Sunday, December 14, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: A Few Of My Favorite Things

Here are a few items I would be stoked to give or get this year: things to help take care, move, nourish, adorn, and discover. 

Some are new (or new-to-me), while some are tried-and-true favorites. 

Enjoy!

Take Care:

Clockwise from top left: 
Korres Ultimate Shots Collection. These fruit-infused face masks make the perfect mini-indulgence.
Badger Balm Mind Balm Variety Pack. These calming aromatherapeutic scents are great to keep in your purse, car, or desk drawer.
Lavanila Roller-Ball Trio. You'll be licking your wrists with these deliciously sweet fragrances. 
Tweezerman Pink Perfection Filemate Nail File. The best stocking stuffers are fun, yet pragmatic.
Acure Coconut Pumpkin Body Wash. Give someone a mid-winter taste of the tropics in a silky beach-scented body wash.
Acure Lip Lush. Winter calls for lip moisture. Try one of these argan oil lip glosses that come in pretty and subtly-saturated shades.

Move:

Clockwise from top left: 
Teeki Deer Medicine Teal Hot Pant. I'm dying over these cute yoga pants made from recycled glass bottles.
Abby Paffrath Custom Trucker Hats. Warning: you may become obsessed with these trucker hats customized with Abby's gorgeous Western-themed paintings. Not that I would know.
bkr 500ML. Hydration just feels more fun with a vessel this beautiful.
Brooks Cascadia 9. Simply put, these are THE best trail running shoes, plus they also work for low-key or moderate hiking.
FitBit Flex. Fitness meets tech to help you track your health and habits.

Nourish:

Clockwise from top left:
LA Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil. This luxe olive oil provides the ultimate finishing touch for salads, soups, and everything in between.
Le Creuset Mug. Enjoy your coffee with this classic style in a cheerful color.
The Zenbelly Cookbook. You can't go wrong with Paleo recipes from a chef and caterer who really, like really loves food. 
Mrs. Meyers Iowa Pine Holiday Gift Set. Cleaning up after a meal doesn't have to be a chore with these festively-scented cleaning products.
Nourishing Broth. Bone broth is all the rage these days, but Sally Fallon is the original real deal.
Eat The Yolks. If you read one health-related book this year, make it Liz Wolfe's funny and impeccably-researched debunking of "food lies." (Hint: the yolks are good for you.)

Adorn:

Clockwise from top left: 
La Mer Neutral Tie Dye Gold Wrap Watch. Stay on schedule with this elegant and ever-so-slightly boho timepiece. (The watch pictured seems to be sold out so I've linked to a similar style).
TOMS Orange Arrows Fold Over Clutch. In case you can't justify an eighteenth pair of their shoes, this clutch will help sate your TOMS addiction.
Frye Smith Engineer Short. These badass boots will last you a thousand years. What's not to love?
Pendleton Neckwarmer. Stay toasty in this vibrantly-colored piece from the classic wool company.
CSERA Phone Case. This Etsy shop has the most AMAZING phone case designs. I want them all.
Moonstone Stud Earrings. Finish any outfit with these luxe, yet understated studs. (The studs pictured seem to be sold out, so I've linked to similar style)


Discover:

Clockwise from top left: 
The Desire Map Workbook 3-Pack. Work your way through Danielle LaPorte's fabulous book again and again with these workbooks.
Yoga Studio Membership. Isn't the time and space to breathe deeply the ultimate gift? Boulderites, check out the newly-opened Amana Yoga
Frends 'Layla' Headphones. The perfect accessory for the woman whose husband doesn't share her Serial (or Taylor Swift) obsession. Ahem.
Susannah Conway's The Sacred Alone E-Course. Knowing how to be alone is really important.
Surf Goddess Retreats. Because a woman can dream!

What are you giving or hoping to receive this year?

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Glasses of Water

My impulse in the face of overwhelming pain and injustice is silence. Not because I don't care, but because I care desperately, and it seems to me there is no earthly path to coherence.

There are no words, for example, to make sense of the fact that there have been 92 school shootings since Sandy Hook and still our leaders fail to pass laws that could prevent such violence.

No words that capture the destruction that industrialized agriculture has wrought on our communities, our bodies, and our climate in the name of profit.

No words for the horrors of war. For poverty. For the rampant sexism and rape culture that continue to rear their ugly twin heads.

And certainly no words that can accurately describe the brokenness of a culture that could fail to hold Darren Wilson accountable for the killing of Michael Brown.

Despite my love for the power of language, I find it fails me often. And yet, I continue to try because silence on the part of those in a position to make change is part of the problem.

Anne LaMott writes the following in her stunning book Help, Thanks, Wow (in the section entitled "Help":

"Death will not be the end of the story. [...] 
Human lives are hard, even those of health and privilege, and don't make much sense. This is the message of the Book of Job: Any snappy explanation of suffering you can come up with will be horseshit. [...] 
But where do we even start on the daily walk of restoration and awakening? We start where we are. We find God in our human lives, and that includes the suffering. I get thirsty people glasses of water, even if that thirsty person is just me."

