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Posts Tagged ‘journey’

I have done it – traversed the Oregon Coast by public bus (almost) – coming out to the coast in Crescent City, CA and stopping in Astoria, OR today, though i may continue north through Washington – yes by public bus. I have done sections before, but never have gone from end to end, and this time i did it in reverse, taking my time, camping out on the way.

Most of the coast is linked by county transit systems, as Greyhound stopped running out here years ago. There is one 24 mile gap between Florence and Yachats, and i have heard murmurs of a connection coming one day. I love this mode of travel, for here the riders often talk to each other on the bus, and you get a view of the coastal communities you would not otherwise. It is not fast – most systems run 5 or 6 days a week, with sunday service non-existent, and there are only a few buses each day. I like to camp which is an inexpensive option with the hiker-biker sites in the Oregon State Parks. Although most buses make flag stops along the way, i often carry my pack several miles. The transit system can also be handy for anyone walking the Oregon Coast Trail, or cycling the oregon coast bike route  (most buses have 2 bike racks)

These are the transit systems i used going from south to north

To Crescent City (or Brookings, OR)

SouthWest Point from Klamath Falls (OR) Amtrak,  Medford(greyhound, ashland) or Grants Pass (Greyhound) – passing through towns on the way. I got off in Hiouchi, by Jedidiah State Park (redwoods) to camp for a night.

Crescent City to Smith River (for connection north)
– Redwood Coast Transit
also connects from Arcata (Greyhound, Amtrak bus) and highway 199

Smith River to Brookings to Coos Bay
Curry Public Transit runs up the coast as far as North Bend, stopping in the communities of Port Orford, Gold Beach, Bandon, and Coos Bay, and allows for flag stops on the 101. I took several days to make this trip, stopping off at State Parks enroute .

Coos Bay – out to Charleston (side trip)

Coos Transit   travels around the towns of Coos Bay and North Bend and out to Charleston, where Cape Arago is only a few mile walk

Coos Bay to Florence

Porter Stage Lines will take you to Florence (also to Reedsport) and inland to Eugene (Greyhound, Amtrak) and Bend and beyond

Florence

There is no bus service from Florence north to Yachats (about 26 miles). I must admit, i hitched this stretch this time from the north end of town, though i walked it southbound a few years ago, over a few days. Rhody Express will take you to the north end of town. The Oregon Coast trail, takes you both along the beach and the road. There are several campgrounds, both state and forest service along the way.

Yachats to Lincoln City (and Otis to connect north)

Lincoln County Transit  serves the many communities along this section of the coast, with buses from Yachats to Newport, Newport to Lincoln City (and to otis for northbound connections), and to Toledo inland. There are also local services in Newport and Lincoln City. With many towns, a variety of trails and landscapes, and four state parks with hiker biker sites, traveling this section of the coast is a breeze. At Newport – you can go inland to Corvallis and beyond on the Valley Retriever

From Otis through Tillamook to Cannon Beach

Tillamook Transit connects through to cannon beach, with service into Portland as well. The system has several bus lines that will take you to Pacific City, Oceanside and Netarts, Garibaldi and Rockaway Beach, and up to manzanita and-Cannon Beach, with connections made in Tillamook. In addition to the state and forest service parks, Tillamook county offers several county campgrounds with hiker-biker sites.

From Cannon Beach to Astoria

Clatsop County transit – Ride the Bus – has a direct bus line that will take you from Cannon Beach to Astoria, stopping in Seaside and other communities. At time of writing, this transit system had experienced major cuts (from almost hourly service to a few times a day etc)  but hopes to rebuild.

Beyond Astoria

once in Astoria (or seaside, cannon beach( you may go back to Portland  on NorthWest Point or continue North to Washington via Pacific Transit  to Aberdeen and from there up the Olympic Peninsula to the tip and around – or take the ferry to Victoria BC and north, or inland to Olympia and from there to Seattle and beyond, the inland side of the Peninsula.

Along the route you will meet many people and see places in a new way. the journey is not quick, but life is a journey and not a destination.

Update 2015

I once again spent the summer travelling the coast by bus – the system has greatly improved. with the North by Northwest (OXO) system linking the various transit systems and offering 3 day ($25) and 7 day ($30) passes that include a return between valley and coast and unlimited coastal travel. http://www.nworegontransit.org

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Ships waiting to sail out to sea

I wait by the river and look out to the many ships that stand still. Waiting, as am i. I am in Astoria waiting for the bus that will take me across the long bridge across the mouth of the Columbia River where it joins the Pacific Ocean and all the waters of the seas.

The tide is low, a minus tide, and as i cross the bridge sand bars come into view, and i wonder how the ships may pass through. As i ride along, by the shores of the river, and by the sea, vast areas of sand are revealed, places that seem to belong to the sea. I return later in the day, and the rivers and bays appear to be different places, and as the road lays low to the shores, i wonder when it will be engulfed by the sea. Today, all is calm, the tides come and go. When i cross over the bridge again, more ships are there, several lined up in single file, heading out to sea.

I think of the tides, how they affect not only what we see, but the journeys that we make.. The ships must wait for the tide to turn, for all to come flushing in, so that they may go out, and that is so true with our live too. The tides of life, the tides that come from a force much larger than us, one which we must respect. And the tides turn, at times easy to move forth, and at others a difficult or impossible tasks – fighting the currents or getting stuck in the muck. And at those times we must wait patiently, like the ships in the mouth of the river, stuck in a harbor so to speak. But it is also during those times, where the tide is low, that much that has been hidden is revealed,  in tidepools and beneath the sand..  I remember a low tide in a bay down the coast, where many gathered to dig for clams, and it is when the tide is low that gems may be dug out from beneath.

