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Posts Tagged ‘valley’

trapped in salt lake

I am feeling trapped here in Salt Lake City. I had wanted to come to a created environment and now i have, a city and a sprawl. The mountains that surround do not feel like a welcoming container, but seem to hold me in. I feel my body slipping away to a remembered place of weakness though i have never been to this particular city before. I disengage and therefore weaken myself, energy neither flowing in or out, but there is little around that captures my attention, that calls for connection. to put down roots and grow i said, but rather than being nurtured, i feel like i am shrivelling up. To free myself i say, but all else seems so far away.

The city is an oasis in the middle of the desert. what surrounds does not call; it is harsh and stark. A city is a created environment, a transformation of space, and here when i am in the leafy neighborhoods, or overlooking the town, i see an oasis of green. Often when i am in a city i seek out the nature that surrounds; but here it seems that the most pleasant natural elements are contained within. now, once they have become part of a city – the trees and flowers and plants are no longer nature, but they are another form of life. The mountains that i see are but that – scenery – they are apart and not connected to this valley floor and act as a mere dropback to the life down here. In the bright sun they appear brown and hard and do not really call forth, though in the evening when the sun is setting they come to life as the harshness is mellowed out. But without a car they are out of reach, and do not appear as a place to explore, or maybe i just know that i can’t get there. in any case, they are disconnected. It has been abnormally warm for October, and ski season seems far away; not that i ski, but that is the activity that these mountains call forth. In other directions is the desert and the great salt lake, both which appear as foreboding environments, and are out of sight anyways. So it does not all out, but neither does what is here, and that feeling of stasis is what holds me down.

Could i engage right here i ask? I have asked this so many other places as well, and compared to where i have been and left, this place lacks so much – mainly in terms of nature around and a center within. I stay in an older residential neighborhood, close to what is called downtown. it is nice to walk beneath the trees, and there is much in reach, scattered around on different corners and blocks nearby. But that is it, it is so scattered about, and as it the case with cities, there is so much around, but so much of it is the same. And just what do i connect with? I need to engage, but nothing calls forth and i feel so overwhelmed. And being in a city i feel disconnected from the natural environment.

There really is no center as tends to be the case with most american towns; and here there seems to be a lack of spread out centers built for people to be. Like most of america, it is the land of the car, spread out and not built to human level. The downtown core is empty with few people about; some street kids and tourists and that is about it. Despite the buildings and the construction zone, there is really so little there. Temple square is at the center, and i spent several days there, but it is a place to visit, a tourist zone, and once you have seen it there is little reason to return, and it is not a place where you just be.

I have explored some of the neighborhoods, but what that amounts to is walking around, drinking coffee and riding transit – i do not see how to grasp on. perhaps i do not want to for i see houses and places to shop, and i do not know how to engage, or is it that i see nothing to engage with. It is so spread out, with malls or centers and individual stores and office building blocks apart. I find myself returning again to whole foods and feeding that empty place within. There are some outside tables overlooking the parking lot to the center which sits on a busy traffic filled street where trax also runs. So i sit inside, in the upstairs area, playing on my computer, divorced from all that is around.

I went to one corner, 900 and 900, which was cute with coffee shops, restos, a theater, and outside tables and people were around – an area that extended for half a block in each direction; the narrower site streets were cute with older homes and a large park was nearby. It was familiar, but seemed isolated in the car oriented sprawl that is around. I ask myself, what would i do right here for there is more to life than drinking coffee, but i see nothing to create. On my way to the library, I pass by a book store on one block, an alternative restaurant on another, a massage school, and much more (old churchs, 7-11s, fast food joints) scattered about and i become both over and under whelmed.

I took the trax train one day up to the university, a sprawling area, with great views, but no center that i could see. I went south on the line to an area that said historic sandy on the map. the train ran for miles down the old railway tracks through industrial zones. The stops were in the “middle of nowhere” not connected to mini town centers or even shopping malls – each had a park’n’ride and a place where the buses came in, often with very little else around. I got off near the end of the line but could not find a historic center but perhaps i did not walk far enough; but it was not comfortable walking down the busy wide suburban roads, yes with sidewalks, but where i was the only pedestrian. A residential neighborhood with small bungalows sat on one side of the street but there was no reason to wander down there.

Another day i went to Ogden, at the end of the frontrunner line. It is a separate city, but is connected by sprawl, the sprawl that runs up and down the watach range. The sprawl of industry and housing developments. The sprawl that is the geography of america, that defines the placelessness of this country. It is created, but for what, and it hurts when i look on. Is there a place for me to create here i ask, and then i shrivel within.

