It has been a lot, this recovery. From pain to fear to doubt to hope to thinking too much to letting it go, I have been through more than I could have imagined before it all happened. After finally completing my first race in St. Moritz, I am happy to say that I am back ski racing again. Although I have had mixed feelings about it over the past few months, I realized recently that this is what I worked so hard for. This is what I am supposed to be doing right now. This is another step on my path, and I want to walk it with certainty and grace.
Before my first race in St. Moritz I fought many battles with myself: why am I doing this? Is it worth it? Am I too scared now? Should I just move on? Is this were I am supposed to be?
But I switched the flip. I got sick of doubt and fear, and swimming in the thick of it all. I know it's there. I've walked with it. And I'm so much better with it by my side, but it is not all that is there. There is so much more. Here is my journal entry from the night before my first race:
Here I am, in St. Moritz, sitting at my desk in my room, prepping for bed the night before my first race back. My first race after that terrible accident and the proceeding terrible/wonderful months. Eight months and eleven days, to be exact....
I have gained and lost perspective, over and over again. And I am constantly working on fine-tuning, stepping back, having patience. I need to be aware of expectations. I can tell that, although I have not intentionally set them, they are there. I need to remember to be kind to myself, to be easy with expectations, stay aware and present and remember to enjoy the ride. Remember that there are so many other things out there that I am so passionate about, and look forward to exploring. Remember how small this world of skiing is, but remember that I am here. Now. Remember my breath. And remember the joy.
Though I haven't skied much at all over the last 8 months, my body remembers. My mind remembers, my muscles remember. My skiing is still there, my fundamentals are still there...my trust and flow is what I'm searching for now. I understand the risk that I am taking (I have thought endlessly about this), and now it is time to let that be. And ski. To be firm with myself: I know I am taking the risk. I am willing to suffer the (unknown) consequences. There is no need to dwell on that, to dwell on the future, to dwell on the fear. I have acknowledged it, have gotten to know it, have walked, breathed, and sat with it. Fear and me: we are pals, to say the least. Like sisters: we may not always get along harmoniously, but we love each other deeply. I know she is there and I respect her.
But it is time to do my job. The job that I love and enjoy so much. And the only way to return to that joy is to trust, let go, and let it fly. What happens happens. Let go of expectations, let go of control. You can only do what you can do. It's time to get back into this ski-racing thing, and to enjoy the shit out of it, no matter how fast or slow I am. I will commit to this decision, and although there will be moments of doubt and great struggle, I will commit to remembering how I want to move forward -- with intention, with ease, with joy. With a big heart. With deep breaths and with courage. With self-love and kindness, with an open mind and a strong will. With ferocity, hunger, patience and passion.
So tomorrow is the day when I begin. And it feels so good to know that I am going to take that step. Scary. Terrifying, even, but so good. Stepping up to the task, stepping up to the challenge. Facing it with trust and with courage. Facing it with the mindset of being present, bringing joy to it, bringing fire and passion and hunger....like I used to, but slightly different: I am older, wiser, more whole and more myself. Myself now -- which is a different self. One that I look forward to getting to know better, getting to express, getting to RACE with. I am certain that I want to do this, certain that I am exactly where I should be. And I am certain that I am okay with the unknown. Onward!
It was a beautifully terrible day. There's something about stormy days on the mountain -- you can't hear yourself speak, up against the wind. The snow is swirling around you madly, the surface of the slopes disappears with the blowing layer of wind and snow. Vertigo comes and goes, you can barely feel your fingers -- it's nicer when they go numb. All the noise actually creates this stillness, in which the only thing you can feel and hear is your own breathing. I love stormy days. They push me, challenge me to find my center.
This one was especially challenging. In the meeting the night before the U.S. Nationals GS race, the coaches said the race would basically run no matter what...so we knew it was going to be a crazy weather day. At the start, the first gates were blowing down hill in the tail wind. I was cold, down to the bone. The sleet had piled up overnight but was slipped off of the icy GS course. I was only there racing for the hell of it, for fun. It had been 2 years since my last race in GS, but I was excited to give it a shot again. After all, it used to be my best event. I remember taking off my outer layer and immediately freezing my buns off -- clicking into my skis and mentally preparing for a wild ride.
The first few gates were fast...very fast for a GS. The tail wind pushed me out of the start -- I barely had to pole at all. By the third gate, I was hauling; arcing some nice turns on the top flat. I think it was the sixth gate. I remember there being a roll preceding it, and when I pressured my skis for the right footer on the backside of the roll, they slipped out from underneath me on the ice. I was sliding on my left hip, thinking I could stand back up and still make the next gate -- a silly hip-check at high speeds...they can be fun to pull off. But, now, I know better. Before I was fully back on my feet (my weight was transferred, but I had yet to stand completely back upright) I hit a pile of new snow with my right outside edge. It twisted and jerked my knee out with incredible force.
I'm not even sure what the crash was like. All that remained was pain. Excruciating pain. And that is all that existed to me for the following hour. I don't even remember thinking about what was wrong, where my friends and family were, if I'd ever ski again. I only remember pain and the accompanying aspects: moving into a sled, wailing uninhibitedly, Micum (my physio) consoling me on my sled ride, shivering, shaking, pain. In a sense, it was probably the most present I have ever been for such a span of time -- I was forced to be with the pain, and although I was not "okay" with it (all I wanted was for it to be gone), I was at least with it. I could barely breathe -- I was choking on my sobs and violently shaking throughout my entire being. The pain penetrated to my very core. I have experienced many kinds of pain -- from dislocated shoulders to bone-deep lacerations, from a broken heart to a shattered pelvis -- but all have paled in comparison to this. It was awful, horrific, unbelievable...and it was terrifyingly real.
Eventually I was loaded up with fentanyl -- even a normally large dose didn't numb me enough. But I began to care about other aspects of my reality, and that's when I realized how all-encompassing the pain was. It was almost like, when I was living in the pain, I was in another world; a hell of sorts. A world where nothing good exists. How I wish I'll never have to return to that place...
The first rational thoughts I remember having were the appreciation for and comfort in having my best friends by my side: Leanne, Resi and Alice were the first ones whose presence provided me some solace. I felt their sympathy and love, and was so grateful for that. I spoke to my parents on the phone (which probably freaked them right out), and Tommy arrived somewhere in the midst of my transition from 'the pain hell' to my bad version of reality. I don't know what I'd have done, had I not had friends and loved ones around. Every pang was accompanied by assuagement. Leanne even rode in the back of the ambulance with me...it was a long, hazy ride of doubts and consolations.
That ambulance ride was the first time I began considering my future: what was actually wrong with my knee? I knew it was something awful, but I had no idea about the extent of my injury yet. Would I ski again? Would I walk again? What would I do if I couldn't get back to these physical capabilities? I thought about University, about my degree, grad school. I thought about whether, if I could ski again, I would even want to. To expose myself to the potential of experiencing it all again seemed out of the question. Thank god Leanne was there providing some rational insight: wait. See how you feel. Now is a terrible time to make decisions.