I return, to  high tide, and the ships are ready to sail, and the moment is now for the tides will  turn once again. They can not  linger if they are to leave today, for the opportunity only lasts for a short while. it will come again, but they will have to wait  once more. And i wonder about my journey of today; i left when the tide was out, but after its lowest point. The ‘seas’ of my journey were harsh, but i met others along the way, and realize that i turned around when the tide was high, and by the time i crossed over the river, it was beyond its peak. I got back to where i stay, beside a smaller river, by the estuary, and the flow was away from the sea, as the larger salt waters enter in, flowing upstream to the waters that are fresh.

But the tide has turned several times, and i am not a ship, and often as i walk the beach, it is the high tides that block my path,  or alter my journey along the sand. The flow of life, a river that flows one way until it meets the sea, the place where it must join, and at the border zone, the flow goes both ways, forwards and back, as all intermix.

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Down the familiar path I could go no further,
blocked by a padlocked gate
and a sign saying closed for season
I could have gone before
and thought about it
more than than once
but it seemed so far
and i had gone far enough,
on another day
a trail to the side called me more
I was not even sure today
but i said i’d go
around the bend
to see what was there
hidden to me
out of my sight.

I sat at the rest area
having emerged from one section of the canyon
now overlooking a wider valley
a more open vista
which narrowed to another section of the canyon further down
and it called,
i deliberated and set out on the path
but at the bottom it was closed.

So i sit once again in the no name rest area
a lawn mover rides behind me
and i wonder about my plans
to go back to where i have been before
to a place that calls, but i hesitate
something not quite…
what i love, but
but…

I was not quite sure this time either,
the walk beyong the bend
to the hidden secrets
or not
a walk in the strong sun
the sun that burns
and beside the highway and its roar and din
on the other day i did not go either
for the same reason
the discomforts of the path
or was it the path itself?

The path is now closed
the river rises more every day
and will for some time to come
overflowing banks and paths
flowing over its given bounds.
I heard before that it was closed further down,
or rather upstream,
beyond where i could walk,
at least in both directions
able to return to town
beyond the dam with its controlled flow
or was it the power plant
a bicycle could not pass
i had thought of the river
and the other and floods elsewhere
and imagined getting trapped
in the heavy flows of spring.
of winter melt off
when that which was frozen in place
becomes fluid and releases
rushing out to sea
connecting with that of other mountain tops
and valleys of the world.
but that was beyond where i planned to go today.

This morning i made a choice
to come through to this place,
through a canyon where i had already been
through a place that calls forth beauty and joy
where i knew that god speaks,
and did speak strongly today,
revealing paths and wisdom along the way
calling forth my heart and soul once again
my destiny,
and mysteries of the world,
connecting me with the all.

It was in the canyon, holding in
the place where the river flows
beyond whose walls i could not see
and sought a broader view

i came to this place where i now write
and will turn around from here
a decision to be made
one i lingered on
asking for more to be revealed
now wondering if the path i imagined will be blocked
or if it was all along
or maybe it shows the place
the place to where i must go.

I had thought of heading upwards today,
ascending up the boy scout trail
to a mountain top that provides vistas of the valley below
But it was more a should, then a call
I asked why i did not go,
a new experience, a different view,
but then as the sun glared upon my face
i knew it was not for me
and sat in the shade and wrote some words
words that i hesitate to reveal
and then walked along the highway path
to the canyon i had been and loved,
one that had been new to me
less than three weeks before.
As i walked my arm swung as if on its own
like a pendulum, dowsing something unknown.

I had started up that other path a few days ago,
exposed, on the edge of the mountain
cliffs falling below
the wind picked up and the sun burned hard
and i turned around,
admitting to myself that this was not where i wished to go
admitting what i knew at the bottom of the trail
and came back down
but when i spoke to others who had done the hike
i felt that maybe i had not done far enough,
that maybe i had fallen short,
even though i felt “off” along that trail
and thought maybe i should today.

i walk back into the canyon
following the rivers flow,
around no name bend
the place where the guardians reveal themselves,
still facing the decision on where to go,
this walk itself, a way of procrastinating,
to buy the ticket or not
a decision on hold,
delaying in the zone of impasse.

The place of impasse where i have been
the walk, any walk, a way of delay
of putting off once again
something planned in my mind
but action not taken
the questioning, the shoulds
the i don’t knows
and maybe that was why the path was blocked,
for i could not put it off anymore.

Over the past few days, the northwest called more strongly again
images constantly entering my mind and soul,
a place i have been and left many a time
my heart sung, and inside a smile
a locale brewing up inside
of trees, and life, of an environment that spoke to me,
where i felt more akin,
for from here i knew i had to go,
had known for quite a while
the visitation time over,
and i knew i would, not, could not, stay.

i thought i should head back by a route not taken
and lands never explored,
a circutous route to the north and wild,
through the lands where i felt i should see
but a resistance came up inside,
and part of me asked why?
part of me said, take the train, the same route as before
it is direct, do you really need to explore any more.
Was it difference i sought, or an avoidance of the familiar,
the paths too well worn
become ruts, getting deeper
or so i thought
or was it felt.
But it was calling so deep
as it had been for some time
i telling myself no – not again.

Crescent lake had been beckoning,
the olympic pennisula.
my trip to pass through locales i thought i left behind,
and i hesitated again,

Now the path is blocked,
is this a sign
and i wondered
will the ticket price rise too high,
for i asked god, to let me know, to provide a sign
and the ticket price was part of the deal.

