Saturday, December 14, 2013

Memories & Bends

An unprovoked memory of saying goodbye to an English couple at night in a small train station.
The salt and pepper hair my dad suddenly has.
Old shoes not worn in two, three years on the shelf and no ability to discard them.
Veins across the bones in my hands.
The ease and delight of finding myself on my own bed between two dogs vying for affection.
A sweet kiss from the puppy who has learned how to lick instead of use her teeth to say hello.

One night. Memories and glimpses of just one night.

If a full life is a sum of all of its days, then that is a terrifying and terrible thought. It places a tremendous amount of pressure on every moment. It's debilitating, really. Because it's like- what am I doing? Am I living in a fantasy where living a life with a 9-5 kind of minimum wage job is acceptable to me forever? Does it matter? Because it's always mattered considerably and that is crippling.

Now, I am not sure what is going to happen. I can see the time for this kind of life coming to an end like approaching a bend in the road after traveling straight for many miles. It's the same road but there's a curve but I am not sure what I want to be around the curve. Or if I have control over that.

I don't care what Frost did or did not say about forks in the road mattering or not making a difference- it matters what you choose. 

I could leave my job- pay off my debts and pursue a career to make money. A job that might even allow me to travel around the world and get paid. Taste wild and dangerously delicious food in a colorful and dangerously foreign market. Dive off small cliffs into simple salt water and sand bays. Sit for another aching sunset. Aching for its sameness. 


Sameness...In a setting like that?

Why would you want a 9-5 life when that is your past and at your fingertips for the future?

Oh, it's within my grasp, I know it. 

But doing it alone- it is killing. Some people, I thought I was one of them, are lovers of traveling alone. It's great for them. They're huge fans of it. I'm not. I get really lonely and frankly, cold. 

However, the future is so unclear to me its sometimes worse than consuming my thoughts- it's so bad that I don't even want to think about it. This is treacherous territory to find oneself in. It's where many people lose themselves to settling and compromising. Although, what appears to be settling and compromising may actually be not the worst path to take for many, that is its own adventure enough.

The other night a friend told me what one of the winnings would be for a lottery. It was an unfathomable number of $400 million USD. So I asked him what he would do if he won.

At first, he answered that he would pay off his debts, sell his car (or just give it to someone) and leave. He would just up and get out of town. Then he told me that in seriousness, he would pay off his debt but then spend time traveling around for a couple of years before finding a place to settle down. 

But I'm thinking- you can do that without winning the lottery. Granted, it'd be a hell of a lot easier with money like that, but it's not like it's impossible. But would I even want that anymore?

And is it either/or? Do we have to choose between a life of success/singleness/freedom and a life of stability/partnership/responsibility? Because I want both. No, I want all of the above. 

Wide open spaces. Empty trains careening through western Europe at night or crowded buses on dusty roads by day. Strange beds in new houses and a house and land to call my own to return to at the end of another adventure. Relationships and familiarity in a community. The wild, out there days or weeks full of meeting new people (who are nothing like you but really just the same in the end). That moment when you think you're smart but you try to turn on a stranger's shower and that other moment when you get back and are so happy you know how to coax hot water out of your own shower head without thinking about it. Amazing water pressure versus taking a lake bath. Both are awesome. I'll take both, please. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

An Affair of the Heart

It's amazing what can happen in 3 months when you stop blogging. Or three days, or three minutes for that matter. Your whole life can change in one quick conversation.

Last week, mine did. I did something that I'd wept about doing because it was a great fear of mine- exposing one's heart to another's. But something beautiful and amazing came out of it despite that there's been no resolution. My heart was simply freed. It no longer had any regrets. What a blessed and unusual circumstance to find oneself in for how often do we take, not have, but take the opportunity to say what would otherwise leave us with great remorse in the future. I could see that happening and knew I couldn't stand it and would always be sorry- irregardless of the outcome of the conversation I dreaded and feared. My mother helped. She explained, "You need to say something. Use those balls of steel I gave you and say it."

And simply, I did. And surprisingly, lived to tell the tale. 

You see, we all get one story. One chance to write our own unique story that can be as wild or tame as we decide. The wilder it is, the less certain it will be. The more you have invested in something, the more risk you take at losing. There are many, or really if we're being honest, most who choose the easy path. The less risky one. 

