Every season deserves a break to stop and watch. Autumn happens to be my favorite. The leaves, the cooler air, the last of summer’s harvest. Up at my mom’s in Mt. Shasta, autumn is alive with color hidden beneath the unchanging pine trees.
I wrote this post from my laptop up at my mom’s. No Wi-Fi left time to reflect. However, when I got home, my original words were no longer enough. This time I went to Mount Shasta for five days, a record maybe. Usually I stay a couple nights, but during my visit in May I finally connected with nature, so this time I wanted to stay a little longer.
This time, my mom invited a friend of mine from work, with her kids, to join us for the last couple days. This woman is incredible. She gives everything she has to children—her three biological, two adopted through foster care, and the hundreds who attend my K-12 school. She is magic. Sometimes she stands in the back of my room to lend an extra set of eyes, other times I send her kids for one of her special talks. They always come back respectful, ready to learn.
I told my mom about my friend, how she has believed in me even when I have not believed in myself, how she dreams of starting a house for foster kids graduating from high school, how she makes backpacks for the least-fortunate children at our school, filled with tooth brushes and other life supplies. Touched, my mom invited her to bring her kids to Mount Shasta to camp.
Before I extended the invitation, I was not sure what she would say. Mount Shasta has always been my secret place, a land of family only. I was not sure if anyone else would get it, but she did, without me even having to explain anything. She has a gift for understanding people’s thoughts. I should have known she would fall in love, too.
Our worlds are different, but our hearts are the same. Some days we talk and talk after school, leaving others wondering what we are up to—the secret, we laugh and cry and keep each other going. I decided what the heck. If my mom wanted her to visit, then I wanted my friend to decide for herself if she wanted to enter a different universe.
I was not sure what it was going to be like—whether my friend and her family would feel comfortable with strangers, whether she would even say yes. But, she did and I’m so grateful for her courage. We cooked hot dogs over a fire pit, shrieked at frogs (okay that part was just me), waded in the lake, and stared at the brightest moon I have ever seen. After I left, she and her kids stayed and played at the lake, my brother rowing the canoe with her youngest child singing the entire way. When it was all over, I got two phone calls, one from my brother and one from my friend, both full of happy stories of what I had missed.
This weekend I am thankful for friends and family who encourage us to be brave and open our hearts to each other, for my newest sister and my wonderful nieces and nephew. Maybe we should let our worlds collide more often.
So, it’s about that time.
All the cool kids are doing it.
Must post something about 2013. You know, resolutions or something.
To be fair, I DO love resolutions. One of my life goals is to spend every New Year’s Day at the ocean, reflecting. I decided awhile back that it’s a much better way to spend the new year than hung over on the couch.
Not sure I’ll make the ocean part happen this year, we’ll see.
But, before I can look forward, I have to look back.
Struggle and happiness, chaos and peace. Immense gratitude. I learned, a lot. I wrote, a lot. So much stuffed into 12 months. Do I have it all figured out? Not hardly. But, I feel better balanced than ever before. Happy, even. In the spirit of Thankfulness Thursdays, I leave you with my 2012 Gratitude List (and pictures dug out of this year’s blog).
I feel so fortunate to have a teaching job as a new-ish teacher in our current economy. This year was hard, but I became a better teacher one day at a time, and each day I feel a step closer to making this my lifelong work, instead of something I lovingly survive for the time being. So much gratitude.
I was definitely an ADHD reader this year. Still have ten or so titles half finished on my dresser… The book I was most grateful to finish, hands down, Dear Sugar.
I’m thankful for the Lumineers’ soulful lyrics set to summer in the backyard with family, our car cruising down the coast, a sea of people at Golden Gate Park…
So much gratitude to live on such a beautiful planet and to have the means to see it even in a year that did not always feel easy.
More than anything else, I am grateful for the people in my life, friends, family, near and far… Oh yeah, and my dog too, he counts, right?
And, not to be forgotten, this was the year I discovered my own power in healing. So thankful.
Even though I started blogging in 2011, my move to WordPress cemented my commitment to putting my words out there and becoming part of a greater community. I am truly grateful for all the connections I have made this year– words of wisdom from every corner of the globe, thank YOU!
