A few years ago, I went to this amazing writers retreat weekend put on by The Sun magazine in Big Sur, CA, and during the last morning we were all gathered and talking about what we felt about the end of the workshop, and a lot of people expressed some degree of sorrow at having to go back to their real lives, and someone brought up the quote that is the title of this blog post, which I think was originally said by some spiritual teacher or something. Ever since that workshop, I think of this quote anytime I’m saying goodbye to any kind of supercool experience and going back to my regular life, and that is the case this morning.
I’m leaving Portland in a few hours, and I have a heavy heart, and I’m glad the sky is dreary and overcast, not just because I always like that, but also b/c it fits. I had too much fun this month, coming to stay w/my friend Kelly so we could take a trip to Lollapalooza in Chicago together, meet up with a bunch of friends for the festival, take an awesome road trip back to the west, and after that were my two weeks in Portland trying to start up OR residency so school can be somewhat more reasonable next year.
Where to even start? There is so much to say. The Lolla/road trip has been in the works since April. My friend emailed me about the possibility while I was in India and I remember it feeling like a beacon of light in a way, an adventure to look forward to after getting home. India was also an adventure of course, but it was a really difficult one, so it was really nice to have something to look forward to that would be a little more smooth and simple, yet still would cover new territory.
Lolla was awesome. I saw TOOL for the 4th time and they are fucking AMAZING live as usual. But those guys really, really need to shake up their freakin’ setlist. I mean, really now. They have such a great catalog of songs, and I am craving more of it. Also saw Rise Against, The Killers (very excited and into it audience for them) and Snoop Dogg. Left the show for awhile on Friday night and had a random kinda crazy meetup with two of the girls from my India trip. It later involved literally running through the streets of Chicago trying to meet back up w/my group to catch a train. And the friend I was running with was barefoot and muddy. It rained like crazy that day, and two of my friends used plastic tablecloths as ponchos, of which I have photo evidence that I probably should refrain from posting :) And one friend Leo got hair dye in her eye b/c of the rain and it stained her contacts! The best part of the whole weekend, even better than Tool and Maynard was getting to hang out with some great people who I don’t get to see nearly often enough.
I was definitely feeling overwhelmed by the crowds at the festival, not exactly my thing. When I was trying to get around Chicago with Nina from my India trip I told her that I was out of my element and she laughed and said, “I’ve seen you much more outside of your element,” and I agreed, b/c crazy as some of it was, it was not India.
So the deal with the road trip was that we flew to Chicago and then met up with Kelly’s neighbor Shannon as she was driving cross country back to Oregon. She had her dog with her, a fluffy, teddy-bear looking australian shepherd that got nonstop attention wherever we went. We piled into the car and headed west, making camp the first night in Wisconsin. From there we drove through Minnesota and into South Dakota, where it took us forever to try to see the sculptures in Sioux Falls (never mind trying to see the Falls). That night our campsite was RIGHT on the time zone line from Central to Mountain time – when we went from one part of the area to another, our cell phones switched back and forth.
The next day we drove all through SD and had the hardest time finding a campsite in the Black Hills area, which I have to say was a really gorgeous area, really lush, really adorable little towns, and we drove through a rainshower and I always think everything looks beautiful in the rain. We drove into this one park and had to pay an admissions fee to even go look for a campsite, then drove through this loooong and winding road called the Needles Highway, which had these amazing rock formations, just incredibly cool, but when we finally got to the camp area, everything was full and we had to find somewhere else. We set up camp and went to an evening program at Mt. Rushmore. Oh this was after driving to Crazy Horse, but we didn’t really go in there b/c they wanted to charge so much to basically look a bit closer at what we could already see. So fuck that.
We got up and the next morning and went to the Badlands which are also really cool. I will have to post pictures because the Badlands are hard to describe, but amazing to witness. I felt like we got to see some really incredible parts of the country while driving and camping through them, and that was fucking cool. There is some really amazing landscape. And animals! We saw bison, donkeys, prairie dogs in the distance, heard coyotes, saw a bear while driving at one point, and I don’t even remember what else. Lots of bison, which is cool b/c I didn’t think there were really still that many out there.
And then there was the rodeo. In Cody, Wyoming, a memorable experience that I never ever need to re-experience. You might call it a supposedly fun thing I’ll never do again. I couldn’t see most of what happened for the actual rodeo. And unfortunately I could hear the announcer, who was this radio clown telling really, really offensive racist and sexist jokes, yelling out how proud he was to be a redneck, and just incessant blather. Afterwards, I felt just kind of all around grossed out and disgusted. During parts of our camping trip we were in really conservative territory, holy shit for sure.
We spent the next day in Yellowstone, which is just a massive, massive park. We didn’t even see parts of it that we had meant to, like the Boiling River. There are just so many amazing things to look at, like a lake so huge (and with waves) that looks like the ocean, and all kinds of geysers, and pools of this orange mineral stuff. Really vibrant colors. I wish I knew more about what caused and formed all of these things. That night we had to search for firewood on the side of the road, around dusk, and piled it all into the back of the car with the dog. Oh and we got a free campsite that night – someone who had already paid had decided to leave and so that was one of those awesome, cool experiences that comes with travel.
