Posted in Backyard Tourism, Lessons, People, The Barista, Vagabonding, Working Holiday

Both Ways Twice

“Just look both ways, twice,” Kahn quipped with a smirk as we discussed the practicalities of my entire driving career and most of my walking career being on the right side of the road and suddenly transporting myself to the left.

 

It’s not bad advice. Sometimes, no matter where you are, you have to look both ways twice to avoid being gobsmacked by a truck… or your own mind.

 
I’ve been living at a place called Twelve Mile Delta. New Zealand, as a Commonwealth country, is mostly fiercely metric but there’s some holdovers from the hodgepodge of imperial measurements that still plague the UK. (A hitchhiker with a posh British accent was complaining about this recently: “Speed is kilometers but distance is miles, height is in feet and inches, but weight is in stones for no reason at all!”) I think if I were to sketch the most beautiful place in the world for me to live, it would look an awful lot like this Department of Conservation campground. The mountains rise drastically from the glacially-fed and forever chilly lake, and I can see the Remarkables in the distance living up to their name and shielding the population center from my sight.

 

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Twelve Mile is about a ten-minute drive from Queenstown, and then depending on the time of day, it can take another ten minutes to get through the ten blocks that make up the CBD. (Oh, can someone tell me if this is an Oceania phrase? I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone refer to downtown as the Central Business District in Europe.) With mountains on three sides and Lake Wakatipu on the fourth, there is nowhere for the city to sprawl, so the people pile on top of each other in a place that – not so very long ago – sent its citizens to Alexandra for shopping and groceries. This small town has no place to grow: it makes perfect sense to me why they hate freedom campers and tourists.

 
It can get a little suffocating with only one road through the city. Being away from the busyness is like a breath of fresh air every night, staring up at a million stars and waking to fog rolling over the lake as the mountains slowly allow the sun downward to burn it off. But even with a much smaller DOC population, I’ve managed to find myself a bit of community. Probably 70% of the backpackers in a country teeming with them are traveling either in pairs or posses. Those of us traveling solo are much more likely to be male. I managed to find myself two other gals living in vans at my campground, and we park next to each other and invited other solo wanderers into our circle each evening. We share meals (leftovers are an impossibility without a fridge), and drink whatever free beers were handed out at work while discussing our various countries and travels in all their glories and impossibilities. They call me Grandma – the two regular girls are 19 and 20, and even though most of our adopted friends are 26-30, I’m the old soul who turns in when it’s too dark to see and drinks tea while reading books.

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It’s been delightful the last few weeks, but yesterday, I looked both ways twice.
I keep forgetting that I’m not trapped here, and I don’t have to live anyone else’s life. I don’t have to be Grandma and make pleasant conversation every evening. I don’t have to have coordinated plans about which direction to go next. I don’t have to go on long hikes or deep yoga stretches or jump in a freezing cold lake.

 
So after work, instead of going south to camp, I turned north.

 
I picked up a hitchhiker and brought him along the Cardona mountains to Wanaka, slowing my speech and enunciating my words so that this Frenchman could understand me. He offered to cook me dinner as thanks for the lift, but I needed solitude. I dropped him off and spent the next 24 hours without saying a word. I drove up a highway and a long gravel road past sheep and cows and a gray-blue river and shattered mountains until I came to a ford. The sky was darkening, so I settled in to watch the evening come. When morning broke, the dawn showed off just how brilliant Mount Aspiring National Park actually is as glacier feeding my stream reflected the golden light.

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I had a long, slow, lazy morning. I made coffee just for me, I did a little yoga while twitching away from the sandflies, I read The Little Prince. I was hidden from the road, so I watched dozens of vehicles cross the ford and go on into the parkland. Eventually, I joined them. I drove until I ran out of road, crossing half a dozen fords and reminding myself to be patient that not everyone is comfortable on gravel roads. I saw a sheep with a long tail and spent the next ten minutes trying to remember the nursery rhyme about that. And then I got to the parking lot and felt overwhelmed by the sheer volume of people.

 
“I should hike this trail.” I told myself.

 
“Why?” my inner voice replied.

