Friday, January 25, 2008

Mormons and Whales and Lesbian Tales

Colorado brought many changes to me. Determining how to integrate all that I had discovered in my travels into the life of a commercial and consumer culture was quite difficult. My life in Colorado was completely different from the life I lived traveling with all my belongings strapped to my back. I noticed how excessive this culture is. We equate waste with privilege. America believes that we have the ability to buy cheap products then discard them so we must be a rich society. We are anything but. Coming back to this was very challenging for me mentally, spiritually, and physically. Not even a week after returning my skin and eyes took on a yellow hue. It was clear that my liver was having problems and that I was jaundiced. My mother and I visited a naturopathic doctor who took blood samples to be tested and advised me on how to care for my body in the state it was in. The results of the blood test came back within a couple days. The ND diagnosed me with Hepatitis B. She made a tincture of milk thistle and gave me several other remedies to take until the situation had improved. Because the remedies tasted horrible I knew they had to be working.

A couple weeks later I went with my mom and dad to Pensacola, Florida to visit my grandmother and soak up some sun. While there we walked along the deserted, white sandy beach, we celebrated my grandmother’s birthday, and my mom and I took a day trip to New Orleans. While in New Orleans we enjoyed the balmy November weather of 80 degrees. We walked around the city listening to street musicians play the blues. We ate bengets covered in powdered sugar in the French Quarter. I even had my palm read by a street palm reader who told me I was a very old soul and would have a long life. Back in Colorado I spent most of my days with my mom hiking in the mountains or chilling at the house. In the evenings my dad, mom, and I would relax with movies, cards, books, or whatever else we wanted. The Florida sun, family time, and herbal medications improved my physical condition tremendously. Within weeks my skin and eyes had returned to their normal color and I felt better than ever. During the next couple weeks I spent a lot of time with my parents and also some great friends I’ve had since high school.

In mid December my sister Christina came home from college. She, my parents and I were taking a trip to Maui in the Hawaiian Islands. We took off from Denver with snow littering the tarmac and landed on the lima bean shaped island in the tropics. With the sun shining and wind blowing we hopped in the rented convertible and made our way to the condo. We stayed in an apartment overlooking the waves of the ocean calming lapping the shore. Palm trees abounded and tropical birds flew all around us. We spent most of our days bathing in the sun on the beautiful beaches and snorkeling in the warm clear water of the Pacific Ocean. We swam amidst millions of brightly colored fish, eels, and sea turtles. This time of year was mating season for the Humpback whales. Hundreds of whales gather in the warm waters surrounding Maui to challenge for mates and to spawn. These massive creatures were abundant while we were there so we saw several of them. They would breach only a hundred feet away and yet it seemed as though we could just reach out and touch them. Looking out over the water from the boat I would suddenly see a great plume of water jetting into the air. Following that the hump would emerge that gave these giant mammals their name, and then the tail would pop out of the water and dive again. What impressive animals these are. Just watching how graceful a 40 ton animal can be in the water is inspiring.

While in Maui we took a couple of day trips. One of these days we drove the infamous Road to Hana. With steep downgrades and sharp curves the thirty mile drive takes about two hours. Along the way we passed through massive rain forests and saw incredible water falls. We stopped at the Garden of Eden arboretum and walked among beautiful flower gardens and lush vegetation. I found several spiders that captivated me as I had never seen creatures that looked so alien yet so familiar. I filled my camera with pictures of these amazing spiders and spent much of my time observing them in their silken homes. Near the end of the Road to Hana there is an area known as O’heo Gulch or the Seven Sacred Pools. Here we stopped and found a hiking trail that led up through the forest. We hiked this trail passing fast flowing waterfalls and trees larger around than I had ever imagined. Part of the journey led us through an intense bamboo forest. For about ¾ of a mile we hiked in the shade of these tall trees as we listened to the clacking of the bamboo being knocked together by the wind. Upon finally arriving at the end of the trail we were met by one of the tallest waterfalls in the world. Waimoku Falls drops 400 feet down a sheer lava rock cliff to land gently in a pool of water below. Bathing in the spray at the bottom was refreshing after the long hike up. Hiking down took considerably less time as we were going downhill and had already seen the sights on the way up.

