Talking stock

At the moment the dinning hall of the Wyss Wilderness Medicine Campus is brightly lit, filled with happy voices, punctuated with laughter, and the occasional beep from the microwave. Everyone is in different states of preparedness for the upcoming week, and overwhelmingly the impression is one of anticipation and excitement for whats to come. Along with bemusement of those who had to much to drink last night and made a fool of themselves. It’s interesting to sit here in the middle of active conversation and socialization and intentionally isolate myself with headphones and an open laptop. Quietly observing the body language of my peers, imagining their current state of mind.

Two weeks of focused study later and I am honestly feeling ready to go home. As much as I enjoy the company of these fine people I have to say that there is no replacement for those people we have selected to be our family. And likewise creating a healthy routine becomes almost impossible when your utmost dedication is required to a single task. I’ve spent the better part of 11-13 hours a day focused on the study of emergency medicine and as a result have let other aspects of my life lapse. While I am able to recognize this as a necessary evil in the pursuit of larger long term goals, it is still frustrating to not be able to feel satiated emotionally, artistically, physically. Perhaps the single hardest thing for me is not having the time to be on open trails with dirt and rock under my feet.

This leads me to perhaps one of the more valuable lessons I’ve learned here; I require a lifestyle in which balance is made and then maintained. Actively participating in my own imbalance is a strange and surreal process. To recognize the solution and yet to not be able to fix it in pursuit of something else is quite frustrating. Do we call that sacrifice or masochism? Does it matter? Isn’t it all just complaining anyway? But maybe not? I have to say there has not been a single moment here that I have no enjoyed, and yet if I could I would do things differently. Maybe its just recognizing preferences.

My preferences are for the open and star lit skies which ring with cold. Strong coffee that is balanced firmly in sun browned hands and sipped by dirty faces. Rough rock that absorbs the stress of powerful ethics and the commitment to better days. Tenacious friendships that pick up always where they left off and scoff at hardships. My preferences are for exactly what I’m doing and appreciating it for what it is, recognizing that these moments are the only ones like them that I will ever get. By embracing these few seconds and seeing them for what they are; my preferences are for brightly lit dining halls, filled with happy voices, punctuated with laughter, and the occasional beep from the microwave.

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Shark Fin Ridge between Mt. Evans and Mt. Bierstadt July 9th, 2018 Photo credit: Payton Hoops

 

Continuing on with the WEMT: Day 9

It’s a cold morning. The kind of cold morning where the color of the sky seems to match the temperature of the air. But it is a crisp fall cold, not yet the over bearing oppressive cold of winter. The west sky is covered in dark gray clouds, but further east streaks of gold and pink are bursting over the horizon. Breaking over the hills, the light blue of the early morning sky only serves to further highlight the simple fact that the sun is on its way. As color returns to earth and shapes become more than obscure objects in twilight, so seemingly does the warmth of day. As the dawn continues its march through the morning night scales back its forces allowing for the brief and momentary victory of a new day.

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Well here we are in the middle of a new week! Having gone through eight days of heavy course work and vigorous skills training I have to admit I’m starting to get a little worried. Things are just moving quickly. The amount of practice that is needed in order to gain competency at some of these skills is considerable, while the amount of reading and comprehension needed to pass exams and operate appropriately in the field is also demanding. Practice tests as well and understanding vocabulary have become my primary studying functions and I have foregone the complete reading of chapters. This is ultimately more unnerving than I think it is ineffective, but I guess time will tell.

The practical scenarios are finally starting to become more involved and complex which is really pretty fun. Having to think quickly on your feet about how to handle certain situations and respond to different kinds of medical emergencies is a great and invigorating exercise. The ability to recall certain principles of treatment when faced with a bloody chest wound or a non-responsive patient becomes way more of a challenge. However, I have found that for the most part I am more than capable of remaining calm and continuing to provide non-emotionally charged care.

