season of change


Autumn officially arrived on September 23rd, but, for me, the month of October has always signified the heart of fall. It is my favorite month. I know it is a time of ending. Leaves fall, animals migrate, hibernate, or enter a phase of topor. Grasses dry up and flowers die off. The days get shorter and the temperatures begin to drop. The world slows down. It is my favorite time of year. It is one where I, conversely, become more invigorated, more energetic. It is when fresh ideas take root. It is when I most get the desire to lace up my hiking boots or put on my traveling shoes. It might seem that we took to the road at the end of the season when most people travel, but, for me, it was the right time to get started. The beginning of the journey was, as you who have followed this blog so far know, a challenge. Many of those initial challenges have passed. The day-to-day life in an RV is second nature now. It is comfortable. Knight is home. All of this comes to pass as a new season takes hold. 


the risk

As the days have, slowly, become cooler and as we pass through places where the Aspen leaves are changing to yellows and oranges before drifting to the forest floor, I am realizing that this life suits me. My urges to hear boots crunching on forest floor or rocky cliff and my desires to see life in new places are fulfilled as a part of my living. And in this way, I am fulfilled. I am more open now, not just to new experiences and new places. That has always been me. Just, more open to who I am and what I want to do out here. Many of you think that quitting our jobs to live in an RV is a huge risk, and one that might be difficult to fathom taking for some. For me, this part of it wasn’t the risk. While this specific choice of living in an RV is not something I’ve done before, I have taken similar risks throughout my adult life. What is riskier for me is writing in a venue where others will see it. Writing in a way that is non-academic, on the one hand, and also, on the other, not writing in a journal for my eyes only. 


the next thing

But write I will. I have always enjoyed writing when no one is looking. Now, in this space, I am learning to be okay with writing where others might read what I have to say. This blog will now solely be my baby; its contents my words and thoughts and images. I will still write on the journey of shiftingspace, with a hodgepodge of events and doings and random thinkings. Gail will be working on her own project. Additionally, we are diversifying shiftingspace and, to that end, we will both also be working on those new shiftingspace projects as well. You will hear more about what this new, additional direction is in the not-too-distant future.



a new season

October is a time of change. It is a time when we dive headlong into a new and beautiful season. I hope you will all continue to follow this journey as the shiftingspace blog begins its new season as well. 




epic punctuations


Epic. This is what we were told by Ranger Rick at the Redwoods National and State Forests Visitor Center. You would think that he was talking about the trees we were getting ready to go see this past Saturday, and it is true, those are epic, indeed. But, no, it wasn’t the trees. He was talking waves. Giant waves. As we were chatting about the majesties of this northwestern coastal region, he mentioned that we might want to check out the waves on Monday because they were going to be “epic,” 30 ft monstrosities (at least for this coastal area). By this time, we were accustomed to the consistent hazardous seas warnings put out by the NWS. We have seen some epic-ish waves, though 30 ft was higher than what we had witnessed so far. 

Our friend arrived, and we said goodbye to Ranger Rick. As we headed into the epic forests, we set aside what we’d heard about the waves. Until yesterday. Gail had read more about this forecast. They were predicting 25-40 ft waves along the northwest coast, with some waves reaching 50 ft. The highest waves were to be in Eureka, California, nearly 200 miles from Gold Beach, but the entire coast from Coos Bay to San Fran was to get a taste. What timing. Our friend hadn’t been to this part of the coast before, so seeing this drama was a not-to-be-missed treat. Especially when hearing that the NWS was saying that going onto the water meant “imminent death.” Now those aren’t words you hear coming from these normally stoic and reserved agency folks at the National Weather Service. Of course, we had to go check them out. 

Looking at the waves in the Gold Beach area, it was obvious they were even more turbulent than they’d been thus far, but though big, they did not seem epic. Impressive, yes, but not yet epic. We determined to just see where the drive south took us, how far we would go would be determined by our moods and daylight. We would find out that this was an epic day, altogether. A grand, wonderful, joyful day, punctuated by even more epic moments, with a terrifying exclamation point at the end of a sentence in a paragraph that describes the entire day.


midwest meeting

We drove south from where our friend was staying and pulled off at an overlook where there was a crashing display of white foam and sea spray. A moving van was pulled off there already, and its driver out taking photos. The three of us looked on at the ocean in that wonder that is ever-present out here and snapped our own pics. As we were heading back to the car to drive on, I noticed that the man had stepped over the guardrails and was looking over the edge at the appearing and disappearing rim of sand (and it wasn’t even close to high tide), holding onto his hat as the wind whipped around. He looked up and saw us, and I called out “Don’t let the wind blow you away!”

With a huge grin on his face, he called back that this was his first time seeing this. We walked towards him as he clarified that this was actually his first time ever seeing the Pacific Ocean. The look on his face. It was priceless. He was so full of glee and joy it was impossible to keep it at all contained, and he danced around in exuberance at what he was witnessing. I told him he came at exactly the right time, that he would be able to see some incredible sights if he kept driving along the coast. I asked him where he was from…

“I’m all the way from Illinois!” he said. 

In unison, the three of us said, “So are we!!”

He literally started jumping around at hearing this. We found out he was from Chicago, and when we told him we were from Champaign, he laughed and told us that he is now living a mere 45 minutes away from Champaign, in Bloomington. He shook our hands and proceeded to tell someone he was talking to in his headset that he just met three ladies from Champaign, Illinois. Seeing his uncontained joy, his excitement, as he giggled and jumped and gestured, and feeling the camaraderie of sharing this moment with someone who was not only experiencing the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this epic day but who was also from Illinois…well, it made me giddy with joy of my own. I got tears in my eyes from the beauty of that moment, and it’s bringing tears to my eyes now, as I write this. Watching a 38-year-old man with the completely unguarded jubilation of a kid just made my day. And we’d only just started. 


A Wave show

We continued south, stopping along the way at overlooks that were suddenly more populated than I’d seen them thus far, and it was a Monday. Seems we weren’t the only ones drawn to the promise of one of Mother Nature’s displays of power. We found, as we drove, that the best shows tended to be in areas where there was nowhere to pull off. The waves were meant to be highest on the northwest and west-facing coastlines. The northwest-facing coastlines fulfilled their promises, even more so than the west-facing ones. So, we hopped our way down from one overlook to the next, talking and ogling and moving onwards. We found ourselves suddenly just 40 miles from Eureka. How could we not go the rest of the way?

