COME, said my Soul

COME, said my Soul,
Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
That should I after death invisibly return,
Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
(Tallying Earth’s soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
Ever with pleas’d smile I may keep on,
Ever and ever yet the verses owning—as, first, I here and now,
Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Walt Whitman

Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1891) ❤

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Song of My Heart

The first tears come in the morning, small and quiet

My heart, she sings a maudlin song, echoes of trauma past

A song of violation, violence, loathing, and loss

Her great sorrow, demanding to be heard and seen

Glimpses across time and space, moments of love and sorrow, served up by the mind

My heart, she sings her song, powerful notes slicing my psyche to ribbons

The tears flow in time to her song, I sit and watch, and wonder in pain

Will her song ever end? When will it change?

I wipe my eyes, as tears fall.

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Who Am I?

The New York Times posted an interactive page for Pride Month, asking readers to self-identify with ten words or less.  Many of the answers are quite clever, and the article does ask “What labels do you choose for yourself?” – for example:

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I read several of the replies, most include some statement about being a member of the LGBTQ community (as I am), and some sort of interest-based tagline (‘cinephile’, ‘fitness-motivated’).

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When I think about Pride Month and Identity, I do feel pride in my community.  I’m however neither proud nor not-proud of my sexuality, my gender identity, etc.  What I’m truly proud of, if anything, is the spiritual growth that has come from living authentically. I’m proud that I found the courage, that I didn’t allow others to define me. Everything else is window-dressing for the main event, living as the person you are, not the one society expects you to be.

I went back to the form and filled out my ten words or less, and I found just the right words to answer the question, ‘who am I?’.

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Luna agrees. 😀 ❤

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Floating in Time

Kelley and I were in Reno, Nevada for the Memorial Day weekend to help move her daughter Danielle up to the great Pacific Northwest. After a quick plane trip down from PDX, Danielle had scheduled a float for me at Healing One, a beautiful intentional center for healing in Reno.

I’d not used flotation tanks (a.k.a. sensory deprivation tanks) previously. As someone who meditates regularly, I was super intrigued with the idea, and a bit apprehensive about having the experience somewhere new, where I felt less well-grounded than I would at home. Each tank has about a foot of water, is heated to body temperature, and has about a thousand pounds of Epsom salts in the water. You control the lighting, each tank is in a private suite behind a locked door, so no need for clothing, either. I love my Epsom salt baths at home, it helps me so much with soreness and recovery from injuries, so I was pretty stoked to try it out.

Chaz, the Chief Energetic Officer of Healing One, showed me a video that pretty much addressed all questions, explained how it works, showering requirements, etc. He’s such a bright light, I really enjoyed meeting him. The center itself has a post-float chill room, with amenities like teas and possibly the largest bean bag chair I’ve ever seen.20190525_200940.jpgOff I went to my suite, undressed and showered, and opened a heavy door into the tank. The water felt neither cold nor warm as I stepped in. For my sixty-minute session, music played the first ten minutes, then silence again until a few minutes before my time was up.Floating has so many claimed benefits that I really don’t want to re-hash them here, as anyone considering going has probably already read a bit about theta waves, meditation benefits, elevated dopamine and endorphins. Chaz’s website has a great shortlist here. Instead, I’d encourage anyone to just experience the experience, leaving expectations at the door, just being open to what happens.

In the first ten minutes or so, it was all about my body. I’m floating. I’m spinning…I think. It’s utterly dark and I cannot hear anything from the outside world. I touched the sides a few times, usually as I changed positions to find the most relaxing place to put my arms. I finally settled on crossed arms over my chest, like a mummy. I tried opening and closing my eyes (truly, no difference other than feeling air on your eye). I took slow, deep belly breaths, just like my yoga practice. I’m relaxed, calm, and so very quiet. I just let my mind run, wherever it wanted to go.

It’s hard to tell time. It feels more like I’m floating in space, not water. Then…I’m falling, back into the universe. I recognize this feeling, falling back into blackness. I’ve had it before, in deep meditation, also during sound therapy, it’s a distinct feeling that I’m no longer where I was just a moment prior. My body is, but I’m not. There’s a feeling of descent and landing, feet-first.

