I sit atop a high point on the National Trail above Telegraph Pass. Here I feel I am on top of the world. Strange how a little exercise and elevation gain can change your view. From up here it seems that I can only see opportunity and the possibilities of life.
Here in the middle of what looks like nowhere, orange flowers can bloom on an ocotillo cactus. Can I too flourish in the desert? Can I flourish where sometimes it seems there is endless nothing?
What you think is endless nothing, may actually be hiding the beauty of the desert. The birds, the cacti, the unusual fragments of rock shattered over time are here. In a place like this, time takes its toll, but ever so slowly. The gentle breeze at my back keeps small bugs from bothering me. A fly or a gnat is kept down by the wind. Yet, to me, the wind is my friend. Time is also my friend. Time to grow, to heal, to love and to look at life the way I look at the desert at this very moment. A chance. An opportunity.
Sometimes the best laid plans are better off thrown out the window. On Saturday I learned (or remembered) that the best things in life are unplanned. I recalled a trip from several years ago where I stumbled upon a national park in New Mexico called El Morro. It was a hidden gem in the middle of nowhere that provided amazing views and a memory for a lifetime. So what fun did I discover in my spur of the moment Saturday? Spontaneity? A feeling of freedom? Or just plain fun?
The day started with a last-minute decision to go to the Japanese Friendship Garden in downtown Phoenix. It was a place I learned of months prior. The gardens provided an oasis of peaceful energy nestled between high-rise apartments and athletic fields. I sat meditating quietly overlooking the waterfall while the sun bathed me. A foreign woman asked to take my photo. Maybe my true bliss and happiness were evident to her or maybe I just blended into the peaceful environment. I guess I was supposed to be in a stranger’s photo album that day. It was only 10 AM and there was a lot of daylight left, so where to next?
A drive to Canyon Lake was the final decision as the next stop after the White Tanks and Squaw Peak ideas were thrown out. The drive to Canyon Lake along the winding roads and single lane bridges was beautiful. After arriving at the marina and exploring the possibility of kayaking I discovered that a warmer day, warmer lake temperature, and a swimsuit were required for a fun kayaking experience. Now what? The conveniently located Boulder Canyon Trailhead at the marina enabled a journey to a very high place above the canyon and a 360 degree view of the area. It was amazing. A return trip down the trail and a discussion about going to Blue Wasabi made the trip back to the car quick and painless. Thoughts of sushi danced in my head as my feet scrambled over the rocks in the last section of the trail.
What seemed like only minutes later I arrived at Blue Wasabi. It was almost happy hour. How could I be so lucky? Numerous sushi rolls later it was evident that the activities from the day had tired me. All that was left to do was to head home for a relaxing evening on the patio as the sun set. With vodka and orange juice over ice, the sun set and my energy waned further resulting in canceled plans for salsa dancing. Did I really care? No! The unplanned activities ruled and were more rewarding than anything I could have planned.
When you go with the flow and yield to the day’s opportunities, you really feel like you are living. Instead of scurrying around to meet the schedule of the clock, you work with the moment. What better way to live? Imagine if every day could be so carefree. Next time you have the opportunity, you may want to ‘unplan’ your day and see what adventures you find. You may surprise and exhaust yourself. Living life to the fullest has a way of doing that.
Downtown San Diego is blanketed in a gray mist. Unfortunately, the blanket is chilling me to the bone instead of warming me. As I sit on the balcony overlooking the other high-rise buildings of the city, I wonder if all cities are pretty much the same. Do the buildings look the same? Do the cities have the same aroma? Do the same background noises fill the air? I hear the squeaking brakes of a stopping bus, the wind pushing its way between the buildings, and the occasional siren drowning out all other sounds. The sounds of the city are so different from the sounds of my home in the suburbs, yet surprisingly, I can hear one familiar sound – the sound of tweeting birds. Even here amongst the towers of concrete and glass, the birds have found a place to build their nests, and a place to call home.
