A Joyous Vanksgiving

This was our view on Black Friday 2014

Black Friday in the canyon

Of all the traditional prescribed holidays, Thanksgiving is by far my favorite, no doubt because I adore mashed potatoes.  Well, that isn’t the only reason why it is my fave.  I love Thanksgiving because I like the spirit of gratitude behind the holiday, the gathering of friends and family together and yes, the food.  Thanksgiving itself is a time to be thankful for what we have.  The day after is when we start to want again.  But for 1/365th of the year, we gather around and celebrate what we’ve got.

I’ve spent Thanksgivings in Seattle, Portland, Denver, Durango, Utah and Paris, all which were delightful and full of good memories.  My favorite gatherings are the ones that are informal, where slippers are encouraged if not required and everyone cooks something special to them.  Second to these larger gatherings, I cherish the times I’ve spent camping in the van, prepping instant stuffing and enjoying what I call Vanksgiving.  Vanksgiving 2014 began on the Friday following T-day and lasted a blissful 3 days in a canyon in southwestern Utah.  Our traditional Vanksgiving dinner consisted of instant stuffing, sauteed brussels sprouts and leftover turkey all doused in homemade gravy and cranberry sauce.  It was peaceful, it was loving and it was full of gratitude.

Now that we are in the throes of the holiday season, it is my time to step back and reflect on what the holidays really mean.  As a minimalist, I am not fond of all the consumerism that now clouds over Christmas/ Hanukkah / Kwanza.  There are so many implications to this rampant spending that I don’t need to go into here.  Suffice to say that all of the buying and wanting really turn me off.  There are (already as we’re merely days into the season) all of these advice pieces about how to beat holiday stress and how to enjoy the holidays once again on simpler terms.  The holidays are supposed to be a time of enjoyment, remembrance and relaxation.  They have become something so foreign to me that I have stepped off of this rapid path and taken the holidays back for myself.

I know that this piece may sound curmudgeonly, which is not my intent.  I enjoy the holidays in my own ways.  I have my family heirloom ceramic lighted tree and I cherish seeing it aglow.  I love to give gifts, but I do not let the giving stress me out because that is absolutely contrary to the whole spirit of a gift.  I like to give items that will be useful and that I have made myself.  I’d rather have friends over for wine and appetizers (in their slippers, of course) than attend some fancy party.  I’m more about quality than quantity and the holidays have turned into one big distasteful binge.

I am happy that I am still able to celebrate the holidays in a quiet and meaningful way.  I am grateful for the experiences shared with loved ones rather than what I get.  I am at a point in my life where I have everything that I could possibly need, and more.  The best gifts in life are in time, peace and good food.

No crowds.  No lines.  No stress.

No crowds. No lines. No stress.



In Awe

In order to better appreciate the process of creation, sometimes you have to stop making and just enjoy what has already been made.  Here are snapshots from Leslie Gulch in southeastern Oregon.

You Never Know What You’ll Find on the Ground

My awesome haul!

My awesome haul!

Yesterday we attempted to go kayaking on a nearby reservoir.  What we thought would be a leisurely paddle was thwarted by crazy winds.  Thank goodness we have giant, stable sea kayaks!  It was surreal to be paddling on a man-made reservoir in the desert and feeling as if we were in the more turbulent waters of the Puget Sound or Columbia River.

Anyhow, after getting bounced around for a couple of hours, we decided to take a walk, shake off the sea/reservoir (?) sickness and find the creek that feeds the reservoir.  Walking across the dam, I was forced to look down at the ground for the wind was so strong.  And, thank goodness I did for, lo and behold, this road was covered with pieces of obsidian.  Now, who creates a road out of one of the sharpest rocks in existence (naturally occurring volcanic glass) I cannot explain, but I found some of the coolest pieces to add to my rock collection.  I am an amateur geologist, don’t you know.

In addition to my question of why the obsidian was there, I want to know where it is from.  There is no known obsidian within 100 miles of us, but I still find chunks of it when I’m scouring for rocks in the desert.  Some of these pieces could be old flakes from tools as obsidian was highly valued for its sharp consistency.  The sheer number of pieces that I found in the most unlikely place — on top of a dam road — is truly bizarre.  Also incredibly intriguing is how the rocks are rounded like river rock with the shiny, glass on the inside.  I wish I could solve the mystery of these rocks!

You really never know what you will see when you look down on the ground.  When you take your eyes away from the big picture, you can find tiny wildflowers, little critters and cool rocks in unexpected places.

Green Eggs and Hot Dogs

Green eggs and kosher hot dogs!

Green eggs and kosher hot dogs!

There are recipes created on camp stoves that would never taste the same if replicated in a kitchen.  You won’t find Ramen noodles and hard boiled eggs on a typical breakfast menu, but as fortification for a day in the kayak, nothing beats this salty concoction.

Camp meals can be very well-planned out, or they come together spontaneously out of hunger or just some outdoorsy inspiration.  I’ve crafted some pretty high-brow fare in Bishop the Westfalia, and this recipe is arguably not for the gourmand:  green eggs and hot dogs.  Take one bell pepper (the green), saute with garlic and  dried spices (oregano, parsley, paprika), slice up some hot dogs, scramble in some eggs and top with cheddar and salsa.  Mmmm, this is one tasty camp breakfast!

Every meal I eat while camping somehow just tastes better, even the most simple things, not to mention my morning coffee.  My senses must be heightened away from my normal environment for every morsel is somehow more delectable.  I’m sure that a lot of what I perceive as tasty is simply just an appreciation for food eaten out of the ordinary.  Perhaps this exaggerated taste is driven by a smidge of an instinct here:  food is hard to come by in the wild.   I know that for myself, I’ll take a haphazardly planned meal made on a camp stove, enjoyed in a beautiful setting over table service, china and white tablecloths any day.  My concept of fine dining is all about eating in an amazing location and nothing more.

Bishop along the canyons of the Owyhee river.

Bishop among the canyons of the Owyhee River.