Friday, December 31, 2010
Monday, December 13, 2010
There is a spot in Boulder I call the "rock sofa." I call it that, because it's literally a semi-circular seat of piled sandstone overlooking the city. I'm quite fond of this spot. In fact, It's my favorite spot in Boulder, and Boulder is probably my favorite place in the world, so you see what I'm getting at? In all the vastness of the universe, this spot is dearest to me. It's just a short hike above Boulder and I've gone there many times. The strange thing is that there is NEVER anybody there. I think there has only been one occasion when I came up to the sofa and found it occupied. I think the reason is that it lies off a main trail on a dead-end trail, and people seem partial to trails that make round trips, not dead ends. (Who can blame them, really? A dead end is a powerful metaphor.) I can't remember how I found it myself. I guess I've just been in Boulder so damn long that there are few places I haven't discovered.
A short digression: When I studied abroad in France, my favorite place for passing idle time was in cathedrals. The streets of Paris were cold, busy, noisy and windy; the insides of cathedrals were precisely the opposite. Their stillness was surreal, and I found much tranquility there for writing, or just sitting. That's what I find when I go up to the rock sofa. I recently read through my journals during my last year of college, and I was shocked at how hard a time I had, but I always found solace up at my spot.
December 24, '08: "This is becoming my spot for perspective. I come up here, above the city and above the life I lead there, to think--or not think. I come up here as a paragraph break to whatever is going on in my life below."
February 7, '09: "I'm at the rock sofa. I haven't come here for awhile. I haven't had the time. School is tough, but I need to stop being so tragic about it. I'm feeling fine now--this spot always makes me feel fine."
I don't have much to escape from these days, but it still gives me a different, more removed perspective on things. I'm a bit protective over the sanctity of this spot, so forgive me if I don't post a google map or anything. If you're interested, just let me know, and I'll take you there myself.
Sunday, December 12, 2010
For many, building is a commonplace and reliable profession. Kids may learn how to wire, plumb, fix, or build from family or friends, and instead of going to college, they work at what the already know. For me, building is a novelty. I have a mostly academic background, and so I'm entering the realm of building like an academic. I wax philosophic on the satisfaction of working with my hands and having a tangible result at the end of the day. In college, all I did was work with abstractions, pushing ideas around, borrowing from and adding to man's pregnant body of knowledge. I enjoyed it, and grew from it, but I also tired of it to the point where building is a breath of fresh air. Ideas are pliable, forgiving things, but building is ruthless in its exactness. It might be called "manual" labor, but it's just as much intellectual labor too. To complete any simple task, spatial awareness, geometry, and precise measuring are crucial. There are only guidelines for how things are to be done, so if you come to a problem, it's up to you to figure out a solution, and if it works, it works; if it doesn't, it doesn't. There's no ambiguity. Your wall is either plumb or not; your layout is either square or it isn't. These things exist in reality, and they have objective measurements. And through precision, the fruits of your labor aren't abstract notions, but a building--a home, the ultimate in usefulness.
I'm not alone in seeing the novelty of building. When regulars at the coffee shop ask where I've been and I tell them I've been building a house, they say something like, "Really. That's awesome," and they mean it. They get a faraway look in their eye as they walk back to their laptops. On the other hand, if I said I was just starting grad school, I might not get a hint of genuine interest. That's what everyone does in a town like this. Saying you're going back to school is like saying your heart's beating, or that you're breathing oxygen. Of course you're going back to school! The interest people show in building makes me think it's rooted in our genes. A life in academia is noble and respected, yet the urge to build, to work with one's hands, calls out to people. It called out to me, and I can't put my finger on the fullness of why. I try to figure it out, but it doesn't really matter. They're just ideas.
Thursday, December 2, 2010
I feel very fortunate and privileged to be a self-actualized human being who can practice meditation. It started with a vague interest and curiosity, then experimentation, and then I saw that it was actually changing me. In short, it makes life easier and better. That’s what keeps me doing it, pure and simple, and I encourage every other self-actualizing human being to do the same.
