AT THE END OF THE DAY YOU SHOULD SMELL LIKE DIRT

Have you ever dreamed of being able to open your back door and find yourself on trail? I have over the years, and it seemed more like wishful thinking than a livable reality.

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While living in Southern California I would drive 30 minutes through traffic just to hike through a county park trail. During the winter months, I remember being on the freeway at 4am; so I could commute to the San Gabriel mountains for some altitude and snow.

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One of the many perks of living at Vermilion Cliffs is the trails, private trails actually, that lead you deep into the cliff wilderness. From my back door, this is the view that flirts with me every morning.

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How could I not be inspired to head out and explore my new habitat? For Shadow, it’s a new area to patrol in his mind. His puppy days of patrolling the Fresno canals and urban streets have now been replaced with navigating desert washes, and climbing sandstone cliff ledges.

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Prior to Vermilion Cliffs, Shadows only sand experience was at Kelso Dunes, in California’s Mojave Desert.https://remoteleigh.wordpress.com/2014/05/03/mother-natures-sand-box/?shared=email&msg=fail

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My first few weeks at Vermilion Cliffs was heavily focused on helping Shadow adjust to his new life. I knew his abandonment issues were going to be a long-term healing process. I was hopeful that consistency and stability may fast track his progress within the new home I had created for him. My immediate concern though was his understanding of the desert.

Within a short period of time, I needed to turn my urban puppy into a desert dingo. Shadow had never encountered a snake, lizard or scorpion before. The grass was his familiar running surface, not sand, rocks and mud.

As a mama, my worst fear was Shadow coming home with cacti prickles in his face or nose. During the first few weeks of my desert stay, I became rather hyper-vigilant when it came to Shadow’s encounters with cacti. I didn’t want Shadow becoming a four-legged desert pin cushion.

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Our first family hike was a few days after we arrived. I wanted to follow the black hose to our water source, a spring buried deep within the cliffs. Having the hoses above ground is a daily visual reminder of how precious water is.

Would human’s relationship to water be less disconnected if we had to “Jack and Jill” it every day?

Could having daily contact with our water source origin make us more aware of how limited this resource is?

I am mindful of the fact my life is dependent on the black hoses running deep into the cliffs. Every time I turn the faucet on, take a shower or fill Shadows water bowl, I am grateful that I have fresh running clean water at my disposal.

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Within a few miles on the trail, we found ourselves looking down a dry waterfall. Shadow, like his mama, has a respect for heights; yet, still enjoys the vertical views. I am looking forward to the monsoon season to see if this waterfall starts to flow again.

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At the top of the falls, we decide to sit and enjoy our backyard desert landscape.

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Shadow is a natural sunbather, yet he quickly learned to limit his time in the desert sun.

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Have you ever looked at a trail of mud and thought to yourself, what if I put my head down and barreled my way through?

Would you be slightly deterred knowing it was quick mud?

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Shadow wasn’t deterred! In fact, I have never seen a dog more determined and dedicated to coating himself in mud.

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Within a few hundred yards of mud trailing Shadow transformed himself. My urban puppy went from a desert dingo to a tougher mudder canine. Shadow was looking more like a muddy javelina than a pit boxer mix.

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I don’t think I have ever seen Shadow so free-spirited and so filthy! In the human world, he had just experienced high-end beauty treatment, a mud bath, and a full body scrub. He was now the fully exfoliated canine.

As Min commented on to how dirty Shads was, I was feeling rather proud. Proud, because Shadow was being his natural self. For a brief second, he looked my way seeking a parental permission nod. I encouraged him and cheered him on, which seem to induce one of his happy dance sprints.

To see a former abused and neglected homeless dog footloose and fancy-free was a joy to watch. I wondered how many abused and neglected kids ever get a second chance at childhood.

How many adults ever permit themselves to have a second crack at childhood?

At times I feel ‘growing myself’ up meant giving myself all the things I felt my childhood lacked or missed. Many years ago, a close friend asked me what was the key ingredient to my friendship with Min. To me, it was very simple. We gave each other our childhood back. We encouraged one another to play, be silly, and pretend that we were two latch key kids raising ourselves.

I think we offered Shadow a similar situation, the only difference is he has two very involved parents that encouraged him to PLAY!

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After our mud encounter, we continued following the hoses that ultimately would lead to our spring.

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Have you ever created and sold a fantasy reality to yourself?

Perhaps you imagined or envisioned a work of simplicity into something far more elaborate.

Based on my experience within the desert, it seemed imaginable that deep within the Vermilion Cliffs lies a desert oasis. Somehow I had created a mental picture of our water source, even before I had seen it. Perhaps it was a pond, a pool of water, the ultimate liquid paradise where all creatures, great and small, come to hydrate and recuperate from the extremes of desert living.

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Blame it on my imagination, or perhaps watching too many Disney movies as a kid. The reality, there was no oasis; it was simply a hose lowered down a rock opening.

