Love Letters to Mother Nature: #3

(Originally written on 1/19/18)

Dear Mother Nature,

I love all of your cloaks, your seasons.

Each inspires me and grants me glimpses wonders and wisdom.

But, dare I say, your beauty impresses and stuns me the most when you lie asleep.

With a blanket of white covering your curves, snow dancing down like sleep dust on all of your children.  Hibernating, resting in preparation for our own blossoming.

As you exhale and the wind sweeps snowflakes over your frozen lakes and napping trees, it’s as if I can see all dreams.  Past, present, and future.  They sparkle and shine as they reflect the light from the sun and moon.  Magic.  Living and breaking in your dreams.

Sometimes I walk through your reveries, the wind kicking up and snow fluttering around me, gently kissing my cheeks.

Am I part of your dream?  Or am I living your dream?

Mother Nature, I bid you a goodnight and the sweetest of dreams.

Love,

Ray

 

 

Supergirl’s Return

It has been about 2 months since Pacer came down with the HGE virus and made her heroic recovery, to save me from loneliness and my own negative self-talk.  So I would still have my adventure partner, best friend, and love of my life.

With the help of my student loans, my dad/Pacer’s grandpa, Aunt Sandi and Uncle Sage, and the kindness of everyone who donated to the GoFundMe page, the $7,000 vet bill is paid off.

Going in to 2018, I could not be more grateful.

On my Christmas card this year I wrote the M.K.Clinton quote “The world would be a better place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.”  Luckily, I know many people do.  I am hopeful for a nicer world.

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Our holiday card photo.

Pacer and I had our first snowshoe of the season today on Leadville’s 11+ mile mineral belt trail.  Afterward, I stopped by Coldfoot Auto Repair to see Randy and Jackson, Randy’s chocolate lab.  In August, Randy managed to fix the axle in my car (despite being a one man car shop and not having the part on hand) while Pacer and I hiked up into the mines, giving me both a great deal on the repair but sharing his light with me (he has blue, joyful, and soulful eyes).

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Supergirl on the Mineral Belt Trail.

This coming summer, Supergirl and I hope to complete all the “dog-friendly” 14ers in Colorado (she’s currently at 30-something).  The thought makes me smile.

Actually, I laughed and rejoiced out loud on our snowshoe hike today as Pacer wiggled her nub and pranced with joy in the snow… my baby is happy and healthy.

And I have people who love me.  Strangers willing to donate money to help pay for veterinary bills.  The world is not perfect, but it is good.  And there is plenty of love to go around.

With Love & Gratitude,

Ray and Pacer

 

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Happy Holidays from the Supergirl Family!

Love Letters to Mother Nature: # 3

Dear Mother Nature,

I imagine your canyons to be the intestines of the world, taking in and digesting all we feed you- the junk foods, the health foods, the superfoods.  We give you madness, terror, anger, fear, doubt.  It’s no wonder why you regurgitate in hurricanes and tornadoes sometimes.   But we also give you happiness, hope, love, and so much more.  In return, we receive sunny blue skies, shooting stars, and gentle, cleansing rains.

You also nurture us with love.  For us, you eliminate what you can of the bad and give the rest of your body, and us, your children, the good.  The healing.  We don’t always return the love, but you still keep giving.

Mother Nature, you continue to astound me.

In these canyons, you swallow me whole.  I feel so small, yet so connected with the rest of life.  I may be tiny, but I am vital.

Most of all, you swallow me in your love.  All of my parts-the beautiful parts and the parts I deemed as mistakes.  You accept all of it.  I am learning to accept all of me too.

Last, I wanted to let you know that I love you too.

Yours Forever & Always,

Ray

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Supergirl: The Bravest, Toughest Dog in the World

At this time, I’m not able to really write about Supergirl’s recent encounter with a HGE, which led her to Alpenglow, an Emergency Vet Clinic.  Below is my FB post, along with a link to the GoFundMe page my sister started to help take care of the $7,000+ bill.  I was away in the canyons of UT while the event occurred, by my sister describes what happened on the page.

My love and gratitude for everyone’s support, donations, prayers, and well wishes.

My FB post:

“30 hours after finding out that my baby was so sick while I was a way, I am still feeling a tornado of emotions. Mostly, I’m feeling enormously (x the moon and back) grateful that she is okay and that she had the best support team in the world surrounding her.

