‘That kind if day’

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At around 4 AM I usually sleepily become aware that I need to turn over or pee or that it might be morning. By 5:30 or 5:45 Abby (now known as Cheshire) or I has begun stirring and shuffling: hiking clothes on. Sleeping bag packed. Tent rolled and stuffed. Then breakfast, sometimes silently, sometimes with whatever remark we can manage about the day; “it was warm last night”, “lots of climbing to do today”.

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San Gorgonio Mt.

Once packs are on backs, we start walking, usually around 6:45-7:00. Then we walk all day. We take breaks mid-morning, a long one mid-day, and maybe another short one late afternoon. The terrain is varied; some days we hike up into considerably tall mountains, ones with trees and thinner air, and sometimes we hike deep into the heat of the sandy desert floor. My point is, we spend most of every day doing the same thing. With the same person. On the same schedule.

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Our campsite at close to 9,000 ft elevation, below San Jacinto Mt.

So why is it that some days feel so different than others? Why can I wake up to a grumpy morning? Why can I appreciate everything one day, and resent it the next? There is an internal climate in both of us that is fairly independent of external factors. We are slowly becoming more sensitive to its nuances and tendencies. So then I wonder, how much should I try to get a grip on myself, and how much should I let moods run their course? Some mornings it is all I can do to shake a bad dream, or the intimidation a log day poses. So far, I have decided that the more I experience this discomfort, the less I will feel it in the future. Much of it has to do with being with doubt, which is a pretty big thing to sit with – especially before breakfast. We are also learning how to work off each other – how to ask for alone time, how to provoke cheer (singing, anyone?!), and how to avoid unnecessary heart wrenching doubt (brig extra water, tape a blister, walk slower etc.).

Highlights in pictures:

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Cheshire notices a very long train!!

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WATER!! In the desert no less! Good flow for a foot soak and a cooling head dunk.

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San Jacinto fades into the distance….

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Big blister on the tiny toe

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Sunrise hike!!

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The Hollywood animals caged next to the PCT. Lion sighting in the early morning!!

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TRAIL MAGIC! In that container was fresh fruit, soda, water, fig newtons, and a trail log. Awesome beyond imagination.

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Lake sighting!

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Oh, Walking

After our first sweaty day of hiking, I spent the night shivering in the valley of Hauser Creek trying to reconcile my preconceived idea of the PCT with my actual experience. I felt awkward and new, like a chunky square puzzle piece – much too clean, too eager, working too hard and inefficiently.

Where was the casual efficiency of packing my pack every morning, that I had pictured? Where was the boisterous and sometimes quiet elation of getting around the next corner, or to camp at night? Where was the vivid noticing of vistas, plants, and rocks? Where was the unreserved personal freedom I had expected to feel upon my first footstep in the sand?
Well it turns out they call it the beginning of the trail for a reason. 7 days later, still at the beginning of the journey, I have experienced some of these things… but I am still learning. More importantly, I have gained a sense of pace.

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Eagerness can strangely turn into something close to gluttony – a desire to rush through miles simply to have accomplished it, to skip through time simply to be more competent. Walking is slow. Our longest day so far, a grueling 22 miles, left me defeated at the thought of a car driving my 6:30 AM – 7:30 PM slog in less than half an hour!! But is that why I am hiking a long footpath through the remaining wilds of the American west? The pace of walking allows for it to be defined by far more than transportation! It is, among other things, a platform for exploration, friendship, reflection, singing, and eating peanut butter. Each day can hold a celebration of the warmth of morning sun and the shade of a highway bridge at noon. It is a wondrous feeling to gaze at a mountain range all day only to realize that the next, we will explore its contours and inhabitants at close range.

Putting miles on the old legs still hurts a lot. If I were to give one piece of advice to future hikers it would be TRAIN!! With a full pack on your back, with your shoes on your feet, lots of miles. My feet and knees are the only body parts that still suffer significantly, and especially the first four days I would go so far as to say that walking was at times agony. So much pain. But replacing the pain is competence and confidence (and a nice day of rest). Our bodies and minds are adjusting to the pace of walking, and it is exciting! We often take breaks mid day to escape to heat and drink loads of water if we can stop near a water source, taking off our shoes and ridiculously stylish wide brim hats to sit quietly in the shade. Ahh, siesta. Then back to the dusty trail! More later, here is some footage!

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Onward and Westward!

Big news!! Another dark winter has passed!

A brief winter catch-up:

This winter I worked for Maine Huts and Trails at a hut on the edge of Flagstaff Lake (the foot of the Bigelow Mountains, just north of Sugarloaf). Days and days of cooking, dishwashing and cleaning took place. I met many people interested in outdoor recreation. I skied almost every day. I fed a wood stove every day…and am very proud to have learned how to split wood. What raw catharsis! I think winter is best enjoyed outside of the city, where driving is not desirable and the snow becomes more of a pleasure than a nuisance. Snow is also a big economic contributor to the area (Sugarloaf and Maine Huts), and so people LOVE it!! Me too. 

