A Fresh Start

We arrived in Tucson late last week and have spent the last few days simply getting our bearings as we introduce ourselves to this brand new place we’ll call home for the next twelve weeks. Justin began his new job yesterday and I spent the day reacquainting myself with how to fit the entirety of our life into 83 square feet. This morning has been cup after cup of coffee as I pour over my planner, review my goals for the year, and organize my thoughts around what I want to prioritize for this three-month period.

It’s been an unexpected gift, this break up of my year into three month chunks. Every new place offers me a fresh start, a defined space to course correct and begin again. Three months is enough time to dig into a project and make big strides, but not enough to allow for procrastination or too much hemming and hawing. One of my biggest takeaways from 2017 was just how quickly three months goes by and how easy it is to overestimate the amount of time available for things…we have to hit the ground running on every level to take full advantage of each location. Each time we land in a new place, I find myself coming to it with a miniature version of the same mindset I have at the start of a new year- a closing out and releasing of what did or didn’t get done in the last timeframe and a fresh resolve and re-prioritization as I turn toward the next one.

I think there is value in this and I deeply appreciate it. But it can be misleading, too. Upon realizing that something isn’t working or I haven’t made the progress hoped for, it can be easy to allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking I have to wait for the next chunk of time to begin again. Which, of course, isn’t true at all.

We can ALWAYS begin again. Always. Always. ALWAYS.

If there is a single truth I have come to believe in more fervently than any other, it is our inherent ability to begin again as many times as we need to. Over and over and over again. Every new moment is an opportunity to make different choices, to tell different stories, to find the fresh start that we are looking for to make the changes we want to make. It is never too late and “now" is always better than “someday.”

Sometimes there is a handy starting point that screams “clean slate!” at the top of its lungs and we know that this is an ideal moment to implement change. But let’s not forget that those moments aren’t the only ones that offer us the chance to begin anew, that there are less glamorous but equally qualified moments in the in-betweens that are patiently waiting for us to notice them, to take advantage of the space that they offer as well. 

We don’t have to wait for a new year or a new month or a new week or a new place. Our fresh start is always right here, always ready, whenever we are.

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In case you missed this month's newsletter (go sign up if you haven't yet...there are lots of fun tidbits and freebies that don't show up here on the blog or over on Instagram!), from now on, the print shop will be changing on a monthly basis and its theme will be tied to a charitable cause to which I will donate 10% of my gross sales from that month. If you have a cause near and dear to your heart that you would like included, I would love to hear from you!

In honor of Valentine's Day and celebrating love, this month’s print shop theme is “Feel The Love- My Love of Our Public Land” and 10% of all gross sales this month will go to The Access Fund. If you aren’t familiar with The Access Fund, they work tirelessly to protect our public lands and their website is a fantastic resource to turn to when you feel impotent in the face of the many ways our public lands are threatened. I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go spend some time on their site and support them in any way that you can.

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We had a fantastic (if too short!) trip back across country and I can't wait to share some images with you over the next few weeks! 

Into the Desert

"But in the desert, in the pure clean atmosphere, in the silence - there you can find yourself. And unless you begin to know yourself, how can you even begin to search for God?" ~Father Dioscuros

An offer for Justin's next assignment came in just last night and we've accepted. We officially know where we're heading next and have a start date and the first draft of a plan.

Tucson, Arizona.

I've never lived in the southwest corner of the United States. Never called the true desert home. The closest I've come is Texas, but I spent my time there in the Hill Country, which certainly has some desert qualities, but also grows enormous live oak trees along creek banks and hides clear blue springs behind spanish moss. Tucson is desert. True desert. Home to the sentinel saguaro and the fuzzy cholla and what seems like 17 species of rattlesnake.

We brushed by Tucson last spring on our way to Reno and were impressed. We watched a mighty storm roll through the landscape and had the smell of creosote etched forever on our hearts. It is a city that seems to have space that is readily accessible, which matters tremendously. After this time back home in New England, I'm aching to feel the wide western spaces as I break myself in once more to nomadic life.

Desert isn't always my first choice for wild places to spend time. I have a deep, deep love of huge trees and flowing water and mountains that hold secrets buried in the understory. But there is a place for desert in me too. The desert is a very good place to face down fear and truth- it has a way of stripping things away and leaving the bones bleached under it's ceaseless sun.

I suspect that I have things to learn in the desert. And I suspect that I am ready to learn them at last. It took me awhile to get here and it took a lot of work, but I am eager to listen in close to what the rattlesnake and the saguaro and the cholla have to say.

We are going into the desert. Tucson, here we come.

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A few favorite shots from when we passed through Tucson in May...

