Allowing Myself

…to feel, to love, to be.

Tag: nature

Spring Plannings

For good or bad, spring has officially sprung here in LA. While the east coast is pummeled by snow storm after raging snow storm, and spring seeps gently in other states, here, it is as if someone flipped a switch.

We went from chilly air, cool breezes, weak sun and foggy mornings to the full-blown technicolor that is California sunshine. Where in the shade it’s perfect, under direct rays, it can feel like you’re on the wrong end of a kid’s magnifying glass experiment of fried bugs.

While the heat is not my thing at all, the sudden burst of vibrant pink and white from the magnolias and jasmine plants is brilliant.

And the smell… swoon.

The internet says Leo Tolstoy wrote, in Anna Karenina, “Spring is the time of plans and projects” and that is what this week feels like to me. The past 2 weeks, I spent quite a bit of time catching up, digging out of email, and running errands – basically recovering from the first month and a half of the year.

Now that I’m caught up, Mercury’s direct, and my birthday is this week, I am ready to dive into those plans and projects – lining up with the seasonal shift, the glow of nature returning.

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Piqued

As you know, I launched 30 Days of Dresses this week. Woo! Thanks for all of your comments 🙂

I loved this Complete Guide To Structuring Your Ideal Work Day, especially the idea of brushing your teeth at 2:30pm. While I’m continuously trying to find the right daily and weekly routines that support my energy levels and introversion, this seemed like a great guide for any office worker bees.

Abby Kerr, who ran the INFJ business class I loved (it’s coming back!), has a real knack for linking to amazing posts. Follow her on Twitter.

Abby shared Allie’s post on the care and feeding of new moms. A few of my friends are new(ish) mom and I admit, I had no idea how to help them. And because I love offering help, supporting people and receiving help myself when I’m down in the shit-time of any life change, I felt completely useless as friends to these women. This post will be my reference material now.

Back to introvert’s dreams, here’s a list of things only people who love spending time alone will understand (I think my sister gets credit for texting me this). This is seriously alone-time indulgences and I could spend a month just going through a challenge checking items off this list.

I am loving the National Geographic Your Shot Blog. Animals, nature, culture and gorgeous pics? I’m in.

To follow that up, living off the grid / what people miss about living in the wilderness. This pretty much sums up my broken heart after Alaska.

And finally, Pink Ronnie has reevaluated her blogging / storytelling, shuttered her Pink Ronnie blog and launched The Shoemakers Daughter (tho today the link isn’t working 😦 ) I love her style, story-telling and photography. I would love to take a class with her in person and am book-marking her Life Captured online courses.

That’s it for this weekend. Enjoy xo

See all Piqued posts.

Fire Crags & Tri-Tip

During the wedding weekend, we had all Saturday free. H thought it would be cool to meet his colleague B for a climb in Santa Barbara. B suggested Fire Crags on Painted Cave road off Highway 154. We looked it up online and gave a thumbs up via text. Our plans were set.

We arrived around 9:30am with the sun was already blazing, flies buzzing around our ears. We parked the two cars in a pull off on Painted Cave road and got out to look for the trail. We couldn’t find it at first and thought maybe it was further back down the road. Back into the car, and rolling slowing down the steep road, we looked for a possible “hairpin turn with a pull-out on the left”.

We saw another dirt spot and parked again. H and B headed down what looked like a trail going west to see if they could find the actual rock wall.

After about 5 min of hiking, they came to a crag with a view, and bolts in the face. This was the spot we were hoping for. I could see them off in the distance from where I waited near the road (in the shade, shaking my hair to deter the flies). They came back out, we parked both cars, and started unpacking the gear to carry back down the trail.

The trail was pretty clear, if narrow, and we made it back to the crag in good time. The trail leads to the top of the routes and then you hike down a bit more to drop your stuff and climb. You can set some of the routes from the top, no lead climbing needed.

B set the ropes, explaining his plans to H. Recently, H bought us a rope, so we’re starting to learn how to set up our own top-rope climbs. But this is nothing to mess around with – it’ll take time and practice to learn and stay safe.

Luckily, the rock face blocked the sun. We climbed for over 2 hrs before the shade disappeared. It was a gorgeous, hot day to be out in the woods climbing rock.

