Lost in the Trees (Rescuing the Muse, Part 6)

As soon as I set foot under the canopy of trees, it felt like the sound had been muted on the world. Even the dripping of the rain was muffled by the umbrella of branches stretching out above me. It seemed a bit lackluster for the start of an adventure, though I wasn’t entirely sure what I had been expecting. I followed the meandering trail further into the growing gloom, steady in my stride. After all of the tales I had heard about these woods, I had expected a goblin or ghost to charge at me from the underbrush. But all was quiet. Was it perhaps too quiet? I kept moving, uneasy in my surroundings, wishing that I were back at the inn with it’s cracking fire and roasting meats. And yet I continued on, putting one foot in front of the other as my mind wandered between the place I had left and where I intended to go.

The thing that no ever tells you about the beginning of a grand quest: you seldom run into monsters right out of the gate. No, the first stages are usually a bit more tedious; you’re marching to a mountain, you’re discovering the mystery behind the gemstone you found, you’re laying under a blanket in a hut on a rock until a giant knocks your door down and tells you that you are a wizard. You’re going about your business while building up new routines to create lifelong habits. The beginning of an adventure is often boring and a bit uncomfortable because you are existing in a life that you are beginning to outgrow. It’s no different than planning that grand international vacation you’ve always dreamed of. First you have to slog through saving money, buying tickets, researching what to do. And then you have to sit on that 10 hour flight in those tiny cramped seats before your feet ever hit the ground in a new land. It’s tempting to pretend that the adventure starts the moment you get there, but the truth is you were on that road long before your metal bird touched down. This quest we are on right now: this is no different.

At the moment we are slogging through a forest. We are feeling muscles ache, we are cold, hungry, and unsure if we are headed in the right direction as we listen to the chirping of distant birds. And yet we still put one foot in front of another for hours on end. At times this can be the most difficult part because at this stage you aren’t seeing results yet. You are fighting your bad habits, you are itching to pick up your phone and scroll through social media one more time, you are dying to watch that last episode of that one show you can’t get enough of. You are learning how to build yourself up so that you can fight the monsters and save the world later.

The surrounding gloom was slowly darkening; I could only assume that night was beginning to creep in over the land, though I hadn’t seen the sun itself in ages. I knew I wouldn’t be through this forest in a day, but I was still uneasy with staying the night here. After finding a small clearing in the trees I set up my tiny tent and lit a wisp of a fire. This wasn’t what I had been expecting at all.

“Pleasant evening to you, young adventurer,” a voice burbled near a rock at the distant corner of my patch of earth. I squinted my eyes in concentration towards the sound, but couldn’t see anything at first.

“Where are you?” I whispered uneasily, clenching the strap of my pack that lay at my feet.

There was a rustle of sound from the rock as a small creature hopped up onto it’s surface, it’s back legs scurrying as it pushed it’s round little body up within view. He turned his large eyes at me and blinked. I had never seen anything like him before: he resembled a frog, with a wide-set mouth and strong back legs obviously meant for hopping. But his skin was a deep purple and appeared to be covered in shiny diamond-like scales; a miniature suite of armor. I blinked back at him, unsure of what his sudden appearance could mean. “Hello,” I finally breathed, a bit of me was relieved at his small stature, though I knew I should be wary of everything in these woods.

“And what kind of quest would you be upon, youngling?” the creature asked conversationally. He gurgled a laugh at my startled expression, “Everyone who sets foot this far into the woods is in search of something. These trees are not for the whimsical explorer. So what are you after?”

“M-my Muse,” I stutter before clearing my throat, “My Muse was taken from me. She is hidden away in a dragon-guarded tower far to the north. I am going to rescue her.”

He croaked a bellowing laughter, “Why on earth would you want to find a Muse for? Life can be lived perfectly fine without one. Why, look at me, I haven’t had a Muse a single day of my life and I’ve done quite well for myself. I have a beautiful bog, a sweet wife, a couple of spry little tadpoles. Life is quite grand without dealing in pesky adventures and Muses,” he scoffed.

I shrugged, “I just need mine, is all. I can’t live the life I want without her. She helps give me purpose. My Muse is my heart and soul,” I glance down to the creature, “Not that you need one to live a good life. It’s just- it’s a different kind of life I want.” I didn’t want to offend my visitor, I still had no idea what he truly was.

“Well, it doesn’t sound like you’ve really tried to live without a Muse, have you? All that business with creating and thinking- it sounds quite tedious if you ask me. No, why don’t you come with me to the bog and just see how you like it. Many people live without a fabled Muse whispering into their ears all the cursed day. It would probably be a relief to you,” he gestured back to the woods, attempting to coax me away. I shook my head, but before I could say a single word, he launched back into his speech, “Oh come now, youngling, you don’t even know if you’ll actually succeed in this quest. What if you fail? What if you do all of this work and you don’t find her? Or you find her and she winds up not being as amazing as you expected? What if you two don’t create this grand future you seem to have envisioned?”

