When the wind strummed
The electric lines
I think I finally heard it then –

What whisper made
The heads of wheat
Sway in the timid light
Of unburnt day –

It was the flesh of clouds
The breeze of opened reveries.

 

 

 

 

First published on everywritersresource.com

I didn’t think
You could ride bicycles on waves

But in the spaces where I
Am crestfallen
The wheels fit just right
And you don’t have to pedal.

The waves cycle on,
The silent spokes
Glinting between us,
Split the world
Like a zoetrope,
Chopping oscillation,
Demanding the blended pulses
Of words in white-capped sentences.

The bicycle bobs up and down,
And neither you nor it will ever drown.

 

 

First published in Five 2 One Magazine, Issue 12: http://five2onemagazine.com/five-2-one-magazine-issue-12/

My dearest and darling Sierras,

You will have to be patient with me, I fear. Oh, of course I do hear the call of your Clark’s nutcrackers calling me from the dry white-bark pined heights to hike up and have a picnic or stay a starry night or two. But for the moment I cannot be witness to your majesty. I am sorry. Let me explain. I do think of you and your high lunar plateaus very often. So, so, often. Do know, that I miss you terribly, I really do. I knew I would, but I still left. I suppose your quite puzzled, may be even hurt by that?

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Mt Tyndall, Sierra Nevada

But who am I kidding? I’m the sensitive human swooning after your slopes, and you, you and your granite slabs don’t give even a quartz about how much I love you. You’ll never care, no matter how much I pine after you and how much I wish you did at times.

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On the slopes of Mt. Williamson, Sierra Nevada

Of course, you don’t judge me or anyone either, and that is all the more a reason to love you.

So here I find myself scoffing you and affording myself the luxury of getting to know some others. So that I can come back to know you even better. Yes, absolutely, I promise, that’s one of the reasons. Oh, but of course, I’m not just doing it for you, it’s for my own selfish yearnings to be quenched of course. Human is what I am, remember?

But you are afraid I’ll fall in love are you not? My own vanity would wish it so…

I can desiccate from Alp back to Sierra, of that I am sure, but after that I must certainly be quenched.

After all, mountains are lovers of the rarest sort, affording one luxuries that most cannot – chief among them patience and reassurance of a geological timescale. But at the same time they can be quite fickle – the freedom they permit is at the mercy of many caprices-   like the ruthlessness of their ripping winds or the indifference of their dry creek beds. What I will never understand is how mountains can have so much character and yet care so little…

near Mt. Langley, Sierra Nevada

near Mt. Langley, Sierra Nevada

I’ve left you know, only to know that I will come back. After all if I never left, how would I know that my happiness, or rather my person within you is complete? That I truly would not rather be anywhere else?

I do not yet know much about these Alps. I do know that they are beautiful and strikingly iconic, but are they warm (in the figurative sense)? How merciless are their glaciers? And how enchanting? Can these Alps do what I fear they might? Can they become the place I want to be? No, no that would not be possible. But it is dangerous for me to tempt, no? What do you think? That sparkling crisp scenery, those abundant snows, those hauntingly well chiseled ice formations, those daintily flowered meadows, and those eccentrically sculpted peaks… and let me not forget their charming creatures- the gliding chocards, the graceful chamois, the affable marmots and the nimble bouquetin… they are captivating indeed…

chocard gliding in Swiss bliss

chocard gliding in Swiss bliss

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view from Riederalp on three Swiss giants: Monte Rosa, Matterhorn, Weisshorn

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hiking above Zermatt!

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young bouquetin at home in his Alps

I’ve already known the pristine greens of Swiss summer heights, which admittedly I thoroughly enjoy and though you perhaps cannot match them in freshness and serenity I can’t say that they will ever be as wild and sun-seared as you.

