[Traveling Tales] The Surreal Scenery of Salvation Mountain + East Jesus

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Tucked away in a small sleepy corner of California just East of the Salton Sea sits not just one but two of the most beautifully bizarre man-made areas I’ve had the pleasure of visiting.  The stores and fables of Salvation Mountain and East Jesus have intrigued me ever since I moved to Los Angeles almost a decade ago, but it wasn’t until last weekend that I finally witnessed the oozing creativity for myself.  One second, you’re taking a dusty road off the beaten path, in what feels like the proverbial middle of nowhere: you’re off the grid and surrounded by a sweeping desert landscape of BLM land with scattered mountain ranges.  All of a sudden, you see it – and once found you absolutely can’t miss it: a brightly painted surreal scene that felt born of Dali and Dr Seuss.

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First created back in 1984, Salvation Mountain is an otherworldly artistic expression from area local Leonard Knight.  Recognized by the Folk Society of America as a “folk art site worth protection” back in 2000, the mountain itself is ever evolving – with volunteers flocking to the mountain the first Saturday of every month with their buckets of paint, ready to pour themselves into Leonard’s vision.  My personal favorite part?  There’s cats – eight of them, to be exact, and they’re so freaking adorable roaming the yellow brick road. Let your wanderlust carry you to the top of the mountain, and don’t forget to take in the vibrant colors that are dancing around you.  Saunter off to the right of the main hill, and you’ll find multiple nooks and chaotic crannies littered with bible verses, prayers, religious sentiment and offerings. All around the outskirts of the mountain are refurbished cars, embellished with impeccable detail and design.If you couldn’t get enough of Salvation Mountain, just you wait until you get into Slab City and East Jesus.

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The best way I can describe East Jesus: think of it as a retirement center for Burning Man art, and maybe even burners as well.  The area itself is so off the grid that one truly could create a year round community built on the ethos of Burning Man – and indeed, some have: Slab City itself is considered a sparse ‘snowbird’ community –  no running water, no food, no amenities – meaning residents are forced to be radically self reliant within it.  If it’s chaos, then it’s the most controlled version of chaos I’ve ever seen – there are blocks, addresses and streets, basic societal infrastructure…just without the rest of society. It really makes you think about the bare minimum you would need to be content, and how magically creative you could be as you create your own world.  Built on top of a Camp Dunlap, a de facto military base that was dismantled at the end of World War II, Slab City was named for the literal ‘slabs’ that were left over – using them to create their city.

Last, but certainly not least, my favorite part: East Jesus.  I’m pretty sure I could get lost inside their art garden and I’m 1000% alright with that.  The art inside is made completely from repurposed and upcycled materials.  Ever evolving and interactive, there’s treehouses to climb, outdoor bowling, the craziest sculptures built out of seriously who knows what, and so very much more.

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There’s not only something to look at around every corner, but something to make your head spin just a little bit, maybe even enough to spark a conversation with a stranger. Hands down, Slab City, Salvation Mountain and East Jesus are roadtrip destination worthy of being on everyone’s bucket list.

For more photos, head to my album here.

For more, head to their socials – or just plan your next visit!

East Jesus: WebsiteFacebook  | Instagram | Twitter  

Salvation Mountain: Website | Facebook

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[Wedding Wisdom] The Name Change Game

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Just imagine – it’s the most wonderful day of the year, or  more accurately one of the best days of your entire adult life: you’re married! You did it! The two of you did it:  you tied the knot, threw the bouquet, did that dance, celebrated with your loved ones – and by now, you should have a shiny new marriage license to prove it.  So, now what? Ah, yes – for some the next steps are simple: go on, keep living and keep loving.  But for most others, there’s a litany of legislative shit to take care of before you actually have a new last name. Most things in life, we want to learn and retain for a lifetime – but when it comes to planning weddings and anything related to it – you gotta figure you’re only doing it once, but when it comes to following the rules – it’s important that you do this one right.

As soon as you bring your signed marriage certificate back to the county of your choosing, make sure that you retain enough copies of your official wedding license so that you don’t mind momentarily parting with one for a few weeks.  Most courthouses will let you get multiples for a discount from the get-go, so score a few for good measure – you never know where else it’ll come in handy, or the multitudes of reasons you’ll need to have it at your disposal.

