Snow Days

Snow. I conclude that it’s entirely impossible to be indifferent to it. Either you welcome it with excitement and anticipation, or you see it as a burden and a hazard. Winter weather has an effect on all of us, it’s just a question of which direction it pushes you. Here in Madras, where we are going on two weeks of continuous cold temperatures and massive but sporadic snowfall, my only regret (other than the lateness of this winter activity) is the time spent repeatedly shoveling the driveway, though even that is a blessing as it provides physical activity in the outdoors, which I’ve found is a needed element in my life regardless of the season and conditions. Though one of my most favorite outdoor activities, splitting firewood, is challenging at the moment (all the logs are buried under two feet of snow), shoveling snow is a somewhat satisfying substitute, as it not only gets the blood flowing and the mind working (I’m a very methodical shoveler), but it also possesses the novelty of being quite seasonal, which I have found always adds a pleasure to tasks of that nature.

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In addition to the effort required to clear the driveway, create and recreate paths to the chicken coop, woodpile, compost, etc., I have had the pleasure of getting out several times for some cross-country skiing this winter. Except for the childhood thrills of extreme sledding, snow-fort building, once-a-year ice-skating, and occasional epic snowball fights, I’ve never really participated in winter sports. This year I really felt the urge to get out and try something new, so I dusted off my dad’s old Fischers, watched some videos on nordic ski technique, and proceeded to frustrate myself continually with my inability to pick up the skills. Several shaky attempts later, I’m happy to say I’ve acquired the necessary experience to get by with the Classic technique, outdated and rustic though it is compared to the more popular Skate Ski technique, which isn’t quite achievable with forty-year-old skis and boots. It’s been a fun adventure, and another blessed reason to venture out and celebrate the distinctness of the season.

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When not enjoying rigorous activity in the great outdoors, I find winter to be an excellent time to drink tea and hot chocolate, read books, make music, undertake wood-working projects, roast meat, bake bread, cook soups, and overall enjoy the coziness and blessing of having a roof over my head. It’s also been exciting to have more time to invest in my studies, and the possibility of wrapping up my Graduate degree in just over a year from now motivates me to rekindle and renew my love of reading, writing, and exploring the depths of knowledge. Assuming others relate to this, I definitely go through spurts of motivation and excitement, and it’s always helpful when that drive coincides with spare time in which to engage the pursuit. Not working the past few months has also helped give me the time to focus on coursework, reminding me of the time before I had a job and school was my primary concern. Though this is a temporary state, It’s fun to hold it in balance with other seasons of life, and to be thankful for a variety of rhythms and seasons.

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But perhaps the biggest highlight of this season for me has been the presence of the screech owl that took up residence in one of our many nest-boxes earlier this winter. I first noticed him (we’re calling it a male based on size and conspicuousness) just after Christmas while running our dogs in the backyard. While Rudi (the biggest of our pack) marked his territory on a stout juniper tree, my gaze wandered ten feet up to the nest-box we erected many years ago in the hope of attracting resident raptors. (A similar sized box in our juniper snag has been used by Kestrels five years in a row, with four to five young falcons emerging from it every summer.) I was astonished to see the impassive gray face of a western screech owl gazing down at the dog and me, as the owl seemed in no way perturbed by our close proximity. It has been over two months now that our screech owl can be reliably seen gazing out of his box in the late afternoon and evening, preparatory to heading out on his nightly forays. Though we see no indication that he has a mate, it is our great hope as we move into the breeding season that he and an unseen female will indeed stick around through the spring months, lay their eggs and rear their young in our nest-box. The excitement of welcoming wildlife to our yard has no greater rewards than knowing we’ve provided a place where new critters can be born and welcomed into this world. Stay tuned!

