Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Val and I walking through a village in the Usambara Mountains circa 2008, Tanzania

"After all, when you come right down to it, how many people speak the same language even when they speak the same language?" -Roland Barthes

I ease our red toyota pick-up into a spot on the busy street, I steal a glance at the bay in front as I get out of the red engine that could, and walk toward the corner of Webster and Central Ave in Alameda, where these past friends and I agreed to meet. I'm giddy, with butterfly's brushing against my insides, excited to catch up on the news of Tanzania, eager to let down my barriers, relieved that I won't have to keep this mask I have on-the mask that says to the world I am "adjusted", "integrated", a part of this social fabric, here in the U.S. 

I hug them both, and we walk, all three with a bounce in our step, towards a cafe where we can sit and let the conversation pour. After ordering teas, we sit, sprawl actually, all three of us on this small two-person couch, so close, like we are traveling on a daladala, comforted by the closeness, comforted by the lack of personal bubbles, intruding, welcoming, in each other's space. 

Across from us is a series of images on the wall, pictures of distant places, dark skinned men and women on beaches, in streets with bustling commotion, chaotic markets, and we talk, freely, hopping from one topic to another with that emotive urgency that friends have when they reunite.

 One image is of green chairs and tables on an ordinary sidewalk, and Kate says,

"That could be anywhere."

Yeah, anywhere, we could be anywhere.  

Kristen is a month back after a three-year tour in the Peace Corps in Tanzania. She talks about the end of her service, about leaving her site, saying goodbye to students, colleagues, friends and what became family, and how she justified her uprooting to these neighbors by telling them she was going back to America to get a Masters in Chemistry. 

I ask if this is true.

"No, but it seemed like the best way to explain why I was leaving."  

We talk about other volunteers, who's doing what, where they are, how they are "adjusting", so-and-so hates this grad program they got into, but doesn't know what to do, so-in-so is in law school and continuing on their already planned path, happy to be back. 

Our words float into the air around us, hanging there, easily accessible, understandable, digestible, and it's natural. There is this bond that we have, that we will always have, and I think about how nice it is. To be able to speak a language, and have people REALLY speak the same one. I think that has been one of the hardest parts about readjusting from life in the Peace Corps, that while I have the same language as other Americans, it seems I don't always use it in a way that seems to be understandable. 

After a year being back, I'm just starting to be okay with this fact. And am learning that I don't HAVE to talk about Tanzania. But meeting up with Kate and Kristen have just unleashed all of these kept words, and it feels so freeing, like water breaking from the dam. 

And then I reflect on how important that sense of community is, how much I miss it, how I want to have it again. Peace Corps was a bond, a common thread where the language is unique, the culture is unique, and if anything, I think that's what I'll carry with me, and seek out in whatever contexts the future holds. Because language is what unites us, what connects us, and how we share our worlds, merge our paths. 

I am grateful for these people who I can speak the same language with with. 

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Move Within

"Keep walking, though there's no place to get to.
Don't try to see through the distances.
That's not for human beings. Move within,
but don't move the way fear makes you move"

Guess I'm just in a mood for some inspiration. Last week I got a chance to spend time with good friends and family, celebrating siku ya shukurani, which was wonderful, a full reminder of how much richer life is when its shared with people you love and who love you. But Thanksgiving also elicits a need, a desire,at least in me- to reflect, and I start to think about the particular place I'm at.

I'm in a transitional state, still not rooted, and preparing myself for April, when Jacob and I will embark again-leaving for 5 months to walk those 2700 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. Sometimes it's hard to keep a positive attitude, and it's easy to fall into that negative feed-back loop of self-doubt and criticism. 

I say, 

I'm not in a stable career.

I don't have a final destination.

I have an uncertain future looming ahead, and I still haven't figured out what sort of career would fit me. 

Thus, I spend time trying things on, going on career "dates" as I call them, seeing if there is an environment where I could really sink into. And I haven't found it. It's like a bad dating scene. Where I'm searching, and dating all these careers I don't think in the end I want, but am trying them out to see for sure what I don't want. 

And I've come to the conclusion that I just don't want a commitment right now. 

Not from a career. 

No, I don't want to be in that sort of long-term relationship with a job. 

So I do what I did when I was dating in college, and I go out with this career for oh, maybe three months, and then I move on.

Guess I'm sort of fickle right now. 

But I think of what a dear friend of mine said when we were commiserating about this very place to be, and she relayed some sound advice that I resonated with, to keep in mind in these uncertain spots, that we should change our perspective and look at these times as growth spurts, with growth pains and all. Then I think back to when I was stretching up, growing 4 inches in 2 years and how much my knees hurt.

