Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Setting Myself Up For Success

Wandered the streets of Portland behind S and her friend E, each with a baby strapped to their bellies. They talked about mom things and I daydreamed and noticed figs, a bird nest, Asian pears fallen unharvested from a tree, a fuzzy melon, squirrels, tiny acorns, unknown flowers, the red edges of a white rose's petals, yarrow blooming from a lawn. I thought, "this counts as training for the half-marathon, right?"

Sunday, June 1, 2014


My mother gave me a bird book over the holidays. It wasn't a Christmas gift, it was just an extra bird book she had that she wasn't using.

Ever since I can remember, my mom has been looking at the birds around her home or on her travels, and marking them down in her book. Her bird book is now about 20 years old, worn and out of date. Bird species names' change over time as scientists decide to group and re-group species. I imagine these bird scientists like children organizing their toys in to groups, (this one with this one and this one with that one and no no no, now this one over here with this one,) quibbling over how to categorize all their pretty birds "the red square block goes with the red ball, not with the blue square block!!"

I've never been interested as much in birding. I've been more drawn to the stories of things, or the poetry of names. I saw names as keys to get to the more interesting information.

But this last Winter and Spring, I found myself with very little in the way of work, a house with a porch surrounded by birds, and a desire to sit on said porch and do the mental human equivalent of chew my cud. So I sat with my binoculars and wrote birds down and felt closer to my mom. That was the big thing, feeling closer to my mom.

Then other things started happening. I realized that every bird I saw, I could look it up in my book and learn it's name and some basic things about it. I didn't have to accept seeing a bird and not knowing about it other than what I was seeing right there. I started to learn the woodpeckers. I started to associate the sounds of their pecking with their names. I started to be able to identify from the inside of my house which kind of woodpecker was outside based on the sound of the pecking. Now that was cool. I became more attuned to birdsong, and would perk up at the unfamiliar.

It's been a few months now, and I'm busier, and my birding frenzy died down a little once I stopped seeing new birds every day. And did I mention I have a job now? So there's less of that sitting time. But I'm in a different state now. That's not a metaphor. I was in California and now I'm in Washington. Last week when I was walking down the road to the Mazama store I saw a pileated woodpecker for the first time. It was big and moved in swoopy flights between trees. And it was beautiful, and it brought me closer to my mom (metaphorically). 


The air is warm today, and there's rain in it. I eye the painfully beautiful clouds with mistrust- I know there's lightning up there somewhere and I don't like it. But the air is warm and the rain has that smell, that new rain smell I love. Kind of like asphalt. It's not that it smells good, it's just I like the way it makes me feel.

I'm in Mazama now, one of the places my heart lives. I get to be here the whole Summer, this time as the cook for my beloved Outward Bound home-base. I'm tired of being in the field and being uncomfortable, but still want to be involved with Outward Bound, still love the community, still want to be part of the magic. So I swallowed whatever egotistical pride I felt about wanting to be the kind of person who is generally a baddass in the mountains and who knows about ropes and rocks and plants and group dynamics. Instead I'm indulging the part of me that loves to feed and serve people. And be creative with food.

I'd like to take a moment here to thank my former girlfriend and my ex-girlfriend for helping me learn to enjoy feeding and serving people. Without them, my own resistance at being in a role that I feel societally pressured to be in would never have allowed me the freedom to find out if I even enjoyed it. Something about being with a woman who loved me and who also cooked for me freed me up to love and cook in return. Thanks girlfriends.

So here I am, a skilled and experienced career outdoor educator staying indoors cooking, and almost thoroughly enjoying it. Half the time I'm just making shit up with a ratio of 80% inspiration and 20% panic (will it be enough? will it be on time? will it be delicious?). The other half of the time I'm cooking things I actually know how to make, or following recipes. This changes my ratios to 90% work and 10% worry. Outward Bound staff are hungry and grateful eaters. There's no group I'd rather be cooking for.

Maybe I'll post some of my recipes. Today though, I'll keep wandering around smelling the air, inspecting the cilantro seedlings, worrying over the tomato plants, keeping one ear to the sky for any distant thunderings coming to shake my heart and make me grateful for my indoor job.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Stranded Steel Core: A Thank You Note

My new cello strings arrived yesterday and they are beautiful. Each is smooth wound in titanium or tungsten and silver; metals as pretty as as their names. Inside is a stranded core of thin steel strings bound together. They are strong, durable, and clear-voiced. They are not affected much by temperature and humidity. To tell the notes apart, they have silk strings of blue, gold, red, black and purple winding around their ends. They look like friendship bracelets.

They are friendship bracelets. My friends bought them for me when my old strings were unraveling. And see, I am my strings unraveling. I have been stressed about money and running out of it, trying to stretch what I have. I haven't gotten to the point of questioning my decision to quit my dream job (and the unfulfilled personal life that went with it) eight months ago, but I have spent weeks grateful for my roommate's generosity with rent. And I have spent nights awake in worry or asleep in nightmares.

Staring at my beautiful new cello strings this morning, I feel this: Somehow, I am smooth wound in titanium, tungsten and silver. My stranded steel core of friends will stretch and sing with me in to this unknown future. I will withstand the temperature and humidity changes with minimal re-tuning. I will be strong, durable, and clear voiced.

Thank you Katrina, Leta, Lilita, Justin, Hittl, Sean, and Dylan. Thank you Sue. Thank you.