Because one can only eat so many tomatillos.

I’ve always been inspired by landscape.

Of course, most writers are.

For John Updike it was the industrial mid-Atlantic and, later, the buttoned-up coastal towns of New England. For Gary Snyder it was the Cascades and the High Sierra, for Faulkner the humid, dripping South.

As we all know, WBY had County Sligo, and James Joyce, of course, was inseparable – in prose if not geography – from his beloved Dublin.

Ed Abbey and many like him had the desert of Southern Utah, and for years, I did, too.

In college, in my cold bedroom on Buckhout Street, I stayed up all night reading about red rock country through the words of Abbey and Terry Tempest Williams. At that point, I’d seen the desert only once, on a winter trip to Indian Creek. Back home in the sad Pennsylvania spring, I felt Utah calling me back.

In the years since, I’ve moved west and traveled to the desert dozens of times. Until now, I’ve maintained that the desert is my soul’s home, that its filagree of sage and tamarack inspires and sustains me.

But they don't, and neither do the improbable sandstone towers or stoic buttresses. The place has lost its enigma; it’s come to mean too much – a venue climbing successes and failures, a place to feel clumsy and awkward, a stage for letting Brad down.

And that’s the problem.

Brad loves the desert more than anyone I’ve ever seen. Normally reserved and calculated, he goes a little bit crazy as soon as Moab’s in the rearview and we’re barreling toward the highway 211 turn-off.

As I sit in the passenger seat, growing increasingly intimidated by my surroundings, Brad opens the windows and howls and calls the dogs to the front of the van to do the same. If they spot a rabbit, Brad brakes so hard the vehicle fishtails on the gravel. They clamor outside to where they last saw poor thumper, and I sit there praying for that rabbit’s deliverance from Arnie’s teeth.

You must understand: none of them – Arnie, Brad or Red – would ever purposely inflict pain on another creature (sure, Red gets a little bossy sometimes, but he’s mostly bark). They just get excited when they’re in the middle of nowhere—sans leashes and rules and schedules and pretense.

The desert is Brad’s Grateful Dead tour, his frat party, his drum circle, his dance club. It is the one place I’ve ever seen him drop his guard, throw his head back and relax completely.

So I feel guilty for not feeling the same.

Oh, I’ll still go there, of course. And I’ll have a wonderful time. But when we met, we connected over our shared love of climbing on sandstone. Years later, I’m more interested in rolling waves and rolling hills than I am desert sunsets, so where does that leave us?

I crave change – new sights and people and activities and experiences. Doing the same thing over and over causes me to compare one experience to the previous, causes me to compare myself to who I used to be, and somehow I keep falling short of my own expectations.

What was I saying about letting Brad down in the desert? Yeah, that's probably projection.

I guess I just need to remember that my life really isn't all that hard. I'm so lucky, so blessed - why create drama and stamp my feet and throw fits when, christ, I'm in the desert with the man and dogs I love; who cares how I'm climbing? Why not just have fun?

But that's what I do - I make a big deal out of things that aren't. Part of it, of course, is guilt. My life is so easy, if I were to only worry about huge problems, I'd never worry at all...I'd be just like Arnie. Sure, that'd probably be healthier, and god knows it'd be easier for my family and friends (and blog readers, because oh my god, believe me, even I'm getting tired of this love-hate-but-mostly-hate-lately affair I have with climbing; I can't imagine how you feel when you open up TWR and see yet another climbing post), but I'm not sure it's possible.

I love moving water more than anything else in nature. Its constant state of flux is calming to me because I, too, change moment to moment. I'm soothed by surf reports - even hundreds of miles from the nearest break - because they remind me that nothing is static, everything is a little bit different than it just was, and that's ok - it's natural. Exhausted and empty, I'm often a different person at 5 pm than I was at 5 am, when I hopped out of bed feeling happy. Like rivers and oceans, my moods surge and drain throughout the day.

The desert is different. Steadfast and still, its change is visible - just look at the arches - but slow. It ebbs and flows over decades, not hours, and while not always safe, it at least warns you when a storm is coming, when the calm is about to be rocked. My storms are far more sudden and unpredictable.

My friend, Kate, has recently begun to experiment with raw eating, and it sounds like it's working very well for her. Part of me wonders if a change in diet wouldn't help me regulate my energy and mood levels, but I'm so stubborn that as soon as I establish a rule for myself, I go out of my way to break it, just to prove that I can.