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Whimsical Winter

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It must surely be excused, in a person who derives great seasonal pleasure, such as myself, to be wholly dissatisfied with our current warm and whimsical winter. I am of the disposition to favor snow, and plenty of it, at any and all times between Thanksgiving and late March. And if there's no snow to be had, then at least let it be cold! Cold enough to require the wood stove to burn throughout the day. Brisk enough to turn my breath to steam on my brief walks to the woodpile, or when I venture to the garden to dig up leeks and parsnips from their straw-insulated beds. Furthermore, I am very fond of scarves, and have a large and varied assortment of the articles knitted and crocheted for me by the various women in my life, but I have found it difficult of late to justify the wearing of said accessories when the robins are singing from treetops and the day-time temperature is not unlike that of April. Do not think me too foolish or helplessly romantic (though I will never bother denying the validly of the latter), but what I really want for Valentine's Day is a blizzard! December and January did not, I am afraid, contain the desired amount of fireside evenings with warm drinks and stories read aloud. Perhaps I am peculiar in my taste of pastimes, but I have no qualms about praying for snow in February to make my wish come true. 

I will not deny, however, that my dreams of late have started to take on a springtime tinge. As much as I love a hard and thorough winter, I am a gardener at heart, and am not fully at ease without soil stains under my fingernails. My pelargoniums are blooming in the windowsill, and I have several trays of lettuce under grow-lights in the basement, plus kale in the greenhouse, but such small splashes of green can but tide me over until the true spring arrives. My mother and I comfort one another by brewing tea and passing seed catalogues back and forth, pointing out new and interesting varieties, or simply drinking in pictures of vegetables like illustrations by Graham Base. We have our map and layout of the raised beds, and have begun penciling in this year's crop rotation. My dad and I discuss perennial shrub species, fruit-tree guilds, and the placement of a new dwarf cherry sapling for cross pollination purposes. As always, the new year has brought more and bigger dreams for our backyard homestead. In addition to improving and expanding our vegetable and fruit production, I have drafted up plans for a new chicken tractor to house a dozen or so cornish cross, as my first foray into the world of raising meat chickens. The open-bottomed structure (when completed) will be moved weekly (along with the chickens) to take full advantage of our back 'forty,' giving the birds fresh and varied ground on which to forage, while simultaneously improving our pasture through their scratching and nitrogen-rich deposits.

This is the time of year when I grow weary, not from physical exertion or the satisfaction of labor, but from a plethora of unrelated thoughts, memories, dreams, deadlines, goals, plots, plans, projects, and 'little-black-rainclouds' that vie for attention in my restless and fickle mind. I find it hard, sometimes, to string two productive and positive days one after the other. I like to think of myself as a self-motivated and goal-oriented individual, but I sometimes find that trending more towards delusion, as I struggle with the ordeal of apathy. With January drawing to a close, and the feeling of time slipping through my fingers, there have been days when the best I could manage (my work completed) was a short list of moderately important accomplishments, followed by a handful of pleasurable activities repeated day by day to give my varied workweek and responsibilities some continuity. Among these I have found that sitting at the piano everyday to play through some Bach has given me a rich and unlooked-for sense of achievement, and of course there is the pleasure of having Jan Karon's latest beloved novel by my bedside. These simple pleasures, along with day-dreaming about Tayler (who is to become my wife in less than four months!) enable me to keep my head out of the mud even when the cares of my life, and the hardships of those around me, loom like monstrous windmills on the shadowy landscape. And if the weather here in Madras never does turn and bring the cold snap I'm hoping for, than at least I have these quiet joys with which to distract myself.

  

Notes From The Continent: Part 1

Last month I drank from fountains in the Immortal City. Splashing my face with water and quenching my dry thirst was the closest I came to feeling like a native Roman. Three days of trekking the cobblestone streets and wandering through museum halls filled my mind with mental pictures and new rabbit trails to explore. For a student of history, nothing compares to onsite experiences and firsthand glimpses of age-old buildings, artifacts, and art. I tried not to let the fact that thousands of other tourists were experiencing and glimpsing the exact same things affect my enjoyment of it all, by assuring myself that not one other person sees and comprehends things in exactly the same way.