And she was right. Any time over the next 6 weeks would have been a terrible time to make any sort of life decisions. So I didn't let myself. I told myself: until you're completely out of the pain, no big decisions. And fuck. Those next 6 weeks were so hard.
When I learned, the night of my accident, the extent of my injury, I knew it was going to be a long, bumpy road. But I didn't REALLY know...you never really know until you're in it. Four days later I went under the knife in Vail. I woke up after surgery, back in the pain place: sobbing and restless. That first night was hell. I barely slept, which is pretty miraculous considering the amount of morphine being dripped into my veins all night. I had horrible visions of the pain lasting, for any time at all. And it certainly did. I vaguely remember writing about it in my journal, but mostly numbing myself with pain medication and not feeling like myself for what felt like a ridiculously long span of time.
I cried in every therapy session over those first 4 weeks. I would even cry in the car on the way to therapy, foreshadowing the pain it would cause. But I knew I had to do it to get back to skiing and living how I wanted. That first month I was burdened with intense anxiety -- fear of PT and the pain, fear of my future, fear, even, of the present. I got to know my darkest self and, although there were glimpses of light, I didn't enjoy much of anything at the time. I took so many Vicodin, Oxycontin, CBD this and Arnica that, attempting to soothe the discomfort. But I just had to ride it out...thankfully I didn't know that beforehand.
Aside from all the misery, there was love. So much love. Nothing felt like enough at the time, but now I can look back and see how lovingly I was cared for. Tommy flew with me from Maine to Vail and was there for the surgery. Both my mum and dad came out to Vail to help me during my surgery and first week of recovery (holy shit, I desperately needed their help). My friend Elle moved to Bend to help me for a few weeks. Kelly made me insanely delicious meals and brought me breakfast in bed literally every morning for the first 6 weeks. She rubbed my feet at night and slept with me on the bad nights. My mum and I slept in the same bed for the first time since I had meningitis, years ago. Kyle crafted bouquets for me and filled the house with spring colors and scents. My dad brought dinner over countless nights, and helped with my at-home therapy every single day. My therapist Ellie even came to my house on the weekends. Tommy drove me to Utah and committed to living there with me for 6 weeks in May/June, despite his desire to spend time at home in Oregon. Even Jar (Kelly's dog) would cuddle me sometimes -- a rarity for the peculiar pup. Looking back on it all, it was magic. I was surrounded by the most wonderful people, but I couldn't see that clearly at the time.
I was always freezing cold -- shivering under all the covers, obsessed with my heating mat and constantly taking scalding-hot baths. I lost 15 pounds over the first few weeks, mostly from my loss of appetite but partly due to the cold and anxiety as well. Thinking clearly was a luxury...it began happening more regularly about a month after surgery. I embraced these times to write or do homework; I took a few online classes to dedicate my mind to useful thinking. Eventually, I submerged from the cloud of drugged-up obscurity and came back to myself.
I got inspired by my classes -- to create, to dream, to keep moving. I adopted an "anti-inflammatory" diet (no gluten, dairy, alcohol, night-shade vegetables, fried food, or sugar) for a while and learned how to cook with fresh, whole foods. I spent countless hours in therapy (a regimen that has not come to an end), working on my knee while tending to the rest of my body as well. Everybody thinks you'll have all this extra time when you get injured, but so much time is spent doing the simple things: getting from place to place, doing physical therapy, taking a shower, trying to get enough sleep countering countless wakeful nights. There have been days over the past 6 months where I'll leave the COE in Park City and realize I spent 9 hours in the gym that day. Then I have to head home to rest, elevate, compress, ice. It is never ending...
But I have made the time to take a few classes, to do some drawing and lots of writing, to read books and magazines. My world seems to have expanded during this difficult phase of healing, despite shrinking down so small at times. I am seeing everything just a little bit differently -- the light peeking through the leaves, the old man on his bicycle, the scars that adorn my changing body. I understand things differently...mostly in the sense that I understand very little, and that's okay. I recognize and appreciate the small victories. I notice elements of the slow progression that accompanies any major injury -- the pain of descending stairs slowly dissipating over an 8-week span. Some things happen fast (not many) and these help me to understand my high expectations (when I rarely fulfill them) and how to keep them at bay.
I've learned how to be gentle with myself, how to be kind. And I know it will take effort to carry this into the winter, but I know, for my sanity and well-being, this is something incredibly necessary for me to continue to work on. I am currently starting to get back on my feet (skis!) down here in Coralco, Chile...and I am allowing myself to get excited, but am making sure I go back to skiing with no expectations. I have worked my ass off, have sacrificed so much, and have been through emotional hell for my sport, but even if it doesn't work out -- if I'm unable to race or ski fast ever again -- it will all have been worth it. Because I'm better from all of this. I am me, and I'm getting to know that person and am learning what really makes me happy and realizing that what it all comes down to, really, is love. So, if anything, out of this process I will take those lessons and begin with loving myself. And maybe out of that love will grow something wonderful.
I've been thinking a lot about composing some nature writings lately. When I was out backpacking last week in Yoho National Park, B.C., I was finally inspired and figured it was the perfect opportunity to sit and write. See below for Nature Writings: pt. I
As I sit at my picnic table at the edge of Lake Yoho, I am watching the sun rise over the mountains and, strangely, feeling like I am missing something. The wind is creeping through the pine trees and huckleberry bushes, the reflection on the lake's surface is barely rippled, my belly is full, I have coffee and family and the only plans we have for the day are to hike to Burgess Pass.... what could possibly be missing?
Even out here, in the wild, I have inevitably given myself a to-do list: read, write, draw, get enough sleep, etc. Although the tasks are simple and mostly enjoyable, they still weigh on me lightly. There is always something on my mind -- a plan to organize the packs for the day, wanting to journal, trying to take care of my knee -- something to do. Always, always.
I've recently realized that this need to organize and plan is not necessarily a bad thing; I get things done. I know exactly where my things are, where I'll be in a month from today, what my workouts for the week are, what I'll cook for dinner. This can be overwhelming for others around me, it can even be overwhelming for myself. But as long as I remain aware of my thoughts and planning tendencies, I can manage to appreciate them and still enjoy the present.
This is why I come outside. Because, out here, the stimulations that are incessant in everyday life in the real world disappear. You realize, with the lack of external input (phones, emails, computers, Instagram, advertisements, news, to-do lists, etc), the only noise comes from within.
Sometimes it's noise that we don't want to hear. It's hard to sit still and be with your thoughts. At least it's hard for me... but the more I do it, and the longer I do it for, the more I start to be okay with them. The more I come to accept the messiness. The more I see through the bull shit, the more I understand myself. The more I like myself. Meditation has really helped me to see more clearly, and to accomplish the aforementioned. I sit every morning with my thoughts, for at least 20 minutes, before going about my day. But then -- I go about my day: making breakfast, listening to NPR, answering emails. I head to the gym, eat lunch, ride my bike around, attend appointments, work out again, do homework, answer more emails, intermittently browse through Instagram + Twitter, spend time with friends and family, eat dinner, check email, try to relax, read, and wind down for sleep. The days are packed full -- there's almost no time to step back and view my thoughts, much less try to understand them. The meditation certainly brings more presence to my daily activities, but living in that tiny open space of complete awareness is not feasible throughout the entirety of every day.