I shrug my shoulders as I pick up a stick to prod the fire with. Embers fly into the sky and die on the air before our eyes. “I need to know that I tried, at least. And even if we don’t create something grand- that’s okay. It doesn’t have to be earth-shattering to be beautiful to me. I just need to try.”

The tiny creature grumbled as he stiffly slid off his rock. He hopped over to a tree and spit on the bark; the sticky substance that landed glowed a brilliant shade of purple. “If you ever wise up and change your mind, or if you fail,” he eyed me seriously, “Think about coming back and trying my way for a change. Just come back to these woods and look for this mark- go straight in, walk for about 20 minutes and you’ll find my bog.” He started hopping back into the gloom before pausing, “Good luck, youngling, I’ll see you soon.” And with that, he was gone.

The biggest risk you will come across in this forest is getting lost within it’s twisting branches. Distractions and side-quests pepper the ground like pine cones. There are hares that you will want to chase into the dense underbrush and hobgoblins that will attempt to entice you off of the path you have chosen. Your old habits and comfortable thoughts will whisper to you, play into your weaknesses, tell you that it’s too hard, you won’t succeed, and what you had was never that bad to begin with. The truth is, they don’t want you to leave this forest. This road can be a lonely one, and at times it can become quite monotonous. You are at the stage of hard-work and little reward; what you may not realize is that within these trees your mettle is truly being tested. If you can push through the mundane and keep your eyes on that distant goal, then you stand a real chance of discovering the inspiration you carry within. Do not forget these shuffling steps that started you off. Do not ignore the internal monsters you are battling while walking this road. There is no quick solution for this stage. I don’t have magical words that will transport you to the end of the game with all of those good habits pre-filled into your routine- this is a fantasy quest, not sci-fi; Scottie can’t beam us up from here.

To make it through the forest, you must learn to fully invest in yourself so that you have the the strength to keep walking, even when you aren’t entirely sure you are headed in the right direction. You must learn to acknowledge the goblins that creep across your path, shining their light and whispering sweet nothings to tempt you away from your goal. Right now your main pursuit is to find your route, learn what a workable lifestyle is for you. If you are struggling, dig a little deeper to find out why. Are your obligations overwhelming you, are you lacking support, are you lacking confidence in yourself and your dream? You will never walk out of this forest until you face the demons you carry around with you. Take care of yourself so that you can nurture those dreams nestled within. And always, always: be patient with your process. This is not a sprint to the mountain- so take your time and keep putting one step in front of the other.

The Shuffling Steps of the Past Week:

It’s okay if your steps this week were smaller than anticipated; every single one of them is worth celebrating. My week was not particularly linear, I had great days, and then some not-super great days. I was waylaid by goblins on a few occasions (mine tend to wear a mask of motivation, which I struggle to overcome). But I kept trying. My feet continued to move, even if it was only a shuffle. While I missed the mark on my daily goals, I did still accomplish some pretty awesome things. I managed to cook a few meals without recipes (and they were even edible, though the pictures are bit lackluster), edited a few chapters of an old Fan Fiction I want to have done by the end of June. I wrote in my journal, cleaned up the blog and some old WIPs, did some creative computering at work (still counts), 3 days of an art challenge (woohoo!), I made a hat for my Dobby and researched some new projects while I was at it.

But there are some major improvements that need to be made still. I need to come up with a daily routine that will prioritize my creative projects. I’m getting better, but I’m not there yet. I had a few days where I fell into old bad habits and I noticed a marked downturn in my mood when those days popped up. To be perfectly honest, those days wound up being more depressing than anything, and they took a bit of effort to climb out of.

The Challenges for Next Week:

  • Daily art challenge:
    • create one piece of art/drawing every single day. Doesn’t matter if it’s something you see, imagine, or are feeling- it doesn’t have to be pretty, skill is not a component. Think of it like an art diary that will act as a time capsule for what you were thinking about this year.
  • Clean up and reorganize my areas so they reflect my goals better
    • The desk is a mess, clean it up, and hang up all of those things that make you happy.
    • Do the household chores early: you’ll feel less stress when it’s time to create
  • Finish editing Fan Fiction piece
  • Nail down the Self-Care for Creativity Routine
    • 70 oz of water a day
    • healthy eating
    • 30 minutes of movement per day
  • 3 blog posts because you have promised and fallen short every week

Good luck with those Goblins, my friends, I know they can be quite convincing at times.

The Lost Wanderer

We travel not to escape life, but for life not to escape us.

Tolkien is perhaps my patron saint of travel; the one whose quotes about adventures and struggles through the unknown have carved my view of what the world should look like. I’ve always felt a bit of a kinship with the hobbits; we are both quite fond of our routine, adore second breakfast and elevensies, don’t really come of age until our 30s, and are generally shy but capable of courage when the need arises. I couldn’t help but think of dear little Bilbo when I stepped out of my door two weeks ago, backpack slung over my shoulder and passport clutched in my palm. I had never even made it 1,000 miles from home (the distance between my town and Disneyland is somewhere in the 900 miles range), I’d only ever set foot in 4 states- and 2 of those don’t really count because I live right on the border between them. Now my little band of adventurers and I would find ourselves over 6,400 miles from home, covering over 13,000 miles in our quest for excitement. Little did I know, I would come back a very different little hobbit than I had been when I left.

