Yooper runs & other such niceties...

I'm compelled to write about my running regime up here in the U.P- otherwise known as Yooper Territory in upper Michigan. Yesterday morning was the first snow on the ground since I arrived. It was just a light dusting, but the temperature had dropped steeply from the balmy upper 40s we'd been experiencing since early last week.

I suited up, as usual in my SmartWool garb, but with the addition of my sweet hot pink (cotton) gloves. I've been wearing my Norwegian wool beanie that Nancy-Girl knitted for me 2 years ago. Left without my beloved, magical Hoka One One runners, I found my trusty old Saucony Kinavara 6s. I was ready to go. Brother Tim would follow behind, and Brother Curt would hoof it in a walking gait.

Just getting down the steep-ish road to the main road was precarious enough; the snow wasn't sticking as it fell, but some spots had already iced over and were glistening, revealing their icy secrets underneath. The first near-miss fall and I was over on the edge in the snowy grasses- dangerously close to 'bear territory' as I know it to be (without seeing a single bear there for all the years that I've been visiting the 'rents up here in their original homeland).

Only last winter did I ever start running in snowy conditions, when I was living in Istanbul. I ventured out there in snowy conditions, and it wasn't as bad as I had originally thought it to be. Usually I don't run down to Merriman Road because I think about bears, and there aren't many cars that go to/from that direction- so no one will hear me when I'm screaming bloody murder as a black bear snacks on me... Yes, these are my thoughts as I run up here...

As I descended, I came out of my stupor and drifted from bear mauling to an internal weather update. Thanks to SmartWool, I was toasty; this made me smile. Off I trotted heading south onto U.S. 607. The 607 was ice-free, fortunately. Right away my nose inhaled a healthy dose of cold air. It tickled. It wasn't unpleasant. The woods all around were alive and talking; snow falling from cedars and other flora, water from the plethora of groundwater drainages/swamps, etc. were freezing and cracking- from expanding/condensing when sunlight hits the water/ice. Steady winds whipped up leaves all around me, as if dancing. Delightful, all of it.

I adore looking at all the long driveways, full of unfamiliar things to my eyes; Green Bay Packers memorabilia adorning many mailboxes, large, life-sized bucks used for (what I think) target practice, winter recreation vehicles, etc. People here in these parts sure know how to make the most of winter conditions. Christmas decorations have sprung up in the past 10 days as well so a grand light display is still visible during daylight hours when skies are overcast and agitated, such as the day was shaping out to be.

There is this one part of the run where there are no houses and just open land. This part freaks me out- because, bears. This was a solemn stretch, giving me time to take in the surrounding beauty. Everything seemed so  clear, clean, crisp and exposed to these elements that somehow cleansed my soul- and who doesn't need a soul-cleansing? A large cleaning afforded me a view of a perfectly shaped natural ice-skating rink. I wonder if anyone else thought so. I saw my destination- the treeline at the house of my dads friend. He has since passed as well. As I ran by I thought about how much they both loved their radio-controlled airplanes and flying time. Soon enough I came upon Merriman Road West, my turn-around 2-mile mark.

I was feeling fierce though so continued on to the east. I got a little spooked soon enough as the trees were closing in on me, hiding carnivorous bears... so I gave in and turned around. I was still luxuriating in what seemed to be ideal running conditions and saw one of my brother's trotting towards me. I high-fived as we passed. Further ahead I ran into my other brother, who was walking. I wasn't wanting this time outdoors to end so soon so I decided to walk with him- in the opposite direction, where I had just come from. We headed back towards Merriman Road. When rounding the bend after about a mile, the air became fierce, spitting on us with cold, venomous air that stopped us in our tracks. Knowing better, we turned around after spotting Brother Tim, figuring he'd catch up to us. Headed back, we solved the world's problems, and felt good about it.

Back home and inside the sweat box (mom liked it to be 70º indoors), we delighted in all the cookie dough that needed to turn into fresh baked cookies. It has been a 2-day cookie baking marathon. What I realized was that I was thoroughly insulated, and never did the cold air affect me negatively during my run. It is so nice to run and not be baking hot and sweating- which is my future again when I move to Kurdistan...

I'm excited to have a few more weeks in Oregon, before departure, to continue to cold-weather run. Also, my beloved Hoka One Ones are there, waiting for me. Today is flight day. Curt and I are packed up and loaded with this a cumbersome- sized tote bag of Christmas cookies... Mom and Tim are also burdened with bucket-loads of cookies left behind. It's been a great visit this year. Every day has been filled with wonder, laughing, crossword puzzles, puzzles, MaJong, food, more food, merriment with neighbors, etc.

It's weird 'coming home' when a place has never been your home, but it feels like home- or at least one of your homes... Everywhere seems like 'home' to me. Every home has also been a great run for me. Yea, running is like going home- every time.


'Cember Second

Be the Alpaca

following in brother's footsteps...
ice-cracking on the Menomonee River

llamas llamas llamas!

backyard excursions

prepping for the ski slide stairmaster

shiny, happy people

gobble gobble, the Thanksgiving survivors club in the backyard...

typical day

mom takes on the Christmas Tree

"Holly, when's your birthday"?  " 'Cember second". Apparently that was my answer when asked, which was, apparently, all the time. As the story goes, it's the only other birthday all my other siblings remember except for their own as well as our mother and father...

So today, 'Cember second, I'm in the U.P. of Michigan; Headquarters of the matriarch of the Formolo clan- my mum. It's surreal first because this is only the 2nd time I've ever been in Michigan at this time of year (I've never lived here) so there is so much newness to experience here. For example, the weather. It's actually pretty 'balmy' here at a steady 43º average since we arrived, my big brother and I. I've been running and/or climbing the steps at the infamous Pine Mountain Ski Jump daily in only running tights, a base layer and outer shell- which all happen to be SmartWool clothing.

