Top 5 reasons why I know I have the best sleeping bag on the face of the planet.

 

Right here … Here’s my love, the Western Mountaineering UltraLite 20 degree bag:

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#1 – Weight. When I first ordered this beauty, back in 2011, as I was getting ready for a PCT Thru-hike, it came in the mail at the same time as some hiking shoes, mini gaiters, a headlamp and other small miscellaneous objects. When I picked up the box, my face grew long … they hadn’t included the sleeping bag. I just knew. The box was too light. Then I opened the box, and lo’ and behold’ the bag was in there! I tossed it in the air, and it fell back gently in my arms. Yep. Love at first sight! Then a week ago, sending it to the WM factory for repairs, I was charged extra because “the package was too light.” Customers in line at the post office suggested I put a rock in the box – That’s light!

#2 – Comfort. The 20 degree UltraLite is not actually a bag, it’s a regeneration cocoon of love, fluff and warmth. I slept in it for 105 night straight of cowboy camping (no tent) on the PCT, without a wash (I have dedicated sleep clothes and socks), like in the arms of Angels. When I stopped walking and moved back into the truck, this was still the bag I used. If it was too cold, I added a blanket on top, if it was too warm, I used it as a quilt, or rolled it into a small body size friend and hugged it all night (yeah, single life in the truck …) It’s been damp and wet a few times, and I expected it to let me down, as down bags are wont to do, but no, a space blanket around it, and it was back to excellent zzzzzs.

#3 – Durability. When I didn’t know anything about gear and read all I could about it, I learned that one cannot expect a bag to last more than one thru-hike. That’s just one of the costs the repeat thru-hiker must factor in. Well, mine’s looking at a full PCT, several AT sections, all the New Hampshire 4000ers, 2 San Diego trails, a trip to humid Cuba, a trip to dusty India, Alaska, Canada, etc. … and 6 years in the truck, in some fashion. And that bag is not even close to being done yet.

#4 – Customer Service. Okay, so, with the oil from my body and the constant use, the bag did eventually lose a lot of feathers – I mean, you would too after 6 years of almost daily use! So I called Western Mountaineering. When I was on the AT, they were able to give me an emergency refluff – I think they mostly washed it a bunch of time. It wasn’t completely back to its former glory, but I was still impressed with WM tracking me down on the trail and getting the bag right to me without impairing my walk at all.  Now, 2 years later, I contacted them again after spending a few cold nights on the San Diego trails. Boom! Refluffed, broken zipper is fixed, all in a courteous, understanding, expedient fashion, and again they were able to work with my nomadic lifestyle and are shipping the bag right where I’ll be able to get it.

#5 – Everything else. I love its gorgeous deep blue, that hasn’t really faded. I love that it’s quiet when I sleep in it, no annoying nylon rustling. I love how small it compresses. I’ve even carried it in a day-pack to spend the night in a cave once. I love how it smells – oh, wait, that’s just my smell … I love that my best trail family members have the same bag, so we can feel like a special clique of people who scored in the gear department. I love the two drawstrings that keep the chill of the night away from my body, but my face still out to see the stars and breathe clean air. I love that the 6′ length gives me wiggle room for my feet, and extra storage for my clothes (I’m 5’4″). And … actually, there isn’t anything I DON’T like about this bag.

I get no kickback of any sort from Western Mountaineering for shamelessly bragging about their bag. I’m just assembling gear for my next adventure, and felt my gratitude and love for this loyal gear-friend needed to be passed on.

Love!

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Note: You’re actually looking at my bivy bag covered in dew here, the sleeping bag is inside. It turns out, I don’t have a picture of me in my bag, because either I camp alone, or I protect it with the bivy. You get this idea though …

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That’s what I do with your speeding ticket, town of Blanding, Utah!

For those of you baffled by my cryptic cursive handwriting:

“Dear city of Blanding,

Enclosed is a check for the speeding ticket I received while driving through your lovely little town.

I just wanted to point out to you that I am paying the speeding ticket not because you threatened to send a warrant for my arrest, but because of the kindness the officer that pulled me over showed me. He was doing his job, and I did come into town faster than I should have. But he showed me kindness, politeness, professionalism, and when it was over, directed me to an excellent coffee shop.

There are many unpleasant experiences in life, getting a speeding ticket is vexing enough. I am grateful it turned into a kind exchange.

I hope Blanding uses the funds well.

And I wish you all a beautiful day.

Melissa”

The best part about A Wrinkle in Time

I went to see A Wrinkle in Time, the visually-pleasing, Oprahesque, feel-good, inspirational-quotes-filled movie just out in theatre, and I have already included in this sentence everything I’m going to say about it, because the best part of the movie actually happened before the movie.

I arrived at the theatre early to get “the good seats”, the ones exactly at the center of the theatre, relative to the height of the room and to the width of the screen. I settled in a surprisingly deep soft seat while my friend Mikhael braved the popcorn line. I wasn’t exactly centered – some earlier birds had that privilege – but about a quarter in, with 3 seats between me and the lucky birds. These were great enough seats.

An older gentleman with a large gnarled wooden cane entered the row. He held on to the back of the seats in front and shuffled sideways towards me with visible difficulty. I stood up so my seat would fold to offer him an easier passage, but our combined girth plus his cane did not fit the space between the rows. I pushed myself further into the seat. He squeezed past me. When he reached the open seats on the other side, however, he didn’t sit right away. He lifted a baseball cap from his destination seat, and turned back to me with a question mark on his brow.