I'm not about that. It's miserable choosing the lesser road when you know the other beckons your heart to be wild and most true to itself. And we all have our own stories- some people's might be having a family and kids, others it could be sailing around the world or becoming a Green Beret. We all have our dreams and fantasies that we keep hidden deep within our souls that we rarely share perhaps because to speak them might cause them to vanish. It would require something great of us. Or, I think maybe, we are afraid to hope for more and for our dreams to come true because if we dare to hope and invest so much hope in it only to have it fail, then the failure is far more agonizing than simply not trying to make it come true at all. That is settling and it is killing. It kills the soul a little. 

Being true to one's heart and honest with oneself may be one of the most difficult choices we face with ourselves. It requires much of us. Most of us. Daring for greatness usually does and rarely do we see the forest for the trees. But it's the journey that's the best part. We might not see the forest til we reach the mountaintop but who doesn't love a good trail on the way to the top? It's in the trenches relationships are built and the little things stand out to us- the detailed moments in life that seem ordinary to consider and explain to another but are the most memorable. Like telling a joke and it falls flat and you have to honestly realise, "Ugh, you had to be there." The view at the end is beautiful but it's the journey to it that makes the view so worth while. Often times I've looked back down over the view and relished returning to the trees. 

So here it is and here I am. More decisions to make. After a year and a half of not even leaving the country let alone the continent, I'm faced with the decision to apply to a job in Africa, stay at my current jobs, and to wait out an answer to what my heart confessed a couple of weeks ago. 

It's all very important- and it isn't. Life goes on whatever happens. I've had a good life up until now, enjoy my two minimum wage jobs a great deal, and intend to continue living a good life as long as God sees me through. 

There was a time when I packed everything Africa into a couple of boxes that had a verse taped on it reading, "Lord, here's my heart". Then came the time when I brought it back down from the attic and my heart was in a very different place. Now, I'm happy here or there. Sure I love a good plane ride but the relationships I've developed here have become immensely more important than I ever suspected they would. People have crept into my heart without me realizing and leaving them would be difficult. But a part of my heart will always belong to Africa. 

I used to think the heart was only so big so I had to be cautious who I gave parts to. Because of it's size and value, I had to be careful because I would never get those pieces back and if I did it would be because they were shattered and hurting and they would not be good for giving out again for a long time. Now, I think the heart is more like the universe, to sound like a psychic, in that it's ever-expanding and I cannot find the limits of it. The more I give of my heart the more I receive back. Sometimes it gets hurt but that would happen if it were a heart limited in size or a heart limitless in size. It's much better to see the heart as limitless in it's affections and capacities. 

It's up to each of us to decide what our story is going to say. If it's one others would like to retell and use as examples of courage or of waste. Both stories are told, and we have the option in small decisions and large decisions to determine what others will say of us. But at the end of the day, it is ourselves who we must face. God's will will be done regardless of us. We have the chance to choose to be a part of it and what kind of story our lives shall tell.

There's a story by Isak Dinesen entitled, "A Deluge at Norderney". Several people are facing death. Two are a man and a woman and another is a cardinal (the details might not be totally right...) but the point is the couple decide shortly before they all die to marry one another despite the impending certainty of death. I love when the Cardinal says this:

"Be not afraid of absurdity; do not shrink from the fantastic. Within a dilemma, choose the most unheard of, the most dangerous solution. Be brave, be brave!"

That is the sort of life I seek to live. 

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

101 Things I'd Rather Be Doing!

Stumbled across this list compiled from a homestay near Mbeya, Tanzania in 2009. It puts a whole new perspective and appreciation on tomorrow. Most of these are the bare basics of daily life now. Some of them, like touching Ian's socks, riding that horse on the airstrip and shopping, I was like seriously? You were that desperate?

