Windshield Time

I spent four hours today staring through a windshield.  I have a friend who travels a lot for work who calls this “windshield time” and I like the phrase.  It’s a contemplative time, but one that allows for multitasking  – namely moving from one point to another while thinking or talking.  Today our point A was Fruita, Colorado – an adorable town on the western edge of the state.  Our point B was Denver.  So our morning was spent traversing the state, quietly, together with Adelaide in the back seat – her eyes fluttering in and out of sleep.  We were all contemplative – Rick was doing some reading for school, Adelaide was dreaming (I imagine)  about the pasture she in which she woke this morning, with purple wildflowers and heavy dew shimmering in the early light of morning.  I was listening to “Going Driftless: An Artist’s Tribute to Greg Brown” and staring out at the buttes and mesas of Western Colorado, to the twang of a slide guitar, contemplating the trajectory of our lives.

Tomorrow I start a job that I am thrilled about.  It is a unique and special opportunity and I’m very thankful that the stars aligned for my resume to fall into the hands of the right person who could offer me a chance to combine my background in natural resources with a stronger communications role and an opportunity to be at the cutting edge of natural resource conflicts.  I am thrilled to begin a new chapter, and to take a slightly different angle to the natural resources issues I have been working on for several years now.  I cannot wait.

That said, it is sad in many ways to bring this past six months of transition to a close.  Since we left our jobs in Brisbane, Rick and I have travelled throughout much of Australia, moved back home to the United States, travelled the country searching for the right place for us to settle long-term, spent time abroad, and after much deliberation, some drama, and a bit of soul-searching we found ourselves right back where our story began in Denver.

After much contemplation, our perfect path was the one of least resistance and the one that led us to unpack our boxes in a peach stucco home flanked by flowering cherry trees in Lincoln Park.  And in settling here, we opened so many new doors – jobs, a home to expand in, and an opportunity to look at each other and be thankful for our many blessings.

So, this morning I was reflecting on everything that brought us to this point, and I won’t lie, I did a bit of happy crying.  As I steered our way back and forth over the frothy brown Colorado River, under the watchful sentinels of the rust-colored buttes, through Glenwood Canyon and on I-70 into the snowcapped peaks of Summit County, the light from the east cast shadows over the dusty slabs of mesa and snowcapped mountains in the distance.  Rick and I reminded ourselves to never become immune to the beauty of this place we live.

So often as I drive I listen to music, really listen, and try to take in a timely message and there were so many today – Greg Brown’s songs are raw and raw was in perfect tune with my heart today.  Raw and joyful.  We are burgeoning into a new phase of life together and so many small changes are happening daily that indicate we are in the right place and doing the right things for ourselves.  This morning we woke in a three person tent in a dewy field with our puppy snuggling between us. We all grinned and murmured in the orange light of sunrise knowing our first night camping back in Colorado (with puppy) was a success. Tomorrow I begin a new job and Rick begins the hunt for teaching roles – a whole new ballgame for him.  Our lives which have felt so in flux are finally setting down roots.

If gratitude ever gets old on this blog I am sorry, but I have never felt more blessed than over the last week.  Thank you for sharing it with me.



Big changes

Outside my window the snow falls in torrents.  I sit in an upstairs bedroom at “The Wolf Den”, the place my mom is renting for the month up in the mountains. (The name Wolf Den was not her doing – that honor goes to the unit’s owners.  I wonder often at who these wolves are in real life.)  Below me are the voices of my mom and some of her oldest friends, all together in Colorado for some hiking and girl time. It’s wonderful.

I feel a fatigue in my bones from a month of hard work and busyness.  I have complained at length on this blog about the tyranny of uncertainty in my life.  Today, I aim not to complain but to observe that perhaps the uncertainty is ending – and feel a sense of gratitude in that.

