Sunday, June 15, 2014

Just One of The Many: Leaving Los Angeles

I've driven out of this city many a'time. I've learned the best times of day and night to slip out between the hordes of traffic. I know where to expect the 101 to get really bad, then loosen up again. I've learned the curves of the Grapevine. 

I love leaving this city, actually.

If I've said it once I've said it a thousand times: every time I get north of Ventura I question all my life decisions. I love seeing parts of California beyond Los Angeles. One of the things that has kept me in this city is the variety and relative closeness of a long list of great ways to spend a weekend or a day off. 

This city draws in so many. I never thought I'd be one of them, but I stand today, fully willing to admit my wrongness - that I love this place in a surprising way. 

I didn't think of myself as one of the many coming to LA - one of a horde of transient dreamers - when I arrived. I thought I came for a higher, shorter-term purpose. I knew that I wouldn't make it big here. My face wasn't going to be on any billboards above Hollywood Blvd. There are so many here who have slipped in from elsewhere, found a niche in a neighborhood and flash their dreams to one another, passing headshots and screenplays back and forth. I have known and loved many of them. 

I can even see now that I have been one of them, in my own way.

And just like so many of them, I too will leave. So many of us that came here with other plans board airplanes or drive our cars back out, blessed for all that we have been given here, and blessed to be leaving in equal measure. We will laugh with our friends and family back home as they call us "Hollywood"; as they ask, cautiously, if we used to see celebrities on a regular basis and if everyone rides rollerblades in bikinis around town (the answer is, yes, in some parts of town, both of these things can be true). We will have to contend with all of the things people who have not lived here think about this city, about the lives we've been living. All of the truths and untruths about Los Angeles, we will have to answer to them without taking it too personally.

This city won't remember me. As far as these highways know, I'm just another dreamer, not making her mark in a way worth putting name on the ground. I didn't ask this city to remember me; I only came, loved deeply and dug my fingers into this dry soil while I was meant to be here. The simple things, really. 

And now I'm another girl on her way home. 

I'm driving out of the city one last time. There will be no friends laughing in the backseat, just me and the songs we've all sung together before. The morning of the longest day of the year, I'll be taking the 15 towards Las Vegas, past Zion, past the land I've driven through before. I'll rejoin roads I know in Wyoming, and I have friends whom I can stay with along the way home. Women who I have known longer than this city, who will take me in and remind me of who I was - who I'm trying to dig back out of the hardened lines of my personality.

I'm going home - once again at the right place at the right time. This is my path.  This coming as well as this going has all been blessed. I am so certain of this. 

I am going back to where I started - another completion of the many circles that swing out from that home in the forest my Mama and Papa built - the sacred center of my little life.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!

Thursday, June 12, 2014

California Bucket List

It's only fair, as I'm beginning to fondly remember all the great things about my three years living in Los Angeles, to pay a little homage to California with a reverse bucket list and a bit of a photo-dump. 

Following are the things which I loved the most, wanted to do the most, will remember best and surprised me for some reason. If you're really feeling like getting into the mood, play this song in the background (it's been on repeat in my car for the last 2 months or so).

So, basically in chronological order... kind of...

The Glendale Girls
This photo was (I believe) the second night I spent in Los Angeles and the first with the three women whom I'd live with for the remainder of the year in the Episcopal Urban Intern Program. Christina, Sarah Hannah and I will all readily admit that we probably wouldn't have become close if we'd just met out in the world, but living together taught us all a lot, and I love each of these women dearly.

EUIP Retreats in Santa Barbara
Because of the retreats at quiet monasteries built into the program I participated in my first year in LA, I have decided that going to a beautiful place, relaxing and processing what is happening around you should be required of everyone, three times a year. And paid work days should also be provided for this purpose.

Fancy Hollywood things like movie openings for your friend's films and getting to hold an Oscar

Frozen Bananas in Newport Beach
For all the other Arrested Development fans out there.

Friends In Deed
The organization I ran the Food Pantry for my first year in town. I was truly lucky to get this amazing internship experience, to work with great coworkers and clients, then to be offered a spot on the Board of Directors. This organization does so much for the Pasadena community, and I'm so glad I could learn with and from them. I chaired the Fall Fundraising event in 2013, and presented the award to our honorees (photo). 
Whale Watching
I was really lucky to see whales two of the times I went out, as well as once from the shore in Malibu. They are nearly impossible to snap a picture of, not to mention I prefer to enjoy the awe of seeing an animal that majestic in the wild, but I saw finbacks, grey and orca whales during my times out in the Channel Islands. Also, more dolphins than you can imagine, seals and plenty of birds.

