Skimming Deep

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

Category: Uncategorized

History in the Making

It’s Election Day, 10:00pm Pacific Time, and the future of the country hangs in the balance.

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How did we get here?

Did anyone realize how divided a country we are? Along race lines, gender lines, values, beliefs, ideas of democracy and what the United States of America stands for?

It’s been a long journey, seeing the two main parties arrive at the two candidates who are fighting for their lives and our futures. and I really never thought it would come to this.

What do the next four years hold for us as a country? No matter who wins, it’s clear that there is a large number of people who won’t be happy with the result. How do we move forward as the “UNITED” states, not the “DIVIDED” states?

This campaign has been eye opening for me in so many ways. I’ve been surprised at what people will believe. I’ve been surprised at how much racism and sexism still exists at very deep levels all over the country. I’ve been surprised at what people will ignore or dismiss to be able to justify their choices. I’ve been surprised at how people will make decisions that go against their own interests.

How do we move forward from here? What will the history books say about this election? What will tomorrow look like?

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A Year-ish Ago: Yosemite and Half Dome

Last June (2014), my parents, my friend (who went to the Grand Canyon with us), and I went to Yosemite National Park to tackle Half Dome. It started with some conversations with my parents the winter before about going to Yosemite. Followed by an email where my dad said he had secured a heated tent cabin reservation at Curry Village. And then another email in March saying he had submitted an application for a permit to Half Dome, following the process outlined which enters you into a lottery to “win” one of 225 permits granted each day during the season when the cables are up. Unlike the Grand Canyon trip I blogged about in the previous entry, I was totally along for the ride on this trip – my dad did all the research.

Sadly, we didn’t get a permit through the preseason process. As my dad emailed, “We’re out of luck. Accept w/ humility and God knows our desires.” But he didn’t give up and aimed for the daily lottery in which you apply two days before to hear back a day before whether you get one of the 50 daily permits that are given to go up Half Dome. We set our plans to go to Yosemite in June anyway, hoping we’d get a Half Dome permit but also being prepared to do other hikes if we didn’t get it. And in June, we got the permit on the day we arrived in Yosemite. We were so excited and yet not fully believing that we were to go up Half Dome the day after arriving!

The four of us arrived in Yosemite Valley, in awe of the views of the famous rocks – El Capitan, Half Dome, the beautiful sheer walls of rock rising above the valley floor. We settled into our tent cabin in Curry Village and turned in early. The next morning, we arose around 4am and hit the trails by 5:15am, leaving Curry Village for the Half Dome trailhead on the Mist Trail. I had no idea what was in store for this 14.2 mile, one-day, grueling hike; and that’s a good thing, otherwise, I probably would not have gotten out of bed that morning.

It was a crazy long, crazy strenuous, crazy beautiful, and crazy worth-it hike. We had day packs because we were going up and down in one day. The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold and just gorgeous.

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We hit Nevada Falls and Vernal Falls along the way up and back. We ran into people of all shapes, ages, sizes going up the trail (all seeming to pass us – were we really that slow?). And we just kept on trudging along. One step at a time. Stopping for snacks and breaks. I won’t go in detail of the long long trek. But we made it to the bottom of the cables, and I was about to give up. It had been such a grueling hike, and then we were supposed to risk our lives climbing a sheer vertical cliff, pulling ourselves up by these cables? No way! In the photo below, see that line that goes up that rock? Look really closely – that’s a line of people going up the cables!

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With a lot of pep talking each other, we decided to keep going. After all, isn’t that what we came for? And we made it to the top. It was an amazing feeling, and we rejoiced! And then we had to go back down. I’ve never been so tired and so semi-conscious on a hike in my life.

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All in all, here are the stats:

  • 14.2 miles round trip
  • 4800 feet elevation change
  • 14.5 hours
  • no blisters
  • lots and lots of aching muscles

I’m glad I did some training beforehand (running a few miles once or twice a week, practicing yoga once or twice a week, walking the stairs wherever I could) otherwise, I don’t think I could have done it. It was amazing.

The next day, we did the Upper Yosemite Falls trail – another challenging hike. This was a 6.8 mile round trip with “only” 2700 feet elevation change, and it took us “only” 8 hours. This trail is notorious for its infinite number of switchbacks (in reality, about 60, but it sure felt like a neverending number!). No rest for us who came from far away to see the beauty of Yosemite National Park!

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Our final day, with muscles aching and energy spent, we drove up to Glacier Point, opting out of the Four Mile Hike which would have been a pretty strenuous hike. Thank goodness we just drove – there’s a lookout point, and an ice cream shop; it’s pretty touristy – definitely not a rewarding summit after a long hike. But we got to see a panoramic view of the hikes we had done the days before. Wow. In the photo below, Half Dome is the big bare rock on the left. And Vernal and Nevada Falls are on the right – that’s all part of the Mist Trail that we did.

