Tuesday, December 27, 2016

2016 in Sunsets

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The year started with the most epic of sunsets, a West Coast sunset over the Pacific. Check off the list. There were sunsets over the water, from plane windows, those with mountain silhouettes or cityscapes, the ones where the sun turns the clouds into a canvas. They were all different, all unique, and each one was beautiful. 

Los Angeles
Sunsets are symbols for so many things. Every day the sun goes down, sometimes it's hidden by clouds or storms, sometimes it's more vibrant than others, but more days than not, there's beauty in the sky right before night settles in.

Amelia Island, Florida
Chateau Morrisette, Virginia
This year I've been reminded of the seasons of life, which are much like the stages of a day: light, warmth, vibrancy, darkness, then light trickles in all over again. The vibrant moments, like a sunset, might be short lived but it's intense and awe-inspiring. It gives you the courage to get through the dark and it wouldn't mean as much if it weren't ushering in the night. The light and the dark are in perfect balance.

Blue Ridge Parkway

Boston

From the sky 

We tend to notice them more or take the time to feel their beauty whenever we're on vacation. The sun goes down every day though. Those sunsets have been some of the best, whether on the drive home, while shopping, or on a walk. Even on an ordinary day life can be pretty spectacular, just look up.

Cambridge, Massachusetts

Harker's Island, North Carolina

Roanoke, Virginia
So all of this was to say that 2016 was full of some amazing sunsets.

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

2017, I can't wait to see the best sunset you have in store.














Tuesday, December 20, 2016

The Most Christmassy of Days

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Am I the only one who has had a hard time getting into the Christmas spirit this year? I know we always talk about how fast time flies but this year it seriously felt like I blinked, and it went from being July to December, with only a few weeks away from Christmas and the New Year. It wasn't so much that I was feeling the opposite of festive, I was just more resisting the fact that the season was here already and 2017 was coming along with it.
 
Traditions ground you though, and besides the regular holiday traditions my mom and I have made going to Philadelphia somewhat of a December tradition. This year was no different. We're always there on what seems to be the coldest weekend of the year. We changed it up slightly this time however, flying into Trenton, New Jersey instead and spending Friday and the first part of Saturday in Princeton.

Princeton really does Christmas well. It's a gorgeous and cozy town on its own, but even better with all the holiday trimmings. We started off Saturday morning at the Morven Museum and Garden. It's an 18th century estate that has guided house tours and a wonderful garden. We went on a day when they were having a special event with Santa that we were much too old for, so unfortunately we weren't able to see inside the house. If the outside was any indication of how the inside was decorated, we really missed out.





The town's main square was done up beautifully as well. We stopped by there after spending a few hours at Princeton University. Carolers set the mood as they performed by the storefronts. Garland and holly were everywhere. It was freezing, but even that was kind of nice. Christmastime is supposed to be cold.




The festiveness continued in Philly. We got there right after sunset and headed to Penn's Landing for Winterfest when we finished having dinner at our inn. They have ice skating and every form of winter joy imaginable. Fire pits can be used to warm up or roast marshmallows from the s'more packs you can purchase. Hot chocolate and cider are on sale as well. Everything looks like it belongs in a skiing lodge, and it's all decked out for Christmas. You can even rent little cabins by the hour in case all of that wasn't enough. So much spirit.






We stayed at the Morris House Hotel by Washington Square Park. Every inch of the hotel was done up perfectly for the holiday. Having breakfast by the fire on Sunday morning was the best way to end the weekend. The company was pretty stellar too.





Here's to traditions and to getting into the holiday spirit!

Thursday, December 8, 2016

IN THE BLUE RIDGE MOUNTAINS (ON BELONGING)

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Every fall, right around when the leaves begin to change. I take a trip west with my family to drive the Blue Ridge Parkway. We do this several times a year but there's something about this trip that feels extra special, it feels like coming home. Those mountains are in my blood, so maybe that's why I feel a sense of belonging there.




Merriam Webster defines this type of belonging as a close or intimate relationship, having familiarity or an inseparability. Where we come from cannot be separated from the person that we are. It's always with us, even as we're running away from it.

"The hardest step she ever took was to blindly trust in who she was." -Atticus

A huge part of existence is centered around belonging. Where are our places? Who are our people? What do we have to give to this world that makes us belong?




It's interesting that the place I get this home sense from isn't actually where I grew up. The mountains were always a break from back home. It's where I could be a carefree child swimming in creeks. It was family reunions, picnics, and hiking. As I became older it was more about the landscape, the vistas and the waterfalls, the stunning colors of autumn. Also the people, it's always been the people. 4th of July with the family in the park and my grandparents' stories of their childhood here, that's what makes me belong.