“Do you know whose hat this is? Was someone saving this seat?”
“I don’t know. There was no one here when I got here.” I had a flash vision of our squeeze-dance of seconds prior. If the cap indeed marked a saved seat, we had a second dance coming, and I couldn’t see to let the man struggle back to the corridor to fight another row. I could have, in hindsight, I suppose, offered him my seat. But I didn’t think about it … I didn’t think about it until I was schooled with kindness, which happens at the end of this story, and I’m not there yet.

The man moved the hat over and sat down. We chit-chatted about the accident on the road outside, the rain, the upcoming movie. Small meaningful words with a sole purpose of connection. He grew quiet and I settled deeper in my seat. Then I noticed a phone in my cup holder. “Why would someone leave a phone in a …” The answer was entering the row before I could finish the thought.

Two boys, one of them barely taller than the seats’ backs, slinked down past all the seats and my raised knees by the smug agility of youth.
“Excuse me, I just need to get my hat.”
“Oh! I’m sorry. Was this your seat?” The older gentleman handed him his hat, contradicting the implication in his question.
“It’s okay.” The taller boy said, sliding again past me, and picking up his friend’s phone on the way.
“I just noticed there was a phone here.” I said. The words were true, but the excuse felt flat and false.
“It’s okay.” The taller boy repeated before meeting his friend already on tiptoes in the corridor in search of a new set of seats.

The older gentleman turned to me, “Well, now I feel bad. I mean, they had saved the seats, fair and square. What’s the point of saving a seat if people just sit there anyway?” He had slumped deeper in his seat and seemed genuinely ashamed of his behavior.
“Don’t worry. They’re young, they’re adaptable.” The words were meant to comfort myself as much as him. I wasn’t too proud either. I looked to the corridor. The boys were gone. I hoped they’d find good seats.

A few minutes later, my seat lurched forward. A kick in the back. A boy’s voice. Another kick in the back. I didn’t need to look. I knew exactly who sat behind me and from whose little legs those kicks emanated. I heard rustling behind me. Another kick. And another. So … that’s how it was going to be. I wasn’t upset at the kicks. Maybe I felt they were justified – I had, after all, “stolen” their saved seats. I wasn’t upset, but still I didn’t want to watch a whole movie with the kicking repercussions for my unintentional unkindness.

I considered moving to avoid escalating from kicks to confrontation, but by then the theatre was getting almost full. And also, these were great seats. And Mikhael was bound to return with popcorn to this exact location any minute. And I couldn’t move one to the right or to the left, because the entire row ahead was populated by tall people, except for the seat directly in front of me. I had the only unobstructed view, the only seat to accommodate my short height in the entire row.

What to do? Talk to the boy? Yes, but gently. What would I say? I’d have to be very polite and kind. Should I mention the kicks? How would I ask him to stop kicking without sounding like I’m attacking? What if he mentions our theft of his seat? What would Love say? How would Love solve this. What would Love do?

A small hand tapped me on the right shoulder. It was the taller boy, sitting one seat to the right of directly behind me. I turned to find his boyish face peering between the backs.
“Excuse me. My friend is very short. We brought several pillows, but he’s still a bit too short to see the whole screen.”
“Oh! Does he need me to sink a little so he can see above my head? I didn’t think I was as tall as the back.”
“No, you’re fine. You’re not in the way at all. It’s just that he’s been struggling to get himself up there, and he just wanted to apologize to you for kicking your seat.”

Yep – right there! THAT is what Love would do.

“Thank you for telling me. I hope you two enjoy the movie.”
“Thank you. I hope you do too.”

There was one more kick after that, and I didn’t mind at all. I just hoped his pillows had not slid down. And I mindfully stayed deep in my own seat in case it helped.

Folks, if this is the next generation in charge, we’re going to be just fiiine.

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(Image by Laura Yewon Jun- deviantart.com)

All Hail the Power of the Mighty Flu! – and a bonus story

I enjoy the flu. It’s not like its politically-correct cousin the cold. It doesn’t make you sniffle for weeks or let you dwell in the illusion of being functional while slowly draining your life juices away. It doesn’t care that you have prior plans or commitments, responsibilities, duties, chores or a life. It walks in like a cocky Senior IT tech, looks around and says “Little lady, you’re about to experience a complete system shutdown. Grab what you need and stay out of the way. We’ll let you know when you can resume.”

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[That’s the guy – pretty, isn’t it?]

I got the notice on Sunday, but my magician of a mechanical friend, Richard, had dismantled the Catmobile’s leaky air-intake system, and the new fancy replacement parts weren’t due to arrive until 3 pm. I crawled in the back of the truck stranded in the grocery parking lot – One of Richard’s many “repair shops” – and let the man speak to my engine while I made mental plans to accommodate my imminent and unavoidable collapse. The way this one was coming on, I knew I’d likely be down for days.

In non-nomadic life, I imagine people prepare by arranging for their kids to be taken to school, for food to be available for their pets, for bills to be paid, and so forth. In my world, the key components are 1) Find a place where I can park for days without a ranger asking me to move. 2) Orient the truck so that it is not only level, but also with its head to the east and back to the west. If the back points south, too much sun beats on the bed during the day, and I get too hot. If the back points north, I get no sun, and I get cold. And because I grow plants in the truck (Mint, Rosemary, Sage and Aloe Vera) and they prefer morning sun and afternoon shade, there’s just really one orientation that works. 3) I need two gallons of water for about 3 days. 4) The moon is about to be an exceptionally potent blue-blood-supermoon, so prepare for moon-time-female shenanigans (and double it). 5) That’s it. Everything else is already built-in. I have my whole life with me.