One short experience from the retreat:
By day five I was starting to get pretty settled in and experiencing some interesting things. One thing that would happen is that my mind would produce an endless stream of images. They weren’t thoughts, but more like avant-garde film projected in the background of my mind that I could chose whether or not to watch. One time, when I was rather deep within my mind, I was trying to turn my observer (that nebulous awareness in my head) back in on itself. I wanted to observe my observer, so I thought, “What would it look like if it looked in a mirror?” Just then, my mental stream of images produced a mirror that swung into view. My observer looked in and in the reflection was another mirror reflecting back to the first mirror, which mirrored back and forth, on and on all the way to a tiny dot of infinity. I was so taken aback by this clever and almost devious rebuttal to my probing, that I lost my concentration and couldn’t probe any further. Someday…
Monday, October 25, 2010
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
“Not in the least.”
“Boy, you are a nice looking rock, has anyone ever told you you’re a nice looking rock, Rock?”
“I mean, look at all this colorful moss all over you.”
“Well, whatever it is, it looks nice. Does it bother you being all covered in it?”
“Well, it looks nice––You don’t mind if I stretch out a little bit on you, do you?”
“Ah, that’s better––so, tell me a bit about yourself, Rock.”
“I’m a rock.”
“Yeah, I can see that, but I mean where are you from, what do you do?”
“I sit here.”
“I see. Not much of a talker, are you, Rock? Well, if I had to guess, I say you were granite, which is a metamorphic rock. Do you know what a metamorphic rock is, Rock?”
“It means you were formed deep inside the Earth from lots of heat and pressure. Isn’t that something?”
“There are also igneous and sedimentary rocks. Someday you may even become a sedimentary rock, Rock, did you know that?”
“Oh, yes. See, you may feel big and rocky now, but one day you’ll erode––you know how erosion works, right?
“Well, like I said, you’re rocky now, but after a few million rain showers you’ll be a pile of sand. Look, you're even crumbling already––see this piece, I can just––oops, sorry about that, Rock.”
“But see, there’s nothing to worry about, because you can become other types of rocks. I see you’ve got your heart set on being a rock, but the fact of the matter is you cannot be granite forever––you just can’t. The sooner you get that through your stony brain, the better. But I don’t want to worry you rock, because I think you’d make a great sandstone. Wouldn’t you like to be sandstone someday?”
“Sandstone is great––and there’s also limestone, though I don’t know if granite can become limestone––perhaps not enough lime. But there are some great sandstone landscapes. You ever been to the Canyon Lands in Utah––no, of course you haven’t, you’re a rock.”
“Well, I’m just going to sit here quietly and take in the landscape a bit.”
“Yeah, that’s pretty. Say, Rock, you want to here a joke?”
“What did the sedimentary rock say to the teacher during the test to become a metamorphic rock?”
“’This is too much pressure!’”
Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Thursday, September 2, 2010
Working in a coffee shop, I get to talk to a lot of people about a lot of things, and as mundane as it may be, weather is a common topic. Today, everyone was marveling at the onset of a new season and the passing of another. Almost without exception, everyone also commented on how quickly summer went by. People say these sort of things all the time: "Such and such just breezed right by." "I can't believe it's already blankety blank." A summer is a fixed piece of time consisting of 91 days and about 7 hours. That's how long it is. Period. But there seems to be a consensus in the world at large that this particular summer went by more quickly than expected. It's as though the collective consciousness felt time constricting around it. Maybe this isn't our imagination. Maybe there are things we don't know about time, and maybe for the last few months time, space, and the whole shebang contracted around us little sentient things, making us remark on how fast a season was progressing.
Maybe. But what's more likely is that winter spilled into spring, spring blazed quickly into summer, and summer cooled quickly into fall, making anyone with a keen eye for weather comment on the long winter, and the short spring and summer. But there probably is a lot we don't know about time too.
The sun sets on summer
Friday, August 27, 2010
Yesterday when my place was getting fumigated, I couldn't help but think about the precepts I took at the vipassana retreat, one of which being not to kill. As I sat there, sipping ice tea and reflecting, thousands of tiny sentient creatures were murdered, and I was partly responsible. But I can't see how bedbugs and I can live symbiotically. They just come to feed on my flesh without bringing anything to the table. The best I can do is acknowledge their deaths, and hope that they reincarnate as something less vampiric.
Friday, August 20, 2010
On my way to work
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
Let me pull an illustrating quote: "Young journalists who once dreamed of trotting the globe in pursuit of a story are instead shackled to their computers, where they try to eke out a fresh thought or be first to report even the smallest nugget of news--anything that will impress Google algorithms and draw readers their way."