First thing first, updating the most legal version of your name in the eyes of the government: dealing with the social security administration; this is the one that matters the most, closely followed by your drivers license. The good news: it’s free, and you don’t really have to go into their office (unless you want to). The bad: You’ll be without a copy of your marriage license and a government issue document with your old name on it for verification purposes, like your drivers license, state identification card or passport. Or, you can wait in a 2+ hour line.  The choice is ultimately yours, but I’ll give you a hint: I mailed mine in. Within 2-3 weeks, I had a new SSN card – and within 2 more weeks I had all my documents back in my little paws. Next, either make an appointment or brave the queue of your local DMV with a copy of your wedding license and your old drivers license.  As a warning, you’ll have to forfeit your old ID with your former name so kiss it goodbye so you can say hello to your new moniker.

Before you even have your signed document in hand, you can give your auto and home insurance a call and let them know that your marriage status has changed – most likely you’ll start seeing a discount in your fees immediately (cha-ching!).When it comes to your employer,  know that most companies and their health insurance programs have a 60 day window where you can add your spouse to your current coverage if you’re looking for an upgrade in that regard. Then make sure you reach out to your bank, your utility accounts and your employer and make sure that your new name has been updated in their systems; sometimes they’ll ask for a copy of your marriage license, others all you’ll need to do is send them a scanned version.

Last, but not least – your social media accounts!  At last – on to the fun part!  If you’re on Instagram or Twitter, you can add a “Mrs” in front of your name, if you use your last name – time for a little upgrade, and on Facebook there’s an option for people to search for you by your former name as well.

Or, maybe all that hullabaloo isn’t really for you – you’re digging your old name, it’s been tried and true – and that’s beautiful! Over the last decade, there have been couples here and there that have defied the conventions of marriage and created their own traditions: hyphenated names, the husband taking the wife’s name, and even creating a brand new last name that means something to the couple.

The name change game affects all married couples, simply because choosing to not update your name is still a choice; either way you play it, it’s an adventure you choose for yourself.  So, what are you going to do with your last name?

 

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[Worthy Work] Tune Into Your Natural Frequency With Treepeople

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In the middle of the go-go-go vibes of Los Angeles and in the midst of this go-go-go world, it warms my  soul to know that in the heart of this town lie untapped and sparsely touched green spaces, sprawling as wide as the eyes can see – from the rolling hills to the Pacific Ocean. Starting in the San Gabriel Mountains in the East with the the Angeles Crest Highway down to Griffith Park, the Mulholland Scenic Route and into Malibu – there are plenty of places that you can go get lost in the trees for a few hours and find your center.  Lush landscapes and valleys are scattered among the hustle and bustle, fully equipped with wanderlust worthy views and even hidden waterfalls –  if you know where to look.

In an attempt to live in a ‘take less, give more’ state of mind, I’m eager to jump at volunteer opportunities – and double so when it involves either nature, animals – or preferably, both. For all that I feel nature gives to me, the other week I had a unique opportunity to give back to Mother Earth with the fantastic NonProfit, Treepeople. Located in the midst of Mulholland, Treepeople proudly sits on over 45 acres of beautiful mountainside.  Though Beverly Hills isn’t exactly the area of Los Angeles one thinks of when “community service” pops into your head, or the logical vicinity for volunteer work, just one trip up to Coldwater Canyon Park will change your tune.   Between blazing trails and clearing paths through the neighboring canyon, community education and Summertime music and fun in the park, Treepeople have been giving back to the neighborhood for over 40 years.  Between planting over 3 million trees around the community and engaging over 3 million Angelinos to give back, Treepeople have grown into a vital part of the Los Angeles ecosystem.