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The Catmobile got its shining new parts in. I drove up a hill, parked at the top, with the bed level and the back to the west, overlooking a huge vista of desert expanse from the red cliffs of Sedona to the Cottonwood-lined banks of the Verde River. I lodged a large rock behind each wheel, crawled in my den, and was instantly gone.

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I ran out of water Wednesday morning. I don’t remember much in between. Or rather my memories of the interim days and nights are like a jumble of slides in a dusty box. There’s no date or time stamp on the slides, and the dust in the box is mathematical. My fever dreams are always mathematical in nature. My brain forms and gets caught in loops it must then exit. It believes its survival depends on it. And the only way out is to painstakingly attempt to organize the fractal nature of Life into clean, measurable, Euclidean shapes. The slides are those moments in between when I come up for air out of the mathematical madness, open my eyes to the world and take stock that it’s still there, in all its fractal beauty, and remember that it requires nothing from me.

One of the slides is of the blood moon, a perfect full lunar eclipse, positioned exactly in the center of my back window as viewed from my pillow, as though it were hanging on my wall, and the truck was its frame, and its shade of red had been carefully chosen to match the new comforter my friend Frieda gave me for my birthday last year.

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Another slide finds me angry, because somebody said I couldn’t have a Spirit Animal because I am a nonnative (A Facebook post from a few days prior). I see my brother Coyote, my companion of so many dreams and quite a few waking moments. It always visits when I need. It reminds me I’ve chosen to live nonsensically, and to just have fun with it. He’s a tiny shadow in the distance in a big desert, but I know his movement pattern. “Go ahead, tell Coyote he cannot be my Spirit Animal because my skin is white.” I think I say it out loud. And back to sleep.

Another slide is of gun shots. The gun shots are there the whole time, because at the bottom of my hill is a shooting range . There are acute metallic high pitch shots, others with drawls and rumbling voices, yet others boom up the hill and shake the truck and my bones with their shockwave. They’re at it all day. One man is less than 10 feet from his target. A puff of dirt to the left of the target. Half a second later, I hear the shot. Half a second delay between sight and sound, how far am I? The next mathematical puzzle. I check on the man a few hours later. Puff of dirt now to the right of the target. A few hours later, he’s hitting the target. Good job! At sunset, he packs and leaves. Quiet returns.

Another slide. My warm water bottle against my body keeps all the chills of the night away. I wake up at sunset for a few simple well-rehearsed gestures. Stove on. Water in pan. Boil. Water in Nalgene bottle. Put stove away. I can do it all from my bed, yet it’s the most exhausting set of gestures I’ve ever performed in my life. The Flu and the medicine run through my body. My heart thumps in my ears. My fingers tingles. I feel I am journeying elsewhere, out of my body. But the water bottle is my anchor in the waking world. Whenever I feel its warmth, I know I’m still here. I’m safe in the truck.

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I dropped down the hill on Wednesday. I wasn’t fully coherent yet, but functional enough to drive to the store. I filled up my two one-gallon jugs and bought a yogurt – first food since Sunday. Richard had settled in the parking lot of a long-gone Denny’s restaurant and boldly posted a Facebook invitation to anyone in need of mechanical consultation to stop by and visit. He’d check the leak he had repaired in my power-steering hose, he said, but only if I kept my flu at least 10 feet away from him. I stayed in the driver seat while he slid under the engine. But, Donnie Darko, his canine sidekick, did not understand why the usual petting was being withheld. He jumped out of Richard’s van and came to my door to demand his dues.
“Great! Now I have to disinfect my dog.”
Richard ran some alcohol wipes on Donnie’s coat where my infected hand had made contact, and sprayed a generous cloud of Lysol in both our directions for good measure. He made me laugh, which made me cough.

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I drove back to the desert to heal for another couple of days, but this time away from the shooting range, into the red dirt I used to call home. I found “my spot” was still occupied, by the same hunters. The large tent was gone, but a stinky pile of antlers and nondescript animal parts informed me that this particular “spot” might never be mine again. Even if all traces of them were gone, I’d remember that pile and the energy about it, and it would make me sad. So, I drove further.

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The first twenty or so spots I found along road 525 were occupied by either a van, a tent or an RV. In all the winters I’ve spent in the Sedona backcountry, I have never seen so many desert-dwellers. I finally found an unoccupied level area, but upon inspection discovered the prior occupants had pooped all around the campable spot, and left their soiled toilet paper for the desert maid to clean up. Same story in the next few spots. In fact, I hadn’t noticed prior, but there was toilet paper all over the desert – caught under the mesquite  bushes, in the juniper branches, and startlingly white against the red dirt everywhere – this is a different topic than the one at hand, but seriously, hasn’t anyone heard of Leave No Trace ethics anymore? Anyway, I finally settled on a little secluded piece of dirt, crawled in the back, and resumed sleeping for another day and one night.

