Hike to Hidden Lake

35964873586_855a03e704_c35964872496_f265bba2df_c35195516913_c0ddae99fc_c35195513933_0bc71ddbd7_cI brought two canisters of bear spray with us and put them in an easily-reachable outside pocket on my pack. A few weeks back we had met up with some friends and one of them recalled being charged by a grizzly bear on their first day backpacking in Glacier, and how they hadn’t grabbed the bear spray fast enough. Luckily, the grizzly had merely done a bluff charge and veered off into the woods, away from them.

Not my idea of a good time, I thought, so I brought more than one canister. We also packed water, sunscreen, and snacks. As we got to the Logan Pass Visitor Center I checked that we had everything and got out. The parking lot was full, and the Center was swarmed with tourists, many in flip-flops, learning about this incredible part of the world.

As we walked on a trail behind the Center, somebody noted a mother grizzly bear with two cubs in the distance. I pulled out my binoculars and peered out, seeing her calmly making her away across a grassy knoll with her two cubs in tow. It was beautiful to see them from a safe distance, where we weren’t bothering her and she wasn’t making us nervous. What I do like about bears and most other wild creatures is that they, honestly, don’t want to hang out with us either. They want to mind their own business and go about surviving, something that in many parts of the world is harder due to human encroachment and climate change.

35195511573_45995d0d44_c35617394400_0903ebe22f_c35617393370_f26f97c04f_c35195506263_94e0e62f29_c

We began hiking to Hidden Lake, but part of the trail was closed due to bear activity. There were enough people on the trail that my fears of encountering bears were mostly gone. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and the number of warm human bodies out and about would waft to any living animal like a red flag, because I bet you humans stink. 

As we hiked further, we encountered snow. Slushy, wet, slick snow! Logan marveled at the snow in July, and we trekked through it, trying not to slip or slide. As we hiked about a mile in, we saw our first mountain goat! We saw several more as we kept hiking. There were several on one of the boardwalks, determined to get to somewhere else, and so I moved off the boardwalk into the brush. While mountain goats aren’t massive, they’re still wild animals, and several of them had their kids with them, and I didn’t want to get in the way and cause them stress or make them nervous. It was incredible to see them so close, though, while they’re shedding their thick winter coats and looking shaggy. Their expressive faces and slow pace made it easy to stare. We get to share the world with so many natural things and as a human that makes me feel all the feels. We’re so destructive and polluting and unnatural in some ways and it’s amazing to be around things that are very different and humbling.

35835657372_9074e8a935_c35835657132_5846e65905_c35195505743_7f2a53ff08_c

The views at the end of the trail were amazing. Lush green valleys dotted with snow laid before us, while healthy looking, proud trees stood in thick groves. The bare rock of the mountains reached towards the sky and we all looked, silently, absorbing the beauty of everything. The air was cool and fresh and it felt good to inhale and smell the natural smells. Small, delicate flowers laid by the trail, showing off purple and yellow hues. Red slate rocks added blush to the landscape.

As we headed back, my mind buzzed with questions and my heart felt full. I bounded down through the snow quickly and as we got back to the car I felt absolutely exhausted and invigorated simultaneously.

35835658992_1d018ccce1_c35835657682_5d822c6fc3_c35835658052_70419eec65_c35964846036_bc094b90c6_c

Beargrass & Coffee

35964875806_4d4e2d6801_c35166745934_0206cfe008_c35964876366_d7d01d3eef_c35873445981_f2d053a97a_c35964878056_8f8b30e045_c35166745634_3e93c67783_c35964876156_ba9900145b_c35873445741_17fc9b0cdf_c35964875666_55fdbbcf07_c

Beargrass and coffee might seem an odd combination but the two go hand in hand as part of a great day.

Beargrass is a funny looking flower that often thrives in burn areas here in northern Montana and it’s one of the signature sights in Glacier. We found a thriving patch and I went right ahead and stuck my nose in the blooms (they smell heavy, musky, and wonderful). Beargrass is one of those things that in my mind define Montana in the summer. It rewards hikers deep in many of our National Forests and it always looks a bit odd in a Tim Burton-esque way. Nature really is the world’s greatest designer, and if you don’t agree we need to have a good chat.

We started off the morning having coffee and breakfast at the Swiftcreek Cafe in Whitefish. Chelsea helped me make the coffee images by pouring the cream while I photographed and we devoured our food to prepare for a full day in the park. Logan didn’t like Whitefish, as it felt too “utopic” to him, and as I looked at the sleek, new, buildings built in “rustic” styles to attract out of state wealth, I agreed. We would later fully cement that idea as we stumbled into a nightclub with strobe lights sure to trigger seizures, nestled in this ski resort town. Montana, you’re full of the strangest surprises.

