Returning back to Minnesota with 60 degree sunshine pounding the pavement.
Tooling around on the lend-away-banjo, playing the only four chords I have been able to muster.
I spent the last two weeks down South in the desert beauty of Arizona and Utah - starting off with a visit to grandmas and ending the week wandering with a fellow ramblin' gypsy soul. I always leave as if I'm going to find something, figure something out, let something go, come back with new eyes... and I guess, in a subtle, quiet way, that might be the case. But for the most part, things aren't different, just deeper, maybe understood a little more clearly.
I woke up well before the sunrise in order to climb out of my sleeping bag and navigate the backroads in the pitch black. Heading North making it to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon with an hour to spare. The stars were still glowing as a gentle haze hit the horizon. I perched myself off in the distance in an attempt to avoid the crowds, watching as the sun slowly changed the landscape.
New layers revealed with each minute that passed.
6 billion year old sediment finding its way from weathered storms and erosion... it made me think how precious time and patience really are. Change takes time - in the case of some of the most beautiful landscapes the world has to offer, it takes a lot of time.
And so do I....
As the day wore on I continued my journey towards Utah. Passing by on Arizona 89 winding through the lush greenery of spring, I begin to notice the rearview... A chance to glance at what was just witnessed with a sense of departure and appreciation - never looking too long, because in doing so I'd miss what lies ahead.
Hours were spent weaving through National Monument. Once upon a time it was the home of a sub-tropical rainforest with evidence of dinosaurs and evolutionary findings. Now a hot, hollow desert landscape. The colors, textures and terrain changed with every curve in the road.
Change, change is all around us.
I arrived in Zion. My last trip out was in November. The air was colder then, the roads dustier, the trees limp of life. The seasons had transitioned as the cottonwoods lined the valley floor, a whole new face painted as the sage had a turquoise hue contrasting the bright red and orange sandstone and the cactus blooms just beginning to bud.
The week was in constant movement with little sense of time, almost no direction and a bit of space for reflection. Each look-out another opportunity to pause, soak in the scene, to breathe. Everything around me was bigger than life, simple, adaptable... Momentarily provoking a small, unimportant, frivilous feeling.
If only I could hold on to this moment and carry it with me everywhere I go...
Lying on the rocks looking at the world spin upside down, I wonder why it is so easy to become forgetful, caught up and deluded to my emotions. Somewhere deep inside hides an identification, a super-imposed significance, the idea that the universe revolves around me and my pettiness. As the shadows dance upon the pines I fill with humility, followed with humbleness.
I'm not the easiest person to spend extended amounts of time with. I have this horrible tendency to be overbearing, honest to a fault, casting off unruly, unnecessary, and unrealistic expectations... However, the company shared was a graceful reminder to how important it is to have people challenge you, to question your train of thought and to keep your emotions in check. Oh, how I appreciate the genuine.
Friday morning I awoke early, hours before a lick of light. Rain in the desert, what a send off. I was filled with emotion, I don't know how to define it, and I'm not sure it matters all that much... but the patter of water on a tin top magnified whatever was held inside.
Life can go on without any question, simply in terms of black and white, this or that, like or dislike - split up, fragmented, or completely unobserved. Maybe it'd be simpler that way. However, I find, or rather make, meaning out of everything. Piecing together memory with reality, imagination with rationality, using the external world as a mirror, a reminder, that there is more to this life than the stories within my head.
Waiting to board the redeye home as the movie reel begins to spin. Replaying the conversations, reliving the experiences, reflecting on some of my hindrances.... Too often I find myself trying to force change, grasping at peak experiences, with desire as my motivation. What I am learning, and forgetting, and remembering, and relearning is I have very little control to what happens in life, to what I feel. Clinging to these emotions and experiences, claiming them as mine, and holding on for dear life in attempt to make them last.
Nothing lasts, and it's not supposed to. Everything, always, is in constant flux. That is what makes life beautiful - the uncertainty, the mystery, the unpredictability. At times it's uncomfortable to let go, it's unsteady to stand on sinking sand. There is absolutely no stability in life and my seeking and searching for it seems to be the cause of all my undue suffering. This ignorant desire also casts the belief that things aren't 'good enough' as they are, that somehow I am supposed to twist and contort experience to fit in a box, and if it doesn't fit, I shove it in...
Dozing off in an empty isle as my head bobs to and fro. The pilot announces our return to Minneapolis. As I peer out the window I witness the sun rising below me. Another new day, fresh, open and always changing. I accept that, I welcome it and I begin.
I've been house sitting up in Duluth for nearly 9 days now. I've rearranged the dining room into an office in which I've compiled 6+ years of journal entries, handwritten letters, collected memories and the like. I printed over 400 pictures with the intent of narrowing down some of my favorite prized photos. I've spent hours in the woods, on the shore and wandering the streets of downtown. I've been to music from acoustic solo acts to world renowned choral combitations. I've eaten more chocolate than is necessary for any one person, balanced out with loads of kale and spinach. I've enjoyed endless amounts of hot tea and have befriended my cohort Alexa for music motivation. I've woken up for the sunrises just to follow with 3 hour long naps. I decided I don't have to make the bed every morning and sometimes it's okay to leave the dishes. I brought myself out to dinner and I laid around to stare at the ceiling fan. And you may ask, what the hell does it matter?
Well you see, the last few years (maybe my whole life), I've been so caught up in what comes next.... Who am I going to become, what is my purpose, why am I here, where am I going to go? I've carried the weight of the worlds problems and my own self inflicted personal desire of perfection on my nimble little shoulders to the point of near suffocation ~ gasping for breath and sighing for relief. In the midst of my over-indulgent self inquiry and the restlessness of where and what is next, I fear I have missed the point.