....Until I come outside. Then everything brings me back to where I am -- the sun rising over Yoho Lake, the clouds warping and sprinkling, my legs and lungs burning as I climb through the Rocky Mountain trails. With no distractions, I notice a swarm of questions, imaginations, wonders and worries running through my head. But...that's the best part: I notice. Constantly. I am ever-aware of my mental imperfections, I learn more about what makes up my mind's character. I think, sometimes, of how terrible I am at thinking nothing and staying present. But I come to appreciate that seemingly negative quality -- to understand that it makes me good at many of the things I love. How the searching pushes me -- creatively, ambitiously, daily. To tame and understand this noise is what allows the gratitude.
There are so many things I learn in the wilderness. I learn the names and shapes of many plants: pearly everlasting and false solomon seal, huckleberry bushes and larch trees. The names of peaks and glaciers: Mt. Ennis, Hanbury Glacier, Emerald Glacier, the President Range, Daly and Fairy Glaciers, Takakkaw Falls. I want to take pictures of them all, to document this time so I can look back and remember. And so that I can look back with loved ones and show them what I saw, share with them how it felt to be out here: the awe and grandeur, the lessons and the people I met: Gwyneth, who came to talk with me while I was soaking in Yoho Lake, the little fishies who gnawed at my legs, the obnoxious group of backpackers who hiked their speaker up to the camp site and incessantly played their music very loudly at the campground. I want to have something to hold on to, I want to capture the way it felt.
As I take photographs, I sometimes foresee myself posting them to Instagram, or some other social media outlet. I will be in the middle of snapping a picture, even with my film camera, and I'll realize I'm thinking about how great it would be to post that shot somewhere. Sometimes I'll adjust the frame specifically for posting purposes, though this is rare as I believe a photo framed for the photographers sake carries with it the most beauty, the most genuine feeling of that moment, the most truth. And you can feel this when looking at photos: whether they were taken with genuine presence or with an audience in mind (hence the reason advertising shots can rarely be connected to). Sometimes I even have to take shots specifically for social media purposes -- to fulfill contracts and promote my "personal brand" (icky). I hate this, even though I understand that it's part of my job. BUT...more on the photos not for Insta's sake:
When I realized I have someone else in mind (an audience) while shooting the photo, I tend to start to hate myself a little. This is not the person I want to be -- taking photos to promote myself or show off to others. But this trip has shed a bit of light on this tendency to want to show others: I am a social creature. I want to share my experiences and myself with other people. I want to connect. After all, I believe one of the most gratifying and meaningful pieces of life rests in love. And though I know I cannot make people love me through (excellently composed :P ) photographs, I do know that sharing myself opens up so many doors, establishes a platform for conversation, instills a sense of connection that can lead to meaningful relationships -- to more love in my life and in the lives of others.
The wilderness teaches me something illuminating each time I venture through it. Along with new lessons, nature teaches me the same thing over and over again, every time: how to be kind to myself. With all the distractions in the "real world" there is hardly any time to get to know your thoughts, your self. But, out here, you are forced to. You see things a bit differently, among the trees and mountain peaks. You can approach yourself with more patience, because you realize you have all the time in the world. I suppose the time isn't necessarily what allows the kindness...perhaps it's the stillness. Maybe it's the kindness embodied by nature, the inherent patient calm. Even when it's windy, raining, and you can barely hear yourself breathe, there is still a sense of calm, still space to find awareness and appreciation. And this is why I keep coming back.... It must be part of the reason we all keep coming back. There are many pleasures that I feel guilty about, but this is one pure pleasure that actually makes me feel the opposite of guilt -- it makes me feel whole again, happy, present. If only now I can take this natural self and bring it back to society with me. Maybe I'll bring a rock, to remember. I guess that's why I take the photos...to bring a piece of this stillness back.
You know those TV shows and movies and dreams you have that depict a perfect little island in the middle of the Pacific with the clearest waters, gorgeous sunsets, insane surf, and beautiful people? That's Tavarua. No seriously, it is. Or, at least it was for the week I went to celebrate Julia and Dylan's marriage.
waking up to views of the sun rising over the mainland
The sunsets were insane. The sunrises...even more beautiful. The food was yummy, the huts were homey, and the company was exquisite.
...and that's Cloud Break (photo credit: Shawna Korgan)
So in love
I spent a lot of time on boats: watching surfing, taking photographs of surfing, dreaming of surfing. But I also got to swim around a bit: snorkel and explore the reefs. Tommy and I paddle boarded around the island of Tavarua in the wind one day. The water was ridiculously clear, and the sea-life was vibrant. Very near the hotel beach were giant clams of iridescent color. I have no idea where those GoPro photos went (from underwater adventures), but I'm sure they couldn't portray the beauty anyway. So much beauty!
both Tommy and I were focused on water
party wave! (Stacey and Maile)
another party wave! (Tommy and Dougy)
out at Cloudbreak
Grant Korgan, absolutely crushing Cloudbreak on his Kayak
Stace-dawg, out hunting the perfect wave
...and finding it!
....and slaying it!
okay but for real, this wave looks so so fun (Cloudbreak)
I'm pretty sure that was Carissa Moore.... (badass surfer chick)
Tavarua boat out at Cloudbreak during sunset
Never have I been in the presence of so many diversely talented athletes (some disguised as normal people) at once as I was on Tavarua that week. Everywhere I looked there was someone surfing huge waves, back-flipping into the pool, paddle boarding on a rubber ducky, chasing after a beautifully speedy child, butt hanging out and looking gorgeous. I guess I should have expected it from the group of Julia's closest friends.
Stace-dawg getting her wedding on
Lauren Ross probably doesn't have many photos out there of herself, because she herself is a super talented photographer...check out her website: http://www.laurenandabby.com/
Sunrise color reflections on the water
Cloudbreak surfer (unknown)
awaiting a set
the shores of Tavarua
...and there was the wedding. It could not have been a more beautifully perfect yet easy-going celebration. The music was literally chosen at the last minute. But it turned out to be a dream wedding, of which I was so thankful to be a part.
the kiss (well, one of many)
the happy couple
Even the weather was perfect. Seriously -- I don't know how we got so lucky....
And the resort of Tavarua was insane! The photo above is of the boatmen's dock and the beach bar in the sunrise. Below are photos taken around the resort....
the pool deck
a bure (hut) -- the one I lived in for the week, with 3 others
the restaurant decked out (hah!) in wedding attire
restaurant deck from the beach below
Tavarua boats from the shore during sunrise
Tavarua from the water
I have so many more photos to share... I'll cut the words off here. But I'm pretty sure that week-long island vacation we had in Tavarua will not be beat. I'm both saddened and appreciative of that, but I mostly just can't wait to return and live in that dream world again :)
same view, different time of day
Tommy enjoying a ride
a very big (cute) fish
Sean, going for a post-ceremony ducky ride (caught on camera by Tommy)
a Tavarua boatman taking us to the sand bar for some snorkeling!
barrels for days
Mama Stace -- Cloudbreak on the ducky
Tora Bright slashing Numotu
can't get enuffffff
this wedding was just too easy to photograph...