This became particularly clear to me over the weekend whilst working in the Riverton ER.  I spent Friday night from 3pm to 11pm taking patient vitals and helping to clean rooms for the nurses. These tasks placed me in direct communications with patients some of whom where having incredibly difficult days. I have to say that having the expectations and real world consequences of patient care hanging over me, I still felt wonderful calm and un-phased.

There still much to be learned and many mistakes to be made but for now, I’m feeling good, feeling confident. I’m excited about the prospect of making those mistakes and having the chance to make a difference in someone’s life as the product of my learning here and now.

End of day 1: 10/15/18

So this is gonna be hard. Probably not the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but academically its going to be very challenging. I’m gonna have to read way more than I did today, and be way more on my game than I have been. The practical skills don’t worry me much and I plan on drilling them, and as long as I can find ways to incorporate the book learning to practical use I should be fine. I was able to drill the PAS (Patient assessment survey) and basic vitals with other students this evening in addition to a little bit of the reading I had planned. There is still more to do though!

The campus is amazing, and the people here so far are pretty damn awesome. Not so sure how social roles will all unfold but honestly its feeling kinda like a repeat of so many of the classes I have taken. I just have a tendency to talk and people have a tendency to listen. I’m holding back a ton though. It is really interesting to not be as actively engaged as I normally am. I give it another day before I’m bursting at the seems, and also being caught up on the reading. Alright from the end of day one, sleep well and we will talk soon!

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Straight up magic. The view from the mesa which rises above campus but looking east. 

Day One: 10/15/18 06:22am

It is 21degrees outside. The first light of day is not yet visible, but the first signs of life are more than noticeable. The crew next to us is awake and chatting loudly. And lights are slowly starting to flicker on around campus. The general air is one of excitement, you can tell people are ready for this. We found out last night at are orientation that a mountain lion calls this area home, that lion goes by Hello Kitty, kinda hard to be concerned about something with a name like that right? But who is worried about mountain lions anyway?  Especially when you have 26 days to learn three months worth of material. I’ve got 30 minutes to work out before its breakfast time, and I’m sure I won’t be doing much at first, so I better get moving. Cheers to a great day and I’ll see you on the other side.

And so it begins a letter to myself: EMT at Wyss Medical Campus Lander, Wyoming 2018

I’m sitting in “Yellow Right,” the name, if you will, of the cabin where you will be staying for the next month. You’ve been talking to William, the first person you met while, unloading your car, speaking about the anticipation of the course. You’re slowly starting to realize the vast amount of work ahead of you and the amount of energy it will take to do well here. I know you’re very worried about getting your anatomical definitions dialed in, as well as understanding and remembering basic medical terminology. I guess I could say don’t worry, but hell, I don’t know maybe you should! I want you to enjoy this month, I want you to push yourself to do as well as possible academically, and most of all to really focus on doing something you love.

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When you’re done think about why you took this course. Think about what made you come up here. See if those reasons still hold true. Or over the course of your education, where you disillusioned to anything? What judgments had you made that turned out to be false surprised you? What things that you assumed turned out to be true?

The place is amazing, the red rock bluffs that surround the campus have captured your heart already, reminding you of southern Utah. The area itself is very much so like Flagstaff or Prescott, Arizona, high juniper desert environment. Junipers and red soil rule the landscape. The fresh snow on the campus stands in beautiful contrast to the bright blue of the skies, and the deep red of the rock.

So far you’ve met just about a quarter of the folks who will soon arrive. Get stoked James, the next 26 days are gonna be amazing. Maybe I’ll say hello again later tonight after you’ve had orientation and dinner. Mainly dinner. You’re hungry as shit. IMG_1147

Colorado River (Dewey Bridge to Moab Bridge) 7/2-7/4 Continued

Floating those first 45 minutes was spectacular to say the least. Our first impressions of the river were that of majesty, intensity, and total and complete stoke. There are very few things in this world that I would say I don’t get excited about, but somethings get me way more pumped than others. The river instantly looked different from the water than it did whilst we drove down the road, the sounds, the smell, the heat, all came together in  coalesced perfection. The water invited us in sooner than we expected ad with in 30 minutes of start our voyage we were swimming alongside our boat. Beers in hand smiles in place. Jonas you could say has an affinity for the water and instantly made that clear with the comfort and ease he displayed in the water.IMG_0638

We made our way down looking frequently up in awe at the canyon walls and examining larger boulders on the side of the river to try and decide whether or not they were worth climbing and jumping off of. It was pretty easy to decide to jump. If the water was deep enough we jumped. Simple as that. That being said more often than not the rocks were situated tight in to the side of the bank with the surrounding water to shallow to allow us the gratification of air time and submersion.