There are these moments of complete clarity, where I am absolutely receptive to the universal flow of life. You know~ the place where you don't have to question why, you don't have to keep score, you don't have to anticipate your next move. Instead, you show up, sit down and enjoy. It's easy to lose that, it's easy to get caught in the barrage of personal expectations, it's easy to try to fulfill this little box society has laid out for you, it's easy to be distracted and to doubt and fear if I'm doing enough....
But what it comes down to, truly, is taking the day as it is. Waking up in the morning without the need to manipulate or manage the hours and minutes. It is when I am most isolated from time and space that creativity, appreciation and pure satisfaction finds it's way. Boy, I've hurried - and I hurried for a long time. In all my attempts to race the clock I sadly developed the ability to numb out and forget the simplest elation of youth. I tried so hard to make things happen instead of just letting them happen. When you're stuck in that rigid, limited way of thinking, you are encapsulated in a very restrictive casket of reaction & resistance. Organizing and analyzing to the point that you miss what so eagerly awaits your attention... ya, that's where I've been.
To be more specific, I've been lost in my mind ~ you know, that rabbit hole of constant chatter. Oscillating thoughts - should I do this, should I do that, what about this, no I can't, I don't have the time, life is so short.... The only sense of consolation I find is in the slow down. And this slow down isn't the image of peaceful thoughts, relaxation and mastery of the roaming tendencies of this 3 pound brain lodged in my skull. I don't find it as a surprise, but the confession isn't an easy one to swallow..... I want time to myself, and then I get it, and immediately I am flushed with an overwhelming, heavy range of discomfort. WHY, I ask, is it so difficult to be with myself??? WHY does it take me 7 days to finally let go enough to relax? WHAT has caused this incessant need to charge full speed ahead? WHY am I plagued with the notion that there isn't enough time? HOW did I become so dependent and addicted to the noise of a busy life?
The answers don't matter, rather the gold lies in the questions. The human condition is this beautiful battle field of opening up and letting go, noticing and accepting, witnessing and reflecting. Most of the problems I encounter in my teeny tiny world of Alyssa lie in the need to define the undefinable. I want to relate to the world, to my emotions, my thoughts ~ but these are not possessions for one to hold. They are not tangible and they should not be quantified as such means of measuring a good life. What I am slowly beginning to understand is that the Holiest, fullest days are the ones in which each moment slowly slips into the other without the need to record or reminisce.
I (we) are not incapable of being simple human beings ~ we have an innate capacity to enjoy all of life. The challenge presented is not in becoming this innocent blank slate, rather it's a remembering. Well, next the question to ask is what must I remember? Good god, smell the pines, awe in the colors of the moss, notice the texture of the bark. It seems so trivial, but it is the finest details that make this experience sacred. In the blur of busyness we become blind. The rawest piece of meat is that the simplest things are usually the most astounding, and frequently the most over looked. Life is inconsistent, always changing and full of revelations. We live in a world of abundance, though act out in the fear of scarcity. When we are locked in this sense of not enough (time), we sightlessly give up our freedom to Be. When we are constantly shackled by our thoughts and emotions, dragging them around like high school trophies, we are unable to arrive. Each day we must valiantly attempt to cut our ties in order to spontaneously enjoy the newness of each day. We leave only to return again.
Day-by-day, breath-by-breath, we find our way Home.
I'm currently in a 500-hr SomaYoga training up at Yoga North in Duluth. With that said, there has been much time to reflect... A little deep, but maybe you'll find something that resonates.
You don't have to travel to find new lands, simply take a second to look inside and you realize the mystery you long to uncover is found in the Soul you hold.
And what is freedom, one must ask. When we are born, are we free? Throughout the ages and the stages what causes us to lose track of that safe space we know as Self? The true Self, without masks; free to cry, smile and laugh. As a child, innocent, we know the Spirit well as we play, dance, and sing without the cue of a ticking clock.
Oh, how do we become so numb, when did we let go of the fun?
It is the mind that frees or enslaves us. Our waddling in a past full of memories, our grasping for a future we may not know, our organizing and analyzing that which Is. This constant pull of the intellect keeps us from the pleasant moment of simple experience. When was the last time we felt the wind blow upon our brow? Do you remember the smell of the pines? Have we lost touch with the secrets of the silence? Our incessant need to understand and conceptualize binds us to walls of doubts & fears, are they our own or have they been passed down? We are but a reflection of the environment that has raised us.
Life is much simpler than all of this. The sun rises and it sets, the waves ebb and flow. The rhythm of Nature does not miss a step, it does not question ‘is now the Right Time??, nature does not question ‘am I good enough’. For Nature moves as it will, as it always has, never worried if it’s going forward or back. Nature does not question, it simply lets each day unfold.
Nature is indivisible; no good, no bad. Pure and clear, nature lies far beyond duality. It is ‘immanent and transcendent’ and it is always Present. For the answers we search for lie in the questions, the safety we seek lies in the Breath we Breathe. Is living not enough? The only thing we must know is ourselves, for what we are reflects all that is. Where we’ve been, where we’re going, we must find solace in not knowing. ‘Waking, sleeping, dreaming, the same Self abides in us’ – for the Soul does not divide experience. The soul does not know death, for this imaginary line does not exist.
‘Self-realization is higher knowledge and all else is lower.’ The deeper we go, the freer we become. During this process we realize we are a vast ocean of experience, a strong forest filled with love, a desolate dessert of mystery, a humble mountain of wisdom.
Home is not outside, it’s within~
for all we search for is where it’s always been.
On the surface faces look like many,
but pull at any strand in the universe and you find all is connected.
6 days deep into the New Year and I must share 2018 has been quite the shift.
Though much doesn't change between December 31st and January 1st, something has lifted.
Much of 2017 I was lost in this deep [too deep] trance of introspection.
It's important to get in touch with yourself-
however, becoming hyper-aware of every habit, impulse and disposition can be a bit daunting.
This 'self work' inflates our craving for perfection
and pulls us from the moment - who we are now.
