daily commute…more than a decade if you don’t count law school. I’d forgotten how lovely a little time to transition between home and work can be, the ability to wind up or wind down, the quiet time in the car for contemplation and reflection. We spend so much time rushing willy nilly from here to there, from this task to that, and it dawned on me today how much opportunity we let slip by when we ignore the value of transitions. The pause between breaths, the dreamy possibilities in the half-waking of early morning, the closing of a task well-done and the opening of a fresh challenge, the tipping point between hanging on and letting go. I vow to pay closer attention to the moments in-between, to the tiny spaces where possibility or truth or rest might be hiding…

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I’m reading The Emerald Mile right now. It’s a dangerous book for me in my current state. The craving I’ve felt for big water, for a wild and untamed river, has nearly choked me lately. This summer has been chock-full of everything to do with our move and our camper and preparing to leave this place we’ve called home. Little time has been left for fog-filled mornings casting flies into a gurgling brook or paddling rubber into whitewater, or even for putting one foot in front of the other on a mountain trail. I feel the lack deep in my body. I'm downright cranky with it. There is a place in my center that is parched and shriveled, all papery and thin and dry, desperately thirsty and in need of a river’s quenching respite.  I won’t go another season without a river, without knowing each curve and unforgiving wave. I just won’t do it.

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I just bought a plane ticket to Greece for a fast trip to Athens in September. Four full days. That’s all I’ll have. I want to capture the story of those four fast days: the smell of the city in the first hours of the day, the taste of each morsel, the heat of the afternoon Mediterranean sun. I want to capture Terry’s effort and grace as she marathons in the birthplace of marathons. I want to look, to notice, to see and, perhaps with words and my camera capture just a tiny slice to bring home with me.

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I’ve owed you guys these images for awhile…sometimes it takes me a bit to get around to sharing things here in this space. Mount Rainier National Park and the Hoh Rainforest and the glorious beauty of the Pacific Northwest…