hatred of sound

2015 so far. 
Thanks this week to Stormin' Norman. For everything. 
School started today but it wasn't so bad. It's my third semester at Asheville Buncombe Technical Community College, so, you know, I'm a big kid on campus now. This morning I sat down next to Billy, my old friend from Anatomy & Physiology. "The parking situation is out of control right now," he whispered to me. "I had to park in a hole."

I thought about Billy and his wide grin, metallic with braces, emerging from a hole in the earth like a gopher, shaking dirt off of himself as he tromped to Organic Chemistry, and I began to feel better about the semester.

There is a man out in the country who is fixing my back. He twists me, cracks me, hooks me to electrodes and covers me with blankets of ice. Every day I make the long drive out to his office, and sometimes while driving I listen to one of the many Christian radio stations they have down here. Just to see what they're up to. I also wonder if the chiropractor is Christian, and whenever I'm at his office I look for clues. I know it doesn't matter. But being non-religious person in a such a deeply religion area, I'm always curious.

Yesterday David and I hiked to the top of Bear Wallow mountain in Gerton. I interviewed the author of a local trail guide for an article the other day, and this was the hike he recommended. The summit was bald and bleak, in a pretty way. I felt sort of sad at the top. Maybe because it's January, and as we decided one year ago: January is January, wherever you are. Maybe it's because I'm being driven insane by sounds. I'd write more about that, but I have to admit that I don't know how. It would come off as too strange. Maybe one day.

I've written three articles so far for my new job. An interview with an adventure photographer, an interview with Courtney from Holdfast Outfitters (I like her!) and a peppy little thing about creative ways to stay in shape in Asheville over the winter. This week I'm interviewing a contestant from National Geographic's Ultimate Survival Alaska! My first reality TV star- maybe I'll be writing for US magazine one day. But I dream.

Today is wet and grey, which is a mercy because these are the days that were created for classrooms and books. Tomorrow morning Billy and I will be in chemistry lab, a three hour block of time that I will tick off in my notebook in ten minute intervals. I really know how to make myself miserable. But! Already this year I've seen Jerry Douglas play his dobroe live on stage, went mountain biking on a very warm day, slept the whole night through, read a book on the couch, watched Hometeam slide down a river of ice, saw Molly blow out the candles on her birthday pie, taught a friend how to roll a kayak and ate the best hamburger of my life. Small victories.
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I have a few things to catch up on- if you're wondering where the post is about all of us and where we live, I'm still working on it. I almost didn't do a Mystery Prize today, but the truth is, your comments provide such good companionship that I didn't want to go without them during this gloomy week.

This week's Mystery Prize is designed to bring a tiny burst of sunshine to your winter. To enter to win, leave me a comment with your trick to cheer up your January days. Everyone has one hat trick- lighting candles, your favorite book, skiing, juicing; whatever it is, I'm going to try them all. Alternatively, you could tell us how your new years is going so far. Or both.

I read every comment. Actually, a lot of people read every comment. Sometimes they inspire brand new posts. Thank you for them. A winner will be chosen at random from the comments, and sunshine will be promptly sent their way. Good luck!!

10 awesome things from 2014

Why does it surprise me when each year is so different than the last? My days feel so linked by routine that I barely notice things are changing unless I look backwards. 

This was 2012.
This was 2013

And here are the 10 defining phenomena of 2014:

1. Nicaragua
We barely glanced at a guidebook before we left, we just went. We didn't kayak, work, teach or do anything useful at all. For the very first time, I drank coconut water out of a coconut. It was monumental. 

2. Reunion
In June, on the outskirts of Yellowstone, the Academy at Adventure Quest had its first reunion in twelve years. Everyone who showed up was happy and healthy, with good jobs and pretty spouses and lives still filled with adventure. For the very first time, we talked about what happened there, why the school dissolved. We had a memorial service and kayaked the Gallatin river. It was strange and wonderful and a little eerie, like we had all suddenly found ourselves in the same dream. But that's how it's always felt with that school. 

3. Riding on Trails with Women

Mountain biking was a new phenomenon to me in 2014. This year was all about the women I rode with. They were my trail guides and technical coaches, and they fixed my chain when it broke. They knew more than me and I liked following them as they darted through trees.

4. The Remodel

David bought a house with holes in the walls. It was filled with shot guns and assault rifles. We emptied it, skinned it, wrenched the carpet off of the floor. Our friends stopped by to pull out hundreds of staples. We yanked out appliances as if they were teeth and replaced them with new ones, bright white and shining. The painting was the easy part, the crumbling kitchen was not. For a while we had no bathroom and no shower, but the work we did was so satisfying that for the most part we kept very cheerful. By the end of the summer it was fit for living, with a polished wood floor and new locks on new doors. I've never done anything like that before.

