Allowing Myself

…to feel, to love, to be.

Tag: alaska

Scale and Space

Something that I didn’t consider when dreaming about Alaska was scale.

This shouldn’t be a surprise since I have no spacial relation sense – no idea how big or how far away something is, if this piece of furniture in the store will fit on the wall we plan to set it against, or how much smaller I am than the average woman.

But the vastness of Alaska – the height of the mountains, breadth of the rivers, massive muscle of moose, and gleaming stark white blaze that is Mount McKinley – all took my breath away.

As we traveled, listening to endless tour guide commentary, I couldn’t translate numbers into forms.

I couldn’t comprehend how the peak of Mount McKinley was actually 20,320 ft above sea level. Or how the bear we saw was probably 250 lbs. Or how Denali National Park is 6 million acres (I just Googled it again to be sure because that number seems unbelievable to me). Or that the whale tails we saw slinking into the ocean’s smooth surface, going for a deep dive, were as large as a truck. From the cruise ship balcony they looked like a pleated party favor fan, something to wave and cool you off in the mid-day sun.

Bald eagles looked like giant kites. Otters looked like fish. Helicopters looked like horseflies.

Many of our tour guides hoped for a Texan in the group so they could make the joke that everything actually *is* bigger in Alaska.

Just because I was thrown off continuously by scale and distance, doesn’t mean I didn’t love it. No. If anything, I wanted to sink into it, or I guess, more appropriately, be absorbed by it.

I wanted to dissolve into the space that is the Alaskan wilderness.

———-

Since returning, life is LA feels more bleached and burnt out than tropical and lovely. The sun is too strong, the plants all bone dry and dying from the drought, the line of traffic on our street ridiculous. I can’t shake the smell of engine exhaust and fertilizer.

I didn’t notice at the time if Alaska smelled sweet or fresh in the way you’d imagine all that open space would, all of the trees and rain rinsing and washing the air. But I can say now that it was fresh enough to not have a scent, some kind of pureness I accepted immediately, absorbing the oxygen like a plant inhales the sun.

———-

We traveled from windy, chilly Anchorage up through temperate Denali, and back down through the Inside Passage, where the cold from the Hubbard Glacier swept across our cruise balcony like a chill from ghosts. I only felt freezing on two days, and those involved glaciers and rain. I drank tea, hot chocolate, lattes. One morning I had a “molten glacier”, some concoction involving hot chocolate, chocolate liqueur and Brogans Irish Cream.

I lived in my SmartWool socks. I wore the hat my colleague knitted for me.

———-

Some areas are only accessible by sea plane, some only by train. Other areas people use snow mobiles, sled dogs or ATVs to get around. There is a gravel trail that runs parallel to the Parks Highway (Alaska Route 3) specifically for people to ride ATVs and snow mobiles. Boats get locked in frozen in overnight frosts in early September. Trucks fall into ice where a lake thawed out. Moose use the plowed highway as a more accessible path during winter months when the snow is too deep for them to walk comfortably in the woods. The moose-to-car ratio is not in anyone’s favor.

It was a trip of planes, trains, automobiles, boats, helicopters and buses. We had three bus rides over 2hrs, a 9hr train ride, and we cruised a total of 1,500 nautical miles. All of that and we didn’t cover even a quarter of the state.

———-

The Hubbard Glacier is 350 feet tall above the Yakutat Bay. It calves (breaks off) 10-story-building sized ice bergs. The blue is the most intense blue-sky-blue you will ever see. It seems so crystal clear you can hear it ringing.

———-

Somehow all of this has me craving more space, less city. I mean, I knew I wasn’t cut out for the walking-hawking-chaos that is New York City, but I thought I’d found a groove here in LA. Now it seems I’ve had a taste of wide open spaces (insert Dixie Chicks song here) and I want more.

More of less.

More space, less people. More quiet, less noise. More color, less concrete.

Vast and wild, scale and space

Dreamed Into Existence

I admit, I’m having trouble figuring out what to do with myself after the epic trip that was Alaska.