Tolkien famously said that not all who wander are lost. Truthfully, I think my roaming came about because I felt truly lost in all the ways that mattered, and shackled to all of the things that didn’t. It is no secret that this past year was a rough one for me; my first pregnancy loss in January left me shattered and unsure of how to rebuild a life with the broken pieces left to me. I struggled with the things that normally brought me solace and joy. I had once been so sure of my place in this world and the future I had planned was crystal clear. But then the Earth shook, the crystals shattered and cascaded around me, crunching under the soles of my shoes. I was lost, unsure if my feet would ever set foot on the path I had taken for granted. Where do you go when the road is washed away by an avalanche? You wander, you blaze a new trail and see where it takes you. Mine took me halfway across the world to a places with new customs, accents and languages. It took me to a life I could still find fulfilling, even if it wasn’t the one I had envisioned. It took me to a place where I learned to depend on myself, and not rest on my own expectations. It’s easy to lose track of what inspires you when you stare at the same four walls, and traipse through the exact same routine day after day. In Europe I rediscovered my passions. I stepped into castles where kings and queens once walked, ambled through the streets and pubs that famous authors and artists once frequented. I saw the place where Lady Grey and Ann Boleyn were murdered (though history prefers to call them executions).

The memorial for the ladies executed in the Tower of London

In Westminster Abby I stood in Poet’s Corner over the final resting places of the great authors that still inspire my love of words. I stood in awe as I stared at the Rosetta Stone behind it’s glass case, and walked through exhibits of our histories and storytelling traditions that paved the way for writers like myself.

In Oxford I stood in the gardens that inspired Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I walked down the street that is said to have led to The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardobe. And ornate door with a carved lion on the front with two golden fawns accenting either side of the door. You can look down the street to see the single lamp post that signifies the entrance to Narnia. We walked past the Eagle and Child pub that was once the meeting place for the writing group, the Inklings. Some of it’s members included Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and many others. For Harry Potter fans, Oxford has ties to the movie franchise (though there are few literary connections). In a less literary (though just as inspiring vein), we even got to see Einstein’s chalkboard preserved with his own handwriting, tucked away in the basement of a science hall.

After a week in the UK we found ourselves in Romania. There is nothing more humbling than finding yourself immersed in a country that doesn’t speak your language. The impacts of communism were brutally apparent, and many people can still remember the revolution that led to it’s overthrow in 1989. You listen to the stories of the food cards and starvation, desperate times that led to people literally fleeing across the border for a better life. Perhaps listening to these stories would give some of my own countrymen a bit more compassion with the issues we are facing. Look into someone’s eyes when they talk about being imprisoned for traveling illegally to another country to survive, observe the desperation that caused them to leave behind everything they ever knew. Drive through the countryside where people grow their own crops and livestock because they don’t trust that there will be enough food in the stores. The lives that we all live are stories of their own, we are each the protagonist in our own tale.

We attended a traditional wedding that carries on for an entire day (the celebrations often last well over 12 hours, which is a big change from the traditional 3 days they once were). It is amazing to see the cultural differences in the traditions observed. No wedding is complete without a bridal kidnapping and ransom for her return, traditional dances that everyone learns from a young age, fog machines and sparklers that are taller than I am.

In Romania we carried on with our unofficial literary tour by roaming the halls of Castle Bran, the supposed home to Bram Stoker’s infamous Dracula.

The ‘secret staircase’ hidden in Castle Bran, once lost to history until a Queen decided to remove a fireplace and discovered this secret passageway.

We ate lunch on the back terrace of the home where Vlad the Impaler was born. The village was called Sighisoura, and thr old protion has changed very little since the 1500s, though it is still a very active city. People continue to live in the same homes that were occupied hundreds of years ago. We saw firsthand how Vlad’s story is told in a very different way within his country. While we view him as brutal and cruel, he is a hero to his country, a leader willing to fight for his people.

Statue of Vlad the Impaler in Sighisoura, the city of his birthplace. The ribbon tied around it is in the colors of his country’s flag

The house where Vlad the Impaler was born

The streets of old Sighisoura; unchanged with the exception of vehicular traffic (though it is still very common to see horses and buggies through the entire country)

It is a moving experience to see the world as others do, to experience cultures foreign to your own and acknowledge that you are the outsider in this beautiful place. It is compelling to see what humans have created throughout this world; the buildings, traditions, stories, and art we have brought into existence. Our art sustains us throughout history, leaving it’s mark for centuries to come. Though we may not always understand it (like the mysteries surrounding the Stonehenge), it will be there to be witnessed for ages. To walk through the halls of our past and pay homage to the lives that led to our own; this is a gift.