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BONUS STORY:
I was awoken on the second morning by the sound of a man’s voice. A very close sound of a man’s voice! I had been out of it so completely that I didn’t exactly remember where I was, so I sat up to see whose voice that was, and how far from the next encampment I had set my home. There was a small city-type car about 500 feet away, but nothing closer. Then I heard him again.

He was less than 20 feet from my truck, a man about mid-fifties, with a grey hoodie over much of his face and cut-off jean shorts, sitting in the dirt. His legs were crossed and his hands in prayer position in front of his face, which I couldn’t see. His hands shook with each desperate incantation as though the man was pleading God to spare his very life. This was a new one … I wasn’t sure what to do, so I lay back down. He must have known there was someone in the truck, and this is a very big desert, so why pray right here, next to me? Out loud?

You’d think I’d have been more worried about it, but for one, I always feel safe in the truck, and for two, I was still sick and actually just fell back asleep immediately.

His prayer woke me up a second time. Still only 20 feet away. This time he had knelt in the dirt and placed his forehead onto the ground, facing the red rocks of Sedona in the distance. He whispered his wails, but I sensed he wanted to be heard. I turned my phone on, just in case, and got dressed with minimal movements within the truck, all the while keeping a discreet eye on him, but also allowing him some privacy for his prayer.

He finished his second round of imploration, walked a wide arc around the truck, got in his car, slammed the door, and stayed there for 5 minutes. He then got out of his car, walked a wide arc around the truck, sat back in the dirt, same spot, prayed, returned to his car … and so forth.

On his fourth of fifth visit, I decided my curiosity was greater than his need to pray right next to my truck. I waited until he was just within earshot, and pushed the back open to reveal myself and my home. He stopped dead in his tracks and stared as his feet with his hoodie pulled as far down as his nose.
“Good morning.” I yelled to him.
No answer. No movement.
“Are you okay?”
He shook his whole body “no”, then said “I go over there to pray.” and immediately turned around in place and still stared at his feet but facing away from me.
“Okay. That’s okay. You can pray here, I don’t mind.”
He shook his whole body “no” again, and walked away towards his car. He got in the car, slammed the door, waited 5 minutes, and came out. Same routine. This time he walked a very wide arc around the truck, then changed his mind, walked a very wide arc back to his car. With gentle, non-threatening nor fear-based gestures, I began preparing the truck for departure. I was about ready when I noticed him approach the truck with a large Tibetan singing bowl. I had crawled in the back to water my plants, so I met him right at the entrance – the tailgate.
“Hi!” my friendliest voice.
He shook “no” again, and moved his hand along the Sanskrit on his Tibetan bowl. I grabbed my notebook and a pen and handed them to him with an inquisitive look. Is that what you need?
“I broke my vow of silence.” He wrote very slowly in small caps, and I watched as he wrote trying to decipher the letters as they appeared.
“Ahhh. I understand.” I told him.
“I am not in a good way.” he wrote on the next line.
“Okay. I hear you.”
“I can only be friends with spiritual people.” on the next line. And upon writing it, he looked at me for the first time, with an apologetic look, as clearly, I didn’t qualify.
He then bowed and returned to his car.

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And I drove out of the desert, to Chris’s, to get a shower and attend to the aftermath of the flu – melted chocolate and wilted greens, fever-smelling sheets and clothes, and stories to tell.

The end.
For now.

XOX – Roaming Bobcat.

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Fractals!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest

I hear it all the time … “YOU truly live life to the fullest!”
Yeah, way to go, Roaming Bobcat! You are such an inspiration. Way to be free from society, jobs, obligations and Old World expectations, roaming by the will o’ the wisp in your valiant Catmobile, all smiles, gratitude and high vibrations.

Well, I’ll tell you what: I DO live life to the fullest. And it is not all you’ve cracked it to be…

2 days ago. My facebook status read “Sometimes, I feel so blessed, that my only hardship is humility.”
Last night. A friend offered I sleep in his driveway because I was cold, hopeless, and crying.

Crazy Free - new cover from Scott.

“Hi. I am doing a study on the homeless population in Sedona. May I ask you a few questions.”
The lady with the clipboard picked me first. Maybe because I was standing nearest the entrance at the Food Bank, waiting for my number to be called for a free bag of food to sustain me for the week. Maybe because of my three layers of down vests and jackets, the classic look of those of us without a heated space on cold winter nights. Or maybe it was my matted hair – she couldn’t guess of my choice to grow dread locks to celebrate my passage through menopause. Or something about my unhurried pace – letting mothers and people with jobs get ahead in line. I have nowhere else to be, and nothing else to do.
“I’m not homeless.” I told her. “I live in my truck, so I always have my home with me.”
She had a checkbox for that on her form. Vehicle dwellers count as homeless.
“No, I have no income.”, “No, I don’t have health insurance.” “No, I don’t pay taxes” “No, I don’t have electricity.” “No, I don’t use any substance, no drugs, no alcohol” … She had a checkbox for each of my answers.
“Well, I’m not your typical homeless person though,” I could hear the defensiveness in my voice. I mean, I live the way I live “by choice.”
She had a checkbox for that too.

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2 days ago, the Catmobile and I pulled into Slab City, California. The “City” appears on Google Maps as a small cluster of square blocks, complete with streets (Loners on Wheels Rd, Tank Rd, etc.) and neighborhoods (East Jesus, West Satan, etc.) But, in fact, it’s little more than a haphazard congregation of  “homeless” people of the wheeled kind, a mingling (not mixing) of nomadic hippie artists, air-conditioned northern sun-seekers, off-season disoriented burners, and Alexander Supertramp followers.