....and the last sunset....
I need to write more. It always goes in spurts -- I'll write almost every day for a month, and then forget about it for 2 weeks, or yearn to write but don't seem to be capable of making time for it. Perhaps it needs to be higher up on my list.
Music hasn't even been part of my life for the last few months. When I was injured I didn't have the drive or body position potential to play. Maybe I should start playing more. But, for some reason, I don't really feel like it. There are other things going on.... But do I miss it? Of course.
Finding time to do the important little things is tough, no matter how much time you have. The truth is that I hold writing on a very high pedestal, and I have very high standards, as a reader, that I hold myself to -- even when I'm simply writing in my journal. I appreciate serious, but playful, writing. I want to read about issues, but I don't enjoy too much density. I love stories, but not (normally) love stories. I can't stand cheesy romance -- there's got to be some depth. I'm curious about what's going on in the economy and how physics works, I am intrigued my world history, but I'm bored of stats and stated-facts.
...I want imagination! Twists of randomness and relatable information hold my attention -- but I can't stand flamboyant adjectives or pointless wordiness. I want content to be challenging, yet engaging...intellectual, but not verbose. I love to read, and it fuels my passion to write. So, I guess maybe I should just read more...?
I've been infatuated by magazines lately. The diverse content, the aesthetics, the timely relevance. Literature magazines are great -- my current favorites and The Sun (no adds --so convincing for me!) and The New Yorker. But I love a bit of a lighter magazine as well -- Frankie, Kinfolk, Smith Journal. The self-help and informative publications are wonderful too: Mindfulness Magazine, Flow, Yoga Journal (I don't even do yoga)...and I haven, as of late, fallen in love with 'Apartamento,' a magazine based on interviews with folks who inhabit incredible spaces and have unique stories to accompany nice photographs. 'Womankind' I found in the LAX airport, and am impressed by it's diverse and thought-provoking content. Then, of course, there's always Time, Vanity Fair (more grounded and intellectual than one might think), and National Geographic. Wise Traditions and Taproot are wonderful, alternative, honest and more community-based publications, seemingly based around health and interconnectedness. Dwell and DAMN Magazines have architectural-based content that consider sustainability, community and inspires building, art, and DIY ideas. YES covers activism, global, domestic, and community issues, and the environment.
Many of these wonders are from foreign countries: Flow, Frankie, Smith Journal and Womankind are from Australia. Apartamento is based out of Barcelona. But they're all available SOMEWHERE in the U.S....I actually found many of these foreign magazines abroad: Frankie, Flow and Smith while traveling in New Zealand -- though I also encountered Frankie last year in Portugal, where I stumbled upon Apartamento. Taproot, a Vermont-based magazine, I found in New York (and subsequently in Portland, OR), and my first Dwell I found in Spain.
I enjoy reading words expressed from somewhere within the cultures I travel to and through. It's interesting to discover the similarities in writing styles (trends and perspectives) across cultures on opposite sides of the globe. The differences are captivating as well -- Aussie publications seem to be a little more sarcastic, American ones generally more trendy and commercial.
If I can pick up a magazine and learn something new or be intrigued by imagery without being bombarded by ads, I consider it a success -- at least temporarily. Some of the magazines that intrigued me in the past I feel have lost their connection to their readers and become more corporate (FOAM, and Nylon, for example). But, in general, I'm pretty open to any magazine...you can generally find something to relate to or dream about within any publication.
Writing and reading have always been important aspects of my life, and when they slink into the background I always feel there is something missing. So I'm going to pull my journal out of my backpack, bust out the scissors and glue, grab a magazine, find inspiration somewhere, and get creating. Cause it's that time again.
(I am going to try this thing where I don't post any photos with my words. Like it? Don't like it? Comment below (please!) and let me know so I can improve my posts in the future. Thanks!)
So. What have I been doing, other than thinking about what I might be doing next (after skiing)?
I normally move my body in many ways, including, but not limited to: up and down mountains, through woods and between countries, up cliff faces, up trees, across suspended lines and through ocean waters, lifting heavy objects and putting them back down, jumping on boxes and jumping off bridges. Not being able to do these movements has been emotionally disabling. Well, that, and the pain. But now that the pain has mostly subsided, I want to be free of the weight that is unfulfilling idleness.
Before I got injured, I began reading this book called Big Magic, by Elizabeth Gilbert. She talks about the creative process and how to reach your potential. The book's motto is 'Creative Living Beyond Fear.' (more on that throughout this post....)
Things have been confusing and dark for me, as of late. Figuring out how to satisfy my deep, internal craving is not as easy without a physical outlet. Is that why I am pushing through this injury? To return to something that quiets the internal hungry beast? I'm not sure. I love skiing, and that's my reason. For now. I want to see where else it can take me. And if it just so happens that it's time for the next pursuit? So be it. But I'm not quite ready to be done trying. Gilbert, in Big Magic, says, "Whatever it is you are pursuing, whatever it is you are seeking, whatever it is you are creating, be careful not to quit too soon...'don't rush through the experiences and circumstances that have the most capacity to transform you.'
Don't let go of your courage the moment things stop being easy or rewarding.
Because that moment?
That's the moment when interesting begins."
...When I think about it like that, my current situation transforms from being confusing and dark to being interesting.
There is so much to be learned, so much to be gained from every difficulty and challenge. It is truly incredible how I can go from this perspective to one of disabling fear and doubt -- back and forth, back and forth. Through the weeks, days, hours and moments. Sometimes I wonder, 'am I doing this right?' Am I doing everything I can to ensure that when I get back on my skis, succeed or fail, I have no regrets?
I'm not sure. I go back and forth about this, too, among many other things. I spend, on average, 5-6 hours a day working on my knee, my body. I also go out to dinner, go out with friends, forego the icing and rest to make connections and have some wine. Should I be fully focused, 100% committed to rehabbing my knee? Say no to social invitations and give up drinking, only eat at home and surrender the extracurricular activities?
Since I became capable of leaving my house with no pain I have been so much happier. Even a trip to the grocery store was thrilling at first (I still cherish these!). The first time I went out to eat, my knee became so hot and swollen that I had to go home after 45 minutes of being upright. But it was glorious. To smell the baking in the pizza oven (Jackson's Corner!), to see new faces, to sit on someone else's bench was even tactually blissful. I was out in the world again, and I could feel the life and creativity stirring within me.
So I started doing more things for myself, regardless of the discomfort some of them caused. I sat down at my piano. I picked up my guitar, my colored pencils. I meditated, I wrote, I collaged, I did homework and created things that were actually fulfilling. I colored, I socialized, I cooked and blogged and took photos. And, again, I was addicted. Yet again, there was so much to do, and, again, I had to start making choices.