So, your turn, what tops your 2012 Gratitude List?
On this, the final Thankfulness Thursday, I decided to share my gratitude for the very day of Thanksgiving itself. While my mother’s family honors our Native American heritage, we do not boycott the day. Instead, we make it our own, embracing the positive aspects of giving thanks and coming together as a family to enjoy a meal and honor abundance. We celebrated on Tuesday, sharing a feast of GMO-free, organic food in Mt. Shasta, toasting Bodhichitta and watching the rain fall all day on a blanket of orange leaves.
Today I am grateful for two Thanksgivings, one in Mt. Shasta, one in Sacramento. Two families that are really one because they are both mine. Food, laughter, love. I am grateful. Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours.
There are two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.
I came across this quote a couple weeks ago and let it sit in my document of random thoughts. It’s hard to always live your life as though everything is a miracle. Driving home from my mom’s house a couple weeks ago, I did. Even the trash blowing down the side of the freeway in the autumn sunset was somehow beautiful, the rain on my dirty windshield meaningful.
I’m slowly learning to live this way more often. It requires conscious thought, work, and desire. However, when achieved, everything starts to make a little more sense. Everything is more alive. I have always had little mantras for those moments I most need them. Today is the best day of my life was one for an entire summer. Now they change more frequently. Last week, my students are a gift. Yesterday, you are safe. Today, everything is a miracle.
Autumn sunbeams and floating spider webs above a crystal clear alpine lake,
Warmth and family.
Mom, brother, and one dirty, happy dog.
Driving north on 1-5 Tuesday morning, alone, save for Simon buckled up in the backseat, tears streamed down my face. Headed to visit my mom, who lives three and a half hours away, four words rang true in my head:
I need my mom.
I rarely think those words. I love my mom, yes, but at 29, I rarely think I need her. Realizing these words are still true, I was overtaken by emotion. I need my mom. Words so true tears had to follow.
Separated by time and space, I often forget I need her. We talk less than we should, weekly phone calls stretching into 10 days, 11, 12, sometimes 14. We see each other maybe four times a year. Important visits, but I forget I still need her.
I need that woman who cuts fresh flowers each time I visit, bakes me pies and rubs my head. The woman who plays Scrabble with me and still offers to brush my hair. The very woman who used to call me her baby and carry me around in her arms. Driving alone, I realized I need my mom.
Today I am thankful for a few days in Mt. Shasta, the sun still warm, my mom, my brother, and my dog. Sitting around playing games late into the night. My brother showing me his project with the earth, the cob home he is building, the greenhouse with its foundation, the desk and pile of books alone in the woods. Reminding me of the meaning of unconditional love.
Driving south on I-5 today, rain dotting my dusty windshield, soulful music playing loudly, instead of crying, I smiled and sang at the top of my lungs. Time well spent, reinvigorated, alive. I am thankful for family, our roots strong and connected like trees, unconditional.
Join in for Thankfulness Thursday and link up your post with Ashley at Domestic Fashionista!
Heading the wrong direction south on I-5 tonight with no exit to turn around for miles, I reminded myself that it’s all part of the adventure. In the past 36 hours I have flown from Lihue to Honolulu to Oakland, driven from Oakland to Sacramento, and then from Sacramento to Mt. Shasta and then Ashland. Needless to say, I’m ready for a week of relaxation on the Oregon coast, but I’m also trying to make the most out of the time spent getting places, even when lost.
That’s the thing I’ve noticed lately, time is moving faster, and faster, and faster. The prospect of this only accelerating is frightening. Hawaii was gone in a second, Oregon will likely be too, I’m realizing that life is way too short to spend impatient, ever. So, each moment I catch myself wanting to get to the next thing, I stop and remind myself that there is something worthwhile in every moment, even if it is just laughter, a little lesson, or time to reflect. Besides, knowing where you’re going all the time can be pretty boring, both in travel and in life.
