You are currently browsing the monthly archive for July 2014.

May there be curiosity all the days of our lives, a rebellion against the claims of certainty, an open relationship with the universe and the beauty and terror within it, a move beyond fearful into the inquisitive, and a quest for constant learning and evolution.

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Wonder. Study. Question. Search for the counterarguments to all we think we know, to keep ourselves and our minds honest and ripe.

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After the 4th of July in Eugene, we set out down the Oregon coast on the July 5th. To my right, the beach; to my left, mostly forest. We stopped in Newport, Oregon to visit the Yaquina Bay.

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“When I was a young boy I tried to listen/And I want to feel like that/Little white shadows, blink and miss them/Part of a system, a plan/If you ever feel like something’s missing?/Things you’ll never understand/…All this noise, I’m waking up/All this space I’m taking up/All this sound is breaking up/…Maybe you get what you wanted/Maybe you’ll stumble upon it/Everything you ever wanted/In a permanent state…” 

Coldplay, White Shadows

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“The future’s for discovering/The space in which we’re traveling/From the top of the first page/To the end of the last day/From the start in your own way/…Under the surface trying to break through/Deciphering the codes in you…”

Coldplay, Square One

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Katie explores Waldport coast.

“Hundreds of years in the future/It could be computers/Looking for life on Earth/Don’t fight for the wrong side/…You’ll go backwards, but then/You’ll go forwards…/Created, then drilled, and invaded/If somebody made it/Someone will mess it up/And you are not wrong to/Ask ‘Who does this belong to?’/It belongs to all of us...”

Coldplay, Twisted Logic

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Yaquina Bay lighthouse keeper’s cottage and grounds

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The Diner at Seal Rock. We ate lunch here, and about forty minutes after we drove away, we realized Eric had accidentally left his keys (key chain and key collection—a big treasure of his) at the restaurant. We hustled back, within the speed limit parameters of course, and discovered that the restaurant had closed five minutes before we got back (not being a dinner place). I knocked and knocked, knowing someone must still be there, and sure enough, we got the keys back! Whew!

We lost some ground, but some things are worth going back for in life, you know?

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My three goofballs at lunch on the coast. Oh, I love these three people with all of me. Golly. I sure got lucky in life, I will say that.

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At the end of July 5th, we bedded down for the night in Brookings, Oregon, quite near the border to California and a cozy and foggy coastal town. We pulled in right as the fog began to settle, and of course my heart leaped with delight. With his uncanny motel mojo, Bill picked the Spindrift Motel. It could not have been better. They had one vacancy left, a tiny room that, at first, they weren’t sure we would want as there were four of us. They even insisted Bill look at it first. We’re so unpicky—is it a room? with a roof? decently clean?—that of course it was fine. I mean, seriously: we’re the type of people who would sleep on the floor if we had to. I sure do believe in the joy of cultivating good taste and having a personal aesthetic, but fastidiousness and “being particular” aren’t appealing traits to me, most of the time. For work, academic and non? Sure. But with respect to experiencing life and keeping the length of the universe in perspective? It’s not a mark of sophistication, or education, I feel, to pick-pick-pick over the little things. In fact, being “high maintenance” in my opinion is simply a defensive mechanism born out of the fear of actually living life and searching through the dirty, imperfect, beautiful chaos for emergent meaning.

But anyway, the room was actually GREAT and of course we took it immediately. It was well kept and clean, very quiet, and the manager had a fold-out cot brought up. With the cot and our pack-n-play, we had more than enough sleeping space. We all piled in and enjoyed Brookings thoroughly. I took the kiddos walking down the highway to dinner, and on the way back (close to 10 PM by then) we made the good decision to dash into the Fred Meyer grocery to grab a couple of breakfast items for a quick morning turnaround. I could not believe how inexpensive it all was. Unbelievable. Definitely a rival to Target…

In the morning, I ran six miles around Brookings.

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I saw deer, unique homes, fog-cozy-cozy-fog…and I found a solitary beach, which was pure magic. Greeting the day with the icy, lonely waves with nothing, nothing, nothing around except boulders, birds, and damp sand? Glorious.

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View from the start of my run. I loved the retro feel of the Spindrift. Someday I hope to stay here again as I pass through.

The next day, we passed into California and through the redwoods and spent the night in Bodega Bay, all about which I have already written. Linear time is just an illusion anyway, right? Right. After Bodega Bay we went to Point Reyes, then cut fully over and pushed all the way home that night. I drove us in, from about 7:00 PM to 1:00 AM Tuesday morning. We pushed ourselves back mightily by adding on the Point Reyes jaunt, but it is an incredibly special place to me.

My mom and I “discovered” Point Reyes years ago on a visit to my brother at Berkeley one summer (he wanted to take summer classes to get even further ahead on credits for his many majors). We went again a couple of years later when I was pregnant with Katie. I climbed all around with her, about 5.5 months pregnant and dreaming of showing her and Bill this point at the edge of the earth one day. I imagined being a lighthouse keeper, alone except for my books, hearing the fog horn, tending the light through the utterly black night, and hearing the perpetual crash of the waves breaking on the rocky coast. The Point Reyes lighthouse is mysterious, solitary, sublime, and I have always felt that the life of the mind could take wing in such an isolated location with nothing but expanse on which to gaze. This place invites wonder.

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I could live here.

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This boy. This very boy.

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My three beloveds have finally seen the Point Reyes lighthouse! Just as with Crater Lake, I used the memory of this place heavily in my unmedicated labor with Katie (and with Eric, too). Point Reyes holds a deep lodge within my essence, and I can summon the force of its waves and its utter sublimity when I need to call upon a natural power grander than I am in order to make it through a challenge. I once gave a speech about this lighthouse to my Toastmasters group, and I tried to convey how very much a part of me this space is. I am not sure I can, fully. Something about the essence of this place, and my essence, are the same…

 

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This man and this lighthouse make sense together. This may be one of my favorite pictures of our whole trip.

 

 

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Katie holds her reference guide to coastal birds of California.

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“You’re a sky full of stars…”

Coldplay, A Sky Full of Stars

 

 

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Bill recording a moment with Glass. Someday Point Reyes will surely be gone, but technology allows us to preserve its essence and translate it to some future form. And someday, Bill will be gone, but he will also not be gone. All we have shared, all that we are, can never truly go…it is just the energy that transforms, the atoms, the math. Maybe putting ourselves into contact with the essence of things, and being a channel of passionate curiosity, is a way to feel the spark of everyone who has ever lived, or who will ever live.

 

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If only I could get down there and touch it…

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More deer! The deer scorecard certainly filled up with this trip! Katie, like moth to light, immediately climbed up after it. She would run off free with the deer if allowed to go.

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I have put off and put off writing about our days in Eugene, Oregon on our road trip; yet of all the new places we explored, Eugene may be my favorite. Many times since we’ve been home I have wondered how I might begin to capture how and why I fell so deeply in love with this quiet and friendly and mellow college town. Perhaps part of my attachment stems simply from how normally we lived there and did the usual family things: we made ourselves right at home, marketing, racing, celebrating the 4th of July, wandering to the Days Inn breakfast in our pajamas, chatting with the locals when we could, and wandering the University of Oregon with a sense of belonging as though it were our alma mater.

Last summer when we returned from Shipshewana, I felt homesick for it for months and felt ready to pack up my life and move there with my family in tow. This year, I am ready to move to Eugene. I am starting to become suspicious of myself, I must say! Maybe it’s just that we could be happy in so many places, and for that realization I am thankful. I am certainly in love with Temecula, too, my home. If only we could be everywhere at once, yes?

Bill and I watched part of the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene this past week at Hayward Field. Periodically I saw shots of Alton Baker Park and other familiar places. My heart longs… I miss everything about Eugene.

We spent an overnight there on our way from Crater Lake to Portland. After a few days in Portland, we returned to Eugene on the evening of July 2nd and left on the 5th for the coast.

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On the first overnight, we rolled in fairly late. I ran Pre’s Trail, the stomping grounds of one of Eugene’s legends, the great Steve Prefontaine. Running Pre’s Trail has been on my wish list of things to do. It was a late run, past 8:00 PM, so I only went a few miles. We grabbed a late dinner that night, went to bed, and that was about it, save for the next morning when I got up early to get a longer run in before heading to Portland.

