An update on living outside: Fall 2015

I’m back in Los Angeles for one day and noticing things newly. Living outside is a complete joy in Southern California, and I had the good fortune too of encountering friends at Naturalists at Large who are a complete joy to be with. In the back seat of Emily’s car I found a book called ‘The Crossroads of Should and Must’ and it contained the following quote by Howard Thurman: ‘Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who come alive.’

Being outside makes me feel completely alive and I need to figure out why this seems somewhat unique relative to many other people. There are plenty of things holding us back from being outside more, and maybe that’s it. I’ve started by making a list of the sacrifices and gains of living outside, which has also helped me think about what it means to be ‘inside.’ My outside and my inside are culturally and historically and individually specific.

Watching the lunar eclipse from Ryan Mountain in Joshua Tree. Big horned were out at twilight watching too


Sleeping in a bed

Knowing what I look like/ caring what I look like

Having cell service and the capacity to communicate with faraway people

Using a refrigerator

Showering and not smelling gross

Using a faucet rather than licking dishes

Sturdy shelter from wind, heat and cold

Widespread light after sunset

Using a variety of utensils and kitchen space and more than one pot

A constant supply of electricity and lack of concern over where to find it

Using more than one type of soap

Furniture and soft surfaces

Storage and overneccesary supplies

Daily clothing choices which account for style

Being in a room alone and closing the door

Regulating the temperature and avoiding reverting to primal brain due to heat or cold

Controlling my sensory intake

Proximity to civilized destinations and a variety of transportation means

Knowing each day where I will lie down for the night

Decorating spaces which are my own

Feeling entitled towards ownership of a particular place

Indoor plumbing and using toilet paper rather than rocks and pinecones

Appliances that eliminate human labor eg. washing machines

Spaces designed for focus

Faith in the capability of my shelter to keep out wetness

Feeling completely safe and at home

Ice cream

The view from my front door for a week in Joshua Tree


Watching the passage of time in the movement of the sun and stars

Writing letters as a realistic means of communication

Knowing the moon’s comings and goings and remembering events by it

Hearing coyotes sing before sunrise

Making fires for necessary warmth and sharing body heat

Seeing the sunrise and sunset every single day

Seeing up to 80 miles just by looking around/ a wide range of vision

Being around glowing, happy people who are also outside

Knowing it has rained for the smell of creosote upon waking

Showering in a rock cave in the hot desert sun

Hearing the small animal sounds—feathers flapping wind, bird feet walking

Falling asleep looking at the stars and moon

Late night scrambles over and through crazy rock formations

Sharing resources and strength and laughter with the only people around

Falling asleep in fresh air

Cooking dinner with a full view of the rising moon over the desert

The feeling of extreme gratitude crawling into a tent bed

Sleeping with only a foam pad between me and the contours of the ground

Being constantly surrounded by natural majesty

The sense of present-mindedness which emerges

Being humbled into sharing things of the earth because around me is not my own

Liberation from the temptations of technology

Freedom from architecture and design which dictate how I should move my body

Gladness in filthiness, bodily humility

Perspective on human constructions

Relief from loneliness, a sense of never being alone

Being immediately surrounded by mostly alive rather than mostly dead things

Walter's Camp on the Lower Colorado River, the sun rising over Arizona

On November 23rd I’m going to fly to Santiago, Chile with no plans but a return flight on January 25th. I want to go as far south in Patagonia as I can, I want to be outside all the time, and I want to learn how to be silly in Spanish. I’ve met so many bold, kind, adventurous educators this fall who have told me week after week that this is a good idea. Here are three women I’ve each met only briefly in person but who I believe in, in life and words, and whose storytelling I’m keeping close right now:

Vanessa Friedman : ‘There’s something magnetic about the fearless, badass women exploring our world, some charisma that draws me in. The feeling is not unlike a crush. I am just so in love with every single wild adventurous woman. I love them not just because they are rad and brave and fun and good company, though they are certainly all of those things, but most of all I love them because they inspire me. This is my life, they all seem to be saying steadfastly, their hearts thumping along in rhythm with my own.’

Rylee Owens:

Aurora Kushner:

I got my ticket to Chile using Starbucks wifi after an exhilarating romp with Marce through Yosemite-- napping under El Capitan, jumping in Tenaya Lake, camping overlooking Mono Lake, then driving to Joshua Tree through the Eastern Sierras down the 395