I feel dumbfounded that it happened and that it’s already over. Even though our days felt perfectly planned – I never felt rushed or anxious on the trip – it’s a blur in my memory. Which port did we stop in first? What was the name of our guide for the hike? Where were we when we spotted whales? Which days did we cruise the open sea?

I have a friend named Steve who gets that there’s a lot more to me under the surface of my witty and organized approach to life… he commented on Sunday’s post:

Good to have you back and feeling your feelings and sharing all those seemingly mundane details (chili, reading, roller-hockey and photos) that somehow add up to a satisfying life. Maybe not Alaska, but if you lived in Alaska everyday maybe Alaska wouldn’t be Alaska, either haha. Still great journeys are to be cherished, whether external or internal, and Alaska for you sounds like it was both. Congratulations and welcome back and I’m glad you have your freshly-grown nostalgia to keep you sad and craving. Where would we be without our cravings?

And isn’t he right?

I wrote that post because it is the mundane details that make my life. And it is the details that throw us off when we’re traveling, when we encounter a new place. Like how people in Alaska leave their windshield wipers propped up during a winter day so they don’t freeze onto the window. Or how an older man on the boat told his wife he was ordering “tape-ahs” instead of “tah-pahs”. Or how, even though there was a ridiculous amount of food at the buffet, I was dying for fresh fruit, raw vegetables, and some scrambled egg whites.

This trip was something I dreamed into existence – that I could marry into a family where in-laws would invite me not only on crazy family trips, but to the one place on earth I wanted to visit before I died. To a place where, for no specific reason that I can recall, I’ve been interested obsessed with for 5+ years. Serendipity.

It was a trip 2 years in the making and in a snap of a finger two-weeks time, it’s over.

Maybe Alaska wouldn’t be Alaska if I lived there (though I am romantically consumed by my experience enough to challenge that), I can agree with Steve on this point “Still great journeys are to be cherished, whether external or internal, and Alaska for you sounds like it was both”.

And that’s all I can say right now about how large this whole experience feels – both an external and internal journey – still too much for exact words, as large and vast as the state of Alaska.

Sad To Be Home, For Once

Usually my “back home” posts are ones I look forward to – full of relief and routine. My last post was written ~12 days ago, and if you’ve been following along, you know ALASKA happened.

And Alaska is something that resonated in me so deeply, I am not sure how to tell you about it yet – though I did keep a travel journal which is half-way done, so I do have some notes on it all…

But that’s not what I want to write about this morning.

Like every August, our trip ended with us coming home to a dog full of fleas. Flea season gets us every time, usually August/September, when the weather heats up and Carter Cash spends a lot of time outside. Luckily, we have our new vinyl floors downstairs and my sister cleaned our apartment while we traveled, so I wasn’t freaking the shit out after noticing fleas all over Carter’s butt right after the taxi cab dropped us off.

In less than 20min of being home, Carter and I went into the tub for a full-on-offensive-attack bath.

Then we biked him to the grocery store to restock our fridge. Henry suggested I make chili for dinner, so as he unpacked the groceries, I chopped veggies and browned turkey meat. We ate on the couch while watching a National Geographic show about Alaska (I know, I’m obsessed).

Later on we unpacked suitcases, vacuumed the dog’s crate, washed dishes and took hot showers. We were asleep by 10pm.

I woke up this morning at 7am, with the blazing SoCal sun beating through the sliding door.

Our dirty vacation clothes were packed already sorted into whites / darks / colors (because we’re crazy like that) so I was able to run a few loads of laundry this morning as I cooked breakfast. I did a hiit workout and ran the dog 2m. I drank water, hung up jackets, put away travel sized toiletries, and folded laundry. I tried to not feel overwhelmed by the piles of stuff left from the frenzied day before we left or panic about having to go back to work tomorrow.

I’m reading Four Seasons in Rome by Anthony Doerr and sinking into his descriptions of being a new father in a new city – his detailed descriptions of Rome echoing the fleeting grasp I have on Alaska. “As it always is with leaving home, it is the details that displace us. The windows have no screens. Sires, passing in the street, are a note lower. So is the dial tone on our red plastic telephone…”

Usually the details of home settle me back in – my travel is work or family related – and I crave my own boundaries and comforts. But this time I am sad. Our trip was packed, full of amazing happenings and really great family time, but it went so fast – I can’t believe it’s already over.

