The Heart Laid Bare

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She said a little bit of an artist is in each of their works. A snippet of soul, a small fragment of oneself. “That’s why they burn out,” the old woman sitting in the sun in Winslow, AZ, once told me. “And that’s why I am careful only to put a little bit of myself into each of my sculptures, so I have enough of me left before I die.”

skylakeShe talks about Elvis and James Dean, about van Gogh and Hölderlin, and I am surprised she even knows the latter. Years later a second American would amaze me by knowing him, too, none have before or since. She talks about Buddy Holly and Jimi Hendrix, how they put all their soul into their work and perished when there was nothing left. Then she asks me what I do. “I tell stories,” I say, and look out over Homolovi State Park behind the trailer she lives in. The yard has hundreds of statues, some smaller than a matchbox, some taller than me, all depicting the same Anasazi warriors on their stay here seven hundred years ago as they migrated north to join the Hopi tribes and become the rulers of the land until the White Man came.

She’s Hopi, she says, couldn’t think to live anywhere but here, “where the souls still dwell.” She looks at me, furrows her brows, and cocks her head. “Ah, a storyteller. Yes, I know your kind. You collect souls, souls like mine. Where will you take mine?” “Maybe I will just hold on to it,” I respond. “The precious ones need a special place.”

Hours later, the sun has set behind the hills, I am making camp in a makeshift tent at the petrified forest’s inofficial campground. The sound of the animals of the night, small and yet painful or even lethal, around me, I look into the stars. Suns, millions of years ago, sent their light onto a voyage to Earth, a warm and bright starlit sky to contrast with the cold desert air. Where will I take hers?

carTruth is, when it comes to the matter of souls, she’s right. We’re traders in stories, sellers of others’ songs. We’re servants to the greatness of strangers and friends alike, teller of tales. Which is amazing, if you think about it. As traders in souls our work contains not only a small fragment of ours, each and every story contains fragments of all the souls we collected prior. There’s a little bit of her in everything I do, a little bit of the old veteran in a bar in Barstow, the runaway bride in a motel in Cairo, IL, or the traveling salesman in Wenatchee, WA.

Our tales have no intended consequence, our morals no demands. We’re not changing the world, it’s those whose stories we tell who are the heroes, the changers, makers, and creators of meaning. We don’t matter, we’re just the messenger. And that’s a good thing.

Ten Things You Should Know Before Taking A German Vacation

Germany is a country of many contradictions. A modern economy powerhouse generously filled with old-school and traditional thinking. An extremely privacy conscious place and yet open and welcoming once you break the ice. It’s a place for reflection, for amazing hikes, great historical tours, and a lot in between. Here are my ten things you should definitely know before you travel (and travel to Germany you should).

10. Cash is still king

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Bar, restaurant, boutique, or bottle of soda at the train station — chances are you won’t be able to use that shiny credit card of yours. Germans are still very much using cash for most transactions, going as far as buying even big ticket items (TVs, beds, that stuff) with paper bills. Though there is a widely used electronic exchange format called EC, your credit card likely won’t support it.

Most tourist areas will have Credit Card options but that won’t get you coffee at that quaint restaurant or admission to museums or castles. Germany isn’t the most dangerous place on earth but muggings do happen from time to time so I’d recommend taking out maybe 100€ and using your cards whenever possible. Read More

Packing for the Next Hike: Camera, Lights, Action

It doesn't always have to be a DSLR and Lightroom. This picture, taken with my cell phone and slightly sharpened in Google Photos, is more than OK for blogging and web based publishing.

It doesn’t always have to be a DSLR and Lightroom. This picture, taken with my cell phone and slightly sharpened in Google Photos, is more than OK for blogging and web based publishing.

My next long distance hike won’t be all that much of a problem. Roughly 100 miles, almost three days, and hotels along the way to keep me warm and get me that shower that makes every 30 mile/day hike just that little bit more fun.

At the flipside, colder weather, higher chances of rain, and early nightfall will make it almost imperative that I plan much better than, say, walking 15 mile/day stretches along well built roads in early summer. I’ll reduce weight and add more inclement weather items, waterproofing the rest as well as I can. Read More

Houses in the Rock

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Salzburg in Austria is the only city in the world to employ professional Mountain Cleaners (going so far as to having a three year apprenticeship program for it). The reason why is rather obvious in this image: rather than building their houses on or near the mountain, the city built some of them into it – adding a facade in front of a cavernous system.

Rocks, smaller debris, tree parts, and snow are raining down upon the facades and people below it in a near-constant pace, only the services of the mountain cleaner brigade stand between falling things and the heads at street level.

Weekday Undies

NWsyUIRbYbbLANYdeXRwzXgCqtFjMNSpy4Joa2Kwexo-=w327-h608-noWhat day is it today? Thursday? Shit, I am still wearing my Monday undies.

These things have begun to crop up in varying kinds of packaging in about every store in the city now. Daily, well marked, underwear.

Aside from reminding perpetually messy college age males to change their unmentionables daily, it also serves as a good way to choose your mate. If things get steamy and he’s still wearing the Wednesday set to the Friday kegger … don’t wait for them to drop, run.

But seriously, why thought this would be a good idea? In about a week you’ll have to go commando for Thursday because the Wed-Fri set is still in the wash. If anything, having day-marked underwear will likely lead to confused males everywhere starting to rifle through the wash bin to find today’s (“it’s only been worn one day”) version rather than being caught in Saturday briefs on a Friday.