Go Skate Day: Old news but good news: Go Skateboarding Day happened, and I skateboarded. It wasn’t exactly a satisfying session, as skate sessions go, but it was a premium hangout with my old-time skate buds. For me, that’s what it’s all about these days—that good stuff that happens when you do something you love with people you love. Rolling. Laughing. Falling down. We’re humans. All we have is each other. So, another GSD spent with Scott and Ashley and Derek and I couldn’t ask for more.
Work train to Seattle: I rode the train up past the Puget Sound (destination: Seattle) to do a fancy ad-agency pitch for Nemo. It was a fun and adult-y thing to do. I like train travel even though it makes me a little bit car sick. Train sick? Anyway, it’s very hassle-free. A throwback from another time. Also, train stations are beautiful, and I always take time to appreciate beauty in my travels.
Holiday crowd avoidance: For the third year in a row, we went into the woods for a couple days, walking far and high, sleeping in tents, and then returned to town on July Fourth afternoon so dirty and dog tired that there was no need felt to celebrate, to light things on fire. Instead, copious food was eaten, and day beers drank at George’s house, and then home to watch TV as the mortars blasted through the evening cool. This has become my “America day” ritual, and I am not sorry.
Homesteading: Like a boss, Mark framed up a shed/living quarters AKA shedquarters in two days. I tried to help. I moved some two-by-fours from one pile to another and also tacked up plywood with the motherfuckin nail gun. It feels good to be building, building something real made from tangibles like wood and nails and windows, but also building a life—a potentiality of future days spent easily and peacefully off in the forest.
It makes sense that we would go back to the forest to get married. At the altar of fern-laced trunks—the big, ancient trees that teach you how to grow and stay—Mark and I conspired to celebrate binding our two lives together last Friday.
Family and closest friends embarked on a journey to meet us there. It was far. They navigated traffic, paid bridge tolls to cross shimmering waters, and bravely left behind LTE and 3G to follow written directions to a dirt parking lot in the woods.
By the river, on the brink of a waterfall, I said my promises to Mark, and he said his to me. We talked not of chains but of the freedom in standing together. We talked not of giving things up, but of gaining strength and certainty. We talked about what love might look like—then, now, forever.
Plummeting water was the music. Garden blooms veiled my head. As I spoke, a strange salty water sprang forth my eyes. We both felt weird—light and full of vibration, floating and spinning like plumes from a dandelion. The only thing holding us to earth was the crowd gathered round. Without our people, we might have wafted clear off into the ether.
After the ceremony, we drank cups of champagne, then drove in a big caravan back to the city and into the storm. The rain fell in a curtain beyond the tents while we ate and drank. It was a soggy feast day, but warm with love and friendship. Kids played, defiant of the wet weather. The puppy turned into a feral creature—biting the heels of revelers as they walked by with heaping plates of food. Magick was all around.
People ask if it feels different. It does. It is different. We’re bonded for life, by symbolic rites carried out in front of pine fronds and faeries—but also in reality. In our purpose. In our finances. In our house. In our hearts.
Puppies: Apropos of last weekend when I went over to Jesse’s house and met his new dog, which made my day—my world. This young, sleek fellow is a parvovirous survivor. You can’t keep him down. Convalesced from his ailment, he now likes to hang with the big dogs, nipping at their heels, and then fall over spent to nap amidst cool shade. I can’t explain it but I just feel better—more tethered to earth—when I’m near a sleeping dog.
Josh Brolin on What The Fuck: A great actor who shines in person, too. There’s a deep satisfaction to knowing that a guy you gravitated towards on screen due to his rough wit and hard-boiled-ness is, like, really that guy.
My garden at 4:30 p.m. on a Sunday: This weekend I sat out in the yard looking, just looking. There was a wonderful heat. There was so much noise—bees and blue jays, kids and cookouts. I could see the blue, way up there in the place you can never really go. I felt comforted. I felt confident in a future.
Piney’s gone. There, I said it. He’s on the other side. I’ll tell you more about it sometime, but for now I thought I’d get out of town. Get moving. Move on. I never did know anything else to do.
In our ambition to flee, we thought about driving south to California—but ended up heading north and west—the northwest-est—to the Olympic Peninsula. Here, is where the trees are so old and tall they meet in a perfect V overtop the road. Here, is where arctic oceans end in glassy bays at the feet of a razor-sharp range. Here, depending on who you are, is the promise land.
Pic by Mark.