Alpine adventures in Rocky Mountain National Park

35062150713_f109a36845_c35483675290_67015aeb6b_c35871611735_01edbcf9e5_c35062159973_bb316aa331_c

As we drove up higher and higher I looked out and tried to not let my fear of heights wash over me. The trees were so regal and the cool air felt so good, and I tried to steel myself. My mother looked over nervously at me.

We were in Rocky Mountain National Park, up thousands of feet higher than the nearest town of Estes Park. We were driving the Trail Ridge Road and watching the landscape change as we climbed higher and higher. This was the park where my parents met and fell in love when they were in college and it felt very neat to be in their territory, where my mother and father used to rise at 4 am to get to the park to photograph bugling elk in the rising sunlight of autumn. Having parents who fell in love with each other because of their mutual love of the outdoors has its perks- you get to hear about cool stories like that one.

Up at the top of the road, we got out and hiked. At 11,000 feet, the air felt thinner, and we both had small headaches that would later bloom into larger ones due to the lesser amount of oxygen available up high. We were in the alpine region, where no trees grow, surrounded by delicate alpine flora and fat marmots who lazed on rocks posing like some weird animal Richard Burton. No doubt they were being fed by hapless idiots.

35702416812_9b4c78d7df_c35871627475_8f52a5a296_c35702457262_b57da3d3e9_c35062152643_f5969d6e78_c

On our way up some folks from Oklahoma stopped in the middle of the road, which is narrow and has little-to-no room for maneuvering, and proceeded to feet one of these fat marmots from the car and take pictures. My mother and I rolled our eyes and I wanted to get out, walk up to them, throw crumbs at them, and ask, “How do you like it?!”

Ahem…

Anyway. Being up so high was eerie in that you could see for what felt like miles. Miles of peaks, clouds, and valleys were all for the visually consuming, and I soaked it in. We saw a gorgeous bull elk in full, handsome velvet napping in a meadow, his red-gold head tucked into the flora. One man asked us if he was dead but we told him no, that elk nap and conserve energy and move about more in the evening and morning.

Eventually it was getting chilly, though thankfully without the strong winds that such areas are known for, and hopped into the car to go to a visitor’s center. We got to drink in even more spectacular views and then realized we were going to be late for dinner at my grandma’s house and left the park.

A too-brief glimpse into the incredible, fast-changing landscapes in that beautiful place.

35032325514_c6afeb2fe1_c35032324754_b4c2dbb865_c35871657745_c493f4e828_c35032363044_efebe52beb_c35740026851_38aa2afff2_c

San Francisco on film

34773537094_1763852863_c35575036226_dab2987c23_c (1)35446384832_c5c0de9cfc_c

The colors were everywhere. Bits of coral, the blue of the sky, the warm hue of sand, the cool grey of the dense fog that engulfed Adrienne’s neighborhood each night. The smells were different- hot asphalt, whiffs of delicious foods not found in Montana, the sterile yet slight omnipresent stink of public transit, of thousands of bodies inhabiting the same small train cars day in and day out. San Francisco felt like a city that was in the midst of a lot of change. Money and youth everywhere, and yet none of it to be found for many.

35446386132_3a1d673b32_c35575038196_15da0a4ce0_c35446387822_4a5dd6612c_c35575042506_1a191eab64_c

We walked through the park, surrounded by massive eucalyptus trees, before breakfast. Logan took a picture of poop in the park with my film camera because he said I was being stingy with my film. We smelled the rich earth and the flora and saw red wing blackbirds and ravens before making our way to the beach.

The beach was engulfed in fog that was slowly retreating, and we walked to meet the waves, letting the edges of the Pacific ocean lap at our feet. The sand felt good in between my toes and I watched as one man in a dark coat walked up and over one of the dunes. The beach felt melancholy and full of gloom, but I loved it. Such spaces are great for letting thoughts wander and unravel and then pulling them back to have new, strange, and better ideas and thoughts.

35446391172_66f412070d_c35575045266_7ce2db39ff_c35575047426_1051152eb7_c

We went to the Mission District, which Adrienne had warned us was quickly becoming gentrified. Historically Latinx and Hispanic families have lived there, but as we got off BART we saw the inevitable results of gentrification. We walked a lot around that area and still heard plenty of Spanish, saw groups of school children and church groups outside churches with signs that read, “Jesus te ama”, and I hoped that the people who had been there would hold onto their apartments and stores and churches and habits, but I quietly knew that money and white people were probably sinking their teeth into the area and biting away at what hadn’t been theirs before.

