Posts Tagged ‘memories’

I sit outside under the magic eucalyptus trees and slowly i come to life. They are trees that call me forth from afar, that come to mind when i think of this place. They do not disappoint although the air is chill and i do not linger out there as long as i imagined i would. They call forth life as small birds sing and flicker above, and if i look carefully, one of the green parakeets comes into view. I am in my oasis, my castle above the city, my sacred place – or so i thought it was.

I come back to the hostel once again, using up the last of my 14 days per year that you are allowed – ones that i had hoarded and resisted using because they were so precious to me. Ones that i had held tight against my chest the past few weeks, though i deeply longed to return – for if not here, then where would my oasis be, and would not having the option of coming here mean that this was the end of my forray in the city? – so i held out – perhaps too long, became sick inside, until that is … i came back to this place.

But now that i write this, all that is past, and i sit inside another here and now, yearning for the calm and serenity that had overcome me. Though my current room is nicer and for the moment and probably the night i have it to myself rather than shared with many others and the mattress and bed are much nicer, it is not as peaceful as it was there, and already i can feel the jitters and inner rush return – not the flow which came back there after the depletion in the place i had been in before – the out of kilter unfocused rush of the city and tenderloin.

I am in a nice place, probably nicer inside, but it does not have the same calming but awakening vibe. i step out the doors for a smoke, and rather than being greeted by grass and trees, perhaps a walker or a dog, i am on the city streets, people smoking crack on down the block, bum a butt, ask for money, others walk through. i do not sit on a picnic table under the trees and the night sky, or in the wind that comes up, but walk around the block instead. Out back of the building is not a path up the hill with a view of the golden gate bridge and the bay and darkness at night and cyclists struggling up by day, all pausing to get a view, and a smile that they have reached the top of the hill, a photo snapped perhaps (how many of others have i taken there over the years?) but the Glide church and community center = with lines for meals a few times a day; around the block for special food bags every now and then, and the most desperate, sleeping on the street at night, and kitty corner from there, another heavy drug corner. Of course next door towards the posher area, is the large Hilton hotel, with the well dressed smoking outside, but with a more nervous or held back edge, not a park where people smile. And here i stay again, on the border between the down and out land and the hyped up tourist shopping zone; and after a few days, my room is no longer my own, but shared with a group of three, who i can tell would prefer if i (not the personal me, but i as in a person who is not part of the group)not be here. but for the moment i have the room to myself, though not the serenity of that other place. I accept that magic place is gone for the year, my 14 nights used up until next January and that there is a reason why i am here.

I had been afraid to use them up for this has been a very special place for me, one that represents peace and tranquility, but also openness and life, a bounce to my step and more – and i remember… though it is time to move on from there in my mind, hold the love, but let it go, and bring that love into another here and now.

like the city, that hostel is partially a place of my imagination rather than one that is very real, and for a while, when i come, i lose sight of that place i have built up in my mind, and focus instead on what is here, the imperfections and the flaws, and how it does not live up to that image in my head – and i wonder why was i so desperate to return.

I go into the larger dorm, it has be rearranged and has new beds. finally the thin patched foam mattresses, ones i had probably slept on my first visit there 25 year ago, have been replaced. For now it is comfortable, but as the new ones slide around on the metal base, and i can feel a coil against my knee as i sit and meditate, i know they will not endure. As is the case with the kingdom i have claimed. And there is one less bunk than there was before, but somehow the feng shui seems worse than before – the beds which had always been crammed, but were placed in such a way to allow the energy to flow through. At first i am disappointed, “it had changed, it was not as i had been” i say to myself, “this is not the place i came back to, it is so ill thought out” i criticize, what happened i bemoan. Still, in my two nights there i sleep well and deep, love my bottom bunk – that personal space – and the cold that i had lifts away. And i do not want to leave.

I remember other nights there being uncomfortable, the cards for the door not working one time, and all knocking to get in and out, my bed being the one by the door, and the snoring symphony i have endured many a time, or the music from the crowded common room seeping in, or the communal bathroom down the hall feeling so institutional, and the huge kitchen downstairs, a place where i actually cook, being out of forks the last time i was here, but all that slowly goes away, as i feel the lighter energy of the place, both inside and out. and in remembering the place, both now and before, it is not that which comes to mind, but the peace and joy and conversations i have had there.

I walk outside, am greeted by the lawn, around the back, to the view of the bay and the bridge, the sounds are of birds, chirps out fromt and the cries of gulls out back, and a few people strolling by. The hum of traffic is not to be found, and i notice when a car pulls up. I walk down to the wharf one day, and then out to the marina and the golden gate bridge another, exploring the realms beyond, and am so eager to return – to my oasis in the park.

And that is what it is for me – an oasis an oasis in the middle of the city, or rather on the edge, a safe haven from which one might leave to explore but come back to the green and more. And i want to stay there – in the peace and the calm – i retreat to my bed and awaken refreshed, brain fog cleared. for here energy is calm but flowing, alive, but smooth, nurturing without smothering, set apart yet joined and connected, in the city but not of the city. And i am so content to be where i am, and do not really want to move beyond though the waterfront calls, as does the bay, the palace of fine arts, the hills and more. Still, i am so happy where i am. I feel like a princess in my castle, at one and at peace. For a while…

But coming back, i also come back to where i was – one year, two years, three years ago – my places on my journey, and how i have moved along, but perhaps failed to move at all. And i remember the stress i had felt previous times, when it was near the time to move on, the looking and searching of where i might go, and the tension that arose when i got into that zone, a zone that i come back to for a short while. And in this zone, i find the flaws, the dirty sink water in the sink, the broken plugs, the lack of light, the loud group and more and disengage from that light i so wish to hold – as if knowing that i must physcially leave, i leave first emotionally and spiritually. But then, as it is time to go, my heart bursts wide open with love again.

For it is a center, and represents that center inside, life flows in and through, life of joy, energy transformed, stays and moves on again, a fort transformed and represents the ideal me. As i sit outside the last night there before the rain begins to unfurl, i realize that this is a park apart, and though i long to, i cannot really live in a park. or can i?

but alas, it is not a place where i can stay. i tried and asked, but my time was used up. I cried when it was time to leave, a deep sadness and loss overcoming me. I leave my bags for a few hours, not sure of where i will go. I walk behind the hostel to where the path provides a view of the bridge, and the winds pick up but i am not ready to journey on. I head down to the jetty in the drizzling rain, look up at the hill where the hostel sits and know it is sacred ground. I walk and all is beautiful in the drizzle and grey, and San francisco comes to life for me yet again. i cry not wanting to go but walk back up the hill, take my bags and go. not wanting to, but leaving that magical center – heading back into the messy world.

I am in that other place, in the center of the city right now – and feel the love for there but have stopped clinging on. I realize that my relationship to the hostel so represents my relationship to the city – the ideal, the love, the knowing that there is much more, of the fading joys when i see the imperfections and the downside, and the yearning when i am away.

But more, it also represents myself, and that center inside, whose light i must carry into the world. And to carry that center with me wherever i go, for though like the hostel, it may have its flaws and imperfection, but is still so full of light and need not be temporary. And like the hostel grounds in fort mason, it has been, and is being transformed, and is in the city/world but not of the city/world, but is connected, and a special place, with energy flowing through and being renewed. And to this center, i can go back anytime, and am not limited to 14 days per year. And it still here, even in the tenderloin.

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I sit in a starbucks on the main drag of newport, about 45 minutes until the bus will take me over the long high windy bridge back to south beach where i stay. and i feel depleted and i know i have felt this way here before – on a rainy day, in november, and now the sky has returned to grey though the sun shown and the sky was blue for a while.