5. Cohabiting 

After the floors were done, but before we had an indoor shower, I moved in with David. Since then we've been living out that particular portion of life that older people look back on with nostalgia- we filled our house with second hand furniture, we're always happy to see each other and we make our own broth to save money. I've never done anything like this before, either. 

6. The Obed
Where the climbing is so good that my friends make the trek all the way from Seattle. 

7. Chemistry
I will remember exactly two things from the basic chemistry class at Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College: one, I got an A, which felt, as my friend So so eloquently puts it,  like "sweet revenge." Two, my teacher spoke with such a strong southern accent that when he said "Flourine" for the first time I burst out laughing. It sounded like he was demanding the attention of a surly waitress at a Waffle House. It was the only time I laughed that semester.

8. The team that couldn't win 
My fall league ultimate frisbee team had the big idea of donating a canned good to the food bank for every point that we scored. It was a hungry, hungry season for Asheville. On the field we were a weekly disaster with flashes of brilliance; on the sidelines this was the warmest, friendliest team I've ever known. We became the kind of friends who would plan a pizza night and then actually all show up. This was as novel to me as the coconuts. 

9. Roots
In my first six months here, I don't think I got it through my head that I was really going to stay.  I felt like a happy tourist, always a few weeks away from flying back to my apartment in Seattle. Then one day I had a house, and a student ID, and a boyfriend who speaks with a heavy southern drawl. The ribbons of trails that surround the town were all of a sudden familiar. Then, as if to drive the point home, I got a writing job as the 'local expert' of the outdoor scene here in Asheville; the organization is called Roots Rated.  When I go out exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains, bizarre thoughts float through my head, things like "This will be a good spot to take our kids in a year or so." 

10. Make more mail 
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I finally figured out the purpose of this blog. 

Speaking of. 

What's on your list from 2014? Tell me something new that you were introduced to in the past year, and you'll be entered to win this week's mystery prize. Which, I have to say, is so incredibly appealing that it's difficult to not open it myself and dig in. It will be the Best Thing Ever to find its way into your mailbox. And the brand 2015 Wilder Coast photo thank you cards turned out pretty well, too. 

Happy New Year my friends!! I can't wait to read about your phenomenal phenomenons. 

the house suspended in amber

I'll remember this Christmas for the snow and the chaos of dogs. I'll remember that I gave David a magnesium fire starting gadget and he loved it, and he started a fire that morning and every day after, in front of which would amass a pile of snow-wet boots and scarves and sweaters. This was his second visit to our home in Vermont- he met my parents for the first time last year on Christmas morning, something I've always felt he should receive a reward for- but this is the first time I was able to relax and not worry that he was going to run full steam away when he discovered that my family, like all families, is nuts.

When my sister and I go home, we get a little lost figuring out whether we're still technically children- we're not, but we're my parents children, and sometimes we'll regress just a bit, out of old habit.

I think only the appearance of grandchildren will cement into place a sturdy organization of generations- we'll be the parents, little kids will be little kids, and my parents can be grandparents and get old. It seems suitable that grandparents be old. But for now, my mom and dad are just my mom and dad, nothing else, and when I stop and realize that they're aging, not suspended in time like flies in amber, as they should be, and how one day we'll be celebrating Christmas without them, well, that's just not what I signed up for.

Being home is so wonderful, but thoughts like this drift through my head all day long like passing snow flurries, and make me feel a certain sharp anxiety that is much more muted during my normal life. In addition, my dad is going through an intense phase of Anglophilia, and every night he tries to get us to watch British comedies, and my mom refuses, and the whole family erupts in an argument that leaves dad acting all wounded and everyone else on edge, except for David, who, from his place on the couch, seems to float above it all.

Such are the holidays.

But mostly, it's books and sledding and cousins. It's an entire extended family wearing Darn Tough Vermont socks, tromping through the woods and drinking champagne around 5ish. It's endless bananagrams, maple syrup bottles in the stockings, cherry juice and Cabot Cheddar and that certain joy that comes from watching short legged dogs try and hop through deep snow.
But this Christmas has come to an end and tomorrow morning we strike for home. Leaving is always wretched, like that terrible moment when you declare your hot bath has run its course and you have to get out of the tub, shivering inside your towel in the freezing cold house. Only one hundred times worse.  

But there's some relief that comes along with it, because deep inside you know you can't live forever in the bath, alone and peaceful in the steam. Eventually you have to return to your real life and get back to Getting Things Done.

That's where I'm at now. The last night in the warm house in the deep snow, itching to get back to my life and wanting to stay here forever. 

