Utah Wandering

Utah road


I’ve lived a lot of places, but I’ve never lived out here, in the desert of Utah. I wonder what it would be like, to wake every day to this. It looks like simple starkness in all direction, but looks can be deceiving. We drove past a man walking down the highway–on the wrong side of the road I might add, he should be walking against traffic. Not that it matters, with so few cars. We’ve only passed maybe 10 so far this morning, including all those in town where we stopped for gas, coffee, and the bathroom. I forgot to brush my teeth. The man was miles from the nearest building, at least a 30 minute drive from our direction, 5 miles in the other according to the sign he passed. It’s just after 8 a.m. Where is he going, and where did he come from?

This is a long road to walk to get to nowhere in particular, and probably even longer to get to somewhere specific.

dog in Utah

If you have 18 hours in: Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

sketchy part of Kuala Lumpur

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

– spend 2 hours running after your friend (literally running, dodging and weaving through crowds of late-night shopping families and groups of Malaysian adolescents, and belatedly hoping that no one thinks you’re a purse-snatcher because getting arrested in Malaysia is not on your list of things to do today) around the malls (of which there are many more than one would have thought necessary for any one country, let alone one city) looking for a camera accessory that no one has and that you were pretty sure wouldn’t be available in stores yet anyway.

KL noodles

Noodles from a street vendor for dinner.

– spend 2 hours eating (dinner and breakfast).

– spend 8 hours sleeping in a cockroach hotel (there was a cockroach scurrying across the blankets on the bed when we checked in, and I’m not sure what happened/who was brutally murdered in the shower before we got there, but it was not properly cleaned afterward. Don’t be deceived by the pleasant-looking exterior- Hotel Mexico is not a good choice).

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Lanterns in the street outside our hotel.

– spend 2 hours checking email and Facebook (priorities, and confirmation that those you left behind on the other side of the world do in fact still exist).

– spend 4 hours semi-patiently waiting, in transit to and from the airport, and for a departing flight to Thailand.

Max catching flies

Despite what he might tell you, Max does in fact sleep on airplanes.

– spend at least 3.5 hours of transit and time waiting for flight to Thailand wondering: what the city of Kuala Lumpur is actually like; what it would be like to live here; why people live here; at the differences between Kathmandu, Nepal (where we had just been trekking) and KL; when I can go back to the Himalayas and see a yak; what Thailand will be like; what everyone is doing at home; how best to take a sneaky picture of Max sleeping in his seat with his mouth gaping open catching flies; wondering when you can next take a real shower and wear freshly laundered clothes.

– spend the remaining 1/2 hour waiting in line for the restroom, at least twice. 1 minute spend taking care of business, 29 minutes trying not to gag at the condition of the squatty potty.

A quick whine about toilets in Asia

I miss toilets. After 8 weeks of travel, I’m homesick for toilets. Nice ones, where the seat is attached (and stays attached for the duration of use), and ones that have seats. Ones that don’t spurt water from the pipe all over the floor when flushed. Ones that don’t bubble up on you while you’re sitting there, giving your nether regions a wash (luckily I was about to take a shower, which I promptly did). Ones that don’t require hovering, ones where your tush can safely land without threat of immediate infectious disease. Ones that aren’t cracked, and that are cleaned more than once a year (if that), and ones that don’t smell like half of Asia and his brother have peed all over them.

hotel bathroom in Nepal

Kathmandu, Nepal. Note the detached toilet seat on the floor under the shower.

I miss not having to wear shoes in the bathroom because the floor is covered in a 1/2 inch deep puddle from the leaking toilet and the shower, which drains through a hole in the floor. I miss bathrooms where the toilet and shower are separated, where the shower is contained in a tub, and where you’re not bumping into the toilet and knocking the loose seat on the floor during your shower because the bathroom is that small. I miss not having to roll up my pant legs so they don’t get soggy as I drop my drawers. I miss being able to assume that every bathroom will have toilet paper, including hotels. I miss toilets that flush, and not having to pour a bucket of water down the hole, which works better than I imagined in some toilets and not at all in others. I miss being able to flush my used toilet paper. In some places here, I miss having a trashcan in the bathroom because I never remember to look until it’s too late, and then what do you do?

