Colonize the Montage

Dogwood Flowers Chillaxing in the Sunshine of a Sierra Spring

Dogwood Flowers Chillaxing in the Sunshine of a Sierra Spring

This past week has been completely overrun with two activities. The see through-tanning, internet-searching, hair-pulling minutia of planning my epic summer and a knock-down, drag-out, full blown, gloves off bout of RA fatigue. In the seven or eight hours per day that I’ve actually been awake, I’ve been starring at the internet and trying to guess which french apartment looks more accessible from high angled, fish-eye photos, or which of the nine gazillion discount airfare websites has the best deal.

This is the type of planning that is impossible to complain about. I am deeply aware of exactly how rad it is that I get to travel the way I do. However, the actually organization of trips I take is so profoundly less glamourous than the trips themselves, that I can’t help but harbor a secret wish for a movie montage. This fatigue flare had me desperate for the same thing. If only the last one hundred and sixty eight hours of my life could be condensed into a tight five minutes where I make sexy-thinking faces in front of my laptop, cut with me sleeping like a fairy tale princess, my hair neatly arranged, my face composed angelically. I would allow thirty seconds for a stylized cringe to indicate the pain of inflammation, you know, for realism. I want to skip these bits and spend the remaining hour and fifty five minutes of my movie posing majestically on mountaintops and having charming and/or meaningful interactions with the locals. Preferably whilst bathed in the golden light of sunset, thank you very much.

Of course, I can’t have a montage. No one can. Not even Sylvester Stallone and Dolph Lundgren get real life montages. This evening something has dawned on me. As travelers we aren’t formed on peaks. If you condense the hard and the boring, you erase everything that makes our successes meaningful. Ask a climber about their most epic trip. I guarantee you will get a story about horrible weather, or nightfall coming out of nowhere, or broken gear and misery. No one will tell you about the time everything went exactly as planned. Those times fade from memory surprisingly quickly.

This is a good thing. We become ourselves in the sharp, unfair, difficult, ugly and sometimes just mind-numbingly dull parts of our lives. This is where we do the untidy sort of broken down by the side of the road with no help for miles, so we better figure out how to change that tire learning that sticks with us. This is where the edges of our strength is laid bear. Of course, that makes it a messy and chaotic place. Maybe that’s OK. Maybe that’s what makes it a universally human place. Have you ever met anyone whose life was a glory of success without effort or struggle? Even if the answer is yes, they can’t have been a very interesting conversationalist.

This week, in my montage, I learned that if the productive part of my day is reduced to less than three hours I will spend that time arranging travel so that my summer will be majestic. I will exercise so that I will have as much energy as possible to enjoy it. I will read novels so that I might not seem totally dull to the other writers I can hardly wait to meet. I will call my friends so that I can chatter and check in and be bolstered by whatever they have going on. In my montage I learned that what matters most is reaching out and looking ahead.

So here’s the plan. Let’s move out of the movies that play in our minds of what our lives ought to be and, instead, colonize the montage. Let’s start living fully in the desperate and dull moments with an awareness that they are fleeting. They are teachers. They are leading us somewhere. Without them we would have no means of judging what we value.

My Favorite Mountain, Eastern Sierras

My Favorite Mountain, Eastern Sierras. I’ve Never Climbed it, but it Sure is Nice to Look at.




The Single Best Brownie and Latte in the History of Humankind

Mmmmmmmmmm Civilization...

Mmmmmmmmmm Civilization…

The above latte/ brownie combo may look run of the mill to the untrained eye. To the eyes of a deeply inexperienced outdoors-lady who has just spent three days drinking instant coffee, Continue reading

The Greatest Picture Never Taken in Denali National Park

This is a picture of a real live wolf! Squint, it's there. I swear it.

This is a picture of a real live wolf! Squint, it’s there. I swear it. If you’re on a smart phone you’re S.O.L. though.

Some people are possessed of a second sight. One specifically reserved for spotting interesting flora and fauna that the rest of us mere mortals miss. Personally, this skill set never developed Continue reading

Ripping Off Your Bunny Ears

Not an alp in Denali National Park

Not an alp in Denali National Park

I have disgustingly good news and I ask that you bear with me for a braggy second while I tell you about it. I swear there will be a pay off, just hang on.  Continue reading

Inherited Obsession, or Why I Will Someday Import an Italian Ape Car

Ape Car Climbs an Alp

Ape Car Climbs an Alp

They say that retirement is a time for reflection. A time to look back on your greatest accomplishments with a sense of pride. In this spirit, my father spent a significant part of his first year of retirement assembling a photo album of every car he has ever owned. Continue reading

Chapter 1: Encountering a Bear

What to Do When You Meet a Bear

What to Do When You Meet a Wild Bear

The wilderness is full of creepy unnatural beasties waiting to rip you apart limb from limb. Over time we Continue reading

Stunning Feet of Adventure

What's Holding You Up?

What’s holding you up?

This Labor Day I hiked a trail rated at 100% more difficulty stars in Afoot & Afield than I have ever hiked before. Lack of planning, Continue reading

Behind The Curtain

The road in Arches NP UT

There are moments in life when the universe will literally club you over the head with beauty if you pay just a little bit of attention. This can happen diving the depths of the ocean and conversing with the glittering and exotic life that you find there. It can happen Continue reading

No Barriers!

Mountain above Telluride CO

Mountain above Telluride CO

The weekend before last I attended the No Barriers Summit in Telluride Colorado. I went because the intersection of outdoorsy dirtball and physically disabled is tiny and remote and I was curious to see who else lives there. I went because Continue reading

The Sorest Thumb

Harbor “You alright?” the dive masters’ thick British accent faintly calls across the waves, betraying more than a little concern.

“Fine, just lost my mask.” Continue reading


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