Another season passes

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The steady sound of rain on a metal room signals the early incursion of summer. A herald as winter succumbs to a brief but muddy shoulder season that promises the flood of midnight sunlight which forces seed from soil. The rains bring inevitable change with them both seasonal and circumstantial. As snow melts the debitage of winter storms litters the yard; felling deadwood and hauling limbs brought down by winter storms creates a bustle of activity, a rude awakening of labor after long hibernation. The smell of unfrozen spruce sap perfumes the air and clings to clothing long after cleanup is finished. The distant hills change colors subtly from brown and grey to the aubergine purple of alder buds and deep greens of willow and birch. Soon the cacophony of summer will be upon us, sleep will become a luxury, and the road will be beneath my feet again.

 

40 *above

It is feeling positively springy this week. I keep expecting to hear geese flying through but it is way too early for it. It is such a strange feeling anticipating spring. I think living in Michigan ruined me for Fairbanks winters (not that we’ve really had much of one this year). A side effect of anticipation is doodley-ness. One of my favorite seasonal visitors:

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King Crane

Currently listing to Lou Doillon nonstop:

Panic: a natural state of being

From time to time I remember that we’re all just doing our best, some of us are more capable than others but in general we’re all getting by on the same sense of perseverance and necessity that is ingrained to keep us alive. When I think of us as highly cognitive animals I can breath a little easier knowing that I’m not doing that bad for a hairless ape.

I, like many, don’t like or appreciate change. Even when it is overall a positive one. I’m just beginning to settle in and also beginning to wonder if I should have even bothered. But that’s not the right question. There’s nothing wrong with settling in so long as one is clear headed going in that it might not last forever. Settling in is far less stressful than constant change. The right question is had I known I would get so attached to ‘settled’ that I did not want to give it up, would I have still done so? The answer that makes the most sense is ‘probably’. Dramatic sigh. Good job.

Trying to predict the future is impossible. I made a choice. Now, or a few months from now, I will make another choice. I knew that settling in might be temporary but I thought it would be the little bit longer rather than the little bit shorter kind of temporary.

Facing down 30 I’m struck by the realization that I no longer  want to run around helter-skelter pursuing the untenable. I don’t want temporary anymore. I want a huge garden, a medium sized dog, a simple life. Something akin to the American Dream. But maybe it is just that, a dream.

Part of me got here because of a yearning for change and adventure and life experience. The rest of me tagged along, grumbling about packing the truck up once again, leaving friends, and dealing with new places and new stresses. We’re both better for the experience (says Thing 1) but the tides they are a changing (says Thing 2).

Do I take the job that moves me two hours south (if it’s offered)? Sell the cabin? Rent again? Hit the road and never look back (for four years at least)?

In a way I’ve been asking myself this for the last couple years. I knew the job might come around but now it’s actually come around and I can’t just ask the questions, I also have to answer them. Plan. Be an adult and do adult things.

Thing 1 says that I should take it without a second thought. It’s a good career move and that alone should persuade me. Thing 2 says I should hold on, not make any drastic moves yet, and consider other options that would allow me a huge garden, a medium sized dog, a simple life. Both Thing 1 and Thing 2 are surprisingly realists for all the trouble they cause and both make good points. There is no wrong choice, though a choice must be made.

However, there is also no ‘right’ choice, and maybe that makes me the fish in this analogy. The pseudo-responsible skeptic who looks at Thing 1 and Thing 2 with alarm and just wants things to stay as they are.

An imperfect analogy. Admittedly.

Naturally, in order to plan, I have to stress a little. Which is why I am awake at 4am pondering the future and letting Thing 1 and Thing 2 make a mess of things.

Needless to say, the opportunity alone is a welcome one. Even if it brings hard decisions with it. I’ve been working towards this for about a decade and while that doesn’t obligate me to this singular path, it does temper my decisions in a way. In the grand scheme of things, four years is not that long. And maybe I can have a small garden. Or at least a few more house plants.

How bout that New Years resolution to stress less? Eh? Eh?

At least I’m a pretty good ape, if I do say so myself. (I hope we can all agree on that.)

How not to worry.

Someone else needs to teach this lesson because clearly it is a skill I do not possess.

I was recently approached by an individual who posed a question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for a few days. Working seasonally, I only get to do what I want to about half the year. The rest of the time I work in a lab on odd projects (none of which are of my own design) and take odd jobs to pay the bills. I consider myself lucky to have time in the lab to stay involved in projects locally even if they aren’t my own research. I also take on small personal projects that will not pay the bills and often end up on the back burner because they are small enough that they aren’t publishable. I have yet to answer the question of whether I actually want to publish but that’s a question for another day.

The question, rhetorical, was a summation of my winter habits “You merely survive then?”. No response was being requested. I was dismissed.

Any one who knows me, knows that I worry about everything particularly when it comes to work. I worry that a masters degree isn’t enough to secure me a place in my field (it’s not). I worry that if I don’t publish I will fall by the wayside when it comes to job selection (a possibility). I worry that if there aren’t jobs in this field that I will indeed simply be working to survive and that I won’t find anything that fulfills my interests the way that this field does. I worry that this job, its seasonality, its demands, have made me unfit to maintain a healthy relationship (it has or I have allowed it to or perhaps I never was fit). But regardless of all else, I have a persistent fear of the failure that is ‘mere survival’.

