RAID is not backup – or, how I learned to appreciate S3 storage

TL;DR: Amazon S3 is dirt cheap and easy to use. Unless you’re the kind of person who is still prioritizing privacy over convenience – and I love you guys, but I just don’t want to live that way anymore* – you might as well take advantage of its services. 

RAID is not backup. I knew this. Of course I knew it. But backing up data is a lot like eating kale – we all knows it’s good for you, but most of us would rather eat ice cream and hope for the best. And anyway, I had mirrored drives to hold anything that might possibly be valuable. There were only two ways to lose data: both drives had to fail at once, or I had to mistakenly delete something critical. The likelihood of both drives failing at the same time is minuscule, and obviously, I would never accidentally delete critical data. I’m a pro.

For a while, I haphazardly addressed the backup issue with an external drive to which I could rsync all my important data. But I kept it unplugged when not in use, because a plugged-in drive could be destroyed by a power surge and defeat the purpose. So I had to go down to the basement and dig around for power strips to back up my data. And I mean, really, the backup drive wasn’t fool proof anyway, since a flood or fire would still destroy it. And eventually, I had more data than I could fit on the backup drive, and at some point I just stopped even pretending I was using it as a backup drive. It was a snapshot – a very, very old snapshot.

Backing up to an external server never really occurred to me. It was a lot of data, and when I built the server, it was at a time when the cloud wasn’t even a twinkle in anyone’s eye. Hosted server space was expensive. And anyway, I was allergic to having all of my data stored in a server farm where it could be hacked or swept up in a government seizure.

Years passed. In many ways, I gave up on fighting the battle to keep my data local. I got a gmail account, and I started using it more and more often. I started using google docs. I misplaced my privacy zealot card. But I never thought of how that might change my (non)approach to backing up my personal data.

I started having less and less interest in fiddling with computers just to keep them running. Eventually, my home server just hosted shared files and an email server. And finally, just shared files. And since it wasn’t doing a whole lot, I didn’t worry too much about keeping it up to date. Debian is nice that way – it just kind of keeps going, tolerant of my benign neglect. The kernel became geriatric. Aptitude refused to update glibc. And finally I got some sort of warning about having to fix … something … before I could boot safely. It was still running fine, though. I decided I needed to start from scratch. Most of the configuration on my server was for systems I hadn’t even run in a decade. I didn’t want to keep dragging all of that obsolete history with me. I’d only keep my home directory and, of course, that mirrored drive.

And then I had a bad fall when skiing and hurt my knee. After the initial few days of agony, pain killers did their job, and I was mostly bored. I wouldn’t dare go back to work on pain killers .. but what could go wrong on a reinstall?

Long story short: things can go wrong. Especially when your memory is hazy and you feel fine, but you’re actually kind of dumb compared to your usual self.

We’re still not sure exactly why, but the mirrored drives didn’t mount properly. The drives claimed to have no data. My heart stopped. These drives held all of my photos from at least the last decade. My husband, who had set them up originally and who knows “all the things” about storage, was flummoxed for a while. I didn’t push him. As long as the drives hadn’t been officially been declared dead, my data might still be there. Shroedinger’s photos.

Eventually, he got one of the drives to mount individually, finding the data in an abnormal configuration. The first thing I decided to do is to copy everything to S3. A year ago, this would have seemed daunting to me – but I’ve been using it daily at my new job, so I knew the basics.

I ran into some snags. The main thing I’d advise others – if you want auditing, don’t enable it until after your initial upload. You’ll probably want to revise some things, and you may end up with versioned binaries that are a pain to identify and permanently delete. Once you’ve enabled auditing, you can’t turn it off. And while S3 is cheap, you probably don’t want to be paying monthly fees for data you will never, ever want to look at.

The S3 command line tools are … not perfect. They are finicky, and you’ll probably want to create an alias or script to do exactly the same thing every time. There are some things you just can’t do, or couldn’t do without pulling down the meta data and writing a custom script. For example, searching for any and all files that have multiple versions.

The sync command is made for backup scenarios, but when I first started uploading data, I hit a lot of HTTP error codes. After a few starts and stops, sync started working. I saw this pattern repeat over the next few days – if I hadn’t been uploading in a while, the first attempt at a large sync would fail. After a few minutes, I would run it again and it would work as expected. My best guess is that a server needed to spin up to respond to multiple simultaneous requests.