I stepped back through the same door to my home that I lad left from, backpack still slung over my shoulder, passport clutched in my palm. Yet, much like Bilbo after his return from the Misty Mountains, I was changed. My heart carried adventures, my mind held new stories yet to be told, my soul was lighter knowing I belonged to a greater human tradition. My home is still the same, the laundry I left unfolded is still sitting at the foot of my bed, my dog is still stretched out with his head on my lap, and I am still here clacking away at a keyboard. But I am not who I was. This lost little wanderer is finding her way back home.

More detailed posts about the different adventures from my travels will be coming in the next weeks, this was merely a tiny little glimpse. If there are any particular topics you are interested in, leave a comment and I will be sure to include it. Happy trails, my friends.

Paper Wings and Winding Roots (be brave, my dear)

We are told to be brave, to leap without a safety net and teach ourselves to fly. And yet we are warned of Icarus, whose waxen wings melted when he soared too close to the sun. We are told to hold onto our roots and bury them deeply in the Earth, lest we forget where we come from. And yet we are warned against rigidity, and how those afraid to move will never get anywhere. We are taught to be all things, to reach for every moment this world has to offer. But we are warned be realistic and understand that dreams do not come true for all. We are taught to be everything and nothing, to break the mold, but be a cog in the wheel. It is no wonder it takes us so long to figure out if we are birds or trees, both or neither. We wander this world in search of answers and new questions. We wait for the lightning strike that will sizzle in our soul, sparking within us a fury and direction, a passion we cannot contain, showing us a path hidden amongst the stars- a path made only for us.

Can I let you in on a little secret? I don’t think there is one- a road to follow, stepping stones that will lead us forward, illuminating the path ahead. I think we were made to be wanderers, to dance in the fields as well as the skies, to climb the trees and swim in the lakes- we take two steps forward, one step back, spin in a circle, run a mile, fall and rise, rise and fall. There is a beauty in the chaos, a mystery in the motions. We are not meant to follow paths, we are wild at heart, no matter how hard we try to pretend otherwise.

As humans we like order, we like consistency; we like to point at our destination on a map and trace the road that will get us there. We have far too much faith in this system. We built cities in grid patterns, installed lights two by two to illuminate the paths we made while blotting out the stars above. We search for the recipe to perfect happiness, read books by people who found their own as we scan for the secret ingredient we could steal to find ourselves on that same peak, all the while ignoring the desperate plea from our own heart. We ignore who we are to fit into the mold of who we are supposed to be. We ignore the wild, unmanaged forests until we need an escape, a way to get back to nature, a way to rediscover our souls. So why do we insist on ‘finding our path’ when paths were never in our nature?

We are wanderers, searching for the illusive fluttering beauty known as happiness. We are adventurers, praying to uncover a well of passion and hope within ourselves. We are birds, soaring the skies and daring the sun to melt our wings. We are trees burrowing deeper as the storms rage around us, trying us knock us down to size. We are everything, we are nothing, we are stardust and promises.

I’ve spent forever searching for a meaning, taking classes, finding a good job, buying books, saving money for a house, for a car, for a vacation. Planning and planning and planning to see the world, but ignoring the wonders in my own backyard. Step by step I dutifully followed the road they promised would lead me to a good life. The scenerery changed, but my heart did not, my soul was tired as I plodded along, bored with the directions given to me, exhausted with the life I found myself in.

Perhaps what I need is to stop searching, to stop looking for the path that never existed. Perhaps I need to learn what wandering feels like, to tear up the map I’ve been trying to draw and truly look around this place I have discovered. It is not perfect, in fact, it is far from it- but I’ve learned that imperfections are the things I am most drawn to. I want chaos and the beauty of mother nature. I want to wander and throw caution to the wind. I want to dig into the Earth, swim in the seas and soar through the clouds. I want to soak up every story ever told and hear my own words ringing in the voice of another. I want it all, I want nothing. I want roots, wings, and maybe some gills. I don’t want paths and trails, I want stardust and promises.

Camp NaNoWriMo on the Horizon

Holy guacamole Batman, I can’t believe that time is already upon us once again. My literary lovelies, my wordy birdies, my alliteration afficionados: camp nano will be back in full swing this April, and for any of you planners (and a few of you plantser) out there- now is the time to get started.

A few of you may be wondering what kind of gibberish is escaping my keyboard today, but never fear- I won’t leave you hanging out in the cold today.

So, a quick breakdown for those who have never heard of Nano: NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is an annual writing challenge that takes place every November. The brave souls who choose to gather their writerly weapons and embark on the ambitious quest have a single challenge: write 50,000 in 30 days. You can share in your successes and failures on the message boards, full of thousands of other writers who are just as crazy as you.

But what about the other eleven months of the year, you ask? Oh, how glad I am that you brought it up. These brave warriors armed with their pens and laptops started to get anxious when they weren’t engaged in their quests. They knew that any brave adventurer needed to train, to prepare for their daring November mission. So they created the notorious Camp. Think of it like Camp Half-Blood (for you Percy Jackson lovers), but for the writerly world. This Camp is a safe haven for the writer, meeting in April and July every year.