And now to announce the winner of the Vermont Themed Mystery Prize! Reading about all your Hygge was so fun- my favorite prompt yet. And when the post-Christmas depression rolls in, I'll read them all again for the comfort. Thank you for writing. I wish I could send you all a box of maple pops.

 Congratulations Jess! I agree that the best route to Hygge is to decline any invitations, and dive under the covers with some books and movies. And yes, coziness is next to godliness for sure! Please email thewildercoast@gmail.com and I'll get your mystery prize in the mail.

Now, I'll be driving from Ithica to Asheville all day on Monday, but I'll see you here very soon. Merry Christmas everyone, and to those who suffer from the post Christmas depression, best of luck, I'm right there with you. Feel free to reach out.

Hygge! & a Christmas Mystery Prize

It's Monday, it's late at night, and this is the very first time I've been able to steel myself away from all the Hygge. Hygge is a Danish word with no English translation, but it means something like 'being warm and cozy inside while outside it is dark.' And it's my very favorite thing in the entire world.
I made it to Vermont after fifteen hours of white-knuckling the steering wheel through a rainstorm which did not let up once between Durham, North Carolina and White River Junction, Vermont.  My route took me through Manhattan, which I did not become aware of until I was crossing the Tappan Zee bridge, listening to the audio version Growing up Duggar because I have a morbid fascination with that bunch, and wondering, "What the hell happened to Pennsylvania?"

Now I understand that the route from Durham to home is quite different than the route from Asheville to home. One includes a lovely glide through Pennsylvania Dutch country, and the other, a miserable crawl through the Bronx at 13 miles an hour.

Once I crossed over into Vermont, the rain turned to ice and coated the empty highway with a slippery gloss, and then my car couldn't make it up my road and we slid backwards, the dog leaping out of her seat and into my lap, coming to a crunching stop against a snowbank. We had to go the rest of the way on foot.

My dad, who had waited up for us, was very agitated because he doesn't like when I drive long distances, and while he waited he'd watched the Wolf of Wall Street which he found very upsetting. In the morning I found out that my car had slid off the road because no one had sanded or plowed the road because two Vermont townships were having a sort of turf war, and the whole thing was a big mess.

But it was worth it for all the Hygge that's been happening since I made it home.
The snow has been coming down for days and the sledding is perfect. David went into town and bought a smooth-bottomed sled called the Easy Glider which can ramp up to terrifying speeds and is impossible to control. My brother in law claims to have broken his neck on it. Dave has an affinity for sledding through the woods, which is actually terribly dangerous. Today while we were out playing in the field, he put his arm around me, surveyed the steep, thickly wooded hill behind our house and said cheerfully, "If I'd grown up here, I definitely would have died."
We've spent these days before Christmas in the woods, in the general store in town choosing buckets of candy for our little cousins' presents, kicking at rat-king-esque piles of snarling corgis when they fight, baking, playing banana grams, and listening to my dad say things like, "It was too easy to find a parking spot, Kid. Small town life is decaying," And "steak houses are a cult, kid," and "life just gets worse and worse, kid. Worse and worse."

But still, such Hygge!
And now if you don't mind, it is cold outside and inside this warmly lit house, there is coziness to attend to. But first! In keeping with our Make More Mail initiative, let's do a giveaway- a Christmas Mystery prize! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, you can call it something else, like a Cozy Fun Pack.
To win, simply leave a comment and tell me what sort of Hygge you're up to this winter.

Are you drinking porter in a ski cabin in the Grand Tetons? Pouring tea in your city apartment? Curling up with a good book under the blanket? Snuggling away with your companion watching a little something on the TV? 

The winner will receive a Vermont themed mystery prize. It may be delicious, it might be fun, it could even be drinkable, it's bound to be rustic, and I promise, it will enhance your Hygge. 

I have a feeling that this week, there will be a smaller group of us writing. The holidays are a festive and busy time. But that's okay. It will be a small group of good friends and I'm happy with that. Small is cozy.

 I hope you are having a very warm and very entertaining time, wherever you are and whatever you're doing! I cannot wait to read about your coziness.  I like you all a lot, have a safe, peaceful and hygge Holiday.

