Back From Europe – A Quick Update

I have been stateside for a few days now – I can finally get my brain settled enough to do an update tonight! I (obviously) survived my trip to Europe with the Gardners. No fevers or muggings were had. A train or two may have been missed but not the planes! I did get patted down in the France airport (like searched – hands in uncool places) while Kathy & Dave just waltz through..I clearly looking threatening here with the freckles and pants that used to fit and now are just über baggy…

The trip was AMAZING. I am so, so beyond THANKFUL to Kathy & Dave for taking me with them and making this possible. I also very grateful to Kathy’s Sister and her Husband for allowing to stay and showing us around.

We arrived in Paris – and then on to London after a subway and then train through the Chunnel just in time for ‘Dinner’. We  had left Chicago around 8pm the day before! I fell asleep before dinner and then woke up at 1am (London time). I finally figured out that the strange bird calls I was hearing were the Jackdaws (within the Corvidae family – looks similar to a crow) and the wild Ringneck Pheasant. We stayed in England for about 8 days. During that time pubs were visited, the Stonehenge was experienced, a Castle strolled around, the Highlands explored with the help of Kathy & Dave’s Nephew and lets not forget London.. Tink’s a Disney whore – that place is intense! Pictures and details are coming…at some point in the future. Monday Morning after a rather packed weekend found the 3 of us dashing with our luggage in the London Underground on our way back to Paris. Once checked into the Hotel (not as easy when all the signs are in French) we strolled out into the French night to check out the Louvre (weird triangle building that the De Vinci Code talks about). It was pretty cool. The next morning had us up early and on the cobblestones hunting breakfast out. The entire day was spent on foot (and occasionally subway) touring about in the older part of Paris. Notre Damn was visit – well worth it I might add. Crepes consumed and plenty of coffee to fuel the weary. Before dinner, we did the Eiffel Tower during a rain/wind the dark… Was quite exciting. Dinner was wolfed down. Desert followed later at another vendor with Irish Coffees (really strong ones I might add). It was late upon return to the hotel – I was unable to fall asleep so I started the journey back to the states in traditional Joannie Miller style – totally sleep deprived. 6am came quickly (I just simply got up – was already awake) and the trials of travel started anew. Almost 12 hours of flying (I barely slept) had us in Sunny San Francisco – it was disgustingly hot. Customs and then a packed flight to Seattle – an hours worth of down time and back on the plane again finally landing in Anchorage around 10:30pm. 28 since the flight from Paris officially took off. It was a tad surreal!

The trials of travel were well worth it. I cannot say I wanted to come back…I was ready to set out backpacking and see more! I think my body was grateful to be in a less crowded place with cleaner air though…

Since being back, I’ve only begun to realized how ‘peopled out’ I am. As a fairly introverted person who really likes her quiet and ‘alone’ time – Europe is a fucking populated place! Other than some texts and as minimal phone conversations as possible – I’ve been hiding from Humanity. Dave had to go on a work trip and then Kathy left two days later – so I even have had the whole place to myself the past 2 days. I interacted with dogs and their people only!

Hopefully I will sort through all the pictures in a timely fashion (one can dream anyway) and post them with the details of the adventures!



Leaving for the U.K

I leave for Europe with Kathy & Dave G today (Saturday). Over 24 hours of flying, layovers, trains and such before we arrive in London. We’ll spend a few days in and around the London area, a visit or two to the countryside – maybe even the coast! Then it’s off to Paris for a few days before we come back into the states. I’ll be gone until the 22nd. All the dogs will be boarded (much to their chagrin) during the travels. River has been alternating between super clingy and pissed. Explaining to a demanding dachshund that overseas travel isn’t something she can just ‘come along for’ is not going particularly well. I can probably expect the silent treatment upon my return…

I’m excited for the trip (maybe not the large amount of time sitting in uncomfortable seats) and feel pretty damned humbled that I get to join Kathy and Dave. In some ways I feel rather undeserving (okay, most ways), that would just be one of the ‘images’ that I am working on. I expect I’ll take entirely too many pictures, sample more beers than maybe I need and try to bring more rocks than my pockets can carry back with me. Since this is a short trip – I just plan on soaking in what I can and plotting my next extended visit. No rushing about and trying to fit 1000 things into a few days.