Another of our day trips began in the early morning hours as we drove to the top of the Maui crater. Extremely cold weather greeted us when we arrived as the sun was rising over the horizon. Clouds shifted on and around the mountain top highlighting the crest of the crater. Inside the crater the earth was bare and resembled a Martian landscape. Red and brown rocks crumbled and littered the terrain while small ice crystals formed between the cracks beneath our feet. From the top of the crater we could see the entire island from the sugar plantations to the Iao Valley.

We celebrated my parents’ 27th wedding anniversary there on the island by taking a sunset cocktail cruise. Since it was a cocktail cruise the alcohol was flowing freely and we all quenched our thirst. The rocking of the boat did not help our standing situation so we finally found that it was much easier to sit and hold on than attempt getting up for another drink. This was probably a good thing as when we exited the boat we still had a difficult time walking straight. When we arrived back on shore we made our way to the nearby miniature golf and family adventure park. Rather than putting we spent most of the time throwing the golf balls at the holes or retrieving them from the water traps. The next day with slight hangovers we made our way to the airport to return home. Leaving the beautiful tropical weather of Maui behind us we returned to a cold and snow-packed Colorado.

A couple days later, on Christmas Eve, my brother Peter flew in from San Francisco. That evening my mom and I sang in the choir at the Catholic Church my family has been a part of for years. We followed our yearly tradition of attending midnight mass then returned home to sleep the night away. Christmas day we woke up to fresh snow on the ground and fewer presents under the tree than we had ever experienced before. This year was a very simple Christmas for our family involving a trip to Maui rather than material gifts and I think we all preferred it this way; at least I know that I did. The holiday season was truly joyous and a celebration of family. The focus was on relationships and spirituality rather than on physical gifts being exchanged. It was the best Christmas I had ever had. A few days later Peter left us to return to his home in California. Following that I organized a New Year’s Eve party at my house. I invited all my high school friends as well as all their parents. It was a fascinating combination of the two generations coming together for the first time in several years. The party celebrated the dawn of a new year with many hopes, dreams, and anticipations of the year to come.

Not quite a week later I said goodbye to my parents and left with Christina on our way to her house in Gunnison, Colorado. I spent the next two weeks with her in the coldest region of the continental United States. While there we experienced temperatures of forty degrees below zero and six feet of snow. Many days were spent snowboarding on the mountain of Crested Butte while other days I played with Christina’s dog Tyson along the snowy banks of the frozen Tomichi River. I had a blast hanging out with my sister and her friends. While I was there we celebrated Christina’s 21st birthday in true college 21st birthday style. Needless to say much passing out and throwing up was involved. Two days after her birthday Christina and her boyfriend Jordon drove me out to Grand Junction in Western Colorado. There I met some friends of mine from college who picked me up and drove me to their home in Salt Lake City, Utah.

I have been living with my friends, Kim and Ruth, for nearly a week now and definately want to stay a lot longer. I met them while attending college in Alamosa, Colorado. As a lesbian couple they were quite the oddity in the small town and the fact that they had a one year-old son added to that oddity. We became fast friends. I have always adored children and when asked to baby-sit the one year-old Riley I jumped at the opportunity. Before my senior year of college they moved away to Salt Lake. We stayed in touch and during my road trips to and from Mammoth Lakes, California I would stop in and visit. Riley grew bigger and bigger every time I saw him. He is now six years-old and the moment he saw me he gave me a huge hug; he has yet to let go. He calls me his “brudda” which is Riley-talk for brother as he has yet to master his “r” sounds. He, along with his nearly two year-old brother Casey and his two mommies have become my new family. I am so grateful to be here with them and look forward to all the adventures we will have together. Until next time, adios from Mormon land!

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