Friday, December 26, 2008

Aluminum Echoes of Birdsong

Christmas was a blur of humanity and western landscape, a few of my favorite things. I flew home Tuesday night, played Christmas Wednesday morning with my sister Dami – I was too excited to give her climbing shoes and take them for a smear to wait until Christmas day, when the gym would be closed and I would be back in Salt Lake.

Our Christmas Eve climb date, following in the monthly tradition we’ve had going since September, was a trash-talking giggle fest, with a pleasant surprise this time; we met a new climb/ski buddy, a fellow Idaho native who we both agreed probably crossed our paths by divine inspiration. Family time was mellow, full of good humor about bad times, awful jokes and retelling of good times. The best part of family is nestling in to a world where people are irreplaceable, where you aren’t anonymous, where every interaction is tangibly laced with history and understanding. Christmas morning, I woke up hung over from a late night chat/debate with mom, drove across an unusually snow-coated Boise, built Lego creatures with my bro TJ for hours, breakfasting with his side of the family, and stopping to see Grace for the first time in over a year. (A year is far too long to go without being even remotely near my “other” sister!) After that happy chain of events, I set sail to the skies, being only briefly delayed in the Boise airport – which, if you’ve flown through there, you might know that it’s just a fancy glass birdcage. The resident birds of the east corridor were chirping away by the B gates, singing Christmas songs – foreshadowing for the flight, where an enthusiastic and off-key flight attendant chirped a “We Wish You a Merry Christmas” on behalf of Southwest Airlines. Christmas night found me right at home in my present location, with another family I love dearly and treasure my time with. Holidays are special, not because of dates and obligation, but rather the collective good will and love that seems to reach through the Universe and tie people together, regardless of the "reason for the season."

Today, the barely-four, adorable little girl I was skiing with looked up and said, "This is fun, I love you." I looked right back at her and said "I love you too, McKenzie." Cheesy as that may sound, it was a simple, beautiful interchange. In my personal, non-public writing, I've been musing about that expression often, for months. Frankly, I've feared it, held it back, kicked it away from me and pretended I didn't hear it more than a few times. In my young adult mind, "I love you" had implications, expectations, held a certain level of the harnesses of the enemy: commitment. Over a year ago, I found myself in a house where that changed.

It was my first experience living with a family, a whole family whose ties and security hadn't been charred by the firestorm of divorce, for the first time in well over a decade. "I love you" was a liberally applied statement of affection, for those little moments simple greeting at the door, jubilant expressions during passionate conversations on any topic, part of the ointment routine for the bruises and bumps of children. "I love you" was written in the dish suds of that house, scrolled in the hardwood floors, placed in vases in the center of the kitchen table. Honestly, it made me uncomfortable for a while, and I didn't know what to say. The "I love yous" never abandoned me or begged a return of sentiment, no matter how quiet I was, how little heed I gave them.

In time, I had come to understand that reciprocation is not a requirement of a sincere "I love you," and tear-jerkingly emotional, expectation-laced yoking wasn't part of the game either. In fact, saying "I love you" isn't a game at all.

In a way, living there healed my negative associations with the words, and better yet, it healed the pathways between my heart and my brain, where "I love you" didn't send me running for the broom closet when I felt it bubbling to the surface of my own emotions, and the idea of someone feeling and expressing love for me didn't send me turtling into the collar of my own shirt.

Not that I've shouted it from the rooftop, or desecrated it with over-use or misapplication. I'm miles from that kind of behavior. But I have said it where it counts, and no longer fear the words "I love you" where they rightly belong and are backed by sincere feeling.

On a lighter note, I adore flying. For one thing, I get whole hours to sit still, uninterrupted. No matter how little I have in terms of luxury, even the cheapest flight feels like an opulence high. Something about being sardined in a sailing tin can with a bunch of folks I don’t even know, who clutch novels I’ve never read and share my oxygen, just seems oh-so exciting. The journey is always beautiful, in all my travels, but when I elect to take a plane, it usually means something about the destination is worth hurrying for, and I love the feeling of that energy coursing through me – anticipation, excitement.

I hope your year dwindles away in a sequence of beautiful winter days, and unfolds into an advent of re-birth, the turn of a pristine page on which you can write whatever you please.

In the traditional Icelandic way of saying goodbye, which I’ve become fond of…
Bless bless!

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Moab Getaway

Matrimony Springs, Moab, UT. "As the legend goes, if you drink from it, you will be married to Moab, and always return." I drink deeply, every visit.

Closing the door on the Red River was a little heart wrenching, the symbolic prelude to leaving town - indefinitely.

Moab couldn't be more gorgeous, the La Salles are cloaked in brilliant white, reigning majestically over the red plateaus, the martian landscape, the floor of this valley that gently rises to rub elbows with the sheer cliffs that surround it.

I love this place. It is one of my homes, a place where my soul has been set free time and time again.

I was sleeping in my car one spring night earlier this year, in a town that shares some of the same nuances of Moab, yet hosts a distinctly different flavor, and operates at a perennially lower volume. It was a frigid desert night, and I snuggled into my 0* down bag, listening to the whistling, whispering desert wind draw its fingers over the roof of my well-beat Civic. Lost in my thoughts, I came up with the idea that the desert doesn't offer much, doesn't extend its hand to feed and nourish. Rather, the desert stands stoically, silently, the liberty of interpretation and self assertion lying in the heart of the beholder. Like a backpacker appreciates food on an empty, calorie torching venture, a soul appreciates the lack of propaganda in the desert, the mind cleansed of input and free to process its own products. It takes a few days for the gunk to clear out, and that's why I came.

Cryptically speaking, a synopsis of the experience would fit nicely in these limited words. I found a life altering book on the 50cent paperback shelf at the library yesterday, which opened the vacuum sealed fluids of my brain to look at some "things" a little more constructively. In so doing, I realized the words that go along with the actions I've been taking, and how it all fits into the collective psychology of women, in my generation, with regard to my personal history. I'll make a post about it sometime, when I've finished the book - it presents some really powerful concepts I'm excited to share.

Anyhow, this voyage into the desert yielded thousands of words of progress on some writing projects, a new haircut (pictures, later) and some time with old friends. And, the soul-soothing vistas of a familiar landscape, which kind of brought it all together in the first place.

(Oh, and a desperately needed kick in the ass, dually brought to me by the deity and human hands that wrote the little paperback into being, and placed it on the discard shelf, and the allowance I gave it to rock my monotonously fog enshrouded little boat.)

I love, love, love teaching skiing. But this live out of a car, sleep on couches and in random trailers life suits me quite well. Travel writing would be ideal for me for the next few years, I need to find the words and means to unlock that opportunity, reconfiguring my off-season rhythms.

Speaking of which, I'm going to hop back into my car now, cruise to Salt Lake, and take my belated shot at some of the new powder in the Wasatch. More to come this weekend, and my beloved cousins are coming to visit soon - backcountry jump, anyone?

Life really is grand. :)

Monday, December 1, 2008

I lied.

Fall is not over.

Today's weather makes me question whether or not SUMMER is over... I might go hike Olympus in a bit, seeing that it is bathed in 70 degrees of sunlight.

December first. Come on.