When did it get so hard to appreciate the landscape??
Everything has a time and place, but the constant personal analysis was getting me down
and I had to drop the bag of melodrama for a minute.
This age old question of 'what am I doing with my life' loomed over my head, perpetually looping on and on.
Life is meant to be experienced, not conceptualized.
Yes, this mind is beautiful and has an innate desire to understand,
but at what point do you let go of the chatter and fucking live?????
It was -20 with 20 mph winds and I cooped myself up in the cabin
with nothing but the sound of the fire crackle and the dog breathing heavy on my lap.
I sat there wondering when did life get so serious???
At what point did I stop playing and exploring and freely creating?
And then some quiet voice reminded me:
You are a teeny tiny spec, on a big ball of dirt, floating around in the middle of empty space, in an infinite expanse ~
what the hell are you worried about?
We always think we are supposed to 'figure' out life,
and then manipulate and control every situation to fit into our box of expectations.
NEWS FLASH: life is always changing and the more we cling to our likes
or avoid our aversions, the further we get from truly experiencing the moment.
LET IT GO.
Every day the sun rises, every day it sets.
What happens in between really has very little to do with me.
The only 'control' I have is in my ability to relax & release into the spirit of experience.
To truly let life unfold.
Moment to moment, it is unfolding for our enjoyment.
It is only when the mind steps in front of the spirit that we begin to lose this connection.
Impermanence, what a blessing!
Every new dawn brings a full day of surprise, a suitcase packed with emotion,
a movie real of cars coming & going, trees passing through the windows,
birds singing, wind blowing, babies crying, lessons to be learned, love to be felt....
Everyday we are gifted with the mundane & routine
not realizing THAT is where life sits.
It is not in the plans and dreams and hopes we have for the future and
who we are going to become, where we want to travel, who we want to meet...
LIFE is here, right here, in this breath.
It is the grocery store radio station, the steam coming from a morning cup of tea,
the surprise visit from a friend you haven't seen, the cold freeze that makes you feel alive.
Life is happening even when we fail to witness it.
It's all much simpler than we make it~
Everyday is providing us with the people, the places and the situations we need to grow,
the lessons we need to learn, the love we need to feel.
If we want to be fulfilled, all we must do is let go, let it happen and begin to pay attention.
What will 2018 bring, I'm excited to watch it unfold~
"Go into yourself.
Find out the reason that commands you to write.
See whether it has spread it's roots into the very depths of your heart;
confess to yourself whether you would
have to die if you were forbidden to write.
Most of all- ask yourself in the most silent hour of your night: must I write?
Dig into yourself for a deep answer.
And if this answer rings out in assent,
if you meet this solemn question with a strong, simple "I must",
then build your life in accordance to this necessity;
your whole life, even into its humblest & most indifferent hour,
must become a sign and witness to this impulse.
Then come close to nature.
Then, as if no one had ever tried before,
try to say what you see and feel and love and lose....
Describe your sorrows and desires,
the thoughts that pass through your mind and your belief in some kind of beauty -
describe all these with heart felt, silent, humble, sincerity
and, when you express yourself, use the things around you,
the images from your dreams, and the objects you remember...
... your childhood, that jewel beyond all price,
that treasure house of memories, turn your attention to it.
Try to raise up the sunken feelings of this enormous past;
your personality will grow stronger,
your solitude will expand and become a place where you can live in the twilight,
where the noise of other people passes by, far in the distance-
And if out of this turning within,
out of this immersion into your own world, poems come,
then you will not think of asking anyone whether they are good or not.
For you will see them as your dear natural possession,
a piece of work of your life, a voice from it.
A work of art is good if it has arisen out of necessity."
-Rainer Maria Rilke
Note to Self: The Illusion of Indolence
On the surface, things seem idle and indolent.
However, it is here, in these quiet hours, that the most visceral discoveries reveal themselves.
It is the little whispers of wisdom you must greet with the widest appreciation.
For their value is not yet tangible, though with trust and patience, virtue will be uncovered.
Do what you enjoy and the sweetest fruit will fill your fortune.
It is a daily practice in which your fears and doubts cease to influence.
You realize what you do today is all that matters and finally
Winter is an intimate time.
Minnesota - a land with blurred lines.
It is only when the temperature drops below 0
and the wind blows over 20 mph
that I begin to comprehend the season.
It is the unpredictability of a raw freeze that stops me in my tracks.
Crisp, cold air ~
I finally found the courage to bundle up and enjoy the arctic,
in doing so the melancholy so frequently defined as
the "Winter Time Blues" begins to drift away.
I do not dread the grey skies, they pass like everything else.
Beauty found in the hollowness as I listen to the crunch beneath my feet.
Waking up to a blanket of white cleanses and creates a new slate.
The barest trees exemplify the fragility of life,
half naked & empty.
There is an evident vulnerability attached,
a time of deep introspection.
Nights run long and darkness comes too early..
It's not always comfortable and it's not always exciting.
However, winter whispers secrets other seasons don't know...
& it's slow.
Our natural tendency is to want to escape the cold & avoid the shadow-
to run and find warmer thoughts and sunny lands..
Though it is the bone thrilling frost in which character is born and wisdom is found.
Merciless, a constant reminder to face it all without aversion.
To simply appreciate where you stand~
even with frosty feet.
You can't turn back the clock.
At some point you have to really look
yourself in the mirror and ask
"AM I SHOWING UP"?
Our passions do not come randomly.
They are sent to us as a guide to
move forward in a meaningful way.
Life is short and it only gets shorter-
what is it you're living for?
I've been contemplating the existential question of
"WHAT IS MY PURPOSE"
since as long as I can remember.
The signs kept pointing in the same direction.
But I'd avoid it, push it off until tomorrow.
"I'll begin another day"
"I'm too busy right now"
"I'm not ready"
"What will people think".
Oh, how often I steal from the moment due to my habitual need
to chime in and provide 'help' or (most often unwanted) insight.
