Portland 400

Portland 400 miles.

I’m on the road, and over halfway there. The wide, straight freeway has changed into a crooked mountain pass, as sunny inland pastures have given way to snow-dusted pine woods. Maybe it’s the change in terrain that does it, or maybe just the thought of the distance I’ve traveled, but the music blaring on my radio can no longer drown out the confused mixture of emotions that I have been struggling to contain– I am moving far away from all I know.

Coming around a bend, black rows of pine studded hills suddenly split open ahead of me. The early morning sun illuminates the pure snow-clad face of a great mountain. Mount Shasta? Like the crater-pocked face of the moon, it seems to glow of its own light. Like the moon, it is at once comforting and cold.

I’ve moved other times, of course, even traveled to other countries, but this time is somehow different. Someone told me yesterday it’s because in the past, there was always the assumption of return, even if there was no set date– this time is forever. Beyond anxiety and uncertainty, the light of understanding shines as brilliantly as the morning sunlight on the mountain’s face. Sometimes, the truth is a source of comfort. Sometimes, it is a curse.

Weed 5 miles.

What kind of a deranged soul would name their town “Weed”? Perhaps an old, bow-backed hunter, clinging to his cabin hermitage, as he cleans his father’s rifle by candlelight. Damned be any man who attempts to uproot him from his ancestral home. We cling to what we know.

I grew up in a house of books. My parents clung to them like the hermit to his father’s rifle. Overstuffed shelves lined the walls, but there were not enough walls. Books lay in stacks on the floor, on nightstands, on the kitchen table, on the kitchen counters. Any available surface was covered in books. Sometimes there was more room in the house for books than for us trying to live there. Yet “home” is neither a house, nor a city, nor a book. Home is that feeling of comfort and security that comes from knowing you are cared for. In that sense, it was still home.

It’s hard leaving everything you know, but not as hard as clinging to an outlived past. If I were to be a weed, I would choose to be the dandelion. I would not wear down the path beneath my feet, but I would travel on the wind, each new breeze guiding me towards a new life.

Portland 300 miles.


The Rockies

Last night, we drove down from Laramie, Wyoming to Boulder, Colorado for an anniversary date. We decided to see an afternoon movie before heading off to our romantic sushi dinner. The movie ended at 5:30pm, so the sun had just started to set as we left the theater.

Rushing out into the chilly mountain air, I was staggered by the stunning view before us. Filling up half the sky or more, the forested, snow-covered summits of the Rocky Mountains loomed above us, their awesome heights at once majestic and oppressive. The pale winter sun had already rest his head behind their craggy peaks, but his warm golden glow still radiated in the faint cirrus clouds behind them, struggling until the last moment to cast off winter’s chill.

The sun seems to set more slowly here, high up in the mountains, than it does on the sandy California beaches that I’ve become accustomed to. As we began the drive towards our delicious dinner destination, we watched that soft glow dissipate, until it was finally swallowed up by the grey tendrils of frost extending from the darkening Rockies.

Life and Mantis

It’s hard to write about things that you know everyone has the potential to see (even if not many people currently read this blog). Here goes. It’s been a tough few months for me. It seems wrong to complain or ask for help, when I know other people have it worse. People in less well-off countries are dying of starvation! My friends are dealing with their own messed up lives too. What right have I to complain?

Still, sometimes it seems like I was never ready to face the real world. Balancing an uncertain financial situation, a newly acquired medical condition, and life-altering decisions all in the span of a few months is difficult to say the least. I’m sometimes inexplicably irritable, and often frustrated with the things going on around me.

I try not to put my problems off on anyone else, but I don’t always succeed, and end up annoying people who deserve better. Well, a lot of people go through this sort of thing I guess… just have to keep aiming for the light at the other end of this tunnel. And it’s not all bad. I’m working on a fun linguistic project right now. I feel better when I’m busily working on something.

Praying Mantis in Frazier ParkOn a lighter note, my folks and I went up to the mountains last week. The pine trees in Frazier Park drop their pine cones in the fall, and last time we went we collected many tins of fresh sap-scented pine nuts. Unfortunately, this year we missed the pine nut season by a couple weeks — the squirrels had gotten most of them by the time we got there. However, I caught some photos of a fairly well camouflaged praying mantis, which is the first time I think I’ve ever seen a mantis.

Musing during my daily walk

As the day was winding down, I decided to take a walk to clear my head and get some exercise. The last rays of sun shone like phoenix fire onto the wide hills around Simi Valley, casting each rock and tree in bronze, all the more striking for the dark thunderheads that gathered on the horizon. Above me, mountainous plumes of silvered clouds mottled the blue sky. The air was stiflingly hot.

I had reached Kuehner and was just turning towards home, as a shade passed over me, and the single grey cloud above me started spilling heavy drops of sporadic rain in an ultra-localized autumn shower. The rain, which felt cool on my skin, soaked deep into the grass of the lawns and permeated the air with a fresh earthy scent, filling me with renewed energy. The last ten minutes of my walk showed the clouds darkening from gold to bloody red to luxurious purple, before the sun’s final light vanished beyond the western hills.

By the time I got home, it was too late to take a good photo. Maybe tomorrow I’ll go bicycling.