Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Sun, Dec 28 to Tues, Dec 30, 2008: Fifth Trans-American Voyage

Sunday, Dec. 28th: Connecticut to Terre Haute, IN.
The weather decided to warm up the day that I left, and I drove in and out of patches of fog for most of the morning. The mist rose up from the trees as the snow below them melted, and I wished that I could have spent some time walking around within it.

The drive was fairly uneventful, and I was able to enjoy a beautiful sunset with the silhouettes of trees dark against the bright colors of the sky. Just before I stopped for the evening, I saw a massive slow-moving shooting star directly in front of me above the road, so bright that it outshined the headlights of the oncoming highway traffic. Big wish. :)

Monday, Dec. 29th: Terre Haute, IN to Golden, CO.
Before I left CT, I saw on the news that there was supposed to be flooding across much of the midwest. The rivers and streams of the midwest did not disappoint, and I even saw lakes spreading out across pieces of land that were formerly cornfields. Animals were out full-force, and I saw several flocks of ducks, a solitary heron contemplating the highway traffic, one white-tailed deer running alongside the highway and trying to race the cars, 2 more white-tailed deer grazing beside the road completely ignoring the traffic, and many hawks seated on trees or fence posts.

The sunset was calm and even, and its colors spread slowly across the horizon as if they were leaking into the fabric of the sky. As it set, I noticed a most beautiful sight: the bowl of a slender crescent moon pointed directly up at bright Venus, and in a perfect diagonal from Venus to the moon, below and to the right of the moon, was Jupiter. Earthshine illuminated the less brilliantly lit portion of the moon's disc. When the sun sank below the horizon, I noticed another small bright object directly below Jupiter, and since it was still too bright for stars to be shining in that area, decided that it was probably Mercury. I think this was the most beautiful display that I've seen by the planets in a long time.

As always, the mixed bag of emotions I experience upon returning to Colorado is hanging around my neck: happiness and relief at being "home", and sadness at being "away from home". I still can't believe that seeing the ocean made me cry so much, and was saddened when I crossed the Mississippi again. I blew it a kiss and felt my heart tugging out of my chest towards the water. It was saying goodbye, for now.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Sat, Dec. 27, 2008: Christmas Hike, NYC, and Northampton

I have a couple days' worth of adventures to share, so here goes!

Thurs, Dec. 25th: Christmas Hike

My parents and I headed into McLean's, a little game refuge with miles and miles of trails located near our house. We tromped through the snow and made up words to Christmas carols that we massacred while we walked, and punctuated our steps with sniffles (my parents are both getting over being sick recently).

The wonderful, rich smell of the forest was somewhat subdued under its blanket of snow, but it was there and I did my best to make up for 6 months of not smelling it at all by savoring every breath. My eyes feasted on the sight of all of the trees that I grew up loving but hadn't seen for 6 months.

It was about 40, which was nice except for the very cold breeze that cut into our necks and noses. My sister and her husband came over later in the afternoon to open presents, and that evening I spent time with friends who I haven't seen for a long time! It was a strange Christmas - we usually spend the day with my father's family, but there is a sort of "family feud" going on, so for the first time in my life we did not spend Christmas with them. It was a good Christmas though, peaceful and fun, and spent with good people.

Friday, Dec. 26th: New York City

My sister and I ventured out early in the morning to visit NYC, eager to prove to everybody that we wouldn't get lost, kidnapped, or whatever other horrible things they thought would happen to 2 young women walking around by themselves in the big city.

The beginning of the day was very stressful for me, as I had to deal with some bank issues, and I felt terrible that I was spending my day with my sister all wired up and stressed out. While I have found that most things that used to bother me I easily let go of now, money issues still get to me something fierce.

We left Grand Central and headed up 5th, visiting the public library (I always love these stone flowers)...

...Rockefeller Center (to see the tree and skating rink)...

...and St. Patrick's Cathedral...

We traveled up to the Museum of Natural History, which I only just learned exists! Before we headed in, I *finally* worked out the issues with the bank, which was a huge weight off my chest. We were both hungry and needed to rest after walking around all morning, so when we arrived the first thing we did was eat lunch. This is us being relieved:

The museum was amazing! We saw displays of plants and animals from all over the world:

One of my favorite rooms was an exhibit on Native American tribes of the pacific northwest. The walls of the room were adorned with intricate totem poles, and the displays showcased the crafts of each of the tribes (clothing and jewelry were my favorite!).

My other favorite room shouldn't come as a big shock - it was a huge room filled with beautiful rocks. It. Was. Awesome.

One of the things I enjoyed the most was showing the displays of Colorado wildlife to my sister and describing to her that yes, there really are random goats and sheep wandering around all over the place. Another was the display showing plant life in the rain forests in Washington state - my stomach had butterflies when I first saw it from across the room (aw, like love at first sight?). The leaves on the trees were bigger than my head! One of my greatest hopes right now is that I have the money to travel there this summer.

