Sunday, May 07, 2017

Memento Mori



It was a rough winter at work.  The stone work was brutal, then the monotony of resurfacing, and through it never having any control of the projects, the tasks, and not knowing from day to day what we'll be doing.  It's frustrating, and it kills my work ethic.  Failing to trust a veteran worker is a guaranteed way to lose his buy-in.  Give me my own project and a block of time and get the fuck out of the way.  Uhg...  I'm here through October at least, and probably through next winter as well given the difficulties in finding winter work, but if things don't change, I expect my time here is going to be limited.  I don't want to walk away from a steady year-round job with benefits, but I do have to say it pains me to not be going back to Crater this spring running my own crew and getting shit done.

This is of course not to say there haven't been some highlights.  A tamarisk removal project week with the Invasives and River crew, a week of training in Heavy Equipment Operation which will dramatically bolster my resume and a couple of brief boondoggles have seasoned an otherwise unpalatable winter on the same ultra-busy trail at Arches.  But, without a schedule, it is not possible to find things to look forward to.

Then a little over a week ago Jesse had yet another kidney stone attack, the worst yet, and then after going to the ER and sitting in extreme pain, developing a fever, and being ignored for 4 hours before a second set of vitals was even taken, suddenly she was in septic shock, a condition of bacterial blood poisoning that kills 50% of its victims even in developed countries.  And soon she was on a helicopter being life-flighted to Grand Junction, for a terrifying night for the both of us.  And a surgery and several more rough, rough days, and now a long process of healing and additional surgery, and a war over the bills.

She's now accepted a summer seasonal position in Petrified Forest National park, some five hours drive from here, so I won't be seeing her much this summer.  It should be a good job for her, breaking new ground into a new field of biology research for her, but I am not a fan of the distance.  Though, I suppose it is good to have the time alone to reconnect with the self.

I don't have much of a plan at the moment for the summer.  I had been hoping to use a good deal of my annual leave to travel to my cabin and paint and trim it and beef up the flooring and maybe even install a woodstove, and I had hoped to go on a few backpacking trips as well, but I'm suddenly reconsidering much of that, and what I shall do instead, if I do change plans is well up in the air.

I also feel that some change in career may be necessary, though to what, I don't know, hence a lack of action.  Ultimately I need to get out of the desert without getting behind a desk, despite the ability to work year-round that this presently affords.  I'm open to hearing ideas if you have any.

The theme this year has been, enjoy this stability while it lasts.  With this year-in-one-spot situation I am indeed making use of it, despite the aforementioned discontent with my work.  For example we bought an inflatable hot tub, which works and looks much better than you might think, and have been enjoying the greatly reduced physical pain that the hormetic stresses of hyperthermic therapy provides.  It has helped me get back into weight-lifting after having taken last summer through the winter off.  And I've been experimenting with keeping volume as low as possible while still making gains in strength.  Less volume equals less muscle soreness.  Of course you can't bulk up as quickly with low volume work, but I have a long time frame going here, and am working toward goals 4 years away while managing my quality of life in the meantime.  I wish I had the knowledge as a teenager to start this process then; my life would be quite different I think, but it's never too late to begin to know and master one's own body.  In two months I'll be 36 years old.  After age 40 they say the average male loses one half to one pound of muscle a year.  I aim to start that process with as much muscle as is possible with my natural hormones and to retard that process as thoroughly as possible through continued training.

All the research I have read, day in and day out leads me to the conclusion that natural decay is inevitable, but by no means needs to be a long slide directly toward death.  It can instead be a long gently sloped plateau followed by a sharp drop at the very end.  Aiming for anything less than that is gross laziness, stupidity, and a hateful irresponsibility to the people who love you.

If you are on the sofa rotting, go outside and walk, at least...  at least that.  You cannot claim to love someone if you are letting yourself prematurely skid toward death.

There are a lot of thoughts that tear through one's mind walking away from a helicopter life-flighting someone you love into poor odds of survival.  All the stages of fear and grief, and more...  And looking back you think, what if that was me?  And what if it wasn't a freak occurrence like a jammed kidney stone but something that was inexorably MY FAULT.  How unfair would that be to the terrified person below the rotors, that I made the choice to put them there, alone and quaking.  That I put them there by my own laziness, and self-loathing, and denial.

 It is not too late.  It is not too late until you are dead to start doing the right thing.  But every moment between then and now marches you closer and closer to that moment where you bring terror and pain unto the ones who love you.

Think about it.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

2016 - Not so bad ....though 17



For all the bitching going on about 2016 on social media, I didn't find it to be a bad year at all.  and that's not really something I've been able to say for quite some time.

The year started with me being payed to ski, snowshoe, and snowmobile around Tahoe.  I re-certed my Wilderness First Responder, on the clock, and then got to visit Joshua Tree National Park for the first time.

Summer brought me to Crater Lake for a third season.  I was blessed with an excellent, albeit largely green crew, and we accomplished a hell of a lot.  Housing was good, the social environment tolerable, overtime hours were plentiful and I had more morel mushrooms than I wanted to deal with even into August on account of the prior year's 21,000 acre fire.