H went to play roller-hockey and when he returns, he’ll be transferring and backing-up the almost 1000 photos and videos we shot during the 11 days away. I hope spending some time with those captures helps this feeling of loss, and that writing about it in my travel journal and here for you keeps the deep satisfaction of my experience right where I can hold it.

And we’re off!

For some reason I can’t recall, I’ve felt a serious kinship and obsession with Alaska (see also Maine, Italy, and Everest). So I was flabbergasted when H told me that his family’s next vacation would be to this vast state. I mean, did his step-mom really understand how I pined for Alaska, that it’s on my Top 5 place to visit list, and that I consume all Alaska-based shows on Netflix? No, she probably didn’t. It was a perfect coincidence, but H was pretty stoked to watch my face when he broke the news.

This trip has been 2 years in the making. I am beyond grateful to be part of such a giving and adventurous family. We’ve jokingly used the hashtag #myfamilyvacationsharderthanyours if that’s an indication for what I’m in for haha.

We fly today and our adventure begins in Anchorage. After that, it’s a whirlwind, dream itinerary trip. I’m not sure how much I’ll be posting but watch my SIL’s blog Attention to Balance (where she’s already posted the agenda) and my Instagram for when I feel like sharing… but really, I just want to be in the moment, soaking in this magical time in a magical place.

Recently

Finishing up work emails and projects before our vacation tomorrow.

Rolling with the lack of routine. And up and down energy. And weird heat + humidity.

Going to the beach path on Saturdays for a run while H takes Carter on a walk via longboard, then heading to a new coffee shop called Amelia’s.

Creating more Project Life spreads – so fun to spend weekend time printing photos & playing with paper.

Buying sorely needed gym clothes, running sneakers and hiking boots. Much of the clothing and the running shoes (above) are hot pink. Not my usual color but seems to be the cheaper option most times.

Becoming more in-tuned to my over-done strength of being good in a crisis. And saying no.

Watching Orange Is The New Black Season 2

Reading All The Light We Cannot See (finished), The Giver (for fun) and books about Alaska & the Iditarod.

Quitting devaluing my own projects / creativity for things that aren’t the work I’m meant to do in this world (that’s the goal, anyways – probably will be more of a transition than cold turkey).

Learning so much about inspiration & design from the Here & There class at Big Picture Classes.

Smelling the surprise of rain in LA this weekend.

Celebrating OH MY GOSH OUR ALASKA TRIP STARTS TOMORROW.

Loving having H home for summer break with time to talk and be together. And life coaching sessions with Heidi.

Working on our money goals with a financial planner. And co-working with Billye.

Eating healthier and a little less at times, trying to fuel my body with good things.

Drinking less alcohol (win) and enjoying coffee more and more lately. Like, a lot more.

Wearing my hair a bit too short. And new clothes / boots (see above).

Listening to H play video games, to the drizzle of rain outside, to Carter clickety-clacking around on the vinyl floors (he needs his nails cut).

Feeling TOO EXCITED TO SLEEP

Obsessed with AnnMarie’s blog (and baby watch) and Alaska, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska, Alaska

Piqued

“When really, he thinks, it’s a glowing puddle you carry in your hands; you should spend all your energy protecting it. Fighting for it. Working so hard not to spill one single drop.”
― character talking about time,
Anthony Doerr, All the Light We Cannot See

It was a pretty quiet week again, though I’m getting ready for our trip to ALASKA ::celebration emoji::

On the Alaska note, one of my favorite Instagram feeds is Seablanket – she’s been living in Alaska for over a year, and her pictures are stunning. You can follow her blog here.

I didn’t know this, but the Alaskan flag is 8 gold stars, in the shape of “the big dipper”, on a blue background. The North Star is larger than the other 7. Tell me that isn’t my love of Alaska + stars + astrology combining into another sign that I am meant to visit this grand state.