It was a good decision. We pulled off the 101 at Eureka, driving over the Arcata Channel and into Samoa. Finding a turnout beside the dunes that wasn’t full, we pulled over and climbed the short trail over the dunes to take our front-row positions at the show. Not only were the waves high, 40-50 ft, but they were coming in with such rapidity and so close together. Deep blue giants rolling in from a distance, some cresting almost out of view. They got bigger as we stood there watching and came closer in. A dog wandered by, wearing a shirt, but seemingly unattached to any person. I tried getting it to come to me, but it was completely in its own world. Gail was watching it from closer to the water. She had her back to the waves, standing in a location where the waves had yet to reach. Until then. She turned just in time to see one coming for her, but not in time to run far enough away to not get soaked up to almost her knees. Good thing we had opted not to bring extra shoes and socks along, as has been the habit when hiking along the beach…she spent the rest of the time in wet socks and shoes. The dog disappeared down the beach.


finishing touches

I am not sure how long we were there. At some point, I looked at my watch and realized it was after 3 pm. The sun sets at around 4:40 pm. Time to make our way back, so we would not be driving the entire 200 miles in the dark. It was difficult to tear ourselves away, but we managed. Heading north, we drove by a herd of elk grazing in a meadow. We came upon a giant bull elk grazing on the side of the road. Yes, we stopped to watch and to let our friend, who was on the right side of the car, shoot some pics, as the bull looked on, unconcerned with our presence. We headed into the Redwoods on a scenic stretch of road and promptly saw a second bull elk grazing along the side of the road, even bigger than the first. Yes, we stopped to watch again, and for Gail and me to take pics this time since it was on our side of the road. Funny how that worked out. 

Still in California, and still, thankfully, in daylight, re-entered the 101 and continued north, reveling in the scenery and the experiences we’d had. We approached a pullout to our left, with a cliff wall to our right. I had just glanced out at the ocean and turned my eyes back to the road. Just. In. Time. I gasped as I caught sight of two figures running down the road, and running right towards me, in my lane, and not veering at all. Thankfully, the traffic on the other side of the road had stopped in time, but now I had to slam on my breaks, on wet roads. The two dogs still did not move out of my way. I had no idea how I was going to stop in time, and I had nowhere to swerve, with traffic stopped in the oncoming lane and a cliff face on the other side of me. Somehow, though, I did manage to stop in time. The dogs walked around to the passenger side of the car. At first, we thought they were strays or escapees and tried to get them in the car, but did not even get the door open before they were dashing back to the parking area. Turned out they were escapees, and their owners were trying to catch them. We lent a hand to the owners to get the pups into the safety of their vehicle.

Shaken, but so happy it all turned out well, we finished the drive back to Gold Beach as the winds picked up and the rain started falling in earnest. Gale force winds of up to 80 miles per hour and soaking rains were on tap for the overnight hours. Mother Nature continuing to remind us of her beauty and her power. It was truly an epic day. Punctuated by moments that make a person appreciate meeting a man full of joy at his first sight of the Pacific, seeing towering and turbulent waves, watching bull elks graze, driving through the Redwoods, and experiencing the whole of it with two of your closest friends. 



opposing forces


I returned to one of the many spots I’d wanted to explore between Gold Beach and Coos Bay the day after I drove up to Coos Bay. Another sunny day on the coast. Not at all what I expected from December in coastal Oregon from what I read of the annual weather here. But I’m not complaining. So far, it’s been a nice combination of moody storms, of the gale-force wind and rain variety, and sunny skies. When I awoke to another sunny day, I knew I had to get out some, even knowing I have a goal to finish a writing project I’m currently working on by the end of this month. A sunny day on the coast in December is hard to ignore. I wrote for a few hours, and then headed back up the 101 to the place that most appealed to me from the road on the drive the day before. It is a sea stack further offshore, but it is still connected by a strip of land. It has not yet been completely separated from the coast by the powerful forces of the ocean. There are plenty of places here where you can fulfill your urges to stand atop a sea stack during low tide, but for some reason, this one, with its strip of connecting land, called to me to explore. 


Common humanity

As I pulled off into the parking area, one other car pulled in at the same time. Other than that, just one other vehicle was present. A man stepped out of the car he arrived in at the same time I did. He looked around a bit and then commented to me about how beautiful it was. This began a lovely several minutes of conversation. I found out a bit of his story, and he mine. He was driving the coast road from Seattle south to southern Cali until he had to turn west. Turns out, he lives in Austin. He found it very amusing that I had lived in Austin for ten years and, after hearing that bit of information, held out his hand to shake mine and properly introduce himself. He was a delight. We parted ways, he giving the slight bow of respect of his native culture, and I a wave and nod in return. These types of exchanges out on the road are common. They are brief moments that, when stitched together, create the fabric of experiences that remind me of our common humanity, of the fact that everyone has a story, everyone has something to give, if we take the time to listen. It is one of the beautiful gifts of sharing the journey of life on this third rock from the sun. I can’t say I always appreciated that as much as I should have but living out here the way I am is fine-tuning my appreciation for more than just the beauty of the places I visit. 

Bruce headed off to continue his journey down the coast, and I headed off to continue mine down to the rugged piece of land below. One thing you find out quickly in places of spectacular beauty is how little justice photos do. It is impossible to convey the grandeur of what you see in front of you on a two-dimensional image with edges that box in views that go on forever. Oh, I try, all the time, as the more than 8000 images currently in my library can attest (these are not just from this trip, but I do admit that number of photos is completely insane, and I am slowly going through them to weed out the unnecessary ones). And I tried here, as well. But the scale of the rising tuft of land I climbed or the force of the water rushing through the opening in the rock or the play of the water against the pitted, craggy surface of the seastack I sat upon looking down into the ocean below are impossible to capture well, if at all.


gravity and flight

I walked down the coast trail until it split in two, with a detour down to the seastack and the two coves created by the piece of land leading out to it. On my continued decent, I couldn’t resist a climb up a soft tuft of land that jutted out over the beach below. I love that feeling you get at the top of something, looking down and out over a forever landscape. You feel invincible and vulnerable at the same time. It’s that line between two opposing forces: gravity and flight. A feeling of what it must feel like to be soaring over a land on your own wings yet realizing at the same time that you do not have wings at all and are bound to the earth by the force of gravity. 

I stayed atop that tuft until the rocks and water pulled me down and closer. This little strip of land screamed for scramble and exploration, and the more a person climbs and scrambles, the more you realize of its hidden gems. It’s been explored a lot. You can tell by the well-worn paths created by the same curiosities among visitors to see what lies here, or over there, or up there. A perfect ledge upon which to walk to read a perch that thrusts you out over the ocean is one that not many can resist. I certainly couldn’t. I took satisfaction in knowing that while so many others obviously enjoyed exactly the same things I was currently enjoying, I was alone in my reveries and explorations at that moment. I could then at least pretend to be that first explorer discovering the wonder and power of ocean against rock. I perched, I scrambled. And I discovered something I did not at all know existed as I perched on one of the overlooks. 


scary and exhilarating 

I saw a place where the water moved past the rock, and flowed under it in a powerful rush, before sweeping back out. A cave of sorts, it seemed. I watched from up high, and then had to inspect up close. The tide was out. Good thing. As I got closer, I noticed three other people looking at something on the other of the “cave.” I let them finish their explorations while I went to look more closely at the place I’d seen. This put me right at the level of the water rushing in, standing on top of some smaller rocks, very much attuned to the force around me. It was amazing, and I also realized what the three others were looking at. The “cave” went all the way through, and they were watching the show from the other side. I went around the rock and met the three, and their little rock-climbing pup, as they were leaving. We chatted a bit before trading places. The view was even more powerful from the other side. I watched from above for a while, before climbing below into a rocky bowl, level again with the water. I was even more aware of how powerful this water was as it came close enough to get me wet and at the same time completely attuned to the fact that I was in a bowl of rocks over my head where, during high tide, the water would surely be above my head. It was a bit scary and a bit exhilarating. The same contrasts I feel at being perched up high.



