I almost never drive with my windows down, here. The valley is so polluted that I feel the grime on my face after a 15 minute ride (also, the temperatures tend towards extremes of heat and cold.) There have been “ozone alerts” for the past two days, the smog and pollution have been so bad in the heat. I hate that I live in a place where children are told to stay inside because the air is so poisonous. Sometimes I think I am living in a dystopian novel. As I crossed the river, wind in my face and Nyssa’s ears flapping, I smelled the water – all dead fish and drying riverweed and driftwood – and the storm above it, and laid my head back and smiled. For an instant, I smelled the Lowell Point sand-flats on a low-tide morning. Almost there.
Yesterday morning, I lost my wedding ring. I had put it on the window sill with my glasses to wash my face. When I reached for them (blind as a bat) the glasses fell and the wedding band disappeared. I turned the bathroom upside down, going over every corner with my fingers, and sweeping tissue under the radiator (the dust bunnies were rabid.) No luck. I finally realized that the ring must have slid into the radiator vent (the evil, unregulated radiator, bane of our winter existence here in cheap-rent land.) I ran my hands over the monolithic unit and found no screws. I kicked the vent, grabbed keys and ran out the door to work.
I apparently have bad luck with rings. When I was in High School, I got a then-popular (for some) “true love waits” ring for my sixteenth birthday. A week later, I jumped up and swung from the metal bracing above the senior locker-alcove at my school. I had just finished a conversation with an upperclassman I had a crush on, and was trying desperately to act “cool” in some misguided tomboy way. When my hands slid off the brace, my ring caught and I hung for a terrified moment biting my tongue, struggling to grab the bar again and lift myself off. Feigning coolness, I dropped to the ground, grabbed my throbbing hand and started walking briskly towards the nurse’s office. When I finally got up the courage to look down, I was trailing pools of blood, the ring bent nearly in half around the offending finger. I never dared put on another, until Peter dropped to his knees last September.
Last Thanksgiving, my engagement ring slipped off while I was throwing snowballs for Nyssa after an early winter storm. A sparkly diamond in a field of foot-deep sparkly snow is worse than needle-in-haystack odds. We spent a week sweeping with a rented metal detector. When the melt began and crows (with their penchant for trinkets) came in droves to pick off the emerging earthworms, I gave up hope.
When I got home last night, I set to work on the radiator. I busted out my trusty leatherman (tomboy still) found the hidden screws and started dismantling. Although for my efforts we solved the mystery of when the heat-vents are open, my ring was nowhere in the unit. Peter got a coat hanger and started fishing in the no-mans-land behind the thing, but only managed to catch several more disturbingly mutant rabid dust bunnies. I got into bed, sweating despite the open windows, fan and brewing storm.
Friday is my birthday. Although discussions with my family about gifts and Peter’s family about celebrations have kept it in mind, until last night I hadn’t really paid attention to how close it was getting. I have had a rash of bad birthdays. Last year stands out particularly; I was alone, driving south to the job in Utah after leaving Peter with every ounce of junk I own strapped under a tarp on top of my car. I had stopped for the night in Watson Lake, Yukon, known for its sign-post forest and not much else. I treated myself to a room (after nights of car-camping, and a week more to come) and a real sit-down dinner. I was tired from traveling, stressed from moving, apprehensive about the decision I had made to leave Alaska and Peter, worried about leaving my hound with another family for the summer, wondering if I could cut 8-day shifts at a Wilderness Therapy company in the desert, and suffering from generalized road-fatigue paranoia. A mess, really. And though Nyssa is good company for bad moods, I longed for a person, this of all days.
On the way back to the motel, I was accosted by a drunken local man. He staggered up to us, made lewd commentary on my body and blocked the way, towering above me, leaning down, reeking of body odor and booze. A group of similarly inebriated locals watched from the porch of a church a few yards away, guffawing and waiting to see what would happen. It was eleven at night and broad daylight, a few weeks from Solstice in the North Country. Nobody else was around. I gritted my teeth to keep from shaking, glared at him, told him on no uncertain terms that I was to be left alone, and moved around him, avoiding the outreached but unsteady hands, fully aware that they would all see which of the two road-side hotels I walked into, that they knew I was alone.
