What to do when in Utah? Drive-through pawn shops are always a plus.

For the third year in a row, Charlie and I roadtripped down to Utah over Memorial Day weekend.

In 2012, we hung out in Moab and checked out Arches and Canyonlands National Parks.

In 2013, we visited Bryce Canyon National Park.

This year, our destination was Zion National Park.

I hope you're comfortable (go grab something to drink) because we have a LOT of pictures to share and I can't help but include a few stories along the way.

As far as National Parks go, it's not a huge one. The park itself is 229 square miles of canyons and high plateaus located at the overlap of the Colorado Plateau, Mojave Desert, and Great Basin. The closest "city" to the park is St. George, Utah, though there are some really cute towns just outside catering to tourists.

So. Let's get to it. Pictures and other fun stuff.


Cricket nights

Hard to believe that it's mid-August already. This summer has positively flown past.

It's been a good summer, but it's impossible to fit in everything that you'd like to do before the students come back to the University and the days get short and cold.

This morning, I was having a bad case of wanderlust. I'm guessing it was mostly primed by the fact that we had a long list of chores we were responsible for, and there were other things I'd rather be up to.

Such as reading by a pool.

Or laying out under a wide sky full of stars.

But that's life. Instead, we planted a few perennials and a handful of annuals (a nice little sprinkling of "fall color"), found ourselves neck deep in trimmed branches, and covered in spiderwebs as we cleaned out our shed. The part of me that thinks every weekend should be a vacation is a little disappointed that's how we spent our days off, but, the results are worth it. Also, when your body is tired, scraped, and a little sunburned, it's hard to feel like the road is calling. A spot on the couch with a cuddly kitty and a cold drink seems plenty good.

We went to see Rear Window on Thursday. I'm still a little baffled that I've never seen it before. What a great movie. Friday night, we went to see the new Batman movie. The contrast between them couldn't be larger. I enjoyed Batman enough, but to see it in such close proximity with a movie that has mastered the art of suspense, and executes it so deftly - it just doesn't quite hold up.

More than anything, Rear Window made me think about how we structure our lives and how we fill our time. Recently, I've been sensitive to articles and clips about the amount of screen time or internet, or noise we consume without even realizing it. Right now, I'm sitting in a quiet house, the crickets are singing outside, and everything is dark on the other side of the windows. No TV, no radio, no videos playing on the internet. Just the sound of the night and the fans bringing in the cool night air. It's really nice.

It's hard not to have other things playing or other sounds going. We want the TV, music, or the radio to keep us company. I take a really singular pleasure in turning on the BBC World Service and letting the radio be my background for evening chores. But it's also nice not to. I think it's easy to forget that. It's hard to carve out a little space where it's just quiet. Sometimes Charlie will walk into the room where I'm just sitting, and he'll ask me if everything is OK. "I'm just enjoying being still." It's hard to remember how to do that sometimes, but it's so refreshing and recharging when we can just let that happen. Turn our brains off. Sit in a quiet room. Pay attention to the things around us.

It's funny that a movie like Rear Window made me think about that - it's all about watching something, right? I'm not sure that movie would have happened in the world we live in today. We're so tied in to watching and consuming, and paying attention to our own little online lives - would we even notice what our neighbors look like? Would we have nicknames for people we haven't even met? There's something decidedly human about that; I think we'd do ourselves well not to forget it in favor of our online or onscreen pursuits.

Anyhow, the crickets outside the window tonight are nice. 



I wish all the thunder storms weren't on work nights...

The air has been charged all day. Now that the storm is here, you can feel the bolts as they flash: deep in your chest, almost in your lungs. Zoosh.

Somehow the ones without thunder are the wildest and the weirdest - when they crackle across the sky, splitting across like a wiry branch. Holding your breath for the deluge of the boom, and it doesn't come.

Maybe a faint rumble far away.

Probably not from this strike.

Just a brief charge, more like a flutter of your heart or a sharp suck of breath.

The dog is pacing; walking around the living room in circles. Clicking his nails on the floorboards. I think he'll sleep in our room tonight, he's nervy when there are storms.



After work last night, we decided to go on a picnic and escape the 95 degree heat in the valley. I tossed together a little bag with an old flannel sheet (plaid, perfect for picnicing), two wine glasses, a couple of forks and some sunscreen. We stopped at the Co-op, had a couple of their gourmet sandwiches made up, raided their deli for a tasty green bean and pesto salad and some cookies, and snagged a couple of cold drinks.

From there, we drove about an hour north of town through yellow, sunset hills to a little picnic area along the banks of the Payette River. When we got there, the river was already shadowed by the surrounding hills, but it was quiet and comfortable. Charlie paid the small day use fee, and I set us up with a picnic on some wide flat boulders above the sandy shore.

The river was cool and green. Kingfishers were diving for their dinner, flycatchers were zipping and somersaulting to grab bugs just above the water. Just upstream at a picnic table in the trees, a family was grilling, and their little blonde and red-headed kids were shouting and laughing. Dad set up a chair on a sand bar and buried his feet. We all waved to the rafters and kayakers who were floating down the river, trying to get in one last paddle before it became too dark to see.

We had such a lovely night. I think we were both surprised at how easy it was to throw things together and just canoodle for an evening away from home. Sitting out by the river, we saw fish jump, watched a spider craft a web in the branches far over our heads, and listened to the sound of the water as the sky grew dark through the long needles of the Ponderosa Pines above.

On the drive home, with the hills along the highway just long, dark silhouettes, we asked each other why we don't do that more - it's not outrageous to get an easy dinner together, drive for an hour (or less), spend the evening out, and get home by 10:30. It's the sort of thing that would be simple to do even on a work night.