As i sat in the bend by the wall where the guardians were
where much had been revealed a few hours before
Out of the blue another locale came up
one i had not thought of before,
en route to another town with crescent in its name
and off to fantasy land i went,
and felt a peace inside, this is where i must go
i do not know why.

As i approached town, and the time to decide
to make the deliberation concrete,
some anxiety arose
but i was convinced that i would go,
and was told yes, that is your destiny,
the corner where you belong,
and klamath falls kept coming up over and over again
not as the final place
but the where to next.

I went to town, to check the website first
and the ticket price had gone up
several dollars beyond the limit i set
still i looked at that other place
and the price remained in reach,
quite reasonable indeed.
Was this where i am meant to be
for the moment that is.
I asked, should i, should i, and the answer was yes
over and over again.
so i bought a ticket leaving the next day
and felt at peace with the decision i made,
my heart still welling up inside
and the internal smile as i sat by the water.
I obeyed a call,
but somehow i felt i would not go.

It is two days later and i am still here,
part of another story not yet written
the ticket to the second place,
the departure now set and changed to several days away.
And all seems less clear.
Asked to help out here,
after another quit
a person left in a bind
a request i had also called forth many a time
not here per se,
but to be asked and called upon to serve
to be offered a chance
to be wanted,
to hear, Alice can you stay.
To earn some money, even a little bit
to help me on my path
so here i am, working for 5 days
until this place is under new ownership and management
(another story to be posted soon).
Inside i had known this was a possibility,
one i resisted inside,
told myself i would say no
but when the time came the answer was yes.

I am still here
in this place
this place i wanted desperately to leave
but the energy feels different
and i feel at peace
that this was where i was meant to be
even though i know i will not stay,
it is a rest area like that where i stopped on the path.
The river flows
another one
joining the colorado, the one where the path was blocked
I am downstream
but the water rises every day
flowing faster with passing time
expanding, lipping the shores ever more closely
going out to sea.
But inside i am calm,
though murky, like the water with winter run off

i do not really know what lay ahead
but will continue with the flow
my true path not blocked,
for the line is not straight,
just the path i was on that day,
a path i sought out, but also used to avoid
acting on that deeper voice inside.

Still i have 2 days to go,
and feel that something may come up
something i do not know
and one day, i may read what i wrote, and see the message here.

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The day i left Montara i felt the energies shifting again, the ground less stable and a low-lying feeling of dread – like something was about to give. A storm was coming in that morning, and arrived by late afternoon, but by then i was another world away, returning to the place where i had come from. but like my experience walking the labyrinth several nights before, i did not feel like quite the same person when i got back to the center again.

I had not planned to return to san francisco right away, but it had been in the back of my mind, and my journey led me that way. i had looked up first night on the internet, and thought of going to monterey, but with transit connections, it could be tough, or mean a very long layover, if i tried to in a single day. Now santa cruz was mid way, and for a while i convinced myself that i needed to face the energies there – the ones that had knocked me over and down on previous visits – to greet them head on and push through. But the lord told me no by blocking me path – and i returned to the city by the bay.

Cell reception was iffy at the hostel on the point, a weak signal coming in and out. i tried over and over to call the hostel in santa cruz, but they did not pick up the phone. so i called the orange villa in san francisco – tried to make reservations there – would be easier online, but could not change the dates to “today”, and got cut off several times – but the woman called me back, and left a voice mail, yes they would hold a bed until i got there – so helpful and friendly, i was glad to go.

That morning as i sat by the ocean, a bit in panic mode, i felt something was going to go, and that feeling of quake dread came up, a shift in the land and the air and more. i walked into the little town of montara and caught the bus to pacifica – wanting to get out of there – onimous feelings coming up, and as i rode the few twisting miles on the cliffs by the ocean, i wondered if i were getting out just in time. the transit exchange in pacifica is by the ocean and on low ground. I had 40 minutes to wait for my next bus, and as i did i felt all becoming less solid again – and felt like i did that day in Crescent City last July, when i just had to head inland. a few had warned me of new age predictions for a quake following the lunar eclipse, but from what i felt and watching the animals, I did not feel anything ominous before in that respect despite the energies that were pulsing in. But now i began to wonder, for it felt like something was about to give. I wanted to make it inland before all gave way. I seemed to be in a twilight zone under the grey hazy sky, and the atmosphere of pacifica – poorer and more multi-ethnic – was a world away from the zone i had just left.

I got into the city, riding BART from Daly City – collapse on my mind at first, but after i went through the tunnels that took me to the center, it dissipated somewhat – and as i emerged at powell station – my main question was why am i here? But i felt the call to walk around with the drizzle and all.

I was called to the civic center area, where i have felt “something there” many a time on previous visits to the city. There is a pulse, beyond or beneath the buildings and people and the large open square, and once again i wondered about underground streams or fractures of something more. And i also asked why this locale was chosen for the impressive buildings and governing center. In the area and on Larkin St – i feel a sense of being which i cannot describe.

There was feeling of ground slipping as i walked west on market street between the civic center and the castro. As grey turns to drizzle and to rain, the ground seems less firm, and i return to a twilight zone. The sense of all not really being as it seems returned and i like i felt like i did in seattle this spring the first few days near pikes place market. all feels surreal, i wonder if it will dissolve. The rain comes down more, so i go for a coffee and a bite to eat, and re-emerge on the concrete streets, walking in the light rain. night is coming, i return to my room, and the skies open up and pour down below. And by the next morning i feel something has changed, though the land did not give out that night.