I have felt depleted or sad for much of the day as i passed through many zones. i woke up from dream zone, that place and environment that exists only there – a long hallway cutting underground, connecting buildings full of art, sculptures and a purple room were i danced for a bit, swirling around wearing a skirt that swirled with me, and then i climbed up to an open room with chandeliers and a grand piano with a notecard – i tried to read the schedule but a woman swept me away, and i went over to the counter to ask who was playing that night, and the woman pointed to a table with white linen and fancy brochures and wine glasses turned upside down and told me to take one of them and turned to continue her conversation, i asked again and was dismissed. the dream went on in that landscape and scene that exists in only that other world and then I woke up to my alarm clock ringing in my tent and the sky was grey. i played snooze for a bit, but as always my bladder won and i emerged from my tent – planning to take in newport for a day.

I had remembered a place when i was away, boats lined up in a bay with a large bridge that cuts across the water and remembered that remembering (or visioning) a few days ago and wondered if newport could be it. i looked at the bridge last night, spanning high across the bay, and with the winds that blew and the narrow sidewalk i knew that i would take the bus across – I got a coffee from the hospitality center at the campground, the seniors gather and i feel i intrude though at this time of year there are campers of all ages – unlike in the fall when retirees in rv’s rule. i eat my breakfast and then walk towards the bridge and the bus stop wondering if i have enough time. i take the path behind the beach through the small dunes and grass and reach the bay so quickly – much closer than it seemed only yesterday.

i walk the now empty road and under the bridge to where the bus stop is; last evening the road was filled with parked cars with people watching the ocean and playing on the beach. An eagle and a seagull chase each other and a crow squawks nearby. i am early – way early – and i look at the parking lot to the brewery – rogue – rogue nation – where i have visited and only wish i drank more as they make good beer and i like their vibe. but it is 10:20 am and i decide to walk through these more empty lands – the marina just down below, rvs behind a hotel, the aquarium – which is excellent for i visited many years ago – and the aquarium village – i think of small neat shops where i will browse for a bit.

The village seems empty and sad despite the colorful and sometimes whimsical facades on the stores that fill what i imagine was once an industrial space. I thought of coffee, but there is only a full service restaurant that seems empty. i enter into the first large building – a flea market of sorts though is billed as something more – old clothes and books and beads and shells and “collectables” and fishing stuff in a concrete shell – i browse through and think of the remains of bygone eras – a few older couples here and that is it and it feels sad and i remember being here before on a cold rainy november sunday and it felt like that then – but now is july and in the season. i go out the backdoor where smaller “boutiques” exist – a closed second hand book store, a shop with costumes, a sword shop now out of business though the pirate and piratess outside remain, but not a living breathing soul. still more time and i wander back to the bus stop where i was and wait a bit more.

I feel hard and i long to dress up, wear pretty skirts and be soft again. i think of how months ago people said my face had changed, and i feel it changing back as i regain the edge – the edge produced by this kind of life – at least for me – i think of boots and blouses and dancing and watch the few cars drive by and sit in the shelter out of the wind under the gloomy sky. I feel separate from the lives that pass on by and know that when i stayed here that time in the fall how badly i wanted to reconnect with the dance of life, to be part of something larger than i. i smell the sweetness from the beer factory and it cloys a bit at me. the minibus finally comes and takes me across the bridge.

I go down to the harbour, the tourist area by the bay. i walk past expensive coffee and junk food and smell the fish from the remaining fish plant. A child is making a barking sound and that means some sea lions are still there, i walk out onto the viewing platform and watch the 8 or so that still remain – a cage is now on the lower dock, empty but used for study, and one of the large males has a number shaved onto his back. but they always make me smile. the rocks further out are empty as i expected they would be for this is the time of year that the sea lions generally migrate elsewhere.

I walk past the undersea gardens, the small wax museum and the ripleys believe it or not and get a coffee at a cute cafe i remembered, now crowded, and take it out and sit on a bench by the water. the sun has emerged and it is getting warm so i take off my coat and feel less worn, though i know i still have that look about me. i sit and feel myself relax, calm and at ease for a little while – but then i think it is time to move on out of the tourist zone. i wander into a few tourist shops selling t-shirts, doodads, sweets, and oregon jams and wine, revisit the sea lions and the crowd of large waddling tourists that gather there and head on up the hill, to the center of town – if there is one in this city spread out along the 101, stopping at a lovely independent bookstore that smells like cat pee and older women eating lunch but i imagine they are having tea. And i ask myself, in this place, what is there for me – not to gain but to connect with.

I come to the highway and the “deco” district of more “antique” or second hand shops on the highway – now 5 lanes instead of 2. I feel like a leper as a pedestrian as cars whiz on by. Sidewalks exist, but are empty in this place where cars do not want to let you by. I will go to the arts district maybe get some real food. i cross at the lights, it takes forever for the walk sign to come on, and who do i see but evan from florence and eugene – he has found some shoes and seems as lost as ever with his thin frame and shaggy blond hair, as he gives some change to a guy who begs on the corner, and a car hands him a brownie, and though the walk sign is on and the light is red, the car pulls ahead and gives me a glare as i am crossing the street. and the cars on the 101 whiz on by.

I go down to the nye district by the beach in town, with a few cafes and boutiques and full of attitude – the cars are shinier (though not by big city standards) and it seems that many have something to prove – where is good honest healthy food without the pretence and vibe. and here i feel shabby and like i no longer fit in. i walk back up to the highway and get a cheap bite at quiznos – one of the better fast food chains – and i look out at the cars going by and ask myself what have i done. and i thought of going for chinese at a place i had been before and though i remember it had good food, it has a depressing stagnant atmosphere. And i remembered how out of society i felt last time i was here after a summer and more of life in a tent, and how those lunches and coffees in decent places was my way of clinging on – and then how many miles on down the coast i lost the need to cling and through that began to open up to me. and then down to the library where i sit inside though the sun does shine playing on my computer.

I have a bit of time until the bus back over the bridge – i will go down to the nye – it is closest and have a coffee there – clouds have come in once again, and the cafes are shut for the day so i stroll along the stretch along the highway once again. i need cigarettes and a small store has a sign with my brand at a good price – i go in at shift change as two women count the till, the place is depressing, cigarettes and beer, grey walls and fading florescent lights over worn dark carpet and the hum from some of the fridges. the woman who has just come on has a face that shows the abuse it has endured over the years – broken of sorts around the eyes, the nose and the lip out of kilter – a tough girl who makes the best of all.

Then to the grocery store the thriftway in the center of town – don’t want to walk further up the highway where pedestrians are not to be found to the larger chains – a sad store and more pricey despite the name – still find some food and end up at starbucks for a coffee before the bus. As i wait at the shelter, i remember a day waiting for this same bus though it was dark back then, a conversation with a guy carrying a back who lived in a vacant lot, and the kid who was hitching on down in the rain and how it was the days in the library, when i took the expense to get up here, that made want to go to a city with arts and more; but this is a town which i craved when in more country land, and despite the people and cars around, i feel more disconnected from the rest. the bus is fuller, and full of those who struggle on – a woman looks for work that can fit the limited bus schedule; and the passengers to the southtowns know each other well, and life goes on and the people are tough with softness around. but the place seems worn or is it just how i feel.

I return to camp and take a long hot shower and feel like a new person again. i meditate and sing to myself, and sleep and awaken to a new day. I hear water running and peer out and it is sprinklers across the way, the threatened drizzle did not come and i know i will be here another day. i think of the pretty towns, yachats, bandon, manzanita, cannon beach to name a few and how it was different here way back when – when it was a place some hippies and artists sought out back in the 80s my first time here – but even then newport straggled on, and coos bay was sad. Do i go inland, but that is what called my last time here, and i did not feel right until i reached the coast again – still the mountains and the sun do call.

