Etch these moments upon my soul

I've just had two weeks of mostly beautiful moments.

Throwing my body into roiling, frothy rapids, shoved down stream between rock walls, nearly tepid water begging me stay out of the wind.

Dragging myself ashore, the cold wind erupting gooseflesh over every inch of my body.  Plodding over to my backpack, and then returning back into the warmth, Ranger IPA in hand.  The undulating flow of the river rushing against the rock shelf upon which I sit, creating a natural whirlpool which threatens to roll me over, and fill my can with liquid I dare not drink.

Black clouds masking the sun, spewing fat raindrops that pock the already broken water around me, hitting me in the face as I gaze at the ominous heavens.

Sitting in a lawn chair, next to fire, the windless night allowing the indecisive flames to reach directly upwards, towards the dark expanse.  Reading with the heat on my side, waiting for moments when the fire burns low, my gaze wandering to the stars not hidden by gas station lights and overly illuminated Walmart parking lots.

Climbing a trail I last hiked 19 years ago, as a young scout, which prompted this journal entry:

"About two weeks ago, I went to scout camp for the first time.  I had a great time.  The mesquitos [sic] were thick.  The first day we had to pull up 100 lb deer carts up the mountain.  That night we, well most of us went fishing.  I caut the first fish.  The next day I caught another fish (I caut the first two fish) There was a 20 foot cliff above the water that we would jump off of.  One kid in my scout group jumped off, counting all the times, he jumped off 38 times.  I only jumped of 17. The water was very, very, very, very, very cold.  By the end of the week I had made several new friends and we were all dead tired."  

31 year old legs carrying me up the path, in Chacos and sans deer cart.  Marveling that we ever pushed those things up the jagged, rocky, nightmare of a path; wondering where the mosquitos were.

Standing atop the rock, off of which I had hurled my body so many years past, watching the Earth Mother's breath race across the water, creating patterns and shapes too beautiful to describe.  Contemplating my journal entry of long ago, and wondering if the chill would be the same.

Flying through the air, arms pinwheeling, breath catching in my throat, every muscle tight as a knot in preparation for the shocking cold.  Slowly drifting upwards, the lake's chilly embrace releasing me to the surface; face breaking into the mountain air, and faintly realizing that 17 times wasn't that impressive.

Sitting next to a raging fire, the remnants of the arms of trees felled by the pine beetle's deadly habitation burning, popping, and forcing us to scoot ever farther away.  Dozens upon dozens of moths, confused by the unordinary brightness, circling like things possessed, until an innate desire forces them into the consuming wall of flames, wings burning away, tiny bodies falling to rest on the coals, to blacken and disintegrate.

Consuming mild barley drinks, discussing the oft alogical nature of religion, and the futility of hiding and distorting history; the paradox of the simultaneous promotion and utter discouragement of truth seeking.

Walking between giants; living things with such age, mass, and size as to make one question the sanity of humanity, in removing all but 10% of them.  Feeling the rough bark beneath my fingers, sometimes stained black from our Earth Mother's previous attempts at cleansing her skin with fire.  Wondering if any human heart ever broke after felling one of these redwoods.

The 10 minute commute from 80 to 55 degree weather, the turgid mists from the sea ensconcing the land in a blanket of white and grey.  Driving along the coast, the sun occasionally burning through the mist and seemingly setting the trees on fire; only to dive back into the damp fog but moments later.

Visiting brewpubs not rendered impotent by theocratic laws.  Sitting in a coffee shop in a little town called Bellingham, jolting from my seat as the sound of thousands of pounds of plastic and steel careen into each other, 30 feet behind.  Passing the myriad herbs growing in place of flour beds along the walkway to the entrance; thyme, sage, rosemary, basil.  Glancing one last time at the wrecked bumpers.

Riding a boat across a deep blue lake framed by the Tetons.  Hiking through vast meadows divided by glacial streams, watching a mother moose tend to a pony sized baby.  Neck sore, from staring at the impossible peaks that I wished were 200 miles closer.  Bloated drops of rain falling through brilliant beams of sun, in a seemingly absolute contradiction.

Sleeping on the earth.  Showering never.  Leggings, not pants.  Chacos, not shoes.

