Thursday, February 28, 2013

Appreciating Small Gifts

I'm ever so thankful for small gifts, like the free luggage cart that appeared just as I was about to claim my large suitcase and two backpacks.

I'd like to have this heart of gratitude on a more regular basis.  I'm working on it...


Wednesday, February 27, 2013

With Gratitude

Diagnosed with hypothyroidism  in my mid 20's, I've been on the same medication since that time, and up until two years ago, my dose has been pretty much the same as well.  Early in 2010, I noticed a few of the common symptoms of hypothyroidism returning.

Under the care of a local physician, we've been working together to try to manage these symptoms by adjusting the dose of my medication.  Unsuccessfully.  Quarterly blood tests have been showing varying levels followed by dose adjustments, then more varying levels followed by more dose adjustment, but never stable levels.

Increasingly frustrated at not finding a dosage that returns me to normal levels, and feeling the symptoms even more, I decided it was time to sit down with my Doctor and have another look at what might be going on: hormones, another condition, etc.

Educating myself with google searches on a variety of medical forums, my local Doctor and I meet.  A wealth of information and a wonderful bed-side manner, I value and appreciate this physician who moved to our small town from a big city and who honors honest conversation.

Some of my research has found me looking in to holistic and naturopathic options.  My Doctor who practices Western medicine listens attentively and then suggests that she turn my care over to her coworker in the adjoining wellness center, a Doctor who integrates western and eastern medicine.

This Doctor has an appointment open in a week, but in five days I'm flying back to New York City.  Knowing this, my Doctor consults with her coworker and in an hour, I'm sharing my story with this new physician.

Attentive and kind, he addresses my concerns, offers suggestions, schedules alternate tests and together we devise a plan of action and care.

I leave this medical center feeling grounded, confident and very well attended to.  I share this story because I am touched by the care and reminded of one of the many reasons for how special it is to live in small town Homer, Alaska.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Wisdom of Charlie Brown

Browsing through the Homer Bookstore the other day, I saw this card quoting Charlie Brown.  It's message lept out at me, something I can regularly relate to...

 Sometimes I lie awake at night and I ask the Universe, "Where do I go wrong"?  

Then a voice says to me, "This is going to take more than one night".


Monday, February 25, 2013

Monday Musings


Sitting in my office this morning, working on art projects and watching the large, puffy snowflakes cascade on a slight right angle towards the ground, I feel an quiet sense of peace, calm and stillness mirroring the gentle, falling flakes.  As I rest back in to my chair, my eyes drift to one of several quotes I have on my wall and so, I thought I'd share this.  I don't know who wrote it, but it brings me comfort and assurance, and I hope it does you as well:

"Today, may there be peace within.  May you trust that you are exactly where you are meant to be.  May you not forget the infinite possibilities that are born of faith in yourself and others.  May you use the gifts that you have received, and pass on the love that has been given to you.  May you be content with yourself just the way you are.  Let this knowledge settle in to your bones, and allow your soul the freedom to sing, dance, praise and love.  It is there for each and everyone of us."


Sunday, February 24, 2013

The White T-Shirt, A Poem

A poem that caught my eye, now that I'm returning to the big city...
White T-shirt
by Lewis Ellingham
                                I caught sight of it at a bus stop:
a white T-shirt, though
                                                     it was partly covered by
     the turning form of a lanky youth massed
                with other human forms intent upon
          boarding the bus on which
                      I was riding, tucked in a corner seat on
                the last row of seats on the bus, the right 
   side, sheltered,
        watching the surge as it entered the double 
   rear doors that
                        soon welcomed as a bottleneck the 
   half dozen
     new passengers -- tall, he walked back along the    aisle until he stood
                                maybe a dozen feet from me, 
   holding a rail
      with one hand (the right), the other arm 
   dangling, his hips relaxed,
every color -- hair, eyebrows, lashes, half-day beard 
   shadow,
        heavy cotton pants, a
jacket dangling from the dangling left arm -- black 
   except for his
      white T-shirt, unornamented, the folds from 
   his twist
           as he stood, deep drapery folds, the cotton 
   heavier than ordinary
     for such a garment, the trim at waist and short 
   sleeves the same material rolled,
      eye-catching for its clean bright whiteness, 
   hinting at his beauty, and
                        beautiful in its self:                a white 
   T-shirt, an
        object, he
                                would move slightly, the 
   creases deepen
    as the twist deepened
                             slightly --
                                        at Castro, Market and 
   17th streets
        he got off, many did, many boarded, his eyes, 
   a light brown, met mine through
                the bus window for a moment, the T-shirt 
   at his neck white,
                                an object still

