Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Who Would Be the One Thinking This Thought

It's hard to do selfies when you can't see close up

It's finally winter here on the mountain and the snow dusted evergreens are so soul-fulfilling to a Texan flatlander.  I had dreamed about moving to a mountain and becoming a better skier (as a plan B to Ice life), and now that dream has become a reality - except for the fact that I am not a very good skier if my last two days out are any indication. Man it was rough. I skied one day by myself at Timberline: I'd never been there before so I tend not to explore a mountain too much if I don't have anyone with me. I seem to get lost very easily, stand around looking for signage and waiting for the zillions of snowboarders to whiz by, and finally figure out a few runs that seem good and do those over & over til I'm done. Even if I have a crappy day at it, I am always proud of myself for going - I mean it would be so much easier not to go. And then I had company stay with me for two nights (a gal pal & her two sons) and that was a fun two days as we skied at Meadows for really cheap and it was nice have two whole days of a long holiday with intense face time with people in my house. Sometimes I don't realize how much time I spend in solitude until someone is around me for 24 hours...like everything else I feel intensely about, my solitude is something I cherish and hold sacred, but can subtly turn into isolation if I don't stay alert to it...after a few delicious days of reading and knitting I'll feel all wonky and realize I need to go hang out with some people. This is the issue I never had to deal with on the Ice, as I was always surrounded by people and had to work hard for precious alone time. That life was easier as I thrive on contact with people, so I have to work a lot harder stateside as I love living alone and have moved 3 times in 2 years so am continually throwing myself into situations where I have to make new connections. Thankfully that comes naturally to me and this is a friendly mountain.

After a 2.5 year period where I rarely used fb, I am back on it and connecting with people again. Once the Icefolk are fully deployed I calm down, and now that it is winter here I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything. Or am I? One thing I saw on fb a lot is all the weddings and babies people are having. A lot of these people are folks I've known and loved dearly and I am always just so surprised to see them doing this. I forget that they are a lot younger than me, and that 90% of people want to have a family of their own. This puts me in a small demographic, and we women (and men) tend to find each other. We are connected by not only not having the desire to bear children, but by also being absolutely baffled by it. I am always very very surprised when I'm talking to a girl I've just met and her one desire to to have a baby. If they are under 35 I try and find out what other passions they might have and try hard to encourage them to pursue those...but I don't put a lot of energy into this as people want what they want and it leaves empty airplane seats for people like me...I am probably falling into that mind-trap because it is the holidays and I have to scramble to find fellow orphans to hang with. Truly, I have never regretted not having children, but I can understand the joy that they bring into people's lives because I have caught glimpses of it. Last night I was watching a documentary called "Stuck" about all the orphans lolling around in institutions all over the world and it was heartbreaking as so many Americans wanted to adopt a lot of these kids and the process took forever or was halted completely. That is one thing I could see myself doing is adopting one of these precious kids...but it would be super hard for a single person. One comment an adoptive parent made in the film was "there had to be more to life than golfing & skiing." That really hit home for me. Last week on my second day of skiing with my friend, we had gotten ourselves stuck on a run that seemed too scary for us. The winds had picked up and we were looking over a ledge and didn't see anything we felt brave enough to ski down. She started panicking and I asked someone who skied by where was the easy way down and he pointed to a road that would lead us to a broad bowl...we slide slipped down a super narrow catwalk with sheer drop-offs, me drenched in sweat & Renee freezing and crying, and I just kept telling her we're almost there just take it one baby turn at a time, and we got down. As soon as the terrifying part was over we were cursing down a blue run laughing and proud of ourselves and these words came out of me "I'm really Bored!" She looked at me stunned. What? Look where we are and what we are doing, this is so fun! She was right but I think my surprising even to me comment was a version of what that guy in the documentary had said. Is this all there is? I am good at picking a goal and making it happen. Maybe it's just too early in the season and I feel like I suck at skiing. Maybe it's because I haven't started working yet and I really need to start doing that to abort this extended period of navel gazing. Or maybe my innards are pulling once again towards this work I often think of, of working around and with these kids. I am glad that this impulse is keening in my heart, that I am aware that there is tenderness and compassion in me. But it only matters if I take action on it.  I have many volunteer gigs earmarked for when my pup is gone so maybe that's my next phase. When you've gotten to do everything you've wanted for yourself, the only thing left seems to be to give to someone in need. I feel it so often, but have acted on it so little. Will work on changing that for sure.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Band Aids for the Bewildered

