thoughts on being

O Canada November 16, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahdarval @ 5:00 pm

Mike and I ventured out of the valley last week as our final big travel plans before hunkering down for the fall included visiting family up in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia.  It was a feat to say the least to get here.  One five hour car drive. One three hour flight.  4 hour layover follower by delays for 2 hours followed by an announcement at midnight that our flight was canceled until the next morning.  One overbooked voucher hotel, an amazing race sprint across the street to another hotel (we won). Sleeping at 1:30 am, awake at 7 am, back to the airport for the flight and 36 hours after travels began they commenced at the Kelowna International Airport.  I may have made that sound dramatic, but we really weren’t inconvenienced.  We had each other’s company and no events or plans that were being pushed back.  We just had to wait longer for the eating frenzy to commence.

And eat we have. 4-100 meals/day since we’ve arrived.  The dairy free/sugar free kick that I’ve been on since September…I threw it out the window.  How could I forego Oma’s many MANY cookies or traditional spaetzle with Emmental and fried onions.  I couldn’t.  I wouldn’t.  Yes my face has been breaking out.  Yes I now embody the term sloth.  But for one week it has been worth it.  It’s been a bit like my trip to France, my days revolving around multiple rounds of coffee with heavy cream, bread, butter, cheese, and delicious sugary treats.  I brought my yoga mat for good form.  I was in quite the rhythm of going to yoga class at least once a day and some days practicing at home too.  Do you think it has left it’s bag. Once. One morning. One very short practice.

This doesn’t mean there has been no physical activity involved in the trip.  I have actually been sore most of the trip.  This is due to one day. 90 minutes of Badminton at the Rutland Seniors Center where I learned I know nothing about the rules of badminton and I also learned that 75 year old men move like ballerinas when they have badminton rackets in their hands and I run around like a chicken with my head cut off bruising multiple parts of my legs as I dive to return the shuttlecock that they have so easily sent crashing over the net to my side.  I now remember why I loved badminton in gym class.  Maybe one day I’ll be as good as them.  They kept reassuring me that with enough practice I would be worthy of competition.  Four days later my forearm is still sore.

Today we will go eat Oma pancakes for breakfast (lovely crepe like items).  I will eat as many as my stomach will allow and she will probably offer cookies afterwards which is will be able to fit at least one into my stomach.  Hopefully we’ll be invited over for round two of spaetzle tonight.  I will eat as much as I can with no regrets and go back to my dairy free fridge and my sugar free cupboards, remembering fondly the week that I threw the rules out the window!


Italie, mon amour (Summer in the Alps, part trois) August 7, 2009

Filed under: Travel — sarahdarval @ 9:45 am

Once we had realized that we had a week where there were to be no guests and no work, we decided the only logical option was to drive 15 km through a mountain and into Italy.  Mike had gone previously in the spring to the coast and couldn’t stop gushing about how great it was and how much I would love it.  He knows me well!

After renting a minivan (read: long tall car) we put the seats down, threw together some “camping” gear and some food and hit the road.  Chamonix is very close to the border of Italy, only separated by some mountains (and by some I mean the tallest mountain in western Europe: Mont Blanc).  Rather than building a pass over these giants (considering there are glaciers on them year round) a tunnel was built through the middle.  For 40 Euro ($60 US) Mike and I had the pleasure of spending about 20 silent minutes driving through what I’m sure is one of the longest tunnels in the world.  When you emerge you are in Courmayeur, Italy.

I should stop here to note that unlike our usual tendencies, we went for the no guidebook/no map/don’t speak the language tour of Italy.  We googled the Dolomites the night before and got directions to the general area.  Saying you are going to the Dolomites is akin to saying that you are going to the mountains in Colorado.  There is quite a bit of terrain.

After about 5 hours of driving Mike introduced me to the joy of Italian rest stops.  Fully equiped with a full espresso bar, these people are not joking around about their “gas station coffee”.  We both order a cappucino and stand at the high tables like everyone else to sip our freshly made 1 euro beverages.  No no…not the capuccinos you get at American gas stations that are basically high fructose corn syrup heated up…oh no.  These are delicious, lick the foam off your lip, capuccinos.  Rejuvinated, we got back into the car and finally started entering the mountains that we had been seeing ahead of us for hours as we toured through the land of wine and fruit and olives.