 
“Well… because Glenna would! Because Young Adventuress would! Because it’s a place you’ve never been before, so that’s what you always do! Because it’s Mount Aspiring and that’s a cool name!”

 
“But neither of them are you. And you don’t want to be around people right now. There’s always going to be something you’ve never done, and there’s always going to be cool names.”

 
It’s a very strange thing, having to give myself permission to not do something. This wasn’t because of the physical limitations of hurting my knee. This was a mental limitation of too much time around people, too much time around noise, too much time around the beaten track. I still needed silence, I needed more time to be alone.

 
I looked both ways twice, and I turned around.

 

 

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Bonnie and Clyde, Changes, Stories, Time, Vagabonding

independence day

The United States celebrates Independence Day on July 4. As of this year, I have my own Independence Day: July 3.

That was the day Ben told me he was moving back to Michigan. My favorite colleague, my trainer, my friend. I told him he wasn’t allowed to drop off the face of the earth, and we started sharing our plans for the future. Me, leaving Denver in a year to start buying one-way tickets and doing seasonal work. Him, live in Michigan for a year and start a business.

We should take a road trip, we decided. A week of wandering.

Erick, our mutual friend, joined the conversation.

No, we decided. It’ll be longer than that. Let’s make it the “Great American Road Trip”!

It was all still humor. All still a half formed dream that would never come to fruition.

I don’t remember who said it first, but someone suggested, “Let’s buy a bus!”

We started looking it up.

The joking stopped.

“Wait, are we really doing this?”

We awkwardly shook hands as a trio. Yes, yes I think we are.

The last two months have flown by. We incorporated Ben’s business, got a joint phone plan, talked to insurance agents, bought an RV, and drank a lot of tea.

Today, I hugged Ben tightly as he climbed into our Breaking Bad-eque RV and began his nomadic trek to Michigan.

I’m not sharing this article with my ten followers on Facebook. I’m allowing it to be open, published. The world can see it if they look hard enough. But my soul is quiet right now as preparations begin in earnest for me to begin vagabonding.

The story will be here. Someday in the future, I want to be able to look back and see what I was thinking. See the journey. But keep it quiet from my audience, while the trepidation still lingers in the shadows.

I will go. I will nomad. I will vagabond.

But while those plans form, while states separate us, I will remember it here in the silence.

Because I know it’s real: I have my independence day.

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Career, Current Events, Dating, feminism, Love, Snapshot, The Barista, Travel

The Serenity of Singlehood

Although statistically the median age of marriage has skyrocketed since the early 90s after remaining static for a hundred years, there’s still a stigma associated with being without a partner.

Don’t believe me, city dwellers?

When was the last time that you read an article that genuinely celebrated the author’s singleness, instead of making-do until the next relationship came along?

I’ve struggled with this mindset.

I have always warned potential mates, “I’m really good at being single,” as a way to prepare them for the fact that I’m going to continue to live my own life with my friends, dreams, and aspirations. If I’m choosing to include you as a significant other, it’s because I want you around as a part of it, not because I’m going to replace everything else in my day with you.

Unsurprisingly, most guys aren’t a huge fan of this.

No worries for me. Like I told them, I’m really good at being single.

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I’m currently reading the book All The Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation. I was on the waiting list at my local library for six months, and it is well worth waiting for. Allow me to share a couple of excepts that resonated with me.

On life after a breakup:

Suddenly, my life was so much richer and so much more full of people to depend on and relate to and connect with. I never felt more fundamentally lonely…than when I was in a relationship. And I’ve never felt more supported and connected and fully appreciated than when I was single!

And on marrying later in life after living in a big city:

It’s not such a bad thing to always have something to do, someone to meet, work to complete, trains to catch, beers to drink, marathons to run, classes to attend. By the time some women find someone to whom they’d like to commit and who’d like to commit to them, perhaps it’s not such a bad thing that they will have, if they were lucky, soaked in their cities and been wrung dry by them, that those who marry later, after a life lived single, may experience it as the relief of slipping between cool sheets after having been out all night. These same women might have greeted entry into the same institution, had they been pressured to enter it earlier, with the indignation of a child being made to go to bed early as the party raged on downstairs.

