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All those metaphors about the ocean, well, they’re true.

Lost Coast Dozen, Photo by Paige Godfrey Faulk

Drove north with a new friend I’d met on the JMT to rendezvous with a group of strangers, except one gal I’d met briefly at the Church Creek Divide in Big Sur and then followed for years on Facebook. She’d opened up their annual Lost Coast trip and I hopped on it, being excited to get to know her and cross this trail experience off my bucket list.? The Lost Coast is a thin thread of a trail where the Kings Range meets the sea, so named because its the only 80 mile stretch of California coast that was has no highway on it due to the extremely challenging terrain. A look up at the ridges dropping down to drainage after drainage proves it and makes one glad they are not currently hiking the inland route.

We met Friday morning at Black Beach trailhead in Shelter Cove and piled all our packs into Fred’s truck and us into two vehicles.

Two long windy hours later we arrived at the Mattole trailhead and began our 24 mile trek south under surprising Humbolt County blue skies. Just over 3 miles to go our first day, we had to pause and wait a bit for the tides to recede. The wilderness here is the one that sets the schedule.

The few returning hikers were amazed we did not experience the typical gusting winds as we set up camp and enjoyed a bonfire at the lighthouse. Bart and Ree actually set up their tent IN the lighthouse in preparation for it! Rosanne and I shared a tent, and I kept mostly to my JMT list so my pack was under 30 and hiking was great.? Sunset was lovely and Todd’s bonfire took the group late into the night.

Lighthouse photo by Fred Gibson

We awoke the next morning drippy with fog condensation and packed early to get ahead of the tides, the mist magical as the big range stepped down into the ocean. It was more temperate than I expected and I hiked all day without a jacket, every step revealing big vistas, rock wall gardens and beach art underfoot. I ended up going a for a dip when my Nalgene bowl slipped from my cleaning and dropped down the waterfall into the creek bottom. I also started my beach trash collection on this day, Paige warning me I could never pack it all out.? I started light with a Clorox bottle that Rosanne suggested could also float my pack if I didn’t get to camp before the tide came in.


Fishing for the Nalgene before giving up, stripping down and jumping in
Photos of me by Paige

We camped that evening at Spanish Creek around the corner from a broad slope that will be royal purple with lupin in a month. After setting up camp I bushwhacked upstream, flushing a raven working marrow out of the ribs of a deer carcass. I returned to camp, the group gathered round the fire, rowdy on vodka and gatorade cocktails, grooving to Butch’s portable speakers and iPod.? Rain was in the forecast, but it held to just a few sprinkles overnight, the low pressure system bringing in some wind and keeping the fog at bay.

We awoke early and dry to a clearing sky, amazing low slanting light and some fine bluff hiking on the way to Shipman’s Creek. Perused some lovely inholding homes, complete with airstrips, perched on the flat bluff in front of some world class waves. Met some surfers from the Cruz camped behind slim driftwood shelters. They were quiet and salt licked with big smiles on their faces as they reloaded their 70 pound packs (with boards attached) after 4 days of riding the big break here.

We pulled our longest day, 8.6 miles, arriving before noon after ducking around the last pinch point to find a sweet little camp tucked tidily in the small space between the ravine outlet and the high tide line. Todd had the fine idea of getting in the water and so we did, dipping into the cold ocean and just-as-cold creek. We all risked sunburn over the long afternoon of nothing to do but play cards, doze, and watch the surfers play in their first ever take on the small break off camp. For the third night Todd built us a fire, this time just yards from the surf and we toasted the sunset and the fine day with whiskey, tequila and mandarins.

Creek and painting photos by Paige

Our last day was overcast, but dramatic with the trail never leaving the black rock and sand beach. I hustled ahead to get a past-due visit in with Paige and so enjoyed our one on one talk. She was relaxed, having shepherded our little band of hikers safely to this point and we walked out in front of the group.? We were exploring what looked like coyote tracks in single register when we looked up and saw the pair just ahead.? We herded them along the steep cliffs down the beach for a mile or so until they were able to scramble up a gully drainage and out of sight.