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alpine flowers above Villars, Switzerland

And it is true the Alps have too many traces of those other arrogant bipeds who also happen to be my beloved kin. Towns, huts, and villages in every vale, unavoidable. But, again, I can’t say I know them well yet, and they certainly intrigue me. I am, after all, determined to find their wilderness, wherever it may be…

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view from Fenêtre d’Arpette along the Tour du Mont Blanc

Surely I can learn things from them and come back and devote myself wholly to you. With the wisdom I bring back to you we can gallivant all day, I promise. And yes, of course I’ll enjoy myself, but don’t be too jealous, okay? Oh, you couldn’t care less, I know…

The thing is, I don’t know these Alps like I know you. Would you be okay if I got to know them?

With mountains, I suppose, one can permit oneself this ambivalence…

Leaving you and yet knowing I want to stay with you forever is the most beautiful of the selfish melancholies. I do feel your pull, my dears. I suppose that is why I needed to leave, to feel the strength of your magnet. And oh what a magnet you are! My heart still surges with your river cascades! My veins flow livid with your spring melts! With your fields of lupine and shooting stars! With your swallow-tail butterflies in low meadows and your chirping pikas in high talus fields. And your clumsy bumbling bears or you sky pilots still vibrant in the highest of granite’s cracks. Even the imprint of your relentless dust on my achilles is a source of heart-ache. Oh to plunge into your glistening glacial lakes again…

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lupines in Desolation Wilderness, Sierra Nevada

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June ice near Bishop Pass, Sierra Nevada

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shooting stars in Yosemite National Park, Sierra Nevada

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swallow-tail butterfly, Sierra Nevada

May be I was fragmented when I left you, unsure of my geology. And may be I’ll never be whole, always be a split soul, but that’s okay too isn’t it? In a place where it’s okay to be split and torn and tormented because it’s just part of the landscape, it is in fact the essence of the landscape. That’s what makes you seem so feeling and so beautiful and so sympathetic. You’re a place where one can stand firm in one’s loneliness and tears and in personal gashes, no matter the slant. And in loneliness of the grandest dimensions. Where we are allowed to be maximally ourselves, stretched to bear everything of the vastness inside of us, where fragility and harshness coexist. This is where the light always comes through, where it finds new brilliance every day in firewood and shooting stars and leopard lilies.

When I come back, because I will, I will gaze admiringly into your placid surfaces. I will break into your shimmers and your gleams for a shock so profound, for having waited so long to relish in a reinvigorating depth.

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Finger Lake above Big Pine, Sierra Nevada

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view above Shepard pass, Sierra Nevada

I will shiver warm in your presence and let the ecstasy of your rock encased mirrors submerge me eternal. All hurt will blend and ease in your variable lights. Spring sorrows and ice cracking spectacles of joy will quiver side by side. I will wander idly and roam home without a home because in you I’m always homeward freed. I will forget everything, save the next pine tree. In your desolate meadows I will contain all my sorrows and my love, and I will find the places where I can shout naked emotions without a sound. Lost places to feel utterly found. And for all this, the blisters of life will melt away under your constellated skies. In the intimacy of your silence, you will be the refuge for all the unrequited love in the world.

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along the John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada

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along the John Muir Trail, Sierra Nevada

My human arrogance hopes this letter will mean something to you. Could you not just show me a fleck, a minute speck of granitic love? How long does it take for mountains to love you back? I love you openly and unabashed. And yet, and yet… I cannot say that you do not as you have always shown me the entirety your heart…

Ever thine,

Chamois Jane

You know how smells can be powerful memory triggers? (an interesting article on that if you’re interested: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120312-why-can-smells-unlock-memories/1 )

And what of music? I think it’s safe to say we’ve all linked certain songs to certain memories, places or people. I find that music is usually less powerful for triggering past emotions. However, recently I had the most powerful recall experience (smell or song) I’ve ever had. It was with this song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OKNAfTowygA

It is a song I played very repetitively last year, especially in late winter and spring. It wasn’t at all like the many times songs have reminded me of certain times or places. It was utterly overwhelming – I felt everything I had felt during that time when I would play it loudly and on repeat in my West Davis apartment room. All at once.