By the time we left the museum, it was completely dark and getting late enough that we decided it was time to head back to CT. Our walk back to Grand Central was beautiful, and it was fun to see the city lights at night. On the way home we listened to Dane Cook, and I laughed so hard I had to drive through tears! Both of us ended up with sore cheeks from laughing so much.

Sat, Dec. 27th: Northampton, MA

Today we visited Northampton, a little old factory town that was fixed up years ago, and which served as my home for about 9 months between my camping trips in New York state.

We walked around town and poked into shops, stopped for lunch, and got rained on. I don't think we've had a single sunny day since I arrived, but I've missed the fog and rain, and for the first time in a long time have been able to fall asleep to the beautiful sound of rain falling on the roof right over my head. I think my family drives each other a little nuts sometimes, but it was fun spending time with everyone before I head out...which I think will happen bright and early tomorrow morning. It's strange having a heart separated into pieces over places - at this point, it feels like both Connecticut and Colorado are home and not home at the same time.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Weds, Dec. 24, 2008: Your Wedding

Today brought the crazy fun of my cousins' children running all over my parents' house, and my cousins running after the children and instructing them to be careful with the piano, a footstool, chairs, tables, lamps... basically all of the nice things that my parents have started putting around the house now that my sister and I are out.

Today brought a new generation of relatives with music in their souls, and my piano sang under their fingers. Its notes resonated in the little corner of my heart that exists only to hear its voice, and I wished once again that I could just strap it onto my car and haul it up into my apartment... that or a wish that I had taken up a more portable instrument as a child, which would have pretty much been any other instrument that exists.

Today brought a solid group of people who are family, or who have known me for so long that they're more related to me than some of my relatives. I was so happy to have normal conversations with them and was not at all overwhelmed with questions of my personal life, which I had been fearing before their arrival.

Today brought the continuation of many traditions: my brother-in-law's grandmother's delicious biscuits, Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, the passing along of 2 boxes full of My Little Ponies to the delight of my young cousin, ganging up on people with my sister and her husband in various combinations, etc.

Today brought me being weirded out, when my cousin gave me a hug goodbye and said that the next time he'll see me will be at my wedding. Given that I haven't seen him probably since his wedding, this is entirely possible, but it gave me a start. I found that I have entirely lost my desire to share any information about anyone I date with my family, because I think it's just as difficult for them as it is for me when things end up not working out. I have seen them open their home and hearts to everyone I've introduced them to in the past, and I am saddened by seeing them give their kindness to someone who ends up not being around anymore. In our family, we were raised to believe that people should treat each other well, should be respectful, should have concern for others, and I've learned through some very difficult lessons that not everyone in the world was raised with the integrity and values that my parents worked to pass on to my sister and me. Both of my cousins who visited today didn't find their loves until later in life, and one cousin had her first child at 35. I don't think they know it, but they give me hope that the best is still yet to come...though I'd still rather it come sooner than later, later is better than never for certain. Most importantly, I just want it to be right.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tues, Dec. 23, 2008: Aaaat Laaaaaaaaaaast...

All of life
Is in one drop of the ocean
Waiting to go home
Just waiting to go home
-Jack Johnson

The beautiful satisfaction and fulfillment in Etta James' voice says it best... but the love that fills me is for the ocean, which I finally had the honor of visiting today. Its absence in my life left a hole in my spirit whose size I didn't even recognize, until I felt my heart soar at the sound of the waves just beyond the sand dune that separated my eyes from the water. The full impact of the sight and sound and smell hit me as I crested the hill, and the piece of my spirit that had been silently mourning its absence rushed through my eyes. I stood for minutes with my mouth open, unable to move as its presence poured into every hungry corner of me. I can only hope that someday I will know what it is like to be paralyzed in this way by a love shared with another person.

The beach was almost deserted, and after a brief exchange with the only other creatures on the sand, I was alone. (The creatures were a "joe sea captain", as my father calls any man with the weathered look of one who lives by the sea, and his tiny dog. The man extended his hand to me and it was filled with polished white pieces of sea glass. As he shook his palm, I could faintly hear the sounds of the pieces clinking against each other over the rushing progression of the waves).

Monday, December 22, 2008

Sun, Dec 21 to Mon, Dec 22, 2008: Cross-Country Christmas

Day 1: December 21st - Golden, CO to Cloverdale, IN

Happy Solstice, Merry Yule, and thank everything that we've finally reached the pivot point of the season: from now until the beautiful month of June, I look forward to watching the sunlight hours grow longer and longer.

I woke up not quite as bright and early as I originally hoped, which was not entirely unexpected as I've never been very good at getting up early and ready quickly in the morning. I spent my last moments in my apartment gazing out the window at the glowing salmon-colored foothills, bathed in their sunrise light, as I gave my kitten the last chin rubs she'll get until my co-worker stops by to check on her at some point during the week. She gazed up at me with a mixture of crazed energy that wanted to start racing around the room and submission to the grudgingly accepted affection. For my part, I was half engaged in pampering the little creature in my arms, and half wanting to shake her little face in anger over the plant she spilled all over my bedroom late the previous night. For the sake of goodbye, I let that emotion go and just enjoyed holding her.