And when i think of the pockets up and down this road, i think it is the divide that has become america – that polarization that has occurred – and as with the sands on the beach, all is change. And i reflect back on my trip to mayaland – not just the maya of illusion but of that 3d place and the remains of civilization we see there – how the divide took place perhaps and the rich in temples decaying within and those that remain just getting by. And i know i will venture on out of here, but this divide exists across the land and i have seen it time and time again.

i walk along the path to catch the bus again – i am calmer and quieter inside and i have my hair down and feel lighter today. i notice the fishing pier beside the brewery and the picnic tables there, i catch the bus, this time full of people who know one another by name, and go down to the bay and get another great coffee and realize this resto is one that serves good honest food with flare but without pretence but still i do not eat there. I sit on the bench by the water and the sun peaks though and the temperature rises as it did for a while yesterday. and once again i feel at peace and come to realize i generally prefer the harbours to the beaches and remember what drew me here and can see myself migrating down this road once again.

I listen to and smell one of the last fishing plants along the bay and while newport is still home to one of the larger fishing fleets along the coast it is a mere shadow of what once was. As with so many locales the runs of fish that some with the seasons have been replaced by that of tourists, a migration that one day may also change place, lessen or disappear. And i should not glorify what was – or is elsewhere – for it can be a cold, damp, smelly, dangerous job, a hard life – but there is something that makes it just seem more real. And i think of the place where i did not go – alaska- where fishing still exists as a way of life, in isolated locales and in others mingling with the tourist trade. But just as the earth and tourists are mined more efficiently, and huge patches of forests are so rapidly stripped bare, we too are raping the seas – no longer the small independent boats that predominate but the factory ships that trawl the waters taking all in.

as i sit and sip my coffee i smile – watch the seagulls around, the men (and a few women) in the bright orange rubber bibbed overalls work outside and the several with the high sturdy rubber boots go strolling by and say hi to one or two – i must admit, through they can smell like fish, there is something a bit sexy in the independent men who live from the sea. I look across the water to where a cute retriever cross was tied, and now his person is there, lying down on the dock, a full embrace, dog on top, you can see the love, then a walk down the dock, retied as the guy in orange overalls heads back to work – and i cannot help but feel the love and joy and smile and rejoice in the bay and the seagulls around and those who walk up and down the street.

still i move on – it is lunch time now – the many mexicans stand outside the plant and the music that can be heard is from that part of the world. I go up town and find the food coop and get a salad there – a true independent health food store. i pass the bus stand with too many worn with daypacks and backpacks like my own who meander in town or up and down the coast – so many worn down with drugs and alcohol but others just like myself. i am at the library where i sit and write and two guys talk of free meals at a church, places to crash and job interviews. and i go down to nye beach for a coffee and see it is not so grand, a place where some wannabe more sophisticated than they are – but others sit out at an irish pub drinking beer, and i sit on a bench for a cigarette and talk to an older woman travelling through. I return to the  library which is calm and large and used and is another layer of the town.

Tomorrow i will go on somewhere – the where i do not know. Part of me wishes i could join these small towns but the call is for something more – there is joy and love and hardness and despair and life goes on and people pass on through – for a moment, a day, a week, a year or several, or even a lifetime, but we are all just passing though.

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The body remembers. the mind remembers. I am still in Eugene and it feels like previous times that i have been here and like another type of flash to the past. I wake up tired and groggy not wanting to communicate – a way i woke up for much of my life but not in the past few years. Despite the abundance of health food stores, i do not feel like cooking much and my diet, while still healthy, becomes what it was years ago. I walk quite a bit, but the body feels weak, and restless too, again a flash to the past. And the way i process events and emotions seems to have regressed to another time.

I started to write this yesterday, and then i was to write about parallel lives, how this zone feels so cut off from others i have recently been in, and if perhaps i am just a small part of a larger beings consciousness and am really living all these lives simultaneously, like fragments of a dream. For when i come back here it seems that i physically and emotionally feel like i have here in the past, and my thoughts and activities are similar to what they were here, and all follow a similar process and shift as they have in this locale and what that is created is but a continuation of what was experienced here before, as if what has happened in other locales has been bracketed or erased. And as such i feel like i have once again stepped back in time, though now feeling more removed as if watching myself.

But it is not merely the time that was contained in this space that i reconnect to; the people here in this hostel and who i meet with few exceptions are not the same as those who were here before, and though they are new to me, they help carry me to memories back before this space. As does this town in some ways – reminds me of what i once was and what i had once wanted to be – the mid-sized college town with that bohemian hippie alternative air. And as with previous visits here i find myself loosing “my voice” – not literally, but that passion to express feels stilted somehow – or somehow stuck.

I am doing a work trade at the hostel, cleaning and checking in guests in return for my stay. Something that i have done before, but that is so part of a stage of life i thought i had moved through and wanted to let go of, or move beyond. And that is how i feel, back here once again. And the one actual person who i have reencountered from the outside, is a woman i met up in Anchorage at the hostel up there two years and a bit ago – the last time i cleaned in a hostel in return for my bed. And it was her who gave me a lift out of there to Homer on the Kenai Peninsula and to what became the beginning of a new stage of my life. And while i am glad to have reconnected with her again, meeting her here makes me feel like i have not really moved on. And this time i won’t get a lift out of here- her car deal fell through, and she is flying back home. and i get taken further back, because like many who pass through here she reminds me of another i knew years ago – in a creative writing class back in Montreal. At night, my dreams take me back there too. But perhaps this is all part of what i said a few months ago about integrating parts of my life and i now ask should i have just let go for i feel less full of life than i did, even in angst, just a little while ago.

Besides the owner of this place, the other actual person i met, was a man whose last visit here was my first in 2007. I looked at him his first day here – that look of familiarity from i don’t know where – he reminded me so much of M who i lived with for over a year, in a zone in some ways similar to this. A bowler hat on a wide chunky face, his smile and the hair that hangs down and beard starting to grey, and the walk and the posture were so familiar to me. And this place, the alternative pot smoking crowd, reminds me of that.

In some ways it brings back a combination of my teenage years, and the youth that predominate bring it back more. There is so much that i once wanted to reclaim – but being here now i know that i can’t go back to what i was before, and with the acceptance that comes with middle age i no longer wish to for i am not the same person i was then. And so i feel stuck in another sort of time warp, a friendlier one, but one that fits no more. The hostel and the wandering crowd, so many people who travel around, biking, hiking, searching craigslist for rideshares – talks of festivals – of burning man, and hula hooping and poi and fire dancing and more. And the creative types and wannabes hanging out on porches just passing away the days. So much that i once wanted to experience, but that truly calls no more. And i had thought of the alternative festivals before coming here – a place to camp and meet and be – caught in circles of searching for what isn’t really me.

And i see others who call me back to my college years and before – one of the work traders a few years older than me – who is getting depressed after band broke up and walks around saying i’m bored, reminds me of W. from the cafe – that anti-authoritarian veggie political cafe where i spent so much of my time back then – it hasn’t existed for years but it would fit so well into this neighborhood – endless debates on politics, the environment, and what is the next way – and so self-conscious in its alternative stance. A woman about 10 years younger than me with long pony tails, a pierced nose, tattoos, and a long skirt commented that i and another seem to be from the east coast – she reminded me of some of the hard-core granola activists i met in Ontario. And another girl here is the spitting image of someone i knew in university – and like many here, the same age we were them, and maybe what i am experiences are the ideals as they exist at a certain stage in life.

The discussions i have and listen to are refreshing on issues and other ways – but i feel that i have had them so many times before. And last night i watched a film of the Dead Kennedys early years – another flashback again. so much here brings me back to a particular zone – a zone of living that extends beyond time and space but is framed in certain locales. And the frame to me is beginning to feel a bit like a cage.

It is not a question of throwing all this away, as i tried to for many years, and that tossing is probably what brought me back here a couple of year back – to reclaim some of me that i had lost. But now it is to value what is here, but to not cling to what no longer fits or at least in the way that currently exists. I expect to be here for another week or so, and during that time i will let myself grow.

