Empty the Cup, Make Room

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Being injured is taking a giant emotional toll on me. I’ve been up and down daily. I am missing my connection with nature, forgetting that I don’t need activities to take me outside. Today, after much wavering, after saying I’d do it before and then not doing it, I drove out to the desert just for the hell of it. I figured I had shoes to pick up from Nomad in Joshua Tree anyways, even though I can’t wear them right now. I told myself I’d take just a small walk and snap a few photos.

It’s high tourist season in jtree right now and as I ventured on, I found myself becoming more and more frustrated, wanting be away from people. I didn’t even care where. I pulled over on the road out to cottonwood, and decided to peek my head over a short hill and take a peek at Wilson Canyon. I feel like no one goes here. It’s not the picturesque boulders and Joshua trees they come to town for. It’s standard sand and rock and chaparral.

But it is so quiet. A humming bird flew by and fluttered around the bushes right at my feet. It’s calm. It’s peaceful. It’s content.

I read a note today that I wrote myself a long time ago. I reminded myself that I don’t have to do anything. I put pressure on myself, I take the fun out of things. I push myself to accomplish and I disappoint myself. I’d rather be having fun. I can have fun by relaxing, by doing what I enjoy and enjoying what I do, removing the pressure and changing the way I see need intertwined with desire.

It’s been time for me to scale back, as my knee injury has made it all too necessary to slow down. I don’t spend enough time being slow, and observing; I forget to just be.

Now that I’ve slowed down, removed distractions, I notice I can see more. I can feel more. I’m sitting here on a rock, feeling a breeze ebb and flow, noticing the direction. I can hear birds and insects, a plane above, a car nearby. I can see a splash of color on a monotone hillside, tiny plants sprouting from the earth, subtle patterns in the clouds. Sometimes we must empty out the cup a little, to just let go, to make room for more life.

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Updates: Vanlife and Injury

I don’t seem to have a lot of words to put down right now, but I keep wanting to write as to not let things get too far away from me. I promised updates on the van and I shall deliver!

Saturday night: We are at a random campground we found driving to Lake Hemet late in the afternoon. No plan — just to get away for a while. The van door is open, we can hear a nearby creek. There are few people around, mostly in RVs dispersed over the surrounding 129 other campsites. This is our second weekend away since we installed the fan in the boat and it seemed to be working well, but has somehow developed a nasty click and a squeak. Mr. will be doing some research once home. Although, it’s been raining in torrents on and off since we installed it and no leaks.

Mr. installed another LED strip and we have additional lighting with a rudimentary swich. He’s planned out a scematic for some small can lights and a dimmer switch for the LED strips; we’ll also have dedicated USB charging ports. Eventually we’ll be adding some cabinetry, finishing closing up the walls and then I’ll hang some pretty curtains!

Back to this weekend. We had thought we’d make a better plan to get away for the holiday weekend, but the storm dubbed “Lucifer” drove us to cozy up on the couch Friday night instead of booking it up the highway. Four episodes of The Wire and as least as many cocktails drove us to sleep in and breakfast on the couch, listening to the rain, watching climbing videos and contemplating unplaned adventures.

As we are wont to do, we left the house without a clear destination, discussing options as we approached interchanges, finally settling on an area we haven’t spent much time in. We mapped to Idyllwild and seached for campgrounds that didn’t look like RV parking lots. We wound up a mountain road, the sun setting behind dramatic clouds and spooky fog, pulling up to Hurkey Creek Park. Welcome to campsite 67. Rainy, adventure bliss. The morning was misting and damp, spots of sun eventually fighting through the cloud cover, steam rising from the grass between forest groves. Surreal. 