Skiing, right now, is my top priority. Beneath that time-exhaustive, mentally-draining, all-consuming endeavor lies a whole boat-load of my other interests and fascinations on a long list. Although I am spending a lot more time than I thought I'd be on recovering from this injury, I'm left with a little spare time (or, am I creating it...?) to play and pursue other activities. For my class titled, "Exploring Design Careers," I was assigned to approach a personal problem from a design-thinking perspective. So I wrote down a list of things I love to do for myself (personal pursuits, if you will) and chose to not try to do them all, all the time. Instead, I opted for two activities per day -- for instance: ten minutes of drawing, journaling, playing guitar -- and was decidedly fulfilled by those two simple things. Sounds easy, right? Well, actually, it kind of was, and still is.
The weight is lifted ever-so-slightly from my chest, knowing that every day I fulfill the requirement of doing two things for myself every day. And, I actually do them! Instead of being overwhelmed by too many options and hence incapable of actually doing anything meaningful for fear of being incomplete, I just choose from my list. You have to laugh at the straight-forward simplicity of this tactic...how did I not figure this out earlier? I am, after-all, an avid list-maker.
All is not solved, however. I still worry about my knee. I still procrastinate homework until Sundays, when my weekly assignments are due. Some days I forget, or simply neglect, to meditate. I worry that I'm not doing rehab perfectly, that I'm walking too much or eating the wrong foods. I'm attempting to eat an anti-inflammatory diet: no gluten, no dairy, no potatoes, no fried food, no processed sugars....the list goes on. I am not incredibly strict about it, and I try to forgive myself for occasionally eating potato chips or Gouda cheese.
But I am still hard on myself. I am a perfectionist, and I'm not that proud of it. I pay scrupulous attention to detail, and I can't function on too little sleep, or when I'm surrounded by clutter and disorganization. I want to do everything, and do it all very well. This is impossible -- of that I am aware -- but the drive, the undying curiosity is in my blood. Sometimes I wish I could relax: sleep in, daydream, watch a movie without having to knit. But I'm also indebted to and thankful for my hunger. I need to be aware of my ego and my need for approval and reward, but my curiosity teaches me so many invaluable lessons. It shows me so many beautiful, unforgettable things: mountaintop views, the power of the ocean, new languages and new perspectives.
Right now I am learning about how to make a decent living as an artist, how to be a better listener (forever a work in progress), how to make gluten-free, sugar-free (delicious!) pancakes. I'm learning about sustainable design, Oregon's indigenous flowers, how important it is for me to read and write, how to improve my online personal brand.
This strive to be perfectly multi-faceted drives me insane yet holds me together. It will inevitably continue when I retire from ski-racing...although I may say it, I don't really think things will slow down. And I'm okay with that. As long as I'm living with intention and creativity, I will forever be happily unsatisfied. Inspired. Dreaming. Pushing. Creating. I can't sit at home and ice and do glute-exercises all day. Because I want so much more.
Elizabeth Gilbert put it nicely when she said, "If you can't do what you long to do, go do something else.
Go walk the dog, go pick up every piece of trash on the street outside your home, go walk the dog again, go bake a peach cobbler, go paint some pebbles with brightly colored nail polish and put them in a pile. You might think it's procrastination, but -- with the right intention -- it isn't; it's motion. And any motion whatsoever beats inertia, because inspiration will always be drawn to motion.
So wave your arms around. Make something Do something. Do anything.
Call attention to yourself with some sort of creative action, and -- most of all -- trust that if you make enough of a glorious commotion, eventually inspiration will find its way home to you again."
So it's been a while. It's been a hard, painful while since I had surgery 6 weeks ago. What a journey! There have been moments of intense darkness: when I woke up for the first time after surgery. When I had debilitating anxiety before every therapy session for the first 4 weeks because of the excruciating pain I endured every time we had to bend my leg. When I felt alone, regardless of all the family, friends and love surrounding me. But there were also moments of brightness: when I held a baby goat and felt it's curiosity. When I received hand-written letters in the mail -- I could feel the concern and the hope. When I took my first steps, two days ago. It has been a scary, enlightening, and frustrating 6 weeks of countless peaks, pits, and plateaus.
With this injury (as with many) has come so many questions, concerns, doubts, considerations. What if I can't get strong enough to return to the level of skiing I was maintaining before my crash? What if I get back on skis and am stricken with doubt, crippled by fear? What if...what if I can't even ski again? Though it's unlikely, it is a real possibility. And then...what?
Although I have deliberated on this before, never have I done so so thoroughly. I have many passions apart from skiing: singing, climbing, ceramics, to name a few. I attend classes at the University of Oregon every spring term. I write in my journal almost every day: drawing, collaging, contemplating. I try to write a post on my blog at least once a month. I play piano whenever I see one. I paint, although badly, as often as I can. I love working with children, and helping others. Cooking, planning and socializing are a few of the things that keep me sane. Creating, moving my body, curiosity and connection are the things that I find most fulfilling. But, right now, my heart lies in the mountains. The snow. The speed. I want to race.
If it doesn't work out, I know I'll be fine. I can be happy, regardless of my chosen occupation. But that's just the thing: I want to have a choice. I want to be the one who decides when I'm done ski racing. I don't want my body to hold me back, or the Ski Team to make that decision for me. I want to leave on my own terms. And I don't think I'm ready to do that yet....
But what if I don't have a choice? What if I'm forced to move on by the powers that be? How do I come to terms with that?
Throughout my whole ski career I have been all about balance. Balance in my pursuits. Balance on my skis. Balance in my mentality. I like to think I have a balanced and well-rounded perspective. When I think about the number of people in the world who actually pay attention to ski racing, it seems absurd to be a part of this sport. Not to mention the ones who have access and can afford to ski....that's another story altogether. When I traveled down to Chile one year and drove through the slums on my way to Valle Nevado, I asked, "what percentage of the Chilean population actually skis?" And the bus driver answered, "0.1%." Point one percent? That's one in one-thousand. That number is minuscule, considering the incredible skiing they have in Chile.
Ski racing is a foreign sport to many people around the world. I once had a TSA agent in Atlanta ask me if my ski boots were roller-blades! So few people on this planet know what ski racing even is, it's a wonder that this sport even thrives at all. So, if no one really knows that my sport exists, can I truly make a difference in this world?
What is my ultimate goal? Why do I ski at all?!
Skiing is how I express myself. Ski racing is where I feel like my truest, freest self. I want to take that expression, take that creativity and share it with the world. I want to inspire others to do the same -- to follow their dreams. To fall, to fail, to rise back up. To persist and push the limits. To do it all over again. I want people to push to be their best selves. I want to be my best self. I want to not be scared of that person. I want to create positive change in this world, and I hope to inspire others to do the same.
