I want to live where the color of summer is green.
I want a quiet dirt road where I can feel the mountains in the air.
Where the spring snows cling to the shadows.
I want a place on this road that will always feel like home.
And in it, a room full of books.
I want to work hard.
But, I will find joy in that labor. To write words that will – in some small way – help. To rake mountains of leaves in the fall and cut wood for the fire that will – on some winter nights – feel like a treasure stolen from the gods.
I want to play.
By this I mean to be in motion. To climb trees and behind their leaves pantomime hide and seek until I am very, very old and very, very gray.
I want the freedom to wander away, to disappear for days on end.
It may not always matter where or when, but simply that I can and, most of all, that I can always, always come home to warm my fingers on a cup of black coffee…
Have you ever experienced the feeling of being not-quite-home?
I’ve been in this place a lot, at the intersection of one life and the next.
Where the place I am doesn’t feel familiar enough, but the place I’ve left feels just as strange.
It’s been more than six months since I packed up my world and moved to Boulder.
But, Boulder doesn’t feel like home yet, either. I step through my routine of sleep, coffee, work, run/bike/hike, repeat. Write a little. Read a little. Call my mother. Send love notes to my friends.
And yet, Boulder isn’t quite home yet.
The landscape (dry, even after weeks of rain) is so foreign to me. The flora (sequoia pines that smell like butterscotch when you press your nose against their bark, sage growing wild by the trail). The fauna (rattlesnakes, mountain lions, magpies).
I hike and sit on the rocks, slowing turning bright red from sunburn, looking out over the plains with something akin to confusion. Then, I turn my back and look west toward the mountains, bravely white-capped against the warming world.
In the city I make small talk at the coffee bar. I bike along the creek to and from work. The living is easy here. Easier, I think, than what I’m used to. Even having a food allergy is impossibly easy. “I have a soy allergy–“ “Oh, we don’t use soy in this restaurant.” “What? No soy in anything? Not even the chocolate cake?” “That’s right.” “Give me six of the chocolate cake, then!”
I learned to make Cuban coffee in a moka pot, although I use less than half the normal amount of sugar. I learned, too, how to stuff herbed butter under the skin of a Cornish Game Hen and how to trim climbing skins and how beautiful the Flatirons are when illuminated by alpenglow.
The beer’s not as good here. But the mixed drinks are much better.
I’ll make it back to Vermont next summer, I hope. Right now, I’m on my way to Baltimore for my cousin’s wedding and I wonder, I can’t help but wonder: what will it feel like to come… home?
In all sports, you must learn to trust your body. In skiing, you place your trust in the power of your legs, the pressure of your shins against the front of the boot, the angle of your hips. You trust your body to control your speed and propel you forward, to absorb impact and launch you into flight.
But I think… In one sport, it’s less about trust and more about faith. Trust has a logical basis. Faith is at least a little illogical. Faith requires a willful denial of logic. Which sport is this? Climbing.
In climbing, you must have faith that your hand will not slide and that the strength in your fingers is enough to hold steady. You must have faith that your reach will expand that extra inch, that your jump will bring you just a little bit farther than seems possible.
More than anything, you must have faith in your feet. Faith in the ability of your feet to find a hold where none exists, to turn rock crystals into a perch that will bear your weight just long enough to follow your momentum to the next hand hold, the next foothold-that-isn’t-there, anything to move forward.
Can you tell that I just went climbing after a hiatus of years?
I don’t know about your ski resort, but it’s definitely been a busy summer at mine. Here I was worried that I wouldn’t have anything to do. I couldn’t be more wrong. It’s a different kind of busy than it is in the ski season, but it definitely is busy.
I’m coming down from the high of Wanderlust-Stratton. While I’ve worked every day since the 16th, supporting the festival was hardly labor. As my first festival experience, I spent the entire four-day period wrapped in wonder, exploring. I’m sad to say I didn’t suck the marrow from the festival, but I’m also not surprised. I didn’t know how much I would be needed in the office, so didn’t sign up for many classes or lectures. I popped in on a few, but found that my body was so out of yoga shape that I was nearly crippled by day four, conveniently when I decided I wanted to do a Chi Running workshop.