I felt the tired over-coffeed mornings. I smelled the cheap apartment walls and the musty pond outside. I felt the precious light of my north-facing room, pale and cold, but of a certain softness. I felt the days full of running and climbing and biking and the in-betweens of depression and loneliness. Not knowing what to do because I was still unsatiated but so wanted to pursue something passionately. I pitied myself as I re-lived weeping to my parents on Skype, time and time again, on those days when existence was at its most crushing and confusing.

I could feel the dry Davis winds penetrating everywhere in the flat landscape. And biking or driving to teach French early in the morning and then coming back weak and hungry because often I had not yet eaten breakfast and after having eaten kefir, cheerios, and blueberries running 8 or 10 miles on the lonely farm roads and then being exhausted. Because I had to even when I wasn’t sure I was enjoying it. Because I was completely lost and there was no one, or it seemed that way sometimes. But there were also long almost-summer evenings and beautiful olive tree sunsets and olive stains on my running shoes and contentment of days well spent and effort not wasted. At one point I was running in a diffuse mist beneath a double- rainbow with Ivan. But the rainbows didn’t last long. Because then I found myself returning home that constellated night with my pan empty of the cake I shouldn’t have left him and now I was all empty too and if it couldn’t work then, when could it and what was wrong with me? And it definitely wasn’t summer yet because the night was too cold.

I even saw again the flashbacks I would have when listening to it during that time, flashbacks to a summer of scrambling through Yosemite’s loneliest places. I was introduced to this group of musicians (but not this song, which I discovered later) while riding the ups  and downs of dusty dirt roads in the back of the blue Ford Escape that was our vessel to the wilderness. When I think about now, I was a bit lost then too.

Again, I was coming back late from the Rocknasium, having not washed my chalked hands yet and still smelling of grainy plastic holds and sweat and approaching summer and wearing the cut-sleeve shirt I had made with Izzy. Coming home late from the running club too, the days getting longer, too hungry to shower before eagerly eating dinner. Burned brussel sprouts and grilled cheese sandwiches. Lentils with too much cumin. Pita bread sandwiches. My first orange marmalade. Persimmon bread all season long. Too much Yolo Berry sugar. Cheap watery coffee from the office.

There was REI too and leaving the car in the parking lot early on Saturday mornings, nervous to run long long runs in the Folsom hills. And of course there was being sleepless. There were happy lunches at Izzy’s followed by depression, because it was all too short and how long would I have to wait for another one. And the depressed days following the marathon elation when gravity pulled more than ever and I dragged my sorrow weighted self through runs that weren’t runs like the 11 miles in an oppressive heat that was too much and made me sick all afternoon long.

There was also the noisy, but always present geese. And maniacally making cards or duct tape items and a mountain-shaped cake.

Needing to oil my bike. Writing about George Mallory. The rustling of the blinds and the striped light that came through them until I opened them. Reading Anna Karenina on my bed.

Sitting on a bench looking at the drying pond in a new spring light trying to memorize Hamlet’s soliloquy. Waiting for someone to call. The first blooming trees and white petal snow.

The Subaru, a safe haven, my warmth and my music, and freedom of sorts.

There were the frogs outside the apartment, waiting for insects by the large illuminated black numbers 4 an 0. The incessant and insistent chirping of the pond. And how it reminded me of a tropical place. And the death of a teacher.

Or taking my steadfast steed Chihiro Shadowbike of the West, a true Davis bike with its rusty but oh-so-trusty baskets to Trader Jo’s and being so happy that Damien would every so often call me on his lunch break.

There was all of west Davis with its charming homes and paths full of pine needles and happy families and migratory birds and flat fields and endless skies and blazing sunset clouds. The golden light of California bliss.

There was the ever present climbing chalk streak on my red spike bag. The satisfaction and oh-so-proud feeling of new routes and moves on the wall. Suppleness and new strength.