What the hell did you do for the last two weeks?


The screaming makes it hard

Even though I love my job, it's nice to get to take a little vacation now and then. Especially after this last week; like a million graduations, and saying goodbye to a lot of people I really didn't want to say goodbye to.

The worst part of my job is saying goodbye. And crying like an ass in front of a couple hundred at a graduation.

Flying on planes is weird. As the shitty US Airways flying death trap made a bunch of weird noises right before take off, I thought about what I would do, if my plane were spiraling toward the earth.

Probably nothing useful.

I think my first thought was to pull the pillow out of my satchel, cram my face between my knees, and create a meat/bone/pillow helmet dome out of my arms and said pillow.

But then I thought that I probably also needed to have a good handle on my calves, or else my head/upper body might violently snap back due to the incredible multi-directional forces that would no doubt be attempting to flail me every direction. And I didn't have a meat/bone/pillow helmet dome for my face.

Then I thought, "either way, that seems pretty futile. Maybe I should get my phone out if we're crashing."

I figured I'd have maybe like, a 30 second window during the portion of the terrifying free fall, known as "the final service" zone, which I just named it. I wonder how high the AT&T towers reach? I don't know. It can't be too high. It often barely reaches me on the ground.

I then started thinking about who I would send my final message to, before I ended up in a broken, burning heap, hopefully not in shitty Nevada. I mean if I have to suffer screaming scary death by plane, please god don't let it be in Nevada.

I thought maybe I'd text my mom. Maybe say sorry? I don't know. Then I thought maybe I'd get on Facebook, where I could reach a lot of people at once. And maybe I'd make a really good plane crash joke, which would later make everyone ridiculously sad when they learned the truth.

As I sat there, I kind of settled on that maybe I'd just think about all the reasons that I wished that plane wasn't crashing. Like the people who weren't going to be in my life anymore. And the lives I wouldn't get to be in anymore. And maybe I'd just, in my own little heart, say goodbye.

Which, ultimately, would be easier than saying goodbye to everyone this last week; I wouldn't have to watch anyone that mattered cry. And I wouldn't have to hope they will be okay.

Wait a minute. What am I even thinking? I probably wouldn't be able to have any coherent thoughts, because screaming is LOUD.


I kind of wish

Sometimes my heart breaks to be a human.

We hurt the most vulnerable.  We break the weak.  We carve shit that doesn't matter into our Earth Mother's bones, into her skin, to mark some fleeting unimportant moment, to leave a relic for nobody else in existence, ever, to care about.

Walking in the desert is a dream.  Feet grinding the myriad hues of red, brown, orange, and every color in between, I can't help but marvel at the tenacity of the desert.  Everywhere a drop of water might possibly fall, through the seemingly martian soil erupts life.  Tiny plants like an afterthought to the sage, deep purples or green hues so easily missed and crushed under foot.  The desert speaks to my soul.

Some humans explode other humans.  Other humans force themselves upon some humans.  Some humans exploit other humans.  Other humans suppress and oppress some humans.  Most humans do most of those things to our Earth Mother, in one form or another.

I kind of wish we were getting better about that.  But...ya know...money.


As sagely as i can manage

I had the opportunity today, for the first time, to say a few things at a student's graduation.  The typical format is as so: student gives intro, teacher speaks, principal speaks, associates speak, house parents speak, therapist speaks, girl speaks, program director speaks.

Today, things were a bit different.  A student was leaving our program graduating academically, but not officially completing the program.  There were just some issues that had occurred that precluded this student from a full program graduation.

I will admit, over the last couple weeks, I had very little patience and sympathy for this particular student.  I felt in many ways that she had sort of "dug her own grave" as it were, and that she most definitely didn't deserve to graduate as was the norm.

It was really easy to focus on some of the terrible things she had done, and ways she had hurt others.  What I found myself not being, was a very sympathetic human.

I'm not sure what it was, but over the last couple of days I began to feel really guilty about that.  Whenever a student leaves us, as the academic staff we give our girls a children's story book that reminds us of her.  We all sign it, and someone presents it at the graduation. I think part of my change of attitude had to do with a quote that I wrote in it.  "Each of us is more than the worst thing we've ever done." -Bryan Stevenson

I believe that.  I really do.  And with this student in particular, I'd been having a difficult time remembering that.

