Blog to granite

Back in the fall of 2016 I hiked to the top of Half Dome in Yosemite National Park with a friend. It was incredible!

To prepare for this trip, I read just about every blog post and forum discussion I could find on the subject. How to prepare. What to pack. What to expect. How to get from the floor of Yosemite Valley to the top of that hulking granite formation. This one was my absolute favorite – check out those jean shorts! It’s quite the retrospective on how Half Dome (and hiking attire) has changed.

Where I live in the PNW (and here in the American West generally) we are surrounded by extraordinary outdoor spaces. Having access to good information can help you find them, safely access them, and treat them with the respect they demand.

If you’re new to hiking or looking for good day hikes and overnights in Oregon and Washington, check out Oregon Hikers and The Outbound Collective.

Keep doing things!


Why “Doing Things”

After college, the next step is to sort of to settle into a life. What we call real life in the real world is, you might find, no more or less real than the life you were living before.

When I graduated with a BA and got my first full-time, salaried job I found myself, to my profound surprise, with a lot of extra time on my hands. After years of class and homework and extracurriculars and practice and games and tournaments and volunteering and easy summer jobs I suddenly had a simple mandate: go to work, work, then go home. I had no dependents and the fewest obligations I had ever had. It was shocking. How to fill this unstructured time?

Doing things became my mantra. Doing things is about going places, trying stuff, learning new skills, accessing new ideas, and not worrying about whether you’re any good at any of it. It’s doing things for the pure pleasure of trying something new.

Doing things is for health – mental health, physical health, spiritual health. Doing things can lead you to new friendships. Doing things can deepen old ones. Doing things is about cultivating skills and hobbies that you may be able to do for the rest of your life. Doing things is about living even when no one is watching.

Reading is doing things.

Learning to caramelize onions is doing things.

Traveling by yourself is doing things.

Camping in Eastern Oregon until every mosquito in a 30-mile radius has bitten you is doing things.

Skating across your living room floor in slippers is doing things.

Developing a skincare routine is doing things.

Hiking is doing things.

Replaying the handshake scene from The Parent Trap over and over until you learn it is doing things.

Learning how to do yoga for free using YouTube is doing things.

Everything is doing things.

One of my first doing things hobbies was learning to shoot film. I started small with a Kodak Funsaver. Low barrier to entry, low pressure. Eventually, I bought a Pentax K1000 – a camera so beautiful and heavy they don’t even make them anymore. I learned how to load film by watching YouTube videos and read blogs about film photography to figure out the difference between aperture and shutter speed.

I love taking a photo and thinking Well, I hope that turned out! then moving on. I delight in the delayed gratification of finishing a roll of film, driving the negatives to the local Rite Aid, and waiting a week until I can see what they look like. There are surprises, good and bad, in every stack.

I’ll never win a Pulitzer or have my “collection” featured at a gallery, but I’m very proud of myself for learning to how to use my Pentax. If the apocalypse comes and everything is analog, I’ll be able to document it!

I implore you, I entreat you, and I challenge you – go out, do things!


The importance of boredom

Forces have converged recently that seem to be sending a singular message: unplug.

I am just over halfway through an accelerated masters program, and as such I’m spending a lot of my time taking in other people’s ideas. They come from the highly-educated, the experts. Smart people! Sometimes, though, it feels like the intellectual equivalent of Paul Newman trying to eat 50 hard-boiled eggs in one hour in Cool Hand Luke.

On The Ezra Klein Show podcast, guest Cal Newport introduces the idea of digital minimalism. He posits that what we are lacking in the digital age is solitude. True solitude, by his definition, does not necessitate going off to a remote cabin to read a large stack of books. Solitude is time when we are not taking in the words and ideas of other people. By his definition, we can find solitude nearly anywhere, from a secluded hiking trail to a crowded metro car.

Both Newport and Manoush Zomorodi, in her TED Talk, tells us that our brains are best at untangling the most vexing metaphorical knots when we are “bored” or when we can find solitude. In a world where, as Anne Helen Petersen put it, we feel obligated to capitalize on all our spare time in order to “optimize” ourselves, we are likely doing ourselves more harm than good.

