in this new place, i upturn my face

I do apologize for the drought of new posts lately, in case anyone has been missing them. Last weekend (and by ‘weekend’ I always mean my days off, being Monday and Tuesday) I sojourned to Boulder to visit my brother instead of to the public library to use the free internet. So I have lots of new things to say and we’ll see what happens.

Photo Jun 21, 7 52 30 PM
The Visitor Center, where I spend a heckuva lot of my work time.

Work, first of all, is going well. I have some new programs, so that now the full list of topics is:

1. Desert plants, and their weird and wacky traits which evolution has honed over time in such a way that they can eke out a kind of survival in this very dry and hot place.

2. Symbiosis and interdependencies, and more specifically some unique mutualist relationships here in the Monument, including that of the yucca and the yucca moth.

3. Predators, such as mountain lions and coyotes and golden eagles and rattlesnakes, and how they are totally badasses.

4. And an hour and a half long guided hike in which we will explore the plants using all of our five senses. I am giving this for the first time tomorrow and feel sorely underprepared, but so far no one has had anyone show up for their walk, so perhaps it won’t happen anyway. (A lack of audience members is a consistent problem here. This didn’t happen on the island, since everyone was trapped there with us basically, but here people get out of their cars and realize it’s 400 degrees and they are surrounded by a thick cloud of bitting gnats, and they get right back in their cars, and there I am, standing alone, except for the thick cloud of biting gnats, of course.)

Photo Jun 17, 10 58 34 PM
A rainbow over the Colorado, right before we performed a dramatic ranger rescue of some hapless river-tubers. (By tuber I mean person on tube, not a root vegetable.)

The other week, a man came up to me in the Visitor Center and said, “Hey, do you want a free GPS?” I said, “What?” And he pulled a small Bible out of his pocket and handed it to me and said, “Here, enjoy the Lord’s salvation!” So I said, “Oh, I’m good, thanks, though.”

We have had lots of new Junior Rangers. One of them told me, “You know what? My name for rabbits is bunnies.” I like to show them all our snakes in jars, floating in formaldehyde or whatever the solution is. They are always very concerned with how do we feed them?

A couple days ago, I found myself walking down a trail by the canyon rim carrying a jar with a midget faded rattlesnake inside (one of the smallest and one of the most venomous rattlesnakes of the West) and a coyote skull and a bobcat skull, and I thought, “You know what? My job is pretty awesome.” Later that day I gave a mini-predator-program to an extremely ancient couple right in their giant van – I was standing by the rolled-down window, talking to them through it, passing props through – because they did not want to leave the air-conditioned interior.

I still haven’t stepped on any lizards. But I did find a dead one in the parking lot. I got some sidewalk chalk the other day, and I thought of tracing around it and then carefully removing the body to make a miniature crime scene.

Photo Jun 21, 2 47 27 PM
Water in the Monument. It does exist.

So weekends. Last weekend, as I said, I went to Boulder and visited my brother, who is an excellent human being and makes me laugh very much. My neighbor/coworker/Newfriend Mike came too, and saw his friend Kieran (not sure if I am spelling that right), and all of us, plus our other friend Mike, plus Kieran’s friend Squidward (not his real name) walked about Pearl St and had some food and beer and played games that BoulderMike and Brother play with their wards (they’re both guides for a kid’s adventure camp.) Later there were Sea Breezes and protecting of the universe. On Tuesday I got to jump into Boulder Creek, which was extremely cold and invigorating and made me grin like a crazy person. We found a thin wooded trail that winds its way along the banks. We also all practiced slack lining a lot. I am terrible at slack lining. On the way there, we tried without luck to eat pancakes. On the way back, we stopped and looked at the moon in Glenwood Canyon. Glenwood Canyon is a ridiculously beautiful place.

Photo Jun 23, 2 00 26 PM
During his visit, my brother and I went to an interesting house party in which we were given hats to wear.

My Aunt Kathy, who is another fabulous person, and her coworker Jody-from-South-Carolina, and my brother all came to visit last real-world-weekend, which was awesome. I had to work, which afforded them the opportunity to tour many of the local wineries, which I was obviously very jealous of. We had many great conversations though, and also went into Fruita, listened to some bluegrass, and played darts (which, I would like to mention, I did super well at, being narrowly beaten by my brother even though I got a perfect bull’s eye, BOOM.) They made me laugh a lot and it was a very happy time. It is such a contenting thing to spend time in the presence of people who have known you forever. Especially when they are great people.

That weekend my park-housing-mates and I also had a delicious-microbrew-fueled dance party in my and Jackie’s house, and met a Canadian at a bar. We also got to know our coworker Rich a lot better, which was very very great, because Rich is a yooper. Also, even though he is approximately the age of my father plus ten, his favorite musical artists are Eminem and Pitbull.

Then, yesterday, I got to spend some time in trees, in a place with lakes, in a place with moss that is green before you dump water on it. Mike, Nick (my awesome boss), and Lauren (Nick’s awesome girlfriend) and I drove two hours or so to the Grand Mesa. (Joel was supposed to come too, but in the morning we called him up to say we were running late, and he said, “Oh, didn’t you hear? [As if the news had doubtless been spread through the Valley-] I’ve got a bad case of the runs.” So this of course meant that we spent a great deal of the walk discussing poop-related topics. But who knows, maybe we would have anyway.)

Photo Jun 24, 12 19 50 PM
Along the Grand Mesa hike.

The Mesa was about twenty-five degrees cooler than the Monument and it is very, very green. I was a wound-up ball of euphoria on our hike, reveling in the height of the trees, and the cool wind, and the scent of thick moss and decaying wood and leaves underfoot. We hiked up to the crest and back around, about 11 miles, past numerous scooped-out sparkling lakes and through windfalls of trees, and saw a yellow-bellied marmot who squeaked at us, and a very tiny and fuzzy vole. Afterwards we stopped at a larger lake. I jumped in, naturally, even though it was about sixty degrees at that point and very windy. Nick went fishing for a wee while, and I found a fish too – it was a sucker with a hook through its lip and the line that was still attached trapped under a rock, the sucker desperately swimming in tight circles in shallow water, so I grabbed the line and pulled him up, and Mike wrangled the hook out and we turned him loose. Later, after the drive back (in which I fell asleep and had incriminating photos taken of me) we all had food and beers in GJ, and even later, for just a moment, it rained at the top of the Monument.

Photo Jun 24, 1 34 09 PM
A view from the Crest.

I do like this semi-desert very much – it is beautiful, and intriguing, and rich in color. But it’s thick, green trees and deep blue lakes that I love, that make me feel saturated in a joy that I don’t feel anywhere else. It’s good, I suppose, to know this about myself. I’m glad to have this dry and Western adventure, but I’m really glad, also, for the moments I get in the forest.

Photo Jun 24, 2 16 16 PM
A columbine up on the Mesa.
Photo Jun 24, 1 34 26 PM
Nick and Lauren and GRTE up on the Crest of the Mesa.
Photo Jun 20, 9 48 21 PM
Rich the Yooper, our new Canadian friend, and many of my fabulous park housing neighbors in Fruita’s Copper Club.
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