The Writer

abuse, Addiction, Anorexia, Archetypes, Bible, Body Image, Bulimia, character study, Christianity, Church, Colorado, depression, eccentric, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Fear, Health Issues, Laramie, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, mountains, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, poetry, PTSD, Relationships, Running, Self Reflection, Trailrunning, Wyoming, Yoga

afraid of mirrors

230. 180. 150.

Not an IP address but numbers that have shaped, comprised, manifested, haunted, clawed their way into my life.  I am especially aware of my shape now.  My body has become a source of shame yet indifference as I navigate an especially acute dark journey of the soul. I have given up most objects or possessions and am finally without roommates so now it’s just me, my thoughts, intrusive memories, and a whole pile of books consumed both aurally and through print.  I’ve finished one book regarding last weeks obsession of healing, starting new, spiritual health.  Now this weeks obsession has gone to physical health and I find myself at the doctors office for a wellness check and before I even arrive I stare in the bathroom mirror knowing I will have to be weighed.

230.  A nice time in the afternoon when there’s still the happy mellow from lunch and the light lingers to paint the grass bright green before the yellow haze of autumn late afternoon.  230.  A nice highway that runs though southeast Wyoming through the Medicine Bow Forest past the Boy Scout Camp and old railroad system that is now the Rail Trail.  8 miles from highway 130 full of dirt roads to take to the western slope of the Snowy Range.  A road I took as I packed my stuff once again to go from Vail, Colorado to Laramie, Wyoming in early September.  Highway 230 is now closed due to the Mullen fire starting in the Med Bow forest and lapping up trees, bushes, grass all the way to the state line where the road is now closed.  230.  My current weight.  The most ever in my life.  Maybe I wanted to feel big again.

I find myself curious and disgusted in yoga realizing my belly, my thighs, my arms—are no longer the 160 pound girl who taught yoga for 7 years with heavy weights, kombucha, coconut water, tanned limbs, regular facials, Lulu Lemon clothes, Manduka mat, private pilates sessions.  I can barely balance and the weight of my body is hard to support.  My equilibrium has changed and its like learning to do yoga all over again in this heavy frame.  Running has sluffed off to steep hiking but after Vail I can’t seem to find a mountain with a 800 ft gain 3 blocks from my house.  The high plains of Laramie now filled with smoke so the distant mountains cannot be seen through the thick tendrils of dead pine souls reaching to the sky.  I see half faces in yoga that I know, teachers that might know me.  I recognize folks at the store.  Bless this pandemic, bless this mask for my face.  Now how can I mask my body that plagues me so.

180.  A complete turnaround.  A complete reversal in attitude or opinion.  I made the decision to move to Colorado in 2016 after some sustained wellness (sobriety, running, yoga, Crossfit, etc.) when I wanted more mountain adventure and to be somewhere I had never been and to feel little in the fish bowl of the San Luis Valley.  I had fallen in love with trailrunning and hiking and thought I ought get to the big ones—the fourteeners that came with stories of lightening, starting out hikes in the middle of the night, holding a dumb cardboard sign with the elevation sharpied next to the name of the peak.  Peakbagging without the bagging part.  I didn’t really climb that high or that technical.  I got to Alamosa, Colorado stayed a few months and shoved off to Pagosa Springs where I completely changed my career trajectory and started child therapy.  I weighed 180 and felt fat.  Was told that I was packing a little extra weight.

After arriving in Pagosa Springs I watched a whole new self emerging from my new surroundings, new relationship, new job, new house.  I felt a bit out of control and very confused in a small town of 1,200 but so perfectly surrounded by trails, rivers, mountains, hot springs that sometimes now that I am gone I lust for the town like an old college lover who is somewhere working in a bank in an unhappy marriage raising who knows how many kids.  I sought control through my diet and exercise and find myself running further and further.  Maybe in the snow, maybe with friends, maybe up hill.  I took my lunch hour to run up Reservoir Hill pounding switchbacks and sprinting down the hill trying to break my own record.  I watched myself take up less and less space not knowing who I was.  Always heading to my spiritual place—outside.

150.  There are 150 psalms in most versions of the Bible, though the Eastern Orthodox Septuagint bible has 151 and other versions have up to 155.  Before I started my most recent blog I had 150 pages of writing.  The psalms and my blogs much the same, expressing individual emotion to God or about God.  The psalmists may have had a different concept than I.  My god is not sky daddy nor mother earth but the breath and stillness in between.  Different types of psalms and writing all written to communicate different feelings and thoughts.  Words of praise, admiration, thanksgiving, gratitude, and wisdom.  Those might be the psalms but my words also invoke sadness, distress, longing, anger, shame, darkness, anxiety, and pain.  The lowest weight of my adult (and teenage) life, I am at the rec center in Pagosa and am inquiring about scholarships and the answer is always no if it comes to an HOA such a common occurrence in Colorado I am confused in Wyoming that all is one city project.  I step on the scale and am secretly beaming.

I am thin but am still crying all the time staying in hotel rooms because I’m in an 8 week training module for my new position as home based (child) therapist.  The man I move to Pagosa for has haggled me about my appearance so many times I figure if I eat less, run more, learn to ski, get the gear, learn all the mountains, make all the friends, teach all the yoga classes, find the right place to live with the best mountain view, clean the best, talk the least, I might measure up.  I become smaller and smaller and the other women at work tell me I am too thin or make fun of me for avoiding the cake, muffins, chocolates, chips, and other delights that find themselves on the counter.  I can only control this one thing.  I cannot control how my partner is treating me and can’t seem to psychoanalyze my way through it.  My weight getting lower and lower with my self esteem and ideas I could mean anything.  Still, I lift up my shirt to see my ribs and emerging six pack and am so secretly happy I’ve finally gotten this thin.

