the season of childhood


Summer is the season of childhood. Do you remember when you were little, and summer meant unadulterated freedom? It was your God-given right to do nothing but run through sprinklers, ride your bike for hours, or take trips to the beach. It meant two months out of the year when you got to shrug your shoulders of all of those heavy responsibilities known as school and homework and just focus on having fun. It meant campfires and staying up late and fireworks on Canada Day.

Now, summer means something a whole lot different for me. It echoes with the jubilation of childhood freedom, with that long ago promise of endless sun-drenched possibilities, but it is no longer my God-given right to explore those possibilities. Now, it is up to me to wrest summer into my life with both hands. It is up to me to fight for it, for the right to swim in lakes and get lost in parks and go on road trips unencumbered by nagging thoughts of responsibilities left behind. Now, I am an adult, and a break from responsibility is no longer seen as my inalienable right.

But I firmly believe that summer is a time of rejuvenation and adventure. Summer is the time to grab life with both hands, to kick yourself out of doors and do a little living. Even if society as a whole doesn’t believe that I need to do those things, I know in my heart that I do. I know that when I take the time to step away from the sweet drudgery of every day life and into the myriad possibilities of summer, I come away a more whole, rested, engaged, passionate person. When I am allowed to nurture the adventurous spirit, the child-like sense of wonder, that still lives inside of me, I come back to my normal life ready to rock it.

Too many of us lay down and blithely accept the idea that being an adult means a loss of freedom, a piling on of soul-sucking duties, and an inability to do anything about it. But I say nay. I say grab the spirit of summer, the season of childhood, by the horns and ride it off into the sunset. Shake off the bonds of this debilitating belief: go to an area of your city that you’ve never been to before and explore it; try something a little bit crazy that you never thought you would, like stand up paddle boarding; simply drive out into the country, with no destination in mind. When was the last time you rode a bike just for fun, or drew a picture with sidewalk chalk? Go out, have an adventure, see how it enriches your soul.

I’ll wait over here, lazing on my balcony in the summer sunshine, beer in one hand, book in the other.

the season of childhood

We Bought the Tickets

Moyan Brenn © 2010 under Creative Commons
Moyan Brenn © 2010 under Creative Commons

The blue line moved like a turtle across the screen. “Almost there!” it promised, then inched another millimetre forwards. “Just about!” I squeezed my eyes shut; I couldn’t take the tension. When I opened them again, the progress bar jumped the last gap and our ticket information popped up instead.

A rush of exultation. A squeal of delight. A high-five.

We are going to Paris.

This was not a well-thought out, carefully considered plan. This was not something that we had meticulously planned for, or planned for at all. We hadn’t perused our savings, trying to determine if we could afford the trip.

We found an amazing deal on flights ($1200 roundtrip FOR BOTH OF US, including a 2 day stop in Helsinki) and we took about twelve hours to decide that this was something that we needed to do.

We can’t afford the whole trip right now, but that’s okay, because it isn’t until the fall. We can afford the plane tickets. So we bought them. We bought the tickets, and the beautiful thing is that now? We have to make it work. Even though it is a steal of a deal (my flight to Ireland a couple of years ago was more than both our flights combined), it is still not chump change, and reneging on that commitment simply isn’t an option. Instead of waiting until everything was perfect, we decided to take the plunge instead. It’s something that I’m working on: putting things into action before they are flawless.

So we are going to Paris. And even if we have to stay in a hostel (which I am not a big fan of), and live off of baguettes and cheese for ten days, I don’t care. Because we are going to the City of Love. We are going to see the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre and Montmartre and the Seine. We are going to the place where the Lost Generation lived and loved and created, a city that I have been dreaming of for most of my life.

So even though I look at my account balance and feel a bit of a twinge, I am mostly flush with anticipation. We are investing in our dreams over here. And eight months is plenty of time to squirrel away more cash to make it the best trip we can.

Have you ever taken the plunge and just bought the ticket? And, on a more practical note, if you’ve been to Paris, what do you recommend that we do, outside of the obvious?

We Bought the Tickets

Oneonta Gorge

untitled shoot-1813-low-resOneonta Gorge was my favorite thing that we did on our Portland/Vancouver road trip, bar none. It is located less than 30 minutes outside of Portland, on historic Highway 30, just a few minutes down the road from Multnomah Falls.

We stopped at the Falls for a little while. Viewed it from below, climbed up to the bridge that looks like it could be in Rivendell, where I promptly felt dizzy and wanted to get back down.

Then we headed down the road for the real adventure.


There isn’t much to indicate to you that you are at the beginning of the gorge. There’s a bridge, and there were two girls sitting there, looking wet, basking in the sun. We walked through the tunnel on the far side of the bridge, unsure, before asking another group who was talking about their trip through the gorge for directions. They pointed us back to where we had come from, where the two girls still basked. One of them warned us that the water at one point had been up to her neck. I was glad then that I had made the decision not to bring my phone.

We made our way through some trees, over slippery rocks, and very quickly came upon the logjam that we had read about. It looked formidable in the morning sunshine, tree trunks sticking up in all directions, a tangled jumble of perilous angles and slippery bark. We looked at each other, braced ourselves, and up we went.

It wasn’t too bad, though there were definitely some sketchy spots. At one point, one log jutted over another at a ninety degree angle such that, to cross, I had to grip the top log with both hands, swing one foot out into space and grope for the tree on the other side, all the while extremely cognizant of the steep and deadly drop behind me. I made it over, but I don’t know how the dad in front of me, with his five year old on his back, managed it.