That is so true of this life we lead. It’s full of contrasts. Often we experience these contrasts simultaneously, and they can leave us feeling perplexed and confused. But I also think it’s the beauty of life. These contrasts keep us on our toes. They play off of one another and remind us of the complexities of a world we like to see in black and white. Our world is so much more than that. It’s a puzzle that never gets solved. A gift that you can unwrap forever. A secret that will be told for the rest of your life. We have much to learn about this world we live in. The opposing forces of water and rock, gravity and weightlessness, that exist here on this coast have something to teach us about the connections and human experiences that shape a life and make us who we are always becoming.




Golden moments


This week the sky broke open. Not with rain, but with drops of light, and then rays, and then a sky full of sunshine. The sun peeked around the canopy of trees enveloping the rig, erased the steam and busted apart the molecules of H2O clinging to the inside of windows and also daring to convene on some of the walls. I have tried to be diligent in writing this week, hunkering down inside, and stealing moments outside with Gatsby, to chase the openings in the trees and soak in the sun’s golden light. But, yesterday, I also broke open. I ditched the writing in search of movement. Yesterday, it did not rain here, but the skies were covered. I’d already decided I needed to break away from the writing to enjoy the weather, so I chased the sunlight up the coast to the north.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the rain. I always have. When I lived in Austin and San Marcos, I used go crazy because of the lack of rain. Too much sun. All the time. Too much sameness. I grew up in four seasons, of which summer was my least favorite. And then I moved to a place that felt like summer nine months of the year. And it never rained. Austin is a great city, and I know some absolutely wonderful people there, but I lived there during an extended, crushing drought. I wished for the hurricanes to impact us, not in a damaging, dramatic way, but just to bring us rain, and, instead, the fringes of clouds would pass overhead, teasing in their presence, and not leaving a drop behind as they made their way overland choosing other places to dump the wet stuff. 


slaying dragons

Now, I’m staying in one of the wettest regions of the country, during the rainy season. It’s gloriously lush here and green, rich in life and steeped in water, from the air to the sea. I feel at home here in so many ways. This is exactly where I should be for the moment. I am inspired here. And the people…I just cannot say enough about what it does to the heart to go to town and be surrounded by kindness. There is something for me here, both in the ways that I am turning inwards to write a something that wants to be written, and in the ways that I am turning outwards to exchange goodness with those around me. Sure, I am still visited by doubt and dour moods. I still face those very real vulnerabilities we each deal with in our own ways. Facing them is part of this journey, as is moving forward in spite of them. Slaying those dragons each time they rise up to throw their fiery fury in my direction. And sometimes the way to do that is to get a change of perspective. Step away from your current moment and chase the sunshine up the coast.



So, yesterday, I took off in the car, not knowing exactly how far I’d go. I had it in mind to stop at enticing places along the way. I had a general thought that maybe I’d go as far as Coos Bay, because they had a food co-op there and a place called Natural Grocers. But I wasn’t married to that destination. When I got in the car, I just drove. At each amazing spot along the coast that called to me, I told myself I’d stop on my way back, because it wasn’t sunny yet, and it felt good to drive, to see the scenery glide by. I just kept heading up the 101 until I found myself in Coos Bay, where the sun was shining. I puttered around the two stores there, finding most of what I needed at the Natural Grocers, and then just wandering through the co-op because it felt like my co-op back home. Champaign home. Familiar and comfortable. Looking at my map in the parking lot of the co-op when I was finished inside, I opted to take the route heading to the coast from Coos Bay to see the sun on the water. I pointed the car west and made for a string of three state parks along the coast and directly west of Coos Bay.


A joy

I’d been here before. I camped at the Sunset Beach State Park Campgrounds, which is a lovely place to stay, and I’d explored the tide pools in Cape Arago State Park. Yesterday, I drove to Cape Arago and stopped at an overlook. Stepping out of the car, I was greeted by the throaty barks of sea lions and the thunderous roars of waves crashing against rock. Seals and sea lions mingled, lounged, fed, and played on the rocks and in the waters below. My timing couldn’t have been better, since this is a stopover for them heading south to warmer waters for the winter. It was a gift. A joy. A kindness offered up by Mother Nature. I walked a trail through the forest, marching to the sounds of the sea lions’ drums. I met an elderly couple who had lived there for 32 years before moving away and were just passing through on a trip back down memory lane. She grew up in the area and he grew up in Arkansas. They shared with me what it was like to live nearby, hearing these very sounds from their home every fall and every spring. They shared with me their love of this place, and she told me how homesick she still was, though they’d been gone for several years now. They shared with me their stories, a piece of their hearts, and, in doing so, gave me yet another gift for the day.



We parted, and I headed down to where a trail from the Cape led to tide pools. As I descended, I realized that though I’d been to the tide pools in this state park, where I was did not look familiar. It didn’t seem right, and I’d find out later that the pools I’d previously visited were on the other side of the cape. I explored anyways, watching as the sun started to sink lower in the sky, casting long reflections of its light across the water and silhouetting rocks and seals and sea birds I did not know the name of. I watched a heron watching me and watching for food. I hopped across wet sand and rocks, avoiding pools of water with the remnants of anemones, shriveled up and lifeless, empty crab and oyster shells, and decaying sea kelp. All the while, the sea lions barked from rocks not far from my explorations. They only stopped when I wandered the beach closer to where their rocky safe place was located. Then they silenced the serenades. I was still far enough away that my phone would not capture them too well, especially with the sun’s light sending the face of the rocks into darkness. So, instead, I captured the moment with my mind’s lens. 



As I was preparing to leave the seals and sea lions to make their music again, the air was pierced with music of a different sort, though still a call of the wild. A high-pitched, yet melodic, chirping sound erupted. I turned in the direction of the sound and looked up in time to see the grace of dark wings and a white tail spread out behind the white head of a bald eagle, gliding in to make a landing at a nest, where a female awaited her supper. The male settled in next to the female, both of their heads barely discernable above the fronds of tree needles. If you zoom in on the photo below, you can just make out their heads in the upper left segment of the tree.