In in the midst of our Mission ventures we found a beautiful, cramped Italian market. One wall was entirely devoted to hanging sausages and I felt myself growing hungry even though we had eaten quite recently. A beautiful wheel of Parmesan cheese sat staring at me and Logan pointed out some meats he had been searching for. We looked at the olive oils and the cans of tomatoes and all the pasta and left because if we didn’t leave soon we would buy meats and cheese that we had no room in our luggage for. We found a Brazilian mercado, and once inside I was the only one who wasn’t speaking Portuguese. People sipped coffee and around us were baskets full of Brazilian cooking ingredients, juices, and random odds and ends like deodorant or romance novels. Logan chatted with the barista and we left to go find a cool place to linger. We ended up at a dive bar with the right amount of sticky counters, grimy interiors, and dark corners and sat down. Adrienne joined us shortly after, and we talked and people watched.

35575048426_8ce2086312_c35484211501_c57cef8f4d_c35575033486_d133c3e944_c

The rest of our trip was like that- full of lovely places but being quietly reminded that this was a city being inundated with money from tech firms and start ups and that things were shifting and maybe had been for a while. Regardless, we thoroughly enjoyed being able to see and do the things only cities can give you- art, diversity, busy crowds and the kaleidoscope of humanity that buzzes and bustles as each one of us carves out our own space in the world in whatever way we can.

Two Years

18814856441_a04249b1c4_b18623530490_e54a9a1fd4_c24348089899_7bbf5519fc_c24622247531_ea8b52014c_c24420224440_6fe9b6f212_c18188797924_9dfaeed88b_c18191522503_17e74febb6_c18624343208_48c5d06768_c18814930951_864b36b707_c

Amsterdam, two years ago.

Two years ago Emily and I were eating apples and going to the Rijksmuseum and seeing MisterWives at Paradiso. I wrote directions to the venue on my upper thigh so we wouldn’t have to bring our phones and we stuffed our cash in our bras and shoes. We found out that the Dutch don’t party on Saturday nights like I thought they would. We were told by some family friends that Amsterdamers prefer to go out on Wednesday or Sunday nights, oddly.

We stayed in the apartment of a family friend close to the Albert Cuyp market and got sushi to go on a rainy evening. We spend time in the Hortus Botanicus and the Artis and ate delicious Indonesian and Vietnamese food. We had proper dim sum for the first time in our lives and I had a love affair with some duck crepe thing and a shrimp dumpling.  I lost close to ten pounds just being on my feet all day every day seeing what this old, vibrant city had to offer, and it was so refreshing to be in the motherland in a place where our long, strange last name was perfectly reasonable, even if Dutch still sounds so strange to my Anglo ears.

I cannot wait to go back someday, hopefully sooner rather than later.

Provincetown and points of view.

34972041706_78625f7cb1_c (1)34972038846_d8015a28f8_c34972030386_71bd35ba85_c34972040216_0424103e0a_c34168140164_72a568eb43_c34972037016_875fe23daf_c34201379423_0df57c3fea_c34624711580_66d115cd1c_c34201375183_4d143bd801_c34201378623_57a1714bf3_c34624701620_30310c92e8_c34168170774_afb102e08a_c34880003291_6aed62699e_c34624699510_697a1d610d_c

I asked Logan what “Lagosta na Panela” meant after I saw the tiled sign outside of the Lobster Pot in Provincetown. “It means lobster in the pot”, he said over the phone and I laughed. Of course it does. 

Provincetown is a centuries old whaling town with a historic Portuguese presence that turned into an artist and gay colony. The town is saturated with gorgeous old architecture, vivacious townspeople, and a wealth of galleries, restaurants, and beachfront to visually and otherwise consume. You can walk down the “Widow’s Row” which is full of old ship captain’s homes, with windows so that the wives could watch for their husband’s ships to come in- or never come back. Colorful buildings, shingled Cape homes, and lots of old New England history abounds there. I forgot how much I love that weird little town, where drag queens make a living alongside literary celebrities, and where one day it can be gorgeous and sunny and the next rainy and miserable. Oysters and good gin are always called for, but so is Spiritus Pizza, a local pizza joint that serves up delicious pressed apple juice alongside large, floppy slices.

