Monday, December 27, 2010

The Pulse of the Dunes

Disclaimer: i am in a tiny town deep in the moroccan desert and am using a french keyboard...be easy on me with typos and punctuation! all the letters are in different spots....talk about a change!
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...Last night i could feel the sand¨s heartbeat when i put my ear to the Earth. I am not totally sure if it was my heart beating or the pulse of the dunes or both...Regardless, we were both most certainly alive This rhythm lulled me to rest and i dreamt well enveloped by the cool dirt.

The pace of the desert is sweet. Led by camels, we walk over a landscape with only one constant - change. The wind rules out here - dictating tomorrow¨s shape and yesterday¨s memory....but really there is only now. Within a moment it is all different than before.

This is a fragile landscape. People who see it from a distance may think it is dead. Nothing grows, nothing lives in the sahara, they would say. But perhaps, it is the most alive of all ecosystems, of all places... living only for right this second.

Sand sprays like ocean mist. Eyes play tricks as we walk through the dunes. Sand or smoke? I am not sure. Mounds of sand morph into bubbling caludrons, steam floating out the sides as if there is a witches brew inside. Instead of frog tails or raven¨s beak, this brew is full of ancient sands and elder¨s whispers....

Change happens in front of my eyes. Each moment a reminder of the fragility of life and the impermanence of everything.

I wander through comfortable amidst the chaos, the change, the turbulence. It is the only thing familiar about this place. Perhaps, i am so at peace because the impermanence is out in the open for all to see - not hidden like we try to do in much of life. It is obvious on a basic level, requires no explanation or understanding. It just is and you feel it, you know it and there is an ease in that...

Enjoy whatever the new year brings you! More to come in 2011. Off to the mountains until then....

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Morocco Bound!

As a result of my wanderlust spirit, my dad and I have spent countless hours in the car on the way to and from the airport over the last couple of decades. It started with college and has just ramped up since then. He tirelessly picks me up and drops me off without ever complaining - braving awful weather, east coast traffic, crazy jersey and new york drivers (of which he is proudly one)….even ticker tape parades. He doesn’t care that I am wearing the same clothes I have been wearing for months or that I haven’t brushed my hair in weeks…And, regardless of what he has just struggled through, he always greets me with a big hug, a bottle of water and a few pieces of chocolate –really all it takes to make this girl happy.

It’s funny because there are other folks who could come pick me up - my brothers and sisters have offered…But, for some reason he chooses to make the trip each time. I have come to value this time with my dad a ton for the rare opportunity that it is – time alone with the coolest guy in the world to catch up, ponder life, look out the window, listen to stories, laugh…whatever. It does not really matter – it’s time with him and that’s really the most valuable thing a person can give.

My dad is mostly to blame for my desire to explore so much of the world. When I was tiny, tiny he started taking me to the “mountains.” We’d go explore the Palisades – these little hills – near where I grew up in Jersey. The city skyline was the big attraction and bridges were as prevalent as arches in the Utah desert. I remember these ‘hikes’ with such detail and vivid color - tromping through the woods, , finding a creek, discovering treasures and seeing my first red-tailed hawk soaring high overhead. But more than what happened was how it made me feel…there was adventure, a peace I hadn’t known and a comfort – I was home and I was hooked. It didn’t help that my dad was also a Nat Geo addict. There were issues dating back to the early 70s hanging around the house and the day the new issue came was always exciting (I know, we’re totally dorks!). Through these magazines - at first looking at the pictures with my dad and then eventually reading them on my own – I went to the pyramids, explored the Great Barrier Reef, hiked the Grand Canyon and so on…

We are about to get in the car once again (in less than 15 minutes) as I embark on yet another journey and I am beginning to settle into the idea that this is really happening. I’m going to be gone for about 10 weeks traveling in Africa and today I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’ll miss the most while I’m gone. Broccoli ranks really high on the list. Fresh drinking water, hot showers, my bed, the voices of those I love….these things I will miss. I will not, however, be sad to say goodbye to the news, cell phones, computers, or Christmas music (sorry!)…