All in a week

1. the scariest rope swing on earth 2. Portland 3. summer evening kite flying 4. driving home from Idaho 5. mellow Saturday night in Rip's backyard 6. cooling off 7. summer Ella 8. 4th of July with my first friend in Seattle 9. heaven on the Sky 10. roadside Jeneen outside of Hailey, Idaho 11. riverside 

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All in a week

1. Bryan at the top of the Apron 2. drinking Johnny and Junes 3. running through cotton puffs 4. Saturday night at the Brewery in Squamish 5. on the wall in a wind storm 6. summer running on Lake Washington 7. perfect camping evening with oatmeal stouts 8. a night out with Kristin 9. waiting out a rainy day in BC 9. unroped 10. Amber shows up with flowers

All in a week

1. when Will is in Washington 2. weekday night on the beach 3. Rip on Castle Rock 4. Bonfire for the return of our friends 5. So visits! 6. Seth and I attended a Belltown party for Northwest Avalanche Center volunteers (remember the grand spectacular?) 7. the occasional vertical tuesday evening 8. camping with Molly by Icicle Creek 9. my office in the midst of multi tasking 10. drying out in Leavenworth 11. Squamish dreams, omelettes  

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Cloud and Dazzle

The Northwest has been dazzling me lately. My God, what a place! Is it me? The light switch in my brain has been clicked back on and now I can truly see where I live? Is it spring, everything coming alive at once and bursting and buzzing, the fat fluffs of pollen that swirl in the air like snow?

It's none of these things. It's just this place.
For memorial day, rain threatened the entire state, but Rip and I and everyone we knew took our chances. By Saturday evening we were three pitches high on Castle Rock, surrounded by cool air, beneath silver clouds that had not yet broken open. Up there, overlooking the now-green Leavenworth and the white raging Tumwater, we talked about important things: dinner, and what type of cookie we might buy for the fire tonight, and whether or not marshmallows were in order.
The free campsite at mile 8 was brimming with people, completely overrun, but we snuck through the woods in the dark, Rip carrying me on his back over streams, and found our friends Molly and Chris and Max. They'd saved us a spot in a patch of lavender colored wildflowers, and built up a big fire. Rip played his guitar. Just a few feet away, down a deadly sharp bank, Icicle creek roared with its springs surge, molecules of water that were once deep snow on the sides of Stevens Pass, and I dreamt, somehow, about water. 
In the morning the rain came, so we hauled off to the Cafe down the road to wait it out and search through the books for routes that might possibly be dry. We waited and waited. The Portland boulderers gave up and went into town to drink beer. We refilled our coffee cups a fifth time. And then we went home. In Sultan we drove through a panoply of weather- a flurry of pollen, rain showers, sun bursts. The rocks in Index were drenched.  
That night, Will came home. And the rain kept up, and the Northwest continued to dazzle. For a kayaker living in the desert for the past year, Will did not complain about the rain. We walked outside for hours. We sat inside a crowded restaurant and drank white wine and saw a late showing of the Great Gatsby. 
The week wore on, Will was gone again, and the days marched by nearly as fantastical and color drenched as the Great Gatsby had been. Even sitting in my nearly empty apartment, mid week, working away on very dull tasks, I caught myself staring out the kitchen window, at the lime green leaves in my neighbor's driveway bowing under rain drops the size of pearls. I was having a hard time focusing, a little bit transfixed by the world.

I think it was that night that Chris and Molly had a bonfire. I held on to the cool neck of a bottle of wine and leaned against the broad shoulders of my old friend Seth, who just today left me for Alaska. I got loopy on woodsmoke, mist and alcohol and spotted a boy through the smoke who I'd once treated pretty bad. Seth said I should apologize and I did. He said I should write about the apology, and I probably will. 
Too much water and woodsmoke, absolutely too much fresh air rolling off the sound (but unarguably the perfect amount to drink) even perhaps too many late night cherries (it's cherry season) but something made me wake up sluggish and slow and heavy in the head the next morning.   I was mostly worthless most of the day and this frustrated me to no end. It wasn't till late in the evening, around sunset, when I finally got a grip on myself and took the whining, restless dog to the beach. 

There, just me and the dog, I was treated, completely undeserving, to this sunset. 
We are so lucky to live here. I hope these weeks keep rolling in, wave after wave. 

(Welcome home, Molly and Chris!)

Statues in Ritzville and other fine things

(For Zen Ben, of course.)

When I was a teenager climbing in Vermont, my first partner was named Ben. Ben was a sweet, soft spoken boy from the town up the road. He drove a tiny rattle trap car, and together we would drive around the green mountains looking for new cliffs to explore. We'd bushwack to the base and he'd lead us, pitch after careful pitch, using a handful of silver iron nuts. Then we'd sit at the top and watch the sunk sink over our home state, and then pick up and figure out how to get down. I was fifteen and he was sixteen.

One day he told me about a bouldering spot he'd discovered in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. "It's like.....Shangri-la up there," he said shyly, eyes on the road. "Do you want to go with me?"