And if anyone knew anything about being in the great outdoors, it was John Muir:

“I am los­ing pre­cious days. I am degen­er­at­ing into a machine for mak­ing money. I am learn­ing noth­ing in this triv­ial world of men. I must break away and get out into the moun­tains to learn the news.”
– Alaska Days with John Muir by Samuel Hall Young

I don’t plan on scrapbooking on the trip like this, but I love Kelly Purkey’s way of doing it.

Found this post about Seeing Red In The Gene Pool (or the lack thereof) interesting, especially because I love red heads.

I finished All The Light We Cannot Seehighly recommend. I found it both a simple and stunning read.

And I’m participating in August Break again – if you’d like to follow along – join here.

My sister-in-law Renee plans to blog while we’re in Alaska, but I am undecided. I am really feeling the need to unplug and let my mind drift far, far away from work and every-day dramas. I do plan on sharing pictures via Instagram if we have wifi, and you can follow me @jtaormino21.

Take care xo

August Break For Alaska

au·gust
[aw-guhst]
adjective
1.inspiring reverence or admiration; of supreme dignity or grandeur; majestic.
2.venerable; eminent.

I said last month that July is my favorite – and it is – but it was also hard. The writing I posted was deeper, and was well received, but I lost my words the past week or so. Where my writing dried up a bit, my focus on healthy eating and exercising stepped up a notch. Things always level-out, so I’m not worried.

Welcoming in August with a full day of work today, trying to officially catch-up / dig out / set up some buffers for the 2 weeks I’ll be traveling through Alaska.

What? Alaska, you say? Yes – I’m thinking the definition of “august” above is right in line with this epic family trip.

I can not wait. It could not come at a better time.

Participating in August Break again. Last year (August 2013) it started to feel like too much pressure, so I don’t know if I’ll be posting on the blog, but you can follow me on Instagram.

Stay cool & dry out there lovies.

#Trust30 – Day 5 – Alaska

Still going strong, though it’s only Day 5 of #trust30. Weirdly enough, today we got up early (and full of crankiness of my part) to attend one of those time-share presentations. The gist is you sit through a one-on-one spiel where they try to sell you a time-share property and in return you’re “gifted” a small vacation for “free”. Of course, nothing is free – there is the time spent, the taxes and parking paid for, and the difficult social exchange (especially for me) of saying “No” repeatedly to someone who does this to pay his bills.

We survived, with only a small sense of guilt, and two vacations that we’ll hopefully be able to plan and use before they expire…

This morning dovetails perfectly with today’s prompt as travel is on my mind.

We listed off our Top 5 travel places on a whim… thinking more now, I’d probably edit this list, but I’m willing to travel anywhere at this point, so this will suffice for now:

  • Alaska (me)
  • Italy (mostly Rome for him, Sicily / Tuscany for me)
  • Costa Rica (us, surfing)
  • Hawaii (us, just because)
  • Europe trip (us, everywhere)

While the unknown and chaos of traveling makes me anxious, I love the adventure of it, the newness and untethered experience of being out in the world. There are so many places I want to go in my life and I’ve gone to so few.

My parents vacation to relax. We’re talkin’ reading, sleeping, swimming on the beach from sunrise to sunset, with some restaurants, ice cream and amusement park fun thrown in. We do not sightsee. In fact, I grew up on Long Island and it wasn’t until I was 14 and a wonderful neighbor convinced my mom to take us into “the City” to see “A Christmas Carol” that we actually stepped into Manhattan as a family. I’ve done more traveling in the past 3 years with my fiance’s family than I have in my entire life with my own. This is not to knock my family – I love me a beach and a book – but to have made it to the age of 18 without having flown west of Ohio is just sad to me. So, I have the travel bug…

But for today’s prompt, it’s Alaska and my weird obsession with it visiting it. From my grandmother’s stories of her cruise through the region to my reading of “Into The Wild“, there is something pure that calls my soul to Alaska. I don’t know why. Maybe when my feet touch the soil, my bones will know.

Until then, I can only dream.