1- see Ty & friends
2- eat frozen yogurt with Emily
3- fly on a plane to see Jacinda
4- drive my car windows down music blaring
5- kayak
6- Rock Ventures
8- hug my mom
9- do anything with Ian
10- go to Starbucks
11- go to public market with Mom
12- walk with Kiwi
13- eat movie popcorn
14- go to a movie
15- Barnes & Noble
16- sit by myself in a park
17- go snow tubing
18- water tubing
19- go for a long run unencumbered by time at dusk in shorts & a tank top
20- eat at Carabba's
21- eat Mama Mia's
22- eat Panera
23- develop pictures
24- drive the Z3 all day
25- sit in a creek (cold creek)
26- read a book on the boat
27- play football with Ian
28- play frisbee at Anderson University
29- blueberries. eat. lots.
30- get ice cream with dad
31- Tom Wahl's with Ian for breakfast
32- wander around
33- buy sunflowers
34- make peach ice cream
35- pick up milk with Kiwi
36- go for a bike ride
37- run at the track at dusk
38- eat whipped cream
39- suck on an ice cube
41- eat with utensils
42- put a lock on a door
43- sit in a locked bathroom with a door and music
44- sit behind a closed door
45- sit on my roof to see the moon
46- hang out with Kailey. pizza.
47- buy CD's
48- shop on Ebay
49- wander alone
50- drive around the lake
51- make a complete burrito
52- peruse a library
53- hug dad
54- go out with dad
55- shower. long. cold. GREAT SMELLING SOAP.
56- work out
57- throw up lunch
58- SHAVE everything with my Intuition razor
59- get a massage
60- sit and cry
61- be in a full bathroom
62- set the table
63- use my dishes
64- pull curtains back & sit in the window
65- scare a fainting goat
66- water plants
67- mop the floor at the kennel
68- swim in Cindy's pond. Naked. Alone. At night.
69- turn on a light switch every hour of the day
70- dance with Ian
71- kiss a toad
72- go fishing- even if I don't catch anything
73- sit in a public place and be ignored
74- lay in the middle of a football field
75- use my red fluffy towels
76- wear my navy PJ pants & tank top
77- watch Count of Monte Cristo
78- use a new toothbrush. firm.
79- eat a pint of ice cream
80- have diarrhea
81- watch 10 Things I Hate About You
82- clean my room
83- do laundry
84- read my NLT Bible at Bux
85- be at camp
86- hang with Laurie Crowley
87- go to ALADDIN'S & SIT
88- have lunch with Grandma Helen
89- recover from wisdom teeth surgery removal
90- be out of gas without a phone
91- have my eyebrows waxed at Savage Tan
92- handle Ian's socks
93- ride Rafiki on the air strip
94- get food poisoning
95- slide down a hill of mud
96- play watermelon football
97- have strep throat (or the flu)
98- have my leg hairs pulled out
99- sit in a tub with snakes
100- go shopping
101- eat steak
102- read Moby Dick upside down
103- walk home from Lima in the rain
104- see Kailey & Joe before prom
105- be woken up to take a camper to the bathroom
106- play the spinning bat game
107- sleeping in my bed at home
108- sleeping on my bed in Canada with Kiwi
109- be in Ireland. in a pub.
110- watch Caitlin cry/laugh
111- be in the ceramics studio

"Candice and Careth are sponge bathed daily. When their mom saw their tan lines she thought it was dirt and tried to scrub it off...I feel like we've always been here. I can't remember anything. Getting on the Aardvark will be one of the best feelings in the world.

Oh, P.S. we listened to raunchy rap before church."

It's pretty incredible what four years can do to a person. In retrospect, that week was rough but it's true that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger. We had rats scrambling in the rafters above us and a serious desire for personal space that whole week. It was one of the most emotionally draining weeks of my life. It's amazing how boiled down your desires get when you're under duress- sitting in a locked bathroom alone. I still appreciate that (and really clean bathrooms) every day. Having classwork seemed like such a non-issue when I got back compared to the other stuff we experienced.

The greatest change is that I no longer want to be alone very much. It's been an abrasive, slow change and having solitude is still really important but it's been situations like the homestay or travelling thousands of miles through airports and on planes by myself that's made me realize life really is more enjoyable with people. Also, shit happens, you gotta deal with it and raunchy rap before church can make you feel like a million bucks.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Of course your preference is for one that'll bow up like a band saw and run head first into the ram wall.
John Grady smiled. Horse of my dreams, he said. It ain't exactly like that.
How is it then?
I don't know. I think it's just somethin you like. Or don't like. You can add up all of a horse's good points on a sheet of paper and it still won't tell you whether you'll like the horse or not.
What about if you add up all his bad ones?
I don't know. I'd say you'd probably done made up your mind at that point.