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After traversing the logjam, we waded through some shallow water, before coming to a deep pool, completely in shadow. This was the spot: Bryan had read that sometimes it was ankle-deep and sometimes it was over a person’s head. We already knew what we were in for this time, but what we were not prepared for was the cold. The water we had already waded through was relatively chilly, but nothing compared to the bone-crunching cold of this pool. It was a mental challenge to force myself deeper into the water, and when it reached my ribs, I thought my lungs had stopped working entirely. They felt seized. I had to continually remind myself to breathe as I paddled desperately across the ten feet of water and emerged, gasping, on the other side, where the narrow pass opened up into a small, beautiful waterfall.


Somehow, even though we were surrounded by other people, that waterfall felt like a secret. Like some sort of secret that we all shared because we were in the Oneonta Gorge Club or something. We watched delightedly as a young girl and her friend climbed up the wall next to the falls, held hands, and jumped into the raging water below. A dog careened into the water and paddled to a ledge on the other side, greeted its owner, then turned around and paddled back. I waded into the waterfall’s pool, bracing myself for another match with the agonizing cold, but it was warm. How they could be so vastly different when they were less than ten feet apart seemed like an awesome mystery.

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By the time we made it back to the car, I was soaked and jittery with adrenaline. I turned to Bryan at one point and said, grinning from ear to ear, “That was the best thing we have ever done.” Thinking about it now, I still feel that way.

What is the greatest adventure you’ve ever had?


(All photos courtesy of Bryan Cooper – my HUSBAND)


Oneonta Gorge

Cannon Beach

On our way from Portland to Vancouver, we drove 1.5 hours out of our way to Cannon Beach, Oregon. We didn’t know what to expect, besides “cool beach,” so when we walked down from our car to discover this magnificent beauty, we were blown away. The wind whipped fiercely, goosebumps rose on my arms, my hair and sweater flapped wildly. We walked barefoot in the water, watching in fascination as the tiny waves intersected with one another, washing over our feet, one deliciously warm, the next bone-achingly cold. There were at least 30 kites diving and dancing in the wind. I saw a starfish for the first time. We held hands and took photos and laughed, and I could have stayed there forever.

I love the mountains, deeply. They soothe me. But the ocean…the ocean is another story entirely. I love it more than I love the mountains. It touches something wild and primal in me, and I could stare at its fierce grace for the rest of my life.

We only stayed for about two hours, including lunch, but it was 100% worth the extra three hours it added to our trip. I’ll let the photos speak for themselves.

Cannon Beach

Travel Priorities

When we first started Creative Dwelling a couple of years ago, I did a post about my travel priorities: those things that were the most important to me in terms of seeing the world, so that I’d have something to go of off and work towards.

Well, I made a new one last night, and they’re practically identical. Not quite, but very nearly.

Let’s compare the two, shall we?

Cliffs of Moher © 2013 Jessica McGale
Cliffs of Moher © 2013 Jessica McGale

From June 12, 2012:

  1. Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower.
  2. Bike around Ireland.
  3. Surf in Hawaii and California.
  4. Visit all 50 states.
  5. Adventure trip to New Zealand.
  6. Scuba dive the Great Barrier Reef.
  7. Hike Machu Picchu.
  8. Go somewhere I never would have considered before.
  9. Live abroad for 3 months or more.
  10. Oktoberfest.


From April 1, 2014:

  1. Surf in California.
  2. Live in Melbourne, Australia.
  3. Do a bike tour of Vietnam.
  4. Go to a Christmas market in Prague, or Belgium.
  5. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu.
  6. Experience autumn in New York City.
  7. WWOOF in Hawaii.
  8. Island hop in Greece.
  9. Float in the Dead Sea.
  10. Zipline in Costa Rica.


What strikes me about these two lists is that the spirit stays the same across both. The places are similar, and the reasons I want to go there are similar, but my thinking about them and my ideas about how to experience them have evolved. Which is pretty cool to see.

What are your travel priorities?

Travel Priorities

California Dreamin’

It has long been a dream of mine to go to California.

I think it started in high school, when I was a devoted fan of the TV show The OC. (I still am. I actually just started a full series rewatch a few days ago.) I was always captivated by the opening credits: the sun jumping off the crystalline blue waves, the exuberant sunset sky, the crisp shape of a sailboat cutting across the horizon. Every single cell yearned towards California.

I talked about it. And I thought about it. I looked up flights and things to do. But I never made real plans. I never did anything to make my dream a reality.

One of my favorite travel bloggers, Kate, had an interesting perspective in a post from January of this year. She basically said that the best way to make it to that destination you’ve always dreamed of was to make a commitment to going there this year. Not just a resolution, but a real commitment. Instantly, I knew that I wanted California to be where we went on our honeymoon. We flirted with a few other destinations (New York City, New Orleans) but I kept coming back to California. So we agreed that we would celebrate our marriage in the place that I have dreamed about the longest.

Originally, we were planning on San Diego (SoCal is, after all, where all the movies, etc, take place). But there were other adventures in store for us. We looked at flights to San Diego during our timeframe, and they were all strange times, or had way too many stops, or weren’t available from our location. On a whim, I plugged in San Francisco instead, and boom, we immediately found flights that were well within our budget, convenient times, and the flight there was even direct! We talked about it for about 15 minutes, and then booked ’em.

Which is how I got on the path of making my California dreamin’ a reality. There are benefits to being flexible in how your dream comes to fruition.

We head to SF in September, and I could not be more excited. I’m already planning things to do, places to eat, where we’ll stay. It’s hard to believe that something that has been in the back of my mind for so long is going to be a reality.

I can’t wait to share all of our Cali adventures here on the blog!

Have you been to California? Where did you go? If SF was on your itinerary, what was the best place you went/saw/ate?

California Dreamin’