The vision of Treepeople is simple: they believe in healthy soil, plenty of tree canopy to provide shade and last but certainly not least – clean, local drinking water through inspiring the community to take action and raise their voice to be heard by movers and shakers like district policymakers.  They host plenty of volunteer events throughout the week, and well into the weekends – with their Springtime tree planting by far being the most popular. Pro tip: it’s easier to participate in tree planting if you go through your place of employment versus flying solo.  For the few hours I was there, our job varied from wrestling with tree branches and prepping them to become mulch, scattering the mulch along the trail-side and making the venue event appropriate, but if you choose this adventure there’s a good chance you’ll be up to something different.  Make sure you go with comfortable, hiking shoes, clothes that you don’t mind going a little dirty in and a healthy attitude – you’re about to get it in, give back, and feel damn good about it.

 

Open from dawn to dusk year round, you don’t have to be volunteering to visit the grounds.  There are plenty of paths to prance around, a sustainable stream running through the middle and the view – oh, man, the view.

For more on Treepeople, head to their social media channels.

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

 

[The Audiofiles] Inaugural Electronic Music Awards to Honor Motor City Techno Greats

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The long awaited Electronic Music Awards, originally slated for 2016, are finally just around the corner – and we couldn’t be more intrigued for what’s to come: the celebration of musical tastemakers, creatives, executives and entertainment visionaries across eleven awards. Taking place in the heart of Downtown Los Angeles at the Willow Studios, the fabled Electronic Music Awards are slated for Thursday, September 21st from 7:30 to 10:30 PST.

For your chance to join the fun, RSVP here.Simultaneously live streamed through SiriusXM and Twitter, the Electronic Music Awards is not your mother’s award show: like all things with dance music, it’s a party! There’s no sitting on the dancefloor – in fact, this a dancing room only affair featuring no long winded acceptance speeches, and no breaks – except for when they’re accompanied by some funky beats, that will emanate from various corners of the venue.

Paying homage to the industrial origins of techno music, the Electronic Music Awards will showcase the Detroit acts on the Detroit Dock, a unique outdoor space, with a DJ booth situated on a loading dock. Featuring multiple generations of Motor City’s artists, you’ll be able to catch genre godfather Juan Atkins, legendary DJ Delano Smith, Robert Hood performing as Floorplan (Live) and The Saunderson Brothers, are carrying the torch for their father Kevin Saunderson and a new generation of Detroit artists.Other notable performances for the evening include the first US performance from the UK based OG’s Orbital, Moby, Autograf, Kidnap Kid, Madeaux, Gold Fish and so many more.

However, a few formative questions still remain: with the amount of commercialism pumped into the industry in the last few years, exactly what facets of dance music will be hitting syndicated television, how much homage will the underground dance culture, community and artists behind it be paid and how will underrepresented demographics like women and minorities within dance music be displayed? one look at the artist list and you’ll realize that there aren’t any female performers slated for the evening, so, will there be any female award winners – or at least any females in the running?

Check back next week for a full event recap ❤

For more on the Electronic Music Awards Show, head to their social media channels:

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram

[Traveling Tales] A Double Date of Drinks at Block15 and 4 Spirits

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In what’s become a tradition of sorts, several times a year I venture off to Corvallis to visit my family, reconnect with nature and reset my personal frequency.  While the school year brings a hearty amount of hustle and bustle to the mostly agricultural community, the Summertime brings sleepy months of stunning sunsets mixed with fantastic weather; and the food and drink? Thanks to the Oregon maker spirit and an influx of former California natives, they live up to the state motto ‘Alis volat propriis‘, and they’re getting better all the time.

This romp around Central Oregon was absolutely different than anything else; first and foremost, after three years of planning – Danny and I were finally getting married, and secondly – it was fueled with the energy of the Total Solar Eclipse.   Though there were some fantastic moments over the entire week, one of my personal highlights was actually after the weight of the big day had been lifted and we were just left with some key players, including my now husband, my dad, our officiant + best friend and my cousin.  For one glorious afternoon, we enjoyed a double date of delicious drinks and rumpus games at Corvallis’ own Block15 Brewery and 4 Spirits Distillery.  Though I’d been through the former haunt of 4 Spirits, I hadn’t had a chance to visit since their migration. 

Now conveniently located side by side, 4 Spirits and Block15 pack a hearty one two punch of some of the finest beer and rustic whiskey Oregon has to offer.  When visiting, our friend reminded us of the old adage ‘Liquor before beer, you’re in the clear’, so off to 4 Spirits we went!

