Escaped to Hawai'i and went from a jungle hike to a surf beach to a sunset spot with sea turtles all in one day.
I had one terrible day in January: Inauguration day. I had been sick for weeks and the overwhelming anxiety of a new presidency finally became too much. I stayed in bed with a migraine all day. The following weeks became a blur of heartbreak and uneasiness. The news worsened each day. I needed to escape, at least for a moment.
One longish plane ride and a short car ride later, I was facing the outside of a geodesic dome. It came with the promise of interstellar travel, if you are just willing to open your mind. I walked through the door and closed my eyes.
It was transporting... sort of. I definitely went to another world, but maybe not an interstellar one. It's a place where the trees don't make sense. You know they are trees even though they don't really look like trees. A place with seemingly zero water supply, but somehow, against all odds, life has found a way. The plants are in abundance, just not the kind you see on a regular basis: cacti, Suessical trees, long grasses, succulents.
Clambering over rocks, we found a place to rest. Let our souls soak up the sun. It had been months since the sunlight hit my skin and warmed me from the outside in. My worries melted away and I found I really had traveled to another planet. One not so far from here, but also not easy to get to. The most difficult kind of travel doesn't involve turbulent flights or winding bus routes, but instead an open mind.
We were welcomed with open arms, but only briefly. We were discouraged from staying too long. The real world is still moving forward and it needs you to move with it.
To return, you have to go back through the door you came from. It seems futile walking into place so briefly and then backtracking your way home. While, physically, you end up right where you started, you never forget what you saw on the other side of that door, in a parallel universe.
I returned home to politics, bills, emails. After seeing the other side, the determination of life in the desert, regular life did not seem so insurmountable as before. I returned without complaint, and with a new set of eyes.
When it all seems so hopeless, I just close my eyes and think of the Suessical trees. How they found a way despite harsh conditions, and realize, we will make it too. We just have to find another way. Things aren't going to be as they were, but they certainly don't have to be so bad. It's time to put panic and complaint aside and do something positive for this world. Because as far as I know, it's the only one we have. There is no place for me on the other side, only this one.
It's only Monday and Saturday already feels like a distant dream.
We took another trip upstate. The trees were even more vivid than before.
We slipped past the gate and walked for hours along a tree lined path. It was magical, like we walked through the wardrobe and into Narnia. I was seeing the world through new eyes.
I could feel the trees preparing for winter. I pulled on an extra layer and wool socks. "We are preparing too," I thought.
We stopped, we listened. The rain hit the carpet of leaves on the ground. I looked up enchanted by the rain falling on my face.
I looked at the trees still holding onto their leaves and I yelled at them, "It's time to let go. Let go of summer, it's time to move forward. Summer will be back next year." A message more for myself than for them.
I talked about what happens to trees now. On the outside they look barren, but on the inside, they are preparing. Getting ready, saving up for spring. They need time to recharge, they can't live forever in summer.
We talked about our impending birthdays, a sure sign that life is moving along. I asked Brian what he wanted. He said, "You don't have to get me anything or do anything, you are enough."
We walked back the way we came. Retracing our steps and climbing back out of the wardrobe, out of Narnia, and into the real world. We walked out different people than when we entered.
But there was no wardrobe and no magic. We are just moving forward, and that is enough.
Driving north felt like we were driving right into fall. In the city, most of the trees are still holding onto their green leaves.
As we slowly ascended the state, things started to turn yellow, then orange, then red. The temperature dropped, the sun dipped behind the clouds. It finally felt like fall.
We set up camp at Magic Forest Farm Camp near Albany. We built a huge fire in the fire pit and roasted hot dogs. Trying to keep it simple, those hot dogs and their buns were the only food we brought. We found a grill fork for $1 at a junk shop along the way and used it to cook them.
As the fire grew bigger, we thought out loud, it's not even that cold out here. Not realizing theit was the fire keeping us warm.
After burning through our allotment of wood, we watched the fire turn to coal. Mesmerized by the glow of the coals, we poked at the with sticks for the better part of an hour, still basking in its warmth.