I fall slightly in all categories, but mostly in the latter.
The first time “Into the Wild” landed in my hands, I was a National Science Foundation Fellow with more annual grant money for my geophysics research than all the paychecks and under-the-table money I have earned combined in the 7 years since I threw caution to the wind and leaped into this strange life I now call my own. That book sparked something wild and unstoppable in me. I didn’t see the tragedy of a troubled young man’s untimely death; I read of a vibrant explorer with the balls to go for it, explore the edges, and follow only his own footsteps, to whatever end.

In time, I’ve become my own Alexander Supertramp. I’ve lived as I pleased, following nothing but my own wishes. I’ve run out of money, repeatedly – to a documented low of $2.62. I’ve slept in the dirt (as a thru-hiker) and on sidewalks (in Cuba). I’ve forgone showers and piled hundreds of thousands of miles on my odometer. I collected friends all over the country, with names as strange as Last on the Bus, the Big Elf, Grey Wolf, Weathercarrot, Quest or Rapunzel. Enough money has always appeared when needed, and not once did I use any one of my 4 college degrees. I taught yoga, posed as a nude model for art classes, worked as a Grand Canyon guide, painted buildings and houses, restored historical windows, dug trenches, shoveled pig and chicken shit, weeded organic gardens, trimmed marijuana, wrote a book about my adventures, and lived off the royalties for a while … and, I’ve had to borrow money, dumpster-dive (mostly for pies). I’ve sung Hare Krishna songs for a free meal, and occasionally relied on food banks and the kindness of strangers. Like Alexander, I joined the ranks of society’s misfits, roamed the desert southwest, and even moved to Alaska.

But our parallel stops there. Because his life stopped then, and mine hasn’t.

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Standing on top of Salvation Mountain, I sent Alexander Supertramp my love and gratitude for the inspiration. gratitude for all the adventures, the friends and the overwhelming freedom inherent to living life this way – our way! I then parked the Catmobile among my misfit peers, and basked in the glow of a gorgeous sunset from the comfort of my pillow. I felt like the Grand Winner of the Jackpot of Life, and fell asleep fully contented about everything in my world.

Alexander was older now. He was walking through the desert, but only I could see him. The rows of RVs had their generators going. That was in the world. So, the noise from the world was in my dream. I was relatively sure this was a dream. I could date Alexander since I could see him. He’d be my invisible boyfriend.
“You died just in time.” I told him. “If you had continued on, you’d have run out of steam, eventually.” He wasn’t listening, but he held my hand as we walked. “All that freedom, it’s exhausting after a while.” Still not listening. “It’s like having so many options paralyzes you, because how can you choose when everything is available?”
There was a banquet for a wedding. A table covered with delectable meals. All of which I had tasted already. He sat and ate.
“Alexander, I think I don’t want to be homeless anymore. I want a kitchen, and a bathtub, a garden to grow my own food, a room for my sewing machine, and a yoga studio nearby where I can teach, and a steady income to buy gear and pay for adventures.”
“Then stop.” He kissed my temple just before I drifted elsewhere, to another dream.

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skinny slit separatorThere were no restrooms anywhere in Slab City, and no bushes thick enough to hide behind, so I left before sunrise, at the urgent request of my bowels. Then I drove 2 hours and almost ran out of gas before finding both gas and a bathroom.

“Then stop.” he had said. Well, but, I can’t. Just like I can’t stop in Slab City if I need to poo. There’s this urge to always move on. A fear of missing out if I don’t. I can’t go back to where I was before I got on this journey, because, at this point, it’s so far ago and I’m such a different person that I wouldn’t even fit at all “back there.”
And, also, I don’t want to stop for the sake of stopping. I want to stop because I find a spot or situation that I deem worthy of stopping. I’m not just gonna pull in the middle of the desert and say “I stop here. Here’s just fine.”

And what if I did stop? There were towns along the way where I’ve considered stopping, like North Conway, NH or Sedona, AZ. Would I build a peaceful hole to call my own? Get a steady job? A job would bind my daily hours, and the assorted taxes, insurances and utilities would bind my income. So I’d have the money for adventures and gear, and no time to partake in them. The eternal dilemma … I think I’d just shrivel up under the weight of a life ill-fitted to my particular genetic makeup. In fact, I’ve tried to stop in each of these towns. It didn’t take.

When I finally pulled into Sedona, and caught my first glimpse of Thunder Mountain, tears welled up in my eyes. Tears of sadness. An overwhelming sense of stagnation washed over me. I was here again. I always returned here when I didn’t know where else to go. Why? Why always Sedona? Because it’s easy. Because I know I can camp out in the desert, and get my mail at friends’ addresses, and meet people for tea, and hike trails I’ve hiked a hundred times without having to buy a map or ask strangers. I have a “spot” here. Just having this “spot” made me feel stagnant. So, not only I can’t stop, but I can’t return too often either. A pretty dire case of wanderlust!

Then I drove through town – for the first time in over a year. My favorite yoga studio is now closed, as is my favorite coffee shop. Most of the pullouts in the desert now have “no camping” signs, and worse … there is a “camping” sign on my secret road, leading straight to my secret spot – “My” spot, where I have spent months, where I know each cat-claw bush, coyote song and firewood pile. There was a massive camp in “my” spot, with enough water to last an entire season.

