Sunday, November 15, 2015

A Catching Up: Summer and Fall

I haven't written in this blog for awhile, but feel myself pulled back to this space again.

There is much to catch up on and I briefly considered trying to retrospectively write posts on the various happenings of late Summer and Fall:

Celebrating our 5-year anniversary with a week-long trip to the Pacific Northwest. Completing the Boulder Sunset Triathlon in late August. Completing the Snow Mountain 5K in Granby, CO in September. My in-laws visit to Colorado and our day trip to Rocky Mountain National Park filled with incredible wildlife sightings. My parents' long-awaited move to Colorado(!). Celebrating my birthday with a long weekend (with my husband and my parents) in Santa Fe, NM and Ojo Caliente Hot Springs. The nearly 20 books I've read since the beginning of last summer (and the many blog, music, podcast and other discoveries I've made since then – far too many to document). The numerous beautiful hikes and trail runs I enjoyed this Summer and Fall (the view from one of which is pictured above) – and a few new-to-me trails. My forays into creating a capsule wardrobe.

But I felt slightly exhausted at the mere prospect of trying to give each of these events their proper written due, so I will have to settle for the summary above and my memories of each.

And now it is mid-November! More and more, I find myself marveling at how quickly the months and years seem to pass by. Cognitive psychologists believe a major factor in our perception of time's speed is the number of memorable events that occur in a given amount of time; essentially, the more important and vivid events we recall having occurred during that period of time, the longer it seems to be. In order to slow the speeding train is modern life, we must notice moments as they happen. We must be present and intentionally cultivate "a focused attention on the here and now." Mindfulness is not a new concept, however, it may be a particularly critical one as we head into this busy time of year.

Anaïs Nin said, "We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect." I look forward to returning to this blog to document the noticing, to savor the moments as they happen.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Read // Watched // Listened To // Savored: June Edition

Hello and happy summer! I hope yours has been off to a good start, that you've been spending lots of time outdoors, that you've been making time for your goals–but also for a lot of relaxation.

June seemed to be over just as quickly as it began. I could hardly believe yesterday was already July 4th! Jason and I spent most of the day at my friend's cabin in Nederland, a little mountain town about 20 miles from Boulder. We sat on her back porch with our dogs, enjoyed stunning lake and mountain views, and cooked up a Middle Eastern-themed feast from this cookbook. It was lovely and lazy, the way a holiday should be.

Here's a little peek at what I read, watched, listened to, and savored this past month.


I was looking for a light summer read to kick off the season, so I started reading Laura Dave's Eight Hundred Grapes, a novel set against the backdrop of the protagonist's family vineyard. While the plot is a bit predictable (though not in an unpleasant way), I find myself particularly intrigued by the descriptions of biodynamic winemaking and the history of the Sonoma Valley which are interwoven throughout the book. After a few false starts, I'm about halfway through now and enjoying reading this on the patio in the evenings with the waning summer light and a glass of Pinot Noir for company.

I also started reading Laszlo Bock's Work Rules!, a compendium of sometimes counter-intuitive insights on attracting and retaining top talent from Google's head of People Operations. Blending data-driven findings with his inspiring vision for a better, more human work environment, the book reads like a manifesto for anyone who believes that work can be a positive and meaningful aspect of the human existence. Sample quote: “All it takes is a belief that people are fundamentally good—and enough courage to treat your people like owners instead of machines. Machines do their jobs; owners do whatever is needed to make their companies and teams successful."

I loved this reminder from Alexandra Franzen. I'm so totally guilty of deliberating over silly little decisions like this.

Watched & Listened
The Weeknd's "Can't Feel My Face" // Leon Bridges' "Coming Home"// Hozier's "Work Song" // Halsey's "Hold Me Down" // Bon Iver's "I Can't Make You Love Me" // Lots of The Avett Brothers and Lake Street Dive (in anticipation of their upcoming show at Red Rocks this coming Friday!)