This has been a week for the books.  Rick and I became the proud Aunt and Uncle to a sweet little baby, Mary.  So, Lisa (Rick’s mom), Rick, and I dropped paintbrushes and sandpaper and flew home to New York for a few days.  Our arrival timed perfectly with the new family’s return from the hospital.  We came, filled up their living room with tears and smiles, lots of cooing over the precious baby, and heaps of freshly cooked food.  Rick and I were so elated to have a kitchen (after months!) that when we weren’t holding the new baby we cooked most of the meals for the family and guests while we were there. We took turns holding the little one in her perfect swaddle and pondered about when this all might be a reality in our lives.  I picked their baby nurse’s brain to learn about the challenges and joys of her job with new families.  I observed the new parents, and watched with such joy as Rick snuggled the newest addition in his arms and gave her lots of sweet kisses.  It was such fun to have a short reunion with his brother and his brother’s wife in this precious time, with the newest little baby, and before they move abroad later this spring.

In addition to this wonderful news, after over a month of interviews with an engineering firm in Denver, I received an offer this week for a position that I am thrilled about.  Though there remains much to determine, it is beginning to look like our lives may take a more permanent form here in the very place that they melded together. It is a welcome event.  Though we have looked in many other places, Colorado feels like home, and fulfills many of our overarching desires for a long-term place to settle.  We are meeting with a realtor tomorrow and beginning to look into giving this move some permanence. Joy!

By way of observation, I have witnessed many friends undertake the unpacking of dreams and plans that follow a marriage.  It sometimes goes quickly and sometimes slowly, but in every case it is fun to watch two souls building their lives together.  It is such a joy to be undertaking this process with Rick – working to accommodate his needs and mine, piecing together the pieces of a bigger picture that only the two of us have a clear vision of.  I find that each day I am floored that I am actually a participant in this process, that I have somehow found myself in this place.  I look at my finger and I am astounded to find that I am married, building a life, and acting the part of an adult, even if I sometimes don’t believe I’m qualified for the title.


Life and Love – Paisa Style

Medellin: Former capital of cocaine, crime, and kidnapping.  Now, home to bike lanes, amazing public transit, beautifully rotund Botero statues, and Paisanos – the hardworking and friendly residents of the city.

We came to the city with big expectations.  Colombians LOVE this place, and I  can see its appeal.  It’s a progressive city, nestled in the huge Aburra mountain valley.  It’s hard to think that just 20 years ago this city would have not been on my radar – that people were murdered at random in drug-related violence, bombings, and at the hand of the city’s most notorious resident, Pablo Escobar, and his cocaine cartel.  Progressive reform, efforts to reduce corruption, and to improve the safety and well-being of the city’s residents were often cut short when leaders were killed.  In fact, one of the leaders of Medellin who began to implement the improved transit that eventually helped to turn the fate of Medellin was killed as a result of his efforts.

Thankfully, the violence of Medellin’s past is no longer still an issue in the city.  Though the city is not quite like Cartagena, which feels like Disneyworld, it is safe and very easy to travel in.

Yesterday, though we have both been under the weather, Rick and I decided to rent bikes and explore the city.  I wanted very badly to check out the Museum of Antioquia and to see the Botero statues in the plaza near it.  I also wanted to head to the Botanical Gardens, because Medellin is known as the city of eternal spring and I’d heard good things about their gardens. I also thought that Rick might benefit from some exertion because he has been suffering from all kinds of bugs over the last several days and hasn’t had the energy to get out running like he was in Cartagena.  It was a bit of an ambitious plan to undertake by bike, but Medellin has a really cool policy of turning Carretera 43a, “El Poblano”, into a bikeway each Sunday.  They shut down two lanes of traffic and open it exclusively to bike and pedestrian traffic. The road is a busy one which cuts through the heart of the city, making a Sunday ride a very efficient way to check out many different spots.  It’s an amazing policy that I wish was more common in the US!

