Looking to the New Year

'Tis the season for New Year's Resolutions.  Given that I love making lists and setting goals, this has always been a fun activity for me.  Recently, though, I've been reflecting on these lines enough that the new year doesn't particularly stand out to me, other than for writing a post to share this category of thought.

I've moved away from setting specific tasks to accomplish, contrary to the goal setting system, in favor of making life pattern adjustments.  That is, I have finally found a rhythm that allows me to accomplish vague goals such as "keep the house cleaner" or "spend less time on the computer" or "simplify wardrobe."  This new mentality is about improving one's life every moment instead of focusing on planning out every detail.  A lifetime is made of moments, not of larger goal-driven sessions, and thus adjusting life patterns requires a more generic approach.

This path seems to work better for me because I have found that I will spend far too much time detailing my plans for improvement and I won't necessarily do anything.  The focus of these efforts is simply stated as my recently evolved mantra: be the person you want to be, right now.  Too often have I planned to do something and it goes on a list and never comes off, frequently because I get caught up grouping it with some larger task or objective.  When I see crumbs on the counter, I should just wipe them off and not wait until I have a chance to do the dishes or deep-clean the kitchen.

The reason the aforementioned goal setting system works is because it focuses on the achievable; the same theory applies here.  Instead of specific tasks, however, I've created some overarching themes.  Rather than consulting a list or time-line to gauge improvement, I automatically do a mental check when I step out of harmony with these themes.  The ideal is not to check these things off, but to always feel good about the ways I am spending my time.  The themes are guidance for balancing out my life a little rather than create hard and fast rules.  Generally, they are values that exist as motivation for some of my actions that I would like to extend in some way or at least understand better.

The Themes
Physical over Virtual
This isn't about favoring the physical over the mental or spiritual, it refers to spending too much time on the computer, being technology dependent, and thinking about a task rather than doing it.  An example of a thought that would trigger a mental check would be the urge to find something to read; in response, I would favor books over blogs.

Creative over Consumptive
The idea here is that I feel happier when I am being productive: doing my mending is a better choice than drooling over the new Burpee or Williams-Sonoma catalogs.

Independence over Reliance
There are many directions I could take this, but I'll simplify it to two ideas: I should not impose on people when I can do something myself, and I should favor producing and maintaining my own possessions rather than outsourcing.  The former is all too natural for me (see the next block for more discussion on this), and the latter is also fairly easy; when I check myself for this one, I am usually looking to enlarge the scope of my knowledge for producing/maintaining goods.

Community over Isolation
As an antidote to the extremes of independence, community involvement is probably the single most challenging thing for me.  Again, I take two directions: that of being interdependent within a small community or family and that of dedicating time to a larger local sphere.  I desperately want to be involved with my local church, but I find the activities to be dull and often pointless.  Similarly, I want to help those in need living around me (both within and outside of church), but sometimes I feel that the manifested necessities are not sufficiently essential enough to merit my concern (which can in turn make me feel guilty for thinking that).  Basically, I want to do be able to exchange and interact meaningfully and productively with a local group and also do some regular hard-core volunteering, but I can't find a good direction for these energies.  For the former, I acknowledge that I am in a new area and it takes time to cultivate those kind of relationships, but for the latter I am currently at a loss.

Simplicity over Clutter
We're back to the more straightforward: in this case, culling possessions and keeping things organized and clean.  Lately, I've been literally starting in a corner and working my way out.  I started with my bed-side table, organizing it and getting rid of things that I don't need.  Every day, I tidy up what has already been ordered and work outwards: from the table to the dresser, closet, bathroom, and on.  Outside of the already organized space, I spot-clean as I notice things.  This gives me the liberty to both order/sort things and clean without attempting to totally revamp and cover everything all at once.

Stimulated over Numbed
Quality entertainment is essential; if I can both relax and feel enlarged at the same time, my time has been well spent.

Appropriate Use and Reuse over Waste
This includes the obvious: recycling of materials and reusing items or parts of items.  It also includes being frugal and spending time wisely.