The climbs were challenging, especially for me. The sandstone wasn’t as sticky as other rock I’ve climbed. The height of the route wasn’t too bad – all of them are pretty short (maybe 50 feet or less). But the view out towards the ocean was disorienting. It made me feel like I was up much higher than I actually was.

The heat + lack of sleep + poor nutrition (aka not enough food / water and drinking the night before) pretty much ruined my endurance. It took me a long while to get up the first route, which was the easiest to climb for the day. At the top I was shaking so badly, either from exhaustion or adrenaline (from the perceived height) that I couldn’t walk backwards off the ledge to come back down. It took me a few minutes to be calm myself enough to be lowered.

H had a better time of the routes, though he also felt pretty exhausted. With more experience B was able to climb the routes with minimal struggle.

I did pull a cool move on one route, trying to get up and out of a “cave”. I ended up working this problem for a bit, trying different combinations of hand-holds and foot positions. This was super fun, and the most I’ve worked a route in an outdoor setting.

Climbing is a physical sport, but I love the mental challenge of it – being on a route and not knowing where your next move is going to be. In the gym I tend to climb routes I understand before I’m even on them, but when you’re outside, you don’t know until you’re up there.

Two days before, we climbed Point Dume, and we were pretty spoiled to climb outside 2x in one week.

Being out in the woods, working my body and sweating in the sun, is such an amazing break from the day-to-day drama of work and household crap. Even though we were exhausted afterwards, it was so worth going.

We topped the afternoon off with trip-tip sandwiches at the iconic Cold Spring Tavern, just down the road from Fire Crags. Talk about a time warp. Established in 1865 during the stagecoach era, the property has a few buildings, all of which look like they’ve never been renovated. There was no a/c in the bar, where we ordered from a few of the beers on tap, and received a ticket for the trip-tip, which we then took to a BBQ outside. It’s popular in the central coast to have salsa on your tri-tip – this is the Santa Maria-style BBQ.

We ate our sandwiches in the shade, at a picnic table, with cold beer in plastic cups, and a blues band of 50-something year old men playing out front. Motorcycles lined the dirt parking area and kids ran around parents eating at their own tables.

It felt like a mini-vacation and the perfect way to break up the more social, busy parts of the wedding weekend. H drove us back down Hwy 154, and we switched drivers at the 101 north on-ramp. He slept while I drove us back up to Santa Margarita, listening to the college radio station play The Weepies and Joan Baez.

Wedding Weekend

 

 

 

 

 

Over Labor Day weekend, we traveled up to the central coast for our dear friends’ wedding weekend. Obviously, weddings celebrate love, family and commitment, but those values were at the absolute forefront for this couple’s special day.

There were mason jars and lemonade and burlap and lace. There was dancing and photoboothing and drinking. There were math jokes and a custom corn hole and lawn jenga. There was the hot sun and the cool night. There were serious vows and funny speeches. There were details, details, details. The bride put so much work into everything – while staying gorgeous and graceful. The groom was smitten and so proud. Both were laughing and crying the entire weekend.

And at one point during the dancing, H and our friend mimed picking something off the ground, moving to opposite ends of the dance floor and began swinging their arms in rhythm as if they had double-dutch jump ropes. Immediately people caught on and we had a double-dutch dance off. I know.

It was freakin’ awesome.

The rehearsal was Friday morning, so H and I left LA at 6:30am to make it to there by 10am. We were 15min late, but otherwise all went well.

After the rehearsal, the bridal party & family went to Apple Farm restaurant where we all hung out eating, talking and spending time together. Unfortunately, I had a sinus infection, so my ear was clogged and the sinus pressure was tough, but it just meant I was readily able to cry along with everyone else’s happy tears haha.

During lunch, both the bride & groom made speeches about each member of their bridal party. Since H was in the wedding, our friend said a little something about him. He said H makes him a better teacher, that they share a sense of humor other people don’t understand, and that H is truly one of “our people”. It was so touching. I was so proud to call the groom a friend and H my husband.

After the cake was cut, the toasts were made and we sent the bride and groom off in their limo, we all helped pack stuff up from the venue and reconvened at the guest house on the property. We had 13 people staying in the house and many other guests came to hang out afterwards.

