The journey within

10527388_10203856120219799_4946734703162978337_nIt’s been six months since I have written a post here. For that, I apologize. But, to be fair, it has also been six months since I’ve done much adventuring to speak of.

It has been a long winter indeed.

Shortly after my last post, I started graduate school at University of Colorado Boulder. Everyone knows that grad school gobbles up hours pretty effectively, leaving little time for intrepid capers.

Not that I could do much capering anyway, given my current physical state.

In October, I had surgery on my right hip. Turns out hip surgery is sort of a big deal, and managing school, work and recovery was a lot to cope with. Then, in January, I had surgery on my left hip. Turns out bilateral hip surgery is really a big deal. Long story short, I had bone spurs in my hips that, over time, had destroyed a lot of the soft tissues in my hips (ligaments, labrums, capsular tissue, etc.) Fortunately my cartilage was still in good shape, or I would have been in trouble (best case scenario: double the recovery time). Both operations caused my body significant trauma and some very unpleasant adverse reactions, but overall I came out alive and kicking on the other side.

Six weeks after surgery number two, I’m still using a crutch to walk more than a block or two. Ugh. That makes it pretty difficult to do much adventuring.

However, medical obstacles create another sort of journey, I’ve found (and no, this is not my first surgical rodeo). When we are faced so immediately with our own physical fragility, we are given a wonderful opportunity to journey within. Continue reading

Notes on a creative life (a.k.a. my return to academia)

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” ~ Mark Twain

streetI quit my job today. After less than a year of employment.

Was it an awful place to work? Not really. Were my coworkers difficult to get along with? No, for the most part they are wonderful, kind, intelligent people. Were my job duties mind-numbing? Sometimes, but such is the reality of many office jobs, I think. Were the hours long and conditions demanding? Definitely not. In fact, I had a pretty sweet gig: part-time, good pay, telecommuting/flexible hours, and I could even bring my dog to the office.

Why, then, did I quit? Why would I give up on a job after such a brief term? Continue reading

Upward, over the mountain

10945731_10205197762360014_7238558099522567804_nI always feel like ski lifts are cheating.

The prize of that view, that feeling that you are a giant, that in fact you might be a god, and the entire world stretches out before you, the snowy mountainside falling away beneath you and the solemnity of those dwindling pines at the treeline… I feel like these things should be earned. Perhaps these beauties should be more rarefied, the sole domain of those willing to struggle endlessly upward to attain them.

But here, in Breckenridge, I stand strapped into a pair of long, slender planks comprised of wood, carbon fiber, epoxy, polyethylene, plastic, steel and wax. I glide across groomed, domesticated snow (some of it probably man-made) with hundreds of other “outdoor enthusiasts”, queuing up in orderly lines for the ski lift. Jovial teenage boys scan the breast pocket of my jacket with a device that then produces the sort of fake laser noise you might hear in a 1980s sci-fi film, or maybe Star Trek. We all scoot along slowly and awkwardly (skis are meant for going fast, not slow), sort of like cattle in a pen, toward a row of electronic gates that open and close rhythmically. As my row of six skiers bursts through the gates and shuffles toward the loading line, the attendant delivers an oft-practiced speech about holding your poles up, looking behind you, grabbing the back of the lift chair… Continue reading

A fond farewell to New Mexico

IMG_20140517_232220A week from today I will be arriving in Colorado. A different home in different surroundings. New jobs and new friends. A continuation of what we’ve built, but also a fresh start.

Many people have asked me if I will be sad to leave New Mexico. The answer is yes and no.

For me, there is always a sort of bittersweet goodbye when I leave a place, not knowing if or when I will return, and also knowing that if I ever do return the place will not be the same. Places have a life of their own. Much like the living things that inhabit them, places are constantly changing. Cities grow, businesses fold, buildings decay, and entire neighborhoods are “revitalized” beyond recognition. Landscapes shift and transform, always under the slow erosion of wind, water, and time.

As Heraclitus wisely pointed out, you cannot enter the same river twice – next time it will not be the same river and you will not be the same person. Continue reading

Travel as a state of mind: microadventures close to home

One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of seeing things.
– Henry Miller

A microadventure to City of Rocks State Park outside Deming, NM a few years back.
A microadventure to City of Rocks State Park outside Deming, NM a few years back.

I love it when friends or family come to visit us in New Mexico. I look forward to these visits not only because I enjoy spending time with those I don’t often get to see, but also because playing tour guide reminds me how beautiful and wondrous New Mexico—and indeed much of America—can be.

It is so easy to get caught up in the prevailing notion that adventure is the exclusive domain of overseas travel. Let’s be honest–in our consumer culture, travel has become yet another commodity, another sign of wealth or status comparable in some circles to a Porsche or a home theater system. We tick off countries and compare our lists: I’ve been to 16 countries – how many have you been to? Our travels are material conquests, notches on our belts that are confirmed through colorful stories and exotic snapshots. Photo albums on our bookshelves, neatly labeled: Thailand 2006, Czech Republic 2008, Zimbabwe 2011, Patagonia 2013, etc. While this brand of consumerism appeals more to me than the alternative (I would much rather accumulate experiences than “stuff”), sometimes I still question my own motives and the impact of my travel compulsion on myself and the world around me. Continue reading

Sacred places: Utah’s canyon country

IMG_20131130_105913Every one of us has a sacred place somewhere. I believe there is a physical place on this earth that occupies an unsullied space in each of our lives, where we retreat when we are in need of respite. This is not a “happy place” per se; it is instead a powerful place, forcing us into a state of retrospection, introspection, and an openness of spirit.

For me, that place is the canyon country of southeastern Utah.

There is something about the mesas, towers, and gaping expanses of this place that speaks to me, draws me in and holds me willing captive. We go there on the pretense of climbing, but what I feel is far more than the cold sandstone against my skin, the hollow breeze whispering in my ear, or the echoing cries of coyotes in the night wind.

My memories of this place stack on top of one another in a multifaceted tapestry of joy, sadness, triumph, pain, curiosity, fear and healing. There is a rawness here that envelops me, leaves me exposed to both memory and discovery. This place has its own voice, and it calls to me from open country. Continue reading

A slow shift toward the Long Road

Our house full of stuff.
Our house full of stuff.

Any goal worth pursuing requires preparation. And so it is with our impending PanAm adventure.

We are slowly shifting the very structure of our lives. This is easier said than done. We often don’t realize in this country how entrenched we really are.

We have a house full of stuff: unused golf clubs languishing in the garage, boxes of art supplies, box fans, piles of books, seven years of tax records, extra dog collars, a bin of orphaned cables and cords, a veritable jungle of houseplants… you get the idea. It just piles up in the course of everyday living. We hardly even notice its accumulation until we attempt to downsize. In America, having so much stuff is normal. In fact, we probably have less stuff than most. We will get a storage unit for the few sentimental items we don’t want to part with, and the rest will be redistributed via moving sale next summer.

There are the other trappings of modern American life that weigh us down, too, like the complex web of financial obligations we all create for ourselves: bill pays, bank accounts, credit lines, contracts, mortgages, student loans, and retirement accounts. Much of this is already sorted out, and it will be quite nice indeed to simplify our financial landscape. Continue reading