* * *

There are many more values that I could include, but that covers the desired changes that I've been pondering of late.  No matter what direction one chooses to pursue, I have learned that we need to be the people we want to be in each moment we can or else we will never be that person.  Who would ever have thought that goal-setting makes some things harder to accomplish?


better than voting?

I'm a statistic!  I just spent a good 20+ minutes doing a phone poll covering all sorts of important political issues.  The thought came to me: in some ways participating in those surveys can be more important than voting as I was able to voice my opinion in a much more nuanced way than a simple vote allows.  I had the opportunity to rate all sorts of arguments for and against several bills on a spectrum of convincingness in addition to saying how strongly I supported those bills (twice each!...both before and after the series of arguments, very thorough).  In addition to just being fun, it's nice to feel involved in current goings-on, even if I am just a single perspective in the huge sea of opinions.


Chrome for a cause

I just discovered Chrome for a cause today!  I usually open a whole bunch of tabs every day, so it's a really easy way for me to donate this holiday season without spending anything personally...Google makes money off of your browsing experience and then donates.  Too bad it isn't year round, but it's fun anyway.


Merrily on our way we go

This is long overdue (and also very long), but I wanted to post about the summer in chronological order...the wedding photos held me up.

The JMT is about 210 miles. Adding in the descent from Mt. Whitney to Whitney Portal, we ended up hiking about 220 miles in 16 days or 17 calendar days, the first and last both being half-days. That's averaging 13.75 miles a day, but there were definitely days we did closer to 9-10 miles and days we did about 19-20 miles.

One of the funniest things about the trek was that everyone kept implying that N had to finagle me into doing the hike. To this, he would respond, "It was her idea," which is completely true. I didn't always think I was wise for having the idea, though. The whole point was to do something fun that would take up a good chunk of time between the wedding and when we were to drive cross-country so we wouldn't need to sublet a place for a month. It was painful on occasion--like the day I got 150 mosquito bites--but in the end I was really proud of having done it and we got a lot of nice memories and some beautiful photos out of it.

While hiking we met some very strange people, which was not wholly unexpected. Who else is going to be in the middle of the wilderness? There were certainly many people who just longed to talk to other humans (especially the PCT folks) and would stop to chat for extended periods of time if you let them. A few folks would use "we" for "I"--we didn't pass anyone else who could have been a companion. There was a man hiking in a kilt, another man with a silver umbrella who thought it was the greatest invention of all time ("It's dual purpose! It keeps off both sun and rain!"), and lots of folk who were just off their rockers.

We met a lady and her daughter doing the PCT. The daughter was normal but seemed to agree with our assessment that her mother was a little nuts. The mother told us a story about an Asian lady down the trail who spent the day going in the wrong direction--never a fun thing. Soon after that conversation, I started a little ahead of N, who was packing things up and was going to catch up. I was greeted by a man asking, "Are you hiking alone?" My response was, "No, why?" He spent about a full five minutes explaining how he had seen a glove on the trail and how he thought it belonged to this lost Asian lady and how I should pick it up and bring it to her and explain that I was doing this because "the man she passed" told me to. I assured him I would, but he kept going on and on and on. Though I looked, I never saw the glove. A few days later we met this famed lady, who was named Sunny. She told us to pass a message to her friend Sherry, who should be camping where we would be that night (Sunny was too tired to make it that far), that she was alright and that she would meet her at that location--the Muir Trail Ranch. When we got there, we discovered that she had told nearly everyone she passed to send a message to Sherry. Two firefighters, who had been roughly sharing our pace, actually talked extensively with Sherry and sought us out to see if we had seen Sunny. They convinced her to stay put until Sunny arrived. Quite a mess, if you ask me.

