two days of summer.

We did it! Packed, cleaned and cleared out the house. It wasn't until after we moved into the waiting area for the plane that I cried. There's something more final about leaving Patagonia. When I left the States, I might have choked up a time or two, but it never felt final. Of course I would return to visit--if not to live.

Puerto Natales is where S + I met, where we started a life together, where we've been living the past few years with the odd support system of other expats and a few locals. Our comfort, our makeshift family. And now another leap into the wide open. (Let's not even think about the part where we become parents.) This next leap we make together. Yeah, we can face anything.

{photo by rishi menon}

We arrived to Santiago last night. It was windy cold when we left Patagonia, so the green spring blooms and magnolia trees outside our window now are a welcome change. We can walk around outside in flip flops and T-shirts. Sunshine's so good for the heart. Never mind the smog; on the way in we could see an outline of the Andes. Today we're off to enjoy the summer before we head back into winter--again.

{photo by pilottage}

For the past few years, we've been smartly following summer, not winter. This works out well, because Patagonian summers are on par with California winters. Sun sets in Santiago nearly two hours before it does in the extreme south of the country, so it's a good transition to moving into dark before five. Dear Nordic friends, I don't know how you manage near total darkness for months at a time! For now, we're off to soak in the sunshine.

creative space.

Between my "creative space" hormones, trying to fit our lives into four (now five) bags, cleaning house and finding homes for what we won't take with us, vacating the house and giving it back to the property owner, and saying farewell to people, I've had my hands full, my mind occupied and my fair share of cries. So, if I haven't responded to emails or popped in for a hi lately, that's why.

{circa 31 weeks}
Visit me over at Lady of the Arts today for her killer Around the World Series. Meet other bloggers from around the world through their interpretations of inside, outside, creative space and a wild card photo of of each blogger's choosing.

thank you.

We've been a little busy around here, so my posts have been intermittent. In honor of (American) Thanksgiving (and love), I thought I'd move my usual spot of Friday gratitude to today. And put it in a simple short list of thankfuls...

{sol : colonia, uruguay : by me}
family and friends and reconnections
the ability to travel and to return (erm, married + with child)
the art of letting go--perhaps impossible to master, but I've grown heaps in this area of letting go of non-material things
sweet mail with tiny lettering
the cheesecake baked and the apple crisp still but a glimmer in my imagination
a gringo thanksgiving at the end of the world
that candle wax accidents can be removed (note to teenage me: do not cut the carpet fringe)
internet (because, really, how was 14-year old me supposed to know how to get the wax out?)
frutillas regionales
to explore "home" for a lifetime, to discover it's everywhere S + I are together
to adapt together
waking up refreshed
the first hug of the morning
baby hiccups, elbows and knees that pop and somersault around my womb

What thanks are you giving today?

me + my backpack + some other stuff.

Yesterday I enjoyed one of my last yoga classes in the dome. It's basically a yurt-style "tent" a few kilometers outside of town, with brilliant views of Última Esperanza Fjord. It's built to withstand the gales and near hurricane-force winds. (And let's just say this full moon kicked up some glass-breaking twisters and house-rattling gusts.) Practicing yoga in the dome--warmed by a wood burning stove and sheltered from the gales beyond it--is noisy. The loudness of lashings never really bothers me when I'm inside, but our yoga maestra kept reminding us to let the wind sweep away what we no longer need. Let go our heavy baggage so to speak.

About four years ago, I shouldered a blue backpack and set out to travel around South America. I had a plan (which included returning in two months), but I found it difficult to explain to others what exactly I was doing. Friends wished me farewell, saying: I hope you find what you're looking for. I had no idea what that meant or what I might be looking for.