There’s also the guilt, whether rational or not, that I wasn’t there when Pacer needed me the most and all the “what ifs” that go along with that. That she was hooked up to an IV, heart machines, and was so scared…and I, her mom, was absent. There’s sadness and anger at myself, my naivete for going into the wilderness without any contact to loved ones, and at my school’s policies for only having on outgoing phone.

But again, overriding that is my overwhelming gratitude to mine and Pacer’s heroes and angels: SandiJoshua, and Sage. She probably would not be alive without them, which means a part of me would have died too. Everyday, all three of them went to see Pacer at each of the 3 visiting times. That they decided to foot the bill up front, no questions asked. That they interrogated the nurses and doctors. That my dad told Sandi “do whatever it takes”. That Sandi broke down, shedding her tears and my own. That they called everyone possible at Naropa, all the rangers and visitor centers near Natural Bridges National Monument, and every other medium they could to try to contact me on Saturday night when they were worried she wasn’t going to make it. I could have asked nothing more of them…they did everything I would have done. Them telling me that they would “do anything for you and Pacer”. They kept my baby, my adventure partner, my best friend, the love of my life, my therapist, my resiliency, my unconditional love, alive.

I also have a HUGE amount of gratitude for Alpenglow Veterinary and everyone who has texted, called, and messaged me to see how Supergirl is doing. THANK YOU to everyone who has made a donation, prayed, and sent their loving energy. I apologize if it takes me a few days to reply back…my nerves are still a bit frayed.

Pacer, my brave, brave girl, is truly living up to her nickname Supergirl (even the nurses started calling her that!). She is eating a bit again, going for short walks, and even made an attempt to chase Joshua’s cat (which we ended when I thought the “meeting” was too much stress for Pacer and myself).

Sandi, Joshua, and Sage: Thank you x a million. I’ll never be able to repay you for this. I love you all to the moon and back.”

Supergirl’s GoFundMe page: https://www.gofundme.com/pacersmedicalbills 

 

 

 

 

 

Love Letters to Mother Nature: #2

7/26/2017, San Juan Mountains

Dear Mother Nature,

Love is the word popping into my mind right now.  Love for this valley, for Pacer, for the mountains, for the sky, for my body, for my whole self.  And love for the boy too (even if I won’t tell him so).  How is it than I can feel it so strongly, so freely now up here?

In my book, I just read about a study that revealed that viewing/being in nature generates a sense of “awe” that in turn gives a sense of contentedness and peace which can enhance productivity and creativity.

I’m guessing this sense of awe isn’t too far off from love.  With that, knowing deep down, even if I can’t always feel it, that I am part of this awe too.

Is it in the beauty of the awe that I find love?

It can’t be.

I think it has more to do with my connection.  But, in my present human state, I can’t completely reach the depths of it.  It’s like my roots are just brushing the core of the matter.  Yet, when I let myself be still, the upwards energy of the love still embraces me.

It’s getting cloudy.  I’m beginning to have goose bumps.  I wonder if I should continue walking or head back.  The next turn in the road captivates my attention.

Love,

Your Daughter

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Love Letters to Mother Nature: #1

Aspens Aglow

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I’m just a short hike up from the Fourth of July trailhead in Indian Peaks Wilderness, sitting on a larg boulder with my best friend, Pacer (an Australian Shepard). Before us are several small, bright yellow leafed Aspens interspersed among the pines. The sky is playing with us. As times it has been dark with clouds and a light rain tickles my cheek. The woods feel sacred when it is like this. Minutes later the sky clears. The sun shines on us through the Aspen leaves, aglow. But at this very moment as I write, the sun slips behind the mountain to our southwest. I sit and close my eyes. All I can do is breathe in the crisp air, smelling the dying leaves. I notice my hiking partner is finally sitting still for once, with the same breeze that is blowing through the Aspens also gently playing with her fur.
I don’t feel young, like I do at times in the summer when I am running down on trail. Nor do I feel old. I just am. I wonder if this is how the trees feel. Not tired, but just ready for a slow down. Along with the trees, I am fully here for this change in season.
Driving back along the bumpy, Aspen and pine strewn trail towards the town of Eldora, I wonder: what if there was a nature attachment theory*? A theory that stated all living things are connected, from the dirt to the sky, from trees to humans. And if one was to let herself slow down, to remove the superficial thoughts and things and just be, that she would be able to re-connect with the wilderness, to be held by Mother Nature. In this re-connection, healing from the trauma of the “created” human world would be found.

