Amid isolated cowboy country, the rugged Rubies are so wet and verdant, it’s easy to forget you’re in the Sagebrush State.

An April hike in the Rubies proves challenging. All photos: Camille Cusumano

Lamoille, Nev. — He told me his name was Johnny and he’d lived his whole life here, except for “the two years I gave to Uncle Sam.” I didn’t ask which two years. It was the lifetime in a place like Lamoille that brought my imagination to the brink.

What had I missed by not waking up every day in a village at the mouth of a canyon, with a cottonwood-shaded park and a white steepled church? Lamoille (rhymes with “the coil”) still had groomed dirt lanes, some of which found their vanishing point toward the snow-streaked peaks of the…

Holger seemed unconcerned with geological instability at the stem end of earth.

Friend with me, the three towers in background

“I wonder when the last rock slide occurred,” I said to Holger, my German hiking companion, as we scrambled, occasionally on all fours, to scale this steep rubble. Our target point, atop a nearly vertical incline, was the lookout for the three towers.

It was another wet and windy day in Torres del Paine, Chile’s national park where these Patagonian treasures have grown up over the eons. Holger seemed unconcerned with geological instability here at the stem end of the earth, where tectonic plates meet. …

Tango induces tribal love. After tango, coupling with just one feels sort of claustrophobic.

Photo by Preillumination SeTh on Unsplash

No matter the stranger’s laser blue eyes and satin silver hair. The magic resides in the embrace and he knows how to power it from his core through my torso. The music begins and we are dancing airborne tango.

Airborne tango occurs when my partner and I are so in sync we leave the ground. One of tango’s basic tenets is that one leg is always free. So, for split seconds during weight shifts, both feet seem to dance on air. If cars hydroplane on wet pavement why can’t fleet-footed dancers generate uplift on a wood floor? At the Verdi…

You are your writing, your writing is you. You only feel separate until you journey through the process.

We are one with the bull. Wikimedia Commons

The Ten Bulls or Ox-herding Pictures date back to about the 11th century in China, representing progress toward enlightenment, at a time when Buddhism was traveling from India, taking root in other parts of Asia. The childlike drawings serve as an allegory for moods, emotions, and shades of resistance that many writers experience.

1. Searching for the Ox — Sitting down on a Chair/Ox to find the Story. You & Story are separate. “Everything is shifting and unsteady.” Frisson of excitement and/or agitation.

2. Seeing the Traces Aha! Moments. You spill some ink, symbols on a blank page. Flashes…

On an Olympic Peninsula trek, backpackers encounter a few land crossings.

The forest was a source of light glowing gold, green, luminous. Photo by Yux Xiang on Unsplash

As recent as the 1880s no one had traversed the Olympic Peninsula. Its interior was terra incognita and was fraught with mystery, legends of a sacred Indian valley, and perhaps a Sasquatch-like being. Some of those tales endure today and as in many wilderness areas, people still disappear.

The first explorers to penetrate the peninsula were a group of six men, the Press Expedition. They set out in winter 1889 aboard a steamer from Seattle to Port Angeles to their trailhead. They carried 1,500 pounds of supplies, 250 pounds…

There are six of us and we have four brothers, but they don’t share the dirt the way we do each summer at the Jersey Shore.

Our lips are sealed. What happens among sisters stays among sisters.

I don’t feel sorry for people who didn’t grow up as we did, in a big family in a small house, ten kids plus two parents. But I do feel sorry for anyone who didn’t survive the crowd with a bunch of sisters, six all told in our case.

No way in a short post can I describe what it’s been like or what they are like. While we have an inherent sameness—especially in looks, dark Italian features for the most part—we are all different in ways. Sometimes I call us a sister-pede (24 limbs).

Each summer for the past…

The oak, of all trees, is me.

Photo by Michal Matlon on Unsplash

Oaks rekindle my childhood fantasies to be deep inside books that came from pulp. A pine would never lurk in a Nancy Drew mystery or Edward Eager’s magical stories with misty forests where only an oak who has known the shadiest secrets would be at home.

When I see a twisted oak, I see the Celtic priest, the Druid, mistaken for an oak. I see the oak that watched the courtly love under its leathery boughs.

Back in New Jersey oaks spilled puddles of shadow on tarry streets in the ’hood. …

A vintage vision filled with art and nature in Tucson, Arizona

Metal flowers front a shiny Thunderbird setting the mood for the vintage feel inside the McCoy Hotel.

Nothing distracts the eye so pleasingly as vibrant colors and imaginative art. The 1960s candy-apple blue Thunderbird greeted my arrival at the artsy Hotel McCoy in Tucson, Arizona. Then came one friendly Amanda, shimmering and masked, to check me in at my car window in the arched entryway. Her magenta hair and golden-shadowed eyelids were offset by velvet-black liner and mascara, a perfect prelude to the lively murals and evocative art throughout this lucky find of a lodging where each room is a gallery.

“Retro meets contemporary,” boasts the McCoy, Tucson’s first art hotel. The plethora of art you see…

“The primal calmness is perhaps the same as the Peace of God.”

The stunning Mt. Fitz Roy, Argentina. Photo by Arto Marttinen on Unsplash

Sam and I were traveling overland in Patagonia, the geographic region that straddles Chile and Argentina, and is one of those places like Amazonia or Appalachia, that is hard to pinpoint precisely. Maps seldom commit to its borders. Even Bruce Chatwin in his seminal work, In Patagonia, was off by some 20 miles on its northern border.

Generally, Patagonia starts around the “waist” of cone-shaped South America, below Argentina’s west-east flowing Rio Colorado, and tapers down the continent to Cape Horn, near the stem-end of the earth. …

Its glaciers are more accessible to ice lovers than anywhere else.

Grey Glacier. Photo Wikimedia Commons

Alaska may have half of the world’s glaciers, but there are many in Patagonia—and the boast is that they are easier to get close to. There is a lot to be said for getting safely close to these flashy mounds of densely packed six-sided crystals, hearing them groan under their own weight, then thunderously calve.

My first day in Torres del Paine was a memorable wind-blown hike to the Three Towers. On my second day, I headed for the ice, starting with Grey’s Glacier. The Southern Patagonian ice Field feeds Grey, which creeps along the banks of the same-named lake…

Camille Cusumano

Author(ity) in/on San Francisco. Novel, essay, memoir. Teaches tango. Travel, outdoors, culture. Former editor at VIA Mag.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store