May 2010


The birds at the Pinnacle along the Appalachian Trail in Pennsylvania

are incredible.

The hover on the heavy breeze

dipping and gliding

dancing on gusts and headlong winds

to a melody only

they hear

–If only we could all

be so lucky–

Yet, in passing moments

when we finally give way

to the wind’s invisible support

–sometimes–

We are.

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Holy Shit, I’m moving to San Francisco.

The reality of it struck me this evening as I walked along Pennsylvania’s Delaware River tow path chatting with my sister, Greta, about the move. Soon no more leaf-canopied towpath, familiar faces at the cafes and streets of Milford and Frenchtown, no more roads so known I could drive them in my sleep if I had to. Soon a whole city of bits and pieces of familiarity gained during snippets of time spent in the Bay Area over the past couple of years. New streets to wander along, parks to explore, faces to see everywhere…it’s almost totally overwhelming. I’ve only been grounded in these homey woods of PA for five months–is it really time to wander again?

Yes. It does seem so.

For whatever reason, or combination of reasons, the nomad inside speaks louder than the homebody. The nomad can’t stay put for more that a half a year or so, the nomad has a ravenous appetite for adventure and newness and life that these beautifully green and grounding hills of Bucks County can’t yet satisfy. The nomad wants to be in motion again, to feel the road under rubber, ogle at the breathtaking power of the Rockies, run her fingers over gritty Utah sandstone, to lose herself in the solitude of Nevada and Route 50–the self proclaimed Loneliest Highway in America. The nomad wants the challenge and shake-up of unfamiliarity. Surprisingly though (and simultaneously) the nomad is getting a little tired of, well, being nomadic.

There’s an element of sacrifice inherent in the wandering lifestyle. Naturally there would need be in order to maintain an existence where all of your belongings fit into the hatch of a VW Golf. But it’s more than simply sacrifice of belongings–which are inconsequential, really–it is a sacrifice of groundedness, of long-standing social connectedness. When you constantly bounce from place to place your relationships become global and national more so than local. Friends and acquaintances are continuously being re-established. Your social network expands across the distances between the places you’ve been, but what you gain in volume of connections, you lose in consistency of interactions with the same people, a consistency that in actuality can be very comforting and anchoring.

Over the past five months I’ve been fortunate to stay in a place that allowed me to rediscover the comforts of a tight-knit local community, a tighter knit community than I’ve actually experienced in any of the places I’ve lived thus far, except here in Bucks County where I spent the majority of my formative years. The Delaware River Valley is a unique stretch of riverside towns and roads in Pennsylvania and New Jersey where most residents have been living not only for years but for generations upon generations. There are customers at the Frenchtown Cafe, where I’ve been working as a busgirl and host, who have been dining there for 15 or so years. As soon as they walk in, our waitresses know to bring them coffee with regular milk, iced tea with extra lemon, two western omelets with whole wheat toast and extra crispy homefries. There’s a consistent, reliable rhythm to life and people’s lives here that for a moment make me admire their ability to stay put and be anchored in this spot. Not that people don’t leave and return, which I think a good number of them do, but many have never lived anywhere else. For some a trip to the Jersey shore rather than a trip across the country or world is a big adventure. It’s a safe, simple, comfortable place where everyone seems to know everyone else’s name, and has known for years.

Perhaps it is the ease of simplicity that drives me away from PA, as it has driven me away in the past. I crave the challenge of unexplored terrain, constantly changing influences, experiences and settings and without that opportunity for constant newness, life becomes a bit homogenous, a bit like a mauve painted wall, a bit boring. Eventually though, it might be nice to live in a place where I walk into a cafe and the waitress knows I’ll be drinking a cup of black coffee, glass of water with lemon, no ice. Meditteranean salad, no cheese, dressing on the side. A homebase to return to is just as integral to the adventure as the travels themselves. But it isn’t time to be completely grounded yet, it’s still time for adventure.

And so, in a month, I’ll pack up my car and head to San Francisco for a yet undecided amount of time. I don’t have a particular job set up, though there are a few promising prospects for writing gigs, which is what I crave most at this point in my life and career. If nothing else though, the entire diversity and overflowing opportunity of the city awaits and I go there open and ready to make the most of whatever experiences arise. Someday I might let myself be a regular somewhere, a cornerstone in a little community like the one I’ve rediscovered here in PA, but until then there’s rambling yet to be done, and far too much world too see.

Journal Entry from 11/8/09, written in Deboche, Khumbu region, Nepal

There’s frost everywhere. It crunches on my tent as I peel back the fly, crusts around the inner edge of the water bottle I kept in my tent last night, coats the grass outside like a thin layer of snow. My breath is solid as it exists my mouth, even in the lodge dining room where I sit writing. Three Nepali men are huddled around a sputtering potbelly stove. They crouch over cups of tea as the hissing yak dung slowly begins to burn.

In this cold morning light still pale on the Himalaya, every dark rocky rib and ridge of Ama Dablam’s peak is defined.

A pony wandered into or camp early this morning before the dawn had yet begun to grow. I was woken suddenly from a thin but cozy sleep by the tinkling of the pony’s bell. Had I not been caught half-awake in my sleepy stupor, I might’ve poked my head into the frigid are and seen its hardy little body illuminated by the glow of the moon in the backdrop of the mountains.

Special things happen when you ascend in altitude. Perhaps it is because so few people inhabit or ever experience these high places. It is as though the worlds so far above the common ground of sea level take on a special glow. The air breathes clearer, the sun shines more brightly. In the absence of abundant wildlife, every sound carries in it a crisp and distinct quality that often gets muffled among the many noises in lower, more hospitable lands. The open expansiveness of the mostly-barren landscape give me the feeling that I am witnessing a land, a life, truly authentic, as though simply by my being here, it is being seen for the first time.

After tea yesterday afternoon, I wandered back up the dusty stone step trail to Tengboche. The snaking rhododendron branches and leaves glowed silver in the fading evening light. The forest was quiet–a perfect, peaceful silence broken only by the sound of a distant pony bell, the labored breathing of a porter as he hoofed his burden past me. In the open village yard of Tengboche, I watched Buddhist monks in rich burgundy robes throw a blue plastic frisbee. Thick, white mist swirled through the valley and across the surrounding peaks. Every so often a ragged pink ridge would reveal itself, otherwise the mountains were silently elusive, veiled in a shifting sea of white vapor.