South Dakota, or maybe North

Much Anticipated Americana

Flatlander's Comfort Zone
SD Mothership

I recently blazed in my Cat Yellow Fiesta from Mt. Hood to Watford City ND for much, much needed love and affection...and the particular soulful delights that only accompany long solo road trips. Unlike last November when I spent two or 3 nights in a motel each way, this time I drove two 12-16 hour days, spending only one night. OUCH said my almost 53 year old sciatic nerve! My clown car is not made for comfort, but gets excellent gas mileage. And after about the eighth hour my hundred dollar gel cushion is a lumpy ball under my arse. I went to see Daniel, my last bit of Antarctic connection, and we had a fantastic week of just melting into that one person that we seem to be able to do. I was so cray-cray when I first got there, the stripped down to the core raw nerve of myself that happens in Taos still not fully integrated yet, so I was overly sensitive and demanding, my abandonment shit just through the roof. I realize now I was starving. Starving for something I have tried for several years to give to myself through spirituality workshops "loving myself" practices (???) and whatever other horse hockey my mind tries to fool me that I need when what is obvious is that I need to be with somebody I love! I don't even realize that loneliness is the problem until I race the 1500 miles to see him. And I wouldn't expect it to be any other way for me - I mean, if it doesn't read like an overwrought Springsteen ballad it's probably not exciting enough (and we even went to the Badlands for crissakes!)- and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am not talking about physical connection either, I am talking about something more akin to "twin souls", as dorky as that sounds it also feels apt. We have a groove that we get into when we do stuff together that is like companionship plus...I have tried for 3 years now off Ice to have a life but I've cobbled what appears to be a tattered quilt like life - hole-y and quiet, not the shiny, overamped, studded leather one I had become so accustomed to. O metaphors!

In am amazingly surreal chain of events the Antarctic program has been cancelled because of the government shutdown. Whereas I NEVER look at fb during this time because of sheer despair and envy, now I am watching closely as my friends are being uncontracted & sent home - and I understand completely their pain. Even though I am choosing not to go back it has come at a high price to my mental happiness. I had just dug my way out of the desolation of missing my third deployment to see that almost EVERYONE is missing this deployment. My first roommate friend, and the only person I know that feels the same way about the Ice that I do wrote a blogpiece that captures the essence of what it is like to be in love with a place, and the heartbreak of having it torn away from you. It feels like a dream I will wake up from - to see so many of my tribe yanked from the homeland...

In the 80's, before the Internets, I used to mail order these little booklets from an obscure writer in the ads from the Austin Chronicle. They were incredibly deep & intellectual discussions dissected from ancient Irish sayings. The collection was called Band-Aids for the Bewildered. I ordered these little booklets as they came out, and I don't ever know of anyone else that read them or had heard of them. Before I could afford to travel and navel gaze for the bulk of my time, these were the kinds of luxuries I could afford. I wonder if I still have these little booklets somewhere...I don't know what made me think of them, but what I can guess is that I have been in this sort of lost place post Ice and have done what I can to be happy and kind to those around me. I have done a lot of it with a heavy heart. Sometimes I wonder if they are all band aids: the trips, the knitting, the binge show watching, the buying of a cabin...but that feels like thinking that comes from old programming...the only thing that thinks it needs a band aid is my thinking. Yeah, fuck the band-aid metaphor.