Upon arriving in about the cutest town I had ever seen we decided to pull over.  We had no idea where we were in a traditional sense.  We didnt’ know the name of the town and couldn’t point out where we were on a map.  But we could smell the pizze and we liked what we smelled.  After determining where we were on a map (St. Ulrich), we decided to move on to the next village up, Wolkenstein (or Selva Gardena) as Mike had heard of some mountain guides basing out of this town.  We found a lovely little dirt road to park our car on and found Rino’s.  Rino’s pizzeria that is.  2 pizzes, 1 (overfilled) liter of house wine, 1 tiramisu, and 2 coffees later, we were in love.  Yes with each other, but also with the area.  While we were eating outside, around 9 p.m. the streets started filling with people and the shops re-opened.  Everyone went out for an after dinner walk and town was bustling.

After a restful night of sleeping in our “minivan” we headed up for Sella Pass.  You wouldn’t believe the number of people up there.  So we packed our climbing bags and headed up. (Aformentioned Italian climbing story enter here.

Sella Pass in the Dolomites

Sella Pass in the Dolomites

My personal mountain guide

My personal mountain guide

Coffee at the crag

Coffee at the crag

The next day we were unsure of our decision not to buy a guide book so we went into town to try and determine where some sport crags were that had mid-grade climbs on them.  After finding a few we headed back up towards the pass.  Stopping at one, we packed in our harnesses, rope, draws, snacks, and of course jet-boil, coffee, and milk in a mini tetrapack.  We were in Italy!  When in Rome….   While Mike scoped out the different walls I napped in the shade while watching a teenage boy climb a long 5.13 (I’m guessing) overhanging limestone route, belayed by his much older father.  Not something I’m used to seeing in the states.  A few routes later we were back in the car, driving back to Rino for another pizze night.

The next day, upon determining that while I really wanted to see the ocean (a beach north of Venice is what we had decided on) neither one of us were in the mood for big city.  We remembered signs for a Lago di garda while we were driving towards the mountains so we decided to head back the way we had come and look for those signs again.  After poaching a map for a few minutes at a rest stop, we determined that we were a mere 30 km from Arco, a world renowed sport climbing area, and that Arco was 10 km from the Lago di garda which is the largest lake in Italy.

Every new place we went was like hitting the jackpot in Italy.  Arco is the classic adorable Italian town you have pictured in your mind.  Tiny cobbled streets litered with gelatarias, shops, pizzerias, beautiful old churches, a castle overlooking town, people riding their bikes everywhere…we loved it.  Since it was about to be the heat of the day, we both got a scoop of gelato, a slice of pizze, and headed for the lake.  Lago di garda may be the windiest place on earth, hence the millions of windsurfers that polka dot the lake with color.  We felt like we were swimming in the ocean as we dove into the oncoming waves.  After sufficiently cooling down and being over looking at the man next to us with his very tan hairy butt hanging out, we went back into town.  I do have to say that while we were at the beach we really noticed that Italians know how to get a tan.

After cooking some tortellini in the parking lot we packed our bags and headed out to find the climbing.  It shoulnd’t be hard, the cliffs practically rise right out of town.  After about two hours of walking, chatting with ostriches, and checking out different trails later, we finally find a little crag that suits us perfect.  Interestingly enough we were there with three other couple climbers.  Not something you usually see at the crag, even male/female ratio.  By the middle of the wall we determined that if we didn’t head into town soon we would miss our last opportunity for 5euro italian pizzas and gelato for dessert.  This was not an option.

Mr. Ostrich.  He followed Mike along the sidewalk for about 5 minutes.

Mr. Ostrich. He followed Mike along the sidewalk for about 5 minutes.


