Inside Out

Inversion

I go in search of a wide open vista and breathtaking view, motivated by the tantalizing pictures and the prospect of a cool experience. Along the way, though, I am interrupted by a hail storm miles away from shelter, getting bruised and mud-spattered as I run home. Not everyone appreciates the abuse of a long hike. When I get back from a long, muddy, lightning-filled walk, I am filled with appreciation for my own pounding heart and the fresh air fueling my lungs. When I peel away the wet socks and sand falls to the floor, I am filled with appreciation for the shower that will wash away the grit of the day and the warm water that will soothe the strain of my muscles. I love an outing that turns me inside out and upside down. It shakes out the sand of my assumptions and leaves only the important stuff behind. This blog captures the stories of my many inversions. 

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Winter Wonderland

shadow silhouette on snowThe park and its people are getting ready for  the holidays. We wait for the skies to start dumping snow and for a weird little hibernation to start. Maybe that is the wrong way to describe it. Winter is a combination of hiding out in our dark little houses and playing even harder than we do when it is 75 degrees out.

Here in the mountains, the days are short and nights are dark, but on the weekends, we layer up, throw the skis on and don’t come back until dark.

Snow covered trees

We shush our skis through miles of snow and soak in the low winter light, breathe in the air sparkling with ice crystals, and enjoy a nip of whiskey here and there.

Tree shadow on snow with mountain background

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We sneak past secret places.

fox tracks in snow

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giant snow ball

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We talk, we don’t talk, we whiz down hill sides, we push up slopes until our heart is pumping, our layers are peeled off and the only thing left in our brains is the same crispness that’s in the air.

Oh…I do like winter.

Still Life in Costa Rica

IMG_2395The dip of a my kayak paddle silently skimming the water

Clothes wet then dry at night then magically wet in the morning.

Rice. White bread. Pasta.

Sand stuck. Everywhere.

Looking up at wooden bunks Hard comers of wooden bunks pressing against he top of my feet at night.

Damp clothes.

rainforest trail

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Cool water.

Screaming trees.

Deep soft croaks of frogs.

Short dogs.

Toad road kill.

Red butt tanagers.

Sweet smiles from strangers and Ticos.

Cold mora in the middle of a hot day.

Dusty feet.

Tiger heron

Tiger heron

Trogon and tiger heron on my hot sweaty walk.

Four macaws in a tall leafless tree above mangroves.

Missed bus. Convenient for cab drivers.

Tree fences next to red dirt road glowing gold.

The zip of fresh passion fruit.

The joy of fresh greens.

Sweet smell of ylang ylang heavy on the air.

Haunted Mountain

Al is a man who measures twice and cuts once. A retired NASA engineer, his life has been a model of methodical. He carefully coached each of his kids through a reasonably priced education, offered them rent at a fair price to live at home after college, and sent them off into the world of marriage with a tidy little nest egg for a house. When Al plans a vacation, the itinerary and hotel rooms are set months in advance and he’s done a comparison on whether a rental RV or a hotel room is more reasonable and never forgets to calculate the hidden costs. He is a model of how to prevent disaster in your life.

man at an overlook

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But he is also a curious adventurer. Among his questions about my retirement plans and whether I am taking care of myself, “You’re maxing out your retirement plan, right?” he is eager to wander among the towering pines and peaks of Grand Teton National Park.

trees in fall color

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We poke at piles of bear scat and creep up curving slopes of dirt road. As we speed down the inner park road, he surprises me.

“Do you remember the haunted mansion at Disney World?”

“Yeah.” There’s a haunted mansion at Disney World?

“Do you remember those portraits hanging on the wall?”

Crap. I was just being conversational. “Well…maybe I don’t really remember the haunted mansion.”

“Well anyway, there are these heads hanging on the wall, kind of like portraits, and instead of being concave their convex. You know, so it kind of looks like they are watching you wherever you go?” His smooth skin crinkles around his eyes as they smile.

“Yeah…” “That’s kind of what these mountains remind me of. You know, like they are watching me wherever I go…”

Oh my. This man of infinite practicality can also imagine these savage peaks

mountains with fall trees in foreground

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have looming eyes and mal intent.

mountain silhouette

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I think this is one of the gifts of travel. It peels back layers of the known and reveals the unexpected. I’ve known Al for years. He’s always been a gentle-voiced giant sensible love and stability in my life. And I never expected his mind to light up with frivolous imagination the way they did as we drove past those mountains. And it makes me feel lucky. Lucky to have people in my life that I know for a long time and stick with even though they are different from me. Lucky to know these people well … and be surprised by them.

What don’t you know about the people you think you know?

An Expert

I am an expert. In longing. It’s a thought that splattered in my brain like a big fat rain drop while I sat in a writing workshop. The Teton mountain range towered in the backdrop as the resident writer read evocative and verbose narratives describing mountains that make me want to dry heave in mock revolt. They feel too fake, too overdone. But as she droned, a voice in my head said, “I am an expert in longing.” I had to explore the sudden thought. All my teens, I longed for isolation to escape the pull and nag of the world, of school, of my parents’ expectations, of my girlfriends’ mood swings and silent treatment. I longed for a life that wasn’t punctuated with verbal jabs and where loose cotton clothes would make me beautiful. I longed for an ascetic life where only me and my most intimate friends lived in a cabin in the woods and gardened and fed each other and laughed. The china would be chipped – and that would be okay. The floor would be gritty but it wasn’t a worry; we would sweep it with a broom while the sun cooked the air and the crunch of the bristles sang calm into our minds. I longed for a life lived for something greater, where my integrity would cut through injustice like a ship cuts the sea. I longed for a life where couldn’t, wouldn’t and should were not the rudder that steered me.

red rocks and river

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Later, I longed for adventure. I moved West to a red landscape that made me long for it like a man longs for a woman’s touch.In the midst of adventure, I longed for normal. I lived with only what I could fit in my car yet I rarely longed for things – except maybe salt and pepper shakers and a vacuum. I longed for the intimacy of my childhood friends. For my mom. For a lover. But I found a life where one set of clothes is enough. Where chipped china doesn’t matter but delicious food and good friends at the table do. I30181_389908198194_3174851_n found a life where normal didn’t exist but laughter was paramount. Where function mattered so much more than fashion, where work that mattered meant more than a house or a routine. I found a world where – when I had the gumption to get off the couch at the end of a hard day – a world of crisp air would greet me, silence punctuated by raven calls and the click of a glass-winged grasshopper, mountains punched the sky and wind skipped across my skin. 61166_430789663194_7060685_n The world is where I sit, I wait, I wonder. I still have would’ves and could’ves – impossible to avoid. I still thrust my life into crevices that make me long for comfort or love or home. And the longing is sweet. It is filled with appreciation, with awareness, with luck, wonder and awe. Filled with uncanny encounters and unusual characters and frustration and emptiness and half drunk wine bottles and the spicy smell of juniper smoke. It is a lonely life sometimes, without one person to fill up all my needs, but it fills me with amazement. It’s edge gives me a sense of purpose to drive me, and if I’m not on the road to somewhere, I am stagnant and sad. I can’t imagine anything worse than life without the questions, “What for? What now?” When I am longing, I somehow also know, that I am on my way.