I wish I could say I’m all ‘packed’ and ready to go..but that would be a lie. At this point in the game, I do have clean clothes at least to pack with! Stocked my e-reader up with books (this is infinitely more important than clean clothes) and have my cameras ready go. Packing for trips is all about priorities. Reading material should always be high on the list!

Here’s to the next adventure along the journey ~ J

What I Haven’t Said ~ Horses

Many people have commented over the years that I don’t share much about the horses – and with the one exception of when I was living in Maryland, attempting to possibly make a go of it one last time – this true. It was simply too painful to write about them. Things went skewed for my plans with the horses and farm, but my time on the Eastern Shore was priceless in terms of experiences and events that led on to other ones. Once it became clear that at this point in my life, there just isn’t a place for me to work with horses (and be able to support my own). It was time to change focus. Accepting that, I slowly started the mental process of selling my Andalusian mare and finding a more permanent boarding place/home for my beloved older horse Domino. These things are hard in person, and 4 time zones away and strained communication with family made things 100x more difficult. I don’t really want to go into the details, but after months of attempting to have conversations with family members starting in the late Spring – I learned in mid July that my Father had sold all the horses, tack, and associated equipment. I can logically understand that it was time for the horses to be sold. My issue with Dad is not that he sold the horses, but how he sold them, the fact that he didn’t tell me beforehand, didn’t let me know after, and then had everyone else in the family keep it a secret. For weeks. Again, I’ve no desire to go into the details (I am sure I have already upset a few people by now as it is), but to say that this didn’t affect me – is a huge understatement. See, my mare Domino I had since she was about 4 years old. Or to put in terms you may know – since I was around 12 years old (possibly younger). This horse SHAPED how I approached all other horses and eventually their people. Domino is the main reason I got into horse training. Domino is why I learned more about equine psychology than any other type of area I could have spent my teenage years pursuing. Domino was my best friend, when the human world didn’t understand. I had Domino longer than my best friend Lorien and I have known each other… And I didn’t even get to say goodbye. By the time I tracked down the man who had bought the horses (no one in my family was forthcoming with this information due to reasons still unexplained to me) – he had already auctioned her off to somewhere in VA. I cannot explain the heartbreak and distress the weeks during and after these events brought me.

Even now, months later, I have little to say to my Dad. I love him, always will. But I have little to say to him now. I don’t expect most people to understand, nor do I need them to. The way he handled the events following his selling of the horses just doesn’t lend to a casual conversation over the phone or a ‘nice’ family visit on my part. He rationalized that due to me spending next to no time at the farm or with the horses, it somehow wouldn’t bother me. He couldn’t have been more wrong. My time at the farm and in TN is clearly a thing of the past. People move on, and often to places you cannot be in.

My last horse – Mikka – who was originally Mom’s horse is safely being boarded long-term with the Myerson family (who have been beyond amazing in helping me with her and all things that involve TN). She will stay with them as long as it works for them or more subtle place for her becomes apparent. As the last living animal that my Mother dearly loved, I will not give her up (unless it is because I can no longer safely care for her) even though horses don’t seem to have a place in my life anymore. She is very well cared for and living with horses she knows, and gets to spend time with people who genuinely enjoy her. I couldn’t ask for a better home away from me. As one of my Mother’s good friends – Barbara gets a lot out of having her as well. For all of this I thankful.

At this point in my life I have my faithful companion River, and make sure Mikka is getting what she needs. All my other animals are gone, some in the most heartbreaking of ways. Everything about who I used to be as a horse person is gone. Even my saddle. After the way this went down, I cannot say if I’ll ever try my hand with horses (outside of Mikka) again. To not even get to say goodbye to one of my most loved animals of all time – is particularly devastating to me. This experience, like many others – is just another painful part of my life that I hide behind pretty pictures and book quotes. Because in the end, it is mostly just I who cares, and will still feel this loss and lack of consideration years from now. This is another of those ‘what I haven’t said’ events.


What I haven’t Said

I haven’t written much for the blog in the past few months for a few reasons. The easy answer is of course ‘busy’. Busy with life, work, travel, people, taking pictures, classes, etc. And while that is of course a factor – it is not the entire story.