Many of my small town friends are married. I danced at their weddings and coo over their children. They tell me of their domestic lives, and I cheer for them while inwardly shrinking back in horror from the entrapment of even a long term relationship. There are so many mountains to climb, cities to get lost in, men to flirt with, wines to sample, nights to wane with conversation. For me, singlehood offers the best of all there is. With some recent developments, I’ve realized I’ll be single for at least the next two years, and that concept doesn’t frighten me at all. Oops, I might not date until I’m 27? Meaning at the absolute earliest I’ll be married at 29, if then? Ah, well. Did you hear about that new taco place on Tennyson?

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Last night, I borrowed a sleeping bag from a friend (as mine was lent out to someone else), and headed out into the mountains. With the fire ban in effect, I decided to just car camp near the base of Mt. Bierstadt. I’d hoped to hike it in the morning, but as I rolled by the parking lot, the cars overflowed onto the roadside even at 6:30 in the morning. Anxiety welled up in me, and I realized that I needed solitude. I kept driving down winding roads, occasionally turning and barely keeping track of how to get home. Eventually I found a place to walk around. I spent a good hour strolling, encountering only one other soul as I listened to the river beside me and rejoiced in the gray skies relieving Colorado from the relentless heat.

There was silence. There was solitude. There was no one to call and check in with, no one to text that I’d changed my mind. It was simply the delight of following the open road, following what my body and soul so desperately needed.

Certainly, there are moments of loneliness. But at the end of the day, I crave freedom more than warm arms. I prefer to forge a family out of the friends and city around me than to create one by law. Thanks to the generations of women before me, I’m able to be wild and nomadic and make my own rules. I’m able to be alone or surrounded by people on a whim. It is here, in this self-made world, that I am truly able to find serenity in singlehood.

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Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, Languages, People, Snapshot, Stories, The Barista, Time, Travel, Wishes, Work

Soul Wide Awake

I know you don’t mean to insult me when you call it a vacation. But I don’t think you realize how wrong that word is.

A vacation is an escape from reality – relaxation, scheduled time to recharge. A vacation has hotels booked, tours planned, beaches chosen.

This is not a vacation.

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I am not escaping from reality – I’m finding it. My soul, at rest in the world of money and responsibilities, stretches and swells here. It fits my body perfectly instead of wearing my skin like a hand-me-down coat: not uncomfortable, but ill-fitting and not my style.

My plans are but a vague outline, often changing on a whim as a passerby says, “We’re going here, want to come?” I stay in a 12-bunk dorm, forgoing privacy and pray the locks hold on the cabinet where I’ve stashed my passport. I dine on street food and cook pasta leftover from a long departed traveler – that is, if the whirlwind of the day reminds me to eat at all.

I wear blisters on my feet with pride as my legs ache from getting lost all day in an unfamiliar city. I sneak into quiet streets to consult my map and compass as to not draw attention to my foreigner status, and curse my body’s need for sleep.

I listen to the cadence of a new language swirl around me and stare at signs, struggling to decipher their meaning. I cringe in shame when a hostel worker or airline employee glances at my American passport and immediately switches to English for my benefit.

You think this is a vacation?

No.

 

 

This is travel.

For now, I become she who has been hidden since my last journey into the unknown.

I become she who feels more intensely, sees in brighter colors, and smells the universe each morning. I live with abandon and belong exactly where I am.

I am she who is confident, beautiful, fearless, strong, and fierce. I am she who is curious, radiant, defiant, wild, laughing, and free. I am she who holds her arms open to the world and says, “Here I am! Give me the best you have!”

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My soul is wide awake, and every moment is a precious gift.

And then I return.

Back to the world of routine. Of bills and schedules and putting gas in my car. Of small talk and appointments and wearing a path in the sidewalk I tread each day.

In the traditional world, a groove becomes a rut, and I soon look up from the bottom with fear and trepidation building.

“I can’t leave this,” I tell myself. “I’m too afraid. This isn’t fun, but it’s comfortable. This isn’t right, but at least I know where I’m sleeping and how to get around. I’m afraid to go again. I should stay where it’s safe.”

But that tiny spark that can’t be put out whispers to me, “You must go.”

You think I’m going on vacation?

No.

This is breathing.