More-so I fear the disdain that it comes with. I don’t mind odd jobs. New experiences are extremely valuable even if they are simple ones. But the perception that I am doing nothing else or that I should be doing something else in addition is belittling.

Sometimes I manage to set my worry aside and just work. Whether it’s something I am passionate about or not, doing a job well always gives me a sense of pride and for a time, that drive allows me to set aside my worry. But it only takes one well phrased question to throw me back to that place of fear that makes it hard for me to do anything adequately outside of worry. I am a very good worrier.

And of course this question was posed the day before a three day weekend so I haven’t even been able to actually work my way through it. So I have worried, and knitted, and worried, and gone for several runs, and continued to worry.

Unfortunately I don’t get very good satellite reception with my watch. It likes to tell me that I have run one mile and that it has taken me an hour to do so. That is one heck of a mile. At east I am not worrying about my pacing.

I wish I had some positive way to sum this post up or pithy advice that I have learned. But I don’t. I feel like somebody knocked my chair out from under me. The folks I work with have been nothing but supportive and I suppose as long as that continues I should put my worry to rest. But it’s never as easy as it should be.

Perhaps my watch has a point though. People will see me through whatever lens their life experiences have given them. My five miles may appear to them as one. Merely surviving is perhaps a phase that they never had to pass through or have already forgotten. In a way I envy them their security and self-confidence that they have the ability to look at me and see me with disdain because I have not yet struggled successfully. To them I merely struggle. But I am not done struggling. And when I am done struggling, I hope I have at least gained a better vantage point to worry from.

I give you four feet of blanket on one foot of needle.
I give you four feet of blanket on one foot of needle. Danger!

A stick in the mud.

I love being in new places. I hate getting there. I tell myself that I love adventure but really, I enjoy about 35% of the journey there and 100% being at my destination, wherever that might be. I’m not very good at this game. My life is an ellipses. Six months here, six months there, a smattering of people and places so diverse that I lose my grounding from time to time trying to keep up. I am a tortoise in a hare’s world. But the day to day muddle is temporary and a stepping stone to the next thing, whatever that is. It’s that last part that makes it hard for me to maintain any semblance of normalcy or consistency in my life. I can’t even keep my houseplants alive from one period to the next (Oh what pun it is.). I remind myself that I am extremely lucky to have the life that I do. The people I meet, the places I go, and the things that I do are all treasures, even whilst covered in mud, which they frequently are. Here’s to packing up and moving out! I hope I packed enough beer to share.

Ah, hills.

Brain: Let’s go for a run!!
Body: *sigh* Fine.
Brain: Oooh, let’s do hills!!
Body: What?! No.
Brain: It’ll be fun!
Body: Fine, but just one.
(5 miles in)
Body: I thought you said this would be fun!?
Brain: APRIL FOOOOOLS!
Body: WHAT PART OF THIS ISN’T HILL!!
Brain: Oh, the quarter mile cool down at the end.
Body: I hate you.

There’s nothing very interesting about indoor running or elliptical and nothing particularly challenging about them either. I’d say the only real hardship is convincing myself to get on a machine and press ‘START’. But they do their job and I do mine and a workout commences. Fairly boring stuff unless I remember to bring a book.

But the last week or so have been beautiful outside and most of the ice has melted away. The trails are not yet clear but I put on my shoes anyway and went for my first outdoor run in weeks. I’ve given up hope for more snow to ski on.

But between skis, treadmill, and elliptical (and a steady winter gig kneading dough and mixing up pastries) I’ve managed to mostly stay in consistent shape (ie slightly out of shape but still capable). I think the slightly out of shape aspect is due to sloth-status punctuated by activity which tends to be my status quo through winter. It’s so easy to justify watching just one more episode of Marvel’s Agents of Shield. But my pace hasn’t suffered for it and apparently my lungs have not forgotten what their purpose is.

I’m happy to report that it was an enjoyable run and additionally that it was also the first test run for my Garmin Forerunner 15. My first ever smart watch. Also, the smallest market available GPS for my tiny wrists. I now have no excuse for not recording my runs (I just don’t want to carry this lug of a phone with me! I don’t want to keep a dang notebook! I’m never going to use this information!). Now I just plug my watch in and download my data digitally. I’m so lazy. But now it’s socially acceptable! Yaaaay!

It’s tempting to sign up for an eleven mile race in May but I sense that my limit at the moment is around eight miles with hills and that that might be pushing it (I might anyway, I’m not that bright). It’s also tempting to commit to the Gold Discovery Run, 16.5 miles in July. For the time being I’m going to mentally commit and train as though they are both possible. I need goals or I’ll just end up back on my couch watching Gilmore Girls again.

Field season was pushed back a couple weeks so I officially start off my Park Service summer on Monday.

February Rain

And March is unseasonably warm. Four months of baking and two weeks till the start of a new Denali season. So much and so little has happened since the last post. For now, a picture.

February Rain
February Rain

Eternity occurs between the beats.