Star Counting in Palo Duro

I lay on my back with my head resting on the tailgate of Ruby, our 2000 Mazda truck and I’m mesmerized by the darkening sky. I count the stars as they pop out one by one until there are too many and I am too sleepy. I sleep fitfully in the back of our truck and wake a few times throughout the star filled night to take in the views of this gorgeous red rock canyon, and surprisingly, I wake up refreshed.

Sleeping in the back of our pick up truck while camping in Palo Duro Canyon State Park in Texas turns out to be the perfect way to do some awesome star gazing. Texas has some big sky, along with everything else. While camping in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park Chris and I met a couple on a journey with a new found commitment to live life to the fullest after he was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. His attitude was we all have to live with the hand we’re dealt. He told us about  Palo Duro and said it was worth the trip.

On our way to Palo Duro we drive through what appears to be lots of nothing, we debate back and forth of whether we want to take the 40 minute detour to see Palo Duro. Let me tell you, we had our doubts. The land is flat and barren without a tree in site, and lots of cows with no where to escape the brutal sun. I feel really sorry for the cows and notice my face scrunching up in a look of pity. Don’t get the wrong impression, I’m not against eating meat, but I’m a firm believer that we need to treat all life as humanely as possible. So if we’re going to eat cows, let’s at least give them a good life before we slaughter them, and when we do kill them, let’s do it as humanely as possible. It’s not always the quantity of life that matters, but the quality. But I digress. Actually, these Texas cows probably had it better than other cows living in cramped quarters, and then slaughtered for fuel.They at least had plenty of room to roam and they probably did not care one bit about the sun.

So driving through this vast barren land in the north western panhandle of Texas, we are delighted to “discover” the beautiful red rock canyon known as Palo Duro. We enjoy lots of awesome hikes and camp here for 3 nights, and pretty much have the campground to ourselves. Sunny warm days and cold clear nights. Because the wind is so fierce, fires are prohibited, and we decide to sleep in the back of our truck rather than pitch a tent. Using the tailgate as our head rest, I find no greater way to fall asleep than to be warm and snug in my sleeping bag, having cool night air caress my face, gazing at the night sky as it fills with stars, and listening to the quiet of the canyon. Now this is how to say goodnight.

The Joy & Angst of Leaving My Job

It’s the new year and Chris and I leave for our road trip soon. In the meantime, I’m still working long hours at my job as a clinical director for a non-profit organization and it feels rather bittersweet. More sweet than bitter, as you can see from my photo as I jump for joy in our beautiful local park. Bitter because I so love and believe in the mission of our work and I will miss it along with all of my amazing and dedicated colleagues and the bravery and inspiration of the women we are so honored to serve. Sweet because I will not miss the frustration I so often feel from working with challenging systems. Chris and I have been planning our ‘gap’ year for some time, and the process we’ve gone through to make this major change in our lives reminds me of  stages of change that one goes through when changing a behavior related to their health, such as stopping smoking, or exercising more. We’ve been stuck in ambivalence for awhile. Things feel very serendipitous, and it feels as if the universe is speaking to us saying there is no time like now. It becomes apparent to me that Now is the time for me to leave my job. I’m not handling the stress with my typical equanimity, and somehow lost myself somewhere along the way. My health suffers and my heart hurts, literally and figuratively. So like the stages of change, the universe helps us to see the pros of making this major life change now. It really is related to our health, both physical and mental. Now is the time to strengthen our mindfulness practice, something we’ve been practicing and teaching for twenty years, but that seemed to fall by the wayside. In preparation of our trip, I’m doing an 8 week online  Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) course, now in my 4th week. I’ve been wanting to do this course for years, but have found it too cost prohibitive, so I’m thrilled to find this course for free. My intent is to strengthen and deepen my daily mindful practice. You may want to check out this free online MBSR course for yourself. There will be much for us to explore and share on this exciting journey. Until next time, enjoy the NOW. ~ Diane