As the snow falls outside the window…

From my email update sent January 9th. If you want to get on the list send me your email. 

Dearest Amigos Near and Far (though most likely the latter),

Congratulations on surviving the widely misinterpreted end of the Mayan calendar and welcome to 2013! I’d like to start the year off with a little ode to gratitude:

I almost didn’t get to celebrate this year. A day before my birthday I drove over an 8,000 ft. pass to get to Lake Tahoe for an interview. I had just traveled over the crest and was heading into a curve when I tapped on the breaks and launched into a 270 degree spin on a blind corner. I came to a halt parallel parked in the mud on the shoulder, cushioned by a willow tree. If it had happened 100 feet further I would have rolled off the cliff. I shakily got out of the car and inspected it.

This is what a near death experience looks like

This is what a near death experience looks like

Not a scratch, to myself nor to my trusty steed the Silver Phoenix. Only then did I see the icy sheen on the pavement. I started the car again and slowly continued down the pass, stopping an hour later and crutching to the side of a stream to pause and reflect. I had been feeling pretty low. I had sprained my ankle hiking across the Sierra a week before and was going to spend my birthday in a job interview. I couldn’t even stand on my own two feet without metal poles to balance me. And then I almost ceased to exist and it spun some perspective into my lucky little world. I WAS ALIVE! I had great friends, a wonderful family, lived in a beautiful place and everything was possible. That afternoon a friend and I paused to admire the sun’s reflection on Lake Tahoe and the joy of the dogs flopping into the water.

Lake Tahoe October Sunset

Lake Tahoe October Sunset



I carried that gratitude into the next few weeks as I finished a fantastic AmeriCorps position with the Eastern Sierra Land Trust and spent Thanksgiving with friends and family in LA. Early the following morning I was soaring above the fluffy white cow pies covering LA in it’s tryptophan-induced coma towards Lima, Peru.

I spent a few days exploring the city of men shorter than my grandma, many of whom are afflicted with a widespread epidemic of horn honking.  In Lima two worlds collide, along with about 15 million others who all cram into the 4 lane highway 7 cars abreast (on each side). I met up with Jonny and Jake, two adventurous friends from our UCLA days, and we traveled north along the coast past hours of small shantytowns separated by expanses of sand dunes. We settled in a small beach town called Huanchaco where most people walked around barefoot and even the bakeries didn’t open until 9am.

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A carrot top named Julian from Germany shared our double bunk dormitory with a private bath, open only to the cockroaches and other insects that frequented our shower and sink. As our Spanish improved and our immune systems worsened we spent a good portion of our days surfing or boogey boarding, doing yoga classes for about $1/hr, and reuniting for fried rice with seafood (chaufa con mariscos).

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Sometimes meanings get lost in translation

Nine days later our group dispersed and Jonny and I went north with an Aussie named George towards the warm waters along the Ecuadorian border. We got caught up in the stereotypical beach traveler’s moment in which we all sat on a white sandy dune passing around a bottle of Roncola (rum and coke), playing the ¾ guitar and singing along to the perfectly harmonized crashing of the waves. Those moments when the whole world feels right and you are only focused on the plethora of sensory stimuli – the salt water spray on your lips, the sound of acoustic guitar accompanied by a solid boom! from the sea, the round fiery ball of sol slipping behind the surf point and making the wet sand a creamy reflection of the water-colored sky – these are the postcard-perfect reasons of (part of) why we travel.

Your stereotypical beach traveler moment, just add rum

Your stereotypical beach traveler moment, just add rum

Then again, the 2 am scramble in the dark to the not-so porcelain pony highlights the slimy, grotesque side of 3rd world travel. Fortunately I only got food poisoning once this time around in Peru!

The Peru diet took hold of my bowels with liquefying strength, though it politely waited until I was back in the land of toilet paper friendly toilets. I spent the holidays with my families in LA and Washington, making up for any sort of weight loss with hearty helpings of sweets and barbeque. Yule time flies when you’re catching up on sleep, sailing towards blue skies and walking around Vancouver, Canada. I enjoyed a quick LA whirlwind of a 2nd Christmas, packed up my Honda Civic with my belongings and drove up to Mammoth to celebrate the New Year and do my first ride of the season, a backcountry snowboard run on excellent powder! January 1st I drove to South Lake Tahoe, found a place to live and by 8:30pm was unloading my possessions at a new address.

Moving to Tahoe 2 (1)

The birthday interview from the beginning of this verbose email resulted in a stellar position with the California Tahoe Conservancy as their Communications Liaison. For the next year I will write press releases and website content, amongst other duties on an ever-growing list, for an environmental agency filled with like-minded outdoorsy, passionate people. I hope that I’m as good a writer as they think I am.