Be careful with following symbolic links, which is the default for sync. It turned out I had a recursive symbolic link … and the sync happily slurped it all up until I finally got suspicious, stopped the sync, and deleted the symbolic link.

Sync doesn’t default to deleting, only copying and updating. This may or may not be the behavior you want. (I don’t typically want delete, but I do if I’m cleaning house.)

Ultimately I’m spending about $10/month to store about 300Gb of data on an external server with instantaneous access. I can likely trim that down a good bit because I don’t really need to be backing up 15 year old CD rips, but at the time I was just focused on copying everything and worrying about nuance later.

Useful Links:

AWS cost calculator:
http://calculator.s3.amazonaws.com/index.html

(For storage only, click “Amazon S3” on the left – you don’t care about EC2 instances, etc)

In order to use AWS command line tools, you need to set up a user and give it an access key and secret access key.
http://docs.aws.amazon.com/general/latest/gr/managing-aws-access-keys.html

Use the command ‘aws configure’ to set up your credentials locally.

Once you’ve set up your credentials and have them in your ~/.aws, you can use the AWS S3 Sync command:
http://docs.aws.amazon.com/cli/latest/reference/s3/sync.html

Note: you probably want to use –exclude to make sure you don’t upload your aws credentials to S3! (This may not really matter when you’re using your account purely for backup and will never create another user account in S3.)

Removing versions from audited S3 buckets:
http://boulderapps.co/post/remove-all-versions-from-s3-bucket-using-aws-tools

Allowing public access to an S3 bucket (if you want to be able to allow public web access to certain files from S3):
https://havecamerawilltravel.com/photographer/how-allow-public-access-amazon-bucket

Sample command line calls


aws s3 sync foo s3:///foo --no-follow-symlinks
aws s3 sync foo s3:///foo --no-follow-symlinks --delete
s3cmd du -H s3:///some/arbitrary/directory

*I realize that by putting my data on a well-known service like S3, various nefarious interests (like governments, both foreign and national) are more likely to get access to my data than they would be if I kept my data in a basement server or some small mom and pop hosted service. But I’m already using facebook, gmail, and google drive – not to mention super creepy services like mint. I’ve clearly already made my choice in the battle of convenience vs. privacy.

Fixed!

Note to self:

If permalinks don’t work, it’s probably because the permissions on my .htaccess file don’t allow it to be written from the install.

The Settings->Permalinks section on the admin page tells you what to add to .htaccess

TR: Downhilling at Keystone

@skiNEwhere and I seem to be a good pair – he’s more comfortable with wooden features; I’m more comfortable with drops. I have a fair amount of coaching and technical riding knowledge under my belt, but I get hung up on how scary a section looks; he will try a lot of things that I initially want to walk, and then I give some pointers and in the process often decide to try it, too. We push each other in good ways.

I had my little-used GoPro attached to my handlebars and taking photos every two seconds. It was a lot to sift through, but I did get some decent stills.

We skipped the green warmup trail (it involves a fair bit of pedaling and takes a lot of time) and instead started on the easier blue, Mosquito Coast. We’d both felt good riding it the previous weekend, so it was a good, confidence building warmup.  skiNEwhere rode the elevated wooden feature several times; I never got up the nerve. It will happen some other day.

skiNEwhere rolling off the end of the wooden feature

After Mosquito Coast, we headed back up and rode the other blue, Eye of the Tiger. I last rode it years ago, on a sloppy, muddy day, and the steep pitch, tight turns, and wet roots, all in mud you couldn’t brake in, did not instill me with fond memories. SkiNEwhere had just ridden it last weekend in mud with a flat front tire. So … yeah. The top part went well, although I balked at a root drop right inside a tight turn and just couldn’t bring myself to ride it. Shortly thereafter, skiNEwhere got a flat – so, that wasn’t so hot. He managed to fill it (and then some) with a CO2 cartridge, and we were off, although a little concerned about the tire. Nevertheless, when we got to the branch where Boy Scout and Wild Thing split, I somehow convinced him to try Wild Thing. I remembered riding it years ago, and there were lots of technical features, but no huge jumps or anything. So we went for it. Right at the entrance, you have the option of riding around a log drop, but we decided to go for it. Next time I need to remember to look ahead more – in the middle of the drop, I was pretty sure I was going to endo, but I didn’t. Speed would help, of course, but that doesn’t play well with stopping to evaluate the obstacle.