So, here is where it stands. The Sedona I always return to no longer exists. It changed while I was gone. So, I can stay here and pretend it’s a new town. and I know I’d discover new “spots” and meet new people. I could even find work here – I have contacts- and save enough to hike the CDT – my next dream adventure.

Oooor … I could go somewhere else, someplace new. Anywhere. I can go anywhere at all. I can go soooo anywhere that I don’t even know where I’d go.

And THAT is the ugly truth about living life to the fullest. How do you define who you’d like to be when infinity represents the boundary of what you can create? How do you narrow it down? How do you remain content with your choices when you can just look over the fence and see the green grass of a small home with a kitchen and a bath? How do you ward off stagnation when movement becomes your norm? How do you reconcile growing your own organic vegetables when you are addicted to the view outside your 32 square foot window to always, always, always be different?

What would Alexander have done, if he hadn’t died?

desert

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P.S: So … I started writing this posted “The Ugly Truth about Living Life to the Fullest” intending to write about how, often, people think I live in a state of La La Land-happiness about how awesome my life is. And anyone on Facebook could easily think that, because I only post when I’m happy. The “Ugly Truth” I wanted to write about is that life comes with great joys and deep sadness, moments of despair and confusion, the whole gamut. The key to “living fully” is NOT to be happy all the time, it is to live everything that happens. Reject nothing, it’s all good … that’s what I came here today to write about, and then, my fingers wrote something else entirely. Probably something I needed to read myself, to know where I’m at. Live Blog Therapy, of sort.

And also, this morning, as the story was writing itself, I got an offer to go live in a cob house with a friend in Colorado. I’d still have the truck as a bedroom, but there would be a kitchen and bathroom, and a wood stove, and a room I could make into an office to finally record that audio book I started years ago. And it’s in a spot I’ve never visited before. So … ??? Stay tuned.

Thank you for reading! XOXOX

[drawing of the two ladies on the cliff by my friend N.Scott Driscoll as a potential new cover for Crazy Free]

 

 

 

 

 

Lunacy

​Lunacy. A real thing.  Alone on the Wolf Moon in a desert I love,  like so many other nights.  Midnight. A truck full of screaming drunken men races up my dirt road. There’s metal banging.  The engine roars. I can’t tell if the scream is of pain or joy. I feel the fight or flight hormones rushing through. The truck is now open and I’m ready. I could run and hide up the hill.  I know this desert better than they do.  And leave my truck open to vandalism?  Never. What weapons do I have? 1 ice axe, 2 fire staffs. No gun. No need. I wouldn’t shoot. I know this. The screams are closer now. Pots and pans must be tied to the bumper. What feeling is this?  The opposite of feeling safe. Would I feel safer if Jim was here?  I can’t rely on others for my feeling safe. Would I feel safer if I believed I was safe? Yes. I used to believe. I don’t know why it changed. Would I remain aware and believing in a loving, kind universe if these men got here? Fascinated by the inner dialog, I feel it all,  like an observer and a potential victim both.  

They turn around less than 20 feet from the truck. I am parked on a muddy dead end road.  They never saw me.  I find their tracks in the morning. They drove back and forth through the thickest of the mud. They broke some trees and drove over cacti. 

I follow their tracks all the way to the paved road. They were on a rampage. Mayhem and destruction everywhere they drove. I knew their path before I saw it. As they left the desert, I could hear their screams and see their red fading lights for miles. I wished those lights stay red.  Don’t turn around. Don’t come back here,  lunatic wolf moon madmen.

[Reposted here from a Facebook post from a few days ago]

*the Wolf Moon is the first full moon of the year. 

My first and likely only political post

[Originally written as a Facebook post]

I don’t engage in political debates, and for that I’ve been misjudged uncaring.  I don’t listen to the news. That doesn’t make me ignorant.

A madman walked into a gay bar in Orlando and killed innocent people, igniting a spark in a barrel of dynamite-loaded opinions. Whichever fears one already subscribed to were suddenly further justified by the senselessness of the act. The madman had a gun, let’s ban guns. The madman had Afghani parents, let’s exile all Muslims, and while we’re at it, all foreign-born immigrants.  The victims were gay, let’s point the finger to homophobia. Let’s point, let’s point … to something, to someone outside of ourselves. Let’s reduce our tribe, our family to that which was hurt, so that we can exclude that which did the hurting. We do this to feel safer. If we were to admit that a random madman walked into a bar and killed innocent people, then we’d have to accept that this could happen again, anywhere, anytime, placing us and our loved one in constant potential danger. But if there’s a greater cause, purpose or scheme, then the likelihood of it hitting home is perceived as less. A conspiracy theory is much more reassuring than an isolated insane act to the human brain.

Einstein said that a problem cannot be solved from the level at which it was created. Fear-based dividing and hierarchical categorization of the human tribe doesn’t foster peace, it starts wars. Review your history books, if you don’t believe me.

So, we must rise above and look from a greater perspective. Let’s say the whole world is our tribe, then the madman is our brother. Now it’s an inside job. It’s a family problem, a whole world problem. And I don’t claim to know anything, but from my perspective, it seems that fear is not born because there’s a problem, there’s a problem because we live in fear. It’s not healthy. It’s bound to crack.