Then in August I made a leap forward with my career securing a stable year-round job that should be around for 4 years anyway.  With that security in the bank so to speak I started taking some time off to really throw myself into the cabin project, rather than leaving an exposed frame I now have a roofed and enclosed building on a small piece of land of my own.  The backup plan for going full hermit is locked in.

I also purchased a 6x12 cargo trailer, which, while another ...thing... to worry about, the things you own end up owning you and all, it does provide me with the flexibility to move everything I own minus some furniture and appliances in one go, provides a mobile storage area / workshop space, and possibly could serve as a stealth camper.

So then I came to Moab, and found a nice albeit expensive apartment.  And already I've got to see an impressive amount of things that have been on the so called bucket list for a decade.  I've been hiking regularly on my off days as well, and have even gotten out on the cross-country skiis in the nearby La Sal mountains.  And as a final high note, I ended the year backpacking with Jesse in the Wilderness of Arizona.

Not a bad list, not bad at all.  But most importantly I've enjoyed the only stable and healthy relationship I've had for a very long time if ever, and I've grown somewhat stronger and wiser through it all.

This is, of course not to say that I didn't have some tough times and shameful moments, it was the worst allergy season I've had in a decade and the moving and cabin building have been stressful and expensive and I'm not entirely proud of my conduct.  But 2016 was a good year.

I'm aiming to make 2017 a good year as well, but I sense the theme is going to be uncertainty in a big and potentially ugly way though maybe not as much for me as the world at large.   This is, it should be said, the first time I've been concerned with global affairs for a long time.  And the geo-political pivoting point is going to be Saudi Arabia.  At present I don't see how there can be a bloodless exit from the crumbling House of Saud.  Shit's gonna get ugly if oil doesn't get back over $70 real fast.  Putin and the Iranians are licking their lips.  Their proxy war with the Saudis in Syria will likely go down as just a warm-up exercise.  And if Putin and the Iranians can drive the quickly becoming broke Saudi Arabian Kingdom into chaos (read: take Saudi oil production off-line) their oil dependent economies, not to mention already booming regional influence is really going to soar.  Their incentive to get seriously aggressive is monumental.  Will Trump just surrender the American queen on the middle east chest board?  As much as he is already in bed with Israel, I think the answer is no.  Anyway, you may want to keep your eyes on this situation, it has been opaque to the media so far, but is, truly, so damned obvious, and frightening you should be paying very close attention.

Friday, November 11, 2016

3 months



I have indeed been busy.

3 months without a post here.  And I have too much to say.

But by way of an outline I ended my work at Crater Lake around mid September.  That gave me two weeks and change to work on the cabin project.  I threw myself into it all day everyday and at the very last minute, at sundown on the very last day that I could remain in Oregon I succeeded in buttoning the cabin up.  A roof, 4 walls, 2 windows and a door.

And then onwards I rolled to Moab, with my newly purchased 6x12 cargo trailer in tow with all my belongings.  1000 miles and two days of driving later I started my new job.  Bounced between government housing spots for a few weeks then found a very nice but costly apartment and signed a one year lease, not without a certain amount of apprehension.  Since then I've been working on getting settled in.  I bought a new sofa for the first time in my life.  And I've built from scratch some shelves and a bed.  And in between I've been getting paid to explore the ruins of ancient civilization in the stunning Canyonlands of South Eastern Utah.

My allergies have at times been horrendous (Sage pollen).  But the season for that seems to be coming to an end.  And thank all goodness for that, as it casts me in some of my shittiest lights as a person...  Cats, dust, pollen + me  = Shit-head.

But the stress of the move is unwinding, and the histamine, and the new job.  And I'm quite grateful to be where I am.  I'd like to just savor this situation for a bit before things get messy in life again.  So now, the theme is slow down, relax and start saving money again.  The cabin was expensive, the trailer and the move was expensive, and the new place and furniture and appliances...  expensive.  So I am in recovery mode.  But I can see redrock and snow capped peaks both from exactly where I am sitting, and that ain't half bad, not half bad at all.  Living in a place where more than a lifetime's worth of exploring is all close within reach.

There's much more to say, of course, but for now that's where I've been.  And where I am, recovering from an epic scramble.


Friday, August 05, 2016

The Winding Trail



I've recently accepted an offer to go build and maintain trails in Utah's Canyonlands, and a few other National Parks and Monuments in the area starting in a few months.  It's a year-round job on a "term" appointment which means up to four years of steady work and full federal benefits.

I'm not sure what to think yet, the offer sort of came out of the blue.  It was something I had applied to quite some time ago as a backup plan in case my current employer persisted with an ugly and demeaning piece of politics.  But at the time I didn't realize that it was a year-round + benefits sort of job, just something that paid about the same as my current gig, (slightly less, actually) that I could potentially go to as a contingency if the shit hit the fan here.  And as the months rolled by and the issue I had here faded away I sort of forgot about it.

And now this, the real deal.  Still kind of shell shocked, and going through various phases of cognitive dissonance, and worry about this decision.  But also feeling a little better about it each day as I come up with strategies to deal with the obstacles it presents for me.

