Blanca Lake

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I don't think I've ever done a hike more unprepared, but it was a hike I'm glad I finished. 

 Some time in October, my Disney buddy Kristina, which you guys have seen a ton of in my vlogs, asked me to hiking. Lake Blanca had been on my list for a long time, but it was also longer & more elevation gain, than any hike I've ever done. I mean let's be honest. Yes, almost every girl in the Pacific Northwest, says she loves hiking, but I'm not afraid to say I'm not obsessed with it. My affinity for hiking stemmed from my love of taking photos, therefore I hike. 

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Let's not forget the fact that I showed up in a tank, mesh yoga pants, and a cotton zip up, AND IT WAS POURING RAIN. I didn't have anything waterproof at all, including my day pack. No trekking poles (forgot) & no advil to start me off. All I had was another jacket I found in the back of Kristina's car (also not waterproof). 

A few hours later, absolutely soaked to my socks with rain, I made it to the top & arrived at Lake Blanca. Just as I came around the corner, the fog was beginning to dissipate (hence the first and last photo).  It was cold, but it was breathtakingly beautiful and well worth it. As it began to rain even harder, we took some pictures & snacked for 15 minutes, and it was time to head back down. I definitely want come back (more prepared) during the Summer, but I wouldn't have been able to do this hike without the constant motivation & patience of Kristina :) - Jen

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Smile

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The Foreword

As I've noted in the past, I've struggled on and off with depression for a good part of my life. The worst of it was probably in 2014, when I found myself losing my appetite, making excuses to not see my friends or face the world, and wanting nothing but to lay in bed & sleep all day. I was trapped in quicksand & I was struggling to get my head up. 

Despite working in healthcare, I personally don't put a lot of weight into solving your problems (physically or emotionally) with medications. I felt stuck, discontent & unhappy. While I was living a life that was "great on paper", perhaps I wasn't doing what was right for me. After a long hiatus (on literally everything), I made the conscious decision to make lifestyle changes, in hopes of improving my emotional state. I read a motivational book (here), exercised more to excrete endorphins, changed the way I saw things, traveled the world, and it worked!

Well it worked for most of 2016 that is. Soon the high from my trips were over, and despite landing a full time slot at my dream job, I still found myself occasionally swinging into periods of despondence. They weren't as bad, but in a way, I realized that this would probably be something I'd have to deal with the rest of my life, and it was okay. 

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The Meaning Behind the Tattoo

"Smile," is the name of a lesser-known song by one my favorite singers, Michael Jackson. Originating from a Charlie Chaplin movie, it's been noted as MJ's own favorite song. It's a beautiful, but somber ballad:

Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it's breaking
When there are clouds in the sky
You'll get by...

If you smile
With your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You'll find that life is still worthwhile
If you just...

Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That's the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what's the use of crying
You'll find that life is still worthwhile

The song kind of worked as a reminder to myself over the years, that even though you're feeling down, tomorrow might be a brighter day. It says that bathing in your sadness is actually futile, and I agree. Sometimes though, we still need a reminder. In the same way that some people write reminders to themselves on their wrist, I've thought about doing the same for myself, to just remind myself to smile. 

The thing is though, for a long time I've thought about getting this tattoo on my wrist, but I was hesitant. I felt like putting it on my wrist, like some kind of reminder, was like admitting to the world that I was broken. I didn't want to open a door so personal to the world. I never liked talking about my depressive slumps. 

As time went on and I realized this was a lifelong process, I become more comfortable talking about my intermittent problem. For the first time, I talked to my friends about it. It's so easy to talk to a camera in an empty room, or write about it on my blog, but to face my friends in the face to talk about when I need a little extra help, was hard. By doing that though, I knew I was ready for my tattoo. I wanted put it on my outer wrist, or wear this struggle (and seeming accomplishment) on my sleeve per say. Just like how some people wear the hearts on their sleeves, my reminder was out there for the world to see. I was comfortable talking about it, because it was okay. 

Next I had to choose a design & font. Font has the ability to weigh in how you read/hear a word & express the weight of it. I decided that I liked the personal feel of cursive, but couldn't find anything I liked online. Some were too formal looking and none felt like me. Then I thought, why don't I just get it in my own handwriting? It truly is a reminder from me, for myself. Plus, it had always been important to me, that if I got a tattoo, that I draw it myself. I appreciate others artists, but I didn't want to disregard my own creativity for my own body, out of politeness.

For months, I wrote variations of the word smile on every scrap paper that ended up on my desk, until I settled with this. No caps, just the simplicity & subtleness of lowercase cursive. The two dots over the "s" makes a smilie face, bringing lightness to a elusively dark meaning tattoo. And I must say, I love it. It was liberating to get it & it actually makes me smile every time that I look at my tattoo.

So concludes my essay for the meaning behind my tiny tattoo, because who says great depth can't be hidden in the most tiny people & things. - Jen

The Path To Totality

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Last week I got to experience a Solar Eclipse for the first time in my life, but to do it, I had to make a road trip down to Oregon, to the path of totality. While I did experience the awe of totality, I found so much more as well. 

The Oregon coastline & its wilderness is something that (I was reminded), I don't explore enough. There are so many beautiful hikes surrounding Seattle, but I'm finding that Oregon & our neighbors up North, have so many more facets for me to wander through. So many things to photograph & so man seasons to do it in. 

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We left on Friday after work, in hopes of beating the weekend traffic. 

And by taking mostly the countryside roads, we completely avoided traffic until our ride home, Tuesday night. After hiking closer and closer to the path of totality each night, we settled on a spot to view the solar eclipse, midway up the hike to Hawk Mountain Lookout (see map below). Come sunrise, we packed up our camera gear, and hiked up to reserve our viewing spot, which was conveniently on a half mile up. 

 

As it began, with my solar eclipse glasses, I was able to see the moon beginning to make it way in front of the path of the sun. Then it was time to set up the cameras. We had an idea where the sun would be in the sky at the time of totality, but being it was my first eclipse, I struggled with deciding on how I wanted to frame it. I didn't have a zoom lens & I favor including landscape or some type of object for perspective and scale. 

10 minutes before (photo above), it went from an uncomfortable 90F, to suddenly chilly. Despite the clear blue skies, I had to throw on  a sweater. Then 2 minutes before totality, the sky slowly went dark, until it looked like the last bit of a sunset. Then it happened. Totality. I went back and forth between snapping away & taking of my glasses to take in the process for myself. It really was surreal. My photo & anyone elses photo I saw on Instagram didn't do the feeling of seeing it in person, justice. For me, it was the realization of now small we were in the universe, and the fact that these two circles I saw in the sky, lining up over each other, were larger in real life, than I can ever imagine. 

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All I can say now, is that I can't guarantee I won't go chasing the next solar eclipse, no matter where it is in the world.  - Jen