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The first time I saw University of Oregon, I ran it. I tried to get onto historic Hayward Field, but those gates had locks tighter than a treasure box. I ran on the intramural track instead and then explored the campus for a little over six miles. That morning, filled with the glorious air and feeling full of the adventure, I remember celebrating with joy my hard-won physical freedom; for this freedom I am never more thankful than at moments like this when my legs can take me all over a new place. Running a place connects body and mind to geography so intimately.

After Portland, we explored as a family”

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1. The kiddos called out every set of yellow duck feet we passed during our walk around campus. What a nice touch! 2. In the middle of campus grew giant, ancient trees. If I were a student there, I would study under those trees whenever possible. 3. How cozy are all these brick buildings? 4. Bill ran a bit on Hayward Field (we eventually did make it on, briefly).

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Track town, USA…or Pollentown? We found this paper on campus, and I had to laugh in agreement.

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Across the street from the Pioneer Cemetery in the middle of campus… Hey, Stanford has the mausoleum, so a cemetery seems normal to me!

 

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My trio on Hayward Field.

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Dinner at Glenwood Cafe the night before my 10K race. The Oregon fog tea was delicious!

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We used our scooters quite a bit in Eugene.

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Picnic lunch and mirth

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Strolling University of Oregon

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Striding around Hayward field.

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We bought fireworks for the first time ever! So fun! Oregon has a more relaxed attitude toward fireworks than does California.

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There were moments like this one…

And then the 4th of July happened. Last year we spent the 4th in Shipshewana, enjoying an ice cream social with kinfolk at a huge Yoder reunion and watching fireworks over farmland from the suite at the inn and marveling at the fireflies. I missed my extended family then, and I missed them this year, too. At the same time, the 4th of July in Eugene has to be one of the best I’ve ever experienced. We began the day with my Butte-to-Butte 10K road race (I have blogged about that race already, and it was a favorite of mine this year). After Butte to Butte, the kiddos and I hiked. Back at the inn, we tried dozing until lunchtime.

I knew I wanted to take Katie and Eric on a special picnic, so we dressed in our red, white, and blue and headed toward the local market.

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We played at Pioneer Park, which has to be one of the most amazingly appointed parks to which we’ve ever been: it had structures for the blacksmith, the general store, the bank, the one-room schoolhouse, and more. The kiddos had played at that park earlier in the day during my race, and then we played for another several hours in the afternoon.

 

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Eric slides at the park

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4th of July babies, their scooters, and the Williamette.

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At a local market, we even found a miniature pie, made from Oregon berries, including marionberries. We always have berry pie at my family’s 4th of July party, so this was a way to feel connected to our family tradition.

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I played with my kiddos but also took a break to write in my Portland journal

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That afternoon, we also had the chance to sample wares from the local ice cream truck

 

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That evening—for the first time in my life, and I am 34—I got to set off fireworks. Splendid. Exhilarating. Even now two weeks later, we’re still talking about the magic of that night. The city itself set off fireworks close to 10:00 PM, and we were able to catch a few of those, as well.

 

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Fireworks!

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We also went to see Pre’s Rock on the 4th, a memorial at the place where he tragically crashed, turned over his car, and subsequently died…not yet even 25-years-old. I guess it is a bit morbid to see the place where he died, in a way, yet his legacy is still palpable in Eugene.

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A week later, my medal arrived, a little souvenir from Eugene. There was a snafu involving a 5K participant who crossed right as some of the 10Ks were first crossing, and all of us women 10K finishers got bumped a space down. I really earned 3rd place in my division, once officials straightened it all out. Hence, the medal, my treat from Eugene!

Eugene rooted itself deep. I haven’t gone a day since we’ve been home without missing life there. With its track and field history, Eugene is an especially unique and inspiring  destination for runners. I haven’t gone a day since we’ve been home without missing life there!

I write frequently about the process of creating our narratives, but the truth is we’re all just making hypotheses at best, and stab-in-the-dark guesses at worst, about causation and causality. Two or more events may seem linked, but we don’t really know; we live in a probabilistic world in which luck (or randomness) plays a large role. From the first moments of sentient thought, we have tried to construct stories and mythologies about our experiences, natural phenomena, and our hopes and sorrows. From elegant chaos, order emerges, even all of humanity itself. I don’t need to rewrite Gleick’s book here. We try to approximate the future by looking at the present; how many moves ahead can we really see, though? The best of us, I think, try to look many, many moves ahead and far beyond ourselves or selfish wants, beyond possibly even our species. We’re asking always, “What is best not just for me now, but for all of humanity? If everyone were about to take the action I am about to take, do I think the universe would be better or worse off than it is now?”

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This pinecone is beautiful mathematical order. Fibonacci. Like the human ear. DNA.

But our stories as filtered through one perspective, the personal narrative? Are they not creative attempts to martial order where there might otherwise be none? As much as I study, write about, and breathe literary fiction and nonfiction, or perhaps because I study, write about, and breathe them, I offer one caveat and that remains: beware. Have doubts. Technology will give, and already has given, greater access to objective narrative through the ability to capture images constantly, but still we must maintain healthy doubt. Filters color reality and create a mood; a photographer’s perspective is still subjectively oriented; anything that passes through an act of interpretation has been artfully acted upon.

Writing and narrative-making are useful analogies, though, when talking about the process of living life. We brainstorm, we have a go, we often find the need to revise ourselves or our actions, we have another go, and if we’re lucky we continue this tweaking process until somewhere around the age of 90 when we slap a hasty conclusion on the thing and dash it all in. When I speak about living life artfully and with joy, I think that includes finding the magic in the chaos and possibly parsing that chaos into some intelligible form to make a coherent life. Possibly the role of artist or creator is really more that of an interpreter, translating chaos and randomness into some form from which we can learn and extract joy. I am not sure, nor have I ever been sure. I celebrate that agnosticism in myself, for the very fact that a love of discovery through curiosity keeps me open to the tweaking process. I am not finished; none of us are.

One week ago today I took my children to the beach with a friend of mine from college. It was a lovely afternoon—lunch at Swami’s on the 101, exploration, the gorgeous blue ocean—until it wasn’t…until it was again. Katie hadn’t been to the beach to swim for awhile (strolls along the Oregon coast and Bodega Bay therefore don’t count), and she had forgotten about the sand. I mean, the way sand sticks to you and gets in everything and goes everywhere and you cannot really get it off. I love that about sand, and Katie doesn’t. Especially when she hasn’t been prepped for it.

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I don’t tell Katie’s story on my blog, because it is hers to tell. I guess I could tell it as her mother and how her story affects mine, but it still isn’t mine to tell, I don’t feel. I know what my priorities are: love on my children, celebrate them, keep a record of the magic we shared, teach them how to focus on what’s good, and give them strategies to find their way through what isn’t so good. I run defense between them and the world even while they learn about it, and I strongly believe in the importance of doing so.

Katie likes order, control over variables, and predictability. She also wants to be able to do things perfectly the first time, gets frustrated when there are difficulties, and sometimes fixates on thoughts in her head. She startles easily. She has learned how to tell me when she has “tummy butterflies.” She is a happy child, except moments when everything feels bigger than she is. Ever since she was in the first year of life, she has what I used to call “hot cross buns” and what we now call an “episode.” It is more than a tantrum; I know the difference. We’re watching. We’re tweaking and working on it. We’re giving it time.

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The calm, before the sand…

So, the sand issue. The details of how the issue began are relatively unimportant here. Katie went bonkers. At the beach, in public, full scale for about half an hour to 40 minutes. My friend saw. Everyone saw. It was bananas. More than a tantrum. I would have left with her (a tried and true strategy), but there were many reasons why that wasn’t a viable option at the moment—you’ll just have to trust me on that. In fact, it was so large scale an episode that another mother came over to see if Katie was okay and, making the assumption that it was because I wasn’t playing with her, offered to play with my child. She had not seen anything that lead up to bananas-ville, but she assumed it was for the sole reason that I would not help Katie put water on her sand crab castle (as if!!!). Yes. This happened. Her attention actually caused Katie to go into a bigger panic, as it was the first moment Katie realized people could see her. Shortly after, I was finally able to be successful in coaxing Katie to sit in my lap and just look out at the ocean and breathe. I tried to absorb her anxiety away from her and give her my patience in return. She finally relaxed, and I looked out at the water and cried some silent tears out of worry for her. Then I pulled myself together. What would a writer do?