Wild Thing entrance / log drop

So we rode the log drop, and felt pretty great about that. Next was a wooden bridge with a slight curve that I’ve never been able to ride – wooden features just freak me out somehow. It doesn’t help that I recently lost a lot of skin to a wet wall ride. But skiNEwhere rode it like it wasn’t even there, then encouraged me to ride it. Not only did I ride it, but I managed a series of decently sized root drops right after it. I felt like a superhero.

Wild Thing wooden feature

.. and that was the last time I was going to feel like a superhero on Wild Thing. It was jam packed with root and rock drops, often in the middle of tight turns. We walked most of it and saw some crazy riding – apparently, if you don’t touch the ground, you don’t have to worry about the roots and rocks at all! SkiNEwhere’s tire was also deflating very gradually – I would bet it was 50 psi when we filled it on Eye of the Tiger, and somewhere around 30 by the time we got back to the base.

We searched for a bike shop. Keystone Sports wasn’t going to be able to look at the bike for 45 minutes to even evaluate it, but they helpfully suggested NorSki, which isn’t right in the village. They were able to look at the bike right away, find that there was dirt in the tire ruining the seal, and got the tire cleaned and mounted in less than 20 minutes, for less than $20 including a whole lot of Stan’s. I would definitely take my bike there if I needed a quick fix during the day.

Lunch time! It was actually already 1:30. We shared an outdoor picnic style table – from which we could see our bikes – with a lovely couple and had an extended conversation. He no longer skis due to MS. We suggested lessons and we suggested that he check out EpicSki – I hope he makes an appearance.

Honestly, by the time we were done with lunch, I was ready to be mellow. SkiNEwhere wanted to revisit Eye of the Tiger and build some better memories, but I had wanted to ride a series of black runs that I swear are less difficult (except for a few specific spots) than that blue. Cowboy Up -> TNT -> Paid in Full -> Money. Despite the Wild Thing fiasco, he was up for it. As it turned out, TNT was closed, so we rode Motorhead (umlauts go in there somewhere) instead for that section.

There’s a famous rock garden on Cowboy Up. Just last week, while getting my bike fixed, I told the shop guy that I would happy if one day I could just see the line through the rock garden – never mind riding it. Shop guy told me he was sure I could ride it. So anyway, I had told SkiNEwhere repeatedly that we were just going to walk that section, no worries, and everything after that would be gravy. So we get to the rock garden, I start walking alongside the trail, and he says he’s just going to ride it like a fool and see what happens. I think he’s joking until I look over from where I’m walking the bike and see – he’s actually riding it! Well. I re-evaluate. I hem and haw. I finally go to the top of the section and – actually ride it! We both had a couple of spots where we had to, um, pause for reflection, but we rode that damn impossible rock garden.

Cowboy Up rock garden
Last bit of Cowboy Up rock garden

There was another technical rock section that we sessioned. Again, I was just going to walk it, but skiNEwhere decided to ride it. His first two attempts were not entirely successful, but in the meantime, I worked up my nerve and decided I could ride it (those 9″ of travel on my downhill rig are awfully confidence inspiring). SkiNEwhere said that he half wanted me to make it, and half didn’t, and I totally understood. The problem was that the entrance had a rock that created a ledge and then there were two rocks that formed a pinch. It just plain looked intimidating and tended to get you to do stupid things in an attempt to avoid those bits at the top. As I stood at the top, I saw the solution: don’t look at the intimidating bits at the top. Look straight ahead to the bottom of the section. And when I did that, it all just worked and I rolled right through the whole thing without a problem. So then SkiNEwhere rode it one more time, after I’d explained my “brilliant” tactic, and he made it, too. There was much rejoicing.

Not quite clearing it
bounceswoosh giving “expert” advice

When we finally got to the main section of Paid in Full and Money, it was all swoopy flow trail with lots of low-consequence tabletops scattered in. A couple of the banked turns on Paid in Full are steep enough to give me serious pucker factor, enough that I remember yelling “Oh SH*T!” and then “Oh JESUS!” about 5 seconds apart from each other. Kinda like a roller coaster. Super fun.