Please Toiled Paper Put in Bocket

Sign on the back of the bathroom door in Nepal.

There are many reasons to travel through Asia. However, the bathroom facilities are not one of them. Particularly the bathroom facilities you will be forced to utilize when traveling Asia with Max Seigal, the king of cheaper-than-cheap hotels (generally only marginally nicer than sleeping in the gutter). However, a quick thank you to the US government for successfully preparing me for Asian bathrooms (and hotel rooms) by putting me up in some very, shall we say, Nepalese/Thai-quality housing for various internships. You should put that on the SCA website as a perk- housing will prep you for international travel!

Countries visited: 5 (Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand)
Number of decent toilets in said countries: 3

Lauren’s kayaking adventure in Thailand

Railey Beach Thailand kayakingI suppose the title is misleading, in a way. You’re probably now expecting some epic adventure account, a multi-day saga with pirates, no food, native Thai people and language barriers, some sort of heroic rescue, and then a celebratory bonfire and feast on the beach. No, sorry. I wish it involved all that. The truth, as usual, is much less glamorous. Anything that involves puke is generally unglamorous, I find. Throwing up is a universal leveler, brings us all down to the same miserable state of being. Though, of all the places I’ve thrown up in, emptying my stomach contents over the side of a kayak just off a beach on an island in Thailand in front of at least two restaurants of people enjoying their lunches is definitely the most exotic. My friend, who was a patron in one of the restaurants, said he thought we stopped to look at some fish, which gives me hope that I didn’t put anyone off their food. I would like to apologise to my other friend, who was in the kayak with me, politely adverting his gaze, covering his ears and humming loudly. Apparently the waves were a little rough, and his foot might have gotten splashed a little. I’m sorry, but it did wash all over my legs too, dangling off the side, if that makes you feel any better, and I was slightly preoccupied at the time so I wasn’t able to monitor the currents properly. I’ll try to do better next time. I’ve never thrown up in public before, nor in a kayak, so I’m unfamiliar with the proper protocols in these situations.

view from the kayak, Thailand

In the future, when I decide to jump in a kayak with someone who wants to paddle to a distant island a good hour away by constant paddling (one way) over choppy open water, I’ll try my best not to feel nauseous for the entire trip out and back. Also, I’ll try to void my stomach contents before almost making it back to the beach, keeping in mind the wave patterns, wind speed, and current so as to avoid any splashage. I’ll also work on being more discreet and trying to avoid such public stages for future barfing episodes, of which I fervently hope there are few (or none, none would be okay too). Now that I’ve ticked off throwing up from a kayak from my list of firsts, I’ve no desire to repeat the experience. Been there, done that, moving on (with the aid of Dramamine and some Pepto-Bismol).Railey Beach, Thailand

Oh yes, we are having a splendid time here in Thailand.

Max kayaking in Thailand

What I’ve been up to : or, Singapore, Borneo, and Nepal

I seem to be a bit behind in blog updates, my apologies. I’ve been a little busy. Here’s the very (very very) brief version. I promise more details and pictures as soon as I can.

Pooja and I parted ways in Hanoi, Vietnam. I flew to Singapore to meet up with three other friends : Max, Joby, and Mallory. We spent two nights and one day in Singapore, then flew to Malaysian Borneo. There, we climbed Mt. Kinabalu, which is the highest peak in SE Asia, in a day. Some of us may have made it all the way to the summit, and others of us may have felt like the past year we’ve spent in flat places like Ohio, Florida, and South Carolina did nothing to prepare us for uphill toils at altitude. However, it makes for a pretty sweet story. And there are lots of birds and interesting plants in the Borneo jungle, which made the whole experience slightly more tolerable. After Kinabalu we spent a few days on Banggi Island, off the northern coast, relaxing on the beach and swimming around looking at coral and vibrant blue starfish.

