Pick Your Beauty.

posted in: Tips 2
Me, looking at mountain. Photo: Claus; adjustments by me.
Me, looking at mountain, somewhere in the American West. Photo: Claus.


You don’t have to be devastated by the beauty a grand, famous, “so-amazing-you-will-freak-out” landscape. Your heart may not burst out of your chest at Observation Point X, you may not burst into song when you see a big wave. You may hate Grand Canyon. You might think it’s sort of monotonous. I’m not looking to defend a person who looks at the sea lions at Ano Nuevo and says, “Whatever. Can we go to Burger King?” I am looking to defend people who respect the Titans but feel guilty when they’re not devastated by the “raw, eternal power” of them.

There were times on the road trip when we’d be driving, leave a mountain pass and bam! some HD vista would open up before us. We’d stop mid-sentence and just gape. The basin before we got to Grand Canyon was like that for me. The rolling hills, the endless blue of the sky, the ghosts of all those buffalo… That swath of earth touched me so much — felt so familiar to me — I couldn’t stop crying. It was weird.

But Yosemite? I don’t know. It was cool. But the camping, camaraderie, and cookstove, well, that was what was great about Yosemite for me. Yosemite is brushy pine trees and a lot of grey-white rock. Not my thing, really. The tour guides (we had three to choose from, all very useful) are full of words like “breathtaking” and “stunning” and “awe-inspiring,” but this is dangerous. One reads these things and hears about places that are “must-sees” and it creates great pressure to feel something when we get to Yosemite, or when we gaze out into Grand Canyon.

But you don’t have to be awe-inspired. You might be more inspired walking through your neighborhood at dusk on your way to the store for milk. The light might be just right, the nice lady who lives on the corner might wave from her porch. This can be more beautiful to you than a big mountain.

I say it because it took me a long time to learn that. I saw the Mona Lisa once and I just didn’t get it. I felt terrible, thought for sure there was something wrong with me. But I like so many paintings so much more, and it’s okay. I liked Zion way better than Grand Canyon. Anyhow, the unsolicited advice tonight is to not let People tell you what’s Beautiful. You decide. No pressure.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The woman in the image above finds the landscape she’s looking at to be very, very beautiful.]

How To Gain 5-6 Pounds In Three Weeks (And How To Lose It!)

posted in: Food, Tips, Travel 0
Wait a second -- is that a hamburger down right? Still life by Clara Peeters (fl. 1601 - 1621.)
Wait a second — is that a hamburger down right? Still life by Clara Peeters (fl. 1601 – 1621.)

Ever wanted to gain something like 5-6 pounds in a hurry? Sure, we all do! Follow my simple steps below and you’ll be on your way. Be sure to read all the way to the flabby bottom to learn how to lose it, too!!!

Step 1: Sit in a car for 3-7 hours a day for three weeks.

Step 2: Tell yourself that hiking and camping are basically exercise.

Step 3: Eat lots of cashews, dates, small chunks of parmesan cheese (your favorite) and banana leather, telling yourself that none of these foods are processed and are therefore basically calorie-free. Travel with a European so that you get plenty of full-fat yogurt with muesli, even though you never eat, nor spell correctly, muesli. Eat chocolate and tell yourself that because it’s the expensive kind and you’re sharing it with someone, you’re not really eating that much.

Step 4: Consume Pringles because your travel companion has a “thing” for them and though you have not eaten a single Pringle since freshman year in college, this is a crucial step. Do you want to gain 5-6 pounds in three weeks or don’t you?? Motivation, determination. Note while eating Pringles that the slogan on the can, “Once you pop, you can’t stop” is accurate.

Step 5: Feel exceedingly happy. Feeling happy will cloud your awareness that you are on your way to gaining 5-6 pounds in three weeks.

Step 6: Repeat steps 1-6.

Now that you’ve gained 5-6 pounds in three weeks, aren’t you wondering how to lose it?? Sure, we all do! I’m here to tell you the secret to losing 5-6 pounds not in three weeks, not in two weeks, but in one week with almost zero effort! Probably! Maybe not! But this secret step will unlock your potential to lose 5-6 pounds before you know it! Here it is:

Step 1: Stop doing all those things.

Step 2: Resume your normal life, which includes walking to the store and stuff.

Now get going, and remember: your weight is in your hands! And on your hips.