I open my eyes and look down at my feet. I’m standing on snow, in the midday sun. I’m wearing old, well-worn leather boots, grey wool knickers, red and grey patterned wool socks. I move my hand and see that I’m wearing a red flannel shirt. I have a pack, and I move to set it down. It’s old, well-worn canvas. I’m carrying skis, made of wood, with leather straps for bindings. My mind accepts all of this as normal, until I look up.matterhorn-425134_960_720
It’s a bluebird day, and there, large as life, sits the Matterhorn, in all its splendor. I’m looking up at the North and East faces, against a deep blue sky. I close my eyes, and open them again. It’s still there, faint wisps of clouds around its summit. I turn around slowly, and yes, the village is behind me. I’m in Zermatt, Switzerland. I’m high up on a slope, a long line of footsteps in the snow below me. I’m carrying a single pole, besides my skis. There’s a pair of heavy side-shielded sunglasses on my face, and I take them off, turning them around so I can see my reflection. It’s not my face I see. The hair is still blond, but curly. It’s not younger-me, or any other version of me by appearance. But, it’s me, in the way you just know that you’re you, inside.

I strain for a moment, trying to remember my name. It starts with an ‘H’…then it’s gone. Helgi? Heidi? I can’t remember. I look the pole in my hand, not a modern ski pole, but a well-worn, single wooden pole used for climbing and skiing…about a hundred years ago. No modern skier has used the single-pole steering technique in…forever.

I turn and look again at the peak behind me, it’s so intensely beautiful and I’ve apparently been climbing for some time to this upper snowfield, so I strap on the skis.’Do I know how to do this?’, I wonder. ‘Of course you do’, my inner voice tells me. I push off, the skis feel so heavy and ponderous, like they don’t want to turn. I reach back and dig the end of the pole in behind me, pushing hard on the outside ski, and it turns. I flip the pole around, and I’m turning the other way. I’m schussing down a high alpine snowfield, surrounded by the Alps of the Valais region. I don’t see any cable cars, which seems curious, as they’re a central feature of modern Zermatt.

Then, I’m not skiing, it’s all blackness again. I’m faintly aware of my body, floating in a tank, and there’s some urgency to ‘get back there’. I blink my eyes, still seeing blackness, but I hear soft strains of music, telling me my time is almost up. Did I sleep? No, I’m sure I didn’t. I don’t have that level of awareness in a dream state, and I rarely have any control over the direction of my dreams. This wasn’t a dream, and my mind is just blown.

How did I end up on a high mountain snowfield, using one hundred year old equipment? How did I know how to ski using a technique I’ve only heard of, never done. How the hell did I end up in Switzerland? The images are burned into my mind, I can peruse them in exquisite detail, in all their beauty. The beauty of those moments feels so intense, it brings tears to my eyes when I dwell upon it more than briefly.

I’ve learned in my spiritual journey not to fall to the temptation to try to figure everything out. This experience, however, feels so significant, though I cannot say why. For sure, I’ll float again. Maybe nothing will happen, maybe I’ll gain some insight. But that’s okay, I don’t need to know. I hold onto the memory of making beautiful big turns and flying down a faraway mountainside, and that’s enough for now. I don’t need to know, the experience in itself is complete.

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I Love You ❤

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I love you, woman with two dogs who lights up when she sees me, who stopped me last November to talk of her distress over the Cult of #45.

I love you, odd lumbersexual who looks at my chest, not my face (eyes are up here, dude).

I love you, rude cyclist who hit my arm carelessly because your skill does not match your perceptions.

I love you, homeless sweltering in the heat under the bridge, I wish I had magical answers to alleviate your suffering today, no one in society should be kicked to the curb.

I love you, cool senior couple holding hands, who look like they have been together forever.

I love you, grey-bearded naval veteran who blew past the weightlifter taking his ego for run, running with complete joy.

I love you trees, river, and buildings.

I love you bridges, monuments to our ability to work together toward common big goals despite our apparent differences.