The next morning i walked out again, to the library in the civic center area, and then beyond through hayes valley, walking a street i rarely did. i turn a corner, pick up a coffee, and sit down. Suddenly a stillness and peace came upon me – that i had not felt in a long time – a true presence and calm that felt so new to me, and i radiated in that for a while – being truly present and at one with it all.

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I have travelled many zones today – both physically and inside. and that is what i like about cities that are designed for people is that you can move from one to another in just minutes only realizing you have entered a different place after you are already there. but like the past two days, i wandered much, felt both elation and sadness, discovery and loss, and wonder if i pressed on too hard, for i am exhausted once again – and despite the movement through the zones ended up back in my room early at night – wondering should i have stopped and lingered somewhere else. I feel now that all is but a blur, the intensity of each zone, having moved through me – perhaps a bit too fast. And that is the way it has been here since i arrived just over 48 hours ago. And i find the words that i had while passing through, and the insights that i had, have become but a jumble once again. Perhaps slow down a bit, take breaks, and do not rush through where i am, and listen to the body when it wants to take a break.

I slept long last night – waking up later that i have in many months – after 11am when i finally went out the door – and out the door sadness overwhelmed – and remnants of a dream i had last night. I was wondering if i try to stay, and thinking about my first forray out of home 26 years ago – about new york and how i never made it there – i needed guidance and help but ran back home instead, and wonder if i cling to this place – to prove i can or cannot make it here – the question remains is it the place for me, so i woke heavy-headed with that sadness in my heart, it moved on through, but came up and lay me low for a time – for the prices here ar dear, as they were there as well, and what is the cost of this place to me. And is it really a place for me? My emotions have run high and low since i have come back to this place.

This morning i walked out into the street into the dark tenderloin, so many sad faces, people swallowed up by life and jittering with the substances they are on ; so many seem less than human in the sense that they are hollowed out, the walking dead, the barely alive and that is what i saw this morning, there are many angels here as well, and people, many immigrants, building their lives, a sense of tolerance, a caring of sorts, and often that is so visible as well. but this morning the streets were emptier, and my heart hung heavy anyways, and that is what appeared to me.

I went over to Polk to go to a different place for coffee, one that i had walked by on my first evening here – the walking by meaning to eat at a new place for me, but a walking by, not taking a chance and eating a burrito from a place i have come everytime, a burrito that tastes worse and worse each time – yet i think about i when i return, and find myself returning to it, and the heavy stomach afterwards.

i find myself back here again – on Market street, in the tourist zone, sitting on my computer, drinking coffee at night – not wanting to be in my dorm room, not wanting to be here either, wanting a place where i can be myself, to be, but not be trapped.

So this morning i walked up to the coffee shop, realize i don’t think i’ve walked that street during the day, only after dark, and it looked different, and duller to me – perhaps it was the low dull grey solid sky, perhaps it was my mood, perhaps just the time of day. i bought my coffee, the place looked different from the inside, not as lush as it did looking in the windows at night; in fact it felt off, the dark interior and square dark metal tables and chairs felt sad to me, lined up with men in front of their screens and the wifi was super slow. For a moment i longed for the cafe on I where they knew my order back in Salt Lake. but i had my coffee and decided to continue on my day.

I wanted to leave the tourist zone behind, and explore the neighborhoods, so i walked to Van Ness and caught a bus down to the Mission District.I have been there a few times on past trips here, and it has never truly drawn me in, but had never really explored it much, and it had been a long time. I got off the bus at the first BART station, and wandered from there – feeling like i was in a different world, a different place than where i had been in a long time. I was a minority and the language i heard most was spanish, and in some ways it reminded me of mexico – or costa rica perhaps – stores with fruits and veggies piled up out front (as you also get here in other neighborhoods), people stopping on the street, signs handing off shops, goods, cheap stuff piled outside, little burrito and pupusa shops, and a feeling of life with an edginess to it. so different from the orderly, more sedate place i have been. I head over a block to the more trendy area, grab a slice of pizza (when here i should have had a burrito) and walk down and come upon an alley filled with murals and young europeans taking photos – i look and it hits me i know this place too well, never been down this alley to the best of my knowledge, but it reminds me of zones of old, the st. laurent of my university years, the commercial drive that i was supposed to like, other cities as well, an edgy, radical punky feel, not just that, but the opposition to the system shown in art, the urban bohemia with attitude. as i had walked the street, i felt something, a messiness, a dirtiness, an undefined feel, of sections of new york, of the poorer multicultural but trendy areas, even the section of bloor i lived on, the homes fading glory, real, and rough despite the ornate and at times whimsical facades.

I walk on and come to another building down a side street covered in murals of women and decide to walk inside. the murals are grand, but inside of the women’s building as it is called is plain, i look at the announcements on the walls, help, yoga and more, but has that messy alternative feel. I walk on -go down the street to explore a bit more rather than towards a hill, a church and a grassy meridian that calls me on. Here is another mural of naked bodies by the mission pool – i take out my camera – the first time in months, and begin to snap some photos – i return to the womans building and take some there and through the alley and somehow feel alive, thinking thoughts of writing, and engaged in the now- and for a moment this feels like it is what i should be doing. I press on. through the neighborhood, feeling like i need a break, to sit and write what i have experienced – a bakery appears – the other store of the workers’ coop bakery with the yummy scones, so i get one and a coffee, but there is no seat. i do not stop at a cafe as i am carrying a drink, and i continue to move on through – the going on when i am feeling content where i am.