Camping without my dog, or any dog (who is “my dog” anymore? I’ve had many …) was strange. After making camp, I didn’t have anything to do, no one to keep an eye on or worry about (except Mark, and he doesn’t need eyes keeping on him). I just sat in the sun and drank wine and read while the tide rushed in. Darkness fell, the stars came out—stark, distant, beautiful. When I looked up, a vast loneliness harpooned my soul. Guys, I’ve always been searching for something and never really found it. Maybe it’s the big “why.” Maybe it’s the definition of “me.” Having no real answers for you, I do know that the path to self discovery is a way full of desolate wonder. I leaned in and stoked the fire.
Pic by Mark.
Pic by Mark.
Sunday morning we awoke to whale spouts past the breakers and a pale, slippery head emerging from the sea. Rising and falling. Curious, but not too curious. An intelligent eye looking solemnly our way. I don’t have particularly eloquent words for what it feels like to see and be seen by a whale. Special? We felt special. It was everything you could hope for. We packed up and went home.
A while back after my boss returned from sabbatical in Europe, we had a conversation about the thing we really remember and hope for from a trip. Those encounters of “where-ness.” This has nothing to do with all the stuff you saw or plans you made, but rather a single experience—often just a flash—where you felt like you were an authentic part of a place.
He told of a sunset walk through Madrid with his wife, the air all warm and glowy pink, when they sauntered into a medieval square and were greeted by the student choir sitting on the fountain steps singing “Hey Jude.” The tune rose and fell as the pigeons flapped for scraps, and people milled around in a relaxed fashion—on their way home from work or out for an aperitif.
This moment had a live-in magic, and he thought he might remember it forever—or for a long time at least, long after he forgot the train rides and museums tickets.
It got me to thinking about trips of my own. What were the highlights? The squishy candy middles?
My rally through Canada last summer was full of them. Like: our first morning in Nelson—a laidback mountain town on a cold-water lake. My old friend Mark who lives in Nelson advised us on a morning wander. “Hike up the Pulpit early before it gets too hot,” he told us and we listened. Straight from the café with paper cups of dark roast still in our hands, we began our ascent on a morning of dazzling heat and beauty. The trail to the Pulpit—a big rock looming on high over the town and lake—was essentially just a steep set of stairs carved into a plummeting hillside. We climbed and climbed. Soon we were high on caffeine and lung-fulls of warm, tree-scented air. I nabbed a sweet, mealy saskatoon berry and popped it in my mouth. The temperature rose. We sweated into our tee shirts. Less than an hour later, we emerged onto the precarious sun-washed rock AKA my forever happy place. Overhead, bluer than blue sky. To either horizon, steep green valleys. Directly below, the city and of course the lake—calling us back down for an afternoon swim.
I wanted to like the above short vid about pro skater Nora Vasconcellos, but kinda didn’t. Mostly because of how much its narrative was about what some iconic white men think about her skating rather than actually about her skating. (Elissa Steamer was briefly interviewed but had nothing to say about Nora specifically.) Also: it’s 2018 do we really still have to make movies about “what it’s like to be a girl in skateboarding”?
I guess so. Sure, a men-curated movie for the men-dominated culture—it makes sense. But is it progressive? Is it revolutionary? Is it punk rock? No. It would be cool to get away from that “female skateboarder” thinking and celebrate (and support) Nora, and all the rest of us, simply as “skateboarders.” That’s what we are?
I’m psyched that Adidas has a woman on their global team now. But IT’S ONLY ONE. One skater. One movie. Should we take our meager offerings and be happy with them? No. If we continue replicating the hegemony through skate movies, skate ads, skate product—and all the rest—by focusing the apex of accepted skate awesomeness on the opinion/control of men, then we continue to limit skateboard society from growing and evolving. Toward community. Toward creativity. Toward even more future awesomeness.
And any woman who rolls 4 wheels will tell you the patriarchy is still thriving out there in skate-land. From pointed disrespects coming out of bro culture and the boys’ club to softer daily annoyances, like the amount of times I get asked by men things like, “How long have you been skating?” Do any of my tight skater boiz get asked that? No. The condescension comes through loud a clear.
Anywayayayayay, I am happy for Nora out there getting that money, getting that movie, getting to skate for a living and getting to be herself … whatever that looks like—cool, creative, weird, talented, female, free. Let’s keep it going. Let’s skate as much as possible. Let’s have the most fun possible. Let’s collaborate to smash the state and create room for groundbreaking new possibilities, like, say, the expectation that women could fuel skate culture as much as men do.