But don’t worry, my daring friends- you need not travel far to engage in this adventure. This Camp is a virtual endeavor- you sign up, create a project, and can even join a cabin. The cabins are probably my favorite part. You can join a group of other writers and have your very own private message board. You can meet other people who are just as crazy as you, bond over books, snacks and beverages, share stories, obstacles and successes. You can cheer each other on and participate in short writing challenges to boost your word counts. I’ve met many amazing people that I have kept in touch with over the years. I’ve made connections forged in the fires of the pages, bound together through the fluid chains of words.

Another feature you get to see during Camp that you don’t get for your November challenge: customizable goals. During Camp you can do whatever you want- you can set your finish line anywhere you would like. You can be ambitious and go for the coveted Double Nano (100,000 words), or go lower if you know that life is going to be crazy for you that month. You can set your goal to words count, pages, hours- anything you wish.

But wait, you say- I am not a novelist, why on Middle Earth would I want to join a writing challenge? Another good question, my fearless friend. With Nano you can sign up for any kind of project under the sun. Do you want to start writing in your journal more? Register it as your project- you are now mired in the pits of nonfiction (but beware, my dear- reality is often much stranger than the fiction that we write). Or perhaps you are hoping to pump up your blog (I know most of my dear readers have one), well sign up and start creating those beautiful posts so many are waiting to gobble up. The choice is your, my friends- this is a choose-your-own-adventure of a sort.

The challenge, if you choose to accept it, can be found at Camp NaNoWriMo. It is never too late, my friends. We shall embark on April 1st, but you can still join after that start date. You will always be welcomed with open arms in this crowd. I’ve never found the support that these fellow adventurers have bestowed upon me.

In the immortal words of Albus Dumbledore, “Let is step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress adventure.” Writing is predominantly a solitary endeavor, perhaps finding a few friends along the road wouldn’t be the worst thing that could happen. Are you ready? The world needs to hear your words, find others who will raise their voices with you.

Running Towards Adventure (literally)

Sometimes the best adventures are the ones you are least prepared for. It’s easy to plan every step of your life; plot the trail from A to B, color in the lines and keep moving. And yet there comes a day when the whispering voice of adventure reaches your ears and tickles at the nape of your neck. Some days you simply have to throw caution to the wind and jump, even if you feel completely unprepared and terrified.

I spent my evening packing up my bags and charging my headphones. This morning I helped decorate a van, hopped in the car with five other people and we started driving. At the moment we are still on the road; listening to music, eating way too many snacks and soaking gummy bears in pineapple rum (it’s a bit of an experiment- I’ll let you know how it goes).

Tomorrow morning we will be standing at a starting line before the sun has even said hello to the earth. We will be in a crowd, full of nervous energy waiting for the signal to literally run into the arms of adventure. We will all take turns, one after the other passing the baton all through the day, pushing through the night with only the stars to keep us company, and slamming through one more entire day and crossing the finish line that evening. Two vans, twelve people, two hundred miles along the gorgeous Puget Sound.

What the hell did I get myself into? I’m not entirely sure. I didn’t train nearly enough for the 14.4 miles I will be running (although, to be fair, they are split into 3 different legs). But alas; I am owning my lack of preparation and jumping in anyways. Because that’s what you do when you are ready for an adventure. And my team isn’t even remotely competitive; we are owning the ‘just for fun’ mentality. On Saturday night I will be sure to let you know exactly how fun it was.

Mentality is going to be key here; instead of beating ourselves up for not being as fast as others, we are going to make fun of it. Our team name is Worst Pace Scenario. Our mascot: the sloth (and yes, before you ask- we do have sloth onesies for our entire van). The motto on our team shirts: “fine, I’ll run- but I’ll complain the entire time.”

Yea, my friends, sometimes you just have to live, do something crazy and reckless that you are completely unprepared for. If I die trying to run this- at least I will pass in a beautiful place! I’ll keep you updated on the progress. Wish us luck, my friends- I think we will need it!

Camp Nano Adventures- If You Dare

Pull out the marshmallows, charge your laptop and stock up on your favorite summer treats- Camp Nano is back! At the end of the week we go charging into yet another literary adventure, my dear friends- if you dare to take the plunge. The July session of Camp Nano is set to begin at the stroke of midnight this very Friday. Be still my beating heart, I cannot wait!


Last camp didn’t feel particularly authentic to me. I was in an incredible cabin full of active and vibrant individuals who were constantly chatting and running word sprints together. It was truly inspiring- and yet, I had opted to work on an editing project for the last go-round. Granted, it was something that I deeply needed to invest in- but truthfully, I felt a bit left out. So this time around I am perhaps ignoring my better judgment and trying my hand at a brand new project. In fact, I will be working in a genre I don’t generally dabble in- a touch of historical fiction will be shaping my summer. 