I can only assume Nyssa, for her part, knew the man was harmless. Drunk, yes, but obviously severely mentally handicapped as well. His eyes rolled and remained unfocused, his face contorted at unfamiliar angles and his gait was more practiced in its unsteadiness than even a common drunk can manage when truly stumbling. Ridgebacks are known for their ferocity in protection, but more so for their careful discrimination about when to offer it. She has before. This time, she did not.
Nothing came of it, of course. The man followed me, breathing down my neck and uttering ear-tingling threats until I turned and screamed at him, at which point he fell laughing to the gravel beside the road rolling in dismissive mirth at my fear. I stumbled into my room and cried into the stiff, anonymous pillow, recalling in a rush a myriad of true violation, moments of powerlessness that feel then and evermore like paralyzing nightmares when they are recalled. Nyssa tried all evening to lick my face dry, to curl into a ball at my knees, to lay her head on my feet or tummy, but I would not let her. A small growl would have sufficed. I felt for all the world that my own dog had betrayed me.
It was not a good day.
This year, I will again spend the auspicious day on the road. Peter and I are driving to a wedding in the midwest, visiting friends on the way there and back, and camping out on a river instead of shelling out for a hotel. Nyssa is staying with the landlords (I wonder if we will ever see her again?) and we will be gone for three wonderful cross country days.
On Christmas Day, Peter noticed the snow had melted, walked out into the field and right up to where the engagement ring was sitting in grass, waiting for him.
Last night, I woke up to Peter slipping my wedding band – which had rolled out of the crack in the bathroom door, and had been sitting on the carpet in the hall the whole time – back on my finger.
Today, the temperature and humidity have dropped and I no longer live in fear of short-circuiting my computer by sweating into the keyboard. As an added treat, the landlords came blustering up the stairs with a window air conditoner and a plate of pancakes a few minutes ago.
Tomorrow, we will pack the car and start eating up miles, heading West: a sweet foretaste of the journey to come.
It is past midnight. Peter is usually lucky if I’m conscious past ten. Tonight, he is fast asleep awaiting his 5am alarm. And I am in the living room with a loudly dreaming hound and a pile of unread books on curriculum design.
I spent most of this Monday blatantly avoiding the work I need to finish. An open internet connection and a long to-do list are a dangerous combination in this house. Especially for me. Especially today.
Yesterday, the outfitter down the street held a kayaking demonstration in a nasty little retention pond at the Lions Club Park down the road. I saw the signs on the way back from Nanny Duty. When I got home, I locked the car, clipped the leash on the dog, and sprinted the few blocks back to the park. Breathing a sigh of relief that there were still boats in the water, Nyssa and I began wandering through the tents. She lapped up the attention of notoriously dog-loving outdoor folk while I fondled foot braces, new fangled seat designs and innovative hatch covers. Wilderness Systems, my company of choice, had their new Tsunami line out for the trying. It took me until they began packing up to ask if I could take the 140 for a spin. In minutes, Nyssa was abandoned to a tree and I was sliding through the now empty pond water, barefoot and jeans rolled up to my knees. Before I could take a full breath, I started to cry.
Yesterday was the first time I have been in a Kayak in two years. They are expensive critters, and even with a company two blocks away and a huge river twice as far again down the hill, I might as well have been living in the Sahara. I came home clutching an already dog-eared catalogue, more determined than ever to get my hands on a Cape Horn 170 (my guide boat from Seward … even after a spin in the new Tsunami, I am positive that the 170 is the boat for me.) Someday. Poor Peter had to spend his Sunday afternoon talking me down.
With the memory of sliding silently through water, spinning feathered paddles across afternoon shadows still singing in my muscles, sitting down to review assessment research and design a literature unit with images of cloistered classrooms and restless students flashing through my mind, I could not (would not?) bring myself to focus on the task at hand.
I have four more weeks of books and papers before we can start packing, and I have to figure out a way to get through. My momentary tryst with an unmet future is doing nobody in this house any favors, and the dog was certainly traumatized remembering all those months being left tied to the shore.