Onto the summer project: the Pacific Crest Trail. Since arriving back in Portland on Monday I have been doing the insane organizing scramble of last-minute PCT gear and packing for college in Prescott, Arizona. The organizing scramble included selling my car to a wonderful friend!! But Bernie will be sorely missed.

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My current plan is to hike the trail from the border of Mexico to Manning Park, in Canada, and fly directly from Vancouver to Arizona. I recently got my three necessary permits in the mail: a long distance hiking permit for the PCT corridor, a permit to enter Canada by foot through the PCT corridor, and a California fire permit (with severe limitations this year because of the drought).  Here is my gear set up excluding my Tarptent: 

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Now to try fitting it all in the pack!

 

 

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10 Days to Take Off

Arriving at Wednesday of the last week of classes brings to mind…

The List of Things that Terrify Me:

1) I will separate from some wonderful people who live in far away cities and countries around the ENTIRE WORLD. Luckily, this means we can have less expensive and more comfortable globe trotting experiences later on, but unluckily this means that we are now counting the years until we will meet again, rather than the days. 

2) No more drawing and outdoor life (more about this later on)

3) The dreaded sorting, packing, piling, selling, donating, gifting, and dumping of all of the things that have accumulated in our lovely room, which brings me to:

4) leaving our lovely east-facing room,  a room that accentuates the morning light (when it is sunny) and is especially cozy.  

5) Experiencing travel-induced worrying about when to get the train to the airport to the airport to the bus to the home. 

6) What to expect coming back to the United States of America? I think what excites and terrifies me more than the question is that I have no expectations or predictions about how it will feel and what it will look like and how shocking it could be. My mind and heart are tabula rasa. 

There are also things that thrill me: 

1) Seeing in real, 3-D form many people I love and care about. 

2) Choosing what food I eat. 

3) A clean walk from the shower to my room without feeling like I want to wash my feet again. 

4) The moment I get to kiss my ukulele hello. 

5) Snow??!! 

The first band up at Vinterlyd last weekend was a Latin American band with great dance music. Unfortunately, lots of people didn’t feel comfortable dancing at the beginning of the party, and it was a great shame that the band didn’t appear again later in the night. They were followed by some DJs and a variety of other bands… until 4 in the morning! I stayed up until 3, which is a record for me here (I think my previous record was 12 or so, to give you an idea of my party spirit). In any case, it was fun to see the school all dressed up with icicles and snowflakes and icebergs and tin-foil, and to see everyone so lively. Sunday the cleaning began at 12, and with a communal effort, was finished by 2. 

Tuesday, the drawing class showed our work for the school. It was fun to see all of the work side by side, and so sad to say goodbye to that class!! 

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The last outdoor class was a harrowing run/bike followed by freezing stream exploration, which concluded with each of us crawling through a drainage pipe. It was so much fun and the class bonded more than ever with our numb fingertips and toes!! After we took hot showers, we gathered for fireplace hygge – complete with candles, cookies, light chains, blankets, tea, cuddling, and of course, a puzzle.

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The course was aptly named “winter is coming”, and the weather gods seemed in agreement when it snowed the day after our watery adventure! 

 

Some reflections… (but don’t worry, there will be more)

I was looking through my journal and found this image: 

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In early November, Garba asked, “How to let go when we have all of these temptations?” He was asking how we can let go of the temptation of plentiful information enough to really listen – listen to others, and listen to ourselves. How can we hear another person when we are texting someone else? How can we know what we love to do when we are torn between all of the possibilities? How can we let go of the nostalgia of home to create a new one? How can we know truth from fiction in a world of manipulated media, and so much media? How can we pull ourselves away from clicking the news to participating in the news?  I think the question is very similar to, how can I embrace? 

 On the next page I wrote, “What does it mean to embrace? Embrace means a hug. To hug yourself, to hug another, to hug the dirt of the earth’s crust and the worms inside.” Embrace is warm. It is the result of the process of a passive action, “let go”, becoming more active: “embrace”.

But then more questions…What am I most challenged to embrace? How is this part of my personal passage? My role in this community? And how can I do it?  

Part of being in a new and different environment has been examining my culture through my identity, and vice versa. Because of this examination, I feel more connected with myself through time than ever before. And so part of my learning here has been embracing the connectedness of myself; the unity of my mind and body and heart and essence, the connection between little choices and big choices, the value of an intentional lifestyle, the thread of “me” throughout time. And this lead to trying to embrace the things I can learn from the younger me.