The Roman Forum

The Roman Forum

I also had to remind myself that being there as a tourist and being there as a student are very different things. The group of us traveling together from Kilns College were in Italy for a very specific historical/cultural learning experience. A week split between Rome, Florence, and Venice as a primer on the Italian Renaissance, followed by a couple days in Berlin and Lutherstadt Wittenberg to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation was our itinerary. Our team, which numbered 20 and included my youngest sister Willow, was well-versed in the historical and cultural implications of both these movements, and therefore our interests and goals were fairly specified. We partook of the typical guided tours, earpieces in, trailing after the guiding flag raised high, but we also had in-depth discussions on art, politics, church tradition, and philosophy, led by Kilns professors. 

Colossuem

Colossuem

Studying two of my favorite historical subjects on-site and in-person was a truly special experience, but so were the other aspects of travel I have come to enjoy so much: the food, the cultural rhythms, the transportation, and the distinct and delightful inhabitants. I was shocked to realize this was my fourth trip to Europe, but the fact explains my comfort level in foreign cities, streets, train stations, and shops. I generally prefer being in one place as long as possible when I travel abroad. I love soaking in as much as I can of the culture and lifestyle in one location, adapting myself on some level to the movements and rhythms of the people and place. And though this whirlwind of a trip had quite the opposite feel, I enjoyed it as much for the adventure and thrill of racing through Europe, as the art and history I experienced along the way.

Arch of Titus

Arch of Titus

Ceiling Frescos in the Villa Borghese

Ceiling Frescos in the Villa Borghese

Rome was fascinating and fun, a mixture of modern frenetic activity and timeless permanence, but the city of most interest to me on the trip was undoubtedly Florence. I've always had a deep interest in the city that birthed the Renaissance, so rich in history and overflowing with art and other relics, living and enshrined, from that crucial era. I also loved Florence simply for it's location and importance in Tuscany, a region with which I have always felt a close connection; a feeling akin to the pull some of us always feel towards home. For now I am having to content myself with the mental images I created during our train ride from Rome to Florence, which literally took my breath away. The ancient farmhouses, built and rebuilt from Tuscan stone; the rows of cypress trees, catching my eye and guiding my view from scene to scene. The beautiful and well-tended fields, vines, olive groves, and pastures, in various states of production or fallowness. All these pictures I had seen for years with my mind's eye, and now I was seeing them with the clarity and accuracy of true sight. I will never be the same again.

Overlooking Florence

Overlooking Florence

Ponte Vecchio

Ponte Vecchio

The weather in Florence and Rome was fabulous for early Autumn. Sunshine and clear skies gave added pleasure to the magic of the Italian peninsula, as if to show off all the best the country has to offer. But when Willow and I headed off for a day on the Ligurian Coast, the weather took a decisive turn. Our day exploring Cinque Terre was marked by grey skies and wet streets. The rain came heaviest early in the day, when we and the other tourists scrambled off the bus into the first of the five villages. Shopkeepers and street venders quickly sold out of umbrellas and ponchos, such was the ferocity of the deluge. Throughout the day the precipitation lessened to an incessant drizzle, which was chilling, but that I found somewhat refreshing after the stuffiness and dry heat of the cities. Cinque Terre was a beautiful diversion from the museums, galleries, and guided tours; a day of reflection and rejuvenation before the next phase of our trip.

Village of Manarola

Village of Manarola

After leaving Florence, we stopped in Venice for several hours before catching a flight to Berlin. We felt rushed as we began making our way over canals and through narrow passages towards St. Mark's Square, but our pace gradually slowed as the magic and beauty of Venice washed over us. We strolled slowly through now, admiring ornate bridges, doorways, shop displays and cafe settings. We reached the Grand Canal and quickly found the gondolas. Our gondolier was not young and he didn't sing, but we didn't need him to. He murmured facts and pointed out landmarks as we turned our heads this way and that in an effort to take everything in. The canals were crowded and the streets were packed, but still every element had its appeal. St. Mark's Basilica did not disappoint, and once we made it to the Square our pace slowed even more, and from then until our rendezvous with the team we wandered in a dreamlike state through alleys and passages, by water and wall, chatting lightly with new friends, and enjoyed the sheer wonder of being in such an iconic place. We boarded our plane in contemplative moods. 