This little tale may prove irrevocably that Peter and I have excommunicated ourselves from being in the loop ... or that we really don't have a life anymore. But this was news to us:
While procrastinating on You Tube last night, we came upon a catchy parody (see below) of something called The Numa Dance. We found it amusing, and as parodies must come from somewhere, we started doing some serious 1am Internet Research. Apparently, in 2003 a Romanian band called O-Zone released a pop song called Dragostea din Tei. It had a catchy beat, and hangs out in the top 100 in Europe to this day. A Japanese guy heard it and posted a linguistics-minded parody video online. An American Joe, Gary Brolsma, saw the Japanese video and posted a video of himself lip-sincing the song while sitting in front of his computer. It got kinda popular.
Apparently American Pop Culture was bored. Gary was picked up by ABC, NBC, VHI, and The Tonight Show ... and after getting a little freaked out by all this, he turned down the Today Show and The New York Times. Some people got together and made him a fan site. I'd be a little freaked out, too.
Falling somewhere between Intrigued and Disturbed (it *is* catchy) Peter and I typed "Numa Numa" into You Tube. We got 2,145 links to Numa Numa related parodies. I am not kidding. Some are carefully crafted and edited music videos that must have taken hundreds of hours to produce ... others are a single shot of a college kid in his bathroom flailing around like a landed fish. We even found someone who had taught their World of Warcraft characters to dance to the Numa Numa song. And after clicking it ... we saw links to ten more Warcraft Dancers.
Are *you* freaked out yet?
There are probably lots of intelligent insightful things I could say about this phenomenon, and the phenomenon of You Tube and internet video sharing in general. However, you'll probably have more fun watching Numa Numa Parodies until the music infiltrates your dreams. So to get you started ... here's the first one we stumbled on. Turn up the volume!
Last weekend, I drove down to Virginia. My baby sister was graduating (or, walking. She finished her degree last December and is now a Registered Nurse. Woohoo!) from Liberty University in Lynchburg. That's right. Falwell's school. Or, as the student's apparently call him "Jerry."
Before I talk about the weekend's events, I have to brag on the girl. The BSN my sister just earned from this school is one of the hardest you can get through. Their students usually have a 98% rate for passing boards, and judging from the middle-of-the-night calls I'd field it was no picnic getting through. Not to mention she did the whole thing in two and a half years (not four) while training horses on the side. Oh, and all the while a few of the faculty who didn't like her dabbling in four-legged pursuits were trying to get her kicked out. Lots of drama for another story. But my little tow-headed sister blazed past them all and is free with a near-perfect GPA! (Near-perfect, because her Bible professor only allowed credit for service at his church. What is wrong with these people?!?) I sure couldn't have done it.
The whole weekend was a study in fundamentalist politics. Falwell is famous for his ... ahem ... vocal authority on what God thinks and how God feels. The baccalaureate service held the evening before graduation turned out to be a fundamentalist political rally. The speaker, who worked for the Reagan administration, gave a regular stump speech, pausing at the end of every sentence for rousing cheers and applause. It took every ounce of self-control I could muster not to storm out of the sanctuary. God's house indeed. I will hold myself to a single example, since this is already turning out long. He talked about the evils of abortion in America - no surprise there. And went on to shout about how the Republican party was going to "set place at the table" for the millions impoverished children that would be born if Roe vs. Wade were repealed.
Whose table would that be, Sir?
I was stunned when my sister leaned over and told me that John McCain was going to give the commencement address the next day. Her friend Jared shook his head in disgust. My dad intoned that McCain is a Rhino. My blank look caused him to explain ... between wild applause about a secular government's right and duty to define marriage in Christian terms ... Republican In Name Only. Wagging heads all around.
Now, I don't know much about politics or politicians. Every time I learn something new about the government I was born under, I go into fits of hysteria or depression: both states I try to avoid residing in. Growing up far away from the media and milieu has a lot to do with my blissful ignorance. The first time I heard John McCain interviewed on NPR, I thought I was listening to a democrat. So why on earth would a fundie school give him a platform? Especially after the choice words the two men publicly exchanged last year, including McCain's assertion that these "agents of intolerance" are "corrupting influences" in American politics, and accusing Falwell (and Robertson) of "the evil influence that they exercise over the Republican Party."