I love you world, I love you all so deeply that I feel the infinite energy of Love surge up through me, filling me with peace, joy, and happiness.

I love you.

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I walk a lot on the Portland waterfront at lunch, I see a lot of people.  I was inspired to write this while experiencing the sober bliss of intense love, of connection, of shared struggle. I’m often inspired by the poetry of Walt Whitman.  When I first read his Song of Myself, I immediately said ‘YES! THIS!’

I celebrate myself, and sing myself,
And what I assume you shall assume,
For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you.

 

Despite our obsession with tribalism, arrogance of self, and fear, we are all One.  There are plenty of people in this world whose behavior I don’t approve of, but that isn’t love. People whose behavior is the worst, I see their suffering and fear.I can no more hate another than hate myself, because that’s effectively what I’d be doing.

Holding onto anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die. – Buddha

When we really see this, when we can get past our fear of the Other, when we can stop comparing and judging, or reducing others to feed our Ego, we can really see.  I dream of a world of light and love, where we lift one another up, where our competition is to be the best person we can be, not to dominate or subjugate others. Love is our natural state, our fundamental vibe, often suppressed by suffering, our connection.

I love you. 💕

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I am the Warrior

Today, I am the Warrior

I stand tall and strong, I will not falter

I will be brave enough for this day

I will allow empathy, compassion, and kindness to rule all my actions

I will thrive and love my self today

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Chinidere Mountain, near Wahtum Lake, Oregon. Mt. Hood in the background

I often write short mantras with yoga themes, to help my focus, particularly when I’m suffering from anxiety. I wrote an article last year for the Washington Post Lily on how anxiety affects me, you can read it here.  The above is another variation on this, one of my favorites.  It focuses on strength, but strength applied with empathy and compassion, to others and self.

#yoga #mantra

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Bell Creek, Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area. Sadly, this trail is still closed due to the #Eaglecreekfire

Roam

Oregon/ Mark O Hatfield Wilderness/ Herman Creek Trail to Herman Creek Bridge, Pacific Crest Trail to Eagle-Benson and return 20 miles/4775′ e.g./10 hours
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Oh girl dancing down those dirty and dusty trails
Take it hip to hip, rocket through the wilderness
Around the world the trip begins with a kiss

Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to
Without wings, without wheels
Roam if you want to
Roam around the world
Roam if you want to
Without anything but the love we feel

– B-52’s, Roam

 

I had a friend who once told me, he really hates snow.  I was really surprised, given his love of the outdoors and hiking. ‘So you don’t even like snowshoeing?’, I had asked. ‘Nope, hate it. I’ll carry them for miles, only use ’em when I have to.  Snow just gets in my way, keeps me from doing the hikes I want to.’  I love to ski, snowshoe, make snow angels, so his words really surprised me.  ‘I will always love snow’, I told him.

 

Yet here I sat, scouring Google Earth with Halfmile’s PCT overlay, and NOAA’s daily snow report overlay, looking at the undeniable while planning our weekend Pacific Crest Trail/Herman Creek Trail adventure.  There was a lot of snow left above 4500 feet, near Wahtum Lake, on the HCT side, and it was in my way.

 

Having wandered through there in all seasons, I knew it would add too much time to our usual PCT/HCT loop, meandering through the relatively featureless landscape of trees and beargrass under snow with GPS in hand, route-finding.  Too much snow for a twenty-five mile plus day loop.

 

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My mind and heart are already pushing for the big hikes of summer, those all-day affairs where you pick a long target, and just roam all day (and often well into the night).  I’m already blessed that ten minutes from any trailhead, my mind quiets, my heart is calm, and everything else is just…somewhere else.  It’s the ultimate in-the-moment place and activity for me, no anxiety or runaway thoughts, just putting one foot in front of the other, until we run out of trail.

 

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Lower Herman Creek Trail 
I picked the better of the two climbs out of the Columbia River Gorge, on the PCT vs. up Herman Creek.  I love both trails dearly, but the rapid rise out of the Gorge to the Benson Plateau on the PCT is a real gem.  Like Mt. Defiance, it’s steep and long, but unlike Defiance, it’s really pretty. You climb through 4000′ from nearly sea level in about seven miles, most of that in a three mile stretch below Teakettle Springs.