Willow in Venice

Willow in Venice

The learning trip came to a close in Lutherstadt Wittenberg. There we delved into all things Luther, visited the Reformation Museum, and enjoyed a cold but pleasant day in a beautiful German town. Standing before the door of Castle Church, we imagined a moment in time, 500 years prior, when a convicted and dynamic monk nailed a document on a door, that would spark a revolution and redirect the course of history. Nine days of travel and learning had exhausted me somewhat, but more than that it had filled me with new thoughts and feelings, experiences to process and ideas to pursue. As Willow and I said our goodbyes to the rest of the team in Berlin, we turned our faces, not towards home, but towards another nine days of travel, very different in nature, but equally anitcipated and exciting.

Doors of Castle Church

Doors of Castle Church

Church of St. Mary

Church of St. Mary

Lament

We haven't seen the mountains in days. A veil of hazy smoke has engulfed this land in its musty cloak, and the air is heavy with its thick and burning smell. Every year, every summer, every August it is like this, and yet there is no way to prepare for, nor get used to, the stale air, the oppressive heat, and the lack of view. But for the green trees (just the trees; most grass has turned straw-yellow by now) and a few bold birds, this could be Mordor. The effect is psychological as well as physical. All one's hopes and dreams are thwarted by the combination of smoke and heat. The outdoors are pleasant only before the sun has risen and after she has set. The brief moments after dawn and before dusk are also pleasant, but only moderately so. I, who am normally optimistic and stoic when it comes to weather, am suffering in this seeming battlefield where beauty and freshness are beaten back, and staleness has the upper hand. I am worn and tired from work and lack of sleep. My body begins to ache in new and worrisome ways, and my equanimity is far from being readily at hand.

Have you felt this? I know that these experiences, these feelings, these struggles, are not mine alone to bear. I believe that we all have our seasons, our moments, our days, when oppression meets us, and pain is near at hand. When I force myself to stop and reflect, I realize that these days have always been my bane. The hot, slow days of late summer. Usually I am returning home from far away, which should be an activity accompanied by brightness and optimism. But something is always there to habitually steal my joy. Something about the heat, the static, the returning and staying the same... The conflict between identities. Am I a pilgrim or a hermit? I feel like a piece of desert shale longing to be a river rock. How I wish for a raging river or smooth brook to wash over and renew my soul! A new season, a new start... or maybe just a fresh look. Too often I find myself overlooking blessings and simple joys. Are my eyes too weak to see them? Or is my heart to filmed with dust to understand? No, I see them. I know they are there. Slowly but surely they work themselves into me, leaving me, whether I know it or not, a happier, better, wiser, and more thankful person. Yes, I know what it is to lament, but I know far better what it is to give thanks.

Whirlwind Weekend

Over the years, I've become quite used to full, busy, and spontaneous weekends. My family and I have always sought to make the most of what time is available, and to seize the moment whenever opportunity presents itself. This past weekend, Tayler and I navigated through a prime example of the filled-to-the-brim, gloriously exciting, and utterly exhausting weekend.

I took the day off on Friday so that Milady and I could wake up at 3:50am and sit at the airport in hopes of getting on a flight bound for Denver. Flying standby is always an adventure, and though I don't mind doing it on my own, there is a good deal of comfort in traveling with a gal who works for the airline. We are grateful to the couple who failed to show up for the 5:20 flight, enabling us to snag their empty seats at the last minute and begin our adventure. (For the record, if we hadn't managed to make it on that flight, we would have hopped back in the jeep and headed south for a weekend in Ashland. That's an adventure for another time.)

At the Denver airport, we met up with two other couples (also flying in from the Pacific Northwest), good friends and fellow George Fox alumni of Tayler's. The six of us piled into a borrowed Land Cruiser and headed for Colorado Springs where we were staying for the duration of the weekend. Hospitably welcomed into the house of the parents of one of Tayler's old roommates, we experienced nothing but the highest quality in food, fun, and fellowship. The focal point and purpose of the trip was a wedding on Saturday, but my highlights had to do with the downtime, particularly in the early morning, and conversations and interactions with Heather's parents. It is always a pleasure to meet fellow Wendell Berry enthusiasts, and if they also happen to be interested in my passions and hobbies, and own a piano and hammer dulcimer in the bargain, well... I'm hooked.