We rode across the city for about 40 minutes on the bikeway, barely having to stop for cross traffic, under the friendly supervision of a crew of young people at intersections and on bikes who make sure that everything is going smoothly.  The crowd out venturing around the city on bikes had to be a pretty good cross-section of Medellin – from families with little ones, to serious cyclists decked out in loud spandex. Everyone looked like they were having a great time, and so were we. We made our way to the Botero Plaza where I proceeded to take photos of every statue, with me in the foreground mimicking the statue’s pose – like a mature adult.  (I think my imitation of the full-breasted Sphinx was probably my crowning glory.)  We then made our way back to the Poblano and continued on toward the botanical gardens.  At one point, the bike traffic seemed to shut down as we headed towards a tunnel.  I looked at Rick, skeptical, and asked “Do you think we should go in this dark tunnel on bikes without anyone around?”.  He shrugged that it was probably fine, the guards had seen us entering and hadn’t stopped us.  So, we entered, biking fast, and hoping we weren’t making a mistake.  Well, shortly after we exited on the other side, we saw a few more of the bikeway volunteers riding towards us.  They shouted that the bikeway opened to traffic at 1 pm – which is exactly what time it was, so we quickly turned and followed them back the way we had come.  As we were riding through the tunnel, out of nowhere a truck came barreling up behind us and veered around us.  “Oh my god!” I screamed at Rick and we started sprinting on our pathetic rental bikes, at about 6,000 feet of elevation.  It wasn’t pretty!  We all were busting our butts to make it out of the tunnel, and just as we did, traffic began tearing through at high speeds.

Collapsing on some grass nearby to catch our breath, we re-evaluated our situation.  We were both wiped out, and now our route home was a superhighway so we needed to figure out how to get home.  We tried to follow the route of the road we had come on, but the frontage roads sort of meandered in and out of neighborhoods, through shopping areas, and across very un-bike friendly areas.  It took us over an hour and a half to make it back to the El Poblano neighborhood where we were staying, and on the way we found ourselves on more that one occasion in places where we should NOT have been.  It was actually kind of scary to me, and I don’t scare that easily.  6,000′ of elevation has had both of us wheezing and struggling, which didn’t make me feel any better about being in some rough parts of Medellin.  Clearly, our acclimatization from our Denver days has worn off.

Anyway, we ended the night watching some good old American football, in an Irish Bar, in Colombia. Odd, right?  We even started up a conversation with another couple there, and (crazy small world) the guy had graduated from UVA in the same December grad class as Rick. Together, we gave aguardiente (Colombian brandy that tastes like black licorice)  a fair go, and decided  shortly thereafter that we had made enough of our night so we headed home a bit early.  We came home, nursed our sick bodies, and we have continued to do that through today.

Sharing sickness in a foreign place is certainly never comfortable, but together we have been making it a bit more manageable.  I packed all sorts of meds and have been able to keep us well-tended to.  He has made sure I get enough sleep (which I often don’t) and we both keep each other’s wellness in mind as we plan our activities.  Though it is a bit of a downer to not feel like ourselves, there is certainly nothing that brings people closer than jointly commiserating over unfortunate maladies.  And, honesty, we found the perfect place to be sick.  Our current hostel is quiet, with peaceful lounge areas and gardens, we have a giant room with a king size bed, floor to ceiling windows, our own bathroom, and a walk in closet area! (Gran Hostel Medellin in El Poblano)  Tonight we hope to cook dinner in (our first in weeks!) before taking off to check out some areas outside Medellin including Gautape, and the coffee-growing haciendas around Manizales.  We will keep writing as we go!


I step out on to the bustle of a street in Getsemani, a working neighborhood in Cartagena.  At once in the warm morning light, the smells of morning in South America assault my nostrils – soap and dirt mixes in the streets as businesses clean their floors in the morning light, mopping soapsuds into the gutters strewn with dust, chicken bones, and banana peels.  Urine in the doorways from some temporary passerby the previous evening intermingles with the inviting scent of strawberry pastries, newly baked and awaiting consumption in the bakery a few doors down.  Mangoes, chopped and displayed in a plastic cup for easy eating; limes, papayas, plantains, apples, passion fruits crowd the sidewalk forcing me into the street where I dodge carts, taxis, stray dogs, and the gente, making their way in the early morning light to work, meetings, or breakfast.

The warmth of the stucco walls painted in striking hues of pink, blue, orange, and yellow, offset with balconies and brightly colored doors, envelopes me when I pass by as though I were family.  I don’t worry about the way I’m holding my backpack, or the fact that I’m carrying my cell phone in my hand.  I wonder at our insistence on buying “alternative” wedding rings for traveling.  This is not a place I feel the least bit threatened.  I greet people with a slow, drawling “buenas” as I pass.  I saunter.  I don’t rush.