I’m so excited; I have my plot all lined up, a soft sketch of my characters is sitting firmly in my mind, and I am ready to hit the ground running (If I manage to stay up until midnight on Friday, that is). It feels so good to play with a new story after I’ve spent so long diving into prior projects that are still in disrepair, no matter how much tlc I smother them with. I have new characters to know, new sets to craft, new shinanigans for them to dance through.

But the one thing that I am still on the lookout for: a few wayward writers in search of their own adventure. I set up a cabin this year (a bit later than usual), and now I am hoping to find some brave souls to embark on this journey with me. They’ve made camp so versatile this past year that you can really do just about anything with it. There are new methods of tracking your work, new styles you can claim- which makes your nontraditional paths much easier to traverse. I’ve worked on new novels, editing, poetry and even blog posts in previous years- the opportunities are endless. Not to mention the fact that they’ve expanded the figurative walls in each cabin- now you can easily accommodate 20 people in each group. And did I mention they finally set it up so you can name your cabin? It’s the little things in life that bring the most joy, I promise you this.

So if you dare to dream of the written word, my friend; if you have adventures running through your blood and stories singing in your heart- what do you have to lose? Take the plunge, my dear. Would you like to join me, fellow traveler? The fire is warm and the company is good. I can’t promise we will succeed in our endeavors, but I can swear that the journey will be well worth the work we put into it. Much like the brave little hobbits prodded by a wise wizard- you won’t know what you are capable of until you take that chance and step outside of your comfort zone. Please, dear friends- do you care to share in an adventure?

Long walks in the woods, great friends and good wine

There is something about Mother Nature that soothes the soul and puts a troubled mind at ease. We tend to forget that these concrete jungles and civil constructs  are human inventions; and truth be told, we’ve never been particularly good at knowing what was right for us. Stepping back into nature can feel like coming home after a long day.

Whenever I find myself feeling suffocated by obligations and expectations; when my smiles come less frequently and my mind can’t slow down long enough to let me breath- I know that it is time to hop in the car and find salvation on a trail. Truthfully- when my friends made plans for us to go on Sunday- I didnt want to. I was struggling internally, barely managed to pull myself out of bed the day before. I knew it was going to rain and that we would be up early. But they had managed to finagle a promise out of me on Friday night (a couple of drinks helped their cause). So, true to my word, I set my alarm and drug myself slowly out of bed. It was the best thing I never wanted to do.


Sometimes I forget how fortunate I am to live where I do. The Pacific Northwest is know for its rain, rain, and then for good measure- a little bit more rain. But there is a beautiful benefit to this onslaught of wet weather- our forests are lush, wild and green. You can’t go too far without stumbling across a babbling brook or a raging river. Which means that the hiking is fantastic.



There is a clarity and peace that you will only find when confronted with your wilder self; the fresh air, the trees, and yes- even the rain; can wash away the taint of the city and the stresses that inevitably accompany it. I was a bit of a hippy as a kid; Henry David Thoreau was an idol of mine, soon to be followed by the likes of John Muir. I wanted nothing more than to traipse off into the woods and live an unconventional life without the trivialities we inevitable bombard ourselves with. But then I remembered that I also like indoor plumbing, hot baths, not hunting animals, and space heaters. I grew up and became a rather conventional human being- though my soul is still as wild as it was when I was a little girl dreaming of traveling through nature’s hidden secrets.

It’s refreshing and calming when you spend your time focusing on the world outside of yourself, when you are able to slow down and immerse yourself in the beauty surrounding you. This world has so much to offer us when we take a moment to truly enjoy it. So we walked, we took pictures, we ate snacks, and when we made it to our destination we celebrated with a small glass of wine. (I will note here that this probably isn’t the best idea in the world- do not imbibe too much when you are in the woods, near cliffs, or having to traipse through difficult trails to rejoin civilization. Be responsible, my friends).

A world of worries fell away in those hours; listening to the potter patter of the rain on the canopy of trees, feeling the burn in my legs as we climbed up and up, slowing down to watch caterpillars and snails, taking pictures of dew drops on leaves, feeling the force of a waterfall that carved out a cavernous pathway behind it. I am reminded of how small I am in the grand scheme of things, and rediscovered my connection to this hidden world of wonder and beauty. Being out in the world reminds you to feel alive. This is not a lesson I will be forgetting soon.











The blue-clad people to the left of the falls are for scale; no picture can do this place justice

Cheers, my friends, may we always find an escape when we need one, and may we always have time to rediscover this beautiful world of ours

Adult Snow Days for the Win!

For the first time ever, I jinxed myself in a good way. If you read my post from last night, you will remember that I opted to give myself a ‘snow night’ because my work never closes due to inclement weather, and therefore, there were no snow days in my future. I was pretty confident in this statement. But today, the world conspired to make me a liar. And I’m okay with that. After several hours of miscommunication and confusion on the part of everyone involved (like I said, we never close so the  protocols were a bit rusty), the decision finally came out- essential staff only was to report, everyone else got to stay home. And guess who was NOT considered essential staff today? This girl right here!