This is living the best version of me.

This is seeing my soul wide awake.

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Published on Thought Catalog on October 26, 2017

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Beer, Dating, feminism, The Geek, Travel, Wishes

Dilemmas of a Frugal Feminist

“You’re a pretty girl,” my date waved me off as I reached for my wallet. “Pretty girls don’t pay for things.”

I bristled, mentally calculating how much he had spent on me already – well over $100 in two days. He grinned at me cheekily. “I’m going to always do this, you know. Let me enjoy treating you.” And off we went to another out of the way restaurant that I’d never been to, the sapiosexual in me wrapped up in our invigorating conversation. The next morning, I got a text from a different recent date inviting me to go to a last minute concert, and that his offer still stands to pay for me to get a costume for the Ren Faire this summer.

Every date I’ve ever been on, I walked in assuming it would be dutch treat. If we clicked, I’d allow myself to feel indebted by letting the other party pay for me, and then I’d pick up our next tab. If I never intended to see him again, I’d interrupt for separate checks.

Egalitarian is how I’ve always operated in relationships and dating – if not bent towards me paying more because I was so adverse to feeling like I wasn’t pulling my weight. To be told I shouldn’t pay for something because I was “too pretty” left me looking like a gaping fish, and my inner feminist reeling. I was angry. Angry that beauty mattered. Glancing out at his brand new truck, I was angry that I pinched pennies for over a year to be able to travel to a friend’s wedding while he could casually drag me to expensive adventures and not bat an eyelash.

I’m an adventurer. I’m a traveler. I do a job I love that will never put me in the 1%. I’m a feminist. And every once in a while, these collide terribly.

Dating is really, really fun. Being able to go to new places all the time, meet new people, hear new stories, start new arguments. It’s expensive though – a couple beers can run you $15, and $15 is a night in a hostel, or three backpacker meals. To adventure at home, or away. That is the question.

I’m wrestling with all this. “New” is what makes my heart race for travel. If someone else is offering to pay for it, allowing me to explore the nooks and crannies of my home, is it so wrong to accept? Even thinking about it is making me clench up anxiously. I want to be able to be on the same page as a partner in crime. I don’t want to even have it be an issue, yet here I am, wondering if I’m taking advantage of someone. Feeling like accepting an offer for dates is slapping my feminist beliefs in the face. Wanting to go, to dream, to wander, to explore, to taste, to dine, to be absorbed in sound and sight. The desire to vagabond battling with the desire to do it all myself.

Often when I blog, I use it as a method of processing thoughts, ideas or questions. I still am. But for once, I haven’t come to a conclusion. I’m lost. I’m desperately needing a girls night, wanting to hear the words of fellow feminists who have already wrestled with these thoughts, these questions. I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what I want to do, what I ought to feel, how I think I should behave and respond. It’s frustrating! Friends, let me ask you: what would you do?

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Lessons, Musing, People, Stories, The Barista, Travel

Wolf Girl and the Traveler

Regrets collect like old friends
Here to relive your darkest moments

And it’s hard to dance with a devil on your back
And given half the chance would I take any of it back
It’s a fine romance but it’s left me so undone
It’s always darkest before the dawn

When I make new friends, I’m generally exhausted by the end of the first interaction and ready to go home to recharge myself. The more time I spend with them, the more energy I have. Eventually, the relationship develops to the point where I walk away feeling more alive than I did when I walked in.

And every once in a while, I meet a stranger that immediately belongs.

I realized that national parks had no entrance fee on MLK day and promptly started reaching out in my network to find a companion on my day-off excursion.

In recent weeks, I’ve befriended a traveler who is wandering the globe on social currency. And some of you may remember the story of Wolf Girl from my last post – it turns out that, indeed, we would meet again!

Armed with these two characters, we caffeinated ourselves and gasped at the vistas as we dove into Rocky Mountain National Park. Florence + The Machine played our soundtrack as we got ourselves lost in the park.

Those strangers who immediately belong? They sat in my car and shared their lives.

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For the first time, I felt like I could adequately express my disjointedness. We spoke of growth and failures, shared the places we’d traveled, and brushed the deepest parts of our souls. We stood in the bizarrely warm mountain air and breathed in the ancient new world. The artists spun tales of song and dance, and we spoke of the dreams we’d fulfill for others if we ever won the lottery.

