Sunday, October 29, 2017

Breaking News: Summer is Hot

Sunday, August 20, 2017

This picture has almost nothing to do with this post.  But I HAVE been painting rocks this summer, so maybe kinda relevant? Maybe?

Remember when I said that thing about wanting to update weekly or something?

Yeah.  That.

Not so much.

Instead, I dug into that bag of stuff that needed finishing in early June and woke up at the end of July, covered in glitter and something that I hope was sequins but may have been a woodchippered clown, with no recollection where I was or what was happening.

Okay, fine.  Not really.

But I did finish up a whole lot of half-done stuff, start my Kamana classes in earnest (only took me two years), and melted in early August.  (It was HOT in the northwest. Like, desert at midsummer at midday hot.  We're not used to it up here, so most of us were hanging out in the frozen food section at the Safeway, trying not to drip sweat on our Hungry Man dinners.)

Summer's about half done here.

Well, more than half done.  But our Autumns are mild and summerlike, and they last a lot longer than Fall did in the midwest, where we had maybe three days of comfortable weather between the summer fry-down and our first blizzard.  So I count our Fall as a late summer thing.

I'm still going to be lucky to get maybe half my list done.  But I did other things that were just as cool, so I'm not complaining.

I'll round it up at the end of Fallmer.  Sumtumn?  Whatever.  You know what I mean. 

Hope your summer has been full of sun, iced tea, and pool noodles, y'all.


Saturday, May 20, 2017

So I mentioned letterboxing.

Every time I mention it on Facebook, I get a slew of questions from people who have no idea what that is.  And that's kind of by design -- letterboxing is kind of a secretive activity.  Not because it's illicit or anything, but because secrecy is required to keep the boxes safe from prying eyes.  

Essentially, if you know what Geocaching is, this predates it, and is generally geocaching for Luddites.

Instead of needing a GPS or a fancy phone, you use clues.  Written clues.  Maybe a compass, if a box-planter is feeling cheeky.

A whole rash of people involved in this activity have made boxes, which they then hide in secret, secure places, usually out in nature.  (Though not always.  Some are inside.  But they're in the minority.)  They write clues to where the box is located, and the finders use those clues to go find the box.

When they find one, inside is a stamp and a small logbook.  None of that trinkety stuff you find in geocaches -- just a simple stamp and a logbook.  Sometimes those are hand-carved/handmade, sometimes they're store-bought.  The stamp isn't really the focus, just a bonus -- the hike is the real star of the show.

A finder carries with him/her a personal stamp to represent himself, and a journal.  S/he stamps HER stamp in the logbook, and the box's stamp in her journal.  It's like proof s/he found it.  S/he then boxes everything back up securely, and replaces it where she found it, hidden from view and as safe as possible from wildlife or accidental finding by random humans, so that it can be found by the next person with clues.

Clues are generally on one of two sites.  I prefer AtlasQuest, though LBNA was the first site online.  (I find AQ to be easier to navigate, with better updates on a box's condition.  LBNA was once the *only* place to find clues, and they're not always that great at updating boxes that are missing.  And since I am nothing if not profoundly lazy, I really hate putting on pants for nothing.)

I've been letterboxing since 2000.
Yep.  You read that right.

Nearly 17 years, at the time of this writing.  My first actual find was in 2001 (the first box I looked for was gone.), and once I had that first win?  Totally addicted.  The Pacific Northwest had some of the most prolific boxers at the time, and I was in love with stamp carving, so placing boxes was fun, too.

I kind of got away from it when I moved to the rural midwest, because there simply weren't enough people (at the time) who knew about it.  There weren't many boxes, and placing them was just kind of sad, since nobody wanted to drive five hours off the nearest interstate to come find my plants, even if they were awesome stamps.  (I can't blame anyone for that.)  Plus, the hikes were so much less exciting in the middle of a cornfield than they were in the middle of a forest.

I tried again when I was in Omaha, then again when we moved to North Carolina.  There were more boxes in NC, but our living situation wasn't ideal, and getting away to box wasn't a priority.

So moving back out here got me all kinds of excited.