Cartagena breathes its own breath.  It is a city of its own making, its own shape and form, its own design.  Its colonial history informs its every action – the hierarchy of the fruit venders, the walls guarding the perimeter, the subtle verbiage used in the streets.  Cartagena is vibrant and alive – a city growing of its own ingenuity and richness rather than the calculated designs of urban planners and architects.  Cartagena rises and falls, soft and welcoming, heart pumping, sensual and alive.  It’s a city that stirs your blood and your loins.

It’s been a week and a half since I arrived.  And with each day that passes I fall more deeply under the spell of Cartagena.  I repeat the name, slowly, over and over again, swallowing my “g” sensually.  I consider naming my first child Cartagena.  I reconsider. I walk slowly, letting the hazy light fall gently, warmly, over my skin.  I wander the streets with my love, mojitos coursing through us, wondering where exactly we are amidst the old, winding streets.  We rise and fall down off the sidewalk and up again, into the street, around a fruit peddler, over a giant hole, under an overhanging window. This is not a city for the distracted – it holds you in its gaze and makes you pay attention.

I spend many a moment reflecting on the grace that has brought me here, and the warm soul who shares this adventure with me.  Though the future holds many uncertainties for us, each morning as we walk through the calles I feel that all is as it should be – we are in the right place, doing the right thing, and experiencing the wild a varied palette laid before us each day we spend in this beautiful world, growing together and storing away a cache of memories and experiences that will sustain us over the many years ahead.

Soul mates?

I sleep tonight in my Grandpa’s house.  I try to stay here when I’m in town because I don’t like the idea of him in a big empty house alone.  Though, he would never consider himself entirely alone here – and neither do I.  

When I stay with him, we share dinner and tea, and more tea, until the evening begins to slip away into reminiscing about years past, and the harder things in life – loss of your partner after decades of life together.  Inevitably there are some heart wrenching discussions,  often tears, and for me an ever-present reminder of what it really means to share a life together – to commit to each other until parted by death.  I know it’s pretty heavy.  But, life is heavy sometimes.  For my Grandpa, life is heavy a lot lately.

Tonight I asked him if he and my Grandma were soul mates, because I always think of them that way.  But, when I asked he laughed!  “What does that even mean?” he exclaimed!  

It seemed an odd reaction. I guess I just assumed that after 64 years together and a spiritual connection that continues today, that he would not shy away from the term.  But, he laughed at me!  And, I had to take a bit of a step back and laugh too.  I can’t tell you what I mean when I ask if they were soul mates.  What are soul mates anyway?

So, I googled this question – as you do.  I came across a host of conflicting and confusing answers.  And, I guess that makes sense. We are all just dumb humans trying to share pieces of our unique experiences as general wisdom.  And, so it’s logical that there isn’t a clear definition of a soul mate available on the world wide web.  But, it never hurts to at least have a look.

So to add to the general wisdom or lack thereof here’s my take:

There’s a part of me that will always believe in the concept of a soul mate as a visceral connection between two people – something that can’t be described in words and which can’t be replicated. When you’re with a soul mate, the rest of the world falls away.  It’s a powerful and life-altering level of connection with another human being.  I might even go as far as saying that it’s as if two souls are walking the same path and share a deep, unspoken empathy for the personal challenges and desires of the other because they are the same.

But that said, the above description only goes so far to describe partnerships for life like what my grandparents shared.  Deeply connected or not, when two people commit to accepting and working with each other to make a life together there is an intrinsic level of soul connection.  There exists, perhaps, in these partnerships, a stronger arc of compassion for the differences that exist between two people and a more broad acceptance of variations in personal nature and outlook.  The relationship is more about acceptance and love than pure visceral connection. Perhaps these are the more sustainable versions of soul mates over the long term.  

I don’t think one is better than the other, and I think they both truly are soul mates.