From Borneo we flew to Kathmandu, Nepal. A 6hr bus ride brought us to the town of Pokhara, where we are currently. This morning we went paragliding off one of the mountains just outside town. I won’t try to describe that experience in a few words, because it’s not possible. Fantastic and breathtaking sorta sums it up. The rest of the day was spent procuring permits and supplies, and tomorrow we head out for about 9 days of trekking around the Annapurna region, heading to a place called Poon Hill and possibly Annapurna Base Camp. I expect it will be awesome, and that I will probably take way more pictures of the mountains than I will ever want to go back and look through.

I still can’t quite believe I’m actually in Nepal, just as I couldn’t quite believe I was actually in Borneo ( Good thing I have the passport stamps to prove it, or I would think it was all just a dream). These are places that I’ve read about in National Geographic and seen in wildlife and nature programs, not places that I ever thought I’d actually go myself one day. I knew they were real places, but they were so far away from Ohio that I almost didn’t really think they were real. And now I’m here.
Every day truly is a new adventure, and I cannot wait to see what tomorrow brings.

“Whatever tomorrow brings I’ll be there, with open arms and open eyes, yeah.” That song played on the radio as I drove away from Merritt Island NWR in March, and it helps me to remember that no matter how wonderful (or awful) the past, we must always look forward, because if you’re too busy looking behind you’ll miss all the beauty and wonder in front of you. And, in my case, you’ll probably then run into a tree or trip on a rock, and be forcefully reminded that life is in the present. Every bruise and scratch just reminds us that we’re human though, right?

Every tomorrow is full of promise, the promise of life.

Da Lat to Nha Trang, Vietnam

Vietnam is a fertile rock upon which I think just about anything could grow.

We are on a twisty mountain road from the mountain town of Da Lat, heading back to Nha Trang. Spectacular views of jungle-covered mountains,  far as the eye can see. The road cuts through steep rock slides, with waterfalls gushing, pouring, seeping down under the road. Clouds of steam rise up here and there in the rain-dampened trees. Rolling hills, sharp mountain peaks, blended together everywhere, forever. The soil on the valley paths is a vibrant orange-red, the color of clean rust, of a corroded metal pipe that is always damp, seeping water. Water is never far off here, in the rain, the clouds, the waterfalls, in all the green plant life growing in the earth.

Nice and comfy in my bus berth bed.

There aren’t quite worlds to describe the beauty out the window in the view, or how calm I feel sitting here in my slightly cramped bunk on an overnight bus making its way down through the mountains. Pooja sleeps in the berth next to me. We slow and jostle through short bits of road where the water has washed out the pavement, through construction areas. Mostly the road is smooth, winding, but the way is easy. Or it is for me, sitting here watching out the window, waiting, thinking, writing. I cannot think of any place I could be right now but here. This is where I am, and this is an amazing, life-shaping experience. I’m glad I came. I like it here. That phrase is sewn on to a bag I have at home, ‘I like it here.’ It should be true no matter where you go– I like it here.

It’s always best to let sleeping Pooja’s lie.

A Night In Hue, Vietnam

We went for dinner at a fancy vegetarian restaurant by the river, set back enough that we couldn’t actually see the water. We sat outdoors, as everything in Vietnam is open air. All around was metal curlicue trellis work, plants grown over everything, with strings of lights around the edges. A romantic setting, perfect for making eyes at your lover (or, in my case, your vegan Indian friend) over a steaming plate of tofu. Just don’t order the hotpot or you may lose your eyebrows– the flame underneath is strong enough to roast an entire tofurkey. A hotpot is a pot that is hot (if you couldn’t guess) filled with broth, noodles, suspicious-looking green plant parts that taste bitter and kind of make you gag, mushrooms, okra, tomatoes, tofu, and probably a few other vegetarian things I’m forgetting. I learned that in India okra is called “lady fingers.” There must be women with pretty strange-looking fingers in India.