And it made us both so, so happy.



Sometimes life just feels hard. You feel lonely, you feel tired. It's hard to add the "fun" into another day of getting up, going to work, walking the dog, working, coming home, making dinner, walking the dog again, and then going to bed and starting it all over again. I feel like I've read several blogs lately with the same slightly sad lament: how do you make it wonderful? How do you make that life that feels worth living, rather than one that's just biding time until the next thing comes along?

It seems like this sort of sentiment always comes along at the peak or end of a season. Mid-summer, winter's dragging end. There's no real reason, except that maybe it feels like something is coming to an end (again), and you don't have a lot to say for it.

Tonight I made homemade tortillas. Silly how easy it was (Masa flour, water, salt. Mix into a soft dough. Roll into balls. Smoosh with a heavy pan into flat rounds. Cook on the cast iron skillet until they look like tortillas.). Little things like that help. It's something new, something different, it's an escape.

Sometimes I get tired of being responsible. Of going to all the things that we're supposed to. Of showing up on-time ready to get some shit done. I want to just flake out a little. Not turn up where we said we were going to. Go to bed way too late and sleep through my alarm. Have a glass of wine and a stack of cookies for dinner.

Is that what it means to be a grown-up? Our responsibilities are pretty small comparatively. No mortgage, no kids. We could survive on far less than we do. We're tucking a little into the bank every paycheck in hopes that some day we'll have a little more than we do now.

But there's an itch. Maybe it's wanderlust, maybe it's a selfish squirm.

How good would it feel to just load up the car, roll down the windows, and drive off into the mountains? Doesn't matter where. In fact, better that there isn't a plan, I think. Might end up somewhere more interesting.

In my imagination, it would be nice.


Summer, so far.

January 1, huh? That was the last time I typed something up? Sad indeed.

We've been doing the usual mix of day hiking and car camping (no backpacking yet this year - where do the weekends go?). Now we have a dog-kid to keep us company (had to buy a whole new tent to squeeze him in). Unfortunately, he's a wimpy city dog ("Sleep on the ground? Me?"). But he's still pretty cute, so I imagine we'll keep him.


A wish.

May all your 2011s feature a little catnapping in the sun.

Happy New Year!


Home again, home again...

It's hard to go home after being home. Wishing that everyone had as nice of a holiday as we did. Hard to believe we'll be doing it all again in a month.


I must be assimilating...

Went for my first ever snow jog today. Not bad, just a little wet. Before long they'll be sending me my golden potato pin.


The non-deliberate art of self-fashioning

You'll have to forgive me a little self-centered indulgence on this one....

I was cleaning out an old purse a week or two ago, making my transition into an autumn full of rich colors, wool, leather, and the like, and I found a list. To be honest, I'm surprised that I even opened it: A little secret of mine? I've never been good at cleaning out the old shopping lists, spare change, and other miscellany prior to putting a purse back in the closet.

As it turns out, I'm glad that I didn't clean it out when I put the purse away (you saw THAT coming, didn't you?). I probably would have crumpled it up and thrown it away. Or, tucked it into a journal and promptly forgotten about it. As it stands, I HAD forgotten about it, and was more than a little curious to read through a scribbled "goals" list for 2010.

I don't think it was a resolutions list, rather, more of a "things it'd be nice to do more of and be better about in the year to come."

What was surprising about this list, was, despite the fact that I hadn't seen it in nearly a year (I'm sure I wrote it sometime in January), I'd somehow managed to accomplish a surprising number of the bullet points I'd set out for myself. Not just the small, "to-do" caliber items, but the bigger, more profound ones, too.

#1: Change last name. Though not every document in my arsenal has my married name on it, the important ones now do. And they were all changed (uh, barely) prior to our first anniversary. Bank account? Check. Driver's license? Check. Passport? Uuuur.....

#2: Improve bread baking skills. I'm getting there. I made this killer dill bread over the weekend, and despite the fact that it was a dreaded yeasted bread, it turned out beautiful. It rose (twice!), it was flavorful, and it baked up with a golden crust. Yum.

#3: Learn to cross country ski. I still have a month and a half. Cut me some slack.

#4: Write more letters. Fail.

#5: Be more diligent about getting out and about going to the YMCA. Check. Done. Better. Baby steps.

#6: Read more books. Done. Big improvement over last year, though not quite where I'd like to be.

#7: Drink more tea. Frivolous, but delicious. And DONE.

#8: Improve my work situation. Passed this test with flying colors.

#9: Join a community activity. I think I can say that accomplishing this has made a significant difference in my life.

So great. A to-do list. Killer for you that you were able to meet your silly little goals.

Except for the fact that I wrote these down on a whim, and then never managed to look at them once since then. I was a little floored by the proportion of these that I was able to accomplish, even though I wasn't actively checking them off. I didn't have the list posted, reminding me of what I was supposed to get done. I didn't have a mantra that I read to myself every morning in the mirror. I wrote down a list, promptly forgot about it, and lost it in the bottom of a purse in my closet.

I wrote my senior thesis in college about self-fashioning in Hamlet (ambitious? me?). One of the points I really latched on to was that once a character shared an idea or a proposition with someone else, that ambition became, somehow, a little more real. By saying it aloud, it transitioned from the realm of pure, ephemeral idea, into something more likely, more accountable.

Is the fact that I did pretty well on this to-do list just luck? Would I have accomplished those points anyhow? They ARE pretty frivolous (I know). I like to think that because I put them out there - wrote them down - made them a little more concrete in both my mind, and the broader "universe" that I somehow made them a little more "real."