As we made our way back down to Estes Park, we started realizing none of us had eaten that day. By the time we made it back to Boulder, we were punchdrunk and laughing ourselves silly. As we crossed the street aiming for lunch, we ran across a barista dropping supplies in the middle of Broadway. We scooped up her cups and followed her back to her cafe where she bestowed us with free coffee as thanks. When we finally sat down on the tea room floor for sushi, the waitress joined in our laughter – and then a waiter recognized us from earlier in the morning across town.

One of our key conversations of the day? You find what you’re looking for. Wolf Girl shared of a day in New Mexico when she was talking on the phone about needing a place to stay, and a woman handed her a key and said, “Use my guest cottage – it’s just down the street.” The Traveler reflected on arriving in Denver and the bus driver covering his lack of fare. I had stories of my own: we all search for the good in people. And even when life utterly sucks, we find the good.

Shake It Out refrains that it’s always darkest before the dawn. I always interpreted that phrase as meaning life sucks, then it gets amazing. It’s only been recently that I finally realized how ridiculous that was. If you’re lost in the forest in the middle of the night, you don’t suddenly find yourself outside the forest at dawn. But you do find yourself equipped with the tools and abilities needed to get out. It’s the same in life. People are still going to hurt you. Living situations will fall through. You’ll have to find a new job. It will be hard. That difficulty won’t go away. The dawn simply means you’ll be able to handle it. Each experience will grow you, change you, define you. Each person you meet will leave a part of themselves with you. And in the end, you’ll see more clearly than the day before. It’s always darkest before the dawn.

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As I drove home alone, I felt myself energized and alive after a day with strangers-turned-friends. The gifted crystalline whose properties perfectly related to my life weighed down my pocket. My heart was still beating from dancing around a living room watching the sunset over the Flatirons. And I realized that I was growing again. I was alive again.

And life? Life is good.

Thanks, Traveler and Wolf Girl.

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Career, Changes, Dating, Stories, Travel

places and people

The last couple of weeks I’ve been heartsick for travel.

Have you ever stayed in a hostel? The beds usually squeak, the sheets usually have a hole somewhere in them, you most definitely want to wear flipflops in the shower, and locking your suitcase up isn’t a bad idea.

They’re my favorite place to stay.

I met a couple girls over spring break in Bratislava, Slovakia. Two months later, we grabbed lunch in Nijmegan, The Netherlands. Then there were my friends in Venice, Italy – a one day trip turned into three because of them and we wandered around the city speaking auf Deutsch and letting one of the German girls interact with the shopkeepers in English so I wasn’t the obnoxious American stereotype. And who could forget Frankfurt? Two weeks later I was on a flight to Croatia to hang out with my Spanish-speaking locals, and a year and a half later I was on my way to New Zealand.

All because of hostels.

Lounging by the bar.

Making dinner at the same time.

Charging our electronics on the same power strip.

God, I love travel.

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The happiest moments of my life was the five weeks I spent wandering aimlessly around Europe, waking up and the first question I asked myself every morning was, “What country am I in?”

I miss nodding off on the train, shaking myself awake so I don’t miss my stop. (Although sleeping on the overnight route when I haven’t spent the extra $60 for a bunk is not something that bothers me as much).

I miss wandering through grocery stores, trying to figure out what a culture cherishes.

I miss sitting on a hilltop, watching the sunset over a new city. I miss laying in the sand looking at unfamiliar stars.

As strange as it seems to say: on a related note, I’m single again. For the third time in two years, I’ve ended a relationship.

I’m coming to a realization of who I am and what I want.

And part of that involves being single.

I love dating. It’s lots of fun exploring new places with new people. I enjoy being in a relationship purely from having a regular partner-in-crime to go on adventures with, and I like the comfort of being in love.

But that’s who I am: an adventurer. Everytime I’ve gotten semi-serious with someone, my heart breaks a little bit because it makes me feel trapped. Trapped in this country (what if I want to do a working holiday?!), trapped in this state (what if I want to get residency somewhere so I can do an on-campus chemistry program?!), trapped in my time (but there’s twenty other people I want to hang out with!?).