Wait!! He retracted? Falwell is throwing him a dinner? A presidential bid, anyone?
I have never been to a political event (well, a smattering of protests.) I am not one for stump speeches and rallies. I turn off the radio when anyone in Washington starts talking, and skim the transcripts later if I must. I’ll admit I was a little bit excited to see a real live politician give a speech during a cease-fire of sorts (although I think there were just a handful of people in the standing-room-only stadium who weren't fuming about it – protesters and all.)
On the whole, I was sorely disappointed. McCain’s speech was carefully crafted (and is being delivered to an equally pissed-off audience at Columbia this weekend.) He came off as a puppet – uncomfortable, parroting through his teleprompter with strange pauses and oddly placed sincerity. (As a side note, how sad that after spending five years as a POW – two in solitary – McCain is forced to turn it into a neat-cornered parable for dubious political ends by his speech writers.) Of course, if I had just been handed an honorary doctorate by a recent nemesis, I would have been a little stiff as well. Not only did Liberty pass out honorary doctorates like candy last weekend, but giving McCain one seconds before his speech (did he see it coming?) seems to take that “heaping coals” edict a little too far. Insidious, I think, was the word I used later.
The message was relevant and timely: that disagreement and dissent in American politics are needed, and that it is the responsibility of true patriots to maintain open dialogue about their differences with one another. I have a feeling it fell (and will fall again) on deaf ears. Those who live in the far reaches of their side of the political battle lines have selective hearing when being asked to listen.
I feel bad for the Liberty and Columbia kids who are graduating this weekend. Instead of sitting through speeches that encourage them, and that address issues they care about at barely-adults who have barely a lick of real-world experience yet, they are being subjected to political rallying by superiors who are supposed to have their best interests at heart. But I guess ultimately, it's as good a platform as any. McCain and Falwell got the buzz they wanted. And the students mostly slept through it anyway. I sat through my commencement speech four years ago, and I can't remember a word that was said.
Jon Stewart Grills McCain on speaking at Liberty
Test your Knowledge of Fundamentalist Rhetoric of All Kilts
"Jon Stewart : 2008"
"caffinated" (well, not anymore)
"visualize whirrled peas" (say it aloud five times, fast)
"who would jesus bomb?"
"bare feet, not arms"
"free trade" (or tibet, take your pick)
"ride 'em like you stole 'em" ... (to which peter usually responds: "don't they still hang horse thieves in Texas?")
One that I actually had up for awhile involved bashing the company we all love to hate (and still give our money to): Starbucks. I played it safe, though. I was living in a little seaside village with six independant coffee shacks. Subway and Safeway were the only concessions to the corporate food chain at the time. I wouldn't accidentally end up in a Starbucks parking lot, forgetting my mantra at the back. An easy way to be bold! (Wouldn't you know it: a year later, a Starbucks opened in the newly remodeled Safeway. It never does end.)
The truth is, I enjoy a Starbucks mocha enough to pay the extortion tax required to secure one. Although the coffee witch in Cooper Landing makes a better mocha than anyone else on the planet, the corporate version is reliably nummy in a pinch. Until I gave up caffeine (again! *sigh*) I was shucking over the nearly four bucks a pop, far more often than I'm likely to admit in a crowd. Now that I'm caffeine free, I have found myself drawn back into the soothing embrace of a nice soy hot chocolate when bad days strike.
But I had another good laugh at Starbuck's expense today, and its such a nerdy reference that I didn't dare try to explain it to the barista-drones working the Harrisburg branch. Starbucks recently launched it's "Black Apron" coffee initiative - basically they use savy marketing to sell coffee at $26 a pound. Highway robbery even by their standards. The first of these atrocities was from eastern Africa, and the cultural bias was clear in the little flier on the display. It lamented the rough life of Starbucks coffee quality controllers, who have an awfully hard time finding coffee growers that live up to first world standards in third world countries. Apparently, when they do find quality coffee in exotic locales, it is worth breaking your bank for.