Guess my professional self is just a little tender right now. 

And then I remember how many blessings I have, and I'm simply grateful. For my health, for an incredible life partner, for family and friends, for  butternut squash and apples, for public libraries, and cashews, for delicious coffee, and for having the ability to follow this dream of walking from Mexico to Canada. And then all the growing pains don't seem to feel as acute, and they actually disappear. 

And then I walk, and I move within. 

Monday, November 15, 2010

I don't love the treadmill

photo taken from

I recently reread my journal from when I was living in Tanzania. The following entry scares me a little. 

"Americans get caught up in that hustle and bustle of everyday life. They need, want and can only live, on the treadmill.  Many have a set weekly 9 to 5 routine, performing nominal tasks with ease. They settle into a life of efficiency, work, and progress. They are routinized, rationalized beings who are specialists without spirit, sensualists without heart. People start to become creatures of habit, who are more concerned with the state of the front yard rather than the matters of the spirit. A person finds at the end of the day, they can be happy because at least they “got something done”. 

Some search for a way out of this box, where they can satisfy the common desire to get away from it all. But they always come back. 

Well, I don't want to ever go back. 

I don’t REALLY think I want my life to be an ongoing rhapsody, but to keep in touch with the sublime, is that too much to ask?"

Damn it. I came back. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Around Us, from Jónsi’s album, "Go"

A little bit of inspiration from Iclandic folks: 

"We all want to grow with the seeds we will sow

We all want to go with the trees we will grow

We all want to know when we're all meant to 

go To a place you and I - Will call home"

I like Sigur Rós, mostly because they got away with making up their own language. 

Maybe one day my mind, and perhaps this  

blog, will abandon English altogether and 

adapt Hopelandic-communicating in only 

sighs and emotions. 

I can hope, right?

So, here's just their front-man taking off on his own. 

First heard music from this album on the slideshow that was put together by family and friends for our wedding (Thanks go to N for pushing some good music through), and it's definitely a change from my attraction to dark, and quite depressing music. 

When I listen to this song, and album, I can't help but smile.
official cover of Jónsi's album go

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


Work, perhaps a different definition,  in Kerenge, Tanzania

"I like what is in Work - the chance to find yourself.
Your own reality -for yourself, not for others -
what no other man can ever know.
They can only see the mere show,
and never can tell what it really means."
-joseph conrad

When I was 17, just on the cusp of going off to college, I had a very clear identity set out for myself. 

I fell into two explicitly defined categories, that were easy to communicate and convey to people when they inquired about the direction I was headed in. 

"I'm going to college to play basketball, and I'm going to study biology to become a doctor." 

I had decided that, although I wanted to play professionally, either in the US or abroad, going to medical school was a longer term investment, the impetus to a path that would be fulfilling, meaningful, purposeful and rewarding.
 Playing basketball was my passion, becoming a doctor was my dream. And I was hell bent on doing both. Funny how dreams and passions change. I still love basketball, and miss, severely, the training part of it. I miss the everyday grind. As a young kid, my schedule was so jam-packed, I never really had time to think about what it all meant. My sights were clear, and I loved what I was doing. In college, the path changed. I gave up a full scholarship, focused on school, worked in a research lab, joined the model UN, met some new people and had a more balanced existence, slowly, I started to have more time, dictated by myself. 

And I filled up those spaces, the void, with things I was interested in, like writing for the newspaper, or working at a cultural center. The dreams of playing professionally dwindled, and I was okay with it. But there was, and still is, a void, that I still try to fill. 

My dream of becoming a doctor has also dwindled, so right now, I'm sort of at this place where I've never been before. With a future that scares the shit out of me. Because I don't know what "profession" I fit into. 

As a species-humans, we try so hard, to organize ourselves and others. So much so, just as we try to organize our worlds, that one word, can carry so many connotations. I am a doctor-means so much. Not only does it tell others what we spend our time doing, it give them insight into personality, motivations, aspirations, values, choices, or a least that's what it tells them in their minds. 

But if, for instance, like right now in my life, I were to answer the question, 

"what do you do"

with avoiding the question all together by launching into a long-winded blast asking the person why it matters so much to quantify and qualify my existence and my value by what I "do",  then, of course, that person and I will be faced with the uncomfortable silence that inevitably ensues, and an attempt to avoid any further conversation by saying something like,

 "well, how about them Giants." 

I guess I'm still stumped by that identity, or ego, I suppose, in conversation. And if I were to become all hippy dippy, I would try to justify to myself, and others by taking the Zen approach, and say, happiness is only found when you have peace within yourself, regardless of outward expectations. And of course, I'd feel good about saying it, because let's face it, I am a little hippy dippy, but I can't say I'm all that Zen. 
I cling to the words, but haven't quite been able to put them into practice, if I could I'd be a much better person. 