Despite his laughing off my question, I think what my Grandpa and Grandma shared surely achieves the definition of the latter, if not also the former.  Perhaps they didn’t feel each day of their lives spiritually connected and drawn to each other (or maybe they did), but the reality is that they stuck it out and worked with each other’s flaws and imperfections day to day, to make the best they could of life as a partnership.  

This is a concept that I have considered often over the last several years, and I so wonder at other people’s interpretations of it.   Why, as a concept, do soul mates even exist?  Why do we feel the necessity of defining particular connections as uniquely important?  What purpose does this serve?  

Me and my love are headed to Colombia for a month starting tomorrow.  I will write more on soul mates there, with Marquez guiding my thoughts on the subject.  



Honeymoon Part II – The Grand Canyon


I have to admit it’s a bit funny to still be writing about my honeymoon.  I can’t keep up with myself.  In the last 10 days I have been in 8 states, on the road, traveling by foot, train, plane and anything in between.  My honeymoon was weeks ago, but I still haven’t written about the BEST part of it – our trip to the Grand Canyon.

After two years in Australia with Aussies constantly asking us questions about the U.S. like, “Are you afraid you’re going to get shot all the time?”, and referencing our general fatness, it was hard not to get a little bit of a chip on our American shoulders.  We decided to make our honeymoon a bit of a tour of discovery (mostly for me) of America’s proud landscapes.  Obviously the Grand Canyon was the first thing on the list!

So, the Grand Canyon!  We drove there early in the morning from a weird little town in Southern Utah called Kanab.   Kanab was apparently a mecca for making old western movies back in the day.  Now it appears to host a number of tourists running the gamut between Zion and Grand Canyon – and little else, with the exception of two subpar steakhouses.

We left Kanab, and drove for about two hours before we stopped for breakfast at a charming little diner called the Lees Ferry Lodge, on the edge of the Vermillion Cliffs National Monument.  We sat waiting for our breakfast with another couple and before long we got to chatting about why we were there.  Turns out they were celebrating their 50th anniversary, and there we were about 10 days into our marriage.  They shared a few words of wisdom with us before we went on our way.  It was a special moment, alone in a desert diner, sharing a common love of wild places and the people with whom we explore them.

When we made it to the south rim, we still had much to do before we could embark on our trip.  First we stopped at the visitors center to check out some information, then on to the backcountry office to grab our permits to camp at Bright Angel campground in the canyon’s bottom (secured four months in advance!), then back to our car to gather our backpacks, change our clothes, and then on to a shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trailhead.

The South Kaibab trail is the newer and more rugged tail to the bottom of the Grand Canyon. It’s a bit exposed, and a little gravelly, which makes it a bit hard on the legs for 7 miles of downhill.  I was worried we wouldn’t make it down until dark so we practically ran down,  making it in about two and a half hours with lots of daylight left.  (Note:  There is a severe overabundance of caution from rangers at the Grand Canyon to the extent that their advice is barely even applicable to young, fit, ambitious hikers and should be taken with a large grain of salt.  Had we listened to them, we never should have left the rim! )

I really wasn’t sure what to expect from the hike.  I was actually underwhelmed by the view from the south rim.  It’s too difficult to really understand the canyon’s depth and expansiveness from there, where nothing can be put into perspective.  But, thankfully as one hikes down into the canyon, the depth, color, and topography begin to expose themselves.


The canyon is absolutely breathtaking, and it becomes more so the deeper one ventures in.  By the time we were within view of the suspension bridge across the river, I was smitten – both with the place and with Rick for bringing me to it.  We made our way down, through the dark, narrow tunnel of rock, and out on to the bridge.  It was an incredible journey.  To stand above the powerful Colorado, watching it course below us, and look up at the fading light in the canyon was pure magic.  I was so entranced by the colors, the warmth, and the welcoming air of this little oasis amidst the starkness of the desert.  It’s incredible.

We wasted no time trotting into Bright Angel campground and setting up a camp next to Bright Angel Creek.  For the next two nights it kept a constant bubbling soundtrack to our adventure.  The noise of water, the sound of deer grazing, and the lushness of the area surrounding this confluence of the Bright Angel Creek (named because it was one of the few sources of palatable water in the canyon) and the Colorado, gave the place a romantic, peaceful aura.  We loved it.