 

We found the small HC Trailhead lots crowded with cars by 8:20 AM, a formerly unheard-of density of aspiring hikers for this sleepy spot.  With Multnomah Falls and Larch Mountain closed due to new rockfall, plus the Instagram popularity of hiking to Indian Point for photos, there’s nothing left up in the lot anymore on a weekend by 8:30 AM.  Thankfully, they virtually all turn left away from the beautiful trails heading deep into the interior, and we’re alone again.

 

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Bridge yoga at Herman Creek Bridge, a staple for me 😀 (Kate photo)

 

These trails are inexorably linked for me to the many trips I made last year as a volunteer with the Pacific Crest Trail Association, clearing these fire-damaged trails in the wake of the Eagle Creek Fire.  I worked so many hours, over many months last Spring and into early Summer, hiking into the PCT or HCT with a hard hat, tools, and determination to do everything I could to repair the damage.   I met the most marvelous people of formidable spirit, we accomplished things beyond what was considered possible.

Now, the trail itself stands as living memory for me.  Here, at the bridge trail junction, ‘oh yeah, the huge hole and there’s Bill’s rock work. You’d never know the trail was missing last March.’ One of the beauties of trail work is if you really do it well, almost no one notices what was done.

 

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The damage here in this small section took multiple work parties to fix 

 

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When you get to the junction of Herman Creek Bridge Trail and the PCT, and take that left up the hill, you settle in for a long climb.  The long switchbacks take you back and forth across the face of the ancient volcanic flows, clawing its way up to the Benson Plateau, an area of incomparable beauty relatively untouched by the fires.  On the way, we pass log after log, most have a story. 

 

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We spent three hours on removing this stubborn log, due to complex binds and the steep slope it sat upon (Kate photo). The ‘before’ photo from April 2018 is below. 

 

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Setting up to roll the upper half once cut.  It was a monster Doug fir, felled by the fire

 

I noted the location of newly fallen logs, to pass along to the volunteer PCTA Caretaker of this section.  Thankfully, there were only about three locations that will need a logout crew with a crosscut saw to remove.  Last year, we removed twenty-seven from these switchbacks in one day.

 

Job security, the forest that just keeps giving 

 

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Looking across the Columbia into Washington, at Table Mountain and Greenleaf Mountain

 

We walked past the huge stump snag where we’d cut out a surprisingly tough piece blocking the trail last year.  We’d cut it, beat it with axes, and finally broke it by jumping up and down on it.

 

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Helgi, cutting the base in April 2018

 

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What a crew.  Hiked 4,000 feet, 12 miles, and worked ten hours in one day. I’m on the upper right with my trademark dirty face. Working in the burn is so messy. 😀 

 

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Empressing hard, May 2019 on the same stump

 

Up we went, past memories,  root burn holes long filled with stones and soil, to the Red Cinder Rock viewpoint.  Both Kate and I noticed looking over at Nick Eaton ridge, the spaces between the burned trees look so much greener this year than last.  Nature knows how to recover, she doesn’t need our help.

 

We had already climbed most of the elevation to be gained, so we took a break and took in the views.

 

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May 2019 – Mount Adams capping my Warrior II.  Nick Eaton ridge to the right, so much more green this year!

 

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June 2018 – yeah I wear the same clothes a lot – I’m actually considering a new system of hike-specific outfits, totally beside the point – look at NE ridge, so brown last year. 
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Heading up past Teakettle Springs, we stopped to check the water flow, which is still really good.  It’s spring water.

 

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COLD water, felt so good on my face

 

The fingers of fire reached up from Eagle Creek in spots here, severely burning some areas but not most of Benson Plateau.  When we first came in, it was hard to find the trail in spots.  We scraped half a foot of needle-cast off the trail last year one day, later took one hundred logs off it over two days. It was really a mess.

