I’m Going Rip Van Winkel for the Winter.

Perhaps you’ve noticed that I’ve taken a hiatus from the blogosphere. Perhaps you haven’t. Either way, I am here to tell you: I have taken a half-assed hiatus from blogging.

I had some housing issues in Oakland that, in retrospect, were almost humorously messed up but I’m no longer in domestic peril, so that’s a win. It’s not really worth it to parcel it out here but I’m back to dreamin’, floatin’, seein’ where that leads me.

One place it has led me is to The Shining, a film I often return to in the winter. I’ve also been vibing with some Twin Peaks. A quiet trip along the Mt Hood highways, passing through motels and Timberline Lodge and the Portland trees webbed through gray sky each afternoon have me digging dark Northwest winter in a new way. I appreciate it, I want to draw and keep warm and hide out a bit.

So I’m going to do that. But here are some photos from the past week.

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I hope to return from hibernation with many short stories, crude illustrations and more photographs. Many kisses until then.

– Elissa

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I Get Wild: Books, Country, Hobos & City Lights

If you know me, or even just read this blog, you’ve probably caught on to the fact that I really like to read. Novels, newspapers, traffic signs, cereal boxes…I just dig the act of using my eyeballs to soak in words. However, I occasionally experience a moment of magic when I pick up a book and realize, damn, this speaks to me. And then I can’t put the book down.

This literary possession occurred yesterday when a friend loaned me Cheryl Strayed’s Wild. I’m usually pretty skeptical of any contemporary novel associated with the Oprah conglomerate (James Frey disaster, anyone?), but I fell in love with Strayed’s writing/fighting style within the prologue’s first paragraph.

Much of this is due to Strayed’s reminder of how it feels to be Wild. I’ve recently transitioned to an urban setting and while immersed in the squeaking rail systems, traffic lights, fried food, and clogged city sidewalks the sensations I experienced 2 months ago on my solo, West Coast journey become slightly diluted.

But I spent a good amount of time alone in wide open spaces. While my endeavors were nowhere near Strayed’s 4 year trek along the Pacific Crest Trail, I’ve grown sentimental today for the strange moments I encountered as a young, female wandering alone through unfamiliar territory.

For example, on my way back to Portland from San Francisco, I pulled off in Redding for lunch. One of my beloved pastimes during this journey was eating lunch on my tailgate in the sun. So I was sitting in the grocery parking lot on my tailgate, eating some cheese and a clan of hobos descended on me. They sauntered over and one sat down next to me. He looked at my sleeping bag rolled out in the back and bags of various living necessities. “Man, you have a nice setup here!”

“Yeah,” I said. “It works for me”.

Then he asked if I had a smoke, which I didn’t. “Does your boyfriend?”

“Nah.” I said. “He doesn’t smoke. He’s grabbing some groceries and then we’re heading out.” I lied. On my trip, I sometimes found that being brave meant lying about being alone. These guys were harmless though. They drank from their jug for a minute. Then my tailgate companion got up, said goodbye and he and his friends walked toward the freeway.

At this moment, I realized that these guys didn’t wander over because I was female and alone but because they recognized me as one of their own. A wayfarer with a makeshift bed, sunburn, and infrequent access to showers.

I had a lot on my mind during that journey back to Portland and despite the big life shifts I faced, I felt pretty grounded. I got back and 2 days later decided that I was moving to the Bay. Now I am here. I’ve found a very promising job. I’m making it work. I’m back to showering and sleeping under a roof.

But I read this statement early on in my Wild addiction and think it’s equi-relevant to both my rural & urban explorations.

“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story that we tell ourselves, and so I chose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave.”

I plan to head to Big Sur soon with friends to find some open space. For me, it’s important to strike a balance between natural and city landscapes and recognize how both offer a particular wildness that feeds me.

Here are some photos from my recent city ventures.

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Portland buds Jason & Tom take in views at the SF Art Institute. Current “Energy That is All Around” exhibit most definitely worth a visit.

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A tiny vial of Palo Santo essential oil, concocted in a science-project style, home distillery with Andrew and Jocelyn. Tip: Palo Santo oil smells great, marigold oil? Not so much.

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A collarbone ellipsis, very accurate for this chapter of my life, very painful placement.

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It’s very creepy that I took a photo of Stephanie sleeping and ALSO very creepy that she sleeps with pillows and blankets over her face. But I had to capture this tender moment to demonstrate how Lumps has become part of a trifecta. We love her.