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As we hiked deeper into the cliffs, the more surreal the terrain and landscape became. Was I surrounded by the Vermilion Cliffs, or was I headed for a planet yet to be discovered?

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I wondered what Shadow thought! This desert landscape was not reflective of his former surrounding in the Fresno canals.

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On our first backyard hike, Shadow has been exposed to a completely new environment. He displayed a  great understanding of heights, and depth perception when it came to rim walking. He possessed great balance  and knew how to slide down a gravel decline in a controlled manner. He instinctively seemed to be very cautious of cacti and paid close attention when negotiating paths with the prickly monsters. With that said, I knew at some point he would fall victim to a cacti. I just prayed no prickles would be lodged in his precious little face.

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As the sun started to set, we headed for home. Covered in dust, dirt and mud I feel like we all got a chance to taste, touch, feel, see and experience our new backyard.

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My life was falling into place. I felt I was where I wanted and needed to be. Vermilion Cliffs may be an isolated outpost; however, I feel I-SOUL-ated. The one thing I could never afford was TIME. TIME is the currency I now operate in, and I feel very lucky!

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WANTS, NEEDS, NECESSITIES, AND LIFE REQUIREMENTS

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Imagine waking up one morning and realizing your entire life has been simplified to fit into the trunk of your car?

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What possessions would you disregard?

Off the top of your head, what three items could you not part with?

Would you focus on items that held sentimental value?

Perhaps the focus may become possessions you felt you needed?

Could your emotional attachment to a personal item turn a WANT into a NEED?

When does a WANT become a NEED?

How does one determine the difference between a WANT, NEED, and NECESSITY?

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As I unloaded my trunk and carried my refined life into my new home I realized most of my chosen items fit into all three categories. Based on the criteria of wants, needs, and necessity; I have decided to re-classify these items as LIFE REQUIREMENTS.

My tent is a want, need, and necessity.

My hiking shoes are a want, need, and necessity.

My computer is a want, need, and necessity.

My phone is a want, need, and necessity.

My camera is a want, need, and necessity.

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Considering the remoteness of the area I am now living in, I knew I would be spending a lot of time in the outdoors. A tent for shelter and good hiking shoes for my flat feet are life requirements in my world. Plantar fasciitis is not fun when you find yourself on crutches and using a toilet plunger to put downward pressure on the gas pedal. My feet want, need, and demand good shoes. My phone is essential out here. I am not a hermit and need to maintain my friendships and relationships with the outside world.

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Who knew WhatsApp would be so instrumental in maintaining contact with my friends abroad.

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With the nearest bank 2 hours away, my decision to join the online banking community was a necessity. Simple Bank has been a blessing for me. https://www.simple.com/

I love the fact I can upload a picture of my paycheck and I can see the transaction immediately. Better still, a customer service representative always answers the phone. Not one time have I ever found myself on hold. No scripted false friendly dialogue, just a friendly willing voice on the other end of the line wanting to assist me.

My camera allows me to captures moments and experiences that I can later share with the planet via social media.

My computer is like my intellectual and emotional suitcase. It stores my captured memories, my favorite music, and allows me to stay in touch with friends while living remotely. My computer is the first one who gets to read my blog as I type, and is the last one I put to sleep late at night.

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WANTS

I feel WANT’S at times tend to be more consumer driven. Having the big house, expensive cars, designer clothes, drinking boutique booze and eating fancy foods at times, can define us. WANTS can create a false identity that belongs more to the brand loyalty than the person billboarding it.

WANTS can be short-term temporary void fillers. In my late 20’s, I feel I purchased WANTS to help medicate my lack of needs being met. In the short term, a new purchase of WANT left me with a sense of excitement and happiness that my regular daily life did not offer. The reality was; I was not living intentionally, I was merely surviving. No amount of consumerism was ever going to make me happy!

After unpacking my possessions and settling into my new home, I found myself lying on my bed and thinking what was I missing? I had the Vermilion Cliffs behind my house, access to miles of hiking trails, a roof over my head, and a dog who adores me.

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What else could I possibly require in order to be content out here? The answer became very clear after having no internet for over a month. I think this comical updated version of  Maslow’s  Hierarchy of  Needs says it all for me.

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Living remotely, I am wi-fi dependent. WiFi is now deemed a life requirement, Internet access is a want, need, and necessity. Gone are the days when I had unlimited internet access.

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I am now a hotspot owner, and I pay $100 a month for ten gigs of data. This means I no longer take internet data for granted. I now treat internet data like water, it’s a commodity. I now use only what is needed, and my days watching Louie Theroux specials and John Pilger documentaries online are now over.

Technology can disconnect society as much as it can reconnect us. One month without the internet helped me redefine my relationship with social media. I find myself only online if it serves a purpose, as opposed to just surfing and reading through random news articles.

