Between Ease & Effort

A few months back I started taking yoga classes to get some sort of activity in my life that is not dog-walking. The other day, one of the instructors was talking about the space between ease and effort: how every pose should be a balance between those two. We should be pushing ourselves to be better (the effort), while also finding the comfort and joy in each move (the ease).

On our recent road trip though Montana, my brain mulled over this concept. We were on a long straight highway, clear as the eye can see. Looking at the world stretch out before us. A valley between sharp hills, west of the Rockies, with conifers clustered in gullies. Early morning sun making long shadows across tall grass, the occasional hawk poised overhead. A sky so big and blue it hurts the eyes.

The more I see of it, the more in love I am with the world. Why would anyone think there is anything better than right here, right now, this beautiful perfect earth that we have?

I get the feeling of seeing it all for the first time, the first time, as if no other eyes have devoured this landscape. Greedy. It fills you with such joy and such loneliness. It is good to look at rocks and realize how young, how small you are to this place. I could drink in all the world and never get enough.

2016 has been a big one for me in terms of trying new things, putting myself out there. Hedgebrook, going on my first-ever backpacking trip, making the decision to take the leap and leave my job… I couldn’t have foreseen how this year has gone. And I’m glad for that. I always want to see like this: filled with wonder at what the earth created.

This is how I want to live my life: full of adventure and a just a tad bit of uncomfortableness. Between ease and effort. It’s the balance between those two where you really shine.

Let’s Geek Out with David Sedaris

Today’s a pretty good day. I’m going to be able to touch an owl in a couple hours.

David Sedaris on Fresh Air

There are many authors whom I adore and would rightly place on my “favorite authors” shelf. But David Sedaris is the author I geek out about. Maybe it’s his literary rock-star status, or his mesmerizing lilt, or his propensity for turning everyday events into small adventures, but I am a total fangirl.

A signed copy of Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim by David Sedaris.
One of my prized possessions, which my sister got for me when Sedaris spoke at Pomona College.

We saw him speak in Seattle last year, and when he asked if there were any questions, I thought, “THIS IS IT! THIS IS MY CHANCE! I AM GOING TO ASK SOMETHING INSIGHTFUL AND BRILLIANT AND WITTY AND DAVID SEDARIS IS GOING TO NOTICE ME AND WE WILL BE BEST FRIENDS FOR LIFE”….and then proceeded to clam up. The thought of asking him anything intimidated me like whoa. But I continued to grin like an idiot, because he continued to be witty and intelligent and talk about how animals are assholes. I mean, what’s NOT to love?

(It’s pretty silly that I didn’t raise my hand to ask a question, because one of the reasons why I love him is he seems like a genuinely decent guy. The kind of person who is interested in people — really interested — and curious about the world. I can dig that.)

He has a new book out — Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls — and so has a new interview on NPR’s Fresh Air (thank God my husband is an NPR geek so I know about these things). The interview is charming and informative and…just go listen to it, ok?

If you’re too busy/lazy/ambivalent to listen right now, here are some highlights (but please, do yourself a favor and listen to the whole thing):

I was never the person who thought that having a job during the daytime meant that you were any less of a writer. I never thought, “Well, when I can quit my job, that’s when I’ll be a real writer.”

Isn’t that refreshing, to have a ridiculously famous author like Sedaris tell us we don’t have to quit the day jobs to be “real” writers?

You know, it used to be like I had to do my laundry every Sunday at six o’clock, and if I didn’t do my laundry at six o’clock the world was just going to fall apart. [….] Like somebody inviting me out for dinner on Saturday or inviting me Saturday, it just wasn’t going to happen because I had to clean my house. I had to do my laundry. I had to do these things on schedule at the exact same time at the exact same place, and I had to be sitting down at my desk and I had to be drinking by nine o’clock, and I had to be lighting the bong, you know, by 11:30.

And now I can do things. I can go out. I can – every night can be different, you know? And I think it’s – and I think that’s been great for me, you know, to be able to – to be able to have adventures in a way that I wouldn’t have been able to have adventures before.

As a creature who gets deeply ingrained in her habits — this is rather humbling and inspiring. A reminder that, no matter how stuck we may seem, we can change, we can grow. Everyday can be an adventure.

Do you have an author you totally geek out over? Tell me who, tell me who. (That was a tiny bit of an owl joke to end us on there. You’re welcome.)

That Time I Was Chased by a Phantom Bear

Some adventures don’t go QUITE as planned. Take this weekend. I’ve been wanting to go snow shoeing for literally years, so finally we got a date on the calendar. And man oh man, I was excited. It would be epic! We’d tromp through a winter wonderland, nimble as deer! Experience the Great Northwest! Probably find an entrance to Narnia!

And then, we got up to Snoqualmie Pass, and it was raining.

Whomp, whomp.

Now, normally, I’d let this type of thing ruin my plans. But we’d driven to the mountain, Val had driven up from frickin’ Portland for this, snow shoeing WAS HAPPENING, dammit.

Onward!
Ah yes — rain, with a nice throw-in of wet snowflakes. 41

And you know what? It was great. Enter the power of positive thinking, I guess. I didn’t even notice that I was soaking wet until we got back to the car. It probably helped that snow shoeing is, you know, basically hiking, and I was distracted by all the huffing and puffing I had to do to get up the hill.

Byron and Audrey, forging ahead.
Byron and Audrey, forging ahead.

It’s really nice getting off the beaten track from time to time. I enjoy the outdoors, but you know, I’m also big on my creature comforts. So I tend not to venture out into the woods too often. It’s something I’m trying to push myself to do more of this year, because WOULD YOU LOOK AT THIS?? We live in a beautiful (if soggy) part of the world.

I was half convinced I'd fall into a tree well.
I was half convinced I’d fall into a tree well.
Nature, you crazy.
Nature, you crazy.

On our way back down the hill, Val and I started heading off through the trees.

“Don’t go that way,” Byron called from above us.

“Why not?”

“I saw something moving in the trees.”

“What did you see?”

“You should just come back this way.”

Nice and ominous
Nice and ominous

Let me tell you what is great motivation for moving quickly on snow shoes — thinking you are going to be eaten by a mutant, probably mama Grizzly bear. No, admittedly, Byron never said it was a bear. BUT WHAT WERE WE TO THINK? Val and I FLEW back up the hill and high-tailed it the edge of the ski slope. Audrey contemplated if you should stand your ground with a bear or run. Byron brought up the rear, saying he would stay back and sacrifice himself if anything were to attack. Um, which apparently was ok with me? Since I was a good twenty yards ahead of him.

Once we got down to the bottom of the hill, adrenaline pumping, I asked him, “What do you think it was? Do you really think it was a bear?”

Byron: “Oh no, it was definitely other snow shoers. I saw them. I just wanted to mess with you guys.”

GEE, THANKS BYRON.

At least I know I can be speedy on snow shoes, if need be.