Dust

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The smoke from the pipe curled up the stone wall like a lizard trying to find a cool spot on a hot day. His beard was thick and long, hanging down to his barrel chest. Silvery threads twisted themselves around the darker strands choking them out. Dark eyes glinted behind lowered lids, searching for the right words. He flipped through the stiff, yellow pages of his book. There was a specific quote he wanted to find. It was something that reminded him of before, when he didn’t know about war.

Outside the sun was setting. Dark yellow rays pushed past the tangled branches of the fir trees lining the gravel driveway. They fell onto the front porch where he was sitting, reading. Lovingly the dying rays lit the words for him. He found the quote. Pulling a blue pen from his jacket’s pocket he circled the sentence, “Every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.” He had once lived by that quote. The words had motivated him through his school years and later it pushed him through his early adult life. But at a certain point it had begun to lose meaning. The longer he lived and fought the less his heart beat strongly and cheerfully. Eventually it had stopped beating all together. That’s why he’d moved here, to the mountains, away from anyone or anything that could possibly see his dead heart.

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Now he sat on his front porch re-reading the sentence for the first time in twenty years. “Every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world.” Saying the words out loud made him nervous. His voice was rough and strained from under use. The soft smell of warm pine drifted over in a puff of breeze. With a deep sigh he sucked it in. Reaching under his chair he ruffled the fluffy head of the dog sleeping there. Affectionately the animal licked his master’s hand. “A strong and cheerful heart. You have one of those Cooper.” Cooper’s tale thudded against the wood of the deck at the sound of his name. “I wish I did too.”

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By now the sun was sitting on top of the purple mountains, casting an orange halo over the sky. The air was cool and clear. Standing the man and dog walked off the porch. It was time for their nightly stroll through the trees before star gazing and then bed. Pine needles crunched under the weight of his heavy boots, Cooper’s feet padded quietly. Hands buried deep in his pockets he continued to think about the quote and why he’d come here. He hadn’t been home long before he realized he wouldn’t fit in anymore. All of his old friends where married now with kids, mortgages , and no future. His parents had long spent their retirement on cruises and golf and were now rotting away in a retirement home. They didn’t remember him. He intended to die in these mountains, away from people, alone. No one would miss him. Maybe he’d even be happy a little bit knowing that he had done his part and gone quietly. But now he wasn’t so sure. Here there was just quiet, reflection, and regret.

Regret. The word had hung in his dusty mind like a dying leaf on a branch for years. At first he had only thought the feeling was numbness to all the evil he’d seen. Then he thought it was bitterness. Now he realized it was all of those wrapped up in a tight blanket of regret for a life he could have enjoyed and loved but instead hated and brooded over. It was the last gift he had received for all his hard work. He’d given his whole life away for a cause he never really believed in only to be rewarded with a dead soul. His once strong and cheerful heart had been ground into the very dust he’d lived in for the last 20 years.

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The sun had now set. Cooper followed his master back up the stone steps of the house and in through the front door. Whining the dog wagged his tale as his bowl was filled with dinner. Watching Cooper inhale his food was calming. This animal had nothing to do in this life except love and be loved. It would be a sad day when Cooper died. “Come on Cooper. Let’s go back outside.” He said. The dog looked up, his hershey kiss eyes filled with kindness. They went back to the front porch to watch the stars come out. Lighting up his pipe again he sat back in his chair and turned his eyes to the darkening sky. The smoke twisted in the cool night air. It was black out there in the mountains, like dark velvet. Little stars began to poke their little heads out of the bluish, purple sky. With a sigh he stretched out his feet on the railing of the porch. All around him nature was living, thriving, existing. Despite the cold winters, fierce summers, and long rains of the spring, these mountains remained strong and powerful. Whatever was the center of this wilderness was strong and hopeful. There was a hopeful impulse in everything here. How had he never noticed it  before? It flowed like blood from a gaping wound. There was no regret in the mountains, only survival and beauty. Life went on.