The frontrunner, the nice commuter train with frequent service, lets you off near the historic downtown in ogden; a place that is cute but that feels dead. I know i have seen pictures of it taken in the winter, an old western street with the backdrop of a snow covered mountain, which looks wonderful and inviting. Yet the area is empty, it is another primarily tourist zone, be it tourists who have come from afar or from the sprawl for the afternoon. It is a cute street but it is not a lived environment, for life now takes place in the sprawl. I walk around, the sun beats down hard, and i feel that aimless wandering emptiness again, that sense of loss that overtakes when i am not engaged. I try to connect, but despite a park and a new empty shopping zone, the area feels dead to me and the deadness crawls in. I drink coffee and then ride the train back through the sprawl to the oasis where i stay.

I spend days sitting inside or at the library with empty walks in between. An impasse in my life and i feel trapped once again. i look to move on and spend time in that searching zone, coming up blank, and staring blankly, and cut myself off even more. I try to write, but i see little to make me smile. The wonderment has abated, and i shrink away.

The city seems so isolated, and what direction to go? Do i do back from where i came from, where i have no place to stay. for here for the moment i can stay, and this has happened before – why is it that i seem to stay in the lifeless zone. transport out is difficult with expensive buses and flights, and trains that run in the middle of the night, and so much is so far – and nothing speaks to me.

Is it this city that makes me feel trapped, or just a city without a core, or a soul? For this is what so much of america is and it makes me sad. is it where i stay, for in this hostel others also seem stuck, and transition through impasses themselves. I want to live, but here i feel i die. I asked myself that the night before i came – would i die in salt lake – and the answer was yes, so i ask myself why i came out here. and can i get the strength to live again?

But i feel tired, like i do not have the strength to move on? but when i try to “settle” i dissolve. Is it that i see very little in this country that appeals to me, and there is nowhere here that i really want to go, and my eyes and heart are sad. Is it due to their sadness that nothing around calls forth.

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Yosemite walls
Yosemite walls – when we come into this valley they are what we come to see, to admire and perhaps, even to worship. To awe at their magnificence, their grandeur, their diversity. And every where we turn, there is another – a sheer cliff, another with water pouring down, a dome, a craggly edge, and they surround us, and contain us. At dawn some light up becoming brighter while others across the way are still shadowed in the dark, and cast their shadows across the valley floor. Later on, as the day ends, those which were the darkest at dawn, glow orange with the fading sun. And in the moon some are iridescent, a silver of sorts, the shapes and ledges in the rocks taking on a life of their own. but they are still walls.

If you were born here in the days before tourism, would you imagine that this was the entire world? Would you leave the valley, walk the steep paths up the mountain sides or scale the walls? Would this be a right of passage or would it be discouraged or even forbidden – the up there the land of the gods or the deep dark unknown? Would it be a place where only a few would go out and return telling tales of other lands, lands so different from what you see. Lands that do not contain the magic of this cathedral of sorts, lands which provide a vista of it all, lands that are harsher and less dramatic than this. Would you believe them? would you want to go on out to explore or would you want to stay within?

The mountain sides define this valley, make it what it is. They contain its energy and define its boundaries and create a world within – a world with a life of its own for from the valley floor you cannot see what is beyond. Do you stare at the walls? do you focus on what is inside? Are you contained? Do you seek to discover what may lay beyond?

I was called to spend several days in Yosemite Valley and in my time there i looked at the walls and within, felt contained,wanted to stay forever and wanted to escape – not only the walls of the valley, but of the walls that surround myself. I said that i needed to look at and clear the energy inside of my container and found myself unconsciously coming here for i knew this place was special with an energy and life all of its own.

I spend days looking at the walls from a variety of vantage points – in the morning i look at the cliff side that is Yosemite falls and watch the sun rise above, i travel around the valley, out to the area near bridal veil falls and admire El Captain and how it changes depending on where you stand, in the evening i watch the sun set over half dome, and in the moonlight i look at the wall that forms the backdrop to camp 4 where i stay. I stand in meadows which are like large rooms, alone for a moment, and feel like i am in a magical world held in and nurtured by what is around, i meditate and see shapes and faces in the rocky facades. I seek out vantage points that will provide different views, and see how the walls change over the time of day and have a life of their own. i walk back from the meadow near the swinging bridge and the mountain seems to move back and forth back and forth as i move forward and recede. And i watch the water trickle or stream down these walls from above. I love these walls, they are magic to me but then they can start to close in. And become just walls; walls that i cannot see beyond, like the walls of a room or perhaps myself.