I don't know how to fix the world's ills. I have my opinions, some passionately held. I don't pretend to be an activist (and in fact, find myself somewhat nauseated by the waves of temporary "armchair activism" these events tend to provoke), but my eyes are open to--and weep for--the pain and suffering of the human predicament, and I attempt to live out my values in the choices I make, in how I relate to the world.

So I don't know the answer. I don't even know how to articulate the not-knowing. But I have found some things to be true for myself. And in times of great pain, when I thirst an unquenchable thirst for an answer that will not come, I reach for glasses of water.

Here are a few.

I know the opposite of death is life, and I know the definition of life is creation. So I surround myself with acts of creation: works of music, art, and literature that move me. I inhale books like they're air and I exhale through my own written words. In this way, I stay alive.

I know that technology helps us achieve incredible things, but that, for me, it does not replace the bonds that foster real understanding. I have started leaving my phone in another room during dinner. My laptop remains unopened most weekends. I stop whatever I'm texting to look cashiers in the eye. It's not much, but it's something and I sometimes feel my humanity depends on it. Perhaps it does.

I know that my perspective hinges entirely on having an intimate and sustained relationship with the earth. Like, the actual earth. Walking on it, hiking its mountains, and dipping my toes in its icy cold lakes.

I believe peace, inner and outer, is not a fortuitous state, but a conscious and deliberate act. I spend a lot of time by myself and I try to pay attention to my thoughts. I have awakened to the fact that I get to choose the ones I want to keep and discard the rest.

I know that prayer, even to an unnamed source, helps.

Sunlight helps.

And that a nourishing meal, thoughtfully prepared by hand from whole ingredients, can be an act of rebellion in a world of on-demand convenience.

Do not misunderstand. I have no magic answer, no prescription for what ails us.

I have no snappy explanation for human suffering, no cleverly packaged horseshit to offer.

But if you're thirsty too, perhaps we can get glasses of water for each other.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Sunday Snippets: Things To Do


Happy Sunday! Here are a few favorites from around the interwebs to wrap up your weekend.

Ward off this season's flu bug by beating stress

Doing distinctive and innovative work garners support--and criticism. Learn to embrace the latter.

Read about why bone broth, a paleo/primal staple, is catching on in a big way. (Someone please open one of these in Colorado.)

And if you're feeling inspired, make a belly-warming soup with one of these small-batch broths.

Listen to this gorgeous and richly layered interview on cultivating a wild love for the world.

Understand what you need to be happy.

To simplify your life, start with an empty container.

Then read this surprisingly evocative book on the life-changing magic of tidying up. (Gamechanger: keep only things that "spark joy" in your heart.)

And when you're done reading that, read this, this, and this.

Get your vanilla fix with this heavenly trio.

Then banish dry winter skin with one of these hand creams.

Become out-of-your-mind addicted to this podcast.

Cook something outside your comfort zone. I recommend a dish from one of these two breathtaking cookbooks.

Order a proper New York deli brunch spread for the morning after Thanksgiving.

Try an at-home yoga practice with this indie yoga playlist.

Then check out some lightweight ear candy.

Have a lovely rest of your day.

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Don't Block the Tackle: Perfection & Getting What You Really Want

I've been working my way through the exercises in The Desire Map by Danielle LaPorte, and at one point in the book, she recommends writing down what you want. It's a deceptively simple exercise. I say deceptive because most of us think we know what we want. We have our goals and our vision boards. We have our agendas, and our plans. Our "30 before 30" lists and bucket lists and on and on.

But how often do we ask ourselves the question so straightforwardly: What is it that I want?

It's interesting, the kinds of answers the mind provides.

Things like long hikes and solitary sunrises, skies streaked shades of neon pink. The feeling of warmth on my skin, to be engulfed by the smell of sun-baked pine, to wander along dusty trails, and to be astonished by the beauty of nature, over and over again. The mountains and the mesas of the American West, always. Thunderstorms, the kind that shake me out of my bones and bring with them lightning so bright it leaves imprints on the inside of my eyelids. To run long and hard. Yoga so transcendent I lose my mind...and find it again. To read widely; to worship at the altar of literature that makes me laugh or cry. Ritual, clarity, magic, and the courage to be vulnerable in the face of fear. Connection and community. Eight hours of sleep per night, and the occasional all-nighter that involves dancing till dawn. The most delicious and nourishing food I can afford. Dinners around the table, the faces of loved ones illuminated by candlelight. Whiskey, wine, and the kind of friends that prompt me to give tipsy, teary-eyed toasts to their utter irreplaceability. Really good coffee, preferably organic. A space filled with art, light, texture, plants, and the laughter of people I cherish. An easy and informed relationship with my finances. Work that makes an impact--that changes the definition of what's possible--and the opportunity to mentor and be mentored by those I admire. A messy, real, all-in kind of love. A messy, real, all-in kind of life.

You know what didn't make the list in any way, shape, or form?