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Recent Reads

I’ve been plowing through books on my iPad these past months.  It’s nice to be back to reading more regularly after not for so long.  And I’m getting used to reading on an e-reader.  BUT, my love of physical books is not diminished.  If I had a bigger house and more room for more bookcases, I’d be buying more books.

Recently, a friend posted this on his Facebook feed:tsundoku

That is me to a “T.”  I love just having books upon books around me.  I’ve got at least 4 books on my nightstand, a bookshelf in my bedroom, an even bigger one in the living room, and I’d have another one if I could!

But back to the books I’ve been reading.  Here are some that I’ve read all the way through (meaning they were enjoyable.  I also have a slew of books that I started and couldn’t get into for whatever reason):

Mo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove by Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson

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This was a lot of fun to read.  Questlove is a philosophizing music nerd.  He even says he probably would have been diagnosed with autism if he were a child in today’s age.  The book is a mix of stream of consciousness, allusions and references to music from all kinds of genres, socio-political commentary, and just plain autobiography about this musical genius/ giant.  I get these fixations of finding a person/ group/ concept and doing a lot of background research to understand him/her/them/it better.  So The Roots have been on my recent fix, mostly from seeing them on the Jimmy Fallon show (see previous post), listening to Questlove on Fresh Air with Terry Gross, and subsequently watching their music videos on YouTube.  They’re an interesting bunch.  This is a book I want to buy for my bookshelf.

Just finished How to Be an American Housewife by Margaret Dilloway.

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I came across this on my Overdrive app for one of the public libraries that I belong to, and though I was worried about the starting point of it being about a Japanese woman married to a US serviceman post WWII (a bit cliche, in my opinion), I thought I’d give it a try.  And it was surprisingly good.  There was the usual heartache-y storyline that comes with the whole culture clash thing and the struggles and sacrifice that an Asian warbride experiences.  But instead of focusing on the love story, it focused on her, her daughter, and her relationship with her brother and family back in Japan.  The white husband was barely present.  I get tired of that overplayed story of the Asian woman/ white man relationship which provides escape for the Asian woman from a repressive and oppressive Asian culture.  So this had more depth of story and character development.  Not worth buying, but it was a good read.

A friend of mine bought me this book in preparation for a trip we’re taking to Iceland: Jar City by Arnaldur Indriðason

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This was a mystery/ suspense story (nothing too intense for me; I’m a wimp when it comes to books, movies, and TV shows).  Also a good read.  Interesting story line, not very predictable, set in a country I don’t know.  This was actually in book form, so that was a good break from the usual e-reader format.  I’m curious to know what else this author has up his sleeves.

Also read Last Night in Montreal by Emily St. John Mandel

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I really don’t remember how I came across this, maybe from a book review online.  But it was a happy accident.  This was a really beautifully written book about a girl and a boy.  Basically a love story but told in such a lyrical way, nonlinear, through memories of different characters.  All to describe the life of the main character Lilia.  It’s too hard to explain the book’s storyline because it really is simply a love story.  But tie in a father and mother with unique stories, lots of road tripping across the U.S., Montreal, a detective with his own quest.  And I was drawn in.

Books have always been my escape from reality, not that reality was bad or anything, but a way to jump into another world as an intensely connected spectator.  I love deep and complex characters.  I love beautifully crafted language.  And with this world of online borrowing, I can just start a book, see if I like it and then move on if I’m not hooked right away.

Here are some books I started and just couldn’t get into:

  • Too Big To Fail (about the stock market crash in 2008)
  • Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close (not sure, it started off OK but I just couldn’t get through it)
  • A Visit from the Goon Squad (another that started off well and then got tedious)
  • Bel Canto (ditto)
  • Please Look After Mom (a translation from a Korean author – I wanted to like it, but maybe I’ll need to try again)

What suggestions do you have out there?

P is for “Packing”

It had to start sooner or later. When one leaves the country, packing is an inevitable step in the process.

Sigh.

I hate packing.  At one point in my life, I was packing and moving every year– that started when I entered college and then didn’t stop until about nine years ago and then it became more sporadic.  But in the last year, I’ve had to pack and move a few times.  I’m ready for it to end!  But alas, it is not to be for another while until I figure out where I end up after my travels…

So here’s the first step– packing up part of my kitchen.  That yielded 11 boxes.  Along with a few pieces of furniture and my bike.  This first batch will be stored at a friend’s house in Pembroke.

The bulk of my boxes will be books, I think.  That comes next.  And then the rest of my kitchen (the perishables mainly).  And the random things that don’t fit any category (how does that always end up being so much, too?).  My files, which I’m trying to purge most of, since you can get things like bank statements and credit card bills online these days.  And finally my clothes which are going with me cross country in my car.

Each time I pack, I try to get rid of things.  But I manage to keep accumulating at the same time.  Stop the madness!!