The day before i went out to the beach, the familiar place that truly makes me smile, and it did again. It had been grey in town, but i decided to go anyways; it was not too cool and did not feel like it would actually rain. I was pleasantly surprised; for once it was sunnier out there . the sky was mainly blue and you could feel the warmth of the sun upon your face. I felt god smile on me. I got a coffee from my favorite place, crowded on a sunday afternoon, sat outside for a moment and watched a young golden lab go on strike, grab a tomato from under the bench, greet a boxer, lay down and refuse to move on, roll on his back when his person tried to pull him up, and i could not help but laugh. I walked the beach, feeling the joy of it all. the ocean did not speak in one way or another, but i felt so happy to be there. The tiny snowy plovers all grouped together at the very edge of the shore, a mass movement as a wave came in too far; a few seagulls gathering near, towering over those little birds, who act in unison, as a pack, or rather two, who flew up in different directions, but would land again beside each other (until later when a guy was teasing them, and it is breeding season, but i let others tell him to stop). I walk further down towards the park, tiring, have i gone too far but the walk felt good and i return and sit on the damp sand on the cliff as the sun sets into the fog bank that remains offshore. People leave, and i take off my glasses and watch their trueness as energetic forms being revealed by waters edge – becoming more transparent, doubles moving together, the denseness disappears, though differently for some, a surfboard remains dense but carried by a form of energy. And the squiggles return in front of my eyes. It had been quite a while since i had seen that and i ask myself did it return as i am back down to sea level, down to denser fuller air, air that feels alive once again, air that i want to breathe in; or is it because i can once again sit down in a place, and people watch again. I am so thankful for the benches, the beaches, the places to linger here, the places to just be, something i found was so missing in Salt Lake, where even in good weather, you had few who just sat in a park or beside a trail even on a sunny saturday afternoon. The sun went down so early in these shortened days so i move away from the beach eager to explore some more.

And the people watching brought a smile to my face the night before, a sense of joy i had not felt in such a long time (or was it that free Monster energy drink i had?). I had been out walking on my first night here, after 17 hours on the train, tired but awake, retracing the tourist zone where i stayed, and i walked towards Union square, the streets full of people, many shopping on a saturday night, i became cynical, the consumerism of it all, the chain stores that crowd the area, forming part of “the tourist experience” the shopping in the same stores in new locales, the zone of it all, but then i decided to sit down and partake of it all, and remembered how much i liked people watching and how i had done it so much in my youth, and how it was part of the reason why i liked to visit cities, sit on a bench and watch the world go by – talk with some, smile at others, and somehow in my quietude be part of the dance of life. I feel the light inside me grow and a smile
I sat and watched the dance of life pass through – no longer judging the impossibly high narrow heels that would almost catch on the cable car tracks, or look at the labels on the shopping bags in hands, instead i looked at the faces and the movements of those passing through, many high on life on a saturday night, some tired or impatient, and a few well dressed in prozac zone. Still the kids who came and laughed, all those who took pictures of the large christmas tree, the tiny dog in a santa jacket, the woman with the short almost see through skirt, the man with the high pregnant looking belly who could not advert his eyes, the young asian guy, overloaded with packages trailing behind his sweetie, those who laughed and a few who just looked bored; most on holidays i assumed, a break from regularity of life, the young, the old, the in between of every colour and shape and dress, mingling through this central square across from the Macy’s and its window full of wreathes, on one corner a group of guys play christmas tunes on well-worn horns, (i want to say trumpets but i do not know what they were) and on another corner a lone older male sings “let it snow, let it snow, let it snow” and even though i feel that i have already seen enough snow for the winter, the tune runs through my mind as i wander around the block, taking a break from the sea of life; a sea that pauses as four or five motorcycles lit up fully with multicolored christmas lights cruise around the block one more time. And for a while i feel truly alive, and embraced this part of city life, the joy that it can all be. and i went back and to sleep so happy i had paused for a while.
 
I walked westwards from the mission, straight up a hill, only noticing how the area had changed, after i had felt a greater stillness and stability for a while. Still the homes here grew larger, or rather perhaps more gentrified, the whimsical sconces and decorations that made me smile, not the white homes of some areas, but a variety of colours from yellow to purple to blue, with the bay windows to let in the light from more angles, and turrets once in a while, but some decor that served no real purpose, except to please the eyes. I had been thinking how one thing i felt here over the past few days, was the lack or christmas lights and decorations compared to what i had seen in salt lake, but just then i climbed another block uphill, and lo and behold was a house so overdone, a huge tree and the home itself wrapped like a gift.

I am absorbed in the houses and in this new vista that presents itself on this overcast day taking in all that is around. i walk down the hill, see the rainbow flags down the street, and realize that i am approaching the castro – an area where i have never really spent much time – and i do not once again; it seemed more consumer oriented and a bit of show, and i wondered why i had left the mission area so soon. much less of an edge, but something… maybe a needing to be someone, but i did not linger long.

It is here that i want to stop, but there is no where that i feel to be – so i press on not wanting to return to the center of town where i stay. I walked across 17th street, or is it an avenue, another new place for me, feeling tired and wondering if i should just sit down, if i was going too far once again, like that day in monterey, or like i have done so many times in cities before. but once again, a pattern engrained i pushed on some more. I had looked at my map and saw that it would take me over towards the haight and golden gate park and to the place where i had gotten off the streetcar the night before, that corner that i meant to explore. So i walked on, eyes blurred now, not really taking in all that was there. Just pressing on.
I get to the park, i am tired and just want to sit down. I grab a bench by the side of the road, and think i need to pee – i imagine how far i will need to walk until i get to the botanical gardens where i had thought to do, or to the place i was to stop for coffee and write. My body is still but my mind chatters on, until i get up to leave, and find there was a bathroom across the parking lot the entire time. I go and explore a bit more – a group of rougher kids on skateboards and drugs by the entrance to one of my favorite groups of trees. i am no longer in the connected place i was, and venture out of the park to eat.