Oh, I was quick to don the pajamas again and refill my cup of coffee, ecstatic that I found out right as I was about to go warm up the car. Originally it was just a late start, and then an hour or so later, it was changed to a full closure.

Like any self respecting adult, I drank extra coffee, excitedly sent group messages to my coworkers who were all in a state of shocked disbelief, and then I put on warm clothes and ran out into the snow with my dog, who was just as excited as I was about the wintery developments. As it turns out, snow is his favorite treat. I learned this to the dismay of the snowman I was attempting to create (Apologies to my little creation, you never stood a chance). Once I cajoled my fiancé into coming outside with me, we walked the dog down to our local grocery store, picked up soup and bread bowls, and trekked back home as more flakes fell.

We reveled in this rare day; our winter storm was dubbed ‘Jupiter’ by the mysterious powers that be, and stretched from California to the Midwest. In my area our local towns got the biggest accumulation of snow since 1980. Oregon declared a state of emergency as officers on quads buzzed around downtown Portland checking stalled cars for stranded motorists that they then transported to local precincts before providing emergency hotel arrangements. A call to arms to assist the homeless was broadcast. People helped one another and people played, enjoying the rare elements for what they were.

During the day we played and enjoyed the weather, and tonight I am taking my momentum and redirecting it to my writing as my dog and cat are cuddled up beside me, exhausted and warm after a day of snowballs and icicles. My goal for the end of January is to complete some projects that have been left incomplete. Most of them are very close to their conclusions and just need that final push before I que them up for editing. 

This week I am playing with some new writing plans to figure out what will work best for myself and my daily schedule. My goal is to get some fresh, higher quality content posted to this blog. I want to step it up and put some more time into it. But I don’t want to neglect my other writing projects in the process, so a bit of a balancing act is going to be required. I haven’t figured it all out yet, and I’m still experimenting with different options. This month might prove to be a bit challenging; we seem to be having unprecedented weather this season, and there’s a possibility I will have to go out of town for three weeks, though I won’t know until about 3 days before I would have to go. Although, who knows, perhaps a hotel room will keep the distractions at bay. Though I would desperately miss my little family while away.

If there is anything that this season has taught me, it is to roll with every punch and every storm. It will be a grand adventure if you are willing to look at it the right way.

Keeping Portland Weird, no matter the weather

Snow Nights: Never Grow Up

I don’t know when I graduated into the world of adulthood. I can’t tell you when I began to understand (albeit loosely) aggressive retirement investment plans or the fact that pizza is not always the best idea when it comes to nutritional breakfast options. No, I am not sure when I became one of those muggle-like adults who watch the weather report while biting my lip and wondering how on earth I will make it to work on time the next morning. We grow up, we lose our magic and we get a bit boring. There- I said it, the truth is out. And while there are perks to this world of adulthood (aforementioned possibility of pizza for breakfast among them), there are a lot of moments I look back on wistfully, remembering the untempered joy I found in the most mundane things.

I remember the gleeful excitement that melted my heart every time the word ‘snow day’ was uttered. Oh, how I would run to sit in front of the tv on a school morning after the flakes had fallen the night before, desperately reading through the running scroller on our local news channel that listed every school that was blessed with such an impromptu holiday, holding my breath that the dreaded words ‘snow routes’ were not trailing behind my educational establishment’s name. 

I lived for snow days, in fact, one of my all time favorite moments was that year in middle school when I swore at the end of winter break that we needed just one more week. A snow storm granted that wish. To this day I am still a firm believer that wishing hard enough will occasionally make your hopes come true.

I catch my boring adult self staring at the news when there is a whisper of a snow storm on the horizon for a very different reason than I did as a child. Now I’m watching traffic reports, planning and plotting the safest way to work, checking and rechecking how much gas is in the car and asking myself for the fifteenth time why I didn’t buy a big truck when I had the chance. As an adult, snowy flutters have become more a game of logistics and planning. Earlier to rise, listen to the news as I get ready, bundle up until I can’t put my arms down and slowly creep my way to work where I will spend the day staring longingly out the window. As an adult, I don’t get to embark on the joy of snow days. My workplace simply doesn’t really do them- I think we’ve closed perhaps twice in ten years due to inclement weather. And yet, I can never help that little flutter I feel when the first flakes fall, that ease of contented excitement as I sit by the window watching them dance after everyone is safely home. There is a magic to the snow that even my muggle-like adultness cannot quell. 

Tonight it snowed- in fact, it is still snowing. It’s windy and white and beautiful as the street lamps glow against the pale blanket that covers my little corner of the world. My nephews are thrilled that they don’t have school tomorrow, my fiancé is ecstatic that even his college courses are cancelled. Politely, they all keep trying to feed my hope and offer ‘you never know, you might get a snow day too.’ I smile, but I know the truth. There is no snow day in my near future.