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Blue sky view from the Deyoung Museum Tower

More job news coming up. If you’re in the Bay Area and want to join forces for a Big Sur trip or our new Book Club, holla.

Love,

E.D.

Back to Portland

I journeyed the entire 12-hour stretch home yesterday and carried so much in my mind and in my heart along the way. I have a lot to say but prefer to remain silent in Portland for a bit longer. So here are a few photos from the past week accompanied by a word or phrase. 

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Sunset at Sibley

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Drake Bay Oysters at Point Reyes

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Backyard Palm Tree

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Beautiful Grace Kim

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One of the many free box gems from Liz’s estate

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Meg among posters

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Me and my sweet, sweet lady. Thanks for the good times.

xo, E

Bay Dreams

I thought I’d only stay in California for a handful of days. Well I’ve been here a week and I’m still groovin’ heavy on some Bay Area vibes. This has been primarily due to the serendipitous  convergence of many dear friends in one glorious place. Two nights ago I sat around a table at 25th and Folsom St. with 7 of my closest buddies from university . We’ve all journeyed along our separate paths since college but from the depths of Chicago, Eugene, Portland and San Francisco we found ourselves in the same city at the same time with a fresh rack of antelope and a feast of veggies. I 100% did not partake in any antelope consumption but I was filled with ecstatic joy when I looked around at all of their faces over a bowl of curried lentils. After a sleepover and giant croissant from Tartine in the morning with the crew, I felt invigorated.

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Dinner with best buds

You see, the night prior I had consumed 3 whiskeys after 4 months without any alcohol and was plagued with a hangover from the flames of hell. I somehow managed to drag myself to a tattoo appointment where I received a very large Sri Yantra along my arm. It was an interesting experience. The tattoo is beautiful. And I got it for free. There were some issues  with the line work and the artist didn’t charge me which was very kind. But I will have to do some touch up work back in Portland after it heals. Overall, I am stoked.

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Making of the Sri Yantra

Anyways, making dinner with old friends is most beautiful hangover cure I can think of.  I will be off the sauce again for some time.

My joy has just continued to increase exponentially. Yesterday I took an epic hike in Marin’s Deer Park with a former philosophy comrade and was completely amazed by the biodiversity along the trail. White birches and twisting oaks sprinkled the blonde, grassy plains one moment and the next we’d enter a mossy emerald patch of oldgrowth redwoods.

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The rolling, Marin hills

My home base has been at Jocelyn’s and she’s been a very gracious hostess to the point of humoring my trail obsession. The other night we took a sunset hike to Grizzly Peak and it was perhaps THE MOST MAGICAL HIKE OF MY LIFE. The bay fog settled below the peak and as the sun slid down the entire sky transformed to pink mist. We found a makeshift teeter totter overlooking the hills, hung out on it for sunset and when we headed back to the Datsun, waves of cold, white fog and eucalyptus washed over the hill.

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Sunset at Grizzly Peak

The whole bay area smells sweet like the fecund, summer ocean and rosemary and bay leaves and cedar. I’m mesmerized.

Full disclosure, Oakland has a pretty distinct, unpleasant smell but Oakland’s cool, whatever.

My level of enjoyment is so heavy and so right. Tomorrow I head to the sea for the afternoon. Monday I’ve picked up an odd job in the city and will meet Grace, a soul mate since high school, for dinner.

Thus, I’m not really sure when I will leave the Bay. For now I’m just going to keep vibing. More updates soon-ish.

Mil Besos,

Elissa

P.S. I got a new tarot deck. Herbal remedies divined through tarot coming soon.

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The Herbal Tarot

Updates: Condensed Version

I’ve made a discovery. The more time I spend hiking, the less I want to write. Or perhaps I just have less content to unpack. I can only say so much about the beauty of a wave folding into the shore or the stillness of a fern. It definitely exists but is honestly better seen than read and I wish that I could share it with you. Really. Hiking alone is incredibly meditative but at this point in my journey I’m welcoming companions. This longing for company is well-timed since I arrived in Oakland 2 nights ago and have spent a fantastic chunk of my stay with Jocelyn, one of my dearest. We’ve read tarot, burned juniper, picnicked at the park and snuggled her kitten Boris.

Upon arrival, I immediately took a trip to Eli’s Mile High Club, my favorite Oakland punk bar where Jocelyn recently got a tattoo. When I heard news that they had a  ink operation upstairs I had to go. More on that later.