Boasting a bevvy of Rums, Whiskeys and a signature Vodka, at it’s heart – 4 Spirits is a philanthropic venture, giving back to both homegrown programs from Oregon and initiatives in Wyoming, Montana and Washington. To taste a flight of four hearty half ounce shots, it’s only $5 – and if a member of you group happens to purchase a bottle, then the rounds are on the house. For the whiskey drinkers, there’s the Bourbon Whiskey with delicious undercurrents of vanilla and caramel, the American Whiskey, and Single Malt; for the rum-ophiles, there’s a silver rum, a light rum, a dark rum, and my personal favorite (and take that to heart, because I’m not a rum drinker) – their habanero spiced rum; and last, and least, their vodka – which was great, but that’s not why one goes to 4 Spirits.  To add to their cornucopia of liquor, the new spot also offers a kitchen with munch worthy snacks like Stuffed Tots and fries, full sized fare ranging from burgers and sandwiches to pizza, plus a lawn version of Yahtzee, appropriately called Yard-zee.
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After loosening ourselves up with liquor, we were off to the second stop on our double date – Block15.  Literally a hop, skip and a jump across the parking lot sat Block15’s Brewery and Taproom, not to be confused with their restaurant located in the heart (aka. within the four blocks) of Downtown Corvallis.  For about $5-8 depending on your tastes, you can get a flight of five tasty beverages.  My favorites was Hopnotize, Wandlepad and the Lil’ Dab, a cannabis infused drink – cheers to you, Oregon.  Hypnosis was on the heavier side, so if you’re of the type that likes to chew their beer – this is your best bet. Though their food menu isn’t nearly as deep at the Taproom as it is at their Restaurant, the kitchen still produces some bomb eats including a DIY charcuterie board, hearty sandwiches and a hands down the best bier pretzel I’ve ever tasted.

For anyone who happens across Oregon’s Central region or finds themselves in Corvallis, between these two locations you simply can’t go wrong.  So hop on the good foot, and do the drinks thing.

For more on 4 Spirits and Block15, visit Corvallis – their socials:

4 SpiritsWebsite | Facebook 

Block 15: Website | Facebook | Instagram

[Wedding Wisdom] Do You While Saying ‘I Do’

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Marriage.  It’s the magical union of two twin flames, the serendipitous soul chaining of emotional counterparts, an emotive, extrasensory adventure that tugs on your heartstrings – but for most millennials, it’s just another institution to avoid.  Almost exactly three years ago, my fiance proposed to me – it wasn’t planned, there wasn’t anyone to capture it on candid camera – or even just candidly, hell – he didn’t even have a ring, but we had each other, we had the moment.  The minimalists, pragmatists, and the hopeless romantics will all echo the sentiment that those things are far more than enough. But one thing I’ve learned by simply entertaining a wedding, is that everyone’s got their something about them: traditions, advice, warnings, must-dos, and the like – so while you’re busy saying ‘I Do’, don’t forget the most important tradition of all: doing you.

Traditions, by in large, are important familial and social constructs with a bevvy of history, and from what it sounds like: wedding traditions, doubly so.  Unfortunately, every time I see the word tradition, my mind instantly jumps to the opening scene of Fiddler on the Roof and nothing that’s actually useful for my big day.   With the big day inching closer and closer, I’ve found myself reaching out to family and friends to find out what the hell one is actually supposed to do at their wedding, and what traditions people threw to the wind in lieu of making their own.  And I’ve discovered this: weddings aren’t where you’re forced to embrace past traditions, but where you can forge new rituals – with your new family.  I’m not saying don’t listen to your parents, siblings, grandparents, best friends, Starbucks barista, gas station attendant or bartender – but what I’m saying is that what they want, for their special day, should have no reflection on what you choose to do.