As with the firefighters, there were several people we saw frequently or at least a few times on the trail.  Since we couldn't remember anyone's names and it wasn't really important, we gave them nicknames.  "Ginger" for the red-headed bloke who kept referring to himself that way; he and N would hike together for stretches using each other for pacing.  "Fats" for a very kind gentleman who worked for IBM; he introduced himself with that nickname and I wondered if its origin had anything to do with FAT.  And then there was "Damascus," named after his city of origin; he had lunch with us once and shared with us some Spanish cheese.  At some point, Fats figured out that we were newlyweds (given that we're fairly young, we probably hadn't been married long) and after confirming it, he proceeded to tell everyone ahead of us (he started earlier each day).  So for the last five days or so, everyone that passed us greeted us with, "Oh! you must be the newlyweds!  Congratulations!" Blah blah blah (see paragraph 2).

As we neared Whitney, one of my favorite encounters was with a teenage boy.  I was chugging along and this boy comes galloping down from nowhere.  After getting my attention, he asks, "What trail am I on?"  I was a little flummoxed that he didn't know where he was, but I responded saying that I was on the JMT to Whitney.  He just looked at me.  I asked him where he was going and I still got the stare.  After naming a few points of potential interest, we worked it out and I sent him on his way.  How can one get so confused?  Anyway, that's enough blathering.  Feast your eyes on some photos.

About to start out.  We're so clean and happy.  Aww!

Lots of streams and rivers to cross, with and without shoes.

 Sunset after a thunderstorm right before Donahue pass.

 Wildflowers!  These ones came in a beautiful lavender too.
 Many waterfalls from melting snow in stunningly clear lakes.
 Granite in abundance.

 Thousand Island Lake.

 N's favorite type of landscape.  (That's Ginger behind him.)

 Very blue and very cold.  N jumped in one of them.


This picture makes me want to go back very badly.

 I kept calling this one "Trinity."

 Hopping lake to lake.

 One of my favorite views.



Grey and blue.

 These trees were fascinating.  Closeup of the ribbed wood.

 More wildflowers.  (The wildlife was fairly elusive.)

Though I missed deer, chipmunks, and all sorts of birds, I managed to snap several photos of one particularly chubby marmot.

 Day before Whitney!

 A strange desert in the mountains.

Several people camped near this lake.  Look closely to see one flying a kite.

 We stayed above Guitar Lake (pictured) before the final climb.  The lake shimmered--the photo doesn't do it justice.

 We woke up at 4 am to someone rummaging around near our camp.  After that, we couldn't sleep, so we joined the train of lights starting in the wee hours.  This was some of the first light to hit.

 I'm at the tippy top!

 Him too.

 The plaque.

On the way down.

Once we got down, we had some delicious (and expensive) burgers and fries, took showers, and started looking for a ride.  We got down early (a Saturday) and given the bus schedule, we wouldn't be able to make it back to our car for a few days.  N held up a "Yosemite" sign, that being where our car was parked, and I held up the sign in the picture below.  After about a half hour, we caught a ride in the back of a pickup (a dad had taken a bunch of teenage boys backpacking) amidst a bunch of backpacks. He took us to Bakersfield, where my Mom picked us up.  After a day of rest, we borrowed one of my parent's cars to pick up ours.  Cars are so fast.

One season following another

Looking over the wedding photos made me think about a series of things: how much I love and miss the people pictured, how stressful the days leading up to and including the wedding were, and how glad I am that it's over.  If I were to do it again, there would be many-a-thing I would change, mostly having to do with my attitude towards several things.  Gratefully, there will be no again.

I've grown to appreciate the trust required of a traditional marriage.  Aside from sharing credit and household responsibilities, I feel that I am able to let go of insecurities and that I work harder to make our relationship solid.  I am no longer hedging my bets on some things.  I was both-feet-in long before we got engaged, but it took a while to get there, but now I feel an even stronger desire to build a future with reckless abandon.  It's really quite nice.

Wedding Photos!

The photos from our wedding have finally arrived!  I've uploaded a subset of them to a Picassa web album.  Here's the slideshow.  There are many, many more photos than I've posted, so if you want me to send you a different subset (e.g. all the photos of you/your family) please let me know.