Sunday, September 11, 2011

Moving Day

I wrote out these thoughts as I packed the last remnants of my physical life in Boston. As I watched my former roommates and friends move to new residences, I culled unnecessary belongings and forced my remaining possessions into my Honda Fit in preparation for my cross-country move. I have since said goodbye to Boston, and am nearing the end of my stop-over in Boulder, CO before driving the rest of the way to Berkeley, CA in time to start my internship on the 15th of September. I have more to say in review of my summer as well as about the opportunities I'm pursing in California. But, for now, I'll post my moving day thoughts and the promise of more to come:

September is a time of change - the city streets fill with orange and white Uhaul trucks, bringing people away from homes they know into new prospects and possibilities. Girls in ripped jean shorts sport messy pony tails as they wipe sweat from their brows, tanned from the summer sun. Boys in cargo pants and ratty t-shirts lift and push and pull furniture too large and too heavy for the last breaths of hot summer air. Students strut around in new school uniforms, from skinny jeans and hipster glasses to pleated, well-ironed and unseasonal wool. The air is thick with goodbyes followed by hellos, reunions, departures, direction. Everyone headed somewhere, beginning the transitions of fall in preparation for the harsh, cold and settled nature of winter.

For now, my direction is West, following the seemingly never-ending sunsets as I drive to my new home. I'm bracing myself for temperate weather, for forming, out of the rambling of my summer, a daily routine, for languid weekend afternoons in the park, for the satisfaction brought only by exhaustion at the end of a long and successful day in the office. And I couldn't be more excited.

Yet I already miss the falls I've known in New England. I miss the earthy smells that come from the fallen leaves, the colors that litter the landscape, draped over beautiful, stylish women, emanating from the late afternoon sun, reflecting off the lush full trees as they begin their seasonal changes. I miss the opportunities of fall, like the chance of sun, appreciated like a rare gem amidst the ever-cooling days. I miss the chill in the mornings, the feel of hot coffee on cool lips; the fabrics, chunky, soft and reassuring against the bare, bronzed flesh of summer. I miss apple cider, pumpkin pie, the excited entry into the season of family and settled, stable love. I miss all the people I haven't yet left behind that serve as the pillars of my emotional landscape.

I even miss the way fall makes me uneasy, like the worst is yet to come, and even the possibility that the best is, too. Like so much is already done and behind me, but so much is left to accomplish. I miss the discordance of turning an overly bright, thin-fabricked summer wardrobe to the colors and weight of autumn. I miss the frenetic rush to milk each moment out of the changing seasons. I miss the knowledge, possible only in hindsight, of how all these uncertain falls of my past resolved and of the love, warmth and success they harbored.

But now I go West, uncertain, yet again, of what this season brings and even where this winter will find me. I am, however, full - of prospects, of emotions, of the teary goodbyes and excited hellos that have yet to be said, and, as I take the final look over my erstwhile home, full of the all the possibilities, direction and changes of fall and all it means to me.

View of the Flatirons from Boulder, CO:

Monday, August 22, 2011

A Heart-Wrenching Goodbye

In the 1950s, my grandparents bought a beautiful ocean-front house in Saltaire on Fire Island, NY. 8 years ago, we sold it but with a provision that allowed us to rent it back for two weeks each August... for 8 years. So today is my last day in my family house, the end of an era that spans my entire lifetime (and practically all of my father's) and connected me to a grandmother I never had the privilege of meeting as well as family, friends and experiences that have shaped me in every possible way. I am full of gratitude for the years I've had here, flooded with memories I know will forever remain some of my fondest and, although I'm sure I will be back out to visit, feeling like I'm saying a heart-wrenching goodbye.

Late afternoon view from the upper deck:

Placard honoring my grandmother at the Fire Island lighthouse:

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Festival Livin'

Although this now seems shocking to me, before this summer I had never been to an outdoor music festival. The reasoning behind that sad fact (festi-fail?) escapes me, but it has since been remedied, first with Grey Fox Bluegrass Festival in Oak Hill, NY from July 13th-17th and then with RockyGrass Bluegrass Festival in Lyons, CO from July 28th-31st. My version of heaven just might be a cold beer in the hot sun, friends and a bluegrass jam. It's safe to say that I am absolutely hooked.

There are no accolades too high for the beauty of enjoying festivals with friends, old and new, and, in the case of RockyGrass, family too. From the hot sun to the cold beers, the sweaty and energetic dancing to the chilled and rambling rivers that abutted both festivals, the free-flowing whiskey that filled the cool evening air with warmth, the on-stage performances to the impromptu jams that lasted until sunrise, there was almost too much to enjoy and the perfect company with whom to enjoy it.