I’m staring at walls, these walls are grand and majestic, stunning with a life of their own, mineral content, patches of trees, multiple textures but they are walls nonetheless. they are not like those in a dim room – the typical grey walls of despair, but i am in a grand valley and staring at walls nonetheless.

These are but walls – walls of illusion, like the walls that surround us, contain our souls. At times when the mountains have appeared almost transparent despite the granite density that we say (know) is there. And i wonder what life they contain inside, what lay within and if i could only pass through and in. At times they look flat against the sky, and image in 2D – a veil that could lift at any time, or that you could pass through -but alas, i cannot magically slip through.
Up above is another world, and while we might not imagine this valley is here, but once in we do not imagine there is a beyond, do not imagine it although movement in and out of here is great. A few roads leads in and merge at the final moment of entry into the valley, where there is only one way in and out by car. Otherwise it is an immense journey, up and over the top, up, and up some more though the trails are there. It is a large effort, and others, predecessors have carved the roads, (as well as made the trails) for us.

I stare at the walls and imagine what might lay above – a different world, one of the gods. I imagine a land of the gods that is even grander than this valley. I understand the climbers and what it means to climb the walls in a figurative sense. trails lead up from the valley floor, up to a variety of vista points. this time i said i would stay within, spend several days in this container. And people make steep hikes of endurance to half dome, the top of yosemite falls, nevada falls, glacier point and more, hikes up thousands of feet so that they may get a glimpse of the valley below, this valley where i am. These hikes to the top are the point of coming here for so many, the trails that challenge you and reward you with a vision beyond what you imagined from below.

My times here have been mainly spent in the valley – many times where there is snow up above and roads and trails are closed. I was up at glacier point a year ago in december before the road had closed, and looking down over the valley and to the mountains across the way i was in a very different place. But without a car, i was not about to make the four mile climb up there. And i have turned back on the trails before, here and elsewhere, never quite making it to the top. In fact in my times in many mountain areas, i have preferred the valley hikes to those that take you up above to lookouts over the land and sea. But now that i write i realize that i have appreciated the larger views and vistas from above as well as from below.

Most of us live in valleys though and i know i have generally preferred the valleys. Now i wish to look out and beyond and see the vastness of the land. But the climb is arduous – maybe that is it – the climb is long and need to exert effort to get there. it takes effort to reach the peaks. And i turn back every time.

But i stare at the walls and they begin to close in – i want to see what is above on this north and east side of the valley – a place i have never been. i want to know, i cannot see and must rely on my imagination – i could look at photos but i do not. How i once yearned to be contained by walls, nurturing, holding me tight. now they confine, and close on in, is it that i do not like what is inside, or that i have spent too long in this place.

i take the shuttle to tuloume meadows on the tioga road, a road that has been shut on each of my visits before the one road that leads out of the park, through the highlands, to the east. I break my vow of spending five day in the valley without taking a bus out of its bounds. But the shuttle service will end the next day, a day where there could be rain. we ascend and see the land below – a brief vista at olmstead point but the bus drives on through. I have less time than i thought and end up around a lake surrounded by walls – the bus is full of hikers making long difficult hikes down to the valley floor.

the energy is different up there, and i feel off kilter, i have felt off since we left the valley. i stare at new walls and flat lands and feel the harshness of the place. I feel trapped and panic as i wait for a shuttle to take me back to the bus, panic that i will not be able to get back down. Am i meant to spend time in the valley where i said i would stay for a while, am not meant to go to the highlands, to focus on the container within? Is this the difference between what we call and introvert and an extrovert? But once below i feel content and safe and realize once again just how special the valley is.

The valley is more than the walls that contain. It is a sacred place, a cathedral, and i feel its spirit each time i arrive – the specialness that it is. it has a rich and diverse life inside, one that springs up and lives its life here – the trees and plants, many of the animals – the deer, the squirrels, the bears, flowers in the spring and so much more. It is rich and the dance of life and energy is intense. In the valley all energy is amplified – the all of it, bouncing off the steep granite walls. This is why i feel the highs and lows so intensely here. Why have i stayed in valleys so often before – they are containers – contain all. The walls that are but a container for the rich life inside, and here in Yosemite the valley is so rich and sacred.