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I am in Port Townsend and i feel like i have entered a time warp. It is not merely the historic downtown with the old brick buildings that line the main street or the victorian homes that dot uptown, or the emphasis on historic preservation here, that makes me feel this way. Nor is it because of the predominant vibe – a crunchy liberal in moderation one or what appears to be the average age, older than the norm, but not yet a seniors community, nor the traditional mainstream churches that exist in old buildings on many corners uptown. It is not the old Fort Worden, now a state park which houses the hostel where i stay along with many arts insitutions, and was made famous by that movie, an officer and a gentleman, that was filmed there now many years ago. nor that it is in many ways an ideal small town, with a downtown lined with cute independent shops and restaurants, safe tree-lined streets with older homes and sidewalks, a pretty mainstream arts scene, active marinas and boat building, an independent food coop, and community events all around. It is a small town that works, not swept away by the times we live in now, with a middle class that participates and while many are poor, there is not a visible underclass, or maybe that is because the town is extremely white. Port Townsend seems set back in time, the ideal(ized) place that is now rare to find, but it is also i who has stepped back in time.

My feeling that i have stepped backwards in time, has more to do with my return to this place, than the place itself. I am not only conscious of old memories returning, but also old emotions that come swooning forth, in relation to both what is remembered and in reaction to what is happening in the here and now. I find myself reacting in ways i once did, ways i thought i had dropped, and wonder what part of me it this which is coming out.

Not only do i walk down the same street or sit on the same bench as i have the times before, but i found myself picking up some books of the library shelves, and remembered i had looked at the very same books last time i was in this town. thought patterns come back too, not in relation to the here and now or the past, but also towards the future and my life situation. I feel like the same person i was back then, facing the same dilemmas and looking in the same old places with the feeling that i cannot crawl out again.

While part of the reason i came up here was to write about my journeys in these lands, knowing i would pull up old memories that were held in this place, i never imagined that i would relive so much of what has happened before, for it seems the past lived here has slipped into the present. In many ways it seems like i have never left, and that all the intervening chapters of my life have been erased of were but a dream. It seems like i have entered a container, or a parallel universe where time and space are but one.

The memories are contradictory, both soaring highs and crushing lows, and i still find myself experiencing both. But while the emotions are so real, consuming my being for a short time, somehow feel like i have stepped outside. In watching all this am i the witness they talk about, becoming more aware and conscious, or am i a ghost who has come back to live or am i just losing it? What emotions that i feel are endemic to my presence in or relation to this place, and which are triggered from memories? Am i here to become more aware or am i just playing a dangerous game?

For i feel that i have stepped backwards, gone back to a previous time, not only in terms of memories but in the way i react and that i feel. And i ask myself how i ended back here though i see both the steps i took and warning i received. Why didn’t i listen i ask myself now, plummeted down into depression again focused on just how can i get out, and with the return of the feeling there is no where for me to go. Why didn’t i let go, and take a leap, out to the future, unknown and open, just what was it clinging to me. Did i come back to let go, or did i come back to relive once more. If anything this trip here has helped bring some of the shadows to light, but have they been brought to light before.

I  reopen once familiar neural passageways – and have forgotten all else i have experienced. And i feel that i have not learned, that i have just willingly stepped back into a rut, one that i imagined that i was moving beyond. I am back in a place, not only physically but mentally, emotionally and spiritually too. And can i step outside for i feel that something has grabbed onto me or is there a certain alice that exists here.

While i have stepped out of the time warp, another haze hangs over me, keeping me separate from all around, and leading me to flicker in and out of this place. I am caught up in thoughts, those that were held here before, and which greeted me with open arms on my return to here. And it is those thoughts of not belonging to this place, and being outside, those of sadness and hopelessness and anger hanging on, and this is what i see. What i experience now, is it new or am i wearing an old lens? For the emotions occur in reaction to what has happened now, or did these emotions create the experience? The outside is as blurry as the time warp i experienced yesterday, but it is that mental haze – the being that greeted me.

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I sit in a Port Townsend coffee shop – or a loft above a market and beside a small town bank. I have not yet gone out to where i stay, and on the journey here i remembered much more of my previous times here. Why do i write them, i ask, to continue to live in the past? Or do i write them to push them through, into consciousness where i am aware of the influence that is there. Or have i returned to what was here and walked backwards into the past.

My memories of Port Townsend of course took place in the sun, a walk on the beach from the cute Victorian downtown out to Fort Worden with the hostel and the state park at low tide, and i remembers the sense of community here, the food coop, gardens on tree lined streets, volunteer run events, an arts scene, a marina and lots of bookstores. And that is what consciously called me back here.

The place started calling to me this time when i was at the Fort Mason hostel in San Francisco and my time there was running on out, and when i sat in Barnes and Nobles there recollecting bookstores. The first new age book store i really explored, was here back on my trip in 1986, and the hostels in both places are in old military forts that have been transformed into parks and arts centers. It’s interesting to watch the connections the mind makes the jumps and leaps from place to place; drawing in what is similar along somewhat circuitous passage ways. And i drew up all associated with that. But in returning here, the place also triggered other memories.

I have been here for less than an hour and various emotions roll over me, but i am over the tears that came up and would not stop on the bus on my journey here, taking over my entire being. I remembered this place as an ideal small town, and walks outside in the sun. but as i sat at the chilly bus stop by the Bainbridge ferry terminal, what came to me was that afternoon in Sequim with that other girl from the hostel, eating an overpriced sandwich in what was more a teahouse, with the little old ladies that Sequim is about, the clouds opened up when we got there, and we had over four hours to wait until the next bus back. And i remembered walking too many times around the small downtown in the drizzle and chill, locked out of the hostel the entire day. And i remembered that i had been cold the last time when i was at this stop two years before.

As we drove down the roads, busier than remembered, and the trees and land seemed a monolith of dark green all the same under the grey, and i succumbed to it. The denseness of energy not only lets the forests and flowers grow rich and abundant, but also let the weeds take over, the sides of the roads awash in scotch broom and blackberry bushes, which once take root are almost impossible to remove. If a piece is left behind, they will sprout up again and spread some more. And i saw the moss and mold on many of the weather worn rooftops. And i remembered that damp cold that chills the bones, enters in deep and is so hard to shake off. And i was upset because they changed the bus schedules around, and the changes seem to be made by someone who obviously never relied on the bus. The mid-day trips were eliminated on the bus that connects though to Seattle and the route out to the fort has been changed from a short direct ride to a trip that takes you all over town. And i cried and i cried, something grabbed onto me, a feeling of deep sadness that i was making an irreparable mistake – that feeling that began when i entered the northwest, and grew so strong in Seattle those few days. That i had asked to come home, and this is what i was given, a place of too many sad emotions that swept over me, dark and looming like the sky.

But then i arrived and my mood did change. i desperately had to pee so i went into the new Visitors Centre beside the park and ride, used the bathroom, chatted with the woman and she said they could hold my bag. That was so nice, I forgot about those small town types of things, and didn’t have to make my way to the hostel to store my bag in a locker until check in time. And the new bus driver was nice (the first from Bainbridge was wonderful, but the last one seemed grumpy and curt). I came here into Aldridges where they have wifi, the upstairs cafe closed but the seating still here. they have a sign to leave your back, but when i expressed concern as this one has my few valuables, the guy at the cash told me to just go on into the store, and on the way back out he asked where i was coming here from.

But then i remember that time i spent here, the same trip now as the one where i went to Sequim with the woman who said she had walked across the usa. I wasn’t too sure about her whole story, and it is only in the past month that i stumbled on her blog, which mentioned that day in Sequim that i had forgotten about, and then forgot about until now. Maybe that is what helped trigger that memory of that day, and let Port Townsend into my mind.

I remembered that period where i experienced many new things. I went to different churches, attended a meditation night, went to a dance of universal peace, a yoga and a NIA class, and felt something in me open up as i experienced my body and spirit in new ways. And as i remembered this i felt joyful once again. And i remembered colouring signs for a children’s art festival on my way up to Orcas Island and Indralaya and a walk on the bluffs, a chat on a log and my first time through in 1986 and discovering the new age book store. other fond memories came to me and i began to smile both inside and out.