I'm hoping to make it to Hardly Strictly Bluegrass in San Francisco, especially since my plans are leading me more and more towards at least a short stay in Berkeley. Either way, I will keep my silly festival hat at the ready!

I have a few more short days in Colorado before heading out to the beach in New York, I will post pictures and updates from my time here soon!

Our 3(ish) AM departure from Boston to Grey Fox - I was squished into a tiny little space in the backseat:

Grey Fox stylin':

Friends watching at the main stage at Grey Fox:

My friend Eric and I off to the main stage at RockyGrass from our campsite:

Morning in our shade tent at RockyGrass:

My Boston roommate, Celia, and her kickass female bluegrass band, Della Mae, at RockyGrass:

Me and my momma:

The Del McCoury Band killing it at RockyGrass:

Tubing on the St. Vrain at RockyGrass:

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Travel Day Updates (Posted two weeks late...)

The moment I sent off my post from Oakland, I zoomed (as much as one can in a van that size through the highways of the Bay Area) to the San Francisco airport to retrieve my darling Alecia. Alecia has been my best friend for nineteen years and, more than that, has always been a source of inspiration, support and excellent times. And her role in this new chapter is no exception, as she not only joined me for a part of my adventure but also recently bought a one-way ticket to Thailand in October to continue her own explorations and life education.

Me and Alecia:

Our first stop was to spend a lovely afternoon and evening with my uncle in San Francisco, after which we connected with old formerly Boulder-based friends. This, too, was incredible and incredibly fun. From dessert tarts in San Francisco to mojitos by the pool, catching up with dear friends while both rekindling and growing old friendships was more fun and more illuminating that I could have hoped. But, as I'm finding to be my new norm, the wilderness called us away after a few short days.

From there, we drove up through Mendocino, seeing both the amazing California coast and the redwoods that seem to dwarf not only your thoughts but even the sky itself. After an evening drive North through the Avenue of the Giants and some adventures in urban van camping, we spent the next afternoon at a swimming hole (complete with rock jump) that we spotted from the road as we drove along the Smith River in Northern California. Unfortunately, the jump into the water ruptured my ear drum, which ended up being a trivial injury after a doctor's appointment and round of antibiotics following our arrival on Whidbey Island. From the swimming hole, we drove up to Crater Lake, OR, arriving to see a beautiful dusk, a bright shining moon and countless stars that were almost as plentiful as the mosquitoes. We camped along side the lake, where we then woke to watch the sun rise. Words can not possibly express the splendor of that view, but I am certain I shall never forget it.

Mendocino Coastal Views:

The joys of driving the CA coast:

The rock jump/swimming hole:

Crater Lake at sunrise:

After a day of hiking just West of the lake and an afternoon in a beautiful natural hot springs, we then watched the sun set on the Oregon Coast outside of the Rogue Brewery, where we did a fabulous beer tasting. We spent the next day on the beach on the Oregon Coast, meeting up with another dear friend from Boulder who is on a road-trip odyssey of her own. We ate dinner and then brunch in Portland, and Alecia and I spent the day exploring the city. After some more supplying (and a rather humorously mediocre rooftop happy hour), we hit the road for my dad and step-mom's place on Whidbey Island, where I had originally picked up the van.

Taps Abound at the Rogue Brewery:

Oregon Beach Day Views:

Whidbey is one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I've ever been, which means even more now that it did a few weeks ago. The house stands sentinel on the edge of a bluff overlooking the Puget Sound and, across the water, the Olympic Mountains. The beach below inspires long walks, where the conversant mind flourishes and the passing of time continues unnoticed. The living spaces my step-mom, Susie, created feel open and inviting, homey and warm but still conducive to independence and reflection. The whole landscape breeds contentment and relaxation. Even Alecia, who (as my foil) is somewhat difficult to impress, openly declared her love for it and the sense that she could see building a life there. It was a beautiful place to end to an incredible trip.

The view at Whidbey:

From the picture window in the main house (aka Sue's masterpiece):

Alecia on the bluff at sunset:

All along our way from San Francisco to Whidbey, we hiked, explored, ate deliciously well (with Alecia introducing me to her raw theory of eating), talked, laughed, connected, and, most uniquely for me, sat in comfortable silence. With the van as our home, we parked wherever we could find (which awarded many stories worth telling) and went wherever we felt moved to go. The freedom and simplicity of this rambling lifestyle is incredibly appealing to me. It gives me the chance to nurture these places in my heart that sometimes get overlooked by goal-oriented and progress-driven pursuits, but bring me a deep sense of contentment.

I found myself sitting at the Seattle airport, where I wrote almost all of this post two weeks ago, waiting for the first of two flights that took me back across the country to my erstwhile home in Boston. The time in the West Coast still feels too short and, while the adventure is certainly not done, I felt some sadness about closing this chapter of it. I may not be done with van life (van-ity, van-itude, what can I say - I'm a van fan) and I certainly feel unprepared to make decisions about my next longer-term steps.