After our dinner splurge (143,000 dong) and the usual after-dinner life conversation, it began to rain. We wanted to wait it out, as it was pouring down, but the staff were making closing-time preparations, so we braved the drops to make our way back to our hotel. We walked, dodging bicycles and motorbikes, passing street vendors and customers sitting at tiny plastic tables on the sidewalk, stepping in puddles, trying to read the street names and not get hit by a bus, hoping the rain doesn’t come pouring down harder until we made it back to the hotel.

Walking along a wet street after it has just rained at night is a magical feeling, because everything, even the trash in the gutter, seems cleaned and glossy and there is potential just waiting in every puddle. Walking down a street in Hue after dinner, after the rain, being passed by rain-ponchoed motorbike drivers, passing food vendors selling what is definitely not tofu chicken body parts, I can’t imagine being anywhere else. This moment is brilliant– the lights from shops reflecting in the million tiny pavement puddles, the sounds of wheels splashing through, the smell of rain in the city– not dirty, not offensive, just the smell of rain on pavement and plastic.

This is Vietnam.

Back in Hanoi

Hey Mom and Dad!

Pooja and I got in to Hanoi via the overnight train about 2hrs ago. Right now we’re sitting in the lobby of the hostel waiting for our room to open up so we can take showers and put on some clean clothes. We spent the last two days (one night) near the mountain town of Sapa, where we were trekking with a local guide. Her name is Kuli, and she was recommended by Max. We took the overnight train out to the town of Lao Cai, then a bus to Sapa where Kuli met us to begin our trek. After paying her ($50 for the two of us for 2 days trekking, a homestay, and all our meals) we followed her to the market, where she bought food for lunch that day and dinner. Wandering through markets is always really interesting, everything crowded and dingy, and you can buy just about anything you could want to eat, as long as all you want to eat is meat, local veggies, coffee, tea, and noodles. And Oreos, those are everywhere. Oreos are vegan, so we eat them a lot. Pooja is vegan, so she’s been dragging me all over the place in each city to find vegetarian restaurants. I don’t mind because the food is usually excellent. The other day we had garlic -roasted eggplant, it’s making my tummy rumble just thinking about it. I’ve also now been up for two hours and haven’t eaten breakfast yet, which doesn’t help. Anyway,  back to Sapa.

After the market, we headed out of town towards Kuli’s house, where we ate lunch. We started on the paved road, which turned into a dirt road and a steep, rocky dirt path. Two other local women followed us, Kuli ‘s daughter -in -law (with her baby strapped on her back) and another woman from their village. There are something like 300 villages in the mountain valleys around Sapa, and most are their own tribe, with a unique language, way of dress and culture. The women are there to give you a hand when the way gets steep, slick, and muddy, which is often. After about 2 hours we arrived at Kuli ‘s house, where she lives with her husband, son, his wife, and their two children aged 6mo and 2yrs. Kuli is 38, and a grandmother. She cooked us lunch herself, tofu in tomato sauce, noodles, rice, cabbage. It was delicious.

Everyone in the villages farms rice, and while we were waiting for lunch we watched Kuli ‘s husband and son bag rice in 50kg bags, which they would then transport into town by motorbike. Pooja told me how they separate the chaff and impurities from the rice by holding it up to a fan. The good rice falls to the ground, while the waste parts blow farther and are swept up separately. This is something you learn in primary school in India she said. I remember vaguely learning how the Native Americans planted corn and beans I’m mounds, but we never learned any farming methods at Sharon Elementary. I feel my US public schooling has left we woefully unprepared for the world sometimes.

