El albergue

El albergue

Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Single Life

Ah yes, this is it. The freedom! The lack of interpersonal cares! No one to worry about and have bothering me all the time with needs for attention… So sweet and simple is the life of a single lady.

I may have a roommate, but she’s only one, and she’s just as busy as me, which means we don’t tend to get in each other’s hair. All of which means my life is of course full of boundless horizons, not tied down to anything at all, brimming over with possibilities...

….and so goes my inner monologue as I stare hungrily into the open fridge, bereft of any bit of prepared food. Long gone are the awesome leftovers from dinner shifts at work last week, and I didn’t get around to cooking today, so basically all I have is passion fruit and pear jelly, a bit of pasta sauce, a slice of cheese, and half a tub of hearty greens… 

“Such a glamorous life is mine,” I continue as I rummage through the cupboard, pop open the can of refried black beans, and unclip the bag of verging-on-stale tortilla chips.

“Oh, how truly lucky I am,” I go on, the chips dipping down into the can of beans and traveling one after another into my pondering mouth as I stand over the kitchen sink.  

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Nighttime thoughts

It’s happening again, the same thing that happened this afternoon when I tried to take a nap. I can’t sleep. My mind won’t shut down because it wants to keep pondering the possibilities of a honey garlic peach marinade, brown butter rosemary cous cous, and maybe a fresh garden salad or clean and simple butternut squash… fresh bread… rolls? loaf?

The glorious contemplation of what all sorts of spices and meats and juices and veggies would do when joined together is keeping my mind from repose.

Then the synapses of my brain fire in a completely different culinary direction. Scrap that meal! What about lentils in a savory sundried tomato sauce? Or maybe barley? But what would best be served with that? And what would be the best timing for making it this Sunday afternoon for my friends?

I turn from one side to the other as I lie in the darkness of the quiet wooded night, all thoughts of sleep chased far from me as I debate the various merits of this vinegar over that, this spice palette here over that spice palette over there.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

The art of sleeping

Last week, I forayed outside my village inn bubble to visit some friends living in San Francisco. The drive ended up being far better than my now small town mind feared it would be (Traffic! Dreaded traffic!), and it felt natural to be back in a teeming cosmopolitan city. I relaxed into the crowdedly narrow streets, the quirky bakeries, the mobs of pedestrians, and the dogs running gaily about in every open space – and I reveled in memories of café conversations and sidewalk strolls and books in the park and simply existing in the middle of the throbbing pulse of a city.

The first night too felt right. It brought back memories with the twinkling of the city lights in the darkness – memories of movies and sharing food with friends and going out to dance. But as I lay down to sleep on my friends’ couch, I realized that amidst all these comfortable memories, there was something I had gotten completely out of touch with – the art of sleeping in the city.

It’s a tricky thing, this sleeping in the city. First, those beautifully twinkling lights that never go out… well, they never go out. It’s never really dark. Then, there is the upstairs neighbor watching TV and practicing his best impression of a hippo doing ballet. And those carefree carousers on the street outside and the cars and the buses and the midnight dog walkers. It’s never really quiet.

My friend put out a pair of earplugs for me before going to bed herself, “Just in case,” she said. I let the earplugs lie there the first two nights, saying to myself, “I don’t need those, I am a pro at sleeping in the city. I can handle it.” Ha! I finally caved the third night and then had to admit to myself with chagrin that it was the only night I really slept very much.

As I drove back up the windy road home that last day, I found myself fantasizing about the peace and quiet of my room in the woods, where it’s always dark unless the moon is full and the breeze brings no sound more disruptive than the sway of the trees. Ah yes, THAT is where sleeping is at its best.

I fell asleep that night, content to be back in my own quiet bubble… only to be awaken early the next morning by the frantic barking of some neighbor’s dogs and the incessant monotone squawk of some bird that had decided to declaim its woes right outside my window.

I sighed. Where had I put those earplugs?

Friday, July 24, 2015

A change of pace

Today is the day. I have decided. Yep. Today, I am taking the morning off. I was going to run to the gym before running off to hours of choir rehearsal and then running to a whole afternoon and evening of work. But nope, today, I am taking the morning off.

It was kind of a late-in-the-game decision last night as I got ready for bed. I stood looking at my planner, going over the day to come in my head. I could feel myself getting tired just thinking about everything that needed to happen, all the places that needed running around to.

So I said, “Nope! No gym! I’m taking the morning off!”

I still have to go to choir rehearsal and then work, but at least by staying home from the gym, I feel like I have exponentially decreased the hectic quality of my day. Don’t worry, I won’t be all blobby and lazy – I’ve got a fair bit of much-needed stretching in mind.

But for the moment, enshrined in a blanket, fingers wrapped around a steaming mug of tea, I feel like whispering to the robins out on the early morning lawn, “Hey, big news! I’m taking the morning off!”

Monday, June 15, 2015

The Colors of Mendocino

I’ve had so many images running through my head lately, images that I have longed to write down, to share. And now that I sit here at long last at my computer, fingers over keyboard, I find myself unable to thread all these images together cohesively. And yet they all more or less have to do with the same idea – color.