Okay I'm getting side-tracked, but SmartWool is AMAZEBALLS. As you all know, I've just finished a stint working as an archaeologist at Yosemite National Park here in America. That was lovely, BTW. Part of that loveliness was being able to use my Park email address to apply for all these 'pro' deal accounts with big label sports outfitters like Outdoor Research, Patagonia, Hoke One One, SmartWool, etc. Man I did go a bit crazy with it all, but I'm stocked up- and so is my family (once a year they allow you to give your 1/2 off discounts to your family for the holidays).

I'm discovering here just how amazing SmartWool is to wear when exercising in cold weather. It breathes people! It keeps you warm, seals in the heat, while wicking out the sweat/moisture. I've read about this concept for forever and a few years, but never experienced it. I'm a believer.

It's also surreal to be here because, as I've said before, I never lived in Michigan. All my siblings grew up here together for a time. They all share this collective experience here that I'm not neessarily privy to. It's just interesting.

Last night we all went out to dinner for my birthday- something that we all never did as kids. Anyway, we're at El Capitan Supper Club and reading up on the story of the place, which is over the Menominee River and in Wisconsin. As the story goes, the North Woods were one of Al Capone's trusty hideouts during Prohibition and the Great Depression of the 1920s and '30s. He used to run liquor from Canada through Michigan and Wisconsin and so commonly came through the area. 

So we're reading the local lore, and the waitress is filling in the gaps for us and suddenly mom busts out a little snippet about our long-departed Uncle Ducky and some friend/relative(?) who was of an unsavory sort. I love it when she gets in these moods where she rehashes these sweet anecdotes, recollecting the past. There were two dancehalls right in this neck of the woods, and loads of bars. The Great Depression and Prohibition were lucrative times after all, right? Ahhh I love hearing about 'herstory' of the area!

This is the first 'Cember second that I've been in America in a long time, and likely the only one where I've been here in the U.P. Our days are filled with chatting, knitting, working on puzzles, watching the news, arguing about the news, and eating. My morning runs have been on point. I squeal with glee in terms of my running game. I'm not even wearing my trusty Hoka One Ones... I feel like I'm gliding these days. I continue to experience this 'honeymoon' phase of running- throughout life. I am definitely on a runner's high these days- especially here in late autumn temperatures. 

The Pine Mountain Ski Area stairs are a favorite activity of my family. Every summer we dutifully go up them- all 500. I either do them twice, or after the 1st 500 steps, which takes one to the base of the ski jump, continue to climb up to the top of the ski jump itself. This affords one with an incredible 360º view of Iron Mountain and its environs. Yea, the 'Steps' as they are called are top-tier fun for us.

On Friday we went out for a leisurely drive. Our destination was Norway, and the Alpaca farm there. We've all been here before, except for Curt. It's a house with a huge fenced enclosure for the animals and a store in back where the back porch goes out and you can watch the animals and then walk around and pet them. The store is full of eye-candy: yarn... I get all googly-eyed in there since I've taken up knitting. Mom does too. So did Curt, and Tim. We all walked out with a bag... Family. 

Today I'm on cooking duty. We've all been taking turns making dinners this past week. Today I'm making my famous French omelette for breakfast. It's also Christmas cookie day, and then I'm ending it with a complete Turkish kebab dinner. It's going to be a grand day in terms of cuisine... The weather is even supposed to hold out! Actually, it's going to be in the mid-40s until we depart later in the week. On deck for tonight is a sauna and cold plunge bathtub over at my mom's neighbors. The moon was just full last night- a super-moon on my birthday- so it should be epic.

Okay, it's time to get up from the couch here in the den- my HQ while here.


Down by the River Merced I blog...

Yosemite Valley Rail Road at its terminal in Old El Portal

coming into Old El Portal; a one block wonder Sierra Nevada Foothill town :)

enroute on Foresta Road from Rancheria Flat to Old El Portal- my usual running route. Looking up into Yosemite Valley

WiFI central here at the El Portal Community Center

Saturday Nov. 4, 2017: The Yosemite Files

With an attitude adjustment, I find myself sitting on a ("my") rock in the Merced,  down Abbie Road, in the old NPS trailer court- one of my favorite spots to just stare out into the vastness. One is able to 'step through the portal', 'El Portal' in fact; the door extending, welcoming from where the Sierra Nevada Foothills expand, yet condense into the Sierra Nevada Mountains/Yosemite Valley. I love being a fringe-dweller.

I got up this morning, after a late evening reading, chatting with friends, wandering around the streets of Rancheria Flat in the dark of the night with my co-conspirator, lounging on the benches at the El Portal School, etc. I pondered this: What do you need to do to wake up and dial in your kaleidoscope to fit the initial images of the coming day?  Rain/clouds outside my window this a.m. Coffee comes first- or the ritual of the ceremonial preparations to drink coffee to be thoroughly enjoyed (grinding of beans, aroma, boiling, steeping in the requisite french press, pouring, anticipating, indulging, satisfaction.  That can happen alone, or with Da KineDa Kine pervades all moods.

This morning is akin to the typical feeling that rinses over me when having 3 weeks left in a place that I’ve called ‘home’ for more than a few fortnights. I love this state of mind- in a sense. Everything has been absorbed. I am already missing the place, yet still remain. It's odd & descriptions seen unworthy of this, THIS.

