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Archive for July, 2013

Overlooking Amphitheater Lake

My father said to me last week, “We don’t want you to end up living in a broken down truck by the Guadalupe River.”

At least, there is a beaver family living down there in San Jose (for the first time in a century too), so perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad.

My parents are generally supportive, but I’ve gotten myself into a challenging situation, which they’re concerned about. I’ve shifted my career all around in order to do this “green thing.” That’s another catch phrase from my father, who is very practical.

I don’t disagree with his practical philosophy either. I’ve had to earn every penny of my savings since college, and I’ve spent nearly every penny too. Not on a house or stuff. Okay, maybe a truck, but that was 10 years ago. I’ve spent most of my savings writing a book about the best places I know and reporting on water policy. My hiking book did win a bronze Ippy for best e-book in the western region this March, and I’m truly happy about that. It indicates that I can put sentences together. But at the moment, I’ve opted to not promote it.

So let me cut to the chase and get to the last chapter—the most important part.

medals1The book is not about how wonderful I am – nor is it a misery memoir. It’s about the most beautiful places that I’ve come to know, and how long it took me to appreciate them. When you travel just about anywhere, you start to see ugly things. Many years ago, I took a hiking trip to northern California, and I came back depressed. I thought there would be trees up there. I thought I would walk among the rich dewy forests of the Cascade Range. The map said forest, at least. But I found a lot of clear-cuts and just little patches of life left on the highway. It broke my heart. I wanted to run away, and eventually I did.

I began to look outside of California, hoping that I could find something as beautiful as my home state, but cheaper, more remote, less damaged. I traveled to Utah, Washington, Arizona, Oregon, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and beyond. I hopped on planes and flew to South America and New Zealand… searching for utopia.

One day, a woman in a Utah coffee shop said, “You know that place you’re seeking, it’s really on the inside of you.” I paused and looked into her eyes. I understood the essential truth of what she said, but I still didn’t quite believe it. So I fastened on my hat and kept going. I’ve now moved more times than I care to admit. I’m not a flaky girl. I was just possessed with the idea of owning a home far from environmental destruction and isolated from the continuous groan of consumerism, and its shopping malls, freeways, parking lots and trinkets from the dollar store.

Holy LandBut ultimately, my relentlessness pursuit wasn’t making me happy either. No amount of time outside seemed to cure my ailment. The further I went, the more I recognized what I had left behind. And I’m sorry to admit that it took me a full decade to turn around, to face what I feared and grow the courage to fight.

So yes, I’ve done this “green thing,” and I don’t know what’s going to happen now. This isn’t Hollywood. This is real life. But at the very least, I’ve stood for something that I believe in. I’ve pointed my finger at the best places I know and said go there.

If anyone ever gets their hands on the book, they will see a giant circular route that forms a contorted heart over the West, and it is my own.

“This is the true joy in life – being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to me, it is a sort of splendid torch, which I have got a hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it to future generations.”— George Bernard Shaw

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