{on the way to paso oggioni, torres del paine}

My backpack has climbed glaciers and volcanoes peaking 6,000 meters, soaked in the mists of Machu Picchu, weighed down my broken toe traversing the Bolivian altiplano, wobbled on donkeys and boarded canoes in the Amazon. It's froze beneath the snow of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. It's explored Turkey and survived rickety trains throughout Eastern Europe. I heard its sighs of relief when--too heavy for me to daintily swing onto my back--S has picked it up and held it out for me to put on, as if it was anything as light as a coat. It's been nibbled by mice and manhandled by airport conveyors. It's been my home for months at a time and my chair at dinnertime.

{en route to paso marconi + the ice field, from el chaltén}
And most recently heavy blue has been sold. For nearly a decade, that backpack collected shells and stones, non-native pine cones, diary notes scribbled on maps, breathtaking views, and the camaraderie of other backpacks.

{almirante nieto, torres del paine}
I've collected beach glass, bird books and real feather pens, friends, transience, acceptance. I met yoga and meditation and my husband. In that order. Maybe I was looking for something. But when I stopped looking and opened my eyes, I found I already had everything. (But, of course, I still wanted to meet that special someone.) A few blinks later : enter S. Now we're moving to my California homeland, with the backwards backpack of my 7-month pregnant belly. What a long, strange trip it's been.

May the wind carry away some of your excess baggage today. 
What would you send with its next gust?

friday present: pegasus catapult.

This week stormed through the house and swept up all the pretty horses--light like feathers--impeding its path. It makes me think, maybe I really did ride a pegasus last night, dreaming. After this week's hectic, I'm so thankful for now's lull:

to be quiet... 

{photo by khalid almasoud}
Have you ever noticed how hungry just the mere act of thinking makes you? I used to work in a cubicle at a Silicon Valley internet company. I'd eat a bowl of cereal there, and even though my only activity was brain and finger-related, my stomach would start growling in no time. But then on the weekends--even though I physically moved around more--I could go all morning without eating and without feeling too hungry. I don't know if this has something to do with being alone or the amber waves of brain activity calming down. Maybe the extra energy came from not being exposed to florescent lighting's energy sap.

I do know that little things like talking eat up a lot of our energy. A couple years ago, I did a 10-day meditation in silence. We'd have lunch at 11 a.m. and in the afternoon around 5, we'd eat a piece of fruit and drink tea. I never felt ravenous hunger, until the last day when we broke the silence. That day we still meditated, but between meditations, we talked and got to know the people with whom we shared our rooms, the incredible experience. When evening tea time came around, we were famished.

My point: Sometimes simple conversation can wear you out. We've had nearly four despedidas in as many days. Saying farewell takes a lot of talking, or in my case these zombie days, a lot of listening to others talk. Who knew it would be such a drain? So yeah, right now I'm happy to be quiet.

to be reminded...
Permanence is life's comical side dish, like that plate of brussel sprouts at Thanksgiving that nobody really touches. I'm sure the fact that we're leaving and saying goodbye to all our friends here makes moving all the more exhausting. This week we sold the car, we sold our land in Patagonia, we sold the last of our mountaineering equipment, we packed two of our bags and set aside piles of things to give away. I've looked on as beautiful friends take away pieces of my clothing. Part of me lights up to see my wardrobe refreshed on a different body. Part of me misses my body. Agility, lightness, stamina. (I know I'm not supposed to say that, but I'm sure such moments happen to everybody. And this is about acceptance.)

I didn't expect to find myself astride a saddle of attachment. I've moved a lot, sold off all my belongings more times than I care to count. Although it may not sound like it here, I am thankful for this lesson of letting go. We do live a pretty transient, up-in-the-air life, but here that's still easy and more or less stable. Moving back to complicatedville is frightening, so it's good to practice a little let-go right now. The only really ever have control over our thoughts + actions. So I am reminded: Make the thoughts positive, act with compassion.

