Sunday, April 30, 2017

Buckets of Rain, Buckets of Vomit

I recently re-wrote a journal entry from this summer, and thought I'd share. There's a longer version, but I think it's too long for a blog entry. So, here's the condensed version of my craziest day at sea: 

Today was insane! Every day has been intense, getting up at 4:30 every morning, and being exposed to the sun or the wind or the rain all day. Even standing is hard work on a boat! Then there’s the physical work of pulling anchor, hauling fish over the three-foot rails of the boat, killing them with a bat, filleting them, and scrubbing the deck.

It started out pretty normally, with a group of six guys—mostly middle aged, buddies since forever, and one of their sons. One guy was from New Mexico! Another was more challenging for my optimism. He’d done some ocean charters before and gotten extremely lucky! Once someone catches a 160 pounder their first trip, they think that’s what happens every time—it’s not! Early on, the son and one of the other guys got pretty sea sick. That’s also normal—is it the current? The crazy Alaskan tides? I have no idea, but our inner ears fight it pretty hard, and when they lose, it’s chum all day for the fishies!

We sat on one of our prize spots, but nothing was biting, and I worried about the grim weather forecast: rain and big swells, with gale force winds moving in by the afternoon. A few of the guys were inside the cabin, complaining, while I was out on the deck in the pouring rain, doing bottom checks on their rods, and checking their bait. We eventually moved to what we call a chicken hole—where the babies are. The clients have seen trophy halibut pictures on the website, in the restaurants, and in their dreams, and that is what they’re after. But we can’t catch those every single day we go out; there are many fish in the sea, but fewer than there were before, and we’re catching more every year.

After pulling a few chickens aboard, we headed partway back, where radio rumors had it, there were salmon by the islands. If it were up to me, I’d have cruised right on by, worried about the storm, but my captain, a true client-oriented guide pulled us up to the spot. For the first time all season, the bite was on.

The salmon were coming in fast, but so was the radio chatter, and it was not reassuring. “It’s getting bad past the islands, and building fast—head back now!” There were several other boats at the salmon hole, and everyone decided to leave together, making a boat train to beat down the swells as best we could and sticking together in case something happened. A bigger boat called in to say that if we stuck around a bit, he’d lead the train. While we waited, my captain helped me fillet, because unlike usual, I was not going to be able to filet while moving, it would be too dangerous. She’s been a deckhand since she was thirteen, and I love watching her smoothness and speed when she fillets.
By the time the big boat got there, even the water was pretty rough, and our pukers were looking especially green. Our little craft took sixth position in the eight-boat train. We told our passengers they couldn’t move from their seats; our boat is very sensitive to side-to-side movement, and I didn’t want to think about the tipping point, going over some of these huge swells.

I put a five-gallon bucket between our poor sickies, and sincerely apologized for the upcoming ride. They managed a wry smile each. I’d tied down everything that I could, and took my seat. Wind estimates by the seasoned captains were gusts to 35 knots (around 40 mph) and seas of 12-14’ waves! Although it’s my first season, the sailor-swearing on the radio told me I wasn’t the only one impressed! I started imagining negative scenarios, and tried to think through rescue options. If we rolled, I didn’t know if the other boats could maneuver to pick us up, not to mention the quickly numbing water temperature, and trying to keep your head out long enough to gasp for breath. Just then, the boat in front of us disappeared completely over the top of a wave. My stomach clenched, until I saw it rise up again on the next swell. This is real, I thought, this is like the movies!

I glanced over at my captain—I could see the stress in her face. She’d seen almost everything in her eleven or so years of working on boats—but this was her first year as a full-time captain. I didn’t mention that to the clients. Our poor, sick duo, with nothing left in their stomachs still took turns coughing up bile into a fishy bucket.

Just then the radio interrupted crackled, and one of the other captains yelled that he just broke his side window on that last swell—with his head!!! There were a lot of expletives in the sentence, though. I couldn’t believe it! I imagined a trickle of blood sliding down the side of his forehead from cracking it against the window hard enough for it to break.

It calmed down a bit when we finally crossed into the bay, but it was still a rocky ride. When we finally did make it back, and our seasick passengers stepped onto the dock, their faces showed instantaneous joy. I think all of us breathed a sigh of relief. I was glad to be back safely to the docks, and I grinned at the group—the negative attitudes from earlier didn’t seem to matter anymore. My captain and I headed up to show our still wide-eyed faces to the other crews. They’d been worried about us, in our little boat! I realized I hadn’t eaten or drank anything in hours, and probably barely breathed. I got a drink, and let myself relax. What a day, what a time to be alive!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Not enough heart-space

Why do I fall in love so easily with places, and so sparingly with people? 

I've never cried as much over a boy as I did when I left Spain. Hours on the plane, and then every day after, counting the number of days I'd been gone. How high did I get to before I forced myself to stop counting? I can't remember now, but it's written in an old journal somewhere.