Saturday, February 23, 2013

A Heart of Gratitude


As I prepare to head back to New York City for three more months of adventure, my heart fills with gratitude for the beauty of this place that I call home.  For my friends, for my partner, for our four-legged companions, for the simple lives we lead, for the abundance of nature and for the very special community that nurtures, embraces and enfolds us.






Friday, February 22, 2013

Traffic Jam, Homer Style

With a population of just 4,500, it's a rare thing to experience a traffic jam here in Homer, especially during the winter, but yesterday, we were caught in one nonetheless.  Of course, this line of 25 cars is nothing to the "outside" world, comparatively speaking...



Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Push, Reach, Stretch - In Hot Pursuit of the Physical


While I love the outdoors and receive tremendous pleasure "playing" in a wide variety of activities, including walking, hiking, kayaking, cycling, skating, table tennis, badminton and skiing, I don't consider myself to be very "athletic".  Merely typing that word conjures up images of women like Serena Williams, Leryn Franco, Gabby Douglas and Kikken Randall, women with incredible strength, stamina and a determination to excel.

As a child, I was drawn to dance and gymnastics, but suffering from severe asthma and living in a remote, rural community limited my exposure to these opportunities.  And so I took part in what was available, attractive and possible: skating on local ponds, horseback riding through the fields, walking the dusty farm roads, riding my bike to and from friend's houses and the small school's extra curricular activities like basketball, volleyball, baseball and badminton.

While I excelled at volleyball and badminton, the time and financial commitment required by my parents in order for me to regularly engage in these pursuits prevented me from doing so.

During my College freshman year, I was often mistaken for Emma, a fellow student who was a voracious basketball player.  This mistaken identity garnered me a great deal of male attention, but not enough to inspire this shy student to heights of athletic endeavors.

I've been a hiker, a walker and a kayaker my entire adult life.  The most physically demanding activity I've sought out was a 500-mile walk across northern Spain on the Camino de Santiago.  An endurance of physical and emotional pain experienced simultaneously with physical and emotional pleasure, I carried my twenty two pound pack for fifteen to twenty miles a day, for five to eight hours a day, over rough and ever-changing terrain.  Daily as I walked, I bumped up against myself and encountered a strength of character and strength of body that I hadn't known I possessed/nurtured/inherited.

Walking through the French Pyrenees, up and over hills and across long stretches of vast mesatas, cobblestone, gravel, sand, grass and concrete, I felt a strength in and connection to my body I had not experienced before.  Ever so slowly, both on the trail and again when I returned home, a gentle inner voice whispered, encouraging me to push myself physically, to move beyond my self-imposed limitations, to match my outer journey with the incredible shifts of my inner journey.

My boyfriend, an athlete his entire life, engages in physical activity daily, dedicating time and energy to becoming stronger, more flexible, healthier, to increasing his stamina and managing his stress. His commitment to an active physical life greatly adds to his overall joy and happiness.  

Gently encouraging me to participate more physically in my own life, he and I joke that if I did actually start to do this, he'd fall in love with me all over again.  While this makes me laugh, what I really want to do is to fall in love with myself all over again: my heart, my mind, my spirit and my body.

This weekend, I took part in a Wine and Cheese Ski Tour, an event organized by our local ski club.  