As I drove through Golden towards the highway, my eyes unexpectedly teared up and I was surprised by the strength of emotion that I felt over my bond with the little town. It's the first place that I've ever intentionally chosen to live on my own, and I really do feel at home there. The mesas, canyons, and shrubby foothills have forged a connection with my heart, the strength of which I had previously not recognized.

The foothills shifted from orangey pink to steel blue as the sun rose, and in my rear view mirror they seemed almost the same color as the sky. The stark white of the snow-covered highest peaks appeared to float independently, suspended in a wash of gray blue.

As I crossed the eastern prairie of the state I was surprised to see that there was no snow on the ground, and laughed as relentless balls of tumbleweed bounced across the highway. For some reason they seem more like a summer occurrence to me, but their apparently seasonless acrobatics were amusing.

About halfway through Kansas, I crossed paths with the aftermath of a very thorough ice storm. Each blade of grass alongside the highway was individually coated with a sheath of crystal; every inch of the fence that ran parallel to the road glistened in the sunlight; even the tumbleweed, tangled fervently in the fence's embrace, sparkled like half-fallen chandeliers. As I drove and the sun's light shifted along the ground, the blades of grass seemed larger than life, each being illuminated to demand appreciation for a fraction of an instant before the spotlight leapt to its neighbor blade.

I was recently asked where the trees begin on the journey eastward, and at the time I responded, "Indiana"... or at least, that's when I usually notice with delight that the farm fields are carved into thick groves of trees. During this journey, I tried to pay closer attention to when they begin, and was surprised by the answer: eastern Kansas. Near the Flint Hills, sycamores and half-sized oaks begin to make their appearance among the many cottonwoods, and the sight of the mottled white bark and tenacious rust-colored leaves of the familiar trees made my heart jump and smile. The eastern prairie was a sea of grasses, woven of gold and copper and hammered out into soft hills, supporting a fabric of traversing bands of color for the admiration of passers-by.

The sunset behind me was reminiscent of deep summer, with the sun as an elliptical brilliant orange disc dipping behind the hills. Twilight was short-lived, and darkness consumed the sky shortly after the sun disappeared. The glow of St. Louis beckoned me forward, and in the diffused city light I drank in the sight of the Mississippi River as I crossed it. Real...water....

Day 2: December 22nd - Cloverdale, IN to CT

I was on the road before the sun, and watched as it hesitantly poured its watery pale light through the clouds and layers of ice crystals in the atmosphere that stood between its energy and my eyes. At some point during my darkened drive the night before, I passed through the transition of prairie to trees and found myself comfortably set in the eastern woodlands. The pale morning sunlight fell upon farm fields filled not with beef cattle but with sheep, clusters of tall, straight silos, and well-tended farmhouses encircled by expansive porches that begged to be lazed around on.

The colors were so typical of New England in the winter that my face cracked a huge grin on its own. The fields were covered by a pale golden grass, the sky was a light silver, and the trees lent their deep brown gray to the palate. There was no secret riot of color among exposed rocks, bushes huddling along creek beds, or grasses as there is in Colorado, but its simplicity was so familiar that it struck some sort of primal "home" chord inside of me.

The farms of Indiana continued through Ohio, where I was greeted by some nasty black ice and saw more than a fair share of cars flipped over on the side of the road. With each scene I passed, I voiced a hope that everyone involved was ok. The well-tended farms tapered off as I entered Pennsylvania and undertook my favorite leg of the journey: I-80 across the northern part of the state. The road leads through the middle of rolling forested hills for hours...and hours...and hours. Few farms, fewer towns, and trees as far as the eye can see - which is really only up to the crest of the hill in front of you, but it's satisfying all the same. My eyes absorbed the beauty of the trees, lakes, and rivers that sprung up abundantly among the hills; I found myself aching to leave my car behind and take off into the trees on foot.

A small snowstorm greeted me near Scranton, PA but quickly tapered off. The drive became increasingly familiar as it progressed towards my childhood home, and the very fact that it was so well known to me is what made it increasingly odd. Everything looked the same...felt the same...aside from the snow cover and lack of leaves, it's identical to the place I left in June - even the road that connects my hometown to the highway is still under construction. It felt very strange to have my route feel simultaneously both familiar and foreign. I somehow made record time to my parents' house and plopped my things on the floor shortly after 9pm, and realized that saying hello to them felt both familiar and foreign as well. I suppose that's probably a normal feeling, but I am still not accustomed to feeling it towards my parents.