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A small breeze blew through the trees and across his face, stirring his beard. He could feel a little spot dust clear away. Eventually it would all blow away. There would be a new heart left behind. Not as fresh as the old one once was, he thought, but not so dead as it was now. Picking up the book he opened back up the quote he’d circled, “Every heart that has beat strongly and cheerfully has left a hopeful impulse behind it in the world, and bettered the tradition of mankind.”

“Cooper,”he said around his pipe,”I think tomorrow we need to go into town. I haven’t seen mom and dad in awhile. Might be a good idea to visit don’t you think?” Cooper thumped his tail. He smiled and patted Cooper’s head. Tonight he’d stopped dying in these mountains. Instead he decided he would live, and find a way back to a strong and cheerful heart.

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Love With Crystal

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The first time I saw the girl, my heart stopped. I was transported with a quickness to a world exploding with sparkling red lights. My head felt as if it was going to burst at any minute. There was no air, and my feet were floating on nothing. It was hard to see through the swirling sparks and thick dark atmosphere. My heart was on fire.

The girl appeared at my side while I was browsing the book shelves. She did’t seem to notice this strange and alien world we were in. “Can I help you find something?” Stupidly I stared at her sparkling smile. I felt like a child, a clumsy, awkward child. Sparks kept hitting me in the face and catching on my clothes. A few tugged at her short blond hair and bounced off the sweet dimples in her cheeks.

“Hi” she said tilting her head to the side as if she knew I was an idiot.  My throat stuck, but I managed to answer.

“Hello. What’s your name?” my voice cracked. She giggled as a pink spark flitted by her button nose. Shyly she shuffled her feet. “Its Crystal. What’s yours?”

“Adrian.” I answered. My brow was beginning to sweat. I looked around. “Strange place don’t you think?” She raised an eyebrow at my question..

“Its just a bookstore.” Crystal answered, and just like that the bookstore reappeared around us.

“Oh yes of course, I know. You like books then?” This beautiful creature smiled and nodded. “Actually I work here.” She explained. My heart thudded in my thin chest. Crystal was short and soft. The space around her glimmered like sunlight on water.

“Can I help you find anything Adrian?” Crystal asked. I blinked.

“I’m looking for a book about alternate realities.” I answered.

“I know just the book for you. Right this way.” As she spoke a million golden stars shot out of her mouth. Crystal was angelesque. A bright shining star. She led me to a back corner. We stopped in front of a shelf and she began to reach up for a book. She was just an inch to short. “Which one?” I asked. Crystal pointed. Heat radiated from her. The ground was shaking. I was shaking.

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“So, I was wondering, Crystal.” I began to ask. Pausing I glanced at her gleaming face. Her eyes were pools of mercury, swirling in the light.

“Yes?” she prompted.

“I was wondering if you’d like to go get a coffee with me. This afternoon?” I asked. A shock like a thousand bees stinging me at once shot through my body. I rocked a little from side to side from the impact.

“I’d love to. Let me give you my number. I’m off at 2.” Crystal reached for a pen. She grabbed my hand and wrote down a number on the palm. Blushing with happiness I thanked her then turned to purchase my book.

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As I walked outside into the glaring heat of the day I looked down at my palm. To my dismay my hand had sweated away the number. A jolt of fear racked my body.  I was already 4 blocks away. Disregarding the heat and crowd of people pushing past me, I turned and sprinted back to the store. Bursting in I ran through looking for Crystal. She was no where to be found. Trembling I approached the cashier. “Excuse me.” I asked calmly, ”I’m looking for an employee here named Crystal. She’s short, has short blonde hair, and has a round face.” The cashier just stared. I could feel the ground fall beneath me. “There’s no one named Crystal working here.”

“Are you sure?” I asked frantic,”She just helped me.” The cashier shook his long greasy hair. His breath smelled like tobacco and old shoes.