I've surrendered to life moving on at its own rhythm. I like to force and smash and destroy things so this is new to me - it forced it's way on to me. I am sitting in my cabin on a volcano drenched in autumn fog. My favorite season is beyond beautiful in Oregon - sometimes I can't believe I live here...like County Donegal, like somewhere I always dreamed of living. And the best part hasn't even happened yet: the snow. We are all giddily anticipating the arrival of snow, and it looks like I'll have a job at the resort, with built in time for ski breaks during the shift. I asked for the lowest job there: parking lot attendant, knowing that that is the job I would probably enjoy the most. So I made the plan to move to a mountain with a ski resort and I did it. No band aid, no bewilderment. Doing the next best thing. The next right thing. Talk about a dream, try to make it real. Maybe a lost Ice soul will join me...the door is open.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Almost Winter

Government Camp, OR

I just read my previous post and it was so one dimensional in its eternal stuckness, and epically boring in its sad craving for what I have to postpone. I have a LIFE off of the Ice. I have so many experiences of exotic trips and and have moved three times in the state of Oregon and even bought a ski cabin on Mt. Hood. I have friends who truly dig me up here. It was a very hard decision to stay or leave Oregon. I miss Texas and even though I love the natural beauty of OR I am not crazy about the people. But I have chosen this as my home for now and am nestling in to my service commitments and job hunting.

I have started practicing yoga again and sell my handknitted goodies for a fortune, but it's not a sustainable income. I haven't worked in almost a year and that is gnawing at me as I'm not ready to be retired. I got a call from one of our three ski resorts asking if I'd be interested in being a groomer on the slopes. WOW! I went and talked the the guy and he showed me the Cats and the shop and it was pretty intimidating - like the time I went to North Dakota to  look into driving a truck and realized I'd need some experience before going out there green. It seems so long ago that I felt so truly alive in those old yellow tractors on the Ice. Big Sigh.

Just got back from 10 days in Toas from a workshop that I've done many times and came away as blissed out as I am every time I do it. When I do this work I feel this impending limitless possibility of what my life could be. I am starting to see that instead of missing my life on Ice I can take a proactive stance of wishing my Ice tribe well and only keeping good thoughts in my head about it. One of my biggest (and newer) dreams is about to come true: I now life 15 minutes from the ski resort and can ski every day if I want. I couldn't do that if I were deploying. I have spent the last seven years since I took my first lesson trying to figure out a way to ski 100 days in a season. It sounds easy: just move to the mountain, but it took some twists and turns to get here. I feel so passionate about skiing. I feel passionate about knitting and seeing really good films and the surprisingly awesome tv programs that are on now (I can't believe I just wrote that). I feel passionate about yoga - I just happened to move somewhere with an incredible teacher who makes me feel euphoric after a class. The hot horrible wheather is over and the clouds and rain are back and my depression is over. It is always that simple: the incredible warm womb of winter; the white silent snowy soulful place that makes me feel that not only is everything going to be okay but that everything is going to be incredible. I can almost say that I love where I live. I have been resentful of my reality for 2.5 years as I've felt the greatest thing I ever had has been taken away from me, while at the same time refusing to see the goodies in front of me. Can I finally enlarge myself to hold the fierce envy and confusing feelings about the Ice and my present good circumstances at the same time? This last trip into the sharp experience of Taos left me believing there was no choice if I want to experience peace. Yes I miss the Ice badly. Yes I am excited about getting a job at the resort and skiing a lot. Yes, yes, yes. I must absolutely get over the feeling that I am a victim of circumstances and see that I am making a choice every step of the way. My only choice now is to surrender to the present as it's the only thing I've got.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Ice Shaped Hole