Those are my thoughts for now... time to pass out for a blissful night's sleep. :)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Fri, Dec. 12, 2008: At One Point, You Sucked

Sometimes people send me the strangest comments about my blog. This time, a random stranger messaged me on my facebook page to let me know that at one point, I sucked. Um... stuff about everyone sucks sometimes, which means that continues to be a truth for me! I find that statement to be odd for multiple reasons, namely that it comes from someone who went out of his way to let me know that at one point I sucked. Another reason is that I'm not sure how anyone could read my blog and not see my awareness that I still have lots of things about me and about life that I'm struggling to learn: some lessons merging into my spirit with greater ease than others. I hope that I continue to embrace the fact that things about me suck for the rest of my days, because then I will always be engaged in learning about myself and the world.

Shall I share my less fun adventures: my financial worries, job stress, fears: of having my heart broken, of the health of others close to me, of making wrong choices in my life? There is still a great deal of imperfection in me, just like there is in everybody. I continue to wonder if our spirits are perfect, and if so then why do our minds cause us to act in imperfect ways?

I'm fairly certain that I claimed to be perfect at the wise age of 7, when I was the queen of my own little world. Now I'm just happy to be perfectly me, and accept who I am, complete with all the lessons I still need to learn, fears I have to face, and habits I have yet to change. Honestly, with that acceptance in place, I couldn't care less about the other things. That's true love.

So, random strange person who thinks I sucked at one point, it's not that I sucked but that some things about me did, and still do - just like you. :)

On a different note, my other computer won't connect to the internet for some reason... something about a proxy server and contacting my internet provider. For that reason and the fact that I'm saving up money for my return to Connecticut for the holidays (YAY!!!!), I probably won't be traveling far or posting pics for the next week and a half. I do want to go hiking tomorrow though... so we'll see how long that really lasts. :)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Weds, Dec 10, 2008: Cathedral

Today my soul is a forest cathedral, with massive trees towering in the space above my head as they stretch their branches towards the sky. Sunlight filters through the fluttering leaves, stirred by a gentle breeze into flickering patterns like reflections from waves. The air is warm and fragrant with the smells of leaves turning to soil beneath my feet, pine needles, flowers, and the scent of wet earth emanating from the shadows and secret hiding places under roots and rocks. Soft earth and grass pass alternately under my feet, warm sun on my skin, delicious air in my lungs. Streams run smoothly by, water slipping over and around rocks, in no hurry but always on their way somewhere. The trees on their way higher into the sky, the breeze weaving its way through the tree trunks, the water in the soil on its way to the tree roots, or to the air. My soul's landscape changes, but today it is this.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tues, Dec 2, 2008: Tail Feathers

After expressing my desires in my last blog post not to have people in my life who hang on my tail feathers, I was surprised to receive several inquiries from people wondering if I was referring to them. I find this question to be interesting because only the person choosing to spend time with me can determine if this is the case.

I dream of having people in my life for whom the idea of being snowed in with me for 3 days with no power isn't a terrible prospect... but finding that one right person for whom it might even be a fun thing is my favorite dream of all. Someone who could sit with me by candlelight and tell stories, or talk about our dreams or memories, or random thoughts about life or people; someone who would laugh with me as we waded through snow up to our chests (and of course make a snowman and toss some snowballs around... especially down your neck!); someone to hold me and just enjoy existing together; someone to make a painting with, or compose a song played on random stuff around the house; someone to take turns reading a story with... someone who sees me as an amazing person who goes places, not as a person who goes to amazing places (or maybe an amazing person who goes to amazing places? Because they are truly amazing!). I hope to find a person who thinks spending time with me is wonderful simply because it is spent with me, and I hope to find a person for whom I feel the same.

Since my reasoning is based on the thoughts and feelings of the people who choose to spend time with me, I can't really answer the question for anyone else. It's about finding someone to fly with who is complete unto himself; someone who doesn't use me for my ability to make him feel good about himself or because I make his life exciting.

That being said, I don't think that I have people in my life right now who hold me back, though I have in the past. At this point in my life I can't see myself tolerating it. I've had the good side of things too: intense Mario Kart competitions, sitting around and singing duets while he played the guitar, creating art together... I think that reflecting on both has shown me how unacceptable it feels for me to allow someone to slow me down or hold me back because he can't fly on his own. Flying as 2 birds feels so much better. :)

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Sun, Nov. 30, 2008: Human Ocean

Sometimes I get these bizarre flashes of thought about human beings as a species. This one came to me like a sweeping aerial panorama in a movie, showing me hundreds and hundreds of busy people moving along a city street. Hundreds of spirits communicating with the world and each other through bodies, their perspectives shaped by the movement of the world as it flows around them. We are an endless sea of constant change, always moving and surging and ebbing.

Always searching.

Sometimes it's easy to feel alone in this, but I'm not - none of us are. How can we be alone when we are seeking the same things? Companionship, love, friends, people to laugh with and let us know we are cared for. Someone to validate our experiences and emotions. Someone whose arms around us make everything else in the world drift away. Someone to help us to be strong when we feel weak, to make us laugh when we are angry, to help us feel whole when we feel hollow.

How can we ever feel alone when these common desires are a singular thread that weaves itself in and out of every human existence? Yet we do.