I've begun to notice this impulse each time I interrupt the conversation.
Frequently filling the gaps with "I know...." or "you should try this"....
On the surface it seems innocent and meaningless,
dressed in false empathy and support.
However, what I've realized is how little I listen
and how often I feel the need to defend MY opinion, MY experience, MY ego.
Context: I've been receiving and responding to Snail Mail from a very dear friend living out West. At first these letters were nice means of keeping in touch, in a meaningful way. However, the depth and degree of each handwritten note continues to surprise me. My ability to recognize such personal pitfalls is not foreign, however being able to share these with another has definitely become a new practice. A practice that is proving to be extremely helpful in creating positive (almost effortless) changes in my habits & impulses.
Step #1. Notice.
Step #2. Accept.
Step #3. Let Go.
After our last phone conversation I felt a pitiful sense of regret for my pushy opinions and subtle [not at all] means of 'advice'.
After a day of such remorse I opened your letter...
"The practice of providing, not pushing."
I'm sure you've picked up on my impulsive need to toss in my two cents.
Please be assured this forcefulness has been a demon since as long as I can remember,
& is most definitely recognized as a shameful incompetency-
one I'm trying to tame.
I am aware, of course (after the fact), that my hasty responses
and 'I know it all' attitude is both a beast and a burden.
I'm also going to assume these patterns are generally brushed off,
maybe even unnoticed.
However, this is a shadow I've been dancing with two left feet.
So instead of running from it, I'll dwell a bit longer....
The question then becomes:
What is it I'm trying to defend?
This habit is not found solely in long distance phone calls, it has plagued me throughout all relationships.
Another question arises:
Why do I feel the need to be heard?
What is it that I'm retorting?
And why exactly do I attach myself so strongly to personal beliefs & opinions?
The answer is not solid, but I must start somewhere...
Maybe it is an empty seat filled with overwhelming doubt?
A lack of self esteem? A tactile response to keeping my head above water?
Instead of focusing on Self, I reflect on the gaps of the external world.
Is there a difference?
Only in the name I give it.
All-in-all, my ego screams to be heard.
This life, these relationships/connections are nothing less
than puddles of pooled lessons, mere reflections.
Am I doing it right? Am I being fulfilled?
If all I see is unfulfillment (flaws, faults, deficiencies) of others, that can only mean a void lies within. To combat the dirty downfall I welcome an integration - to practice listening more than I speak.
Please, be patient with my process.....
I touched down in Vegas.
A White Ford Utility Van swooped me up and off we went. Mike is the ramblin, gamblin gypsy soul I met back in Winter Park, Colorado. A Minnesota boy livin' on the road. Throughout the years we'd adventure into the woods whenever timing and convenience allowed. We've spent our moments climbing fire towers, wandering the Superior Hiking Trail and exploring Stillwater and other Minnesota finds.
Winter was on the horizon,
so I thought why not make a trip to the desert before the cold set in?
He welcomed me into his home. A built out van fully dressed in character. Tibetan Prayer Flags entangled with Christmas lights hung above the plywood memory-foam bed. A straw hat on the dashboard. Rocks & crystals in every cup holder. Plastic totes filled with kitchen supplies and laundry baskets full of rock climbing ropes and carabiners. A mini book shelf stocked with an Edward Abbey Quote Journal, Thoreau's Walden and a few of Kerouac's favorites. The floor was covered with a dusty striped rug and a gallon bucket lined with grocery bags hung on the door as a garbage bin. Red curtains broke up the space; driving in front, living in back. Shoes and hats dangled from the passenger seat.
Every inch was resourcefully endowed with simple living.
We spent our days crawling up, beside and on top of the rocks. From red, to orange and yellow, to whites, pinks and browns - the landscape was a rainbow of erosion. Years of change captivated in wide open spaces. Within one 30-mile stretch we saw the ecosystem change tenfold. I had the luxury of window watching. Arches and canyons contrasting the bright blue sky. Dirt & dust. Grass & shrubs. Pandorosa Pines, Douglas Fir & Aspen lined trails.
It's funny how you notice the familiarities of home no matter where you go.
Per usual, I denied any insistence of having a plan - stubborn & steadfast - we floated on with ease. Without much conversation we landed wherever the dirt road led. Backroads as our driveway, each day holding a new home-away-from-home. Once we arrived to the new abode we'd pile the brush up for a cozy campfire. Hobo dinners and BBQ sauce filled the air. Thanks to daylights savings the evening fell slightly after seven. Darkness became the coyotes cue to cry. Staring deep into the hot coals, as the guitar hummed chords I hadn't known.
The desert is a different land. Hostile yet Holy. The air is thin and full of dust, though easy to breath. The space is silent, yet full of insight.
You sit down and you see nothing, you hear nothing, yet you find something. No cell phone or calendar or clock screaming at me to do this or that. A routine consistent with following the sun; up with her glow and out with her disappearance. Time - time to sit and stare. No agenda, no expectations, yet all was exceeded. These experiences are subtle reminders to live in the moment. To be present with the company that surrounds you, the environment that houses you, the heart that holds you.
The week boasted a plenitude of these very moments.
Much of life is surface level - until you decide to consciously dig a bit deeper, get your fingernails a bit dirtier, callous the palms and question the obvious.
These wide spaces left little room to hide and the camaraderie enabled the same welcoming openness. A humble acceptance to be as quirky with company as I am in solitude. Gratitude, true, wholesome, loving appreciation filled me up as I hiked my pack on my back. A hug and see you later before returning to the Las Vegas Airport.
You meet people in life and each one of them teaches you something. You can love them, hate them, admire them, miss them. They can excite you, inspire you, push you, challenge you, frustrate and irritate the living hell out of you - but they've stumbled in your life for a reason, even if only temporarily. Everyone and everything you see is merely a reflection, a mirror into the soul you call your own. And by being true to the experience, being aware of your surroundings, being receptive to the symbolism you commence your own meaning. And the interpretation you create emanates through your thoughts, actions and ultimately defines your connection. Regardless of the flux of life, every experience comes and goes in it's own time, and within perfect time.