I went against one of my strict rules and looked on facebook today and saw some one's winterover pics from McMurdo. (the picture above I took in my last season). I purposely don't log on to facebook for this reason only, and it has been sad to not be able to use that interface much -it just causes me too much sadness to see it. As usual, I thought I was okay with my current life: just knitting away every day and going to yoga and waiting for it to snow so I can ski. Going on hikes and drives every day exploring the area - but a gnawing black feeling growing in my gut that I am not living my dream. It's very simple, I want to be there and not here. And seeing those photos of winfly sent me down the rathole again. There is no one to blame there is not tragedy I don't have an ailment that would keep me from going. I am now going to focus on re-homing my dog. Missing the first season was a shock and very very depressing, missing the second was having to  make friends with serious low level depression, and now that I am missing a third it just seems utterly stupid to not engage with this experience that gave me EVERYTHING. And everyone tells me it is stupid to not go, especially health professionals. It is the people I would least expect to tell me to give up the dog, but that is what they tell me to do. There is no longer a question that being able to have this lifestyle is essential to my mental health. I actually have thought I might not be able to survive if I can't go back, not without being hospitalized. I don't want that to sound dramatic - it is just the truth. This is the first season that I am not pq'd for an alt contract, so I didn't even pursue a job, deciding not to do it until Fergus passes, but my focus has been too much on just trying to figure out how long he is going to live. I feel trapped, and I did not know when I adopted him that I would find a lifestyle I loved that did not include him. I mean, parents abandon their kids all the time...why do I feel like I have to stay with this dog? I have given him a good 16 years. He was on the chopping block when I adopted him in 1998. I am sacrificing the work I love and the place I love to be with him. Where do I draw the line? Where does the commitment to an animal end when it is keeping you from following your bliss? My fear is that I hand him over to someone and then will feel guilty...but will I really? I rarely thought about him in previous deployments but knew he was being taken care of. I trusted only one set of caretakers, maybe it's time for me to open up to a whole new way of thinking. Instead of crying all the time about this and feeling like a martyr really take control of the situation and find a good situation for him. I have a whole year to do it. I just have to decide if it's going to be a home where I never see him again or if I'll re-engage with him when I get back. The easiest thing would be for him to make his transition during these next 6 months. He is not sick at all. I just know that it has come to this. My isolation an alienation in a world I don't want to live in has me working 1000% harder than I should to try and feel good about myself. It is not working. I have to do the really hard thing now. I have to make a decision about where to leave him, and be okay with it...and when I take him to his new home I hug him goodbye, I courageously turn away, and look with a fire-y love filled heart and giddy anticipation upon my reuniting with my home.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Trails on Mt. Hood

I've lived on the mountain six weeks now and it has been a very a very exciting time. I have made peace with the decision to stick it out with the dog (I think) and not go back to the Ice until he is gone. There is too much astounding natural beauty around me to justify any sort of sense that I am missing out on something. I've never really been a hiker, just sort of done it while traveling or with people I'm hanging out with that are totally into it, but now I've been going quite a bit, ticking off hikes in my big Oregon hiking book, and I always feel really proud of myself when I've done one. Finding the trail head with the goofy instructions and a non-working GPS up here is half the battle - once I've found it I'm surprised how accomplished I feel after I've completed it. I go by myself and I rarely see anyone. On a sunny day I'll go deep into a dark forest - and on a cool, overcast day I'll do the super popular hikes. I've always done a lot of walking but now I'm logging more miles per day. I also found an awesome yoga studio after not practicing for two years. The apprehensions I had about moving here did not materialize: I have more friends and closer feeling connections than I did in my previous two years in Portland. The villages on the mountain all feel like members of a family that I feel honored to be a part of. There are not a lot of jobs up here so that is challenging...but my goal to become a better skier is still a top priority, I'll just have to wait for the snow. I miss the camaraderie of working and the excitement of deployment, but I had to open myself up to the possibility that I could find contentment here. I have one last trip to scheduled to Taos this year, and then my favorite time of year will come...Winter.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

A Cabin in the Forest

I just bought this cabin you see pictured here. It is on Mt. Hood, in a little village called Welches, about a hour's drive from Portland. I am not excited about it, but my lease was up, my dog is still alive, and I needed a "project" to focus on as I am looking at missing a third season in a row on Ice. I just found a Kiwi dollar while I was moving stuff, and broke down into tears again (Ice folks will understand). And we are entering my least favorite season where I have to battle with despair and Reverse SAD, so I decided to buy a little home because at least it's something I haven't tried yet in my continual search to find meaning on my off Ice life. 