Dreary weather today, as with yesterday- perhaps more so today though- permeates my shell (not my outer layer shell that is shielding me- only me though as my laptop  lays buck naked on my lap, exposing to all the elements bombarding it. Runs like a champ too. I feel this relationship between my keyboard and fingers is very reciprocal- in some way that is unexplainable-  mostly because the absurdity of the words- if you just take them at face value, as only words…

Words-to- actions. Environment has a lot of do that that. Geography. Cultural geography. Mapping a landscape of Homo sapiens’ basic actions (to procure food, shelter, water- to this day, with some additional add-ons, of course). Anyway, how we go about doing this shit… man it fascinates me.

I love pondering these questions- wherever I am. Last night I took out my (still slowly-dying) iPhone to listen to some sound recordings (thanks "Mozart in the Jungle" seasons 1 & 2 for making me fall back in love again with ethnography-of-sorts; you know, for example, when I am out with friends, or solo, and casually make a recording of our conversation(s). All accomplished with respect and prior knowledge, of course. Only wishing to somehow immortalize chunks of my time span here on planet eARTh, solar system of the sun, and listen to them at various, random times- especially while in other countries. There is something endearing about it. The feelings that overcome me. The emotional output & revisiting some depth of beauty in that place. It keeps me close to people. I have that tendency to stray…

I digress… back to the story… wait? Nope. Can’t bring it back… Onward...

A wave of unease floats across my being. Actually it was when I first jumped into my car this am to head up to the El Portal Community Center to catch their free WiFi. Yes, with my roommate moving out of NPS housing  yesterday because her season was over, so went with her the coveted internet router…

I love the productivity of living without WiFi (she says this only 24 hours since WiFi being removed from her instinctual environment at this present time…)  The weather is cold now (just this week arriving), and I still desire to be IN the weather. It’s a good reason to get outside and still hold onto the outdoor experience here. Yes, I sit in my car, or at the picnic table (again, depending on climatic needs) and do my shit- wherever that takes me. This morning it was taking me to ‘the source’ so I could look up a bunch of notes I took while reading (all night) Arab Americans by Gary Paul Nabhan- a Lebanese-American fascinated with cultural landscapes spanning many continents, and their associated words for features. An interesting, whimsical experience in finding this book; it happened at work, in the office. One of my (3 amazing) bosses had let SaGra borrow it- years ago I think. I was in SaGra’s office talking to her one day (olelo hawaii), and noticed it, picked it up, casually read the back cover (while still engrossed in our conversation), and promptly said I was borrowing it. My boss had earlier mentioned that it is a book he buys fairly often- and gives it to people. IT moved him in some way, and I wanted to see that- THAT. I wanted that experience of… you know, when you read a really good book & can’t put it down, etc. It provokes you to ponder things bigger than yourself, and understand things happening contemporaneously, or chronologically as a result of the domino effect that is civilization.

The connection between this book, him, myself, Yosemite area, and the Middle east is an interesting one. He did field excavation/research in the past in...Armenia I think (we discussed the Republic of Georgia & vicinity briefly in the YOSE YAO hall). So there's that, plus being archaeologists with a strong hankering for the cultural background research that goes into the physicality of archaeology itself, me living/working in the vicinity for the past 8 years, them (my bosses) actually reviewing my CV & finding it interesting/unique to give me this chance to come to Yosemite for  5-month stint & share knowledge/love of what we lust in doing. Blah, blah, blah- as the story wanders.

Anyway, the author is Lebanese-American & looked into place names for water features from the deserts of Arabia to the Sonoran Desert of southern Arizona/Mexico. His historical background takes us to The Middle East, the Alhambra in Spain, the expulsion of Moslems from Spain in 1492, and the Crusades, coming to America & settling in America’s southwest & Sonoran area.

Anyway, he weaves this marvelous journey. I am wandering right there next to him, with him. He mentions Freya Stark- my Halloween nom de plume this year., and yes, there is this sort of romanticism’, that people call it, but I don’t have another word that better describes it. I think it is more about the times, and understanding that all the shit of today was still occurring then, but what is the difference? Population controls? Something, and I don’t necessarily know. I only know that I am addicted to see into this past, and with a solid writer providing the backdrop, it is exquisite.

So, my toes are freezing (yes, again no socks. It must be 60º out). My coffee is inside my car, waiting for me. I guess this diversion to go straight from home to the community center to do all this electronic shit was hijacked in the best possible way. I NEED this shit; sitting in THE Merced River on a rock, surrounded by water on all sides, overcast skies, gradations of gray/white blanket the landscape, but these brilliant yellow foothills towering down to the rocks at the river’s edge… OMG the beauty. Pockets of diaphanous fog linger in the shallow canyons, not yet wanting to disappear. The scrub brush clinging onto its yellow edge- damn this is beautiful.

I am somewhere near the old Hennessey Ranch property. I love coming to this spot (usually when running, wanting to do some yoga, or doing my laundry up above) and looking at the land forms and trying to re-imagine the past. I LOVE Sierra Nevada foothill history, honestly. It’s a new love I’ve developed since I arrived. It gives me such pleasure to think that I can still have this bond with America, even though I have given myself to the world- so to speak. Coming back home & experiencing what specifically makes America captivating, for me, gives me hope for our future here. I have hope.

The sun is trying to poke through in the east- in Yosemite Valley. Perhaps this day won’t be as dreary as forth told by the weather oracles. Foresta is towering above, and then the utility lines precariously hanging onto the cliffs edge- heading down to the chain link fence area above Rancheria Flats. I will think about this view often.