“…this beast dwells within whom many confuse with vanity.”

― The Raveness, Night Tide Musings

Addiction, Archetypes, Biofeedback, character study, Colorado, depression, Existentialism, Expansion, Faith, Health Issues, Higher Education, individualism, introvert, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, mountains, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, PTSD, Relationships, Running, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Universiality, Wyoming

walking through fire

It’s a little past 7, my dim flame of a soul awake compelled to compare that light to years ago waking up at 4 to write, running at 5:30, smoothies at 7:30, meetings and clients all day.  Yet, somehow, sleeping 8 hours mostly through the night and waking up before 11 has become my biggest accomplishment of summer.  It reveals how I’ve mistaken my schedule as me, my work as me, my good deeds as me.  Yesterday, the Mullen fire west of town turned the sky orange by noon and time became like resin holding everything captive and intact in town while beetle kill and brush woosh in flames out of town.  Some have become sentimental about the fires claiming environmentalists created the perfect kindling by not logging etc.  I am of the mind that it had to burn sometime.  The forest must burn to create. Perhaps the soul does, too. 

Forest fires release seeds and encourage growth creating fertile soil.  The flames clear dead trees, leaves, and other vegetation from the forest floor so new plants can grow.  Nutrients are broken down and return to the soil while disease-stricken trees leave space for stronger trees.  The thinning of trees increases sunlight which increases growth both of trees and wildlife habitat.  Soul fire releases new ideas of how to cope with life when old ways aren’t working.  The destruction of self and old patterns creates space for new wiring of the brain, synapses finding new paths with no former brain crispy leaves in the path.  Relationships are broken down to create room for new relationships and meaning.  While the smoke of the soul may be dark and ominous during the fire, the sunlight comes back in through new venues, new ways of seeing, new hope.

I find myself 6 hours into a 10 hour audio book wondering if I would have read it quicker through seeing instead of listening.  Then I remember, my sight isn’t getting better.  I’m getting older.  My body is changing and I find it sometimes hard to get out of the bathtub with shame thinking back on 6 hours of exercise a day.  Its hard to compare the two, both extremes of activity and while I feel like a crust of myself I have learned the lesson of moderation and realistic expectations.  This does not preclude goals of yoga, running, lifting weights, healthy diet.  This fire, however, is only 11% contained and the main objective is to save the structures of my life that are important.  A job, housing, working on the relationships I do have.  I’m setting the control line and holding boundaries and sometimes the fire may jump these lines.  Start over.  Dig, water, clear the brush again.

I wonder if this latest existential crisis has less to do with simple mental ailments and more to do with the shifting of my soul to accommodate who I am.  Am I a gypsy wandering every mountain town I encounter only to find while I’m compatible with the mountains I’m not compatible with its friends?  Or am I professional who realizes no one wants a former gypsy in shiny cubicles in surface talks about politics of service that are held up only in theory?  I seem to be emerging as both and I cherish my experiences in a boat, on a mountain, in a cubicle, speaking in front of a classroom.  In talks with my Uncle I realize that its not the achievements or the acquisition of a new position—its finding peace in the slow burning of the fire knowing that the terrain is too tough for me to fight and does not make sense for containment.  I wait then, and watch, and prepare the boundaries that I can knowing the fire may shift in any direction on the dovetails of the changing wind.

I am told by some mentors to keep certain information off of my resume and others tell me to hold true to myself.  As I drive by Fox park and some areas in the San Juans its obvious the forest has burned.  I wonder if my own fire leaves the scars just as visible and suppose it may be foolish to think I can hide the fires that molded the projection of myself.  I am told to keep a plant for a year, a dog for a year, then try a relationship.  The rebel in me says I’ll do things in anyway I want, I’ll start a fire in a stage 3 ban and watch my resources wasted on another preventable course.  I’ve been hiding very well this summer only letting a few folks know my whereabouts as I flit around from the San Isabel forest, to Holy Cross, and Medicine Bow, to end up at Roosevelt and Arapaho.  If I name where I am going maybe I can tame the outcome.  I dream of yoga in the morning, running in the afternoon, weights at night then swaddled in the tiny belly of my studio apartment to read, write, and reflect. 

Fall has always been my favorite time and is now the time of fires.  I anticipate the neon red sun in fall and the soft blanketing of snow that puts the fires out.  Snow is an insulator and when sound hit the small pockets of air on the outer surface the sound is absorbed reducing volume and reverberation.  All becomes a bit more quiet, the tongue of the flames finally put to rest with steam rising from the forest floor as the cycle begins again.  Cycle meaning circle—perhaps I circle in and out of the “good” and “bad” times in my life to learn something new each time I’m on fire.  This cycle I learned that I am a flake.  I set my lines and I hop them.  I create a strategy and the fire changes.  I’m not sure if I set goals around this tendency or I take the process as the goal itself—saying no one day at a time.  Apologizing or forgiving one situation in its own way despite the time it may take.  The fires are still burning and I’m still using all I’ve got to put them out, until they come again.

“What matters most is how well you walk through the fire.”    