The word "perfect." The concept of perfection. Or any variation thereof.

This does not surprise me.

Because here is what I know about perfection.

Perfectionism is a shield, a way to protect ourselves from the possibility of not being "enough" of something for someone. Because if we have to be perfect, we can't ever be ready and therefore we never have to share ourselves with the world. We never have to run the risk that we'll step up to the plate, swing with everything we've got, and miss. So, instead we sit on the sidelines of our life, silently practicing our moves to perfection under the guise of "preparation" until we realize the game has long since ended and the stadium has gone dark.

Perfectionism is a badge, one that we relish with a a twisted sense of pride at the chronic stress, illness, and exhaustion that accompanies its relentless pursuit. Our symptoms, we reason, are proof positive that we're working hard enough. After all, we've worn ourselves out with all our incredibly hard work! So we curl into the cocoon of perfectionism, safe in the knowledge of our own worthiness--relieved that our constant activity precludes questions like do I believe in what I'm doing? and does it bring me pleasure? and, perhaps most subversively, is it really the best use of my time?

Perfectionism is the whip that ensures we're hustling on the surface of our lives, never dipping into the substance. The great irony is that perfectionism lets us off the hook for the things that matter most. It removes accountability for the messy and difficult work of creating lives of true meaning and joy.

Obsessing over the level of cleanliness of the house leaves little time for examining whether we're living in a place, or a city, that feels like home.

Bemoaning a blemish in the mirror makes it difficult to notice how we feel about the person--as opposed to the appearance--in the mirror.

Beating ourselves up over a broken relationship or professional misstep means we never get to ask: What did I learn from this about who I am and what I want?

And you know what else is true about perfectionism? At the end of the day, it's really pretty boring. I don't know about you, but I've never hoped to be remembered for the cleanliness of my countertops, the tightness of my pores, or the lengths to which I went in order to avoid upsetting anyone.

The wonderful Cheryl Strayed wrote in Tiny Beautiful Things, "The best thing you can possibly do with your life is to tackle the mother[effing] shit out of it."

Perfectionism blocks the tackle. It keeps us in the periphery of our lives, while the real story, the interesting story happens under our noses yet out of reach. Not only is perfection not helpful in the pursuit of what we want, it's downright incompatible with it--maybe even its opposite--because it keeps us small, fearful, tired, boring, and bored...in other words, exactly the things we don't want to be.

No, I don't want perfect. Give me "the full catastrophe," as Zorba the Greek referred to the imperfect fullness of life, bursting with...well, life.

Life. Real life. Real, imperfect life and its infinite potential.

Now that's what I want.

Blitz!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Choices That Changed My Life (In 30 Quotes)


For my 30th birthday, I considered writing one of those "Thirty things I've learned by 30" lists, but honestly, most of what I would have written has already been said by others. So, instead, I'm choosing to share the choices that have changed and shaped my life in some way, as articulated in these thirty quotes.

These quotes and the ideas they express are specific to my own personal experiences; many I stumbled upon at exactly the right moment in my life.

Perhaps you will find a few that speak to you as well.

The choice to be curious:
1. "Sell your cleverness and buy bewilderment." --Rumi

2. "Your preparation for the real world is not in the answers you’ve learned, but in the questions you’ve learned how to ask yourself." --Rainer Maria Rilke


The choice to follow my heart West:

3. "The mountains are calling and I must go." --John Muir

4. "What is that feeling when you're driving away from people and they recede on the plain till you see their specks dispersing? - it's the too-huge world vaulting us, and it's good-bye. But we lean forward to the next crazy venture beneath the skies." --Jack Kerouac, On The Road


5. "I want to repeat one word for you: LeaveRoll the word around on your tongue for a bit. It is a beautiful word, isn't it? So strong and forceful, the way you have always wanted to be. And you will not be alone. You have never been alone. Don't worry. Everything will still be here when you get back. It is you who will have changed.” --Donald Miller, Through Painted Deserts


The choice to follow my passion(s):

6. "Stay close to any sounds that make you glad you are alive." --Hafiz

7. "If you haven't found it yet, keep looking." --Steve Jobs


8. "If it's both terrifying and amazing, then you should definitely pursue it." --Erada


And to do it now:

9. "The trouble is, you think you have time." --Buddha

10. "One day you will wake up, and you won't have any more time to do the things you've always wanted. Do it now." --Paul Coelho

11. "Start before you're ready." --Steven Pressfield

The choice to let go of the tyranny of perfectionism:

12. "Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft. I think perfectionism is based on the obsessive belief that if you run carefully enough, hitting each stepping-stone just right, you won't have to die. The truth is that you will die anyway and that a lot of people who aren't even looking at their feet are going to do a whole lot better than you, and have a lot more fun while they're doing it." --Anne LaMott, Bird by Bird

13. "And now that you don't have to be perfect, you can be good." --John Steinbeck


The choice to dream big, unreasonable dreams:

14. "When you set down the path to create art, whatever sort of art it is, understand that the path is neither short not easy. That means you must determine if the route is worth the effort. If it's not, dream bigger." --Seth Godin, Linchpin