We kept on with the day and carried on, but it was a bum draft on our hands, that’s for sure. No real way to salvage some of those paragraphs except to keep writing. (Interestingly enough, a few moments after she had fully relaxed, Katie wrote a message to me in the sand, “I love you Mommy”—she, too, knows the power of writing). I didn’t publish anything about our beach day that day, because the story was not yet finished. It did get better after the episode, but the memories were not quite yet what they COULD be. I see nothing if not potential, in everyone and everything. I have been given the criticism more than once that I am “too happy.” If that’s true (too? I mean really? is that even possible?), then it is because I don’t often give up on people and moments, unless there is some very good reason to do so. I will say with authority that happiness does not come from having everything just as we want it to be all the time—happiness derives quite from the opposite, in my experience, and from the effort it takes to find the good—or MAKE the good—in even the most challenging moments.

Which brings us to today. Writers know that redemption resides in the power of revision—the redo. Let’s do it again, this time with style. Let’s have a second chance. Let’s rewrite the story the way we wish it to be—it is our one promised freedom, the potential of life to better itself. I asked Katie a couple of days ago if we should return to the same beach today and make a new set of memories for ourselves, if she would like a chance to revise and rewrite by returning. She did, and we did.

We called for the major redo. Hey life, please know we’re doing this over. We don’t have to settle for one bad episode on the beach and then call it quits. Oh no. Let’s make it what we want this time, let’s have the BEST day, Katie. Hold your head up—we can revise this. 

Of course this time, we brainstormed in advance. What are our steps for dealing with sand? Which suit do you want on? When should we put it on? Etc. etc.

Every step, mapped out.

And it could not have been better. Katie cavorted around with joy, saying, “I don’t know why I didn’t like the sand! I don’t know why I didn’t like the sand!” We built a castle, played in the waves, looked at anemones, walked around, just enjoyed each other for more than five hours. Nary a squabble or quibble. I felt thankful the entire time for this excellent day.

And then there was this: the kiddos and I were returning from a walk down the beach and were holding hands and chatting and feeling happy altogether, and—I could not have written this better myself—a young lady came up to me and said, “You are such a great mother! You are all having so much fun together!”

I guess that makes up for the other lady, right? Foil characters? I kind of had to smirk at the weird coincidence, there. Bah-da-bing.

Intentionality is a powerful tool, I think, in life:

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Lunch at Swami’s! Acai bowl, tiki tree, and goofy kiddos. The top picture is right before Eric asked the question, “Do you think mermaids really can talk?” Amused at how he assumes mermaids and questions the talking part. Love it, love it, love it.

 

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California babies. Katie was in her element today.

 

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Project Sandcastle! We went big today: moats, bridges, drip turrets, sand molds.

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And after playing for hours, I got to read on the beach—for the first time in slightly over SIX years. I celebrate the kiddos now being older and therefore more autonomous. When I have taken them to the beach before, I always felt the need to keep my eyes glued to them and to be playing constantly with them. So this was a real treat, and a moment that felt balancing. Reading on the beach is one of life’s truest pleasures… I can’t begin to say how much I have missed it.

 

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We found sea anemones!

Eventually I drove just a bit further down the 101 to Solana Beach to treat them to dinner. My parents honeymooned in Solana Beach, and I wanted to make a memory with my kiddos there in light of that.

We had talked a great deal today about how wide open our day was, how we could live slowly, how we could do and be and create whatever we wanted as a memory. We never have to be stuck. One moment does not define us, Katie. One moment does not define you, readers. So what if there has been a mess up on the page? Stick it out. Try again. Table the draft and begin anew with gusto.

Try not to be afraid. Just…write it out. Even through the chaos.

 

Like most infatuation, this crush began from afar, sight barely seen. It came as a whisper six months ago, the soft “th” sound in the middle cuddling up to the ear: “triathlon, triathlon” like a soft wind through my brain. It came even before that, when people began to ask a year-and-a-half into my running, “What’s next? What are your new goals?” Marathon? No, not yet. Get faster? Of course, always.

My true love is steady. The roads on which I forge myself and the track on which I weep sweat and push my mind to accept the discomfort are, at this point, so fundamental to my sense of self that my legs actually twitch me awake in the morning. My legs know when it is time to run, and I feel them in my deepest sleep. During the summer, I don’t even have to set an alarm clock. My legs wake up like clockwork; the roads call.

I am a runner.

But what if I could be more?

A few months ago when I thought about my self-improvement goals for the summer and beyond, I tasted the fear as I decided to add lap swimming to my summer bucket list. I don’t like to categorize myself as a good runner—I am decent, though—because I always know how much room there is for self-improvement. To face competitive swimming as a new challenge? I am asking myself to go all the way back to the state of being so not good at something almost completely foreign to me. I swim, yes, but I don’t swim.

For me one of the hallmarks of living life fully and passionately (and dare I say, with integrity) is to subject ourselves regularly to the position of knowing nothing and starting from scratch in order to work our way toward knowledge and achievement. Work. Work, work, work. If we rest on what we know, or we rest in the “comfortable” position, we stagnate. If we do not routinely seek out counterarguments to what we think we know, if we do not clean out our heads every spring and jettison dogma and cobwebs, if we do not require ourselves to be put back into the starting position, then we close ourselves off effectively to all potential for growth. If we feed ourselves only on the surfeit of what we have already been in life, without letting ourselves go hungry for all that we may learn and become, then I fear we grow full on intellectual shortcuts, the tried and true, stereotypical thinking, and the past to the detriment of the future.

We have to be like babies, constantly reborn to ourselves and the world. As Christopher Hitchens has observed, “All we know is how little we know. That’s been for many years my definition of an educated person.” We may gain experience and confidence, but experience and confidence should lead us toward a position of humility—and being secure in that inquisitive, curious state—instead of arrogance.

There is no time to be bored in a world as full of wonder and potential to learn as this one.

Or as educator Alistair Smith expresses, “At times of change, the learners are the ones who inherit the world, while the knowers will be beautifully prepared for a world which no longer exists.”

So we must practice adaptation. We must practice putting ourselves through knowing little, and being secure enough in our ability to learn and grow to accept not being very good at something at first. This process is axiomatic to the universe. All life grows stronger over time but starts out weak. When we put ourselves into this process, we honor life and what it means to be alive.

I want to know nothing. Or rather, I want to know just enough so that I remain constantly, prickingly aware of how little I do know. For me, this state is the essence of vitality. Life is striving. Not just waiting it out. Striving.

So this week, I took the plunge. To tell you the truth, the thought of swimming laps with other people who know how to swim laps really scared the pants off me. I like to start from scratch, but there is a bit of fear at being the noob in town. I am good at getting over that, and acting on my own integrity despite this, but you know, I did feel the nerves a bit when it came down to it. I was nervous, too, because I like being good at stuff and I knew I would be learning immediately how not good I was at this new pursuit. It’s just this: the bigger goal has to trump the fear of how it looks, the fear of finding out how much work I really need to do, and the fear of stepping over a boundary between People Who Swim and me—who would have sworn until two years ago that I had not many athletic bones in my body.

But the mind is more powerful than all of that.

So I went to lap swim on Tuesday morning at the CRC. Tuesday is one of my two rest days in my running schedule, so I figured it would be a good morning to cross-train. I had no gear, my hair dragged in the water, and I could hardly see. Noob moves for sure, but I managed to do 40 laps for 1000 yards. I took about 24 minutes to swim that far, so I walked away knowing I had work to do.

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(The pool on Monday after my swim)

 

The bug had bitten, though, and hard. The pool at 6 AM, with the grey sky and the moon and the haze rising off the water is magical. I might overuse that word, but not really. I know magic when I see it. I just see it quite a bit. The utter peace of the water reminded me so much of what I love about the road. With one set of 40 laps, that tranquility hooked me. All of Tuesday I could not wait to swim again. I was more obsessed with swimming again than thinking about my next run.

Was I stepping out on my first love? How do I balance swimming and running?