-Charles Bukowski


don’t hide the madness

I’ve started listening to audio books again as I clean the house, shower, walk dogs, take hikes.  I feel myself filing away all vivid snippets of writing and in perhaps 3 mile long intervals I’ll happen in on a part of the reading that give me goosebumps.  Sometimes, it’s the description.  Mostly what gets me is when the author finds the perfect metaphor, the perfect quote, the perfect run on sentence.  The  one that truly conveys the character, situation, feeling, or underlying piece of consciousness that has been uncovered like a mushroom in the mountains, a shell on a beach.

I long for my own writing to unearth itself again, to slowly pop up like a sapling buried under snow or bloom in December like a Christmas cactus.  I find myself with the same tastes in my mouth the same longing for a vintage penthouse, the same grid of streets ogling my behavior and attitude that says I’ll try anything once, twice, leave town, and try again.  It seems that loneliness or at least isolation starts to breed the best writing where the world is silent and the sense of self both lost and honed in upon.  The slow unraveling of a self only to add that same thread to the bigger story of life.

I am petsitting for three dogs and I find it so pragmatic and interesting the exploration of their personalities and acceptance of those personalities.  One dog is a loner, she likes to sit out on the green grass and only checks in every once in awhile when she will use a guttural, shaky moan in deep groaning pleas to rub her stomach.  Then, there is the other male who seems alpha and loves to bark.  He will play but puts up boundaries when he is done.  Both of the other older dogs twist up the winding stairs to the loft where they sleep slow and silent.  The youngest darts around after having been rescued but rests his chin upon the knee when not threatened by a seated visitor.  He constantly flips through the dog door to check—are we still here together?

I have an epiphany turning on lights, one that flickers just like another light I have at another place I’m staying.  Almost like my fight to not be who I am.  When I was a young writer I thought I knew what I could have never known.  I still fought, though, and worked.  And there was still this flickering self, this flake, that couldn’t decide what I wanted or lacked the courage to keep what I had.  Now, after ups and downs that resemble a beating heart, I’m once again starting over.  This time I will keep curious about my character just like that of the dogs—no judgements just observations.  Sometimes a good laugh at the keen habits of ourselves and others.  I don’t expect too much to be different, just looking at it different this time.  And the next.

“Follow your inner moonlight, don’t hide the madness.”

― Allen Ginsberg, Howl and Other Poems


popcorn ceilings

“Just hang in there.  She will make you a better writer.”  I haven’t written for months and months.  I pulled up my email the other day to contact my former writing mentor and came across emails from my best writing buddy.  She hung herself many years ago.  I was driving out by the cement factory in Laramie, WY and got the news.  My brain went to images of what it must have been like.  I tried to stop thinking about that and don’t want to detail the visions in writing.  I want to be a better writer.

I’ve been living like a gypsy and stopped making my writing public because I want to hide.  Its hard to leave the house.  I hate talking on the phone.  I find myself staring at the popcorn ceiling content just to stay in bed.  Drink some water.  Listen to Colorado Public Radio incessantly.  I put books by my bed as a symbolic gesture hoping I might open one and get into a world other than my own.  The same popcorn ceiling I would stare at as a child when I was in trouble and told to “think about what I’ve done.”  I’m thinking about what I’ve done.  Just like a child, I’m confused.

I have moved 5 times in the past four years.  I’m back with my therapist who helped me work through childhood trauma and now this is my big trauma.  The big T.  Jobs keep coming and going and I watch as I sabotage each opportunity because I didn’t want to be there in the first place.  And I calm myself knowing that this is typical for my stage in life.  I find myself jealous of all who have homes, children, stability…and then I think about all I’ve been able to do.  Hiking in Alamosa, Pagosa Springs, Salida, Sheridan, Vail, Laramie.  I’ve explored every trail I could find.

I have found myself more reflective than ever as I enter a space where I’m no longer a good student, a good partner, a good runner, a good hiker, a good employee.  I’m surviving.  I sometimes feel compelled to try and apologize or make up for my perpetual flakey nature but like that small child I’m confused about what I’m apologizing for.  I find all are pretty defensive and wounded right now.  COVID just brought the popcorn ceilings closer.  All of our flaws are magnified.  I try to reach out to friends but I couldn’t name a friend who isn’t losing it as well.  I stare into sad eyes, observe messy hair, listen to tearful conversations.  No one is okay.

I signed up for yoga class tomorrow and will get out even if its in the smoke.  Each time I move another fire follows me and for the third year in a row I’m in one of the top priority fires in the nation.  My website used to be called Fire or Phoenix and I’ve spent too long in the fire.  I feel a spirit of transformation and calm in defeat.  I couldn’t have guessed how life would turn out and while I hide and worry about myself I know we are all in a time of transformation.  If I was on a hike, I’m in the purgatory part where you think you see the top of the peak and then out of the trees and another peak.  But, I will climb.  I’m still here on the journey.  Scorched earth has come and gone and now its time to grow.

“In order to rise from its own ashes, a phoenix first must burn.”    

-Octavia Butler

abuse, Addiction, Anorexia, Archetypes, Bulimia, character study, Christmas, Colorado, Death, depression, Existentialism, Expansion, Fear, Health Issues, Mental Health, Micro Non-Fiction, Mindfulness, Non-Fiction, Nostalgia, Relationships, Self Growth, Self Love, Self Reflection, Yoga

softening of the sap

I’m going to make up some of the piece for effect.  Sometimes, the metaphor unfolds from the writing but this one I’ve sort of planned out.  I use symbols and images to feel more real–to create something I can’t just vent over the phone while staring at refrigerated biscuits in the store after work.  Symbols and images creating the here-but-away glazed effect of the internet where one’s soul is felt in tiny comment bubbles but the vulnerability of immediate physical proximately can be easily avoided.  Instead of what I could say easily in person (and no one likes raw truths in person) I say elaborately through words, details, pictures, creations that ebb in and out of my control.  In these spaces I feel safe. In these spaces I am in the moment. There is one heartbeat, there is another—no need to coregulate.


