living in deep mountain

The meaning of life is to try everything that you have not tried yet.

Maybe this is the reason why I am here right now.

I grew up in a big, big city that has numerous tall, tall buildings with lots and lots of people.

Somehow, I decided to come here, the Ojai Valley, a year ago. And I got into a school where there are no buildings that have a second floor with less than two hundred people in total.

photo credit: kcet.org

After living here for days, I am starting to feel that I am part of nature. What a weird thought this is, and I have never had such an idea before. 

Especially on the camping trip, we just slept in sleeping bags, and considered the sky as the quilt with the ground as the bed. 

And with fewer people, there are fewer distractions. I have plenty of quiet time to sit outside in nature, to be deep or lost or sunk in reverie.

Also, I have had the chance to watch the sunset since we have some free time after dinner. This is a really incredible experience to enjoy the sight of clouds and sky change their color and shapes slowly and fast. 

Far from Home

“You need to fulfill your camping requirement,” the tall, built, bearded teacher who wears a Hawaiian shirt tells me. In order to graduate OVS, students must go to 2 campings a year. “You are going to Mount Pinos.” I don’t want to go.

Mount Pinos is located in the Los Padres National Forest. Its summit is 8,847 feet high, which is the peak of Ventura. I’ve been assigned to this Mount Pinos camping trip for 3 years. Relatively speaking, it’s an easy trip. Unlike the many backpacking trips that make you walk for 50 some miles. Once I went to Topa Topa backpacking trip last year and got bitten by a tick and had to dig a hole for bathroom. 

Mount Pinos still looks the same: the tortuous path, the fast-moving clouds, the pine trees… Good old Mount Pinos, here we go again. It gets bitterly cold when it’s dark, so we’d start a fire. Starting a fire is easy, but keeping it going is difficult. Taking one from warmth, from civilization, from your weekend… it just seems like masochism. I don’t get it. Do people actually go camping because they like to be tortured? 

Mount Pinos doesn’t have as much pine cones as it did in the previous trips. We only found 1 and a half pine cones this time. In the past, we’d burn all the pine cones we found and it would smell amazing. Maybe it’s because of the newcomers—there are way more campers than before. They would smoke stuff and play loud music. But Mount Pinos is still the same even without the pine cones. It still gives me the feeling of being far from home.

Photo credit: 100peaks.com

it’s 6:54 PM

Now it’s 6:54 PM. 

Sitting on the bench on the big field, watching the sunset, one of my favorite things to do.

I still feel like it’s summertime, although autumn already started a week ago. 

Intermittent music can be heard from afar, I don’t know where. 

The sun is sinking in between the mountains far away, and bringing sunshine to the people on the other side. 

I wanna keep the sun in my sight, but I don’t wanna be selfish. We should share it with each other evenly, so we keep rotating.

I can hear birds singing from the distance casually, as always.

Once in a while, when I look up, an airplane is flying over me. I wave my hand at it, say hello to the people on the plane.

The air is getting cold, and the mountains already engulfed the sun completely. 

I probably should go back. 

photo credit: pixabay.com

The painted ladies

On my way home today, I stopped to say hello to the mountains.

Image credit: allposters.com

But while I originally had pulled over to say hello to the mountains, I also got to say hello to the painted ladies – the butterflies.

There are hundreds of thousands of them, all passing through and I’m lucky enough to live along their migration path.

No one knows exactly why they choose to come here, but I’m happy they do.

I heard they are headed west. Maybe they’re chasing the sun.

So, as I sat alone outside my car, I blew kisses to the mountains, to thank them for being so magnificent.

Image credit: travelandleisure.com

I blew kisses to the butterflies as they flew by, to wish them good luck on their journey.

It’s days like these when I know I wouldn’t be able to live in a place where the sun seldom shines.

There wouldn’t be nearly enough mountains that compare to Ojai mountains and there definitely wouldn’t be enough painted ladies.

I hope they all reach their destinations.

And if they really are chasing the sun, I hope they catch it.

Home

Photo Credit: outsidevan.com

I’ve lived in the same place my whole life, but I’ve never realized how beautiful it is until recently.