I'll never forget the revery in his voice as he said that. To a young Vermont climber, nothing held the promise like a seemingly endless field of boulders, deep in the splendid Whites, with nobody else around.

But I never made it to that field with Ben, and then he took a long fall in Colorado, about 800 feet, and he left us too early.

Whenever I find myself standing at a new crag, in a valley I've never been to before, I always think of Ben, driving down highway 89 whispering, "It's like Shangri-la."
Two weekends ago I found myself in such a place- Post Falls, Idaho on a misty day with Lisa, Amber, and Jake. There was a torrential, unrunable river to our right and to our left, a crooked path running past route after bolted route of beautiful, empty rock. We had the place to ourselves for the weekend, and with no one to fight over rocks with, we were lazy. In the mornings we slept in for hours, made coffee and drank it by the lake and cooked breakfast. So much better than the usual pop-tart-and-Via-coffee-now-go-stake-out-your-climb approach.
I led all the climbs that weekend. Jake's new, Amber's in an ankle cast and Lisa was in a grad school haze. So we'd agree on a route and I'd climb up, slowly, my mind blissfully empty, calculating only the very next move.

Jake Cooper Photo
I've had so many teachers in this sport, but for now there are no teachers. I don't mean that there is nothing more to learn- nothing could be farther than the truth. There will be more leaders, they always show up when you need them, they'll push you and take you much higher than you've ever been, and on walls so big and grand you never thought to even consider touching them, but lately it's just been me, not afraid and not crazy, climbing what I can and not thinking about the rest.
Amber Jackson Photo
That is, until I saw this project and I knew I'd fail, and fall, a lot, but at the same time I knew it was mine. My big, fun, swinging clean fall project of early summer. Nothing I could throw up the first time, but a very good reason to come back to Idaho. 
Amber Jackson Photo
Amber Jackson Photo
Amber Jackson Photo
We had big plans on Saturday night. Spokane has a redneck bar with a mechanical bull, I'd packed my cowgirl boots, and we'd also spoken of a fire right on the lake. We brought marshmallows in anticipation. But we were so tired after dinner, the climbing and the beer and the general laziness had rendered us completely useless, so we lay on one bed together, the four of us, and we drifted off to Jake's stories. 

The bull, the pile of driftwood on the beach, just more reasons to return. 
Amber Jackson Photo
This winter I struggled to find enjoyment doing anything. I tried. I pooled together the things I loved, I spread them around and then stood back and stared flatly, feeling nothing, wishing I could just go back to sleep. Apathy, the hallmark of depression, life is a long dull road that just keeps going. Winter in a dark and wet city. 

Now, at the dwindling end of May, I find I need very little to feel content. The other day Seth brought me coffee in the morning. The night before we'd had some wine perhaps, and I was sort of crawling around the house, searching for my wallet, and then giving up with my head on the kitchen table, the one I found on the roadside after my roommate took all the furniture. I called Seth and told him I'd pay him a million dollars if he brought me some coffee, and he did and now I owe him a million dollars. The first sip was so delicious I felt this overwhelming sense of joy, more joy than I'd felt for the past six or so months, and I almost burst at the seams. I was on a work call and had to mute the phone so the person on the other end wouldn't hear me laughing. 

Sometimes I find myself laughing when I'm doing the dishes, I don't know why, but it's better than being too serious I suppose. 

The weekend in Idaho was pure contentment. I felt like Ben in a field of boulders, smiling up at the sun, with no reason to hurry.
On the long ride home, we got a little lost and ended up in a ghost town. There were statues of people on the street, doing everyday things, waiting to cross the street, leaning against the library, conversing silently with other statues. But we were the only living people. Maybe a few months ago I would have sided with the statues- pretending, stiff, appearing like a whole person but on closer look, just an effigy. Those days are gone, for now, and after a half hour or so of wandering we all loaded back in the car and made a beeline for the highway, Jake bought us some marshmallow bars and we sang little mermaid songs all the way home.
That's right, we did. Listen, I'm not cool. I'm not one of those really cool outdoors people. I really don't fit in with the scene at all. But still, we have so much fun being here, doing what we do the way that we do it.