To me, though, Provincetown is also just a place to get lost. It’s a magnificent town to people watch in. I wish I could someday spend a week with my camera and just sit on various benches and photograph the diverse humans that weave their way in and out of Commercial Street as they hunt for a new painting, a place to eat, or perhaps somewhere to just get away from the crowds. When I am there I try to get up early and see the town before it is full of souls, and there is nothing better than

On one rainy afternoon with Exa and Emily, we walked into a little store and browsed. The owner of the store immediately broke into conversation about what we were looking at, and asked us where we were from. We chatted about lots of little things, and it felt really lovely to do so. The same thing happened earlier in the shop where I bought my beautiful blue woodblock printed dress, and again in another store. Provincetown is full of people who have fascinating stories and pasts and are more than willing to engage and share those pasts. I love humans- all of us are a unique sum of all our experiences, both good and bad, and none of us are the same. We all have to survive, thrive, and suffer together and being able to touch on people’s humanness and chat about books, about their store, or about what adventures and activities we were up to felt wonderful in a small, satisfying, the world isn’t so bad way. If that sounds hokey, that’s alright, but I’ll be the sappy optimist over the grumpy cynic that I worry I am becoming any day.

The final foray

33906729592_1c9a69bffe_c33906730852_6316e9e33a_c33906726672_c05dd9fe89_c33906728082_c07970d984_c33906725302_501a99a844_c33906724572_2748bb5cea_c34063268825_d8644a3bf5_c33220961524_46ffcd6e9b_c33906721072_359ece45a6_c33220961034_25cdc06eb9_c33220960574_93dfd2251b_c33906724092_0675b584ac_c

The final cabin trip at Lake Cowichan.

I held a Pacific Chorus Frog, saw a deer that shared a meadow and some sun-soaked forest with me, stood on the dock with some good souls and soaked in my final views of the fog-shrouded mountains. Large logs floated on the surface and the rain pattered on the lake surface, an almost mesmerizing thing to witness. A fire was built and we huddled around it. I went to bed earlier than most, sharing a wood and canvas tent with Isobel. We heard the loud sound of rain hitting the tin roof, and with flaps made from tarp the night air seeped in making us both glad we were cozy in our sleeping bags.

Having recently gotten back really positive if not downright amazing feedback from my thesis supervisor I felt giddy at the thought of almost being done with this degree. The cabin trip sealed this feeling of accomplishment- I deserved to be here, I deserved to feel my feet on the damp, fern-covered ground in the deep woods here. I deserved to take the time to notice how the light could change so quickly in such a light-starved place. Woodpeckers tenaciously poked away at tree trunks and I stood and watched them for several minutes at a time, their red feathered heads flashing.

Every forest has hiding places, evidence of life, and details worth looking at. Tree hollows, fallen leaves, the sound of fussy squirrels dashing among branches, and the chirrup of birds high above your head happen in most forests. As you walk you might notice a neat pile of deer sign, or an owl pellet, or perhaps even find the pale bones of something that has since been picked clean. Human beings, with our neat division of life and death, where the dead are buried or burned or quickly taken away, do not leave evidence of said death everywhere. In the woods, death and decay exist alongside birth and growth.

That being said, it is really nice to type those words from my warm, sunny apartment. I feel so lucky to be able to spend time outside when I can, but I’m so close to being done with this thesis! Time to go write some more (maybe).

 

Juno, did you by any chance barf in my urn? Mac, you know that nice urn by the front door that I got up in Stillwater?

33275463421_d6e02e8f76_c33275463101_d21a0b3dd1_c33275462341_8fa37e5844_c33275462581_19957971e4_c32560775724_09b3e2c5d4_c33275461931_8630c8e825_c33275461611_b98815a5ba_c

I flew to Minnesota on Tuesday to surprise Logan at the airport. He was coming home from Brazil and Mary and I hatched a plot.

We spent one beautiful, cold afternoon in Stillwater, and later that night Logan and I were watching Juno and I started laughing so hard because had just been there. Hence, you know, the long title. We did not buy an urn, but rather perused bookstores, had a nice beer at a pub, and looked at all the lovely old buildings.

A visit from the patriarch/Rushed Victoria tour.

32267803113_bea5a4b522_c32219173604_165efc5467_c33046571755_088b1a2a8d_c32219174184_ba31509f82_cMy father came up on the Port Angeles ferry for 3 days of sunshine filled Victoria time. We ate a lot, walked even more, and had a blast. Below you’ll find a list of places we ate, my opinions, and lists of activities we did. Note: I had a father figure patronizing the food adventures. These are not necessarily grad student budget friendly places- I had a patron.