As you may know, my guy gave me a sparkly ring last spring and asked me to be his wife. Eeeek! I didn’t blast the info via text or on social medias. It felt like pretty private news? I also enjoyed getting to bask in my friends’ surprise when I told them in person one by one. An unscripted facial expression from a bud—it’s the emoji of olden days.
Mark grew up riding bmx bikes, heckling and getting heckled on the streets of chowda-town, Boston. Behind the wheel, he’ll flip off five different people on a drive to the grocery store—but he’s the gentlest creature I know. The calm and ease he brings to his days is everything I want to live and be good at. I like how I can be stomping around in the fugue state of a bad mood and he just smiles and pats me on the head like, “Hush.”
We’ve bounced around everywhere from B.C. to Portugal. We’ve almost died together on an icy highway. We’ve lost our little pup too soon and cried together. We’ve hiked stairways to heaven in the high alpine, built sturdy cedar fences in the summer heat, slept under desert stars and shivered in hypothermic snow caves together …
I procured a split board in the fall to reconnect with my love for winter snowboarding. In general I’m retired from Oregon resort riding. It doesn’t give me what I need and so I stopped thinking about it—stopped setting aside time for it.
With skins, poles and a dog, I can now explore in the deep snow heretofore only post-hole-able hinterlands. I went out to do that for the first time a few weeks ago, and the simplicity of it made me very happy. It felt so much more like “play” than any snowboarding I’ve done recently. Free from set agenda and people, from reliance on chairlifts or runs. Just me and a quiet ecosystem of powder dollops. And it was fabulous exercise. My body grew warm and my lungs worked hard. My face steamed into my goggles, and I sent a prayer up into the trees that my muscles would continue working, my heart keep pumping. They did. It did!
At the top—which wasn’t even the top but an unassuming pause point where we decided to strap in and send it—I felt that old excited flutter for the descent. An old forgotten feeling. And just like that I was off, dipping through the trees with the dog hot on my tail.
I’ve long suspected but never really known until now—splitboarding is the winter recreation of simple people like myself. It’s been warm here in town, but let it keep snowing up at altitude, so we can all get up and get out just one, maybe two more times.
2017: The year that saw a new pup, a hundred road trips, a thousand trails—long, winding and otherwise. It was the year Mark gave me sparkly ring, and took all these lovely pictures of me wandering around. Proof! I embrace the wisdom of walking. It was the year I got a new job at Nemo. Procured a parcel of land in the woods near Bend. Built a fence. Cried over my old dog Lefty. Spent the night on a mountain in a blizzard and didn’t die.
Photographs aren’t real life, but they’re a slice of it. I’m glad my better half is always snapping away pics when I’m not looking, because then on dreary January 2nds, I can look back and know that I really did it. I went outside and followed the path, contemplating all the craggy views and forest sprites. I left behind the computer and the television in favor of simple happinesses with man and dog, blank-brained meditations on the trail and other moonshine of the mind.
If my year were only these images, I would be happy. Luckily, it was even more.
I’m averse to the word “busy.” I also hate the concept. It would be cool if every time I was inclined to say I’ve been busy, I just said that life was “full.” I’ll have to remember that. Anyway, abundance has been on my side. Lots of work. Lots of friends. Lots of dog chaos and yardwork and social functions and exercise and driving. As mentioned elsewhere, I have a new full-time job that takes up a fullness of time. And yet I’m light of step. Despite new responsibilities, I can’t remember a time when I felt freer. It’s good to be moving and feeling right and in an atmosphere of growth.
Aaaaaanyhow, this is all just a longwinded way of saying that I’m a weekend warrior now, and I’m good at it. For instance I catalyzed this Sunday by going up to Mt. Hood and white-walking through the new fallen snow. There was powder dolloped on all the trees and a cold freshness to the world that I almost never encounter anymore. The smell. The smell! It was pure Colorado childhood. My childhood exactly. Walking down the driveway past the frozen pond to the bus stop in the early morning dark as the snow plow did slow circuits up and down the hill, its headlights transformed into strange glowing orbs in the clouding powdersmoke. The smell and the cold and the snow took me straight back there for a moment. And it was nice.
Also: Despite all of the bad things in the news, everyday, relentlessly—there’s a lot of good stuff in the ether, too. Have you watched Godless yet? Have you gone soaking in the Kennedy School pool in the rain? Have you read the book Bluets? Have you eaten the chocolate caramel cream cupcake from Back To Eden?