All in a week

1. we stumbled across a ghost town in Ritzville, Eastern Washington 2. evening out in Belltown 3. a first attempt at my early summer project in Post Falls, Idaho 4. the last night with my roommate, who took all the furniture 5. climbers try to make sense of class 6 rapids 6. Irish jam night at Conyr Byrns with Curry, who just left for Alaska 7. take your stuffed snake to the beach in a rainstorm day was thoroughly enjoyed by all 8. exploration at a new crag  9. the long drive home 10. dance break at a gas station 11. weekend at the lake house

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All in a week

This week was almost entirely work, typing, computer screens and running. Here are the few precious moments I was not at my desk: 

1. grey sunset beach picnic 2. sundress weather 3. one lap of the loop trail and two rounds of margaritas with Mackenzie 4. Seth at the summit of Rattlesnake Ridge 5. evening stories in a hazy field 6. misadventures in raw eating 7. Friday evening in the woods 8. writing for 25 cents a word with 25 cent refills at Fiore 9. three to six miles a day on this one perfect trail 10. white wine, Jake in a jacket 

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All in a Week photos, follow my instagram feed @melinadream

All in a week

1. a late night picnic with Connor before he is snatched away by Alaska 2. Sunshine in Canada, meal planning 3. Amber and Chai head for home on the last day 4. the freelance life with Seth 5. she has the tiniest shadow 6. a last minute back yard BBQ 7. wearing dia de las meurtos tights on cinco de mayo 8. chalking up 9. ella fix in the park 10. the Squamish crew- all I'd said was 'Smile!' 

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Sea Baby

It was time to take a trip alone, so the dog and I set out to the North, headed towards the Straight of Juan de Fuca. It was just past tulip season, but the drive to Anacortes was beautiful enough to crush on the heart of two creatures thinking of moving away.
We took a long ferry ride, and because of the canine we were banished to the unheated outskirts of the vessel. The cold made us slightly drawn in and contemplative. 
When we reached the town of Friday Harbor, on the island of San Juan, we were greeted at the terminal by a blond birthday girl named Jen. Jen writes Baby by the sea, (careful not to sink too far into her photos, you'll have a hard time emerging for a few days) we've never met, but I'm learning that doesn't really matter. Jen's a New England born writer, and so am I. She knows everybody on the island and drinks and desserts are forever on the house. We sat watching the sun sink as she ate oysters and I drank three rounds of island margaritas.   
That night we lay on the floor of her wide open, book-lined living room, listening to vinyl and talking about writing. We were old friends who haven't seen each other for twenty eight years (or more) so we had a lot of catching up to do. 
The next day was Saturday, and it was raining on the island. I walked with her family to a T ball game for her middle girl, Lucy. 

As the morning progressed, I looked around and categorized my surroundings in my head, as I find myself doing a lot these days when I'm untethered and deciding. 

Life on the San Juans felt verdant and safe and idyllic, so similar to my own childhood in Vermont. I hugged my sweatshirt tight around my body as the rain got heavier, standing there alone amongst all the couples who looked like me, and dressed like me, their six year olds running bases and toddlers crawling through the damp grass.  

I looked at all the fathers in their Patagonia fleeces and Pacific Northwest beards, standing patiently near the playing, hauling little bodies in the right direction as kids flew in random zig-zags around the bases. The fathers made me at once hopeful and morose. This type of men, are they born or created? Did they always want this, or did it just happen, did they wake up one day on a little house in the Pacific Ocean with two kids and a wife and wonder how they got there?  

Is a good life the result of extremely hard work, or does it just happen, and the best you can do is stay out of the way? If you know the answer to that, please let me know.
Jen and Luke, with Betty and Lucy and Olive and the dog in tow, took me around Friday Harbor, the early summer farmers market, the anchor-and-crow themed coffee shop and the secret rooftop with a view of all the boats. This is the town where the Endeavour docked a year ago and I spent the whole day leading passengers to the dentist after all their teeth cracked at once, bizarrely. 

The biggest medical issue you'll run into on a ship could be dential, the Alaskan Paramedic had said when we'd lived in the snow in Leavenworth, and how right he'd been. 

Five months later the Endeavour was back in Friday Harbor, all teeth in good condition, and the crew ran around, euphoric, back home in Washington (how we love Washington!) the season over, the days easier. 
At the end of my stay, Jen and I drove out to the coast and went for a run. I chased after her. She took me to a secret beach and we gathered sea glass; she found a giant piece of blue, which is getting scarcer and scarcer to find where I live.

I'm getting lots of requests for blue, and I could never say no, and I could really use some myself as well. If you know of a place frequented by Vodka swigging sailors who throw their empty bottles into the ocean, please let me know.  
I said goodbye, and the dog and I ran last minute onto the ferry, and we crossed the chill waters again. Then, because I'd been thinking about Connor and the Alaskan paramedic, I drove to Bellingham for the night to see them both. It was the Alaskan's last night before he left for a stint on a boat somewhere off of South America, and Connor's last weekend before he got back on the Endeavour, headed North to Friday Harbor, through the straight of Juan de Fuca to Alaska. 

Boats keep taking my friends away!