32664481850_293793d1e0_c32664482240_0e4597525a_c32267802653_0ef5922ee5_c32249167513_6c5ecd268e_c.jpg Ate/Consumed/Masticated at: 

Omakase Izakaya on Blanshard: We had a blast eating there. We went for the omakaze option, so the chef/owner ended up making us about a 6 course meal. We were the only ones in the place, and it was amazing. We shared a little ceramic flute of warm sake, ate some amazing food, and left satiated in our hearts and stomachs- the perfect combination.

Ayo Eat in Market Square: Epic, cheap, delicious Indonesian food from a little tucked in food stall. We had the pickled egg dish which was delicious! The guy who runs it is super friendly and Market Square has some benches and places to hang out and seat yourself.

La Tana outside Fan Tan Alley on Pandora: OH my god. This brought back so many memories of Italian bakeries and eating delicious panini when I lived in Lugano. (It doesn’t hurt that the owner, Claudio, is from Milan, only an hour from my little city!) Amazing baked goods, cheap delicious sandwiches, excellent Illy coffee (americano or espresso are your two options) all in one wee little shop. I’m going back- it fits my grad school budget and brings me right back to the best parts of my past in Ticino.

Pho Vy on Fort Street: Pho Vy is my favorite place to get pho. My dad had not had proper pho before, and it was delicious (per usual). I go here probably 2x a month and every time it’s delicious.

The BeaverTails Stand on Broughton Street: Cheap, perfectly decent Canadian dessert spot. Their gelato is amazing, the BeaverTails always awesome (and they can be cut in half if you can’t eat a whole one!), and the gentleman who runs the place has, ever since I moved to Victoria, been a really positive and friendly human.

33046571535_daaeeaba31_c32926919752_85ea6c3b03_cWent/Saw/Meandered around: 

The Royal British Columbia Museum: A really lovely museum that houses one of the most thorough First Nations exhibits I’ve ever been to. (Not without its criticisms, but still worthwhile!) They have amazing traveling exhibits that come in pretty frequently, and even though I’ve been now close to a dozen times, I still always find something I really enjoy, be it the replica theatre that shows Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush over and over again or the weird but still awesome replications of salmon canning operations in British Columbia.

Ogden Point: A great place to go for a walk in James Bay! Great views of the Olympic range across the strait, and good for people watching. I love taking people there and it feels less crowded than other parts of the main city.

Beacon Hill Park: While the rose bushes aren’t in bloom and things are quiet, the park will always have some beautiful, rambling paths to meander around. The park itself is pretty large so you’re guaranteed to find some spaces to enjoy.

All around downtown: My dad and I spent a lot of time just weaving in and out of slow moving tourists going around the historic downtown area. We grabbed coffee at a few places and I showed him some of my favorite buildings and historical spots.

If y’all are in my beautiful town and are wondering where to go, any of the above places are highly recommended! Check out my Victoria tag for more ideas as well. I’m headed to Mystic Beach tomorrow, so hopefully it’ll be lovely! Packed a bunch of film and a few cameras, I’m excited to get outside into the nature!

32249167753_358e1d0fbc_c32919909711_6081fd0e3f_c33046572895_61fdbeb759_c

Venice|Venezia

32014046303_a638e049b1_c32014046863_94263edfe6_c32828552745_56b5e19fa5_c32014047133_3fe9b21f8d_c32014048633_0b980fd619_c32014049353_f000a73690_cI learned a valuable lesson from a friend back in my undergrad. On a trip to Florence and Tuscany, my roommate/friend Lexi taught me, a photograph amateur, to always keep a folder of untouched, original files, and then make copies to edit. Thankfully, through this wisdom, even though my camera was horrible, I managed to salvage thousands of pictures of my “CONTRAST IS GOD” phase- where literally any photo, no matter what, was worthy of being destroyed through heavy contrast and manipulation. I cringe internally thinking about such times…but the original files remain for me to enjoy!

32014049633_b2017b88b1_c32787509076_9b7f70a9f5_c32787509396_14074998aa_c

And so, without further adieu, here are some photographs of a few days my beautiful mother and I spent meandering aimlessly around Venice|Venezia in May of 2010. We had a great time sipping coffees, eating sandwiches, admiring architecture, ducking into shops, and smelling that strange smell that haunts most of Venice. We encountered dogs that knew the city like the back of their hands (paws?), ate a lot of baked goods, had some Italian ladies make fun of my mum’s sneakers on the train (they didn’t know I could understand them, even with my bad 9 months of Italian classes), and I took a lot of naps (sorry Mum). We ate at a delicious pizza place whose name escapes me almost 7 years later.