I guess I'm still trying to find a purposeful statement of identity. 

That fits. 

That I'm comfortable with. 

Sure it's ego.

Sure its not Zen.

But it is me. 

Then I think about all the people who don't have to define "Work", and who have lives that don't allow for the luxury of such thoughts and conversations, who do work simply to live. And then I think about what a jerk I am. Middle-class suburbia, the problems of us 20-something's who came from families where we had the freedom to explore these questions. And who are now in this same place-not being forced to follow a certain path, but have too many choices, or were told we have all these choices. 

That's another topic, though....

Maybe I should look back to Conrad's definition of work, and take those words and put them in practice. 

Because if Work is, 

"the chance to find yourself-your own reality, for yourself-not for others" 

then this identity in conversation isn't really about fitting a single word; it's more about finding yourself, or reinventing yourself, or connecting with those around you. 

And maybe people bringing up the questions provides an opportunity to put everything into context, and reflect on the present, without worrying too much about the future. 

And maybe the question will lead to follow up questions. 

And the answers don't matter so much.

 I'll try to remember this the next time someone asks me "what do you do." 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Liminal Bliss

Jacob and I in a horse-drawn carriage, traveling the streets of downtown St. Paul on our wedding night. Just one example of the many acts of kindness we received from friends and family

I'm going to write down a few personal thoughts on this weekend, while that feeling of heightened emotion is still fresh. This was one of the most mind-blowing, intense, and tender weekends I can remember. I was left profoundly grateful for family and friends, for those who were there, but also for those who weren't, whom reside in the memories of my heart.
There were, of course, moments leading up to the wedding where I wondered what it was going to be like. I was nervous what the merging of two new families would feel like, how the hodgepodge of personalities would interact, how I would feel sharing such an exposed and vulnerable part of myself, up there for everyone to see. I didn't sleep the night before the wedding. Jacob and I were staying in the bedroom I spent my formative years in, which I shared with my sister, looking out to the same weeping willow I looked out to as a young girl. I was in a bed in the room that was the same, yet so different from when I was making those transitionary steps toward becoming a person, and it was poignant. The realness of it hit me hard in the stomach. I imagine it to be the same sort of feeling people get when they get “cold feet”, which typically starts a chain of doubt in the decision to spend the rest of your life with someone. It was a bit different for me, in how it was manifested. I looked at Jacob, and had no shed of doubt that I wanted to be with him for as long as I'm on this planet; but I glanced over to the closet that was the same closet I used as a child, with a large, very long, ivory dress draped over it, smothering that closet, and my heart of hearts sank to the depths of my soul. I put all of my doubtful thoughts into that dress. Jacob woke up, and looked over at me, and saw the trepidation and asked, “what's wrong?” 
“That dress is so F*cking BIG!!!!!”
The practical and rational part of me was happy that my doubts were directed at that overwhelming dress. There was the part of me that knew it was just nerves and anticipation of something that I tried to minimize prior to that night. There was also the part of me that knew how real it was, what it all meant. Because, of course there were the sort of distasteful elements of weddings present at one point or another along the way, but these were offset by the beauty that exists when people you love shower you with joy and kindness in their desire to celebrate with you. I guess I wasn't really prepared for all the underserved acts of kindness from friends and family. I wasn't prepared to face all the time and energy, blood, sweat and tears, that were shed for us. I guess, it was simply inspiring. And I still feel a bit suspended in that liminal state.
There were so many beautiful moments, that I can't name them all; but a few stick out in my head. One moment, that is so raw and tender, and representative of how a father feels when his daughter gets married, is when I watched my dad on his computer playing the video of me as an overly impressionable 8-year-old when he told me there were vampires. Of course he played that after the ceremony. But when he was quietly watching in his study, when no one else was around, I glimpsed, for a moment, what it must feel like for him.
I also really enjoyed setting up the backyard, before the ceremony. There was that feeling of a place when no one has yet sit in it. When the electricity of human emotions hasn't yet run through; only the anticipation of what could come, and it's a serenity, permeating.
The best part of the wedding was promising to Jacob, promising to stay with him until I die. Promising not just to love and be loved, but to continue along the path with him-this was one of the most beautiful things I've done to date. It's not all rosy, shiny, and certainly, that promise isn't always going to be pretty and fun; but it's beautiful. In a real, and gut wrenching way. In a really really big way. I guess that's why a wedding is just so f**king huge, no matter how small you try to keep it.
So perhaps that's why there is the fear of a sort of meteor shower at weddings. When emotions are high, sparks will fly. But there is also an overarching simple joy, coming full circle, coming Home. The only thing I'm left with is how beautiful it was to share this special, liminal time, with people I love and deeply cherish. It feels more real, this commitment and promise I've been living.
And, I did end up loving that dress. 