Anyways, this afternoon I am headed back to Oakland from Point Reyes. The sea is very gentle in Point Reyes and I slept peacefully there, woke up, took a 5-mile loop along the coast, meditated on a sand dune and ate a tailgate lunch in the sun.

Now I am stopped in Marin for a coffee and, after a few frantic messages from my mother, figured that I’m overdue for an update.

I am alive. I am in the Bay Area and will be here for another week. Here are some highlights from the past week:

– I got in to my car in Bend and realized my brother had washed and waxed my truck, filled its tires with air and its tank with gas.  He didn’t even mention it. That’s a humble dude.

– Tomato, pepper soup expertly prepared by Andrew, an old friend from high school. I hadn’t talked to him in years and was lucky enough to stop by his Klamath Falls home for an excellent dinner and late-night campfire session. I met his wife, brand-new baby Katie and ate a chocolate croissant at Green Blade Bakery per his recommendation at sunrise. All of this was very beautiful to me.

– A gang of old motorcyclists in Crater Lake who really dug my Datsun. Also, the pure joy of eating an orange on a cliff overlooking the blue, blue Crater Lake.

– A moonlit walk along The Coastal Trail at Point Reyes. I was alone and could hear the rustle of elk in the trees, snakes in grass and the shrill song of crickets everywhere. The moon was just full enough to light the path and, in the absence of clear eyesight, I could hear the subtle melodies of the forest.

– Pulling up to Jocelyn’s Victorian after an 8 hour commute along 101-S. I am happy I got to see the Northern California coast… a pack of elk, the golden hills, majestic cedars: it was all beautiful. But I confess, I was elated to find civilization and a hot shower.  Jocelyn’s greeting me in a velour track suit and UGG boots was the icing on the cake. It really sent the message: treat yo’ self and I did. I showered, feasted, and slept in a super comfy, clean bed. Home is where the friends are.

– This cup of coffee in front of me. I am at an art-nouveau inspired place in Marin called the Coffee Roastery and to the naked eye, it looks like your standard rich-hippie hangout. However, the Fairfax Coffee they serve is the best cup I’ve tasted on my journey so far. True, the majority of my coffee has been poured at gas stations but this roast is smoky, rich and provides a much-needed surge of life-blood for the remainder of my journey in to the city.

Here are a few travel photos:

Crater Lake

Crater Lake

Orange & Coffee overlooking Crater Lake

Orange & Coffee overlooking Crater Lake

 

Riley in Deschutes National Forest

Riley in Deschutes National Forest

The Moon over Hwy 101 S

The Moon over Hwy 101 S

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Succulents at Point Reyes Seashore

Tonight Jocelyn and I head to the purportedly haunted Burlington Hotel in Port Costa to hang at their dive bar and see what we can conjure.  More updates soon.

Love Infinity,

E.D.

This Was Good.

ImageI wrote this passage down on my first evening at Breitenbush. I had inadvertently picked up a copy of The Tibetan Book of the Dead a few days prior and, as I sat in the meadow by camp and watched the silhouette of cedar trees at dusk, I opened to this sentence. It pretty accurately set the context for the following days.

I won’t attempt to unpack any spiritual investigations right now. It would be difficult for me to articulate and likely very dull for you. I will say that my stay at Breitenbush was magical and that this magic is potently expressed in the surroundings: the quiet pools of steaming, mountain water; the quiet magnitude of Doug Firs, Hemlocks and Cedars towering in every direction; the lodge’s quiet, warm glow. I guess what I’m trying to say is, it was very quiet. Trees may not speak but man do they have spirit.

Initially I thought that I would be quiet as well and I was, relatively, but my vow of silence was promptly broken at community meal times and in the soaking pools. In general, my mind slowed, my movements slowed (Qi Gong taught me a few slightly painful lessons in stillness) but this reverence for my surroundings invited some really wonderful exchanges with like-minded campers.

There were too many to list at length…Rowan, a joyful 12-year-old, Reiki healer; Will a gentle, elderly artist investigating intuitive empathy…everyone was a blessing.

My first day there I took an epic, solo hike around the Emerald Loop Trail and attempted to capture a few moments where I felt particularly overcome with forest bliss.

Floating Web

Big trees.

Big trees.

