Dark Woods : [a short story]


The trail sloped downward, winding back and forth as we rambled down the hillside, tangles of colorful wildflowers and tall grasses swishing as we passed. I could hear my husband’s feet pounding on the dirt behind me. “This is where the water crossing is,” he announced.

Okay, we’re here! This is what you prepared for, I thought encouragingly. Just change into your water shoes, like we planned. A splintered, wooden sign read La Garita Wilderness Rio Grande National Forest. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few pictures to upload to Instagram later, when I could get a signal again. I heaved off my backpack and grabbed my brand new Keen sandals out of the side mesh pockets. See, I’m so prepared, I thought proudly. I carefully balanced myself, one foot at a time, as I changed out of my hiking boots and arch-supportive socks, trying not to lose my balance or get anything muddy.

The river didn’t look very deep. It would probably only go up to my calves—easy enough. I took a few steps. Wow, okay, that’s freezing. The cold water seared my skin. It’s all good, just a few more steps. I stepped quickly, trying to hurry to the other side, and suddenly, I stepped into a small ditch, losing my balance and scraping my ankle against a sharp rock. Ow, pain. Okay, freezing. It feels like I’m getting stabbed. Hurry up; just get out! I leapt the last part, out of the water and onto the soggy bank, splashing mud onto my shoes and legs. My feet throbbed from the shock of the cold water. I slogged up the bank and sat on a large boulder where the trail was dry. I glanced down at my leg and quickly looked away. Omigod, there’s blood. Suddenly my mind raced with mental images of microscopic parasites and bacteria swirling in the water, which were probably now flowing freely into my bloodstream. We were about to enter the woods. I could die of infection out there.

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A Reflection on Living our Dreams

Oregon coast

In the last session of my creative writing class at The Lighthouse Writers Workshop, we were encouraged to focus on imagery, to delve into the poetic realm of creating lush, vivid scenes, to share the experience with our readers. I’ve been thinking a lot about that this week, and it’s made me consider the important sensory details and the unacknowledged, small truths in situations … like, if I were to write about this moment, how would I describe it? It especially struck me, for some reason, when I was watching a GoPro YouTube video today, which was a startlingly beautiful short film that explored the potential of living our dreams and venturing to take risks. (In case you’re interested, you can watch it here.)

At the end of the video, I just thought to myself, I need to live greatly more often. I’m not experiencing my life to its fullest potential. And I tried to think about what that really means, what I truly feel called to experience in order to live my fullest life. So I thought about the last time I felt in awe and inspired by the present moment. It wasn’t so long ago—just a few weeks ago, really.

RedwoodsMarkMy boyfriend and I had taken a road trip through Oregon and had dipped into Northern California to camp in the redwood forest. There was a period of time that I knew, even then, that I wanted to linger on as long as possible. It reminds me of the David Benioff quote: “There are a few moments in your life when you are truly and completely happy, and you remember to give thanks. Even as it happens you are nostalgic for the moment, you are tucking it away in your scrapbook.” But how do we tuck away those moments? We try to take pictures, to steal and preserve that moment for future reference, though it’s a bit like canning the last of summer fruit. In the starkness of winter, you puncture the tin can and flip open the jagged lid, only to find something that feels dead, once reminiscent of life, rather than the ripe fruit with sweet, juicy flesh you were hoping to save for later. And I feel that’s often how writing is. It’s this infuriating attempt to capture and relive and share something ephemeral, only to come up with something half-alive.

RedwoodsWhen words aren’t enough, how do you describe the smell of the redwood forest, the musky scent of damp earth, of plush moss tangled across thick platelets of bark, of decomposing leaves turning to mulch beneath fallen logs—logs as thick as a person is tall? And how do you describe the quiet? The quiet in the redwood forest is something beyond the absence of sound. It’s encompassing, like a thicket of fog that muffles any evidence of the world you came from. Facebook and the Internet and your job seem like another lifetime altogether when you’re in the forest. Even as fellow hikers walk along the groomed pathways curving beneath staggered, towering behemoths, they speak in awestruck whispers. The air is so cool and moist and dense that somehow it feels as if it’s made of all those whispers, hundreds of years worth, suspended and dispersed all around us.

I don’t know how to capture moments. I try. I attempt with pictures and words and stories, just like everyone else. Perhaps the only solution is simply to live more of them, until each incredible, fulfilling memory bleeds into the next adventure.

Dining and Dashing Through the Snow

Snowshoeing to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse

Snowshoeing to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse.

I had heard of the violet hour before, as well as the green hour and yellow hour, but never the blue hour. It wasn’t until I was standing at the edge of a dense forest, about to snowshoe along a well-worn trail in the snow, that I thought to myself, “If there is such a thing as the blue hour, surely this is it.” The sun had disappeared behind a distant mountain range, its radiant glow diffusing along the ridgeline, while the moon had already risen on the other side of us, turning the glittery, white snow into a soft blue hue. It was about 5:15 p.m. on Christmas day, and we were on our way to Tennessee Pass Cookhouse, a quaint, candlelit restaurant housed in a remote yurt, which you can reach via snowshoes, cross country skis or snowmobile. For novelty’s sake (and so I could finally cross it off my list of things to do in Colorado), my boyfriend and I opted for snowshoes. Continue reading

Getaway in Crested Butte

My friend Jared took this beautiful picture of Crested Butte.

Have you ever seen those signs that say, “Welcome to Colorful Colorado”? I think they might have been talking about Crested Butte. Over Labor Day Weekend, we gathered up a group of friends and made the trek over to “the last great Colorado ski town,” which is (arguably) a 4.5-hour drive from Denver.

This quaint mountain town has a bustling historic district stretching along Elk Avenue, where brightly painted shops and vibrant restaurants are interspersed with splintery wooden cabins and original buildings from the early 1900s. Surrounding the town are jutting mountains with groves of aspen trees snaking up the sides, stark rock cliffs and grassy meadows with swaying wildflowers. Apparently, Crested Butte is also nicknamed “The Wildflower Capital of Colorado,” which makes me want to come back in July to revel in all its summertime glory.

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Escape to Eldorado Springs

My friend Natalie snapped this awesome picture of Eldorado Springs Pool.

It’s no secret that reclining at the pool has been a well-established pastime of mine, especially after years of living in Vegas, where that translates to frosty cocktails, perfectly bronzed bodies and an upbeat soundtrack provided by superstar DJs. Well, things are a little different in Colorado, and I have to admit, I actually enjoyed the change.

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5 Things I Had Forgotten About Las Vegas

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

5. “Staycation” is something locals actually say—and do.

After living in Vegas for so long, “staycation” is just part of my lexicon, but I’m always amazed when people in other cities don’t know what it is. Basically, it’s a vacation while staying in your hometown. You can take advantage of room service, lounge by the pool and engage in super-hot hotel sex with your significant other (or a stranger, whatever), all without paying for a flight or dealing with TSA dolts. I spent an afternoon at the pool with my friends who were staycationing at Caesars Palace, and it reminded me how much I love this trend.

4. Paris Hilton is a regular fixture.

I landed in Vegas just in time to catch a private media opening at Mizumi, the new Japanese restaurant at Wynn Las Vegas, and having been to countless restaurant openings, it was everything I would have expected: opulent décor, a spread of bite-sized samples and the same roster of publicists, media folk and socialites that show up to every event, including Paris Hilton. When you’re not running into Paris, you’ll see her whereabouts in the SpyOnVegas galleries or at least in Norm Clarke’s column. I guess some things never change.

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