Monthly Archives: February 2014
I lived in an old pioneer house for a while. It had been built in the 1800s by a Swiss immigrant. It was a great, old house. A young friend of mine came to visit one day and remarked that he thought it was neat I had bought an antique couch to go with it. I giggled to myself. I could understand how it looked like an antique to him, but it was just old. I had paid $20 for it from an old grandmotherly woman. It was probably made in the 1980s or 1990s. I love it. I love the colors, I love that it is broken in and comfortable, and I love how homey it looks. My husband hated it and asked me what my fascination was with ugly furniture. I just laughed.
I have an affinity for old, used, and well-worn things. I like the look of them, the feel of them, and the sense of comfort they bring. When I bring old things home it feels like rescuing an animal from the shelter. They still have value. I also like the thrill of finding something great at a cheap price. It makes me feel like I beat the system while at the same time doing something responsible, ethical, and healthy. I would like to believe that it is purely conscientious motives, but in reality, it is probably also neuroses and my upbringing. My mother was very frugal, and had a knack for decorating simply and elegantly with minimal old and interesting antiques. I’m certain she influenced me. But I think it was the hard knocks of life. When the great recession hit and the construction industry tanked, we tanked with it. It was gut wrenching and humbling. Through it we were forced to re-evaluate what a quality life is. We found out quickly how much our possessions were really worth when we tried reselling them. As we struggled to survive, slowly getting rid of all our unnecessary belongings for extra cash, we discovered the meaning of value. We learned that more is not always better. We learned how to live lean, to buy only what was needed, to splurge on wants sparingly, and in the process, we learned that losing material things didn’t hurt us or change the quality of our life. By losing everything we gained perspective. In a nutshell, we discovered an intentional way to live that freed us up to enjoy things that truly mattered. When we stopped consuming, we discovered that we did have a choice and that when we made wise choices, we gained time and freedom. And it felt good.
I would never suggest that we all must suffer to learn this, but I do believe that because pain is a great teacher, it one best learned from by example rather than experience. Through this process I discovered two essential ingredients to living a quality life: peace of mind and meaning. Living in a meaningful way and having peace of mind is critical to enjoying life – really enjoying life. Financial decisions are a huge part of that. Debt is stressful and in the end, may not be that meaningful. Have you ever gone shopping and felt hollow after? Or stressed out? Have you ever paid for something that brought years of joy to your life? I have. I have things that get used all the time, and things that fill drawers and take up space that I never use. The un-used items were a waste of money, regardless of how much I spent, because I don’t use them. The things I need and love get used to death; literally. It drives my husband crazy, who is meticulous with his things. But I believe that while we should take care of our things, we should get good and meaningful use out of them too. If you look through my things, the pristine items are probably the least used and liked. This is partly why I like buying old things. If they are still in good shape at a thrift store, they are probably solid, sturdy, and well-worn. Or they were barely used, but recycled by someone. Either way, when I buy them used, I don’t stress about them, and for that, I love them. I found an old pair of Lowa hiking boots at a thrift store. They appear to be virtually un-used, but were used enough to be broken in. The hard part was done, and they feel great on my feet. I paid $4 for them. There was no stress, no justification to spend hundreds of dollars for the years of use I could get out of them, and I got a great (normally very expensive) pair of boots for a steal.
But there is a difference between using something and abusing it. I will never buy a thrashed couch, or shoes that look like they have been through a meat grinder. I reuse for many reasons, most of them selfish, but one of them is to try to be good to the earth by being a conscientious and good steward. When I reuse I not only feel like I have done something good, I reap financial benefits that bring well-being and peace to my mind. And, at least in my mind, the earth takes less of an impact. We are going to use the earth, hopefully through love, but we should try not to abuse it. There is a reason we visit National Parks rather than landfills. A well-used and loved planet is like a homey home, a trashed planet, is well, trashy. It can only absorb so much, over-compensate and be stressed so much, and still provide for the lives we live. We have to learn to use the earth well. Using it well does mean using it, but with a mind to be careful with how much and of what we take out, with what we put in, and with not consuming more than we need. How we consume matters. It’s not that it’s not okay to buy new things, I buy new things, but ask yourself if you could find it used, if you really need it, and if buying it will make a significant difference in your life. You might be surprised at the answer.