What a day it's been. I didn't yet post this blog. I was wanting to go for a run in this weather, so I did. I went down Incline Road- my favorite run here. As I rounded the corner and Dry Gulch Campground came into view, I was happily accosted by some trailer park girls! Soon enough in an alternate universe (you know the one- exactly opposite as the one I was on moments before- being in the running zone and all the endorphins that come with that, making it an exceptional experience that one always wants to experience), complete with a Bailey's and coffee and sweet chatter. I am envious, a bit; they are living the life in their mobile dwellings at the river's' edge. Again, I feel like I continue to find my tribe as I flitter around the globe. It takes some time, and energy. It's nice to experience this feeling. Morning turning into afternoon, soon enough I was on my merry way again. That last 1.5 miles was a bit more difficult, but my smile was BIG!

...And I'm back at the community center parking lot. It's been an amazing day today. As Bob Ross would say about learning how to paint, I turned that mistake (this shitty, overcast, on-the-verge-of-downpour day) into a magical tree, or cloud with one stroke of the brush (attitude adjustment). I'm a big fan of attitude adjustments, and quite a professional I might add...

Now, time to morph into my night owl phase. What does tonight have in store for me? Well, let me tell you, it involves ritual, culture, and dance and listening to the masters speak through their bodies, natural surroundings, soundscapes and seasons. That's all imma say about this coming evening.

That's all I've got folks...



Orionids 2017

Well past the midnight hour here in El Portal. A lazy drive back from Bootjack after a Hawaii kine BBQ. Felt so good to pa`ina with fellow Islanders. Ho, so much good stuff going on with good peeps. Earlier, weather complicated my plans to hike east side and threatened to ground me. Never to lament to the point of depression, I hoped in my rig and headed into Mariposa to catch the hot rod car show. What a trip. People are into classic cars.

Day morphed into evening and I found myself surrounded with like-minded individuals who I've made a connection with here in the Sierra Nevada. The bonds have formed. We broke bread. We drank. We stargazed. We relayed our various oral histories to one another and listened with great interest. We laughed.

No night on the town would be complete without stopping by the back Alley and catching a set from some local talent. All in all, a great ending to a shaky start.

Here in El Portal in the front yard, the show must go on. The Orionid meteor shower is peaking. What is going on out there in our universe. Nights such as tonight I feel I have great insights into the mysteries of the universe. Dare I divulge? The galactic amphitheater captures my interest. There are so many things I desire to experience. Questions. Quests. Challenges.

I look to the heavens to seek out earthly delights. Not another voice to be heard out here. How can that be? Homo sapiens are interesting indeed. Something big just darted by. The bewitching hour, this time I share with the nocturnal creatures in the solitude of darkness. The moon withdrawn, the starry sky a time traveler's map. I seek out the cartographer.

Yosemite certainly has its diurnal charms, yet truly warms up to me in the dead of the night.


Sierra Soaking

5am, and nature calls. I sensed it as I slumbered, although some credit must go to the weather service for calling rain/snow today. That sweet cacophony of wet sounds reverberating down through my soul. As I laid in bed listening, I drifted back to Maui, Haiku specifically. How I thrived in that wet, tropical environment for the largest time span in my existence, so far. Fast forward in time and here I am in the Sierra Nevadas listening to the rain. Magic.

I want the rain to wash over me. Time to cleanse. That connection,  Here I sit, outside on the front porch bundled up in my puffy and pjs. Listening to this eARTh absorbing this, so far,  elusive elixir.

6am, I'm still being schooled in the ways of hydrology from this most eminent teacher of mine. I was instructed to run through the street just now. Similar to running through downpours on Maui, yet a bit too chilly...  Refreshing.

Feeling honored all the time to have this Yosemite experience, and all these teachers; wind, water, domes, stars, foothills, hawks...

This dark blanket will soon shed some light as daylight must certainly be creeping out of its slumber in these coordinates. Something inside me is telling me to drift back to sleep some more. I'm listening.



Parkie HQ; I peak into the extravagance of parkie living


da toes knows

overnight guest!

morning fuel-up

everything is IPA these daze...

morning yoga sessions

in a yoga pose I was staring up into the void and I spotted a spider web going from one pine bough down to a lower one- amazing how the sunlight hit it and it was liquid diamond silvery shining/swaying in the light breeze.

closer look

it's what keeps me high. That Vitamix has traveled through several countries with me- unfortunately so had the 40 lb step-down converter... lol. No more though. Vitamix won't be making the upcoming journey to Kurdistan with me, sadly. 

but of course...

I spy the neighbor's kid's trampoline... We are currently plotting how to gain access...
holding up the tree!


Sierra Nevada Magic: I f*ckin love science

blog HQ

Lately there's been something brewing deep inside my soul. The Sierra(s) have permeated my being. Feelings of euphoric wellness (frenzied at times dare I say) percolate up and seep out from my epidermis.  The reservoir spilling over, perhaps, or am I wanting to keep amassing this delirious wealth, I listen for the signs; overindulgence is not an option. I'm understanding this elixir to be Sierra Nevada Magic.

I was pondering this elixir atop a philosopher's stone, so to speak, yesterday. A series of majestic granite boulders rounded from eons of giving in to the soft influences of running water, shaping them into voluptuous, energizing powerhouses for us to learn from were front and center in my secret spot on the Merced. Who would not be drawn to a voluptuous, energizing entity?

Picture yourself as a slab of granite, spit out fresh from deep within the bowls of Mother Earth. An aggregate so hard that it appears resistant to change. What is it about water? How can water alter such a hardened substance? Time, and chemical attraction/reaction/action, etc. Water breaks down rocks! Rocks become 'weaker', but perhaps that's not the appropriate word- for me anyway. I see this overcoming of resistance as strength- gorgeous, supple strength in all its grandeur. Perhaps I have no idea what I'm typing though...If a water can reshape solid rock, what can it do to us mere mortals? I'm intrigued.