Suffice to say I did not make it to the workshop.
But, even without the Chi Running coaching, I still feel kicked out of a weird little funk. See, I was not built for sitting still or windowless rooms. To remind myself of this, I want to write down my Wanderesolutions.
Move every day.
Explore, with wonder.
Write where someone else can see.
Appreciate the wealth in simplicity.
The first two points need no explanation. They come from Wanderlust directly. To move one’s body and explore everything, inside and out.
The second two merit, I think, some introduction. To write where someone else can see is to write bravely. Which means, mostly, writing here. But also, I’d like to write for publication. I’ve said this for years. Now that I’ve claimed my quiet places in both the woods and our house, it’s time to make time for that. To do it, perhaps with shyness, but to do it anyway.
As to simplicity. In middle school, I bought a copy of “Walden.” I started reading it, as evidenced by a few underlined passages. Past the pencil lines, I see a self-conscious un-understanding; knowing these things were personally significant while being uncomfortably aware that the words were not really significant yet. Like an premonition. It makes way more sense now.
In short, between now and next year, I have an awful lot of Wanderlusting to do. Let’s go.
Last night I held a firefly in my hands. I held it and marveled at how something so light could possibly shine so brightly, so fiercely, and for so short a time. Ever helpful, I scooped it off of the outside door and carried it to the side of the house within sight of the rest of his brethren. Fireflies, lighting up the yard under a canopy of stars. This is why I like living in the country.
Last week I caught frogs and crayfish with my nephews. This week, I caught fireflies and bottle flies and several mice of varying sizes. I’ll be honest. The bottle flies and mice did not survive the encounters.
I’ve seen deer illuminated by headlights and turkeys stirred into motion only by the honk of a horn. I almost stepped on a garter snake, have seen painted turtles on the side of the road. I said hello to the neighborhood fox on one of my runs, but I haven’t seen the lynx since November. When I sat with myself in the woods, I closed my eyes and wondered what I’d do if I found myself eye-to-nose with a black bear.
No moose or ticks yet, either, but plenty of spiders, crickets, and flies of various biting capabilities.
A luna moth with a bent wing. Chickadees and crows and small birds I don’t know the names for. Hawks with their heads turned regally away – I’m not worthy of their notice.
Minnows around my toes. Gypsy moth caterpillars. Ants. So many ants.
These are all of the reasons I live in the country.
You know those rainy days when you find yourself questioning?
Your work. Your play. Your relationship with other human beings. Your relationship with yourself. Come on. You know what I’m talking about. The days when one question tumbles into ten, a hundred, more than you care to count.
On that day, I highly recommend going out to enjoy the rain. Stand in the parking lot with your head tilted back, face to the sky. Close your eyes and feel the spaces between the rain. Feel the impact of the air, feel the comforting coolness of the water as it slides into your eyes and runs from jaw to clavicle.
Forget for a moment to pull your rain coat over your head. Forget that you’re supposed to be inside cooking dinner or returning phone calls. Forget the spreadsheets, the grocery list, the laundry piled in a disheveled heap on the bed. Forget.
It’s common wisdom that two people engaged in a romantic liaison should never under any circumstances teach one another to do anything. From running to poker, nothing good can come of this.
Or can it?
R and I have survived the winter of sharing our sports with one another. Here’s how we did it without one stabbing the other with a sharpened ski pole.
1. Have an actual interest in learning the sport.
I’m serious here. Reasons you should learn a sport from your lover: you want to play that sport and want to play it with them at some point in time. Reasons you should not learn a sport from your lover: you want to keep an eye on them, you don’t like them having their me-time, they’re forcing you. These are bad bad bad bad reasons and will only make the experience miserable.
I dated someone who forced me to run with him. It was the worst. I didn’t start running again until nearly 3 years after we broke up. Why? Because it was torture. Don’t torture; it’s mean.
