The Voice

Yesterday I woke up and walked into the living room where two adorable but devilish towheaded Venezuelan/Norwegian preteen sleepyheads began shushing me so that they could go back to sleep on my couch.

“It’s so early, Tia,” one of them muttered. I wanted to remind them sooo badly about every time I’d slept over at their place, trying to ignore the inevitable as their curious heads bobbed over me at 5:15 AM, “whispering” about a fingernail’s distance from my ear to see if I was awake yet.

Sweet voices saying, “Mommy said not to wake her up,” “I want some milk,” “Go see if she’s awake yet.” “Tia, are you awake yet?” I’m awake. But now that the tides had turned, they weren’t having any of it.

So instead of shoving them off my couch, I made eggs, put on my running tights and shoes, and gathered the rest of my gear while their angel of a mother finally succeeded in getting them out of bed. This is why I like being the auntie. I get all the fun of sleepovers with the littles, but mom is there to put her foot down while I get the luxury of making my eggs in relative peace.

Shortly after my adopted herd left, I met up with Chrissy at our regular spot.

“You know we’re doing the whole thing today, right? No backing down. We’re doing the loop,” meaning once we crossed over the bridge, we had arrived at the point of no return. On this particular route, if you ran the out and back way, it was approximately 7.5 miles. If you were brave enough to get to the bridge and decide to keep on going, you would cash in at just until 9 miles. Ugh. I knew we had to do it. Chrissy was training for her next half marathon and I…I just needed a running buddy, and I was enough of a glutton for punishment to agree to this weekly torture. Don’t get me wrong, I like running. I even sometimes get that runner’s high. And it’s fantastic to be able to spend two hours catching up with my friend, since we very rarely see each other outside of running. But there is a lot of that two hours where I’d really like to be sleeping or watching TV. Funny how something so miserable on your body and mind as running can dig into your soul and refuse to let go, no matter how much you beg it. Yep. Running is like that.

glam trailhead
Our glamorous trailhead at Springwater Corridor

So we ran. And ran. And ran. The sun came out and I started sweating. I peeled off my layers while Chrissy kept her two long sleeved ones firmly on. We got to the bridge and didn’t even want to give ourselves the chance of forfeit, so we kept on. We chatted about work, my dating life, her kids, group gossip, and when the bridge that would lead us to the end appeared, we gave yelps of hallelujah and ran on.

When I got home, I had a few hours to stretch and get ready for my next event. I was going to a wedding reception. I groaned because I knew this would require heels. Let me tell you something, ladies. No one tells you that when you start running, your feet will never again look as pretty as they once were. I have a bunion that I’ve named Bert, and he was not at all pleased that I had to put on my tight black ankle booties. But it had to be done. Weddings are a great place to meet available men, right? I had to be at least tall enough to see them while I stood in the crowd, wiping my eyes over my friends’ nuptials. Bert expressed his frustration with me the moment I got out of the car, so I didn’t stay as long as I’d have liked to, but at least I got to drop off my gift, hug the happy couple, and scan the crowd for eligible bachelors before hobbling away.

Upon returning home for the second time that day, I set about organizing the rest of my day. I had an application for a summer writing workshop due at midnight that evening. I had started two of the three parts, but they were far from being finished, and demanded several hours’ work. I also had to start making the bone broth, which is quite the process. It was my inaugural voyage on such a process, but I had my faithful first mate, Lisa, with me to help. (…I’ll be honest, she pretty much did the whole thing.) This included taking out the chicken that we’d cooked for the broth, shredding it for our “healthy” nachos, then putting back all the inside parts and using that as the stock base. Dinner was an ungodly level of amazing, but I couldn’t really enjoy it since I had to throw the dishes into the sink the second I was done and get to work on the fourth and final project of the evening: an application to the Tin House Summer Workshop. It was the last night before the application was due, but to be fair I had only just learned about it two weeks prior, and in those two weeks I’d also been researching Master’s Degree programs. Suffice it to say, I had a few things going on.

