Monday, July 16, 2012


A story: I was 22 years old and was just about to finish up my undergrad degree. I was focusing on natural resource management and rangeland ecology. This was the last summer before graduation and I was looking for a job relevant to my career field. I looked for jobs with the Forest Service and with the BLM. I was offered a position doing rangeland inventory. In the job search process, I had also applied randomly for a job in Durango teaching arts and crafts at a children’s summer camp. Not relevant what so ever but I had a longing to be back to Durango; I had lived there a few years prior and missed it terribly. Sure enough I also got offered the Durango gig. On my plate came two choices: the responsible one… the career builder or the other one…. The fun one. Which do think I choose? Off to Durango I went. That summer was revolutionary for me. I found myself surrounded by a community of life-loving individuals, young and old. We played, we created, we dreamed, we explored, we loved. Many people from this epic summer are still in my life today. Friendships that will last a lifetime. At the end of the summer, I packed up my car with two friends and we explored the southwest for a week. We camped in magical places and saw sights I never imaged so beautiful. During this week, I picked up a growler of beer from a small brewery and the growler, long emptied, rode around in the trunk of my car. We returned to Durango and I lingered even longer, hesitant to return back to the Front Range and back to college to finish my final semester. I knew I had to go. I was bitter.

Yet, I returned with a new outlook on life. A window had opened for me and knew how easily it was to fly through it. Days on the Front Range were tough. I loved my friends and family but there was this pulling on my spirit that told me there was more I needed to do. One day, rooting through my trunk, I found the growler and my heart sank. I missed the adventures that added this treasure into my life. I taped a piece of paper to the growler and wrote the letters TBA. Each day I diligently added money to the growler. Some days it was only coins, other days, particularly the most frustrating days for me, I added dollars. My funds grew. For what, I did not know. They were for TBA “the big adventure”…whatever that was. My graduation grew closer and I was offered a management job at the florist I had worked at for the last few years. I took the job. I graduated in December and mid-way through the month I realized I needed to move on. I started looking for jobs…all over. Putting out applications anywhere I thought I might be interested in going. My mentality: I had nothing to lose, I could accept only what I wanted and it never hurt to see what came back. Choices. Options began to spring up. I narrowed it down to North Carolina. I had never been there before but had heard it was beautiful. I had two jobs on the table once again. Both teaching environmental education. One on the coast; a well-established center that paid better than the other. The other: in the mountains, just starting up, didn’t pay well, had a garden. The garden sold me. I accepted a position at The Herringridge Environmental Center in the Appalachian mountains. I nervously stewed over telling my boss at the flower shop. I worried for weeks. And then finally I told him. He was ecstatic for me. This was the 180 I was not expecting. I stayed on at the flower shop through Valentine ’s Day and then finally the time came. I began “the big adventure.” It started with a week with my cousin backpacking the Grand Canyon. We hiked into valleys with sparkling waterfalls and watched the sun rise and set over the red sandstone cliffs. We re-learned who each other were. We had not spent time like this since we were children.

I moved to North Carolina at the end of the month and starting teaching little ones about the soil, wildlife, the environment. The center was based on a theme by the Lorax. The ecology center was a residential program; on the last night there was a big scavenger hunt for the truffula seed throughout the surrounding forests. Life-sized lorax costumes adorned our staff. One night, as the sun was going down, I was running through the woods with children hot on my pursuit. I ran from them in a giant yellow swammy swan costume. Four years of college to don a giant chicken suit and evade children with a fake truffula seed in my hand.  This was my job. I got paid to do this. And so the story goes….

As the years went on I found myself exploring new places – California, Alaska, Oregon. I’ve taught along the way. Finding a special niche in experiential education. I’ve met amazing people. Sure, life has not always been easy to pick up and go; I’d actually say it is quite hard. When you begin to find strength in a community, it is hard to move away and re-establish yourself again. But it has been an adventure. I remind myself that I can always go back to any of these places. It has almost been six years since my big adventure began. Life is changing, I find myself slowing down a bit. Longing for land to call my own, for a community to stay in for a while, for a garden that I work on for more than a single season, for my own animals, to keep bees, to be closer to my family. I guess this is the next big adventure to come.

Along the way, I’ve kept a list. It has been my to-do list. My personal list. It keeps me motivated and helps me to realize what is truly possible. I recently crossed off my master’s degree from this list and it felt so amazing. If you are reading this and you have that desire inside of you, get it out. Onto paper. Write it down. In doing so, I think it helps to remind you that it is possible. You just have to want it. I think too often we tell ourselves that our dreams are not attainable. They are only dreams. You tell yourself you don’t have the money, or time, or you are too committed to other things. These are disguises to hide fears about meeting your dreams. You let the challenge stop you. The difference between a dream and a reality is that you have to take that leap. Face any fears that linger there and don’t let them stand in the way. There is a way around challenges. It is possible to move and travel on very little. I am living proof of this. Time is what we make it and commitments are real but if approached correctly, people will understand when you have to pick up your feet or when you change your mind. It may take creativity, but it is doable.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

61° 59′ N 152° 04′ W

 61° 59′ N 152° 04′ W
Today, this is where you can find me. Mid July. teaching yoga, greeting guests, serving meals. A month and a half ago I packed up life in Oregon; packed it into a storage unit and closed the door for four months. I found my way back up to the place where my adventures began almost four years ago. Back into a little island of wilderness that is separated from the hustle and bustle of everyday life… no roads, no sirens, no cement. The loudest noise that meets my ear is the landing of a float plane, or a helicopter, or the howl of 19 sled dogs at 4am. The days are long, this I cannot sugar coat but life all the same has but one singular focus… this place and these people. The newspaper arrives in a brown mail bag three days late and news travels by word of mouth. Don’t get me wrong, I could be more in tune. I choose not to. For this short time I am on vacation from the world of news and have adapted my thought process to include what is happening with my family, my friends, and about my island wilderness. I think sometimes it takes that step back… that is what these months have begun to shape into for me. My eyes are noticing things that get lost when life moves at a quicker pace. I've slowed it down and in doing so I’ve observed what plants are coming into bloom; I find myself waiting in anticipation as the fireweed blossoms develop…. they are almost there. When they burst the hillsides around us will light up with purples and pinks. For almost a month now I've watched a mama bear with her babies. I’ve noticed how her babies have gained dexterity over these last few weeks. They don’t trip over their own paws quite as much. I've sat in one place and the world has walked through my front door. Literally. Where life will go after this summer I am not so sure but for now I'm in a holding pattern. Content.