After lunch we continued trekking a few more hours to a different village where we spent the night in the home of another family. They are set up to accommodate trekkers, and have maybe 15 beds, a hot water shower, and a western flushing toilet (that was actually clean. I’ve learned that squatting over a hole in the ground is much preferable to having to hover over a questionable seat, which describes maybe 25% of the toilets here. The other 75% are completely disgusting) . We met two other trekkers, very friendly girls from England, and their guide there and had a very pleasant evening with them and the family. Dinner was another feast, prepaired by Kuli and the other guide. We ate beef and onion, chicken and some green plant, tofu, rice, vegetable spring rolls, and fried bamboo. I can now see why panda bears are so enamored of the stuff- it’s scrumptious. After dinner the guides (both women, as most of the local guides are) broke out the “happy water “– rice wine, which is a strong, clear alcoholic liquid I’m fairly certain could strip paint. Tastes awful, though luckily you take it in shots so it goes quick. Unless you’re me and cant do shots, so it takes you three sips to get it all down. I had to eat a few more of the fried bamboo shoots to wash the taste out of my mouth.
We slept on mattresses on the floor upstairs in a loft, under heavy comforters and mosquito netting. Mine, as usual, had a hole in it. Not quite as large as the holes in my net in Ecuador (which I could climb through, which makes me question the effectiveness of said net. But I think the bats that flew through the cabin and pooped on my bed each night kept most mosquitoes away.) It was a cool night, so there were minimal insects and the heavy blankets were welcome. It was very peaceful, to lay in the dark under a warm blanket and listen to the sounds of the river flowing nearby, and the occasional creak of the wooden walls or floor. I fell asleep in about five minutes.

The next day, after a breakfast of crepe -thin pancakes with bananas and honey, we continued our trekking. We only went about two hours, but the going was much rougher. It was substantially muddier (as in both Pooja and I were covered, while the locals somehow managed to stay relatively clean) . It was also steep, and steep muddy mountains are not easy to navigate. Doesn’t help that most of the rock is white marble (extra slippery when wet) and that the dirt is clay (extra slippery when wet, and likes to adhere to everything) . I was very proud of the fact that I only fell on my behind once, and it was only awkward because the guide who was holding my hand helped me to brush off my butt after. I tried not to pull on the guides too much, because I am a good head taller than all of them, and while they are stronger than they look I definitely would have taken them down with me in an inglorious muddy heap. After much slipping and sliding we did eventually make it to the waterfall, where we washed off our shoes and legs in the cold clear water and sat and enjoyed the view for a long time. I cant wait to show you pictures, the country around Sapa is breathtaking. I wish the paths had been easier so I could have looked around more while walking, but we did stop enough to get pictures.

We were not able to go too far, as we were on a short trek, but you don’t have to be very far from the central square in Sapa to be overwhelmed by the views. Everywhere around are mountains, impossibly steep-looking and a vibrant, verdant green. Houses are scattered along the mountainsides, strung out along muddy meandering roads and paths. Terraced rice paddies are in sections all over the place, like someone took a giant broken plastic comb and dragged it along the mountains. The terraces make the view look orderly from a distance, because the jungle that is the rest of the foliage is blurred into a solid green mass, all you see are the straight lines of rice, curving with the mountain contours.

Max spent two weeks here, and I can see why he was reluctant to leave. It’s a beautiful place, a much-needed breath of fresh air after all the cities we’ve been to. I like to visit cities, but I need my wide-open wild spaces to feel right again. Pooja is a city girl born and bred, so she’s taken charge from the get-go, showing me how to ride buses and trains, how to bargain and how to get hotel rooms. While I do want to learn how to do those things, I don’t really want to have to do them all the time. I’m a slow person- I eat slow, I walk slow, I like to look around. I like to be able to walk around and not have to worry about getting run over from eight different directions at once (they drive like Pirates of the Caribbean here: the driving laws aren’t really laws, they’re more like guidelines. It’s perfectly acceptable to drive on the wrong side of the street or on the sidewalk as long as you beep.)