I wasn’t too thrilled with a house full of drunk people, but I rallied by making everyone frozen pizza and downing as much water as possible. Somehow everyone left and H and I found ourselves invited to lay outside in the dark to watch the stars.

We joined two of our friends and two bridesmaids and headed out across the field where the venue parks cars, all the way back to the grassy side of the property. There we put down a blanket and all laid in a cross-section pattern of heads to shoulders, a star-shape of feet sticking out from the center where our heads lay.

The sky was crisp and clear with the most saturated smattering of stars I’ve seen in a long while. (I think the only sky to rival it was the night we slept over in the Grand Canyon). We could see the Milky Way, a few planets and so many stars the constellations were difficult to pick out.

We all hoped to see a shooting star and we ended up seeing a bunch – at one point most of us caught a huge one streaking across the sky, right above our heads. We all shouted with amazement. All of us, some type of tipsy from the wedding, tired from the weekend’s events, chilly from the desert air, huddled together and laughing – it felt like the best night of summer camp all over again.

And it was magic.

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

Climbing A Quarry

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of my 30 at 30 list (which I titled My Big Three Oh List) I put “rock climb outdoors”. I haven’t written about it a ton here, but since H and I took a rock climbing class in February, I’m hooked. He bought me a harness for my birthday and I picked up a pair of shoes on discount. Besides the craziness that was April, we’ve gone to the rock climbing gym about 2x per week.

We only know a few people who rock climb outdoors here in LA, and most are men. I have no problems climbing with men (H is a fantastic person to climb with for me personally b/c I trust him, obvi) but there are certain ways of approaching a route that I go after that a guy may not understand. For example, I am only 5 ft tall and therefore have to rely on my flexibility over my actual wing-span to reach certain holds.

It’s important to me that I climb right – I don’t want to pick up bad habits that will prevent growth in skill as I progress. I focus on balance, flexibility and core strength. On routes, technique and intuition guide me.

And now that I’m learning how I learn, instead of just expecting to be good at something immediately, I attention to the skills I want to acquire and mak sure I don’t try to climb routes that are so hard, I feel frustrated and want to quit.

Luckily for me, my colleague Arielle LOVES to climb outdoors and she totally relates. She assured me that my gut-feeling about climbing with men was pretty spot on (again, they’re not being mean, they just don’t have the same body types) and that she would be more than happy to take me out some day.

It just so happened that I flew to Boston for work in April and could come in a day early to go climbing with her!

We went to Quincy Quarries on a gorgeous almost-spring Sunday afternoon. Now an LA native, I was surprised by how bare the trees were still, and a lot of the ground was muddy from recent rain and thaw. There were lots of groups out, clustered around ropes and routes, enjoying the sun and park.

Arielle had all of the gear we needed (including a helmet with a pony-tail space – how cool?) and was confident I could climb a route or two on a wall near the water. She hiked up a wall of boulders, set our anchor and ropes, and we were ready to climb.

Everyone said I would be addicted to outdoor climbing as soon as I tried it – but to be honest, that didn’t happen. It felt like such a different experience that I couldn’t really compare it to climbing at a gym. It felt more relax / less competitive than at the gym. People were laughing, sitting around, a little pup (pictured above) was in and out of the water with a tennis ball. Arielle would try a route and be up there much longer than H & I would be on the wall at the gym, but it was cool – all fun and no stress.

She climbed a route first so I could copy her – and it was awesome to see her climb. There is nothing short of exuberance on this girl’s face when she is outdoors. And she’s super encouraging. When I was climbing, she would suggest good next moves, encourage me to keep going, and just seemed super joyful to be sharing the afternoon with me.

I completed one route and attempted another. We ended up running out of daylight, which was a bummer, because I felt I could’ve stayed there all day. I hope to climb outdoors here in LA soon and to go out with Arielle again on my next trip east.

The whole afternoon felt pretty magical, even surreal, as I was outside in chilly weather, with a colleague (we don’t normally get time as friends, even tho we totally are), CLIMBING a QUARRY WALL. Pretty rad. Can’t wait to do it again.


Special thanks to Arielle who, by the way, just returned from a ladies climbing trip to Moab (!!), which just seems insane to me – she’s pretty bad-ass. She recommends you check out her hero, Steph Davis.