(For a lot of reasons, but letterboxing was among the reasons. :D)

Now that we're settled in, I've been hunting and placing boxes again all over this area.  I have a thousand ideas for series (multiple boxes along one larger hike), and  my list of printed clues is about a billion miles deep.

Most of the time,  I won't walk to the fridge unless there's a compelling reason to do so, but you dangle a stamp and a "find" in front of me like a particularly awesome scavenger hunt, and I AM SO THERE.

Over this summer, I'm trying to find another 30+ boxes and place another 20+ boxes.  I'm finding that I'm much more excited about placing them than finding them right now, but that flips around from time to time.  I'll probably end up showing some of the stuff I'm working on, in fact.

If you don't want to be spoilered on the stamps in my boxes, you may not want to look this summer. :)  (Or you could just enjoy the hike and getting the F, too.  There's that.)

Do check out AtlasQuest if this sounds fun.  There are probably at least a few boxes in your area, and there's a whoooole lot more info about how the game's played there, too.

It's really, really fun. 

Summer's Approaching, so Goals

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

you have arrived | thewandersociety.com

I kind of hate the word "goals".

It's too formal.  It makes me think that things are set in stone, which makes my inner Rebel go all I don't THINK so.  I haven't come up with a better word yet.  Intentions, maybe.  (Though that word's loaded for me, too.)

Regardless, I have Stuffs I Wanna Do This Summer, and "goals" is about the only way to put it, so...there we are.

So without further ado:

Stuffs I Wanna Do This Summer

(with "summer" being defined as "until the rain is below about 55 degrees-ish", since summer in the PNW can be...unpredictable.)

  1. Two camping trips minimum.
    I have a powerful need for some tent and tree time this year.  In the past two summers I've been here, logistics have been an issue.  This year, not so much.  So I'm taking the dog and heading out to somewhere green at LEAST twice.  In fact, I'll need to set those dates here very soon, just so I can post about them for some accountability.
  2. PNW 101 List.
    While I haven't been actively working the list since I made it (again, logistics of having an elderdog that can't be left alone for very long and can't go with me, etc.), I have been checking things off of it.  This summer, I want to tackle it like a linebacker, and maybe place a few letterboxes (or find existing ones!) while I'm out there exploring.
  3. Blog more regularly.  (1x week minimum)
    This is largely for me and, obviously, has already started.  I keep a paper journal, but I like being able to put my pictures somewhere with my witty observations about life and local travel.  (Ha! Ahem.)  Plus, I feel like writing in public has more accountability.  So there, writer's block.  Chew on that. :)
  4. WONDER/WANDER (zine)
    This is secondary to the actual wandering (as defined by the wander society, see the link above), but with the Every Day Everyday thing, I've kind of fallen in love with layouts of sketching and writing together.  I want to document my summer wanders and put them together into some kind of publication.  Probably a zine, definitely called WONDER.  I'm aiming for a Septemberish completion date.
  5. Bind all the Things 
    I've been working on binding all the books that I had stuff for, largely to use up the materials I'd been hoarding during my Weirdo Prepper-Adjacent Moments after the tornado.  I've got most of them cut and assembled, and most just need either a cover design and/or stitching.  I'd like to get all those done in the coming weeks, and throw them on etsy.  I need the space. :)
  6. Finish Outstanding Writing Projects
    There are a few.  Plus, I'm in a competition that I'll talk more about once I've got a few challenges under my belt.  But my list of Things To Write is longer than my compiled Time In Which To Write Them at this point, and the balance throws off my mojo.  Time to buck up and just finish some things that have been started.
  7. Letterboxing!
    I will totally be writing entries about this at some point.  Now that I'm back out here where hiking's an actual Thing, (and the logistics stuff is cleared up, natch) I've been 'boxing like a mad fiend.  I love that it gets me out of the house and walking, and enjoying the amazing PNW wildlands.  I'm aiming for a P(lace) count of 75 (I'm at 53 now), and a F(ind) count of 150 (I'm at 130 now).  Those goals are more than doable.  I may need to adjust them upward, even.
  8. Start Using My Stuff.
    I have a bag of stuff here that I wanted to use for particular projects (and, to be honest, some of it just because it was shiny).  Once I'm done with my paintings (another entry, coming soon), I want to dive into the Bag o' Awesome and do what I can with it.  I may love making All The Things; I may not.  But I want to try it so I know for sure.  (It's stitching-related, for the record.)
  9. Bike 100 miles.
    Jezebel and me....we've got a date.  I'm getting her tuned up as we speak, and then it's on.  100 miles doesn't sound like a lot to a "real" cyclist, but for me, who can get winded walking to the fridge to get another ice cream sandwich, it's a lofty goal, but a reachable one.  Again, I might adjust that up if I blow it out of the water too soon.
So there we go.  Nine things while the sun shines.

