Tuesday, November 8, 2016

I Took a Walk

The realization came in stages. First, a dry clacking sound, like old dead sticks being tossed into a pile. The park is in the middle of town, so I put it down to some far-off construction project, or perhaps some trail maintenance. I kept walking. 

The sounds got louder, accompanied by muffled thumps. I noticed dust rising from the field next to the trail, the back of some animal barely visible through the tall grass. I pulled out my binoculars, and everything became clear. Two bucks, repeatedly crashing their antlered heads together as two does looked on. It was majestic. It was madness. I wondered how they managed to not lose an eye. 

Before I could even think to grab my camera, the fight was over, the loser (I presume) running into some nearby brush, each exhale exploding in a high-pitched, whistling wheeze. The winner watched for a moment, then sauntered away in the direction of the does. I had just begun fumbling for my camera case when the loser emerged from his refuge half a dozen meters away from where I stood and turned to look me in the eye. I froze. Time stretched, and I somehow managed to not wet myself. Eventually, he wandered off as I stood rooted to the ground, camera completely forgotten in my hands. 

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Transcontinental Roadtrip Audiobook Review 1: The Addictive Brain

This review is the first in a 4-part series about the audiobooks I listened to in the 7-day, 3400 mi drive from Healy, AK to Denver, CO.

Name: The Great Courses: The Addictive Brain
Length: 6h19
Narrator: Professor Thad A. Polk

As the name suggests this lecture series gives an overview of the psychology, behaviors, and neurophysiology of addiction. Addiction touches most people's’ lives in some way or another and can be a pretty touchy/emotional subject, as I learned while discussing the series with my travel buddies. Because of this, it might be hard for some people to listen to. However, Professor Polk balances dispassionate science with a healthy dose of compassion, taking time to talk about the most effective treatment options for each drug/behavior of abuse that he discusses and implores people who are struggling with addiction to remember that they are not weak or broken and that setbacks should be viewed as learning experiences rather than failure.

The series is split into 12 half-hour lectures, covering a range of topics from the brain’s reward circuit to genetics and how both influence addiction. It also delves more deeply into the addictive a wide variety of substances from caffeine to methamphetamine and how each affects the brain.

If you are a brain nerd like me, I highly recommend this lecture series. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, it may be difficult to get through, but it also may deepen your understanding of what you or your loved one is going though.

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Maybe Something with Adventuring

(Fair warning: this contains swears)

I recently drove a friend to her out-of-state college, and it occurred to me, as I was throwing a fuzzy green blanket and change of clothes into my car: I love this shit.

It stuck with me, a friendly little voice in the back of my head, as we chattered and navigated snowy roads and stayed up too late dreaming up Doctor-Who-themed cupcakes: I love this shit.

It was still there as I drove back alone, blown about the roads and getting increasingly cold because my little car’s heater couldn’t quite keep up with the windchill: I love this shit.

And when I got home and sat wrapped in a blanket, gushing excitedly over cupcake plans with my love and a cup of tea, there was a steady pulse of “I love this shit” humming beneath every word we utter.

Weirdly, I don’t think I really fit into the explorer “type”: I’m shy and nervous and I don’t trust as easily as I’d like, and sometimes I wonder at how I got here and if I’ll ever experience stability or certainty again. The thought sits like a stone in my stomach, making it hard to move, to breathe.

But then my love will talk to me about eating spaghetti in the desert and watching the stars, or I think of all that’s left to explore and the places and friends around the world that I’d love to see again… and I feel it settle into my bones, warm and comforting, but oddly light: I love this shit.

And no matter what comfort or stability I may find in the future--and no matter how relieved I may be to find it--I will always find some small slice of adventure, and I will never lose the little friendly whisper in the back of my mind.

I LOVE this shit.

Monday, October 19, 2015


Sometimes I think that the problem with me is that I keep leaving everything behind to start anew. For all its excitement, it always seems a bit unsustainable… like every new adventure is just putting off the inevitable (and sometimes quite desirable) "settling down". These are the times when I feel the ties between me and the people I care about stretching and fraying, and it makes me sad. 

Then there are the other times. The times when I think the real problem is that I haven't gone far enough. That I should run faster and farther until every. Single. Tie. isn't just fraying and fading but broken. Gone forever. Never to be repaired or replaced. That only in the freedom of absolute, desperate loneliness will I ever find a modicum of peace. 