Also, I'll be posting the text of our ceremony for anyone who is interested, I wrote most of it, and Jacob and I each wrote our vows individually. More pictures up shortly. 

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

September Come

Brinn picking Tomatoes at Live Earth Farm. Winner of the Sept. cutie patuty award:)

Sunflowers at Life Earth Farm, a family-run CSA, organic farm overlooking the Parjaro Valley in Santa Cruz

September, here you are. Beckoning with a fresh slate, a new beginning. Summer months gone with that lingering bitter/sweet scent of careless abandonment, playful innocence with open eyes, and dancing hearts. Summer months gone, and we start new. And my theme for starting new this coming September, is all about becoming. Feet on the ground, life lived best when it's fully ripe. September comes with the promises of a season full of becoming. Here's to becoming. 


Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Dear Life

Dear Life,

I'm going to stop chasing after you, and then try to scare you away. Because I know you are there no matter what I do. I'm going to stop trying to grasp and mold you to my own ends. Like sand through the hand, I'll keep an open palm. I'm going to stop complaining about all the things you haven't done for me lately. I've joined the ranks of the unemployed, officially, and I'm not going to place blame on you for that. I'm going to stop saying how unfair you are. Like my dad always said, you just aren't fair, and that's the truth. I see you have a pretty tough job, lot's of people throwing their shit in your face when things don't go their way. Yeah, I wouldn't want to be you. So I'll try to have more empathy for you.
And, Life, by the way, I am grateful. I'm grateful for the fact that you keep going in all the little nooks and crevices that we can't see, that you start and you end, but you always start again. And I'm grateful for the beautiful things you share with me. I'll try to be a better friend. I'll try to listen to you without hearing the sound of my own voice. I'll try to love you, even when I hate you.
Guess I just needed to get that off my chest.
Thanks for listening,

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Probing the NANO

Picture of a carbon nanotube using a Scanning Electron Microscope: with capabilities of resolutions down to 1 nm

"Curiouser and curiouser," cried Alice in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Last week I was at a conference at Stanford that brought 15 science educators together to learn and explore the world of nanotechnology. I had a few experiences in the past where I felt like I dropped down a rabbit hole into a bewildering land that I was unfamiliar with. One such experience that fits so vividly in my memory is when I was first dropped off in a rural village in Tanzania.
Listening to graduate students who had designed and used instruments that not only image atoms, but are able to manipulate them and the properties and forces within and between them, was humbling to say the least. Their enthusiasm was contagious, and they'd be going on and on about the exciting possibilities of discovering room-temperature superconductors, speaking in a puzzling language that sounded like English, but somehow wasn't. Although I could pin a meaning to practically every word they used, I didn't understand anything they said, or how those words connected to each other in a practical everyday use. I was as lost as any accidental tourist, wandering aimlessly in a very foreign country. It was disconcerting, yet invigorating.

There was a noted difference in the communication abilities between the faculty and their graduate students. Most of the PI's were well versed in the world of formal presentations, published papers, and public outreach where they constantly had to explain, defend, and evaluate their work to a myriad of different audiences. Thus, they were able to display the human sides of their work. However when we were speaking with the graduate students, in the throes of their work, the things that were missing among the rows of austere symbols and lines of dense type and barely legible mathematical formulas projected on the screens of their powerpoint presentations was what their work is all about-how and where their individual piece fit in the overall fabric in nanotechnology.

To the outsider, in this case, a few science teachers, nanotechnology represents unknown territory. It's borders are heavily protected by dense thickets of technical terms, and it's landscapes are strewn with cryptic equations and inscrutable concepts. I felt like I was digging to find the provocative ideas and useful notions.

I did find a few groups that were doing work I had a vested interest in. I skimmed through the physics lectures with a benign appreciation; but when a group came in to talk about using Atomic Force Microscopy to map, manipulate, and eventually simulate transmembrane cellular proteins I was intrigued. My undergraduate work was in cell biology, studying a particular transmembrane protein that was involved in cell migration, and proliferation: in our lab we said we were studying cancer. Well, these guys have been able to build probes using inorganic materials in order to interact with and identify where certain receptors lie on that area that protects the cell from the outside world; the cell membrane. They've been able to take pictures of this area that I could only imagine before. I was excited, like a little kid.