My dog once got tree sap on the tuft of fur located on his back, towards the tail.  That spot where dogs love to be scratched and will saunter underneath two blue jean tree trunks to feel the finger-branches of their owners.  One paw up, another paw up, tongue dangling from mouth, breath heaving.  A rhythmic ritual caught short on this day as the sticky, nostalgic smelling sap wraps around my fingers with black wires of fur and deformed pine needles.  I examine the spot now a cow lick of small chunks of tree bark, shiny in the light of the kitchen.  I thought about the hike where this had happened and how hikes sometimes start to look the same not because of being jaded or well-adventured but because the breath remains the same.  The steps, just like the dogs, back and forth in rhythm and ritual.  But the sap—this sap.  It was stuck.  It was hard.  It was amassed in a dark forest, off a path, a break in the flow.

I got stuck about 3 years ago.  There were moments when the sap would loosen, when I could start to work on the problem, but then in the dark forest I would find more resin.  I would stop looking up and become so focused on one thing that my back too became sap covered.  Tree-glue painful to pick off my own skin and oozing from trees in suspension, like a still shot of puss from a wound.  I had career hopped then which always come with a new creation of meaning, a way to make sense of purpose out of current circumstances.  With each move from mountain town to mountain town I would lose confidence, I would become painfully aware of my own personality—able to be friendly one moment, withdrawn the next.  The sap would harden and crystallize.  I felt frozen.  I felt trapped.  I felt suffocated.  There was one winter when we cut down Christmas trees and I found one for my own home.  I hosted a Christmas party.  The sap was soft then, the heat of friendship had loosened the sap.

Our neighbors gave us a Christmas tree this year and it looks much like the one I had cut down a few years ago.  I took it down yesterday and put it in my truck and a little fish thought swam through my head—I’ve already been here.  I’ve done this.  I’ve cut a small tree and let it dry up and scratch around in the jumper cables and bottles of oil in the dark belly of the truck topper.  I wondered how long the tree would stay this time and remembered a few years ago riding in the back after dumping the tree, noticing yellow pine needles feeling them stick in my legs as I smiled and watched the boy I had a crush on.  Softening of the sap.  Like teenagers that day in our laughter and I wonder when I will tear down dirt roads again in my truck hardly noticing sap as I chase waterfalls and peaks.  This Christmas brought its own patch of sap—a new problem that brought old problems, a folding of time in which I felt smashed in the middle.

Because of time, because of my tendency to never give up—the sap came out of the dogs fur.  We got a hairdryer and the look on the dogs face said I was an evil torturer.  I was ready to ban bacon from his world, outlaw walks, throw all the balls into the sea.  I wonder if I get this same look too when someone is trying to help me through something really painful.    The dog had worked for the clump of sap, I had worked for my pervasive depression and abusive interpersonal relationships.  Don’t take it away so soon.  I live like a preserved mosquito within this resin–I can’t annoy you here.  The dog yelped when the sap finally became soft enough, olive oil was massaged through his fur and lots of pets and kisses followed.  Then a bath.  This time he looked a little more forgiving—he knew now I was helping him.  I feel my heart starting to soften in the soapy warm water, things are melting, the crust of a loaf of bread has been cut into revealing the stretchy puffiness below.  I am moving through, with, and into this depression.  I am moving through, with, and into this light.


“Maybe you have to know the darkness before you can appreciate the light.” — Madeleine L’Engle


ho, hey

What is love? Baby. Don’t hurt me. No more. The hurt still stings but I’m back to writing to process a few months of whirlwind romances and brief encounters. When it rains, it pours, and now monsoon season of the heart is over. One man still lingers from ol’ Lead Vegas (our term of endearment for Leadville, Colorado) and I think of him every morning taking an extremely long time to shit and my disdain for the strong funk of Colorado mountain man on my pillows, in my hair. I think of his disdain for my snoring and vaping.

He was one the of the favorites, dancing in the kitchen with me listening to hipster music I generally reserve for running, shooting his arm out parallel and twisting his wrists, shaking his hips while I danced right by. I felt to safe to be myself—maybe too safe buying Four Lokos at an Arizona gas station before 8 am while he mentioned “you know Jen I could go to yoga with Amanda or whoever at 9 am and wonder what we will do for the day or I can wonder if you got arrested.”

I always kept it together but feigned helplessness and tragedy as the real me creates a successful professional life. Heading to work, forming partnerships, creating groups, holding the infants, smiling at the pre-schoolers. I didn’t feel I had to lie to Lead Vegas boy because he was just as eccentric as me. Belly laughing as he drove the Cadillac Escalade he insisted on renting at the airport because he’s a car junkie but more professionally a motorcycle junkie. He drinks a fuzzy water here and there and tells me I’ve scared him a few times.

He scared me as I held on to his stomach while riding his motorcycle only to tip us over hopping on with too much gusto to his Africa Twin motorcycle. The XRV750 Africa Twin was a 742 cc (45.3 cu in) dual-sport based on the Honda NXR-750, which won the Paris-Dakar rally four times in the late 1980s. He liked to win. I find myself googling his top ten finishes at professional mountain biking and cyclocross races. I haven’t won much in my life, my only victories lie in the academic realm where I had become used to being the top 5% of any subject, any cohort. I try not to tell anyone about my masters degree anymore.

