Interlude

[To whom it may concern:]

That is all I ask

If I come unglued
Would you gather me up and contain me?
If I fly high
Would you be an open sky?
If I shine
Would you showcase me, without shielding me?
If I dwell in the shadows
Would you shine brightly, and illuminate me?
If I whisper
Would you still hear me?
If I roar
Would you roar with me
or gently lead me back to peace and silence
and always know which is appropriate?
If I laugh
Would you sing songs in praise of my laughter?
If I cry
Would you hold me in your arms and let the rivers flow?

Would you walk with me, in step, to common destinations?
Would you run with me, and clear obstacles with effortless bounds?
Would you fly with me, so high that all perspective is lost?
And hold my hand as we fall back down to earth with perfect accuracy?
Would you always set a net to catch me, and trust that I would do the same for you?

And when we find our way back to the ground safely,
Would you lay with me in the fresh spring grass under a cloudless sky
and tell me that you love me
without ever speaking a word?

 

[I write poems in the middle of the night. Instead of sleeping]

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Wisdom from the woods – A squirrel story

I was hiking in the Chuckanuts yesterday in search of peace and solitude, when I had an encounter with a metaphor. Everything is a metaphor, but I seem to miss the city ones, they are too subtle, whereas metaphors in the woods always appear clear and obvious to me.

I was walking from the top of Cleator road down a narrow trail covered in fresh dew and pine needles. The woods were perfectly still, with just enough forest noise to highlight the very low undertonal base decibel level. My life has been so hectic lately, I craved that silence and stillness. Half way down the trail, I stopped, closed my eyes and just listened. I could feel peace flowing in, muscles relax and worries melt, until some squirrel ran down from the tree next to me and started chirping loudly. He* was so upset that each chirp was accompanied by a full body spasm. The chirping wasn’t personal. The squirrel was just reacting instinctively to the perceived threat of an element he considered incongruous in his world.

Since I understood the reason for his hostility, I didn’t begrudge him the disturbing of my peace and quiet. But still, he was pretty annoying. If you have ever tried to shoo a squirrel away, you know that this only irritates them further, so I had to find another way. My own instinct told me to just keep on down the trail so as to not bother him.   I am the intruder in the woods after all. Wait. Am I? Who says that I have any less right than this squirrel to be on the trail right now? I am a creature of this world too. I am a creature of the woods too. Why am I judging the needs of a squirrel as more important than mine? Oh yeah, because I understand what is going on and can adapt, because I have the brains (and opposable thumbs), because a small gesture on my part could alleviate a lot of anguish for him.

My heart said that, even though I normally accommodate irate squirrels by moving further down the trail, there was a lesson here for me. This squirrel was giving me the opportunity to explore how to address the onslaught of judgment and fear related to my upcoming PCT hike with no consequence. Well, I suppose I could have pissed him off so much that he ran down at me with slashing fangs, but I felt pretty secure in my ability to defeat him if that were the case. Since I believe in Newton’s third law and I believe it applies to energy, my first attempt was to turn towards the squirrel and love him with all my heart. That’s it, just love him. I’m not resenting you for being a loud, obnoxious, furry creature. You are perfect as you are. I understand why you are upset. I have compassion for you. This was all said in my head, but I concentrated on projecting my love to him. Hypothesis: The squirrel will feel the love vibration and naturally quiet down and come to a place of peace. Data: The body-spasming chirping increased three-fold and the squirrel came down closer to me on the trail. Result: Staring at a squirrel, whether you send him love or not, really pisses him off. Conclusion: Either the experiment was flawed (i.e. I’m not skilled enough at projecting love to squirrels) or the hypothesis is busted.

If I couldn’t solve the issue by my actions, I figured I’d explore non-action next. When faced with an irate squirrel, would Gandhi have better luck than Newton? I returned to facing the woods and sought that place of peace in which I found myself prior to the squirrel’s arrival. It was not easy. He was VERY distracting. I slowly let the chirping become just a sound of the forest in my ears, concentrating on not attaching any more importance to it than to other forest noises despite its loudness and proximity. As soon as I managed that, the squirrel gave me one last expletive and ran off. Conclusion: either the experiment was flawed (i.e. the squirrel just got tired of me and my experiments) or I just hit upon a pearl of woodsy wisdom: Just let the chirpers chirp and follow your heart. 

7 days until departure. Enough philosophical nonsense for one day. I’ve got gear to pack!!

* I have arbitrarily assigned a gender to the squirrel because I was having trouble keeping my pronouns straight if I referred to him at “it”

 

——————————————————————–

Version 2: with editorial comments.
I prefer the one above, but the one below, with editorial comments in Italics, is how I originally wrote it, so for the sake of authenticity, here it is:

I was hiking in the Chuckanuts yesterday in search of peace and solitude, when I had an encounter with a metaphor. Everything is a metaphor, but I seem to miss the city ones, they are too subtle, whereas metaphors in the woods always appear clear and obvious to me.

