A Change of Pace

» Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in Blog | 8 comments


“That is the first thing to learn — not to seek.” Krishnamurti

Packing, driving, running, more running, racing, beer, coffee, more coffee, Wasatch infatuation, seeing friends, leaving friends, goodbye dinners, welcome back dinners, cancelling Internet and phone service, changing address, more coffee, more running, in bed at 1am, back up at 4am…the past few weeks have been hectic to say the least.

Finally, Deanne and I are sitting on the plane heading to France. I sort through photos and documents on my computer until the battery dies. Then, switch to the smaller screen for mindless hours of movie watching, endless fiddling with the headset jack to stop the static, until it’s time for “pasta” with plastic sauce, a bread bun, that’s not bread, not even close, more shoving and bumping in the isle and yes that is my foot. I dose off – BING! over the loudspeaker – “please fastened your seat belts.” The syrupy, candied croissant doesn’t sound so good, a sandwich would be better, even though it is technically 5 am. Lights, air conditioning, more coffee, more shoving and tired travelers, lead to an over zealous car rental guy. Where to Dee? Somewhere quiet, somewhere calm, somewhere away from all this craziness, where nightfall calls for slowing down and the sun and the birds wake me in the morning.
I like to travel with an open heart and no expectations. My preferred style is to not use guide books or do much searching online and plan very little. I don’t want to be on the Lonely Planet circuit, hitting the same recommended restaurant as the other guy, drinking the same coffee, sitting on the same bus, with the same views, following the same “tips,” taking the same pictures. Actually, I don’t even need to take any photos as they’re already in the book and better than mine. I like things to happen organically, to be forced to talk with people when I arrive – a conversation that leads to an adventure – a word so overused, but that still has meaning if you don’t try too hard. So, we randomly pick a spot – Italy sounds nice, with mountains preferably, Rifugio Prarayer, in the valley of Aosta it shall be.
Up and up we go, along winding roads, past cemeteries and churches, through little villages, stopping for olives and sparkling water. The hike in takes about an hour and we reach our bunk exhausted. We opt for a bunk because it’s cheaper than the private room and since it’s cash only out here, we now have enough for lunch. We count every cent we have and toss a coin to decide between more wine or a bath towel. The atmosphere in the tight quarters is buzzing with vibrant energy of hikers and climbers from all over. While busy, there’s nothing stressful about the crowd. The food is local, delicious and plentiful. We sit, people watching, slowly working our way through a carafe of wine, sucked in to the boisterous card game of the French group next to us. After lunch, I opt for a short nap on the balcony deck – a short nap that soon turns into a long one – a most memorable one with the right, gentle breeze and the sun warming me just enough, but with my face shaded by the banister. In and out of dream reality, I wake to the rooster’s evening cry and to Camelia, the dog, chasing the chickens. Two older Italian women enjoy a drink below in the fading daylight. It’s time for dinner already. There are fewer people staying the night and the A La Carte menu leaves place to a more intimate family dinner.
Jetlag quickly catches up with us and we’re ready to sleep again, but the beauty of a shaken natural rhythm is waking at an unusual hour when the cows still rest and the full moon shines bright.
I slip out of bed, out of the snoring house and tiptoe past the large, immobile creatures, gaining the high plateau. The air is cool and I follow yellow painted arrows up the faint trail and scree to the cross on the pass, lit by the silvery sky. The experience is and remains there. Browsing that memory, writing about it, sets expectations for future adventures with the thought of it just like the guide book stealing from its purity. While I often feel excited and inspired revisiting these types of experiences, I strive to engage future ones with presence and freedom of preconceptions. In this manner, life takes on a rhythm closer to that found at Refigio Prarayer, tranquil, flowing, simple and uninhibited.






  1. No other blog makes me want to go for a run in the mountains more that this one… You didn't even talk about running in this post, yet through your words and your photos you totally capture the beauty and simplicity of mountain running.

  2. YES. Seems like it doesn't even matter where you point the camera over there. The Alps make everything else just seem like a waste of time.

  3. Simply gorgeous pictures, makes me want to go for a walk in those mountains!

  4. Love the butterfly cloud!

  5. I'm grateful for this blog. It's magnificent. Thank you!

  6. Joe, your photographs are like Pushkin's poems. They touch that string deep inside, not only by the beauty you see, but by the meaning they bring to each of us no matter our differences.

  7. I really dig your approach to experiencing now while minimizing the burdens of expectations.  Simple flow.  A joyful way to live.  I like how you depicted that here.
    -Aaron (ran briefly with you in Jan at that 5K)

  8. Thank you all for the thoughtful comments 🙂 

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