Sometimes I want to go away too, but where would we go? Washington is a cold paradise laced with friends and islands and rocks, what could be better?

 If someone knows to the answer to these questions, please let me know.  

All in a week

1. our beautiful childhood friend Jeneen came for a visit 2. these days 3. evidence of summertime 4. I went to the islands to see Babybythesea 5. Anacortes 6. on the ferry with my girl 7. a late night drive to Canada 8. lost in Vancouver at midnight 9. climbing trip plannings 10. Squamish bouldering 

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Spring Update, Beach Magic

The iron sky winter is melting into a spring that is bright and cold, full of early lilacs and already the biggest full moon I've ever seen rise over this city. I'm happy these days because I like my job; the constant fret of money worries has been suspended, at least until this time next year. There is a crisp satisfaction to paying the bills on time, perfectly, little rows of numbers marching neatly down the checkbook.

Over at Fisherman's Terminal, crews are returning to the boats, they are crowding the Highliner after work, they are charting their course back to Alaska, happy to be back sleeping in tiny berths with their friends. Part of me remembers the camaraderie, forgives the drudgery and forgets the long days, and wishes I was returning with them for another season. Sometimes I join them for cans of New Belgium Shifts or bottles of Amber Ales, brewed in Juneau, but we live now in such separate worlds I don't always have a lot to say.  Which is okay, I've learned recently that if I just shut up for a moment, people will tell me some interesting things.
I have been getting rid of a few of my possessions,  just like I said I would, and as my things go I feel an emptiness in my head and in my chest as well. There is nobody to think about for now. That's good. It allows for freedoms. The days of the week skip from one to the other, with not much to worry about except what to eat and what to write, and occasionally where to go.

This feeling of being unmoored, of sailing along alone and in peace, will probably last about as long as the temporary break in my financial worries.  I'm enjoying them both while I can.

Jesse and I had a beach picnic last week, the laziest of all social engagements, yet still all the organization I could muster. I slow-cooked a brisket all day while I worked from home, and Jess brought bread and tomatoes and beer. We invited everyone we knew and gave them about five hours warning, knowing that if no one showed up we'd still have a nice evening.

But they did show up, not many people can resist the water after a day as warm and clear as that day had been. They came and went, bringing beer and dogs and bicycles; they said hello, sat for a while or stayed all evening. We were treated to a deep hued sunset and a beach full of fires and paper lanterns drifting North towards the Straight of Juan de Fuca.
If I left, the way I left last year on the boat, I would miss all this. I'd miss Jesse, and the sound, all the dogs and all the bicycles. Yet still I find myself tapping my foot under the table, when I'm at home and it's only me, looking around the room in the silence, not entirely trusting myself just to sit still for a moment.
This post is dedicated to Megan and Cary.

All in a week

1. spring at Shilshole 2. Lee and the Pilot 3. the card shop that sells espresso- I spend too much money here 4. last wave of Boulder Drop rapid on the Skykomish river 5. breakfast of champions on Saturday morning 6. Megan on a hot blue ski day 7. dogs and crowds at Vantage 8. solos margaritas and late sunsets in eastern washington 9. the dog going nuts at the beach. 10. Jesse's birthday crab boil 11. the city in bloom

All in a week

1. the last yoga night until next winter 2. low tide 3. Ren triumphs over my busted shoulder 4. Jesse in his element 5. found blue 6. the return of taco tuesdays 7. spring and the coffee is over ice 8. wings 9. the anchored ship cafe, where the boat captains go and I write in the mornings 10. bursting trees at Discovery 11. packing for the season's first climbing trip

All in a week

1. thursday yoga is a tradition older than ella 2. shell-less on the summit on another warm day 3. king sized bed outside of chicago 4. Miro tea with my baby cousin 5. playing this word game that made us nearly vomit with laughter (thanks Jesse for the shot). 6. the last day of january 7. Jesse murders chocolate hearts 'in preparation for valentines' 8. the wisconsin border is not the 7th wonder of the world 9. the downward dog on an urban trek 10. an entire day, just her and me.

all in a week

1. eleven girls drinking barley tea at the spa. 2. bluebird days and 60 degrees at the summit. 3. tights and boots weather, my favorite. 4. my boat world girl on a wet, wet powder day. 5. my view every morning. 6. ski day with the boy who does not sugar coat his advice. 7. dinner party in our little house. 8. my office at the ski lodge. 9. the friday powder day grin. 10. sessions with my dream team trainer, Ren. 

Johnny Miller

Today we welcome photographer and climber Johnny Miller as this month's guest blogger on The Wilder Coast. He is the man behind the lens over at Millefoto.com. I am starstruck by his landscape portfolio- the High Dynamic Range urban images in particular are vivid, unearthly and nearly unsettling.