I had some beautiful morning sunlight to play with today. Here is my attempt to capture it.
“The West is and always should be about silence and space. Lots of it. About endless landscapes that stretch to infinity, and unbroken skies that defy description, and moments of such incredible beauty and clarity that you think you’ll burst if you don’t share this extraordinary moment with someone right now.
And what makes the West so special is that you can’t.
The West has always been about remoteness and unimagined quiet and sometimes it made us crazy trying to decide if we loved it for its solitude or loathed it for its isolation. But it was the West’s unforgiving nature that also made us feel stronger. We chose to live here with all its emptiness and hardship and unforgiving space. Being able to survive the West, on its terms, gave us a leg up on the world.
Still the West made us mad with its contradictions. We’d stand on the summit of a favorite peak or canyon rim and we’d almost be giddy. And then the silence would sweep over us and we’d search for some sign that we aren’t as insignificant as we feel, and we couldn’t. And suddenly our laughter would sound like the hollow giggles of a mad man let loose in a coliseum. And we’d feel so alone and we’d want to tell someone. We’d want to hear a voice. But we couldn’t. Because this is The West — the breathtaking, heartbreaking, unrelenting, unforgiving American West. Or at least, it was…”
Jim Stiles is one of my personal heroes. He is a tragic hero. Tragic in that he is often misunderstood. A hero because he fights for things that matter. He clings tenaciously to ideas of the West that are slipping away. He is, as well, simply human. While I don’t agree with everything he says, I agree with a lot of it, and I respect the man.
The above quote was written by Jim. It is the most articulate, profound, and succinct description of the West and what it invokes in me personally that I have ever read. If you are interested in reading the entire article, it can be found here: http://www.postindependent.com/news/grandjunction/6627805-113/west-facebook-friends-stiles
Jim also publishes the Canyon Country Zephyr – Planet Earth Edition.
It ran for 20 years as a print publication and is now exclusively online. He is also the author of “Brave New West — Morphing Moab at the Speed of Greed.” Both can be found at http://www.canyoncountryzephyr.com.
Running into a setting sun is about as treacherous as driving into one. Running on trail blind is dangerous and dumb. Unseen rocks and dips in the trail can lead to twisted ankles or a broken neck. It keeps you on your toes and on your game. But, sitting down in the warmth of a setting sun after a good long run with a Fat Tire makes it all worth it. Blind spots and Fat Tires: It’s the simple things in life. Keep your eye on the prize.
My juniper smudge came in the mail today. Forgive the Edward Abbey overload, but ever since I read his description of the scent of a juniper fire…
“The fire. The odor of burning juniper is the sweetest fragrance on the face of the earth, in my honest judgment; I doubt if all the smoking censers of Dante’s paradise could equal it. One breath of juniper smoke, like the perfume of sagebrush after rain, evokes in magical catalysis, like certain music, the space and light and clarity and piercing strangeness of the American West. Long may it burn.”
…I have had an intense desire to experience it (After reading that, don’t you too?) So, I finally broke down and bought one. Yes, yes, I could have just gone out in my backyard and picked a branch, dried it, and burned it, but that would make too much sense, plus, isn’t there some sort of smudging process I would miss out on (Oh yes, the being patient part)? Anyway, so I lit it this afternoon …and oh my God…yeees (Deep inhale, low sultry voice). The sense of smell, it is astounding, and here are some fun facts:
• Research has shown that smell is the sense most linked to our emotional recollection. So, when linked to a product, that can reap dividends (Witchy Mama will be stoked)
• Studies show that 75% of emotions are triggered by smell which is linked to pleasure, well-being, emotion, and memory
• The sense of smell is the first of all our senses to develop. Even before we are born, our sense of smell is fully formed and functioning.
• As it turns out, the phrase wake up and smell the coffee is truer than you would imagine. When you are asleep, your sense of smell shuts down. You can only smell the coffee after you have woken up.
• You can smell anew every month as your scent cells are renewed every 28 days, so every four weeks you get a new “nose”.
• Smell is the most sensitive of the senses. People can remember smells with 65% accuracy after a year, while visual recall is about 50% after three months.
Moral of the story? If you want to remember something, or be remembered, use a scent. If you haven’t tried Juniper, I highly recommend it.