 

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Close to Benson Way side trail, on the PCT, looking South

 

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Lovely trillium on upper Teakettle section 

 

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Branch swirl did not burn, go figure

 

Once you gain the plateau, you’re in for a treat of ridge walking in deep forest.  The trail only rises about 600′ more between Benson Way and Wahtum Lake, so you can really make some time up there on a long day hike.  Or stroll, saunter, it’s perfect for everything.

 

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Stubborn snow patch hanging on up on Benson Plateau, in the beargrass. North and west-facing slopes still holding onto a bit as of 5/11/2019

 

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NOAA maps were spot-on in predicting the snow amounts

 

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Near our turn-around for the day at Eagle-Benson Junction

 

We hiked out to junction with the PCT and Eagle-Benson Trail, still closed as it descends from the PCT into Eagle Creek below Tunnel Falls.  The area near Smokey Camp is still the worst burn I’ve seen in the Eagle Creek fire area.  It burned before maybe fifteen years ago, so twice-burned now, it’s pretty crisp.

 

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We stopped for some late afternoon snacks, thought briefly about heading to Wahtum Lake over the remaining snow patches, but the thought of late afternoon wandering down upper Herman Creek with my GPS in hand, fading light, eleven miles left to go, wasn’t attractive.  As a rule, we’re packed with all the essentials and ready to spend the night if needed, but I try avoid walking eyes-wide-open into situations that land us there.  No tracks, one hundred percent snow-covered, it will wait a few weeks.

 

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If you look closely, you can just see Mt. Defiance poking its dome up over the ridge on the right, in the distance

 

We stopped at a side viewpoint and looked South, toward Mt. Tomlike, Chindere Mtn, and Mt. Hood.  It’s one of my favorite viewpoints, it really ties together what it means to hike from Hood to the Gorge.  It’s quite an adventure, and though I’ve hiked about every piece of the PCT from Timberline Lodge to the river, I’ve never done it all at once.  Maybe this is the year.

 

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Tomlike from the PCT.  Besides the usual path from Wahtum Lake, there’s a user/offtrail route from the North, off Herman Creek Trail.  It’s a spectacular ridge walk. 

 

Trail work habits die hard. Besides tossing branches and rocks as we hiked, on the way back, I removed over two dozen small logs from the trail with my trusty small Silky hand saw.   I cut a few that pushed the capabilities of my little saw, but using techniques I’ve learned with my Katana-boy saw on bigger logs, I was able to remove some really annoying blowdown.

 

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Being a good steward of the trails

 

 We skipped down the trail (literally, at times) in the beautiful light of the afternoon. The lighting all day was just magical, such contrasts and beautiful sunshine.

 

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Cleared a big stack o’logs off here in 2018, you’d hardly know it now

 

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Crossing the scree fields in the late afternoon sunshine. Cascade Locks below.

 

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Looking up, near same location. Sometimes we hear Pikas here

 

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Happy hikers. Kate and I love to hike all darn day. 

 

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You really have to love a two-hour downhill. Well, mostly. 😀

 

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I can’t resist a good bridge 😀

 

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Looking back across from HCT to the PCT. The latter runs diagonally across the far ridge. 

 

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HCT below the bridge trail junction gets a lot of traffic. Good thing we reworked all the lower tread last year, it’s getting hammered now. 

 

We crossed Herman Creek again, the sun setting now, almost ten hours since we passed the same spot in the morning.  It’s such a magical spot.  I’ve cleaned a lot of tools down in the creek after a long day of trail work.  Hiking through here for fun seems almost like cheating.

 

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We ambled back to the jeep, our first pass through here complete for this year. We’ll go back again soon and do the entire loop, once the snow finishes melting out.

 

We’ve also been intrigued with making some new loops heading up Nick Eaton/Gorton Creek trails, checking out Greenpoint Mtn on the way up to Wahtum Lake, return on the PCT.  It’s a bit more climbing (5800′ vs. 5600′ e.g.) but a little shorter at 22-23 miles than the full loop, which usually runs around 25-ish.

 

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The roaming season has just started, so we’ve got time before the snow flies again.  Now, someday, backpacking this on snowshoes, that’s another adventure!

 

#Brunoapproved

 

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