The Return to Montana

As I write this I am listening to “Pale September” by Fiona Apple, this mixed with other female vocalists have been the sounds of this summer. I think that is important because music often moves us and makes us feel differently, more or less. (I suggest listening to it now, maybe you’ll feel what I am feeling as I write this).

What is the purpose of writing all this down? I am sure of only one thing, its not only for the reader necessarily, but maybe just for me. Maybe the purpose is to spin yet another fine web and send it off into the universe. Perhaps this writing will reach someone who is not fitting in, not feeling beautiful, not feeling driven to find their own happiness, not speaking their truths to people who need to hear it or maybe to the folks that forget our lives are not infinite but need to be reminded its finite.

Last summer I spent the summer, my first as a fisheries intern, in an entirely different mood and spirit. The summer was excellent in many ways, however in the end I felt my world was closed, surrounded by those with full lives and full hearts. I was outside of that circle, or so I felt, because of my differences from those who dwell here in the mountains. The summer was full of beautiful experiences which all shaped my opinion of the area and created a well inside of me that previous had been absent. When I returned to Washington for my school year (knowing that I would be returning to Montana the next year) my life was dark for a time, I stayed close to the couch eating and watching Parks and Rec. I didn’t know the reason that I reacted this way at the time to the changes of coming home. I decided it must be how I was spending my time differently, in the summer I was outside Monday through Friday in what most people would call Gods country–or Bob Ross’s country in my opinion. The absence of the sunshine caused my well of self to dwindle greatly, as I am like a cold blooded creature, I require the sun. Regardless of the effects of leaving Montana, I grew out of my home period and move on still unknowing why the mountains refused to leave my heart. Fast forward to this summer (2017).

Arrival was different this time, this place was a known, I knew where to go and I had people in my life to spend time with. Immediately I feel myself reaching out and connecting in a way that I had not before, like spider webs my spirit reaches out until a thin invisible net has surrounded me. My opinion began to change immediately and suddenly I am beginning to see what could be a semblance of home or at least possibility. I have met individuals which broadened my scope even further and for reasons beyond my understanding released me from fears that have long since bore upon my shoulders. I am suddenly seeing so many things in an entirely different light and I am sure we could say this about all experiences, they change us in some way. The universe works in such amazing ways sometimes giving us what we need exactly when we need it, then taking it away and so on and so forth. I am solid in self and feel myself becoming a woman finally at almost 30, I feel beautiful, capable and I know that I will receive what I need. I was drawing some time back and found myself drawing this goddess like woman walking through the woods at night, moonlight pouring upon her shoulders as she walked carrying a lantern. Upon her head was a set of antlers and she carried a hunters knife. Later that night I found out that the full moon, that was to be that night, was called the “full buck” moon. I felt alive, connected and that night I danced under that moon feeling more whole than I have ever.

This area is so open and full of possibility, so many places one could live here their whole lives while never seeing everything. The mountains humble you and the peaks breathe life sealing up the cracks in your spirit. The wind even speaks to you as it passes through the trees, carrying that wonderful pine sap smell. Every day that I spend out here I feel that well I created last summer filling, while previously it laid empty. I used to think that I had a center of power which was fueled with; working out (feeling capable), solitude (mixed with some social interaction) and being outside in any manner. I find that my center has changed somewhat it is now being fueled with; the desire to be capable but more so self reliant, having alone time but also creating deep community connection, still being outside in any manner and now allowing myself to just be present–sit and be still.

I do not know what my future hold for me, I feel as though I am at a intersection and I am waiting for the breeze to send me in the right direction. This may sound like something that is negative but actually it is not, it is anything but. I feel free and something that has been mostly absent in my life–hope. I have always been a realist mixed with a little old fashion romantic and a touch of altruism. Hope flickered to light not long ago, was quickly snuffed out and now I feel the radiance of the warmth moving through the cockles of my heart and spirit. I will be okay, I will always be okay until the moment that I cease to be and even that will be alright.

“Love flowers best in openness and freedom”-Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire 

I used to think that this referred to only romantic relationships but now I believe it means more than that, self love and love of the things you care about (not always people). Allowing yourself to be free but also open, allowing the good in with the bad and accepting that things will virtually always be out of your control. The best I can do now is to be honest, kind, open and hope that all the other shit falls away.