I was walking from the top of Cleator road down a narrow trail covered in fresh dew and pine needles. The woods were perfectly still, with just enough forest noise to highlight the very low undertonal base decibel level. My life has been so hectic lately, I craved that silence and stillness. Half way down the trail, I stopped, closed my eyes and just listened. I could feel peace flowing in, muscles relax and worries melt, until some squirrel ran down from the tree next to me and started chirping loudly. He* was so upset that each chirp was accompanied by a full body spasm. The chirping wasn’t personal. The squirrel was just reacting instinctively to the perceived threat of an element he considered incongruous in his world.

When I first came back from India, I felt like the Golden Girl of the universe. I usually feel that way, but it was particularly strong right after I returned to Bellingham. Since then tough, I have been under an onslaught of judgement born of other people’s ego. The ego dwells in fear a lot, and I am incongruous in the world – not my world, I’m right on in my own world, but in some other people’s world. I cannot ever truly know how others perceive me, but the intensity of conversations I have had with friends and strangers lately lead me to believe that my choice of lifestyle can trigger the same instinct in humans as that of the squirrel in the woods. How dare you fall off society? Who are you to be so special that you don’t have to toil? Why aren’t you worried about what your job prospects, or lack thereof, will be when you return from this unreasonable excursion? Oh, you must be getting money from your ex-husband, nobody can just be free of the Man [I’m not, by the way, using any of Chuck’s money. Although he has said he would rescue me if I went broke, and I am grateful for the peace of mind, I have so far survived on my own savings augmented with frequent and unexpected gifts from the Universe, and I plan on continuing this way. Sorry, that is my ego feeling a need to rectify false perceptions, and I will let it for this one time]. In many instances, these “worries” about how I am not fitting in society come before those about my safety or well-being on the trail. 

Since I understood the reason for his hostility, I didn’t begrudge him the disturbing of my peace and quiet. But still, he was pretty annoying. If you have ever tried to shoo a squirrel away, you know that this only irritates them further, so I had to find another way. My own instinct told me to just keep on down the trail so as to not bother him.   I am the intruder in the woods after all. Wait. Am I? Who says that I have any less right than this squirrel to be on the trail right now? I am a creature of this world too. I am a creature of the woods too. Why am I judging the needs of a squirrel as more important than mine? Oh yeah, because I understand what is going on and can adapt, because I have the brains (and opposable thumbs), because a small gesture on my part could alleviate a lot of anguish for him.

This is the rule I follow unconsciously: whoever is least adaptable wins my time and energy. The problem is that I am more adaptable than the average bear (or squirrel). I can very easily accommodate other people’s needs because I am not usually too attached to my own. Lately, I have been called on for help or advice or as a listening ear for drama-venting a lot. I am honored that my friends turn to me for these. I turn to them when in need too. From an ego perspective, my choice is either to 1) forgo my busy and shrinking schedule to help a friend or 2) attend to Melissa first and feel like a selfish bitch. Egos need rules – moral code rules, social conduct rules, all sorts of rules. If an element breaks the rules, he/she is judged negatively. But if we accept that we are not the ego, that we are something greater than the ego just down here in the earth-school to come to our full self-awareness, then the rules don’t apply. Any experience is beneficial, even that of being a selfish bitch. Right? That doesn’t feel right either. Actually, it violates the law of abundance, which says that the energy you put out determines the energy you get back. Putting unpleasant energy out is unlikely to be beneficial. Newton’s third law: to every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. So the universe has rules too, and these are not dictated by society, they are intrinsic. If they are intrinsic, then the only way to access the book of universal law must be through our hearts. 

My heart said that, even though I normally accommodate irate squirrels by moving further down the trail, there was a lesson here for me. This squirrel was giving me the opportunity to explore how to address the onslaught of judgment and fear with which I am faced in town with no consequence. Well, I suppose I could have pissed him off so much that he ran down at me with slashing fangs, but I felt pretty secure in my ability to defeat him if that were the case. Since I believe in Newton’s third law and I believe it applies to energy, my first attempt was to turn towards the squirrel and love him with all my heart. That’s it, just love him. I’m not resenting you for being a loud, obnoxious, furry creature. You are perfect as you are. I understand why you are upset. I have compassion for you. This was all said in my head, but I concentrated on projecting my love to him. Hypothesis: The squirrel will feel the love vibration and naturally quiet down and come to a place of peace. Data: The body-spasming chirping increased three-fold and the squirrel came down closer to me on the trail. Result: Staring at a squirrel, whether you send him love or not, really pisses him off. Conclusion: Either the experiment was flawed (i.e. I’m not skilled enough at projecting love to squirrels) or the hypothesis is busted.