15. "Envision, create, and believe in your own universe, and the universe will form around you." --Tony Hsieh, Delivering Happiness


The choice to believe in myself:

16. "But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do --
determined to save
the only life you could save." --Mary Oliver


17. "We are the ones we've been waiting for." --Hopi Elders

The choice to honor the wild within:
18. "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." -Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run with the Wolves

19. "You were wild once. Don't let them tame you." --Isadora Duncan

The choice to be happy:
20. "People tend to burden themselves with so many choices. But, in the end, you can throw it all away and just make one basic, underlying decision: Do you want to be happy, or do you not want to be happy? It’s really that simple. Once you make that choice, your path through life becomes totally clear." --Michael A. Singer, The Untethered Soul

And free:
21. "There is a huge amount of freedom that comes to you when you take nothing personally."  --Miguel Ruiz, The Four Agreements

And courageous:
22. "Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage."  --Anais Nin  

23. "Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it." --Bill Cosby

24. "Don't be cool. Cool is conservative fear dressed in black. Free yourself from limits of this sort." --Bruce Mau

The choice to run:
25. "Run. For your life, for your joy, for your calm and peace of mind. Run. Because your legs are strong and your lungs are aching for the taste of air. Run. Because what’s the point of a life spent walking in the middle?" --Tyler Gregson

The choice to believe in magic:
26. "And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don't believe in magic will never find it." -Roald Dahl

27. "The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper." --W.B. Yeats

The choice to look within:
28. "There is a voice that doesn't use words. Listen." --Rumi

29. "We search for happiness everywhere, but we are like Tolstoy's fabled beggar who spent his life sitting on a pot of gold, under him the whole time. Your treasure--your perfection--is within you already. But to claim it, you must leave the buy commotion of the mind and abandon the desires of the ego and enter into the silence of the heart." --Elizabeth Gilbert

And finally, the choice to turn 30 with this in mind:
30. "It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams." --Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: September Edition

Arches National Park near Moab, UT. If you ever have the opportunity to visit this place, you must. It is pure magic.
“Outside the leaves on the trees constricted slightly; they were the deep done green of the beginning of autumn. It was a Sunday in September. There would only be four. The clouds were high and the swallows would be here for another month or so before they left for the south before they returned again next summer.” --Ali Smith, The Whole Story and Other Stories
And just like that, the month is over. A few days late, here's a little summary of what I read, watched, listened to, and savored this past month.

Read
I'm still working my way through Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey's autobiographical account of the three summers he spent as a park ranger at Arches National Park in Utah the 1960's. I read sections of the book while camping in Moab last weekend, a trip that included an 8-mile hike/run/scramble  through the very landscape Abbey describes. Rambling up stretches of sun-baked sandstone, inhaling deep breaths of the woodsy Juniper pines that line the trail, I thought of Abbey's words:

"One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.” 

What Insights Do Baristas Get About Customers Based On Their Coffee Orders? I found it oddly moving how much care for the human spirit is evident in these descriptions--the effort to phrase an offer of whipped cream in the affirmative, for example. Fascinating stuff.

Also! I picked up The Desire Map at a hippie boutique in Telluride (where we spent a few days hiking and exploring on our way back from Moab), and devoured it on the car ride home. The thought of backing away from rigid goals in favor of pursuing core desired feelings resonates strongly. 

I'm currently playing with the following words and (my own) definitions: 

Engaged: rapt, immersed, fully present in all that I do

Spacious: the discernment to say "no" in order to create space and capacity for "yes"...with people, projects, and possessions.

Luminous: a sense of being illuminated from within by the quality of what I feed my body, mind, and spirit.

Channel: an openness to creativity and divine inspiration; a commitment to living life fully expressed.

Attuned: instinctual, intuitive, embracing of my innate sensitivity to the physical world around me; a willingness to honor the naturally wild and untamed in myself and my environment. See Women Who Run with the Wolves.

I loved reading about Caiti's writing process.

The Complete Guide To Structuring Your Ideal Work Day.

Great to see that clinical studies are validating what I have found empirically true for myself in recent years. (Although, as with any way of eating, I believe the quality of food matters. It would be interesting to see how outcomes would've changed if, for example, they'd encouraged a group to consume fats specifically from properly raised, pastured animals.)


Watched & Listened
The Civil Wars' Billie Jean // Sam Smith's Fast Car // Labrinth's Shake It Off // Ben Howard's Call Me Maybe // Ed Sheeran and Passenger's No Diggity // Kings of Leon's Dancing On My Own

Why You Will Fail To Have a Great Career. Find your passion. No excuses.

Savored
This cider, the perfect treat for fall. My favorite flavor is the Honey Crisp.

Art-filled walls after (finally) getting our artwork hung up in our new place.

Paleo Chicken Chili made with fresh, local green chiles. Grain-free Coconut Pumpkin Spice Muffins and Pear Ginger Crumble. Diced sweet potato sautéed in ghee or coconut oil with my morning eggs. A pinch of nutmeg and cinnamon sprinkled on top of my morning coffee.

