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?
I got a new job. I get to work with my heroes. I get to drop f bombs in the office space and listen to banjo music or speed metal as my mood dictates. I get to bring my puppy to work. I get to make cool stuff and learn to be smart and follow my coworkers’ footsteps into the magical place where good ideas come from.
This week, I started full time as senior copywriter at Nemo Design. I’ve worked from Nemo for like 12 years. Trevor and Jeff were nice to me. Like a little lost orphan, I put my desk in a corner here and fed off their fun and creativity to do my own work for other companies in other places. Now I’m here, and I’m working here. It’s exciting.
I remember reading a passage in Patti Smith’s memoir Just Kids—it was about how at some point in her life, she just gave up the idea of working for someone else and entered the artist’s life, where she’d always make her own way and be her own boss. As a perma-freelancer, I related. I thought that would be me, a lone-wolf mercenary riding a MacBook Pro off into the sunset. That was me—but now it isn’t. I’m on a team, and it feels totally right.
It’s been 40 years since I was born—a little blonde pine cone plopping to earth in Denver, Colorado. Let the record show. It’s been 40 years of fighting and working and feeling.
People have been saying to me kindly, you don’t look 40! Thank you? But, like: What’s wrong with looking 40? I don’t buy into the culture of youth worship. I was an idiot when I was 25. And generally speaking, I do believe people become better with age. In my pursuit of being the realest, most emphatic form of me, I can only feel, look and act exactly my age. I’m me! I go to work. I go to the skatepark. I clean my own house and pay my own mortgage. I run the stairs at Mt. Tabor. I text my mom almost everyday. I drink beer and eat pizza whenever possible. And no matter what’s happened, at a certain hour every night—I migrate toward the couch and watch TV. I used to be energetic and single and very eager to see rock shows. Now I have a house with a mini ramp in the garage and a hubs-to-be. There’s what and who have happened to me in the past life. And there’s me now. Get this—they’re the same thing. Somewhere inside, I’m still 10 freaking years old crouching behind the chokecherry bush about to shoot out the greenhouse window with a bb gun. Accidentally.
Anyway, Saturday—my birthday—was a big day. A cinnamon roll for breakfast. A driveby on a friend’s yardsale. A hike through the spooky Northwest fog. A dog with a squirrel addiction. A few beers with a few friends and a metric ton of laughs. We’re alive, guys! What a thing.
Happy anniversary Lefty—it’s been one year since you died. It’s been a year since we buried you under the new maple tree, and then the winter came and buried you again in all that snow. Dang, though, how the flowers bloomed there in the spring. This summer was hot—you would’ve hated it. I would’ve had to finally get you that haircut everyone was always asking about. I never did touch your hair, though. It was too perfect the way it was. Au naturale was how you rolled.
Your brother Duke moved in 4 blocks away. You could’ve partied together daily! But your buddy Riley, he died in the spring. Both of you gone too soon.
I miss going skating with you. I miss using you as a footrest. I miss catching all the love beams you were always sending my way—always watching me, constantly keeping your eye on things, forever making sure I was safe and more importantly that I wasn’t gonna leave you behind. I’m not going anywhere, boy, I’m right here.
The eclipse. THE ECLIPSE! Did you see it? How could you not. I did’t transport myself to the line of totality, although many friends did. The world, for now, is divided between dids and didn’ts. I don’t have totality FOMO, though, because I’m one of those people who takes crazy pleasure in the simple and everyday. The velvet down of our pup’s big ol’ bug-catcher ears. Sandwiches on sourdough. Golden hour in the backlit woods.
All the good things, all the time.
Anyway, Monday morning was just your average 99.2% eclipse of the sun, viewed from the park by our house, with friends, with neighbors, with coffee. A community gathering, of sorts, to worship the cosmos. In another lifetime, we woulda been Druids ’neath the Henge.
My favorite part, besides the deepest, softest quiet that descended on the city, was the ice-cold breeze that kicked up when the eclipse peaked. In the movies, a wind like this would portend strange doings afoot—a wicked change of fate, otherworldly powers. In real life, it was just a brief blackout of life-giving Ultraviolet rays. Simple science. Unless … ?