Bill assigned me 4 miles on Wednesday, which made fitting in a swim quite easy. I get up so early that I was able to fit in both before both kids woke up for the day. Katie had just woken up when I got home just in time to start breakfast preparation. On Wednesday, I swam 60 laps, for 1500 yards, at about the same pace as before (give or take adjusting my goggles and organizing a lane-share with another swimmer who came midway through).

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(Goggle eyes on Wednesday)

I took Thursday off because Bill assigned a 10K in the morning, weights, and then promised me track intervals (220s in the evening). With intervals out there, I didn’t figure I should energy-expend at the pool. Intervals are some of the most important work and commitment I make toward improving my running performance.

Bill gave me 7 miles (I ended up with 7.23 mi) for Friday morning. He almost assigned four because he knew the pool called to me, but I told him that I will not sacrifice mileage for swimming no matter its enticements. Running has to come first and swimming second. He thought I might swim today, then, but I really wanted my full rest day today (Saturday). So I got up extremely early, did four miles of warm-up in the semi-darkness looping a few blocks around our house, then ran a 5K route, and then made it to the pool by 6:30 AM.

I am nothing if not dogged about pushing myself each opportunity, and I had gotten it into my mind that I wanted to swim at least a swimmer’s mile, 1650 yards, especially since I had been so close the second day and had stopped only because I wanted to make it home before the kiddos got up, not out of exhaustion.

So there I was, doing laps and I reached the swimmer’s mile. Then I thought I should go for an actual mile in yardage. And then it bothered me that with just a bit more effort, I could do a neat and tidy fourth 20 lap set. I ended up swimming 80 laps in about 48 minutes exactly for 2000 yards—or 20 football fields worth—on Friday. Well, that felt good. What I lack in stroke at this point, I do make up for a bit with endurance. I think if I can tap into that endurance, then a triathlon could well be in my future. We shall see. I am leaving the cycling alone for the moment and focusing on just getting really, really good at the swimming part. The neat part, too, is that I have already started to have discovery—my favorite part of the learning process—about how to make my stroke better.

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(Running shoes…and swim cap and goggles. Can I balance both?)

I have so much work to do, thankfully. I cherish that time of feeling my body glide through the water, of being in my head and feeling the world fall away, and of having time to think. I spend most of my time swimming thinking about the universe and our role in it. I think about the blue, the captivating blue, all around me. I feel at one with the color of it. I think about what it takes to be running and/or in the pool before the sun comes all the way up. I think about becoming, metaphorically of course, amphibious and of pushing the human body to reach all that it is capable to do. I am curious about that. I think about narratives and chaos and probability and physics and technology. The great mind-body connection of exercise is so freeing; the two are better working together than apart. I sing songs to myself, too, but really I just glide in the moment. Even more than running, in some ways, swimming allows me to shut everything out and just be present. There is a great nothingness, wherein lies the potential to access a sort of transcendent-feeling mental space.

In other words, swimming is cool.

And shiny and new, and I have a bit of a crush on it. I will always be a runner first and part of me has worried about being swept away in the cool blue alluring arms of another sport, but I am hoping one will help the other.

Katie and Eric just finished their second swim lesson session of the summer. We had to skip a session for our road trip, but they have at least one more that we start on Monday. I don’t know about a 4th session yet—last session takes place only in afternoons and evenings, and we like to go out and about quite a bit in the summer.

They have both made improvements so far this summer, and I love that time at swim lessons with them. I watch them, and it is also time for me to write in my journal and to read. I absolutely adore that half-hour of personal and reflective time, knowing they are blissfully happy and getting to peek up to watch them when it is their turns to practice a skill. Swim lessons will be one of my favorite memories of the summer, I think.

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Showing their swim lesson report cards to a proud daddy on Friday morning; scenes from the pool

 

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Katie and Eric really enjoyed their teachers this session (teachers rotate every session). Katie had a young lady who just graduated from high school and whose positive approach and enthusiasm gave Katie that next little burst of confidence she has been needing. Eric actually had a former student of mine, from eight (!!!!!!!!) years ago. This guy was the sweetest, nicest little 9th grade kiddo, and a good writer, and just sweet sweet sweet. He seems to have stayed just as kind as he was then. He is going to make a great father someday. As homeschoolers, I celebrate the opportunities Katie and Eric have to find other mentors and young teachers to look up to. I love these pictures because you can see how caring these two young teachers are, with their attentive body language and their smiles even when the children cannot see them. Love it.

I guess we could say that all three of us are learning to swim this summer!

Mount Mazama amassed over a 400,000 year period as a part of the Cascade Range volcanic arc. Somewhere around 7,700 years ago, the top of the volcano collapsed inward, creating a 655 meter deep caldera. A lake partly fills this caldera, a lake untouched by river water ingress; a lake comprised over hundreds of years solely of melting snowfall and rain; a lake hidden at the top of the world, nestled in the bowed head of a once eruptive volcano. It’s pristine tranquility belies its violent origin, and that, I think, is the most staggering knowledge of all as I look out at the purest blue waters: how duality exists in every living thing and non, how closely entwined are struggle and peace.

Bill first showed me Crater Lake seven years ago. I carried the joy of my daughter inside of me, and I stood breathless before this natural marvel. I remember with giddy delight discovering snow even in July. We made a video on Bill’s iPhone—he had purchased one, the first one ever there was, in Medford that weekend—for our daughter. We spoke about wanting to show this place to her one day. We spoke to her, the girl we did not yet fully know, the Katie of the future. It was a promise to show her all the beauty the world offers.

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Above: pregnant with baby Kate
Below: Seven years later, there are two of them!

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Looking out at Wizard Island

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Katie worked on various activities to earn a Junior Ranger badge and pin.

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We loved this National Park program, and we cannot wait for opportunities to earn more!

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I am making a funny face because I am picking seeds out of my teeth with my tongue, but I love Katie’s diligence in this picture. After lunch, we worked on her Junior Ranger activity booklet. She needed to complete a certain number of pages in order to earn her pin.

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Eric enjoyed his booklet, too, but his age did not qualify him for the program. He could write his name on his own, though!

 

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We cobbled together lunch from my “car store” that we packed even before leaving Temecula. We had Clif bars and Go-Go Squeeze and some fruity bunnies and trail mixes. Came in handy!

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SNOW! While Katie wanted to work on her Junior Ranger activities, Eric and I got into a legit snowball fight. He laughed so much! Later, Katie joined us…and what did we play? Any guesses? That’s right: we acted out several scenes from Frozen. Of course. We’re on a mountain. With snow.

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Balance beam

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Eric commented on the view as we wound back down the mountain. Snow and lava rock is a stunning combination. We had listened to a ranger talk and learned about some of the special geography of the area, and so we got to review what we learned here.

We happened to make this trip on our way out of Ashland and onward to northern Oregon. From here, we would pit-stop in Eugene for a single evening and then continue on the next day to Portland for a few days. Crater Lake happened to be one of my go-to visualizations during natural childbirth with my children. I remember summoning its serenity during my labor for Katie just a few months after seeing it for the first time. To bring my children, along with my husband, here this summer was surreal, special, and full-circle all at once. I will never tire of adventuring with these three!

 

My brothers-in-law, my husband, and I have been writing late into the night and early in the morning, and on the road, in a vast e-mail conversation about the implications of technological development and futurism. Bill and I have now spent hours discussing some of the ideas that have emerged. Both of us have recently finished reading works with transhumanist themes. We ask questions of each other about our vision for humanity, the role of technology in our evolution, and about the function of the universe itself. We have attempted to tease out definitions for “progress,” “good,” “bad” and many more terms. Each of us come to the conversation with our own approaches and lenses (I am intellectually obsessed with the encryption and transmission of information in any form, especially as it pertains to getting it off our planet and as widely dispersed as possible), as well as millions of years of genetic material affecting our personality traits and biases. So many of these conversations took place against the backdrop of the most sublime and beautiful landscape Oregon and California offer: the purest icy blue waters of Crater Lake, the remote and craggy solitariness of Point Reyes, the mighty waterfalls of the Columbia River Gorge, the lonely and foggy beaches of Bodega Bay and Brookings, and the majesty of the ancient California redwood trees.

We’re nerds, on the move, on a road trip, on the quest.

In everything, ask how. In everything, ask why.