I must note that the song stayed mostly in Davis.

It doesn’t remind me of Shasta or the elation that followed (but this song does: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-WP6POdTgY). Or of backpacking with Elizabeth and Cat in Desolation Wilderness. Or cross country skiing with Kevin on New Year’s. Or kayaking with Izzy and Kelly and Sylvia and an OA group at Pt. Reyes. Or climbing in Tahoe with my co-workers. Or skiing with Bobby. Or the March marathon and spending time with Marvin, Nick, and Katie. Or the three days of elation after the marathon. Or visiting Oakland and Santa Cruz in January and seeing Katie, Marvin, Sarah, Mike, Adair, Benny, Nick, Elizabeth, Hanna. Or Sunday night bike rides in Folsom with my co-workers. All wonderful outdoor memories. And plenty of other things that for some reason or other don’t surface with this song.

I think it was mostly about the thing that kept haunting my mind that I couldn’t quite touch. Swinging from lows to highs of emotion and not knowing why. When listening to it again I mostly felt an overwhelming amount of sadness and helplessness and the crushing weight of vulnerability and too much crying. Yet being able to re-feel the exact same feelings was marvelous!!

It is mostly sad, after all the song title does nothing to suggest otherwise. But I really don’t think it’s all sad. There are beautiful bits too, just as the song itself is beautiful. It was still a period of many adventures and discovery, of instability certainly, but I am glad of the emotions. Being lost isn’t all bad after all.

When I replay it I know what is going to play, but the emotions whelm up every time. It doesn’t make me cry every time, but it can. I played it several times as I wrote to see what other bits of that particular year, that “gap year”, could surface. Every time I play it I can dig up more scraps of the mosaic.

To be flooded with these feelings and smells again was more than remembering or reflecting, it was re-living. I didn’t remember the emotions, I felt them. Incredible! They say that sometimes when you die you see your whole life flash before your eyes. For me, re-playing this song was like condensing all those months into one emotional flash.

Have you had a recall experience such as this one? With what song or smell, or something else?

Fuppy

/fupi/

Adjective (Noun: fuppiness)

Definition
1. to be simultaneously full (of food) and happy; to feel both content and well-fed. Often occurs at meals when one is surrounded by friends and family. Is frequently followed by the onset of sleepiness.

I tend to be very fuppy during the holidays.

There was so much fuppiness at the dinner table last night that it was almost tangible (not to mention edible!).

2. to be full of happiness.

To be fuppy is to taste the zest of life.

I could not be more fuppy than when I am outside with friends under a shimmering sun exploring the grand landscapes of our beautiful earth.

Antonym: Hangry

Spelling rule
C
hange the end y to i when adding -er or -est: (fuppier, fuppiest).

Origin
A synthesis of the English words full and happy. From international English. Coined by international students sharing meals and adventures. A response to the term hangry.

Balsam für die Seele- Cross Country Skiing in the Vallée de Joux

I never wanted this day to end. In my mind I am still floating across the glittering snows of that enchanting landscape. Exercise, beautiful scenery, and a friend to share it all with? What could one want more out of life?

I woke up super excited before sunrise and scurried to get my things ready and have breakfast. I was so happy to see that Marcia was up and very excited too. I knew it was going to be a good day when I was already privileged to a glorious greeting from the pink streaked sunrise out my window over the distant, yet so perceptible Alps.

The metro ride only bore more good news as we saw our beloved moutons grazing in a small field outside one of the metro stops. How could a day that starts with a pink sunrise and sheep be a bad one?

There were a few hiccups in the journey, but they were few and could not possibly mar such a divine day. The first was that we were having trouble buying our ticket at the Renens train station. I got scared we would miss our train as we fumbled with card, bills, and coins, but we did not and even had time to spare.