Podcasts, podcasts, and more podcasts. In current rotation are: ReWild Yourself! with Daniel Vitalis; Bulletproof Radio with Dave Asprey; Startup; and Criminal.

The start of Season 2 of True Detective. (I'm mostly reserving judgment for the time being.)


Morning coffee on the deck.

Sunrise at the Boulder Reservoir, watching some of my coworkers crush the (aptly named) Boulder Sunrise Triathlon.

A day trip to gorgeous Rocky Mountain National Park to do a little wildlife-spotting (which, based on the nine moose, herd of big horn sheep, and countless elk we saw, was a smashing success).

An incredible dinner at OAK to celebrate our 5-year wedding anniversary.

Planning our anniversary getaway to the Pacific Northwest (we're going to spend a week exploring Portland, Seattle, and the Columbia River Gorge and Hood River area). I had such fun choosing where to stay, and found the most adorable AirBnB rentals for Portland and Seattle and booked a room here for our stay in Hood River.

Searching for the perfect cucumber-themed cocktail. So far, I've enjoyed OAK's Monk's Garden (Basil and tarragon infused Grey Goose, Green Chartreuse, Cucumber, Lavender, and Lime) and Salt's Waterspark (Spring44 Honey Vodka, Cucumber, Carpano Bianco, Fresh Lime juice, Tonic). I've also been making 

Fresh vegetables and herbs from the garden: basil, parsley, chives, mint, kale, and cherry tomatoes. Grilling anything and everything. Recent favorites include: Fiona's Green Chicken, Cheddar Jalepeno Chicken Burgers, and Mint and Cumin-Spiced Lamb Chops. All the stone fruit I can get my hands on, sometimes prepared like this.

Lots of hikes and trail runs with some gentle vinyasa yoga to balance things out.

What did you read, watch, listen to, and savor this month?

Monday, May 18, 2015

The Care & Feeding of a Human Soul: 7 Steps

First of all, read the books that crack you open: the ones that leave you short of breath and stunned at the incomprehensible rarity, the unbelievable fortune, of our time here together, with one another and on this green earth. Start with Whitman or Ed Abbey. Start with Anne Lamott or Joan Didion or Cheryl Strayed or a Holy Book or anywhere at all. Read a lot. Read in the morning, the window open so just a slip of the sound of spring rain graces your ears. Read on your lunch break, if only for ten minutes, a sunny park bench your personal paradise. Let the moon be your crescent companion at night.

Second, come to the subversive conclusion that you needn't exercise to feel happy. Decide to engage instead in movement that feels good, that feels right in your body. (Hint: if your body is moving, you're doing it right.) If the cool air prickles the beads of sweat on your brow, you're doing spectacularly. If you can't bear the simplicity of sweat as barometer, just begin to walk and then maybe hike or run, but beware: sustained forward momentum has a way of changing your outlook, making fluid your once-set perspectives. Watch your life expand along with your lungs, fresh oxygen infusing blood and brain with new ways of thinking, of seeing. Recognize the sensation as joy. Recognize that joy is, after all, the point.

Third, come to this even more insane realization, the understanding that (are you ready for it?): you needn't be thin to be happy. Be startled by the sudden understanding that no person's soul has ever been redeemed by the size of their jeans. Laugh in the streets. Let your hysterics become tears as you mourn the years you worshipped at the false altar of skinny, bowed down to its glittering, idolatrous gods. Tuck the knowledge of your liberation like a smooth stone into the front pocket of your mind, its presence a pleasant weight. The signs telling you to be smaller, to take up less space have been turned off. Stretch your legs. Arise, arise. You are now free to move about your life.

Fourth, look around you and see that every person is likely doing their best. See that some peoples' best is shit, but still, by definition, their best. Grant grace, because you can, because there are better things to carry in your heart than the acidity of resentment. Forgive if you can, but remember the outline of the hurt; know that empathy springs from the fissures in the rock.

