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.
A new mountain bike: In December Mark gifted me a two-wheeled steed in honor of the winter Yule. I’ve been craving a method to get way out into the backcountry and feel like come summer I will do many horrendous climbs and long loaping descends on this bike, and it will calm my troubled spirit.
Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer: I only read sci-fi when it comes recommended from my big sister, as she has immaculate taste in the genre. When this book arrived, I knew I must read it and did so in a matter of 3 days. It takes you inside a dreamworld flowing with the odd and creepy, never painting the full picture but instead a vague outline, remaining mysterious, knowing all the strangest things are cooked up by your own imagination. The book is part of a trilogy, and spoiler alert—they made a movie out of ’em starring Natalie Portman. Better get reading!
60 degrees on a Saturday: You wake up inside a house with glowing windows. The day shines with opportunity. Go out and do stuff, or sit at home, it doesn’t matter. Life is better in the warmth and light.
Rebecca Gates from the Spinanes: Me, Colorado, died red hair, corduroys and a cardigan, listening to the Spinanes in between Geology and German class. Fast forward 20 years to Oregon, and there’s Rebecca on stage in front of me playing soft-as-velvet acoustic guitar in a halo of purple light.
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.
A winter solstice party in the sky: Sunday evening in the dead of winter is more like Sunday afternoon. What a fine time of day to walk the dog, though. On the way to the schoolyard the sky cracks into a magenta golden dream, like alpenglow, like cotton candy, and then on the way home it’s dark. The Christmas lights twinkle cheerfully as you walk by and peek in people’s windows, watching all the small, graceful moments of their quiet indoor lives.
Marc Maron’s WTF interview with Sam Beam: I’m still thinking about this conversation Marc Maron had with Sam Beam of Iron & Wine fame. What a gentle, funny human. What warmth. In my mind, he’s a bearded buddha, living like he does off in the woods of Carolina with five kids, a bunch of banjos and a head full of dusty tunes. He has the secret. He laughed at every single interview question—even the ones that weren’t funny. “You can’t be too serious about it,” he said. “It’s only life.”
Joan Didion: After watching the Netflix documentary about her, I was inclined to reopen Slouching Toward Bethlehem and spend a night reading wisdoms like this: “I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not. Otherwise they turn up unannounced and surprise us, come hammering on the mind’s door at 4 am. of a bad night and demand to know who deserted them, who betrayed them, who is going to make amends. We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were. I have already lost touch with a couple of people I used to be …”
Portobello rueben at Capitol: On a Tuesday night of no particular import we went out for bar food at Capitol on Broadway. It wasn’t our first choice, but Shan Dong was full and I refuse to wait for dinner in town of 10 bajillion restaurants. So. Amidst ladies dressed in shimmery skirts and men in dapper coats, I ate the reuben of a lifetime. Beet and cabbage slaw, hearty mushroom meet, crisp rye. Thank you, world! Thanks December. Cheers Portland. Sometimes, you just get it right.
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?
Stranger Things, season 2. I know you’ve heard of it. It deserves to be heard of. It deserves to be watched amidst bitten fingernails and tea spilled on the couch when you jumped at the scary thing that jumped off the screen at you. Those little humans—kids, I think they’re called—can really act.
Hot pokers in my back: The unsolved mysteries of a sharp, lingering pain just beneath my left shoulder blade. The last time it bothered me was in the midst of a total life melt down. Engagement, failing. Business, all consuming. Weather, wet and bitter cold. Unsurprisingly, a tarot card reading revealed the source of my back pain to be emotional—the earthly place where I held all my twisting woes. Spoiler alert: I made it through. My life didn’t end. My back felt better—so slowly I barely noticed. That was 5 years ago. Though the hot poker is back, the woes are not. I gave up tarot readings and bought a foam roller.
Depth Perception: I didn’t not like this new snowboard flic by the Travis Rice machine. I had a good time watching it, mainly for all the pillows and powder riding, and also the skit featuring my favorite little Canadian cabin in the woods. The same cabin where—see below—I spent one peaceful, quiet, ultra-starry night of summer slumber.
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 was hard to find time amidst the juggling and scrolling to drive out to Three Rivers and winterize our trailer. And yet we did—out of fear. Remember last winter when we all got snowed in in Portland for 2 months?
The trip was last minute, a little panicked, but the drive was so beautiful we forgot all about that. The colors as we passed over the volcano—crimson scrub oak between the dark, mysterious pines, and when descended onto the plains everything got softer, warmer. Pale gold-spun grass, burnt orange brush, gauzy evening light. When the day fell, we were warm in the trailer. The puppy slept literally on top of me. Cramped quarters are the coziest (and happiest). And getting punched in the face with a paw first thing in the morning is one of the rare joys of being a dog owner.
So, we applied to have water routed to the property, and we built a small roof to keep the snowdrifts at bay. That is all. Just these small things are what we can do right now. Though I love the little trailer, I’m still haunted by dreams of a wildly cozy A-frame. I hope my cabin aspirations will birth reality in the coming years, the kind of reality that involves a couple dirt movers and a concrete truck to pour a foundation.
Black hits. When I bought my house 11 years ago, the trim was painted a festive teal. I hired Neil Dacosta and his lass Sara Phillips to paint over it with an understated white—and do classics accents of deep red. Recently, I realized I could—nay, must do something different. And so I went to Home Depot and bought a pint of black to refresh the accents. What I like is the way black isn’t even a color. It doesn’t add anything to the mix—it just emphasizes things, like putting eyeliner on all your windows. Here they are!
Old Country mornings. Townes. Emmy Lou. They are very recommended for breakfast listening on cool-to-cold mornings with fall light coming through the windows (when the NPR membership drive and other horrors of the world have taken the op for soothing news radio off the table).
Harvest moons. Not the Neil Young album of the same name. The real thing—our planet’s satellite. I can never really get over the moon. It’s strange light and mysterious vibrations. What pulls the ocean, pulls us in seen and unseen ways. Or at least that’s what the folk revivalists tell us. Regardless, you can’t not gasp at that big ol’ pumpkin-sized moon hanging over the horizon.
Dove Vivi. Under the influence of cornmeal crust pizza and a glass of red, on maybe the last truly warm night of the year, you can discuss anything. Friends. Work. Blatant gossip. Philosophy. Rock and roll. Television. Death. Birthdays. Future plans and regrets. Etc. At the end, when there are 2 pieces left but 4 people around the table, you cut each piece in half, so that everyone takes home a morsel of the sacred evening.
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.