Be brought to tears as your mind opens to these questions in the presence of giants:

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Here. I have never seen the Avenue of the Giants in my life, although I have seen a few redwoods in Muir Woods. There is nothing to prepare you at all for standing in their presence and feeling the awe surge through your body. It is many forms of awe at once: the sublime nature of the enormous trees themselves, as well as the sublime nature of the unbounded universe, as well as the sublime working of science and millennia of adaptation that brings the DNA of these trees into the presence of my DNA, that we should coexist for any small period of time. Even though these trees will long outlast me or my immediate descendants, on the timeline of the universe it shall appear in retrospect that we existed perfectly at the same time, so small will that dot be. So we are a small blip together, those trees and me, if we zoom the mind’s lens out; yet we are ages and generations apart if you zoom the lens in. To hold that duality in your mind is an immense undertaking in the space of a moment, breathing in that scent of redwood forest floor—and that immensity is itself sublime.

And so there is nothing to do but give all the way in to the epiphany of it and weep at the utter wonder of it. I did not expect my own tears, yet there they were.

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Within the life span of these trees (the average age is something like 500 years old, and they can live to be 2000 years old), almost all the significant developments of civilization and science have taken place. This picture makes me think. I am using technology to capture a piece of our narrative, and Bill is using his Glass to capture the capturing of the narrative. There are many degrees of authorship and chronicling going on here, and it cannot be lost on anyone that the trees are characters, as well, in this story. Can nature ever be fully unmediated? As soon as we act upon it with our minds and our interpretation of nature, we are giving value and meaning to its function. We play the role of artists, whether we use words to re-render our experiences, our paintbrushes, or our iPhones, or our Glass. Technology may be a way of consuming nature—and even preserving it, or at least a record of it—after it is gone. Technology is an extension of the way we interface with the world, or it can be. I do not see nature and technology as inherently adverse entities. And man, being part of nature, has given rise through his mind to technology. To what extent is our technology the offspring of these very trees, of biological DNA/information? These are the kinds of questions I feel our species needs to be asking.

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If I could live as long as this redwood tree, or longer, or forever…I would. Would you? What does it mean to want to live, to be really alive? The greatest adventure is right now. The reward is the joy of this moment. My function is to be part of the consciousness of the universe, a function that demands continual curiosity and questing for information. I am a gatherer. I never want to die. I am going to have to be taken kicking and screaming and fighting for my life, which is the life of the mind connected to my body, using both as a tool to figure out as much as I can about the hows and whys.

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The group of young guys below didn’t quite believe I could actually succeed in climbing to and onto the burl. Ha ha, they clearly don’t know me at all! The bigger the challenge, the more of life, the more I want it…Everything, on the other side of fear. And then I took a flying leap off. And landed in a bit of a crumple (I will work on my landings later) on the soft forest floor amid bark and leaves and ages of growth and death and assimilation back to the earth.

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Reverse ducklings.

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Of all the pictures that exist of Bill on this trip, some of my favorite of him…exist of his mind. Or, more precisely, of his mind’s eye. Even ignoring his hands in this picture, he is present in the picture, moreso I feel than if I had captured his body. This is Bill’s mind recording both his objective reality and subjective viewpoint simultaneously through his Glass. Who is more present? Me, on the tree in the picture above? If you get a sense of my emotion and mental state from it, then yes, I am very present. Yet arguably, this picture through Bill’s very eyes is much more of an intimate peek at what his mind experienced that day. He gives us his perspective, and invites us to step into it for a moment. We are looking out through his brain to the trees here, stepping into his life for a brief nanosecond.

Ever since the 19-year-old Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein (arguably the first novel length sci fi), the theme of technology/scientific creation as monstrous has haunted the science fiction genre in both literature and film. Seldom do works of western civilization portray technology as heroic or transcendent; Dr. Frankenstein’s monster is the symbol of all that could go awry with AI, or any technology that gets away from its creator, so to speak, or which takes on a life of its own. What is it that drives such trepidation with respect to technology? What is the basis for the historical fear associated with scientific creation? What would have to change within the human psyche/experience in order for technology to be a source of comfort and optimism?

What is most worth preserving about our current way of life in the universal timeline, and why?

How does life endure and gain forward momentum? Do you want biological life to endure in spacetime for millennia, really? If not, why not? If you do, by what process will we survive and endure and adapt?

When will human life last as long as these redwoods?

“We are surrounded by all of these lies/And people who talk too much./You’ve got the kind of look in your eyes/As if no one knows anything but us./Should this be the last thing I see,/I want you to know it’s enough for me/’Cause all that you are is all that I’ll ever need./I’m so in love, so in love/So in love, so in love/You look so beautiful in this light,/Your silhouette over me./The way it brings out the blue in your eyes/Is the Tenerife Sea./And all of the voices surrounding us here/They just fade out when you take a breath./Just say the word and I will disappear/Into the wilderness…”

Ed Sheeran, Tenerife Sea 

 

I had never seen Into the Woods—I know, I know!! It’s so rich for analysis and theory, how could I have missed that one all this time?!—but I thought the familiarity of the characters and the musical nature would make it a user-friendly play for Katie’s first night in Ashland, Oregon. And of course, I had to see The Tempest, a favorite play in adulthood and a Shakespearean play that is essentially about the act of authorship and the relationship of playwright to audience. What I did not foresee: how utterly complementary the two works are in theme and in the questions they ask. I totally understand why they chose to stage the plays side by side this year.

How do we tell stories? What is the “magic” of narrative-making? To what extent does strategic thinking/game theory become significant in engineering these stories? How do we pass tales from one generation to the next? What do the woods and a barren island have in common as a landscape in which/on which anything may be written? What happens when we get what we wish for (“my library was dukedom large enough”), or when we don’t? How do we assign responsibility/blame for life-changing events, and to what extent do we all share a piece of that responsibility? What does it mean to be alone, or not? 

PAR-A-DISE. Ashland is paradise. Oh yes. A light dinner, a late play, an evening stroll hand-in-hand with your daughter at 11:00 PM a couple of blocks back to the B&B while people grab coffee and chat about that evening’s performances…

We had been discussing The Tempest for a month. She now has a graphic novel version of it (preserving original language) that she has read several times. She is obsessed with Ariel and wants to be him/her for Halloween, maybe. In this year’s Ashland version, a woman played Ariel and was PHENOMENAL. Katie loves how Ariel made Trinculo appear to be speaking. She is concerned that Prospero would trick Ferdinand and Miranda. She has asked many questions about why Prospero addresses us at the end.

Into the Woods, though, gave Katie a whole new world. We have been talking about it since we saw it. Is there a villain? Who? Why, why not? We have looked at “the woods” as a setting in many of her other books—hm. What is the pattern there? What tends to happen in “the woods?” Why did the same actors occasionally play multiple characters? How did the costuming work? Who is to blame for what happens? What does it take to be happy?

Last night, we spent our whole evening walk talking again about the two plays. I love her mind. She understands. She asks good questions, and she comes up with cool insight. I love that she is a theater-goer and that all the very intentional training we did when she was two and three has now paid off: she knows not only how to behave, but also how to analyze theater, to be part of theater, to know that the audience has a job/function as well. Our minds get to play together. She is one of my favorite theater dates!

So, Ashland. You are a playground. A magical place…

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We stayed at Pelton House, a cozy B&B.

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We had the whole upper floor of the cottage, with two bedrooms and a bathroom, two walk-in closets/forts, and a secret door that opened into an attic crawl space. The kiddos were DYING over that secret door and the fact that one closet had two doors, so that you could go in it one way and out another.

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The bathroom was lovely, with a steam shower and a separate tub. There were stained glass skylights in most rooms, as well. Just darling. And only a short walk away from the theaters. We walked everywhere, and I didn’t need the car at all that weekend.

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Our mother-daughter old-fashioned nightgowns hanging in the closet…so we could feel a bit Shakespearean ourselves!

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That first afternoon we arrived, we had time before dinner to go exploring. Katie and Eric took their scooters to Lithia Park, and we saw deer almost immediately. Just in the park, hanging out and being deer. Because it is Ashland, and Ashland is magical.

 

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Mother-daughter-Caroline (doll) date to Into the Woods. Hot chocolate ensued. We saw this play in the open air Elizabethan theater.

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Before the play, we had dinner with the boys at The Black Sheep, and English pub. Katie and Bill played chess.