Sans nap, and too late for any additional caffeine, I was struggling. My body was saying No, no, no! You ran nine miles! You deserve a break! My mind was saying You’ve got this, tiger!! Thank God I allowed the mind to win, though I really didn’t have a choice in the matter. The deadline was midnight and it was well past 8:00 PM. I cracked open my computer and hopped to it.

I finished the application with an hour and 12 minutes to spare. I went to bed and laid there WIDE AWAKE because my adrenaline was so high. Today I’m taking my caffeine intravenously.

*

I have this voice that talks down to me sometimes. It questions my worth. It questions my life choices, job choices, actions. It questions everything. It mocks me when I’m down. I hate that I even acknowledge it, but I do. I don’t feel like I’m enough.

And then I have a day like this, where I can honestly say I used every single second to move myself forward towards a better Becky. Every single second. I bet even CEOs can’t say that all the time. So I lift my head up and thank myself for being exactly who I was meant to be.

A Love Note

Becky and the trees in their joy!

I’ve got several things I need to write about, but I’ve chosen my trip to the California Redwoods with my cousins Linda, Michael, and Tutu, since it is still fresh in my mind. Indulge me if this seems like “nature porn” to you. My sister, Sarah (the originator of the term nature porn), made me aware that some of my last posts about nature border on…intimate. The thing is, that is how I feel about nature. I can’t help it. Please accept my flowery prose as yes, a love note to nature. Just roll your eyes behind my back. Or nod your head and say to yourself, right on Becky!

I watched The Celestine Prophecy the night before I left for my Redwoods adventure. I have read the book no less than six times, but seeing one director’s interpretation of the story in action was unforgettable. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s a book written about eight insights that the main character discovers throughout his journey to Peru. Much of the story takes place in the jungle, a most beautiful and magical setting, and coincidentally much like the place I was to see in my own upcoming adventures. The main character was a naïve history teacher, not knowing that when he got laid off, everything that had happened up until that moment was all a part of his greater plan. One of the insights he learned was that he needed to start paying attention to every little thing that was happening around him. Notice the coincidences around you; they all mean something. His journey also taught him to be in the moment, and manifest what you want.

I have been exploring these themes in my own life for several years now, as you know if you have read my blog before. It occurs to me that each time I experience The Celestine Prophecy I learn something new. The lesson that everything happens for a reason was highlighted when I realized there was absolutely a reason that I watched this movie right before heading to my own magical locale. Of course I’ve always understood that the history teacher made his way to a beautiful place. Every story needs a setting. It just never dawned on me that the jungle was actually a character in his story, as the Redwoods would become a character in my story.

They glowed under my attention, and I in theirs. The minute I was in them, I could feel their energy. In the movie, when the history teacher focuses his gaze on a philodendron, he sees its energy, or aura. It touches him. I felt the same in the midst of the giant trees and their unique ecosystem. As the sun pushed its way down, all the way down—dozens of feet of each tree—the beams would touch and highlight the brilliant green of the undergrowth. The effect was visually magical, and physically warming. The opulence of the trees, and the knowledge that they have seen more than any human can ever tell, was stunning. Did you know these trees have been around since the time of the dinosaurs? The fact that they are still on earth because of the stubbornness and love of a few special people was fantastical. These trees had been 90% harvested until the Save-the-Redwoods League was created to protect them. I felt that history with every move I made. I was being hugged by the spirit of these trees; I could actually feel a lovely thickness around me. Inside, I felt a peace and fullness. Most of all I experienced love. I know it may sound a little silly; trees don’t have the cognitive ability to love. But if I can love the forest, why can’t it love me back?

My family wandered the woods with me. We spoke excitedly some, but mostly we all just drank it in. Tutu, my 82-year old cousin, repeated softly to me, “We are so lucky, do you know how lucky we are to be here?” I appreciated her comment, but instead of feeling lucky I felt more blessed than anything. It wasn’t luck that brought me here; it was my will, and the will of the Universe. It wasn’t luck that led me to drive the five hours each way from Portland to Medford where my cousins Linda and Michael live, and then on another few hours to California. It was my desire to Be there.