The wedding was in Breckenridge, and a more ideal day and setting I can hardly imagine. We and our companions were simply guests, but of course, with one of the couples married, and ourselves and the other couple recently engaged, you might say we were active and invested guests. Though it is customary, I fear no danger of cliche in mentioning the bride was beautiful, the groomed looked the part, and the weather was idilic. I had never before been to an outdoor wedding in the mountains of Colorado, but perhaps if I had, this one would have trumped it in being both sincere and picturesque. A late-night drive back to CO Springs, filled with singing and word-games, wrapped up the middle day of our weekend.

On Sunday (our return date) we managed to pack in a long and delicious brunch shared with new friends and family, a brief visit to Garden of the Gods, and an afternoon siesta. In the evening the six travelers made our way back to DIA, and as we were all flying within an hour of each other, said our heartfelt and cheery goodbyes. Tayler and I took advantage our time in the airport and on the plane to get a jump on wedding planning; a much needed activity as our time in the same state, let alone each other's presence, is still somewhat limited. After three long years we've learned a thing or two about dealing with distance.

Our flight got in to RDM after 10pm, and we managed to make it to our beds by 11:00. We both rose at 5:15am, my fiancee to drive to Portland for flight-attending that day, and myself to drink tea and read before heading to the job-site. I tried not to think of the cumulative lack of sleep, and the airplane-induced aches my body would feel whenever I tried to swing a hammer. As one of Jan Karon's delightful characters is fond of saying, "there's no rest of the wicked, and the righteous don't need none!" 

Garden of the Gods

Garden of the Gods

Friends and fellow adventurers

Friends and fellow adventurers

Not a bad little spot for a photo

Not a bad little spot for a photo

A Midsummer's Daydream

Ready or not, here they are. The long days of High Summer heat are upon us, and we'd best be prepared to make the most of what they bring. Depending on who you ask, days like these are either representative of the best life has to offer, or oppressive trials to be endured with (or without) equanimity.  In the household to which I belong, you will find ambassadors of both schools of thought, as well as those (like myself) who ascribe to the ambiguous and lukewarm area in the middle. Though you could hardly say my views are lukewarm. I have, for some time now, made it my goal to be content, indeed to be more than content, with whatever the weather or the seasons (through the means of Divine impetus) throws my way. I'll "weather the weather, whatever the weather, whether I like it or not."

I find flowers to be a stalwart aid in my endeavor. Some of my favorite blossoms take center stage during this act of the great performance. Sunflowers and roses, cosmos and lavender, and the great and glorious array of lilies. I find that gazing upon such blooms, and inhaling deeply from their sweet fragrance, is a keen asset in restoring the general zip and hum a body needs to take advantage of summertime. My family's garden is no great floral showcase, but I have always found it to be satisfactorily full, and sufficiently varied, and possessed of a lovely, overall atmosphere of humble beauty and peace. There is nothing better than to wander through the garden, towards the end of a scorching day, and to find the flowers, steadfastly performing their role, ornamenting creation and soothing my soul. May they always and everywhere do the same for you. 

A Bit of Poetry

I thought I'd take this week to share a few of the poems I've written over the past three years. These are some of my more light-hearted pieces, that also fit well with the season. To those of you accustomed to modern poetry, I must apologize for my attempts (poor though they be) at rhyme and meter, and to anyone fond of the romantic masters (whom I aspire to emulate) I must apologize for my flippancy and lack of polish. I hope you enjoy nonetheless.

As Day Begins

 

Amid the quiet blush

Of dawn I sit and pray.

I’m only half awake

But I feel whole and new.

The world begins to stir,

And nighttime fades away.

As treetops start to glow

With sunbeams from the east,

I close my eyes once more

And take a deeper breath.

The stillness in my soul,

The fire in the sky,

Unite with perfect grace;

I’m ready for the day

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Of Childhood and Summer

 

A summer morning, fair and warm,

Before the blazing heat of noon,

Holds all the fleeting fun and charm

Of childhood, which leaves too soon.

