Happy 2014!

I’ve been a bore lately, so sorry for that (Mainly apologizing to myself here–after all, I’m officially in my late 20s now. Gotta lock down the excitement while I still can).  However, it’s time I wrote something.  I mean, the whole point of this thing was to step up my writing for when I start my outdoor lady blog…which I planned on doing much sooner than now, I assure you.  So in the spirit of things I told myself I’d do but didn’t actually accomplish yet: here’s some New Year’s resolutions!

  1. Greatly improve my Spanish.  In high school I was pretty good at Spanish, and I can still pick up a good bit of what I hear people saying just from having grown up as a minority in a largely Hispanic community.  BUT, I sound like hell trying to speak it these days (let’s not confuse ourselves here, I can still order food in Spanish…priorities people!).  The good news is, Christopher acquired the first set of Rosetta Stone for Spanish some time back, but I’ve kept forgetting he has it.  These CDs combined with plentiful driving for field work should leave me with lots of hours in the car for practicing and improving my skills.  So, viva la ….something.  I’ll fill in that something once I can say it intelligently en Español.
  2. Exercise more. Yes, I know everyone says this one.  The thing is, I was in fucking awesome excellent shape when we got back from the John Muir Trail, aside from the whole achilles tendon creaking like an old rocking chair thing.  And then the tailbone incident occurred thanks to my own idiocy, and pretty much all forms of exercise have hurt.  It’s been 3 months and I still winced the day after I tried to go back to yoga.  But that’s no longer a valid excuse.  Just because I can’t ride my bike or sit in my kayak doesn’t mean I shouldn’t go take my dog for a long walk or attempt climbing again (I fear climbing will leave me in the same boat as yoga has, but worth trying).  The point is–my body feels shitty when I don’t exercise, and I know I’ll feel better if I do something more than the walk between my desk and the kitchen at lunch each day.  I’ll try and start small with some sort of legit activity 2 week days and one weekend day a week.
  3. Write more. Whether just for myself or out here in the blogosphere, I need to get back on the prose pony.  I once enjoyed writing creative and funny things.  Grad school helped me grow in a lot of ways, but it also led me to abandon my more artistic side, allowing it to wither up while I attempted to squash all remnants of an individual voice in my technical papers.  Since resolutions rarely work out without a clear plan, I think I may start trying to write about books I read.  I didn’t realize the extent to which that side of me had atrophied until I was cleaning one day last year and found a book review I wrote in college of The Monkey Wrench Gang (seriously a must read for any environmentalist).  I could tell as I read it that I had truly had fun writing it.  The same cannot be said for pretty much anything I have written for school since.

Honorable mention (as it is not really a resolution so much as it is a general goal beyond just the next year) goes to looking seriously at moving abroad. Probably not in the next year, but I’ll be doing my research in that time and thinking about a plan. I’ll share more on that in my next entry though 😉 See what I did there?  Forcing myself to write more already!

A Carefree Thanksgiving

I’m about to embark on my 2nd ever Thanksgiving that in no way involves cooking on my part…only this time I’m pretty excited about it!  The first time reeked of unmet expectations as a procrastinating 18 year old me was forced to stay home and finish up college scholarship essays while the rest of my family went to Houston (man, I sure am glad THAT has changed…it’s not like I’m writing this while I should be working on my big talk for AGU…oh wait). I ate at Cracker Barrel with my Grandma after submitting all my essays, which was fine and we had a good time, but was disappointing in that I knew we were only doing it because I had been such a procrastinating fool (at least I got a scholarship though, right?). Side note: college admissions and scholarship prompts are terrible…at least on the Texas Common Application…of course this shouldn’t really surprise anyone.

This time is actually my preference though. Christopher (who is writing an excellent inspiring and hilarious account of our John Muir Trail hike here if you’re so inclined for some comic relief tomorrow after receiving ample criticism from relatives) is working late tonight, and has to get to work at 6:30 am on Friday, making a trip anywhere not so desirable, even just to San Marcos for the day. Added to that is the fact that we haven’t had the same day off unencumbered by some obligation or another in I don’t know how long. Instead we are going to let the Alamo Drafthouse feed us Thanksgiving dinner while we watch Matthew McConaughey try to save himself and others from AIDS, and spend the rest of the day doing whatever else we want.  I love the fam, and I’ll be happy to see them this weekend, but it’s going to be nice to not have that visit marred by the stress that comes with the obligatory cooking of a massive meal for not-even-that-many people.

No matter how you may be spending your day, I hope it meets all of your highest expectations and reminds you of everything good in your life…and if it doesn’t, be thankful for wine 🙂

The Joy of Being Poor

Not sarcasm. During our stay in San Marcos, we went and hung out with Chris’s friend Ryan for an evening, and apparently Ryan likes to read poetry to his friends after a couple of glasses of wine (thanks for sharing by the way!).  I’m not a fan of most poetry because so many poets are too flowery or dramatic for my taste, but poems can be powerful for me when they are relatively direct and well written about something personally relevant. Anyway, Ryan read us a poem called “The Joy of Being Poor” by Robert William Service. As you can tell since I’m still thinking about it and now telling you about it weeks later, this one hit me pretty hard.  Enjoy:

THE JOY OF BEING POOR

I
Let others sing of gold and gear, the joy of being rich;
But oh, the days when I was poor, a vagrant in a ditch!
When every dawn was like a gem, so radiant and rare,
And I had but a single coat, and not a single care;
When I would feast right royally on bacon, bread and beer,
And dig into a stack of hay and doze like any peer;
When I would wash beside a brook my solitary shirt,
And though it dried upon my back I never took a hurt;
When I went romping down the road contemptuous of care,
And slapped Adventure on the back — by Gad! we were a pair;
When, though my pockets lacked a coin, and though my coat was old,
The largess of the stars was mine, and all the sunset gold;
When time was only made for fools, and free as air was I,
And hard I hit and hard I lived beneath the open sky;
When all the roads were one to me, and each had its allure . . .
Ye Gods! these were the happy days, the days when I was poor.