Three gifts

I had just received my third gift for the day. Three gifts in a few short hours. It was time to head back home, chasing the last of the day’s light, sealing my gifts in my soul to call up again when worries and vulnerabilities seek to take over. It is then that I can recall that I have been given these golden moments in the sun. Not just the three gifts from yesterday, but…this…my life, and all that I have to be grateful for every single day. Every day has its golden moments if you look for them. And the more you look for them, the more you will find them.
I woke up today feeling the peace of this place. Feeling a peace in what I’m doing here. And a desire to go back out to the coast to explore one of the places I’d seen yesterday but didn’t have time to stop for on the way home because it was getting dark. And today, was a cloudless sky day, it screamed for exploring…but I’ll save that for the next post.




moving forward while standing still


We are nearing the end of our second week in Gold Beach. We are here until at least the 19thof December, though we may extend our stay another month or two. The longest we’ve spent anywhere since we started this journey five months ago was three weeks in Questa, NM. We have always been ready to move after a week or less in most places we have been. I would think I would want to be in a place longer. There are so many beautiful places I’ve been to, and in each one, I would have thought I could stay and explore for long periods of time, but in each, I was ready to go in usually about four days. But now that winter is settling in, it was time to get somewhere and stay a bit, to slow down with the season. And, of course, we chose a rainy spot for this first month, at least.

I like it though. I love the colors and the insulation of the trees. The sound of the rain on the roof and the sight of droplets sliding their way down the windows are hypnotic. It is a good time for turning ever more inward in contemplation and peaceful reverie. The campground we are in is a small one, nestled in the forest with a cast of full-time characters. There are only six other campers here at the moment, and one tent (whose occupant is apparently living there full time with his dog). Everyone is friendly but keeps largely to themselves. Gail and I are not the youngest here…which, given our ages, might not be hard to believe. But at this time of year, you expect more retirees than not. 

something special

Next door to us, however, is a trailer that lives in that particular spot. There are three young people and a dog living in this trailer, which is backed up to a permanent deck and sits with a flat tire and a tarp draped over the deck to keep it dry. These kids keep to themselves like everyone else, but I hear them when they talk, sometimes. Not that they are loud. Not by a long shot. But they are close enough to overhear, especially when they are outside. They sound familiar, though I have no reason to think so. The way they speak, though, somehow brings about a comfort of familiarity. We’ve never exchanged words, except a brief conversation with the female half of the couple. Their interactions with the dog bring a smile to my face every time. I only glimpse the surface of this oddly familiar group, and I wonder at their story. I can’t help but wonder about their story, more so than anyone else here. Both because of their proximity to us as our only close neighbors and because of their ages. What brings them here to the woods to live in a trailer? What fills their days? The guy who is not the other half of the couple never really seems to go anywhere. He pads out of the door a few times a day, mostly to take the pup outside, and then disappears back inside for a few hours. I am sure they wonder the same about us. Our habits look much the same, except that I take Gatsby out in my arms a few times a day when it isn’t raining. I keep wanting to say hello, break the ice, and discover their story, but so far there hasn’t been an opening. I’ll wait for it.

In town, it’s a different story. No opening needed. I cannot honestly think of a friendlier place I’ve ever been to. Going to the grocery store, or Ace Hardware, or even to the gas station in Gold Beach is a hug that pulls you in and makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside. People greet you in openness and warmth. There is none of the superficial I must do this to get paid greetings. It’s more like people actually enjoy their lives, enjoy the people they intersect with each day, and really want to say hello and strike up a conversation. I’m a stranger to these people, but I never feel that way. Like the way I’m let in on the joke between the checker and the customer in front of me at the grocery store. It seems the way of it here for people to be genuinely happy and welcoming. 

I feel genuinely happy here. It is hard not to be with these surroundings. Even with the rain—and yesterday there was a rare thunderstorm—and the stormy seas, I can’t help but bask in the power and the beauty of nature. And when the skies clear, even for a short time, it is pure magic. 

I am in this place for a bit. Perhaps even the winter. I am not ready to leave yet. I don’t think I will want to leave in two weeks, or six. It’s winter in a lot of the places I want to travel to next, so, for now, I am content to bide my time here. I do not mind spending days in the RV with the cats and working on a writing project (more on that at a later date). I feel a thrill each time I wander towards the coast to take a break or to run errands. I wonder what that means for my writing here, in this space. Thus far, my musings have mostly been on hikes in the places I’ve been, or special occasions in special places. I’m here for a time, so where will that take my writing here? I can’t say I know now. It’ll be its own journey, I think. An adventure of a different sort. And not in just my writing, here, but also in life. I have the time here to become, for a bit, a part of this something beautiful here. A friend to this place and the people in it. Part of the heartbeat that makes it something special, and unexpected. It’ll be a new way of moving forward, even though I am now standing still. 



wild seas and ancient trees


I have only been in Gold Beach for six days. Twice now, I’ve been to Otter Point. The first time was the day after I arrived here, and then I went a second time yesterday. In between those two times, the coast of southern Oregon and northern California were subjected to battering gale-force winds and torrential downpours. Thanksgiving Day was wild. Mother Nature was showing her strength. The foothills and trees between the coast and this campground weren’t enough to hold back the winds as they unleashed their powers against the old wise ones standing strong outside the camper. Fortunately, the trees held their ground, only losing some limbs in the battle. The winds died down Thursday afternoon, but the rain stayed through most of the day, and the hazardous seas warning did not lift until late Friday afternoon.


Otter point

When I checked into the campground, the very helpful owner here began filling me in on nearby sights to see. He is the one who told me about Otter Point. He also indicated that it is a good spot for whale watching, as there is a resident pod of whales in the area. Otter Point is up the 101 just a stretch to the north of Gold Beach. Oregon has a significant amount of land on the coast designated as a state park or state recreation area. And it stands to good reason. The coastal ecosystems are gorgeous. Everything from cliffs and sea stacks to sand dunes and tidal pools. There is a coastal trail system, which passes by Otter Point. If you head south from Otter Point on this trail system, it winds you through Old Growth spruce forest and down to the beach in a half a mile. I just discovered where the trail picks up heading north from the parking lot. Its entry point is not obvious, as the growth is quite dense, but I look forward to exploring up the trail on another day.