I felt so much more at peace in Sapa than I have anywhere else in Vietnam. This is a lovely country, I’m just not used to being around more than 10 people or so in a day. Hanoi is definitely not McBee SC. However, there are a great deal more birds to see in South Carolina. I’ve only seen about three different species here in Vietnam, where most birds seem to be either caged or chickens. A friend of Max’s said she has colleagues who study birds down in Ho Chi Minh City, so I may make Max take me down there when we come back to Vietnam to collect his things.

Pooja and I head to Halong Bay tomorrow for an overnight stay on a boat in the bay, and then back here to Hanoi to do laundry and shower before parting ways. She heads home to India, and I fly to Singapore to meet up with Max, our mutual friend Joby, and Max’s friend Mallory. The plan is for the four of us to make our way to Nepal for some trekking. I’ll keep you posted.

Tell everyone at home I say hello!
Love, Lauren

First impressions of Vietnam

Currently, I am occupying space in the city of Nha Trang, Vietnam, in the apartment of my friend Max. His apartment is a couple blocks from the beach, which looks exactly like how it did in the pictures. The sand is grainy, like coarsely ground salt, and the water is turquoise blue, except when the river stains it brown with sediment from the mountains, as it did yesterday after a heavy rain. There are islands out in the ocean which rise up directly from the water, like steep-backed turtles, giant rock chunks with no sloping beaches. It looks surreal, and, as I did when I visited the Galapagos Islands, I feel like I’m in a dream where I fell into a National Geographic spread and it’s all going to disappear any second when I wake up.

Nha Trang at night.

The best way to get around Nha Trang (in my opinion) is by motorbike. There are easily four times as many motorbikes as cars on the road, everyone seems to have one. By law only two adults can ride on a motorbike at one time, but seeing entire families, two parents, two or three children, crammed on one bike is common. I’ve seen a man on his motorbike balancing 6 boxes on the seat behind him, the bottom one a flat screen TV, some in the middle other electronics, and on top a 24 pack of beer cans. Nothing was strapped on, he casually rested one hand on the top of the stack to steady it. Another man rode along with chickens, probably destined for one of the many food stalls that line the roads, strapped to every possible surface, so that from a distance it looked like his bike was covered with a giant feathery skirt, floppy chicken heads dangling like pom-poms.

Motorbike Max.

Max has a rental bike, which we use every day to explore the city. He picked me up from the airport on his motorbike, which was an experience. I had just spent the past 2 days traveling, which totaled four flights, the shortest being 1 hour, the longest 12 hours and 40 minutes. It was dark and rainy when I arrived, and I had to empty most of the contents of my backpack to find my raincoat before we left the airport. It was wet outside, and he had parked in a puddle, which I realized after I stepped in it and soaked one sock. He handed me a helmet, showed me where to put my feet and where I could hold on, and away we went. I’d never ridden a motorbike before, and this certainly was a memorable first time. It started raining once we left the airport, but stopped after maybe 10 or 15 minutes. Luckily, I had only one backpack, so I could hold on with both hands to the bar behind me. The ride to his apartment was about 45 minutes, but the roads here are generally in good condition so we made good time. It was beautiful, watching the lightning periodically illuminate the ocean on our right and the mountains in the distance, though I didn’t realize I had a death grip until we stopped to eat some noodles close to his apartment. Now, after a few days, I can jump on back and, after strapping on my pink helmet with a cartoon dog on the side (Max picked it out, I had no choice in the matter) take pictures with one hand while pointing out some interesting sight with the other. Max is an excellent driver, and I’ve yet to witness any accidents.