By the time night was descending on I was quite hungry, drunk and very sleepy. Cruising towards our first set of rapids we encountered a man on the side of the river in his own boat. He was with a larger group none of who were with him on the bank. Dave, as we soon learned he was called, (maybe it was John or something else entirely but for the sake of this story we will say Dave) warned us about the life jacket enforcement zone we were entering as well as the rougher waters ahead. Proceeding clade in our floatation devices and with the utmost enthusiasm about encountering an actual rapid, we floated on. But about twenty minutes floating over some mild white water we decided that Dave, or whatever his name was, was an overly cautious river guide exerting his authority over two green horns. And as it turns out, he was. We floated calmly down to a gravel filled and rock strewn beach that we quickly decided was good enough for camp one. f

Reaching out campsite Jonas jumps out of the boat ahead of me, grabbing the nose of the canoe he pulls us up onto a more stable landing. That being said, mud in which you sink up to your knees in can hardly be described as stable. Almost loosing our shoes, we quickly ported the canoe up the bank about 15ft out of reach of the clinging fingers of the river. Unpacking quickly with the fading day light Jonas focused on the tent and I on dinner. The idea was to quickly and effectively get everything done. And to be honest we did. We quickly crushed it out. Jonas had the tent up in no time and we were soon drinking our fifth beer of the day around the camp stove.

While the bugs were annoying and the occasional bite of a horse fly kept my use of four letter words in a moderate range, there was nothing really to complain about, beside the lack of time.

7/3 5:05am

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Waking up to sunrise will always be one of my favorite things. Here it is no different, as the sun crested up and over the towers to the east and crept into our tent I slowly began to wake. With in a matter of moments the sun was so warm on my sleeping bag the I quickly climbed out and walked down to the river to splash water on my face. Turning around I noticed Jonas was still fast asleep. So I decided to get started on breaking down camp on my own. We had brought bagels for breakfast and I figured that we could just make those on the fly as we jumped in the boat for a downward float. As I began cleaning up from dinner, just reorganizing really, I also brought some water to a boil and made coffee before the heat of the day would render any extra warmth unbearable and coffee all but undrinkable.

With coffee made and the beginning of our day looking bright Jonas and I set out on the river once again eagerly anticipating whatever the river could throw at us. In minutes we began gushing about this and that, exclaiming for the beauty that was our and ours alone that morning on the river. As we carried down stream from out camp site we were still beyond baffled that no one else was yet up and at them. As the temperature rose we know it was beyond possibility that anyone still lay asleep in a tent or sleeping bag. (Unless they had portable AC)

Our first challenge that day came early, a very short yet powerful section of what must have been less than class one rapids. Situated under the shadowed base of a red cliff, these rapids did more for us than any cup of coffee. Despite all of our plans and efforts as we dropped into the current we knew very quickly that canoes are not meant for any kind of serious white water as solo crafts. While fast and powerful on flat water and ever rather dexterous in a current, in a rapid your better off in an inter-tube than a canoe. Our boat  quickly took on several inches of water. The weight bogged us down and with a few strong paddle strokes and the help of the current we made our way to the Western bank. Once there we quickly realized two things. First we should just empty the canoe and dump the water. Secondly, we had no bailing system. Jonas had my coffee mug and quickly realized that would be our best bet for quick and easy situations that did not require the full emptying and overturning of our MRC.

To be continued again.

