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. :)