Maybe I just didn’t notice it before or I wasn’t old enough to appreciate it, but lately I catch myself staring up at the mountains.

It has been raining a lot lately. On my drive home, I noticed that the north-facing slopes are so much greener than the south-facing ones.

But Dad says this isn’t supposed to happen. South and west-facing slopes are usually the greenest, at least where we are, because of sunlight and rainwater, he explained. The south-facing Topa Topas are just dry because of their rocky terrain.

I’m not sure why even still I think of the fire when I’m admiring the mountains. Maybe it made me appreciate them more.

The trees still seem like skeletons to me. They are black and withered and don’t really fit in with the bright grass that’s growing in. They used to be so much greener. But at least they are still standing. I’m thankful for that.

There isn’t really much to do in this sleepy town, especially after having been here for sixteen years. But despite that, I can’t think of a better place to have grown up.

My Trip to Belize

In sixth grade, my school led a trip with a handful of students to Belize. We were to spend the first week of our trip building a cafeteria for a school, and the second week touring the beautiful country. Before leaving, I was very nervous. I was traveling to a different country without my parents. Not only was that scary, but the thought of building a cafeteria was daunting as well. The trip turned out to be amazing.

We all met at the airport and did the usual, going through security, catching our plane, and flying to Belize. The minute we stepped off the plane, I was hit by the humidity. It was so hot. Nonetheless, we collected our bags and got on the bus to where we were staying.

The first week, we mainly focused our energy on building the cafeteria. We worked in shifts – half of us would build while the other half spent time with the kids from the school, either in classrooms or on the playground (which was really more of a field of dry dirt).

The builders mixed cement and set the cinderblocks to make up the foundation of the cafeteria. It was grueling work, especially in the heat of the day. The group that was resting and spending time with the students from the school would get a chance to know an amazing group of kids, until it was again their turn to start building.

Despite the hardship and poverty that the students at the school lived in, they were happy. They had fun learning how to do handsprings across the field of dirt, or just sitting and talking with us.  They were unbelievably appreciative of what we were doing for them. It’s not as if we were building a state-of-the-art cafeteria. It was made up of three foot walls of cinderblock and poles that held a rood up above it. But to them, it was beautiful. I have never met anyone as appreciative as they were, especially at their age.

The second week was spent touring the country. We first drove up to a small lodge up in the mountains, and spent a couple days exploring the rainforest and caves around us. We then drove down to the coast and took a boat to a tiny island, where we explored and went on prolonged snorkeling excursions.

After the amazing couple of days we spent at the island, we packed up our bags – for good this time – and headed back to the airport. The trip was amazing. It was fun, educational, and rewarding all at once. The experience will remain with me for a long, long time.

Your Feet

Your Feet

“When I cannot look at your face
I look at your feet.

Your feet of arched bone,
your hard little feet.

…But I love your feet
only because they walked
upon the earth and upon
the wind and upon the waters,
until they found me.”

Pablo Neruda

I love this poem because it can describe anybody that is special to you. Friend, family, boyfriend, or girlfriend.

My mother has always told me that your feet are the doorways to your well-being. If it is flu season, and your feet are bare, you are welcoming the sickness into your body.

I’ve always wondered why she said that. I mean, I could understand why she would advise me to take good care of my hands or perhaps my head, but my feet?
I figured that it was because we use them everyday to walk, to sprint, to skip, to tiptoe, to dance, to keep a rhythm. And since we use them so often, it is crucial that we take care of them.

But this poem took my perspective to another level. Your feet carries you from place to place.
It is not how often you use them or how you use them that make them so special but where they bring you and who you will meet.
That is why my mother stresses me to take care of my feet.

My feet have brought me so far these past 18 years. They brought me up and down mountains and through my life’s pinnacles and pitfalls.

It’s quite funny because my feet used to be my biggest source of self-consciousness. I hated them. I hated the way they looked. I especially hated that because of 4 years of soccer and track, I have two black toenails.
But now, I kind of admire them for where they have taken me. It is almost as if I have a strange respect for them.

Now, as I am going to college, it is time to let my feet take me wherever they choose to go. OH and the places I will see! The people I will meet!

Life is remarkable.