With the grace of a doe walking on ice, I donned my gear and slid off down the trail, following the tracks of other skiers.  Simultaneously fighting back feelings of embarrassment at how slow I was skiing, of shame at holding Taz back, of anger for being so out of shape, of disappointment at my low energy, of chastising myself for not eating more protein for breakfast/drinking more water/eating less chocolate the night before/staying up so late watching a movie and not getting more rest, I made my way along the alternating curves and bends, flat land, up hills and down slopes of the six snowy kilometers to the first rest and refreshment stop, Stop One.

Adding my skis to the maze of all the other's skis and poles lining the driveway to the house, I walked the steps and enter a skier's haven.  I'm immediately accosted by my own thoughts, thoughts including, "Her ski jacket is cuter than mine", "I would be skiing faster if I had worn a lighter pack", "How can someone so much older than me ski so much faster than me?", "Why is that skinny, skiing bitch standing so close to my boyfriend?", "Oh shit, my ex is here?  Do these ski pants make me look fat?" and on and on and on the voices continued until finally, the sound of my own swallowing as I chugged my second glass of blueberry merlot finally drowned them out.

At Stop One, this Stop and Compare and Contrast Yourself to Every One Else, other skiers that I know from varying, non-athletic circles commented on how great it was to see me out.  As I often do when I feel awkward, out of place, fat, stupid, small, inept, uncomfortable or out of sorts, I harness my inner comedian and joked that Taz told me that we were going out for wine and cheese, but failed to mention the skiing part!   

With a belly full of wine and cheese and crackers, I hung back and watched the group of "real" skiers make their way down a short, flat area and then immediately up a massive incline of a hill.  Watching their straining faces and hearing their grunts of effort, I resecured my goggles and ventured out behind them, out the short, flat area and then immediately at the fork, cresting right up the hill and left back the way we'd all come, with no hesitation whatsoever, I thrust my body left and skied and swooshed, lifted and turned, and bent and soared across the down hills and along the flat landscape.


Giving myself permission to be proud of completing the ski to Stop One, I find I'm grinning and giddy with delight as I ski back to the start alone.  With no focus on exertion, worrying to control my breathing and to stay upright, I hear, really hear for the first time this day, the ravens calling and I see, really see, the snow alternating light and then heavy, swirling across the fields and in front of me and through the stands of cottonwoods, and I drink in, really drink in, the incredible beauty of the ever-changing gray/blue light.  

Approaching the parking area of the start, my inner child is dancing and leaping, twirling and pole vaulting with pride and joy and happiness.  Yes, yes, I skied seven or eight kilometers, woohoo, but even more spectacular than that to be celebrated, I experienced a profound peace and inner silence, fully immersed and at one with my natural surroundings.  

This connection to nature and ultimately to my self is what will drive me to hike and to cycle, to kayak and to walk, to skate and to ski, to engage in these and other physical activities on a more regular basis.

I'm not competitive and I may never have the desire to train for marathons or long distance cycling, swimming, skiing or kayaking events, but I can find joy in discovering and rediscovering my strength and stamina, while interacting with the natural world.

I am no longer the little girl that was regularly hospitalized with severe bouts of asthma, struggling to breathe.  I am a woman, strong and grounded in my own body, with the ability to be even more strong and more grounded.  To exercise for exercise's sake doesn't motivate or inspire me, but to engage in physical activities for the return to my Self, to reconnecting back to me, and to reaping the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, absolutely does.

To ski, to soar, to bike, to breathe, to hike, to heal, to walk, to wander - these I can grasp, these I can pursue, these I just might even be able to, gasp - wait for it, embrace.

Until then, all the while, I live, I love, I dance, I play, I yearn, I push, I reach and I stretch - ever forward in hot pursuit of my physical Self. 




Monday, February 18, 2013

Musings on Personal Freedom

“I used to think that freedom meant doing whatever you want. Now I know that it means knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing on this earth, and then simply doing it.” – Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones

Because I'm a person actively fueled by adventure and creativity and passion, people often tell me how much they respect and admire that I know what I want and that I just go for it.  What they don't realize is that I don't generally have a clear vision of what it is that I want, that I'm not very goal-oriented and that I'm definitely not a planner.  I very much live my life by "shooting from the hip", being open and spontaneous, and as a result, bump up alongside fantastic people, places and adventures.

