“For me this is a happy place, yet I’m not quite present in the way I would like to be. As life has become more complicated, in the mostly good ways it does with age and family, the tradeoffs have become more stark.”

This one is based on the notes in my journal written from a camp chair, early in the morning, on the banks of the Stanislaus River…

The morning light is warm on my back. A breeze sets the Aspen leaves in motion and carries the vanilla scent of Jeffrey Pine. It is Spring and the water is high but I sit near the headwaters of this river, so it isn’t loud. I can still hear the birds over the sound of the water.

For me this is a happy place, yet I’m not quite present in the way I would like to be. In fact I chose to cut this trip short, and I will be driving the four hours home as soon as I finish my coffee.

Ever since moving away from the Sierra ten years ago I have made several pilgrimages a year to visit these mountains. “Pilgrimage,” because in the past I have found spiritual connection nowhere better than here.

But these trips require a lot of me. They usually involve backpacking or backcountry skiing so I have to prepare physically, and there is a lot of planning involved. As life has become more complicated, in the mostly good ways it does with age and family, the tradeoffs have become more stark.

Lately I am more aware of what I sacrifice at home when I commit to these personal journeys. In seeking the connection to place that the mountains bring me, I give up time and energy to connect when I am at home. That balance has shifted and it is time to find a new center.

And that’s ok. I am not stuck between a rock or a hard place. Instead I am lucky and one good thing is simply overlapping another. Home has become even better than my mountain happy place.

And at home I feel best when I know the weather forecast, what the ocean smelled like this morning, and when low tide will be. So when I cram my schedule so full that I can’t find time to bike to the beach or climb on my rooftop and smell the sea breeze, I am not at ease.

I also feel lost when I’ve been even a day without spending dedicated time, completely present, with my daughter.

So, what to do?

Give up on the mountains until I can enjoy them in the immersive way I’m clinging to? There’s wisdom here but I don’t know if I’m willing.

Double down on being efficient and optimizing my time so that I can be present both at home and here on this river? Essentially what I have been attempting for a decade, but “optimization” seems to always have hidden costs.

Or maybe I should just think a little less hard about these things and flow with life as it comes? We just took Maggie camping for the first time recently (newsletter about that next week) so these two worlds are already starting to intersect.

There is no conclusion or answer. Just the journey. Thanks for being here.


  1. I’m glad you shared this.

    I went camping with my family last week and my meditations and journal entries were different than I expected them to be.

    I did find some things that were similar to what you describe here. When I’m home, I’m constantly thinking about how I’d rather be in nature. When I’m in nature, I can’t wait to be back at my computer… expressing myself through code. It is something I didn’t experience when I was younger. This divide between my physical and digital self.

    I also found that even when I was doing exactly what I thought should make me happy, even when I was present with my family… I felt a sense of melancholy. My kids are getting older *fast* and spending that time with them made it visceral. It felt like life was slipping through my fingers faster than I could experience it.

    I think wisdom is found in experiencing these things fully, and reflecting on them. Thanks for sharing your reflections publicly. I want to do the same on my blog and this may be the push I needed.

    1. Hey Corey thanks for the thoughtful comment! There’s no better compliment than to say I (hopefully) inspired you to start creating a similar style of content. It is easy to think that these posts are “useless” but I often remind myself that 99% of what most writers write is just journal entries and random scribblings. I hope to create an archive for myself, my daughter, my audience…of what I am thinking and experiencing and excited about on any given week of the year.

      I think you are exactly right – at our best we are present and our senses are wide open. Then when we get home we reflect and turn these scraps of short-term memory into something that will stick with us forever. Even you feeling melancholy about life slipping along so quickly…in another light, on another day, the memory of that feeling may be impactful or even formative.

      I’m so glad this reflection resonated with you!

  2. I can relate to this 100%, and thank you for sharing. The constant push and pull of life. You sharing this makes me eager to take a ME trip real soon.

    With that being said everything shifted in my life after being diagnosed with breast cancer. Life becomes crystal clear when faced with your own mortality. I know my day is a success if I am I proud of what I did today and today only. When I close my eyes for the day I want to be confident in having as little regret about my day as possible. Living with intension whatever that intension may be at that very moment in life.

    I hope you can find some middle ground.

    1. Hey Danyel thanks for taking the time to read this post and sharing your experience finding focus and balance in your own life. I hear you, and I feel fortunate that I know exactly the things that make me happy. If anything, my affliction is being too passionate about too many things in life…the best of problems but one you have to work at nonetheless. I love conversations surrounding balance and happiness. It is so lovely to hear your perspective!

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