And now that the internet is able to quantify interest by page views of a particular writer's story, some papers and magazines are paying their staff on that basis. Testifying to the stress, my friend and fellow journalism classmate Jean Spencer, who interned at the Wall Street Journal last spring, said that for the first few weeks she had a cathartic cry after each grueling day.
The article quotes a journalism teacher who says, "When my students come back to visit, they carry the exhaustion of a person who's been working for a decade, nor a couple of years."
This topic is on the high stress of internet media specifically, but almost all media is on the web now, so the exceptions are probably few. I still want to write, so my education wasn't for naught, but do I want a job like the ones in this article? Hell No.
Wednesday, July 14, 2010
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Last night I slept with a girl,
but we didn’t “sleep” together –
we just slept.
Both lying and dreaming, but not touching.
Thinking of touching, but just lying.
Tossing and turning with thoughts running,
but not acting for fearing of ruining
all that’s been long in creating.
Cold sweating and goose bumping,
but just resting for everything that’s coming:
the talking and joking which can be so taxing.
Deep breathing and hearts beating,
but simply sleeping and sweet dreaming.
Then eventually waking to day breaking,
and me leaving –
leaving with just having slept with a girl.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Approach to Crestone Needle
Miles, Chad, Erin, Arman, and I hiked Crestone Needle (14,197 feet above sea level) on Saturday. The Needle is a little sister to Crestone peak, but it's still ranked as one of the harder fourteeners in Colorado. The difficulty comes in at the final hour-long push to the summit. It's an unwaveringly steep crawl up coarse conglomerate rock that has an unfinished look, as though it were forced from the depths of the earth too soon. The view from the summit was obscured by clouds for all but 5 seconds when the skies opened up and gave a glimpse of the world below. High mountain tops are always barren places, and I feel like I'm defying nature just by living and breathing atop them. Being the highest thing around is exhilarating, but it's nice to descend back to where birds chirp, flowers bloom, and oxygen pervades.
Thursday, July 1, 2010
Red winged blackbird up at my gramps's place
Wednesday, June 16, 2010
Sunday, June 13, 2010
I went to the Anne U. White trail up Lee Hill Road today. My coworker, Jamie, said it was a great, little-known trail--that it was never all that crowded. When I was up there today, I found myself thinking, "boy, there sure are a lot of people on this trail." Well, I talked to Miles later, and it turns out the Daily Camera ran an article on great, little-known trails this morning. The Anne U. White trail was the closest one to Boulder.
Saturday, June 12, 2010
Thursday, June 10, 2010
Tuesday, June 8, 2010
The sun is underrated. When we hear about health benefits from the sun, we hear how our skin converts UVB into Vitamin D. That's about it. Otherwise, the sun is often demonized for the same UV light which can cause cancer. They're both testable, quantifiable, true facts. I'm not worried about rickets, and I don't want cancer, but I think there are other things at play in our bodies when we're out in the sun. Take the moon, for example. Police report more crime during full moons, and If women spend enough time away from city lights, their menstrual cycles match up with the lunar cycles. If the moon can have such an affect on people's behavior and physiology, imagine what the sun can do--it's way more powerful! Just look at parks during the first sunny days of spring. Everyone isn't lying in the grass to satisfy their Vitamin D needs. They're doing it because it feels good, and who cares why?
Thursday, June 3, 2010
Saturday, May 29, 2010
My grandpa gave me his pickup. It's beat to hell and rusting through, and I love it. He bought it new 28 years ago and used it as a ranch truck. I remember getting pulled in a toboggan behind it. I remember petting our dog Slick when he poked his head through the back window. It's one of the first cars I remember, and now it's my truck.
Wednesday, May 12, 2010
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
The other day I took a drink of fresh mountain spring water, and it wasn't from a bottle--it was from a fresh mountain spring. I was on a jog in the hills and thirsty as hell. I passed some water gurgling from a snow covered slope, and I impulsively stopped, cupped my hands, and slaked my thirst. Giardia be damned, I needed water, and the risk I took made it taste better than ever. I've been conditioned to fear untreated water (probably for good reason), but drinking clear wild water is such a primal fulfillment. The fact that I was so exhilarated by taking a simple drink shows how domesticated us city folk are. In the future I see myself throwing caution to the wind and drinking from more natural sources. But knowing that I have some ciprofloxacin leftover from traveling does put my domesticated mind at ease.