I suppose I’ve been obsessed with color because I’ve been thinking about the wildflowers along the running paths I frequent. And then once I start to think about something, it seems to pop up everywhere I look. It sort of infiltrates my every waking moment…

There are the dusky greens of the redwoods I walked through the other day with a friend on an unforeseen morning off – deep, shadowed greens highlighted by the soft brightness of new growth on the trees and on the ground.

There are the solitary bursts of color that seem to peak out from under and around the forest greens – slender vermillion wildflowers, snowy rhododendrons, happy daisies, delicate purple irises.

There are the sleepily waving golds of the coastal prairies, blushing with ruby sheep’s sorrel, somehow complemented to perfection by the gentle grey of rocky cliffs and overcast skies.

There are all the tiny coastal wildflowers, hardily thriving under the constant beating of the ocean winds – dusty purple asters, bright pink blooms of the ice plant, wild radishes with pastel petals of pink and yellow and white, flaming Indian paintbrush, dainty sweet peas, periwinkles, creamy orange pimpernel, poppies, and many others that brighten my run as I pass them by.

Everywhere I look, I see colors – beautiful, compelling colors. I see sunsets…wow. I see foaming waves. I see driftwood and shrubs and birds and the lime green tennis balls on the front feet of a walker waiting patiently by the side of the road for its owner to come back and reclaim it.  

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Oh yeah, I went backpacking, didn't I?

I just realized I never wrote anything about the backpacking trip I went on in early April with a couple of friends. I guess that must be because it came about in a whirlwind of planning and scheduling, had its glorious three days of existence, and then sort of got crowded out of focus by the swarming duties of life once we returned. But I think if merits a few words…

It was my first backpacking trip, and as such, I was incredibly excited for it. I was ready to get in some challenging hikes, enjoy the beauty of secluded trails, and share great moments with great people. Plus, we were planning on visiting the Lost Coast, which by all accounts was pretty darn remote and relatively untouched – it sounded epic.

The preparations for the trip were hurried, but it all worked out great. My co-trekkers supplied all of the communal gear like a tent, cooking utensils, water filter, etc; and they borrowed pretty much everything I needed (pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad…) from various friends of their own. They even borrowed hiking boots for me, which, incredibly enough, were pretty nearly a perfect fit!!

The trip itself was amazing. We hiked about 15 miles in to camp the first day, did a day hike of around 10 miles, and then day three hiked back out those 15 miles again. A fair few miles, and mostly along narrow switchbacks cutting up and down steep ridges. It was tiring and thrilling at the same time – legs and hips could definitely feel the strain, but man oh man were there some incredible, incredible vistas out over the water!

There were look out points with sheer cliff dropping an easy thousand feet from a few inches beyond our toes to breakers crashing on jagged rocks. The coast curved out to north and south, fading softly into the distance. The horizon itself seemed more massive when seen from a ridge top, impressing upon one the true immensity of the Pacific.

And our camp was the perfect hideaway from civilization – a tiny beach tucked back between two imposingly tall ridges, with a stream bubbling through to the waves. We saw seals, an osprey, pelicans, a river otter, and even bats at night. We watched the sun set through an arch of rock that sheltered our little cove, sat around our fire, and rested as we talked of anything and everything. It was hard to leave when Day 3 rolled around and we had to head on out again.

There were, of course, difficult parts to the trip. My friend was having trouble with her boots and pack, and old knee injuries were coming back to haunt her every downhill stretch. The wild elk that shared the same trails we followed left behind little friends on the grass and bushes in the form of ticks that we were forever stopping to brush off our clothes. And the two of us girls got a little lost the first evening – we couldn’t find the continuation of the trail because everything looked the same in the twilight of the redwoods – and we had to wait for her husband to come back from setting up camp and rescue us.

Altogether though, it was a wonderful trip, and I’m so glad it happened. Now, I’m planning out what gear of my own I can start investing in as I dream of more hikes, more treks out into Creation, more journeys in fellowship with friends.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Mindful nothing

The other day as I was driving home from work, my eyes were startled by a brilliant pink slashing across the robin’s egg blue of the sky.  The sun was setting! And setting with quite some pomp, by the looks of it. It had been a long day, and I was tired, but on the spur of the moment I zipped around the corner to find a good spot where I could pull over and just stare at the sunset.

And that’s exactly what I did - I just sat there and took it all in, doing nothing, thinking nothing. I just absorbed, my mind attuned to the world around me.

The steely blue waves surged against the rocky cliffs. The bright blues and pinks of the sky above faded together into purple indigo. The shadowy forest of cumulonimbus rose from the far-off horizon. The shudders of coastal wind rocked my car from side to side.

I sat there and felt. My eyes soaked up shades, shapes, shadows, and outlines. My mind wandered about among the swells of water and cloud. I drifted. I felt something inside me bubbling up, like a hollow vessel being filled by a quiet spring.

It was one of those moments that fills me with joy, that makes me want to write epic poetry and sing opera at the top of my lungs and dance like no one is watching, all at the same time. It made me realize how few such moments I’ve had in my life lately, how seldom I’ve allowed myself to simply stop, stare, absorb, ponder, dream.

And I miss that. I miss those moments of mindful nothing, full of the everything of life.