I came out of the conference with newfound friends, and a rekindled desire to probe deeper into the world of science. Maybe grad school one day? I don't know. But it was certainly stimulating.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

We be-Trail Angels

… trail dust is thicker’n blood
~ Louis L’Amou

June 24-June 26, 2010
Leavitt Meadows-Fremont Lake-Cascade Falls-Hidden Lake-Out, Trailhead located about 5 miles east of Sonora Pass in Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest.

Total distance: 27 miles

Jacob and I went into the Pinecrest Ranger Station in Stanislaus National Park without knowing where we wanted to go. Our intention was to get into the Emigrant Wilderness for a couple of nights, and see if it was a possible refuge away from Yosemite. Turns out this place is a quiet oasis, away from the crowds, and walah. You can get away from people in one walking day. Helped that we left during week, missing the weekend crowds.
After getting our permit and a topo, we drove to the trailhead, in Humboldt-Toyabe National Forest, just east of Stanislaus at Leavitt Meadows- which is just off the 108 past Sonora Pass a few miles. Just before the entrance to the trailhead were, none other than a couple of hitchhikers- very very dirty hitchhikers. I saw the beards from about a mile away. I had just been asking Jacob if he thought we'd run into a couple of thru-hikers, and low and behold, there they were. A couple of angels, just waiting to be picked up. There were three of them. The tanned/dirty faces, scraggly beards, and full packs were a clear give-away. I looked at Jacob and was like "They're PCT hikers!!! Stop, we have to talk to them!" With star-studded eyes, and celebrity-awe, I asked them if they were on the trail. "Yeah, we're trying to get into Bridgeport. Can you give us a ride?" Man. I really wanted to. "No, sorry, we're going in here. Would love to if we could." After some brief pleasantries, we went into park. As we started to head toward the trail, Jacob looked at me and said, "you think we should give them the truck into town?" Without hesitation, and with enthusiasm, I said, "Yeah! They could just take it for the night, bring it back, and leave the keys in the back. No problem!" We looked at each other for maybe a second. In that second I think we were both trying to assess how crazy that is to give someone our truck. The second passed. And that was it. They needed to get to town. We were going to be in their shoes in about, well, less than a year. "You wanna just take the truck?" "REALLY? Are you serious?" "yeah, we'll be out for a couple of days, you guys need to get into town. Just bring it back in one piece." "Wow, yeah, you guys are awesome." Doing something nice for other people does make you feel good. I had that lovely butterfly feeling in my stomach. Being a trail angel is neat. I guess this helped me realize how much I miss being apart of a community of people who actually trust each other. Sure you may not always like the people in the community, but there's a network of people who aren't only caught up in themselves. College gave me a built in community-through basketball, through my major.  Peace Corps gave me a very unique community, with an ingrained sense of mutual purpose and direction. It's been hard to find that in a big city upon return. It's been hard for me to get outside of my cocoon. And the fact that I live with someone going through a similar readjustment process makes it less of an incentive to make the effort to connect with people. I used to be much more gregarious. Before living in Africa, I would go out of my way to connect with people, with anyone actually. Upon reentry into the US I've been much more hesitant, and closed. This trail magic has instilled a new-found sense of hope.  It gives me hope in the backpacking world-that trail dust IS thicker than blood. The mountains aren't forgiving, or relenting. But people are.
Jacob and I started our journey into the woods light-footed, ready to enjoy the bliss around us. We went into that Range of Light with full-hearts, knowing we were able to help out a few other travelers on their path. A path we want to be on in about a year. So, here's for being a trail angel. And here's to Beaker, Lakewood, and Mike (I forgot his trail name.)- Thanks for bringing the truck back, thanks for allowing me to enter your community, if for a passing moment. And thanks for the beer. It was delicious!

I really can't wait to be on the trail.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Today I imagined I was on the trail, 11 months in the future. With my pack full, carrying 20 lbs of water. Green spines poking at me, a rattle below my feet-the penetrating rays encumbering, an endless reminder of my one and only objective=walk. I start to feel the balls of my feet. I start to feel that place in between my toes where I've been rubbing the last 230 miles. And I walk. The only voice besides my own I hear is the one that is my life-partner, my best friend. Walking with me. We're 10 days in, 230 miles of a 2700 mile journey. Already crossed the line from one nation to another. And my initial euphoria fades from red to yellow. With green spikes. The water on my back, and the water trapped in the trunk of those green spikes. Politics, gone. Worrying about rent, gone. Stressing over a career, gone. The only certainty, walk into the uncertainty. With my home on my back, and my best friend by my side. And an insatiable hunger.
That's what I imagined today.
Tomorrow I come back to today. And the next day and the next. Until we get on the trail.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Kit's Top Bay Area Day Hike: Skyline to the Sea Trail in reverse.