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The 4:20 smoke out at CU is a strange event. While I was observing the gathering from the library steps, I knew there was something strange, but it took me a few minutes to figure out what it was. And this is it: People go there to smoke weed, but I think their main motivation is to see how many people go there to smoke weed. It's like a meta-event where the spectators are also the spectacle. There's nothing to see except for the other people who came because they're curious to see all the other people who came. And the bigger it gets, the more people will want to come to see how big it gets.
It's also a good example of how smoking weed is not a big deal at all. In the minutes leading up to 4:20, there were thousands of people standing in a field. In the minutes after 4:20, there were thousands of stoned people standing in a field. The scene looked exactly the same, except for a plume of smoke that rose at the appointed time. And then 20 minutes later, the crowd dispersed, perhaps a little more placid than when they arrived. Imagine how different thousands of people getting hammered in a field would be.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
I have a feeling of anxiety, or restlessness. At first I thought it was from not making progress toward some larger goal--we all have to plan for the future, after all. But when I thought about it, I realized the same feeling of anxiety/restlessness has been with me for as long as I can remember--it's only the apparent cause that's shifted. When I was in school, the cause of my restlessness was to graduate; when I graduated, the cause was to leave Boulder; when I was traveling, the cause was to go BACK to Boulder. Now that I'm back, I'm restless to have a plan, because part of me thinks that will cure me of my restlessness. But it won't. Once I'm onto a new thing, I'll be anxious to move onto the next. And the next, and the next, and the next, until there aren't anymore nexts.
I don't think I'm unique. I think 99% of the population (At least In America, though I have my suspicions about the rest of the world) has this same feeling for their whole lives. Why else are people so driven, and our society so goal oriented? America was founded on this restless feeling. Just look at manifest destiny. It's like we have someone standing behind us, prodding us with sticks into the next moment, making us feel guilty when we fail to make progress.
Well to hell with that. The cat's out of the bag. I'm wise to this affliction and I'm not going to let it follow me till I die. For now, above all, my plan is to work on getting over this anxiety. To outsiders, It may seem like I'm doing nothing with my life, but by doing nothing, I'm working on one of the greatest somethings of life. Now all I have to do is figure out how to explain that when people ask, "So, what's you plan?"
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
I'm proud to be an American. No, that's not it. I'm happy to be American. No, actually, I think I'm happy to be from America. It's something I don't care to rationalize or put into words. All I can say is that whenever I leave and come back, I swoon over this place--this land of the free--this home of the brave--with their purple mountains majesty and such. Other countries are good too, but this one is great.
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Goodbye SE Asian food. It took my bowels a few weeks to get used to you, but I glad they finally came around. My love and appreciation for rice and its derivatives blossomed these last few months. I wish we didn't have to part, but I'll always savor you in memory--your pickled vegetables, stubby bananas, sticky rice, fresh coconuts, and all your cheap exotic fruit. I'll miss you all.
Farewell SE Asian weather. You surprised me with rain a few times, but were pretty consistent otherwise. I'd almost call you climate rather than weather. If I wanted to know what the day would bring, I could just look at one of those yearly charts with two big parabolas for temperature and rainfall. Overall you were a bit too hot and humid for my liking, but farewell nevertheless.
Goodbye SE Asian architecture. From temples to telephone poles, you were built mostly of concrete, but I liked you anyway. Your use of bamboo, corrugated metal, and tarps was truly inspiring. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
See you later, SE Asian beer. You were refreshing at times, but that's about all.
Take care, SE Asian people. Firstly, let me apologize for lumping you all together as one people--you varied greatly from region to region, but you were all consistently helpful and usually wore a smile. I was always amazed at your heat tolerance, wearing black jeans and long-sleeves in tropical heat. A good number of you tried to swindle me, but that's alright, I don't blame you--I'd try to swindle me too. Farewell, and thanks for putting up with my monoligualism .
So long, Asia. I'm going home.
Saturday, March 6, 2010
Not really any water rights here.