The attachment to Mother Nature has all the love and safety one needs to be securely attached. In this oneness with nature, humans could become whole within themselves and with the world.

(In what will be a series of my Love Letter to Mother Nature, this first love letter was written in September of 2016 as a class assignment. )

*Learn more about attachment theory here:  https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/compassion-matters/201307/how-your-attachment-style-impacts-your-relationship

https://clintonpower.com.au/2012/07/wired-for-love/

 

The Broken Parts: An Ode to Gestalt

The Broken Parts

Dear Beautiful,

Can you love me wholly, for all my parts?
The parts that you thought were bad, ugly, and broken?
The parts that were never bad, ugly, or broken at all,
but really the most beautiful parts of you?

These are the parts that are the most painful…
but they are part of you and they are gorgeous.
You are gorgeous.

If you love these parts
they may open themselves back to you.
Now they are a bit timid

They are scared to enter the light for fear they will only be shut out again.

Be patient.
Be willing.

Now you are scared of losing your freedom.

When you used to run
it was as if your soul was breaking out of you.
Those broken parts of you,
the parts you hid away,
could finally inhale the world.
In the breath of Mother Nature,
they too could breathe in your untamed stride.

Beautiful,
don’t you see?
That freedom you felt running
came from inside of you.
It is and will always be inside of you.

Whether healing can be physical is still an unknown.
The healing of your soul is always available to you,
my dear Love,
if you accept the broken parts of you.

“If you love me,
if you accept me”,
they scream
“we can become Whole”.

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Adventuring with Supergirl: A Few More Tips and Tricks of the Road/Trail

The majority of mine and Supergirl’s adventures involve car-camping: driving to a camping spot near a trailhead and hiking or running from there. And so, when we camp I have all my gear, food, and clothes accessible and often within 10-20 feet of my tent. Quite convenient, especially when I wake up freezing in the morning then jump in the car and blast the heat until I warm up.
However, as “luxurious” (aka “glamping”) as this may sound, this can easily turn into a disaster if things aren’t organized. Furthermore, if I don’t have good directions or a working GPS (yes, I have an old-school GPS that plugs into the car) this can make finding a trailhead extremely frustrating. Then there’s food, cleaning up, finding the best route, etc. While I’m still learning (and driving in circles) here are a few of mine and Supergirl’s tips on how to get the most of your adventure and keep the “wild and free” spirit.
Organizing Your Car:
At the start of summer, one of my biggest questions was about how to organize my car and keep Supergirl safe. While my organization of food, clothes, gear, and dog by far is not the most structured, I found something that works relatively well for the two of us: in the rear, I bunjeed down my camping/gear bin. This is also where Pacer stays and still has over half of the space in the back. In the middle seats, I put my basket of clothes behind me, dry food and utensils in a basket in the middle, and the cooler on the other side of that. In the foot space behind the driver’s space, I keep the water jugs and my shoes, while Pacer’s food is kept on the passenger side by the cooler (that way I can easily get mine and Pacer’s dinner going at the same time). Next to me in the passenger seat, I usually keep my backpack. I can also might hang a towel, jacket, or hydration pack from  some of the seats.


Showers:
I would love to be a girl who could go a week without showering and shaving, and I have, but most of the time, I feel a lot better if I can clean up a bit after 2-3 days.
In most towns, I can find a visitor center and they will easily point me in the direction of a rec center, laundromat, campground, or even a motel that offers showers. Usually, they cost a few bucks. At other places, like the showers in Buena Vista at the park, showers are 4 quarters for 4 minutes…this means you’ve got to be ready with soap in one hand and a razor in the other, but totally doable!
Then there’s the creek option, usually freezing from snowmelt coming off the mountains. This of course is a great, free option…unless you are already freezing your butt off or there are fisherman lining the creek. Then, some improvisation is needed.
On my last trip to Montana (really Bozeman, get with it! The only place that offered public showers only offered them until noon-when I was still hiking or running)