It's so sad when a kiss is a distant memory; when you forget what it feels like to have someone hold your hand or to be on the receiving end of the look and smile that make you feel like the only person in the world. I think of all of the times I had these things and took them for granted, and it breaks my heart. I think one of the biggest things I've realized lately is how much I wish I had appreciated them more, because love is not something that likes to be taken lightly. My last kiss was the wind blowing my hair against my lips, and my last hug was me curled up with myself under my comforter, nestling my back into the empty bed next to me.

I'm at a point in my life now where I don't want to be with just anybody. In fact, it would feel like a betrayal of my self to be with someone if I didn't think he was the one I've been searching for. But sometimes being single... just... sucks....

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Fri, Nov. 28, 2008: Water Seeking

I woke up this morning with several ideas of places to visit floating around in my head, and for once let the weather guide me in the direction of my adventures. Lake McConaughy was the only spot I looked up that wasn't snowy today - sweet, I would go water seeking! There is an area north of the lake that is completely covered with tiny bodies of water that I had been investigating on a map a couple of weeks ago, so I figured if I finished at the big lake and there was still some light I could head up to the little lakes.

I haven't been out to the prairie since my drive back from my parents' house this summer, and was happy to be filled once more with awe of the big blue sky.

Driving away from the mountains, I could see them behind me looming over the prairie, with massive snow clouds hovering over the mountains, and the endless bright blue sky lording over them all. Their dimensions fit neatly inside of each other like a set of stacking dolls.

I experienced many forms of water today, and the first was a fog stirred up as the clouds kissed the ground at the top of a hill. I drove in and out of clouds until the prairie deposited me in the paradise of its golden openness. Flocks of birds crossed the sky above me, the shapes of their formations mimicking the slow motion outlines of lake waves.

While speeding across Colorado and into Nebraska, I found myself thinking about the types of people who I met when I was on the dating website: the guys who don't like to read, the photographers who told me I should let them take pictures for my blog, and the guys who just wanted to tag along for the adventure (and fortunately, a couple of cool people. :) ). The guys who don't like to read obviously didn't have anything to say about my adventures, since they didn't read about them. To the photographers, who all offered to take pictures for my blog, I tried to nicely explain that my blog isn't about having perfect pictures to document my adventures, but more about me sharing the way I experience the world. (On that note, why didn't any writers offer to write my blog for me while I took pictures? I kind of wish they did... I would have started hooking them up with the photographers... XD). To the guys who just wanted to tag along for the adventure, I said nothing. I know what it feels like to want to find somebody who makes you feel alive when you don't know how to make your own self feel alive: I used to feel that way a long time ago. I'm not interested in someone hanging on to my tail feathers and dragging me down while I'm flying; I'd rather just find a partner bird to sail through the clouds and brush down along the treetops with. I'd love to find someone who is already filled with life, not someone who wants to use me for the life I am filled with. As I thought back about some of the guys I have dated, I realized that was exactly the case. And it's exhausting to have someone hanging on to my tail feathers....

At one point during my drive, I idly thought to myself that it would be nice to interact with some local people on this trip. I wondered if it would be fun to trade stories and information about the places we know. As I wondered why I haven't spoken to people on my trips, the little voice inside my head spoke up and said, "that's because you haven't needed their help yet". This thought will become significant later....

Lake McConaughy pleasantly surprised me with its size - it was actually lake sized! The rocky bluffs that surrounded much of the lake reminded me of the ocean along the coast of Maine, and I was filled with happy memories of the times I have spent there while I picked my way along the lake's edge.

There was a lower side of the lake as well, which was smaller and seemed much more peaceful.

The day was still early, so I decided to head up to Crescent Lake, the first of the many tiny lakes north of the big lake.

The area was really interesting and strange: all those tiny lakes were dotted among the dry prairie. I would love to know how they got there and what keeps them from drying up in the strong sun.

Shortly after I took the picture of the windmill above, I made my big mistake of the day... or at least, it seems like a mistake but I'm not sure it was. I saw this neat lookout tower and wanted to turn around to climb it... and picked the absolute worst spot on the entire 60 mile stretch of road to turn around. To make a long story short, I got myself stuck in really deep sand. As in, I was stuck off the road AGAIN, after swearing not to let it happen after the incident on Oh My God Road last winter. Well, I told myself as I kneeled on the ground, digging the silky soft sand away from my tires, at least it wasn't snow this time.... On Monday, two students in one of my counseling groups were enthusiastically reminiscing about a trip they took to Florida a few summers ago, and how soft the beach sand was. I couldn't help thinking of their words, and wondering how the sand in the middle of Nebraska got so flippin soft!

I was frustrated and scared when I realized that my car was completely stuck and I would need someone to help me. (Also, I have no idea what the designers of my car were thinking when they designed the tiniest pocket of all time for my jack to fit in... thanks... I couldn't get it out at all. o.0).

Ok so... help. I packed up everything I thought I might need for the next couple of hours (that's about as long as I had before the sun set), and stood outside my car for a minute wondering which way to go. I heard a dog barking from the north, and figured that where there's a dog there must be a person.

