31 August 2011

The Forest For the Trees


It may be that when we no longer know what to do
we have come to our real work,

and that when we no longer know which way to go
we have come to our real journey.

The mind that is not baffled is not employed.

The impeded stream is the one that sings.


-Wendell Berry


I find 'impeded' to be an imperfect word, but it's true: those wide smooth rivers and streams just schuss by with whispers. A river, brook or stream filled with rocks and boulders and downed logs crashes and hums and roars and sings.

I wouldn't call my mental or heart state for the last 11 1/2 months "singing". I would call it screaming, more accurately, definitely at least crashing, but it felt more helpless than that most of the time. Downed logs? oh, yes.  What in the hell I'm doing with my life; what purpose it has, if I have to compromise so far on things important to me, or feel so useless and wasteful. Major case in point: life's work.

The one type of work I love takes me to another state, and leaves my partner in the lurch, holding all of our life up here, by himself, making me feel terrifically guilty, marring the perfection so far that I consider giving it up, and it's so hard on him that he puts up an ultimatum, later withdrawn: himself or the lookout.... What can I/should I do, at this point in my life, when I've done only work that makes me content, and is let go when I no longer enjoy it: be a grown up, make myself miserable 40 hours a week? Run away and join the office, as Mike Doughty once put it? Take on the work that is right here in front of me, but in no way feeds my soul? I seem to be pretty good at manifesting things that I want: when that lookout a state away was shut down and broke my heart, putting an extra crunch on my uncertainty of what to do with myself while simultaneously lifting the guilt of being too far away to help--within just a few months I managed to find my way onto another lookout, this one only 3 hours from home. It's still not practical, and only lasts a few months of the year, but still, it's a good sign--can't I manage to figure out something more useful, that makes me content, that is in Whatcom County, and also actually contributes noticeably to our shared income? Just to go one point further, while I'm wishing, how about it involving local food, my other major passion? I could still be outside and with the soil and air…

I am grateful for so many things, small and large, along the way, and feel that I am in the right place; but my sense of balance has been out of whack, and I feel more twitchy, negative, pessimistic and dislocated, dis- or mis- oriented, though it's not so much that the compass is spinning, it's more that I can't get my eyes to see it through the fog. More negative and pessimistic than I’ve ever been in this life, and that alone makes it hard to focus properly.

So, yes. Thank you, Wendell, for telling me that I am finding my true work, and my true journey. It is obnoxiously true, that when we are completely lost, then we are finding our own path the hard way, the most challenging way, and hopefully, the most fulfilling way. My path to this point has been one I drew for myself, and hasn't always been easy, but has never been this hard to see between the rocks and brush and trees. It is simultaneously comforting and frustrating to hear "yeah, all of that journey was swell and things, ya did good, kid, but here's where shit actually gets interesting, where you're gonna have to do the real work. I know that that back there seemed pretty real, but here we are, now, so get to it."

This here path is one of the sort through metaphorical mental, heart, and soul mountains. Here on the blog, I don't get into these terribly often, or at least not exclusively. Thanks for the companionship as I crash around in these damn willows and slide alders, looking for the path on the other side of the stream.


(thanks, Lansia, for the Wendell Berry; and thanks, Kristina, for reminding me that it'll get better, written wonderfully, complete with lots of curse words. it's the best way.)

{and apologies, especially to those who do google reader: blogger was having fits, and giving me fits, and part of the post was missing when it finally went up. here's (most of) the whole thing.}

07 August 2011

Packing Fer the Hills II

A week from yesterday, and I'm on the job. Days are filled with shopping, packing, planning, and doing things "one last time", even though that means a little less than last year.

The good news is, I have a lot less stuff this year. Part of that stems from knowing what/how much I do and do not need, now. And part of it stems from the knowledge that I can always get myself more of something if I run out. I am, however, packing more gin and candy than last year. Aside from steak, ice cream, and fresh fruit (which I couldn't really have anyway), those two things were what I most wished I had had more of.

Here's a quick tour through my crap, just prior to its being stuffed into motor oil and wine boxes, the preferred box size of muleskinners everywhere.

Green rectangle on the left is my lookout journal, worth thousands millions of dollars some day when I'm famous/dead? 

 Condiments and wee sprout jar.  

Starch, dry veg, dry fruit, nuts. 

 Canned goods, the edge of the bakery.

 Rest of bakery, dessert/candy pile, tea/coffee/lemonade. 

Reading List: 2011. The Good Life, The Dirty Life: back-to-the-land, decades apart. William O. Douglas: namesake of the wilderness in the northern end of Gifford Pinchot NF (my foresthomeland), aka, the WOD. The Lochsa (Lock-saw) Story: homesick-making for Idaho. The Ridgerunner: same. Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test: a re-re-re-read in advance of the release of the Magic Trip. Crosswords: can't effing believe I didn't bring any last year. Rest: blend of shoot-me-the-world-is-effed and ahh-reading-with-the-moral-weight-of-a-mud-fence. 

Something I left out of my announcement post is that being hired to this lookout was a twisty path. The very day I got out of the woods in the North Cascades from my trip with the WTA, I had a voicemail from my brother, telling me that Cle Elum was hiring for Thorp LO. I called and talked to the district; I was the only person who did, things were looking good as my application was going through. When all was done, two US servicemen veterans were ahead of me on the list, by default. I received a very kind call to let me know that while they liked my application, I wouldn't be getting the job. I was heartbroken, but okay, too--I had already made my peace with not being in the mountains, and was excited to be home all summer. Then, several weeks later, I got another call. Would I still be interested? Well, shit, yes! And with just one more 180-degree turn of life within a couple of months, I began the application process again. 

I have my brother to thank, again, for getting me into the line for this lookout. Thanks, yo. And as he said the other day, "The Delph fire dynasty continues." To which I replied, "That Wenatchee [National Forest] had better get its jockstrap and sports bra on, 'cause shit's about to get rad!" I am excited to be back on a Forest with my brother, even if we aren't on the same district. 

Other things, in addition to shopping, packing, etc, that I have been doing: picking fruit (raspberries, red huckleberries, salal berries, blueberries), making freezer jam with same. Seeing friends, playing cornhole, kubb, etc, with same. Eating tons of great garden goodies, including fantastic young potatoes. It's really the best of both worlds, this summer: Summer at home, and lookout stretch (assuming nothing else sets me back). Life is good.