I so love the cozy scents of autumn, and have been enjoying burning these candles. (Oh, and don't these look amazing?).

Turning 30 in a few days. And feeling really excited about the awesome shifts that seem to take place when people, women especially, reach this milestone. As Ann Friedman writes:

It was around age 29 that the number of f***s I gave about other people’s opinions dipped to critically low levels. Which freed up all kinds of mental and emotional space for the stuff I was really passionate about.

Yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes.

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

Sunday, September 21, 2014

What Sundays in September Are For: Pear Ginger Crumble


Sundays in September are for taking the long way, for taking a backroad, and for finding yourself nearly blinded by the brilliance of the aspen trees dotting the landscape. For stopping the car to stand beneath a grove and look up at the leaves, winking like a million gold coins against a bluebird sky. For whispering thanks to no one in particular. For wishing, fleetingly, that you could bottle up the color like paint in a small vial and keep it on a shelf where you can see it every day. For being grateful that you can't.

Sundays in September are for being out of doors, on a trail, or a riverbank. For absorbing the last of summer's mellow warmth, for scrambling over outcroppings of sandstone, and for resting for a moment in the shadow of a juniper tree. 

Sundays in September are for spending a long afternoon engaged in solitude and self-nourishment, for reading or perhaps baking something with the warming spiciness of ginger and just a hint of sweetness, like this pear ginger crumble.


Sundays in September are for savoring your pear ginger crumble at your kitchen table, listening to some of your favorite music. For feeling a little bit melancholy as the sun bids the afternoon farewell, signaling the end of a picture perfect autumn day. For slowing down. For stillness. For reverence.


Pear Ginger Crumble

IngredientsAbout 4 cups ripe pears, thinly sliced
Juice of half a lemon
1/2 tbsp pumpkin pie spice blend (mix of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove)
1-2 tbsp honey or maple syrup1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1/2 tsp vanilla extract2 cups almond meal
1/3 cup walnuts, chopped
1/2 cup melted coconut oil, butter, or ghee
Crème fraîche (optional, for garnish)

To Make:Preheat your oven to 385 degrees. Grease an 8x8 in square pan with coconut oil, butter, or ghee. Add the sliced pears, lemon juice, pumpkin pie spice blend, honey, ginger, and vanilla extract to the pan. Stir gently until the pears are coated nicely in the other ingredients. In a separate bowl, combine the almond meal, walnuts, and melted coconut butter and stir until the almond meal is just a little bit crumbly. Spoon the almond meal mixture into the pan on top of the pear slices in an even layer. Bake for about 25 minutes or until the top turns golden brown. Serve warm with a dollop of crème fraîche and another sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice blend.

To Listen:
Call Me In The Afternoon // Half Moon Run
Cherry Wine // Hozier
Beautiful Girl // William Fitzsimmons
Medicine // Daughter
Poison & Wine // The Civil Wars
Wide Eyes // Local Natives
Bloom // The Paper Kites
Ooh Child // Beth Orton

Monday, September 15, 2014

The Door: Notes On My Writing Process


Step 1: Acknowledge the Person and Site Who Involved You in the Challenge
When I first stumbled upon Allie's blog, I had the uncanny experience of peering into a mirror. Such was the strength of our commonalities, which include a shared love for yoga, dogs, good food, all manner of outdoor adventuring, the American Southwest, and a desire to craft a simple, intentional life. The more I read, however, the more I realized that, despite our similarities, Allie's voice is her own. In the world of blogging, Allie stands out to me for her unwillingness to be anybody but herself and to peel back the layers of that self, writing with honesty about topics that others might shy away from, like how she's healing her relationship to her body.

Allie, thank you for the kind words, for tagging me in this challenge, and, most of all, for your refreshing vulnerability. You are a true original. I can't wait to see where your journey leads.

Step 2: Answer 4 Questions About Your Writing Process
1) WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON?
I think this question may be referring to specific projects, but I prefer to answer it in broader terms.

So, here are some things I'm working on:

Writing with integrity (capturing the nuance)
Describing the thing that illustrates the idea, instead of stating the idea
Not comparing my writing to others
Trusting that the only way to touch upon the universal is to illuminate the deeply personal

2) HOW DOES YOUR WORK DIFFER FROM OTHERS' WORK OF THE SAME GENRE?
I don't really think of my writing as belong to a certain genre, although I suppose most of what I write could fit roughly into the autobiographical essay category, which is so diverse I would find it nearly impossible to compare and contrast my own work with others' of the genre. Mostly, I try to capture and share snippets of my own life that changed me somehow. There are so many writers doing so gracefully (more gracefully than I, certainly) whom I admire. So, I suppose my relationship to other writers of the same genre could best be described as aspiring.