You never know what you're going to remember, or who you'll see again, or how far distance will spread, but true friendship defies all boundaries. There are certain people that resurface and their appearance changes with the circumstances. Life is busy and she just keeps moving, and at times the bustle creates a facade of emptiness. A grasping for something more, robust relationships become elusive and you feel on your own. As I touch back down in Minnesota I breathe a sigh of relief, like a whisper of wind. Relishing in the comfort of coincidence. We're never alone, connection is merely a state of mind.
In some little town in the middle of the desert lives a stop-and-check-it-out thrift store.
I bought two blank cards: one for a friend, one for myself.
Later that night, with the stars and the fire as light, I picked up a pen.
I didn't have anything to say, but somehow I filled the empty pages.
Note to self...
November 10th, 2017
The page is blank and I've got nothing to say-
but I'll muster up something and save it for a rainy day.
What is the point to this life I ask?
The signs hidden in plain sight.
The point is not to merely count-
lost in memories or resurfaced doubt.
There is no goal and no place to be,
for it is the experience of waking up each day.
Wiping the crust from our dusty eyes and
letting go of the lonely miles.
A glimmer of ease in every shaky tree,
emptying itself of last seasons sorrows-
making room for infinite tomorrows.
Connection is found, right here and right now-
place another sage brush on this burning desert fire.
With each exhale the flame grew higher,
another day older yet getting closer
to that familiar innocent child.
Dirty hands darkened with ash,
beauty found in a dying past.
Me, My and the Mind
hanging out like long lost friends.
Where I've been and where I'm going,
finding solace in not knowing.
Another transition, subtle though strong.
Life is a journey, a constant returning Home.
In the name of mystery & adventure
Halloween is Chuckles 6 birthday.
Since the day I swooped him from the shelter
he's reminded me to be bold and to do as I please.
From the mountains to the backroads & paddle boards..
He is the best furry friend anyone could ask for-
Cheers to many more years of crazy antics.
Gradual, persistent and then all at once.
is in a state of constant change.
Sometimes we notice it, other times it sneaks past us
only to be found in reflective understanding.
Hindsight undoubtedly 20/20.
Same spot within a space of seven days.
The sun is slowly risin'
The day has just begun
Darkness fell behind us
And we must journey on
The darkest hour is just before dawn
the narrow gate leads us home
Look at that moon sinking
the horizon full of light
Whatever this day will bring
come without a fight
'Observe the difference between
being "nice" & being "real" -
From who or what do you seek approval?'
I was asked to reflect
& so I pondered...
Two sides of the same coin...
as a child I was told
'if you don't have anything nice to say
don't say nothing at all.'
The masks abound.
I spent much of my time lost in imagination
to avoid burdening those around me
with some of the emotions and opinions I had.
Then I found myself in the shoes of a young,
After years of suppression the fire was fueled -
I impulsively felt the need to rebel against
every aspect of system and society
spewing my 'truthful' defense.
The result was disconnected or short-lived relationships
& a hole of loneliness
I wasn't all that nice
& though my attempts were valiant,
I wasn't all that real.
This sense of blind certainty carried into my early 20's
and is only just beginning to dissipate.
The past few years have been a constant balance
of voicing my opinion when necessary
& learning when it's best to listen and nod.
I find that sometimes the realist response is to not react-
to sit silently and let others ramble into their own cognitive understanding.
Most of my life I was looking for approval
from countless outside sources.
What this led to was a very depleted sense of Self
with iron walls keeping others out.
I couldn't open up because I didn't want my quirks rejected.
I was trying to find safety in comfort,
but in seeking found a sense of uneasiness.
Only in the last few years
have I begun to understand the beauty,
in vulnerability -
in opening up.
Finding now that
the deeper I dig,
the more I share,
the freer I become.
Duluth, Mn & North
The weekend was spent revisiting memories past. Duluth was were I first began to truly discover myself, a young, innocent know-it-all freshman soaked up in the independence and freedom of college life. Returning to Lady Superior is always a coming home of sorts, a taste of timelessness. No matter how familiar the feeling, I seem to always get lost in the comfort of the serene and wild Great Lake. Exploring the raging rivers that hurl over boulders, creating waterfalls that flood downstream. October is one of the North Land's greatest gifts.
I pulled off halfway through Seven Bridges Road. Sitting atop the mossy basalt rocks - tapping into the subtle quiver of the aspen leaves. Perfect timing to soak in the peak of Autumn and all the symbolic lessons this season has to offer. Throwing twigs, watching as they plunge into the current. The movement of water; constant, unconditioned, untiring. No agenda. No rhyme or reason. Simply flowing where it will.
Nature, that’s all it is, movement. Nature does not resist. Nature does not control. It simply follows the cue of time and progresses, changes, evolves.
This picture was only taken a few weeks ago-
a Maple fully dressed in colors of the rainbow.
Full, yet dying-
branches bare as they await the frosty evening chill.
It makes me wonder,
at what point does the tree shed it's weight?
or is it the leaf that lets go?
A moment in time and a piece of the process.
Change. Transition. Cycles.
A gentle dance between give and take-
all depending on how the wind decides to shake.
Autumn seems to always point me North.
The days get shorter and the nights get colder.
Highway 61 continues to grab my hand, pulling me off the highway and through the small quaint Minnesota towns.
Somewhere there is an imaginary line where the prairie magically turns to pine.
I left the deciduous forest of home to soak up peak season of the Arrowhead region of the Northeast.
On the way I had some dirty laundry staring at me from the backseat, so of course I stopped to clean it.