Or, you can do the super-efficient but maybe not so effective shower:  Find an empty container in your car (honestly, I’ve used an old salad bowl), and poor a minimal amount of water over your head.  You don’t need much of your precious water supply (more on that below)!  Just dip any long strands of hair into the bowl to get them wet.  Then, apply soap/conditioner and poor a bit more water over your head.  You might not get all the soap out, but at least your hair now has more shampoo in it than dirt.  THEN, use the soapy (and slightly dirty) water in the bowl to shave and/or wash off “some” of the dirt on the rest of your body.
Maps
I highly suggest that before your trip, you get a map of the trails in the area. If you can’t find one locally, I would plan on driving directly to the visitor center, ranger station, or the local outdoor retailer that is near the trails you wish to explore. Of course you can find  routes and driving directions online, but these aren’t always correct. Plus, I am a total nerd about my growing map collection!
Water
Water is, obviously, essential. Every few days I find myself in a store or a gas station to buy a few more gallons. If you have a filtration system, you could save yourself quite a few bucks by just getting water from the creek. However, I have a filtration straw that I just attaches to my hydration bladder, so it is not very feasible in other situations. Another trick to save a few bucks is that every time you stop in a gas station, visitor center, or coffee shop, bring in a water bottle to fill up. I’ve also filled up my hydration bladder too by keeping it in my backpack when I head in to a coffee shop.

*After talking to some friends, they reminded me that I could use a water-bottle, like a re-used Smart Water bottle, with my filtration straw!

Food

As many of you already know, I am plant-based and vegan.  I’m not about to sacrifice my morals or nutrients when I’m on the trail!  Breakfast is usually oatmeal, a banana, and tea.  Before I leave my place, I usually pre-mix it with cacao and flax/chia seed.  Lunch is almost non-negotiable (save for when I am backpacking).  I always have my super-ginormous salad.  I usually make a few ahead of time before I head out, and then hit up a grocery store in town to restock.  For dinner, I have 3 go-to JetBoil meals:

1. Pasta- Usually, I prefer organic black bean noodles with organic sauce from Trader             Joes, with a bunch of extra veggies thrown in.

2. Soup-  Again, Trader Joe’s has a few vegan and organic options that come in a box,             but most places sell Amy’s organic soups. I’ll add in some more veggies and/or noodles     too.

3. Stir fry:  I start the rice first, then add in veggies and black beans.  Then I just throw           on some seasoning and tamari sauce.

O, and I sprink almost everything with nutritional yeast!  It add some extra flavor and a good does of B12.

*Please share any of your favorite vegan camping meals!

Expect “Mis”adventures
Anytime you are driving to a new place, I would simply keep it in your mind that not everything will go as planned. This isn’t to say things will go wrong…just that they probaly all won’t go right. It might be difficulty finding a trailhead, not finding a camping spot, or be pouring rain. Really, it’s all part of the adventure.

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“Pacer, how the heck did we end up here!?”  (Ibex City, Leadville, CO)

*Shortly after writing this post, I started to have car trouble.  After a bout of anxiety and finding a car repair shop, I was amazed at how well thing turned out.  From the shop, Pacer and I headed up on a 4 hour hike to old mining sites (and got a really good deal on the service!).  However, just to let this lesson sink in a bit more, we then got stuck for an hour on the highway waiting for an accident to clear up.

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Again, this is just a short list of tips Supergil and I learned this year. You can find some great articles on the subject on iRunfar.com, like this one:
http://www.irunfar.com/2014/10/camping-on-the-run.html
Also, for information on personal safety as well as taking your best 4-legged friend along, check out my past posts:

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/06/06/women-of-the-wild-part-2-safety-and-sexism-on-the-trail/

https://adogandhergirl.com/2017/08/18/dog-stuff-adventuring-with-supergirl/

“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” -John Muir

“Not I, not anyone else, can travel that road for you.  You must travel it for yourself.”-Walt Whitman

 

 

Coming & Going: Society Adjustment Disorder

In the summer, Pacer and I are always coming and going: off to the mountains, returning to Boulder.  My camping bin stays permanently in my car.  When I decide to go, I pack my clothes, food, grab Pace, and GO.

When i write it like that, I sound like a true wanderlust gypsy.  The real truth is though, I’m not the romanticized traveler that leaves in the spur of the moment.  A lot of things are planned out ahead of time, especially the food.  I make sure I take at least a few days worth of healthy, wholesome plant-based meals with me.  Clothes goes by a bit quicker, especially later in the season, though some thought goes into the necessary layers.

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My somewhat organized car.

As for the actual leaving of the city, I typically leave an hour later than planned.  When I finally do get into my car, it’s never without a bit of fear, albeit a lot of it has to do with my 2002 Subaru not breaking down on the way their.  Then, there is getting lost, weather, and not knowing what expect.  There’s leaving safety and comfort behind.  A warm bed and locked doors.  Wifi.  Daily showers.  Shelter.