In the distance nestled between the buildings, the American flag is fluttering in the wind. Like the birds, the flag does not need special surroundings, just a place to live. Isn’t that what we all need? A place to live. A place to exist. A place to feel safe. A place to breathe in and out. A place with everything we need to get us to that next moment. It may be a moment of joy or sadness, but a moment nonetheless. We should be thankful for being alive, shouldn’t we? Thankful for being given this moment of existence and everything leading up to it. Just like the flag or the bird – it is just a place like any other, yet somehow a home.
Birds adapt to their surroundings, as do people. It doesn’t really matter where you live – just ‘that’ you live. At times in the city I find myself unable to sleep because of the number of sounds I am unaccustomed to hearing. Sometimes I like the sounds because it is comforting – I realize I am not alone. I look around and see an array of empty balconies in the adjacent building. There must be people somewhere? For the moment I am feeling alone even though I am surrounded by sleeping people. I am awake. Alive. Breathing. Living. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Why am I here alone at 6:20 AM on a balcony observing the city while everyone else sleeps? Somehow I have found myself in a place called home.
For my current job and many of my previous jobs, I have had both the fun and annoyance of travelling. Some examples include waiting in line through two levels of security in Frankfurt, flying half-way to a destination only to return to the origin airport because of a snow storm, deplaning after initial boarding because someone flooded the planes water tank and lastly spending hours sitting on the tarmac waiting for clearance for takeoff. I understand that airlines do what they can to accommodate passengers, but sometimes they fall short. At the same time, it seems that some travelers do not understand the principles of flying or common courtesy.
First, flying is a privilege and not a right. Hurricanes, snowstorms, thunderstorms, and mechanical delays happen and sometimes there is nothing that can be done besides canceling a flight. I don’t want to get on a plane with a broken electrical system or landing gear that won’t go down, do you? Although it may be annoying when flights are delayed or canceled, we just have to accept it and then decide what is next. The airlines often neglect to communicate information so people can get on with their day, leaving them lost and confused. Wouldn’t it be refreshing if other passengers were there to help and console instead of whine and complain?
Several months ago I was on a flight departing out of Kansas City when we were informed by the pilot that due to bad weather in Phoenix (the destination airport), the flight was going to be delayed several hours until the storms could pass. Unfortunately for us, we were stuck on the tarmac for hours. A man sitting in front of me yelled into his cell phone to his friends about how crappy the airline was, and how they were making up the excuse about the weather delay. I quickly got out my blackberry and with a quick search confirmed the weather report that the winds in Phoenix were very bad. The airline didn’t make this stuff up. Usually these things (delays) are about safety (which is a good thing). I know it stinks to have to change your plans sometimes, but I would rather get there late, than never at all.
At the same time that airlines could improve on communication, passengers could do their part to improve the experience of traveling, particularly when it comes to carry-on baggage. With all the new baggage charges, flying has become more and more expensive unless you carry-on your bags. Even though some airlines (like Southwest) do not charge for bags (which is really nice) many people still carry-on for convenience. Airports like Denver seem to have problems getting luggage to passengers in anything under an hour (or three), so if you don’t have that kind of time to spare, I completely understand. However, if you do want to carry-on, can you at least be courteous to others?
I travel on a lot short trips and use a bag that most people think is a laptop bag. What I see most people bringing through security as carry-on are too tall. The maximum height is 22 inches (and that includes WHEELS!) People are not measuring their bags and then they bring on these enormous bags that will only fit in the overhead with a lot of jockeying and twisting, resulting in no room for anyone else’s bags. Last week I saw a man with 3 carry-ons (not sure why that didn’t get flagged during boarding?) and although two were fairly small bags he put ALL of his stuff in the overhead. At the end of the boarding process, another poor man had to check his bag because the first guy was selfish and hogged all the space. Why don’t people know how to put their bags into the overhead? If you carry-on, can you at least take a class in how to stow your luggage? There is a variance in aircraft in regards to what can fit, but typically wheels toward the aisle is best. If it fits with the handle facing the aisle, congratulations because you get air travel courtesy points from me! Why does anyone think that when there is one overhead bin for about 6-9 people that they shouldn’t be frugal with it? Can’t you pack the overhead bin efficiently? Some might say, “Why should I care about leaving space for someone else?”. For one thing, flights might actually depart on time. How often are airlines waiting for people to find a place to put their luggage?