The most accessible hike from where I'm at right now:  The Skyline to the Sea trail. 
At 34 miles, this popular hike traverses the gorgeous coastal vistas, as seen from the crest of the Santa Cruz Mountains, meandering through old-growth redwood and banana slug inhabited forests that stretches west toward the powerful Pacific Ocean.

Since we didn't have the time for the full 34 mile hike, Jacob and I decided on an easterly bound out and back; by starting at Waddell Beach, a popular kite-surfing destination 18 miles north of Santa Cruz on Highway 1. Across from the beach parking lot we began our hike. We started by weaving through a freshwater marsh that, I imagine, is a welcome refuge for migratory birds. The first few miles follows an old fire road through ranches and fields before we entered into a dense, green, riparian zone consisting of fern, wildflowers and moss; moist, calm, inviting, and peaceful as reflective of the salamander crossings we encountered. I fell into the familiar rhythm that provides the melody for good conversation. Following Waddell Creek,

we walked at a slight incline deeper into the now redwood populated canopy until we reached Berry Creek Falls, an exuberant 70 foot cascade over sandstone bluffs. Jacob and I reached this first bench mark, about 6 miles from the our starting point in the mid-morning with a full day ahead of us. Instead of continuing on the Skyline to the Sea trail, we ran into a biker that told us about a pretty offshoot that went up onto the ridge line to the highest point in the range for a view of the coast. A cold stream crossing awaited us; so we rolled up our pants, took off our shoes and socks and waded into the crisp water. The slick rock below proved to be a bit of a hurdle and took Jacob waist deep into the current. Only the blackberry Jacob carried in his pocket protested the dunk, a reminder of our looming return to civilization.

Dense riparian forest gave way to a hot, dry, and exposed ridge; something I love about California, this representative diversity. Our conversation flowed as we walked, and I relished those blissful moments of freedom; serenity. We found ourselves at the highest point on the ridge, with a vantage point that, to the west, showed us where we had come from, the pacific blue; and to the east, the Santa Cruz Mountains, over which is our current place of residence. The only thing about an out and back that I don't like is retracing your steps. With unchartered territory, it's easier to get into a rhythm, whereas backtracking causes me to become increasingly aware that the time on the trail is coming to an end. So a recommendation to anyone who is going to do this day hike; try to find a way to make it a loop. After 8 hours and 20 miles that characterized this hike with my best friend, I felt peaceful, relaxed, and although reluctant, prepared to go back and face the everyday realities of my current existence.I highly recommend this mild, accessible, and beautiful day hike.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Life's Tapestry

"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonders forever."-Jacques-Yves Cousteau

The feeling that I've slowed down to a recognizable pace over this holiday break (one of the joys of teaching high school in the US=vacation) allowed me to step back, take a breath, and evaluate my current perspective. To celebrate time off from work, Jacob and I were able to a.) go out to eat with my Aunt, Uncle and beloved cousins Mitch and Alex, b.) hike into Silver Peak Wilderness, a 33,000 acre terrain characterized by the Santa Lucia Mountain range which sharply rises from the Pacific Ocean-a powerful intersecting of the land and the sea with steep cliffs of massive rock layers-humbling, foreboding, and beautiful, and, c.) visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium, and take a stroll down that legendary Cannery Row and become reacquainted with my childhood favorite author, John Steinbeck.

Much like my previous experiences driving down the 1 on the Pacific Coast, I'm in awe of the sharp, rugged, and power of this coast. It is a stark contrast to my memories on the beaches on the outerbanks of North Carolina as a child. South of Big Sur, and the Ventana Wilderness, Silver Peak lifts to 3,590 feet in the northwestern quadrant of the wilderness.

We began our hike in the southeastern quadrant right off the highway, starting through a section with thick vegetation dominated by that devil plant, poison oak. The trail was poorly maintained, and required a fair amount of bush-wacking of the Tanzania kind. Unfortunately we didn't have a machete with us-so just had to bear it and hope that the potent and illustrious antigen urushiol didn't bind to the proteins in our skin. I had a bad bout a few weeks ago, so I was particularly conscientious and intentional in my identification. We hiked into a section that gave way to desert like plants after we made it over the protective barrier from the moist fog hanging over the ocean. 10 miles in on the first day and we camped at a site, appropriately called the Lion's Den. Appropriate