The next day we hiked twelve miles round trip to Ribbon Falls, a side canyon on the way up to the North Rim.  The hike is beautiful and culminates in a falls that come cascading over the canyon rim above, splattering onto a green, algae covered dome of rock that has been hollowed out by erosion over time.  Though it was cold, I couldn’t resist tearing off most of my clothes and going for a dip, which included ducking into the rock cave behind the falls and exploring.  Nearly hypothermic afterwards, I laid out on the sun-baked rocks until Rick almost lost it worrying about me getting sunburned.  So, off we went.

We decided midway down that a steak dinner sounded preferable to our meal of quinoa, so we swung by Phantom Ranch on our way down, and asked to join the guests for dinner.  Apparently it can be difficult to get a reservation, but when it’s your honeymoon things fall into place a bit more easily. 🙂

We made ourselves comfortable and put away several beers, justifying our growing buzz by telling ourselves the mules that carried down the beer would appreciate our efforts to lighten their load. Then we had a great steak, went to a late evening ranger talk, and toddled off to snuggle up in bed and listen to the creek gurgling beside us.

Bright and early the next morning, Rick and I headed out and up the Bright Angel trail.  This route is the more traditional way down the canyon, originally used by the Havasupai tribe, and then later used as the standard route until the South Kaibab was constructed.  It is a steady climb of about 10% grade for 10 miles.  So, though we made it up relatively quickly, we were pretty tired when we reached the top several hours later.  By that time, we felt fully justified in craving pizza and beer.  We made our way to Flagstaff and found just that.

Flagstaff is an adorable and artsy little college town.  I’m not sure how it never made it on to my radar, but after our time there I would never pass up an opportunity to visit again.  Though we had originally planned to spend the night meditating in vortexes in Sedona, we were easily lured into staying in Flagstaff for the night and traipsing from one outdoor shop to the next with warm drinks in hand.  We decided to spend the night in an old hotel called the Weatherford.  Unbeknownst to us, it did double time as a VERY popular bar. By the time we were heading to bed (8 pm ) the bar was just getting going.  Our “European style” bathrooms were an amusing sight as I waited in line in my PJ’s to use the toilet, surrounded by girls dressed for a Friday night out.  But, even with the noise and the ridiculousness of sharing our hotel floor with a bar, we still had a great time.

The Grand Canyon and Flagstaff were the highlights of the trip to me.  It’s hard not to become reflective when the sandstone walls constantly remind you of your smallness and impermanence. There is something romantic about being in love and happy in the face of such confronting evidence of your own insignificance. With eternity echoing in the stillness all you can do is hold your lover, best friend, and life partner and savor the glory of being alive and vital in the wild, unblinking world.

Full of gratitude.  🙂


Beach life and love


Moreton Island Sunset – the Wrecks in the distance

 Spring is arriving in Queensland.  It’s a beautiful thing.

Two weekends ago, Rick, me, and seven other friends packed up and went to Stradbroke Island for the weekend.  It was the first beach weekend following the winter.  It was absolutely gorgeous too.   There were prefect gentle breaking waves – Rick and I both got out for a surf and we got a few of our friends up and surfing for the first time.  We saw some dolphins while we were out on the water, we saw several whales, a few turtles, a few kangaroos.  It was magical.

It’s taken me some time to embrace beach culture.  And, when the sun is high in the sky, I maintain (as I told Rick early in our time here) that the sun is a “fiery, orb of death” and I will not venture out from my shade tent without protection.  But, I must admit the beach has worked a little bit of voodoo on me.  I really do enjoy it.  The salt and sun, and the feel of traversing wet sand with warm waves breaking at your feet, the breeze without a hint of chill – it’s magical.

North Stradbroke sunset

North Stradbroke sunset

Perhaps I’m savoring it now more than ever with the realization that this may be the last of my beach days.  Though job prospects in California may pull me in that direction, I’m just not sure it’s what I (or we) want.  So, I’m soaking it all in – literally.  Forgetting to protect myself from tan lines, swimming in the waves,  immersing myself in the sand and salt.  This lifestyle is one I never would have asked for, but I have grown to love it.  It is so gentle and peaceful.  It’s slow.  It’s relaxing.  It brings me to a state of of tranquility that I don’t often find for myself.