I had a dream last night that I was unloading a semi-truck with what seemed like my stuff for another move, to where, I don’t know. The semi was in neutral and it started to move forward and crashed into a neighboring house. I was so scared of the traffic ticket—sporting two speeding tickets in my own home in Chaffee county that I acquired long before I moved here. I was scared of who was with me. I walked into the house and found an old friend talking and flirting with a boy I thought I liked. My conscious and unconscious self always painfully aware that I’m not the one who gets hit on.

The dream seemed to say “no more dichotomies, no more binaries.” That man made it clear he liked me. I woke up one morning and watched him pace around until finally I asked if he wanted to stay and adventure. He called me beautiful. I asked to go steady. I find myself on a bus to Denver to take a plane to Arizona and string together more mishaps and free whiskey on the flight. staring at the quadrants of fields, roads, homes, and less planned mountains below. I landed, found the terminal. and there he was on a bench wearing his motorcycle boots and some Carhart hybrids.

He started to use the term “kangaroo pouch” to refer to my slightly swollen belly that has grown over the past year as I have manifested the other side of the binary self. Five years ago, teaching fitness and yoga classes, running everyday, eating low-carb, weighing myself everyday, sober as a church, turning down any request that might land me in a bar or with folks who weren’t as figuratively clean. Now, I have no problem with a whiskey or vodka drink on the weeknights and find myself walking downtown instead of running, scared of my own self and what might happen again. The motorcycle man, the hipster cowboy, tells me that I’m bad-ass but I’m too focused on my small town girl persona that I don’t even realize what he might mean.

It was all a gift, I suppose. Now I keenly eye motorcycles, looking for ground plates to protect from rocks etc. figuring out what kind of motorcycle rider I’ve encountered. Now, I notice the way the word “because” sounds as it would emit from his mouth like a nervous tick. I have to live in the gray because while he told me he wanted to work on something sustainable, told me I was dynamic, bought me a plane ticket to Arizona—he is gone. I anguish over what I did, knowing full well half of my actions were to push him or anyone away. If I can repulse you, its easier to repulse myself and stop trying so hard.

I was driving my truck to the mini Thai café near town, when the hipster cowboy broke out in song. He would often sing to me in a deep, booming voice and I’ve saved his voicemail messages. “Hello, Jen. This is ***** from the online dating app, Tinder. I thought I would shoot the shit with you and tell you about the glories of sleeping in a truck in the airport.” I wanted to tell him about the glories of taking risks in my life, becoming a star in my own right through yoga and writing. But, I didn’t. I kept secrets. I showed the underbelly of Jen, too fearful of manifesting my place in the world.

It was very hard to return from Arizona to Colorado, if nothing but for the weather. I went from 90 to 30 degrees wearing a thermal he had bought me, trudging through the airport in hiking boots. I sent a Mary Oliver poem to him in desperation trying to understand why he

r-u-n. o-f-t.

I will never know, and again I’m living in the gray of human emotion. Its possible he can see my beauty, my potential, my accomplishments and still see the ugliness that I project. I’m motivated once again to at least reach my own goals and come in first in the race against me. There is most likely no rhyme or reason to any of it. In a time of little meaning, a time of fuzz, there are the most beautiful sunsets and sunrises. Sunlight in the haze of smoke from my fire that will always burn.

“Ho Hey


I been trying to do it right
(Hey) I been living a lonely life
(Ho) I been sleepin’ here instead
(Hey) I been sleepin’ in my bed
(Ho) I been sleepin’ in my bed (hey ho)

so show me family
(Hey) all the blood that I will bleed
(Ho) I don’t know where I belong
(Hey) I don’t know where I went wrong
(Ho) but I can write a song (hey)

I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweet’ (ho)

Hey (come on now)

I don’t think you’re right for him
(Hey) think of what it might have been if we
(Ho) took a bus to chinatown
(Hey) I’d be standin’ on canal (ho) and Bowery (hey)
(Ho) she’d be standin’ next to me (hey)

I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart

Love we, need it now
Let’s hope, for some
‘Cause oh, we’re bleedin’ out

I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweetheart
I belong with you, you belong with me, you’re my sweet'(ho)


-The Lumineers


what i’m made for

Do you want what I have? What do I have? Who am I? Just got done reading a friend’s blog as she hikes the Pacific Crest Trail. Feelings of jealousy arise. I remember drinking with her one night when I invited some river rats from Canon City, CO to come to Pagosa Springs, CO with the sole purposes of getting out in the 10-foot raft. I may have misled them about my own river knowledge. Typical Jen. We drank whiskey the entire next afternoon and the friend became smitten with the rat. She traveled to see him, gave him books. He just wasn’t ready. I told her over and over she would love this boy I had met with a soithern drawl. They met. They shacked up. She speaks of him every other blog.

Do you want what I have? My best friend hiked the Appalachian Trail around 2004. She met a man on the trail and I picked her up in Rock Springs, WY after they had blown out her car traveling from Arcata, CA where she had gone to school at Humboldt State University. The man was impressed by the novelty of cows. He had never seen cattle on the bumpy dirt roads exclaiming private property. We spent months and months prepping for the trail as she was vegetarian and dehydrated food accordingly. My time in Humboldt was the first time encountering the faux hippie. The kid that doesn’t shower but also doesn’t have to work due to inheritances, trust funds, wealthy family. Dreadies and expensive shoes. The man my friend had met was just another stinky privileged jerk. That’s what she had.