In this MA in Teaching program, I’m preparing for a career as a high school teacher. As such, I’ve been hoarding sources that I think will be valuable for my students to cultivate an awareness of their own learning, cognition, and mental health. For your enjoyment, here are some of the most valuable resources on this topic. After you take them in, go find some solitude.

The Ezra Klein Show – Cal Newport has an answer for digital burnout (Podcast)

Manoush Zomorodi – How boredom can lead to your most brilliant ideas (TED Talk)

Anne Helen Petersen – How Millennials Became The Burnout Generation (Buzzfeed Article)

Keep doing things!

Yours in solitude and boredom,


Here we are

The purpose of this blog is to try new things and then write about them. From here, I’ll be keeping you posted on the stuff I’m doing, the places I’m going, and the things I’m trying from the Pacific Northwest and beyond. I hope that you, dear reader, will do the same.

To start, let’s go backward. About eight months ago I returned to the US after just about eight months of living in Avignon, France. This means I’ve now been home as long as I was away. I recently revisited the first thing I wrote upon my arrival in France. In the spirit of reflection and #doingthings, here it is.

I live here now

Open your inbox early in the summer and see a note that you’ve been waiting to see for six months. Acceptance to TAPIF 2017-2018 – Académie d’Aix-Marseille – Primary.

Acceptance. Exhale.

Académie d’Aix-Marseille. Aix-en-Provence. Marseille. Southern France. Ideal location.

Primary. French children. Children that barely speak English. Small hesitation.

Spend two months thinking about your life and whether you can or should leave the country for this. Remain outwardly resolute. Waffle a little inside, but press on. There’s a lot to do in the intervening months.

Say goodbye to people you love. Say goodbye to people you like. Say goodbye to people you barely know. Many people tell you they want to come visit. You hope that some will.

Reflect on the past three years in a job that was equal parts challenging and routine and fun and frustrating and gratifying. Try to figure out how to express your gratitude to the smart and hardworking people who showed you what it means to be a good colleague and good worker. Do your best to convey to your successor the best parts and the hardest parts in a quick interview and a longwinded transition memo.

Try to express how you feel about the people you love. They are wonderful. They let you sleep at their house and come to your weirdly-timed goodbye lunch and take you shopping for a raincoat and run to the store for you when you’re not finished packing the night before you leave. They hold onto copies of your important documents and make time for you at the end of a beautiful summer. They don’t say bye, they say “Have fun” and “Be safe” and “I’m saving for a visit” and “See you later.”

Fly out of PDX around 3:30 in the afternoon. Layover in Reykjavik long enough to connect to wifi and queue up. Swedes observe the line. French people do not. Decide you’re going to be French and jockey for position.

Land in Paris at 13:00 local. Buy a Carte Jeune and a ticket for the next train to Avignon. Kill two hours waiting for the train. Buy a sandwich for the ride because nothing will be open when you get to your hostel. (Unless you want your first meal in France to be McDonalds. You do not want that.) The train takes three hours and you sleep like a baby because of the gentle motion of the high speed train. Rock me mama like a wagon wheel. Doze in and out of sleep for three hours. Arrive at the Avignon TGV station. Rush to a kiosk to get a ticket to the city center. It’s past 20:00 (8:00pm) now. Take the local and you’re in Avignon.

Walk out of the train station and into the dark with no wifi and no map but a general idea of where the hostel is. Lug a 26kg suitcase, a backpack, and a tote bag through the city gates up the street. Sweat. Wonder why you have so much stuff. Sweat more. Wonder if you’re close. Think about throwing out all of your possessions. How many shirts does a person need? Why did you bring so many sweaters? It’s warm here! Get the wheel of your suitcase caught in the sidewalk. Drop a quiet F bomb. Look up. You’re here! You live here now.

Thanks for reading! Keep doing things!


Once in a while you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.