I haven’t been single for longer than 2 weeks since I graduated university and started stepping into adulthood.

I don’t know who I am without my name being attached to someone else.

That’s not to say I don’t know how to act single – hell, the Chaser and I averaged seeing each other once a month for about half of our relationship. I knew how to have my independent life. But I always had a ready-made excuse of defining why I could be platonic friends with anyone.

“I have a boyfriend.”

But “girlfriend” is not a part of my identity that I enjoy.

It’s time to break free.

It’s time to be myself, and find out exactly who that is.

So let’s be friends, and only friends.

I get to start 2016 by myself.

So here’s to that, and here’s to 25.

 

 

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Beer, Current Events, Growing Up, Home, Musing, Stories, Time, Travel

the millennial experience

I am a millennial.

 

I am the border of two realities, nostalgic for a childhood from a quickly bygone era.

I own a smart phone, but remember spending hours curling the cord of my parents’ landline around my fingers while talking behind a closed door.

I can access data in my pocket, but remember when my dad got our first computer and hearing the sounds of dial up internet.

 

I share photos instantly, but remember going to the pharmacy to develop film and how angry my mom got that I wasted some of those negatives on pictures of clouds.

 

They once thought the future would be all about transportation.

Hoverboards and flying cars, jet packs and teleportation. But instead, we became the generation of communication. I wake up to a Facebook message from my friend in Slovakia and can shoot a text to one in South Korea. I can Skype for free with someone in Brazil, and read an email from someone in Morocco.

 

Computers which once took up an entire room now sit on our wrist and we can talk to our watch to keep up with the world.

 

Global travel is no longer exotic and unpredictable, but easily replicated because the stories and photos don’t hide in our memories and sock drawers but are shared with the world in real time.

 

Hobbies are at our fingertips. Instead of spending hours pouring over a book in a library, I simply google “how to” and play until I get bored. Need to make friends with similar interests? There’s a MeetUp for that. Need to see a new city but don’t want to be in a hotel? No biggie: AirBnB and Couchsurfing have you covered!

We strove so hard to be different, and in that way we all became the same.

I drink wine with my best friends and visit breweries with strangers.

I drink my direct-trade coffee black and have never bought cable.

I buy my clothing in thrift stores (before Macklemore made it cool) and love getting produce from the farmer’s market.

I live with roommates so I can afford to live in a big city, and most of my friends aren’t yet married.

I change my profile picture to support a cause, and donate ten bucks to another I deem worthy of my measly income.

I laugh, I cry, I argue, I make peace. I talk to a therapist, and vent to my friends. I move away from home and build a network to serve as a surrogate family when the days get too long and the nights get too lonely.

I ask questions and argue politics, I question the status quo and argue for a truth I’ve discovered.

 

No, I’m not any different than you.

 

I’m a middle class white girl with first world problems, but sometimes through the gentrification can see the real world issues. I strive to meet people who challenge me and my beliefs, and find myself hurting as a way to feel alive.

 

Is that the point of being a millennial? Generations before us made the way so smooth that we have to roughen the course to not become one of a million faces?

 

Merry Christmas, everybody.
And I drew the line at wasting away or waiting to be saved.
Posted in Backyard Tourism, Snapshot, Travel

a moment with an angel

I’ve always had an odd affinity towards cemeteries. In high school, we lived towards the edge of town, about a half a mile away from the local one. My first babysitter passed away shortly after we moved to that house, and then a classmate was killed in a car accident and buried only a few gravesites away from her. I spent a lot of time walking to the cemetery to visit their graves and see what mementos had been left, then strolling the rows and reading names.

I tend to visit cemeteries as I move, but not so much when I’m traveling. Perhaps it’s the permanence – a place to reflect, a place to slow down – something I don’t have time for when I’m on the road.

I’ve been on the lookout for a particular angel statue like the one from The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans. I’ve probably been to thirty different burial grounds in the last decade, every time peering closely through the rows of memories to see if my angel was hiding among them. This once led me to the legendary “Black Angel” of Iowa City, where legend has it that if a non-virgin kisses the statue, they’ll be struck dead. I didn’t press my luck.