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A lovely dinner, one of my favorite of the trip. I had a cheese/fruit/pickle/bread board meal, The Ploughman, which I ordered seven years ago, too.

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Breakfast at the B&B the next morning…

 

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Lithia Park, a delightful place

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Walking on our way to The Tempest. We saw this one at the Angus Bowmer Theater. So many layers in this particular production: the director included Butoh dancers (a Japanese form), who were on stage and moving periodically even before the play officially began. Watching the audience notice, or ignore, these players (who later became props, stage hands, and even spirit characters) was fascinating… So many levels of audience happening, watchers watching… So much to interpret, which is my favorite pastime.

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Tickets for The Tempest!

I cannot wait until Eric ages into admittance to the Ashland theaters. He has been to the theater several times locally, but I eagerly await our first full family date in Ashland. I would have enjoyed hearing my husband’s interpretation and analysis of these plays, too. What a special, special place. Thank you, my William, for planning this for us. What a gift!

On July 5th we set off down the Oregon coast from Eugene, and by the 6th we were bedding down for the night in Bodega Bay, a favorite little hamlet of mine outside of Santa Rosa in California. I had been there once before with my parents, during a visit to my brother David at Berkeley for his birthday week in 2007. Five-and-a-half months pregnant with Katie then, I remember standing in the bay barefoot and feeling her grow inside of me.

For a Hitchcock fan like me (well, a bit more than a fan, really—his work is one of my intellectual passions, and I have an ongoing project to view all of his films, have read all I can get my hands on about his work, and have done some analysis and writing of my own), Bodega Bay is an especially thrilling destination. Several of the location settings for The Birds are still there and somewhat intact: Taylor Street, the home that became the Bodega Bay School, the marina of course, and the remodeled but still recognizable Tides Wharf restaurant.

We had just fourteen hours in this foggy, grey, mysterious, cozy place, and dare I say we made the most of it. Bill found lodgings at the Bodega Bay Inn, and he had another major win there. We had our own little bungalow attached by stairs leading upward to a common room and hallway to other rooms. We could park our car in front of it and enter our room through private French doors. The bed had an old-fashioned headboard that was also a shelf, very retro, and there was an open shower made of white stone. Just on the other side of the hill on which the inn sat was a tiny collection of storefronts, including a coffee shop.

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We set out immediately for dinner at Tides Wharf. We gazed out at the bay—and the thick fog rolling into the bay as we passed 8:00 PM.

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We had a delicious meal at Tides Wharf, probably one of our best dinners. On the recommendation of our server, I had the local and highly seasonal salmon in a lemon butter and caper sauce. It was perfect.

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Katie and Eric watched the heavy fog come in over the bay. Gulls dove and flew by, too. I love the look of wonder on Katie’s face in this picture.

I did not have to run in the morning, and I intended to sleep in just a bit and perhaps do some more reading before the kiddos woke up. At 5AM, however, Eric woke up from dream and Katie then woke up with excitement to find her tooth fairy money under the pillow. A skylight over our bed revealed the beginnings of morning, and as soon as this sister and brother pair saw that, there was no returning to sleep. Katie, in fact, quoted from Frozen: “The sky’s awake, so I’m awake, so we have to play!”

And really, she was correct. Why waste daylight and time when we could be up and exploring? How often are we in Bodega Bay, after all?

We dressed efficiently and left Bill to sleep in and rest while we had adventure. Water droplets had coalesced on our window over night, and the thick mist still covered the morning. I felt like I had somehow had the great fortune to stumble into an enchanted land. Fog/mist is my favorite, the instant cozy-maker.

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We walked first to the little coffee shop, tucked away in the corner and in the fog. Katie and Eric had hot chocolate, I had a latte, and we all had freshly baked almond and cranberry scones.

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We went to the marina next, and I am not sure if it was even 7 AM by then, honestly. We took out the scooters and explored, looking at all the fishing supplies and boats.

 

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A boat docking in the mist

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Scenes from the marina: I could not imagine a better start to the day

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Then we drove a bit around town and parked so we could hike the marsh. I would have liked to get around to Bodega Bay head, but this hike also had beach access to Doran Beach. We hiked every part of the marsh we could before moving on to the beach, watching all kinds of birds and finding webs covered with dew.

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Katie feels passionately about birds, and she later got a coastal bird guide to help her identify species. She likes to draw birds and watch them. We think it might be her Uncle Chet’s bird-watcher gene!

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Then we found Doran Beach, with nary a soul on it. We took our shoes off at the driftwood, and ran and froze our tootsies in the bay and celebrated the freedom we felt and watched more birds.

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I would not have missed this morning for all the sleep in the world. I love taking my children out and showing them all that life has for them to enjoy and to take into their hearts and minds and imaginations. We were part of an early, sublime world that morning. We seemed to find magic at every step. All I could keep thinking followed the themes of how very much this life is to be lived, fully and passionately. I want to waste no time, I want to see as much as I can with the two of them, and my husband, too.

There were several opportunities on this trip for me to take our children out by myself in these new places: Sacramento, Ashland, to parks in Eugene, downtown Portland, and here in Bodega Bay. I routinely take my children out and about locally, although at times for school field trips or the beach and such I have enlisted my mom to help. Usually in bigger cities my husband is always with me, too. But here I really threw myself to my own devices, and I found confidence in being able to go anywhere on my own with my two children. We did not get lost, and they were well behaved. The three of us know how to work together, and they are easy to have out all day. We just take whatever comes, and we solve whatever needs to be solved. I discovered, therefore, a profound sense of freedom. I know I can capably manage my children in our regular spots on a day to day basis, but here—well, here on this trip, I guess I found out that I can travel with them anywhere. I would be fully willing now to take them on a plane by myself, or anywhere… And this has opened up my world tremendously. The past two weeks gave me an even deeper understanding of my freedom. Perhaps their ages help, too… I just know for certain now that my children and I can adapt to any situation we find ourselves to be in. And you know what? I love to show them life. I just love it.

I want to show them everything worth knowing, everything worth seeing. I want their minds to light up with the wonder of it all. I love to be with them. I really love to be with them. I would rather be showing them all the wonders and magic of life and nature than doing just about anything else (except maybe running, ha ha)!

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Exploring with my kiddos—each of them are good at using the iPhone camera now, too!

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We finished our hiking, beach combing, and wandering at about 9:30, and then we went to collect my husband from the inn. On our way out of town, we stopped by the property that became the Bodega Bay School in Hitchcock’s The Birds. We got dorky and pretended we were getting chased by birds down the street, like the children in the famous scene from the film. Why not? Life is for having fun and sometimes being weird!

On a trip full of highlights, these fourteen hours in Bodega Bay were some of my favorite. I felt we really lived as much as we could possibly have while we were there. We managed to explore fairly widely and fit in quite a bit. I know we made the most of our time there, and that makes my heart full and happy. I love coastal towns, the fog horn, the scent of fish and salt in the air, the clang-clang-clang of docked up boats. There is poetry in a harbor.

 

A wanderer at heart, I find road trips to be my favorite form of travel. Thankfully Bill and I are highly compatible road trippers, embracing an equal balance of structure and spontaneity. Part of the fun of a road trip is the “figuring it out” as we go model, with just enough of a plan to keep forward momentum and a sense of feeling grounded. What do I enjoy most about road trips, aside from the freedom of exploration? I savor being in the close quarters of the car with my three beloved people for hours. I enjoy putting us in situations in which we are compelled to adapt together, to troubleshoot, and to innovate. It is amazing what a family can come up with, on the road. I even enjoy the variation in lodgings, some nicer than others. We learn what we can live with, and without. The sense of “home” over a two week road trip becomes the people we are with, rather than where we are. I love that feeling of not having total control over everything, of having to come up with solutions as situations arise, and the challenge of invention to my intellect. The nuances of our personalities emerge. On this latest road trip, I felt like I could have continued on for quite a bit more time, and I think the key to a happy road trip is looking at everything positively. There were times when we had an idea but had to adapt or change it at the last minute: road trips hone the skill of rolling with the punches and embracing with an open mind and heart whatever comes next. It’s all about the adventure of it, yes?