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Three years ago when Danny proposed to me, he had no ring, and no pomp – just serendipitous circumstance in the Canadian forest.  It was our first trip out of the country together.  After a thousand miles in the car, a sketchy border crossing and being inducted into Shamb-fam – deciding to spend forever together seemed as natural as breathing. Merely hours later, as we danced under the full moonlight with new friends – a carpenter named Bruce reached into his pocket, toying around with a string.  A twinkle flashed in his eyes as he explained he only made five, was down to his last one and was hoping it would fit me.  Giddy to be receiving anything at all, I didn’t bother asking what, instead I put out my hand like a seven year old trick-or-treating through their first Halloween. It was a ring; a wooden ring that only fit my ring finger; a wooden ring that then became my engagement ring, which got me to thinking: why are there engagement rings and wedding rings?  The answer: De Beers.

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It used to be customary to only have one ring, the wedding ring, that is – at least, until De Beers came into the picture. From the early 19th Century, De Beers has a monopolized control over the diamond mines of South Africa – creating illusions of scarcity to drive sales.  Once our Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s hit, De Beers believed it had a genius marketing plan to get our consumer nation back on spending track: telling us that diamonds are forever; marketing the idea of love, not a brand – not a product – but the idea. Fast forward to now, and engagement rings are a booming industry, accounting for almost 20% of total diamond sales in the US, and bringing in a whopping $7 billion annually. Roughly a quarter of all purchases at Tiffany’s + Co are derived from wedding bands and engagement rings, while almost half the sales at Sterling Jewlers’ retailers like Jared and Kay are derived from engagement rings.  Overall, engagement rings actually represent about 20% of US diamond sales. All in all, those statistics speak more to a corporate level greed and an ostentatious, ego-maniacal society than they do a forever type of love, but that’s just my opinion.

The wedding registry happens to be another  trend that I’m all too ready to put to rest.  Yes, everyone loves presents – but, weddings are about presence, not presents.  As opposed to only 35% 15 years ago, almost half of all married couples in 2017 have previously cohabitated for an average of 22 months, or almost two years. Let me put it bluntly: you can accumulate a lot of shit in two years.  What was once just “my shit” and “your shit” has now collectively become “our shit”, and “our shit” comes with a lot of redundancy, and no one needs redundant redundancy.  Though wedding dowries have been of historical cultural significance for centuries, a registry and a dowry are two horses of completely different colors.  Much like the De Beers Diamond plot of the 1920’s, up until the Great Depression there was no such thing as a wedding registry – until Macy‘s came along, and other department stores were all too eager to jump on board.

Now, how about the wedding party? Though some people elope, and many do keep it small – it also feels like some people invite everyone to the West of the Mississippi to their big day.  Obviously, the more the merrier and who doesn’t love love, but at a certain level it becomes all sorts of impersonal and not meaningful; almost like you’re getting married for show, not for yourself.  A large party, now sure – count me the fuck in; but a wedding, the bonding of two souls and binding of two lives is such an intimate idea that to me, it begets an intimate ceremony. In my seemingly biased opinion, large weddings more than force you into employing a bridal party – of elevating those closest to you, and imposing stratified levels of closeness.  On the other hand, at a small wedding – you can flip the script.  Our wedding, a destination wedding of sorts, will be small, the kind of small where I have to use small as an adjective to emphasize an adjective – but that’s just the way I like it.  One of my favorite perks to having a small ceremony, is that everyone at the wedding is part of the bridal party; everyone is a groomsman or a bridesmaid, because everyone there is equally important to us.  But, do you know the history of bridesmaids and groomsmen? Confarreatio, a form of wedding from the Ancient Romans, required 10 witnesses for the ceremony to legally binding; these witnesses evolved into the modern bridal party.  The groomsmen and bridal party were also tasked with warding off evil spirits.  Back in antiquity, the maid of honor and bridesmaids wore identical outfits to trick the spirits out of targeting the bride, while the best man was a literal wingman – warding off other potential suitors while the groom whisked away the bride-to-be.