Last weekend: We made it down the 91 freeway all the way to Corona before we even determined a direction of travel. Would we head north toward Bishop, or South toward Joshua Tree. We found ourself in Joshua Tree at Indian Cove at about 10:30 pm on a Friday night during high climbing season. The Boat was running on fumes and we missed the last gas station. It was find a way to camp here, or back track to the nearest gas station before trekking out to BLM land. This is where we met Flo. She was one of the few still outside of her tent, there was a large parking area outside of her camp, and after tossing the responsibilty around, Mr. won the priviledge of asking if we could share. Problem solved. Flo turned out to be super cool and we are both stoked to have one more climber to call a friend.

Tonight: Home. Resting. I have read many pages about the Civil War and George Armstrong Custer, I have knit many rows of my current project, and ready not nearly enough chapters for my online class. I have watched almost an entire season of Black Mirror in the last week, and am almost caught up on season 2 of the Wire. I’m tired of being on the injured list. I see the doctor tomorrow and I’m antsy beyond belief to get the green light to start getting strong again. My legs and hips ache from limited movement, and my mood is in desperate need of a bike ride. I’ve been trying to hangboard so I don’t loose my calluses and grip strength, but it’s really hard being at the gym and not being able to put on a climbing shoe. I feel weak and unstable, but I feel like I’m mending and for that, I’m excited and grateful.

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Reflections on Meditation

I have some long overdue van updates to come, but I wanted to break from the vanlife news and share something a little deeper and more personal. I used to do a lot of introspective writing, and I have always found great joy in making connections on a deeper level … but it’s also important not to forget about all the fun in things in life! So, while I work on more posts about the Great Winter Vancation, other recent adventures, and updates on the van construction (we installed a roof vent!!!!), I will share a snippet of other things in my life:

I began leaning on a steady meditation practice at the beginning of 2015. I was going through a stressful divorce, creating a new life for myself and seeking out change in any way I could find. The results were life-saving. Yet as time went on, as I felt stronger, my practice had slowly gone by the wayside. As 2016 came to a close, I thought about the things I wanted to change this year, the person I had become, the person I want to be and my journey, past, present and future. I needed to be more steady, more focused, and less chaotic.

These past few months I have been giving myself more inward focused care, and more time to grow my meditation practice. Last week I reached a profound milestone. I have made a promise to my own heart to be a more loving being, to always share compassion with all beings. This is my new everyday — my living, breathing mantra.

Today, during my walking meditation, I imagined myself as a tree — grounded and peaceful. My feet, roots communing with the earth on each step. The hairs on my head, branches and leaves. As I walked, my thoughts and worries and stressors all streamed behind me, taken by the wind and dissolved into the sky. The breeze rustling and multiplying the love in my heart, carrying it far, and wrapping all of my worries in a blanket of compassion before sending them off into the atmosphere. The growing compassion swelling my heart and spreading to the farthest reaches of all humanity. My mind, clearing and making room for all of the love, kindness and compassion absorbed throughout my day and beyond. Like a tree, I am strong and unwavering.

This is a beautiful life I’ve been given and each moment is wasted if not filled with love and kindness.

I am exceedingly fortunate that I am able to have these experiences; that my life has provided me the opportunity to have strong and admirable teachers, mentors and friends. I am thankful for each and everyone of them — and for all who read this, you are loved, even from afar.

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The Great Winter Vancation: Camping Reviews

A lot of people ask me about where we stayed in the van — and I’ve noticed that expectations are all across the board. Campgrounds? Parking lots? The side of the road? Wal-Mart?!?!

For the most part, campgrounds were the obvious choice, though we ventured to BLM land when we could, and we actually did end up on the actual side of the road once twice.

For the camp-curious, read on …  Continue reading

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The Great Winter Vancation: The Itinerary

It’s been a couple of weeks since the conclusion of the Great Winter Vancation and the Creaky Sausage Boat is now resting quietly at her dock. Weather and responsibility may keep here there for the month, though we keep tossing out ideas to get away again.

