Solo Road Saunter

I’ve written before about the merits of not disobeying the call of the road when it summons thee. So this past weekend when it called, I went.

I’ve found that to satiate my “urge for going,” as Joni Mitchell once crafted into a song, I needn’t venture far. I live in Montana for pete’s sake, a truly uncompromisingly beautiful, wild state. And we’ve got a lotta land here, too. A person could spend lifetimes exploring here and never be able to see it all.

And not only do I not need to go far, I don’t need to spend a large swath of time either. Don’t get me wrong, sometimes venturing far and spending extended periods of time off and away from home is a lovely thing to do, but I’ve been finding that even weekend-long trips simply 2-4 hours from my doorstep are not only sufficient but immensely satisfying.

I wrote this on my writer’s Facebook page the night before setting out this past weekend:

For reasons I don’t entirely understand, I want to sleep under the stars in unfamiliar terrain. I want to wake up in a fresh locale and navigate my early morning rituals in a locale where no one knows me. I want to sit in a coffee shop in a small town and write unobstructed by the comfortable air of home.

And perhaps some of this allure has a little something to do with the fact that I know full well – as clear as the sound of a bell – that I grow little, if at all, unless I edge outside of my comfort zone.

So, this past weekend, I went here:

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My two new practices from 2018 (part 2 of 2)

The second new mindfulness practice I added into my routine this past year was centered around words. I’ll explain.

Every year for the past 10 years or so, as I mentioned recently in my post entitled Into the Woods, my husband Mike and I – and sometimes friends – have been going hot springing on Christmas Day. While soaking on Christmas Day in 2017, accompanied by our friends Marko and Jeff, Mike came up with a group question for us all to answer: What’s your favorite word? After quickly deciding that choosing our favorite word was too big a task, we revamped the question a bit: What’s ONE of your favorite words?

Let’s see if I can remember them. Mine was falderal, which means nonsense, and is apparently so seldom used that WordPress has seen fit to underline it in red as I’m typing, indicating that I’ve made a tragic spelling error (though of course that won’t translate on your end, dear reader). Marko’s was detritus, which is the term for small particles of rock or other earthly debris. I’m afraid I don’t recall Mike and Jeff’s.

After that, Marko and I continued this word sharing thread, as both he and I are writers and enjoy words. We started emailing each other a word of the day, though it was more like once or twice a week to start and then less frequently as time went on. Only mid-way through the year did I start keeping track of the words we would send to each other back and forth. Here are a few of my favorite ones:

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Into the Woods


On the trail to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, Idaho. Dec 25th, 2018

 

Yesterday, while Mike and I were hiking through the woods amid the winter wonderland-scape en route to Jerry Johnson Hot Springs, we were trying to figure out how many years we’ve been upholding the tradition of hot springing on Christmas Day. The best we could figure is that it’s been around 10 years.

Here’s to having lovely holiday traditions that allow our hearts to crack open just a little bit more with every passing.

I’ve walked these woods
10,000 times,
carried them with me
through every turning of day
and maturation of thought

I’ve made use of their good tidings
as cordage to anchor me home

and when storms have raged,
as they have tendency to do,
I’ve held firm to their wisdom
of  resiliency and strength,
so that I may learn
when to sway
and when to shed

 

P.S

I made a 6-minute video montage of our excursion yesterday – here it is! (And it’s set to my newest favorite song: Trevor Hall’s You Can’t Rush Your Healing.)

 

 

Holiday Traditions

Pic taken Christmas Day 2016, on the trail to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Every year on Christmas Day, my husband and I venture to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs, for a 1-mile hike (one way) & soak in the woods. Neither of us connect with the celebration of Christmas. To us, it’s just another day on the calendar, which affords us a day off from our regular routine and to-do lists. We’ve been springing it on Christmas Day for quite a number of years now – it’s one of our very few annual traditions. And, I’ll add, is simply glorious.

Back when we first got married, in 2000, we tried our hand at celebrating the winter solstice and came up with a few possible traditions to carry forward each December, but it proved to be too forced for us and we soon gave up any sort of formal way of commemorating the seasonal changing of the guard. We both grew up celebrating Christmas – not on religious grounds but on consumeristic ones. And I have incredibly fond memories of it as a child. But neither of us were interested in fueling the drive of the holidays when we started co-creating our lives as adults together.

Many years ago, after receiving a plethora of well-intentioned but ultimately un-neccesary gifts from relatives in the mail each December, we decided to craft a letter to send to our dear family members. As the writer in our household, it was important to me that the letter both express our gratitude for their generosity and our firm desire to discontinue the further receiving of gifts, in as warm-hearted a way as possible. I wanted to do my best to create as little offense as I could, making sure to focus on our appreciation for their kindness and our love for them. And, rather to my surprise, it worked! While not everyone understood our position, they all respected our heartfelt request.

The month of December is the only time I’m grateful for living so far away from my family, as I really don’t know how I would negotiate this festive time of year if I had family around who were celebrating Christmas in the traditional ways that I grew up with and were requesting my attendance to join them. Fortunately, though, that’s not a thing I need to put much thought into.

Over the last few years, I’ve been trying to connect with all the ways that people find this time of year joyful, as I can grow callous in regards to the amount of waste, stress, hardship, and debt that accumulate around Christmas – and the furthering of such rampant, detrimental notions and ways of relating to each other and the world at large. But non-duality continues to ring true! In this case, the teachings of non-duality play out in the simple truth that both things are happening at the same time: there are elements of Christmas that are full of delight and joy and there are elements of great disharmony and destruction.

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Going as a River

In our local meditation center, we have a large calligraphy done by Thay (Thich Nhat Hanh) that reminds us to: Go as a river, which is a common teaching in our tradition. These few simple words have a depth of wisdom instilled within them, and can be translated in a few different ways. To me, Go as a river speaks to two main key components of our practice tradition: impermanence and brotherhood/sisterhood.