We crawled in the tent and fell fast asleep. At some point in the night Brian finally felt the chill in the air. "Let me in," he said, referring to my sleeping bag. For the remaining hours we shared one sleeping bag. Without the fire to keep us warm, we only had each other, but it was enough.
We woke up to the glow of dawn. We emerged from the tent, each of us with camera in hand and started our day doing what we were meant to do.
We explored the property, met the horses, goats and the property owner. The property contains a small farm, she mentioned it's hard to make a living selling vegetables.
Leaving the property we pursued breakfast. We drove south for a while, stopping at a diner to eat classic eggs and bacon. We explored a creek nearby and soon realized we were going to be late dropping off the car.
As we sped home, it was like going back in time, back through the red, the orange, the yellow and finally back to green. New York City was as we left it. As we entered the city, the grey sky peeled away to reveal blue, and just like that we were exactly where we started.
Big Sur, California. September 2016
"Watch out for the poison oak," someone said as we were hiking up the river bed to find a shady space to sit.
We talked about salmon for over an hour in the shade, listening to Salmon Creek trickle by. The creek is nearly dry, just another indicator that California is currently parched. Coming from the lush, green east coast, the brown grasses and dried up plants were jarring. I seemed the most concerned of anyone about the lack of water.
The heat was more than we had expected. Bodega Bay is near the shore and we thought for sure it would be breezy and cool. The sun was shining and it was nearly 90 degrees; a cool breeze would have been very welcome in the scorching sun.
Later, we sat in a circle and ate a pig that had roasted for two days. We talked of our short time here, both camping for the weekend and on this earth. We spoke of the state of the world and the repercussions of our consumerist ways of the past 100 years or so.
April said, "You can make a difference, even if it feels small." Pick up that piece of trash, make better decisions about what you eat and what you wear. Even so, it's hard to feel hopeful that the Earth isn't forever changed by our selfishness.
There was one baby camping with us. I looked at her and wondered what this world will look like when she is 30. Will California even be able to sustain life without water anymore?
The wind picked up, we continued to drink beers, but now that the sun had set the breeze was less welcome. Everyone pulled on jackets and caps and huddled closer and closer to the fire. Trying to stay warm, we all felt the impending end of our time here.
I walked back to my tent alone, leaving the group around the fire listening to music. I crawled inside and closed my eyes. I felt the earth underneath me, heard the racket of the wind, and even made out the hopeful sound of water flowing down the river.
// Hipcamp is a website where you can both list your private property for campers to rent, and find plots of land to host your tent! They are currently looking for property owners to host campers, so if you have a piece of land good for camping, sign up.
Special thanks to Charles for an ecology lesson and April and Tavish for teaching us about the salmon. In case you were wondering, you should be buying wild caught salmon, and avoiding farmed atlantic salmon.
Thanks to Hipcamp for inviting me to a Campout, and to Eddie Bauer for providing transportation. All views are my own.
I've been in New York long enough to know that occasionally I need to leave. I used to be able to hop on a bus and end up at my sister's house in New Jersey in just forty minutes. Spending a night or the weekend there was restoring. Her kids make me laugh and she makes sensational dinner spreads. It was a beautiful respite from the hustle and bustle here.
Now, I know that I still need those weekends away even though my sister lives very far from here, so I have to make them happen for myself. Last week, in the woods of the Catskills with friends I experienced my first tiny home. The drive up was idyllic, it smelled like the country and grass. Even though the house was tiny, it contained the space required to take a deep breath.
We hit four swimming holes, jumped off rocks, hiked to waterfalls and ate hot dogs for dinner every night. We discussed important things like what it means to roast a marshmallow to perfection, and the best front flip techniques. Our entire crew was comprised of photographers and filmmakers so our only rule was that you had to pull over if someone wanted to get a shot; it is camera club rule number one.
It was only a two day trip, but upon returning I felt like I had been gone for a month. Looking around on the drive back I was surprised that no significant changes had happened to the city, shouldn't it look different by now? All of the New Yorkers were going about business as usual, as if nothing special had happened.
That's when I realized it's never the city that changes, only me.