 

Colorado River (Dewey Bridge to Moab Bridge) 7/2-7/4

7/1 10:30pm:

“Hey Jonas grab the front end. Ready lift!” Jonas and I tug up on the Mad River Canoe, green and beaten. “Alright walk back, around these two trees. You know I had a boss in Hawaii when I lived there who just loved to chastise you for bumping into stuff while moving things. It’s like come on man! I know I shouldn’t be hitting the wall its not like I did it intentionally. That guy was such a dick. Alright do you have straps or should I grab some out of my dads truck?” We placed the MRC on top of my Subaru Outback, the rough edges of the boat threatening our fingers with splinters. “I have some, but you should grab some of your dad’s straps as well. It will make life easier.” Our conversation ended with both of us heading to back our bags for the quick 36 excursion we had only planned for eight hours before.

7/2 12:55am:

Thinking to myself, “God damn. The words on the page are starting to look like a different language. Fuck. They are a different language. I need to go to bed. I guess I’ll just have to finish this in the car tomorrow. Well I guess it’s better than not doing it at all. Alright, I need sleep. But fuck I gotta pack. Alright…. ” Walking downstairs from the kitchen to my bedroom the light has been on in my room the whole night, my gear is all stashed and organized neatly in my closet in bins according to the activity/ time of year. “Alright chairs, table, cooking gear, stove. I should probably take the smaller propane bottles for this trip, no sense in hauling a months worth of propane down a river for three days.” The mental check list I go through is supplemented by years of packing and days of unneeded suffering from lack of preparedness. “Alright the spices are in there as well. Plates, pots pans, fork, spork. Where is my knife? Oh its on the bedside table by that fucking broken watch.” My favorite wrist watch had broken two days previous while climbing in Boulder canyon. The wrist band had caught on a piece of jagged granite and sheared the scratched time piece from my arm.  “I’ve gotta fix that. Water! six gallons for two people for three days, but only one full day? Should be fine.”

“Alright whats next clothes? I’ll need just a pair of water shorts, sun shirt, I’m gonna want a layer for those classic desert nights, but it is July… maybe just one medium weight layer. This will do.” I held up my medium weight marmot sweater. It’s black like all the other layers I own. “Alright shoes! I best be taking my flippy floppies! And the keens. This is why I got keens in the first place!  Might as well use ’em! God I need to sleep. Alright jam this all in the bag. Oh shit! What do I need to remember in the morning? Tooth brush/ toothpaste, glasses/ sunglasses, anything else? Add snacks to that list. No point in buying more snacks when I have a ton here. Alright I’m wrecked sleep, where are you? 1:15am.

5:55am:

The mellow tones of my alarm wake me up just as the front door shuts loudly just to the left of my window. My roommate and comrade in arms for this trip is heading to the Subaru with his personal bag. The car is locked. His attempts to open the locked door rouse me fully from my sleep to unlock the car and grab my own bag. “Okay where is that list of shit I needed? Toothbrush, toothpaste check. Snacks, check. Glasses on my face and in the pocket we are good to go! Oh wait! I have that new North Face bag. I should bring that as it will be more water proof than this backpack. Quickly switching gear from bag to bag I yell up to Jonas I will be right out.)

“Coffee?” Jonas looks over at me signaling his agreement with simple eye contact. We are both exhausted. Jonas is driving, he just jumped straight into the drivers seat and assumed the position for the drive to Moab. I have a lot of gratitude for that. We roll down and fill the gas tank at the corner of Broadway and Table Mesa, crossing over South Broadway to Cafe Sole immediately after to fuel up ourselves. The sleep is still falling from our eyes, and flaking off of our voices. Neither of us got more than 5 five hours and today is going to be a long day. “Quad shot mocha please.” Jonas orders a quad americano. “Alright lets hit it!” is the what escapes my lips as soon as the first sip of coffee hits me. Walking out to the car the energy is notably increased we are hitting the road and this spur of the moment adventure is just now starting to feel like reality. Time to crush!