After i left the cafe I walked downtown and i thought how cute, and then along the harbour and sat for a while and finally felt warm, the sky brightening up, though the temperature said 54 degrees. i went into the food coop which had been one of my highlights of this town – how expensive the vegetables are, but then i walked around; the deli had good prices on soup and there were sales on some items i liked, and i went back to the produce section which listed the origin of all the goods, the farm if local and if not the state. And i went over to the bulk food bins, and to where herbal teas were sold in bulk and something came back to me, a remembrance of something i loved, an independent food coop.

But as i made my way out to the bus and the hostel my mood shifted again and other memories came my way. i walked by the harbour and caught a chill and down some back streets as well. i decided to explore a path in the park but found the town druggies there. I went to the visitors centre to collect my bag, and another woman was at the counter and warily asked me what i was looking for. i’ve come for my bag, but just want to look around, and her eyes followed me as i looked at the brochures. i had a wait for the bus, which was now a long ride, circling all over town. And slowly other memories came back to me.

And i know that i met dotty that time, the woman who built the garden with food to share, and we had a community dinner one night. And she would come into the dorm long before lockout on a few days and start to clean then which had us annoyed, and would often try to clean just where you stood, but she was friendly and chatty and withdrawing and distrusting at the same time. And i went to a festival for Earth Day, and i spoke to a man at the simple living booth which had many tips on how to downsize your life who seemed both shocked and abhorred that i lived out of my backpack. And then i remembered how old everyone was at that speech i went to on a Sunday afternoon, and how the people in church and elsewhere, held back just a bit, especially the second time i came around. I remembered finding some good books to read at the small Carnegie library, but then i also remembered rushing for the internet, trying to figure out where to go. And how there were lovely discoveries walking the streets but also the other days of wandering around like a bum in the drizzle and rain.

This is all so difficult to put into order, for i know much of this happened during the same visit, but seems like two different occasions, one in the damp cool rain and one in the sun. I know i was planning to leave one day and got as far as Poulsbo, and then turned around and came back not wanting to go into the city. And did one time happen before or after i turned and came back, i just don’t know.

I started this entry yesterday, and since then my emotions and moods have soared and plummeted, as i realize that they had before, each time that i came and left. But of course, part of me had forgotten about (or maybe repressed) it. And are these things that i recreate, reshifting the lens, or are they emotions that are held in this place.

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I had forgotten about the depression i had felt in this zone – the memory of its intensity slipped away and now it has come crushing back, holding on deep. I remember the way I often felt here before, not only the deep spiraled down weeks, but how low my base mood often was. As i write this i know that it is not only here that i have felt this way, but the grey and the chill hang onto me and i wonder if this region was really any good for me. I know i have come back time and time again, but i have also left just as many times as i had arrived.

There are so many thoughts and emotions caught up in this place, feelings that i had forgotten about. The details are still blank to me, but this deep feeling has returned. when i got to harbin about a month ago i know people said my face had changed, and now i feel it changing again, and i do not like what i see.

And that is part of the problem; i do not like what i see. But how much of it is the place, and how much is it me. Seattle has never been my favorite place, i down right disliked for a long while. Slowly i warmed up to it, but those were the last two times where i only planned to pass on through. And that is what i am doing this time.

I ’m no longer sure why I came up here, except as a stepping off point. Port Townsend and Alaska had both been in my mind, and i head off to the former tomorrow a destination planned long before i arrived.

I didn’t come back up to Seattle per se, and I’m not sure why I stay here so long. Part of it always is with what I wish to avoid. And it’s funny that i find myself in exactly the element i did not want to return to in San Francisco in the downtown hostel and i am now many miles away. I am in a hostel, one that i liked before, but in the centre of town with the noise and buzz. The hostel too, is somewhat depressing, but there is more interaction here, i have chatted with a few of my dorm mates, a long conversation yesterday, and with some at dinner the other night. But i have met more in the smoking room, the underbelly of this place for it is dark in there, not only with cigarette smoke but with alcohol and drugs and people who seem to be wasting their lives. And maybe that is why i find myself there, and why i pull away – so many fascinating stories of lives and dreams, some similar to my own. And so many seemingly broken down. I am not as lonely here, but i don’t always like who i see in the mirror. I imagine i am on a ship in my bed, with its curtains around. The vibrations of the city get to me.

Part of me came on the way to Port Townsend, the place where i will go tomorrow. It has called back and forth over the years, so i cannot judge this process until i see what happens there. It has been a place of dreams, a nice small town that seems to work, with arts and culture and nature too, but a place i never felt i could stay.

And i also thought of Alaska, that mysterious inside passage up the coast which I’m certain is in a world of its own. But the more i see Alaska is not where to go, but with the amount of energy invested in it, it is still a place that i might end up. Several are here in the hostel on their ways up there, poor uneducated southerners going to work on the fish processing boats, 14-16 hours a day, 7 days a week, for cents more an hour than minimum wage. The overtime and living on the ship is how they can take their earnings home with them. And when i think of Alaska i think of selling poison at the convenience store and living in my tent in the rain and blow drying socks and shoes in the public bathroom. It too has beauty, and at times i was alive, but i know that summer, something in me died. i learned many lessons i still value and hang on to a few casual friends, but i do not believe it is something i want to experience again

On my way up here, and as i was writing before, i realized that the north is where i have more often gone when i have felt the need to run and hide and given up on other dreams. And come to think of it, this area in general is where i gave up on many dreams, and ran back to when i did not know where to go. Its beauty seductive in a nurturing way, but it is also a place that closed on in and a place where i spent much time wandering lost. And maybe that is why this depression comes on, an emotion i have felt here so many times before, and while I am not conscious of it when i plan to come, buried inside it is the most profound memory.

And that voice comes back, just give up on your dreams, who were you to imagine that you ever could. Tears run down my face and snot drips onto the keyboard, and i can’t help feeling that maybe they were right. I have died inside so many times, and i have survived all right, but the body is more worn and all is ragged, and do i just give up the fight, for that is how it has felt so much of my life, a fight to preserve the integrity of that light inside.

i now remember saying i was a survivor as i sat doing phone surveys in Vancouver so many years ago, my university diploma and dreams set aside, and i walking in the rain with teary vacant eyes. i remember sitting looking at the want ads and trying so desperately to find something that called to me, and doing temp office jobs oh so badly. And i think of Victoria, going back there, finally working for minimum wage, the roommate who told me not to dream, and going into that employment office day after day staring blankly at the screen.

And i think of all those broken dreams and i wonder what brought me back here again. is it because my situation is so desperate, that it is time to give up on the dream, but i see all those empty and cracked shells of people on the street and i can let it go again. For i am empty now, and though this is self indulgent crap, for the moment it is all that i have. Is it the throwing away the dream time after time, or is the clinging on to what thin threads that remained, that has brought me to this place once again. And i feel the sadness and i feel the tears, and the heaviness and emptiness i carried with me all these years. I said that my memories of these places were gone, but as i write they come up again. And can i write them through.

Am i like one of those who passed through this place on the way to the gold rush trail? I say to myself my dreams are not of gold, but they are of somehow doing something in the world. but the truth be told, the way i have lived, i would have never made it up there. I would have been one of the many who turned back disappointed and broke. And is it false gold that i chase, and why do i have to venture so far o fail to find what i am looking for and to find that the true gold is contained within.

And maybe it is the rain that brings these memories up, and maybe it is the denseness of energy here that keeps them in place. At first i thought that it was this city itself, but now i see that it is so much more. But while my memories of this place are few,

The first time i arrived here in 1986 was on the Green Tortoise bus though there was no hostel here at the time. It was late night, after dark and we arrived in a deserted parking lot. I went to the YMCA/YWCA downtown in the office building zone. The streets were deserted beneath the closed tall buildings, only a few sleeping on the street, and i felt alone and a bit afraid, feeling that no one would be around if i needed to yell for help. It was the first time i had been in an empty core of a city, and i wanted to get out. I know i only stayed a day or two and then made my way up to Victoria or Vancouver for the first time and come to think of it, i saw the beauty and felt out of place and hurried on away from there.