Last, but certainly not least: the wedding dress.   Growing up, I was taught that the white in a wedding dress was a symbol of purity – but as it turns out,  because of the (a) lack of soap and (b) levels of general filth, up until the 18th century there weren’t many white wedding gowns.  In fact, the white aspect of the wedding dress is primarily associated with well to do Western culture, where many Eastern traditions actually involve a red dress in lieu of the white.  In all honesty, the white wedding dress is one of the few wedding traditions I’ll keep, though it’s definitely not for the sake of my purity.  However, what I find do find ridiculous are people that think a wedding dress is anything other than just a white dress, worn on the wedding. Some dresses range into the thousands, others into the tens of thousands…and to wear…once?  Dios mio! I would rather get a down payment on a house or a car. After spending a day at the mall struggling with the idea of a “wedding” dress, I found the perfect white dress in under ten minutes once I got out of the mindset that it had to come from a “bridal” store. So, now you might be asking – are there any other traditions that you’re keeping?  Yes, duh.  We’re getting married, exchanging vows and rings – and that’s as much of a tradition as I need.

Love isn’t just an idea, it’s an action – it’s a verb, it’s something you do.  Despite what Department Stores want you to believe, your love isn’t a commodity and your marriage doesn’t need to be monitized. Your wedding is a collection of beautiful moments rolled into one glorious day, celebrating with those you hold nearest and dearest to your heart – don’t sell yourself short, and don’t do anything you don’t want to do because fingers crossed, this is the only one you get.  So enjoy, indulge, drink champagne and get excited; say Yes, say I do but most importantly – do you. 

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Photos by Get Tiny Photography: Instagram | Facebook

[Traveling Tales] Soul Searching at Oregon’s Silver Falls

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Growing up in the Bay Area during the midst of the explosion of computing in the 90’s, technology has more or less become my second language – some might even argue that it’s my first.  Fast forward twenty odd years and life more or less seems inundated with the same things I used to covet, like the corrosive use of cell phones and how they detract from pure and honest social connection.  The good news, is I’ve discovered a lovely trick: I turn to nature, and dive into a digital detox.  Whether it’s just five minutes soaking up the sun, a quick walk taking in the sounds and smells of the neighborhood without my tether of a phone, an afternoon in the park or a whole weekend away – delving into nature while escaping the calamity of the daily rat race is necessary, and practically deserves of it’s own tier on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

For me, Oregon has become a symbol of beautiful escape from the go-go-go faster reality of Los Angeles, hell – California even.  It’s my home away from home, and a fresh chance for me to recharge remotely while my anxieties dissipate like fresh dew on a Summer’s day.  The air up there tastes like the first sip of water after an afternoon of play while the skies have an unprecedented depth paired against the towering treeline.Silver Falls + More

Last month when I was visiting with my family for wedding prep, we had a chance to fit in a quick trip to Silver Falls and I’m infinitely happy that we made the time for it.  Sitting about two hours South West of Portland and twenty or so minutes from Salem, Silver Falls encompasses over 9,000 acres of land – making it the largest State Park in Oregon.  The park boasts a menagerie of different paths for bikers, hikers and equestrians, with twenty five miles of walking trails, 14 miles of horse trails and 4 for bikers.  In my opinion, any path is the right path – and all paths lead to exactly where you ought to be.  Gallivanting over to the South Falls, we walked directly behind the waterfall while I reveled in the sheer force of nature literally washing over me.

While ebbing and flowing throughout the park, my back straightened and eyes brightened; musing to myself that truly taking in the moment is a wonderful drug all to itself. Slowing down the world inside me and the world around me, I discovered new shades of green that I’d never noticed before while flowers danced intimately in the crisp air.  The goal, I’ve realized, is bottling up that calm, collected, one-with-the-universe feeling and making it accessible when you need it the most: back in the digital world, surrounded by cell phones and lap tops, WiFi signals and mixed signals, surrounded by all your stuff, things, and immaterial material possessions that do an odd job of mirroring a distorted view of self worth.  You are not your possessions, but you are your thoughts; you are star dust and dirt, and deserve to bathe your soul in them every now and again.

Where do you go when you need a digital detox?

For more on Oregon’s spectacular Silver Falls, head to their website.

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Silver Falls + More

Silver Falls + More

“We need the tonic of wildness…At the same time that we are earnest to explore and learn all things, we require that all things be mysterious and unexplorable, that land and sea be indefinitely wild, unsurveyed and unfathomed by us because unfathomable. We can never have enough of nature.”
― Henry David ThoreauWalden: Or, Life in the Woods