We got back to the lift with minutes to spare before they closed down. This time, skiNEwhere was up for riding the blacks again and reinforcing what we’d learned. Me, I was pooped and just wanted to get to the bottom without hurting myself. I felt I needed to take it down a notch (as per A Conversation with Fear). Plus, I wanted to see what Eye of the Tiger felt like after doing those more intense rides. Specifically, that one root drop in the middle of a turn that I’d been unwilling to ride earlier in the day. And hey, SkiNEwhere hadn’t had a chance yet to ride Eye of the Tiger without a flat. So we rode Eye of the Tiger, and honestly, I was exhausted, but it was still fun as hell. I had this weird two-brain experience; whenever I got to a technical piece, I had both the memory of it being scary, and the memory of riding things just so much scarier than what I was on. My only real problem was that I was so tired that I kept sitting down on the saddle and being super lazy with bike handling, so everything felt pretty off kilter. This time, having learned that Wild Thing is not for us just yet, we finished off on Boy Scouts.

Overall, a super great day. It doesn’t sound like we did a lot of riding, but we really worked the hell out of the trails we rode.

Three ways to make eggs and beans more palatable in the morning

We’re doing the slow carb / “Four Hour Body” diet, which means a lot of eggs for breakfast. Like, three eggs every morning, plus beans. This can get to be a bit boring. My husband likes scrambled eggs with hot sauce; I don’t love hot sauce, but I do love fried eggs. I make them sunny side up and attempt to straddle that thin line between “practically cold yolks that can probably give you salmonella” and “oops, the yolks are completely solid and chalky and frankly kind of gross.” And then there are those beans, necessary for energy because we’re not eating grains and fruits and whatnot. King Soopers has helped us out here with their Simple Truth brand of beans – they sell a “Tri-Bean Blend” that, well, has three different beans, so it’s a little more palatable than just a big pile of one type of bean.

Timothy Ferriss would have you believe that eating some microwaved eggs, spinach, and beans from a can every morning is plenty tasty. Well, maybe for him. I need a little more pizzazz, or I can’t choke it down, and then I won’t have accomplished the “30 grams of protein in the first 30 minutes” principle. I’m sorry, but yes, I need to dirty a pan in the morning. I need my fried eggs, and I need a little more flavor than a pinch of salt can provide. Here are some of my go-tos.

Leftover greens – spinach, chard, kale, collard, whatever.  But instead of microwaving up some frozen spinach (ugh), take the greens left over from last night’s dinner – the greens with sautéed or sweated onions mixed in. This is one of my favorite ways to add both veggies and flavor to breakfast. Unfortunately, I seem to have trouble cooking enough greens to regularly have leftovers … they’re so tasty that they get gobbled up as soon as I cook them.

Leftovers Wahoo’s Banzai Bowl, without rice of course. Or your 4HB-adapted leftovers from Chipotle or Qdoba. This stuff already has beans and whatever meat you chose, so it’s a great accompaniment to your eggs – and it has veggies, too. It is probable that the banzai sauce is not fully compliant, so if you can stick to not using it, more power to you.

Green Chili. This is my most common addition, just because you can buy it in a jar. To be completely straight with you, the flour (whether wheat or rice) used as a thickener isn’t strictly allowed. A couple of tablespoons over the eggs and beans make them a lot more interesting. A salsa verde would have a similar effect and could be completely legal.

So, yeah. You see here that I’m not 100% compliant, but my compromises are pretty small. I’m seeing results, and maybe I would see faster results without any thickeners or tiny tubs of banzai sauce, but this way, I can keep it up without gagging on my breakfast. Definitely worth it.

