(All images in my stories are my own, unless specifically noted. If you would like to reproduce them elsewhere please contact me directly.)
We are soaking up every bit of hot salty summer air and time on, under and in the ocean. I feel so fortunate to be basking in summer after this winter that reminded us of all that New England can dish up! It is wild to think that Cape Cod bay had ice bergs only months ago. For all that I have have perpetual wanderlust, home right now is a pretty surreal and wild place itself, when you put all the seasons, nature and beauty together!
"And it is an interesting biological fact that all of us have, in our veins the exact same percentage of salt in our blood that exists in the ocean, and, therefore, we have salt in our blood, in our sweat, in our tears. We are tied to the ocean. And when we go back to the sea, whether it is to sail or to watch it, we are going back from whence we came. "
— President John F. Kennedy
"Promise me you will not spend so much time treading water and trying to keep your head above the waves that you forget, truly forget, how much you have always loved to swim."
- Tyler Knott Gregson, a wise poet from Montana
"I must go down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by;
And the wheel’s kick and the wind’s song and the white sail’s shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea’s face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must go down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied..."
John Masefield, Sea Fever
I am many things, a member of a lovely tight messy extended family, an restless explorer, a driven achiever, ocean lover in all seasons, a creative, and all of these personalities present external forces on me, and manifest from within.
And I have tried to live in the present in these personae, and I find that many push me to do so. It can be too easy to fall into the slippery slope of “when I graduation, when I get my big paycheck, when I get married, when I am on my next trip, When I - whatever,” and miss it all, the whole big messy journey.
This is a very “first world problem,” this phrase which is so often apt, though no less worth reflection. I know I have only dabbled in the third and second world in my habitations, but the words have a bit more meaning to me; knowing what it was like being chased by wild dogs, host bed bugs, wondering about when we would have fresh food, holding off on hospital visits due to a hepatitis outbreaks, and heavier things that do not deserve to be in a litany. So while the phrase both makes me pause and chuckle, it has a depth for me. I think for other people they mean it as a dismissal, I see it as simply a difference-different lives mean different blessings and different challenges.
In western India, as mid May’s almost visible desert heat permeated the city's market and pushed the temp to 125F, heat stroke’s clammy fingers grappling at my neck, the importance of the immediate moment almost took my breath away.
The crowd swirled around me, crushing in even as the roaring in my ears blocked them out. My vision narrowed into a black tunnel for a third time that day as I felt the world spin. It all reaffirmed what I had recognized in Indian on a deeply instinctive animal level, the understanding of why one might believe in many lives. Might need to in order to get through with the frailty of daily life. I was so breakable, I felt like a desiccated leaf that might simply collapse and be flattened in the crowd. All could be lost in one ill-advised choice or moment, or just bad luck.
India was merciless with life’s hard lessons. I was a human, but I was not especially valuable, however much I had been told it in America, or wanted to believe it. However much “value” I could create, in first world terms, it could all be gone in a flash.
In India I don’t think anyone, at least of a middle-lower cast, would ever have the First World expectation of 80 or 90 year life, planning out how they would live their entire life. People there seemed to grab every moment and live them, sweet, bright, aggressive and loud, often to my shock. There is no guarantee or time assurance on our wrapper, it is only this moment that we have. We might as well have sweet bright and loud.
When I chose to adopt Mia, I actively accepted this outlook, in a way, although I didn’t see it that way at the time. I didn’t know how old she was, with an absurd spread in ages from the vets. Her constant ailments leading her to be dubbed the "Lovable Lemon" three years later by one vet, because she was always so sweet in spite of ongoing illnesses. I knew she was a senior rescue, my "foster failure," although with love and care she has gotten healthier, and younger by all estimates. My answer to the daily age question is “8…for 3 years ;)”
Perhaps, just perhaps, she’s mellowing a bit, although she seems better than ever after surgery from blowing out her knee this past winter while gleefully snow diving when all her winter snow dreams came true as we humans sank into the depths of despair. But Mia teaches me so much, both her ridiculously joyful outlook in spite of a bad start in life, her love for everyone, but more, to live in the present with her because I truly do not know her age or her health. And there can be a gift in that when you bring gratitude for what is, rather than focus on what isn’t.