Belonging is where you feel at peace, where you can show up exactly as you are and that's okay. These are our people. These are our places. Peace.




The mountains are my peace.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

INTENTIONAL GRATITUDE

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Jekyll Island, Georgia


“That was the day she made herself the promise to live more from intention and less from habit”

Near the beginning of this year that quote jumped out at me while I was mindlessly spending time on Pinterest one evening. At the time I took it to mean we have to create the life we want, live outside of our comfort zones, explore more and settle less. I still believe that, but at this season where giving thanks and gratitude discussions seem to be everywhere, this quote (it’s not attributed to anyone) again came to mind.



“Gratitude is about attitude” and “perfect circumstances don’t lead to happiness” are themes we hear over and over again. Yet, at least in my case, it’s something that can be hard to put into practice because it’s the problems, the things that seem to be going wrong, that remind us of their presence every morning and night. So I’m trying to be more intentional not just with my actions, but with my mindset as well. This involves shifting from what isn’t there to all that is there, because I have so very much to be thankful for. I’m trying to learn to appreciate imperfect gifts. It may not all be how I planned, but this life is still a gift.



“Happiness is letting go of what you think your life is supposed to look like and celebrating it for everything that it is.” –Mandy Hale


When this posts I’ll be in Chicago doing one of the things I love most, traveling. I’m so thankful for that wandering spirit and that I was born a woman in a country where that is possible. Since I’m away from home for Thanksgiving my family did a meal early for me. They’re my biggest supporters and the single biggest blessing in my life. I’m traveling with one of my best friends. I’ve made so many new friends in the past six months, and I’ve been reassured that my old friends will always be there. Thinking of that will always put a smile on my face.

Last Thanksgiving

Atlanta
Gettysburg, PA

My career brings me joy every day in one way or another. Deciding to go into education was probably the best decision I ever made. At the end of the day I come home to my new apartment in an area of the city I love. Life is exciting. I’ve been to so many new places, seen so many sunsets, had deep conversations, heard a lot of live music, connected with people, and just lived…with intention.


Topsail Island, NC

Perhaps I’m most grateful for this intention.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Gaining Perspective on Top of the Prudential Tower

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I almost didn't go. Already slightly apprehensive about doing something that I deemed as uber touristy, half of the observation deck being closed for a "private event" was pretty much the confirmation I needed to revert to plan b. But as I sat down to a super late lunch and tried to quiet my annoyance/hangriness with a cobb salad I quickly realized there was no plan b. The entire day had been organized around watching the darn sunset, per usual as anyone who's ever traveled with me can attest to, and I'd wanted to see the sunset from that tower.

Rather than come up with an alternative I went back up to the customer service agent selling the tickets to the top, I'm positive he began to smirk when he saw me coming back.

"Can you see the sunset from the side that remains open?" I asked.

"The best view is from the side that's closed, but you'll still be able to see it from the corner" he replied as he pointed to the diagram.

At that point I figured that was better than nothing, besides there was a discount for the inconvenience. As I purchased the ticket he reminded me it was good for readmission.

"After the sunset be sure to come back later. It's beautiful at night."

Up I went. My ears popped the higher the elevator rose. Once on the skywalk my first glance of the city was as it was bathed in the warm light of golden hour. What a show off. The buildings glistening in the sun seemed to go on continuously, whether along the rivers or into the distant mountains. The first task was to find all the places I'd already been. Some were easier than others, everything was so tiny after all, so tiny it was awe-inspiring. The streets I'd walked down, the cathedrals I'd stood beside and strained to take it all in, could easily be overlooked.








That's kind of how problems are, right? At face value they can be so intimidating, it's hard to take it all in. Looking at them from a different angle though, shifting the perspective, sometimes that's all it takes to realize perhaps we were just looking at it all wrong or allowing our current perspective to overwhelm us.


Then there's the quantity of things in this world. Sitting there looking out the glass it hit me how tiny I was, and how beautiful that truth is. So many people were making their way through the city, each with their own joy and their own struggle. What a miracle it is that all of us are unique, every last one of us trying to get through life, each with a different perspective to offer the world.



So the sun started to set and I claimed my space in the corner to capture it. At this point it was getting crowded, I'm not the only one who chases sunsets. There was the couple on their first date (major props to that guy), the blogger with the enviable camera, and the family with the toddler who enjoyed banging on the glass.  Different perspectives, different stories.




Once the sun was completely gone I went back out on the street in search of a bar. It was all big again, the same as before, but not overwhelming. The same streets and the same bustle, but in a different light.



A couple hours later I was back in that elevator while my ears popped, back to the top to get another glimpse. Everything was lit up.




Same city, but in a completely new light.