 

For while it lasts it’s full and free,

And possibilities abound

But swiftly does it pass, and we

Are left in shock to gaze around.

 

When summer heat has driven me

Into my house where I can hide,

I’m saddened by the thought that we

Don’t always seek to be outside.

 

I wait until the evening air

Has cooled things down, and once more I

Will venture to the garden, where

My childhood has passed me by.

Moments from an Evening Walk

 

Rabbit hops and I watch

Birds sing and I stop

The sun says there’s still time

For me to reach the tree line

 

Quick breaths and footsteps

Deadlines I forget

My watch ticks and I trot

Am I lost? I hope not

 

Clouds move, the wind shifts

Cool breeze, my mood lifts

Three geese on a dirt road

Whose pets? I don’t know

 

The sun sets and I’m home

Footsore and windblown

How useful and well-earned

The lessons that I’ve learned

 

A Long Walk Uphill

I've been following my brother on adventures for as long as I can remember. When we were young he would lead me on imaginary escapades, traipsing through the neighborhood in quest of something, in pursuit of someone, or for no reason at all. Over the years we have journeyed far and wide together, climbing rocks and mountains, pursuing snakes and sunsets, and relishing the thrill and freedom of unknown roads. Last week our adventures reached new heights, as we summited Mt. Hood, the tallest peak in Oregon, and our biggest alpine ascent together thus far. 

Retribution played a big role in this particular climb. About a month ago we, and our good friend and fellow adventurer Jerrell, set foot on the Mountain with every intention of summiting, but were thwarted, not by the Mountain itself, but by some fellow (less experienced) climbers. The final push to the summit involves some rather narrow and slightly technical maneuvering, and it was just at this section that we caught up with this large group of slow-moving climbers, and proceeded to wait in fairly frigid agony for our turn on the traverse. The sun was quickly rising on us, and would soon be turning the southern slopes to slush, so after about an hour of waiting and weighing our options (while the ascent ahead of us proceeded in slow motion), we decided to turn back rather than wait, summit, and risk a dangerous descent in the heat of the day. We returned home defeated, and the sour taste in our mouths remained unabated for some time.  

There was never any doubt, in mine and Nathan's minds, that we would soon return to fulfill our mission. Biding our time, honing our skills, and thirsting for vengeance, we anxiously watched the weather, praying that the snow would still be firm when our opportunity arrived. Last week, when life allowed us the necessary time, we jumped into action and prepared for our ascent. We still had to 'go to work' the night of our climb, so we headed out from home at 9:00 on Monday evening, calling for owls in the woods on our way to Hood. We reached the base around 2am, and within 30 minutes were beginning our slog up the glacier. Both of us were in much better condition than a month ago, and we made good time throughout our climb, eventually overtaking all parties that had set out before us. There was no full moon as there had been our first time, and the silent march under the pitch-dark sky was surreal. We talked little, letting the sound of our crampons digging into the snow, and the rhythm of our beating hearts, fill our tiny bubble in the waning night. 

It was fairly light by the time we reached the 'hog's back' bellow the summit push. We now had the steepest section ahead of us, and with all other groups behind us now, we proceeded forward, looking to bag the first summit of the day. With careful foot-placements, and our ice-axes put to use, we steadily neared the summit rim. Legs burning and exhilaration building, we reached the rim and got our first glimpse down the north side of Hood. The relatively gentle slope to the south (where we came up) was in sharp contrast to the sheer and jagged north face. The wind, which we hadn't dealt with until that point, was blowing fiercely at that height, and it was with great care that we made the final traverse to the summit.

Approaching the peak, I couldn't help but feel small, awestruck, and overwhelmed by the grandeur of the experience, and breath-taking quality of the view. The sun, now fully risen, seemed to be at our same level, and a blanket of cloud stretched out far below us, cloaking the familiar world under its shroud. At 11,250 feet, Mt. Hood is 1,000 feet lower than Mt. Adams, which I had summited many years before (along with many of the smaller Cascades), but the added technicality, and frustration from our first attempt, made this ascent seem somehow bigger and somewhat richer. Nathan and I took in the view and soaked up the summit for quite a while before beginning the quick and slippery descent, thankfully letting gravity do most of the work. Five hours after leaving the car we returned to it, tired and aching, but satisfied and content, with a new mountain under our belts, and another thrilling adventure complete.