In true coyote medicine form, my camera batteries promptly died after that shot, but we had many photographers on the trip (see FaceBook for a zillion great images).? The rest of mine are here.

What good medicine for a still tender heart this trip was; the walk, the air, the ocean with all its lessons and wisdom… new friends.? When I got quiet I felt grief’s sadness. There too, deep in my bones, the first soft song of spring.

Running through my mind with each step, a JT song Fred had played in the truck on the way to Mattole:

“Oh, Its enough to be on your way. Its enough just to cover ground. Its enough to be moving on….

…Home, build it behind your eyes. Carry it in your heart. Safe among your own.”

So excited to have found some new hiking buddies and a down payment on more wilderness time in 2013.

Life delivers itself, always.

Sometimes, as Lennon reminded us, Life is what Happens while you are busy making other plans.? Those times can be a shock or a surprise.? A delight, or disaster. They can be welcome or unwelcome.

The Life that has been Happening to me lately has cracked me open. Left me at various moments confused and clear. Feeling ungrounded and then well held by those who love me. It has left me heartfelt, and wise. So many feelings. So much learning. So much of the value of my life, taken for granted when I’m busy with plans, made visible, made felt. Was all of this wisdom and awareness there all along?? Where has it come from?? Can I loosen my grip in the discomfort of Life Happening long enough to feel the spaciousness this new landscape offers? Can I simply be curious about who in all of this I really am? Can, as I am falling, just relax and dive, trusting, into whatever comes next?

Here’s the invitation that just landed on my doorstep:

Who Are You….Really? – aka Gangaji

Keep up the good work, if only for a while, if only for the twinkling of a tiny galaxy.
~ Wislawa Szymborska

Our annual Ecology Action staff party, at the certified green Chaminade Hotel. Celebrating a year of financial hardship and pulling out of it, of executive director transitions, of layoffs and rapid fire hiring. Celebrating four decades of good work that have saved enough energy to take thousands of homes off the grid and diverted enough recycling to eliminate at least one landfill over the years. How lucky am I that, too, I love these people I do good work with. So many smarts, so much passion, such lively and lovely spirits we are. And how we let ourselves really show who we are as we work together. Letting our little lights shine, adding to the twinkling of our precious little galaxy.

Squander it all!
Hold nothing back.

The heart?s a deep well.

And when it?s empty,
It will fill again.

~ Gregory Orr, from How Beautiful the Beloved (Copper Canyon Press, 2009)

Please think about this as you go on. Breathe on the world.
Hold out your hands to it. When morning and evenings
roll along, watch how they open and close, how they
invite you to the long party that your life is.

~ William Stafford, from ?A Valley Like This? from Even in Quiet Places

“To be joyful in the universe is a brave and reckless act. The courage for joy springs not from the certainty of human experience, but the surprise. Our astonishment at being loved, our bold willingness to love in return ? these wonders promise the possibility of joyfulness, no matter how often and how harshly love seems to be lost. Therefore, despite the world?s sorrows, we give thanks for our loves, for our joys and for the continued courage to be happily surprised.”

~ Molly Fumia

This post is a special shout out to my always angels who have been so close these past weeks, and over the past years have helped me settle into the goodness that I am, which has grown into a lovely resilience and courage to be joyful in the universe. You have all my heart.

~ Dona, Natascha, Zachiah, Leiskya, Pam, Allison, Jo, and my mom, a few of whom are pictured below.

No Capes. Just Courage.? is the fantastic tag line of the Superhero Journal blog, by Andrea Sher. She has a wonderful vlog on Celebrating 2012 Acknowledging Disappointments and Choosing your Word for 2013. Check it out.

In considering our past year honestly, in considering our dreams for 2013, in living fully every day really, we need courage. True seeing and big dreaming are scary. My wing-woman Dona has connected me with inspiring bloggers whose New Year posts were all about courage.? Its perfect timing as we bravely assess what’s passed, wipe the slate clean, and look ahead with big dream eyes.

The Thomases ponder Half Dome. JMT 2012

Micheal Hyatt shares in his post on Courage:

“Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to act in spite of my fear.