It was not an impulsive decision - I had been looking at these cabins for two months as they were so affordable and would allow me to work/ski on the mountain throughout ski season, a goal I have been working slowly towards. This one, which is the nicest of all the ones I'd looked at, just fell into my lap at a ridiculously low price, so I said yes, and then had the two weeks of psychotic fears (buyer's remorse, wanting to back out, actually driving for six days to So Cal to calm the freak out down) and now I'm prepared for the move.

The one exciting part of getting ready to go is seeing all my stuff go out of my current apartment. I was not prepared to feel this glee and sense of freedom of getting rid of my stuff. The cabin comes furnished so I am getting rid of all my stuff. I stood, after hauling a bunch of stuff to a neighbors house, with that deep inner brewing excitement and studied it and it was Freedom. Freedom! Not being trapped - which was what all the anxiety was about with the cabin purchase. I am setting myself free by having a place I can lock and leave and don't have to deal with lease signings anymore.

A kid just bought my bed so now I am sitting on the floor...as soon as I move into that cabin I am most likely going to do a really big road trip. The last one was really interesting, as long solo road trips seem to do a really roto rooter on my emotional landscape as I'm traversing the actual one. I mean, on this last trip I would go through the highest highs of excitement followed by sobbing over my steering wheel - just by listening to the random millions of thoughts in my head. I hate summer, so probably need to deal with it by enacting a scenario that feels like I'm on the lam. Hoping to get a passport stamp in this summer too. I'm moving in 10 days and it really feels like the right thing to do. I can always sell in a year if I don't like living up there. A part of me was panicking so badly over this, but it's all going to be okay...I am free, I have to keep reminding myself that I am free.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

UAE, p.1

After years of dreaming about going to the Middle East, I traveled through all of the United Arab Emirates, and spent two days in Muscat, Oman. I was too busy to write during this time as I was on this wild & hectic trip with a handful of solo travellers who I met in Dubai, but I will do my best to try and record as much as I can remember of the details. In short: unbelievably wonderful.

When I planned this trip I had had a taste of being in this region when I was in Istanbul a few years ago. There, hearing the calls to prayer from the mosques made my innards all aglow so I knew I had to go to the middle east. I had spent a season on Ice reading Freya Stark's books and felt daunted to travel there alone, but it's probably one of the easiest places to visit and get around, the only drawback being the 16.5 hour flight (and the weather).  I spent 11 days in the Emirates & Oman and can say it was probably the best experience I've had traveling. I didn't even notice the 90F temps because of the rich time we were having being immersed in the culture and being around people so friendly and gracious and helpful that it showed me how sweet the world would be if everyone treated everyone else the way these people do. We only had contact with the foreign guest workers, who make low wages, but they are from countries that value friendship and family above success. There were glimpses of the rich & illusive locals, and they were generous with smiles for us too...20% of their GDP is tourism (only 10% from oil) so even the Ugliest American traveller (I saw them - shudder) is treated as an honored guest; and how we throw money at them may have something to do with the level of service, but their warmth seems to be home grown and real, and it's one of the reasons that the urge to roam he earth is still so compelling to me: I believe that people are good hearted, and I like to find the cultures most radically different from the one I grew up in and hang out with those people.

Dubai was interesting but my heart cracked open when we got out in the desert. I had a lot of apprehension about going someplace where I knew I could be flattened by the sun, but the days in the desert had a sandy haze in the sky and the whole peninsula is breezy so it was never too bad. We were even there for the 12 drops of rain they get each year, and running around in Arabian sand was very fun. It is very unlike the deserts I've been to in the American Southwest,  just a completely different landscape.