I hadn’t looked at these photographs in years and today I realize how awesome it was for my mother, who had never left North America, to come spend a few weeks with me travelling. My mother is one of the most hardy, intelligent, and creative human beings I know, and as I get older I realize more and more how much I admire her. Mums are amazing creatures in general, but mums who travel across the world solo like a pro on their first go are pretty wicked.

32787509796_b2bcfb9ed4_c32787511206_73f2762b86_c32787510856_7ed11bc6d9_c32675074072_2078a22ef0_c32014053063_ea45d9831b_c32014052893_d9a3e21f20_c

Qualicum Beach

32560462246_9c71ced342_c32478132531_0fda8bd226_c32478131381_bfdff815b0_c

This weekend most of my fellow grad students and I went up to Parksville to present our papers at an annual conference there. Having not been very far up the island, I relished the opportunity to see more outside of Victoria.

When we arrived, we checked into our rooms. Sliding open the balcony door I could immediately smell the sea and feel the breeze. However, there was no time for nice reflections: we were going to eat dinner and then edit our papers in a sea of stress, making sure that presenting them the next day would go as smoothly as possible.

I slept horribly. Perhaps stress, perhaps sharing a room with 3 other beings. Perhaps it was eating an enormous burger at dinner. Speculating doesn’t matter- what mattered was that as I woke up at 6 am after having been awake since 3 am, I felt like I wanted to crawl into a copse of trees outside the hotel and bury myself under leaves and not awaken until summertime.

32478131021_728cb7eb75_c32601053385_8d99605be6_c32478131781_74323b6d89_c

Luckily, presenting my paper (on blood transfusion methods and development in World War I and World War II!) went smoothly! Some really lovely people asked marvelous questions and the two other people on my panel (my fellow MA candidate Dmitry and a really lovely women named Katie) did epic presentations on their research.

The conference had us eating via meal tickets we were given. The meals were buffet style- relatively edible, not great, but not horrible either. There was, however, a  never ending supply of coffee at all hours of the day, and as I sipped my 6th cup of coffee over dinner I mused if I was going to make it past 8pm. Thank goodness for caffeine.

Overall I managed to find time with some friends to go on walks outside the cramped, stressed out hallways of the conference venue. We could see over to the mainland from where we stood, and the view was gorgeous. Being near the ocean will never get old for me. It was a joy to explore a new part of the island, and it was fantastic to go see amazing papers given on such subjects as Frank Buck the animal collector, racialized bias in asylums in British Columbia, narwhals in aquariums, and the first digital computers built after World War II.

32601053385_8d99605be6_c32601052865_d15241bfc2_c32601053195_5f137159ab_c32478130151_7bb6f330d7_c

 

 

 

A Cabin Palaver/NYE 2016

31264174714_598e959853_c31295340703_1628d44cf7_c31987322381_994e07f5cb_c

My hands clenched the wheel of the old Subaru as I slowly turned the wheel to negotiate yet another slick curve, and I openly cursed the Montana Highway maintenance people, while Logan calmly offered to drive. You call this a highway?! This is a death trap of ice and bullshit! No gravel! No nothing! This is a heavily used road and THIS IS WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE?! 

Logan once again offered to take control, and I hissed NO and kept driving the car slowly over the icy turns of the highway. While I loathe driving over horrible roads, I fear giving up control even more. We crawled slowly, but the views were gorgeous. Frost covered trees, sage brush, and hillsides were passed, illuminated by the ever warmer light of the dying sun. It was, truly, beautiful in the way only cold, northern places can be.

We finally passed the not-real town of Norris and made our way down into Ennis. From there we finally found Virginia City, a summertime town known as one of the early capitals, when Montana was but a Territory. A flourishing mining town at one point, now it is a small town with lots of festivals and events in the summertime. We entered it in the midst of winter, with shuttered up windows and “closed for the season” signs inevitably hung up.

We called our Airbnb host and he led us in his little white truck up roads with no names to a renovated cabin from the 1880’s. He showed us around, shook our hands, and left Logan and I. We went and fetched Mary and Amy, unpacked the cars, and proceeded to cook a meal.

 

31264173794_2995a1af5c_c31264171924_4a5477820d_c31987321891_c02c0d21c5_c

Logan brought lamb from a ranch in Boulder, Montana. We had stopped by their stand at the farmer’s market many times this summer. They always remembered Logan because of how tall and nice he is. The lamb in a pan, veggies in a bowl, and wine in our glasses, we set to palavering and cooking, drinking and enjoying the end of 2016.