Bloom

It began drizzling as we rolled into the eastern half of Saguaro National Park (did you know that this park is split into two parts with the city of Tucson between them? This was news to us...) and the rain was a cool balm to my dusty, thirsty skin.

After more than a week in the desert, I admit that as we drove from New Mexico toward Arizona, I wasn't thinking very much about Saguaro N.P., that I was sort of expecting the same general landscape we'd been looking at since Big Bend- scrubby mesquite bushes and ochre mountains and clustered prickly pear. It wasn't that I was bored (I mean, c'mon, how does one get bored when it comes to wide spaces and even wider skies?), but it hadn't really registered that this desert would differ significantly from the desert we'd been spending time in. Which is crazy considering that we all know saguaro (pronounced sah-WAR-oh...something else we learned there...isn't the world just full of surprises?) cacti are THE cacti that we all picture when think of cacti at all, all arms and elbows and looking for all the world like they are asking for a hug or giving praise at an old time tent revival. 

I was staring out of the passenger window as we approached Tucson, caught up in my thoughts and not really seeing anything I was looking at, so Justin's exclamation startled me a bit and I craned my neck to see what he was pointing toward. Our first sighting of the mighty saguaro. They dotted the open spaces as we passed in ever increasing numbers, sentinels standing watch as we inched toward the keep.

The desert isn't the landscape that calls me home. Don't get me wrong- I genuinely appreciate it and very much treasure my time there, but when my heart hurts and calls for wilderness, it's mighty trees and secret streams and mountains rich with foliage I crave most deeply. After more than a week of heat and dust and air so dry that my skin was cracking, I looked longingly at the building storm clouds but held no real hope for rain in this desert full of cactus royalty.

The first drops fell as we got out of the truck and walked toward the visitor's center. I paused to let the wet hit my skin and took a deep breath, inhaling the distinctive smell of creosote in the rain. It was a little bit sharp and a little bit metallic and will be how I remember the Sonoran Desert smelling for the rest of my days. 

Maybe it was the rain or maybe the cool air that came with it, or maybe just simple good timing on our part, but the desert was blooming in full force. The saguaros looked as though they were holding bouquets or wearing midsummer flower crowns in preparation for dancing around the bonfire, and the prickly pear and cholla were eager to keep up with their own festive looks. There is something distinctly special about seeing tender blooms sprouting from such spiny survivalist plants. A reminder that there lies within even the prickliest among us, a fragile and tender heart. 

That night we were treated to a thunderstorm that shook the ground beneath our camper. We turned off all of our lights, pulled out a bottle of whiskey, and watched the desert light up. It flung its light and flashed its fury and the rain grabbed the dust from the air as it fell.

Just when I thought I was beginning to know the desert, she showed me her version of tall trees and lush foliage and rushing stream. And then threw in a light show to drive home her point, cheeky thing.  

Arrived

We arrived in Reno last night after driving for hours with the jagged, snow-capped peaks of the eastern Sierra Nevada mountains hugging our left side. They are glorious things to behold, those mountains, and between that view and the sound of the Truckee River that I can hear from where I sit writing this morning, I have high hopes for our time tucked in here on the California-Nevada line.

We’ve been on the road for the last couple of weeks, wandering through wide open spaces devoid of much human noise. It’s been utterly lovely to have “No Service” show up on my phone when I reach for it automatically, a gentle reminder to put it down, to look out my window at that big sky, to engage in conversation or companionable silence without distraction. 

In several places along our drive, road signs admonished us to turn off our air conditioning lest we overheat and we realized just how long it had been since we’d rolled our windows down and thrown our arms out into the wind while sliding along two-lane highways at breakneck speeds. How many ways must I learn that insulated comfort is rarely the best path?

I shot hundreds of photos and I will share many of them here over the next few weeks. But I also put my camera down sometimes. There was a night in Big Bend when we’d gone out to photograph the stars in that dark sky where so little man-made light interferes, only to remember that we were mere days from the full-moon, it’s celestial light dimming the stars. So I packed up my camera and instead we stood still in the middle of the road, alone and silent. We looked out over a teeming desert landscape, glowing in the moonlight, and we listened. We heard no cars. Or trains. Or planes. We heard no sounds of man. But over the cicadas and nocturnal rustlings and mysterious tiny crunches, we heard the yipping of coyotes nearby and finally one long, lovely howl at that moon before the pack moved away. It was some time before we could stir from that magic and days before the awe of it faded. 

We are excited to investigate this new temporary home, to see what lies beyond the casino reputation, to cast for trout in this river and rest our cheeks against the ponderosa pines in these mountains. To redefine “home” once again and to do our work, the work of being here, the work of learning and growing and embracing transition and fleetingness.