So, how do I do these things if I can no longer ski race at the highest level? There are so many incredible prospects, so much potential, so many means through with to achieve these dreams. I can make art. I can make music. I can make people think, create conversation about change and inspire that conversation to grow. I could travel the world, spread the love, blog, make connections, and catalyze change that way. I could volunteer at the community arts center, volunteer at a women's health clinic in Africa. I could volunteer as a leader. I could write a book, write a song, carve a new path through the woods. I could become a vet, an architect, a nutritionist. The options are limitless. But I'm not overwhelmed or afraid. In fact, I look forward to life after skiing: to completing my degree in fine-arts. To figuring out the next step, trusting in it, and jumping in head first, with no regrets. I will be an impetus of positive change no matter where I go, because that is what I really want to do.
But, for now, I will continue on this path to recovering from injury, and following my dreams of being one of the best skiers in the world. Of going to the Olympics in 9 months, and competing at the highest level. I will continue to work my ass off, as I have been doing, and grind until I can grind no longer. I will do everything I can to come back stronger, as I truly believe I can. This break from skiing is only going to make me miss it more, make me hungry, and make me fierce. But if it doesn't work out, there is another endeavor waiting for me -- waiting for all of us -- when this one comes to an end. And I will not let that end scare me or hold me back. I will let it be my motivation to make the most of what I have, where I am, right now. And to move forward with no regrets.
Change is inevitable. Nothing is permanent. I want to embrace that, and live that change to the fullest. Because....why not?
you can only flow with the change, enjoy the ride, and take advantage of the beauty when you accept and love nature in it's varying forms
I have been intending to make this post for a while now, as I got back many film photos that I have taken over the past year recently and have been wanting to share them. Then I was reading through my journal the other day and thought it might be interesting to give you a glance into my brain.... So I came up with the idea of pulling segments of my journal entries and partnering them with this batch of film photos. It actually took a lot longer than I thought it would, as I realized how personal my writing is in my journal, and how I wanted the photos to somewhat correspond or at least harmonize with the words. The quotes are short, but succinct. They display my inner struggles, my doubts, fears, and my attempts at confidence boosting and grounding. It is finally coming together as I have managed to badly injure my knee and am stuck on a couch for a while. Ice, compression, therapy, food, sleep, and blogging.
I hope you can enjoy reading this post as much as I did composing it.
so many blank, clean pages to look forward to
I am getting closer to being ready to trust, ready to believe in myself
trust your decisions -- trust your instinct, trust your body
and, you have already decided anyway. so that's that.
...I was reminded that you don't have to search for that quiet, calm, confident and still place. It exists inherently. It is always there.
pure flow, pure focus, is our most essential self
heading to a balanced, driven, calm state where I need to be
I wish I could have kept on believing
that is the real me that I want to harness
know that this is exactly where you're supposed to be
maybe that creature of self-doubt will return...
to believe, to play, to revel in that silent, joyful curiosity
when one is truly acting from the heart, performing from the soul, they do not care about what others think
how to enjoy something that you don't necessarily like is a difficult feat. Just because it isn't your style, per-se, doesn't mean you can't embrace it, enjoy it, welcome what Mother Nature has to give you, with open arms
lay in the sun, play in the ocean, bury yourself in the sand, HEAL
I didn't feel the sun shining on me very often
he reminds me that it is about the journey, that there is so much joy and pure pleasure to be found in every day, every run, every breath
believe, just for the sake of believing
the training wasn't great, but the mountains were gorgeous
anchor yourself to the present moment
it is the darkness, the mind, that covers it up and makes you forget the light
that got into my head and freaked me right out. in the end my doubt and deep, internal fear took over
to care about others so deeply that you no longer make comparisons....
your position gives you the opportunity to move beyond the boundaries of where you are physically
I am working on my calm
it feels so nice to feel the fluid-ink run out of the tip as I make these marks
see the world, every person, every relationship, every conversation as an opportunity to practice.
love them, listen to them, watch them and know that, like all thoughts, they are fleeting and not real
"the nullifying, defeating, negating, repeating joy of life" - Joanna Newsom
let your light shine through the strength of that connection
I have been meaning to do this for so very long. Finally, I have filtered through thousands of photos of mine from Burning Man and chosen over 100 to present to you here.... This first one I took of an art car (ship!) and the crowd around Distrikt -- A huge, very popular, music/dance club located at F and 9:00. At any given time (2 pm, 4 am, 10 am, whever) there were thousands of people dancing and partying around Distrikt, with extremely loud music pumping and (pretty gross) drinks served constantly.
I'll go back to the beginning. I took this photo while we were driving into BM during the sunrise. Excitement levels were high.
Kevin and I becoming "devirginized" by making sand-angels
Upon entering, we were made to yell "I'M NOT A VIRGIN ANYMORE!" and ring this bell :)
We made it to camp and set up our yurts! Wahoo! Time to explore!
Day 1 -- out on the Playa
Trying out some costumes in the yurt
Lots of dirt and big, big skies
...And art! Such incredible art!
Burning Man = most hardcore biking community I have ever seen....
....and the most magical
Is this art, or is it encouraging art, or is it a statement or is it just nice to have a desk in the middle of the desert?
Resting on a suspended platform above Distrikt and a sweet hula-hooping camp
....and there are the hula hoopers! (Kevin and Dana)
An interesting art car
Some fun sculptures on the playa (these reminded me of snow)
Partying at Distrikt
We found this awesome circus camp next to Distrikt. Let's just say I had more fun at the circus camp.... it was hard to go back to the craziness that is Distrikt after some peace and body-movement in this camp!
Learning from a gymnastics / circus pro.... attempting to figure out the single-arm handstand
Just a regular-old handstand. Getting some good tips from circus man
...Coaxed back to Distrikt! Loving the photo bomber....
Dana had these incredible hand-knitted costumes made for her and Kevin
A view from atop the suspended platform near Distrikt... the first time I realized that BM may be slightly commercialized and white trash....
Flags in the wind. This first day was one of the least windy -- dust storms got worse throughout the week
The official torch-lighters (apparently this is a big deal) who light the main road to the man
Explorers on the Playa
Fun-havers in the setting sun
Loooove this tea-pot art-train!!!
DAY TWO: morning yoga-meditation tent
Inside of the tent
...a bit of a windier day... this was our camp shower (looks ghetto but it felt sophisticated)
Such a powerful lady bug
Girls having fun under a giant serpent sculpture
... our superhero moves
...and then we found a dance-party at a gay camp and had the time of our lives
...and then I found a trampoline! BAHHHH
DAY THREE: I found Lily! Or did Lily find me?
Another one of Dana's hand-knit costumes at Soren and Nicole's engagement party
Soren popping the question, much to Nicole's surprise. Such a thoughtful and gorgeous proposal
Nicole being a badass
Acro-yoga at center camp
Burning Man at night was sort of like being on an inhabited moon.....
Preparing our bicycles for a nighttime outing.... playa dust and colorful lights
Bike-lights are a MUST when 70,000 hippies are out riding around the desert with no rules.... zoom!
