washington

september // washington

we had been in big sky for almost a month and as we drove away i couldn’t sit still. i wanted to see it all. we drove past golden fields with faintly painted mountains in the background but instead of marveling at the beauty i cursed under my breath: big signs everywhere with the name of a man that is a threat to all that’s good and true and pure.

we ended up taking a detour and driving to the oregon coast first to find housing. it all went so smoothly that fear that it would all fall apart started to grow in me and almost drained the joy out.  i’m still learning to let go of the doubt that is always in the back of my mind. always threatening the good that is.

the plan was to go to all the national parks in washington before closing the nomad chapter (for now) and settling down into my new job. it was rush through all three or truly explore two. we went with the latter.

olympic is a little dream because it’s rocky mysterious beaches, rainforests and snow peaked mountains. all the things i love together. we try to cover as much ground on foot as we possibly can. i want to be all in, our last days as full time wonderers/wanderers. we hike and hike and after 16 miles in one day during our last bit of olympic i say never again but a few days later we are 20 miles out in pouring rain with mt rainier hidden behind storm clouds. everything that could go wrong goes wrong and i’m borderline hypothermia with blue lips and numb limbs, later fixed only by body heat in a tiny tent for 16 hours straight. the next day i peek my head outside and see the sun. i’m the happiest.

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montana in august (for the most part)

i wonder if there will ever be a time when i will be happy just where i am and i’ll stop wishing to be in five different places at once. i want to be here, now, but at the same time there are strings that tug at my heart pulling me all the way east, then all the way south, then all the way west again. my heart spread throughout this continent, in all directions, always longing for a place or a person that time or physical space can’t contain.

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we arrived in montana as the wild strawberries began to ripen. i felt powerful and connected recognizing plants all around. raspberries, thimbleberries, huckleberries, whortleberries, elderberries, oxeye daisy, shepherd’s purse, twisted stalk, oregon grapes, currants, wild rose… i was amazed by all we discovered and spent every walk lagging behind david filling my stomach with the forest. mama earth always provides, and it’s such a shame how easy it is to forget.

back in july we were somewhere in cali and i applied for a job in oregon. by wyoming i had an interview and in montana we waited for the answer that would confirm our move. we drove into big sky as recommended by a good friend we met in colorado (while writing those few sentences i turned to david to comment on how crazy and amazing it is that all these places are now such a big part of our lives, i never imagined they would be). a week of hanging around by the river, nestled between the evergreens, and we got ourselves a housekeeping gig at the resort. i turned off my brain, put on some music, and repeated over and over the motions that come with cleaning room after room after room. between working days we hiked, climbed, and even got to hang out with a friend we met in estes. i love catching up with friends we’ve met on the road. i feel that between the wanderers and travelers there is a mutual understanding of something bigger, something deeper. maybe it’s because most of our encounters are out in nature, in the mountains, looking up at big rocks, breathing fresh air, feeling a constant deep sense of gratitude for this earth.

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sometimes i feel i’ve been picking up pieces of myself in all the places we’ve ever been. like instead of collecting rocks or pressing flowers i’ve been collecting parts of myself, parts i didn’t even know were missing. each piece making me a little bit more whole.

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we have been in one place for a month and half now and i have no complaints. i still can’t believe we get to live where we currently are and so far it’s been more amazing than i ever thought it could be. and yet all i’ve been dreaming of lately is the open road (which is why i wonder, i wonder if there will ever be a time when i will be happy just where i am). for us life on the road meant a lack of wifi and a lack of wifi meant a lack of news. when we were roaming around in the wilderness life was just blindly amazingly beautiful. yes, pain and tears would come in waves, but i sheltered myself from bad news under blue skies, underwater, underneath a canopy of trees. now i can’t hide from the news and i’ve been feeling such a deep sadness that’s it’s been hard to stay positive. my mind goes to some really dark places. the other day i heard about the giant space rock that could have hit earth and my first thought was what a shame it missed. we deserve to be wiped out. i know i’m not alone in my grief, especially after these elections, but i’m trying to keep a balance so i don’t lose it. i know i have no right to hide from the bad and i have to keep my eyes open because i’m part of the problem too. i know i’m equally responsible for what i do and for what i don’t do. i know, as a citizen of the world, that i have a responsibility and i can’t pretend any of this isn’t happening. it is. and i have to do my part. but after a while of listening to the radio i turn it off, i stop watching the news, i stop reading articles about how the world is falling apart. it hurts too much. instead i force myself outside to sit by the ocean, to hike through the forests, to search for the green and be out in the rain that makes things grow. i have found what brings me back to life. life is too sad, but i know where to go to make things all right again. even if it’s just for a little bit.