Although airlines could do a better job at communicating delays and flight changes to passengers, passengers can do their part to provide a better experience for not only themselves, but the people around them. Why shouldn’t we share luggage space, a magazine or a piece of gum? My best flights have been the ones where the person next to me chatted my ear off for 2 hours. Sure, I didn’t get much work done or didn’t get past page one in my book, but I made a connection and that is a lot more important than being a grumpy and scrooge-like traveler. With more sharing and camaraderie, traveling would be a lot more fun, even if I think your carry-on is too large.
I realized that pretty much anywhere in the U.S. has more humidity than Phoenix, but I had forgotten about my hair’s ability to measure the humidity. When I arrived at the airport in Dallas, Texas I immediately walked outside to grab a taxi, and the heat washed over me. I could tell there was a change in the air because of the sticky feeling on my skin that I recalled from my days of living in Annapolis, Maryland.
The real measure of the humidity came this morning. I dried my hair with a hairdryer, but left it a little damp for my trip downstairs to eat breakfast. By the time I returned to my room, just 20 minutes later, I could see the humidity in my hair. I was brushing my teeth and when I looked in the mirror I realized my hair looked scary! The hair humidity factor was the reason that I gave up bangs a decade ago and the reason that I continue to live on the West Coast. I have avoided this humidity for a long time, but here it was (my hair) staring me in the face.
Fortunately my hair was in need of a haircut, which here in Dallas meant that it was just the right length because the humidity shrunk it up at least 2 inches. If my hair was red and a little shorter, I would have looked like Shirley Temple (for those of you old enough to know who that is). If my hair was a bit longer, I would have looked like Sarah Jessica Parker. My hair was curly, frizzy and wild. Too bad I didn’t have a wacky wardrobe to distract people’s attention from my hair like she does.
At least I knew this hair condition was temporary and would return to normal once I deplaned in Phoenix later in the week. In the meantime, I had to live with the hair and hope that I don’t petrify my new coworkers. All I can say is, thank goodness for hair elastics! Besides getting back home to see my family I was also looking forward to seeing my hair return to a straighter state in Arizona.
Why is it that kids have to fight and get loud in the back seat of the car, just when you need it the quietest? I was driving through the Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado with a 7-year-old and 4-year-old in the back seat. Although the view was beautiful, what was happening in the back seat of the car, was not. The kids were poking each other and giggling. The giggling was fine, but then water bottles and other objects were being hurled across the back seat until items eventually hit the front windshield and landed on the dashboard.
I realized that firm words and tones were not having the intended effect. All I got was more giggling and more mayhem in the back seat. Finally I pulled the car over to make my point and I screamed in the faces of the kids like a Marine Drill Sargent. I actually think the Drill Sargent would have been less scary and intimidating than I was at that particular moment. Surely I lost my mind for a minute, but don’t most parents have those embarrassing moments where the kids have driven you to complete insanity because they were not listening to a word you said? Then again, I have work colleagues and a spouse that act the same way and I don’t scream at them.
I don’t know exactly what to call what those kids were doing in the back seat. “Backseat Boogie” maybe? It was just annoying, frustrating and pure insanity. At least it drove ME to insanity. The reason it made me so crazy, was because I was driving on the edge of a windy mountain road with little margin for error. I was worried that if I drove a few inches off the road, the car would plummet down the mountain. We would probably take out some elk feeding on the hill as well during our free fall. At least that would have put me out of my misery of having to listen to the little monsters fighting in the back.
Why do I get so angry with the kids? Why can kids make you so angry? Is it anger with yourself because you have created your own hell? Is their behavior your own punishment for your past bad deeds (meaning what you did as a child?). Maybe it is just a stage the kids are in that makes them behave this way. I have to ask – will this stage last until they are 18? Maybe like any relationship there are days you are happy and days you are in not. Since then I have tried to be more relaxed and not get upset with the kids. One thing is for sure, the kids quieted down after my tirade, so I had some impact on their behavior. Something tells me that after enough miles, they will be back at the fighting. They are just kids after all.