Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Open Space, Utah Road Trip, Mt. Baldy

There are things about myself I'd like to change or understand. I'd like to feel less anxiety and sadness. I'd like to have a healthier relationship with both food and my family.  I want my marriage to remain the strong and happy wonder that it is. Someday soon, I want to be a good mother. I am doing what I can to be the woman I want to be, but I find myself wondering, where does change take place? How does change happen? What if you follow a formula and it doesn't work? What if you do everything you are supposed to do and you still wake up with knots in your chest, your heart hammering, worry wrinkles cutting into your forehead? What if you still try to control what you will never, ever be able to control?

The Navajo Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

A few weeks ago, my husband and I took a road trip to Utah. We hiked through otherworldly terrain. I desperately needed a trip that was not another visit back home to my tumultuous family in New York. I needed to be reminded that the world is insanely beautiful and that the less expectation you have, the better the (road/life) trip will be. When Mark and I travel, we plan loosely. We exist the way I'd like to live my life. In an ideal world I would be as cool as I am when I travel. We figure the trip out as we go along, whatever happens happens, we have faith we will find somewhere cheap and suitable to sleep at night, we see beauty everywhere we go.

The Navajo Trail, Bryce Canyon National Park

Why do we travel? To see new things? To meet new people? To escape our reality? To jostle our world view?
I travel because I need to be changed. I come to a point, once a year or so, when I need upheaval. I need something massive and molecular to shift inside of me. I need to know that everything I thought I knew was wrong.

For a few minutes during a sunset in Capitol Reef National Park, a shade of blue I've never seen before spread across the mountains

Whenever I am within my everyday reality and I am exhausted and annoyed with humanity, I think of Livia Soprano's speech to Anthony Jr. during the episode of The Sopranos when Anthony Jr. learns about existentialism. He is sent to his grandmother to cheer him up and she tells him, "The world is a jungle! If you want my advice Anthony, don't expect happiness. You won't get it. People let you down. In the end, you die in your own arms."
"You mean... alone?" Anthony Jr. asks, dejected.
"It's all a big nothing! What makes you think you're so special?" I love this speech. I erupt into giggles every time I recite it. It makes me feel better, like I have a comrade in arms. But here, in Utah, I felt awful for saying the speech so often. The world is not a jungle. The world is astounding and neverending in its beauty and in it's ability to shock you into a state of bliss and gratitude. But it is also astounding in its ability to devastate you.

Hoodoo overlook in Bryce Canyon

When you visit a place, that place takes root inside of you. When you live in a place, you become the place in which you live.

Travel opens little doors inside of your body. It makes a space that was not there before.
Each person is their own hurricane, made up of whatever is around them--other people, the land, the air, the buildings. A family is their own hurricane, a town, a city. When you travel you enter the flow of an unfamiliar twister, one dictated by the place, the landscape, the animals, the people. You see what life is like somewhere else and on the best trips, you can taste what life is like there, or was like there. You may have moments where the scent and the soul of a place tornados itself inside of you and there it stays. This is why I travel--to collect tornado-souls: the tracks of a velociraptor running, the hoodoos, the night skies, the walls, the quiet, the unexpectedly delicious food, the chipmunks hanging of the edge of cliffs.
Chimney Rock Trail, Capitol Reef National Park

I recognized the red walls as the ancient, weathered and sturdy walls in my heart.

Arches National Park

I recognized the arches as stories older than language.

Double Arch, Arches National Park

I recognized the unimaginable products of endless cycles of erosion spanning millions of years as the literally universal truth that nothing stays the same. Everything changes and you cannot predict how or when or why so don't even bother trying. Just enjoy. Breathe it in.

Green River Convergence, Canyonlands National Park

How do we change? We leave ourselves out in the open--where the sun shines, where it rains, where the wind blows. We leave ourselves open to change. We make the space for change to happen. We do something different. Try something new. Go somewhere new. Anywhere. Anything.

I went to a new yoga class last week, and found myself against a wall, balancing on one leg, the other leg perpendicular to the floor, one arm down, the other arm up against the wall. The teacher pressed my shoulder and hip against the wall and I felt myself burst open. She pushed against me and said, "You are creating space inside of yourself when you stretch like this. Anything can happen inside of this space that you make."

Delicate Arch, Devil's Garden Trail, Arches National Park

The week after we got back from Utah, we went on a local hike I had been afraid to do: Mt. Baldy, the highest peak in Los Angeles County. I had seen the pictures of the Devil's Backbone trail. I had read about the sheer drop offs at 10,000 ft. But we had done some hardcore, high elevation hiking in Utah and I (told myself I) wasn't afraid anymore.

Tiny hikers on Mt. Baldy

Mt. Baldy scared the shit out of me. I did not feel relieved once we made it to the peak. The physical exertion was secondary to how easy it would be to take a misstep and fall to my death, or watch Mark fall to his. There were a few times I completely froze with fear, every joint in my body afraid and unwilling to move. I wanted a helicopter to come rescue me. But never for more than a few seconds. I thought to myself: this is not worth it. But, then. Once we were almost all the way down, almost finished with the hike, I felt a rush of elation. THIS IS WHY! This is why we do things that scare us, this is why we do things we don't want to do--that are out of our comfort zone but that our heart knows we will love. It is not for the views or the pictures or the workout or the bragging rights. It is for the courage and strength reaped from doing something you were scared to do. It is for finding out how strong you really are.

Devil's Backbone Trail, Mt. Baldy. This was not even a scary part. I was too scared to take out my camera during the scary parts.

On a trail in Capitol Reef National Park, I felt something magical inside of me: complete serenity. I could not remember or understand why I had ever felt anxiety or sadness, ever in my life. I knew in every bone in my body and every last thought in my head, that I am doing what I can, and that all my negative emotions come from expectations or ideals I think I need to have or hold myself or others to and it is all a bunch of bullshit. I am on my own path and I will do what I can in my own time, or not at all, and everything is already perfectly fine exactly as it is, as long as I keep moving.
And if there is anything I know for sure about myself it is that I can stop time, stand still, appreciate all I have and all I see, and that it is impossible for me to ever stop completely, I keep going.

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah border

Monument Valley, Arizona/Utah border