Each emirate had it's own feel, all in their own way as spectacular as Dubai, with Ras al Khaimah & Sharjah being particularly memorable. But the most soulful place we went to was Muscat, Oman. We spent two days there & didn't want to leave. I will honor it in it's own posting...but it's 2:00am after I've flown back from Dubai and must rest up...just wanted to get something up while the glow was still on me...no matter how much it costs, every dime spent on exploring is worth all the material things I've given up to do it...this place has pierced my heart, and I feel so lucky to have gotten to go there.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Another Post about Missing Antarctica

I appear to be having a very rich life of late - skiing mid-week for two full days, riding back and forth to the mountain with a busload of rollicking fun people. I am also fiendishly knitting piles of gorgeous woollies that I can hopefully sell again in one fell swoop in Taos. I could have never have imagined that I wouldn't have to go to a hideous job every day because I did it for so long...but now that I don't have to, the freedom is a lot to deal with. Having to fill all this free time is more work than I thought. I have no complaints or worries, and am about to go on my first trip to the Emirates and Oman, and get to live in this amazingly beautiful landscape that is winter in the Pacific Northwest. But I logged onto fb today, which I hardly ever do anymore, and saw several friends' redeployment posts, and felt that giant empty black hole open up inside of me and I'm having to use all my mental defenses not to fall into it. It's a black hole of anguish over not being at my "home"...I've never been through anything like this before; the missing has it's own life.

It has been two years since I last redeployed so I am now accustomed to the ache of not being on Ice. I didn't want to write another posting about this but this is my reality: no matter how many incredibly fulfilling things I can find to do, none of it fills that void. I can coast along for a few months but when a significant Ice date comes up I'm flattened. I feel like I have the wind knocked out of me right now as I just read about peoples posts about flying to Christchurch after a long season. Gawd,  I'd give anything to be there!

At least this ache is not killing me anymore. I just carry it around with me while I'm doing other things (knitting & skiing). I've even tried a bunch of new agey tricks like being grateful for what I have and staying in the present and continual planning of exotic trips, but they are all just a delaying tactic. I remember that scene at the end of the Hurt Locker, when he is standing in the cereal aisle of the grocery store after the intense life he had amidst the violence of war: he knew that conventional life was not for him, so he went back. I am waiting for my time to go back too. I am trying to be a grownup about it, and not talk about it too much anymore, but sometimes I slip up - I spent all of Valentine's day crying my eyes out in the arms of a man who cares about me in a dilapidated hotel on the Oregon Coast...a dream coastline, overcast, rolling dark clouds, grey waves grey sand grey sky, my weather nirvana. The courage it took to move here and be friendless and try and reinvent myself in another place and to make a life that appears enviable in its financial freedom aspect..the exotic travel to Scandinavia and ski trips and delicious rain for days on end...all these wonderful things I have and a man who flew to see me for Valentine's week so we could ski and laugh and drive around and watch movies. He got to spend that day with me after I'd fallen into that holy crap I'm not on the Ice hole - but he didn't shame me or feel left out because on some level he understands even though he doesn't feel the same way. I met him there, and every time I see him or hear his voice my spirit lights up like the first time I saw him and the first time and every time I landed on that ice shelf. He was there and he knows, and even though he doesn't feel as heartbroken as I do he agrees that it was the best time in his life, and being with him reminds me of the best months of my life, driving my loader past the galley while he smoked outside in his chef clothes, waving and knowing that in a few hours I'd be seeing him, and everyone else on station, and then going to bed in my little dorm room and laughing with my roommate and getting 4 hours of sleep a night and going to work every morning in the icy air, working hard, working my ass off. I could never have imagined that I could be so happy, so content. I still can't believe it, it seems like a dream. Like a cinderella dream come true.