Maybe a better diet would help, but I'm so tired by the time I leave work and drive home that all my healthy, wholesome plans for the evening get trumped by eating chips and salsa for dinner and watching reruns of 30 Rock online. Since when am I so damn lazy?

I need to figure this out, though, because where I once ran 6 miles in the morning and did yoga and hiked with Arnie for two hours after work, I'm lucky now if I get out for a short jog or dog walk. I suppose I'm comparing myself to myself of fitness past again, but the thing is, I don't know where this new slothy version of myself is coming from. I don't like it, though - it's affecting my marriage, my happiness, my dog (I'm not the only one who could use more exercise...)...Where is this coming from? How do I fix it?


What do you expect from a country whose treasury secretary resembles Frodo Baggins?

Don’t you think?

A little unnerving. Me thinks he might blow the whole $350 large buying rounds of mead for his short-statured buddies at the Prancing Pony.

Of course, he also resembles a leprechaun, which might indicate that he’s fiercely guarding our hard won pot of gold.


Another “I should have gone to grad school but I didn’t so I’m taking it out on you” Post.

In my recent Yeats-reading fervor, I’ve been doing some external research (ahem, Wikipedia*, or Wikipaedia if you want to be fancy) on the man’s life. I know, I know, skimming a wiki page doesn’t count as “research,” but for all its shortcomings (lies, inaccuracies, completely made-up bullshit), it still provides a good lot of information, especially when it comes to lists of works – or oeuvres, if you want to be fancy**.

So I was reading Yeats’ list of works last night, deciding which of his poems or stories to tackle next, and I noticed an interesting statement in his bio.

“In 1997, (Yeats’) biographer R. F. Foster observed that Napoleon's dictum that to understand the man you have to know what was happening in the world when he was twenty ‘is manifestly true of W.B.Y.’”

I’d never heard that dictum, as I haven’t made a study of Napoleon’s quotes part of my oeuvre (ok, ok, I’ll stop). But I’m amazed at how true it seems. It brings to mind something I’m always yammering about – authenticity*** in writing. I recently accosted a new friend on the same subject, when he innocently asked who some of my favorite writers are. I’m sure he expected a list of four or five, not a three-page email explaining why, exactly, I adore Kay Boyle’s Death of a Man (because it is so tethered to its cultural and physical landscape, because it couldn’t have existed in any other time or place, because without the events of the world at the time of its writing, I wouldn’t have a highlighted, dog-eared copy of it on my bookshelf today).

And what I love about Yeats’ work (the little I’ve read) is sort of the same. He writes in the language of Ireland – his work firmly rooted in the landscape. But even so, he integrates mysticism and magic and possibility, which, in Ireland in the 1900s, one might truly have needed. Those weren’t the years of the Celtic Tiger, after all.

So it’s that. It’s that he can be authentic while spinning tales.

But good lord, no one asked. Next post? Back to pictures of dogs and climbing. I promise.

*Want to learn more about Wikiality? Check this out.

** I’ve been thinking about pretentious language lately, about how we use all-dolled-up words when a word in sweatpants would do. Part of it, I think, stems from cultural colloquialisms – the English of New England and the English of SoCal are vastly different. Same with the English of North America and that of the UK, especially in the way we hedge, or stall for time, or avoid saying what we want to say. Here, we’re prone to long “uummms,” and lots of “like, I means.” There, they say far cuter and more charming things, like, “so it would."

***I have no idea where my obsession with authenticity in writing came from. It’s especially weird because I read almost exclusively fiction…of course, I also frequently say, “there’s no such thing as fiction…it all comes from somewhere.”


Wisdom - now playing on a tea bag tag near you.

“Your greatest strength is love,” said the tag on my tea bag this morning.

And for some reason, it stopped me. I read my tea bag tags every morning and afternoon, and usually I just nod in agreement – the adages are always pleasant enough – and move right on.

But today was different. As I flipped the tag over on my way up the stairs to my office, I stopped abruptly, the words hitting me hard.

“Of course it is,” I thought. “Why don’t I use it more?”

I think about my physical strengths constantly. In yoga class, pulling hard on my heels in pada-mustasana, I think about my engaging biceps and locking my knees. Climbing, I think about my core, core, core. Running, I think about my quads. Even at work, sitting on my ball at my desk, I think about straightening my spine, sitting tall, dropping my shoulders….it’s never-ending.