But, more than what I will miss or not miss, I am focusing on what I am going to experience. The funny thing about this is that I have no idea. None. I know nothing of what will happen in the next few hours, days or weeks. There is a “plan” of sorts of where I will be and what I will be doing, but really – I have no idea what this looks like, who I’ll meet, how it will all go. The thing is that we never really know what’s going to happen, but when we are at home and in places we know or are comfortable there is a perception of predictability that we carry around. It’s an illusion that serves a purpose – to keep us calm, centered and functioning.

So, the key to traveling for me (or anything that brings me out of my comfort zone) is embracing the uncertainty and finding a center point from within – regardless of what is happening around. The send-off I just got from my crazy family and all the support I’ve gotten from so many folks around the globe will be a good start. And, the hug from my dad when he leaves me at the airport will be just enough to last until I get home. Heading out…

My family a few minutes ago giving me a Jersey send off..."the moon's the limit!"

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Beginning Again

Images of the magnificence of Patagonia abound: snow-capped peaks, flowing rivers, pristine forests, indigenous people, beautiful cultural traditions. Visual depictions of this amazing land and the people who call it home are the first thing that you notice when you arrive in this region of Chile – in airports, airplanes, restaurants, cafes, hardware mega-stores, on roadside billboards …..everywhere.

However, despite an obvious national pride for the area, the wild character of Patagonia is at risk. This is why each member of our team of 7, also known as “Rios Libres”, have spent the last few days working our way here from various points on the globe. There’s a proposal to put 5 dams on 2 of Patagonia’s most pristine rivers and we’re down here to do our damndest to create something that will help draw international attention to the issue.

Since our arrival, we’ve been working hard to make contacts, track down information, conduct interviews and prepare for our river and glacier expedition. We’ve been met with overwhelming support thus far and the locals have gone out of their way to befriend us and to help us make the connections that will be invaluable to the success of our effort.

This morning, the energy is high despite minimal sleep over the past few days. A pot of water bubbles on the stove, eggs are sizzling, gear is being sorted and bags are being packed. Timmy ONeill hovers over the stove – eager to provide the team with steaming cups of cowboy coffee and a hot breakfast. Timmy arrived in Coyahique (our current home base) after an epic adventure climbing the north and central towers in Torres del Paine, on the edge of the third largest ice field in world. Timmy is to blame for the team’s sore belly muscles – a result of his quick wit and our inability to resist laughing at almost every word that leaves his mouth.

Craig, our resident writer, who had to shovel his way out of his home in southern Colorado only to arrive in Santiago to find out that the reservation for his next flight had been canceled, sits peacefully on a wooden bench overlooking the river and jots notes in his journal. Although I don’t know what he’s writing, I’m sure it’s insightful, brilliant, beautiful. He has a knack for perfectly capturing the moment and I wonder if some of this morning’s musings will find their way into his next book, article or NPR radio commentary.

The rest of the team scurries around reveling in our last showers (for a few weeks anyway), gratefully slurping muddy caffeinated water and working out the logistics of the day.

In the next cabin, a couple of young river guides prepare the rafts and kayaks and organize the rest of our gear. Megan and Todd have traveled a long way from Missoula, MT to get a chance to float the Baker. Our cinematographers, Ed George and Denise Stilley, shoot footage of the whole process: sorting, packing, loading, laughing and planning.

I have to keep it short because I was just summoned by Q, our team leader and photographer to join the rest of the team outside for a pre-trip photo. (We need to document the fact that we were all clean at one point). Q is the reason we’re all here and he and I put in countless hours of work to make this happen.

In a few hours, we’ll set out on the river. Our hopes are high for what the next few weeks hold and for what we can accomplish, however, we all recognize that the work has just barely begun…..

follow our entire journey at www.rioslibres.com