“They” say I’m ignorant of the “facts” because I don’t watch the news, that I live a selfish life in Lalaland with my head in the clouds or in an opaque paper bag, that I’m heartless for posting happy posts in the face of tragedy, that I’m blindly delusional for going on long walks when America is on the brink of war. And I ask, how does my spending hours feeding my mind with the horrors of the world help anyone? Who benefits from my fear? (And yes, I could follow this question straight up the conspiracy ladder, but again that’d only redirect the fear-based finger pointing). Shouldn’t *somebody* hold this space here – where it is remembered that the world is a magical, beautiful place – for balance? And what if more of us turned off their TV and concentrated instead on finding and sharing beauty and love in the Right Here and the Right Now? What if our madman brother had grown-up in a world where the majority chose to keep their eyes open in the sunlight instead of staring at the darkness? Even if our brother was Muslim and had a gun, don’t you think the story would have had a different ending?

I value your diverse opinions. I welcome the whole spectrum on my FB feed and in my life. But do not measure my actions by the yardstick of your assumptions.

Not all bliss is born of ignorance.

My 32 square foot home – the bedroom

Some day, in a distant future, I might again live indoors, with a ceiling, running water and indoor plumbing. I imagine at that point I’ll look back on my current life and wonder “how the hell did I fit my entire life in 32 sq fit for all these years?” So, in case you are curious too, and since I am cleaning the truck anyway … here is how:

Bed of truck (bedroom)- 6X4 = 24 sq ft
Behind the seats in the cab – 2X4 – 8 sq ft

Part 1 – the bedroom.
20160610_155059Blank canvas. Almost … 6X4 truck bed outfitted with Vision high ceiling cap, 6 climbing bolts (3 on each sides), metal wire shelves and Tibetan prayer flags.

20160610_155238Side shelves, design of my own – plywood sheet cut and joined with piano hinges, rest on the wheel base, held in the bed liner grooves.

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Waterproof barrier. The shell has been leaking for a few years in spite of having the seals redone. This keeps my mattress dry.

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Ikea firm mattress, with zippered cover. Makes it easy to wash.

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1.5″ memory foam – the secret ingredient in the camping->home alchemy.

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Jersey cotton sheet stretch to fit. Regular sheet are almost impossible to get smooth in this setup. The secret ingredient in the home->palace alchemy.

20160610_175359_Richtone(HDR)Lower shelves. On the right, trash bags, winter hiking boots, stove and fuel box (alcohol stove, windscreen, lighter, funnel for fuel and spare straps), zero degree sleeping bag and winter camping pad. On the left, hiking poles, hiking shoes and sun shade for the side windows, bag of climbing gear and mountaineering bivy bag. Bedding goes underneath the shelves when not in use.

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Middle shelves. On the right, bedside basket (toothbrush, toothpaste, earplugs, pencils, headlamp, solar lantern, solar lamp, pocket knife, assorted crystals, bio-tune tuning fork, Ganesha statue found in the sea on Nantucket island), medicine box (lotion, vitamins, tiger balm). On the left, book shelf (books in progress, coloring books and pencils, local hiking maps, journal). On the shelf-above-the-feet, denatured alcohol (fuel), water ninja (1 gallon, in a tee shirt for protection), kitchen box (pots, pans, etc), food box (including a full spice rack and nice selection of oils and vinegars), nuts and seeds box, small suitcase of clothes. Welcoming mat for the tailgate.

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Top shelves. To the right, tea box (great assortment of green and herbal teas) and wolf-friend, utility box (scissors, batteries, lighters, candles, tampons, sage bundle, pins, compass, pens and pencils, spare reading glasses), towel, bathroom bag. To the left, hats and gloves box, socks box (I’m packed to be gone all winter, possibly for a couple of years), underwear and truck window curtains. Back shelf, jackets (rain and puffies), pants (yoga, work pants and 1 pair of jeans). Protective sheet of plywood slides under the mattress for sleeping.

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Driving mode – the boxes come down from the shelf-above-the-feet for a clear view out the back. Toys come in (2 fire staffs on the right, a hula hoop on the left) and cooler in the back for easy access.

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Final touch for New Hampshire departure. This time I’m also packing a bin of climbing gear (ice climbing tools, ropes, crampons, ice climbing boots, mountaineering boots, harness, helmet, etc …) and a pair of AT skis.

All that is left is to decorate.

“Courage cannot be tested cautiously” (with the sea horse).
“Follow your heart and know you are loved.” (note from Margaret)
The green bungee cord holds the recorder I use to create the audible version of Crazy Free. It hooks to the other side of the truck when in use, rests on the same side when not in use.

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This one is indispensable for extended stays in the desert. It has been on the wall of several brick and mortar bedrooms before gracing the side of the truck.

That’s the bedroom. Next, the living room (cab)).

My 32 square foot home – the living room

Previously, on the Roaming Bobcat … the bedroom.

Now moving on to the living room (the cab), where all sorts of hoarding addictions are revealed.

20160611_133456_Richtone(HDR)On the back seat of the cab, four wooden crates held by seat belts.
In the lower right, sewing machine and fabric. In the lower left, arts and crafts (drawing, jewelry making, and MORE fabric. In the upper right, a bunch of girly scarves, a few nice shirts and a jacket, in case I have a date – you never know – valiantly guarded by a tiger and lion, whom I’ve had since I was 16 years old. They came with me in my first suitcase when I came to the states (1992). The left top box is my “office”, padded envelops to send books, address book, business cards and solar charger for my electronics. It’s a bit empty at the moment, but I’m picking up a shipment of Crazy Free books in Colorado on my way through.