One of my favorite works of art out on the Playa...a beautiful wood-cut, tear-drop sculpture
Lit-up against the dark night sky
Love. This. Another quote in this sculpture: "Move back and forth with the change, and let what batters you become your strength"
A fun geodesic dome
DAY FOUR: wedding prep!
Dana and Wasabi -- our camp chef/bartender with the endlessly smiling face
Heading to the Temple for the wedding ceremony!
So psyched to be the unicorn Bridesmaid
The Temple is past the Man -- so we biked the lengthy distance (the bride carried the party favors)
Kevin being a butterfly
Such a happy groom
Enjoying the ride
Playa dwellers around the Temple
The 2016 Burning Man Temple
The most goddamned stylish/sexy bride and groom to ever be
Temple-sky -- all wood-cut sculpture....
So in love... barf! Haha!
An awesome wedding party
Wedding sunset was about to be on-point!
...and then I found this while wandering....
A nice wedding venue
Art-car in the windy sunset
...dusty unicorn and friends
Different kinds of light
A neat tunnel
DAY FIVE: a sunrise mission for these dragons, after not much sleep....
Selfies felt weird at BM. I literally saw more cell-phones than people out there.... kind of made me sad... (this was taken with a camera. I didn't use my phone while at BM)
Preparing for a sunrise burn!!!
The pyramids on fire... this was one of my favorite installations (all large installations are burnt throughout the week). You could walk up the side of the pyramid for a nice lookout view of the playa
...everybody needs coffee after a 5 am wake-up call on the morning after the wedding night...
...we found Robot Heart! Where Nicole and Soren first met....
The Sunrise Cafe
An insane dragon art-car
A squid-looking climbable sculpture in the sunrise
Doing what I did a lot of...taking photos
Kevin maneuvering through some art obstacles
K & D & The Man (it is much larger than this photo makes it look)
Our camp (Heroes & Super Villains) hosted a brunch party one morning, and I contributed my BM gift through the form of hand-printed, stamped postcards adorned with a Polaroid of the sender....
A few postcards... I made and sent over 200!
It surprised me how many people were thrilled to send postcards out to family and friends in the "default" world -- here I am manning the Polaroid photo/postcard stand
After the photo shoot was over we climbed atop the RV for our last Burning Man sunset. Dana really wanted to wear my Olympic speed suit. She looked hot in it.
Atop Soren and Nicole's RV
The brunch party continued until after the sun went down....
Next to our camp was an insanely comfortable (and dirty) ball-pit. The ultimate relaxation.
...from the ball pit
A Labyrinth near our camp
Another photo of the MAGIC sculpture. I will leave you with that. I hope you weren't overwhelmed by these photographs. Please let me know if you have any questions or comments! I would love to hear from you -- feedback, curiosities, etc. Thanks for looking! Have a lovely day.
I'm going to write this blog post a little bit differently than I usually do. I will just upload the photos, write about the corresponding adventures, and attempt to do so in (mostly) chronological order.
After landing in Queenstown we took off in rental minivans (on the strange side of the road) toward Lake Tekapo, for training at Round Hill. Above is a photo of Ales, my technician, and myself setting up skis (and a GoPro) early in the morning. The sunrises from Round Hill were spectacular most mornings, and I took a pretty epic timelapse one morning, of which this photo belongs to :)
There is an observatory at the top of a large hill near Lake Tekapo, and Resi, Jim and I decided to hike/jog up to the top one day for carrot cake and chai. 'twas a delightful and yummy post-training adventure.
We did some stair jumps/sprints to the top. It was so beautiful and sunny from up there, and the view of all the surrounding mountains is seriously impressive.
Exploring with this girl is one of my favorites ;) Miss you Resi.
Lake Tekapo is a gorgeous giant. There is something so mesmerizing about its blue waters, especially at dusk. Resi and I went down to the water a few evenings to decompress and breathe the big air.
There's something inspiring about being around other creators. When I'm around people who are constantly drawing, taking photos, creating things, and pushing their limits I find myself embodying that same mindset. And I love it. Because that is where I find my sweetspot--in moments of being nearly overwhelmed by projects, deadlines, and forced creativity. I thrive so well in the presence of other driven artists and innovators. Thank-you for pushing me, for showing me how to be my best by striving to be yours.
And now for a few photographs, without the chatter
I have been doing a lot of group photo projects where I ask people to get together when the light is low and have them pose in different positions, holding them for a few seconds each, in order to get the ghost-like image above. Resi is such a good photographic experimental subject :D
After a week of training Round Hill (a week there is enough!), we drove back to Arrowtown for some speed training in Cardrona. The weather was poor when we arrived (rainy and gross), so we ended up taking 2 days off and recuperating before 4 days of Super-G and GS skiing. On the few days we had off, I was working hard on an art project (a ceramic-ski collaboration! more on that to come soon), but Martina thankfully dragged me outside for a walk one day.
Getting outside after the rain really cleared my head. The scent of wet dirt and growing things was essential to the progress on my project. And the colors! The firework-like bursts of reds and greens spotting the hill-sides is something I love about the wintertime in New Zealand. It feels more like spring, like things are coming to life, blooming, and showing their color.
Walking around near Arrowtown provided a totally different color scheme than the one we saw at Lake Tekapo (as you can see from the two series of photos).
Martina and I stopped at an art gallery on our way to the river trail. I really enjoyed the landscape oil paintings that one of the women was working on (far wall). She had an incredible eye for catching the lighting, which is one of my favorite aspects of New Zealand: the way the light hits the hillsides and mountain-tops, creating shadows and pockets of light that seem surreal to the naked eye.
The image below is actually a shot I took from the top of Ohau, but is a good example of what I mean by the magic lighting:
It was a bit of a gloomy day when we went out for a walk, but there were pockets of brightness and adventures to be had. The river trail that begins in Arrowtown is one of my favorite walks to take after a long day of skiing or staring at a computer screen...
(a good place for handstands)
There is a little historic village where Chinese miners settled in the mid-1800's. The sizes of their huts are incredible. Talk about tiny homes! It was really amazing to peek inside and see what life was like for them back then. Simplicity was key: the only elements inside the huts were fire pits, sleeping areas and a tiny space for cooking and sitting. Their uncomplicated way of life is at once humbling and inspiring.
Training in Cardrona got better every day, but by the time the snow was hard it was time to pack up and head to Ohau for the last stop of our training camp.
I have been to New Zealand many years, but this was my first year traveling to Ohau. Ohau is a tiny resort in between Queenstown and Lake Tekapo, a few kilometers off of the main highway. Ohau Lodge, where we stayed, is settled right above Lake Ohau and about a 20 minute drive up to the ski area. It's an adorable little hotel with delicious food and incredible views of the lake and mountains. The photos above are of Ohau Lodge and it's beautiful surroundings :)
The skiing at Ohau Ski Fields is really special. It is such a tiny resort, with a local community feel, friendly vibes, and a few great runs. The training in Ohau was really impressive: steep, challenging and icy. Our coaches watered the hill a few days before we arrived, and it turned out perfect! There was a little hike (10 minutes or so) from the top of the chair up to the ridge overlooking the Southern New Zealand alps. We went up there originally to take photos for a naked calendar we're working on for a fundraiser (yep. you read it right), but the views were so incredible that I ended up hiking it twice and taking many photos of the endless mountains (above).