The first few hours in the car fly by. The road is lost in conversation and the conversation flows fluidly from one topic to the next. Jonas and I have traveled together a few times, adventured together more than a few times and lived together for over three years. To say we are comfortable with each other would be an understatement. Jonas’s greatest strength in conversation is to pose questions. He keeps them coming in such a way that he is constantly making you reevaluate what you so easily took for granted or for matter of fact. The other brilliant thing about Jonas is his eye and mind for statistics. He keeps me straight and honest when consider numbers. for instance on our way home I quoted the overland speed of a North American Antelope at 77mph however Jonas, who knew the overland speed of the cheetah was quick to correct me. “The antelope can’t possible top out at 77.” He says through a half laugh. “I spent a fair amount of time reading about cheetahs as a kid, they were my favorite animal.”

Passing through Vail around 10:30am we decide that we should probably get breakfast soon. We stop off at a little diner in Glenwood Springs around 11am. The potatoes were fire. So was the coffee which I drank like water. Jumping back in the car we adjust the front strap thats holding the canoe in place. The red and black husky tie downs had been flapping just enough to bother us. Just under three hours left. Probably time I get back to my Spanish homework. It’s a unit final. Wanna help?” Jonas agrees to help, and for the remainder of our drive I work tirelessly to complete what should have been done a day before.  It takes me through lunch at Peace Tree in Moab to finish

7/2 4:00pm:

Groceries and a stop at the gear shop for a dry bag latter and its actually the moment we have both been waiting for. “Do you have service? Can you see how much further it is to Dewey or have we already passed it. I feel like it’s a long way out.” I pull up the map on my phone and respond, “It is ten miles out. We should be there in an hour.” I look confused. “Do you have it on walking?” Jonas looks over at me, “That gets me every time.” We pull up to Dewey Bridge 10 minutes later, hearts giddy with excitement. We are beyond stoked to get the boat in the water and start our voyage. Last minute gear prep is our quick change into swim wear, ditching unwanted items in the car and at long last packing the canoe itself. “Alright let me snap a picture of you next to the boat! You know for posterity sake!”IMG_0585 “Will you take one of me?”IMG_0588 “Lets put these damn phones away and leave them away for at least a little while.” “Alright, ready? Shall we shove off?”

7/2 4:45pm:

“Hey I think we are backwards. No, James I think your sitting in the back so boat is actually facing the wrong direction. Should we pull over and reorganize?” “Alright right there, yeah perfect.” We had loaded incorrectly and less than 25 feet into our 40mi voyage we had to stop and rearrange. “Alright looking good. Lets do this for real now.” Shoving off, the bank slipping away behind us, the smiles on our faces growing larger and larger. IMG_0597

 

I like hiking.

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Photo courtesy of Tessa de Recat Sawtooth Mountain Trail

Well here I am back in a little coffee shop in Boulder, CO writing about the things I like. Surprise. Amazing how cathartic it is to vent to a website without really knowing who if anyone will ever read the things I write. So I guess it can be said that I really am writing this for myself. I’m my own audience, I just happen to post these thoughts in a place that is accessible to others eyes as well.  Not that it matters seeing as these blog posts are typically just me recounting something I enjoyed doing. This is one such blog post for a a fun lil’ 12mi day hike I took with a dear friend of mine Tessa.

Typically my mentality in the mountains is go hard or go home. I have very little chill. I like to be prepared and I like to go for hours and hours if not spend the night and really get dirty, so to speak. However, in the last several months I have had the brilliant opportunity to spend time with people who chill me the fuck out. Not that their persona calms me down or anything like that, more like I am more focused on spending time with my friend than conquering some aspect of myself in the mountains that day. Sounds weird I know but its something that I struggle with. I don’t go slow.

So Tess and I agreed to do this day hike together, leaving at 9 or 10am. (Again something I would probably never do.) Picking up Tess it became very clear to me that our day was more about enjoying ourselves than anything else. The conversation up the mountain was light hearted and filled with all the formalities of two friends who have not had a chance to catch up in way to long. The drive was about an hour heading up Boulder Canyon, through Ned, north on the Peak to Peak highway, and finally pulling into Camp Dick. It was a beautiful classic Colorado day. The kinda day when the blue from the sky is almost too blue and the temperature is damn near perfect. Never windy, but a breeze exactly when its desired. Warm and easy.