3) WHY DO YOU WRITE WHAT YOU DO?
“The doors to the world of the wild Self are few but precious. If you have a deep scar, that is a door, if you have an old, old story, that is a door. If you love the sky and the water so much you almost cannot bear it, that is a door. If you yearn for a deeper life, a full life, a sane life, that is a door.”
--Clarissa Pinkola Estes, Women Who Run With the Wolves
The thing about writing is that it's actually fairly tedious work. I don't know about you, but I am rarely, if ever, astounded by my own brilliance. Never have I jotted down a sentence and said, "Aha! Now that's the opening line in the autobiography of my life." In fact, whenever I read back through my writing, I am, instead, stunned by its utter repetitiveness. Quite frankly, a lot of it is pretty boring.

The act of writing itself is fairly boring too, if you're doing it right. There is no instant gratification, no possibility of comments or likes, no links or hashtags or notifications. It's just you and the page and the compulsion from somewhere deep within: to give shape to the shapeless, to give momentary form to the tumble of the cartwheeling mind. It's pretty merciless stuff, really.

But here's the other thing about writing. When you maintain a regular practice of recording your innermost inklings, you begin to notice themes within the chaos, certain patterns that emerge like clusters of glittering lights from the fog.

You might notice, for example, that you've written "I feel called to be more kind to myself" on five separate occasions in the past month. And you decide, ok, I'm going to be more kind to myself. Or you notice that you keep writing about your yearning for adventure. So you think, huh, that's interesting; maybe I should plan some travel for this year. So you do those things, and you begin to realize that some part of you is revealed to yourself through your writing. You begin to trust that voice. As inarticulate and wholly unremarkable it may seem, it appears to know you.

Writing is the knock and it's the open door. It's the question that contains the answer. The process by which we pick up our thoughts like smooth stones from the river, and get to make a conscious decision about which ones to polish and which ones to throw back. I'm a kinder, gentler, saner human being when I'm 1) creating; and 2) able to distinguish between my inner monologue and my actual self. Writing, as a practice, means I'm doing both. So I practice and practice and practice some more.

4) HOW DOES YOUR WRITING PROCESS WORK?
Physically, it works like this. I sit down on my couch with my materials of choice: a classic Moleskine notebook and a fine point Sharpie pen with black ink. Mostly I write in silence, though instrumental music sometimes helps me concentrate. I write in the mornings, because that is when my thoughts are most chaotic and I feel compelled to organize them somehow. Typically, a cup of coffee grows cold at my side, usually my second of the morning. (I like the idea of drinking coffee while I write, but I tend to forget it's there.)

Sometimes the writing in my journal provides material for a blog post, but oftentimes not (see "boring" in #3 above). Other times, I have a blog post already composed in my mind, and skip straight to my computer. About half of these posts remain unpublished, though I occasionally re-visit those discarded drafts for further editing and refinement.

A few other notes on "process."

I find that my best, most authentic writing tends to be about whatever I feel strongly about at the time. So I tend to think about the past weeks,  months, or even years, and the moments that provoked an emotion, whether happiness, sadness, anger, or something else. I then attempt to distill, in words, what it was that touched me.

It's been said that the definition of art is anything that changes its audience. In my writing, I try to find and follow the thread of what's changed me. I'm working on trusting that my audience will perhaps recognize a piece of themselves in that journey, and that they too will be changed.

An ongoing part of my writing process is reading other writers' work, both fiction and non-fiction, on the topic of writing or not. It would be impossible to list all of these influences here, but a few works in particular include: Dani Shapiro's Still Writing, Anne LaMott's Bird by Bird, Seth Godin's LinchpinWriters on Writing, assorted works by Pam Houston, Annie Dillard, Cheryl Strayed, Barbara Kingsolver (her essays, in particular), and countless others.

Finally, I find the well of inspiration flows freely when I am spending plenty of time in solitude and in nature. Ditto when I am regularly moving my body in some way, whether it be running, hiking, or yoga. When I fail to move physically, things feel foggy mentally and my writing follows suit.

Step 3: Pass It On
Caiti, I've loved seeing your blog evolve over the years, and always admire how you manage to capture things I'm thinking in a way that somehow makes more sense than it does it my head (like your recent post about priorities). I'd love to hear more about your writing process, if you're up for it. Just follow the steps above!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Grain-Free Coconut Pumpkin Spice Muffins


I sometimes struggle with a self-imposed pressure to "enjoy" autumn in a specific way, as if I'll somehow miss out on its glory if I fail to execute the perfect seasonal to-do list: a dizzying prescription of corn mazes, pumpkin patches, fall foliage, football games, butternut squash bisques, scarves, boots, and mittened hands wrapped cozily around the ever-present Pumpkin Spice Latte. I used to write these kinds of Pinterest-induced checklists, in fact, until it all began feeling like a bit too much. (Not that there's anything wrong with those lists; I just personally found that adhering to a specific list caused me more FOMO-like stress than enjoyment, which seemed to defeat the purpose.)

These days, I'm more interested in paying close attention to my body and mind, noticing for example, the way my muscles and bones call more insistently for the slow and deliberate rhythms of my yoga practice rather than the frenetic pace of the trail run. I also find myself preferring the company of music, books, or my journal, leaning into introspection and away from the social self. It's the yin and the yang, the rooting and the rising, the inherent wisdom of our physical and emotional selves in response to the shift in season.