31264172954_aa95f56443_c31264172624_c4fce742d6_c31987319911_83065224b4_c

The cabin was ridiculously well thought out. There were a huge number of books tucked away in discreet, beautifully hidden bookshelves. Plenty of firewood sat on the front porch. The small wood stove was an efficient beast, and quickly warmed the loft into quite a toasty nest. We perused books while the lamb stewed and kept ducking outside to admire the stars. Why is it that stars always look brighter in the cold? Is there something about frozen night air that makes it clearer? The sky hadn’t looked so big to me in some time.

31264170244_1890e4fbe6_c31264170684_1b034e767d_c31987318651_96873128e5_c31264171094_559334909b_c

Soon dinner was ready. Time flew by, and when Logan fished the lamb out of the pot, it slid off the bone immediately. Steam wafted from the meat and we took turns gnawing on one shank that wasn’t so clean. We poured a Tannat wine from Uruguay and settled in to devour a perfect New Years Eve meal together. There is always a marvelous simplicity to eating meals around tables with good people.

31987317071_b06a8abb0f_c31987316361_d3d1de8a1c_c31987316231_95c96a99c3_c

Finally, midnight approached. We drank prossecco, bundled up, and went out into the front yard and gaped. We smoked a cigar that Mary brought and were mostly quiet, trying to not freeze to death. Each of us pondered what the year had brought us, and what the next would bring. I think that every single one of us, though, felt a quiet sort of satisfaction that we were welcoming a new year in such a place, with each other.

It is very important to know how to be alone.

I was almost flat broke, determined to spend the last of my money on a ticket to Zurich. I was, after all, meant to celebrate my own birthday, yes, and 20 is big deal! And seeing as I didn’t want to be around humans, it would be better to be around art. Calculating that there was indeed enough money for a museum ticket and a train ticket, the decision was made.

I packed a large bag with two cameras, a book, some snacks, and walked to the train station to catch the train to Zurich. Due to Swiss geography, one does not get to stay on the train from Lugano the whole way to Zurich. After going through Bellinzona, then the steep Gotthard Pass, which is quite an engineering feat, the train stops at windy, lonely, tiny Arth-Goldau, a transit station where you have about 2 minutes to scramble and find the train that will take you to your final destination. Arth-Goldau is freezing cold in the winter, smack dab in the middle of Switzerland, and when you stop there it feels deserted and almost surreal.

5731547595_4405931e22_b

That is Arth-Goldau as I walked across the way to my train. I know, such a crisp photograph! (Please forgive the thin lines on many of the photographs- something with my camera, probably the backing plate, scratched thin lines onto several rolls!)

From there, I settled onto the final train. Rolling into Zurich, through graffiti-filled tunnels, the train parked and I got off. I had earlier researched which tram to get on and found the #3 with little effort. Paying for my ticket, I headed straight to the Kunsthaus Zurich, the city’s fantastic museum. Museums have always been one of my favorite ways to spend time solo.

5732099004_5899a998e3_b

I spent the morning and early afternoon there, looking at everything from Piet Mondrian to medieval Madonnas. If my faulty, human memory serves me, it wasn’t crowded. I was allowed to have entire rooms to myself. In one room, a spider descended from the ceiling right in front of me, as though to have a better picture of the bright blue and white Fernand Leger painting we were both admiring. This is the only living, breathing thing I shared my experience with willingly.

Living abroad, one discovers the importance of being able to be alone. How to be alone, not lonely, and if you are lonely, to corral the loneliness somewhere else so that your living hours are not spent in sorrow. As I walked around the Altstadt (Old Town), past buildings that had lived through 500+ years of events, I passed art galleries and fashion boutiques. Carts of beautiful books for sale sat outside large, sunny shop windows. I thumbed through a few, unable to even think of buying anything. Languages from every corner of the earth were heard, mixed with the local Schweizerdeutsch, echoed from wood-beamed buildings. I will never not be bored of being in old places. This walls of these buildings had so many stories to tell, and the people who lived in them and worked in them surely could echo my sentiments. Wandering, listening, watching, are all wonderful things to do alone.

5731562077_893e6cf10d_b7834730970_0c63abc60b_b

It was a beautiful day- sunny but not too bright, a spring morning full of that omnipresent optimism that Primavera brings. Being able to wander with no time limits, no need to do anything, was perfect. I stopped outside churches, walked by the river, people-watched, and spent the whole day going wherever felt right. It was marvelous to do so.

Although this was over 5 years ago that broke girl and I are still very much alike. Being alone has become more and more normal. My friends, scattered across the globe like seeds, exist often on the fringes of my life, and my beloved partner is also geographically quite distant. Museums are still a place I go to escape reality and to embrace it, and I have been saving a weekend just so I can go to the museum here on a rainy, awful day.