I wanted to do something meaningful.  I wanted this student to feel that, in spite of everything, we really have hope for her.  That we really do care.  That it really does matter to us that she succeeds.  That despite everything, we do love her.  So the history teacher and I both came up with lists of...life advice.  Just things we wished we had maybe known, or learned sooner, or have maybe learned recently.  We created our lists independently, but they had a lot of similarities, and inexplicably meshed together incredibly well.  We took turns, reading our pieces back and forth.  I wish I had her list.

I don't know how much of this advice she will take, and I don't think any of it is that life altering.  But I want to believe that, if nothing else, she felt like I gave a shit.  Because I do.  I give so. Many. Shits.

General Life Advice
By me.

Love yourself.

Love others.

Trust others.

Don’t take college classes before 9 am.

Take thursday classes.  Seriously; no school from Friday-Tuesday is a dream.

Don’t put off assignments until the night before they are due.  Start at least one day before that.

Don’t waste money at coffee shops, except for occasionally.  Buy a coffee maker.

Grind your coffee beans; don’t buy them pre-ground.

Drive the speed limit.  Tickets aren’t worth saving 5 minutes.

Discover a new band every week.

Go to every concert you can.

Choose friends who are easy to “be good” around.

Don’t get credit cards.  YOU DON’T NEED THEM.  NOBODY NEEDS THEM.

Learn to cook.  For yourself.  And then cook for others.

Eat out less than once a week.  *see the above cooking advice

Respect your mother.

Don’t ever buy a new car.

Don’t ever get a car loan that is longer than 4 years.  

Buy a car that costs less than 10k.  

Actually, no more than 5k.  You won’t be sorry when you own it.

Be wary of student loans.  Take out as little as possible.  It isn’t free money.  It isn’t even close to free money.

Always work, even when you are taking out said loans.

Don’t speak ill of bosses and/or coworkers on facebook.

Don’t post things of facebook that you wouldn’t want your parents/Jesus/bosses/anyone who you ever might want to have a good opinion of you to see.

Probably just delete facebook.

Did I mention love yourself?

Go hiking as often as you can.

Make friends who don’t look like you; i.e. don’t dress like you, don’t like music you like, don’t like all the same things you like.  You’ll be shocked how many really awesome humans exist who are different than your typical friend choice.

Buy Apple computers.

If you ever have to get internet, or cable, and you sign up with a promotion, once your promotion ends, NEVER PAY ANY OTHER PRICE.  All you have to do, is tell them you like the price you have, and will disconnect otherwise.  They will send you to “customer retention” and you will often actually, inexplicably, get a better price.

Don’t be punishing.  Even if people deserve it.

Don’t yell at people.  Ever.  If you have to yell, it isn’t worth saying, and they probably won’t be listening anyway.

Don’t be a turd.

Always lock your doors.  People steal things.

Wear ear plugs at concerts always.  Just take them out during your favorite songs.

Remember that if you get a pet, its like a 10 year commitment.  That’s like, almost a kid.

Don’t have a kid, anytime soon.

Being single is okay.  You don’t need a man to be happy. 

Read lots of books.

When people give advice, at least consider it.

You aren’t always right.

It’s usually okay to go an extra 500-1000 miles without an oil change.  But make sure there is still oil in the car.

Listen to NPR, as often as you can.

Don’t cheat in college.  EVER.

Study things that interest you, as often as possible.

Be kind to others.

Don’t let things rot in the fridge.

Don’t let things rot in the sink.

If you use a computer to take notes in school, disable ichat, or fbook, because you will NEVER pay attention.

Budget your money.

Eat healthy food. But also sometimes eat super unhealthy food.

Volunteer in school.  Get behind causes that matter.

Vote.  Always vote.  Encourage others to vote.

If it seems like you could get arrested doing it, don’t do it.  Who cares how fun it sounds.  

Be proud you’re a woman.  Women are amazing, and you’re lucky to be one.

Be kind to others.

Love yourself.  

Be kind to yourself.

Good luck, kiddo.  I hope if you ignore all the rest, you pay attention to the last four.