{photo by colton witt photography}
to find space...
As I get heavier, my life lightens. Every day for the past two weeks, we have gotten rid of some material thing. During this time, baby enjoyed a growth spurt and my belly, lots of oil slathering. I'm creating space.

to be loved...
Yesterday I guess I just needed to cry. During our dinner party. Um, yeah, thanks return of the hormone crazies. It was late, luckily we were at our home, and everybody was entertaining themselves. I snuck into the bedroom, feeling how tired kids must feel when the fussing and crying kicks in. With no real reason other than it's time to be quiet and rest. How many fights have we picked in our lives because we weren't listening to our own exhaustion-o-meter?

S came to the rescue, held me, pulled me together, reminded me I'm a space maker. Thank you for your patience, understanding, killer pep talks and strong hugs.

{photo by seyyed mostafa zamani}
to be...
Grateful to just be. That's all.

What are you thankful for today?

date in the afternoon.

Our big plan on Monday was to fix our spare tire and head to Argentina, a mini three-day road trip to be somewhere different, eat good food, bid farewell. Our last hoorah here, so to speak. S is leaving on his last guiding trip in a couple days. When he returns, we'll only have four days to get everything in order for leaving, say our human good-byes to friends here.

{road trip postponed : via}
But on Sunday, I received a call from a friend that somebody wanted to buy our car. We were already pretty much giving up on selling it before we leave. Though this should have been happy news, I really wanted to go on that trip. Yesterday was dedicated to running around with the gringo who wants our car, while he figured out how he could get the money out of his accounts to make the purchase. The morning was warm and windless enough to sunbathe, though we were fully clothed. A friend let S & I into his still-closed cafe, where I could use the bathroom (my new hobby) and we could enjoy the sun in the garden out back, while we waited for the gringo to manage his banking.

In the end, it was a no go, and too late for us to leave. I'll spare you all the silly details. If you've ever done any long-term traveling, you know how difficult it can be to actually get access to your funds when you most need 'em. How often travelers get stuck, cards stolen, new cards sent, the limbo of overseas banking. It's never pretty. Add Chilean bureaucracy and the added difficulties of this remote region to the mix, and you get a days-long process. Which S is working on with the prospective buyer as I write this. We decided I didn't need to go on another 5-hour journey, running around the town this morning.

Since we still had the car yesterday afternoon, I really wanted to do something with it. (You know, something more constructive than whining about how we should be in Calafate, enjoying our road trip together.) Go somewhere we won't be able to without wheels. So we went on an afternoon date to the far end of the sound. To a tiny peninsula that caught the rev of wind. We shot my 30 week belly pics, and sat on dry slate protected from the wind by the sea. We watched a patch of sunlight ray over our perfect view of Torres del Paine. A white gull pair fought with a dark petrel over fishing territory. Terns squawked or screamed. With impeccable timing the seabirds ceased, so we could better listen to the garbage trucks barreling down the dirt road.

{ice cream condolences : photo by josh liba}
Back in Natales we were entered an eerie windlessness again, so we splurged on ice cream cones. There's something so touristy wonderful about walking around town licking ice cream. We sat on a bench beneath a random ventana cultural sign in one of the town's random plazuelas, watching the old ladies in the artesenia shops watch us.

Do you ever walk like a tourist at home?

what a difference 10 weeks makes.

This was me at 20 weeks flaunting my bump and happily feeling baby's wriggling.

{circa 19 weeks in santa teresa, uruguay; we missed our 20 week photo}

This is me now. Hardly anybody says, pero está chicquitita la guata (but your belly's so tiny), anymore.

{circa 30 weeks in puerto natales, chile}

friday present: now.

We have bucket loads of decisions to make every day, the most important ones having to do with our outlook. We can choose to be thankful, appreciative, compassionate. Or we can choose to dwell on what ails us. Right now, for instance, I decide to dodge the darker hollow and head for lighter ground. With one moment's gratitude list. Right now I'm thankful for...

this moment. 
I have pregnancy nose big time. The dry weatherscape here dries me out even more, so it's a pretty bloody mess lately, crescendoing this week. Not being able to breathe through my nose properly is suffocating enough, and if I ride that wave of thought, it'll make me panicky and most certainly grumpy.