And some of the greatest happiness resides in the details:

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Home away from home: our room in Eugene, Oregon for three nights at the Days Inn. One morning, we went to breakfast in the office in our pajamas because timing-wise, it happened to make sense. I think it helps, wherever we are, to make ourselves right at home. Wandering about in pajamas is familiar to me from my dorm days. On road trips, the world is our home, and we are informal and at home in it. The best way to feel at home anywhere is not to be afraid to be ourselves, without feeling like we have to be formal.

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Watching calories/diet on a road trip is especially challenging. Have you even SEEN those delicious looking pastries in gas station pit stops? Old habits die hard, and there were times I wanted to put them all in my mouth—for 490 calories a pop. But I didn’t. Similarly, it is difficult not to want the novelty of taste, even when not biologically hungry, when taking a long stretch of road for the day. We packed our own trail mixes and protein bars and such, but even so, handfuls of those add up. I used to fall into the fallacy of “I am on a road trip and therefore I will eat road trip food,” which turns out to be a sure way to gain weight during vacation. So: what to do? Aside from just practicing self-control, one legitimate hack I have found is to order off of senior 55+ menus (or children’s menus). Most places will be accommodating, and who cares if it seems weird? Denny’s came through for me a couple of different times here. I actually ended up losing a bit of weight on this trip. We also took our scale and weighed daily to keep things real for ourselves.

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We always pack glow-in-the-dark surprises for times when we might be rolling into a place after the sun has gone down. On our first night, we pulled into Sacramento in superhero masks. Katie and Eric loved them so much, they wore them for part of the following morning… It is something to look forward to during night drives.

 

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We start happy and try to keep a positive attitude throughout. There are moments, but part of a road trip is working through moments as a family, right?

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When we send postcards to family, we also send one to ourselves at the same time. It is a way to chronicle moments of our trip right as they are happening, and the postcards become souvenirs mailed from places we wandered. Pack stamps beforehand for ease. I forgot mine, and had to buy a book. Easy enough to do, but it adds a step.

 

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Picnic outside the room! One of my favorite parts of a road trip is finding a store and cobbling together a dinner or lunch. We try to minimize the eating out, if we can. I packed a box of plastic cutlery in our car to make this easier, but it turns out that free spoons and forks are all over the place if you keep your eyes peeled. I will grab extra napkins and sometimes straws from Starbucks, as well.

 

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Enjoy the little moments in the car. Last time across the U.S. I had dozens of activities planned (mask making, license plate scavenger hunt, geography lessons, etc). It was good at the time. This time, with my children being a bit older, I decided to wing it just a bit more. I was worried this might create a greater reliance on their devices, but really, they barely touched the iPads on this trip. We spent time talking about everything, reading, or just looking around. We listened to a bit of music, but not overly so, and enjoyed a few stories on CD. But most of our entertainment this time was very in-the-moment. Some of the activities I did plan in advance, we never needed/got to. We just enjoyed being together and seeing all the new places. I did take a few moments at times and listened to some music with my earbuds just to get some in-my-own-head time (the new Ed Sheeran and new Coldplay), but for the most part we were all very present with one another.

 

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Eric sleeps in a huge bed at home, and I wouldn’t have thought this would still be comfortable…but as we packed the car, he wanted to take his pack-n-play. This was essential on our last major road trip, and it has gone on smaller road trips around California, too. Taking it this time was a good move—somehow, he still fits! He loves his little travel bed. As a result, getting both children down was a cinch most nights, and it freed up bed space. I bought that pack-n-play when I had Katie, and at the time I bought it, it seemed like a possible splurge that would have limited use. We’ve sure gotten our money out of it at this point, though! I would put such a thing on the “must have” baby registry list, for young families who like to travel quite a bit. It is not the easiest thing to get in and out of the car, but we’re going to miss it when Eric gets too big for it!

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Be silly and try new things.

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Pack a potty chair for the woods. Seriously.

 

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True love on the road trip.

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So this was neat: Katie had a very wiggly tooth all through Oregon. We kept calling it her Oregon tooth, and we talked about how cool it would be if she lost a tooth in another state. On our last morning in Oregon (in Brookings, about ten minutes from California), it came out! She put it under her pillow in Bodega Bay, and the tooth fairy visited her there. Out in Oregon, visited in Bodega Bay—what a memory!

 

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Cultivate reading.

 

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We don’t do any fast food at home. But on a road trip it becomes a bit inevitable. You are rolling in late to a stop…it’s consistent, cheap, and open late. McDonald’s came through for us a couple of different times on this trip. And there are calories on the menu. I get a grilled chicken wrap or a 150 calorie parfait (or both, if it is dinner). Bonus: the kiddos are always thrilled.

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We brought their scooters, and that was a good move. They scootered around Ashland, Portland, Eugene, and Bodega Bay. Good little way to get exercise and for them to see a wider range of a place than they could just walking. It was a last minute pack—a bit on a whim. They are now permanently on the road trip packing list.

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Know when to fold ’em. During our time in the redwoods, we wanted to go through the drive thru tree. We got in line, and the line didn’t budge for about twenty minutes. We could either be there two hours, or we could ensure reaching our next destination in time to savor it. Adaptability is key on a road trip, and having a good attitude about changing plans is also essential. We just add whatever we miss to our wish list for next time! It’s all good.

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Gas stops are highlights. The kiddos had coins to spend on gum and such at our pit stops. They liked that.

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Get cozy. Family in close quarters is special.

 

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Cherish the inside jokes. Above: there is a bike stuck in a tree at the University of Oregon. We may be some of the few who even know about it. Also: the world’s most unnecessary valet and the world’s most utterly ineffective runaway truck ramp. All of these had us laughing together heartily as a family…and that’s what trips like these are about.

 

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More scootering, in front of our room.

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The family that packs together, has a good starting time together! But one person must also take the role of packing manager: a place for everything and everything in its place is my motto!

And now we are home. The car is clean, and two weeks of clothes have been laundered and put away. We jumped back in to swim lessons on Tuesday morning, after getting home Tuesday morning at 1:00 AM. We’ve been baking fresh bread and reintegrating into the rooted life. My wanderlust is never fully at bay, but being home is its own magic, too!

July 2, 2014. We pack the car and check out of our Jantzen Beach hotel, just outside of Portland. Bill surprises me with a plan: he will take the kiddos, and I will have the freedom to wander Portland on my own a bit, perhaps peruse more of Powell’s Books alone. We are headed back to Eugene next (we had stayed overnight there on June 29th and had plans to stay the 2nd-4th), but we are not in a rush.

I leave Bill, Katie, and Eric at the Jamison Square Park on NW 11th Avenue, and I begin to roam. I feel every bit of my freedom in so vast a space; I am part of the crowd yet deliciously solitary; I am but a small cog in the wheel but also limitless in independence. I have wandered enough cities now, both with others and alone, to know I am scrappy and savvy enough to make it through, but still that vastness works on my sense of the sublime—and I am aware of being alive, alive, alive. There are the men in the suits with ties flapping their way to a cafe; there is an old man in a raggedy blanket holding out a tin pan. There are historic buildings and Whole Foods. Panhandlers address me, but at this point I know how to handle myself. I, too, am part of the city, part of its early morning breath, part of its glory, part of its grime. Big cities beg to be wandered, beg to be discovered and known, in every  nook and cranny.

I wish I could spread my wings over this immense space and soar into every curious spot all day, though eventually I find my way back to paradise on Earth: Powell’s Books. We have been there already on our first day in Portland, but still it calls me. I dream of this city of books even now. Floors and floors of books…so enormous a space that I could wander in there forever and forget to emerge. What strange waters flow in there? Are they Lethe? Or are they waters of eternal youth and knowledge and self-awareness?

As I meander among the stacks, I am with my friends: words, ideas, literature, non-fiction. The language of my innermost being. I am awash in the lifeblood of all I try to speak, but can only write instead. The deepest words in me stay internal and can emerge only through my fingertips and never through my lips. All that I am exists entirely in that phantasmic written space. Even now, as I write, I am both within and without my body; I exist in the words themselves, the words that are alive and organic, the words that have always felt as though they write themselves and come when they come, the words that have meaning only in the relational context with other words (our lexicon is self-referential). The structure of language itself as an emergent system…it’s all here, surrounding me on these shelves. The bulk (even if not the entirety) of human knowledge rises on every shelf around me.