Lago di Garda


Escalade dans la vallee de Chamonix (summer in France part deux) August 5, 2009

Filed under: Travel — sarahdarval @ 5:07 pm
Tags: , ,

Day one in Chamonix from my journal reads as follows: “Immediate lift pass purchase followed by two chairlifts up the Brevent and into the high alpine.  Climb (unknown route) , cut hand, and almost cry on first pitch.  This will not be indicative of anything!” HA  This makes me smile to look back on.  More than once during one of our climbing adventures in Chamonix I have been on that verge again.  That place where I repeat to myself, breathe, breathe, breathe, knowing full well that if I let the flood gates open it will take a good while to close them again. KNOWING that Mike will say, “is there anything I can do” and seeing that hurt look on his face because I can’t stop the sobs enough to tell him whats wrong so he has to just be patient, not knowing if I hurt myself or I’m having an anxiety attack.  The helpless look on his face makes it harder for me to stop crying because I know it upsets him to see me upset.  Interesting top out moveThere were more of those experiences.  The Index, the arrete de Papillion.  As soon as we start heading down from a climb where I’ve gotten “the look” I feel 100% better.  I’m not sure what it is that chokes me up in those moments.  The exposure? The unknown?  I keep wanting to go back up though.  The day we climbed the Papillion (butterfly) I climbed a pitch that I was so freaked out about because of the difficulty and the exposure, that when I got to Mike and he said, “wow, you climbed that really well, pretty fast, you didnt even fall did you”, I literally couldn’t remember climbing it because I had been so gripped.  I coined a new phrase to refer to the experience.  Adrenaline amnesia.080711_0658You’re probably wondering why I go out at all.  If you ask Mike he can vouch that not all of our experiences involve, “the look”, but a good percentage of the high alpine ones do.  We’ve had some great days in the Aguilles Rouge and at the local crag at Gailland.  The reality is I 1) love being with Mike, 2) I love being outside, and 3) for some reason I keep wanting to go out, even though I know there is a chance that the feeling may come.  The knot in my stomach, reminding myself to breathe, and holding back the tears that may burst through at any moment.  I’ll always remember my friend Amy when I asked her if she went climbing with her boyfriend who I knew was a climber.  She said “not anymore, we used to refer to it as ‘climbing and crying’ and then we decided it wasn’t a good couple activity.”  Maybe one day Mike will refuse to take me after really losing it.

Part of the problem is I’m not very good at crying.  I didn’t do it for a LONG time during my teenage years and early twenties until some point I just started crying a lot.  A sappy movie, roadkill, bad news, someone else recieving bad news, a homeless person.  The problem is when I cry, I CRY.  I mean I sob, I forget to breathe, and there is no use trying to talk to me for a good while, because I can’t get anything out.  ‘Climbing and crying’ (to borrow the phrase) has only happened once for me.  It was a few weeks ago at Sella Pass in the Dolomites of Italy.  I don’t really want to relive it with details.  All I will say is that it was an easy relatively short climb and I lost it, the gates opened, and we had to sit at a belay for 20 minutes, Mike waiting patiently until I could respond to his concern.  Part of me thinks if I just keep going out I will work through it.  I don’t want to give up these experiences with Mike in beautiful places.  “There is no external forces pulling you off” Mike continues to tell me.  I can’t pinpoint what produces the anxiety.  I look forward to a future blog entry titled “One with the Rock” where all of my Buddhist training, meditation practice, and personal philosophy come together with my rock climbing adventures and “the look” disappears like the scar from the cut on my hand from my first day in Chamonix finally has.  For now, I continue to take the risk that I may have a great day and I may have a moment where I can’t control my fear.  By going out, I am committing to work through that fear if it arises and to take in as many beautiful moments as I can with my amazing boyfriend in the stunning Alps in the meantime.glieresarah13


Je ne parle pas francais (Summer in France, Part 1) August 2, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahdarval @ 7:32 pm

One of the few french phrases I have learned since I entered the country one month ago.  It is terrible. I know.  A unilingual American cliche.  Alas, I forgive myself as I practice my bonjour madame/monsieur.  If I can say this simple phrase with the right inflection, they know I’m trying.

After a spring of travelling through the SW with Mike and Louis, I spent a substantial amount of time cuddling my niece before a NW road trip with my mom.  The travelling continued as I boarded a plane at the end of June for a summer in France with Mike.

How romantic….your boyfriend asks you to spend the summer in France with him; he’ll meet you in Paris for a few days before you head to your home for the summer in the Alps.  Yes, I remind myself, this is my life.

After many hours of plane time and no sleeping due to my excitement, I freshened up before I got off the plane so I could see my boyfriend who has already been in France for 6 weeks.  All of the freshening goes down the tubes as I arrive in Paris during an abnormal heat wave carrying two 50 lb. duffels (because rolling suitcases are for… people) a 40 lb. backpack and an overstuffed computer case.  I have to lug these to and onto 3 different subways.  By the time I’ve arrived at our meeting place (in the depths of a disgusting subway tunnel) I am disgusting.  I manage to change my shirt in the crowd and sit down on my bags and wait.  30 minutes later I ask a nice young woman “excuse-moi s’il vous plait, parle vous anglais?  Can I use your cell phone?”  After graciously letting me use her phone (just as Mike’s dad said a nice French person would)  I find that Mike has tried to suprise me at the airport and is there waiting for me.