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july (pt ii)

it’s the two of us again and we quickly go back to our daily rituals of waking up slowly, drinking coffee and reading until noon, hiking in the mountains, drawing, climbing a little, driving to places we’ve never been. i try to slow down these already slow days. they will soon feel like a dream of long ago.

cirque of the towers

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here i’m the happiest. these mountains have been standing here way before you and i and they’ll continue to stand long after we are gone. i can’t think of anything more humbling. we lie down by the lake surrounded by towers and i ask david if we can stay here forever. but we don’t, because the beauty of these places is kept intact by our absence. i think that maybe if i stare long enough, if i sit long enough, if i walk off the beaten path long enough, maybe then i’ll be patient enough and move to nature’s perfect rhythm. but we leave, to keep her wild and free, like it should be. the snow melts and streams down the mountain like blood streams through my veins. it’s here i feel connected to everything. the patterns of nature reflected in the patterns of me, i just have to pay attention.

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we can’t decide what to do so we drive in all directions. halfway through idaho we decide to go back to montana. truth is life on the road has been feeling like the easy way out of things lately. we could do this forever and hide from all the misery of the world, but i can’t shake the feeling i’m being selfish. we have so many plans and ideas to do good and it feels like it is time to “settle” (and i use that term very loosely because we are never settling) in order to develop the skills necessary for these future plans. life on the road taught me so much (i’ll leave that for another post though), but now we need routine and consistency in order to grow in other areas. the constant movement, the excitement of a new place everyday, the beauty we were able to experience was more than i could have ever asked for. sometimes i tell david that if i had to die this year i would be okay with it because i feel like i’ve done more than my heart could have ever desired. i lived.

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we decided that every july 27 (our anniversary) we would spend it on top of a mountain. this year we hiked up mt. washburn in yellowstone. i love the places we have chosen to celebrate our love. in two years we lost three wedding bands so in bozeman we got something a little more permanent. we drove to big sky to see a friend and ended up staying (big sky is where i’m currently writing from and it is now aug. 25). trying to patiently wait for some answers that will decide where we go next.

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july // grand tetons & yellowstone

i mourn the death of ivan illych a few times each year. out of all of tolstoy’s short stories this one is my favorite.

“… The question suddenly occurred to him: ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?’ It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true. It occurred to him that his scarcely perceptible attempts to struggle against what was considered good by the most highly placed people, those scarcely noticeable impulses which he had immediately suppressed, might have been the real thing, and all the rest false. And his professional duties and the whole arrangement of his life and of his family, and all his social and official interests, might all have been false. He tried to defend all those things to himself and suddenly felt the weakness of what he was defending. There was nothing left to defend.”

my friend nate introduced me to tolstoy a few years ago and made of the introduction one of my favorite memories. david, nate, lindsay and i in argentina, on a cold rainy night, sitting on top of a bridge drinking coffee while nate read “alyosha and the pot” out loud. the thing i admire of tolstoy the most is his constant search for “the right thing”. it’s one of the things i admire most of nate and lindsay as well.

when lindsay wrote me early in the year telling me they’d be in wyoming in july i told her we would too. time with those you love is the most important. we picked them up from salt lake city and slowly drove to the tetons and yellowstone. being with them is picking up right where we left off. lindsay and i dream out loud while david and nate argue over hypothetical situations. it’s always the best of times and i never want them to leave.

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our philosopher friend always asks the hardest questions—questions that really make you wonder and look in hidden places you are afraid to look. i’m still mulling over conversations we’ve had years ago. these are the kind of friends that add so much value, wisdom, joy and goodness to my life that i know we will always find each other, half way around the country or half way around the world.

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my dad had been dreaming of yellowstone for a while and i told him he should come and meet up with us. i doubted it would actually happen, but he convinced my mom and sister and drove 33 hours west. i don’t know why i doubted. my dad always, always pulls through.

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end of june // tahoe, the loneliest road, great basin np

i don’t know where the days go but they go. we drive to tahoe and david’s friend brandon who he met in argentina comes to see us. he brings us a box of food and enough yerba mate to last a few months. we have no words to thank him. i just met him but he makes me feel like we’ve been friends just as long as him and david have. my high school friend olivia visits us too. we sit by the lake, by a fire, in a field of flowers. i’m liking the places we’ve been calling “home” lately.

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we follow gps coordinates to edu and watch the summer solstice moon rise. we boulder in between meals, lord of the rings, longboarding, and the river. it’s a weekday, and i almost feel guilty i’m having so much fun. while climbing i bail time after time but the guys encourage me through it and i make it to the top. they are easy problems, but i worked out the hardest problem of all—getting over fear. this day becomes one of my favorite days. the next day we go east and edu goes north, but we’ll cross paths again soon someplace where there are rocks to climb.

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we drive through the loneliest road. at the end of it is great basin national park and we’re surprised to find this gem. fresh mountain air in the middle of the desert, my kind of oasis. we hike past alpine lakes and stand amazed at bristlecone pines, the oldest trees in the world, standing tall thousand of years after their birth.