Do you want what I have? I moved to Colorado to be that stinky hippie. But I, too, was pretending. I still have no money, no expensive shoes, and have no stinking clue how to hike or camp for longer than a few days. I collect river rats like trophies and listen as they try to connect with me. I can’t bring myself to tell them I’m in love with old man river. I let myself stink a little but can’t let go of deodorant. I want to dye my hair. Get a pedicure. Wax my dang eyebrows. My hair grows long and gray and I find myself on a 288 mile trip on the Colorado river through the Grand Canyon last summer. I sleep on the boat and sob. For what, I don’t know. The deep sadness ebbs and flows just like the water I seek. I realize my friend may have started her hike with the man that I had, the man that still tries to mess with me. I ignore his messages and move my body like the leaves shaking in streetlights on my nightly walks.

Do you want what I have? I can go anywhere with my job and get paid well. I achieved the thru hike of degrees. Kids will always need help and folks will always project their problems onto the child. I find myself smiling at a small dark haired girl, seeing my own brown eyes in hers. She still has time. She wants so much to be noticed. I get it, girl. I’ve been listening to a Dispatch album over and over finally accepting who I’ve always known I am. A hippie. I regret my degrees but hear my sister say she wishes she had a masters. All I know is I know nothing. I will never mention the names of boys in my blog. They are all just as fleeting as the hike. Life changing, but they won’t stay. I won’t let them.

Do you want what I have? I realize now how hard it was to be in Colorado. I wanted so bad to be a professional and take showers. Live in a house. Scoff at the thru hikers hitching through town. And now I want so bad to be out of my obligations. To get back to that mountain town and wonderfully mess it all up again. To stop shaving my armpits. To let my long hair twirl and twist into dreadies so that I can stop with this shampoo game. I hiked double digits the other day and felt so determined to just keep going with no destination. I get the lure of the hike. I get the lure of the mountain. I headed to Salida to ease my pains and met another river rat who danced with me as old men stared at me in my long dress. Crawling out of the rivers and down from the mountains to ogle and stare. Looks of longing is what they have.

Do you want what I have? I have a cute little home way up north in Wyoming and read studies of children who are affected the long light of summer days in an area where the northern lights can be seen. I feel at home but in a foreign country. I’m nervous to drive my truck sporting stickers of ski resorts and river stuff. I might be stereotyped–they might find me out as an ex-pat-greenie. But as I hang out in Colorado for the weekend I feel safe to show my tattoos. To laugh like a gypsy. To talk conspiracy theories with the German and Argentinian men I meet at the hostel. The German becomes disappointed as I let the river rat into the hostel to shower. So much for the theories in action. I promise he won’t steal anything from the rich white folks with expensive bikes strapped to their Subarus. I would love a nice (nicer) bike and nice car that can drive me right up the mountain. Epic adventures is what they have.

Do you want what I have? Or to pity me for what I don’t? I have no man giving me advice on how to hike, what to pack. I have no man guiding me down a river. I have no nice shoes and blew out a sacred pair of Chacos. I get questioned on any hike in Northern Wyoming: do you have bear spray? Do you have a map? Do you know how far you are going? No. No. And yes. I’ve already come so far. I don’t need a trail name to be apart of a community that I’m observing–just watching and waiting for my time to travel, hike, take six months away from play therapy. Can I be one of you? Would you like to be one of me? Always in two worlds. Straddling states, straddling identities. Brave enough to invite river rats and foreigners into my home. Hosting wild parties on a Tuesday morning when I transition between jobs. Do you want what I have? I don’t have much. I have me. Maybe that’s all I need.

“Be yourself; no base imitator of another, but your best self. There is something which you can do better than another. Listen to the inward voice and bravely obey that. Do the things at which you are great, not what you were never made for.”

― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance and Other Essays


jennifer banks, ms, ppc

I had to look up my counseling licensure number yesterday to fill out a form.  I found myself on the Wyoming Licensing Board website checking out the disciplinary actions against licenses in Wyoming.  I recognized two of those names:  one woman for sleeping with a teenage boy (resulting in sexual assault charges as well), one woman for letting her license expire (working in a school counseling setting).  The other actions I sifted through were much the same—counselors taking liberties with clients or letting their license lapse.

There was a time only just recently when I was told how much I sucked at counseling, how much I sucked at life.  The stars were aligned and my life seemed to reflect these ideas.  I worked in a state and school where I held both licenses—school counseling and licensed professional counselor candidate.  There were moments when I felt I was going crazy.  I questioned my coworker about her licensure and it forever affected our relationship.  She did not want to take the tests, pay the initial fee.  I was made to feel my ethical concerns were unwarranted in a charter school where “folks don’t need to be licensed.”  But—this is counseling?

First—do no harm.  To me, the harm caused was not necessarily to a client but to a profession.  My peer–and sometimes my mentor–did not have the qualifications to perform the job.  I had to take several national exams, complete 60 hours of graduate courses, pay hundreds of dollars.  I passed ethics and diagnosis with A’s.  I worked hard and my background always presents new hurdles and I will be made to never to forget my mistakes.  The harm was to me—I thought there was something wrong with me and I was nitpicking.  Sifting through the disciplinary actions made it clear that this was not the case.  Practicing without a license can be detrimental.