Windy exposure

The first time I went out on Otter Point, it was windy. The kind of windy that makes you stand back from the cliff’s edge just a bit more than you would otherwise. The point is created from mostly sandstone. There are tenacious plants that cling to life, hugging the ground closely as protection from the wind, and feast on the moisture from the sea. The further out you get on the point, where the exposure is greatest, however, the plants give way to barren sand, breaking down on top of the cliff. Walking out on this end of the point in high winds leads to a beating. Sharp pricks of sand blast your skin and sting your eyes. But still, you don’t want to leave. Still, you stay, looking through sand-crusted, wind-induced tears trying to soak in the views. 

oregon coast 

I came here because I love Oregon. And I was ready for a change of scenery. I definitely got it. The November rainfall average for November is 9.2 inches. For December it is 11.6 inches. I think we got all of November’s rainfall in the first few days I was here. At least it felt like it. Yesterday, I went back to Otter Point, viewed the cove to the north, and then hiked on down to the coast on the Oregon Coast Trail and along the beach for a while. The tide was moving out, but high tide had hit only 45 minutes before I reached the beach. The contrasts between my first time at the point and this one were pretty stark. The winds were calm, but the seas were rowdy. Mists rose from the trees in the distance, the sun peeked from behind his hiding place. Walking the trail down to the beach brought me through a brief encounter with giant, old, spruce whose canopy blocked the light from above, darkening the forest, and transporting me to another time. I half expected to see a knight atop a horse galloping through the trees. Or maybe Big Foot lumbering.  


sea life

The walk along the beach revealed evidence of the storm the previous two days. The once-living littered the sand. It was obvious most of what lie there now was newly deposited. Plants and sea creatures alike. It was a massacre. I saw a huge crab next to piece of driftwood. It looked like it was looking at me. I snapped some photos, but then thought I’d rescue it. Because that’s what I do. Except that this one was beyond rescuing. There was actually nobody home, as I discovered when I poked at the shell to see if it would move and it immediately flipped upside down because it was only the top shell with nothing inside. I saw bits of coral. And monstrous gelatinous blobs of jelly that I first mistook for a shiny rock or a miniature UFO. Might have been able to save those. Wasn’t about to try. Besides the numerous half clam shells and oyster shells, mostly what I saw littering the beach was the corpses of humongous tubular plants, roots still attached, and sometimes jumbled up together in large masses. These were everywhere. What I did not see, surprisingly, was any human litter washed ashore. No nets, no plastic, no random shoe or tin can or fishing line or Styrofoam. 


force of nature

When I got back nearer the place where the trail meets the beach, I noticed how much less debris was on the beach. I took off my shoes and socks and let my toes and feet sink in the sand and skim across the waves as they chased up the beach to where I walked. I reached the cliff face at the base of Otter Point and stood on some low rocks and watched the white caps rise and rumble, stirring up the surface of the ocean, and filling in the space around the rock I was standing on. I felt in motion with the sea, standing above it, but at the same time moving within the depths, rolling with the water, and crashing upon the rocks. It’s a powerful feeling letting yourself go, moving with the forces of nature. Sure, my feet were firmly on the ground. But my mind was free to fly. 





I am a lucky soul. I have chosen a life that suits me and, no matter what would happen next, I’ve had the most amazing four months so far. I am right where I should be, doing the thing that makes me feel most alive. A vagabond in her element, living in the elements with everything she needs. My drive here from Medford, through the smoke of the California fires, gave me pause to think about just how fortunate I am. I chose to get rid of almost all of my belongings. I chose to ditch brick and mortar. I chose to leave my job. I chose to leave behind the security of the known. I am a lucky soul. 

I wanted to get to Gold Beach in time to settle in a bit before Thanksgiving. Once it was decided that this is where we would come for the next month or two, I was chomping at the bit to get here. Suddenly, I was looking forward to Thanksgiving. I love this time of year. Not for the frenzied consumerism that grips our country (and the world), but for the less tangible, and far more important, reasons. I am not big on the shopping madness that happens starting in October (it seems to get earlier every year!). I find it ironic that we celebrate a holiday in which we honor the aid of the Native Americans who helped us survive in this new world before we obliterated them. But I do find value in what this holiday has come to symbolize now, for the idea that we all need to pause and give thanks for what we do have in our lives, for the things we take for granted, for the big things and the small things. But I am a firm believer that we should be doing this every day. Not just on the fourth Thursday in November. I do love this time of year, though. I love it for the reflectiveness brought on by shorter days, longer nights, and colder weather. I love this time of year because of the time spent slowing down, the time spent with family and friends, and the time spent in a natural world that is also slowing down, nestling in, and insulating itself from the wildness Mother Nature can bring in the northern hemisphere this time of year, the time spent turning inwards. 

Reaching your destination

I do enjoy some of the traditions of the holidays. Comfort foods and red wine will be on order for my day. I now eat a vegan diet, but I still eat foods that remind me of my family’s traditional fare. I cannot be with my family this year, but when I bite into my dressing, I will be drawn into their presence, pulled into memories and nostalgia of family gatherings where first my grandparents, then my mom, and then each of us kids concocted the family’s dressing in the kitchen. No measurements provided for this family recipe. Just ingredients and years of tasting passed on from one generation to the next. The creator would create, and the rest of us would taste test, and then discuss. More sage? More poultry seasoning? Too thick? Do we need more turkey juice? There was no need to ask for volunteers, as we all hovered close to be sure we were included in this time-honored tradition. I don’t know when it was exactly, but I recall making the passage from taster to creator. It became my time to help out in the kitchen. And then my brothers took their turns at the helm as well. In this way, our family’s recipe lives on. It is a living thing. It only breathes because we give it life through our time and the love of what it means to our family. I will not be in the presence of my family this year. I will miss that dearly. But as I work in my tiny little kitchen to create a dressing using a recipe that results in a delight reminiscent of my family’s dressing, I will be drawn into the warm, glowing, energy of this tradition, into the love symbolized in this one dish. 

A few years ago, another tradition began. This time of year, I love watching holiday movies. I have my favorites, and on Thanksgiving Day, that favorite for the past several years has become 

Dan in Real Life. I introduced this endearing, funny, lovely little film to my family, and we’ve watched it a few times now as a family on Thanksgiving. We will watch it here, after dinner, on a laptop (we got rid of the TV in our RV). And I will hope that my family also watch it, that this is another thing we will share, even with almost 1,900 miles separating me from the family gathering in Champaign (though there are some other family members missing from that gathering). 

While I will miss my family this Thanksgiving, I am so grateful to be spending this holiday in the wet, emerald, coastal forests of southern Oregon. And while I do miss my family, I cannot honestly say I would rather be anywhere else than where I am right now. I spent the day before Thanksgiving listening to the rain falling outside, with cats curled up next to me, as Gail made her mom’s pumpkin pie (veganized), and I wrote blog entries and planned for the cooking for tomorrow. And I could not think of a better lead-up to this holiday. I am thinking about how much I have to be grateful for. I am thankful for the life I lead. I am thankful to have everything I need right now. I am thankful to have had the chance to see so much beauty in so short a time. To have experienced the kindness of fellow travelers. To have entered the smoky places and come out on the other side. To have a home that takes me safely from one place to the next. To have known the love of furry family throughout the years and now. To have the gifts of health, mobility, and a free spirit. I am thankful for the many incredibly thoughtful, engaging, and lovely friends I’ve had the honor to know over the years. I am thankful to be traveling with my best friend. I am forever thankful for my family, for all the love, crazy, fun, tradition, laughter, and togetherness of the bonds that will always tie us together. 


