There's Saying Yes To Life + There's Rain-Checking: Finding Clarity + Purpose Through The Backroads Of Bend, Oregon

Written By, Elli // Video By, Chloe // Photos By, Elli + Chloe

Very Brief Introduction...

Wind whips through the buttons in my jacket, reminding me that the warmth of the car will now feel even better when we climb back in. The snow falls heavy, I take out my camera and put on my macro lens, hoping to capture the flakes just as Elli's breath creates clouds of shimmering light.

Even now, as I cradle these thoughts from the comfort of my bed, I can feel the tingling of freezing temperatures and the invigorating rush of enthusiasm for the simple things. The conversations, the comfort, the certainty of connection and the power that it holds. These adventures we had, from sunset, frozen toes, wool blankets, quick outfit changes, coffee shop recoups, pill popping, fire therapy, photo editing, doctor appointments, puppy snuggles, first encounters, IV treatments, snow covered horses, pink skies, and moon sets and sunrises, they all played their part in the process of things.

With one kind of adventure, the outward kind, my head whirls and dances between thoughts. However, nothing compared to the heaviness of the moments between. But you know, they're precious, these moments of deep reflection, and I certainly don't ever want to take them for granted. Why? Well, I figure that without one kind of adventure, the other is not given the room it needs to thrive.

With that, I welcome whatever is next, as I know that no matter what, it will bring me some kind of clarity and purpose. Thank you to Elli and the rest of this community, for being part of both.  

It’s been about 6 weeks since I took my first solo road trip down to Bend, and I’ve been struggling to write this ever since. It’s been difficult to formulate thoughts. Perhaps it’s because the personal takeaways from that trip felt so fragile and fleeting that I needed to keep them close for a while, to ensure their permanence in changing my perspective. Or because for the last few months, I’ve been unwell. I didn’t want to write or share. I needed to fight privately, and at times, not at all. To mull over, to plan, to understand. Or to just be. As I often do, I needed to find my way back.

Let me start by saying that as of late, the idea of adventure has sparked a lot of reflection, inwards and outwards. Resulting in many attempts to put to conscious thought, and fluent words – what it represents for me, what I often feel it should be, and the resulting pressure that creates.

In the simplest terms, it’s stepping outside of your bubble or box and experiencing an often necessary reset. Dropping into the unknown, the new – to achieve a new perspective, studying the inner workings of one’s soul and learning what sparks the various versions of us. Personally, it’s about endlessly rediscovering my creative side and establishing a formula of sorts that I can use to retrace those steps. Inspiration and creativity can be elusive things, they come and go as unexpectedly and swiftly as the fog in my head. I have an insatiable hunger for achieving this ‘flow state’, in new ways, over and over. I aspire to be continuously and boundlessly awakened, achieving that optimal thinking that enables me to create often and do it well. Adventure helps me achieve this. 

The reality though, is that with chronic illness, it’s something we need to work that much harder to find and maintain. And between quest and rest, balance is important. Sometimes I’m okay with that, other times I’m not. So it goes.

But Bend was all of this for me

It’s a place where mountains meet desert. You want not for vast open spaces and grandiose landscapes. If you have a desire, as I do, to be in places that make you feel small – this fits the bill. To the west lie volcanoes nestled in rolling hills. They stick out on the horizon like grand pyramids. To the east, dry, low shrubs sprawl on a desert landscape without pause. And in the winter months, all of this is blanketed in the whitest snow, muting all the warm earthy tones, and creating a blank slate.

In December, I arrived just following one of their big season storms, and it transformed the entire city. Icicles hung large, immovable and steadfast. Flurries danced across the roads as you ambled on behind all of the AWDs and 4WDs undeterred by questionable driving conditions. And it was desperately, uncomfortably cold. Weather like this always appeals to me; it forces the world to slow down and makes movement and action intentional.

For Chloe and I, it made for challenging adventures in the best way. We got out there and after it like moths to a flame, hungry for the soul spark that comes from exploration. We chased sunsets and sunrises - in the badlands, in the juniper, aspen and ponderosa pines, and in the red, red rocks of Smith Rock State Park. We let the wind whip our hair, the cold overtax our hearts and tearing eyes blur our vision. We were suckers for the uncomfortable, and I found myself craving the harsh winds and conditions just to shock my system.