I think these emotions are a bit like that of New England August summer evenings. They cause your heart to ache, and you want the perfect pinks, oranges, purples and deep blue glow radiating off the ocean and the green of the land to last forever. It is all simply too beautiful for words, but a great part of this want and this ache, is because you know the moment is fleeting. June and July are gone, and you grab at August with both hands as summer will soon come to an end. You slow yourself down to absorb every emotion and sense; walking barefoot, inhaling coppertone, cut grass and salt sea, listening to the sounds of laughter around BBQs, skipping across lawns like a child, enjoying the ice cream, corn on the cobb and watermelon, and catching lightning bugs dancing out of the corners of your vision as the sky goes to a deep purplish blue. Everything is sweet and painful, precious because summer winding down. And also because there is still some summer, maybe even the best parts, for a few precious more days or weeks, and not a moment will be wasted.
I often have wondered if truly living, with awareness of the moments beauty and frailty is like an August twilight, so beautiful it almost hurts in the emotional depth and complexity, the experienced perfection and acceptance of loss, all in one moment.
And now again I find myself confronted with the emotionally challenging imperative of really living life in the now. Of giving love to someone, as they are here only now, and the timer has been set. Saying what is important now and simply being in that moment with those you are with, because that particular moment, will never come back again. Life never is perfect, but if we wait for the perfect moment we will wake up one day and whatever we hoped for, whomever we hoped for, it will all be gone. This can either be sad, and yes there is a sadness in really living admitting you only have today, just as it was terrifying in the market in India to realize I might collapse and simply disappear, but there can be a beauty in admitting the truth that all things are fleeting and to be grateful. To live like Mia, with wild joy and love in this present moment, for whatever time and whom, you have in your life. That is beautiful.
So Mia and I walk with her, strive to see the beauty, to pause and share those lovely imperfect moment with Her.
After arriving in an utterly perfect home, so zen and gorgeous, peaceful and meditative on a mountainside in Santa Barbara, I found the peace and quiet I craved after our endless winter, and the warm vibes and great waves one always needs down at the beaches of the region. But the stress of the last few months followed me into the surf, and I found myself wound up gunning for waves and messing them up in anxiety and a rush to get them, fear of failing.
I had to really stop and watch. Watch it all. The amazing porpoises, the sunlight on the water, the Channel Islands a misty vision 25 miles away or so, the surfers playing with the waves always ending with a fall. I had to let go, to realize that every wave they rode, these epic great local surfers ended with a fall. Of course. All waves end with a fall, in the end, no matter how perfect the ride, and it's ok, it's water. But it's the ride that counts. The smile on your face, the play with the wave, the euphoria rising in your chest and the out of body joy. Or if it doesn't go that way it's how you get up from the fall, laughing and ready for the next one, or shaking it off.
And so after a long while I returned to perhaps my Montana perspective, lost in the work life snow stress of it all, but a fresh perspective apt for that day, and every day, while sitting in the (warm-yes, guys) Pacific water. I had to let go. Trust in the waves. Trust in myself, to handle the awesome ride, and the fall, whichever whatever came, to know I am strong and playful at the same time, and that its all just life. You fall off every wave. In the end. It's about being totally present in the here and now, & just enjoying the ride while you're on it.
Sitting here now, it reminds me a bit of of "The Three Questions" from the Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn, or Tolstoy's later take on it. Essentially, it boils down to is '"there is only one important time, and that is now. The most important one is always the one you are with. And the most important things is to do good for the one who is standing at your side." For these are the answers to the most important questions in the world.'
And for me in that moment it was kindness to myself, and acceptance of the inevitable failure, therefore free from it.
And suddenly surfing became a whole lot easier, because all of it is amazing, the ride, the fall, the light, the waves, the water...