 I found another piece of writing a few weeks after the picture: 

“When I was born, I was very small. I had a lot of needs, but I received a lot of love because I gave love all the time, even when I was sad. I was fascinated by the exploration of anything, like my mom’s chin and the tiny nubs of fabric in the rug. I remember laying on the rug and the extra smell it got when the sun came. I know a lot of objects, like the staircase and the kitchen doorway, very well, because I examined them slowly and carefully before I thought about time. 

When I was still very small I knew I would do great things for all of the people in the world, who I loved very much. I knew it because it seemed easy. I thought all I had to do was show that I love them somehow, because that’s what made the world so beautiful to me. I wish I had never learned the fear that complicated this simple and beautiful sight of the very small me.” 

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The good news was that I found something I have been challenged to embrace. It seems natural that this is part of my personal passage, because it is so closely linked to my identity. And it plays a part in my role in the community because it is about how and why I choose to to be a positive contributor. But how to make the move? 

There are probably infinite ways to approach embracing things…(our outdoor teacher told us to sing a Winnie-the-Pooh song while we waded through the freezing swamp)…But somehow, studying in Denmark has allowed me to begin the challenge of embracing a vision. I have relearned the joy and practice of taking time to examine what and who are around me. I feel a sense of hope and peace about my role in the future of my community.

I have relearned the power of “embrace” in the most literal sense: a hug, or 10 minutes of an undistracted conversation – which seems to always turn into a much longer one. I have learned that letting go of all the temptations has been nearly impossible for me. I have learned that letting go of all the temptations can be more rewarding than chasing them. 

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Sunday

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Sun!! It is the second sunny day in a row here in Humlebæk, so I am up before brunch to sit in the square of sunlight in my room and feel…blissful. 

Last week was a main-subject intensive. I was bummed to be missing out on drawing and outdoor life, but it ended up being an alright week. In Crossing Borders we are starting to put together a magazine about our study tour… rather dull and no one is very invested, which makes it harder for those who have an inkling of motivation about it (I haven’t decided which camp I am in yet). We are also wrapping up a module on conflict and peace, and moving on to project management!! We watched an incredibly disturbing and powerful movie about the conflict in Rwanda early in the week: Sometimes in April. Luca and I are both pretty sensitive, so we were sad for awhile afterwards, but glad to have seen it.

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On Wednesday we had a 12 hour work camp, devoted to readying the school for the Vinterlyd Festival. It is the culmination for the event-making class, and is mostly cold themed with one warm- themed room… where many grown men dragged a tree inside to become a bench! 

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(I am proud to say that my good friends Luca and Tomoko made this logo with stars during the 12 hours work). Krogerup being the place that it is, the teachers dressed up as construction workers and made us a cd to listen to on repeat all day. We could apply for money to buy materials we needed from their “office” where they played poker and drank beer. It turned out to be a fun and very productive day!! 

 

As it always seems to come at the end, I am finally starting to feel at home in Denmark. The train system that once made me nervous seems helpful and navigable; the buildings, once a marker of a foreign land, don’t warrant a second thought as I walk by; the Danish language is not unsettling to my ears as it once was; and the gray weather is well supplemented by the newfound concept of hygge. Yes, I feel comfortable here.

Perhaps this comfort is the first sign that it is time to move on to another challenge. Or perhaps it is the first sign that things are going well here, in Denmark. To me it doesn’t really matter. There is no need to find a meaning in it… it’s already too late to be prophetic, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will enjoy this feeling, and this sunny day, as long as it is here, and I will enjoy hopping on the plane to Maine just as much. For now, the war against time has been relinquished.  Happy SUNday to all!!! Xoxoxoxo,

Sadie

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A brief addition to the post before this…

A picture of the outdoor class directly after the icy dip! I hope Kat McNeil can see her shorts getting some good Danish use!! 

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Sustainability Tour & BEYONNDDD

After Hallingelille, we stopped in Odense, Åarhus, and Samsø.

 

Some pictures from Hallingelille that I didn’t post earlier:

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Roshan from Nepal helping to build their new learning center.

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The troops freezing and fairly miserable at an old ceramics factory turned project for youth to create at/for. 

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My roommate Luca, from Kyoto, outside the factory.

 I was sick in Odense, so spent most of the time there eating food from the nearby seven eleven and watching movies in the hostel. I did find this great picture of Garba doing tai chi, which is one of his classic things to do, in front of a sculpture the group visited while I was sick. 

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In Åarhus we found ourselves in a groovy hostel by the waterfront. We had a lot of free time in Åarhus which allowed for: a flea market visit, some shopping (I was more of a witness), a lovely walk with my best roommate Luca, and a delicious avocado sandwich. In our structured time, we visited the Aros (modern art museum, shown below)Image

and Kaospilot, which is an alternative business and leadership school (shown mingling below).