As I walked I was feeling pretty nervous about finding someone to help me, but took a deep breath and looked around. I was surrounded by beautiful grassy hills and the road stretched out before me like a narrow driveway. To my right was a female deer, and as I watched her she began to gracefully pogo herself across the hills, all of her feet leaving the ground at the same time as she leaped. Boing... boing... boing... and, nervous as I was, I started laughing at her little head bobbing in and out of view.

That's when I suddenly began wondering if people reach a place in their growth where idle thoughts are no longer idle, and all thoughts are speaking with intent to the universe. I realized that my musings about wanting to talk to a local, about wanting to go for a walk in the prairie, about wanting to enjoy a beautiful slow sunset, might be about to come true.

And they did. The barking of the dog set me off in the direction of the ranger's station, which was luckily only about 2 miles from my car. I made it most of the way there, walking in beautiful peace beside the riot of sunset colors dancing in the clouds, before a huge truck (YAY!) pulled up and asked me if I was the owner of the car that was stuck. I said yes, he invited me in and introduced himself as the ranger. This water I encountered as the flow of life.

His parents were in the car and we chatted as we headed back to rescue Philippe. It turns out they're all from Kansas, though the ranger most recently lived in Alaska. He told me that the tiny lake area covered 40,000 acres, and the 24,000 acres to the east of the road we were on was free land for anyone to walk on wherever they pleased. He told me that there is a type of endangered plant that grows only on the bare sandy hilltops of the area, and that the hilltops used to go bare naturally when the bison would travel through and graze the area clean. Now they are trying to use cattle to simulate the process. We talked about the grasslands of Kansas, and what it's like to live in Alaska in a place that's only accessible by plane.

Pulling my car out of the sand took all of 2 minutes, during which I searched my head to see how I could possibly give these people enough thanks for not only helping me out, but allowing me to keep my dignity. :) The best I could think of was to shake their hands and look them in the eyes while saying "thank you" and meaning it from the bottom of my heart.

Back in my car, I was relieved that I wouldn't have to spend the night sleeping in my front seat, though I was looking forward to having a campfire in the middle of the road and watching the stars. >.> (I have a bundle of firewood in the back of my car in case I ever randomly want to have a campfire. I told someone that once. They thought I was kidding...).

My drive continued through the land of tiny lakes, taking me past herds of deer and cattle, and flocks of pheasants who liked to take off in front of my car just as I was passing them. The sky grew dark just as I met the main road, and I drove across Nebraska singing at the top of my lungs with relief.

But still... I WAS disappointed about not seeing the stars. Towards the western end of the state, I found an exit that dumped me onto a tiny country road. I bundled myself up and left my car and... my heart melted into the sky. I started crying and laughing at the same time as I looked up at the most beautiful sky I have ever seen above me. The land around me was absolutely pitch black, and the sky was pulsing with more stars than I've ever seen in one place. The Milky Way cut a bold path across the middle of the stars, and somehow my "thank you" seemed to mean a bit more as I shouted it right into the heart of the galaxy. There were so many stars that finding the familiar constellations became a challenging game, and the sky and I played it together until I was too cold to stay any longer.

As I crossed the border into Wyoming, the ground became wet and the sky grew overcast. This water I encountered in the form of rain, which seemed to begin just as I crossed the border. I've noticed that phenomenon several times out here. The state boundaries seem so arbitrary, just straight lines drawn in the middle of nowhere... but if weather changes so close to them... does weather happen in straight lines?

Somewhere during my trip across the southeast corner of Wyoming, my heart stopped singing. I'm not sure exactly when I noticed this, but it was a shock when I did. My heart has been dancing along, singing its happy little song to itself... then all of a sudden, it was singing nothing. Not even a sad song... just silence. After the beautiful day that I had, with its happy ending, I couldn't understand why my heart would become silent. I still don't really understand it. I just know that it makes me feel very sad, and a profound sense of loss.

The final form of water that greeted me as I approached Denver was a terrible snowstorm, which was basically a white out north of the city. As I drove closer to Golden and the beautiful foothills, it turned from white out to magic. A song that I like came on the radio and I started singing a little (I'd been singing all day but stopped in Wyoming and hadn't started again since) and my heart managed a small smile. All around me, the world was covered in beautiful white, reflecting the yellow lights of the town. Everything looked fresh and fluffy, and it felt sooo good to be almost home.

When I came in, I looked out the window and had to smile. Two of my neighbors had taken the wheels off their skateboards and were "snowboarding" down the 6 inch incline behind the building. The snow is still falling and everything looks beautiful, like a white glowing cocoon.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Tues, Nov. 25, 2008: A Few Things...