When I first arrived at my new counseling outfit, I was so happy to have our profession elevated.  I sign all documents with my letters: MS, PPC.  I have a nice corner office.  I send faxes.  I perform assessments, intakes, and evaluations each day.  When we were gearing up to train our staff for our summer day treatment program, there was a section in which we talked about appropriate touch.  Again, thoughts of the past bubbled back up and an interaction with my former director came to mind.  I had some knowledge of sexual abuse of some of our students, but this I kept to myself.  I just asked that staff not touch kiddos.  I provided alternatives (handshakes, rituals, proximity, etc.)

I ended up at dinner with a coworker and just like the other coworker, I started to feel so small.  I was flat out told by her I was wrong about touching kiddos.  She felt her actions (children on her lap, children with their heads on her lap, braiding hair, etc) were in line. Kids who have experienced sexual abuse often have indiscriminatory connections with adults, throwing hugs out like candy at a parade.  Yes, touch is so important which is why I teach parenting classes that foster attachment. Attachment of a child to their primary caregiver—not a teacher assistant.  I felt small, rigid, stupid.  In the midst of all of this, my former partner would tell me I had manipulated the system.  But—those 60 graduate hours?  The narrative was that I had fooled them.  I was just good at standardized tests—none of this reflection of my ability.

Well.  I’m bigger now.  I’ve gained some weight which really bugs me but I’m trying to survive in this first year of transition.  But—I’ve got respect.  I watch as others start to adopt my choice language with kiddos and watch me adapt and circle up the kids each step of the way.  I don’t need any verbalizations of my value because I see my leadership reflected right back.  Its not a battle to tell them not to touch kids—its just known.  I don’t have to explain why licensure is important.  I live and breathe by my license.  As I create healthy connections and boundaries with kids the relationship grows and grows and then arrives the corrective emotional experience.  For the child, and for me.

I hope to never have disciplinary action against my license and worry now that I’ve put it in this blog, somehow that former partner will mess that up.  But, I have nothing to worry about.  I don’t sleep with my clients.  I’m very mindful of my license, my supervision, the profession.  And I’m slowly starting to let it seep in that I’m a professional.  Those two years of grad school, of sobriety, of fighting for my life were an investment I’m banking on now.  Licensed in two states—really close to being fully licensed.  Gearing up to build up a child and family program where I am the expert.  Its okay if I’m reading into things—its my job.

While I’m not sure if this is the place for me, this is the profession for me.  I come home each night with paint stuck into the crevices of my fingers where I bite my nails when I get that feeling of dissonance.  The paint on my pants, on my finger pads, the sticks in my hair—I’m doing it!  I have clinical hunches that are validated and I always take the position of curiosity.  What does this behavior do for the client?  What did my behavior at the school do for me?  Lacking confidence, feeling beat down, forever trolling around with a bag of toys because I never had an office—this did nothing for me.  So I stopped.  I moved.  And I became more accepting of the child within me and of the young woman that is growing up.

“I am not all knowing.

Therefore, I will not even attempt to be.

I need to be loved.

Therefore, I will be open to loving children.

I want to be more accepting of the child in me.

Therefore, I will with wonder and awe allow children to illuminate my world.

I know so little about the complex intricacies of childhood.

Therefore, I will allow children to teach me.

I learn my best from and am impacted most by my personal struggles.

Therefore, I will join with children in their struggles.

I sometimes need a refuge.

Therefore, I will provide a refuge for children.

I like it when I am fully accepted for the person I am.

Therefore, I will strive to experience and appreciate the person of the child.

I make mistakes. They are a declaration of the way I am – human and fallible.

Therefore, I will be tolerant of the humanness of children.

I react with emotional internalization and expression to my world of reality.

Therefore, I will relinquish the grasp I have on reality and try to enter the world as experienced by the child.

It feels good to be an authority, to provide answers.

Therefore, I will need to work hard to protect children from me!

I am more fully me when I feel safe.

Therefore I will be consistent in my interactions with children.

I am the only person who can live my life.

Therefore, I will not attempt to rule a child’s life.

I have learned most of what I know from experiencing.

Therefore, I will allow children to experience.

The hope I experience and the will to live comes from within me.

Therefore, I will recognize and confirm the child’s will and selfhood.

I cannot make children’s hurts and fears and frustrations and disappointments go away.

Therefore, I will soften the blow.

I experience fear when I am vulnerable.

Therefore, I will with kindness, gentleness, and tenderness touch the inner world of the vulnerable child.


– Principles for Relationships with Children”

― Garry L. Landreth, Play Therapy: The Art of the Relationship


another sunday morning

Its almost July. The time of butterflies and wildflowers and memories of hiking in the lightning, getting hammered by graupel. The days growing hotter and windows forever open while the wind chimes, doves, and robins sing sweetly each morning. So goes the seasons of me. I haven’t written in awhile because I didn’t want anyone knowing where I was going, what I’m doing. Its still winter in my heart but working as a therapist I experience winter-hearts each day and it doesn’t scare me anymore. I remember watching a movie about an asteroid that was to hit earth and the most calm and stoic character was the female with depression. Her world had already ended. Each day waking up a ghost in a life she didn’t really want.

I want life. I want love. But I’ve gone north and hidden myself at the foot of a mountain range not necessarily known for its tall peaks but for its isolation. Hikes here aren’t harrowing in the climbing part but harrowing because there is no one else around. I can drive 10 minutes and be on a trail where my companions are sage and sorrow. But I’m not scared anymore. I’m not sure if I’m living in the past or the future but feel very foggy in the now. Before I left Colorado I started just letting myself be and take risks. With my heart, my body. I scooped up a few new lovers and one very ancient lover who just like an afternoon thunderstorm has came and went. I celebrate that I left as soon as he got nasty. Life might be fuzzy but I can still see.