I returned again in 1988, and hostelling international had opened a hostel down the steps right near here in pikes place market. I had been in Victoria after a summer in Banff and had wandered a bit on Vancouver island, in the rain in Nanaimo, and felt depressed and lost. I wanted to return to the east on the green tortoise bus, but i had my dates mixed up and found that the last bus out had left a few days before. The stairs down to the hostel were narrow and dark and i wondered who might be lurking there. Went on a tour to mount rainier, but never saw the mountain beneath the clouds. Went out and saw a film on Da Vinci in the university district, felt the neighborhoods here in the west so spread out. Made my way back up to Victoria and headed back east via prince Rupert and PEI, only to return to Vancouver several months later even sadder than before. the dreams of my university days and writing a book were long gone by then.

I did not come to this coast for years, but passed through the city on my way up to Vancouver in 2001. I was running back north after 9/11 and had a few hours after a 24-hour greyhound ride up from san Francisco on a completely full bus. i stepped outside to get a coffee and did not know where to go. I saw some people on the way to work with starbucks cups in their hands, i tried to ask where the starbucks was, but seeing the pack on my back no one would respond. i was much more clean cut then and my travel clothes were new, but i will never forget the looks of horror, contempt and fear that were directed at me that day.

I stayed here for a week or two a couple years ago. But then again by the time i arrived i had given up on my dreams, of writing, of walking a pilgrimage towards god, of finding a place where i could be. I was so lost then, that i no longer knew what they were. I had told myself the previous fall that i would go up to Alaska, which had once been a forbidden dream (another version of the story yet to be told), if i still was wandering by spring. Spring came around and up there i went, though in my time here in Seattle i discovered many museums on free days, and walked around the different neighborhoods, and found that this place was not all gloom – but it did not leave a positive impression on me.

But it is not Seattle i came back to, but this area in general. For the northwest has called me back time and time again, and each time i have found the heaviness waiting here for me. And have i clung to it, or has it clung to me, and it is time to leave the clinging behind. And it’s funny I no longer have any desire to return to Canada. Seattle is more on the BC back packer trail and leaflets and signs for hostels on Vancouver Island and the mainland abound. Though I have been to many of them, the memories have faded away. Perhaps not the memories but the clinging that held me on. For except when i sit and write, i have not felt a strong emotion towards the place, though i have visualized Vancouver in the sun, And maybe, just maybe, i have let that phase of my life go – not with anger, not with remorse, but just as something that was. For all my experiences there, the happy and the sad, the connections made and those let go, have helped make me who i am today. And if nothing else, i came to appreciate the nature around – the forests, mountains and the seas, and the powerful spirits that live there.

And did i need to come back here to tell the story that i wished to tell, and being here i tell a very different story than if i had written it from away. For often i remember the sun and forget the grey. And the grey was so real for me, and i know i cannot just push it away, but i can be like the colour no more.

I was tempted to go for a moment to Seaside on my way back up here, but did not want to bring forth the energies of that place, for they were heavy too. I hesitated and then said to myself, i do not need to relive the memories there, and I can leave them behind. But as i have sunk into this rainy zone i thought of one story that i wish to share.

I think though of a woman i met last time i was there, i was still feeling the high of harbin through i had been brought down some in Eugene. She was lonely and began to tell me her story, how she had stopped drinking a year before and then her life basically went to hell. She had an accident broke her hip, never really fixed and lost her place in the process. I let her go on and on at first, feeling that she just needed to let it out. but on and on and on it went until i could be around her no more, my energy drained away. For the story became one long constant whine and more self-pitying ever day. And for a while, that story became her life.

it got me to thinking while we need to speak out to let the energy process through, not hold it within and let it stagnate and grow (like the energy does in the northwest) and at what point does that story become itself, and feeds the negative energy within.. And in my telling of my sadness here, what process am i feeding through. And can we transmute that energy within or do we need a light to shine on us. And i think that is here on the coast, that the cycle becomes intensified, fewer places for it to sweep out. And as I write this story, I think I feed it too. For this is part of my story, and one of the lens i filter much through but i must remember it is only a part and there are other lens with which to see. And i realize the story effects what i see and helps perpetuate itself.

The last time i was here was but for a day, in late May on my way from Indralaya on Orcas Island down to Harbin in California. The gloom and rain and all so much more had brought me down up there, or maybe it was in the thickness of the air; energies returned to me and could not be shaken off and i knew i had to return down south. I had come from port townsend, a place that i love but i had to journey on. It was a hot sunny time at the end of May, and i felt the joy in this place. I had been out in the country for such a long time, and the diversity of the place sung to me, I went up to the area around capitol hill, to find groceries and a bite to eat. the sun was shining and all felt alive, sitting in a park where people and dogs played and the streets were full of life. And it is funny, because that was the main memory i had when i came back up here this time.

And i listen to the rain outside.

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How much has Fisherman’s Wharf really changed over the past 30 years? Then again how much has it failed to change? Or is what is there now, just a continuation of what was? And how much of it is me that has changed? And how much is it the world? What i see is a ticky-tacky tourist trap, but has is always been that way.

I have walked through the streets many times on my visits here, and much in the last week now that i am staying nearby. It has often failed to capture the romanticism that it held for me in my youth and in my teens on family vacations here. It seems more commercial, stripped of its soul, but is it really all that different than 30 years ago?

More tours buses appear to pass through the place, and chain restaurants are around, but when i look at it, so much remains the same. Pompeii’s, Castignola’s and some of the older seafood restaurants still are here and people still buy walk away crab cocktails and clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl. The art galleries that thrilled me once with the prints by Salvador Dali, still have his work on display, and feel much the same.

Vendors still line the sidewalk by the park in front of Ghirardelli square selling bead necklaces and silver rings, and drawing caricatures of the tourists for a small fee – in fact it seems like those prices haven’t risen all that much in the many years. But is seems to me, and maybe it is just my memory, that they were once more handcrafted, the beads strung by those who sold – artisans rather than just retailers. But then again, maybe i’m wrong – for at the time the products seemed more unique – did not vary that much from table to table, but i had not seen those necklaces everywhere. Then again there were lots of puka shells and silver rings. They also sold pipes back then, the bowls braced by chicken or other bird claws, and it seems strange to me right now, that you do not see the paraphernalia there, now that pot may be legalized, and marijuana has been recognized as a major industry.

Cost Plus has shrunk down to a single store next to Barnes & Noble, but how much of what I once found so different, gifts and items from around the globe, can now be found anywhere, in shopping malls across the nation and in dollar stores. For the world has come together in the past 30 years and what belonged to one place, no longer does. And even the zone seems the same, for how many tourist places are like this. Ghirardelli bars can now be found in locales around the nation, it was long ago that you could taste the wax and the names of the sunday’s changed from Alcatraz and twin peaks to hot fudge and banana split.

The haunted house with its ride is long gone and the wax museum is under renovation, but tackiness is still around, and i may be mistaken but i think a rainforest cafe sits where one once was. Pinball arcades were replaced by those with video games, which can now be enjoyed at home or on the road on a laptop. Souvenir stores abounded then with postcards and t-shirts mugs and more, though it is true, fleece did not exist back then.

The wharf has been up and down over time. Sea lions moved in and saved pier 39, but still is here. Tourists still line up at the circle waiting for cable cars. Many are excited, chat about their visit here, and smiles light up many a face. A busker plies his trade, and collects coins and dollar bills, as the tourist board the cable cars.

Buskers still play to the crowds in many locales along the street though the human jukebox is long gone. The park has been redone, and on a nice day you can find many sitting there and along the beach, and down in the park by pier 39. For it is a place of fun, and a place to be.

It is funny that i don’t write about the fisherman, it seemed that there were more here, providing a rougher edge. Today that is provided by a few street kids with dogs and some beggars who spend their nights on a bench. I never fished here, or anywhere, and hated the fish stench that was stronger then. I went out on a boat just once years ago, with some guys i met drinking beer on a bench. Today there still are a few small boats with handmade signs offering tours of the bay. The fishing industry that gave the area its name was never truly part of my experience but rather part of the surrounding background ambiance.