I notice too, my body craving the more rooted and grounding flavors of the season, of which pumpkin happens to be one of my favorites. I made these muffins last Sunday, and enjoyed them throughout the week as an addition to my morning eggs or as an afternoon snack. They pair especially well with an espresso or coconut milk latte. (Note to self. The perfectly staged Instagram shot is optional. And whatever you do, don't stress about adding "bake something pumpkin-flavored" to your to-do list.)

Ingredients
4 eggs (from free-range / pastured hens if you can find 'em)

1/2 cup canned organic pumpkin (make sure it's just pumpkin, and not "pumpkin pie filling")1/4 cup coconut oil, melted
1/3 cup raw honey, melted if needed

1/3 tsp salt
3/4 cup coconut flour
1 scant tsp pumpkin pie spice blend (mix of ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon, and clove)
1/3 tsp vanilla extract

To Make:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Grease 12 muffin cups with coconut oil, butter, or ghee. In a large bowl, combine and stir the eggs, canned pumpkin, coconut oil, honey, and salt. Mix and stir until smooth. Slowly add coconut flour, pumpkin pie spice, and vanilla extract to the batter while continuing to stir. Whisk batter vigorously until smooth. Divide batter evenly between muffin cups, and bake for approximately 12-15 minutes. Enjoy warm with a pat of coconut oil, butter, or ghee. 


Note:
I found that, perhaps due to the density of the coconut flour batter, these muffins didn't rise quite as much as conventional muffins might have, so don't worry if they appear somewhat smaller than you might expect. The top should be slightly crispy and the inside pleasantly moist.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: August Edition



It's so hard to believe it's Labor Day already, isn't it? I wrote in a recent post about feeling the need to hold onto summer this year, but in the past week, have felt myself relaxing into the change in season, shifting and softening with the transition, rather than resisting it.

August was a good month though, and I'm hesitant to bid it farewell. Here are some of the odds and ends I enjoyed these past few weeks.

Read
I started reading Sarah Pekkanan's, The Opposite of Me, but found it just a tad too frothy for my taste. So instead, I picked up Meg Wolitzer's The Interestings, which I found wholly engrossing: the perfect summer read. I also read Emma Straub's The Vacationers, which sounded, in theory, like another great summer read, but which I found just okay.

Currently, I'm taking a break from my fiction kick to read Desert Solitaire, Edward Abbey's autobiographical account of the three summers he spent as a park ranger at Arches National Park in Utah the 1960's. My husband and I are headed to Moab for a weekend of camping and hiking at the end of this month, so it seemed the perfect time to get lost in Abbey's descriptions of southeastern Utah's overwhelming beauty.

Also in the world of non-fiction, I've been enjoying Liz Wolfe's Eat The Yolks, a highly informative, very well-researched, and unexpectedly funny dismantling of modern "health food" propaganda. She makes the case, instead, for a Paleo / Primal way of eating (which she mostly refers to as simply eating "real food") with quotes like this one: "The calories in natural, unprocessed, real foods are more than just calories. They’re full of more magic than a Disney Princess convention." I've also been enjoying reading the archives of Liz's blog, where she writes about food, natural skincare, and her adventures in homesteading.

"Forget balance. Balance is bullshit. What I mostly crave is integrity and joy — a sense that I’m doing what I do excellently and getting a lot of pleasure out of it, that I’m used up and useful" and more from The Spiritual Art of Saying No.

Watched & Listened
I'm enjoying Caiti's new endeavor, The Book Wanderer, a YouTube channel "devoted to all things literary and bookish." In other words, all things wonderful! You can read about Caiti's decision to launch her channel here (and if you haven't checked out her fantastic blog yet, you really should).

This TEDx talk on How Meditation Can Reshape Our Brains and Krista Tippett interviewing Sean Corne on Yoga, Meditation in Action.

Kim Jordan, CEO and Co-Founder of New Belgium Brewing, talking about entrepreneurship and creating a values-driven culture at this Entrepreneurs Unplugged event. (I was fortunate enough to attend the live presentation.)

Riptide // Every Other Freckle // Octahate and Promises // Cherry Wine and From Eden

Savored
The last few weeks of summer exploring nearby Grand Lake and Brainard Lake.

Bulletproof coffee for the first time. I decided to give it a try after Kaileen mentioned it on her blog. The taste was slightly off-putting to me, but I did have an unusually high energy level throughout the day, so I may give it another go.

Simple meals that make use of summer's bounty and require no real recipe. Sweet corn, lightly charred on the grill, and tossed with basil and cherry tomatoes. Omelets with fresh zucchini or summer squash and a sprinkle of parmesan. Kale from our own garden tossed with toasted pecans, goat cheese, and dried cherries.

Writing, listening to music, and puttering around the house with the windows open to enjoy the hint of crisp fall air that's beginning to linger beyond the early morning hours.