For those who may be interested, below is a rough map and itinerary of our trip. I really enjoyed the magic of some of the places we visited and for anyone travelling to these areas, perhaps you will also want to pay them a visit. It would be a terribly long post to discuss them all, however, over the coming weeks, I expect I’ll be able to say a piece about each.

map Continue reading

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The Great Winter Vancation: Part 3

We are home! A day or two early — not as if we were planning, though. In retrospect, two weeks is a long time away from home and we may have worn ourselves out a bit over-touristing the first week. We saw so much. It was super awesome, but I think we needed a few days of vacation from our vancation.

Also, the weather. The cold can be a bit overwhelming after so many days. On the morning after night nine, we woke up to ice on the insides of the van — on every exposed metal and glass surface. We had an early night, alone at Joe Skeen Campground, in the El Malpais National Conservation Area (see also: El Malpais National Monument).

It was an amazingly beautiful night; cold, but calm and very quiet. The stars absolutely killed it. We had just driven from our Christmas weekend rental house in Tesuque Village through Albuquerque, where we spent a couple of hours in old town, visited with an old friend and made some final touristy purchases (ie: southwest patterned socks, locally roasted coffee and chocolate doused in chili powder). We finally ate tacos and replaced our beloved bluetooth speaker that took a nose dive.

Back to Joe Skeen Campground. The morning was clear and beautiful, however, we knew that by Thursday night another storm would be rolling in. We left for El Morro National Monument with the plan to decide our direction of travel after our visit.

[Side note: El Morro National Monument is very cool. The staff at the center were awesome, and the monument itself was beautiful and the trails well maintained and cared for. This monument is also totally free. If you are ever in this area, please check it out! And offer support via donation if you can.]

After an amazing hike and a weather analysis, we determined that we’d miss out on local climbing, hit Petrified Forest National Park for sunset, and then power through to the Arizona/California border that night. We picked up burritos and coffee to go in Flagstaff, turned up the tunes and sped off into the cold, foggy night to our final roadside camp just east of the Mojave National Preserve. A short morning drive and we arrived at Sawtooth Canyon Campground for two days of climbing at one of our favorite crags, and one final night of vanlife in our favorite campsite.

We couldn’t have asked for better weather. The rock was cool, the sun was warm and the wind almost non-existent. Our skin was soft and lacking callus, as we’d been shut out from climbing for over a week, and had barely touched rock for the whole month prior to our trip. We climbed until our fingers couldn’t take it anymore, made one last meal in the Creaky Sausage Boat, and then headed for home, beating the rain by only a couple of hours.

This, was a great way to end the road trip portion of the Great Winter Vancation.

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Shenanigans

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My “deck” shoes

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Final post-climb meal in the CSB

More to follow!!!

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The Great Winter Vancation: Part 2

Christmas Day. It’s after noon and we’ve had a hearty breakfast and a dance-off in the kitchen. Mr. Ridiculous made bacon and eggs and coffee; I made terrible bloody Marys with beet infused horseradish, because that’s all they had at the market last night. We got a dusting of snow throughout the night and I’m perfectly happy sitting in front of the fireplace for now.

Patches of blue sky are starting to appear through the clouds, even though it’s starting to drop snow again. We’re currently planning the next few days of our trip. If the weather cooperates, we expect to get in a couple of days of climbing on our way home. We’ve been sussing out potential campsites and discovering all of the lesser known national monuments and forests between here and Flagstaff. Six more days to go.

Since I last wrote, we have been to the New Mexico Space History Museum in Alamogordo, the Three Rivers Petrogylph site, Villanueva State Park, Pecos National Historic Park, Santa Fe Climbing Center, Bandelier National Monument, Los Alamos, Cross of the Martyrs in downtown Santa Fe and countless other roadside stops. I will have more to write on these things later, but for now, time for festivities! Here are some photos  🙂

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Our second night of rain, at Holloman Lakes, outside of Holloman Air Force Base & White Sands National Monument

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The roughly finished “kitchen” in the Creaky Sausage Boat

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White Sands National Monument

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New Mexico Space History Museum at Alamogordo

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Three Rivers Petroglyph Site

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Villanueva State Park

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Pecos National Historic Park

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Bandelier National Monument

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