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when i was little we were given pictures to color in school of planet earth all beat up, black with smoke, bandaged, and a broken leg. on each side there was a nurse helping the earth walk. i was probably in second grade, but up to this day i have a clear picture of that drawing in my head. maybe it’s one of the reasons i became a nurse, i don’t know, but i always liked the idea of helping heal the world’s wounds. i’ve gone through a lot of dreams and ideas for the future, but i always find myself going back to the beginning, to dreams i had when i was a child. i decide i need more experience in order to be able to fulfill this dream, so somewhere between california/nevada/utah i apply for my oregon nursing license. no idea where or when exactly, but oregon, we plan on calling you home for a bit.

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june // yosemite

i’ve seen many pictures of yosemite and i thought that when we got there i would feel that i had already been, but when we drove through the tunnel and i saw the valley before me i was filled with the greatest awe. no picture does it justice.

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we eat breakfast while looking up at el capitan. people come together, hug each other, laugh, sit in a circle and do yoga. i look at them from the window and grow nostalgic. they are a community. it’s only david and i for days, weeks at a time. there’s something sacred in shared solitude, but sometimes my heart aches for people, friends, family. just as i’m deep in longing gabe from the group comes and sits with us by the river and we talk as if we’d always been friends. we meet up with him and others later that evening and do yoga overlooking the valley.

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i go on my first solo hike while david boulders. the hike is steep, but i feel like i’m floating. i have the internal dialogue i’ve had for so long now, but this time i decide that by the time i reach the top i’ll have it figured out. what am i going to do to bring some good to the world? how am i going to help others? i reach the top with answers, but i quickly decide they are selfish in their own way. i always make it about what i want, what i think is important. i tell myself i don’t need to figure it out right away, that just doing all the good i can today will be enough. one day at a time. i’m at glacier point and the peace and quiet i had hiking up is gone. i’m surrounded by people. turns out you can also drive to this place, but i always prefer the hike. the slow process of starting at the bottom, looking up at all that lays ahead, slowly entering a thick forest, the views along the way, the excitement as you see a clearing above the tree line and know that you are near, the rushing those last few feet knowing the greatest view awaits you, the satisfaction of making it… it’s the whole process that makes it worth it. like royal robbins says, how you get up there is everything.

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david met edu while bouldering at camp 4. we park the rv next to his van outside the park at night and we eat dinner together and talk until we are all too tired. edu is always covered in chalk, the greatest dirtbag i know, a flying dreamer, a doer, an instant friend who’s come to stay. we meet jose and the next day hike together to the top of yosemite falls. that night we make a fire in jose’s campsite and david makes pizzas on the grill. i’m the happiest sitting by the fire with our new friends. here life is simple, life is good.

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i’m one of the few that swims in the cold river. the water is freezing and when i get out my body is numb, but i love the fleeting feeling of awakening when you first dive in. we walk through the meadows and lay down surrounded by tall grass and wildflowers and butterflies. we look up at the highest waterfall. here we can pretend we are off in a remote place, far away from the cars and people. it all feels so perfect that i ask david if it’s a dream, but he assures me that this is better than a dream, it’s real life.

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when edu leaves he gives david the strongest hug. we’ve only known him a few days, but i know there’s love there. it’s those connections with others that make life so beautiful. jose, david  and i hike to the top of nevada and vernal falls. we camp there and hike up half dome the next day. we talk about so many important things that i feel we know jose better than people we’ve known years. on top of half dome, jose takes it upon himself to be the guardian and protector of the baby marmots who are surrounded by ravens. he imitates some sort of bird call and chases them away so the marmots will be safe from danger. it’s my favorite memory from half dome. i still think about it and laugh.

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i go in search of internet to give signs of life and i’m confronted by tragedy. i stand in front of the newspapers in shock, feeling stupid and selfish for being so happy while the rest of the world is falling to pieces. it’s become so easy to block out all the problems and just live in this perfect little world we created. i go back to the meadows, hide in the tall grass, and think that if men spent more time in nature there could be no hate. i don’t know what to do or where to begin, so i just lie there and wish good things upon the world. we are all in this together.

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david sent his mom a postcard and wrote on the back (in spanish) the feelings that i think summarize yosemite for both of us:

mom, these mountains make me dream. they make me dream of a world where our dreams become a reality. a world where we are not afraid of doing what we love and there’s no fear of failing. a world where ‘i can’t’ and ‘i shouldn’t’ are not part of our vocabulary; where children play, fall, get hurt, but get back up and play again. i love you mom, thank you for giving me the opportunity to dream.

end of may // sequoia & kings canyon

here i could stay forever. we walk underneath giants who’ll stand tall long after we are gone. we are surrounded by the wisest and humbled by their presence. if there’s magic, this is it.

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we hike for three days and take with us a wild edibles book. we are fascinated by the abundance of the forest. we make big salads of miner’s lettuce. we make tea out of wild ginger leaves and firs. we examine every plant, the shape of their leaves, their smell, their texture. hundreds of lady bugs fill the air. i’m so happy i tell david this is the best day of my life. he laughs and says that phrase has lost its meaning because i say it too much. but still, i burst with joy. these are the best days of my life.

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