On the subject of typing, my blog has metamorphosed since experiencing the Sierras and the Mighty Merced River. I mean, I'm still in bed right now, and a deep, sexy, french roast is brewing in my french press. The kitties aren't here with me though *sad*, but I am happy to report that they are loving their new American Life, up yonder in Ashland. I'm still so attached to blogging in my bed in my apartment in Istanbul, that THIS still seems so unfamiliar, or unusual. I'm also still attempting to weave together my thoughts into a cohesive story, and still getting hung-up on all the random tangents that ebb and flow throughout my thought process... And yes, my blog is still çok-full of disconnected anecdotes of life observations, but that is me... Some Sierra Nevada Magic has pervaded my fossilized being and altered my chemistry. Science!

I'm not saying that fossilization is a bad thing, but a 'routine' however pleasant it is, will be altered, to varying degrees; it's just the laws of nature. How you accept or reject things is what helps you to develop- whatever that means, I can't explain it rationally enough- not at 9 am on my 1st cup of coffee anyway. That, THAT takes moonlight magic, and perhaps a nice bottle of Pinot Noir to share with a friend... which happened the other night. A beautiful sunset in the backyard waning into illuminated shadows underneath the glow of the full moon. Yea, we solved some of the world's ailments that night...

But I digress...and yet I sidetrack with another folktale- that is what these loose chronicles are; tales about folks. My coffee fresh from its press, and now in my cup, I venture outside to finish blogging. None of my previous words make (the same) sense as when I was in my bed. Just the change in environment has altered my perceptions. I fucking love science! Birdsong still resonating, the morning sun still rising, but I am within IT now. Gazing to the clothesline, I see all the pretty colors of my American life: that pair of tie-dye running tights; my Tahitian pareo (sarong, lava-lava, etc.) with green taro leaves against a squash-yellow background that makes me smile so wide each time I don it; my blue Pendleton button-down that has fast become a beloved staple of mine on the current job-site in Yosemite Valley.

Speaking of Yosemite Valley... I've been working at Camp 4- ground zero for all top-notch rock-climbers worldwide, in autumn especially. Any proper cultural anthropologist would be thrilled at the (veiled) invitation to take notice of the habits of these specimens :)  Physically unimpressive, the camp itself is disheveled, but that is indeed its lure. As with any group of like-minded individuals getting together to practice/discuss in depth their particular trade or passion, etc., they must share some interesting stories on being one with these rocks.

These characters conjure up images of privilege (yes all the stories about living in cars or tents during 'season' is still a 1st world problem no matter how you look at it), hardship, ecstasy and full-on adrenaline. But, they are also just sleeping, waking up to chilly 4000' elevation mountain air, putting on their layers (base, mid and outer) to warm up while brewing water for coffee and oatmeal. Or, there is some elaborate aroma emanating from a certain camp that drives me into a state of frenzy because it smells so delicious...

Anyway, back to gear. It's like being in an outfitters where you get to see all the gear in action. I know exactly what to purchase for my next round of tents, sleeping bags, headlamps, etc. Clothing, well this is over-the-top. Outdoor technical gear is amazing in these times. I have noticed that color combinations seem to be a thing at Camp 4. Perhaps it's just that these privileged, homeless denizens (no judgment, remember) are purchasing the 'off' colors at lower prices than the MSRP... I will say though that pea green and bright yellow seem to be popular... That's another thing, everybody, and I mean EVERYBODY (myself included), spends idle time online looking at outfitters' websites pondering their next purchase. It is addicting.

I've discovered the 'pro' programs on these websites. Working for the NPS has its privileges. Some sites (Outdoor Research being my top choice) offer 50% off for 'professionals' or 'experts' as they are called. Let's just say that I am stocked up for all upcoming outdoor endeavors. I'm actually wondering how cold it will be in Kurdistan though... heh heh. They'll be ready for the PCT in 2020 though, as my sister-in-law and I get ready for our trail adventure.

Okay, I'm so far off from my original intentions for today's words that I don't think I can recover. You know, da kine so early in the morning makes for a magical day. That said, I'll be enjoying some of this Sierra Nevada Magic on the Merced today in This American Life of Mine... But first, more coffee and a run. Perhaps I'll sneak in a little look-see on the experticity website for a dose of 'gear-porn' as well...



Yosemite: This American Life of Mine


Eight fifty pm. Perched outside, computer on lap, an IPA on the railing, K-Jazz radio playing, crickets chorus chirping, full-moon rising in 30 hours, and da kine. This is my backdrop tonight. This American Life of mine. These moments of pure joy in experiencing California, living and working, after a very, very long absence. I haven't livid in America anywhere besides Hawaii for a very, very long time. It is an interesting adjustment. Perhaps it's just adjusting back to America that is evasive to/for me. 

Looking up from my keyboard to the vast ink sky with an illuminated, spherical blob coming into front and center. The mountains, some trees, the utility lines, a few lights on; this is my hood in This American Life of Mine.

I'm drinking an IPA- something called' Wolf Pup'. A fair trade indeed; a Wolf Pup for a MANGO (already sliced up into a perfect florette). Yea. Standing over the sink eating the mango out of your hand with juice dripping down your hands; that is the only way I know to properly consume mangoes and truly be in that moment.

In This American Life of Mine, running exists. It's funny, I enjoy so much about an area that I am living in based on my local running route. I've hit this sweet spot this past week. I found an alternative route (that involves kinda sliding down a hillside (with snakes hidden in the grasses and mountain lions in dark dens in the granite boulders surely) to pick up where the Middle Road usually takes me a bit quicker. I decided to end that saga as Middle Road ALWAYS gives me the creeps- only because of the mountain lions that MIGHT exist there... Right?