Gearing up for the second leg of my four weeks of summer travel, I find it necessary to remind myself of the secrets to staying healthy and energized on the road. These little gems may seem obvious to most travelers, but for me they were slowly won, lesson by lesson, during my three separate treks across Europe, countless American road trips, and a couple of visits to Canada and Mexico for good measure. Yes, I realize I still have a lot of the globe to see, but I’ll get there with a little luck (and money) on my side. For now, I’m determined to remember these tips to keep myself healthy for the road already traveled:
Sleep: For me, sleeping in new places can be very challenging, particularly in noisy cities, or even boisterous small towns like Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre, where the townspeople shout back and forth from their apartments well into the night and again early in the morning. It was not until my second trip to Europe that I discovered the power of wax earplugs, the kind swimmers use. While they will not eliminate noise completely, they help you earn a little extra sleep by muffling the commotion, even if what is bothering you is just the stupid in-room refrigerator, (which I have also been known to unplug from time to time).
Now, the second piece of advice on sleep, is if you wake up early, don’t just lie there and wait for your travel companions to awaken– get up! Get outside! Some of my favorite travel memories come from early morning walks or runs when a place is just coming to life. Imagine Rome, just as the shop keepers are opening up their stores for the day, fresh-baked everything wafting through the air, now which is better, lying in bed or getting out and seeing this?
Exercise: Early morning or not, I force myself to exercise daily. There is nothing worse than getting home from vacation and realizing that you have a lot of work to do to get back into your regular exercise routine. I find that even a quick 15 minute run and 10 minutes of yoga, (a few sun salutations, some balance postures, and stretching), go a long way in keeping you energized both during your trip and when you get home. Likewise, even if you are on an active vacation, this short routine gives you reflective time to yourself and gets your blood pumping for the day. Best of all, if you push yourself to climb out of bed early enough, you can catch some really amazing sights on your run. My favorites have always been in Hawaii, where the time change gives you an unfair advantage in getting out of bed early to catch the sunrise while running on the beach. Life does not get much better than that.
Eat: Combined with exercise and sleep, eating well on your trip will keep you feeling great both during your travels and when you get home. There is nothing worse than the cumulative food hangover of consistent eating out. My remedy for this is pretty easy– work in food from the supermarket during your trip then go sit in the local park or on a bench in town to eat and enjoy the scenery.
For quick lunches and anytime you’re tempted to eat fast food, these local groceries stores will do the trick. You’ll save money from a sit-down restaurant, end up feeling a lot healthier, and get to explore local markets in the process. Whether I’m in Salzburg or Mt. Shasta, I find wandering around a new grocery store to be an interesting cultural experience, and it is fun to buy foods you normally do not keep stocked at home, like dill havarti or German potato salad, perhaps. Yogurt and fruit also make a nice change of pace from all the other crap you’re likely to be tempted to eat while away from home, which brings me to my other food tip.
Often I find myself ordering whatever sounds the most delicious on a menu, without any regard for health because it’s a special occasion to eat out. However, a few cheeseburgers deep, my stomach usually starts to hate me, so I have to remind myself to balance in whatever sounds healthiest on the menu as well. The upside is that usually I am surprised by how the healthiest choice ends up being equally delicious, prompting me to continue ordering this way throughout the trip, and feeling better as a result.
And, last but not least, I carry around a little pharmacy of natural (and not) remedies to cope with those moments you do not feel so stellar while traveling. Nux Vomica is an excellent homeopathic for car or plane sickness, Emergen-C will fight off that pesky sore throat, enzymes take away some of the guilt for less-than-healthy food choices, and ibuprofen is pretty self-explanatory. For long air trips, I also carry Dramamine to deal with motion sickness, which has the added benefit of knocking me out. I may be the daughter of a hippie and into natural remedies myself, but I also recognize that travel time is valuable, so I will do whatever it takes to quickly fix the problem.
Fun: So, there you have it. I love to travel as much as the next gal, but I am careful to keep myself healthy and energized along the way, even if it means carving a little time out for myself to exercise or forcing myself to watch what I eat. Now, wish me luck as I embark this afternoon on my girls’ road trip to Olympia, Portland, and the Oregon Coast. Should be a raucous blast!