Thanks to the help of my friend, today’s packing was pretty painless.  And we rewarded ourselves with a yummy dinner:

Lots of CSA goodness– hers and mine. Caprese salad, sauteed eggplant with basil, and shiso with her own yummy concoction of ginger, apple, pine nuts, soy sauce, sesame oil, and red pepper.  Tasty!

I can’t believe it’s only two weeks before I leave.  Where did the time fly to?  I still have a number of things to do (here comes a list!):

  • set my change of address with the postal service.
  • confirm my first WWOOF site in New Zealand (no one’s responding to my emails!  I’m getting a little worried…).
  • pack and store the rest of the my stuff in various friends’ basements.
  • get my bank accounts, credit cards, and debit cards set for use.
  • fill my car tires with air.
  • sell off some furniture that I’m not going to keep.
  • eat the rest of the food in my fridge and freezer!
  • pack up stuff at my office and finish that transition.
  • prepare good bye gifts and cards for everyone that I want.

Deep breath.

I’m going to yoga tomorrow.  That will help get me centered again.

O is for “Outside the Box”

I’ve been doing this activity with youth that I work with for many years:

Connect these 9 dots using only four lines following these few rules:
you cannot lift your pen in drawing the lines;
you cannot draw back over a line after it’s been drawn;
the lines must be connected.

When I first was presented this puzzle, I couldn’t solve it.  And most of the time, when I present the activity, people cannot get it.  Every so often, I get someone who really sees outside the box and is able to get the solution.

Thinking, being, doing things outside the box presents a dilemma for me.  I think I’ve lived a lot of my life outside the norm and dealing with the challenges that come with living outside the norm.  While I want to be outside the norm, or the box, I am at the same time acknowledging that there is a box.  But does acknowledging the box mean I just live my life in reaction and that my life exists because the box is there and will always be there?  I don’t want to live my life in reaction– in reaction to stereotypes, in reaction to what I’m told by society that I should be, in reaction to boxes and norms and expectations.

How do we create a new reality?  Is everything in society so entrenched that the boundaries of the box are etched in stone, permanent and unable to be rewritten and redrawn?  Is there some sense that the permanence is being lifted?

I guess I can answer my own questions by saying I have to find hope in the little things.  And hope even more that people are trying to push against the heavy dark lines outlining the boxes that confine us.  CSAs, craigslist, car and bike shares, wikipedia, and other mechanisms where people share, depend on each other, build a sense of shared destiny and vision are all signs that the box isn’t so confining as it can seem at times.

I was talking with a friend about relationships and how frustrating it is that society’s expectation of relationships can be so confining, limiting, and even detrimental to individuals when we try to pursue our own and a sense of collective happiness.  For example, though divorce has become more common, there is still a social stigma that makes it such a difficult experience (unless you’re a celebrity couple…).  Marriage is a social construction, in other words, man-made.  I wonder sometimes if (not that I’m opposed to committed, long-term relationships), if marriage for life is sometimes an unreasonable goal.  Am I just being cynical because it didn’t work out for me?

Let’s look at some realities:

  • people change at different rates and in different ways. Wouldn’t that affect a relationship if the changes aren’t in a similar direction for each person?
  • the longer you are with a person, the more you learn about them that you couldn’t have known when you first got together.  If you learn that you aren’t compatible later in life, is it fair to expect that you should stay together?
  • often people stay together for the sake of the children.  Wouldn’t it affect children negatively if their parents stayed together despite having all these negative feelings and tension?  Would the children know what it means to have a healthy, loving relationship if they didn’t see that in their own parents?

Again, maybe I’m just being cynical.  Or selfish at this point in my life as I get ready to embark on a physical and metaphysical journey.  I know marriage is hard work.  I know that relationships are hard work, and I am not saying these things to abdicate any responsibility of the hard work part.  But I think sometimes society (ie. people) has unrealistic expectations about “till death do us part” that make it really hard for people in bad/unhealthy/unworkable relationships to leave and move on without feeling guilty and like they didn’t try hard enough or they even failed.

Whew, where did all that come from?

Leaving on a positive note– I like to think about the possibilities of another world where societal expectations are not oppressive and limiting but actually open us up to more opportunities, 2nd and 3rd and 4th changes, new experiences, and the ability to grow into the fullest version of ourselves.

By the way, to solve the puzzle at the beginning, go online and do a search for “nine dots.”  You’ll see the picture of the solution in the images.

Megan Barber Celebrant

officiant for weddings to memorials, and everything in between

Carioca Cook

Sharing the love of food

Munchkin Guru

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Paradise Lot

Two plant geeks, one-tenth of an acre and the making of an edible garden oasis in the city

Appetite for Instruction

Searching, traveling, talking, reflecting, and exploring. Read along with me as I continue on my journey through life.

My Favourite Pastime

Food, Travel and Eating Out

Foodie Judie

Hot off the press to fresh out of the oven... ! The meandering thoughts of my food-obsessed alter ego, and my daily persona.

A Fast Paced Life

Running Commentary of a Dilettante's Life

Edible Startups

Bites of innovation in the food world