Speaking of rock, find the oxidized sandstone dust of the American West in your shoes. Find it in half-remembered dreams and memories you can't be sure are your own. Find it gritted to your heart, deposited like sediment, an alluvial fan arrayed across your left ventricle. Find that it feels like home, and make it one. Insert the salt spray of the ocean. The scent of pine. The humid languor of the bayou. Or the rolling fields of the country's middle, or anywhere else, as needed. You will have to write your own bodily metaphor to describe how it feels to have place be a part of you. This is the fifth easy step, but it may take up to ten thousand.

Writing! is sixth. The odds are good that your soul craves expression. Practice believing you have something important to say, letting the possibility roll like a taut-skinned grape on your tongue. Come to see that writing is not always accomplished through words on a page; that the story of your heart might be a song or a painting or a pot of soup on the stove. That it might be a house cared for, a garden tended. What matters is that you open the channel. Worry not about talent or even creativity. Know that being alive in the world is a creative act.

Seventh and last (on the list anyway but not, if you're lucky, in life), examine your relationships. To others. To yourself. To the quotidian details of your life. Love what loves you back (dogs are particularly nourishing in this regard), and pay close scrutiny to the rest. Where there is stickiness, allow space. Where darkness exists, shine light, gently or harsh and clear. Where darkness persists, decide if it's a dark you can live with, want to live with. Belong to a community, but first to yourself. You are your own! Tattoo it to your skin, maybe not literally or maybe in black permanent ink. Let the thrill of your freedom strum quick as a hummingbird's flutter in your chest.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Burning Brightly: A Quick Note

"I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations." --George Bernard Shaw
My relationship with time has been evolving. Pockets of it feel rare and precious as gems, ephemeral and fleeting. For that reason, I am choosing to use those pockets on priorities other than blogging. Being outdoors. Running and hiking. Spending time with my husband taking my dog for long walks. Reading, writing in my personal journal, and, when I can, practicing a little bit of yoga before bed.

It would be very easy to say I feel overwhelmingly "busy." But I've come to believe that the feeling of busy-ness is, at heart, a misalignment between how we spend our time and our passions and purpose in life. It's an inability to prioritize, or perhaps an unwillingness to admit the truth of those priorities to others or ourselves.

And the truth is that, yes, I'm being asked to grow and stretch in ways I couldn't have imagined even a couple years ago. But instead of feeling "busy," I feel engaged. Rapt even. Enthralled by the way life seems to expand in direct proportion to how present I'm committed to being in each moment. The torch burns brightly indeed.

All that being said, I look forward to the season when I am once again able to spend time recording my thoughts in this space.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

You Might Not Climb the Ladder

You might not climb the ladder.

You might try, of course. You might even get far, almost to the top, or to what you perceived as the top. You might become disoriented, realizing the ladder grows even as you ascend it, extending infinitely into the sky.

Alternately, you might find it too short, wholly unsuited for the height you have in mind.

You might, in a fit of frustration, decide to throw the ladder aside; grip one of its rickety metal rungs in your closed fists, lift the whole mass of it high over your head, and slam it – clatter, cla-bang – onto the pavement at your side.

You might look at the ladder, it hinges now loosened and jangling, and and wonder what now?

So, you might be forced to invent another way.

You might, for example, try crafting a pulley of hand-braided rope. But when the rains come, the knots in your rope might become weathered and frayed, and your pulley might not seem safe. So you might depend on the strength of your body to hoist yourself up and over railings and around pillars, the muscles of your abdomen contracting with effort.

You might reach what you thought was the top, only to find another, more intricate set of obstacles to navigate. You might find the roof had been an illusion from the ground.

As you stand there, pondering your next move, the building itself might start to sway in the wind. Your legs buckling and quaking beneath you, you might question its construction altogether. Who had built it? What was it made of? Why was it so important to reach the top?

As you ponder the integrity of the structure, the roof might cave in.

You might fall several stories or more. You might stand up, stiff and aching, to survey the rubble and wreckage that now surrounds you.