(Of course, the sun shining thing is kind of malleable up here in the trees, but you get my drift.)

I have some other stuff that's kind of minor -- reading a certain amount, establishing routines, finishing challenges.  But for the most part, my biggun's are there.

What are you guys doing this summer?

Everyday Everyday: A Thing.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

So, I'm kind of doing a Thing.

Like most Things I end up doing, I didn't really mean for it to be A Thing.  

I swear, all my best ideas end up coming about from offhanded stuff.  The stuff I plan meticulously?  Never happens, never catches on with me.  Stuff I come up with at three a.m. and think hey that might be cool, I'll just do it and think about it as I go along, always ends up being awesome.

There's a lesson in there for me, I think.

Anyway, the Thing.

I'm still trying to make sketching an every day habit.  And while I've been doing it quite regularly, I noticed I've been relying a lot on drawing from references.  

Now, there's no shame in that.  Every sketch makes you a better sketcher.  I truly believe that.

But my sketchbooks were starting to look a little, I dunno, sanitized maybe.  Like, "here is my pretty drawing of XYZ", instead of what I really LIKE to look back on, which is the stuff in my life.  When I look back at old sketchbooks, the entries that grab me aren't the well-rendered landscapes or detailed watercolors, even ones that come from my own imagination.

What grabs me are the stupid things.  The empty Dr. Pepper can on my desk in watercolor.  The sketches of my dogs sleeping, even though they look kind of like cookies that someone's only half-baked.  Studies of flowers I've brought in from outside, or drawn while I was out there.

I like to look back on the stuff that's my everyday life.

So I started on May 1st, drawing my everyday life, every day.

They're sketches, and I don't care if they look good, so there's no pressure.  It's just me, a pen, and my life.   Sometimes, that's collections of things.  Sometimes it's more than one drawing on a page.  Sometimes it's an actual story.

But it's all mundane, everyday life, examined closely and recorded.  It's becoming one of my most cherished daily practices.

I'm kind of loving it a little.

On Routines

Friday, May 12, 2017

Let me just say this right away:

I love routines.  I love being able to put things on autopilot and just do them as if by muscle memory.  I love knowing what's coming next so I don't forget important things.

Or, rather, I should say...I love the idea of routines.

In practice, however, I forget I have them.

I know.  It's some kind of Airhead Syndrome.  I've had it since birth.  If something's not right in my face, it no longer exists.  

(Sidenote:  Once, there was this article in some dog magazine about how you can test your dog's intelligence by showing him a treat in your palm, fisting up your hands and switching the hand the treat's in.  You then show your dog your fists and see how long it takes for him to find the treat.  The shorter the time, the smarter the dog, supposedly.

Were I a dog, I would forget we were playing a game and wander off to look at butterflies.  I'm just saying.)

So routines tend to be kind of hit-or-miss with me.

I love them.  I want to have them.  I just don't have the mental wherewithal to come up with them most of the time, since most of my IQ points are at the bottom of the third cup of coffee.

That said, I've been trying for the past year to come up with a morning routine that works.

And to fight my scatterbrain, I had to start writing it out, every day, in my bullet journal.  

Every. Blessed. Day.  For nearly a year.  (Partially because sometimes, I don't remember there's a bullet journal until the end of the third cup of coffee, too.  I know.)

It's not all that impressive, as far as routines go.