And I am grateful, so grateful, to those of you who are taking the time to read my words, today and any other day you do. It means so much that you stop by, once, or time and again.

I hope all of you have the most beautiful day, even if you do not celebrate the American Thanksgiving.




she flies with her own wings


Our original plan for the winter was to head to the coast of Oregon, but somewhere along the way, we had decided to go south to a spot near, sort of, Kingman, AZ. It is cheap to stay there. That was our main reason for choosing it. We also thought we’d be less distracted and more able to focus on some projects we were each wanting to do because, while the desert areas of New Mexico and Utah are magical places full of distractions for a hiker and with feasts for the eyes of a daydreamer, the deserts around the SW region of Arizona were not as much to the tastes of either one of us. Sure there would be some beautiful places nearby. We had read about them. But not near enough to make it easy to get to on a daily basis. But, shortly after we arrived in Zion, Gail had been looking at a map. On that map, the close(ish) proximity of the Oregon border became apparent. That started some musings in our minds, and some calculations as to the amount of time it would take to get to the coast of Oregon. Research on potential places to stay. Discussions of pros and cons of desert versus coastal Oregon in the winter. And a relatively quick conclusion that we were ready for a change of scenery and the coast of Oregon was back on the table for our winter sojourn. A phone call confirmed we would have a beautiful, non-parking lot, place to stay in Gold Beach, which then sealed the deal. We were going to Gold Beach, on the southern coast, west of the Coastal Range, north of the Redwoods, and central to sea stacks and the Wild and Scenic Rogue River.




a whole lotta luck

But first, we were making our way to Vegas to see my brother and sister-in-law. I had been hoping to see them, hoping that the timing would work out that we could intersect. Shay and Heather live in Champaign. They were coming to Vegas to celebrate Heather’s grandmother’s birthday. We wouldn’t have much time with them, but that didn’t matter. If we could coordinate it, it would be worth it. We also had to pass through Vegas on our way to Oregon, as that was the best route to go. Our first stop south from Zion was Valley of Fire State Park. Oh. My. No reservations for the campground there. They don’t take them. And again we got lucky. We arrived in time to get the very last RV spot, with water and electricity. It was also, in my estimation, the best spot in the entire campground. Snuggled up kind of close to a stack of fire red rocks that screamed for clambering, overlooking a wide, scrubby plane that led to desert mountains in the distance, and a large spot with neighbors not too close. It was perfect. The only challenge in this park is absolutely no connectivity. Which is only a challenge if you need it. Otherwise, it’s great to get away from the need to connect, even when you don’t need to connect. I made the most of my time there, relaxing a lot and even spent an entire day reading. With the scenery right out our door, there was no need to rush around trying to see things. It was good to unwind from the daily on-the-go time at Zion. I did some scrambling up those rocks beside our site. Explored the backside of the outcropping, saw the Beehives, and meditated on a flat piece of rock overlooking the campground. Gail and I hiked the biggies in the park, with our favorite by far being the Fire Wave. We managed to hike this early in the morning, which meant we shared the spot with only one lone woman and gave it over to a group of four just as we were leaving to make our way back to the car. The Fire Wave felt like a nice substitute to hiking the well-known Wave in Coyote Butte in northern AZ. While that would be a dream hike, getting a permit is a matter of extremely good timing and a whole lotta luck. All year long. There is no off-season for that hike. And you need a 4WD vehicle to access the trailhead. That would not be in the cards for us this year. 










Zion peeks


After leaving Capitol Reef, we headed towards Zion. Last year, on my drive out west, I had planned to do one hike in Zion, but, in the end, I didn’t have the time. I reached Zion last year via Highway 9. That drive is a destination in and of itself. It is scenic. It can be one to fray the nerves in a couple of locations if you have an issue with heights with its steep drop-offs on both sides of the road and little shoulder and no guardrails. It winds through Escalante during this stretch, so the tendency to want to gape at the scenery does battle with the reality that veering a little too far off course could turn out badly. It is fortunate that there are plenty of turnouts. It is a slow-going drive, so by the time I got to Zion, it was getting too late in the day to stop. And then it was summer, which meant throngs of tourists winding their way through the park. Bumper-to-bumper traffic and no opportunity to even pull off for pics because all of the turnouts were occupied. It was frustrating. So, I was happy to be returning this fall. I was glad for the chance to see Zion.
We did not take Highway 9 to get there this year. We had driven a portion of that road, including the spectacular section through Escalante, on a separate day and hiked a trail along the length of a canyon to a beautiful waterfall: Lower Calf Creek Falls. I did not want to drive Knight on Highway 9. Maybe I’m a bit of a wimp, but the steep sections are very steep for his old bones and he is big enough that the outside curves with steep drop-offs would have been a bit uncomfortable. We went a different route and stayed for a few nights along the way in a campground near Kanab that was situated on a Paiute Indian Reservation against a backdrop of red rock perched at the edge of a high plain. The stay there was restful. Peaceful. Even the cats were chill and at ease. We made friends with our neighbors at the end of our stay there. It turns out that they are also full-timing it on the road with their baby and their dog. A casual greeting one afternoon turned into an hours-long conversation sitting between our two campers. The conversation was wide-ranging and easy, in spite of some differences in perspective on some big topics. 
We said goodbye to our neighbors and made our way to Zion. We were staying in the National Park this time. I was fortunate to be able to string together a total of three camp spots to stay for five nights. It felt special to be staying inside the park. The campground was booked until the end of November, so scoring a spot was sheer luck. And for five nights at that. We stayed in the Watchman’s campground, with a view of the Watchman right out our door and a trail of the same name leaving from the nearby Visitor’s Center. I hiked that one the first day. It was a weekend and I wanted to avoid the crowds as much as possible for the two hikes I was really looking forward to: Observation Point and The Narrows. Zion is beautiful this time of year, without the bumper-to-bumper traffic. And we seem to be chasing fall these past two months. I continue to be amazed at the color I am seeing and realizing how wrong my preconceived notions have been about fall colors in the west, generally, and in the desert, specifically. That’s what happens, I guess, from only seeing this part of the country in summer or winter, and from making a judgment based on what I imagined this region to be without knowing it beyond two seasons. What a happy surprise at how wrong I’ve been!
I had been reading reviews and planning for two good hikes in Zion, with a couple of the smaller ones leading up to those two hikes. I knew I wanted to do the Narrows, if possible. But I toyed with the decision between Angel’s Landing and Observation Point. Angel’s Landing spoke to the side of me that likes to push my boundaries a bit. The side of me who likes the idea of doing something a little scary. I am by no means an adrenaline junkie. Not at all. But I loved the idea of a hike that would challenge my comfort with heights. I don’t mind heights too much. I like high places when I feel safe, when I have something to ground me. I am not one to want to stand on a narrow precipice with only my balance to keep me on top. But I love the view from up high. I love seeing into the distance, into infinity, and all that is between where I stand and there. All I need to feel grounded is something solid to put a hand on, to hold on to. If there were chains or ropes all the way up, I’d be good. Because there are places where the path drops off on both sides. One side might be doable. Two sides is very questionable unless there is a rope or chain. Angel’s Landing has this for at least part of the journey. I was intrigued. I wondered if I could do it without chickening out along the way. A big strike against Angel’s Landing, however, is the sheer number of people who make that climb. It can be a traffic jam in precarious positions. That did not sound like my idea of fun. It is one thing if I have to worry about my own self freaking out, and quite another if I then also have to worry about others as well. 
Observation Point, on the other hand, is not supposed to be as busy and you do not get two-sided drop-offs. Just one side, with a path that is generally not too narrow. I’m good with that. Observation Point is also a longer hike by a few miles and has a view from higher up than Angel’s Landing. You look down on Angel’s Landing from Observation Point, and then all the way down the canyon. Those two facts together sold me on Observation Point. I quickly discovered upon heading out that my idea of no crowds did not meet with the reality of what I found on the trail. It was a beautiful fall day in November. It was a weekday, but I still had plenty of company. I had to exchange my idea of solitude for one of camaraderie. Let go of the notion that I’d see few people and have plenty of quiet and the perch at the end nearly to myself. If I hadn’t let go of those ideas, I’d have experienced disappointment at every turn. Sometimes it’s necessary to change your expectations and see an opportunity in a new light. 
It so happens that the day I chose to head up to Observation Point was the same day that three groups of, I’d guess, fifth-graders were heading up to Observation Point. Definitely not quiet. Definitely not solitude. But I had to think how great it was that these kids were being exposed to a hike like this, that they had this opportunity. This was more than just a walk in the park. I also had to think, “what brave souls the leaders were to head up with a group of kids (I think about ten in each group) on a hike such as Observation Point. Glad someone was doing it. Glad it wasn’t me. I shared the Point with dozens of adults and all of the kids. And loads of rock squirrels who were doing their damnedest to be as cute and brave as possible to entice us humans into feeding them. Besides the view from up top, one of the most entertaining things about the hour I spent up there was listening to the kids talk about what they were seeing. And then I stayed long enough to see all the kids and several others leave, thereby giving me much more quiet and solitude for the journey down. The trek up to Observation Point was 4 miles up, with over 2000 feet in elevation gain, and then the 4 miles back down. A nice little workout for the lungs and muscles. My legs noticed that they’d worked, in a good way. I love that feeling of tired muscles, and I love being sore, even. You know you did something.