And our actions visiting back then, helped make the wharf what it is today. We were tourists who came down here back in that time, that time of transition and development from fishing locale to tourist trap. We played a role in what it has become – we ate the fish and enjoyed those stores, sights, and amenities provided for us, and looked at and bought the trinkets in the shops and along the street. And thus our actions, visiting here, added to its growth. And what does any little action bring, what are the long term consequences?

Did the developers expect that it would become what it is today? And what about those who valued the place? Why do we condemn its success, it made the transition and now it is a place visited in hoards – a sunny day you cannot pass through. While i feel more that it is a place that lacks soul, it was not totally abandoned and left to ruin. And the tourists who come on a sunny weekend afternoon, smiles on faces, to take a boat tour or to dine, are on holiday, and for them the sun still does shine. And while it may have become something more, the actions of us in tourist mode helped to make it what it is.

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I write several stories about my life and places i have been and passed through, stories of how i arrived and left, and how i shrunk and grew. But as i write, all seems different as i reach the end. Through writing the story i have interpreted the events through yet another lens.

Now living and telling/showing of a place are two very different things. In recollection you see all with new eyes, like coming back to a place after many years away. You are familiar with what is there but you seen it in light of where you have been. You know what happened and you know the outcome. You see the experiences that were to come as a result of being where and who you were. The living might have happened a few minutes, hours or years before, but in some ways does it matter, the time elapsed, for the remembering is never the same.

What is more real and true, the version as it happened at the time or the one that you tell about. For at the time you often were unaware and now write with the power of hindsight. And what is the story that pushes you along, the scene that happen, or the plot you now write. For often much is forgotten and details embellished along the way – but that is “truth” you live by.

I have found that when i return to a place, all is not as i remembered it to be – yes things have changed, and so have i, but what was it really like at the time? Is it that i have forgotten, or did i not notice in the first place. But as i come back to a place, memories and feelings return to me, some are familiar, but others were buried somewhere inside. And some are welcome, the times you smiled, but others you had pushed aside, and when they arise, you wish that you had left them behind. I have also found that when i return, the story in my mind is just that, a story that i wrote.

And i also find, when i leave a zone, part of the story is left behind. The details that were so clear seem fuzzy and far away. The passion i had and the clear lines and insights i recorded in my mind are faded, only possibly to return someday.

Even more is revealed to you when you write the story and you go back and edit each line. But how many times can it be revised before you need to say enough is enough and just move on. When is the original experience lost in the telling of it? Like when you tell a story of many years before, and someone points out something else or tells you how you were. When does the story take on a life of its own – with so many sequels based on that plot you wrote? But you write anyways, knowing that all is only partially true, for all is interpreted in the first place. And maybe it is not the events or places that shift, but merely the lens it is interpreted through. But that shifted lens also provides the theme for stories yet to come, and in writing them you alter the lens once again. All entries are partial, but my goal is to record them, though they might be reinterpreted several times over.

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I journeyed up and through Yosemite National Park . I have been here before, so what i experienced was not with fresh eyes. i was not only brought to this time and place, but had memories come up of my visits before and was taken to lands far away with thoughts that floated on through.

And i know this is the monkey mind that is refered to in meditation and other practices of consciousness, the mind that jumps around, from branch to branch and tree to tree. And as i experienced the wonder and all else around, i could watch this monkey of mine from a distance, let the thoughts pass on through, come in and out of consciousness. I began to wonder what we bring into our experience when we come to a place? Can we view anything pure? And what does experiencing a place bring up in us? So the story of my visit to Yosemite in April 2010 covers many years and miles and this is some of it.

My journey here really began when the bus pulled out of the train station in Merced. There i was leaving the flatlands behind and going to the mountains. The bus drove through town past older houses, some of wood, with porches and yards and trees, on streets with sidewalks, different from the new developments i had passed by (and which i remembered) and i thought of small towns with pedestrian friendly tree lined streets, towns up the coast and across the county where i have been. The streets were empty, a few cars on the road but devoid of people, a woman carrying a bag from a house to a car, a man cycling down a street, and then finally as we edged near the end of town, a lone figure sitting out on his porch on a warm sunday morning just after 11am – and i thought of suburbia and all those empty communities, housing people but devoid of life.

Outside of Merced strawberry fields dotted the road, baskets beside the rows of the low-lying plants waiting to be picked and i thought my times picking strawberries and how my back hurt. As we road towards Mariposa, past the flatlands into the foothills where black cows grazed on green hills, no trees to be found, i thought of Ireland, where cows grazed on similar terrain. When the grass and fields turned to majestic oak trees, i thought about driving up to Clear Lake with Robert on the way here in 2008. and the first time i saw these trees. And i thought of our drive here on route 49 where colored leaves still hung onto trees, feeling like fall in December.

As the oaks made way to pines i thought of the Sierras, not only here but further north, Sierraville – my time spent there, Lake Tahoe (though that does not look the same), and a hike near Armstong BC where there were a lot of pine trees, and other places with pines, and the way they blew in the wind when i camped at Sierra Hot Springs and other drier mountain ranges in general. We came to Mariposa, a gateway town with hotels, services and shops, and i thought of other mountain tourist towns. Fernie, BC and Canmore, Alberta – the gateway to Banff, came to mind though they are larger and much more developed near higher mountains and ski hills. And the landscape is harsher here than on the coast and i thought about places i had been in the Canadian Rockies. And i thought about Canada, and the north – places where the land is not always so kind.

I got to the Yosemite Bug Resort in Midpines, the place i was to stay. I got off the bus and remembered my previous time here, and getting off the bus then, and the month spent driving around California with my father and how frazzled i was when i had arrived. I had to lug my bag up the hill, and felt a tug in my back , and i remembered carrying it across Fishermans Wharf that morning – how heavy it felt, and how the strap on the back had snapped leaving Monterey so it was even less ergonomic than before, and how i carried extra food and the times i had done that before. I stopped to look at an orange flower that grew by the road, and thought of the California poppies along the harbour in Victoria. I looked at the view, the road below and remembered coming up here before and i felt the weight i and the heat of the sun, and i thought of longer uphill walks with my bag and how it seemed easier then – the four km walk up mountain roads by Kootenay Lake when i was hitching up from Nelson BC from Ainsworth Hotsprings to the campsite back in 2005, and then of my walk down 20 miles of the Oregon coast less than two years ago.

And when i got into the Bug Backpacker resort with the cabins and dorms, restaurant and “spa”, and saw their own tour bus, i thought of other places like this, in the Iguana Perida in Santa Cruz Guatemala and El Retiro in Lanquin, self-contained backpacker resorts, and i looked at the private rooms and fancier cars, and thought about Harbin. I walked a small trail down to the creek, and then up to the upper parking lot which provided a view, and it did not seem as clear, and i remembered there had been no leaves before.

The next day, i rode the YARTS bus up to the park, and remembered much of my journeys there before. The sun shone into the valley and lit up the mountains. Wildflowers of yellow and purple covered the sides of the hills and i thought about wildflowers in alpine meadows and realized i did not know any of their names and remembered walking by the shore in Monterey where the flowers had been as abundant but different, and i was frustrated because i did not know their names either. As i watched the rushing Merced river, tumbling over boulders with the spring thaw, i thought of other rivers, across Vancouver Island, and times on buses i wished we could stop and get out to look at them. And then as we passed the juncture where highway 120 merges in, i remembered i had been able to get out of the bus one cold morning at look at the river as the bus stopped, road construction or plowing up ahead. And i thought of how Robert and I drove in along the other route, and i thought about him.