With that re-routing, I also developed this desire to stop on the bridge where the Merced River crosses Hwy. 140. It's kinda like my over halfway point and I never ran on the other side of the road before (geeze). It's a whole new territory to admire and breath in while breathing out the toxins from the day. There is a little patch of poison oak that I need to avoid while scaling down the hillside though, which can be tricky.

This also gives me the opportunity to meditate while staring into the Merced. Meditation is always something I tinker around with. I'm definitely much more of a 'moving meditation' kinda chick, so to sit still and do nothing takes some discipline and strength of the utmost degree. I enjoy this challenge. So, I take a break from my run and make time to tune out of my present dimension and work on getting to that 'other spot'. I'm pretty happy so far with my progress. I have always thought that the body needs to be active to quiet the mind and dominate the mind, but I'm starting to see that the body doesn't necessarily have to always dominate to find this balance.

This American Life of Mine. It's taken a while, but I am fully open to this chapter. I still kind of feel strange being here, and by 'here', I mean America. After a while, you kinda get used to being the outsider coming to understand an unknown place and then feeling at ease there.

This American Life of Mine misses hearing Turkish spoken in the streets everywhere. I miss walking. Walking everywhere. My Büyükdere apartment, up where the Black Sea meets the Bosporus. Damn, so much beauty in this world. All the beauty.

This American Life of Mine is feeling confused. Coming back into the country not just as a 1-month holiday, but for a chunk of time. There is so much going through my mind; it's as if a hard-bop jazz beat is ferociously trying to devour as much of this scene as possible. To satiate myself in preparation of the next move. Politically, I have no idea wtf is happening. I can't gauge anything, with confidence really. Why are we where we are at- in terms of the nation? Why are my views in short supply? Things like this keep me pondering in the dark of the night- often. Other things that keep me up at night are all my phone messages going off at all hours from friends far and wide! My iPhone is nearly on the brink of collapse, and I dare not make any adjustments with notifications, etc. in that it might self-destruct...

This American Life of Mine is still knitting... As you know, this past winter was pretty gnarly in Istanbul- in terms of foul weather and snow storms, etc. Many of our gang indulged in drinking sessions while knitting on a fairly regular basis. In EdVice & Steve-Os sweet apartment over the cig kofte place, with their stellar view of the Bosporus, we sat and laughed for hours at a time. So yea, I do love to knit in Yosemite as well- I just haven't found any partners in crime to indulge in some shenanigans with while doing so.

Tonight, after my run, I checked out the ultimate frisbee game going on at the ball field across the street from el cabino. Very American indeed- and a can of IPA to boot- very California. This American Life is very cool, not to mention healthy and active.

I am not-so-secretly digging This American Life. That is all. Okay, back to knitting and listening to Tom Petty & 'Free Falling' on repeat... RIP dude. You were a part of my coming of age experience here in America. Tom Petty; I always thought of him as so Californian. Mellow, you know. Well, he wasn't from California you know... No matter.

The El Portal ultimate frisbee crew. Hopefully this is a weekly Tuesday thing :)

the grass is dry...and hard. You definitely don't really wanna fall down

action shot!

 Alright, I'm burned out. Don't be hating on the typos...


Parkie- a day in my Yosemite life- brought to you in pictures for your own interpretations!

So, here is my work day from Saturday. I'll let you guys piece the story together!

Driving to work up at Tuolumne for the Yosemite Facelift project. Looking down towards Foresta

Foresta area, off of Big Oak Flat Road

Morning Illumination

Tuolumne Meadows morning sunshine

stopped by Ranger Camp to see a friend, who was in the process of moving out as the work season is over up there. Back to El Portal everybody goes!

house pineapple
yea, I remember trying to use that bathroom behind us one time...
work work work

closing up shop
Add caption
work crew next to us was taking down the Tuolumne Store

moving right along into the evening, back at El Portal

Lively Oktoberfest polka band

good times

time to head home me thinks...

So yea, that about sums it up, my day Saturday. It started at 6 am & finished at 1 am... *kerplunk*


Sierra Nevada Serenade; I am earthling, hear me roar (whisper) during a sleepless night deep into the Bewitching Hour

Three o'clock a.m. Tick Tock...

Sleep interrupted. My thoughts wander to this place, late in the cool of the fresh autumnal night. Not another Homo sapiens sound is audible out there. Nothing but stars chattering, competing for my attention in a unified, illuminated display of that special kind of magic that I thirst for. The dark night aches to be heard.

They must have stirred me as I slept. Something compelled me to wake up and listen, my bedroom windows serving as some kind of this so-called 'protective' encasing from such a mystifying, evasive occurrence. A time to let go to these protections our species seeks out surely... I thrive when I stumble onto these revelations. They touch my soul so deeply as to leave a scar. That's what I desire; to have a scar from this place. This place that I have finally thought of as 'home'.

As a rock, I resisted. Soon though the feminine waters of the Merced found a way to work through my rock like psyche- as any fierce source of running water would do. Amazing grace indeed. What I adore about 'river living' are these little pockets of solace. Sometimes so quiet, but that constant background buzz that resonates... that is pure joy.

Another joy in this land: Sunny summer daze/days laying under a tree next to the mighty Merced (this summer in particular with all the snow melt from the season) River, and feeling the leaves of the tree imprinting a pattern of shady images above you. With your eyes closed you can feel the sunlight vibrating through the foliage. Lulling you into a trance. Perhaps even a catnap.

I position my bed so I'm pressed up to the west-facing window. Stimulating, crisp air permeates. This messenger, rush of negative ions carried with light winds, of mysterious tidings greets my senses. Activated, I am up. No going back to sleep when I dwell in this mood. I know to just sit back and enjoy the ride...