because of the company we found ourselves amongst. Now, being a pacifist and an eternal optimist I guess I still harbor the naiveté of one who thinks people can meet each other on a very basic human level. And I'm still surprised to find that sometimes, beyond my control, people just aren't going to like me because of the way I look, present myself, or because of their own ingrained prejudices. Silly, but I thought, even as a former Peace Corps Hippie/Vegan I'd be able to sit down at a campfire with three young guys in army fatigues, leather boots, and a hunting rifle. Andrew, who introduced himself with a stiff-handshake and a welcoming smile, sporting a death tattoo, didn't turn out to be the nice guy that I thought he was. Even though we didn't get to singing kumbaya, we did sit around the campfire for some brief pleasantries before heading off to bed. I awoke to the sounds of drunken banter a few hours later and was face to face, once again, with the ugly reality that we humans are not very kind to each other. Thinking we were asleep the drunken army guys were plotting how they were going to show us "rich privileged kids with our thousand dollar gear" what life really was like. With references to silver platters and the like their obvious anger towards us escalated, so I finally woke Jacob up with the images of their rifle imprinted in my hazy, irrational mind. Fear is funny, and I've been in some pretty spotty positions before, but I guess I didn't expect to actually be afraid of backpacking in the US. In any case, as soon as Jacob got up to check our bags, after some vomiting, they went off into their respective tents, and I stayed awake waiting for the ambush that never came. Needless to say, we headed out of the lion's den pretty early the next day. The continued hike was on an old fire road that separated an army base from the wilderness, and gave us a lovely panoramic vantage point to view Big Sur Coastline to the North, the Pacific Ocean to the West, and the Salinas Valley to the East. After a few miles, an encounter with a horny toad, a small snake (which didn't rattle), and spiky cactus, we veered back into the lush vegetation to make a loop back toward our car. This part of the trail turned out to be stunning, with gurgling springs, waterfalls, fern-covered canyons, and meadows of grasses and wildflowers. I actually forgot about the encounter at the Lion's Den, and took time to relish in nature's wonder and embrace. Although our intention was to backpack for 3 nights, we ended up covering the entire loop we set out to do in two days, so decided to head back home with a few free days.

Thus, our trip to the Monterey Bay Aquarium. I would love the opportunity for everyone to go check out this place that seems to reconnect us, in a very real way, to the creatures that we usually don't get to see, except if you are swimming and run into the stinging tentacles of a jellyfish.

It is the human drive to explore the enigmatic, while simultaneously harboring fear for the unknown. And the creatures in the ocean represent a world foreign, alien, and more like another planet than what we recognize on land. They allow us to brush our fingertips against the unknown. While standing next to the Kelp forest, a 28 foot underwater aquarium housing a diverse array of fish and life that typically only divers get to swim with, I had a pull on my soul similar to what I feel when out in the forest. In my heart danced Rumi's words, "There is a candle in your heart, ready to be kindled. There is a void in your soul, ready to be filled. You feel it, don't you?"

It was fun to see families, kids, and adults all interacting with the world that we understand so little of, yet which makes up 75% of our planet. When we allow ourselves, as people to view life through the lens of another creature, it reminds me that some of the blessings that God, or gods, or the spirit instilled in our world are found spread throughout the natural world.
Seahorses are one of the only creatures of the animal kingdom where males have the physiological structures to support developing young. During mating, females, which house the eggs, transfer the eggs to the male, who then provides all of the post-fertilization parental care. They are fully equipped with marsupial-like pouches, to keep the developing embryo warm, provide nutrition, and protection.

Collaboration, patience, solitude, tenderness, madness, ugliness, beauty, toughness, and a serene gentleness; nature is full of the qualities and characteristics we like to think are special only to our species. But a healthy glimpse into our world with all of the contributors reminds us that we are but one yarn in the colorful tapestry of life.

I'm grateful to explore this reminder during my spring break, and have a fresh dose of humility that I'll keep with me as I head back into the home stretch for this school year.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Upcoming Pi Day!!!

I celebrate pi day not only for the nerd in me, but also for the birth of my favorite, friend-partner-in-crime. 
Yay for birthdays and for getting rings, and for spring. 
To celebrate we're going to go sky-diving. Having jumped out of an airplane only one other time in my life, I don't have a lot to go off, but I look forward to the natural high induced by going against all of our natural inclinations towards trying to fight against gravity. 

No we can't fly. 

But we can jump out of a plane. 

Anyway - Today is a good day.