The most recent offering hit closer to home: Kopi Kampung from Sulawesi, Indonesia. I nearly laughed out loud when I saw it. The direct translation is quaint, and I'm sure the PR people at corporate ate it up: Village Coffee. What better tagline to sell Starbuck's newfound social conscience campaign to better the lives of their growers in the coffee belt?
What they forgot (or hoped their well educated buyers in US stores wouldn't notice) is that in a quickly industrializing country, "village" does not bring up familial or pastoral scenes in the third world's collective consciousness. Simply put, in modern Indonesian, Kampung means Slum. It’s common use insinuates poverty, ignorance, disease and debilitating manual labor. It embodies everything that the people flooding urban centers are trying to leave behind.
I am very curious how the sales in the few Starbucks stores on Bali, Java, Singapore and in Malaysia - no translation needed - are fairing. Slum Coffee indeed. Not that it matters. This new Black Apron blend will be sold out by the end of the week nationwide, and we'll have to cool our heels for another two months before the next Conscience Coffee of the Moment is revealed.
Has anyone else noticed that for all their social program propaganda, Starbucks' black gold is STILL not free trade? And now that I've ranted publicly, I really do need to kick this habit before the hypocrisy police show up on my doorstep. I might as well put that sticker back up in the window.
(Peter and I hanging out at Resurrect Art coffee house in Seward last May. The Cooper Landing Coffee Witch has better brew at her roadside shack (wild foam coffee) but no warm stove and cozy seats for rainy costal days. Rez Art boasts free trade and locally roasted coffee and chocolate, washable cups for those sipping in, buyable local art, thursday jazz nights, paperback free-trade shelves, and kitchy tourist junk for cruise ship folk brave enough to wander away from the harbor - and the starbucks.)
I had let Nyssa out at about 3pm - she is a dedicated sun-bather, stretching out full-length on the sidewalk every day for hours, coming back in hot to the touch - and at five thirty, well after the sun no longer shines directly in the yard, she had not returned. I looked in the yard - no dog. I called her - no answer. I remembered with chill that she hadn't had her collar on when I let her out, and that one of the neighborhood kids could easily have left a gate open. I bolted down the stairs, just in time to see my landlord Norm come out of his unit - with my dog behind him.
"She barked at us through the screen door earlier, so we let her in. We were cooking steaks. She's been in here all afternoon - just walked right up to the front room and laid down like she lived here! I fed her some steak. Hope you don't mind ... Evelyn said not to, but she wanted some and Angie [their daughter's dog, visiting for the weekend] got some so it was only fair." Norm desperately misses his lab, who was put down six weeks ago. He has been delighted when Nyssa follows him around the yard, curious what new smells he may unearth with his spade.
Now Evelyn chimed in from the kitchen, "She wanted to come in. I told him not to feed her from the table. You wouldn't like that. He doesn't listen. I yelled up to you we'd let her in. I guess you didn't hear me."
And so it began. I would let Nyssa out to do her morning patrol of the grounds. Between five and twenty minutes later, I would hear her 'door' bark - but not at our door. As the week went on, she would bark to be let out of our apartment, trot downstairs immediately and begin demanding to be let into the Wolfe's apartment. Steak Indeed. I'm sure our stingy ration of dog treats didn't help our cause in the least.
I was relieved when they went out of town for the rest of the week. She could bark all she wanted, but nobody was there to reward her with a plateful of leftovers. On Friday, the woman in the flat next to us brought her granddaughter to stay for the weekend. This little girl loves to play with Nyssa in the yard, and soon the two of them were chasing each other with a relieved grandma watching from the porch. I went back inside.
Two hours later, I heard a frantic series of barks. I pulled myself out of the chair to see what the problem was - Nyssa isn't a habitual barker. She rarely raises her voice, except when we are ignoring her need to be let in our out. To my horror, she was at the door of my neighbor, demanding to be let in and have her share of the lunch they were preparing. Furious, I called her home and shut the door- my pride a little hurt that my dog would so easily change alliances.