This quaint spot on the map, I ponder tonight, is kinda awesome. There is a certain way I walk upon this earth- even my waking consciousness understands this. There is a shared memory- Big Island, Hawaii. Walk curiously, slowly. Smell everything. Eyes wide open. Heart filling with these permeations. Body regenerating. Running. Yoga. Hiking. Meditation: The force is in me here.

I suppose, though, that the 'force' resides within. Some places bring out different manifestations of this, that's all. There is something distantly familiar in relaying my Hilo experience to my Yosemite experience. I like this.

Immediately I transport back to those early days from my move to Hilo, just a rock's toss from Maui. I was leaving the big city (?) to move to Hilo- another unexpected jewel on my superhighway- to attend University of Hawaii. What did I know? After all, I had only lived on Maui. Just visiting the other Islands, one never really understands the different manifestations of forces that make up these Island entities. Steeped in ancient lore, and modern logic, I knew I was in for something that I needed to tread lightly into because I understood the ancient intensity of the area I was headed into. 

Early days in Hilo, pure magic they were. That sleepy city... Walk lightly on that hard black-lava earth I did. I was rewarded with primal knowledge.

Honestly, everywhere I go to, that is some sort of search. 'Primal knowledge'- that's what I call it. My drug of choice. Roaming to the ends of this planet eARTh, seeking out THAT sweet spot. Hawaii was my teacher. Maui no ka oi! 

But I digress; back to Yosemite... El Portal, so aptly named, is this door extending from the Sierra Nevada foothills and transports you into Yosemite Valley, and these unrelenting geologic formations that kinda makes my knees a bit weak when I sagaciously consider the greatness of this. Currently experiencing In Through the Outdoor in the utmost appreciation for this awesome :) Led Zeppelin inspired! I hiked to Glacier Point the other day. Mountains are majesty, man. So lush. Jewels strung out along the horizon, reaching into the heavens. The landscape hues are so unbearably ravishing. I'm still high on THAT; inhaling the air, seeing the colors, experiencing the elements in what feels like they are trying to rip my ribcage open as I unconsciously resist their full effect. Giving way, being made pliable from their unending pulsations, I abate, soak in, and fill up. It's a quick turn-around and we must depart the summit due to some unexpected snow-flurries of the tiniest snowflake sort. Magic. Cold magic though, and we were both only outfitted with mid-layers on, so down the mountain we went. Ever the student of nature, I humble myself, and smile wide.

The spirit of this place seeps into my realm of thought. I embrace every intense moment spent soaking this up. So good the crisp night air has been since I returned from a trip up to Ashland recently. That (9-hour driving) journey was some sort of time keeper goalie celebrating a change of season noticeable to even myself- a mere neophyte to this geologic land form in this particular location, on this planet rising within the solar system of the sun...

The Bewitching Hour; stars chattering, shining. A sweet cacophony of earthly delight one can delight in late in the night. This. THIS. I thirst for this. These experiences that leave me stupefied. Realizations that my explorations are not in vain. They tattoo my existence. Perhaps my incarnate existence bases this 'high', this feeling of deep elation in being aware of all existence, perhaps this fuels my passions. So, there's that...I can reach out to all my past homes and travel in that time- that's what I'm realizing. All these collective experiences teach and support.

Night sounds. Suddenly I am tired. I need to tune out while the tune plays on. I mean, I have to get up early and get to work today! Where do I get to travel to? Tuolumne Meadows- another perplexity I am drawn to here during this brief stay in this magical whereabouts. Shit it's 4:30 am...



Topside; topsy-turvy. That's how I've been feeling temporarily living/working up at nearly 10,000 ft. elevation these past few weeks. Getting my sea-legs though- or more like lungs... I've definitely noticed how my breathing changes when I'm up there. Human biology as influenced by the environment (altitude)- more on that concept below...

Topside; the 'high country' of Tuolumne Meadows. Yea, that's what I call it. I've always liked (re-)naming things to better fit my perceptions of something. Stored lesson plans that I re-use over and over again, or one-offs suddenly gather together under the umbrella organization of "Holly's WMDs" on my Mac. Anything remotely controversial, or needing to remain anonymous, OR I just have a brain fart and can't remember get catalogued under "da kine"- which has sub-listings, of course... Because da kine.

Sunday morning: Coffee, bed, Sierra Nevadas, da kine. See! It works. Some know da kine. Some suspect da kine. Some of da kine have no knowledge of da kine.

I just spent the past 2 weeks living/working up in da kine. It was a nice break from hot, smokey El Portal. This whole 'mountain girl' experiment presses on. I am soaking in so much different energy than I've previously been exposed to. I"m trying to think if I ever lived 'in the mountains'. I think this is the first.

I'm getting to know my mountain home, slowly. I feel the subtle weather changes. It's still summer, but there is something different. I can't exactly place it, but I know it.

NOTE: Currently honoring my auditory canals and treating them to my fav new station that MeGra turned me onto:


Kit Kat Max, Pure Pepper,  Bimbo Bimbo, The Roots, April Showers, Doing Me, I'm Waiting For My Man... and the music continues to delight

S/he who feels it, knows it. Yea. So, what am I feeling lately?  Let's see what lexical choices I can muster up to attempt to describe this feature film that plays through my being. Always on, always trying to capture a moment and weave it into something lasting. Why? I don't know. Or I do, yet words fail me. Or they don't. Maybe words evade me. Yes- that perfect word to summarize a feeling; it gets lost in translation quite frequently. When can, can. When no can, no can.