5732093122_a72eb4ae65_b5731549331_76d4384734_b

Although the formula isn’t perfect, I do know how to be alone quite well, and it is very important to know how to do so. Especially in our lives, where it is so easy to feel despair and embrace negativity, knowing how to fortify yourself with books, Skype dates, plenty of sleep, and spontaneous adventures will keep you going for longer than you think.

Also, fair warning, but this might be one of a few escapist-like pieces. The world right now is a vicious thing, and the teeth and claws normally hidden behind lips and under fur are gleaming everywhere I look.

Let it wash over me- the Nostalgia post.

kic-image-0002kic-image-0003kic-image-0004kic-image-0005

How much of what I remember is real? How much of it is fantastical, invented by repetition of remembering? How much of Lugano that I possess in image won’t be there when I go next time?

I left Lugano in May of 2011, when I was 20 years old, sure of my return. I have not been back since. I ended up graduating from an in-state university instead of the prestigious, dual-degree giving small college in Switzerland I planned on.

I was surrounded by new things there, when at the age of 18 I embarked on the rare opportunity to learn somewhere entirely foreign to me. Ridiculous amounts of wealth stared me in the face- students in leased Porsches, BMW’s, and Mercedes-Benz vehicles lined the small student parking lot, bags worth my tuition gracefully hanging from fellow students arms, expectations of lavishness that had only entered my eyes previously through magazines. One classmate described growing up being shuffled around in armored vehicles in Colombia due to her father’s fear of being kidnapped. In Montana we keep a winter survival kit in the car in case something happens. In the cafeteria Arabic, Spanish, Russian, German, Czech, and English all mingled. Downtown Lugano was a space of tremendous, blatant wealth as well- I gazed at 800 franc shoes from Ermenegildo Zegna, gorgeously tailored suits, women wearing furs in the midst of May. Limited edition cars so rare that their worth almost couldn’t be ascertained- Bugatti, Lamborghini, Bentley, Jaguar- parked near 18th century Baroque churches. Versace, Bally, Hermes, Gucci, Missoni, Cartier boutiques lined the narrow, car-less streets weaving between quiet, elegant piazzas.

In the autumn, the piazzas were laced with the smell of roasted chestnuts. Sullen Gothic teenagers huddled outside Manor, sharing quiet comradery. Efficient buses hummed around and the funiculare which took you from downtown to the train station cost .10 francs and went to and fro full of passengers up the steep hill. Centuries old buildings with painted on windows, all shades of pastel, created a maze-like town of alleys and piazzas to stumble into. In the winter, one would hear the helicopters as large, regal Christmas trees were lowered into the piazzas. Old men played chess on the many painted large chess boards around the city. Swans, regal thieves, languidly floated near the edge of the lake, waiting to be fed. The sleek, small train station whisked people away to Milano Centrale or to the Zurich Bahnhof, wherever the rider wanted to go. I myself had the utter joy of having a train pass, being able to explore such cities as Lausanne, St. Gallen, Basel, and Zurich, easily and efficiently. Well-dressed older gentleman whose taxis were plush Jaguars asked if you needed their services. If you did indeed take a taxi, the inside was full of the sounds of bad 1990’s American rock and pop music that the drivers knew every word to. (I remember having one very patient Luganese gentleman try to shove my rather tattered bag into the back of his car at 5 am, probably much more used to dealing with more sleek creatures.)

Among all this newness and strangeness, I found my stride, my humble Montana-based stride, in the midst of all. Migros was the affordable grocery store that I regularly patronized. H&M clothed me. My friends and I splurged on warm Nutella crepes or nocciolo gelato, at 5 francs a welcome luxury, from the petite stands that emerged outside Manor and on corners. Churches full of relics, frescoes, and gorgeous, quiet details absorbed my spare time. Flowers in the Parco Civico, changed frequently, smiled at me, and in the early mornings, before most humans were awake, I could have the lakeside, and even the Italian mountains across the lake, to myself. On a few special occasions my dearest friends and I gathered at the Spaghetti Store by the lake to devour pizza with marscopone, arugula, and prosciutto with cheap table wine.

And yet, how much of this is personal mythology I coaxed from the threads of my mind? How many times was my identity as outsider made obvious?

I really hope, in the next few years, to go back and ascertain how much of what I think I know about this beautiful city is false. Human memory is so faulty, beautifully so, and if I find comfort in the ideas I’ve woven for myself,so be it. The curious part of me, however, is not always content with that answer- nor should it be. Lugano, I cannot wait to re-explore and analyze you with my veteran eyes.