Reaching your destination

After I hiked down, I went to rent my gear for the Narrows. The river was flowing and cold, so I had to have more than just boots and hiking pants. I opted for the canyoning shoes, pants, neoprene socks, and the wooden hiking stick that all came in one package. I could not fathom needing bibs or a waterproof backpack. I’d heard at the beginning of the week that the water was generally no more than mid-calf to knee-high. Of course, the guy I talked to had taken his 6-year-old daughter on the hike and did not go the full length of the 5-mile day hike. I probably should have gone for at least the waterproof pack. On several occasions, I found myself holding my breath, hoping I’d not be in above my waist while raising my backpack as high up on my back as I could. I managed to not get it wet, but one little slip, one little misstep, would have quickly changed that.
I was on the bus heading down the canyon at 8:00 in the morning. A great time to start out. There were few of us heading out at that time, so it was the quiet and almost solitude I had been seeking the previous day. I didn’t think the Narrows would be much of a challenge. It is pretty much flat, after all. I did not count on how rocky it would be nor how high the water would really be. Both ensured that my legs turned to rubber by the end of the day, especially as I did this hike right on the heels of Observation Point, and my knees twinged from the effort of dragging legs through water. But oh, the effort was rewarding. The water was cold. I nearly bit it on more than one occasion, but somehow managed to stay upright. I had the good fortune of being just behind a guy who was from Salt Lake City but spoke with a very southern accent. He was kind enough to wait for me to catch up in order to inform me of spots he discovered were tricky. He took the plunge more than once, and I benefitted from his misfortune. He did, however, think to rent a dry bag, so all his supplies were safe. We hiked in close proximity all the way to the end of the day hike, at Hidden Falls. There is an option to hike from the top of the Narrows down, which is a 16 miler, for which you have to have a shuttle to take you to the trailhead, and you have to get a permit so you can camp halfway down. The day hike up to Hidden Falls is supposed to be 5 miles. With my watch, however, I calculated it to be 6.25 (my watch connects to my phone GPS so is fairly accurate with distance). With all the navigating back and forth across the canyon to pick my way through the challenging course, it is no surprise the hike was quite a bit longer than 5 miles in one direction. 
At 5.5 miles, I was ready to give up and turn around. A hard thing for me to do. I am usually not one to give up on reaching a destination or goal (another thing that can be chalked up to stubbornness). But at 5.5 miles, it was getting later in the day, and I wanted to be sure I got back before dark, as I did not bring a headlamp. I thought I’d go just a bit further. If I didn’t see the falls by 5.75 miles, I’d turn back. But just as I reached that point, I came across a couple heading down the canyon. They informed me that the falls were “not much further…just around two or three more bends” and that they were well worth that short a distance after I’d come so far already. Of course, I had to continue. And of course, they were right. I had a nice rock to perch on, pretty little falls, and some food to put into my too empty stomach. I’d snacked along the way, but I am one of those who is always hungry when I hike, and it was way past lunchtime. The young guy I’d been following along with on the hike was already there when I arrived, and he left shortly after I got there to make his way back. I sat alone for a few minutes enjoying the feeling in my rubbery legs, the sound of the water as it flowed over ferns and rocks from a spring within the rock, and the bubbling rush of the river as it whisked by me sitting on my rock. Satisfied with the journey and glad that I did not give in to the desire to turn around before I’d reached my goal, I packed up my pack again, willed my feet and legs to hold me upright, and moving in a forward motion, making my way back the same way I came. 
It is a good feeling to know you reached your destination. To feel the effort in your every fiber, the satisfaction deep to the core of you. To know as you pass others that they will be rewarded in the same way when they get there too. But also to be glad that you are on the downside of those efforts, making your way back to a comfortable couch, more food, and a nice, cold beverage…and a really good night’s sleep. When I’d left, there were few of us entering the canyon. When I approached the mile or two nearer the start, it began to get more crowded. By the time I got to the end, I felt like a person who had gone on a long journey to a far-off place, returning to find a different landscape from the one she left, feeling a spectacle for the onlookers to ogle at. A bit of an outsider with those who had no idea what the journey meant and how it alters a person inside. It can feel that way out here, sometimes, too, though there are also plenty who get it. Plenty who share in the journey, even when observing from afar. And a growing number of others who are joining in this journey, for sometimes widely different reasons. I read recently that there are now over 1 million people living on the road. 
Let that sink in for a minute. 1 million people, and that number is growing. I see all the time people who are in the planning stages for jumping off into this kind of life. Simplifying. Downsizing dramatically. And preparing to be rubber trampers. I find it interesting that so many people are opting for this life on the road. I find it fascinating that people are turning to a simple life of travel. Trading in consumerist consumption for a different kind of consumption. One of the new experiences and natural spaces. One of closer relationships, with themselves, others, and the natural world. It is a re-tooling of the American Dream, it seems. It harkens back to our nomadic natures, to a time when traveling over the land was just the way humans lived and survived. There are no pre-requisites for who you have to be to live this life, just that you want it enough to make it work. There are people out here with jobs, people out here who make their own jobs on the road, people who are raising their kids and taking their pets (cats, too!). People who plan ahead for a long time to be able to do this, and those who wing it once they are out here. Retirees, middle-agers, and Millennials. It is a curious thing to watch. A curious tide to be a part of. It is one piece of a puzzle of many pieces that have the potential to fit together to create a new framework for our troubled society. 