Nyssa was excited when I busted out the cooking gear and started chopping and simmering yesterday. She sniffed around the kitchen for half an hour, desperately trying to find something resembling meat, cheese or peanut butter. To no avail. But her hope has resurfaced. She comes to check on us as we sip our post-cleanse soup. She made a careful study of Peter's wheatgrass flat this morning when he made our juice shots (probably thinking "these humans have finally figured out how healthy it is to eat grass ... but why do they keep it in the cold box ... there's fresh stuff right downstairs.")
Hopefully we will be able to win her affections back as our veggies are joined by cheddar and salmon over the next few weeks.
Today is our last chew-free day. I can hardly believe that my food addict self has been on a liquid diet for the past 13 and come out emotionally balanced and full of energy and focus. I spent most of this morning washing, slicing and dicing away at the mound I had brought home. Every time I went back to the fridge, there was another bag, another layer of freshness ... it quickly became clear that my eyes had been bigger than BOTH of our stomachs! ALL of my counter space (not much to start with, let me assure you) and the table was COVERED in water drips and veggie leavings and a growing stack of zip-lock containers of diced up yummyness. I 'cheated' and chewed on a carrot and a slice of red pepper, before spitting them out. I can promise you I have never in my life enjoyed the taste of a fresh vegetable more. I had to empty the entire fridge to find room for all of it - complicated by the fact that we have a flat of Wheatgrass taking up most of top rack (it's behind the OJ in the photo - click the link to see the whole thing.)
I have considered becoming a vegetarian on and off for years (with cheese, of course!) but always have hard time imagining pulling it off. I am product of a cattle ranching family in Texas, and growing up on steak at Thanksgiving and Christmas is hard to buck. (They say there are no true vegetarians in Houston, because there are actual particles of meat in the air ... ewwww.) The fact that I've never been fond of vegetables is a big sticking point. Now that my kitchen looks like a rainbow, though (and the Moosewood cookbook is cracked open) I think it may not be so far fetched after all.
Along the same lines, 0ne poster on the Forum told me about the plan her Naturopath put her on: 80% fruits & veggies - mostly raw, 10% animal - meat & dairy, 10% grains & sugars. A simple plan for a healthy approach to food. This type of thing is nothing new, I know, but it is certainly a fresh perspective as I start with a fresh palette - one that is looking with relish towards that pot vegetable soup. As Mama Hen said, "here's to moderation in all things." And I think that's what I need to head towards through all of this.
In the end, it all comes down to balance.
"I must say that the experience of my first MC has been very emotionally healing. On the first day all I could think about was food. Food food food all day long. There were times when I would get bored and think "oh my God now what am I supposed to do with myself?" As if eating were a part of my identity. This got me present to how much food is swirling around in my mind and how emotionally attached I am to it. How often I would turn to food in order to deal with whatever it was that I didn't want to be dealing with. How food was my answer for boredom. These past few nights while sitting on my couch watching movies I had to deal with the strongest urge to go and eat. The great thing about this cleanse is that you have to just deal with those thoughts and feelings because in order to give in, you have to drink OJ for two days and then have soup and then you get to have whatever it was that you wanted while on that couch.
It's not that I wasn't aware of this before but now I REALLY get it. I have gone 10 days without food and 10 days without the guilt that I would feel when I would eat something that wasn't all too healthy. It's so freeing to not be bombarded with thoughts surrounding food and guilt associated with food. I am so grateful that I did this cleanse. Not only for physiological reasons but for the relaxation of my mind that came with it. Just thought I would share." - Roses
(Roses, if you see this ... thanks for letting me share!)
Stanley Burroughs, the Master Cleanser Architect and general health-nut rant-man (see the Whole MC Text for proof positive) recommends a Raw Food diet. Actually, "recommends" is rather mild. In reality, he violently lambastes anything less (or rather, more) than absolute uncooked fruity-nutty-veggie-ness. He provides two formulae for re-entering the masticating herd. One is for those planning on joining the Raw Foodist ranks. The other is nearly identical, except for the concession of (GASP!) cooked veggie soup. That's it. End of Chapter. No help reintroducing, say, pasta or (heaven forbid!) dairy into one's digestive cogs. That leaves those coming off the cleanse who like their occasional indulgences with a delicate balance to strike.