In fact, I'm starting to see my decisions in ever smaller packages - instead of planning my entire life, I started my trip trying to plan the next year. And now, instead of planning a whole year, I'm thinking in even shorter terms. Right now, that looks like a few months in Berkeley to start with an open schedule that allows me to explore a new place in more depth while still being open to seek new opportunities.

In some ways, this feels like delaying, a stalling tactic to give myself a reprieve from the overwhelming number of choices that represent my possible future paths. But so what if it is? Whether I am merely a passenger or force myself to act as conductor, time continues to pass, and with each moment comes experience and growth. Now is the time for me to allow my life to simply unfold, and I have to believe that clarity will emerge. In this moment, at this time in my life, my clarity is that I'm not ready or prepared to choose, and, instead, I need to continue to allow myself to be open to experience, to go where I'm drawn, to learn all I can and to make the most of this incredible journey.

An fittingly beautiful sunset I caught from the airplane to Boston:

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Off Again!

I returned late last night from the West Coast after an absolutely AMAZING trip, spent just over 24 hours in Boston and am now about to head off, in the dead of night, to Grey Fox Bluegrass Music Festival in NY!! Back Sunday, updates and about a million photos to follow!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!

After four amazing solo days in and around Yosemite National Park, I arrived at a friend's house in Oakland yesterday evening in dire need of a shower, with a case of the perpetual sniffles from a summer cold I seem to have caught and in absolutely excellent spirits.

There was a time in my life where the idea of four days alone in the wilderness, mostly without cell service, would have bordered on my definition of hell. In fact, not that long ago, even a few evenings in a row without social plans would have left me feeling isolated. In setting out on this trip, though, I actively sought loneliness, trying to provide myself the space to be completely responsible to no one but myself and be taken out of my comfort zone. I was excited about this, but I recognized it also as an act requiring of me a bit of courage.

When I set out on Monday, I was euphoric - the simple fact that I was doing it was incredible to me. This lasted me through an absolutely stunning drive over Highway 108 North over Yosemite instead of crossing through it, getting the van temporarily stuck in a muddy pull off (and being helped out by a kind stranger), and arriving at Mono Lake. When I arrived, however, the visitor center where I planned to stop for more information had already closed, the sun was setting and I had a moment of panic.

The place I had thought I might stay was an ugly RV park, devoid of views and teeming with people - not at all the wilderness escape I had envisioned. So, I drove up to a vista point over Mono Lake, pulled out my maps, and realized there were some camp sites up the road en route to the Eastern entrance of Yosemite. A few deep breaths and some good luck later, I had found a decent spot to camp. However, as it was past dusk and quite buggy at this point and I was lacking bug spray and a decent lantern, I had a somewhat pathetic dinner of chips and salsa and cheese on the floor of the van and tucked in, slightly defeated, for an early bed time.

The next day, however, I woke rejuvenated and ready for new challenges (and ready to get some supplies I hadn't realized I was lacking). In short, from that point on, I had an incredible morning at Mono Lake, hiking around a portion of the perimeter without seeing a single other person, ventured in to Yosemite, where I hiked up to Dog Lake in the late afternoon. I camped that night East of the park again, but left enough time and had the right equipment to make not only dinner but also a lovely camp fire. Wednesday, I took a foggy but beautiful drive through the park and into the valley, secured a top spot on the waitlist for a campsite in the park that night (which I later got), hiked up to Vernal Fall, via the granite staircase of 600 plus steps and got absolutely soaked by rain and water off the fall, which was incredible. I was starting to feel a little tired from the onset of my cold, so I took the shuttle in to Yosemite Village and explored around there, where I saw a baby black bear from the window of one of the shuttle buses. The next day I hiked to Mirror Lake and then drove up to Granite Point and hiked down (and then back up) some of the Panoramic Trail to Illiloutte Fall. Got a late start back to the Bay area after an awesome hike, and arrived in Oakland well after dark. After one of the best showers I have ever had, my friend (and host) Marlowe and I had a fabulous evening catching up over beers.

The last few days alone renewed my sense of independence, strength and capability. I felt decisive and clear-headed and, other than a few moments on the first night, I was not only happy but deeply content. Other people and relationships are so important to me that I think I sometimes risk forgetting my own desires and abilities, which serves no one in the end. There's more to say here, and more I'm still processing, but it was amazing and I will be making a point of seeking out solitude more often.

For now, though, I must run to go pick up my friend Alecia from the airport who is joining me for the next leg of my trip. She has been a huge part of my life since I picked her out on the first day of kindergarten and forced her to be my friend and I can't wait to continue my explorations and adventures with her at my side!