The train ride was already superb — unfolding before us was a panorama view all the way to Mt. Blanc and Grand Combin (two of the most majestic Alpine giants). The adventure then nestled itself into the sleepy Jura mountains and to our final destination in the quaint Vallée de Joux. Switzerland  may be small geographically, but it packs an abundance of natural wonder in every nook and cranny of the country, making it a land large in riches.

the view from the train

We were headed for a village called Le Sentier at the southern end of the Lac de Joux. It was like entering an enchanted snow globe complete with a partially frozen lake, snow embraced pines and hills, fairytale Swiss homes, and yet another great Swiss accent.

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where we went, (photo courtesy of http://www.myvalleedejoux.ch/en/)

Second hiccup — when we arrived to Le Sentier the rental store seemed open, but the door was closed and no one was inside. We were perplexed. I was worried that we would have to spend time finding another place to rent skis, but we asked the people in the watchmaking store across the street who told us she had probably gone out for groceries and would be back shortly.  Sure enough, and luckily for us, she turned up right after our cross-street inquiry.

The third hiccup came when the lady told us conditions weren’t good and that we needed a car to access the trails, all of which turned out not be true at all in my opinion, but when she said that it really scared me because I had been so looking forward to cross country skiing and sharing it with Marcia and would have felt really bad if we had made the trip all the way there and could not ski.

a map of the xc ski trails, there are 220km to explore in the area! photo courtesy of http://www.myvalleedejoux.ch/en/

a map of the xc ski trails, there are 220km to explore in the area! (photo courtesy of http://www.myvalleedejoux.ch/en/)

It was so fun to teach Marcia who was such an eager and fast learner. Over the years, I have a taught a few people to cross country ski and seeing the fresh joy of a first experience never gets old.

We skied the day away meandering between forest and field, between groomed trails and the traces of bygone skiers, between French and English, between a hushed landscape and our yelps of joy, all the while gliding through an ever changing delighting light.

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fresh tracks!

Everything was glittering and the trees donned their finest frost. There were some wisps of fog in the valley below and some clouds above in the broad sky, and all was basking in silence of the purest sort.

One of the only people we met out in the snow that day was a friendly old man who spends much of his retired days cross country skiing (I too dream of such a retirement!). We learned a lot about his life and the area between his French and his German (even that there were wolves in this region!). We were about to start heading back, but he suggested to us a nice loop through the forest which turned out to be quite magical. When we crossed him again later he described cross country skiing to us as “Balsam für die Seele” that Marcia later explained to me is a German expression that translates to “lotion for the soul.”

I think no expression captures the essence of cross country skiing better. It is, as many outdoor activities, soothing for the soul. It is gentle and relaxing, but at the same time tires you slowly, so that by the end of the day you are left elated by your effort and exhaustion.  The kind of tired that comes through miles of silent woods and the light rhythmic woosh of skis on snow is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying.

The way back was full of delightful downhills- spurred by Marcia’s new downhill technique of crouching down so as to almost sit on one’s skis and flying along the snow surfaced earth.

We finished the day with a bit of speed-walking and running to catch the train at Le Brassus (another small village of the region) to go back to Le Sentier where we were to return the skis. But we were not so hurried that we did not notice the stream and leafless trees and snowy plain extending into the orange and yellow sparks of the waning winter light.

After returning the skis we had coffee in a cute bakery reveling in our day. Contentment at its finest. Quoi dire? C’était une journée magnifique!

Then it was back to the story book train, whistling and creaking and groaning, as we made our way back across the fuzzy boundary between fairytale and reality. Watching the lake and the glowing windows of tranquil homes in the blue light of almost night was positively magical. Vallée de Joux you have my heart!

I never want this day to end. So may it never! And instead stay ablaze in my mind and make itself cozily at home in my memory alongside all the other twinkling scenes already there. I think good experiences become little fires of memory that you can huddle your thoughts around when your soul seeks warmth.

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resplendent!

What kind of day do you want to never end? What kind of experiences are “Balsam für die Seele” for you?