So this morning, just as I was rising to panic point, I let the wave pass. Focusing instead on all the good things about right now. Sparrows chirping, sudden flocks of ibis squealing overhead. Sun pouring through my window. A lapse in the neighborhood dogs barking. Warm inside while it's wickedly windy outside, clothes on the line so quick to dry. That if I calm + slow down, I can still drag a decent breath through my nose. That there's always the emergency back up of my mouth. I'm breathing for two. Our baby hiccuping inside. Sparrows.

What are you thankful for?

penguin amor.

I did it again. I think our little one is such a part of me already (hi big feet and sciatic nerve, hello cute rolling and poking in my belly), that it's like he's already here. This happened once when we stumbled across baby Halloween costumes in Santiago, and I wanted to get one. Then yesterday's conversation between me + S, who is currently in Ushuaia, "southernmost city in the world." They'll even stamp your passport saying so if you ask nicely in the tourist office. 
S: I'm looking for a penguin costume for the baby.
Me: That is going to be SOOO cute! You should get us all penguin garb.
S: Really? Yeah that would be cute too.
[I have to stop here to point out two things. 1.) S was totally going for us dressed up as a family of penguins: hilarious and utterly endearing. His willingness surprised me. 2.) I believe there are some embarrassing pictures of me dressed as a penguin, complete with bow tie, floating around on Facebook.]
Me: Really? OK, yeah, let's all get penguin costumes. Then we can dress up as penguins for Christmas!
S: Ummm, Heather. He's not going to be here for Christmas. 
Has this kind of thing ever happened to you too? 

is that a rock in your pocket?

First, get your mind outta the gutter. This might be what the security guard asks me when I pass through security on our flight to Santiago or Lima or San Francisco. 

Let's just get this out of the way: I ♥ rocks. And pine cones. And shells. And worn beach glass. Messages in bottles. Driftwood.

{this guy loves stones too : by jos van wunnik}
I'm the girl who lugs stones down from the mountain with her. (I can be kinda clumsy--even without a big pack or big belly--so casing the landscape for pretty rocks underfoot while I hike works out well.) When backpacking I try to stick with the smallish stones. I collect and whittle down the collection on the way. When we arrive home, I always find a surprise rock somewhere in my rucksack--along with the yellow rosary given to me by a dear friend, which has been traveling the globe so rigorously for the past three years.

S entertains my addiction to flotsam. One of the best presents ever: a huge piece of driftwood he brought back for me from a kayaking trip. How he balanced that fat birdlike beauty across his kayak on the windy waters is another work of art in itself. Obviously we won't have space or weight (it's about 15 kilos!) left to bring the wood with us; neither the bags of rocks I pulled from the cupboard last night.

It seems I have stones coming out of my ears. Last night I chose a double, mounded handful of my favorites, placing the heavy ones on a windowsill and the tiny not-gonna-part-with-these in a bag with the shells. Shells are light, right? Someday I hope to have a rock garden (along with our herbs, flowers and fruit trees), with swirls of shells in between. A shell mobile for the boy.

{black stone spiral by jos van wunnik}
Living our transient life and moving a few times a year doesn't lend itself to gardening, not even hard gardening. I'm not a hoarder by any stretch, and I know you can't take it with you. But maybe just one more stone. The one with the plant fossil, or the stripey striated ones like tree rings showing centuries of compression, or the ancient stamp of shell from the mountain's peak--reminding us that we were all under water once. That we know how to swim.

Do you collect anything? Do you frequently weed out your collected?


{by tjasa maticic}
May your day be expansive. Like if you were the object of a painting, you'd let your arms and feet and hair would flow out beyond the frame. Rooted, perhaps, by a carrot or a sweet sweet melon into all things.

friday present: randoms.