I’ve always identified with deep woods, with rivers, with sunsets on piney-shored lakes.  I’ve learned to expand my horizons to mountains.  But I never anticipated I would become a lover of the beach.  Maybe a cold beach or a rugged shoreline.  But not a hot, sun-soaked beach.  Australia, you’ve changed me.


Turquoise Straddie waters

Laying in the shaded rocks at the edge of the sand last weekend, watching families and dogs play in the surf, pulling beers from our esky (that’s a cooler for the folks at home) after a surf, it finally hit me that this has become something I love. I love strapping our surfboards (MY surfboard – my very own longboard) to our car, and treking to some point


Moreton Island starfish

break where we can ride some gentle breakers in relative peace.  I love the beach trips we take to Noosa, to Byron, to Coff’s Harbour, or hell even to Manly (in a few weeks) or Bali.  These are places I’d never anticipated loving the way I now do.  I’m so glad that this door was opened for me, that the beach stole my heart.


Each day (of our last) here in Australia I feel pangs for the life we’re leaving.  I haven’t loved every moment here, true.  But this is a life that I know I will look back on fondly, and I am so glad that I’ve awakened a passion for this beach life in myself.  I know that Rick and I will always have a stronger drive to make our way to beautiful oceanscapes going forward, but they probably will never have a the hold on my heart that Australian beaches will.



Moreton Island

Moreton Island Sunset



Home is a funny concept for me right now.

Rick and I just moved out of the little Queenslander we called home for almost two years.  It was stressful to move out and into a spare room in our friend’s apartment, but we knew it would allow us to live a more liberated existence in our last days in Australia.  I have to admit that it’s hard to say goodbye to a place like that, where we lived together for the first time and decided to share our lives together.  It housed us in a transformative period and will always be the spot where we laughed at our free pink couches while snuggling together for warmth in the cold Australian mornings, or where we bought our first surfboards, our first joint insurance policies, and our first washing machine.  For me, it will always be associated with the immense growth I experienced as I truly let go of my past relationship and let Rick in, and for him it was the place where he decided to try a different path in life.  Of course, it will also always be the home where the 4 am sunrises woke us up and the bird’s relentless squawk was a soundtrack to our lives; where the spiders were the size of your hand and the possum invasions seemed constantly imminent.  It was an adventure, and we’ll definitely miss our little home.

But, now home is an evolving thing.  I say this as I sit on my parent’s couch in their great room, listening to Lake Michigan and the breeze through the trees.  The summer lushness, the smells of dirt and lake, and the fecundity of the ravines that surround me are home and probably always will be.  I missed these things down there, where the eucalypts dominate the nasal palate and the soil smells of foreignness.

Last night, my aunts threw a couple’s shower for Rick and me.  His parents flew in and all the faces and spirits that shaped my childhood showed up for a cocktail, a hug, and a chance to express their good wishes.  I can’t imagine feeling more loved than after a night like that.   I barely saw Rick – hell I barely even ate – all I did was soak in the exuberance of a gorgeous Midwestern summer’s evening, a bonfire, and the love of a community that has been there with me from before I could remember.  And when I’d catch his eye across the crowd, up to his neck in my relatives and family friends, I’d see the man that I will be spending the rest of my life with, looking strong, confident, engaged, and sexy as he recalled the names and histories of my convoluted family and charmed them as he has charmed me since the beginning.  I am so proud to be with him and excited for our future.

Being immersed in the community that made my home as I grew up, and sharing it with the man who will be my home going forward, I can’t help but think a lot about what home is to me.  For years I felt a bit unmoored, and it wasn’t until finding Rick and a sense of grounding that I realized it.  As we look forward to where we’ll go after we move home, I recognize, as I have slowly learned over the last two years, that home is your community plus your environment.  I’ve lived in some beautiful places and I’ve lived among friends, but without both there will always be something missing. Rick and I are weighing our options – whether to be city dwellers or do what we both are inclined to do and move off into the country somewhere.  Surrounded, as I was last night, I recall that people make a huge difference and that wherever we end up, we better have some people around us who we love.