After three years, I thought it would be a good idea to post a boy's perspective on all of this. So here with his take on climbing, sex, and getting out of town, is Johnny Miller.

Things I observed on my last trip to Vantage
Leaving behind the city is an integral part of my life. It's elation, it's semi-indescribable. The way the gray matter on the map, the urban-brain, tendrils out - until it's just me on a sinuous curve through the mountains.  It's easy to explain to someone who loves the outdoors and yet different for everyone. I love that. The radio stations blink and fade to nothing. Crossing the impenetrable rocky regions in transit to a beautiful new reality.  
The first glimpse of the rolling clear hills. Not the forest. I hate the forest. I'm talking clear, grassy hills - no trees and lots and lots of hay fields. Golden and falling down to the river, a hundred miles away. It's like rolling downhill along with the water. Get me away from the fucking forest. I hate the forest. The forest and the city‚Ķnature and man's most oppressive creations.   
Finally, a destination. Orange-red rock in a fractured state. I was climbing out at a local crag with some friends a couple weeks ago. The river was nearby, you could smell it. The rock was warm. This girl sat next to me, we had just finished a really hard route that neither of us could really believe we actually completed. First I climbed it, then she did.
"You're an amazing climber."
"Seriously? Because YOU'RE an amazing climber."
The truth is both of us climbed like our lives depended on it. Me, because I needed to impress her. She, because she needed to prove that she could keep up. We both probably have issues. But it was nice basking in that glow in the sudden silence that descended on the crag. We sat in a little alcove below the main climbing wall, shielded from the chatter of the climbing hordes who descend on this place by the hundreds in autumn.
We were so comfortable already, and I had just met this girl at 7am. When she belayed me off the wall she held her hand out, a really strong hand, to pull me into the wall and away from the edge. I ended up sitting on her leg as I came down the final two feet, our sweat mingling in a sort of electric soup. I could smell her.  Suddenly I realized that I could take this girl to the very edge of the cliff, lay her down, and make love to her while we watched the clouds and sun and wind turbines dance on the horizon. I wasn't even terribly attracted to her.
"I would rather be here than anywhere else right now."  That was a true statement.
"I agree with you."  I hoped that was true.
The rest of our group had split along natural lines into twos and threes. I hadn't seen anyone except my new climbing friend for hours, and it was strange that it felt so natural to cohabitate on the rock wall, like albatross do. I didn't grab for her hand, I just sat there and listened to my feelings. I learned a little while ago that it's important to listen to yourself, and when you think you may be filled up with emotion to the point of bursting, and need to share that emotion in order to make it seem real, that's when you really need to hold it back and focus on directing that inwards. So I sat there and I could feel her next to me, and there was an anticipation that wasn't altogether unpleasant but it seemed to take away slightly from the pure beauty of our surroundings so I chanced another comment.
"I don't think I need to climb another route today."
"I'm perfectly happy if that was the last route I climb for the rest of my life." 
I turned to look at her and the large brown eyes were swimming with emotions the same as I was. But I knew then that I had been wrong about the making love thing, that I would ruin everything if I tried it, if I even stepped toward her those big brown saucers would slit down and peak and say, "boy, you're crossing the line, sit back down".

Is it just me that equates every sublime feeling with a girl to sex? Or is it every male? Clear as a pool I looked through those eyes to what lay beneath and it was pure and girlish and innocent and it truly was, it just truly was. No sex required to consummate the emotion. I learned tact early on in and it has stood me well. I quietly killed my carnal desire.
The sun went down. It became cold. Our clothes come back on, the lycra covered up with polyester, the polyester covered up by wool, the wool covered up by down. We enjoy the post-sunset glow but it was already over, the moment we had, and the rock becomes hard again. Suddenly thoughts about Mexican food, and getting back home, and the long walk out of this cliff band and up the gully and over the mesa and down to the parking lot. And I'm really, really sad that we didn't decide to just spend the night out here, because it'd be so much more comfortable repeating this moment at sunrise, from the opposite direction, and eating eggs in the morning. I never eat eggs in the city.
But everyone returns eventually.
The radio stations blink in reverse, country music and farm news slowly hissing into nothing as the mountains loom up. Huge rock walls, beautiful rock walls, painted with moon light. The reflectors on the road showing the way back, up and over the pass, breadcrumbs for the wayward to return once they've realized their error. "Escape", they scream, "is futile!" The forest, the terrible green forest, closing in above us like a dank prison. Its colder, its wetter, its home.
Inside the car our arms touch but it's a small backseat.
I don't think it means anything.

See more of Johnny's images at Millefoto.com