I had been traveling for two weeks straight before this trip and I almost cancelled because I was so tired of living out of a suitcase. I just wanted to relax in my own home. But the Universe gave me a little nudge and told me that this was something I needed to experience NOW. Wouldn’t you know it, but the Universe was right again! To share this trip in words is something that is less than adequate, but it is all I have. I hope, if you visit, the trees give you the same love they gave to me.

 

When I Get That Feeling, I Want Nature to Heal Me

The lick of wind on my ear whispers to me, keeps me mesmerized, and I can’t go inside just yet. I need these trees, the moss, and the giant clovers of the shady forest hiking trails. I need to scramble over rocky hillsides, sometimes in the snow. This woman yearns to taste the outside as long as she can stand it, because it is magical. So I wait another few minutes in order to keep the feeling from leaving too quickly.

I am so grateful to live in the Pacific Northwest. I moved here eight years ago not particularly caring about the wilderness. I didn’t want to harm it, but I didn’t want to be out in it, either. I didn’t like walking through spider webs (To be fair, I am still terrified of spiders!), was not a fan of mud-encrusted shoes, and never had the urge to hug a tree. I liked all sorts of other things about Portland, but the outdoors was not of much importance. I was not really aware of the big “green” movement and what it meant to the environment the way I am now, although I do remember being stunned at the amount of trees below the plane when I flew in to visit before my big move. That completed my impression of Oregon’s wilderness until about three years ago. My love of the outdoors started because my friend and I wanted to do something that didn’t cost much money. I wanted to go to a Lumberjax game. He was in grad school at the time, and was low on cash. I asked him, “Well then, Ben, what do people do around here on the cheap?” He asked me if I liked to hike. I wanted to impress my new friend so I told him I did. In truth, I had never done anything other than Multnomah Falls, an easy and short but steep hike in the Columbia River Gorge. It is the most popular hike for tourists, it is never quiet, and would not be considered wilderness under any circumstances, although it is extremely beautiful. We ended up doing a five-mile loop that involved crossing a couple small creeks, walking over more than a few patches of snow, and viewing two gorgeous waterfalls. I fell in love. At the end we felt amazing. Only later did I tell him that I hadn’t ever really hiked before and that after that hike I saw myself as a total bad ass. Since then we’ve upped our mileage and elevation. Last time I checked we are still total bad asses.

For me, there is no hiking season; there are only more layers of synthetic clothing. My weekend uniform is generally cargo hiking pants, a sweat-wicking shirt, SmartWool socks, and a bandana. I don’t care if I look pretty or not. I just want to be at a comfortable temperature and be able to move easily. I now love spring hiking in the Gorge with the wildflowers and the mucky muddy hikes. I can’t wait until the deepest snow finally melts so I can get to the Mt. Hood hikes. Summer hikes are sweaty but fun.

One of my favorite things about hiking is that it’s a time to let go of any unnecessary emotion. I feel awe at the enormity of the trees and the sky; I almost always feel uncertain when the trail splits and I don’t know which way to go. These feelings are part of the experience. The emotions I want to let go of are the ones that make me feel less than whole:  guilt, fear, anger. Emotions like these have a tendency to creep into the day and overshadow the positive. They shouldn’t, but they do. These emotions disappear when I am out there; it’s an amazing salve for any pain I have in my life. They literally flow out of me like the rivers I so adore for their propensity to make waterfalls, which are my absolute favorite thing about hiking. Rivers can be turbulent and dangerous things, but out of them come remarkable beauty. On the trail I can just Be, shedding the societal baggage of ego and all that comes with it.

I wasn’t going to write a post this week. I was going to let this week slide, let myself recover from a long holiday weekend and the remnants of my birthday celebration. Instead I felt compelled to write this particular post, just in time for my last birthday hurrah—a nine mile hike tomorrow at a new trail. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate me.