Capitol reef: canyons and vistas


There is this hill you descend as you approach Capitol Reef from Torrey, UT. At the top of that hill, the expanse of Capitol Reef is laid before you in layers of rust and white. When the sun is low in the sky, the reds glow with the strength of the sun itself. There is no place to stop on the road as you head down that hill, so you are forced to enjoy the moment as you roll on down into the boundaries of the park itself, with no pause for a photo op. So you will all just have to trust me on the magnitude of this sight, unless you go there to see for yourself, which I would highly recommend to anyone. But go in fall. This part of the desert in fall will astonish the unsuspecting visitor with its array of color. Turns out that autumn colors are not just for the eastern third of the country. And this makes me very happy, as fall, back in my hometown, was my favorite time of year. Now, I can miss those color changes a little less.

Autumn is a magical time of year for this part of the country. The heat is blissfully gone, the crowds are thinned. You can hike for long stretches on popular trails and hardly see a soul. Capitol Reef has turned into my favorite desert park out of the three I’ve visited thus far. It is less popular than Arches or Zion. I hope it stays that way. Even when I came through here in the summer of 2017, on my way to my brother and now sister-in-law’s wedding, Capitol Reef did not feel like it was swarming in park visitors. I went on one of the most popular hikes in the park during that visit (the Chimney Rock Trail, for those of you who are curious) and only saw a total of four people on that hike: two as I was starting out and two as I was finishing. As you all know by now, if you’ve been following this blog, I enjoy solitude when I hike. I enjoy being present in the moment, listening and observing the space I am in. I like letting my brain rest from the whirring patterns of thought of everyday life. It is a Zen space for me, being alone in nature. A place where I don’t have to perform; I just have to be. I might confront uncomfortable physical conditions, such as when I struggle for each breath as I push myself up a steep climb, or face fears induced by the very solitude I endeavor to find. None of this actually reduces the peace I feel. Indeed, in some strange way, I think it contributes to it. Maybe it’s because there is something about the effort and pushing your body and facing fears in nature that brings a person into herself, makes a girl (or guy) aware of who she really is, stripped of protections and social conditioning, realizing a strength and courage that often hides in the day-to-day world.


Change starts at home

I came to this journey with the understanding that I needed to shift spaces. I needed to see the world through a different lens, to see the goodness in our world again. This did not mean putting on rose-colored glasses. It meant seeing the common threads that bond us all with each other and with the natural world. It meant seeing that these common threads exist in spite of the exaggerated divisions of society and the separation from nature created by artificial environments and technology. I knew that I wanted to change my own perspective on how I had come to view the world. What I didn’t realize as much was that I would equally, if not to a greater degree, begin to change my perspective of me. I am starting to understand that this change of perspective has to happen before I can honestly change my perspective on the rest of the world. Change starts at home, right? 


courage in listening

I am an introvert. A shy person at heart. But I learned to talk over the years. I learned to fill the quiet moments between me and another with chatter to disguise my discomfort. I talked a lot out of nervousness. And I came to state my opinions at times in obstinate and unmoving terms. Stubbornness can be one of my not-so-fine qualities. This came from years of being too shy to speak up. Too fearful of being wrong. Too afraid of not being heard. So, I went the other direction, demanding to be heard and not listening enough, thinking that, as a shy person, I was being courageous and strong. 

Now I am realizing that there is courage in listening more than we talk, in observing more than we act, in silence over noise. There is strength in those actions. Yes, there is a time to speak out, absolutely. A time to make sure we are heard. A time to hold strong in our convictions. But how do we know who we are and how do we understand one another and the world around us when we cannot hear other voices over the din of our own, when we cannot hear the sounds of birds and trees rustling, of our own breath and heartbeat, of that of our companions when we fill the air with noise, when we can see no further than our screens and our tunnel vision?


patterns in the rock 

In Capitol Reef, this time around, I hiked the Grand Wash and the Cassidy Arch Trail. One takes you through a winding, dry riverbed, with strong and rusty walls towering impressively and imposingly above your head. The patterns in the rock and the diversity of formations are captivating. I was entranced in the views surrounding me and did not care to see what lie beyond. This was enough. I was happy with what I saw and heard here. After seeing a group of women of a certain age who spoke German and were, I found, from Munich and Grunwald and one of whose parents lived in Garmisch-Partenkirchen until the day they died, but who were now living in, of all places, Oklahoma, I saw no one until I neared the end of the Grand Wash Trail and began to head up the Cassidy Arch Trail. I was content with my views from deep inside the canyon, thinking that this was the highlight of the hike. Until I went up the other, the Cassidy Arch Trail, which leads you up challenging, steep, and not always well-marked paths to reach bald rock, a landscape laid bare, with grand views of a world spread out from that high point, diverse, yet joined together in an unbreaking sweep of the eye in a 360 view. Independent. Complex. Linked. Interdependent. The route to get there was difficult at times, but the rewards were great. 


finding our way back

I met people on the Cassidy Arch Trail. People on their own journeys on this trail, on this trip, on this merry-go-round called life. We shared silence, and we communed in good-natured comments over the difficulty of the journey. We exchanged mutual wonderment over the views from above, and, on a couple of occasions, we got lost together and then found our way back to the path together. I am finding out here that I grow more comfortable again with silences and listening, not just in nature, but in the company of others. And in doing so, I also don’t find the need to chatter to fill the void. Not as much, anyway. It still happens, sometimes. But not always. And that’s an okay place to start.