Regularly, rather than consciously moving towards things, I'm moving away from things.  While I don't typically have a very specific idea of what I want, generally speaking my thoughts on what I want are quite vague, but when it comes to knowing what I don't want, I'm much more clear.  

I figure that as long as I move away from places, people, ideas, jobs, situations, etc. that are not or no longer feeding me, then I'm moving in a direction of discovering who and what will.  

People say that I am brave and courageous in living so "freely".  I'm just doing what I know how to do, what feels good to me and what works for me most of the time.  While it's fun to live this way, it can also be very stressful in that there are so many unknowns.  These are the two sides of the coin of my life.   

I routinely try activities and ideas and people on for size, feeling them out, fleshing them out, imagining my life with them as an active part.  This is an incredibly helpful exercise in my personal growth.  By eliminating the dull, drab listless and chaotic from my life, I thrust myself towards new beginnings and usually find my passions therein.

I admit that this may not actually be the most healthy way of living life, as I tend to fall in to emotional binge and purge cycles where I can easily become restless and bored with schedules and routines and the same ol' same ol'.  This is my current mode of operating and while this desire to be constantly moving, internally and externally, can be tiring, exhausting actually, it can also be incredibly stimulating and I find myself in places and with people who are creative, fun, filled with a zest for life.

If, as Natalie Goldberg surmises, freedom is knowing who you are, what you are supposed to be doing, and then simply doing it, well, does one or two out of three count?  I think so!



 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Red Flags?

 
A friend of mine has been dating someone for a couple of months.  Today, we chatted back and forth about some concerns she has with their relationship.  Our conversation got me wondering how we can know when issues that arise in partnerships, be they love interests, coworkers, family members, friends, etc. are red flags or if they're "just" things that are causing us to step outside of our comfort zone.

It seems to me that some issues like physical, verbal or mental abuse are obvious red flags, but what about the less obvious ones?  How can we know when concerns are worth working through and when they're cause for ending the relationship?  My tendency towards black and white thinking has me puzzling over something that's probably a very grey area.

And still, I wonder...  

Thanks Taz for sharing this great image!
 



    

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

A Circle of Men & Women

Three years ago, my friend Jen and I created "A Circle of Women", a literary and photographic exhibit featuring women's answers to a series of questions relating to their experiences of being women, as well as photographs depicting women in their daily lives.

Now, with Jen's blessing, I'm venturing out to create "A Circle of Women II" as well as "A Circle of Men".

These Circles are intended to create a space for self-reflection and contemplation on the experience of being a man or a woman, and to provide a place to give voice to these experiences.  

I'm currently looking for men and women to participate in any and all of the following ways: by answering the questions, by being photographed, by having stories voice recorded. My goal is to create a traveling exhibit, a website and a coffee table or eBook, ultimately expanding this project nationally and internationally.

If you'd like to participate, please email me at alaskachristina@gmail.com with A Circle of Women/Men in the subject line.  

Here are some images from the 2009 "A Circle of Women", exhibited at Fireweed Gallery in Homer, Alaska. 











Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Buen Camino - My Presentation in NYC in March


I've secured March 28th, 7pm to 8:30pm at the REI in SoHo, New York City, for my community slideshow and storytelling presentation about the joys, challenges and surprises I encountered along my 500 mile walk from France to Spain, on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail in the fall of 2011. 

It's a free event, but you need to register to reserve one of the 45 seats available. 

Here's the link for more information and to register:

http://www.rei.com/event/49293/session/67330

Buen Camino - My Presentation in Edmonton in June


I've secured June 17th, 7pm to 8:30pm at Mountain Equipment Coop in Edmonton for my community slideshow and storytelling presentation about the joys, challenges and surprises I encountered along my 500 mile walk from France to Spain, on the ancient Camino de Santiago pilgrimage trail. 