There is a voice inside me of defiance. It screams out against all the people who want me to be something other than what I am, all of the pressures within and without that bend me into twisted shapes not my own. A voice that says ENOUGH. I am only this, and I am fucking FANTASTIC at it. Enough. 

But there is another voice. Quiet, insistent… it just barely whispers, but it never stops. Only one word: run. 



*I wrote this a few years ago... Sometimes I worry about how relevant it still is. 

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

If I were an Artist

Autumn afternoons make me wish I were an artist… the slanted light, fire-bright leaves against an impossibly blue sky, the weather getting brisk while the life within it slows down… I feel like there’s a lot to capture.

Artists can put less obvious things into their work, too. So I could write you a sonnet about a walk in the woods on a clear fall day, but leave you feeling the softness of the blanket I curl up in afterwards, the warmth of the mug in my hands, a curl of sweet smelling smoke from the contents within. I could paint you a picture of a fire in the hearth and a single window looking out on vibrant trees and somehow also make you hear the laughter of your loved ones as they gather in the shorter, cooler days, chasing away the dark and cold with stories and delicious food and by simply being within arm’s reach. I could oh-so-effortlessly slide everything I think and feel into every stroke of the brush or scratch of the pen and smile, because I know you’ve felt and thought the very same things.

If I were an artist.

Instead, I’ll shiver a few more moments in the rapidly cooling air of a perfect, golden day, thinking of the paintings, poems, and symphonies I wish I could make to share this moment with you across the intervening miles. I’ll laugh at the clumsy, mundane, inadequate words you’ll get instead--if I even remember to mention it to you.

Because I’m not an artist, and you are far, far away.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

On "Giving up"

I quit my job today. Well, gave one month’s notice, anyway. It’s hard… maybe (definitely) harder than it should be. This is maybe the second or third job that I can remember quitting just because I didn’t like it/couldn’t make it work. I’ve had plenty of jobs, but they were seasonal or contractual, or things that I left behind because I had to move across the country/planet. To not have a reason for leaving beyond my basic needs (sleep) and emotional state makes me feel like a bit of a failure.

A story: When I was a kid, I was kind of a precocious little brat. Because I tended to catch onto things pretty quickly, whenever I came up against something I didn’t “get” right away, I would give up. And maybe cry. Because I was a brat. This went on for awhile till my parents sat down and had a talk (or several) with me about how I couldn’t just quit stuff because I wasn’t good right away, and that working hard for something makes it even more rewarding when it finally does click, etc. It took awhile to sink in, but I learned perseverance eventually. Now, though, I’m terrified of being that person again, of throwing in the towel every time things get a little hairy… so I tend to stick to unfortunate circumstances WAY LONGER than I should. Taking too many classes? Suck it up, pansy! Relationship falling apart around your ears? Try harder! Job slowly sucking the life out of you and making you doubt your self worth? Deal with it; it’s not THAT hard!

The point is, I have trouble telling the difference between perseverance and stupidity, giving up and strategic retreat. I probably always will. Luckily, I also have a lot of people who are willing to help me navigate the murkier waters of life and to assure me that quitting doesn’t always make you a quitter. Overall, even though I’m sad about leaving (and still dealing with the icky emotions listed above), I’m also very relieved that an end is in sight. And I’m ready for the next adventure.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Fog

You decide to drive out to the lake. Cabin fever is real, you think, and if you can't get outside now, when temperatures are hovering just below freezing, then you'll never go when the real cold hits.

So you go.

The lake is frozen, covered in snow, and the whole area is hazy with fog. There are plenty of footprints, so the ice is probably safe. 

You walk.

Suddenly, the footprints end. The fog thickens. 

You keep walking. 

You hear a distant sound--half rumbling thunder, half gunshot--the ice is cracking, somewhere.

You almost turn back.

You remember being told that cracks sometimes form in even the thickest ice, a matter of pressure from the water below, so it's probably still safe. 

You walk on.

Sometimes, you hear a faint crackling, barely offset from the crunch of your own boots, like something walking lightly in your footsteps, just out of sight. The fog thickens.

You turn.


You keep walking.

Amidst the ice crack-rumbling and the faint crunching echoes, a new sound, a quick whoopwhoopwhoop. It's quiet, so quiet that you think you imagined it. The fog thickens. whoopwhoopwhoop--a little louder, a little faster

You look around.


You turn back toward your car, now half-hidden by mist.

whoopwhoopwhoop-- louder, faster.

You keep looking around as you start walking back.

Still nothing.


The fog thickens.

You run.