One of my yoga instructors in India (the handsome Scottish one), always said “where the mind goes, the energy flows”. But I don’t know what kind of energy receptors comes standard on squirrels. Do they even have chakras? So, if a creature is already having a spaz attack and I direct my energy to it, I am validating his spazzing, I am increasing it by feeding it my own energy. This will also need to be tested, of course. But assuming I’m right, when people feel personally offended that I am not living by society’s rules, even if the whole process is unconscious, if I try to address their fear by defending myself – no, I am not taking money from Chuck, no, I don’t care what job I will have after the trail, no, I don’t care if I am not “reasonable” – I am actually fueling the problem by giving it my energy. 

If I couldn’t solve the issue by my actions, I figured I’d explore non-action next. When faced with an irate squirrel, would Gandhi have better luck than Newton? I returned to facing the woods and sought that place of peace in which I found myself prior to the squirrel’s arrival. It was not easy. He was VERY distracting. I slowly let the chirping become just a sound of the forest in my ears, concentrating on not attaching any more importance to it than to other forest noises despite its loudness and proximity. As soon as I managed that, the squirrel gave me one last expletive and ran off. Conclusion: either the experiment was flawed (i.e. the squirrel just got tired of me and my experiments) or I just hit upon a pearl of woodsy wisdom: Just let the chirpers chirp and follow your heart. 

P.S: The encounter lasted probably less than 10 minutes. I am a little concerned suddenly that I might not have brought a big enough journal for the trail. I am going to be SURROUNDED by irate squirrels and other metaphorical creatures 24/7. I might have to become succinct – Hey, I resent that Hallelujah. 

7 days until departure. Enough philosophical nonsense for one day. I’ve got gear to pack!!

* I have arbitrarily assigned a gender to the squirrel because I was having trouble keeping my pronouns straight if I referred to him at “it”

 

Beautiful Bellingham bay

Image

Bellingham Bay - 8am Saturday

In order for my most recent post to truthfully be the penultimate post, I need an ultimate one. This is it.
I leave Bellingham with a warm knowing in my heart that no matter where I end up on my journeys, I remain fortunate to call the most beautiful place in the world ‘home’. This is Bellingham Bay, looking frosty-delicious on Saturday morning as Deborah and I were getting ready for a paddle. mmh mmh mmmh!

Penultimate post before the wild Indian adventures

I am mostly writing a post because I wanted to use the word penultimate.

This is my penultimate night in the US and I am not even close to starting to pack. Potential travel necessities are piled high and haphazardly in the middle of the room. Am I really going to India? My plane ticket says that I am, but anything between now and April 15th feels like just a blurry passing of days in my way to get on the PCT. I think my mind has already crossed the distance between whichever space my physical form occupies and Campo. It sits there at the Mexican border and patiently awaits the arrival of the rest of me. Am I really going to a Yoga teacher Training? Last I checked I was a PhD student. My advisor profile read “Melissa Park – geophysical investigation of geothermal fields in Peru and Chile”. That still sounds very exciting from here. Was I a yoga teacher all along but having a dream that I moved to Canada to be a geophysicist? Or am I a geophysicist taking a strange yoga hiatus? Or will I end up becoming a semi-truck mechanic as my friend Steve suggested (“You’ve done everything else”, he said). I’m not looking for any answers here. I just enjoy the questioning, and also I like using words like penultimate.

I think being a semi-truck mechanic could be fun.
or a baker
a tattoed baker
a tattoed baker who is a semi-truck mechanic by night
yeah!

I wonder if this is the kind of “inane mutterings and grumblings” (Tucker, personal conversation, 2012) people write on their blog. Good thing this is a website, not a blog.

Turbans as helmets!

Here is a quick update on the pre-adventures preparations (which prevent piss-poor performance).

India: I am not packed for India, not by a long shot, but my friend ‘the other Melissa P with a black Toyota Tacoma’ solved my luggage dilemma. Take the backpack, she said. No discussion. Sometimes, it makes like easier to just let your friends boss you around. It frees up space in one’s cranium to ponder some of life’s idiosyncrasies. For example: Uncut hair is one of the Sikhs’ religious obligations. To manage long manes, Sikhs, but also Indian Muslims and Hindus, wrap them in turbans. Helmets are mandatory in India, but a turban will just not fit in a helmet. To solve this quandary, the helmet law was amended to allow turban wearers to ride without helmets as long as the unwrapped turban measures more than 5 meters (16 feet) in length. Somehow, it was determined that a turban less than 5 meters would not adequately protect the motorist’s head in case of an impact. Okay. So, I must ask. Did the Indian authorities have a set a crash dummies with different turban lengths to determine this? Did they take different turban fabric and hair length and thickness into account? Wouldn’t 16 feet of material wrapped on one’s head feel very hot and heavy the rest of the day? I mean, that would be like wearing your helmet around all day. Do they have little turbans inside big turbans for the purpose of riding? So many questions … The article I read also discussed the use of a tea cozy to protect one’s turban and of a dust cover to protect a long beard while riding. I hope to be able to document this in person.