I get to the area, 9th ave, and that street where the N train runs just before Judah – the place where i had been after the beach only yesterday – the place where i grabbed some snacks – but then wandered looking in restaurants – playing that familiar game – looking in, reading menus but being unable to decide, so turning back empty handed, or grabbing something out of fatigue – my mood changing from the elevation by waters edge and anticipation of exploration to a let down and a loss. i was drawn back to this place today, it had called me, and now i found myself repeating my actions – the coffee shop was full, and i did not eat, and instead of grabbing a jamba juice like the night before i headed back towards the center empty handed. What was it about this corner that draws me and repels me – is nice, little pretense, some push and pull that is there (my dormmate paces once again)

I get on the N after reading the menus once again, it is crowded tonight – this of getting off at the stop near a dog park which i wished to explore. But the train is full, i cannot see out, and am riding backwards in the last car, so i end up back in the downtown core walking the grittier familiar streets, and eating at a place i have been before – a cute, cheap family run thai place, but still in the tenderloin, and i ask myself why did i get back to this zone so soon.

While my emotions on the corner where i did not eat went through a familiar play, those on the N-train were very different than the night before – the night when i also headed back too soon, belly not as full as i would have liked, but a young guy got on the train and began to juggle three and four balls, only stumbling a bit when the train would stop. Then i had smiled at him, and a young girl with bright pink tights and boots, who watched him as well, thinking this is what i like about the city, the random, frivolous encounters you may have.

but now i am tired, and back in the room, as i am in the morning when i finish this piece. Wondering if i am in the same place again, a different hostel, but much feels the same. and these are but a small part of the ramblings and insights i had. now to learn to bite off smaller chunks

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This was written in the beginning of october when i first arrived. it has been almost 2 months and i now see how i returned to a zone that was familiar to me,

I find myself in Salt Lake City – a place i have not been – and that is the reason why i came here – for a fresh perspective – a place without a personal history – or really much of an imagined context, for i really knew little about the place – the mormons, the olympics, skiing, growing – but that was about it. I had little preconceptions about here and thought i could be more clear, with a fresher mind. While in many ways this is true, during my short time here i have found myself in familiar zones.

Part of the reason i left the coast, is i found myself repeating patterns of place both inside and out and felt that i could not break free or get clear. My messy writings on this will be posted soon. In San Francisco i felt like i was being pulled into the tourist zone, one which i felt was sucking the energy out of me – but in leaving i wondered if i were to just keep on repeating that zone. And in some ways i have, for this place is new, and many of the sights i will explore (there i felt i had done all the sights to death) and also that my eyes and senses are fresher and clearer (despite the exhaustion of the day) for they lay themselves on sights that are new.

But i have also found myself back in many zones that are known to me – zones of place, though they may be spread apart by hundreds or thousands of miles, are closely associated and truly part of the same zone. I began to ponder this as i waited in the train and bus stations for daylight to break, and remembered the waiting zones of these places. And then as i went downtown just as the city was waking up, i found myself in a starbucks in a hotel – the only open place for coffee i could find, it was across from the convention center and full of business people, and i realized it was the downtown business/office zone that i once knew all too well. As i walked the streets, wide boulevards with long blocks, i was reminded of other western cities.

It truly hit as i went to the library that was part of the appeal after i thought of this town and imagined myself coming here. I looked it up on the internet, and it seemed open and airy and inviting, and somehow familiar. Now libraries are a zone that i know very well, for they are type of place i visit in each larger place – town or city – where i go, but as i walked inside the glass covered atrium, i said “i know this place” and i did. It reminded me so much of the Vancouver Public Library, a place i love, and in a city i had been thinking about before i came here. i looked it up and the two libraries were designed by the same architect Moshe Safdie, who while born abroad, has many of his roots in Montreal.
And each zone (though the specific place may be different and may be “new”) calls up memories, emotions, modes of behaviour, thoughts and the like. And how we travel not to different places but to zones, and while each may be distinct, there is something that links and binds them well beyond their geographic locale.

we may travel many miles, but find ourselves back in familiar zones. While we think of the chain fast food restaurant, the strip malls and big box stores, and the hotels where the rooms are (almost) exactly the same across the nation, and the homogenization of the landscape allowing us to remain in our comfort (or discomfort) zones no matter “where” we are, for we remain in the “same” place. But it is much more than that.

when i was in central america last winter, i found myself going from colonial town to colonial town as many travellers to the region do, and while each had its unique features, after a while i found myself calling these towns a zone, as are beach resorts, theme parks, the urban created “tourist zones”, the market places (though they differ between north america and the neighbours to the south) and to certain extent even national parks. And it is more than just travel, the (different types)suburbs, the new rising “creative” inner cities, the bohemian neighborhoods, the college towns, the office parks, the malls, all often have much more in common with each other than with other zones that are physically much more close. And often we travel from zone to zone to zone, coming back to very similar spaces, both inside and out. And i have written this before – notes of when i went to Seattle this spring – the multitude of zones there, and how i kept finding myself back in familiar places.