The city feels safe, and I don’t worry that I’m going to get mugged or kidnapped or even run over by a bus, though my friend Pooja and I did almost get run over by a front-end loader the other day while walking down the street. The streets are generally pretty clean, even though everyone throws their trash into the gutter. Max told me that the government pays the poorer people to clean up the trash every night, which gives them a job and keeps the streets semi-litter free. The buildings are chaotic-looking, and I get the impression you could easily find anything you could ever need in the open-air one room stores that line the streets. We eat most meals at street vendors, sitting at kindergarten-sized tables on stools that bring my knees just about level with my chin. Most of these places are where the locals eat, and serve only one dish. Most of the time we walk up, Max says something in Vietnamese to the woman sitting behind the table, and in a few minutes a freshly made plate of something delicious is set in front of us. Most dishes contain either noodles or rice, some kind of meat, and all sorts of amazing flavors I can’t start to describe. Usually spicy, always mouth-watering. The only thing I’ve had here and wasn’t a fan of was the avocado and coconut shake, which had too much avocado and not enough coconut for my liking. The color was a little off-putting too, a light yellowish green that reminded me of slightly off pea soup.

One of my favorite things to do is have Vietnamese coffee in a small glass, strong and dark, mixed with condensed milk and sugar, ice added. Coffee here takes hours, though the glass is only about the size of my fist. This is a savoring experience, both of the coffee and the company you are with, be it new Vietnamese friends, communicating with broken English about our lives in different countries, or old friends, sharing memories and dreams. I will miss this when I go back home again, where coffee seems to usually be a rushed affair, at most half an hour, surrounded by people who are in a hurry to get somewhere they think is important. No one here seems to be in a hurry, though I don’t think that anyone is usually late. Even the traffic seems calm, no road rage, no screaming, cursing drivers when the tall, white foreigners wander blindly into traffic and everyone swerves around. Even in the city, there is an underlying sense of calm, a deep peace like the ocean that sits next to everything.

Vietnamese coffee and an excellent view.

I think Pooja, another friend from OWU who is out here to travel with me for a few weeks, will be leaving for parts unexplored soon, heading north to Hue, Hanoi, Halong Bay. We plan on taking buses and trains, another new mode of transportation for me. I’ve ridden on both before, but never for more than an hour or so. Most trips here take a good 10 or 11 hours, so luckily the seats are comfortable and the views entertaining.

Everyday is a new adventure, and I look forward to experiencing what the world next offers.


Florida, 2012
North Carolina, 2011


                Pounding, pounding. The dull wet slap of my feet in damp-packed sand at the edge of water. Waves, irregular intervals, stretching for my toes. I run, leap, quick. Along the edge of life, where motion and stillness collide, I stop and breathe. Deep prana, look out over the ocean, exhale. I see my self, a dolphin, leap from my soul out into the blue and I know peace. The waves grab but always release. I run but I always stop. The sand is cool on my feet, the waves rough and loud. Quick, graceful, jump, gone.
Florida, 2012
Kelley’s Island, Ohio, 2009
North Carolina, 2011
                On the edge of my world I study the creatures that reside there, riding the edges of existence. These birds, equally at home on air, water, or land, fascinate me. How they dominate these three elements is mystifying, as I only manage a shaky grasp on one. I watch them run in and out along the shoreline, probing quickly between waves, periodically leaping into the air as one and circling around my head, guiding by instinct until they are clear of the potential danger I pose. Eyes squinted against the sun and wind, I watch as they land down the beach and resume dodging waves. The longer-legged sandpipers have no need to scurry in and out of every wave, but the stubby-legged sanderlings run to avoid a cool dousing. Occasionally, one small piper misjudges and must take to the air in a small flustered bundle of dripping feathers, peeping until it again settles back into rhythm with the constant motion of the waves.
                I feel so apart from these natural rhythms, though I wish to be a part. But I know, in an hour or so, that I will turn around and walk back to my car, drive back to civilization. I have nothing against modern conveniences, but at times I wish I could be more like these shorebirds and span different worlds with such ease. Being able to transition so smoothly between two extremes, like a bird between air and shore, would be like slipping into a second reality.
Florida, 2012
Galapagos Islands, 2008
Florida, 2012
                I want to dance barefoot in the sand, spinning until the dunes and sea blend together in a swirl of color and I fall winded on the soft sand in a heap, inhaling the damp air, waiting for the world to right itself around me.
Costa Rica, 2009
North Carolina, 2011