Efficient oil disposal
It's hard to read, but: Cock Testicle. Either boiled, stir fried, or steamed.
The dark want to be light, and the light want to be dark. We're all after the same shade. I hope the kit doesn't actually include a stethoscope.
Too much whitening cream.
Thursday, March 4, 2010
like a cast full of actors without any roles
like birds without hives and bees without nests
they wander about on undefined quests.
They left their homes for a faraway land
hoping to find some untrodden sand.
With minimal possessions and a few foreign bills
they keep going forward with unwavering wills.
What do they seek? What do they find?
The meaning of life or peace of mind?
Or maybe they find that for what they roam
was never really all that far from home.
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
On the last day during the final moments of noble silence, we were practicing a meta-meditation where you focus on spreading your positive thoughts and energy to others. During the instruction, a fly landed on my right thigh. I put out my hand and it landed on my finger. I put up my other hand, and it WALKED from one hand to the other like an obedient bird accepting its new perch . I'd never felt so trusted by a fly before.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
I'd like to describe the mental experience of having to meditate for so long, but it's hard to sum it up. You learn things about yourself that you couldn't learn any other way. Again, I'd like to express what those things are, but there aren't proper words for them. I can say that I felt my body as mass of flowing energy, and experienced the constantly changing nature of the universe... see I told you there wasn't a clear way to describe what I felt. All I can do is recommend that everyone do this same retreat. There are centers around the world and you can find one at dhamma.org.
The Dhamma hall. That's my spot in the back left.
The walk to the dormitory
I had this cubicle all to myself!
Tuesday, February 16, 2010
I went to a city called Vang Vienne, which is part of the deeply rutted tourist path. I would guess the local population to be a few thousand, and the tourist population to be three times that. Every other building in town is a hotel or guesthouse, and they were all full when I was there. The attraction is beautiful scenery and a bar-lined river. In the early afternoon, people take taxis to the starting point and instead of walking from bar to bar, they just jump in the river and float down. If you hail them, locals will throw out life preservers and pull you in. When you climb up to the bamboo dance floor, your first greeting is a local offering free shots of Laos whisky. There are also 20-30 foot rope swings and slides into the water. Remember, this is when the sun is high in the sky and pretty much in the middle of nowhere. The whole thing seems like the kind of party that would happen right after the apocalypse before society totally unraveled.
I stayed a week in Vang Vienne, and halfway through, Miles met up with me. We spent a coupleof days hiking through the hills, but I had to be on my way again and left him there while I went to Vientianne. I only planned to spend a night there before crossing the Mekong into Thailand, but while walking to a market to buy a sandwich, I ran right into John. We had split up with him over a month before and last we heard he had bought a boat with his brother in Cambodia and were motoring up the Mekong River. We each had no idea the other was in Vientianne, so you can imagine how surprised we were. Because of the reunion, I stayed an extra night, but then Miles showed up the next day, so two nights turned to three, and we all went out drinking and reminiscing.
Now I'm back in Thailand and alone again. Miles and I crossed the border together and got dinner in Khon Kaen before he caught a night train to Bangkok. He's flying home in a couple of days and those were the very last hours of our four and a half months of traveling together. I'm excited for my own ticket home in three weeks, but I still felt the somber weight of something coming to an end. After seeing him off on a busy street, I went back to my bland hotel room and thought about my own remaining time. 21 days--10 of which will be spent at a Vipassana retreat (Check it out here: www.dhamma.org). The retreat is pretty much my last thing to do here. It starts tomorrow, and I'm a bit anxious--anxious to get started, but also just about going. Little thoughts about not going have flitted through my mind like a bird darting in and out of a room. I'm going--that's for damn sure. I don't even know what I'm nervous about. It's not as though I'm being plucked from some active, fulfilling lifestyle. I sit around most days anyway, so I may as well sit around with a purpose. I guess I'm just nervous, because I know that it'll be hard and some days will pass with agonizing slowness. But like I said, I'm goin.
My morning routine, in a nutshell
That was my bungalow--the one on the left.
Around Vang Vienne
That's Vivi from Phili. We shared a bungalow for a few days.
Some crazy quarry. We were going to watch them dynamite a boulder, but they made us move along.
These little spelunkers guided us through a pretty deep cave.
A market here in Khon Kaen