In honor of Thanksgiving, I wanted to share a few things I am thankful for, because being thankful is good. :)

~ the opportunity to grow every day
~ the stream of coincidences that has flowed its way back into my consciousness
~ sunsets and sunrises, twilight and dawn, and every hour in between
~ finally getting a real paycheck
~ my kitten, for greeting me every time I enter the door, for laying on my feet while I wash the dishes, for napping on my towel while waiting for me to get out of the shower, for looking into my eyes through heavy lids as I scratch her neck and making me feel like I'm the best thing going on in the world
~ taking the "long way" home, even if that long way takes me 3 hours out of my way so I can watch the sun set somewhere new in the mountains (not that I just got home from doing that or anything... >.>)
~ shadows and light
~ my neighbors for always cooking such delicious smelling food
~ the doctors who saved my life in the first few minutes of my existence and gave me the gift of a chance to live
~ my friends, for sticking with me through good and bad, and for never failing to bring smiles and laughter into my life
~ hope, and the fact that becoming jaded has never been considered as an option
~ having a fun body to explore the world with
~ finding a fantastic dance teacher
~ my parents, for building up my spirit, for letting me speak my mind, for showing me that life is beautiful, for their endless support...
~ the smell of rain, snow, and sunshine
~ adventures
~ having my own place
~ my sister, for telling me that she would date me if she was a guy and not my sister, for respecting me enough to ask for advice, for forgiving me for all those times she sledded right off whatever sledding trail I rigged up and into a tree...
~ and one of the biggest things I'm thankful for lately, thank you for letting me be me!

I hope everyone has a wonderful holiday (you know, the one that's just about being thankful for the blessings in your life, not the one that's about smallpox infested blankets...).

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sun, Nov. 23, 2008: Lily Mountain

Lily Mountain kicked my butt; however, it was completely worth it as it's the highest hike I've ever done and the view from the top is among the most beautiful things I've seen in this state.

The view at the top was 360 degrees around, and the temperature felt like negative zero. (as opposed to positive zero...). Here is the view roughly to the northeast, with the lake in the center of Estes Park roughly in the center of the picture. Beyond the mountains there was a small glimpse of straight prairie lines.

This view is the one I could have stayed up there all night for. I was looking towards the west and Rocky Mountain National Park.

I went up with a friend, and we spent as long as we could at the top despite the wind just to enjoy the view as much as possible. The sun was filtering in and out between gauzy layers of clouds, creating bursts of rays as they passed. The beauty of it brought tears to my eyes which were dispatched by the wind as it nipped at my face.

For once I find myself with little to say, which is not a bad feeling. It actually feels pretty good. :)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Weds, Nov. 19, 2008: A Visit With the Stars

Being possessed of an excess of energy last night after dance class, I headed up Lookout Mountain to spend some time with the stars. With the exception of the thundering hoof beats of a solitary deer who I startled out of the trees in front of me, the night was silent and I had the place all to myself.

I reached a clearing in the trees and sunk back into the earth, opening my heart to the sky. I often speak to pieces of nature when I'm alone with them and have ever since I was a child; it's my favorite way of communicating with spirit. More than any other thing in nature though, the stars have an immediate and powerful connection with my heart. Sitting down with them is similar to the experience I had with a friend opening my heart chakra with reiki: everything both dark and light inside of my heart pours out at the same time, all tangled up in each other.

The flood of feelings usually ends in laughter, and last night was no exception. I was filled up with peace and contentment as I lay in the darkness. The little town where I live isn't perfect, but there are definitely some things about it that I enjoy very much. Its proximity to the mountains is one; driving up to the stars last night only took a little longer than walking out into my own backyard.

Last night, I had a dream that my 2 favorite exes merged into one person, and that I met that person. (yes, there is such a thing as a favorite ex. And if not, then it's just now been invented). It was a good dream. :)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Sun, Nov. 16, 2008: Collegiate Peaks Sunset

This morning I woke up early and went for a hike with one of my friends from high school who lives out here. I came home and watched a movie... and when the movie was over, realized that I still had half the day left but felt like I'd already done a full day's worth of stuff.

The idea randomly popped into my head to travel down to the Collegiate Peaks to watch the sun set. It was one of the most absolutely beautiful experiences that I've had in my life, and I was literally breathless several times as I watched the sun paint the world before my eyes. (The panorama is the best I could do with blending the frames. I'm still learning. :) ).

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Sat, Nov. 15, 2008: Rejected: The Trilogy (or simply, My Heart)

11-14: Rejected: The Trilogy
Yesterday, life took the shape of a drive through the mountains south of Denver. I followed one of my favorite roads, Rt. 67, past Sedalia and into the foothills. 67 is lined with horse pastures and homes centered on enough land that they don't compete for space to breathe in. I wish I could adequately describe it, or photograph it, but for some reason it continues to elude me. Here are my attempts:

The road turns into a little dirt path and winds you up into the mountains. When it descends again it flows alongside the Platte River, which is actually a good-sized body of water and one of the reasons I enjoy this area so much.

I had started reading The Alchemist earlier that morning, and a lot of the personal philosophies that I have come to hold close to me were echoed in the author's words. He stated that as children we already know our destines, but as we grow we lose sight of them for various reasons: expectations put on us, fears, failing to believe in ourselves, etc.