You might, for a moment, lift your eyes to the horizon. With no ladder and no structure to distract, you might notice, for the first time, where you are.

You might notice, for example, the liveliness of the colors that surround you: the robin's egg blue of the sky, the bright emerald-hued flora, and the light that bathes it all in tones of gold at dusk.

You might notice the others all around you, climbing furiously or tossing their ladders aside or devising alternate methods, or falling to the ground. You might find yourself wondering: what is the point?

You might notice, too, beyond the clanging and the clattering and the structures that surround you, a lush hillside beckons.

So you might begin to walk.

And as you reach the hill and begin to hike its gentle slope, you might realize your shoes had been lost in the fall. You might notice that you feel each individual blade of grass beneath your toes. You might smile what feels like your first real smile.

At the top of the hill, a group might gathered. They might be laughing, and might tease you gently as you arrive. "It took you long enough to get here!" a woman might say, a twinkle in her eye.

You might feel at home immediately without knowing why.

You might turn around and gaze back down the hill and try to call to the others still climbing their ladders. They might not hear you. The wind might carry your voice away.

But every few days, a new person might arrive at the top of the hill and be welcomed into the community.

You might, over time, realize the ladder was never the problem. And that, if only you had lifted your eyes to the horizon sooner, you would have seen the lushness that awaited you.

You might be standing on the ground looking up, daunted. 

You might be pondering whether there's another way to get from where you are to where you want to be.

Listen for that faint voice that calls to you. The one that says look over there

Look hard. 

Do you see it?

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: January Edition

I do my best to appreciate each month, and strive to be present to its particular gifts. That said, I'm sort of over January. Or rather (since it's not actually January anymore) sort of glad it's over. It felt like a long month of short (albeit lengthening) days, simultaneously fast-moving and yet somehow never-ending.

Despite all that, it was a lovely month in many ways. I did set an intention or "theme" for the year, completed another Whole30 (this time, with my husband), and read, watched, listened to, and savored the following...

(By the way, in case anyone's wondering, these posts never contain any type of affiliate links.)

Over the past three months, I discovered and proceeded to read all of Frank Forencich's work. His take on "the human predicament" and the radical interconnectedness between human health and the environment that surrounds us is nothing short of brilliant. If you read just one of his books, make it this one.

On the fiction front, I started reading John Green's Looking for Alaska, but it's not totally holding my attention. I've got Graeme Simsion's The Rosie Project and The Rosie Effect queued up next.

Recent studies have shown that writing about one's own personal experiences can lead to behavioral changes and greater happiness, as described in this article on Writing Your Way to Happiness. (I imagine journalers everywhere are blinking as though someone had announced the sky is blue.)

Speaking of writing, I loved these 25 Writing Hacks From A Hack Writer, many of which I think are applicable as general adulthood hacks. (Found thanks to Caiti via her latest Link Love post.)

I recognized myself in Shauna's post, Burn the Candles. For me, it's fancy soaps and bath products.

I can't wait for these: Elizabeth Gilbert's latest and Gretchen Rubin's latest.

Watched & Listened
Thomas Rhett's cover of "When I Was Your Man" // Kendrick Lamar's "i" // Sera Cahoone's "Deer Creek Canyon" // Yonder Mountain String Band live at Boulder Theater // The "Bluegrass Covers" station on Spotify

Prompted by Serial withdrawal, I started listening to the Criminal podcast. I like that the episodes are self-contained, and how the stories explore human nature through the lens of crime.

Also on the podcast front, I recently discovered Bulletproof Radio, a series in which Dave Asprey interviews today's top thinkers, writers, scientists, and scholars about human performance and how to "upgrade" your life using everything from flow states to systems thinking and much more. It's a bit aggressively "self-help-y" in tone at times, but the topics are usually fascinating and I find myself learning about things I wouldn't normally pay any attention to.

I love Vimeo because I always seem to randomly stumble across beautiful films like this one: Of Souls + Water, about a displaced surfer who finds solace in the rivers of the American West.