My mom cooks,
My stepdad gardens,
Bluegrass plays for the plants,
For a friend they lost today,
A song of death.
The lone whistle of a rumbling train,
Howling, Moaning, Calling–
Ophelia in her eternal pond,
Me, with bare feet upon the earth,
Tickle my toes,
I drink the fleeting song
Of man and earth,
I am alive.
In order to post my blog, I have to go to a coffee shop in Mt. Shasta. Dial-up won’t even load the WordPress homepage. This may seem like a pretty ordinary act to access the internet from a coffee shop, but in Mt. Shasta it is anything but ordinary. Like so many places heading into the Pacific Northwest, Mt. Shasta is a pitstop for young vagabonds and its coffee shops are their headquarters.
Someday I hope to really write about them, to ask them questions and listen. Until then, I’m just enjoying eavesdropping at the coffee shops here in town. I’m learning where the best exits to hitch a ride are, watching as they hit on each other, uncertain if they’ll ever meet again, hopeful maybe to join forces and face the big bad world together. Many of them seem lonely. I watched one young backpack-clad man walk up and down the main stretch three or four times, his eyes and quick smile filled with eagerness to talk to someone, anyone.
I will always remember a different kid with eyes like my brother’s, sitting on the street corner in Portland with a sign asking for money. It was hard to look at him, so young, and not wonder what brought him to that corner. I do not think he would have wanted me to feel sorry for him, I think instead he would have wanted me to understand his story. In the words of someone on the fringes of this life, “For some, it would really be death to their souls to go back to wherever they came from, for others it is just a way to travel.”
Either way, I want to learn their stories.
Today’s Mount Shasta moments:
This week I am visiting my mom in Mt. Shasta, which means, among other things, limited access to internet because her house in the woods is wired only through dial-up, and I am not patient enough for that kind of thing. Now, when I say Mt. Shasta, I mean the little town at the base of the mountain, not the big party lake an hour away with house boats and drunk spring-breakers.
It is easy to drive through Mt. Shasta on I-5 heading to or from Oregon and not even notice it. From the freeway, you can’t really tell there is a cute little town filled with shops and restaurants. But, that’s not really what you come to Mt. Shasta for anyway. The first time we visited Mt. Shasta, back when my mom still lived in Sacramento, we came to camp. That’s really what you visit Mt. Shasta for, the outdoors.
My mom lives five minutes from a beautiful little lake, Lake Siskiyou, and twenty minutes from an even better lake, Castle Lake, which is crystal clear and glass-like. Not to mention all the waterfalls and mountain vistas. Now all of this is good and well, but Mt. Shasta is also weird, which makes it more interesting. Good weird of course. It’s a mixture of red necks and hippies, which always makes for some good fun. If you did not already guess, my mom lands on the hippie side. In fact, one of my most memorable Mt. Shasta memories was when my mom hired a local Shaman to bless my marriage with a meditative ceremony.
My weirdest Mt. Shasta moment, however, was the night my brother challenged Mt. Shasta to scare him. It is helpful background knowledge to know that my brother is the graduate of a pretty cool sustainable agriculture program in Bolinas and sleeps outside most nights by choice, so he’s a wilderness all-star. I, on the other hand, get spooked when we sit out under the stars, which is what started this whole challenge in the first place. My brother wanted to show me there is nothing to be afraid of out there, yelling his challenge into the darkness.
That night, when we were all asleep in bed, we awakened to the sound of something pounding on the roof. And, when I say pounding, I mean our room was shaking, like something was jumping up and down over our bed repeatedly. My first thought, close the huge open window behind my head. As I slowly moved it shut, I feared I would attract attention. I did not want the thing on the roof to hear the window shut. I did not want it to get me. In the middle of the night, all of those campfire stories of aliens, big foot, and mountain lions really come alive.
Granted we never figured out what the thing on the roof was, but my brother slept through it, undisturbed, just as he boasted. I, on the hand, was left equally afraid of the wilderness at night, if not more so. Mysterious scary beasts aside, Mt. Shasta is an unusual place worth stopping if you’re ever driving the long haul on I-5. More pictures and stories to follow, I’m sure.