I've had several people ask me lately if I have a "bucket list", which is a list of things I'd like to do or see before I die. I don't have one, and I'm not really interested in creating one, because life isn't about living for fear of death. I think that life is about living for the love of life. Instead, I looked back at my dreams as a child, or at least the ones that I remember now.

As a child, I:
- wanted to be a nurse, teacher, or dancer.
- thought that I would get married sometime during the year when I was 28.
- was attracted to New Hampshire, Colorado, Washington, Oregon, and New Zealand - anywhere with mountains close to the ocean and lots of trees.
- wanted to live in a tree house (as in, a real house built in a tree).
- wanted to be picked up by a prince riding his horse through the woods.
- wanted to be an expert on wild plants, especially cooking and healing with them, and surviving off the land with my knowledge of plants.

When I look at this list, these things are still very close to my heart. Some of them probably won't happen, like being married this year (unless I suddenly become mentally unstable which I certainly hope won't happen. o.0) or being carried away by some random prince riding a horse by me in the woods. I still love helping and teaching professions, love to dance, find myself drawn to the idea of a place with mountains and ocean, think it would be amazing to live in a tree house, and as for plants... that's the one thing on the list that made me think a bit more. I probably know more about plants than most people since I spend so much effort trying to learn about them whenever I get a chance, but as a kid I wanted to be REALLY into plants. As in, the village witch or healer or whatever. I wanted to be able to run away into the forest and live as long as I wanted by relying on my knowledge of the earth around me. Now I am wondering what I can do to get myself closer to that dream without it costing too much....

I have lately been wondering: if our souls have the ability to show us the way, then why were we given minds and egos to get in our way of listening to our souls speaking? I couldn't stop crying when the author in the book began addressing this question. I don't know if his answers are right, but they are one person's answers and they moved me: our hearts feel doubt and fear only because they don't want us to get hurt, but that when we are following our destinies the pain we encounter is all part of our path to our treasures. He said that as we get older, our hearts stop speaking our destines as loudly if we are the type of people who ignore them, because it makes the person suffer to know that they didn't follow their destiny.

Aaah it's making me cry again thinking about it!

* * * *

11-15: or simply, My Heart

This morning I woke up early and decided to go on a hike by myself. While heading up the mountain on a narrow little snowy path, my ego was storming beside me. I realized that if I was telling someone that I liked him from my soul, and he was saying no from his soul, then the end result was that my soul was rejected! My ego took the shape of a furious little fairy racing along beside me, hurling pebbles off the mountain and kicking tree roots with a horrible scowl on her face. In furious indignation she folded her arms across her chest and simmered under the little black cloud over her head.

In the moment that I became aware of this separation of my soul and ego, I looked up to see a solitary mule deer buck staring up at me through a frame of evergreen branches. His eyes locked with mine and we gazed at each other for a few moments before he leapt off behind the trees and disappeared.

When he left, I continued on and wondered what he was telling me. The only personal significance that I'm aware of a buck having for me has to do with my warcraft character Asterope. In the last story that I wrote for her, she was met in the woods by a white buck who was actually a transformed druid (she didn't know this at the time). While I never put the rest of the story to paper, I knew in my head that he was her one love. So for now, my best thought is that the separation of my soul and ego somehow has to do with my love. Not such a big stretch. :)

After my encounter with the deer, my ego and soul started having some conversations with each other that made me want to giggle out loud - which I did at times when I couldn't hear footsteps from another hiker. Imagine something like this:

Ego: Doesn't that piss you off that you were rejected?
Soul: No, everything happens for a reason.
Ego: Yeah but you were rejected!
Soul: It's ok, I feel respected and honored by his honesty.
Ego: ...Wasn't that awesome though that I just hiked up that mountain?! I didn't even know if I could do it! Plus I took that little trail all the way up to the top. There were so many plants on it, it wasn't even easy to find the trail!
Soul: Yeah, it was really nice to spend some time outside today. It was a beautiful day.
Ego: ...Right, plus I was awesome. Hey, do these wings make me look fat?
Soul: I wonder what that peppermint trident smell is. I still haven't figured it out yet, and I really want to know the plant's name and what it looks like.
Ego: I bet if I keep hiking my butt is going to look hot.
Soul: I wonder if it's a safe mint to use for cooking or teas.
Ego: Yeah I'm awesome at cooking! ...when I ever cook....
Soul: Those far snowy mountains were really beautiful from the top of the mountain. I liked sitting on the rocks in the sun and looking at them. Thanks for going up there with me.
Ego: I knew we would do it. Hey, wanna see how fast I can get back to the car?! Race ya!

I did make it down the mountain pretty quickly... actually the whole hike went fast considering that I haven't been hiking since who even knows when.

My ego and soul are definitely able to agree on one thing, though: they want me to be happy. For my ego, that is driven by the feeling that I will have succeeded in doing at least some things right if I'm happy with myself, and for my soul it's driven by the feeling that if I'm happy, I must be following my heart.