Home in the land of the homeless: Pacific Northwest

Then we’re home
Finally home
Home in the land of the homeless
Finally home

-Paul Simon, “Hurricane Eye”

Misty woods in Washington
Misty woods in Washington

I have always had a restless spirit. When I am grounded, I dream of taking flight. When I am flying, I look for solid ground.

It’s not that I am dissatisfied with where I am at. Not at all. It’s just that there is some ineffable force pushing me constantly onward, almost as if I am a fish and if I stop moving I will no longer be able to breathe. The specter of stagnation forever gnashing at my heels, spurring me to seek new surrounds.

Like I said: restless spirit.

All of this restlessness leaves me also with a perpetual sense of homelessness. I live in a dichotomous limbo between craving a sense of home and being compelled to continually refresh my surroundings. In short, I never feel truly rooted anywhere when I am always preparing to leave. And indeed it seems I am always either coming or going, returning or departing. I often come back to a place which harbors fond memories, strong memories (like Maine or Oregon), and my experience is an unsettling mixture of nostalgia and renewal. Like meeting up with an old friend who is now a stranger.

My summer travels brought this fact into sharp relief: none of us can ever go home. Not really.

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Solitude in wild places: Trinity Alps

The mountains are calling and I must go.

– John Muir

A quiet trail through the woods, Trinity Alps.
A quiet trail through the woods, Trinity Alps.

There is something about the high country that calls to me, pulling me from the road or the city or the coast, and into the jagged peaks and brooding valleys of the Rockies, the Sangre de Cristos, the Sierras or the Cascades. This time it was the Trinity Alps Wilderness in northern California calling to me.

One of the magazines I contribute to was in need of some photos from this area, which provided a convenient excuse for a hike. After several days spent socializing in San Francisco and Chico, I was well ready to escape to the woods with my dog. Although I am exceptionally extroverted, I also require a good amount of alone time to maintain my equanimity. I need solitude to escape the distractions of our modern lives, to quiet my mind and remember those things that are really important. Despite an unwavering attachment to certain people and my deep, meaningful and fulfilling connections to those I love, my own company is that which I thrive most on. Reconciling these two opposing forces is a continual balancing act. Hence, the solo road trips and the solitary walks in the woods. Continue reading

Siren song: San Diego to Big Sur

In the sky, there is no distinction of east and west; people create distinctions out of their own minds and then believe them to be true.

Big Sur, Calif.
Big Sur, Calif.

The towering cities of the East inspire in me a melancholy contemplation of humanity. The organized chaos of urban density forces me, hesitantly, to confront the relentlessness of time and cultural experience in a way few other places can.

But it is in the deep skies and open lands of the West that I find solace.

I left San Diego on Saturday after a week of good food, dog beaches, tennis in Balboa Park, and runs along the marina with Ben and Bridger. I dropped Ben at the airport on Saturday afternoon for his flight back to New Mexico, and set off north with my dog.

I made a slight detour to Nuevo to pick up a puppy that needed delivering to the Bay area, which routed me around Los Angeles the long way, skirting the metropolis to the east and the north. I always try to avoid L.A. whenever I can. Unlike the condensed vertical landscape of New York, Los Angeles casts a wide net, sprawling across an enormous stretch of terrain. Its labyrinth of congested freeways tangle together like a massive web, millions of cars shining in the sun like drops of dew along each strand. I sped though as best I could, knowing that if I stopped I would surely be caught in the sticky suburban web. Surely if I stopped I would be devoured. Continue reading

Still point in a turning world: NYC

This doesn't need any explanation
This doesn’t need any explanation

There is nothing I can say about New York City that hasn’t been said a million times. There is no story I can tell of this place that hasn’t been told and retold by countless others. But every iteration, every telling of these stories builds upon the words and thoughts of every other. They cannot exist independently from the aggregate whole.

As the art of Oliver Laric reminded me today, in the telling and retelling of such stories, people reveal not so much about actual events as about themselves. Every truth reinforces a repetitive illusion; every lie creates an alternate universe in which that lie is true. This endless intertwining of stories — and of selves —  is how I become overwhelmed in a place such as New York City. Adrift in a sea of humanity.

But I do not shy away from being so lost. I embrace it. I fling myself headlong into the teeming masses, the human machinery of urban existence. Continue reading

Silvery edges: Maine

At the edge of consciousness
Where the lines they start to fade
Where the spirit goes undressed
Of all malice and brocade
At the edges, silvery edges
Where the mirror it bends and stretches
Past the edges of this world
Where the waters crash and curl

-David Gray, “Davey Jones’ Locker”

Birch Point Beach.
Birch Point Beach.

There is a power of place that transcends memory, time and logic. Smells, sounds, and shimmering moments of déjà vu conspire to transport our consciousness somewhere familiar, yet somehow altogether strange. For me, Maine is one of those places.

Situated so close to the mega-metropolis of the Northeast (only a few hours’ drive from Boston), it’s startling how tranquil Maine can be. The landscape, in summer, is quite picturesque: rolling green fields, dense woodlands, and winding rural roads. Homesteads and mansions alike pepper the coastal towns, lending a decidedly domesticated atmosphere to the region. I am accustomed to the rugged, gaping expanses of the West and, in comparison, coastal Maine does not feel at all wild. Even when a moose or a fisher can be spotted, or a giant snapping turtle crosses your path, it feels somehow… tamed. Compromised. It’s almost as though these creatures are intentionally making an appearance. As though they have agreed to participate in this quaint scene.

Even the Atlantic ocean here is subdued, its power diffused by the myriad islands and peninsulas, tiny wavelets curling over your feet almost imperceptibly on the beach. Indeed, a far cry from the thundering surf of the Pacific.
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Urban jungle exploration: NYC, Philly, Boston

My morning coffee in Maine

I am writing this from mid-coast Maine, looking out across a sunny lawn surrounded by woodlands outside the house. My hosts, former coworkers from Maine Media Workshops, are all running around campus in the frenetic chaos that governs the summer camp-like atmosphere of the workshops, performing their various duties with surprising efficiency. I, on the other hand, am relaxing in the peaceful sunshine of a summer morning, listening to the birds and chipmunks chatter at each other in the woods. Soon I will head out for a swim, a jog, and perhaps a boat ride.

The tranquility of coastal Maine serves as stark contrast to the bustling, noisy cities I just emerged from.
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It’s time (again): summer travel 2013

The view from the top of Cathedral, Tuolumne Meadows, during my 2011 western road trip.
The view from the top of Cathedral, Tuolumne Meadows, during my 2011 western road trip.

I won’t lie. I have itchy feet pretty much all the time. When I’m not traveling, I’m probably thinking about my next trip, which now is imminent. Hence, time for a post!

As an adult university student, I am acutely aware of the rarity of extended free time in the “real world,” and I am amazed that more students don’t capitalize on their annual summer hiatus. Maybe it’s because they’re all so broke and in debt they can’t afford to go anywhere. Financial stability — yet another benefit of being a 30-year-old college student instead of a 20-year-old.

Anyway, this is my final summer before graduation. I’m going to make the most of it, of course. Continue reading