I've never looked at so many pictures, over and over, of a boy as I do at pictures of Alaska. Following accounts on Instagram, setting pictures as my computer background, re-living times and adventures by looking through my albums from my season in  Denali. 

I've never been so comfortable with a boy as I am when I go home. I can be doing projects, or lazy, outside, or in, but everything from the house to the familiar mountains to family and the dogs is home-y and renewing. 

It's like a part of my metaphorical anatomy is a little off-center. There's too much space for places, and gets bigger and bigger the more I go, the more I see, the more I love. There's not enough place for romance, and seems to dwindle with un-use. The longer I'm single, the harder and harder it is to make that first step, try dating someone. People keep telling me that high standards are good, and not to settle...and always seem to critique the boys that fleetingly catch my interest. 

Maybe now that I'm stuck in a place, I can somehow make a little more space--even out the compartments a bit, and try to love someone. Maybe it will be easier the more I let go. Maybe, If I just try. 

Saturday, September 20, 2014

A-H: a summary of me

A: Aimless. Me, a bit aimless. Not that it comes as a surprise to anyone. I used to write ideas for my college major on a white board and leave it outside my dorm room for people to vote on. It was usually hijacked...

B: Boys. Continual cause/source of interest, annoyance, frustration, and dismissal. Not necessarily in that sequence, though it's not uncommon.
C: Commitment. Something I'm still working on in most aspects of my life. :P Mostly ok with the lack of, though should probably apply a bit of it at some point, especially in the area of Careers, another C word I'm working on...
D: Dog. Want one. Can't have one, too gypsy.
E: Everything. What I want to do/see. Keeps a girl a bit on the restless side.
F: Family. When I tell people about my family, they're almost always amazed and a bit jealous. With good reason...I've grown up with such impressive role models and love and talent.
G: Garden! I've had a lot of fun gardening this year. My current house has some raised beds, but unfortunately the makers did not fill them with topsoil but rather...sand. Or whatever you call NM "soil." Despite this, I've managed to grow some tasty treats:

H: Home. Where I am right now, enjoying a glass of wine and listening to Allison Krauss. It's been a good day: delicious fancy cafe con leche, peach pancakes, a pretty run, visit with my brother and his family, swimming in the pool, beer, yummy food, homemade ice cream, an impressive thunderstorm, guitar playing, popcorn. Hard to beat.

Friday, May 30, 2014

so many questions

Tonight I'm actually home alone, with nothing pressing to do, and no crazy plans until tomorrow. It's a rare thing, so my head is full of thoughts, mainly questions, on this perfect summery twilit evening:

- Why am I watching the sunset in the reflection of the window, instead of turning my chair around?
- How did I forget to buy wine at the store today to go with my fresh, homemade pesto?
- Why am I single?
- Will the fertilizer sticks actually help my stunted plants grow?
- Can someone just pay me to play in the garden all day?
- Will drinking iced coffee at 8:30 pm keep me from sleeping tonight?
- Should I go blues dancing, or stay at home and write letters, pack up winter things, clean, and read my Hemmingway book or watch a movie?
- Will I be able to stay longer than 6 months at my new job? Will anyone else hire me if my job history is just a series of 6 month adventures/boredoms?
- Why did I not go back to Alaska this summer?
- Where should I move when I'm done with ABQ?
- Should I go to Potlatch, or skip it, in favor of other, new trips, like Yosemite?
- Who is going to teach me to fly fish?
- Should I take tango lessons? Or hip hop? Or guitar? Or try to get into a ceramics studio? Or write more?
- How long would it take to become and architect of bridges?

Thursday, April 10, 2014

<- ->

Sometimes my life just seems comical to me. Today was an example of this. I got up early, made delicious breakfast, dressed for PT, and drove out to the other side of the Sandias (mountain range bordering ABQ to the East) to train with some of the engine crew for wildland fire suppression. (We did the "fitness trail" which is a half mile figure eight along the side of a hill you can repeat as many times as you wish; we didn't do enough laps for it to be too hard, I was a bit disappointed.) After PT I took a chainsaw and felling class. I've already had it, but a refresher's nice, since I haven't used a saw in a while. As soon as class was out in the afternoon, I rushed home, showered, dressed professionally, put on make-up, and went to a fancy hotel downtown. I had RSVP-ed a while ago for a "networking and info session" with the Dept. of State, Foreign Service. (I've applied to a few jobs previously, and thought this might be helpful; it wasn't. I knew everything from FAQ pages, videos, and personal stories I'd read online, and there were no personal communication availability with panel members. Oh well.) I like the juxtaposition of 8 am, PT and chainsaw theory with a bunch of tattooed firefighters -> 8 pm business attire and heels listening to advice on applying for State Department Civil and Foreign Service careers. The only quote I remember from the evening was, "in the foreign service, you will never be bored." Maybe I'm on the right (12) track(s).