“I’m sorry sir,” He said.  Disappointed I turned my back on him. A sickening feeling welled up inside. Numbly I stumbled back out onto the street. In my hand was clasped the book. Sitting down on a bench outside the store I began to peruse the cover. “Magic or Science: Relativity for the Average Soul” stared at me in glossy white on a shiny backdrop of space. I glanced at the author. Crystal Barnes, I read. Confused I flipped to the bio in the back. There was a picture of a short, blond, happy round faced Crystal smiling sweetly at me. Snapping the book shut I closed my eyes.

“Well there you are Adrian. I’m off early. How about that coffee?” Opening my eyes I turned. The world shimmered and fell away. Sparks flew at my face and the air grew thin. “All right.” I said and grinned.

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A Little Bit About My Epic Road Trip

Somewhere In Chapel NC there is a road sign that follows my blog

Somewhere In Chapel Hill NC there is a road sign that follows my blog

I got tired of the fitness series so decided three posts related to that was more than enough. Instead I decided I would write a little bit about my brush with the nomadic lifestyle and being a little bit homeless.

It all started back in November. I had been planning my epic road trip for a few months and could not wait to say au revoir to the Coast Guard and hit the open highway. Well now I’ve been on the open highway for almost a month (Sunday will be the month mark) and I would love to be in a situation where my butt didn’t feel like it was permanently glued to a car seat. If I’m not driving I’m walking. Just about every place I’ve visited so far I’ve walked till I’ve dropped.  One reason I cut my fitness series short was because I couldn’t keep writing about all the walking I was doing! It’s been grueling and I think I’m ready to walk a marathon.

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New Orleans Santa

Now apart from my sore butt and tired feet I’ve really enjoyed this trip. America is incredibly diverse. Cape May NJ is a very different town from New London CT. Philadelphia PA is a different country compared to San Antonio TX. And Boston is a totally different planet from New Orleans. I could spend hours just writing about the differences in the culture and history of each place.

I realize that for a lot of people getting outside of their town is both expensive and terrifying. But I also realize that a lot of people are making weak excuses for not getting out and seeing new places. To travel and open up your eyes to a new world and create a more empathetic heart you don’t have to leave your country. You can benefit greatly just from traveling around the states. It’s a good stepping stone or baby step for anyone considering world travel. It’s easier to plan and budget trips in your country while still being able to see different lifestyles and learn from them.

This San Antonio shop is strangely similar to most of the markets in Mexico

This San Antonio shop is strangely similar to most of the markets in Mexico

My trip is far from over. I’m not scheduled to end my homelessness till Christmas Eve. But so far between my travel in the Coast Guard and this road trip I’ve gotten a very clear picture of how diverse and interesting America is. Go explore for your self and see if I’m wrong. I know you’re curious!

Staying Fit While Traveling Part 1

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Staying in shape is difficult. It’s literally a pain in the butt and requires time and energy. But it makes you feel good, stay healthy, look hot, and boosts confidence. So what happens when you decided to put yourself in a situation that takes you away from a regular routine?

I am currently on a 1.5 month journey across the states. Fitness is an important part of my life so it’s difficult for me to get thrown out of my usual schedule. That’s why I decided to do this series, staying fit on the road. My on the road fitness journey started this past weekend in Boston, MA. It was my first time visiting, and it was the perfect place to start this little project.

My first order of business was to go to Salem, MA where I had the best Indian food you can find on the East Coast. If you’re ever in Salem go to Passage to India. It’ll be well worth your time. After stuffing my face with nan and curry, my travel buddy and I walked around the main center of Salem. I’ll be honest, Salem sucks. It’s really boring, there’s hardly any history stuff, the witch shops are cheap and gimmicky, and there’s to many brick buildings. However, we did walk for about an hour looking at the few witchy shops Salem has to offer. Workout for the day, done. It is very important after any workout to have some kind of recovery meal. My recovery meal was an asparagus salad, and huge slice of chocolate mousse cheesecake from the Cheesecake factory.