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Both were incredibly inspiring and everyone in the group had fun with the nightlife in Åarhus…. so much fun in fact that I was glad to leave the loud hallways and sticky floors for

Samsø! Samsø is about 25 or 30 kilometers long, so we had the pleasure of biking everywhere!

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It is 110% renewable energy… meaning that it can actually export it for profit! The difference between Hallingelille and Samsø is that the population on Samsø is made of mostly farmers, and more traditional, conventional people. Some own shares of turbines, solar fields, etc., and they go to show that the whole community does not have to be socially alternative to be energy-alternative. We visited an organic creamery with 8 cows, and tasted some of their delicious cheese! We also visited the Energy Academy, which is the community organization that promotes and educates about sustainability on the island. Image

The group imitating the sculpture outside, “balancing act”. 

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Getting weighed at district heating to see how much oil we are worth! Unfortunately not much since we have so much water inside of us… 

The last full day, we went fishing with the island’s nature school and biked to the very northern tip of the island, which according to Garba hosts the second tallest hill in Denmark. 

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The fisherwomen posing for a picture. 

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Me fishing for my head… 

 

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The infamous hill!

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Peric, from Ghana, jumping at the northern end of the island. I just thought this was a cool picture. 

The Sustainability Tour was a refreshing break from the every-day routine at Krogerup. We had some group dynamic issues, but were fortunate enough to talk about them, and become a lot closer as a result of accepting each other with limitations and flaws, rather than trying to fix them. People always told me it would be hard not to just hang out with the international students, and I wondered why. But on the trip we became so comfortable with each other, and also since most of us are from different places and can only communicate in English there is not a question of language preference or cultural norm.

In terms of the content of the trip, I learned that people have great potential to make things happen, externally and for themselves. We met so many people who had a vision and worked to make it happen. And it happened. How simple and wonderful! I learned that crazy visions can be awesome and that if you believe in and work for something, you will find people who feel the same way and will suddenly have a team. I learned that everything is connected – ecologically, but also thoughts and ideas. The people in Samsø and Hallingelille were much more fulfilled than other people we met — (this thought is influenced by Joanna Macy but) it seemed that in accepting their role in the ecosystem around them, and in the community, they were able to more freely feel confidence, and to be sensitive. Their self awareness was heightened, and they used this awareness to change their behavior for the better. 

Personally, I learned that it only takes a few devoted people initially, to shape a group for the better. I also learned when to be silent. We had a lot of Negative Nancies about some of the activities on the program for the tour. At first, I felt like it was my duty to try to help everyone feel as happy and excited as I was!! It turned out that sometimes people need positivity, and sometimes they really don’t. It can be better to let them feel negative if they want to feel negative, as long as they don’t bring down the group. I also learned that it is important to intervene and sometimes opt out when a situation is wrong. Last, I felt such a sense of freedom in breaking my routine, and would love to take that with me. Just change little things – what time I wake up, what music I listen to, what time I go to sleep, what I eat, what I think about. It makes a big difference. 

So back at school! 

Two events happened in pre-ordained order: we biked a lot on Samsø, and I got Yogi’s Pacific Crest Trail Handbook in the mail. Enjoying the biking so much and fantasizing about the trail while blazing through the handbook (if only I could hike the trail so fast) led  me to start seriously training for the hike. Yesterday I did my first training hike. I loaded up my backpack with books from the library and walked to Helsingør, about 12 miles round trip. I only had my flimsy running shoes, so my feet are hurting today, but on the other hand it helps be know what I need in shoes for the trail (most people recommend sneakers in Southern California and trail runners later on). Since I have to stop at a certain time for school in the fall, and since the Sierras are slow, it is extra important to be in really great hiking shape before I arrive in Southern California and start my hike through the desert. I think everyone who is keeping up with this blog knows about my PCT plan, but basically it is a trail that travels from Mexico to Canada through the Sierras and takes 4-6 months to hike. 

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It is the first reason that I took a gap year, and in 5 short months I will hopefully be hitting the trail in Campo, SoCal. I am currently trying to balance my enthusiasm for the trail and my appreciation for being here right now. Which is mainly working because I have great enthusiasm for my two newest “study group” classes: 

“The Living Line” is a drawing class, taught by an artist who works at the Louisiana (modern art museum across the road). We have only had two classes and I am already in love with the class – we have been using pencil, ink, charcoal and clay with both hands and focusing on drawing things organically from the inside rather than from the contour. Whew! That’s a challenge and such a fun one. 

Outdoor Life is my other study group pursuit. This is unfortunately only once a week, so I have only had one class so far. We ran through the woods and did a bunch of exercises and activities along the way – before walking slowly into the ocean! Brrrr. It was really fun and I could barely walk the next day – our teacher is a bulky guy who plays underwater rugby for fun and teaches crossfit for a living. I am really looking forward to the rest of the class. 

Happy Late-Halloween to y’all! 

Much love,

Sadie

 

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