This is me midway through my first ever off-trail pass crossing on the Sierra High Route.

Jeff Goins, who writes on writing, shares this quote from Seth Godin in an email update:

“This’ll never work”

This is the phrase I think every time I’m about to attempt something great. Something risky. Something that requires courage. It is neither easy nor safe, and as a result, I’m nervous.

Failure is inevitable
Whatever it is, it’s time you got in the game. Time you stopped sitting on the sidelines, telling yourself, “Some day…” and finally put yourself out there.

Does this mean you won’t fail? Of course not. In fact, if you’re really taking risks, failure is an inevitability. But you still have to try. Because this isn’t just about you.

The world needs your gift, whatever it is, and your work deserves more than your excuses.
Until you act, we all miss out. So whether you believe in the dream or not, there’s a lot at stake here ? a lot more than your self-doubt and anxiety. And it all begins with you stepping out and saying (you guessed it):

“This’ll never work.”

Friends Peter and Donna Thomas downclimbing a Class 3 route on an off-trail segment that we weren’t sure would work on our 2012 JMT hike. It was the most exhilarating accomplishment of our trip.

Here’s to us each and every one being willing to put something out not quite polished, jumping in before we understand it all, daring to let someone be important to us, and just starting ourselves toward something great: expressing the unique being that is us. What we create. What work we do. Who and how we love.

In his email Jeff also asks us – “What’s your “this’ll never work” scenario? Is it a book you’ve never told anyone about? A dream you’ve not given yourself permission to pursue? That marathon you’ve thought of running but keep talking yourself out of?”

Fess up here and come clean for 2013 …. then we’ll be on the lookout for you doing it!

They tried to plan our whole trip for us, those Southerners. Buy tickets for events they weren’t even joining us for. Call around for dinner recommendations even when we weren’t staying at their B&B. Such hospitality before we even landed on Louisiana terra firma. Or, should I say, terra aqua? so much of the place under water or just a thin skin of land floating on it.

It was our first trip away, and we’d agreed to share the window seats. Weather well we did the travails of travel and arrived late but ready to the Big Easy where Allison gracefully chauffeured us through downtown streets already cordoned off for Sunday’s game.

Lap of luxury historic hotel as our landing spot we headed out for a drinking to the wee hours of the night bar to bar and band to band jaunt that took us well into Sunday.

Then, the game. Cloistered in a pack of enthusiastic red and gold fans we bussed to Happy’s and were ensconced in the private upstairs lounge complete with a wrought iron balcony overlooking the bustling booming walk to the Superdome.

We took advantage of N’awlin’s open container law (as in it is recommended you have one while out in public) and headed into the lovely stadium. Loud. Unique concessionaires. And “Who Dat?” everywhere until of course the Niner’s won, then it was “Who Dat??? 49ers – Dat Who!” but we kept quiet on the walk home just to keep ourselves bodily intact.

A luscious evening then unfolded with a bottle of champagne and a trumpet/banjo natural bass trio at Arnauds where Jasper the Captain took good care of us, then a long walk the entire length of Bourbon Street for another round on Frenchmans. Got back before 3 AM this time and hit the sack to rest up for our next adventure.

You haint visited Cajun Country until you actually get into the country, and so we did, driving westward toward Abbeville to stay in converted servant’s quarters at the Rip Van Winkle mansion and gardens. Its “high ground” there, being at the dizzying elevation of 50′ above sea level – the land heaped up resting on 5 mile deep salt columns near the shores of Lake Peigneur which adjoins the property and was accidentally once drained in a matter of hours when mining in the salt columns nearby punched a hole through the crust under the lake level.? We arrived to the surprise of the only other guests there being from Paso Robles when they are not sailing the seas on the world’s only residential cruise ship (think: condos meets Love Boat).