Finally, i got into the park and Yosemite Valley. I looked at the views, and wondered if my eyes were jaded for i had seen it all before – but every time is different, and i saw some anew, still i know that i compared and contrasted much to my previous visits there. The sun was at a different angle as i made a hike – days much longer at this time of year. Snow was absent from the valley floor. Waterfalls ran full, powerful and mighty, and some appeared where they had not been before in the early winter before the snows after the summer had dried all up, or earlier in march when all was still frozen and snow packs up top had barely begun to melt. And i thought of the power of water and how it carved out the land. Of course it was much busier than before, and i remembered emptier trails and camping with Robert in the almost deserted campground. My mind flung forward, and i wondered what this place was like at its peak, overcrowded and more and was thankful that i was here on this perfect spring weekday.

But my mind not only wandered in time, but in space as it had on my journey here. As i passed through the village and saw the rangers in uniform, i thought of national parks in general and other places i had been. On the crowded shuttle bus where the driver stopped and paused for a while, i remember the free busses in Acadia National Park and how i had to show one driver his route, and how the buses were so empty in the Grand Canyon in February 2002. The bus was full with women from a seniors group in Roseburg Oregon, and i thought of the retired communities on the Oregon coast.

I was hot, still hadn’t taken off my coat, saw the dry landscape and for a moment i was transported to a hike outside of Radium hotsprings, the day much hotter, the grass crackled, and grasshoppers made their special sound. I looked at the falls streaming down cliffs, and thought of other that i had seen – and a ride near Hope BC (i think) where water fell down the mountains around.

I stood in the mist of lower Yosemite Falls, in their full glory,much stronger than before and i could not walk up on the rocks where i had gone and loved. The path and lookout at the bottom were wet from the spray and i thought of the mist at Niagara Falls and how it had been redirected over the years. And when walking up the Vernal Falls trail with the rocks and boulders all around, i thought of rocky trails on the Bruce Peninsula and the rock formations down in the Niagara Glen.

And i walked on the wide trail to Mirror Lake and the crowd petered out. Only a single couple walking towards me, so tiny it seemed, dwarfed by the majestic pine trees that grew especially tall in this place. And i thought for a moment of large trees, the sequoias nearby and the redwoods, the giant cedar, hemlock and spuce further up the coast. My feet began to hurt and i remembered the feeling I not had in some time.

And i thought of how this place acted like a springboard for memories, and i then thought of a professor in grad school who gave us one text and asked us to use it as a springboard to explore social theory. My background was limited and i did not know where to jump off. I realized that the more experiences we have had the more we bring into a place, knowledge and links to all that can be related. How difficult it is to see the world afresh, as if through childrens’ eyes.

I had been wondering how different it was for those who were here for the first time, or how it was for me my first time here when i saw it with fresh eyes. But are the eyes and mind ever fresh, especially here, for who has not heard of Yosemite National Park, and how many images of this place exist in the public consciousness. It was not only memories that came to me, but associations made far and wide. I brought in experience of similar places i had been, pine trees, mountains, dryer landscapes, national parks, waterfalls, people, and more. And do we not do this with all, often unaware. For it is how we learn (this is a tree (oak), that is also a tree (pine), a tree is a plant, this flower is also a plant and so on) and negotiate the world. Everything comes in to how we perceive a place, all that has happened, all that has been experienced, is brought forward and caught in place.

Being here also brought back memories i had long forgotten about, just below the surface, something in this place activated then. And is that why we return to, or avoid, different places, to reopen neural pathways in our brains, to experience not only what is there, but all the associations we have made.  Much of my usual chattering ceased, worries and cares, yes i still had some negative thoughts, worries, quick judgements and more. And thought about writing this.

A few times i caught myself, a few minutes on the path, when i got caught up in one of the images and stories and was no longer where i was, no longer in the now and here. And i thought, now that is the monkey mind taking over, removing me from the here and now. Was my monkey overactive that day? Or was i merely able to stand back and watch it at work? It can be tamed, or merely observed, but can it be erased? And should it be for it shows how all is so connected and interlinked, different and yet the same. And i think of another national park, Manuel Antonio in Costa Rica, where i watched the monkeys play in the trees.

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In the past days i have come upon at least two references to the renaissance man, the one who is interested in and studies a vast array of subjects, exploring the world, multi-faceted, multi-talented. Someone with a broad mind that is alive and curious. I came upon this in a novel i am reading, and in a reference down on cannery row in Monterey, when i was internally bemoaning the superficiality of the place. And then i began to think – how limited i am and how shallow my interests can be. On how in the past few weeks i have explored little, become bored by what is, and in doing so closed myself off.
I wondered if it is because i am returning to places i have once been, and had done all the exploring i wished to do. But there is always so much more. The person who can always find wonder in a back yard, a city block, a small town or a plot of land. And even on my adventures, i have really not been all that adventurous – not curious to see what is around the corner, or what really happens in a place, or who that other person really is.
But back to my recent time, back in the us of a. In Monterey this time i wandered, and did not see out, did not interact with life around, walked and observed without really seeing, putting my impressions onto all. I looked upon that which was around slightly askew and cynical – judging and categorizing though i tried not to. I went to the malls, and rode the bus, and walked along the water, and did try a few samples of the clam chowder on the wharf but i did not really engage – lose myself in the moment.
The previous visit, two years ago i explored more – the first walk along the waterfront, and the second, when it was new and magical, wondering about the plants that grew along the shore, the ones that made me sneeze, watching the harbour seals who balanced upon the rocks and gathered upon the beach.
On the previous visit i took the grapevine bus, up into the carmel valley, thinking i would do some wine tasting, not realizing the snob appeal, and the upper crust, how expensive it would be, and how you would be treated i If you were alone and dressed more poorly, not about to buy an expensive lunch or bottles of wine. And then i became disillusioned, especially waiting for the bus back to town that did not show and hanging around on a corner with the mexican workers for more than an hour until the bus did come.
And i explored the galleries and the shops in Carmel – one with impressive nature photos, but many filled with art for sale, that which would look good on a living room wall. But i wandered by the cute cottages, and tree lined streets and marveled at the white sand on the windy beach . This time i saw the sand that was white, but noticed the wind, and did not look around, feeling that i knew what i would see and thus closed my eyes to possibilities.
And the last time, was the first time i saw the coastline of Big Sur – took the bus down and back, had a coffee – even then did not go for a hike, more concerned about getting back than seeing what was around. But did not do it again – for it was now someplace i had been – the time before was before the drive down all the way a few weeks later with my father, puttering along, so slow on the twisty road, clenching my teeth out of fear and frustration blocking all the cars that went behind – stressed at something that was meant to be enjoyable. And it ws before, further down the coast, being left in a campground, hitchhiking out, after robert left to look at the ocean (in oregon), of walking and sitting looking at the ocean feeling both bliss and pain. And it was before getting a lift from a fellow camper all the way up in the pelting rain, stopping for an overpriced coffee and getting drenched, So if i had gone down there again it would not have been with fresh eyes, but a walk down memory land.
The last time on the way back from Big Sur i stopped at point lobos as the sky was turning, as it did too on Sunday, and walked in the wind, and felt the waves crash upon the shore. I never did make it to the aquarium.
Instead i spent too much time at the hostel, and ended up at Cannery Row just down the block more often that i wished, eating boring chain Subway sandwiches – not curious to find other cheap food.
And i looked at those walking and shopping and talking about when and where to eat, and realized that i was really no different. Where is the curiosity of my mind, body and soul. I looked at those who kayaked upon the water, those who were scuba diving, and those who were engaged. I thought of the flowers i passed and smiled at but whose names i do not know, whose growth patterns and origins and more i do not know, and of the rock formations, the layers jutting up, and i wondered how they were formed but did not inquire, and how little curiosity i have displayed, and how limited my experiences have been though they have taken place in many locales. And how i have been caught up in the me and wondering what i should do, instead of just letting interests guide me with enthusiasm and branching off where they lead me – developing and following a passion.

Is it that i lack curiosity or that fear holds me back – afraid to go out and explore as i do not know what i will find. And so i find myself in the same old places.

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