A modest channel of Breitenbush River

A modest channel of Breitenbush River

 

However, after the hike a powerful wave of exhaustion hit me and settled in for the duration of my visit. Marta clarified, “of course you’re exhausted, you’ve been working 3 jobs for the past year at 100 percent”.  I suppose that my body recognized an opportunity to chill out and wholeheartedly grabbed it. I napped every day I was there: on a couch, in the library, legs half sprawled out the back of my truck, in a meadow, ANYWHERE I could have a moment’s peace. All of my over-exertion finally caught up and this was good. In the intervals between sleep I felt a great sensation of joy and relief.

Home Sweet Home

Home Sweet Home

Of course, I was also very active, just in an intentional manner. I practiced yoga every day, often multiple times, tried Qi Gong and EDGU, rejuvenated daily in the hot springs, drank about 100 gallons of peppermint and rooibos tea, and read as if I had just discovered written word.

There were a few obstacles: hungry late-season mosquitos and a nasty case of sausage -finger following a wasp bite. But you know, whatever, becoming one with nature.

Overall, I found a staggering amount of peace in the past 3 days and accept it as a wonderfully-timed gift for my journey’s beginning. Now I’ve put my clothes back on both literally and metaphorically and will attempt to ride this chill wave through my next week in Bend. So far? It’s been all  babies, bike rides, cool rivers and good food with family so I’d say it’s working out well.

Thanks to Marta King for the visit and deep forest/soul explorations.

With Heaps of Magnanimous Joy,

E.D.

Plans Change.

Occasionally, I suffer from a condition I call the Invincibility Complex. I read too much John Krakauer, drink too much coffee, start attending real estate showings,  apply to law school, decide to become a yoga instructor, convert to raw veganism,   accept 2 new jewelry orders,  plan a trip to Costa Rica, accept a job in Spain.  I refuse to slow down. Then something monumental and completely outside of my control occurs and I’m quickly snapped back to the present. This is simultaneously scary and humbling. It reminds me that the plans I have so frantically constructed for my life are vastly different from how life actually works out.  And I have to let go.

Such is the case this week with my plans for Costa Rica. 2 days ago I had every intention of spending August immersed in tropical rainforest and scaling mountains. Then I called Brian and the grief was audible in his voice. He’d lost a loved one. They had to close the hostel and were coming back to the US before I even arrived in Central America. Across thousands of miles and a shaky Skype connection I felt deeply for him and my plans suddenly did not seem so grand.

For a fleeting moment, I tried to be stubborn. I’ll arrive in San Jose, find a hostel, and figure it out from there, I thought. I looked up beach hostels and yoga retreats but with 2 days until departure and poco dinero in my pocket I realized: I could push as hard as I wanted against the circumstances but this simply was not the right time.

The trip was sparked by a desire to check out a friend’s project. With that off the table, arriving untethered and without contacts in San Jose seemed less Jack Kerouac and more, well, foolish.

So with a heavy heart, I picked up the phone and transferred my flight to a voucher. The airline representatives were very kind and as I sorted the cancellation details out, my heavy heart began to lift along with the burden of trying to figure everything out on my own.

In the end, I am not going to Costa Rica. However, just as the universe erects obstacles, it also clears them away. I’ve spent most of the past month winding up my life in Portland and while August will not be spent how I had initially hoped, I now have the freedom to visit friends, family and landmarks along the West Coast as a final goodbye before Spain.

After talking with Brian and the loss of my own friend this summer, this seems like a really good idea.

I will climb in my Datsun and take a leisurely 3.5 week journey to Yosemite, stopping at Breitenbush, Bend, Crater Lake, the Redwood Forest and San Francisco, camping in my pickup and staying with friends along the way.

Here’s my mantra, taken from a Gary Snyder’s Kisiabaton: 

“Beat-up datsun idling in the road
shreds of fog
almost-vertical hillsides drop away
huge stumps fading into mist
soft warm rain”

I’m going to try to keep it simple. If I’ve learned anything this week it’s that my prescriptive plans are always subject to change. I’ve been brutally reminded to slow down, wayyyyy down and that as much as I try to make the universe conform to MY time, it does not work that way. Honestly, I think that humans’ power does not lie in our ability to control, but instead with our resiliency, our ability to let go and remain vulnerable in the face of change.

This will be in my thoughts, along with Brian and the beautiful friends I look forward to seeing as I drive through the rolling West Coast landscape.

More updates to come.

In Ever Loving Spirit,

E.D.

Redwood Forest

Redwood Forest