The Canyonlands are one of the hardest, wildest, most remote and wildly, mystically stunning pieces of desert in the country, or the world for that matter.  It's big, harsh, empty, and seriously intimidating, and it's going to set the stage for my next massive series of professional and personal challenges.

And yet, I'm not sure that I'm done with Oregon altogether just yet, but only time will tell how this place will weave with The Canyonlands in the continuation of my story.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

To Notice the Sunshine

Typically when I have had nothing to say here it is a good thing.  And I suppose that has been true of the last 7 weeks absence.  I'm now back up at the lake, settled in, and leading a large crew on the trails.

It bears mentioning that I think creativity requires either emotional pain or time for playfulness and in either case solitude.  Lately, I have had none of these things.  And that is OK, although busyness often runs counter to presence.

But even so I'm thinking that I need to arrange my life more carefully right now so that I can capture those quiet moments and use them to keep going with this, ...the written word.

No pen in hand
and an occupied mind
no insight to be had
no truth to find

the sun shines warmly
on the crest of the rim
where the snow falls below

and I'm not noticing
not really

because I have walls to build
to what end
to what end?
I really don't know

perhaps I should fly a flag
red?
maybe yellow

on the wall below
where the snow falls
and I don't notice the sunshine

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Know Thyself - or - Time to buy squat shoes

So that's me on the red machine...  Yeah, that's about all I've got on that one.  Definitely an interesting part of my winter work, and by interesting I mean somewhat painful and often terrifying.  Mainly I just wanted to share the photo as I forgot to earlier.  I think my posts were suffering from a bit of seasonal affective.  heh.  And so now the snow is mostly gone, at least below 9,000 ft, and the job ends this week.

Definitely glad to have had the work, particularly considering the death of Ole Bessie, and my need to finance getting my shit together fitness-wise this winter.


It's been slow going, but quite the journey, and though I have grown significantly stronger, (and heavier), I'm a good 20 lbs bigger than I was around this time a year ago.  It has, much more, been a journey of learning about all the crap that is wrong with my body in terms of structure, imbalance, and mobility. 


I took these two photos yesterday doing 3 sets of 5 reps.  That's 200 lbs on my back, not much in the grand scheme of things, but easily double what I could do when I started this.  Can you guess what part of me is in pain today?  My brachioradialis muscles (top of the forearm).  Jokes aside, it illustrates the supreme interconnectedness of all things in the human body, and that's what I mean about this being a seriously educational journey.  Why does ...whatever... hurt?  Is something too weak? Is something else too strong?  Is something too tight?  Is something too loose?  Is it because my right leg is 3/4 of an inch shorter than my left?  Is it because I have bad dorsiflexion in my ankles?  Is it my damned hip-flexors again? 

Point is, I've been learning a lot about physiology, and taking care of myself as a corporeal being.  We probably all should.  Particularly if we move heavy objects for a living.

As they say in the Delphic Maxims.  Know Thyself.

...also, don't squat heavy on carpet

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Stillness and Healing Anxiety... and a warning



So the Winter work season is drawing to an end for me.  It definitely got easier as the time passed.  Though I wonder if the reason it started out being so difficult was just the stillness, the environment that leaks. And by that I mean that when one is not occupied and must be still with himself all sorts of old pains that have remained suspended in the turbulent waters of a busy life start to settle out and leak. And there you are covered with an anxiety you dont understand and cant wash off.

Shake, rattle, and roll has been my go to strategy for as long as I can remember.  Dont let it settle, dont let it leak.  Keep walking, keep driving, do. not. rest.

Therein lies the value of freedom.

And a parking lot can be a particularly brutal kind of cage.

So I suppose this winter has forced me to simmer in the residual pain from 2012... that I had thought was long gone. And sometimes stuck in that truck by the roadside I would wonder if it will ever end.  I dont know.  I just know that before that year I wasn't ever struck with anxiety that didnt clearly point to anything, and now I have been whenever I pause ever since.

Get too still and you start to think, about what could be a lie, about what will go wrong, about how there might be a nook in events, in the data, some place some time some story that isnt perfect, some way that you might be being betrayed, setup, gaslighted, embarrassed and readied for the psychological grinder... again. ...to be owned and abused and degraded and have your dignity and your wealth and your friends and your ability to feel sane, or to trust or to sleep soundly through the night all stripped from your hands ... again.

Sometimes I'm not sure one can ever recover from something that heinous.  But it has gotten easier ...over a very long winter.

And that is not to say that much, much more of the time I don't feel gratitude, for all the other things that have gotten better and easier. Their side is winning.  But I also have to say it.  Fuck You.  You never apologized for any of it.

And to everyone else, learn this from me, if nothing else.  Beware the person who cannot apologize.  It marks them for what they are, a beast without empathy.  And they will maul you for sport.

...incidentally a popular presidential candidate whose name rhymes with Chump, also cannot apologize, its like swallowing the 6th saltine for him; he just can't do it. 'Nuff said?  ...not that I would vote for any of his rivals.