There is not a vast amount of free skiing at Ohau, but the small amount of off-piste skiing is really fun.
Alice and I got to go heli-skiing one day....which was incredibly lucky and INSANELY fun!!! I posted a video on my Instagram page with some clips from heli-skiing (@lalalaurenne) please check it out!
Another example of the light/shadow/hillsides and crazy colors that comes of it all.
Ski camp flew by, as it usually does down in New Zealand, and time came for me to pick up my Jucy van and my man and take a road trip. I made the drive, yet again, back to Queenstown to pick up the van, stayed the night, and took off for Lake Tekapo to pick up Tommy the next afternoon. Above are some bee-boxes that I stumbled upon while taking a pee-break with Megan on our drive back to Tekapo.
As we got a fairly late start, we didn't make it too far on the first day and ended up camping near Methven. The van we rented was amazing--with the bed up top, there was plenty of room in the main part for our stuff. There was even a little pull-out table, a fridge, two gas-burner stove tops, and a whole kitchen setup. We ended up cooking almost every meal while on the road, and thoroughly enjoyed living out of such a small space (still larger than the Chinese huts...). It was nice to keep things simple, and have a home that was mobile for a few days.
Same shot, different angle/camera.
Lake Pukaki on my way to get Tommy. I had to stop. The lighting was remarkable.
We took off from Methven and headed toward Arthur's Pass. That afternoon we made it to Castle Hill, one of the places we both most wanted to visit, and explored for a few hours through the gigantic maze of rocks. The photo above was taken from Castle Hill, of a hill side opposite the Park, as the sun was going down.
The sky was such a brilliant blue that day. We were so incredibly lucky with the weather during our van camping trip...it didn't rain or snow one day. It was slightly cloudy one afternoon, but otherwise bluebird and gorgeous.
The climbing at Castle Hill looked fantastic. I was slightly sick at the time, and barely had enough energy to walk, but touching the rock with my bare hands made me yearn to move up. Someday I'll have to go back for a climbing trip. And I'll definitely attempt to scale this mushroom rock (above).
My colossal shadow, threatening Tommy's form.
As the sun began to move behind the snowy peaks, the moon showed itself. I became intrigued by my 300mm zoom lens during this trip to NZ, and used it to take many of the mountain peak shots you'll see in this post.
I love the way these rocks took such funny, cartoonish forms. They seem to be playing with each other, making jokes, dancing.
There were a few small ponds around the Castle Hill rocks, and they created fabulous reflections....
A neat rock-archway
Happy adventurers soaking up the sun.
Tommy watching the sun go down.
Sheep and a blue reflective stream, from atop Castle Hill
As the sun went down, the cold air began to permeate our clothing layers. So we jumped back in the van and hit the road, in search of a camping spot. We stopped in the town of Castle Hill, which was a tiny, quiet little village. Set in the midst of the mountains, it seemed like a peaceful place to rest, but we couldn't find anywhere to camp. So we continued up Arthur's Pass, and as it started to get quite dark we passed Lake Pearson and pulled off of the road to settle for the night by the water. I suppose we should have foreseen the freezing temperatures as we were near the lake and up high in the mountains, but we froze our buns off that night with no plug-in or heater.
Our home by Lake Pearson
A beautifully frigid campsite.
The above photo was taken by Tommy :)
After awakening quite early with the cold and first light of the sun, we stepped out of the van to a pleasant surprise.
There was a thick fog being lit up and colored by the rising sun. The frost was biting and weighty, but the birds didn't seem to mind.
Through the thick of the early morning fog we saw 2 black swans playing nearby....
I saw black swans on two different occasions on this trip through New Zealand, and it was my first time actually eying them. I didn't even know they were a real thing....?!
Cute little duck butt.
After nearly freezing my fingers off, we decided to take off in the van to find a spot in the sun to cook breakfast.
We ended up stopping in the town of Arthur's Pass for some coffee and gas, then continued down the West side of the pass toward the coast to find some warmth.
We found a perfect spot in the sun (above) and cooked some bacon and enjoyed the view. Then it was down through the green rainforest and off to the coast.
We moseyed on down the coast, with no solid plan of a camping spot that night. After passing through Franz Josef and stopping for a soak at the hot springs, we decided to head to Fox Glacier and check it out for the evening.
The next day was my birthday, and I was looking to explore. We had a slow, easy morning before deciding to cover both the beach and the glacier in one day. So we headed down to Gillespie's Beach, just 10 miles from Fox Glacier, for some playing in the sand.
A close-up of the foamy wash.
Tommy either put this sign together in a matter of seconds while I wasn't looking, or just magically found it on the beach near where we were walking. It worked out perfectly :)
After a long walk down the beach and back, we headed back to the van to cook some lunch and plan our glacier trip.
Flowers on the walk back from the beach
Reading while Tommy cooked lunch in the van.
We hit the road and headed back up toward Fox Glacier, which we could see the bottom of, jutting right out of the rain forest.
We parked at the lot near the trailhead and walked/jogged up to the base of the glacier.
The river running down from Fox Glacier
Looking down from the top of the glacier hike. Those were some nice green-laden rock walls!
Post-glacier and rainforest ogling, we hit the road and headed back over Haast Pass, by Hawea Lake and finally landed in Wanaka for dinner and drinks at the Federal Diner (awesome spot!). On our drive back over to the Eastern side of the mountains, we stopped to see the ocean one last time, and Tommy snapped the below photo while I was driving:
We stayed with some friends in Wanaka. It was nice to sleep in a big, comfy bed that I could sit up in, but I did miss the feeling of waking up in the van. Upon waking in the morning, we headed into town for some breakfast and exploring. Wanaka is an awesome town, set on a stunning lake and bustling with energy (the above photo is . There was a market in town when we were wandering, and we did some shopping, walking, and lots of eating before heading back to Ohau.
Tommy really wanted to skate Wanaka's skate park
Seagulls on the shore
Meandering all morning around town was nice, but it was time to get back in the gym. We stopped for a pizza and hit the natural food store before cruising out of town and back to Ohau for 2 nights. Tommy was heading back to ski camp, and we were ending our road trip basically where I started.
Luckily they had plug-ins at Ohau Lodge, so we spent two more nights in the van while Tommy skied and I worked out, wandered, and took photos. I packed my things and prepared to leave.
Old rust on an old faming machine in front of Ohau Lodge
"The Shining" hallway of Ohau Lodge
It was a short but successful road trip. We saw many mountains, hill-sides, plains, waters, glaciers, grasses, trees, and skies. There aren't many sunrises or sunsets that beat the ones you witness when in New Zealand. I am already looking forward to returning once more.
adventures to and from, here and there, home and away, around the world--through my eyes, lens, and mind