I think about what I’m doing and where I want to go. My main objective is to transfer my hours from Colorado and try to expedite my counseling licensure in Wyoming. I have found a home in therapy but some days I dream of once again working on the river—hauling around drop bags and stoves, creaking open the Yeti cooler for an ice-cold beer. I start to notice and appreciate ice and wash my hands thinking of what a privilege this running water really is. I’m paying too much in rent and start to hatch plans of leaving the country. Giant thunderclouds form in my brain as I think about saving enough money to travel and looking up all the friends I made on Warmshowers and Couchsurfing. Take me in, send me on my way. Sitting with the heavy feeling of being lost and accepting that there is no destination.

I miss Colorado. I miss my friends. I miss whoever that wild and brave woman was who took a risk and tried her damndest to become an adventurer. I lack some skills—courage, bravery, grit. I lack some resources—adventure buddies, money, a trusty truck. Yet I can always reflect on times when I had all those things and how I was always trying. Maybe this lackluster writing is a new try. I want to go get lost in the rolling plains and jagged mountains. I want to play like the calves I see in the meadows on the trail. I want my love to grow as large as my grief. Perhaps now, life is like the calm after the last crack of lightning takes the storm with the wind. I see reflections in rain drops that have settled on the sweet grass and these reflections show me a person who is stuck in her head, stuck in a rut.

I haven’t gotten my truck stuck recently and maybe this is the litmus test of adventure. I would get myself stuck every few weeks in Pagosa—sometimes in the driveway and sometimes at the foot of a mountain. One time, I had a choice to either ride my bike back to town or climb a mountain to use my phone. I climbed the mountain. I didn’t go back. And all was well. Here I am again creating mountains in my mind and soft hills in my body as I become sedentary and less like a hummingbird, more like a human. I read a friends blog this morning as she hikes the PCT and remember dehydrating and vacuum sealing enough meals for six months with a friend hiking the AT. Some plan, some don’t, some call it quits, some won’t.

Its another Sunday morning and I’m waiting to hear from the loggers just outside of town down the mountain range I now call home. I know they love the gentle call of the trees and flowers. The rushing rivers and big sky. I will absorb their anxiety as well as mine and exist in the middle of a storm because there is so much energy in the crashing of my thoughts, in the wind of the blood swooping through my veins. They’ve been fly fishing and I made a comment that I don’t like fishing because its so still. My life is still right now, my body calm. I’m not violently in love, I’m not violently in sadness. I simply am.

“I took a walk in the woods and came out taller than trees.”

-Henry David Thoreau



I was so nervous for our first long hike.  I went to Subway the night before to order breakfast and lunch sammies and woke up early to make sausages with cheese grits.  I was heckled for shoving my backpack full of beer, light jackets, macaroons, water, and a Tupperware container full of that southern delight I had planned for.  We started out at Lobo Overlook in freezing temperatures of early October in Colorado.  I had my hiking poles, my Goretex, and some snowboots I had just bought because I spaced my hiking boots.

I was so nervous for my first summit of Pagosa Peak.  I had failed a few times by now and decided to set out early, by myself.  It was the summer of the solar eclipse and I had a fight with my boyfriend who was headed to Wyoming for the total eclipse.  I stayed for my total transformation.  I ended up meeting a new friend at the trail and I lent him my eclipse glasses at the top while he showed me his makeshift index card with a tiny pinhole in the middle.  We are still friends and the universe knew that day that I was ready to summit.

I was so nervous for my first boating trip down the Grand Canyon.  I still can’t tie a half hitch knot and there were a few harrowing moments when that skill set would have been of great use.  I didn’t quite know what to expect and found myself in complete peace as I slept on the giant Yeti cooler each night brushing my teeth with the sandy water of the Colorado.  I worked hard each day and found myself running out of tobacco towards the end of the trip.  I made friends with a wonderful unassuming boy who works on a horse ranch.  I will never forget that time.

I was so nervous for my first 20 mile run with a friend who was preparing to race the Leadville 100.  We had been building up for weeks and decided to run the Piedra River Trail.  I had run with this group before, leading negative splits fueled by fear and passion.  I started to PR and set records on local courses trying so hard to keep running, albeit slow, up any hill I could find.  I met amazing women runners, some of who wanted to be vulnerable and some who kept their cards close to their heart. I would run in raggedy shirts, pants, and shoes and hold my ground because running is free.  I am free.

I was so nervous to teach my first yoga class in Pagosa but I taught the only way I knew how.  From my heart and with my healing elements.  Folks would come and go but I would make a stupid joke and follow it with my shot-gun laugh and know that I was vulnerable.  I would hear disastrous news before a class and breathe to set it all aside.  I would tell of my knowledge of all the forms of yoga and relate my form of yoga to the class.  When a cat pukes on the floor—its yoga.  We started a little group after class where we would go sing the lyrics to vintage songs in the local bar and not care what anybody thinks.

I am so nervous to leave my home.  I’m a simple kind of woman (Lynrd Skynrd why didn’t you write that?) and value a home-base very much.  I think of any Everest climb and how home base is spiritually on the summit.  I’ve been climbing, climbing, scared and I think of the folks at base camp who put so much good energy into the summit.  A journey, an adventure, at the top of the world where your problems are in the valley below.  The descent lets all the tension go, the departure from the peak fills the void that exists in all of our hearts.

“Smile, breathe, and go slowly.”

– Thich Nhat Hanh