PCT: Speaking of idiosyncrasies, I know an idiot … After months working on my backpack for the PCT, I am down to just the belt – a different belt, I didn’t like the original one I built. In order to sew the new belt in the right place, I filled the pack with all the gear that will be going, using my brand new *inflatable* pad on the inside as a frame to hold the pack in place … and then I pinned the new belt on. Yeah. What you think happened happened. I already found 6 of the holes. I’m pretty sure there are more. I don’t know if I’ll be able to save it. Is this a sign from the universe? “Hey, how about you don’t take an inflatable pad with you through the cactused desert!?” or is it just what it is, holes in a brand new mat. Bloody hell! On a more positive note, I found the pants. They appeared on the legs of the beautiful Deborah last night. I knew I had to have them. REI carried them and they are now mine, same size, same cut as Deborah’s, except I had to take the bottom hem about an inch, because I am, as she so like to remind me, much shorter than her. These will do both India and the PCT. If I were a pair of pants, these are the pants I’d want to be. Oh the places they’ll go …

Home:  I have recently acquired a fantastic yet ultimately worthless skill: I can recite by heart and with style the entirety of “Oh the places you’ll go” by Dr. Seuss. It takes 7 minutes to say the whole thing, which is why it is a worthless skill: nobody wants to sit and listen to me recite anything that long (well, except for Roseanna Mike and Melissa who were too polite to refuse). I need to find more polite people. It’d be a shame to let this skill go to waste. If you are reading this and would like to hear it, give me a call. I’m leaving in a week and I won’t have a phone past the 8th. Now is your chance. Also, the experience is best in person, so best would be you invite me out for dinner in exchange for the ultimate Dr. Seuss experience. Limited time only. Act now!!

XOX – RBC.

Wisdom from the great white north

I would like to live in a place where people act every day as they act when there is a foot of snow on the ground. I don’t particularly like commenting on the weather incessantly, but it is nice that strangers suddenly feel they have something worthwhile to share. “I wish I had brought a scarf”, “pretty crazy cold this morning”, “watch out for that corner there, it’s slick”, “I’m from Wisconsin, I’m used to this”. Overnight, subdued Bellingham discovers its own human dimension – all this time it thought the moving shapes were part of the beautiful landscape.

It is so much easier for me to be centered and present when I am alone in nature, where humans can be relegated in my mind to the background landscape. When strangers start talking to me, I get pulled back into the story I tell myself about my own life. I have been practicing feeling my soul inside my physical form. This morning I thought that feeling was akin to an “Occupy Melissa” movement (oh yes, and that made me giggle aloud). When the outside world calls for my attention, it’s like when the city of Bellingham forced the evacuation of the “Occupy Bellingham” people out of the public park where they had set up residence for the past couple of months. The city officials said they supported the movement but had to look out for the welfare of the city’s parks too. I can see how if I were to Occupy Melissa too long, in this early clumsy state I’m in, I might neglect the physical envelop I call my body. So, thank you random people, for bringing me back into the world.

I thought I’d establish early on in this blog that I might not always make any sense to you, so you know what you’re getting yourself into before you decide to “follow” it.

Enjoy the snow, if you have some!!

Hello World,

It is 7:07 pm. For those of you in the know, you will know what that means (I’m just sayin …). For all others, never mind. This is my new blog. Will I want to keep a blog while I am in India or on the PCT? Will I have the opportunity to? Will I even have anything interesting to say?

I must ask myself the same question I ask whenever I update my Facebook status. Really, who cares? What makes me think that my life is of enough importance to someone not personally experiencing it that he or she would want to get online and read about it? Do I lead a less boring life than the average bear? Define boring. Define bear.

Would I be keeping this blog if I knew for a fact that no one would read it? Will I obsess about how many comments I get? Validate my experience with your approval so that I may know I lead a worthwhile life. Define life. Ah … now we’re getting somewhere. Life. That grandest of adventures.

I don’t know that I will have anything interesting to say here, but I will promise you this: that I will lead my life as if it were the only one I have, that I will chose the less-trodden path whenever it presents itself and feels safe, that I will follow adventures when they invite me in and take careful notes to share. I promise to be joyous and depressed and everything in between and to keep honest about what I truly felt. That’s as good as I can do.

I leave in three weeks for New Delhi for a yoga teacher training. I will be back in Bellingham, WA on March 19th. I will be off again to walk the Pacific Crest Trail. My start date is April 15th. 2012, here I come!!

Links:

http://www.tribe-yoga.com/yoga.teacher.trainings.html

http://www.pcta.org/