An important rule of travel is to be flexible with your plans. Things rarely go as planned, so the more open you are to change, the more likely your trip will be a success. I’m starting to learn that the same rule applies to life. I’ve always been an overachiever with a fixed menu for my life. I set my sight on something and by George, I’m going to make a winning entree, no matter how much resistance I meet along the way.
The problem with living one’s life with this bullheaded mindset is that (i) it is near impossible to change the ingredients of the recipe one has set for one’s life even if it is clearly not bringing happiness; and (ii) once one has mastered a dish, there is always another left to conquer. It’s an addiction to the adrenaline rush one gets when a new rung on the ladder of success is reached. It’s all about the destination, with very little attention given to the morsels of delight one is fed during the journey. Ultimately, this pattern of living brings very little happiness or contentment to life. It’s an exhausting and depressing way to live.
Already in the first week of my road trip I’ve experienced the disappointment of things not going according to plan, followed by the joy of realizing that something far more delicious took its place.
I left San Francisco on Wednesday with a passenger – a man from the Portland area whom I met in Italy this summer. He was in San Jose on business, and because the timing worked out perfectly we agreed he would make the trip with me through the Redwood National Forest to Portland. I had planned to make his house in the Columbia River Gorge my home base for a week as I explored Portland. However, as we drove two 11 hour days through the beautiful Redwoods, it became very clear to me that we are, simply put, a terrible match. An SOS call to my pie-baking friend Beth Howard (you’ll hear more about her when I visit her historic home in Iowa, the American Gothic House), resulted in me heading to Mount Hood for the next 3 days and nights.
Visiting the mountain certainly wasn’t on my itinerary. However as I drove through miles of orchards straight towards the magnificent mountain vista I realized how liberating it can be to simply let go of one’s plan and see what the Universe presents.
What was present-ed in this case was the heavenly mountain home of Marty Rudolph – 20 acres of forest, a teepee, a hot tub, a full guest apartment, 2 friendly dogs, a fire pit, a sweeping view of Mount Hood, and miles of well groomed hiking trails. However the best surprise of all was Marty herself. She’s one of the most compassionate, creative, energetic and interesting women I’ve ever met.
A former marketing executive, she created a yoga program and published a fabulous pocket book called Park Bench Yoga (this program has been implemented by the State of Vermont at highway rest areas throughout the state), owns an art gallery in Hood River, chops her own firewood and lives a rich country life on the mountain. Oh yeah, and her great-grandfather invented Cracker Jack!
My three days on Mount Hood have been a welcome reprieve from all the driving I’ve done in the past week. Marty generously took me under her wing: taking Yoda and me on a long hike through her forest (I’d get lost if I tried to do it alone…and besides, Yoda and I were both a bit timid walking amongst the large bear droppings – we are city folk, after all), inviting me for wine and pizza with her friend Libby on my first night, sharing a glass of my traveling bottle of V.Sattui Angelica wine, and taking me to dinner at her friends’ Holiday and Don’s nearby mountain house.
Holiday is a well-loved and very respected Portland area yoga instructor, and her husband Don is a financial planner/wine connoisseur with a infectiously gentle spirit. In typical country generosity, Holiday and Don sent me off with a bag of organic Honey Crisp and Swiss Gourmet apples freshly picked from their orchard, as well as a jar of apple sauce Holiday had made just that morning.
It was with bittersweet emotions that I left the mountain this morning. I filled my water jugs with the best water I’ve ever tasted (straight from the glaciers and into the tap!), packed up Princess, said goodbye to my new friend Marty, and then, for good luck, hugged a tree. Now I’m off on my next adventure. In the spirit of the road trip, and of my new outlook on life, I’m open to whatever that may be!