I'm planning to download Buddhify today on Susannah's recommendation. (Have you tried it? Thoughts?)

Several Forrest yoga classes. Running outdoors thanks to a week of unseasonably warm and sunny weather.

A long hike in Eldorado Canyon, with a 1,000-ft elevation gain and stunning views of the plains framed by the canyon mouth (photo above). Scrambling up still-icy trails in my YakTrax, I felt very connected to my intention to find #thewildwithin.

Simple weeknight meals of oven-roasted chicken thighs (seasoned with Allie's cumin salt) with arugula salad, sautéed ground lamb + mint + feta over mixed greens, and Paleo kale and sausage minestrone.

A few squares of super high-quality dark chocolate every day. My current favorites are Theo's dark chocolate coconut bar and anything made by Alter Eco.

This candle, picked up on a whim from Target. It's seriously the yummiest scent.

What did you read, watch, listen to, and savor this month?

Saturday, January 10, 2015

The Wild Within: My Theme for 2015

Until a couple of days ago, I wasn't going to choose a word for 2015. I'd given it some thought, and had come up with a few contenders, but none evoked a "yes" from deep in my soul.

But a couple of days ago, I was reading through some journal entries from this past fall, and came across my answers to some exercises from The Desire Map. In trying to identify one of my core desired feelings, I had described an image I had in my mind of a woman who was wild and free: a woman fiercely attuned to her own primal instincts and needs, aware of her own strength, and deeply and inextricably in relationship with the life-giving properties of her environment, tribe, and community.

If you've read Women Who Run With The Wolves, you might recognize this archetype. As Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes:
"Within every woman there is a wild and natural creature, a powerful force, filled with good instincts, passionate creativity, and ageless knowing. Her name is Wild Woman, but she is an endangered species."
As you might have guessed already from the title of this blog, I have previously identified a connection with the concept of "wild." The Necessary Wild refers to quotes by both John Muir and Edward Abbey, both of whom wrote about wilderness as a necessity of the human spirit. Until recently, though, I thought of wilderness as being "out there," a force to engage with as often as possible--yet still somehow distinct from my own being.

In 2015, I want to honor the wild within: the natural, instinctive, intuitive, primordial, untamed pieces of myself that render us humans part of the natural world, not separate from it.

I'm still brainstorming ways this might manifest, but so far have identified some actions both simple and complex. 

Things like going barefoot when possible (a great way to reawaken lost neural pathways!). Ditching "exercise" for the inherent joys of functional movement (think: hiking, climbing, and scrambling up steep boulders versus treadmill-ing or elliptical-ing). Spending as much time outdoors as possible. An unreasonable amount even. And using travel opportunities to explore the local natural environment. Paying closer attention to my environment. Taking my earbuds out while trail running. Enjoying the whispers of the wind, the birdsong, and the gurgles of a creek for a change. Aligning my activities with the seasonal patterns of the earth (for example, circadian rhythms). Exploring and adding rituals to my everyday life. Allowing my intuition to guide my choices--without apology or explanation. Exploring and playing with the concepts of power and strength: where are they present in my life and where could they be present? Exploring and playing with concepts of tribe and community. And, at the same time, being fiercely selective about with whom and how I spend my time. Noticing when I tamp down, repress, silence, or otherwise tame any part of myself for others, and shifting. Creating space for others to do the same. Writing about my experiences as a way to document the journey.

Estes writes:
"Be wild; that is how to clear the river. The river does not flow in polluted, we manage that. The river does not dry up, we block it. If we want to allow it its freedom, we have to allow our ideational lives to be let loose, to stream, letting anything come, initially censoring nothing. That is creative life. It is made up of divine paradox. To create one must be willing to be stone stupid, to sit upon a throne on top of a jackass and spill rubies from one’s mouth. Then the river will flow, then we can stand in the stream of it raining down."
Here's to a wild 2015.