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

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Brainard Lake

“Late in August the lure of the mountains becomes irresistible. Seared by the everlasting sunfire, I want to see running water again, embrace a pine tree, cut my initials in the bark of an aspen, get bit by a mosquito, see a mountain bluebird, find a big blue columbine, get lost in the firs, hike above timberline, sunbathe on snow and eat some ice, climb the rocks and stand in the wind at the top of the world."
--Edward Abbey


Sunday, August 17, 2014

Holding Onto Summer Salad



“i thank You God for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky; and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes"
--E.E. Cummings

Does anyone else feel suspended between the delicious anticipation of fall and the wish that summer would never end? Each year, I look forward to all the cozy trappings of autumn: the crisp air calling for soups and stews and the wild beauty of the leaves as they turn fiery-hued. However, this year's summer has been infused with such an energy and brightness that I am sure I will mourn it as it slips away, as the days turn cooler and shorter, and I am less and less beguiled by the call of the outdoors.

The fleeting nature of each season is, of course, part of its inherent charm. I am sure I would not appreciate summer nearly as much if it lasted all year. Alas, it does not, and I am filled with gratitude to have known it: to have breathed the hot and dusty air; to have sat outside with friends at dusk; to have seen the world through the white glimmer of the summer sun; and to have tasted the bounty of the season.

I am determined to take full advantage of this final month of the season by finding myself on a trail at every chance, running or hiking or simply enjoying the sight of a mountain ridge against "a blue true dream of sky." So it is with this salad, which tastes, to me, distinctly like the beginning of the last month of summer. I savored it slowly and intentionally, with a tiny pocket of grief in my heart at the short-lived vibrancy of its ingredients.


I hesitate to even call this a recipe, for truly, making this salad consists of putting the ingredients in a bowl and eating them. Consume it with all of your senses, holding onto the flavors.

Ingredients
3 heaping handfuls of mixed greens, such as spinach, arugula, or kale
1 ripe white peach, diced
1/2 ripe heirloom tomato, diced
2 pieces bacon, cooked and chopped, with grease reserved for the dressing
4-5 leaves of fresh basil, finely chopped

Dressing Ingredients
2 tbsp good olive oil
1 tbsp champagne vinegar
Juice of half a Meyer lemon
1 tbsp reserved bacon grease
Salt and pepper to taste


To Make:
Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl and, using two forks, move the ingredients around so the juice of the peach and tomato coats the leaves of the mixed greens. In a separate small bowl, combine the ingredients for the dressing and whisk briskly until well-incorporated. Pour the dressing onto the salad ingredients and again use your two forks to ensure the salad is evenly coated with dressing. Serve and enjoy.


Sunday, August 3, 2014

Grand Lake & Rocky Mountain National Park


“Maybe freedom really is nothing left to lose. You had it once in childhood, when it was okay to climb a tree, to paint a crazy picture and wipe out on your bike, to get hurt. The spirit of risk gradually takes its leave. It follows the wild cries of joy and pain down the wind, through the hedgerow, growing ever fainter. What was that sound? A dog barking far off? That was our life calling to us, the one that was vigorous and undefended and curious.” 
--Randy Heller


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Read // Watched // Listened // Savored: July Edition


Reading
I was so excited to set aside my PHR textbooks and resume reading for pleasure that I tore through a slew of books this month, including Megan Abbott's The End of Everything and Queenpin (brilliant, compulsively readable noir); Sarah Pekkanan's Catching Air (a perfectly light summer read); Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water (a decidedly not light memoir chronicling the author's search for love in all the wrong places); Taylor Jenkins Reid's After I Do (surprisingly nuanced chick lit); Molly Wizenberg's Delancey (less relateable than A Homemade Life but interesting nonetheless); and Rufi Thorpe's The Girls from Corona Del Mar (a stunningly authentic portrayal of friendship and coming of age--read it!). 

Up next on my list are another Sarah Pekkanan, The Opposite of Me, followed by another Taylor Jenkins Reid, Forever, Interrupted.

2014 Adventure Bucket List and Top Ten Life-List Adventures. #wanderlust

Coconut water wars. Whoa!

Fascinated by peoples' morning routines.

Watching & Listening

All Alright // Baby I Am Nobody Now // I'm Into You // Hey Mami and Coffee // Hunger of the Pine

The trailer for Wild. Really excited for this.

Savoring

These candles, inspired (as their name suggests) by fresh produce. Anthropologie had them on sale a couple weeks ago, so I picked up Kale, Tomato, and Beet.

Fresh basil, parsley, and mint straight from our garden.


This super refreshing face mask by one of my favorite brands. I put it on right after running and leave it on for about ten minutes before jumping into the shower.


Vinyasa Slow Flow at this new-to-me climbing gym (that also offers tons of yoga and fitness classes). Ninety heavenly minutes of slooooow alignment-focused flow. It's divine, and the perfect thing to balance all the running.


Weekend hiking adventures with my husband.

What are you reading, watching, listening to, and savoring this month?