Taking Avy One

During the last weekend of 2014, I took the AIARE Level 1 Avalanche Course through Colorado Mountain School (CMS). I took it because, more and more, I’m becoming aware of the fact that safe ski slopes don’t just happen. There’s an enormous amount of science, engineering, and intuition – not to mention just plain hard work – that ski patrol puts into keeping skiers safe on the mountain. The more I ski “extreme” terrain at the resorts, the less comfortable I am with my own ignorance about the process.  I also took the course because I want to understand more about the risks I might be accepting in the backcountry, and how to mitigate them. I’ve owned the equipment – beacon, shovel, probe, and skis with AT bindings and skins – for several years,  but I have skied in the backcountry only rarely. Actually, only once outside of a class. I didn’t have the knowledge to evaluate avalanche terrain; then again, I didn’t want to have to blindly trust in my friends’ judgment. I also had the general impression that in Colorado, snowpack is so fickle that anything safe to ski would be either relatively boring (low angle) or relatively unpleasant (wind-scoured or sun-baked).

pow!
The boring, low-angle, sunbaked and wind-scoured slope we actually skied on Monday

The course spanned three days, each consisting of some classroom time and some field work. Because of the extremely cold weather, we may have spent more time in the classroom than another class would – in particular, the last day had more classroom time than planned. I don’t think anyone minded – the cold was brutal. On the flip side, we were also blessed with plenty of fresh snow, allowing us to observe changing Colorado Avalanche Information Center (CAIC) bulletins – and allowing us to play in the powder.

Before this class, I had a fair amount of previous exposure to snow safety information. I attended a free REI seminar on beacon usage; I took the Intro to Backcountry day trip through CMS; I’d read Staying Alive in Avalanche Terrain and Snow Sense; and just the weekend prior, I’d attended the Copper S.A.F.E. A.S. women’s snow safety clinic, which was an intense day of classroom and snow time, focused on avoiding human factors and practicing rescue scenarios.

I had heard that in the last few years, Avy 1 has converted from largely teaching snow science – digging a pit and other observational tools – to focusing on human factors. That’s not exactly what I experienced. What I saw, instead, was that the course taught us how to interpret the daily avalanche bulletin and develop a plan based on that information. We did touch on human factors, but I suspect the idea is more to avoid human factors – and just plain errors – that might come into play when novices try to interpret snowpack test results. Or maybe we didn’t get a ton of time to discuss human factors because I kept asking so many questions …

Our class had 24 students and four guides. We did the classroom portion as a large group, then broke into smaller groups for the field work. This gave us an opportunity to work closely with three different guides.

On day one, we learned about the types of avalanches, the conditions for their creation, and their indicators. We then went to the entrance of Hidden Valley in Rocky Mountain National Park (RMNP) to learn about our beacons and practice with them.

On day two, we learned how to read the daily CAIC avalanche bulletin (there’s a lot of information packed into that site!) and how to fill out a Field Book to create a trip plan based on the bulletin, as well as recording our own observations. We dug a snow pit somewhere near Bear Lake. I struggled with kick turns; then I struggled trying to ski down through trees and powder on my skins, and intentionally fell rather than risking a run-in with a tree. It was not my day to shine.

On day three, we discussed human factors, then broke into our smaller group to interpret the bulletin and use it to plan a trip that would meet all of our objectives. I’d never actually planned a trip by looking at maps and studying the route, so that in itself was valuable to me. (Mental note: take some orienteering/navigation classes this summer.)

Day three is also when I found out that skiing supposedly low-angle terrain can still be exciting and challenging. While I’d heard people say that they enjoyed meadow skipping, I pictured practically flat expanses of powder, where you’d be poling as much as you’d be sliding. Pretty, but not exactly fun skiing. Or I pictured the day I’d skied Banana Bowl – not only low-angle, but also wind-affected, nasty slab snow. So while I was interested in learning about avalanche danger, I suspected it would confirm my own expectations – that I wouldn’t be going into the backcountry much, and that if I did so, it would be purely for the social or fitness aspects, not for the fun skiing. After all, fun skiing was dangerous, and safe skiing was boring. That’s what I thought.

That was all before day three.

On day three, our group discussed our objectives, which ranged from getting some sweet turns, to getting some experience with skinning, to studying the snowpack more, to getting more beacon practice. Our guide suggested a route that would allow us to do a little bit of all of that. So there we were. We skinned up a well-traveled trail for a while; then we departed from the beaten path, our guide breaking trail in gradual switchbacks. It thus came to my attention that there can be more to snow country travel than following signs and established routes.