Prior to moving to Vermilion Cliffs, I was more interested in filming than writing. I would rather film an interview than write about one.

This is what made radio so easy for me.

Writing is something I have never enjoyed. Even when preparing and writing questions for video interviews; my handwriting is a form of shorthand only I could decipher.

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These days blogging has become a life requirement, I want to do it, I need to do it, and I feel like it’s a necessity in order to help me process some of my relentless thoughts on life.

 

 

HOME IS WHERE YOUR CAR IS

From the Kaibab Plateau, we dropped over 3000 feet onto the desert floor. This stretch of 89A would be my new driveway, it’s the only road in and out of Vermilion Cliffs.

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Within a few miles of my new home, it was clearly visible that I was now living remotely.

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Hence my blog and Facebook name, REMOTELEIGH!

https://www.facebook.com/remoteleigh?ref=tn_tnmn

For urbanites, the idea of living in a remote location might conjure up ideas of going without and giving up on some of life’s luxuries. A colleague of mine suggested this desert outpost looks more like a place that harbors outlaws as opposed to an Aussie girl looking for simplicity. A close friend expressed concern that living remotely could cement my feet in the land of hermitville.

Based on the opinions shared by my social media community I have learned that being adventurous is when you visit a remote area. Hermitting is when you decide to live there. Does living in an isolated area qualify one as a hermit, or is hermitting more a social isolation from the world, people, and relationships?

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I do not consider myself a hermit, perhaps more a non-conformist!

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Conformity truly feels like a foreign concept in my world. I think I came out of the womb with a passport stamp on my forehead that read- non-conformer. Non-conformists historically speaking tend to be seen as social deviants. Social deviants tend to judged by the mainstream for living outside the box. Living outside the box means the only person who will truly approve of my choices and decisions is myself.

When did we start believing we needed someone’s or society’s permission to seek and live the life we want?

Is it possible that many of us have made decisions over the years that were more approval seeking instead of life changing?

Is it disloyal to family and friends to live differently?

Does living differently put mainstreamers on the defensive or more the offensive?

Sometimes I feel intentional living is like being a nondrinker in a social setting. By not drinking, I have found some drinkers will automatically defend their alcohol consumption, or target my lack of. I understand that alcohol can be the social glue to community interaction. Call me a nerd; I would rather share a stimulating or heartfelt conversation that does not need alcohol as a catalyst.

Regardless, it does seem if you are the minority in group thought, you somehow always find yourself being targeted in one way or another. The reality is; a visible step outside the conformity box generates comments and opinions from people you have never met. I think John F Kennedy was rather wise and accurate when he said, “conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth”

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I feel living in an outpost town might be similar to life on trail, with some additional creature comforts like electricity and a somewhat dependable water supply. Being on trail for an extended time changed my priorities last year, not to mention my outlook on life. Trail time over the years has permitted me to LISTEN and entertain my own THOUGHTS.

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Last year while on the John Muir Trail, I decided to turn my thoughts into an effective immediately action plan.

https://remoteleigh.wordpress.com/2014/03/02/by-living-more-i-needed-less/

I wonder what thoughts I will entertain while living in Vermilion Cliffs, and how many will become an action plan.

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Before pulling into Vermilion Cliffs, I decided to drive an additional three miles south into the town of Marble Canyon.

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Marble Canyon marks the western boundary for the Navajo Nation.

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What legitimizes a town in America?

Is it the all in one gas station, that offers a post office, and a laundromat?

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Or is it the private airstrip?

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It seems in the city, strip malls, fast food restaurants, and a Wal-Mart legitimizes a town. I think what legitimizes a rural town or outpost is the sense of community.

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My new home and community was Vermilion Cliffs. I would be working at Lees Ferry Lodge. Three miles to the south is Marble Canyon, and 6 miles to the north is another outpost known as Cliff Dwellers. Many of the residents living within this ten-mile stretch are seasonal workers. I am told in peak season no more than 50 people live between the three lodges. Hopefully, I get to meet all 50 residents during my stay here.

As I pulled into the Lodge I was greeted by the owner Maggie. This business woman hired me over the phone, not even knowing my last name. I had no background in the hospitality industry, and yet she was willing to take a chance with me. She had never met my dog Shadow, yet she still made us all feel very much at home.

As the sun set I opted to unload the car in the morning. I was tired, and just wanted a hot shower and a twelve-hour nap.

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Home was now a rustic 2 bedroom trailer, with a partially enclosed porch.

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It had been a journey just getting here. I think Shadow was ready to be in one place for an extended period of time.

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He survived his first road trip, and I was about to begin a 9-month assignment.

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It was now official; my new address is Mile post 541.5, Highway 89A, Marble Canyon. I have lived in Australia, Japan and on both coasts of the USA. Oddly enough, I never expected I would be living roadside along a desert highway.

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