I also have been feeling a little out of touch with sharing on the blog lately. Most of my posts in recent times are about cool places I go, people I visit or just basic updates. Somewhere along the way I ‘stopped’ sharing some of the less than ‘love and light’ details of my life. I suspect because I am so damn sick of hearing about how ‘I just want you to be happy Joannie’ and ‘well it seems like you’re doing okay’. As if one cannot experience happiness and still be SAD at other times. As if one must always be “okay”. The easy answer to this is of course don’t share those parts. The constant sleep issues, the less than savory self images I have of myself, struggles with what I should focus on, family stuff, money, work, friends/boyfriends stuff, the list goes on. I can only ‘focus’ so much on just the positive. My desire for balance demands that my writing include ALL aspects of life, not just the pretty, fun, and good-looking ones. I’m sure some people will react to some of the things I’ll probably write, yet all the good and bad parts of my life will still be there – reactions from others or not.

Another reason is that I have already been pushing myself to share a lot with classmates and few individuals outside of WildernessFusion in the last 6 months; in ways I am absolutely terrified of. In a sense, I am ‘sharing’ most aspects of my life – just not on the blog. As I have adjusted and learned to begin to have faith in my classmates and the few individuals I have started to open up to, I see how when one seeks to understand – one listens. And by not writing what is on my mind, what is in my heart, I do a disservice to those who want to understand. And for those who don’t, you can focus on the ‘good’ and get what you need out of my adventures and pictures. I truly love that so many people (close to me and the simply observers) get so much enjoyment from my sporadic sharing of travels, adventures, photos and occasional muses. This is by no means a ‘you should want to hear about the shadow stuff too’, but an acknowledgement of where I have stopped sharing.

I have mentioned in previous posts about my ‘Healing Classes’ with the group WildernessFusion. I’ve purposely glossed over them due to the nature of the work, the difficulty in sharing something so personal as well as foreign to most people, and to keep my classmate’s stories in confidence. Obviously I won’t be sharing the ‘details’, but I can write more about my experience and how the classes are shaping what I do now. For those interested I would normally say ‘check out the program’s website’, but I won’t, because it freaking sucks. If any WF people read this..should really update that thing!

Anyway, the ‘’Healing’ portion of the school is what I am in. A year-long program for each level (1 -7). The first four years cover the ‘basics’, after that you have to want to do this sort of thing for life (or just be crazy). I just started year 2. Year 1 was intense, but good. So far year 2 is like being boiled alive. The work itself – is personal work in how you approach people, the world, how the world and people affect you, and how to bring awareness to it all. After the awareness is there, then there is the ability to respond and finally, choice. It can sound rather ‘new agey’ but in my humble opinion, it is the sum of what is psychology (including the therapy portions), the human experience and truly living. The types of people who come to the classes and take the skills back to their ‘everyday lives’ is quite diverse. From roaming wanderers who play music (or train animals to include myself) with no college to degree, to teachers, pilots, doctors, engineers and software professionals. All of us have something in common, we deal with people, family, friends and want the ability to choose what we can do about tomorrow. Not just react. Many people have read or at least heard of the books ‘The Dance of Anger (or fear, grief, etc)’ by Dr. Harriet Lerner. When you truly have perspective on life, you see that it’s not ‘just that one’ family member or coworker you have these self-perpetuating cycles with. You have them most of all – with yourself. And the blind spots are BIG. The more that you think you already have a handle on..heh..the more you don’t. WF Healing classes are the intensive’s for people who want to have true choice (or be the change in the world) bad enough that you not only go ‘in’ your skeleton closet – you take your entire freaking class (bunch of strangers usually, who you wouldn’t have thought you could even be friends with in some cases) and the instructors (more freaking strangers) with you! You bring out the skeletons, you uncover ones you never knew about, and your classmates show you how you put them there..its like an undead dance party. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. It is fucking hard work. It is terrifying. It brings up every embarrassing, shameful thing you want to never think about again. It rips open all the places you’ve sealed shut so you can put a dumb smile on your face. It breaks down all the ideas you made, been given or had instilled in your life. It also gives you bare bones truth about who you are and are not – wonderful and crazy. Beautiful and ugly. Selfish and selfless. Some people cannot hear about their bad, others their good. Either way, it’s a truth no one wants to hear. But it’s there. The classes have given me more skills than any book, therapist, job, program and so forth in both personal and professional places of my life. If that isn’t enough of reason, I don’t know what is! If you want to know more about them, feel free write to me or call me up.