Saturday, March 1, 2014

All the jobs

Two of my friends were brainstorming a single phrase that could identify various friends without any other context. The one they suggested for me was, "I want all the jobs!" Humorous, and pretty true. That or, I want none of the jobs, with the manner in which I seem to discard them.

So far this year (2 months) I have applied to at least the following jobs: ESL teacher at a community college, Spanish instructor at two different private high schools, consular adjudicator in a Latin American country for the State Department, raft guide, living history interpreter, railroad station agent, interpretive coach, and auditioned for an acting agency. Pretty typical for my spread of interests, as well as quantity of options I try to give myself, but this might be getting to be a bit much, even for me.

I started taking classes last year at a community college, hoping to feel out electricity (with thoughts of entering the solar field) and nursing. This year I got a job in an ER which is great experience, but very low pay and usually a bad schedule. I'm also taking four science courses, pre-reqs for nursing, since I decided that route made more sense. But now...of course I'm having second thoughts (or forty-second). I very much dislike being back in school at age twenty-eight for an associates or maybe bachelor's degree, when I already have a master's. I very much dislike using my savings because I'm not getting paid enough to pay my bills and loans each month. I very much dislike staying home to study every weekend while my friends go on adventures. I realize these problems are *very* "first world," so feel free to stop reading if you're disgusted. It is frustrating, though, to feel as if I'm starting from scratch, and my past education and experience mean nothing.

Six years out of college I should be qualified for jobs other than, "entry level," but because I haven't stayed in one field for long enough, I don't have the minimum experience required to meet expectations for many employers. I personally think my broad range of experiences makes me *more* qualified to do almost any given job, as I have such a diversified background, but try explaining that to an automated computer screening system.

I'm ready for a more "career" job. The problem is that I very intensely crave job satisfaction, and thus far have been unable to find it for more than about six months, and its daunting to think about spending another two years in school, going into more debt, to do something I'm unsure about. That's what my first liberal arts degree was for, right? I don't have time to spend looking for an applying to jobs all over the country. I don't have time or money to go back to school four more times. At some point I have to decide on something certain and commit to it, or settle for something and obligate myself to understand that satisfaction can be found in other areas of life and the job I do doesn't have to be the *best* job that exists for me, and perfectly match my interests and skills. (A remarkably similar parallel could be drawn to my romantic history, or lack thereof.)

Possibilities include: architect, landscape architect, nurse, teacher, pilot, journalist/writer, ASL interpreter, Spanish interpreter, Forest Service or Park Service career path, actor, carpenter, firefighter, speech/language whenever I decide, I'll let you know. Don't hold your breath, it might take another 28 years.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

termination dust

My time in Denali is over. For now, anyway; it's hard for me to think about leaving places for good, I may be back someday. Things are coming to a nice, circular close, up here in Alaska. When I first arrived, I was picked up at the airport by some family friends and spent a day or so in Anchorage before catching a bus up to the park to begin working. Just the other day I hopped on a train and came back down to Anchorage, and was picked up again, and now spending a few days here before heading out (though not directly: a plane, then a ferry, then another plane before I'm home: rivers and roads).

The seasons are also serving as cyclical closure for my Alaska adventure: When I came in May it was still unabashedly winter: the ground still covered entirely in its white disguise, just like the ptarmigan and hare, with more snow to come in a rare late-season storm.

Spring was brief, but commenced with the blooming of the beautiful (though poisonous) pasque flower. Wildflowers continued through late summer, each dominating a certain area of soil and slope, rapidly rising to full blossom, and fading just as fast, giving way to another.

Pre-mosquito summer was incredible, and filled with lots of blue-skied hikes, trips to the lake or river, and even a half-marathon (my first: I'm not exactly hooked on running them. I did well, and for now am satisfied with having done it).


Mosquito season sucked. (ah, ah.)

Fall came late, but in striking style. While everyone had described fall to me as the most impressive time of year in Denali, the colors still took my breath away. And just like the transition of flower to flower, the colors changed everyday, the rapidity of its arrival and departure impressive, as I have found most things in Alaska to be.

And then, though there was a brief period, the tundra brown, the sky gray, where Denali was not the most beautiful place I could imagine, for once, the first snows came, bringing a close to so many things. The first snow on the peaks above, a confection coating called "termination dust," signifying the end of summer and fall, the end of the long days of light, the end of warmth, of colors on the tundra, and for me, the end of my time in the park. Of course, endings of one thing are always beginnings, as we all know, and so it is for Denali, and so it is for me.

Still, I thought it fitting, after my snowy arrival, that my departure, too, should be snowy, dusted with all the memories of the season: five seasons in one.