It's been a couple weeks, since I've written one of these posts. Busy on the home front of moving (obtaining immigration visa, deciding to move + then acting on that whirlwind decision), though that should just be a different post altogether. So let's organize the thoughts, scattered leaves: This week I'm grateful for...

So many sockets. Most houses here have one single-plug socket per room. (At its heart, Puerto Natales is still a poor fishing village, riding the wave of Torres del Paine tourism and trying to learn how to grow.) Most houses are boxes built from scrap wood and tin; the guts of the house an afterthought. The electrical wires run on the outside of the walls, making for eye level sockets--one per room, if you're lucky. (You pay the "electrician" per outlet, and why pay more?) Then comes the extender plug (usually a three-sided danger toy), maybe another extender, then all the appliances plugged in, Frankenstein fashion. Yeah, you can call it a fire hazard. 

Not so where we live now. In a house with forethought: inset ceiling lights, closets, and more sockets than I've ever seen in all of South America. We have, for instance, five sockets in the living room. Three of which have three outlets each. We're only here another three weeks or so, but one of my fondest memories of this place will be the fact that I could plug my computer in anywhere--without unplugging something else, getting tangled up or tripping. 

{the moving night by luis argerich}
Like I said, we won't be here much longer. We leave Puerto Natales on November 29. We're selling everything, so I have a good reason to make spreadsheets. I can sort by whichever column I like and filter the information as I please: Who bought what, who do I owe items to, who owes us pesos? It's overly organized, and I love it! Every day this week, someone has stopped by to take something away. It feels good to physically see less to-do items in our space. 

beach glass.
Even though I'm wringing out our home, I still want it to feel homey, livable. Right now I'm looking at a row of beach-combed glass jars. The amber one holds a duck's plume. I'll let the jars catch light on the windowsill another week or so before rolling them in newspaper and jeans. It's decided; they're coming with us to California's cold Pacific. 

{via happy mundane}
deep sleeping. 
Aside from the fact that last night I got to sleep with my guru again after six days, I'm happy that I'm still able to sleep deeply. Of course I wake up a million times in the beginning of the night to pee. Or maybe baby gets all wiggly right when I'm snuggling in and it takes me a bit to fall asleep. But for the most part when I'm there, I'm there. (I know this luxury will slacken soon, so I'll just enjoy it while it lasts!) 

Last night S had his arm draped over my belly, and baby kept swatting at his hand. Baby does this; when he feels pressure, he starts to nudge around in that area. I telepathically told baby to hit harder, but sleeping S still didn't feel a thing. This morning, on the other hand, while S was in full-on play mode with our kicking baby, I didn't even wake up. 

breakfast in bed. 

S is the morning bird, I'm the night owl and baby still gets to be both. Someday they'll share the early morning hours together preparing me great late breakfasts in bed. We'll eat feasts of yogurt and honey, fruit and Turkish toast in bed together, before going for a hike on a sunny, breezy afternoon.

What are you thankful for right now?

encyclopedic post : history meets mail.

{dancer with a bouquet of flowers : edgar degas}
About two years ago, I moved into a room of a hostel. Aside from sharing the kitchen and bathroom with backpackers and all the rampant earwigs brought by autumn, I didn't mind living there. It was a free place for me to be. (Plus I met my husband shortly afterward and spent most nights at his house.) When I moved in, though, during that dead dark of cold winter, the room was still being used as a storage closet. The hostel itself wasn't open yet.

What I remember most about moving junk loads into the room across the hall are the antique encyclopedias, burnt black at the edges and disintegrating. I flipped through their pages, their amazing pictures. Visions of framed word art and collage danced in my head. Alas, the owner of these books--whose previous house burnt down as the paper houses with shoddy electrical work are wont to do here--planned to restore the books. They belonged to her deceased father, who was a doctor on Tierra del Fuego. I handled her heavy heirlooms with care, and didn't nab any of the cool pictures I oh so wanted. I wrote about this ages ago here.