I am here to say that whoever you are out there, life is all around at us at all times and sometimes we all forget that simple fact. We are all broken, in a state of mending in some way at all times. Sometimes perspective is everything, one of my favorite songwriters wrote these lines

“Cant you see that a breeze is just a change of pace?” and “Stuck in the rain? Do a rain dance” 

Maybe you’ll see worth in those line. I wish so much hope, love and light to all of my people (and beyond) and to myself so that next time I feel spent and empty I can drink from this like a flask of hope.

Thank you if you made it to the end, much love-Leah

 

 

Another Turn Around the Sun

30de398ee2f123cba7afcb8d339d56adAs the year ends and a new one begins, take the time to use the change for renewal and reflection. Also, take a moment to breath and look inside, take any residual pieces of yourself that are hindering you and let them go. A new year is not a time to make plans and goals you’ll never keep, don’t set yourself up for failure and disappointment. Let’s instead choose to make maybe a handful of small changes, letting go perhaps of something that you have held onto a little too tightly for the last year. Let me walk you through what I see in my mind for all of us on this wonderful day.

Standing up from our comfortable huddled positions, we stand the dust of the previous year falling around us. Pabst in hand we peer around looking for the crystal chandelier, instead we see nothing just dark expanse. Out of the dark comes a small flicker of an image, but the light flickering is a flame inside of your belly. Fear sets in, what is that?! We exclaim. The flickering light is warm and slowly it grows and suddenly you feel safe and you feel almost as if the flame is consuming something you didn’t know was there some emotional baggage shoved under the bed after the long trip. At first at the thought of letting go of that emotional baggage, we cringe, what would we do without that? At this point that baggage has become a part of your formed personality, to lose it would be to have to reform yourself again. This could come in the form of baggage so to speak or it could just be residual hate/love/awkward feelings that you have harbored, long unable to release for unspeakable reasons. In this moment you can choose to let that flame expand and take the things that you no longer require, that do not benefit you and your experience, if you would only let them go. In this moment, we let them be taken, and the flame grows except its not a flame at all it’s a warm soothing light that at the release of your baggage glows more brightly for just a moment then dims until it goes out completely. At the lose of the light you again stand in a dark room, but then only just then do you realize that there was a door in reach this whole time, so you open it now and walk out of this dark room you had put yourself in and walk out into the bright new undiscovered territory. Its beautiful and new on the other side and you would have known earlier if only you could have had the power to get yourself out of a situation you knew to be dark and diminishing to your inner self.

Essentially what I want you to gather from me today is hopefully some courage today or in the future to take the dusty things we keep in the shelves of our minds and hearts that clutter and confuse, and let them go. Dust them off look at them and gently release them, shed tears if you need to and if it takes more than one attempt that is okay just do it eventually.

This year, I will attempt this myself, to let go of that thing I have dragged with me most of my adult live, that person that I have held onto who I really formed most of my being around. Who will I be without that? That terrifies me. We cannot hold onto that which hold us back from our paths, happiness or progress, well at least I cannot anyway, I can’t speak for you and should not even try.

So in this new year please get out there, explore and grow in whatever way you need to. So much love and light is being sent to you, whoever you are way out in the nothingness of space.

-Leah

“One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am – a reluctant enthusiast….a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies, over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive the bastards.”

 

The Things We Don’t Speak Of

Man posts newspaper ad seeking leads in killing of wife, daughter over 9 years ago

Just as life was definite, so is death. This has been on my mind for the last year or so, the impending darkness that beckons us from our first breath. It terrifies me some nights, that my thoughts and I one day would fade from this world. It’s something I cannot fathom and I cannot fathom it for my loved ones either. I think that death and the fragility of our lives should be talked about open, not kept in a scary closet where we store the things that we’ll never speak of.

Often when I go out into the wilderness by myself , at times I feel apprehensive as most people would. What exactly do I feel apprehensive about? Strangers, unreasonable predator fear and just the unknowing of what is out there. I remember my first trip out on a long hike by myself in the cascades I got to the trail-head put my heavy backpack on immediately wanted to go home, I didn’t, but every noise for the first miles scared the life out of me. I ran across this story about the daughter and mother shot in the head for no reason and something hit me, that trail the first one that scared me was this very trail that they lost their lives on, Pinnacle Lake Trail. I remember reaching the top of this long climb and there was this beautiful vista, sitting at the edge of the trees looking out on the view were two crosses and I had always wondered who they were and what happened, now I know.

The back of my brain says that I should never go back out there to that area, to that mountain, but the other larger more dominant says this: We cannot let fear ruin life for us. We cannot hide under our beds hoping that death doesn’t find us or that evil people simply pass by us. Life is hard, and hopefully long, but for most that is not true. It is a blessing to live long enough to truly know what it means to live.