Welcome & Farewell

The skies have cleared at last, just in time for trysting with the coming Solstice. Spring, tumultuous spring, has kept us on our toes this year, reminding us of all we know and associate with the season, and challenging us in many respects. But the length of days has nearly reached its height. It is time to leave behind the "untaught harmony of Spring," and to welcome in the sure, slow days of summer, beginning with our longest day, the Solstice, then riding on through the life-giving, often oppressive, heat of high summer. We are poised on the brink of a change, and I always think that the next few days will define the character of our summer months. 

This summer feels somehow different. Perhaps it is because this is the first summer in many years in which I will work a full-time job that doesn't involve tracking owls through the woods. Or maybe it's because this year I will be home for the entire season, instead of leaving for some distant volunteering adventure. Gone, it seems, are the days when I could simply hop on a plane, or train, or bus, and spend an unspecified amount of time living and learning in an "exotic" locale. For the past three years my lifestyle has been built around that rhythm, and it is sobering to think that those days have quickly come to an end. Not that they are no longer possible, but they are certainly no longer practical with where I am and where I'm trying to be.

I am so thankful for those experiences, for through them I have met incredible people, seen beautiful things, and learned far more than I imagined. But now the time has come to start a new chapter, live at a different pace, and, together with Tayler, my future wife, to begin establishing the character and rhythms of our future life. I feel entitled to use a building metaphor (cliche as that may be), as my new job is construction: "the blueprints are made and drawn, and it's time to build the foundation." Here's to the next stage in the journey!

Running Wild

It was a cool, clear morning in early June, and the mule deer fawns were newly born. I rose somewhat tardier than the sun, but before the heat of day could return after the chill of dawn. I ran that day for the reasons I always run: the solitude, the breath of fresh air, and the sheer wildness of the activity. At the time I was, I think, training for some race or another, and I had been very focused and strict with my regime. That morning was no different, and though I did pause to admire some honey locust blossoms on my way out the driveway, my thoughts were very much centered on the task at hand, and not subject to idle fancy.

I chose that day to run my most common route through the neighborhood. The winding road between ranchettes was one I'd covered a hundred times. Landscaped yards and horse pens, with an occasional hillside of juniper and sage. Though I was certainly not at my most attentive, I do remember that the first couple of miles passed without sight or sound of anything extraordinary. Barked at by a few dogs, laughed at by several crows, and hypnotized by the drum of my own feet and the smell of rabbit brush, I pursued my course and succumbed to sensations of the familiar.

Exiting a curve in the road, my reverie was broken by a clip clop sound behind me. Casting a glance over my shoulder, I continued to run as the hoofbeats, light at first, came quickly nearer. The sound was caused by a very small, very sprightly fawn, trotting towards me with all the purpose of an athlete and all the freshness of spring. Covered with a spectrum of brown fur and be-speckled with white, the fawn appeared to never touch the road, though the sound belied my fancy. I slowed my pace as it came up behind, and when I stopped, the little creature parked itself squarely between my legs, as though there were no more natural place in the world for it to be. 

It is at moments like these that your heart stops. Not in a fearful or exhilarated sort of way, but more in a macro vision, out of body kind of way. On the one hand I felt frozen, but at the same time felt myself moving, seizing the once-in-a-lifetime chance of being mistaken for a mama deer to pet the fawn's silken ears. For several moments we remained thus, thrown together and held in a deep yet fragile and uncertain bond. The spell was broken when from behind us came a bleat, and the fawn, mechanically responding to the familiar sound, bound back and away, veering for a stand of trees down the hillside. I followed for a moment with my eyes and then, responding to whatever urge or call it is that bids us carry on, I turned once more toward my goal, and continued on my way.