But all those things are limited. I only have so much physical strength, and when it’s tapped, that’s it. I can’t give any more.

But love and compassion? Those wells run so deep I don’t believe I’ve ever touched the bottom. This morning, cleaning Arnie’s ears (he is getting over a nasty ear infection), I thought, “I would do this every day – ten times a day – if that’s what it took to keep Arnie healthy and happy.”

And kissing Brad goodbye, I said, “Call me if you need anything today.” And now, remembering that, I realize that I’d stop everything to help him, to make sure he’s as happy as possible….

And that’s totally true, though, I suppose I don’t always show it. I don’t allow my love to be stronger than all the other, weaker emotions I’m feeling.

And sure, “we’re always hardest on those we love,” or whatever that expression is…but what a lame thing to say—and an even lamer to practice. I’m guilty of it, of course. Poor Brad withstands my wrath when it’s 11pm and I have to get up at 4:30 to fit a run in before yoga and I can’t sleep and “why is it so goddamn hot in this room?” Or when were climbing and he makes a minor suggestion that will only help me but I get defensive and angry and storm off and leave him there, partner-less.

Christ, I’m hard on him. The poor guy. There are times when he’d be justified in doubting my bottomless well of love.

I’ve always been strong. Strong muscles, strong back, strong will (to an extent). Even at my least fit I can do a dozen pull-ups and the Lord of the Dance pose.

So if love is my GREATEST strength – stronger than my shoulders and my quads and my arm-wrestling prowess – imagine what I could do with it.

…If I put it to use; if I let it beat all the other bullshit that clouds my judgment.


Of course, well sure, so there you go.

I’ve mentioned this before, but my current travel obsession is the UK, and lately it’s expanded to include Ireland. Aside from my mild obsession with Celtic Thunder, I adore the work of William Butler Yeats – his belief in the possibility of the supernatural so strong one can’t help but agree with him, one can’t help but think that, perchance, the finches flocking to her backyard are there because they know how happy they make her husband, and did that small one just wink at her?

So there’s Yeats, of course, himself having grown up in County Sligo, near Strandhill and surfing and the Warrior’s Run, which I’d like to do if I ever happen to find myself on the coast of Ireland in late August.

But there’s more. There’s the lushness, the saturation of color and Earth and culture. It seems one can’t escape Ireland in Ireland, whereas one can barely find American culture in parts of this country. Christ, I grew up in a place where half the population handles snakes and speaks in tongues.

Ok, not really.

But that’s about it. Other than petting the dogs, climbing a little bit and doing some yoga, I’ve mostly been reading about Northern Ireland (fantastic Smithsonian article about the same) and the tenuous peace there…thinking about how lucky I am that I’ve never been targeted because of my beliefs or my last name or the street on which I live. It’s so far out of my realm of understanding – the unyielding tension that must come with such strife. And yet, for decades, the violent, tireless terrorism that has plagued Northern Ireland has been called, simply, "the troubles." Like, the guy at the petrol station in Derry should ask, "Well, having a bit of trouble with your car, so you are?" Or the guy in the surf shop in Strandhill should comment, "Having a wee bit of trouble on the white horses, aye?" But nothing, it seems, it too horrifying for the Irish to make quaint. I love that. I guess that's how they sleep at night. Like Julie, my favrite yoga teacher, mentioned recently: "Yeah, it's hot in this room, but you can't do anything about it, so why waste energy thinking about it?"

All this makes me think of a recent Onion headline, “Vacation to Israel Cancelled due to History of Israel.” That of course, reminds me of others, including one from Ireland, “Bar Fight Entering Third Year.”

Ah, I know I’m failing you, readers. I haven’t been keeping up with this blog, and when I do, it’s not really to impart anything super worthy or recall a cool trip; it’s just sort of, well, blahheresalltheboringstuffonmymindblah.

The truth? I’m actually writing a ton—for work, of course, but also personal stuff: poems, essays, spec articles. I’m not sharing that work here, though, because I’m not totally comfortable with it yet. I don’t know quite why. And as for the lack of trip reports, well, I’ve been a homebody lately, choosing to pore over maps and guidebooks that will lead to future big trips rather than driving 6 hours to climb for a day and a half before driving 6 hours back home. I don’t know. Maybe it’s a phase.

On another note? My garden is growing! I'll post pictures soon.