Of course, following someone who already knows the area intimately is a great way to head straight to the goods.  The day might not have gone so smoothly (understatement!) if we’d been puzzling out the route on our own. We were soon at the top of a lovely pitch of untracked snow and majestic trees. In fact. Hm. It looked kind of steep and tight, especially after being warned that rocks lurked just beneath the surface, and being told to ski extremely conservatively – “On a scale of one to ten, with one being pizza – ski at a two or a three.”  “How steep did you say this slope is?” “Twenty-eight degrees.” Huh. It seemed plenty steep to me. And I always struggle with the switch from skins and loose heels to slick skis and locked heels. What on earth had made me think I needed to be on a 38 degree slope to make a backcountry excursion worthwhile?

So, we skied the short pitch. And in two or three turns, I fell in love. I made maybe one decent turn; the other two were frankly pretty ugly, and rocks left their marks on my bases. But the snow. The beauty. The thought that we were probably the first people to ski this particular run this season. The realization that backcountry skiing could be both magical and safe, and that I had the tools now to choose these sorts of slopes myself. Intoxicating.

Fearless Leader
Mike Soucy

My only complaint about the class is a feature, not a bug – they don’t go into how snow pits and other observations get translated into specific advisories. The curriculum sticks to generalities, not particulars.  Students are not given the tools to make their own snow predictions; that’s not the point. My husband and I, out of sheer enthusiasm and our innate need to know how everything works, kept asking questions that were far more detailed than the class structure allowed.  So I’m pretty sure that in a year or two, I’m going to take Avy 2. Not so much because I want to be making those predictions myself, but because I want to understand what goes into those predictions. My quest for knowledge continues.

Our guides:

Mike Soucy (course leader)

Ian Fowler

Brent Butler

Mike Lewis

Gratitude

I have a friend who’s basically my one-man sangha – that is, my community of fellow travelers on a path of spiritual and emotional enlightenment consists of, well, him.  And that’s cool. One thing that we talk about a lot is gratitude.  I think gratitude actually comes pretty easily to me.  I look around at the world and I see beauty everywhere.  Does gratefulness require an indirect object? I feel gratitude without a sense of being grateful to a particular person or thing. To the universe, I guess.

It feels like cheating, sort of. Too easy. My life has been good; my troubles minor.  Would I be grateful if I lived through some of the trauma that so many people on Earth survive – or don’t survive?  Then again – would I even be me, if I had gone through those experiences?

For a while, I was in an emotionally stressful situation that I couldn’t avoid, just had to muddle through. No, that’s not true – I could have avoided it, but the paths to doing so weren’t ones I could accept. So I pushed through, at a price. I was still practicing gratitude, but perhaps the amplitude of my gratitude wave was diminished. Perhaps the shine of my gratitude polish was dulled.  I saw everything through a fog of misery.

After crawling through that muck and mire and emerging into the light of a beautiful day, my gratitude shone like the sun. I believe that ultimately my goal is to be grateful for the muck and the mire as much as for the beautiful, sunny day and the times when everything seems to be going my way.  Or am I supposed to be impervious to it all? No, I don’t believe that – I can’t see the Dalai Lama’s smiling face as he greets yet another person and think for one moment that he’s impervious to emotion.

But really, that muck and mire was relatively minor.  Compared to what so many people endure, it was a blip.

How do you survive rape or torture or mutilation – things done intentionally to harm – and still experience gratitude? Are the people who manage this “better” than the people who are dragged down by it?  No, that seems too judgmental.  How could I possibly judge a person who went through that sort of experience for who they become in the aftermath?

Does my gratitude “count”?  Is it too facile, too naive?  It’s pretty easy to be grateful when a beautiful spring sun shines down upon you and limns you in gold.

Lest I take myself too seriously, my husband and I just got in a tiff about the stupidest thing, and as I’m typing about gratitude and love and airy-fairy stuff, I turn to my husband and snap at him.  I think I have a ways to go before Enlightenment.  NYAB – Not Yet A Buddha.

NaNoWriMo – okay, maybe next year

I thought maybe this is the year it was going to happen. I wasn’t even going to follow the real rules. I was just going to post a meaningful blog or a book review consisting of more than a sentence or two every day.  But then work happened.  It’s some screwed up lesson, I think. I was on my high horse telling Eric that he needs to take better care of himself, that he shouldn’t work so much, and that surely there are other people at his office who can take up some of the slack.