These wooden crates turned on their side, combined with the wood planks making the shelves in the back, can (and have) easily become modular furniture if it gets too cold to live in the truck, as happens in New Hampshire in the winter.

20160611_133837Left side, behind the seat. 5 different packs. And yes, I need all of them. There are two more stashed under the seat, along with a small tool box, car wax and rags. The top bag with the exotic print holds two yoga mats and a meditation blanket from India. My Mom made that bag for me years ago. It’s still going.

20160611_134946_Richtone(HDR)Right side, behind the seat. 3 more pair of boots and a spare pair of trail shoes (2 more in the climbing box, and a pair of climbing shoes in the climbing bag). And yes, I need all of them! Under the seat are chains, a snow shovel and ice scraping tools. Ready for winter!
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Tucked in between is my Appalachian Trail pack, ready and eager to go, and my laptop bag with all the chargers, cables and such.

20160611_140436On the passenger seat, a box of snacks for the road and a box with spare change, pens, more charging cables and love notes I like to keep close by. Usually, I keep my purse here too, and the water ninja when I’m driving long-distance.

The rest is all TREASURES!

Sedona rock, New Mexico heart, gift double-pointed quartz, Mt. Baker rock, lip balm, stick I picked up in Yosemite in 1994, heart from Java love cafe. And a stack of hoop earrings around the gear shift handle. And a rainbow-maker from my friend Lucy (to the right of the rear-view mirror).
The “All Powers” box holds a solar trickle-charger for the truck’s battery and about 50 quartz crystals I dug out of Payson’s “diamond point” – between the charger and the crystals, I’m covered for all emergencies. The fancy tire gauge was a gift from Dave, the Saline Valley Hot Springs caretaker, from the time when I got 3 flats in 24 hours.
The pendant on the window has my coyote bones (read about that here) and some beads made of Sedona red rocks. The turtle shows me the way (Maturin, the way of the turtle, if you’ve read Stephen King’s Tower series), the blue bracelet with rose quartz pearl was a gift of protection from my friend Margaret.

That’s it.
Loaded and ready to go … one more day of work and I’m outta here!

Cottonwood Sage, Sedona Red

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This is the view from my pillow, right now (7:15 this morning), at the top of a small hill above Cottonwood, overlooking the open plain between the edge of the Colorado Plateau and the Verde River. Taken to the sound of gun shots below. I’m camped right above a shooting range. Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Sedona anymore.

I meant to leave. I needed a different color. Living in the red does something to my soul. Maybe the iron in the rocks seeps through my feet into my blood stream,  maybe the omnipresence of 450 hz (the vibration of red) activates my root Chakra. By whichever school of thoughts,  it affects me.
Feelings, like sunsets, are never pastel in Sedona.  Sadness tastes like despair. Unchecked unconscious annoyance can turn to rage. Joy feels like Universal Love and Gratitude bursting out of the heart and every pore. Oh, most delicious of feelings! That last one’s a bit addictive.

And it’s not just me.  Every guest I had on tour this week commented on this.  One woman had uncontrollable anger, hated her hotel and everybody in it on her first night.  By the time I met her,  the next day,  she glowed brighter than an Angel of Love. Another cried massive emotional release, then said she felt more energized than she’d ever felt,  and all I did was take her to the Creek.  Yep!  Sounds like Sedona.

Whenever I leave the red rocks,  I get depressed for a day. It took me a while to make the correlation.  I just thought Flagstaff was a sad place,  then I realized I felt the drop in energy regardless of my destination away from here.

And yet,  I have to leave often and sometimes stay away for years.  When I first came to Sedona,  a new friend from Flagstaff told me “You come to Sedona to heal,  then you get out. It’s too intense to live there.”
I don’t come to heal (that I know of). I come because I love feeling intense for a little while. It’s like my natural growth gets sling shot to the next level. And also, it’s gorgeous, I can work as a guide guide and live for free in the postcard. I have a few friends who live in Sedona full time and are perfectly grounded and operate at a “normal” level. I also have several who probably should have left decades prior,  when they still could. Like all things,  it’s what you make of it.  For me,  I can’t stay in the sling shot full time. After a few months,  it makes me crazy (er?). When I get that buzz,  it’s time to go.

And that time is now. I’m buzzing. Emotions run high and I might compromise friendships or expand energy solving imaginary problems if I linger.
In addition, summer’s here and it’s hotter than hell by 7 am. My face feels like it’s about to crack from dryness. I don’t have AC – I’m not sure I’d want it.  It’d only make the outside feel hotter. Yesterday, the Tupperware I left in my front seat, in the shade, melted into a malformed mass, and right now (7:44 am) the glue that holds the velcro on my truck’s curtains is failing, leaving me exposed to the ball of fire at the heart of the great desert oven.

I have a few more tours lined up for June, but I’m already packed.
Last month I left “for a few years” on the new moon, and returned two weeks later on the full moon.  In the 3D world it all made sense. There was work here and I needed funds.  But in Sedona-speak, the moon probably did it. This time I’m leaving on the full moon. I hope it sticks. I’m migrating north to greener grounds, meadows and snow capped mountains. It is time.

And then to the AT … 🙂

Xox.
Boiling Bobcat