“The fear of death follows from the fear of life. A man who lives fully is prepared to die at any time.”
―Mark Twain 

You will die. Maybe peacefully, maybe in an hospital or maybe from a senseless act of violence, but it doesn’t change the outcome, fear won’t either. This I will say, knowing that one day your light will go out, knowing that maybe you won’t make it to see all of your goals meet fruition , what are you going to do with that? Why do we wait to tell people we care, or go to a place we have always wanted to go to or even to just take a day off of work. We have learned that we must put our head down and follow the paths of all those before us- Work, home, work , home……. until we get embalmed (so we cannot decay even once in the earth that bore us) and occupy a coffin (our family likely couldn’t even afford) unaged for all of time. Do what makes you happy, I am not talking about “living each day as if it were you last” because if that was true we wouldn’t need to pay our bills or worry about the consequences of dropping acid. What I am talking about is remembering that your happiness is that matters and you are in charge of it, every minute of every day regardless what you actually think. Make sure you are following where your soul beckons, I think you will find that it takes you strange and magical places.

Also, don’t let “evil” people scare you away from the things you love (I am also telling this to myself) because then fear has won, they have won.

HIKE NAKED. 

Get up out of your snuggie and get outside!

Much Love, Leah

“If my decomposing carcass helps nourish the roots of a juniper tree or the wings of a vulture—that is immortality enough for me. And as much as anyone deserves.”
― Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire

One of the greatest travesties

One of the greatest travesties in our time (in my mind) is that we believe adventuring/camping is not simply being outside in the wild of this world but it is binge drinking/stereo booming. Camping=Partying. We losing the wild of this world everyday, but we are also losing the ability to be alone in what is left of it. We have to drink on our camping trips, have apps running on our phones the whole time so we can twitter how many steps we took! Or there’s the photo proof selfie that we were in fact at that spot.

I recently overheard a sober parent talking to a friend and what she said really made me think, she said

“If there was one thing that I could have NOT taught my son, it would be that you have to drink beer to have fun no matter where you are”

the reason this hit home is not because I am an avid drinker but because I feel that most of the people I know similar in age to me (and even not) are that way.There are people who need beer to complete an the adventure, or to drink along the way, many of these I have known in varying degrees. I get having a couple, I have been known to take a can of really good beer or cider to the top of the mountain but never have I taken more than one, this is not meant to say that I am better than anyone but to me I feel like if I really want to be in this moment and this place why would I be inebriated? How do we truly connect with others and nature when we are not being ourselves. I mean were not going to even mention the safety problems with drinking and adventuring as they are pretty obvious (you don’t want to fall of the mountain friends!)

An even larger growing addiction the vast majority of people who cannot be without their phones, they have to be constantly playing music, or games, or texting. I recently went on a camping trip with one of these people (had I known I would have kicked them outta the trip), I am one of the people that when I go out into the woods my phones is turned off and put away because if you have music constantly playing how do you hear the trees playing their quartet of wind instruments in their leaves and the very sound of nothing but chickadees hopping around the forest floor.

Anyway this whole rantish type of thing is meant to do one thing, challenge you! So here it is-

The next time you go outside for any amount of time (especially a hike) I challenge you to NOT bring your cell phone for anything (No fitness/GPS or anything else APP) Leave it in the car. Get a paper map though so not to get lost folks. 

And yes obviously I have brought my cell phone on a few of my trips obviously because I have pictures of them on here, and yes there are even a couple selfies, I feel ashamed. I do not everytime though many trips go undocumented!

Oh the places we have been

I wanted to take a moment before I wrote about my adventure today to tell you about where I came from. I am not talking my the womb of my mother but the place my mind was soul was born, Arizona (AZ). Most people when I tell them that I come from AZ exclaim how dreadful that must have been or something like how they just cant stand that there is just rocks and dirt. The first thing I ask is if they just visited Phoenix or the surrounding valley on their visit, the answer is typically “No, we went to Scottsdale” or something like that, well that’s just the rich side of Phoenix. Regardless of the answer I respond again by telling them if you drive north about an hour and a half and get off the freeway your idea of AZ should change.