Tender At the Bone.

posted in: Day In The Life 0
Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA. Photo: Wikipedia
Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA. Photo: Wikipedia

One forgets gentleness in the city. And you don’t realize it because there’s nothing to compare it to. The city’s hustle and flow, the glass windows of banks and cafes, the wait for lights at street level and trains in tunnels; this environment isn’t hostile unless you want it to be but it would be hard to argue for gentleness on Broadway and 4th St., say, or K. Street and Massachusetts Ave.

Now, my new home at the Kennedy Warren overlooks the Klingle Valley (I’ve probably mentioned this too many times but if you saw it you would see why I do) and this affords an exceptional opportunity to be in nature in an urban environment. I chose well, finally, this year.

I’m writing this outside, inside a tall pine forest. Right now, a forest! and I promise not to look at a computer screen for long; I know better than that. But it was lunchtime, so Claus and I drove far, far up a mountain over Lake Tahoe and found a shaded spot in the trees. We ate a lunch of muesli with fruit and yogurt, apples and Nutella* and we were so hungry it was therefore the best meal I’ve ever had, of course.

(Oh, please, please forgive me for being obnoxious, but I have never had the occasion to use the French term en plein air and this is my chance. We ate en plein air!)

We finished and now we’re just sitting here, breathing, noticing how the wind through the trees sounds just like ocean tide. When we close our eyes we are amazed; if you only heard a recording of this sound, you couldn’t possibly tell the difference between wind in trees and oceans.

I wear a Fair Isle sweater over my romper. My feet are up on the crate that contains our dinner tonight. Silence. Green. Blue. Mountains with snow and a big, fat, sapphire glittering thousands of feet below it. Gentleness is a word that works, but “tender” might even do.

I grew up on a farm, seven miles out of a town of 5,000 people.

You could argue that nature is in my blood, that this tender moment should awaken a yen in me to abandon city life and get back to the garden. Nah. I’m a city dweller; I’ve spent more years in tall buildings than in treehouses. This trip is a pause and an important one, just as a country mouse should visit some metropolis from time to time for a pause of a different kind, look up at homes in the sky, down at miles and miles of sidewalk, women in smart shoes clipping along to meet for dinner at the best French place.

This was the right idea. Anxiety about email checking dogs me, but trees are so much bigger, so much stronger than emails.

*I mentioned Claus is German, right?

I’m Going On a 10-Day Road Trip…Today.

posted in: Art, Day In The Life, Travel 3
Go west, young woman. All right: youngish woman. Photo: Wikipedia
Go west, young woman. All right: youngish woman. Photo: Wikipedia

I’m going on a road trip. Today. I’m at the airport right now. 

Many months ago, my friend Claus planned a 4-week trip through the American west. He would hit Rushmore, he would hit Yellowstone, Tahoe, San Francisco, and many points in between and beyond, ending at the edge of California. He would then turn around and head straight back to Chicago. We talked about me joining him, but I do not desire — nor do I have the ability, schedule-wise — to go west for four weeks. I’m a clean linen, coffee-in-the-lobby gal. I like showers. 

But what if I joined the trip for ten days or so? Maybe I could do that. Maybe it would be fun. What if I hooked up with Claus in Salt Lake City and did the San Fran, Death Valley, Tetons, etc. part? Maybe I’d stay on through Berkeley. For the first time in a long, long time, I have two weeks without travel for work. I believe people do summer vacations, don’t they? Interesting concept.

And so, after much deliberation and anxiety (I have different bathroom needs than most people and there is some camping involved over the course of the trip, which puts a great fear in my heart) I decided that yes, I would add a woman’s touch to the “Go west, young man” thing. 

I’ll be checking email and blogging, though there may be a few off-the-grid days. Claus thinks I should leave my laptop behind but a strange rash appears all over my body when I think doing about that. I can’t make sense of beauty (example: Ano Nuevo California State Reserve) or pain (example: middle-of-the-night trip to a campground bathroom with a flashlight)* without writing it down. So the journal comes with and the laptop comes with. 

Also coming with: Wet Ones wipes, a bandana, a hoodie, books, sunglasses, sunscreen, sneakers (you actually cannot wear heels in Death Valley, I hear), deodorant, and my favorite snacks that will surely be gone by Day 2. I’m really, really excited now. I see a lot of this country with the work I do, but I’ve never been to Yellowstone, I’ve never seen the Grand Tetons, I’ve never camped in California.

Let’s do this. Let’s have an adventure. I board the plane in ten minutes.

*I may possibly have lost my mind. 

[EDITOR’S NOTE: I stayed on the trip for three weeks. Posts to follow explain and detail.]