Fast forward... > hostel opens + the books are moved out to the weather, supine to Patagonia's beatings no joke > come end of summer, earwigs hatch; they invade everything, can't lift a sponge or touch a towel without shaking one or five out > the cleaning woman battles them every morning, crushes them underfoot, sweeps out their carcasses, cleans the now overgrown backyard + starts throwing away earwig-infested encyclopedias > I save as many as I can carry and stow them in multiple bags so the tijeretas don't crawl into bed with me at night. They really do that!

{another degas interlude (after the bath, woman drying her nape);
why? because the next package someone receives from me is from the degas page}

Now I use the pages to wrap presents. And every time I send a piece of mail wrapped in encyclopedia, I lament not mentioning (on the card already snug inside the package) where the paper came from. I imagine someone finding the book destruction offensive. Now I realize, the recipient might be scared to touch said package with all my tijereta rantings, but they're clean I promise!

And yet... there's some artful book maiming out there. Take Brian Dettmer's book sculptures for instance. Only a true logophile would create this masterpiece from Webster's Dictionary...

{i say it's synchronicity: webster two point oh}
Not that my ripping out pages and taping them to boxes is artful, but I do like doing it. And playing with the serendipity of the pages as they open themselves up to be torn. 

{anticipate the comfort : the new modern medical counselor : by brian dettmer}
OK, there's a lot of innuendo here, I hadn't anticipated. Not sure if you're catching it; the subconscious is a marvelous poetic thing. I think it's better to just end with some questions...

How do you feel about writing in your books? Or altering them in some way?

get calmer.

Don't get mad or grumpy or frazzled or fed up. Get calm.

S said this to me after I might have said something about him being my guru. I know that may sound funny, but he is the most present, patient and overall calm person I know. The fact that he sometimes has to deal with the flare-ups of this raging fireball phases him little. (Wish I could claim that those flare-ups never actually happen, but what can I say?: I'm a work in progress.)

{because everybody needs to be reminded to breathe sometimes}
The tourist season has started here, finally. It seems to start later and later every year. Not ideal if you work seasonally. But it also means that right now S is on one of his longer trips. This always requires adjustment, a wee transition to being suddenly sola. And after spending all winter almost inseparably together, it's easy to see how much I rely on him. It's bigger things, like sleeping with our baby's soft stuffed monkey instead of my husband. And littler things, like how S always asks if I have water. Or medium-sized things, like suddenly I can't remember how to put air in the tires.

Meanwhile, every day something else moves from the house. I clean out another cupboard. Set aside things to giveaway, find more items to put on the for-sale list. I shift the house around to keep it homey. A couple nights ago I created sound sleeping energy in our new bedroom. We sold our bed yesterday; and it does feel good to find less to get rid every day. While Serkan was still here, I imagined it would be impossible to move from our big bed to the little kid's bed that came with our mostly furnished house. That the room had been used too long for exercise and closet space. But it feels really good in there. It has the comfortable, safe feeling of a nook, because the bed space is pretty nook-like. It's where we slept the first month we moved into this house and where we (S+me or monkey+me) will sleep during this last month too.

In other festivities, some friends painted my belly for Halloween. While Halloween isn't near as festive as it is in California, I still like to try to dress up. We weren't even sure what we would do till the last minute. But it was fun getting ready anyway. I've always had a knack for convincing boys to wear skirts. Halloween night was no exception...

{impromptu dance party}
Eventually I was something akin to mama planet...

{circa 28 weeks}
We made Laura a mime and David was Heather aka me...

David's costume is really only funny if you live in this tiny town and see people wearing the same things all the time (like this puffy jacket + wool hat, sunglasses; the wraparound skirt on top of jeans works like a little extra blanket against the cold). Apparently this genius costume even fooled some people--immediately followed by their utter unnerving.

{scary halloween version of the movie: heathers}
 David's ultra smiley pose every time the camera shot in his direction completed the look.


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