Monday, March 1, 2010


"Afoot and light hearted I take to the open road, healthy, free, the world before me, the long brown path before me leading wherever I choose. Henceforth I ask not good fortune, I myself am good fortune...” - Walt Whitman

March 1st. In Minnesota February and March represent the dread of winters end. Cold, wet, and dreary, the snow is no longer white-washed, but a weight on the life just starting to wake up below. In Northern California, February and March are beautiful. Flowers are opening, birds are chirping, the sun starts to shine earlier and earlier, and rainy days give way to glorious sunshine, and green blankets cover the soft rolling hills that lead into the Pacific. And I spent a weekend away with this simple, eternal beauty; freely provided by nature.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

It's been a few months since my last blog. We successfully made it into a new decade of the 21st century. 
I coached a girls basketball team, went through the ebb and flow of a season with 11 14-year-old girls. 
Jacob and I moved into an 1800's victorian home in San Jose, CA. I hiked into Big Sur, Yosemite, Pointe Reyes National Seashore, and other various places in this part of California.
I wasn't sure what I wanted from a blog when I started this one. 
It might seem strange that I lived for 3 years in East Africa, and only now am I documenting my voice in the ostensible anonymity of the internet. I was just having a conversation about how strange it is that people share so much of themselves in the open-access world we live in. Yet, here I am. Just another of my many contradictions.
Since I've started, I figure I might as well use this space for a purpose.

We all seek meaning in our lives, and wish to tell a story. I've been trying to strike an internal balance since returning to the states, and it's proven to be an arduous task-what with the challenges of reverse-culture shock-the struggles of re-entry into a place I used to recognize as home. 

With a new set of values and a fresh perspective, my frustration has been manifested in an unfair judgement of Americans-I say, I don't remember people being so indifferent and narrow in their scope; I don't remember this lack of depth or foresight in interpersonal, political, or social interactions. 

I don't remember people being so disconnected from the world around them-the Earth they are indebted to. 

I don't remember it being so hard to find a common connection to the people around me; and most importantly, I don't remember feeling so isolated or lonely. 

Lucky for me, I have a friend and comrade to commiserate with. Not all people are so lucky.
Nowhere has this change in me been so apparent as in my rejection of a career. I don't know what I want to "be", by American standards; yet I feel more certain than ever before of who I want to be. I don't know what path I want to take in the workforce, yet I feel very certain of a path I want to take for my own self.
I went home for a week, to the cold Minnesota winter, and visited with my beloved family. Although I think readjustment has been difficult, the time I got to spend with my parents and siblings was a refreshing reinforcement of the unconditional love that I have and feel with family. No matter where I go, or what I do, or vice versa, there is that common history, ancestry, and shared formative years that will keep us together. While having a dialogue with my sister, I was able to see the reflection of the my values in her eyes. "Kit has three things that are important to her-Jacob, the PCT, and fluffy poop."
While not in this order, or quite as literal-especially for the latter of the three, they do reflect the values that I have come to hold dear to my heart.
1.Jacob, of course, is the primary example of the value I have for intra and interpersonal relationships. I do believe that the most important relationship any of us can and ever will have, is the relationship we have with our selves. As individual as Americans are, I still find it interesting that this is the one relationship that tends to be the most neglected, damaging and affecting the ability to form, nurture, and develop relationships with others.
I find that I'm able to put the necessary energy and love into my relationships with the people most important to me when I've fed my soul. When I'm grounded, or balanced, or centered, or however you want to say it; I'm able to empathize, really listen, and love others. And I am grateful to have found a friend and life partner in someone I admire, respect, and want to have the longest conversation of my life with, through marriage. I look forward to when we will recognize our commitment to each other in October with friends and family. And I'll get to call him my husband.
2.The PCT
An intersection and interaction of three countries, three states, and nearly 2700 miles of rock, sand, wind, desert, mountains, and snow-the Pacific Crest Trail is a childhood dream that is now within my grasp. Like the Peace Corps, the PCT represents a desire and drive I have to continuously challenge myself to grow and change and evolve. Together, Jacob and I plan to walk at least 20 miles a day for 4-5 months; a full-time job with the deadline every day as the setting sun, and the long-term objective of walking inexorably north before the snow or our bodies stop us. With our homes on our backs, and nature unrelenting; I want to see the wind, hear the rocks, taste the sky, and smell the mountain streams. I want to push myself past my limits, and challenge myself to force that interconnection between my mind, body and spirit. I want to overcome and work through the heat, blisters, hunger, injuries, and mental and physical fatigue. It's what keeps me going right now, and what I'm looking to. This blog is a journal and documentation of the preparation for the PCT.
3. The final value my sister so explicitly stated, was fluffy poop. And before anybody can say how disgusting that is, please let me explain. Being a vegan does change the consistency, density, and form of bodily waste. Now I don't necessarily value that change, but I do value the implicit values in a vegan lifestyle. I eat with intention, I think about what is going in to my body, and what repercussions my eating has on the larger living community. It's, as I mentioned before, a pillar in my life.
So, this was another dialogue into that open internet abyss. Hope someone could take something from it.
Until next time, I'm out.