Wishing everyone a joyous, whimsical, healthy and adventurous 2013! Remember Tom Robbins’ wise words as you debate whether or not you should frolic through the meadow or get on stage and sing karaoke, “Those who shun the whimsy of things will experience rigor mortis before death” (from Still Live with Woodpecker). Hopefully I will be joining you for both of those events and more.

Thank you for being you and come visit!

-V

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The final words of my journal

Just finished my journal (Aug’11-June’12), these were it’s final words. Enjoy!

When life gives you a bridge, JUMP!

My anamcara soulfriend Tara and I had a wild night attempting to poach camp (aka ‘To miss’ the No Camping signs and sleep without a permit) near Tuolumne Lodge in one of the most visited National Parks in the USA. We found a spot on the shoulder of an unnamed granite slab on a peninsula of land between two smooth, glittering creeks. The sweet effervescent bubble of the last bottle of Mom’s mead went well with the panoramic views of Lambert Dome to our right, Tuolumne campgrounds front and center and the distinguished yet unknown peak to our left. One swig per sigh at the fire embers glowing in the sky and cooling into the canvas of stars by the second.

This morning we emerged from our synthetic cocoons groggily, after repeated nighttime attacks from the ferocious, relentless 1-lb army of pikas who decided our socks, sandals and groundpads were our barter for sleeping under their rock. “There ain’t nothing in this world for free.”

Soft, Cute and RUTHLESS

Today begins the languid journey home from another delicious weekend in the magical park that can two-up Disneyland any day of the week. The relaxing beauty of yesterday’s slowness was spent cuddling in a tent holding hands with Tara and Ray, A ‘V’ Sandwich, hiking to the Devil’s Dancefloor and frolicking on a chunk of granite that feels sturdier than any New York high rise.

Looking out from the Devil’s Dancefloor

The many many hugs that feel as needed and as natural as having water flow past my skin.

The many many hugs that feel as needed and as natural as having water flow past my skin. A cold dip in the river and then lizarding our stomachs on the hot rocks, Ray using my back as a pillow as I entered the conscious dream state of the truly relaxed.

This glorious montage of yesterday came after a unique invitation to attend a Bear Dance on Friday night with Ray’s Native American tribe. I had invited Tara and as we drove on Tioga Rd., unaware of the music that was not audible she suddenly said, “I think that was the gated road on the left,” the one Ray had told me to look out for. I drove to the next turnaround, completely convinced of her “feeling” and as we pulled towards the driveway Ray’s civic “Nugget” rolled down towards us – Bingo! We smudged at the gate, passing the white sage smoke around our bodies to cleanse the spirit, and continued into Tamarack Flats Campground, the spirit camp. Right on cue as we walked along the stream the Gods decided to unleash savory globs of H2O from the sky, re-hydrating my two month absence of the precious stuff. That night we drove down to the Valley and shared a potluck meal with 200 uncles, cousins, and sisters of fry bread and other delicious treats under the constant power of Yosemite Falls.

As night fell everyone lined up outside the roundhouse for the Bear Dance. “Elders and disabled first, then those at spirit camp, followed by everyone else. As the line shortened Ray beckoned us inside and after a smudge and a tobacco offering to the fire we were huddled uncomfortably in the back of the roundhouse. We were surrounded by people in camping chairs, with our heads brushing against the spider webs and fraying logs a foot shorter than we were. The bear dance was a series of “Bears,” members of the tribe who fasted with no food or water for the last week as a sacrifice so that they could heal the rest of the tribe with their power and medicine. They were led around the fire in circles as everyone sang songs to evoke the power and loosen up their internal blocks. The energy around the underground hearth was certainly palpable, yet for some combination of my drooping eyelids and uncomfortable position I could not feel mesmerized. The speakers in between Bears kept mentioning healing, yet I honestly found no real need to be healed. The dance reconfirmed that everything is as perfect as it could be in my life and I’m not so vain to wish for a boyfriend that I don’t need nor want if it comes forced. Ray held my hand to my left and Tara to my right. In the roundhouse I gave my prayers to Tara, who sat hunched next to me, who needs some strength to be selfish and release herself from guilt. To Jess, who needs to get outside of herself and learn to slow down and find balance. To Leslie who is fighting cancer a 5th time. To my parents whom I love and will always protect. To my unnamed friends that make this world more beautiful, and to the many places, cultures, sensations of this life that I have appreciated and will continue to explore.

-Victoria

~Fluye~