Moose Lake. A small laundromat sat in the midst of the downtown construction. Population just scratching the surface of a few thousand. The owner sat quietly behind the dimly lit front desk, dodging eye contact and any surface level conversation that might proceed.
I ignored his avoidance and asked him for ten dollars worth of quarters.
His manner was calm, his choice of music was spot on.
The Rolling Stones singing from the tiled ceiling....
Why do you hide your love, they asked.
I had a few choices of chairs.
I picked the dark olive one with a square yellow cushioned back.
The washer shook as each cycle passed.
Lost and found socks pegged to the community board along with missing dog posters and help wanted ads.
What does any of this matter you might wonder?????
I've been feeling a little 'distracted' lately, as if I were racing for some unannounced destination. A common theme that continues to resurface as often as the seasons change.
Duluth was where I was heading, though a pit stop was completely necessary. Your parents always tell you that the older you get the faster it flies, this life never slows down. And though that adage holds a hint of truth, how much do we affect the pace?
A few years back I vouched to strictly stick to the back roads and though I find myself on the dirt trail, I'm still flying at 65 or 70..... WHY DO I FEEL SO RUSHED?? Where in heavens am I trying to get to and why on earth do I feel the need to do it as quickly as possible?
It's as if everything is pushing me onward
& all I want is to slow down.
Thus, the laundromat is where I found myself. I was engulfed in the setting.
People coming and going and with each ding of the door I was pulled back to my seat.
So often I find myself high in the clouds, my mind racing and pacing, oscillating back and forth. back. and. forth. The same stories and ideas and beliefs and judgements and worries consuming my energy until I am completely depleted and unaware of the world around me.
DING. Here I am. Back in my seat.
I hopped in my car and before leaving town found an all-day diner to enjoy a short stack heaping with butter and maple syrup.
I could have turned my back, but instead I decided to face the booth housing an older man sipping on his milk shake.
'Dessert before dinner'
he snickered. Not another word was spoken.
Feeling fluffy as the pancakes that heavily filled my belly, I paid my tab and moseyed on.
A shore shell sitting in the center council along with a driftwood dream catcher hanging from the rearview. Back to the back roads I go, this time inching my way north. Stopping for anything that caught my eye; county parks, a forest of pruned pines and the lake surrounded with tamaracks....
Life doesn't have to merely pass.
Down near the South Eastern tip of Minnesota lies a beautiful river town called Winona. I found myself situated in the heart of bluff country, surrounded by the mighty Mississippi and deciduous forests as far as the eye can see. Boats & Bluegrass was the occasion, a weekend getaway was the reason and autumn the season. I had been invited to the festival before, but finally carved out the time to dance in the dirt.
I headed south early Wednesday to enjoy a long drive following the windy Historic Highway 61. With a cooler full of fresh food, guitar lying atop my camping mattress and great company in the passenger seat, I began to lose interest in the ticking clock. As my responsibilities shed their weight, expectations naturally ceased. We spent the day wandering throughout town, followed by a short hike overlooking a birds-eye-view of the backwaters we'd soon be playing in. Before dusk settled we made our way to the grounds of Prairie Island and set camp beneath a small grove of trees with the river quietly running yards away. The sun was hot with the forecast in the 90's.
This year the festival celebrated it's 13th birthday and the energy was high. Originally started in 2005, Boats began as a way to promote Red Tail Outfitters, a local canoe and kayak rental company. Over a decade later the music lives on and ticket sales continue to be capped at 1500 in order to keep the festival small and full of character.
On the surface, people come for the music. Strings, banjos, and electric washboards hum from Thursday to Saturday. Songs about time, death & dying, whisky, falling in love, living life and letting go. The music doesn't lend itself well to categories or boundaries, but for imaginative imagery we'll paint a picture blended with bluegrass and modern folk. Some of my favorites included Shook Twins, Mandolin Orange, Them Coulee Boys, Rachel Hanson Band, The Lowest Pair, Charlie Parr, Dead Horses, and The Last Revel - [full lineup online]. The lyrics are relatable; stories about transitions and troubles, connections to the past, hopes for the future and gratitude for the opportunity to let your hair down and dance in the gravel. It's Mid-September and as the leaves gracefully fall, the songs don't only sing to you, but through you. Autumn being the beginning of some undefinable end.
Beyond the music lies a community of free-wheeling, happy campers. Mostly mid-western folks with hearts of gold and eyes that sparkle that all familiar welcoming twinkle. I came in good company, my friend Mike had lived in Winona for some time and was a seasoned veteran. He told me I'd fit right in, though I couldn't have imagined how right he was. I spent much of my weekend slinking in and out of the festival grounds, poking into different friend groups and experiencing the diversity of minds and personalities that flocked to the festival. The openness and blind hospitatlity always amazes me, strangers who quickly let down their guard, conversations that outline personal struggles and dreams and hopes and aspirations. Freedom, you can feel it, always and everywhere, if you just bust down the walls.
The environment sets the tone. Boats and Bluegrass is a fun, family-friendly festival with a laid-back, hang-out, kick up your feet kind of attitude. Winona State University organizes backwater trips in which you can either follow a group through the marshy Mississippi or freely borrow canoes, kayaks and standup paddle boards to independently explore. There is live river concerts throughout the weekend with a houseboat as the stage and the water as the dance floor. The harmonica bouncing off the banks as bald eagles fish for lunch only feet away from where you float. There is no agenda, no hassle and absolutely no worries pulling you around.
College kids, townies, travelers, the outdoorsy type, business folk, gypsies, deadheads, musicians and artists all jumbled together. Campfire songs and hammocks swinging from tree to tree. An early sunrise haze to welcome each day. Lawn chairs on the beach and kids swimming like fish. The best apple pie you can find and local beer on tap. You get what you need when you need it most.