The jetlag is gaining a hold on my brain and the flow of my words is beginning to gel up.  I better get to sleep.  Goodnight friends.  We can’t wait to make our home amongst you.

What is marriage?

Rick has already written his vows.  He knows what he intends to say, even if he still plans to finesse the wording.

Me?  I’m what we call a procrastinator.

To be fair, it’s June and our wedding is in October.  In my defense, much remains to take in on the subject of love before one professes it eternally.  I find my mental space evolving constantly from one filled with autumn leaves, white dresses, and music, to one more observant of the subtle rhythms and patterns that form a marriage.  I watch my parents, my friends, my coworkers, and observe the way they talk about marriage and the way the don’t talk about it.  I take note of the specialized functions that develop in a two-person distribution of labor.  I watch the veiled jabs and gentle support that dance together through a conversation between lovers.  I watch the ways that friends slowly disclose the intimacies that make their marriages work, and I watch Rick and myself as we navigate the road that will take us to these places.

But most recently, I have watched with a heavy heart as my grandfather has been torn from my grandmother by death.  I recognize that the experience of grief is a universal one that we can all expect to experience, but as I often do, I come back to the specificity of THEIR lives and their love.  They married so young that he needed a fake ID to get a marriage license.  They shared their lives together for almost 65 years.  And in death, perhaps, they shared more intimacy about themselves than ever before.  He laid with her in bed, we all did, as she passed away from us.  I watched his poise and stoicism melt before me as he lost her.

My family is not a sentimental one.  Gruff, even.  But we wear hard exteriors to hide soft interiors.  Having the vantage point on marriage that her loss provides as I approach mine, perhaps is one of the gifts my grandmother is giving me posthumously.  She had a sharp intuition, that one.  And I credit her with helping me make my decision to come to Australia – a decision that has made all the difference in my life.  Her judgement was good.

I am, therefore, taking in the way Rick looks at me in the sleepy mornings and the way my heart melts when he talks about our puppy.  In these vignettes I have begun to envision the  architecture of our marriage, and the possible evolution of it with time.

Each time I speak to my Grandpa and hear the ways he is re-envisioning his life daily, recognizing the loss of structure, companionship, and intimacy he faces, I am reminded of what I’m signing up for.  I hope that I can emulate what he had and I take each painful observation as a lesson in what to strive for.


Our queenslander is quiet.  One solemn lamp warms the minty-paneled walls, and candles still burn on the dinner table.  The night feels more silent than normal, or perhaps that is my exhaustion closing in. Rick and I mirror each other on our mauve couches, lounging.  Silent for once in a few days, digesting our huge Tibetan dinners. Feeling tired from an impromptu lunch climb of Mt. Coot-tha on our bikes.  It’s peaceful.

Since my return from Vietnam a few weeks ago,  I feel as though I stepped off a peaceful boat, walked down the pier, and right into a busy street where I got sideswiped by a bus.  A bus full of wedding stuff.  I’m attempting to peel myself off the road but I keep getting flattened by more traffic.

Okay, okay.  I’m being a bit dramatic.  But seriously, why don’t more people elope?  Weddings are such a racket operation.  Highway robbery.  It’s appalling.

I love a good party, but as soon as a white dress is involved it gets all kinds of slimy.  I think I feel about weddings the same way I feel about Christmas – great idea, but totally co-opted by the machine.  Make a registry, have engagement photos, send out save the dates, book a planner, join a gym, spend, spend, spend…  


I looked over at Rick tonight and said, “Remember a month ago when we didn’t spend every waking moment making huge life decisions? That was nice.”  And yeah, I’m not only talking about the wedding here.  If we were just planning that it would be much easier. It’s more like plan a wedding; move back to the US – but where?; should we buy a house?; honeymoon?!; jobs; family; should we get a puppy?; oh yeah, buy a dress for this wedding; figure out where we want to have it…

We can’t make any decisions.  I’m like a panic attack waiting to happen.  It’s vile.

But at least I like the guy who is tenuously helping me peel myself off the roadway…