A dawn surf report from my awesome 'surf guide' - "Actually there were a few people at Leadbetter this morning, just looked a bit gutless. Refugio might be a good call... Good luck hunting the wild surf...G".
I'm officially in love with this lifestyle, hunting the wild surf!
"Yes, I have a 'surf van! "I don't go on vacation often, but when I do I do it right"
I joined the Wednesday Wave Warriors at Refugio today, totally lovely gentleman in their 60's and 70's getting back into surfing after careers! We couldn't have had more fun whooping it up and cheering everyone on, each at their own skill level.
And when I caught those waves, arced into them, slowed sped up... I'm pretty sure I literally glowed with joy! The feeling is absolute perfection!
I have been craving nature since returning to Boston, the way the brain turns off and you are simply a part of it all. I just stop thinking and absorb.
I am usually magnetically drawn to the ocean for nature, with the occasional hike in the mountains, and of course, weeks of skiing, but now I hope I will turn to inland more.
The cold this week was so intense that I knew there would be ice on the ledges in Franconia Notch, NH where I planned to hike, and poor Mia has a thorn in her paw, so I stayed local. And was wowed by the beauty of the nature just minutes from Boston. As always the moment you let yourself go and nature takes over, it impresses and humbles you. I need this daily!
Happy to be home and see what adventures arise next, but I still catch myself dreaming of that Wild West sunset just a bit, somewhere in the midst of South Dakota.
#borntoroam #wildwest #wildbeauty #chasingthelight
Bighorn National Forest is stunning. I hope to come back someday and see the Wyoming Dolomites on the Western side properly, in daylight, on foot. I only saw the wild beauty of the eastern side of the high pass, over 9000 feet, in the morning when we woke in the hunting lodge where I called it quits.
We drove up the western side in the darkness, total silence. I could see some of the dolomite spires as perfect black against the starry night sky, occasional shooting star distracting me from my slow and steady pace up a steep road I know was surrounded by crazy drops, as well as marked by signs for fallen rock and elk crossing. Hence deciding reaching the top of the pass was good enough for one night and wandering into a very local hunting lodge for the night.
Speaking of elk, Mia was fired up to chase the elk the hunters were after in the morning! She was less then enthused about the 'road trip command' and settled in grumpily for a 350 mile haul.
#eastbound #eastbound #roadtrip
The open beauty of Sheridan Valley, where the Lone Mountain Ranch horses winter, and antelope graze the fields. The geology that created such topography must be fascinating, it is all so different from what I know.
On a ridiculously comic note, today in South Dakota. Mia was yet again determined to get an (albino) prairie dog as a consolation prize/pet for our homeward trip. Hopping the fence in her focus, she matched their squeaks with plaintive whines & whistles, begging for friendship.
As on our westbound stop in the Badlands, they weren’t having any of it. You can see them in the background confidently ignoring her as they play.
Poor Mia, she hated the National Park dog regulations (very reasonable really,) & has been on strike since leaving Montana, sitting on top of my bags and moping around the car, not that I blame her.
Wispy twilight clouds over the ocean like rolling & rippling topography of eastern South Dakota. I’m a fan of the austere meditative beauty.
#southdakota #chasingthelight #borntoroam #notallwhowanderarelost
We went down into the low country to watch the storm clouds dance across the fields and catch on the Bridger Mountain range, it is truly a magical thing.
cloudporn #bigskycountry #montana
We found a small community called Spring Hill tucked up snuggly under the Brigders. It's a place I have decided I want to live someday-the golden animal filled fields of ranches tucked up under seriously fierce looking Ross Peak, which is hidden in the clouds here. I love to wander, exploring and see what wonders the world shows you! #notallwhowanderarelost #bigskycountry #montana
A photographers dream....I have hundreds of images on my camera which are this perfect, and thousands more in my head, I love the storm tossed lonely landscape. What a perfect place and day, the bittersweet beauty hits my Irish heart just right. #notallwhowanderarelost
Big Sky country roaming - such colors!!!