The long drives in search of the beautiful and vast, were filled with honest and personal conversation, tidbits of stories around loved ones, painful experiences, beautiful ones and everything that makes us who we are. Everything that over time has culminated into the souls that we are fortunate enough to be. Why there’s so much truth in the idea that those who know tragedy, loss, and struggle – can handle any storm with the strength of a thousand anchors.

With every destination, it wasn’t long before frozen toes forced us back into the car. There, boots and socks came off, because massaging bare feet with your bare hands was all you could do to bring the feeling back. Even so, we greeted the open air again and again to traipse in the tall snow and ice-laden underbrush.

We took thousands of photos, and quite often, the same ones over and over again for fear of missing the moment. I was desperately trying to capture a memory in the purest way, to have the ability to look back and remember how alive it made me feel.

We pushed ourselves to what felt like hard limits, and it slowed me down and woke me up all at the same time. I was calm and overwhelmed all at once.

Standing on an ever-expansive dirt road, stretching into nothing, surrounded by snow and ice and wind. I was taking all of the chaos in my head, and letting it wind down into basic singular thoughts. Bringing clarity and purpose to an otherwise distracted mind. For me, it’s about putting yourself into new and uncomfortable circumstances, to better see how far you can bend before you break. To make you feel everything or nothing. To turn it all off, or turn it all on. Whatever that is for you, whatever that means, whatever you need – adventure should be about finding it.

But it wasn’t just about that, and we took it slow as often as we pushed. Because again, balance is key and a necessary reality for those who struggle with physical wellbeing. For those who live in a world where self-care is not just a luxury, but a lifeline. And so, we also spent a great deal of time camping out in coffee shops, at Chloe’s various appointments and in quiet reflection.

For me, this is what’s important to remember. As much as there’s wind whipping mountaintop moments and waking up in the wee hours before sunrise, there’s moments under blankets, and in front of fires, steaming tea in hand. There’s saying yes to life, and there’s rain-checking. This disease is hard to predict, to measure, to understand and at times, to accept. There are times you want to create, share and unite, and there are times you crave solitude and privacy. Sometimes warriors are ready for battle, and sometimes they need a fucking nap. Sometimes they just need a coffee shop. And that is okay.

Throughout this trip, I witnessed powerful women and warriors pushing through all of the unknown and finding balance like bosses. And I saw the honest in-between moments. The lightness and energy mixed so evenly with frequently furrowed brows, a telling sign of deep thought, surrounding painful pasts, presents and uncertain futures. Even so, they emitted incredible strength and left me in awe, whether they realized it or not. As we so often don’t.

I witnessed a support system of loved ones and friends rallying around them, with patience, acceptance and a desire to better understand this disease and what it means. It catapulted me into further awareness and appreciation for my own people.

And I was left speechless when a room full of people I’d only just met told me they were moved by my story. That it touched them in some powerful way. I can’t ask for anything more, than for people to know and accept me in the way I desperately need them to.

And so, with my final thoughts I must say, here's to Chloe, for welcoming me into her home and sacred spaces. For giving me a warm fire to sit too close to, steaming cups of tea when I needed them, and for showing me her beautiful world. Here's to Ari, Adam M, Adam Z and Jocelyn for making me feel like part of a tribe, giving me good conversation, blessing me with delicious stir-fry and making me laugh. Here's to the cuddle-puddle fur babies I got to appreciate and love on (Ueli and Kona).

But mostly, here’s to growth and the pursuit of life. Here’s to new perspectives, remembering old perspectives and stimulating our best and most precious selves. To finding and unlocking the facets of ourselves that allow us to do the most good and make the greatest impact. Here’s to adventures and here’s to comfy beds/blankets/fires/pets/burritos.

Here’s to finding ways to appreciate this journey, finding humility and empowerment throughout and here’s to all of us.

Thank you for reading this hodgepodge of thoughts, and letting me walk you through weeks of contemplation.

So much love,