It was the last night of music and as the stars multiplied with the dark skies, I lay flat upon a childhood memory. The merry-go-round spins with my head in the center. Innocent, once again. I reflect on the weekend and recollect the endless conversations and connections that were made. The amount of free hugs and genuine smiles - all these people who told me what a treat the weekend was. I believed them, but now I understood. The festival was spent barefoot and braless. I had no image to uphold, and with an empty slate I was clear to be whoever I wanted. And for the first time, in a long time, I felt like myself. Sitting in a calm space with the stars still swirling above. Another reminder to not take life so damn seriously, to slowdown and enjoy the spins, to open up and let love in, to shake my hips, get dirt under my nails and to love the life you get.
It's easy to get caught up. It's easy to follow the distractions and to fill the schedule. It's easy to lose yourself in this modern-day bustle. And though at times it seems hard to find yourself, to reconnect, to appreciate who and what and where you're from, it is the meaning we give that makes this life worth living.
How often do we question our step? Always looking over our shoulder to see who is watching, silencing our song, reserved and afraid to dance to our own beat.
A personal reminder:
LET LOOSE. Stomp and twirl, make some noise - you aren't dead yet. Don't doubt your rhythm, especially in such a pretty dress.
Boats & Bluegrass is one of those unexplainable experiences in which you have to be there to take it all in. The quality of music is untouchable, the kindness of the people is undefinable, the beauty of the setting is magical. Truly, and without doubt, this festival is a homecoming of strangers, friends and family for years to come.
Until next year, keep dancing.
On Tuesday I turned 25.... words won't suffice. So here is a picture to put it into perspective. Life is free & easy if you let it. Love the ones you meet, learn from the ones you love and let that damn smile shine. Thanks for all the birthday wishes y'all.
Photo Credit: Eugene Young
Unless it's mad, passionate, extraordinary love - it's a waste of time.
There are too many mediocre things in life.
Love shouldn't be one of them.
-DREAMS OF AN INSOMNIAC
We often think a soul mate is the perfect fit. Someone who compliments you in ways you've never experienced.
Often it's an image of perfection, at least that's what mainstream media and entertainment wants us to believe. But, how boring would it be if all you ever did was agree?
You don't want someone who is going to tell you what you want to hear, You need someone who is going to shake you up and challenge every belief you thought was true.
You don't want predictability,
you want someone who is going to cause chaos in your life.
She won't be graceful,
rather she is going to come in kicking and screaming.
She is going to eradicate any ideas you had for normality.
She is going to expose you to your fears, doubts and any insecurities that have held you back.
She is going to tear down the very walls
you thought were protecting you.
She is going to make you look deep into who you are,
What you believe and for the first time in life
she is going to make you stare yourself straight in the face.
She will be a mirror into all the beauty
and the pain you've held and hid.
She will mark a
beginning & an end.
She will inspire you to be better.
She will motivate you to chase the dreams
you thought lay dorment in the depths of your mind.
She is going to show you all of your barriers,
addictions, and negative thought patterns.
She is going to break you wide open
and strip you of any superficial layers.
She is going to make you feel naked, completely unsheltered, and then she is going to hold you and tell you it's alright.
She is the home you've been patiently waiting for
and she will provide you with warmth, acceptance,
and understanding every step of the way.
She isn't going to come when the time is 'right'.
No, that's not her style -
She is going to come when it is least convenient
and she is most needed.
She is going to love you from a distance,
watch you grow and struggle,
and then when you've finally loved yourself enough -
she will quietly be waiting with open arms,
ready to pull you in and start anew.
She doesn't expect you to understand her, all she asks is that you
She is going to be intense, serious-
and at times abrasive-
though none of that matters.
Deep down you are going to see how gentle and kind she is.
She is going to prove her love in the simplest ways.
You will crave her tender touch
and experience withdrawal with it's absence.
This woman is going to dance around in your dreams.
She is going to shine a light when skies are grey.
She will listen to your thoughts even when you don't want to talk.
She will see through all the masks you wear.
She is going to confuse you and question you-
but her patience will keep you around.
If it's slow, it's worth it.
She will be a mystery,
one you will be curious to explore.
Her mind is wild and her heart full of passion.
She knows what she deserves and that is a life time of love.
She wants you, but doesn't need you.
She will forgive you with sincerity-
And she will apologize when she is wrong.
Humility is what she does best and she asks that you laugh along.
Life will no longer be black & white. She is going to color your world with imagination and fantasy.
Her mind is often in the clouds
and she looks to you to bring her back down to earth.
This woman is special.
She is going to be full of life and beauty,
often it'll bring a tear to your eye.
This woman is rare and she is imperfect,
but she will be herself
-nothing less, nothing more.
She is unapologetically authentic
and for much of her life she resented it-
But the woman who can love herself,
and can see through the veil,
knows what she deserves.
And if you can see it, you become it.
Her freedom is what brought you together,
and often it will make you nervous,
though it is this same freedom that keeps you coming back for more.
Love her. Listen to her.
Don't make her guess.
She does't expect much,
but she also doesn't wait around.
If you find a woman like this, make her yours.
Grab her hand and never let go.
She will fill your life with love and nothing will ever be the same.
She will take away your breathe just to fill you up again.
She is the essence of beauty
and she is the strength you'll need to
mend the depths of your deepest cracks.
She can not be tamed, nor would you want to.
Instead - run away with her thoughts,
be apart of the vision,
and embrace the wholeness.
A woman of this kind is going to be complicated and messy,
but she is going to be worth it.
She is going to feed your soul
and hold your heart in the palm of her hand.
As long as you love her, she won't leave you.
She will be the first thing you think of each morning,
And the final thought before you rest your head at night.
This woman is the half that will make you feel whole,
The missing key you've been waiting for.
You're not the first person to love her,
And you most likely won't be the last.
So give her your everything and let her know how real she is.
Don't tell her she is beautiful, tell her why.
Don't be shy and don't hold back-
This woman is going to be your weakness
though she will always provide.