And i look and interact with the life forms here and i like the other people who come in are but part of the rich dance that makes up this place. I ignore the walls and do not see that they are there. I sit by the river on a rock or on the beach, walk trails beneath magnificent trees – the ponderosa pines that stand majestic, the incense cedars and so many more and notice a leaf on a bus that has started to turn. I watch the deer who feed on bushes and the squirrels who seek out human food. I see a bear across the river, and walk and climb on boulders that are around. I smell the trees, listen to the water, the wind blow the needles on the trees, the sounds of others that are around. i feel the coolness of the air at night and the heat of the sun at midday. I talk to others and smile as i walk along the paths. I enter into other containers – the shuttle bus, a store, a resto, my tent, and of course myself, and spend time looking inwards as well as out, exploring the life that is in there, the essence of what i am.

While i focus on the rich life inside, i soon realize that although i cannot see out, all is so interconnected. I sit by the river that still runs, knowing that it has come down the cliffs from above. The waterfalls that feed the life below and make the park so famous have come from the meltoff of snow and streams above. The rocks and boulders that lay about, were once carried here by ice long ago or have come tumbling down the walls so much more recently, and the pebbles and sand by the beach have been carried on down. I look up and see the sun which shines on the life below and on the walls – bringing them to life as well, and at night the moon, and the stars that twinkle in the sky. I see a cloud And i see how this container is so linked with what is beyond, but all blossoms with such a life within.

although the walls contain the energy and magnify it, energy also turns on over. four roads into the park – one roughly from each direction, the merge into a single road that leads in and out of the valley. from here the people come and go, bringing in and taking out the energy that they are – and like a cathedral the energy can become transformed in this place. And also transform what is within – adding life, building, creating the villages, campgrounds, roads, and trails. Joining with nature, overcoming it, appreciating it, transforming it. The walls limit and help define the flow of life, holding it and nurturing it inside, allowing the blossoming of life, and making yosemite valley a sacred place for they amplify what goes on inside and define the valley that is.

The valley is a container and i find myself here, to learn to value what is within, the life inside. I realize how porous i am at times – energy entering from all directions instead of on certain paths. I see that i must nurture myself, but also grow and transform what is within. What flows in also flows out, like the river that flows from this place, like the road that takes people away as well as in – ideally transformed, remembering this special place, renewed and enlightened by it, and sharing its wonder with others and glowing a little bit more. And can i be like this, linked to all but contained, transforming energy and shining a light out onto the world.

It is time to leave the valley – i am ready but i am sad. this place has nurtured me and confronted me as i have stared into its walls, scales peaks within and then plunging into the depths. the valley leads me inwards, but it is time to step and flow on out. And as i ride the bus to the lowerlands, i admire these walls one last time (for now).

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The town or village of Orosi seems worlds away from San Jose or the cities that surround its perimeter, although it is less than 40 miles from the city itself. It is another world altogether

The mountains that surround the valley, and the clouds that linger above act like a container holding the energy in. It is a place where both people and the town dogs stroll down the middle of the streets, stopping and greeting along the way. it is a place where nothing much seems to be in any sense of a hurry. It is worlds away from the city and i feel different here. On Sunday after a first communion or confirmation at the old church girls in fancy white dresses and boys in their new suits walked through town on their way home with their families.

I fall asleep listening to the crickets or something that sounds like them, rain a bit on the tin roof, the occasional barking of dogs, and wake up to the birds, the rooster who does not know when to stop, church bells on a sunday morn, a dog barking, a voice outside, eventually a car and then happy sounds as the pools at the springs next door come to life with children playing.

The sky is grey, a bit of blue this morning which raised the mood. The damp air turns to mist to drizzle to rain and back again, moisture is contained in all. Water flows through the drainage gullies beside the roads , and puddles abound on those roads that are unpaved. All is green and lush, and the sky is grey. The tops of mountains that surround come in and out of view, shrouded by the clouds. I am told that the tallest volcano in the country is near, and for the moment, i will just have to believe it. The rainy season is coming to an end, and the air hangs heavy. The rain permeates all, a dampness to all i touch and to the air i breathe.

The valley acts like a container, holding the energy in. From the centre of town you can not see out, beyond the lush mountains that surround. The sky on Sunday was heavy, holding all in with a solid mass of grey above. And in the rain, i become sluggish myself, not venturing beyond the core of the town or often the hostel where i stay. I feel like i am in a fishbowl of green, being observed by all around – an outsider, a solo gringo woman, some say hi and others look away.

I know it is not as isolated and contained as it appears. There is movement here, but it is calm and seems at peace. I am here, outsiders come and go, to visit, to`study spanish, but i do not believe overwhelm the place (and i sense mixed feelings about our presence). The green bus goes through town throughout the day, taking people in and out the town to Cartago, a city and the world beyond. Yet, the cities seem a world away.

I write this on my first full day here, and i feel contained and slow.

(I will upload photos eventually – but this is a small town with old computers and slow connections)

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