A quick visit with them on the porch then we headed out on our own in the dark night to dine at a packed Shucks in Abbeville and were beyond well taken care of by Miss Morrisey who piled on the “sugah”s and “baby”s till I thought I would burst. The locals eyed us sideways from under their large cowboy hats or duck huntin caps knowing we were out of towners as we tasted our first alligator, sassy friend shrimp and the best bread pudding and hard sauce we’d try on the trip. Returning back through the locked iron gate, down the drive lined with 350 year old oaks, we covered the car to protect it from pecking peacocks and walked the dark gardens and lake shore in the moonlight wondering about ghosts. As a friend of mine later said about the plantations: “they’s all haunted shugah, just some of dem ghosts is bettah behaved than othahs.”

Plans to go fishing the next day were foiled by windy weather but we convened with our Baton Rouge friends Scott, Allison and Amy just the same.? They brought along Chris and Dan, a french cajun dance couple who ensured we all got on the dance floor at Point Breaux, formerly Mulates, a local institution of french cajun culture which hosted bands even on Tuesday nights and served what I thought were very large portions of gumbo that the locals were quite nonplussed about.

We squeezed in some more south on our last morning, hunting down Miss Brenda’s Dine in and Take Out (across from the parts yard in New Iberia) and a sweet stop at Morning Call for my first beignets of the trip. At every gas station quick mart we saw at least one Gallo brand wine for sale – including my favorite: Night Train Express.

Yet more travel travails awaited on our journey home with west coast storms shutting down SFO at just the wrong time. Pam was our hero and came and fetched us there late. In return she was the first to hear our ghost stories on the way home and about how welcomed and warmed we felt by our time in Cajun Country south.

Us too.

Full set of pics here.

Look, I want to love this world

As though it?s the last chance I?m ever going to get

To be alive

And know it.

~ Mary Oliver

O.M-D.R

We received our instructions for Operation Marina Dunes Rendezvous and arrived, each by our own route, at the Marina Dunes RV Park with the necessary supplies for a night of undercover operations: van, down comforters, picnic dinner, hammock, wing suit, guitar, and a 6-pack of Coors Light. After setting up base camp we went off trail to the wide westfacing swath of beach and headed north, seeking a sheltered lookout to spy on the sunset.

En route we ran into our first foreign agent:

Nicknames: Sand Dollar, Pansy Shell, Sea Cookie or Snapper Biscuit ~ these are more commonly seen dead than alive, their tests (or skeletons) left to bleach white in the sun. This one was alive, purple as a bruise and incapacitated above the tide line. We were able to approach it and pick it up and turn it over and over.? We used our binoc eyes see the cilia moving the spines of the living creature in subtle waves in an attempt to burrow into the beach. We marveled at the miracle and then tossed it back into the waves thinking it would be free from marauding gulls.

A few steps later we saw two, then four, then dozens of them scattered out just under the foam lipped tide line on the beach.

Some were working their way back in?


Others were serving as foreign relations ambassadors?.


We walked on, now aware of the breadth of life underfoot in the sand. We received flight lessons from the pelicans, who not only use the ground effect* to skim over the surface of the water but also use high pressure air waves off the curling breakers to surf the air above the waves. We felt well prepared for our wing suit exercises later that evening. A few paces further we found a perch set back from beach traffic and set up our field camp, succeeding in the first mission requirement: ensure the sun set on time and was thoroughly enjoyed in the process.


Walking home in the dark, the sand dollars gone, we surveyed a nearby resort and wide-eyed watched the stars. Arriving at base camp we took a Coors and campfire song break before commencing with our final undercover operations for the night. More evening entertainment was provided by the raccoons scampering up and down nearby trees and shaking the branches above our spy-van. As we settled in, a Great Horned Owl pair whoo-hoo?d us to sleep. A successful night in all, we were left with the lesson of the horizon of the beach and the slow disappearing act of the sand dollars into it ~ the mystery of the world living 6 inches below our footsteps.

Daybreak

On the tidal mud, just before sunset,

dozens of starfishes

were creeping. It was

as though the mud were a sky

and enormous, imperfect stars

moved across it as slowly

as the actual stars cross heaven.

All at once they stopped,

and, as if they had simply

increased their receptivity

to gravity, they sank down

into the mud, faded down

into it and lay still, and by the time

pink of sunset broke across them

they were as invisible

as the true stars at daybreak.