This week I caught a glimpse of an angel from afar that looked like her. Had I really found her? Just like that, my pursuit was over? I was surprised at how relieved I felt when I got closer and realized that this angel, too, was not who I was searching for.

Do I really not want to find her? Is this what they mean when they say it’s all about the journey?

She knows not where she’s going

For the ocean will decide

It’s not the destination

It’s the glory of the ride

Maybe looking for this angel makes me feel less crazy for finding peace in a graveyard.

Maybe it’s an excuse to keep exploring new cities, believing that she must be out there somewhere.

Maybe I want to believe my imagination is a better artist than those who designed the tombstones.

I keep looking. I want to keep looking. I don’t want to find that angel. I don’t want the chase to be over.

It’s the heart of nomad: the yearning for something unknowable.

I want to travel. I want to see the world. I want to have my life matter. I want to be on the move and constantly stretching and exploring.

Tonight though? Tonight I sit by a fireplace under a blanket. I smell dinner cooking and look forward to the glass of wine I’ll share with my friends. I listen to Sarah type away at her work and Phil play with their cats. I have a small stack of books beside me and the snow is falling gently outside the window. My parents and sister are driving across Nebraska to join me for Thanksgiving. I explored a new part of the city with Kara earlier today.

Yes, I want to keep searching.

Yes, I want to keep traveling.

But this moment? This, too, is part of the journey.

This moment of contentment doesn’t mean that Denver is my forever home.

But it does mean that it is okay to be still.

It is okay to be vulnerable.

It is okay to dream of the future, but not be afraid of the present.

Every moment, whether in Berlin or Sydney or Santo Domingo. Every moment, whether in Des Moines or Dallas or Denver.

Every moment.

It isn’t wasted.

Perhaps that’s why I like cemeteries so much.

Because in the sea of memorials, I see lives that were full or short or difficult or adventurous.

And each life meant something.

Each one was loved by someone.

Each one was missed by someone.

So I keep searching.

Because each moment in this life is worth something… even if it’s spent looking for a statue I hope I never find.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Backyard Tourism, Growing Up, People, Snapshot, The Barista

backyard memorials

I’ve been living in Colorado for ten months.

I would consider this to be the beginning of the best parts of moving to a new location.

I am starting to learn my way around the city, but I’m still new enough to see the wonder and excitement of being here. There’s still many corners to explore, but I’m not entirely reliant on my gps to get me there. I’m settling into friendships that are no longer hard work to maintain, but rather bring the energy of comfort.

I remember when Iowa City got to this point – when I started wanting my friends to come visit so I could show them around instead of awkwardly getting turned around with them. It’s the time when instead of being a drifter, I start to be local. As odd as this sounds, I had That Moment with Glenna this week for a rather somber occasion.

We were only about 8 years old during the Columbine massacre in 1999, but the effects of that radiated throughout our lives. As our friends get their teaching licenses and have their own classrooms of children, we hear the stories of the drills they go through to keep their students safe in the event of another Sandy Hook.

teachers thought

When I first moved out here, I lived in Littleton – only about three miles from the high school. I first went to the memorial alone, weeks after arriving, and still in awe of the mountain range before me. “How,” I wondered, “could anyone do something so horrible with something so beautiful beside them every day?”

Shows my naivety.

I brought Glenna to the memorial this week. We walked around slowly, reading the tributes and the memories. There were some dying flowers contrasting the colorful autumnal changes. The sun was shining in the late afternoon and a warm breeze danced around the quiet, sunken space. We walked to the top of the hill, pondering the students from the school. Where are they now, and what have they done with their lives? What about generations to follow – what is going to university like and realizing that the entire world knows about your high school?

As we walked back down, Glenna took hold of my hand. We stepped in silence, slipping away from the memorial and past the children’s playground on our way to the car.

It was my moment of showing my friend something important that brought me to my next stage. This is becoming home. And moments of sadness and remembrance are a part of that.

I may have no personal connection to Columbine, but it is now woven into my story just a little tighter. And even just for a day, looking out over the mountains in the shadow of the high school, I took a breath and was thankful to be surrounded by home.

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