2. Establish a teacher-student relationship that is different from your partner-partner relationship.
During teaching time, let the teacher teach and let the student be a student. Don’t just acknowledge that the teacher knows what they are doing, take it for granted. Believe it from your frostbitten nose to your tennis-shoed toes.
For us, this was pretty easy. We’re both athletes used to being coached, for one. But, perhaps more importantly, we do a pretty good job of communicating our lesson needs to one another. Teaching tennis is part of R’s job. It’s what he does, and he does it quite well. When it came time to teach him to ski, I took cues from our tennis lessons on how to talk, how to explain things, and how to listen.
This isn’t to say it’s always easy. R, for example, does this thing called “talking” which drives me nuts. I can’t listen, wind up, aim, and hit a ball of yellow fuzz all at the same time.
3. Know your limits as a teacher.
I can’t speak for R here, but I can speak for myself. I have never taught skiing to anyone. I am navigating this teaching thing by guesswork, relying on examples and tricks I either overheard or vaguely remember from the two winters I raced. I know I can’t be his only instructor, which leads me to —
4. Allow and encourage them to learn from someone else.
You’re not the only person in the universe, and you may not be the best teacher for your lover. I’m not the best person to teach a complete newbie how to ski, so I helped R get set with rental gear and gave him a good luck kiss before he went off to take lessons from a properly trained professional.
In tennis, a shoulder injury prevents me from doing a normal overhand serve. The person who taught me my serve wasn’t R, but one of our friends who happened to know enough about tennis to suggest it. R don’t take it personally that someone else’s boyfriend fixed my serve.
I use the word fixed very loosely here. My serve is terrible. But at least it doesn’t feel like my arm is tearing through the socket every time I try.
5. Kiss them when they’re happy, kiss them when they’re pissed.
Unless they don’t like kissing. In which case why are you dating this person?
Here, basically, no matter what, be positive. If they’re driving you nuts, be positive. If they’re getting ticked at you, be positive. Tell them that they’re doing great. If they really aren’t doing great, give them a kiss and say, “That’s enough for today.” Maybe they had a bad day. Don’t make it worse by forcing them freeze on the chairlift or hurt themselves by flailing frustratedly at a ball of fuzz.
That’s all the advice I have. Do you have experience teaching your loved one, or being taught by them? Funny stories, epic fails, or brilliant victories? Tell me about them. 🙂
I haven’t forgotten about this. I haven’t left this place behind, forgetting it like I’ve forgotten so many others. For once, I haven’t forgotten the place, but the words.
That’s it, really. I just don’t know what to say.
Are pictures really worth a thousand words? Well then, here’s a picture.
I’m not one for flowers, really. Roses have very little appeal and while I like the look of lilies, they (like cats) hurt my eyes within a few minutes of exposure. That said, once a year, I like tulips.
The bouquet I bought yesterday sits on the kitchen counter in the glass jar usually reserved for muesli. They are pink and yellow and just starting to bloom.
The snow is thick on the ground and the days are still so cold that an hour above freezing is a welcomed reprieve. But it is spring. In a few weeks, the mountain will close and I will regret ever thinking of summer.
In the meantime, I will change the tulips’ water every day. I will fill the glass jar halfway with cold water because I’ve heard it will make them last longer.
This single-panel comic turned up multiple times last week, both on my FB newsfeed and in causal conversations with friends. I laughed the first time I saw it. The second time, I giggled. The third time, I started to wonder. Why on earth do I live where the air hurts my face? And why on earth do I have no intention of ever leaving a place where the air hurts my face? Simple.
Because I know how to keep warm.
I ski the trees and find myself sweating at 20°F. I turn my face to the sun when I stand in the woods. I wrap myself in flannels so broken in they’ve lost their structural integrity, but not their warmth. I drink whiskey with my friends, letting the liquor warm our throats and our tongues. I am carried away by the sight of the stars burning fiercely through the cold night sky. Then, later still, I curl up beneath a layer of down and fall asleep to the peculiar silence of falling snow.