II
Or else, again, old pal of mine, do you recall the times
You struggled with your storyettes, I wrestled with my rhymes;
Oh, we were happy, were we not? — we used to live so “high”
(A little bit of broken roof between us and the sky);
Upon the forge of art we toiled with hammer and with tongs;
You told me all your rippling yarns, I sang to you my songs.
Our hats were frayed, our jackets patched, our boots were down at heel,
But oh, the happy men were we, although we lacked a meal.
And if I sold a bit of rhyme, or if you placed a tale,
What feasts we had of tenderloins and apple-tarts and ale!
And yet how often we would dine as cheerful as you please,
Beside our little friendly fire on coffee, bread and cheese.
We lived upon the ragged edge, and grub was never sure,
But oh, these were the happy days, the days when we were poor.

III
Alas! old man, we’re wealthy now, it’s sad beyond a doubt;
We cannot dodge prosperity, success has found us out.
Your eye is very dull and drear, my brow is creased with care,
We realize how hard it is to be a millionaire.
The burden’s heavy on our backs — you’re thinking of your rents,
I’m worrying if I’ll invest in five or six per cents.
We’ve limousines, and marble halls, and flunkeys by the score,
We play the part . . . but say, old chap, oh, isn’t it a bore?
We work like slaves, we eat too much, we put on evening dress;
We’ve everything a man can want, I think . . . but happiness.
Come, let us sneak away, old chum; forget that we are rich,
And earn an honest appetite, and scratch an honest itch.
Let’s be two jolly garreteers, up seven flights of stairs,
And wear old clothes and just pretend we aren’t millionaires;
And wonder how we’ll pay the rent, and scribble ream on ream,
And sup on sausages and tea, and laugh and loaf and dream.

And when we’re tired of that, my friend, oh, you will come with me;
And we will seek the sunlit roads that lie beside the sea.
We’ll know the joy the gipsy knows, the freedom nothing mars,
The golden treasure-gates of dawn, the mintage of the stars.
We’ll smoke our pipes and watch the pot, and feed the crackling fire,
And sing like two old jolly boys, and dance to heart’s desire;
We’ll climb the hill and ford the brook and camp upon the moor . . .
Old chap, let’s haste, I’m mad to taste the Joy of Being Poor.

 

This hits me on two fronts–the first and most obvious being that I miss the indescribable sense of abandon and living simply on the JMT now that I’m back in the real world.  But on a deeper level I’m kind of at this transition in my life right now.  Not between being poor and rich, but between the bliss of youthful freedom and limited responsibility, and now having more expected of me.  I sometimes mostly find the “more” expected of me to be misguided, and based largely on what many people falsely think is important in life.  My mom (among others) was worried I wouldn’t be able to find a job if, during my interviews, I was giving the stipulation that I delay my hire date for a month after graduating so I could do the JMT.  What these well-meaning people don’t realize is that I don’t care to work somewhere that doesn’t value this as a worthy endeavor, or me as a person more than just as their worker bee.  One place didn’t hire me because of it, and I’m so glad they didn’t. It was a job in Houston (where I didn’t want to live), for a good bit less pay, NOT doing Hydrogeology. WHY do we reach a point somewhere early in adulthood where people stop telling you to “chase your dreams/you can be anything you put your mind to/don’t settle”, and they start saying “everyone has to start somewhere/you’ll work your way up”?  This all too abundant jaded perspective leaves most of us (even if you share in the cynicism) longing for simpler times, .

No one looks back on college with sadness because they didn’t have more money. Somehow it’s so much more obvious in those years that living in the luxury student housing isn’t going to provide a fountain of happiness.  Most people actually enjoy reminiscing about their ramen dinners, the hourly jobs they worked, the tiny apartment they shared with friends, the low-budget road trips they took with those friends, or even the shitty beer they drank.  My favorite memories in no way involve luxury.  I miss nights playing guitar hero with my best friends, taking my dog for strolls around campus at midnight, and days spent yelling at computers with fellow environmental people in the stinky basement lab in the geography building.  One of the best was cramming 4 people in a Honda Fit all the way from College Station to Colorado to watch a football game we would lose. We played “jellybean roulette” with the Bertie Botts jelly beans we found at a candy store instead of going skiing with all the rich kids who flew there, and then slept in freezing tents at a Raton KOA on the way home, where some of the road warriors didn’t actually sleep in their nipple-high child’s sleeping bag and wore a face mask for 30 minutes after getting in the car the next morning.  It was silly and carefree (aside from the Aggies losing yet another game they should have won) and is a treasured memory…one I wouldn’t trade for the joys of being rich.