As I realized how my patterns of interactions directly affected my relationships with Every. Single. Person. I know. I decided to work on that with a few individuals outside of WF classes. It is particularly more challenging with people who have no base understanding of the classes and self work that is going on. Most days I feel completely at loss of how to express myself to the people around me. I now can see some of the patterns and ‘images’ as we call them in WF that I react to. Something there is little to no choice around – but instead I react, deal with outcome of reaction, repeat. Now my biggest struggle is to simply not react. On any given day, I feel completely alone and misunderstood. I often feel isolated even though there are often people around me – only a handful of people can seem to really ‘see’ (read be in contact with) me and they are spread all over the continent. Most of this probably sounds like whining. Maybe it is. But it’s quite real, not a passing thought while stopped at a red light, but instead very much glaringly in my face. I have been told repeatedly (have also seen with the class ahead of mine) that year 2 in the program is one (or the one) of the hardest years in the program. I think I can speak for most of my classmates on this – we are all in our own hells. Those of us who have relationships – are just trying to not blow them up. Work. School. Everything feels like it’s about to push one over the edge. This is me almost every minute of every day. There are beautiful moments. Great conversations and even once in a while – a self-realization that doesn’t totally destroy you (most do). The rest – is just me fighting with my own shit – because I don’t want to be stuck this way forever. I want choice in the end. If the last two paragraphs make no sense – don’t worry about it.

I live in constant contradiction. While I feel a wild exhilaration to be alive in every moment and want each day more than the last, I also feel pain more acutely, grief more deeply and loneliness in every breath of every moment I am not around people who can give me the type of contact (a term that encompasses both physical touch and non physical company) I need. There is much more I plan to say, but I am already behind on what I need to be doing – and this is quite long.

More on this part of the Journey later ~ J

‘Blood’ Moon Eclipse

In most parts of the world the ‘Blood’ Moon Eclipse was visible during the wee hours of the AM today. In Anchorage Alaska it was around 2:15 am that the Eclipse was viewable. Being a total insomniac I simply stayed up a little longer to watch. Kathy G practically bounced out of bed when I told her it was nearing the peak and we set up the camera outside. Reuben who is visiting from Seattle, watched on for a little while while Kathy and I fiddled with camera settings and placement. Eventually, everyone who wasn’t completely enamored with the night sky headed inside to watch Kathy and I try to find buttons with slightly numb fingers from the windows. At some point I got around to putting my shoes and a hat on. Kathy and I are known for standing in the cold night to get Moon photos or the iconic Northern Light shot. Most people and the dogs leave us to the frost within a few minutes.

Thanks to the Gardner’s zoom lens, I managed a few decent shots of the various stages and coloring of the Moon during her Eclipse.

Blood Moon Eclipse

Blood Moon Eclipse

Photographing anything at night is difficult. Shooting the Moon makes this even harder as one cannot use a long shutter speed (Moon is too bright). Add in a Eclipse that changes the brightness every few minutes even more so..Using lenses that were not made to take night pictures adds a bit of a challenge as well…

I like to think I made it work. At it’s ‘darkest’ below.

Dark of the Blood Moon

Dark of the Blood Moon

As the light shifted, the colors brightened. The light specks in the black are stars showing through. All the pictures I took I did not edit past some basic cleaning up, no photoshop, no adding colors and such. Looking at it with binoculars it looked just like the photos!

Eclipse Waning

Eclipse Waning

Partial Eclipse and the last of the ‘blood’ coloring that was visible. Once the ‘Full Moon’ brightness came back , capturing the low light of the eclipse at the same time became next to impossible.

Partial Eclipse

Partial Eclipse

It was an awesome night, I hope my pictures give you a small idea of how freaking cool it was! At 24 degrees, my digits got a little cold after close to 2 hours of standing in PJ’s. But it was worth it!

~ J