Hollyday's surfing highlights from the recent past:


A series of Stanford University lectures on human behavioral biology by a funky professor, who I would be honored to be a student of. Ar turned me onto this site. I'm finishing up the 1st one and know (feel) I'll be sticking around for the entirety. Human biology; I've always had a flirtatious relationship with this concept and want to delve deeper into its connections with the environment and hormones, etc. Another thing I love about this link is that it's in itself a cultural interaction; my Turkish friend turned me onto this American university lecture. I love learning about my country through the lens of my foreign friends' eyes. This is one of my most favorite exchanges to experience when living abroad- talking to others about our countries. Sure, politics tends to surface first, but then we get into music, street life, food. Unfolding soon after is our quirkiness, or our personalities start to well up and present itself outwardly as a precious stone shines after some polishing. Then we start to understand each other. What makes someone tick? Is it biology? Is it culture? Is it the environment? Yea, all the answers.


MoGra turned me onto this site.  She's all into spinal research & alignment right now, so when we talk-story these days I'm all ears. I love when I understand how much a friend has done research on something, so I know that I don't have to- I can just glean off their data results first, and then go from there- if need be. I just recently did this with my roommate BrGra concerning water filters. She is working out in the back-country wilderness- at times for nearly 2 weeks before resurfacing in the big city here in El Portal... (ahem) Anyway, I ask the question, and BOOM, I get an answer. An answer that I don't even have to question. I mean, she's still walking and breathing after drinking her Sawyer water filter so... there's that.
I received further confirmation about Sawyer water filters from KaGra,  while chatting it up one night I asked her about the filter she used when in Iraq. She said, of course, Sawyer! See?
Another cultural experiment, concerning science, and revolving around human behavior. Ahhh biology- love you. I have one question though: Is biology considered a 'soft' or a 'hard' science? I've read up on the dilemma a bit. The jury is still out.

Continuing on with my scientific conquests, I like to delve into the abyss of space. Space matters.

You plug in your location and get a listing of International Space Station (ISS) sightings for a certain time period. Cool. Period. How did I discover this gem: Solar eclipse mania has been occurring across the U.S. for a while now, which culminated on August 21st when the eclipse was visible throughout a band-arc across country.


Omniglot: all tongues. All the languages and writing systems I want to devour- at times, all up in my head space, I think this would be my super power I would want. I"m thinking of my superhero name right now in fact. Any suggestions greatly appreciated. Homonym Hollyday? Nah.

Kurdish is the next upcoming tongue I will rub shoulders with. So, omniglot I must. ASAP.

I remember in high school that Ani Leritz asked me to help her with a dictionary of terms she was developing as a result of our high school experiences. What did she call it? I remember helping out with entries such as 'dirtbag', 'loadie' and such... An early omniglot pioneer in my life, she inspired me.

Speaking of dirtbag and lexical choices... 'Dirtbag', I have recently learned, has been re-cycled and re-invented. The term is perhaps a result of a specific geographical area- specifically for Yosemite, and possibly other rock-climbing meccas of the world. Yea, dirtbag refers to a person/persons who live to rock-climb. From what I understand, they don't hold jobs, pay rent, and other typical societal norms that we tend to adhere to. They live in their cars in the Park and steal sugar packets, mayonnaise packets, creamers, etc. to supplement their meals.'Dirtbagging' can either be a verb or used as a gerund. I'm fascinated.


I am all things Native American now. Being back in America for this stint and working alongside Native Americans, my ears and eyes are thirsty to drink up wisdom flowing from this land. This land is a tall cup of water. I am enjoying delving deeper with each sip that I take the time to filter and digest. I love me filtered water. THAT. That is an interesting concept. That's all.

The past few weeks I've had the pleasure of working alongside living libraries of knowledge. A knowledge not often written, but handed-down in story-telling form. I had a lesson in nuances of Paiute, Miwok, Mono, etc. I'm starting to feel comfortable discussing with them stories I've recently read authored by early (foreign) travelers through the area (Galen Clark, John Muir, etc), and how those stories can be used for a variety of things, but most basically just as an understanding of someone else's world through the lens of a foreigner. You get a general idea, but how pure or accurate it is is conjecture- based on human biology and bloodlines...

Anyway, I'm asking questions. I'm listening, and trying not to interrupt... The symphony of massive trees, abundant rivers and their tributaries, animals both large and small, winds traveling through narrow canyons; all platforms of knowledge that takes time in imparting knowledge. I'm still learning to listen when I'm spoken to, or to even realize that I am being spoken to. That's how it is with learning a foreign language in a foreign land; you hear stuff in the background and then hear something familiar, so listen more intently. This. I. Love.


Currently learning how to navigate through this website. There is so much information about a topic that I am self-teaching myself, so it is a bit overwhelming. You know that feeling when you want to know more about a subject than you do, but it takes time and effort. Patience, perseverance, and those small victories keep me intrigued.

Okay, I'm burning out. This ends my communique. Time to make breakfast and greet the smoky, increasingly hot day (morning). I think temperatures are supposed to hover near 100º today, continuing on into the week and rising. So, do I drive to the Central Valley to Turlock to go to the Assyrian Festival, or do I chill on the Merced River and read my current book that I'm blazing through, "Shattered Air"?

One big accomplishment of the week: I'm not a 'Puppy Dome' virgin any longer thanks to the Topside posse. Phew. Bucket list item without previously knowing it :)

Looking at Tis-sa-ack (Half Dome), from the back door up at Olmstead Point

Checking out the solar eclipse atop Pothole Dome

Domes and domes and domes...

Topside living

I spy 3 rock-climbers

Tenaya Lake


a slice of the western Sierras

old skool

Katydid always greets me when I return to El Portal :)