Mono Lake:

Dog Lake:
Vernal Fall:
Baby bear:
Yosemite Valley:
View of Half Dome from Granite Point:

Monday, June 27, 2011

A Quick(ish) Update from Concord, CA

I am on Day 6 of my trip and finally stopped for a long enough internet-capable second to update:

I arrived in Seattle on Tuesday and spent a fabulous night out in Ballard with a local friend. Flying in, I had the most amazing clear views of Mount Rainier and the Cascades. Leaving Boston was, obviously, not without its challenges: leaving meant ending my routine as I know it, leaving my job and my apartment without the chance of returning to them, organizing all my belongings and finances and then saying goodbye, at least temporarily, to people I love dearly. I arrived in good spirits, however, bolstered by that delicious Bloody Mary, the beautiful scenery and a warm welcome.

Seattle has always appealed to me, and this short trip through was no deviation. I had amazing local oysters, excellent local beer, strong and delicious Stumptown coffee (grounds of which I bought to bring for the rest of the trip) and an absolutely perfect brunch, all with the Seattle vibe and views I'm coming to recognize and adore.

Leaving Seattle on Wednesday, I took a bus to a bus to a ferry to a bus to my parents' property out on Whidbey Island. There, I picked up the Dodge van with the bed in the back that will be my home for the next few weeks, organized the extra supplies they so sweetly mailed to me, packed my stuff in road-safe slip-proof spots in the van and hit the road, destination: Berkeley.

The drive down is about 14 hours, so I planned to do it in two days and stop somewhere for the night. I made it just South of Portland, where I stopped for a burger and great local beer (Double Mountain India Red Ale, to be clear, which I would highly recommend), and then slept in a hospital parking lot in the van.

Thursday, on the recommendation of a very road-savvy friend who once traveled across the country on his motorcycle, I stopped in to Ashland, OR. I found an excellent local food coop and got some supplies, debated but decided against trying one of the local breweries and wandered around the picturesque upscale crunchy downtown. This, my friends, is a very cool Boulder-esque town and I really enjoyed the stop there.

I arrived in Berkeley Thursday evening and met up with my friend Dylan, with whom I would spend the weekend. He showed me around his adorable neighborhood and then to the delicious Picante Mexican restaurant for dinner, where I recognized a Smithie I hadn't seen since 2007 (I had also recognized a Boulderite in a coffee shop in Seattle - the world is awfully small sometimes). The rest of the weekend deserves more than I have time to say right now, but, in short: Cheeseboard's cheesy bread for breakfast, walk in Cesar Chavez park on the marina, Berkeley Bowl for the best gourmet groceries, drive to Ukiah, CA, stay in an adorable cabin at the secluded, beautiful and private Orr Hot Springs, soak in the water under the open sky and shooting stars until two in the morning, hike/walk the redwoods at Montgomery Woods, enjoy sunshine, the mineral pool and learning to play cribbage before leaving for Muir Beach. At Muir, play with Dylan's adorable 6 and 3 year old nieces, learn/play Settlers of Catan with his wonderful sister and brother-in-law, wake up with the girls to an amazing view of the beach, go for a stunning coastal hike while discussing non-profits, careers and direction with Dylan's amazing sister (a fellow Smithie), see a baby coyote on the trail, get to the beach just as the cloud cover burns off, play with Dylan and the girls in the water and on the beach (after which a stranger sarcastically told us, "You don't have enough fun"), head back to Berkeley and then off for Concord.

I arrived at my aunt's house in Concord last night and got to spend some time with my aunt and cousin, which pleases not only my mother but also me greatly. I have done some laundry, repacked and organized my mobile home, and planned for the next few days, where I am now headed to drive through Yosemite to Mono Lake, where I will stay and take day trips in to the park. I am hoping to take some pictures of my own, but I found this one of Mono Lake online and am excited to see it's bizarre landscape and isolated locale.

The trip so far has been incredibly relaxing, fun, luxurious and social. I feel so lucky, thankful and happy. I am also really looking forward to the next few days of solitude in the wilderness before I return to San Francisco on Thursday or Friday to meet Alecia at the airport, as she will be joining me for the North-ward leg of the trip.

Not surprisingly, given my overly-analytical nature, I have been doing a huge amount of reflecting, thinking and processing. I have challenged myself, however, to not try to solve any of my questions or force tangible growth. Instead, I am focusing on the adventure and the enjoyment, trying to truly appreciate these amazing moments. I have found some success in quieting my never-ending internal monologue and the moments of peaceful content have been more and more frequent as time goes on.

Now, I must run to my next stop, I will try to post pictures sometime soon! I have also been adding some pictures to Facebook from my iPhone when possible, if you want to see them:!/mmeaneyervin