Monday, April 1, 2013

Puerto Rico: El Yunque Rainforest

I had been sitting on the hostel's balcony when one of my dormmates approached me. He asked if I had plans for the next day as he was intending to rent a car and drive up to El Yunque. Did I want to go along? Uhm, yeah! El Yunque is the sole tropical rain forest in the U.S. National Forest System. And my oh my is it beautiful.

We set out early in the morning from Old San Juan. He was behind the wheel and I was behind the map, navigating our route to the park. After only one missed turn, we were up the winding path towards the park. Half way up the narrow, one wrong turn and you're plunging down the cliff, road we came upon this.

La Coca Falls. A beautiful waterfall cascading over a sheet of rock. There was a rail, sure, to keep cars from careening into the rocks. But people were crawling among the boulders, searching for the best spot to get a picture, dipping their hands among the falls.

We continued on.

 We parked, grabbed some sketchy maps, checked them against a graffitied sign and set off along El Bano Oro trail. We figured it'd be concrete or gravel, fairly smooth, though maybe muddy with the rain we had the night before. We were wrong. The first ten minutes or so were paved, And then it gave way to muddy, rutted paths barely marked by mossy lumber.

We had anticipated a 45 minute to an hour hike, depending on how often we stopped to take pictures.

Ruined hacienda.
We might have reached Roca el Yunque (the peak) in that amount of time if we'd been able to fly along the path. But there were rocks to scramble over and a waterfall that ran across the path and branching routes with no signs to direct us along our chosen path. I was astounded we were on a trail at all.

Clouds in every direction
Despite being exhausted when we finally emerged into the clouds (and on and off rain) any breath I still had was taken away.

Picture this.

The trees are thinning, you see only white clouds through the gaps, but the cool air tells you you're almost there. The path winds outward and suddenly goes out onto a big jut of rock. There are no guardrails, no warning signs, nothing from preventing you simply leaning too far and falling a hundred feet before even reaching the tops of the trees below. You look back the 30 feet to where the trail is back on legitimate ground. As you turn to look out over the wide whiteness, suddenly it all clears. Sun beats down on you, somehow closer than the last time you saw it. One, no two peaks let their cloudy wreath fall and you are parallel with these kings of the land. A sea of green treetops stretches out before and beneath you. You are on top of the world.

And then the wind picks up. Clouds swallow it all up again. Leaving you with only memories, just a small glimpse into the true beauty, true vastness, true meaning of what it is to be alive.

I have been ziplining, hiked bluffs and peaks, kayaked small rivers and bioluminescent lagoons, soaked in volcano warmed springs, met more incredible people I can count. And yet everyday there is something new that amazes me.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Airport Sondering

I like to sonder in the airport. What is sondering you ask? Good question.

sonder on the beach definition
This picture was taken by yours truly in Puerto Rico. Old San Juan specifically.
Sonder. Knowing that everyone one else has an equally intricate and emotional story as yours. Crushing despair, heart pounding elation, the spreading warmth of love. They've watched sunrises and sunsets, cried until numb and laughed until it hurt, had hopes and dreams and goals and desires. Every intense emotion and event you've ever experienced, has been mirrored by millions around the world. That... is sondering.

I intentionally get to the airport early so I can people watch. I like to grab a coffee, find the least uncomfortable chair near my gate and just... watch.I try to imagine where they're going, why, who they're going to meet.

There's the dance team on their way to a national competition. Jittery and laughing in their team shirts. The businessman in his suit and tie, checking his email and tapping his foot. Impatient to get on with things. The new parents, fussing over the baby in her carrier. Tucking and retucking blankets, double checking tickets, and updating relatives as to their arrival time. The adventurer with his worn out backpack and slightly faded tshirt. Chatting in some other language to someone he just happened to sit down by.

It's just crazy to think of the number of people, the number of stories that pass through your own without so much as a second thought. If the walls had eyes and ears and mouths, what sorts of stories would they tell about what they've seen? In an airport, I just can't imagine.

Sondering. Next time you find yourself with a few minutes to spare, just stop. Watch the people around you. Wonder at their hurry. Celebrate that you are not alone. Remind someone that we're all in this together, at least for a little while.


Thursday, February 14, 2013

Oh You, Sweetiepoo Honey Dumplin' Stud Muffinbear

Valentine's day. The most ooey gooey mushy romance filled day on the calendar. For those of us without a significant other (AKA ME.), it's SAD.

No, not depressing sad. Ok, well maybe a tad. But what I meant was SAD. Single Awareness Day. What other day is it made so blatantly obvious that the only one waiting for us is our snuggly pooches who place no more significance upon this day than any other. While I love getting cuddles and dog kisses, it's not the same as a dozen red roses. And I don't even like roses.

That being said, I'm not gonna be one of those mopey, depressed wallowing in self pity sorta people. I mean, who has the time? Besides, how attractive can you be when there's mascara running down your face, a tub of ice cream in one hand and a spoon in the other? Instead remember this...

You do not need someone else by your side to make you important. You determine your own self worth.

You do not need someone else to validate your decisions. Believe in what you do and you'll be happier with the choices you make.

You do not need someone else to remind you that there is beauty in everything if you know where to look. You just need to keep your eyes open and let yourself be surprised.

Sharing your life with someone can be beautiful. Happy Anniversary to my wonderful parents who have shown me just that. 26 years and only getting better, like one of my dad's fine merlots. (Yuck, wine.) But until you find that person, it's ok to take advantage of the buy one get one deals to get two for yourself, and all the cheap candy tomorrow, and to spend a little extra time in bed this morning because Prince Charming can wait a little longer.

-Your Oogie Woogie Pookiebelle Lovebug, Spencer