  • Get up. (duh)
  • Make coffee. (of course)
  • Make J's lunch.
  • Do any waiting dishes and/or laundry.
  • Write until your brain wakes up.

That's it.  None of that fancy Miracle Morning junk with inspired reading or meditation or -- heaven forbid -- exercise.  I need to be awake for that stuff, or I'll end up running into a tree with my person.

It's even more sad that I have to write it out every day once you see how short and obvious the list is, I know.

That said, it's been the best thing I've done in the past year.

Because it's so short, it doesn't intimidate me.  I don't feel any resistance, which I totally WOULD if that list was any longer/more complicated.  And I give in to resistance all the time, so this is awesome.

I hate doing dishes to an almost pathological degree, so by doing them first thing in the morning, I get to feel all smug and accomplished for the rest of the day.  (The rest of my day, once the Smart comes back on in my eyes, is much more complicated than this, so, y'know, simple victories, et. al.)

The writing part is kind of like morning pages, but without the pretension.  I write in my paper journal for however long I want to.  Sometimes that's a page, sometimes that's fifteen pages.  But I tend to write about what I'm doing that day, which clarifies it and amps me up to do it, and on days when I don't write it out, I get way less done.  

There's something to be said for simplicity.

Sometimes, I think I want to add more to this list.  Walk the dog first thing,  or draw something.  Something less brain-dead.  

But the fact is: my tiny little routine is good for me.  I don't need more than that to launch off into my awesome days.  And I'd rather be too sparse with it than overly complicated.

Simple is best.

What do you guys do every day?  Do you have a routine, formally established or not?

A couple of book type things

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

When I hibernate, I read.

I'm also still trying to have Reading Retreats every four weeks, where I'm tackling the pile of books here, but I have to admit something about those:

Free (or really cheap) ebooks seem to be cheap for a reason.

I've found some really great books that way, but for a while there, I seem to have been downloading anything with a decent-sounding synopsis without bothering to read the "look inside" bit first, which resulted in a pretty long string of things that weren't my cup of tea.

(That said, I also bought and downloaded, or just bought, in paper form a whole lot of books that should never have come home with me.  Call it an overexuberance of delight in having so much entertainment so readily available.)

ANYWAY, that said:

I've uncovered some kind of fun stuff in my reading-for-volume weeks that I haven't updated or shared about here yet.  So here are a few that I really liked:

Driving Sideways
Jess Riley

A young woman who's just received an organ transplant decides that the best way to celebrate life is by taking an epic road trip -- partially to find her mother, partially to go find the family of her organ donor, partially just to do something crazy for once.  Things go sideways from the first rest stop, and what follows is the epic story of an epic trip.  

Doree Shafrir

If you've ever worked in tech, known someone who works in tech, or silently watched the tech world with a fair bit of fascination -- this book will feel kind of eerily close to startup culture for you.  It's funny, well-written, and engaging, right up to the very end.  (The ending is a little abrupt, but given how good the rest of it is, I'd still give it 4.5 stars.)  Most of the male characters will make you want to stab them in the face eventually, but the female friendships/relationships are worth the whole story.

The Mermaid's Sister
Carrie Anne Noble

I went through this spate of downloading a whole bunch of fiction kindle unlimited books with an audiobook included.  This is one of the ones that I listened to, and it was really fabulous.  It's a fairy tale, but not tedious or one of those rewritten ones that's become almost omnipresent lately.  It's original, fun, and totally readable.  Told from the perspective of the sister of a girl who's turning into a mermaid in front of her very eyes (inexorably slowly, though), the race to uncover how to save the sister is told alongside her own story.  Definitely one of my favorites so far this year.

I also signed up for the Book of the Month mailings for the next three months.

I used to be wary of those things where you didn't have much control over what arrived, but after two shipments (of which Startup was the first), I've been impressed by what they've picked.  And now that I'm down to almost only kindle editions in my library (I've only got a few fiction books left in my physical stacks, thanks to the legendary simplicity kick I've been on...), it's kind of nice to read page after page of fiction on paper once in a while. 

It feels a little decadent even.  I like that. :)

What are you reading?  Suggestions?

© G O * E X P L O R I N G Maira Gall.