Sunday, April 28, 2013

Downsize Your Life, Upgrade Yo Livin'!

Dirtbags, generally, come from the middle class. If you are the upper class, you don't aspire to downgrade to a middle class lifestyle; if you're in the lower class, you're trying to jump to the middle, or beyond. That's how it mostly works. 

My friend Luke's words hit home. I am a person who comes from a middle class upbringing. At a young age there was never truly a challenge, at least that I knew about, that I had to worry about. Much like today, in my own individualized life, I have clothes to wear, food to eat, and a mattress to sleep on. In fact, it seems that I still have too much. 

Let's snapshot a hypothetical situation for a moment: how often do you hear of, or know of someone, who goes from owning a Mercedes to owning a Dodge; a smartphone to a basic one; a fine wine, aged in an oak wooden cask for 20 years to a box o' wine; a lavish apartment or house to single-space studio living? 

The advent of downsizing in our lives is, to my better estimate, becoming a small-time phenomena. Perhaps it is the small, mountain town cultures, like Durango, that I find myself attracted to and living in, but more and more, the people I meet - whom share a comparable story of a middle-class upbringing - echo a desired life of downsizing. Why is that? 

You pull the tree-print bedsheet sourced from who knows what hand-me-downs and an old L.L. Bean sleeping bag-turned-comforter-gift from Grandma when I was 10 over the sleeping mattress, nestled intentionally in the back living area. Now, with the side door open, the sleeping area is suited for lounging, maybe even guests. You tuck the last of your almond milk into the cooler, saving it for the last ration of granola left in your food storage bin; a trip to the grocery store tomorrow for a few essentials will be necessary. The sun is shining, and a blue bird Colorado day is in the air and sky above. A Mourning Dove sings its song - uttering a distinctive cooOOoo-woo-woo-woooo, hoping to attract a mate. In under 2 minutes the home-on-wheels is ready for travel. Now, where to?

To say that a downsized lifestyle is highly desirable might not ring true to every ear. Though, there is something lingering, edging at the fringes of our realized reality, subconsciously supple to the life of a dirtbag. One, who, according to the reputable, indisputable source,
...pursues the committed, sometimes extreme, lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communally and generally non-hygienically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.  
So what's the big fuss? Why even write about this?

Admittingly, while zoning out in public places, I find myself eavesdropping on people's conversations (I could be eavesdropping, observing your vocal utterances right now - eek!), and sometimes what comes out of mouths, whether slips of the unsatisfied Ego or not, surprise me. The facts about Americans are written and out there for us to consume; that is not something I'm pushing. With that in mind, I cringe when I hear people communicate that they want more stuff, more things, more desires they truly don't need to be the beautiful people they can be! What happened to being satisfied with what is provided? 

Enter the dirtbag state of mind checklist for a semi-rad day:
- sun is out, somewhere in the sky above,
- shoes, or something akin to that, are upon feet and clothes upon body and assorted parts (gloves optional),
- nourishment is in the belly, or on its way,
- friends are stoked on doing something social and/or active with their free time,
- a source of income is present, or not worried about,
- home is where the head and heart lays down,
- serendipitous encounters with strangers are looked forward to, and
- a smile, "woo hoo," or "unh!" is the tell-tale sign of a great day. 

To replicate this in our own lives would be a practice worth taking pride in; a keeping up with the Joneses-type of societal norm to rally the masses around; a conversation worth eavesdropping on. Will we get there; perhaps not in the big cities quite yet, but near and around the small towns in the mountains, sure, why not. 

Hygienically clean hand high-fives to you in your day,

A view of the La Sals, near Moab, at dusk from across the Colorado plateau

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Reflecting and Wandering in Bliss

Not 10 minutes earlier, I packed up the kitchen into Freedom, desiring to write; this gypsy lifestyle seems easy with just me to tend to. Seems shallow though. Today, while doing laundry - or is it, while waiting for the laundry machine to do my laundry that I dirtied? - a Native American looking man approached my seated form in the back of the van with side door open. I had just finished snacking on spinach, crackers, and cheese and he must have spotted this from across the street as he prepared for our introduction.

With uncertainty in his voice, he weighed his predicament on the scales of my voluntary listening: he and his friend were in need of food for their journey back to somewhere in Arizona. Feeling content with my supple snack, I offered what I had - cheese, crackers, but oddly not the spinach. He accepted them with seeming gratefulness and told me his name. I replied with mine and bid him luck on his journey home. Not 30 minutes later, while out and about walking towards downtown I spotted his familiar figure and attire from across the street as he and his friend came walking out of the liquor store.

I'll stop the story there for I do not desire to finish, nor even speculate what could be the ending. Life itself is already written.


Freedom has been making a great companion lately - as great as any mainly inanimate object can. I've found my last few days in Durango to be necessarily easy. After a week in the Moab desert,  riding mountain bikes until my behind hurts, I've found my presence back here in this mountain town to be blissful. Though, camping in the desert - with all the surprises of spring weather - was something worth experiencing. 

Freedom in the desert? Sure thing
I've heard people express that they do not enjoy the dust and sand of the desert and I, too, once agreed with said phrase. Now, after a handful of forays into the desert, I've found the quiet and peacefulness of those places to be unlike anything else. When the wind is calm - and the motor bikers gone for the day - the quiet is so prevalent that you can hear yourself hearing nothing. Almost as if someone turned on the television, but put the sound on mute. Visions of wonderful scrub brush, vying for position in this harsh, deprived landscape - battling, coexisting around rock of many different earthen tones and hues, shapes and sizes. Sunshine, when its warm hand extends to the cold desert sand, warms and lights the day; only then to finally depart behind the canyon walls, reminding you of its bright blessing.

The La Sal Mountains, often seen from a high perch upon the canyon rim or in the open, even keel of the plateau, beckon admiring gazes long and deep upon their still wintry flanks. Named for their appearance to the Conquistadors, who thought that they must be made of salt, for nothing so near the oppressively dry heat of the desert could be holding snow. I admire this notion, as I appreciate the still Spring temperatures of the desert landscape. 

The La Sals, days before being a late Spring snow covered them. 
One morning of memory sticks out: the sun was unusually slow in its stern awakening of me this morning. Where could that lovable orb of brightness be? Blinking once, twice; seems colder this morning then the last few - is that snow falling outside the van window? Indeed! A thin layer of snow has fallen gracefully, without much guidance from the wind, to bless the desert life with preciously essential moisture. I've only been in the desert twice now when the snow has fallen. Tis a special thing to experience. Borderline magical.

Hmm, speaking of experiences - how grateful it is to be alive. To share smiles and laughs with my dear friend Ben Johnson and his new lady-friend Lisa this past week in Moab. To meet and get to know Andy and Robbie from Crested Butte as they celebrated the end of the winter season along with Ben, Lisa, and I. To acknowledge that I, too, am searching - or waiting rather - for this deeper feeling of connection. A recognition that what I possess and offer is appreciated and desired in a mirrored plane by her on the other side of the equation. But, perhaps that desire is not in my path quite yet. 

Life is still too unsure to be known. What I do know, though, is that my van has become a home of mobile ability that houses, transports, and stores all of what I seemingly need. I am appreciative for this machine that surely is opening me and my love for life in subtle ways. 

The life of a dirtbag is a dream never had, only a reality lived. 

To you in your day: may love permeate you in your darkest reaches; may the sun be a reminder of the bliss that life and being alive is.

I love you all,

A desert cactus in bloom, Joshua Tree National Park, CA