Let your spirits tangle together as
cohesively as your bodies laying atop the green grass.
Explore and discover the World together.
She isn't looking for a savior, she's looking for a sidekick.
A woman like this is your door to infinity.
She will be limitless and unbound.
If you can stay present and grateful
She will gift you the deepest rooted affection.
When you find a woman like this, hold her tight.
October 15, 2016
I have been running wild since I was popped out of my mama’s womb. Always filling my schedule, racing to the next milestone. Never finding time to sit down and JUST BREATHE. Thankfully, that is all starting to change….
For a while I lived the routine life of biweekly paychecks and studying for exams. Then I graduated and bounced around from city to city – camping, hiking, traveling, living life. Though it was all beautiful, all apart of the process, it was tiring.
i am tired.
i am tired.
i am tired.
Our society prides it’s self on personal exhaustion.
10 hour work days, blocked out calendars, never finding time for the basics – sleep, proper nutrition, exercise.
Hell, what is relaxation??
No wonder why life is flying past, the days that never seem to last….
It is time to SLOW DOWN.
For the first time in my life I have no plans.
No expectations. No idea what comes next.
The weather in Minnesota is beautiful and is only going to improve. Summer nights have that perfect kind of chill reminding me that autumn is just around the corner and with it comes a time of transition, inspiration, and change.
I listen to the birds sing.
The misty, fog air creates beads of dew collecting on my summer kissed arms. The sun sneaks between the branches illuminating the green, fresh leaves. How had I never noticed this beautiful hardwood jungle I call a backyard? This dusty old hometown I apprehensively moved back to is slowly evolving into my happy oasis filling me with love and a DEEP sense of gratitude.
Oh, how much had I taken for granted.
Home. The trees, the green, the lakes, the love. All of these things I forgot about… There is no where else I rather be and it took me years to see. I’ve always wanted to get away, to go somewhere new, escape, flea, constantly chasing a feeling. The idea that the grass is always greener…..
All I have to do is pick up my feet.
Underneath, right where I'm standing, is beautiful.
When you’re racing around you get so lost in the momentum that the fine details that make this life worth living often hide behind the monotony of daily routine. The alarm clock shakes you quicker than you had hoped and the traffic begins to boil your blood. The distractions and noise keep us from hearing ourselves, listening to what we need, pushing us further and further from what we feel.
That’s where I’ve been at and it took me this long to realize it. Even though my schedule wasn’t filled with business meetings or client lunches, it was constantly moving. Sitting in one place was nearly impossible. For so long I was gasping for breath. My inhales were a few seconds shy from full and my exhales were deep sighs of exhaustion. I thought I was so different from ‘society’ but I was right there in the rat race.
Slowing down seems to be the hardest challenge, but really the answer to any modern day ailments. The stress we, as a society, put on ourselves is overwhelming – physically, mentally, and spiritually. We wonder why we’re overweight, sick, and unhappy. Our bodies, our minds, and our souls aren’t made for the constant go-go-go. There has to be a balance. We have to allow ourselves time to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate.
I know it isn’t feasible to quit your day job, drop out of school, or move to the woods… But there is a lot that can be done amidst the hectic life we live.
But where do we start?
It’s the only place to begin. It’s the only quality that breads fulfillment. It is what our hearts scream for.
So often I am lost in the plans and expectations of where I 'should' be, what I desire and crave, that I spoil what is already in front of me. I can't see it. I become blind to the obvious. Too close to touch.
And then I remember,
I woke up this morning, this is my life, what am I going to do with it? True happiness is to enjoy the present. Realize that what you have is sufficient and in most cases much more than you could ever need. Be here, in this moment, with this breathe and take a second to smile for all the gifts you’ve been granted. This life is a blessing, you’ve just got to wipe away the cloudy haze.
So, how can I get there?
By slowing down.
In order for me to get out of my head [my thoughts, plans, expectations, worries, anxieties, ideas for the future, qualms of the past] I had to get into my heart. I replaced the stories of my mind with the feelings and emotions of what's going on RIGHT NOW, not yesterday and not tomorrow. Experience is in the body, not the mind. Slowing down allows you to enjoy the little moments, it lets you feel the subtleties within. It is the slow down that allows you to see things for what they really are. It opens you up to enjoy and appreciate the finer details.
It is so easy to be swept up by the distractions, the bills and responsibilities, the to-do list's and overarching demands of life in this consuming culture....
But sometimes you can find a slice of stillness.
Sit with it. Step back. Take a second to notice.
You woke up today.
You are living.
This is your life.
All the choices you have made have brought you to this point. You have everything you need, now the only thing you have to do is take a second to appreciate it.
I was looking through my journal-
found this short piece from June.
Learning & relearning everyday.
Practice patience by noticing impatience
11 p.m. trying to fall asleep
I want to...
teach before I learn.
run before I walk.
leave before I arrive.
love before I listen.
Not a bite, I NEED the whole damn cake.
I've spent the majority of my life wishing for more,
craving it all.
Expectations keep you from experiencing life fully.
My mind, somewhere far ahead.
My feet, could not catch up.
Restless and searching.
Engraved in this culture of go-go-go.
An indication of the times.
There needs no shame, no blame, no claim.
And with that comes change.
Reread, reflect, relearn
The only thing I know is that I know nothing at all.
Though I've had a tendency to come off as
abrasive and pushy with my beliefs,
I toggle somewhere between a cautious child
and a presumptuous idealist.
I am learning, like the rest of us.
I'm a restless soul,
this is apparent to anyone who knows me well
(or has just bumped into me).
I have a new idea everyday
and I bounce from one rainbow to the next.
For so long I wrote this off as impracticality,
now realizing it's dead-weighted impatience.
I preach patience as a virtue,
yet have many lessons left to learn.
The more I sit back, the more life unfolds.
We don't have control anyways,
so I gratefully wave the white flag.
Time will always tell.