It's a free event, but you need to register to reserve one of the 50 seats available.

Here's the link for more information and to register:

http://events.mec.ca/event/3262/buen-camino-a-pilgrims-journey-a-presentation-jun17#.URvtIuhR5GU 



Monday, February 11, 2013

When the Rubber Meets the Road

Not all who wander are lost, but we do stray on and off the paths we're creating as we go.  Today, I'm feeling a bit adrift.  I have to remind myself daily that I chose to let go of my "secure" jobs in order to pursue freelance work as a writer and a photographer. 

Spending hours and hours each day looking for funding sources for my creative projects is a lesson in patience and in thinking outside of the box.  It's also a great way for me to really focus on the nuts and bolts of bringing my ideas to fruition, verses just the romantic idea of doing so.

This is where the proverbial rubber meets the road and I get to discover what I'm made of.



 


Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Freedom to Back Up

My friend Darlene got a ride home the other evening. The kind gentleman slipped his aging car in to her driveway and bid her farewell as she moved from the car to her front door. Hearing a noise and craning her neck out her window five minutes later, she was surprised to see him still parked in the driveway.  Donning her jacket and boots and stepping back out in to the night, she leaned in to the window as he rolled it down, and asked him if everything was alright, to which he sheepishly responded, "I forgot that this car doesn't have reverse".

This story not only made me laugh at how we in Alaska hold on to our vehicles longer than residents in nearly any other State do.  It also got me thinking about how I sometimes get so caught up in moving forward with plans, ideas and activities, occasionally plodding along even though my initial enthusiasm has diminished or my initial reasonings have changed, that I often forget that I have a working reverse mode; that is to say that in most instances, I can change my mind, back up, sit at the fork in the road, put things in to reverse and/or consider an alternate "route".

Reverse:



1. Change something to opposite

2. Go backward

3. Turn something inside out

4. Revoke ruling

5. Gear for backward movement

6. The opposite

7. Change to opposite direction

8. Opposite to usual or previous  arrangement

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Returning to New York City

From pushing the pause button to pushing play once more, I'll return to New York City at the end of the month.

While I'm so grateful to have been able to return home, to have spent lots of fun, quality time with my boyfriend and our critters, to have reconnected with my awesome Alaska friends and to have breathed in the natural beauty here, I'm eager to continue my Big Apple Adventure.

My heart is torn between Alaska and New York, two places that are so vastly different in the beauty and inspiration that they offer, as well as the challenges that they present to me.

Home is where the heart is, and I'm incredibly blessed to feel at home in both Homer and Brooklyn. 





Thanks to my friend Gail in Washington for sharing this photo of a heart moss that she saw while out hiking... 



Friday, February 8, 2013

The Streets of NYC vs The Streets of AK

While walking the streets of New York City, I've been asked:

* For spare change
* For food
* For directions
* For a swipe of my subway card
* What time it is
* Where I'm from
* Where I'm going
* If I speak Spanish, French, English
* If I've been saved
* If I'd like to go home with him/her/them
* If I have marijuana/cocaine/beer/whiskey
* If I'm single, married, living with someone, gay, straight
* If I'm happy, sad, lonely 
* If I'm looking for a good time
* If I'd like to go for a drink
* Where I live
* If I'd like to buy a ticket for a musical, comedy, dance performance, tour 

Yesterday, while slowly making my way along the icy streets of the hills near my house here in Alaska, a couple walking stopped me and asked "Have you seen our pig?" 

Now, it's not unusual to see other people out walking here, as this is a very walker-friendly community, and Alaskans tend to be a people who enjoy being outside, be it walking, hiking, skiing, kayaking, cycling, running, golfing, hunting, fishing, birdwatching, snowshoeing, horseback riding...

What I found unusual was, one - their lost pig, and two - my reaction to being stopped by strangers.  

As it turns out, they really did lose their pig when their barn burned down the week prior.  And as it turns out, living in NYC has created an unconscious suspicious nature in me...

Hmmm..... 