In regards to impermanence, Go as a river speaks to the ever-changing flow of life. Suffering, in large part, develops when we’re fighting against what is unfolding in the present moment, as though we’re trying to walk upstream amid a fast-moving river. To Go as a river means to go with the flow of life, to learn how to accept its non-permanent state and not get stuck in our own preferences and thoughts about how things should be. Despite our best laid plans and ideas, life can oftentimes twist and turn in unexpected ways. To Go as a river means to cultivate resiliency, inclusiveness, solidity, and ease, with the deepening understanding that things/people/situations are of the nature to change.

In regards to brotherhood & sisterhood, Go as a river means to recognize the importance and cultivation of community and interconnection. On a more intimate level, it means: to root ourselves in a loving, supportive, healthy sangha. On a larger level, it means: to see all the ways in which we depend on one another as a global family. Brotherhood and sisterhood are about discovering ways to actively connect and engage with our friends, family, local community, and the world in such a way that compassion and understanding are generated. Continue reading

17 Years & Still Soaking!

17 Years & Still Soaking

(in the spirit of Dr. Seuss)

We were wed at 20 and 21 years old,
thank goodness we didn’t do what we were told,
otherwise we might never have stuck,
which would’ve been terrible, lousy, no good, rotten luck.
But, alas, instead we followed our hearts,
and had a rockin’ young and awesome start.

For 17 married years, and 18 with dating,
we’ve been living, laughing, growing, and contemplating
all that it means to be husband and wife,
to ride the high highs and weather the strife.
And I’ll tell ya, in all honesty, I’m pretty sure I’ve won,
cause marrying my sweet husband is the best thing I’ve ever done.

 – In honor of our 17th wedding anniversary: March 9th, 2017

Back to the Woods

dscn5229Jerry Johnson Hot Springs trail, December 25th, 2016, Idaho

Becoming part of a winterscape thick with cedar,
walking tall among elder trunks
and undergrowth buried in snow,
we communed with a part of ourselves
that often lies dormant.

Under nature’s influence
we can be guided back to what has been forgotten.
And when we are ushered
from our slumber to remember,
we will continue to return,
over and over,
back to the woods.

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Held

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Out in the woods yesterday,
I was reminded, once again,
about how nature remedies the ills
of what it means to be human.

It holds us in its breath,
its stillness, its offering of life,
its ability to let go.


Submerged amid rock formations, waters,
sage fields, trees, and sky,
I knew, without a sliver of doubt,
that the beauty of this world, our land and our people,
far outweighs what needs fixing.

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Jerry Johnson Hot Springs

Suspension bridge over the Lochsa River, Idaho

Suspension bridge over the Lochsa River, Idaho

My husband and I have an annual tradition of spending Christmas Day at one of our favorite places, Jerry Johnson Hot Springs in Idaho.  It’s about an hour and a half drive west from Missoula, Montana.  Traveling from town you know you’ve reached the trailhead when you see the beautiful suspension bridge stretching over the Lochsa River (shown above).  There’s a nice large parking area across highway 12 from the bridge.

Warm Springs Creek, next to the trail leading to the springs

Warm Springs Creek, next to the trail leading to the springs

The skies above were clear blue and filled with winter sun streaming down through the evergreen forest.  Due to its popularity the 1 1/2 mile trail to the springs is always well worn no matter the time of year.  The springs are natural and the hike is on a pretty easy trail.  Sometimes it can be quite icy so during the winter months having yak tracks for your shoes is totally money well spent.  We visit the springs often throughout the year – for me it’s always a good day when I trek to the pools.  There is great medicine in getting out in the woods.

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Daily Practice – Day 10

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Today’s hike to Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs in Idaho

Day 10 – This morning I awoke a few minutes before my alarm was to go off.  Knowing I would have a full day of plans I made the quick decision to simply sit up and do my 6 minutes of meditation before my alarm was to sound.  Without a trip to the bathroom, sleepy eyed and all I met the morning straight away by practicing meditation.  I know myself well enough not to delay my sitting until the evening when I can be quick to lay down and rest for the remainder of the night at early hour.

My 13-year old step-son is on spring break this week and so today after breakfast he and I and a young friend of ours took a trip to Jerry Johnson’s (JJ’s) Hot Springs in Idahdo, about an hour and a half from where we live in Montana.  It is one of my very most favorite places to go.  After a wooded 1.5 mile hike beside the Lochsa River a few natural hot pools encircled by rocks sit beautifully in the earth.  Since moving here in 1998 I have frequented JJ’s many dozens of times throughout all four seasons and every time I go I see clearly that I am watering seeds of healing, joy, ease and connection with every hike and soak.

Today at Jerry Johnson's Hot Springs

Today at Jerry Johnson’s Hot Springs

Things I noticed or thought about today in the woods:

Cultivating my relationship with the present moment comes effortlessly in the forest

Nature nourishes the widening of my self/world perspective

Getting in touch with the earth, water and air elements helps to ground my thoughts and emotions

Our growing up young people have difficulty knowing what to do with themselves without a computer or cell phone in arm’s reach

Food tastes better when you eat next to a sun drenched river

I often take for granted what I am afforded in life

Beauty doesn’t just exist in certain pockets when the conditions are right, beauty is inherit to life in all things

Connecting with the natural land helps me to connect with myself

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A cairn I made next to the Lochsa River

Breathing in I feel the sun shining through me

Breathing out I feel the river flowing all around me

Breathing in I take refuge in mother earth

Breathing out I smile

My pocket buddha sitting on highway 12 in Idaho

My pocket buddha sitting on highway 12 in Idaho