Life affirming, solidifying, enlightening, a metamorphosis, heart-breaking, gorgeously lonely, hot as hell, terrifying, real.
So many things have happened in the past 6 months, it is even hard for me to articulate it into readable words. I’ll start with my last week of programming, meaning ME going to places talking about things nature related. Each school I visit (a total of 6) + 2 Arizona State Parks has been an adventure unto itself. I got to know the kids/visitors, the teachers have their own distinct ‘style’, there is a rhythm that makes each visit it’s own adventure, especially when they hand me a mic and I’m talking to 90 kids at once. I come alive with a mic, I love it and never thought I would! ME! Who the hell wants to listen to me? Well it turns out that a lot of people do. These are quotes from my last week:
“You’ve been the best intern in the past 5 years.” – AZ State Parks Volunteer who has been there for the past 5 years
“You’ve successfully kept the kids full-attention during all your talks, a very challenging task – they never listen like this.” – 5th grade teacher at Nautilus Elementary
“You will be missed.” Principle, Yucca Elementary
“Great feedback from our visitors on your programs.” – AZ State Parks Ranger
“Best talk we’ve ever been to!” – AZ State Parks visitors (probably the drunk couple)
I’m not one to brag or even put this kind of stuff in writing but if you knew how I was 5 months ago, you’d brag too. I have been through my own personal war of self doubt. I felt that I was a poser, not capable of talking about such complicated things like invasive species, components of habitat, limiting factors on population growth, arachinds, desert wildlife, bats, how clouds are formed (not to mention, thunder and lightening), camouflage and animal adaptations, food chains, how soil is made, rock classifications, how flowers have sex (pollination) and their seed dispersal, mythology of the star constellations and who the hell Perseus or Andromeda or Pegasus is, how comets are different from meteoroids are different from asteroids, etc. etc… But it turns out, that I absolutely can talk about these things as long as I prepare.
Yeah, I’m now hella smart. Go ahead, ask me anything. I’m like a walking wiki. How do spiders mate? The males use their pedipalps to gather their seamen and put it on the lady spider parts and if the eggs get fertilized it’s a miracle of god because most spiders want to kill each other. Where do comets originate? Well, since you asked, short range comets come from the Kuiper’s belt, just after Neptune – where Pluto is hanging out masquerading as a space rock – or the Oort cloud, so far away that you can barely even comprehend the distance. What is the difference between a Western Grebe and a Clark’s Grebe? It’s in the eyes, the Western has their red eyes in the black part of their head and the Clark’s has their red eyes in the white part of their head. If you want to get your mind blown, just begin to learn about insects or birds, they are the most fascinating creatures on the planet.
Listen, I’m not kidding when I say I just went to nature college and got a degree in google. I’m a savant of the natural world. All I’ve been doing for the past 6 months is taking accessible information and translating it into interesting-fun-exciting-relevant-true-pertinent-age-appropriate, cohesively designed programs. Easy right? Sure. If you are already a mad-scientist but I’m a recovering GRAPHIC DESIGNER! And I barely even remember the art history part of my education. But, it’s not about imparting encyclopedia onto people and impressing them with my seemingly unlimited knowledge of _____. I don’t claim to be something I’m not, I even tell people that I’m only an intern and not an expert,”just an earthling with a never-ending fascination in the natural world around me.” It’s not about knowing it all, but about making this crazy world meaningful to others while inspiring stewardship and interest because as you know, people don’t give a shit about stuff they don’t know or care about.
Enough bragging. Now, for the town of Parker or Havasu, it’s all interchangeable and irrelevant because I live between the two but in Parker proper (according to my zip). I’m not typically a hater but I have never lived in a place where the feeling of belonging was so completely unattainable. I tried and eventually gave up, spending most of my time alone in my trailer working on my programs, art projects, practicing yoga or enjoying the cable television that I never have had. It’s a beautiful place and I did hike and kayak down the river many of times. I would stop into the Blue Bar II, on occasion for the most inconsistent Friday night fish fry. I would make the 20 mile journey into Havasu for a free tarot card reading, a slot canyon hike, boating with friends, festivals like the Bluegrass, VW buses and Hot Air Balloons, breakfast burritos, ice cream and movies. It wasn’t horrible but then again, it was at times.
I was driving back to Parker after a weekend in Big Bear with some of my favorite people. In the mountains, the snow was falling hard as I left and as the elevation disappeared, the snow changed to rain for the length of my drive home. I got to thinking about roads. I have been on this same road for about 11 times now and this was going to be the last time in the foreseeable future that I’d travel on CA 62 and it made me sad. I have a deep connection to this road, if one can connect to roads. Each of the 11 times have been so different, going and returning. Driving to Parker for the first time, going to my dear friends’ wedding in Palm Springs, to LA for Halloween, to Joshua Tree, to LA for Xmas, To Big Bear… Driving alone, the roads have a feeling of intimacy. Some roads I never want to see again (95 N through Havasu) and some I have a fleeting relationship with that I will remember for a long time. Traveling on CA 62 symbolizes a time in my life that was transformative, that I will look back on forever, that I will probably never travel the same way again on – if/when I do. Even other roads that have their own symbolism; roads I’ve cried on, that I peed on the side of on, that I watched sunsets/sunrises on, traveled in a tour bus on, seen herds of elk conglomerate on, ran over a fox on, longed for another on, feared for my life on and anticipated the destination on.
Roads are mystically, magical places disguised sometimes as dull never-endingness. If I didn’t choose to move 4 times in the past year and essentially live off of what fits in my car, I wouldn’t of had any of this: misery, doubt, loneliness, shadows, light, joy, freedom, unknowing, mystery, epiphany, curiosity, wisdom, acceptance, peace…