If ever I were to get on my knees, I feel, it would be here: to feel the presence so keenly of all the thinkers and writers who have come before me. I could spend every minute of my life reading and not begin to touch the vastness of human thought and words here in this city of books. The knowledge dwarfs me yet calls me to suck in and interpret as much information as I can before I die. I want to weep at the beauty and the pain of it all at once.

And there among the words, more knowledge comes. I begin to imagine all the lives I might have lived… All the possible timelines. What if I had chosen a different college? What if some version of me on an alternate timeline lived in a loft in New York? Or taught English in India? Or worked at this bookstore in Portland? Among the stacks of books, the emotions come, in company of the host of lives I imagine. There are staggering possibilities, as I imagine myself as a teenager and then in my early 20s. But there is time only for one trajectory, for all of us. I know for certain I would never give up the life I have and the husband and children in it, and for a moment I wonder at how differently it all could have gone, how any one choice could have meant I missed out on them…

The mind of a prolific reader is inherently peripatetic, I would assert. We wander from life to life through the characters and settings we meet. We are bound not by time, traveling easily through history, wandering through words as though they are real. I am, at heart, a wanderer. I can imagine infinite versions of myself, and some of those versions I might never get around to becoming, even for a moment. Some of those, I guess I wouldn’t want to become. But there on my solo wander amid the books in this huge city, I wonder if I should mourn those imagined versions of myself that never had a chance to materialize on a finite timeline. I think about all the recent women’s books about “having it all” or “leaning in” or how we are supposed to become ourselves, or whatever.

Then it hits me. I am standing in Portland in a costume I packed a week ago for just a moment like this one… All of the lives I imagine exist right this very second, in me; that I am living out right now a small part of another life, except that through imagination and the active creation of my narrative, that life is actually happening—for a small moment—on this timeline. If we are to “have it all” then it shall be hour by hour and day by day. I think about the lives I might have had as a younger person and realize that I am having them, maybe not all at once, maybe not for long periods of time, but in little carved out moments like this one.

So for an hour I sit and sip a latte and read my game-theory-meets-Austen book that was a present from Bill a couple of days ago. I write in my new journal and remembered not who I was; I remembered all that I will be. We live many lives in our one life, sometimes in tiny moments and all at once. I reconnect in this space with my essence, the essence which has always believed anything is possible and that life is the best adventure. I have a moment of clarity in that cafe when for a moment I see more clearly all who I can be. I am a Wanderer. Not just physically, although that is certainly true, as well. My mind is a wandering mind. It loves every subject, flits with curiosity from idea to idea. I must touch and smell and hear and feel…

To explore and wander is infinite happiness for me, especially on my own. I love to feel my independence, my solitariness. And what I discover, I then relish showing to my Bill and my children—I want to curate knowledge of the beautiful and sublime, and then give it away to those I love best, or to anyone who will come along with my zany plans. I want to live at the height of sensation and show others how to do the same… I want to experience as many lives in one life as possible.

We can be all that we imagine. Portland reminded me of this, made me know it, in fact, in a new way.

 

 

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Enjoying a latte and reading in Portland during my solo wander

 

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Moments and a new journal… Few things excite me more than a new journal, with the utter blankness for writing of new adventures and new life stories. We can be all we hope and dream.

And here are some other memories and moments of our time in Portland. We went from Sacramento to Ashland for two days, then to a pit stop in Eugene, then to Portland for a few days, then back to Eugene for a few days, then to Brookings (along the coast), then to Bodega Bay, and then home (to give some context).

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When I reunited with my family after my solo wander, we spent more time playing at Jamison Square Park. How awesome is this park? We totally could use something like this, in an open and public meeting square, in Temecula. So lovely and informal. Katie and Eric played for hours, and Bill even got their scooters out. (Those scooters, I swear. I will be packing them for every road trip from here on out).

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Eric in Portland

 

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A wider view of the whole park—the water feature is on the right in this picture, but there is a grassy sprawl, too. Around the park are restaurants and apartments and stores.

Our first stop in Portland: Powell’s Books, naturally.

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We could get lost in here…for eternity…

 

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Our first visit

 

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Katie was in heaven. She picked out several sci fi selections and a graphic novel of The Tempest with original language. I normally advocate reading source material and not a watered-down or simplified version even when young, but we are definitely fans of quality graphic novels, and this one is really good. Because we had just seen The Tempest in Ashland, and had been talking about it for weeks, she understands what is going on in the play, and she couldn’t put this down.

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On our first trip to Powell’s, we left Bill to meander at his leisure and I took the kiddos out and about for a couple of hours to explore. We had bubble tea, walked all around downtown, and read in a coffee shop. I am not gonna lie: I feel pretty hardcore being able to navigate huge cities with two kiddos on my own and entertain ourselves for hours. I did this all over Sacramento, as well. In a way, realizing I am able to work that scenario capably is the ultimate in claiming my freedom to go anywhere, and do just about anything. I do not need to rely on anyone else to handle my children with me, and we can find our way around together, even in the most novel and large of places.

 

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My little reader did not want to put her book down for a moment. Katie read six chapter, novel-length books on our 12 day trip. She is voracious. Her summer reading list is already huge (we are logging every chapter book she reads). I love that she has found reading as way to unwind after a long day, or to enjoy time in the car.

On the second day we went to Multnomah Falls at the Columbia River Gorge.

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This was a highlight of our trip. Katie and Eric and I hiked all the way up to the top of the falls, and they were troopers. Eleven switchbacks up a substantial hill for about 1.5 miles. Not bad, Team McGaugh! We were rewarded at the top with a stunning view, but the whole hike was gorgeous: ferns, firs, views of the Columbia River, old stone walls, a creek. There are so many beautiful hikes/walks/climbs in Oregon.

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Also on the second day, we went to Southeast Portland and tried on vintage. I wanted to drop a penny on all the 30s and 50s vintage I found, but I restrained myself. Katie had a blast!

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We treated ourselves to Salt and Straw, an gourmet ice cream shop. I had the goat cheese marionberry habenero and the olive oil as a single split scoop. I also sampled the strawberry cilantro lime cheesecake, the pear with bleu cheese and a couple of others. Delicious. This was one treat that was utterly worth it. We had skipped Voodoo donuts (line too long, and I don’t eat donuts), but Salt and Straw was a rec from my friends Erin and Erik. Erin has impeccable taste in everything, and she was right on here. I have been craving Salt and Straw since we left Portland…

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Later that evening on the second day, we unwound with a swim in the hotel indoor pool. That’s always a favorite on road trips for us. Fun memories!

And a word about our lodging… Bill has lodging super-mojo. When we rolled into Portland, we were contemplating a place to stay. We thought about staying in the city, but we realized that A) we would have to valet the car, and we needed easy access to our stuff; B) my training runs would be more difficult to manage with so many people around; C) two nights would add up quickly in downtown. He quickly researched and found a place in Jantzen Beach, just outside of the city: Oxford Inn Suites. Okay. This place blew my mind, and I am a realistic sort of person. I’ve been in crappy motels (Rodeway Inn in Utah—do not go, not unless you want to sleep in pubes with doors that don’t lock properly), and I have been in five star hotels (Four Seasons in Istanbul, Turkey, to name one). I could not believe what we got at that inn for about $100 a night. Super clean. Guest laundry (of which I availed myself). A complimentary breakfast that was unreal: more like a buffet anywhere else, with eggs cooked to order (uncommon at motor lodges for road trippers). Indoor pool. Gym. And the capper: a complimentary soup and salad (and cracker) session during the dinner hours. That pushed the whole inn over the edge, for me, because: soup and salad and crackers are all the three of us need for dinner. So that meant breakfast AND dinner were essentially free. Sure, we ate around a bit at lunch and had the ice cream, but our meals were largely comped for the Portland portion of our stay. I kept remarking how I could not BELIEVE it. It was the perfect lodging mid-trip. Bill had a major win on that one. We would recommend it to anyone. I am not sure what else an inn/hotel could possibly do, for so little a night, to make anyone happier.
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Breakfast at Oxford Inn

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Bill in the lobby of the inn: he earned several kudos for finding this!

Other highlights: we went to Lake Oswego for a bit, drove into Washington state for a few moments, and drove around looking at as much of Portland as we could. There is certainly quite a bit more left to explore there, and I hope we make it back at some point soon. (Actually, I am dying to return to Eugene, but that’s another story)!