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And with that easy came perhaps one of the easiest days I have ever had. Not in terms of hiking, but just simply in terms of being. It was fantastic to just walk, talk, enjoy the weather the views and good company. Cruising through the thick of the fir and spruce forests we moved fast catching up on the last year and half of our lives, going over ambitions and goals for the next year and half. Recognizing the chaos that is all too present at this point in our young lives.

Lunch by the river lead to a simple appreciation for spicy potato chips and a renewed love in peanut butter and jelly. (I’m actually enjoying one now as I write this.) A candy bar and some freshly purified water from the river and we were ready to keep trucking. Up through the sub-alpine fields that were covered in the purple and yellow of Colorado springtime wildflowers. Every now and then Tess would have to stop while I got a school boy sized grin on my face and scrambled up some new rock for a better view. Only once did I ever really convince her to join me at the top of one. I’d like to say she wasn’t disappointed but I honestly don’t really know.

Further along, the river crossed our path but its curves looked inviting and we investigated. bushwhacking down to the river bank and into the middle of the babbling brooke we went. One wet shoe later, some anxious sounds and we were back on the trail for another solid 45min of trail grinding. Through mud and water alike we trudged on albeit very light hearted trudging.

Finding our way back to the car lead to the consumption of a Twix bar and the general appreciation of a day well spent. And that is whats it’s really all about. Spending our days well. Smiling frequently and enjoying the company of excellent people. This is an abridged edition of events, obviously, but I’m at work and only had about 45 minutes to crank this out. I needed to write and so I wrote this. Tessa thanks for being you. Life thanks for being great.

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Arapahoe Pass

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It happens fairly often. I lose my god damn mind. The strange yet constant monotony of daily life. The wake up, work/ school, chores, groceries, food, and sleep. Whats funny is that the things that we do for ourselves to shake us out of the grind themselves become a player in this system of repetition. Soon we end up at the same bars, trivia nights, hiking trails, climbing gyms, restaurants, yoga studios, movie theaters, book clubs; you name it. But the thing is that the monotony of which I speak is decided self inflicted. Ask some one about their job who does like their job, same shit different day. Well it is almost a guarantee that someone who loves their job well say, “Yeah sure I do the same thing everyday but it’s never the same.” The interactions hold different significances the learning opportunities hold different value.  I have had to take a page from the book of those who love their jobs this week. But not just for my job but for my entire life. I have had to remind myself that everything I get to do is different every time for a thousand different reasons. And that the learning and interactions that I have with myself and those I work with will never be the same even if I am dealing with same problems or opportunities day in day out. IMG_0537.jpeg

In my personal life this was reflected in an overnight solo I did on June 27th-28th up the Arapahoe Pass Trail from the Fourth of July trail head west of Nederland, CO. I’ve done this trail countless times, but never have I spent the night alone. I’ve also slept alone in the back country more than most folk but for whatever reason never really in the mountains of Colorado. I always seem to have friends with me when sleep finds me there. But this time alone, by the side of the trail I had the rare and disconcerting opportunity to reflect on myself and the way I view myself and the life that I’m living. I got to notice a fair number of funny little details, like the way I twitched when I heard coyotes laughing in the growing darkness. The way the I slept for an hour and woke only to be disappointed that just an hour had passed. The way that when a dog barked, or maybe a coyote, at 4:30am, I was more annoyed that I was interrupted from sleep than I was twitchy or anxious about something that only hours early set my heart racing. Than at 5:45am waking to a sunrise that reminded me of why no moment, interactions, or breath of air, no matter how monotonous is every really the same.

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It is so easy to get caught up in our minds and project and dwell on things, to make issues out of coyotes playing in the dark. The reality of it, the coyotes are playing in the dark. They don’t give a damn about me or what I’m thinking about them. I hope that every single one of you have a chance to jump full bore into your favorite monotonous activity and realize all the tiny little things that make it so much more than what it is perceived for.