There still is diversity, and a larger place can be thought of as “unique” in the way that the different zones within are linked. and it makes me wonder, as i have before, is the earth really round and whole, or is it merely a multitude of zones connected by threads? (which first occured to me in Seward, Alaska – its own special place, but also both a part of and containing many zones (the small town at the end of the road, the place enclosed in a mountainous container where you do not see out, the alaskan tourist town etc.) .

So i am in Salt Lake City, and after a nap my mind feels refreshed, and the clutter of the last zone has unscrambled a bit. It is fresh, and it is old, but my perceptions feel more alive. And within, the combination of zones i travel through, is a different combination than elsewhere, and i am able to once again see the uniqueness amongst the similarity. In coming here, i ask myself what is it about these zones (within as well as without) that i am to learn?

Now i ask, i am ready to leave, but can i go back to a zone that is familiar but live it differently?

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What does it mean to build a New Jerusalem? Is it possible to build a city or community for god here on earth? Is it desirable?

i have been curious about Salt Lake City for several years because of its history and why it was founded and built – as a place to practice religion, a place built for god. I am not a mormon, and several aspects of their faith do not call to me, but the idea of founding a place on this basis has always appealed to me.

But what i find here is a modern american city, well laid out and planned, but still a regular city – though with a certain underlying vibe – one that is based in the foundations of it, and it makes me wonder about the ideal. And around is sprawl, the sprawl of modern cities, the endless development up and down the valley – but i see that too is related both to the growth and development patterns across the continent, and to the original (and continuing) mormon corridor – of small communities, or stakes as they were called, built for people to live and worship. And like small towns everywhere, they have merged into one amorphous sprawl.

The curiosity with the origins of cities came to me when i was in San Francisco and Seattle and other places that were founded or grew because of the gold rush, and the old buildings were dedicated to business of the getting rich quick, and there it occurred to me to what extent does the foundation, the raison d’etre of a city in its inception, carry over to modern times.

For me the movement west in search of the ideal has always called, for i too have done it myself, the lure of “go west, young (wo)man” but what has been the ideal – a comfortable life, adventure, riches of gold, the possibility to be free, whatever that means, god. It has been symbolic of a place where you can be both free and safe to live your dreams.

The story of the latter-day saints of seeking to build a Zion, of fleeing persecution for their beliefs, and of finally arriving and building what was to be an ideal place called to me. And so i came to this basin, where they built the temple and called for believers around the world to join them in creating a new zion. for many years that is what they did – design a place that would reflect a living faith on so many levels from the physical design and layout to collective enterprises in an attempt to be self-sufficient.

Once i got here, i realized that part of why salt lake called is that it, in some way, represented the transition from the journeying to the building stage. A journey is a period of travel or movement and of seeking where new horizons continually present themselves. It can be hard and challenging, but it also is a period of growth and renewal, and important transition from one life to another. The pioneer stories are still a prominent feature of the mormon history, dramatic time.

However, the switch from one type of movement of searching to another of creating came about once they found a place. It may not have been ideal, a desert basin, but time comes to say enough, lets stop and build it here. Now according to legend, Bingham Young stood on top of one of the hills and knew or was told by a higher source, that it is here that you are to build. Was it divine inspiration and knowing this is it, and how much of it was weary fatigue, and saying this is the place where it will have to be.

I think this is where it differs from some present journeys where you are looking for a place that already exists and ready-made for you to come and join; here there was nothing, and it represented a palate upon which to build – it was not already there and required vision to believe that it could become something more, something worthy of god here on earth. But then again, how many new frontier exist today in our ever connected and known world? Is it possible to just find a fresh place to transform – a place where you can land fresh? A place where others are not already? But then again, was there ever such a place, for native americans were here already? Is it just the belief in such a place that has disappeared?

Another difference is, that while in the motion of a journey, the pioneers had a home in a community, one without stable roots in the ground, but one of interconnection to one another and to a higher source.

Still once you have stopped there is a shifting of gears – you are no longer searching for the place but you have found it – or rather you have found the locale where you are to build it. Your action changes from seeking and imagining to building and creating. You are now transforming the environment, and although it is a difficult time, you are guided by a higher vision and a concrete as well as abstract purpose and can see the progress you are making. Although they almost starved in the first years, and lived a harsh existence, it is a time that is now romanticized for it calls forth (or back) a higher ideal, and a time when the ideal called forth.

During those initial years this basin was transformed, a city and community and temple were built and thousands upon thousands of pioneers arrived, making arduous journeys of their own, but having a specific destination – of a place that was there, unknown and known at the same time, a place where they would help build and live. They were called forth to help build something greater than themselves and to join with others who had already begun, and were able to do so, making transitions and transformations of their own and thereby transforming the place to where they were called.

During the 1890s there was a switch in policy, where immigration to the new zion was no longer actively encouraged and organized, and instead people were encouraged to stay in their homelands and build there, and go out into the world as missionaries. I see this as a major shift, and this period marks a transition in the history of both the church and the society at large; the abandonment of polygamy, the entry of Utah into the nation and the national expansion in general, the economic downturn that swept across the nation, the end of one century and beginning of another. It also led to the decline of the more collective enterprises, and i believe, the realization that you cannot live totally apart or isolated from that which surrounds. Another century that we have passed through.

Before that time, with the building of the railroads many “others” came for very different reasons and the area was no longer homogeneous in terms of worship. Salt Lake and parts of Utah were no longer only for true believers, for members of the church. And this remains true today; while mormons still predominate in many areas of the state, Salt Lake is a diverse city – but one where you can, at times, feel the original influence of the pioneers – not only in the built material environment, but in terms of an underlying vibe.