But that doesn’t mean that I can’t take matters into my own hands and give myself a snow night. All of those joys that I will miss tomorrow- I took tonight. It was late, the world was dark and quiet when I pulled on my boots, fuzzy bathrobe and gloves and ran out into the world. Snow ball fights, snowmen, being chased by the energetic puppy- we ran, we played; we breathed life back into these old bodies of ours (well, they feel old at least). Tonight we forgot about the traffic reports, we didn’t complain about how long the snow plows take, we didn’t grumble because this means we have to get up even earlier tomorrow. No, tonight we remembered what it was like to feel that excitement we felt as kids. We stole a snow night when the world wouldn’t give us a day. The world was peaceful and calm, the quiet only shattered with the peals of our own laughter (sorry neighbors).

Tonight the little girl inside beamed with pride. Perhaps I’m not such a boring adult after all. Never forget to live in the small moments, my friends, choose joy and adventure at every turn. Even if it’s as simple as running into the snow on a cold night when you have to be up early to adult the next morning. Never grow up- not all the way, at least.

Jumping off the Bridge (crossing out of the comfort zone)

I once jumped off of a bridge because my friends did. (Sorry mom, but I can explain).

It was early spring, and still cold enough to be comfortable in jeans and a sweatshirt, but the sun was out and there was not a drop of rain in sight (a rare treat in the pacific northwest). We were on a white water rafting trip for my friend’s birthday- the first time I had ever done something like that. I was already feeling emboldened because I had not only managed to climb into the raft without any help, but I had also succeeded in staying in it the entire time- didn’t even lose my paddle! So naturally, being dry and warm in my wet suite- it seemed like a perfectly logical idea to take the guide’s offer to climb out of my little raft and scramble up to the cement monstrosity we had just managed to pass under. I even convinced my sister to follow along (again- sorry mom, but big sister peer pressure is a force to be reckoned with).

That was all it took- not even gentle prodding, just the mere mention of this possible adventure, and there I was. Standing on the cement railing, staring down into the dark rushing waters below me as four rafts of college aged students (most of which I didn’t even know) stared up at me with gleaming expectation in their eyes.

Now, let me explain something to you- a vital element to this story. I have two big fears: heights and deep water. And there I was, standing on the edge of a bridge glaring into the eyes of both of them. I remember thinking that after everything, I wouldn’t be able to do it. I would be the only one to turn tail and walk sheepishly back down to the rafts, dry as a bone. I stood there and nearly froze, perched precariously on the railing, staring down into the black water. And then my friends started cheering for me- perhaps they were able to see the slight hint of panic in my face, or they noticed the way my muscles tensed and I stopped breathing.

I knew that all I had to do was take one step off of that ledge- just one, and then there would be no more going back, it would be done. It would be over in a heartbeat. All I had to do was go- and forget the fact that I was stepping out into a void of nothingness. Before I could let my brain catch up and realize what I was doing, my body moved.

You always expect that something crazy and adventurous would go quickly, it would be over in the blink of an eye- I would hit the water, and all would be right in my world once more. Don’t let the lies fool you- that’s not how it happened. Everything was suddenly going in slow motion. I had more than enough time for my brain to catch on to what was happening and berate me for what a stupid decision I had just made. Jumping off of a bridge? Really Katie? A bridge? Isn’t that the exact example all parents use because its just so ludicrous, who in their right mind would do it? I am pretty sure I could have read the entire works of Sherlock Holmes and Don Quixote- and still had time for a spot of tea- all in that endless moment from when my feet left the cement bridge to when the water engulfed me from below. And all I could do was stare at it’s lapping waves as I approached, as the dark expanse of water slowly grew larger. The whole time I was hoping it wouldn’t hurt too bad when I hit, and secretly willing my body to magically learn the art of teleportation and zap me back up onto the bridge.

And then I was in, the water was cold as it enveloped me, slowing me down as I sunk towards the bottom. It was done, I was kicking towards the surface, fleetingly wondering how deep this little water hole really was, and whether Lake Placid style crocodiles could ever hide in a place this far north (fully immersed underwater, it seemed like a plausible possibility- so I kicked harder). I half floated, half swam back to the raft where my friends pulled me in and I looked up to watch the next person take their death defying leap.

I grinned like a Cheshire cat the rest of the way- and I’m actually doing it again now as I relive this memory. There is something about knowing your boundaries and your fears- and tossing them to the wind anyways.

If there is anything that I have learned, it’s that every story we have worth telling starts at the edge of our comfort zones. We just have to be brave enough to take that leap outside of our self-imposed boundaries. I am the first to admit that I forget this fact a lot. But this year I have been fighting for my adventures, the spice that peppers my writing. Some days all I want to do is curl up on my couch and ignore whatever is waiting for me outside that door. But the other thing life has taught me- you never regret opening that door, even if it all turns out disastrously- you have one more memory, one more moment to shape who you will become. I don’t know about you, but I want to be the girl who did something- even if it was as crazy as jumping off of a bridge in spite of your fears.

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