The next workout happened Sunday when we went and explored the City. As a warm up we went to a lovely little coffee shoppe called The Thinking Cup. This cute coffee shoppe sells Stumptown coffee, proud moment from me since that’s THE coffee roaster of Portland OR, and makes delicious nutella filled croissants. Also their baguette sandwiches are pretty tasty.

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After a serious warmup at The Thinking Cup we began the main bulk of our workout. Walking around the city. This was actually a pretty real workout. We walked at least 5 miles, which in winter boots on the old roads of Boston isn’t the easiest task. For a little break we stopped into the Green Dragon for some drinks and the best mussels I’ve ever eaten. And of course we stopped at Mike’s Bakery and had some desert. After replenishing our depleted bodies we braced ourselves for the hardest part of the day’s workout, climbing to the top of the Bunker Hill memorial. In all seriousness that was actually difficult. It’s over 200 steps. I’m in pretty good shape, and I had sore calves the next day. To finish up we went to a delicious Italian restaurant Benevetos. By the end of the day we were completely beat down.

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For those of you shaking your heads because you thought this article would be more helpful I did do a tabata workout on Monday. Tabata is when you take an exercise and perform it for a period of time, usually short, then rest for an even shorter period of time. For example, you could do pushups for 20 seconds then rested for 10. I picked four exercises and did the 20×10 rotation for a minute then switched it up. After 16 minutes you are beat and feel like you did an hour’s worth of working out. Tabata is usually done with body weight exercises. It can be done anywhere easily and without taking up much time while still making you feel great!

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Fitness and staying in shape is great and amazing and everyone should do it. But honestly sometimes it just doesn’t make sense. I happen to love food and traveling and the two together can make a normal hardcore workout routine pretty damn difficult. But it can still be done and we can still have plenty of time for fun along the way.

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I Do What I Want

Venice Beach Rollerskaters of the 1970s (3)A few years ago I adopted a phrase that’s simple and often used as a joke, “I do what I want.” At first using this phrase was just a fun way of being sassy and letting people know I liked having my way. But in the last year it became more serious. It evolved from a girlish power phrase to a factual statement. I began using it  as a warning to people that I was fully capable of making my own decisions and not was easily affected by peer pressure.

I had become tired of people telling me what to do. And by people I mean people who I did not have close connections with. If I had a quarter for every time someone gave me a piece of unwanted relationship advice, or pointed out every flaw in my well thought out future plans I’d be a millionaire. I also grew tired of people telling me how to feel especially in relationship settings. It wasn’t just individuals either. The whole world was telling me how to feel and be in a relationship and when I couldn’t live up to those expectations I felt horrible and even hated some things about myself I never should have hated. So I started fighting back. It took sometime but finally I realized that there were good things about myself that society said were going to get me nowhere. That’s when saying “I do what I want” changed.

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When I tell people that “I do what I want” now I am saying that I can make decisions and live with the consequences. I am taking ownership of my actions. Also I am saying that I trust myself and love the parts about me that are often shut down. It’s not a phrase to prove I’m tougher than you or more confident. It’s simply a statement letting people know that I take myself seriously and when I truly need guidance I will seek it from those closest to me.

I encourage you to think about if you do do what you want. Do you take responsibility for your actions? Or do you blame the world and the people around you for the consequences? Do you love the good, amazing parts of yourself? Can you trust your thought process and the decisions you make? If you feel that most of your choices are made because of what others have said to you have no fear. All of us have been in positions where we don’t do what we want. But with practice and a true desire to do the right thing you too can say with confidence “I do what I want.”

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Frozen: Don’t let Society/Disney Brainwash you

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Like most of America I watched Frozen and loved it. It’s a fun, adventurous, cliche Disney princess movie with all the elements that have made Disney so endearing. However, There is one glaringly obvious problem with the fandom of Frozen, the obsession with Elsa. For some reason Elsa has been placed on the highest pedestal of princess role models. People love Elsa. But why? What is there to really, truly love about Elsa over her sister Anna?