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For now good bye. Enjoy the summer heat, I’ll be in the high country sleeping under stars, and in a bar making margaritas. Neither of which is every the same.

Expression

Expression at present is an interesting phenomena. For many people it comes in the form of clothing choices, others by what is posted to their multitude of social media accounts. Others find their mode in actions or choices taken on a day to day basis, whom they identify with, what they choose to study, how they choose to be represented. Many, like myself, find our solace in writing. We write experiences or ideas sometimes publicly sometimes privately with the ultimate goal of self expression. Needless to say there are always other consequences that derive from such simple action.  For instance if I were to post a photo to instagram with the hope of capturing a particular feeling I am experiencing at present in an act of self reflection I may also receive acknowledgement and validation from a peer group that agrees or disagrees with whatever I was trying to capture or at least they find the image aesthetically pleasing. To create music, write code, run, swim, skate, study walk, soak in sunlight all have their own significant, albeit, therapeutic effects on those partaking in such practices. As noted before writing seems to be what I enjoy the most. So I guess without much further ado I’ll writing some more.

There are very few things that can capture emotion, sensation, and imagery almost as perfectly as music can. However, I shall try to recreate the same emotional experience that I indulge in while listening to music by putting such things into writing.

About a year ago I lived in a 2005 Toyota Sienna minivan. In fact that was the very reason for the inception of this blog. Since then of course life has continued its oneward ebb and flow and now I find myself in a library far and away from the van and wild areas American Southwest that I called home for a brief time. However, I do find myself frequently popping back into those moments of solitude by listening to the music that captured my attention while I lived a life on the road. Perhaps one of the most significant moments I had the luxury of experiencing was one particularly rainy down outside of Flagstaff, Arizona.

Petrichor. Heavy mist. The dark green and brown of indistinguishable trees as they blurred together at a distance of no more than twenty feet. Gray sunlight unable to pierce the shroud of mist but capable enough of making the lichen on the granite boulders appear to be a self illuminating phosphorescent green. The brown red of the lodgepole pine  and the long languid needles of the ponderosa blurred all together.

Posted up, pinned between a cluster of tall skinny and dark pines as well as the silver gray of the van. Between the two I had strung my tarp. Anchored at 5 different points. Two on the van and two on the trees. In effect, creating a square of sequestered off sheltered space that allowed me to work outside while staying dry. The 5th point of contact was a line that was strung from the roof of the tarp up and over an outreaching tree branch that allowed me headspace enough to walk around under my shelter unimpeded.

Pulling out the silver and matte black folding table from the rear of the van, the stove and propane tank as well I set up a kitchen in my little forest shelter. The pitter patter of rain now becoming a constant in the quiet woods. On occasion the thunder would roll, breaking out in abnormal and grotesque ways from the pattern that my ears had grown so accustomed to. But the water I had put on the stove was starting to boil, the steam was clearly visible against the roof the green tarp.

The sticky smell of starch filled the air as rice was added and began to inflate as it simmered on the stove top. The sound of rain kept on, incessantly. Even when the sun cracked through the gray of the clouds and shown a white light down through the dark trees to the forest floor and my little encampment in the woods the rain kept on.

The rice and broccoli I was eating was a little too salty, but good nonetheless. The rain now was being ever so slightly drowned out by the music emanating from my speaker on the side of the van. I wish I could say I listened to something fitting for those mountainous conditions, something that did the lighting, the rain, and the fresh air justice but honestly I can’t even begin to remember what it was I was listening to that day. Nor can I really remember anymore details from those moments in the woods.

But I do remember the feeling. The feeling of calm, of excitement. The feeling of contentment and ambition. The gratitude for the rain and my situation. Paired with the smell of petrichor, those feelings were linked together to a place, a memory, that I will now go back to from time to time. And from time to time I’m lost in dark greens and grays, matte blacks, bright white light loud and breaking thunder, and salty broccoli.

“I have more memories than a thousand years.”

Charles Baudelaire