After we have our reunion in (later to be determined the most disgusting of all) subway tunnels, we attempt to find our hotel.  A few more subway rides and about a mile of walking later we arrive at the mamashelter.

chewbacca hipster light on our wall

chewbacca hipster light on our wall

In true European fashion it is a small room, but has some very interesting decor matched with a flat screen apple t.v. adorning the wall and lovely AC coming out of the vents.  It suits us immediately.   As soon as they let us in I nap before we jet into downtown, yet again on the subway, for some delicious lebanese food and some walking around.  The next day involved more walking around, accidentally seeing the tour eiffel, and accidentally finding the louvre on the one day it is closed but happily dunking our feet in the water outside.

tour eiffel

tour eiffel

louvre glass pyramid

louvre glass pyramid

All in all, I was glad we went to Paris after two full days of walking around and searching out good food, but Mike and I were ready to leave.  We are not city people.  We don’t pretend to be for more than 48 hours generally.  So we boarded the train a day early, rode through the french countryside for nearly 6 hours, lugged all of the luggage up the hill from the train station, and breathed a sigh of relief upon seeing our backyard and that Mike had red wine stocked in the cupboard.


Circles April 14, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahdarval @ 2:42 pm

Back in Colorado.  Back to daily comforts.  I woke up this morning with everything at my fingertips again but put back on the sweater I’ve been wearing for the better part of two weeks and went to the car to fish out the coffee press.  The silence of the house contrasts the usual early morning rustling of the campground as everyone moves towards their stoves to heat some water for morning beverages.  Here, it is just me, pushing the button on the water boiler. 

Both feel like home, the back of the car and the king size bed.


Desert SW April 6, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahdarval @ 5:48 pm


Day 1=sideways pelting snow whiteout in CB–> Taos (aka stucco Prescott Valley) –>Santa Fe where we bought a rocket box and had an amazing dinner at Zia’s. Slept at obscure rest stop.

Day 2=drove to Jack’s Canyon south of Winslow AZ. drove on bumpy road to supposed campsite.  Decided to hike to look for climbs. 4 hours later we returned to our car and called mark so he could ask the internet where we went wrong. bad guide book directions.  Found campsite.  winds picked up. johnny showed up. passed.

Day 3=we drink coffee until 11. sarah likes this!  climbing for the boys. nap for sarah.  Dinner is made on the back of the car with us inside the car because of sideways hail.

Day 4=wind has died down and weather is looking up.  I actually got on two climbs today 🙂

Day5=I wake up and take a tour to the home of brent, amy, and zella van gundy at the blue ranger station.  enjoy a lovely walk in the ponderosas and remember why I love arizona.  might have had to do with q.t. with amy.  carry on to sedona. missing liza.  missing rachael.  loving the sunshine.

Day6= today. Got up early (5:30) to avoid paying the campsite fee.  Boys are currently climbing tower while I buy Louis the most expensive dogfood in the world and hum away on the internets.  Loving my freedom right now from the daily grind.  Looking forward to getting off the internets and into the sunshine!

Eating dinner in the car during hailstorm

Eating dinner in the car during hailstorm


living with integrity February 21, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — sarahdarval @ 3:31 pm

Integrity as a concept comprises perceived consistency of actions, values, methods, measures and principles — not necessarily in every minute detail, but holistically.

holistic/wholistic consistency.    It is a challenge to say the least.  Being an idealist, my expectations for myself far outreach the reality of my everyday life.  Is it possible to find peace with my reality while still holding on to those ideals.  Or is the clinging to the ideals where I potentially set myself up for failure?  Wouldn’t integrity just be a flippant romantic notion if we let go of our clinging and realize that we are always changing; our value framework, like everything else, should be constantly evolving towards a higher good.

But maybe I’m thinking of integrity in the minute details.  If the  framework for our morality lies in the basic concept of love, respect, and peace it simplifies the scenario.

Or maybe I am overvaluing integrity in relationship to the “minute details”.  CONSISTENCY.  Isn’t that the antithesis to my idea of what the nature of reality is?  If the nature of reality is impermanence, then maybe I am overrating consistency. 

 I think what I really value is living with conscious awareness and intention.  One can have integrity based on negative mind patterns or repetitive moral grounds that are not serving them or others.  Isn’t it more useful to continue to examine one’s life and allow that conscious awareness to be our moral compass, creating the space for growth and the natural impermanence of life to carry us along, moving towards higher knowing.