Elsa is portrayed as a fierce independent woman. She has magical powers, dresses like a true queen and decides to embrace her magic powers instead of hide them. Her hair is white blond and her dress sparkles. Anna on the other hand is quirky, clumsy, blinded by a crush on a prince, girly, and has nothing sparkly or glamorous about her. Also at one point in the movie Elsa tells Anna you can’t fall in love with someone you just met thus making Anna seem juvenile and Elsa more serious. What Disney is doing is giving us a model for what society thinks a woman should be, and that is Elsa.

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But let’s look at the problems with this model. What a lot of people don’t readily see about Elsa is that she is fearful, self destructive, violent, resentful, selfish and weak. She doesn’t embrace her power until she is driven to shame and embarrassment in front of all her subjects. Her response to those emotions is to lash out in anger, seclude herself and punish her only family and friend. Elsa is to weak to see that she is loved and cared for by Anna. She is too selfish to know that what she is doing is causing harm to her sister and people. It’s not until the very end does she finally realize that she is loved and doesn’t have to hate herself. Because Elsa hates who she is. She is ashamed of her gift and views herself as a monster. Not only does she cause harm to others but she also is harming herself. How is this in anyway a good role model for girls and young women? Why is society forcing us to embrace this?

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Anna is the complete opposite of Elsa. She is warm, caring, loyal, dedicated, a fighter, determined, and forgiving. Yes she is clumsy and goofy but that should be preferred over a false sense of perfection and superficial beauty. Anna does harbor silly crush for the prince but chooses her sister over him several times through out the movie. Ana doesn’t hate her oddness. She is aware that she is awkward but it doesn’t bother her. Instead she goes with it and uses it to her advantage. When Elsa goes on her self destructive adventure Anna doesn’t hesitate to go after her and she doesn’t stop until she has saved her sister. Even when Elsa rejects her sister’s help Anna persists. In the end Elsa heals and takes her throne. Not once does Anna hold resentment for her sister. Instead she forgives her andcontinues to love her despite what happened.

Another point that I believe makes people prefer Elsa over Anna is the fact that she is single and reprimands Anna for falling in love to easily. These days that kind of “single and ok” and “you don’t need a man” mentality is celebrated. However, Anna proves herself to be more her own woman than Elsa does. She eventually sees the truth to the prince and ends up with a man who loves and respects her for all the right reasons. Anna doesn’t allow her feelings for the prince cloud her love for her sister and she chooses her sister over being with someone she truly cares about. Kristoff is exactly the kind of man all girls should hope to meet. He’s loving, hardworking, honest, and loves Anna for all her odd quirks and awkwardness. Elsa is not mentally or emotionally ready to be in any kind of relationship. She can’t even love herself. That’s why she is so judge mental of Anna’s choices. Being a strong, independent woman does not mean rejecting a good man who wants to help you and love you the right way.

As you can see Anna is the superior princess. She is the underdog and unsung hero. Society is poisoning our minds. We are embracing the wrong woman. Yes Elsa is broken. She is a woman many of us can relate to. I do commend Elsa for allowing herself to be helped and changed in the end. She is willing to forget her anger and except the love her sister Anna is extending. Elsa grows into her role as queen and learns to lover herself. In the real world Elsa’s change wouldn’t happen overnight. She would still struggle with self loathing and resentment. But the hope lies in the love of her sister and the support she gets from her.

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Ana and Elsa’s relationship is really a beautiful story. The sisterly love and dedication is something all of us to aspire to build in our own lives. Yes Elsa is a mess and completely out of her mind but she is redeemed in the end. Anna’s love and forgiveness save Elsa from herself. Anna is obviously my hero. There is so much to love about her character. My hope is that one day our society stops glamorizing and praising the Elsa’s of the world. Instead we should love them and help them learn to love themselves. If you want to be a fierce, independent woman then follow Anna’s lead. Do what she does and you will be the true princess.