The Crossing, Cormac McCarthy

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Falconry: Day 5

*These are always better viewed in the slideshow mode. Just click on one of the photos!*

In the fourth photo, Andrea and her son Judah watch one of the hawks as Al tries to rustle a squirrel from a nearby tree. When Kit was out, three rabbits and two squirrels came out but she missed them. The other two, Z and Tess, were lagging and not into the hunt today and only missed a squirrel and a rabbit. None of the birds caught anything today hence the lack of blood and guts. 

The last photo is definitely one of my favourites. Have to look for more detail shots next time. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Falconry: Day 4

Z and Tess having their hoods removed before hunting. 

To rustle rabbits and other game, Al often has to go into the densest parts of wooded lots.

Al talks to Z about their lack of catches for the day. 

Kit struggles to pluck the squirrel while Al wrestles it away from her since it is not dead and he is unable to suffocate it. 

Kit looks after Al after he's made the trade and, in her eyes, stolen her catch.


*The first two are photos and the others are still grabs from video*

Today was poor for hunting- we went from noon until 2:30 and the two older girls missed a rabbit and a squirrel. Al packed up and went to a park in Greece and took the youngest, Kit, out around the park.

 After Kit caught the squirrel he took it to feed her at home. More people were beginning to show up at the park and he's been heckled by animal rights people for torturing the squirrels. However, today the one guy that saw us playing "catch" said it was the coolest thing he'd seen all day. I was like, "damn straight it is." Definitely the coolest thing I did today. 

Below is a picture of me that Al took after we played catch which began with him giving me a bag of raw squirrel meat and walking to the other side of the lot. We took turns whistling to Kit when we had a piece of meat on our gloves and she would fly from one person to the other.

 It was her reward for catching the squirrel and having to wait and my first chance to have a bird land on me. Earlier I'd picked up Tess without a glove and was suddenly hyper aware of Al mentioning they have hundreds of pounds of pressure in each toe. "She won't grab on...probably," were his reassuring words. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

The Perfect Supplement: Fully Realized

On Saturday Autumn showed me the building she's hoping to buy/be given/have transformed by Extreme Home Makeover to make into the official Sent By Raven's Food Pantry- birthed out of the idea of all the waste she's seen dumpster diving. Obviously, the food for the pantry won't be pulled from the trash but with a 501C-3 form that she just paid and applied for the food pantry will be able to go to grocery stores we know are wasting food and ask them for it before it "hits the bins". She's working with a lawyer, builder, accountant, and a slew of other people who can get this project off the ground and up and running. 

Today, we did a short interview at her house and the cover image is pulled from the video. I have to say, it was pretty fun! 

Here's a mock layout I did quickly as an experiment. Sorry for any typos, it's 1:20am here. 

*Distributing. Not districuting. 

Monday, January 14, 2013


Took a hike to look for the bald eagles at the south end of Conesus lake without success. Better planning next time to avoid the frigid swamp waters. 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Is Poaching an Issue in N.Y.?

On an excursion through the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) land at the south end inlet of Conesus lake yesterday, we came across three deer rib cages and a pile of bones. The cut hair and skin deliberately pulled down toward where the neck would have met the body heavily suggested the remains had been left by humans. 

Twenty feet away was a fourth carcass, shown above. To the shame of my inner detective heart, I chose not to open the bag. These bodies make for five deer carcasses found by happenstance in less than a month. This raised a lot of questions so I did a little digging and discovered deer poaching is an issue in New York state. National Geographic and others have published stories on poaching in Africa when it is also happening here on our own soil. Granted, the deer are far from extinction like the rhino is, but "deer jacking" is illegal and unfair to animals. In 2011 the DEC released a statement (hover here for the story) listing ticketed persons for poaching across the state and into New England. 

My mom suspected the deer we found may have been gutted and dressed at a home instead of at a taxidermist or deer processor and the remains dumped with no better place to leave them. But why leave the heads, a single horn, the trash bag, or the skins? And why was one of the rib cages significantly smaller than the others- the size of a fawn? It could be well worth pursuing to see how big of an issue it is.