Is it coincidence that my workload ratcheted up to 11 just after I said that, or pure karmic justice?

Oh by the way – happy birthday to me, last weekend!

A quality of stillness

After yoga, I feel a quality of stillness in my body and my mind.  It’s almost a dreamlike state, and yet, I seem more aware of my surroundings than usual – the hum of my computer’s fan; the sound of a dog sighing in the hallway.  I feel like I am absorbing energy from the sunlight touching my skin.  I feel at peace.   Every movement feels deliberate and unrushed.  I feel content but not overfull; at peace with a quiet sort of joy.

This is why I do yoga.

After the deluge

I have one  more week left in my vacation, which started with a trip to Utah to visit family and explore the trails, and which is now in the “stay at home, get some stuff done, and just relax” portion. Except of course for the whole flood thing.

I adored visiting my family in Utah, exploring the trails in Logan, and exploring yoga studios near Park City.  But once the flooding started in Boulder … well, I don’t know if it was that, or if it was just that I’d been away from my husband so long, but I just wanted to get home.  I began to understand the term “homesick” – I truly felt sick with the desire to be home.  And, ironically (I’m never sure if I’m using that word correctly), it wasn’t clear if I could get home or not, with all the road closures.  So, a few days after I was ready to be done with my road trip, I took the southern route to I-70, stayed the night in Breckenridge, and made my way back home.  Our house is untouched, other than a soggy, shockingly green lawn.  We are very fortunate.  I can’t imagine the depths my sense of homesickness would reach if I couldn’t go home again – if my life were changed irrevocably by these floods.  It’s hard to connect with the pictures I’ve seen, because of course I can’t drive to the areas with all the damage.  When I see pictures of roads and trails that I recognize, it helps, but it still feels like a sick joke; like some tasteless photoshop.  A friend has a gag photo of the Flatirons being “assembled” with cranes, planes, and scaffolding – these real photos feel just as unreal to me as the fake one does.

Lefthand Canyon

When I first got back, I felt almost like I should sit shiva or something – like it would be in poor taste for me to stick to my plan and do all the things I wanted to get done with this time – getting new liners fit for my ski boots; getting my road bike fit because my knees always hurt when I ride it; getting a bunch of pictures framed, repotting some house plants, etc, etc.  My other big plan – to take advantage of hiking and biking on weekdays, when the crowds are thin – is, of course, toast.  Another cruel joke.  The “magical thinking” part of my brain keeps whispering that I somehow caused this disaster by selfishly, and on such short notice, taking an extended break from work to play out on the Boulder trails.

Jamestown

In the meantime, I see that some people are spending all their time outside of work helping those affected by the floods.  I feel guilty (not a word I like) and I feel like I “should” be out there, helping directly (“should” is also a word I avoid).  We’ve donated to the St. Vrain Flooding Relief Fund, and we expect to be hosting a friend who can’t get to his home in Lyons soon, and that is what I can offer right now.  (But then, what about all the people who didn’t have any energy to spare, either, but their homes are destroyed, so they don’t have a choice?  What about the people who are volunteering and offering aid directly to others?  What is wrong with me that I can’t offer what they are offering?)  As so often happens to me, I am caught feeling that I do not deserve my relative wealth, my intact home, my free time, and so I “owe” others what I have and don’t deserve.  And then I don’t give it all away, and it confirms in my mind that I am undeserving of what I have.

PDF file – Open Space flood update

Hm. I was going to write about the lovely luxury of having so much time available – of how, without the rush of work and chores and just so much more to do than I could ever get done, I have been kinder to my husband, and I truly enjoy being able to both make dinner for us and do all the cleanup, without feeling that I am losing time I can’t afford to lose. But I guess that’s not where my mind went when I started typing. Instead of focusing on how much I’ve been enjoying my brief hiatus from the office, I had to tell you about how terrible I feel about the fact that I’m choosing to enjoy the time I’ve taken. Mostly, mostly, I’ve been enjoying my time. But I guess I feel like if I wrote about that, I would admit to being an awful, selfish person, and I’d rather have you think that I’m distraught and paralyzed by guilt, rather than selfishly happy.