Sunday, August 21, 2016

10 weeks of Awesome

Today I'm moving back into my house after almost 3 months of living semi-off-the-grid. For three months I've traveled under southwestern skies, through moons and monsoons, set up and torn down camps, but mostly helped things run smoothly at our base camp. Now that this final day has come, I don't even know where to begin to process this I'll start with the data:

42 like minded peers with similar shared experiences and different perspectives on our adventures.
126 youth who I got to know by name, hike and explore with and learn from.
Over 70 nights sleeping in open air: 26 nights in a tent, 4 nights under the stars, the rest in my "cabin", the Shed.
About 18 showers. 6 laundry days. And 8 really good flossings (sorry Dentist).
3 star talks, one moon viewing through the telescope, 5 long walks in the rain, four walks through a burned part of the forest, one mountain summit, 3 miles of backpacking, lots of digging through outdated field guides, about 130 formal meetings and countless informal ones. 4 boxes of lucky charms. 8 games of bucketball. 30 nut butter and jelly lunches, two hikes up pyramid rock and two flea market stops. Over 75 "desert silvery blues," and many, many inside jokes. 2 new friends, dozens of wonderful memories, and renewed fortitude.

Top 10 moments:

1)Elliott missing Cordelia with the purple ball in Spud
2) Walter calling the cake slipping off Chet's plate.
3) Sitting with Palo and 2 cool kid hikers at dinner after second Rendezvous and hearing an 18 year old say, "speaking of dinosaur classification..." before launching an excited explanation of the Brontosaurus.
4) Outfit 2's rendezvous song.
5) Harriet the rat
6) Chris's late night bug show, "Cassiussss"
7) Chris and Lisa sitting super close to me for a "Cass-Sandwhich"
8) Chris "excuse me, you're on fire" during rendezvous mudgie
9) Mike's "food for athletes" and people in gulch jerseys eating ice cream out of a wheelbarrow during a game of bucketball, while MDT and WCT watched
10) Reunion campfire(s)

This summer has been full of growth for me. I have learned and been challenged by my lack of interpersonal skills. I learned some new bugs, and grew more confident in teaching. I learned that even if you say yes to everything and feel like you're going to drown in opportunity...there is Always a way. Honestly, after this summer, with all the death and a wedding and reunion and a family reunion and school field trips all stacked on one another... I have been reminded that no matter what, there will always be clouds in the sky...attitude is everything, and a little Grit goes a long way.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Ride the World

These are not easy words to write, and could probably be expressed better. But in the words of Thoreau "Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short."

I have spent the last 10 weeks pouring my energy into a community that consists on discovery, growth, self awareness, confidence and independence. The first days, even weeks after Sid passed I struggled to think of going back to my normal world. At the same time, my supportive group of inspiring friends has been exactly what I needed to shake this shock and sadness, and propel my energy into something greater:

Monday was our last night with trekkers at our base camp. Six weeks before, inspired by the bustle and buzz of 30 adults making last minute preparations I started a poem about the "calm before the storm." Now, after many tears and smiles, laughing to the point of collapse, wondering how an hour can feel like an eternity but a week can feel like a moment, one wedding and two rendezvous and a handful pretty intense's come to an end. Every late night, every tough decision, every bonding moment has come to this: a staff game of bucketball under an increasingly brilliant orange sky. 

Many of us hardly have enough energy to communicate our own feelings, yet we pounded the squishy dirt as we hustled back and forth, not wanting our peers to feel unsupported. Trekkers watched from either side (admiring this adult show of appropriate contact and communication in a semi-competitive game) as they prepared for their final banqets- a traditional last meal with one another before they travel back to their homes, plug into their screens and march back into their school systems. 


I have thought a lot about Sid this summer. He came to  me in the happiest moments. In those rare moments of still beauty and perfection I was painfully aware of his absence in this world. I've thought a lot about how we would have worked it out this summer...with me being completely committed to this community. I've thought about how thankful I am to have learned his perspective on politics and the world, and to have met a new group of friends and family from him. I've also thought about his addiction. Our ability to be consumed in every aspect of our lives by the things we loved made Sid and I understand each other. I'm reminded every day of how his addiction to alcohol affected his life. This summer I have seen my peers fight the same addiction. Whether they're watching the people they love pour their lives away, or making the difficult decisions to keep themselves away from the same pressures, I have so much pride and admiration for their willpower and strength...and I worry that without help, more people will have to face the same struggles. Just as Sid threw himself into his Colorado world, I am consumed by this community, and the work needed to be done to give our youth a safe space.

This last week of wrapping things up, as two different parents choked up thanking us for what we have done for their kids, I have been reminded of why we do this energy-taxing job of supporting sustained memories and a sacred place for these children to grow up. Every interaction I had with a young person, I became aware of the need of our children to receive actual attention and care by solid adult role models. I hope that with this support, they won't turn to substances to fill a void. 

Harriet the rat. 
The world has now missed the brilliant soul we called Sid for over three months. I ache for him and cry for him. I miss the furrowed wrinkles on his forehead that I would try to smooth out, his cheesy grin, and the soft skin of his hands. I know that no amount of tears or memories or lighting candles can bring him back...but what I can do is carry on his energy and love, and fill the void of passion I had for him with love and light for the rest of the world. I can no longer tell Sid I love him, but I can show that love to the youth around me, to the leaders of the future. I can listen to late night ramblings, cheer them on when they're challenging themselves to something new, and be supportive of who they want to be.