Joshua Tree and Death Valley National Parks
The desert is not my favorite place. I come home feeling parched down to my soul, but being in landscapes that are so vividly not our own is important, and I'm glad to have gone.

Joshua Tree National Park, April 2013
Death Valley National Park, March 2012
The Grand Canyon
Labor Day 2012 was spent here. It was hot, the hiking was tough, the canyon is spectacular.

Heading North towards San Francisco
God, do I love this city. Every time I got north of Ventura I questioned all of my life decisions. Going to Monterrey, Carmel, Palo Alto and Napa should also be included here. I also was able to get to Portland and Seattle easily since I'm already on the west coast, and took advantage of those place as well.

Wine Tasting Weekends in Paso Robles
One of my favorite discoveries about myself and California is how much I love wine and wine tasting in the laid back town of Paso Robles, exactly half way between LA and San Francisco. The wine is good, the people are easy to talk to and the oak trees are spread throughout the rolling hills of the vineyards. Cambira, about a half hour away, is my favorite little town in the world, right on the coast.

Tide poolin' like masters!

My roommates at the Sout El Molino house

August 2012-June 2014 may have been the most fun I've ever had with roommates. The house flowed so smoothly, even in the transition between one year and the next when two girls moved in and out. We've spent many nights drinking wine, telling stories and laughing until all hours. They are rocket scientists, astronomers and bring other Cal Tech folks around the house for BBQs. They are from California, Russia, England, Japan, Texas and Boston. I have been so lucky to share my home with all of you: Anna, Melodie, Lauren, Masha, Hannah and Miki! (and Jezelle, our honorary roommate)

And I can't forget our dear Baby German (Greg), who lived with us both summers I was in Pasadena and smelled amazing. He apparently has no idea how he does it. 

I went for one night, had a perfect combination of relaxing at the spa, drinking just enough, dancing just enough, gambling JUST a little and eating a huge breakfast with wonderful women before I came home. Never need to do this again, I imagine.

I'm gonna get really Los Angeleno on you, but going to a the Hollywood Forever cemetery, making a picnic along with your wine and beer and watching a movie as the sun sets is a pretty good way to spend a summer night.

The Mumford and Sons Concert
I felt a 60's vibe out in the hot hot hills of San Bernadino where we sat for hours waiting for the band to finally make it's way on stage. The whole hillside was a fashion show, happy party and mad gathering of 20,000 people. I'm not huge on concerts, but this one was out of this world. 

Kings Canyon and Sequoia National Parks

Zion National Park 

Bur Sur
You can read all about my dipping into my Papa's past in Big Sur here. I was lucky enough to go back 3 more times - twice camping in and once backpacking into the hills to secret hot springs.  Every time I'm there, I certainly feel like I'm intruding on his story and his past - there is something about the place that is not truly mine - but I'm glad I get to be a guest there from time to time.

Redwoods National Park

Finally Climbing Mount Lukens
My friend Joey and I tired to climb this mountain - the highest in LA City limits at an elevation of over 5,000 ft - in January of 2013 and failed miserably because of the heat, the altitude change and simple unpreparedness. We promised each other we'd do it by the end of the year, and in December we made it to the top, where you can see above the Verdugos, all the way from Malibu to San Perdo and across the San Gabriels. It was incredible. And really hard.

An earthquake! It didn't happen until I was nearly done with my time (March 2014). After years of saying wistfully "I only want one just big enough that I can feel it, not so big that anything actually happens." I got my earthquake early in the morning and had to sit for a minute, then log onto facebook to be sure that was actually what had woken me up. Before that happened, my coworkers got me a bottle of "Earthquake" wine for my 24th birthday, trying to get me to stop asking for a natural disaster to strike.

Which brings me to My coworkers at Mayfield. I have been blessed for the last two years with a truly fantastic work environment in the Development Office at Mayfield Senior School. I could not have asked for a better, harder working group of women who make me happy to be in the office every day, and from whom I learned so much. 

Mammoth Lakes
A skier's oasis in the Sierra Nevada mountains, this year was not a great winter for the slopes because of the drought and lack of snow across the state. We still rented a cabin, played lots of games, hiked up in the snow, felt a true chill in the air.

This one was a big one, but I couldn't only go for a single weekend, partly because it's so far from LA, and because I know the park shouldn't just be taken in within those few, short hours. I finally made it, with an awesome group of friends, in May 2014. I can't wait to go back and spend a week in the Valley, just relaxing and marveling!

That feels like so much... and there is obviously so much more in three years of life. I've been blessed to have my assumptions proven wrong about Los Angeles, my gateway to the rest of amazing California.

Help fund my artistic journey through Northern Ireland where I will be researching and finishing my book, working title Dear Bird for 3-4 months. Learn more about my campaign and donate here. Thank you!