Last, ther is saying goodbye.  It is a blessing and a curse to have someone to miss.  I’ve never been great at goodbyes to loved ones, no matter how temporary it is.  My throat constricts, a heaviness fills my heart, and the sadness lingers in me as I drive away.  The brunt of it slowly dissipates with the miles.

Things start to change when I reach the mountains, when Pacer and I are long amongst the trees.  Fresh air, the breath of Mother Nature, fills my lungs and helps fill any voids in my heart.

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My nerves start to calm.  I don’t have the lure of the computer to draw me in and keep me up at night, just a book and my journal.

While I still miss the ones I left behind, it’s easier for me to remember that I return after my adventure.  The fear of the unknown turns into excitement.  For now, the loneliness (in addition to Pacer) is another companion.

Back in the arms of Mother Nature, her embrace feels like a source of security.  I know she’ll never leave me, though in the hustle and bustle of the city I all too often forget she is there.  In the mountains, I remember.  I set up my tent, Pacer and I snuggle in, and I am home.

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Going back to the city (even though it is Boulder) is a different story.

At the beginning of the summer, for me it was like the umbilical cord attaching me to my Mother was being ripped off.  Again I was lost.

Funny, because the day before I leave, I’m always looking forward to a hot shower, cooking with an normal stove (though I do love my Jetboil), and a cushy bed.  But then, as I leave the mountains, watching them get smaller and smaller in my rear-view mirror, the choking sadness of goodbye comes back.  I’m leaving my loved ones, the high snowy peaks, the valleys of wildflowers, the music of the trees, behind.

When I get back to my “space” in Boulder, I dread the emails that await me, the drive down the street to the grocery store, the flood of constant noise.

This is what I call “society adjustment disorder“.   I first learned of it after hiking the Colorado Trail in 2015 and briefly broached the subject in my blog:

“In the 30 or so hours after completing the CT, I am fully immersed, but feeling quite awkward and separate, in normal society.  

I’ve already experienced over-priced motel rooms (though the shower was greatly appreciated!) and food, cigarette smoke, dining partners getting ignored over cell phones, and drives going too fast and swearing down the road despite the background of majestic mountains.  After seeing Steve [my then-boyfriend], he quickly updated me on the big news I missed in the world- reporters getting shot, another child rapist, wild fires around the country.

This is what I wanted to come back to?” 

If I’m not careful, it’s easy to get depressed, lost in thoughts of why humans have created things to be so complicated, losing the joy of simplicity.

The blow of society is softened by having someone to come back to, a lover to embrace and let me know I was missed.

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My “someone” to miss when I’m gone and happiness to come back to.

Still, I am careful not to let the bliss of re-uniting bypass the wisdom that I know underlies the sadness of my return back to society.  There is something in that sadness that I have to learn from, though I’m can just grasp the meaning now.*

What I do know is this:  While I may drive away from the heart of the wilderness, Mother Nature never truly leaves me, for our hearts are intertwined.  Second, the sadness I feel when leaving the mountains is the same sadness I feel when leaving a loved one.  They are really 1 of the same, with love at its’ roots. I also know it is up to me to seek beauty elsewhere, not just in finding it in the foothill trails of Boulder or the trees that line the littered block.  No, the beauty that I seek can only be uncovered in the hearts of the people I pass by.  It is often not as apparent as the beauty I’ve found in the valley of wildflowers, just above tree-line, and mountain lakes, but it is just as deep, just as pure.

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Within a few days back in the city, I’m back to my normal routine and my withdrawal symptoms fade.  I find happiness in my morning runs and a re-connection with other human beings as well as the nature around me.  The mountains still call, and I know I will go again.  For the time being though, the wilderness and love in my heart and in the hearts of those I walk past (even if they can’t see it for themselves) keeps me hanging around a bit longer.

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*Not to go too far off topic, but I also have a theory on this.  If you know psychology, you’ve probably heard of “attachment theory”.  Basically, it describes how our early attachments affect our attachments later in life.  Most of use have grown up with a severed attachment to Mother Nature, but if we are lucky enough to find it as adults, we can begin to heal.  I think are natural (no pun intended) connection to Mother Nature is so strong that when we leave, we feel the pain of once again separating from our Mother.