~ Galway Kinnell

*ground effect is the increased lift and decreased drag that an aircraft’s wings generate when they are close to a fixed surface.

The fog’s rolled in, bringing the early night on even earlier, and the mornings coming late now, darkness tucking in around us on all sides. In this season of lessening light, I am grateful for the warmth and brightness in the people in my life, and the community living on this lovely spot of land I call home.

Today was a treat. Dona and I getting some girl time to talk shop about men, kids, work and what we are learning in this life, uninterrupted over a fancy lunch and drinks at Suda.? We headed back across town, stopping by the Verve 5th Anniversary Party replete with all things Santa Cruz foodie good being offered for free: Mary’s cookies, cupcakes, Feel Good Foods, Penny Creamery and a DJ rocking it as we toured their roastery and top secret labs.? Arriving westide we picked up my second hot date for the day and her dad to head north up the coast for the Freewheelin Farms Harvest Party.

Discovered there: more good food, friends, fantastic music, haybales, dogs, and crimson kobocha squash marking the path from the beach up through the fields. Harvest time, and how wonderful is mine this life. No need, no need, to be afraid of winter dark on its way. Plenty, plenty, to keep me warm.


Little Summer Poem Touching the Subject of Faith

Every summer
I listen and look
under the sun’s brass and even
into the moonlight, but I can’t hear

anything, I can’t see anything —
not the pale roots digging down, nor the green stalks muscling up,
nor the leaves
deepening their damp pleats,

nor the tassels making,
nor the shucks, nor the cobs.
And still,
every day,

the leafy fields
grow taller and thicker —
green gowns lofting up in the night,
showered with silk.

And so, every summer,
I fail as a witness, seeing nothing —
I am deaf too
to the tick of the leaves,

the tapping of downwardness from the banyan feet —
all of it
happening
beyond any seeable proof, or hearable hum.

And, therefore, let the immeasurable come.
Let the unknowable touch the buckle of my spine.
Let the wind turn in the trees,
and the mystery hidden in the dirt

swing through the air.
How could I look at anything in this world
and tremble, and grip my hands over my heart?
What should I fear?

One morning
in the leafy green ocean
the honeycomb of the corn’s beautiful body
is sure to be there.

~ Mary Oliver ~

I am thinking of a picture of him I did not take, but wished I had. Its flashed through my minds eye in unexpected moments this week like a new copper penny flipped up into the sun.

We’re heading northwest on Creston Road. Warm and gorgeous, the late summer late afternoon light lays on him after its dance through the miles of sky and the near oaks and his truck’s windows. Lit up are his long blue jeaned legs stretched out on the seat, his tan hand relaxed on the wheel, his sharp white button down shirt, his bright and kind smile curving up to a dimple; all glowing as things do in this harvest time light.? We’d dressed and headed for dinner, our first out together, and found a surprising nervousness and excitement in it – like teens headed to a dance, not sure exactly what to say, shy. I could not stop stealing glances and finally just looked long at him as he drove us further into the honeyed sun thinking: “how beautiful”, and “is this really my life right now?” and “lucky, lucky”.

Such a beautiful time of year, always. In all future ones I will remember this particular year’s late summer, and the sweet harvest being offered up for us.

What is your special harvest this year? ?? Tell me.??? Do you have any poem stories that speak to this?? Share them.? Thank you.

Coming Home at Twilight in Late Summer
We turned into the drive,
and gravel flew up from the tires
like sparks from a fire. So much
to be done — the unpacking, the mail
and papers; the grass needed mowing …
We climbed stiffly out of the car.
The shut-off engine ticked as it cooled.
And then we noticed the pear tree,
the limbs so heavy with fruit
they nearly touched the ground.
We went out to the meadow; our steps
made black holes in the grass:
and we each took a pear,
and ate, and were grateful.
~ Jane Kenyon
Excerpt from “A Late Summer Garden”
…..
She would like time to stop now, the sky, blue as radium,
the hills, bolts of calico, red & yellow, gold & green.
~ Barbara Crooker

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