Subway Dreamin'

This morning I woke up dreaming that I was riding the train.  I love the energy and watching the people.  I'm intoxicated by the steady rhythm and the "stand clear of the closing doors please" announcements.  And the entertainers, oh the entertainers that bring a smile to my face and get my feet a tapping!





Thursday, February 7, 2013

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

One New Yorkers Thoughts on Snow in the City

When I asked how she was faring in the blizzard, my writer/photographer friend Bárbara shared her thoughts on New York City's recent snowfall.

"I have to say, I wouldn't mind snow so much if I didn't live in New York City.  It just makes everything so darn annoying.  It is already too crowded here and the snow filling in all the rest of the empty spaces makes me think of the jar analogy.  I always feel liek we (all of us - buildings, cars and people) here in NYC are like jellybeans in a jar filled to the top, and a snowstorm is like pouring sand in to the jar, filling in any tiny crevice that might not already be taken.  Too close for comfort for me.  It also makes me feel really scared in some kind of trapped way...  I truly hate it."

Thanks for letting me quote you Barbara.  

View Barbara's work at Barbara Herrnddorf Photography.com and check out her blog at barbaraherrnsdorf.wordpress.com.






 

Monday, February 4, 2013

A Tale of Two Scarves

At first glance, it might seem like just an ordinary scarf.  And in fact, it is just an ordinary scarf, but it's an ordinary scarf that I've seen someone wearing nearly every day this winter, capturing my attention and peeking my interest as to its popularity.  Questioning a woman wearing one, I learn that it's a cashmere Burberry scarf and that Burberry is a popular brand of clothing for New YorkersI buy a knockoff to take home with me, a memory of my winter in the big city.  It's interesting what captures our attention as we move through our days.



Sunday, February 3, 2013

Happy Superbowl Sunday

From house parties to gatherings at the local bars to our movie theater showing the game on the bigscreen, Homer celebrates Superbowl Sunday in fine style!  Go Ravens!




Saturday, February 2, 2013

Reconnecting to the Small Town


Life in Homer, Alaska is a feast of natural beauty and small town life. Reconnecting with friends, neighbors and community members is as easy as a trip to the Post Office or the grocery store.

Meeting up with friends over breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, coffee, a ski, a snowshoe or a beach walk brings such delight to my heart.  These friendships are solid, with a rich history of mutual sharing, growth and common experiences. 

With its expansive natural beauty and grace, my soul rests here in Homer, and a sense of calm and peace revisits to sit silently on my shoulders.  The sun sets and rises, as does the moon, eagles, ravens and crows fly overhead and moose and rabbit frequent our front yard.  My spirit thrives in this bliss of abundant nature.




Connected to the City

When I decided to move to New York City, I had numerous goals in mind. One of these goals was to feel connected to the people and to the place, really connected.  

I'm proud that I've achieved this goal in spades. I've found New Yorkers to be very open, engaging and dynamic.  The friendships I've forged have been surprisingly easy, incredibly fun, and have added so much to my life. 

I love walking the streets of the city, anonymously blending in with all the others.  There's a tremendous feeling of freedom that comes with this blending, and it's quite intoxicating to move about this way.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Missing New York City


Some people see the city as noisy, dirty and crowded.  While it may have these aspects, I've fallen in love with the fascinating architecture, mesmerizing history, amazing locals, soothing natural beauty, invigorating and unending activity, performance art opportunities, and more!  

From riding the subway to hearing the birds outside my window, to interactions with strangers, to exploring the beaches and parks, to taking in a vast array of art exhibits, dance performances and live music and musicals, to a great cup of coffee at my favorite coffee shop, to writing at my little desk as the moms walk their kids to school, to being greeted by the family who owns the deli on the corner, to sharing stories of the other room renters with my landlady, to getting together with my friends, to walking my neighborhood late at night and listening to the various languages, to laying in bed at night with the light from the street light casting shadows across my blinds and the quieting hum of traffic lulling me to sleep... 

 I LOVE NEW YORK CITY!