Today we see both the search for community building upon common ideals and migrations of so many around the world, of people coming in who you believe are different. In my weeks here i have pondered many questions, many that have been churning beneath the surface on my journeys through the west, through small towns, both ideal and shattered, through divided cities, and intentional communities. Can you build a place for those who share common values? Should you? Can you build such a place and also be connected to the world be it via rail or ideas? Can you change or control the others who come for their own reasons? Can you remain distinct within? should you? What do you need to give up? Is it central to your core or essence, or is it just a minor part of your being? But how does giving up a minor part affect the whole? Do you engage with those “others” who come in? Do you just coexist (to quote a popular bumper sticker) allowing each to remain in their own worlds? Can you? Should you? What do you take in and how do you change? Do you welcome “them” and want them to join you? Do you try to keep them out? Are you afraid that some of you might join them? Do you ever merge and become one? Is it possible that all are transformed, intertwined, but unique? Can you move beyond the notions of “us” and “them” and realize that all definitions and boundaries are fluid and ever-changing and shifting?

This is a dilemma that i see being played out over and over again, not only here, or with many ideal utopian or intentional communities, but all who seek to create a life where you are surrounded by common values, lifestyles and cultures. With the splinterization of society, we see more and more pockets being built, and while you want live in a certain way, can you ever separate yourself or your “group’ and what are the consequences of trying to do that? This is a common theme that runs throughout my thought and i am certain to write more about it.

They mormons also came to Utah not only feeling that they would be free to practice their religion, but that it would also be safe to do so. They had been persecuted and had to flee one locale after another from New York to Missouri to Illinois, attempting to build and then being at times brutally suppressed for being what they were. They fled the nation to what was a land where they could be safe and free, but soon after arrival what was mexican territory was suddenly under the jurisdiction of the united states. Does what you seek to flee eventually find you? And they were not free from persecution in the forms of attacks and legislation. Did they discover that there is no truly “safe” place where you can go? And it asks when is it time to lay down and flee as they did across the land? when is it time to fight and what are the consequences of that – as with the mountain meadow massacre when they attacked a wagon train of pioneers? When do you take a stand? Do you build walls to protect yourself? Can they stand? But just what do you keep out and what do you hold in? Is it what you imagined that you would? And when the walls start to crumble, as they eventually will, just what comes pouring in and rushing out. Or do you spend so much time maintaining those walls, that you neglect to nurture what is inside? And what becomes of those who stand looking at the walls from the outside? Can you just be and let the light shine out? Is it possible when the forces against you will not let up? When do you compromise and how do you do so without giving up?

The temple was finally completed in 1893 and many compromises were made to allow for the continued existence of the church and the society. But from what i sense as an outsider looking in is that the LDS movement was transformed from something quite radical and dynamic to something that is now more staid and conservative. As i went exploring the history it occurred to me more than once, is that while i could not see myself ever joining the church today, i might have been inspired in its earlier days when it seems to be more a movement and a journey rather than a stable institution. But wasn’t that the goal all along? Still, it seemed that something major changed around that time.
With the statement on polygamy i see a shift from building communities to building (and today, maintaining) nuclear families and a focus more on individual behavior with words of wisdom and rules taking on a greater importance, as did obedience to authority. With the separation of church and state (which are still intertwined) the communal aspects of economic togetherness seemed to have faded away.

But i have to ask how much of that came from the specific compromises made and how much of it from the ending of the journey and the building process. Once, the journey kept people engaged and provided a goal and means of togetherness, and then once a place was found, its transformation and building served that role again. But once you have stopped the building, then what do you do? what does life become about? What guides your worship and practical purpose in the here and now? How do you stay connected and inspired? Do you keep building or can you say – yes, this is done. But then what? what do you concern yourself with? You have the building, to go in and worship – is it what you imagined? Are you still connected? Do you feel that you have landed or do you feel a loss? Can you step into what is the next phase? And does it take you along the path, and how does that path transform?

Or do you just try to be and shine your light and encourage others to do so all around? Do you try to build other communities of light around the globe not separate or cut off but within the larger whole? But can you? Is that what this church tries to do through the missionaries and expansion around the world? But can you join with those whose light is different from yours and shine together but unique? Has the ideal changed, or has it just expanded knowing that this planet is so interconnected? But then are we not just building zones? And as one grows does another shrink back? does the energy just move around, rather than being increased to a new vibration for all?

I thought i might answer my questions through the act of writing this, and while i have answered some (for the moment), i find that what i have done is come up with even more questions to be answered.

I began this thinking of my college study of social movements and the progression they go through – from radical idealism to settlement and stability. But how can you stop and still grow and change, how is movement possible within the calm – for all does move, but is much more subtle, and the changes may not be recognized until they have occurred. Can you guide them without trying to cling to the old, without hindering movement and change, without becoming defensive of what you have and closed to all that happens around. Salt Lake is now a modern american city – you can still see and feel the founders, but while the city and area expands, it now does for different reasons, and you can sense a defensiveness and protectiveness of what is here, and at times it is hard to imagine the inspiration, activity and faith that was needed to create what was here. But it is all change.

I still ask can you build a “New Jerusalem” here on earth? While Salt Lake does not seem to be a New Jerusalem at all, and i feel that the goal was abandoned long ago (in terms of american history), i also wonder if that might be a blessing after all. The city is not being torn apart by war and strife as is the holy city in what is currently isreal. But then again, can you not try to do so and is it our abandonment of the quest of building cities and communities for god (however named or defined) that has led to the deadened places and strife around?

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