The key here is being especially attuned to your body, as it lets you know what it can and can't handle. (A good probiotic supplement isn't going to hurt, either.) The consequences of a minor mistake will be decidedly uncomfortable. Tearing through a 12-oz Rib-Eye on Sunday would probably send us both to the emergency room. The point is that this exercise in self-control is not over with on the last official day. My tendency to pig-out on food will, for the first time in my life, have immediate physical consequences if indulged. No more endorphin spike with that Quarter Pounder - I'm talking about Acute Abdominal Distress, Rapid Onset, Cue the Doctor. Common wisdom says it takes 14 days to make a habit, 3 to break it. The whole liquid-diet thing isn't much of a habit to live by. But it will certainly take more than two weeks of careful self control to get my gut flora up and running well enough to handle some culinary indiscretion, and hopefully by then I'll have built a healthier foundation to chew by.
A month ago today, I started a graduate program in education, hoping to make a choice of my own. I talked a good game to the Admissions folks at Drexel about how every job I've ever held has been about teaching and education - albeit informal - that those bits of the job were the most challenging and the most palatable, and about how I spent last year in a school every day with special needs kids, that those hours in the classroom made me want one of my own. In fact, I've spent a long time trying to convince myself of the same thing. But it's not working.
This week last year, I got on a plane to go down for a 3 week long job interview (can you sleep on rocks, can you build a fire without matches or flint, can you de-escalate a raging client, can you find a way out of a canyon, can you navigate without a compass, can you splint a broken leg, do you know the cultural differences between AA and NA, can you recognize dehydration, do you know your drug slang, can you effectively confront a lie) for Wilderness Quest a wilderness therapy company that operates out of southeastern Utah. I got the job, and worked there for about a month before realizing that my future with Peter was more important than my future in the desert. There were also specific things during that time that I came to understand about myself (mostly) and about the wilderness therapy industry that made for a jagged fit. These realizations were painful, but needed.
Since then, Pragmatism has become the operating force behind career related decisions. I want a job that has insurance. I want a job that will allow us to travel. I want a job that will let me be home when my kids get home. I want a job that makes some kind of positive difference in people's lives. I want to go into a field that will allow me to get a job no matter what off the wall place we decide to move next. There didn't seem to be alot of wiggle room. There aren't that many jobs in the real world that offer that kind of flexibility, much less that I'm already half-trained to do. So I convinced myself that I should join the rank and file, after a several-year meander through more exotic pay-stubs.
To those with real jobs, real careers, this will probably sound like a whine. But I have met and heard of so many people making a good go of it off the highway. Jess met a lawyer couple several years ago who quit, bought an RV and are now clam-happy migrant river guides across the western US. My boss in Seward runs boats in lower 48 in the winter (although now he is moving North to manage the Landing's kayaking gig full time.) A couple in Austin quit the mainstream, bought some land in the hill country, and now run zip-line tours out of their back yard.
So now I'm spending the better part of my week working through online classes on Assessment Strategies, Classroom Management and Teaching to State Standards. I'm taking mind-numbing prerequisite courses at the community college. I'm remembering with some trepidation what an accomplished procrastinator I am. And my heart (can you tell?) isn't in it. On some level I know that this is what I need to do. This is the choice I have to make for everything that will come after. But at the surface, I can only remember that my pack and brand-new +15 bag are gathering dust in the closet, I haven’t been in a kayak in almost two years, and the longest I've been outside since leaving Utah is a hair's breadth short of 24 hours. A big part of me still wants to make a life of those things, not just a hobby. But I'm slowly losing faith that it’s possible, and the asphalt and cement that covers most of the earth here isn't helping.
I have recently talked to several friends that are stuck in limbo, trying to figure out what it is they want to do. It usually involves this choice: going after their heart, or going after security. No wonder we're stuck at Kinkos and Starbucks and Borders, dragging our feet to the fork in the trail.