I come from a place called Prescott (pronounced pres-scitt) which is called the mile high city and is amazing for lack of a better word. The scrub land mixed with large expansive ponderosa pines that smell of vanilla in the summertime when you scratch the bark.  The place is 70 is degrees most of the year, with a few months of heat (not near as bad as the valley) and a couple months of cold (colder then here in the PNW, with snow!). The town of Prescott has growth and changed like any desirable spot in the US the most common person moving in is the upper middle class/rich retired couple. They like it because its cooler then their home in Scottsdale and come up for the weekends most often. In my opinion the worst group of people to increase in the area, they require costcos/malls/olive gardens and typically have NO knowledge of what conservation is (see shopping at costco). There are other semi large groups such as; the college student (Embry-Riddle, Prescott college, yavapai), the outdoor folks (mountain biking love is here) and the random groups in between.

This place is magical, and a gateway to many of the wonders of Arizona. I have hiked, backpacked and climbed across some of it but haven’t come close to seeing all of them. From the redrock canyons with tranquil turquoise waters, to the high scrublands where the burrowing owls live in prairie dog holes and endangered black footed ferrets roam and to the iconic grand canyon and the mythical colorado river that runs through her. When people tell me they are to visit the grand canyon I tell them not to even try to go to the south rim but to take the long journey to the north rim where you can camp in the national forest, and hike the many trails seeing the canyon in your own time with out thousands of people swarming you drink tiny single use water bottles before throwing them and all their garbage on the ground where the crows and chipmunks take to feeding. The south rim is like cancer, to quote mr. Abbey again “Growth for the sake of growth is the ideology of a cancer cell” this place gets bigger and bigger allowing no one to have any idea was conservation is, for example the IRONY of the misters on the shade structures to keep people cool and refreshed while they take in the sights. Why is that ironic you might ask? Well the colorado is the most diverted river in the US, its waters feed New mexico, Colorado, Arizona and California, it even once fed Mexico, but we didn’t care about cutting those people off from the river long ago.The Colorado river is held above the grand canyon in what once was marble canyon but now is Lake Powell, filled in with water to create a hydroelectric dam to feed the needs of Phoenix. This river day to day, hour to hour has discharge rates that change as it reflects how much water needs to be flowing through the dam to create the power in consumption via Phoenix. As one could expect the river is very high in the middle of the day when it is toasty outside and the AC units are whirling away, with waters tragically low at night. The overall water loss through evaporation at lake Powell is staggering in an already water deficit area. There is simply not enough water for anyone, not even the great Grand Canyon.

So you see the misting is ironic because there isn’t enough water to feed peoples needs even most basic but the people have not discovered that. They haven’t discovered that their pools, dishwashers, 3 ACs used to cool one house, golf courses and water parks are the reason, next to the over population increase in the world, that the southwest will some day be a ghost town where everything is dead and empty cities sit with their empty pools collected dust as it is blow by. I long for that day to be honest, the desert will die, but it will come back with time and some many years later it will be what it once was, nature always takes herself back.

Okay so that got very serious, but the take away is that you should visit the southwest, respectfully and dutifully. How do you know what is being lost or at stake if you have never seen it for all its glory! I suggest Sycamore canyon near Clarksdale.

Good luck and get sustaining!

-Leah

dr seuss quote steer yourself

The Importance of Being Outside

When we think of ADVENTURE and EXPLORING, we have to remember that not only is this a trip far away from your home but in your own back yard maybe by yourself seeking solitude or maybe with friends who seek what you seek, to be more connected to something to anything. I often seek grand goals and forget the ones that are so close, not only are they really awesome but also they don’t cost me petrol/money/emissions to get there, they are most certainly more conservative and what I mean by that is CONSERVING. I often rant to my friends and family that environmental conservation is not about wearing Birkenstocks (but wait those are totally in now…) or driving a bio-fuel vehicle or even about wearing patchouli (again that is in now too…) what I mean is using/buying/unwrapping/driving/consuming/throwing away LESS. Going “green” means actually just spending less money, not putting fuel in the machine of CONSUME-rism. I am sorry I really went off on a tangent there, so lets return to the original thought, go explore YOUR backyard. You may not have the same backyard as me or as the person next to you but there is always something to see, someone to connect to in some meaningful way. Talk to someone you may have never met before, discover something new about your neighborhood, or maybe do my favorite thing and bring a bag and pick up trash its a small task but it is very meaningful, to your neighbors and to the animals that may have tried to eat that garbage and maybe died. So get your friends/family/dog/cat? unplug from your electronics (no headphones either!) leave them at home, and get the hell out there. I will quote someone who is NOT Edward Abbey now…. weird I know.

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history. No purpose or place. We have no Great War, No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires and movie gods and rock stars, but we won’t”

“This is your life, and its ending one minute at a time.”

-Chuck Palahniuk , Fight Club