After that we drove through Idaho and into eastern Oregon and stayed at this beautiful lake. The stars were incredible. A few different times we just had amazing skies during the trip, and we were able to see the dipper and the milky way, and some shooting stars. Our last day we spent in the Painted Hills, which really are amazing looking with red and tons of green. We took hikes and stopped at a local museum to learn about the nearby fossil beds and history of the area. From there we drove back to Portland through the lushness of Mt. Hood.
It was a great trip full of awesome music and good times. It was nice though to get back and sleep in a real bed and not have to set up and take down camp every day.
All during the trip I was going through an internal indecisive struggle. It’s a common thing I wrestle with. While in Chicago I got a call from my school saying I would most likely get housing, even though I had been wait-listed three times at that point. And that little flicker of hope made me want to say screw the center in Denver, I’m starting school. But I couldn’t decide. I really, really wanted to start school. I have been putting it off awhile, I have been thinking about it for years, and seriously looking into it for the last two. I felt so beyond ready, and desperate for intellectual stimulation. I felt really gung ho about doing some science shit. I was going to go part-time b/c doing that, I could sort of afford it despite the lack of good financial aid, sort of, and at the end of the year, I’d be considered an in-state resident.
I kept going back and forth in my mind. I wanted to go to school, I knew that, but I also kept remembering what Desmond from my India trip always said, b/c I think it’s a good motto to live by: “Make the choice that you would regret not making.” I knew that if I didn’t choose the Colorado Center, I’d probably always wonder what skills I could have gained or what it could have been like and how it could have enriched my life, but still, I was going to try to make school work. So I set about calling and doing paperwork crap only to get denied for a loan and wait listed again for housing. I still wanted to try but I sort of came to my senses and was like, okay, obviously the thing to do here is go to the Colorado Center. And that started to really feel right. But I spent my first week after the road trip dealing with that.
The second week, I had fun. I got to see a good friend of mine who used to live on Orcas who I rarely get to see anymore. I got to hang out with a long time internet friend. That was really freakin’ cool. And things started to get busier at my friend’s house during that second week. We had people over. We went out – to wine tasting, to exploring the Hawthorne area of Portland, to a movie showing about mental health, to an art street fair (at which I got out of the car feeling strongly that I would run into someone I knew from Orcas, which turned out to be a very accurate prediction as I ran into the boat captain for the camp I used to work at), and one night we actually went to a strip club – not my idea. So there were four of us women who I think all consider ourselves like mostly straight, watching some naked girls. I was iffy about going, but it turned out to not feel seedy really, and also was pretty impressive – fire dancing and all. Yet another new experience I suppose.
We also had one sort of somber but beautiful morning, all four of us girls just sitting around and talking. It was a bit heavy b/c some of them were going through some tough stuff, but at the same time it was kind of cool to just talk and share insights and listen to kinda brooding music (Elliot Smith, Into the Wild soundtrack, Chris Cornell’s Euphoria Morning, Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam) and contemplate life, and incorporate tarot readings into it. Actually we had two weird music/tarot coincidences. I was giving this girl a reading about her love life and right before I turned over the first card the PJ song “Love Boat Captain” came on and someone remarked about that. Then later once I’d read for everyone else I did my own reading and I turned over The Tower (which is kind of a scary card honestly, was not thrilled to have that show up in the center of my reading), and just as I turned it over, the PJ song “You Are” came on, but I couldn’t think of the name of the song or anything, just that it had lines about towers, and it was like whoa, weird.
Anyway on the last full day it was kind of cool b/c we went to this place called Cup & Saucer, which was actually the first place I ever went in Portland ever, all the way back in 2001, the first time I met Kelly, and I love stuff like that, when things feel symmetrical in some way. While we were there I kept noticing this woman with this really unique purple and pink dyed hair, and there had been a lot of hair dying at the house, and I felt inspired and impulsive, so that last night, Kelly’s daughter and her friend dyed my hair purple with pink streaks. It came out a rich deep purply pink and I LOVE it.
And now I’m headed back north. Feel like I did more in the last month than I do in some years (trips to India not included). It is hard to imagine being back on Orcas. I’m all packed up, and doing laundry before I start the long journey and trying to think positively about things I can look forward to about going back to my place, like sleeping in my own bed, seeing Orcas friends, remembering that fall is my favorite season on Orcas, and trying not to obsessively count the days until I can leave the island again. Already planning a possible off-island day trip with a friend, and looking forward to seeing Pearl Jam and David Cross in a few weeks, and getting my shit together for Denver.
In the meantime I’ll probably go back to watching House, Grey’s Anatomy and The Office while going through my stuff and making preparations so that I can be ready to move out when it’s time to go to the Colorado Center. And of course, counting the days until those three shows premiere. I mean, come on, House is committed, Pam’s pregnant and George and Izzie might be dead. That’s some excitement to look forward to!