the storms of august and lonely deserts

Well, it’s been ages since I’ve written anything here. With the end of my season here closer than the beginn20130901-082537.jpging, I’ve been realizing I’d better start thinking about what happens next, which translates into job searching, cover letter writing, resume updating, and banging my head into the laptop keyboard at the sheer hopelessness of finding a meaningful, fun, and lucrative position, so all of that leaves little time for doing anything else on the computer. But, I thought maybe you all missed hearing about this lady’s life in western Colorado, so here I am to appease you.

This morning, I woke up to a liberal sprinkling of tiny mouse turds all over my apartment (which, after Jackie’s early-August departure, is now all mine.) I’d seen the culprit scamper in a couple weeks ago, through a gap between the wall and ill-fitting screen door, and I’d named him Oscar and thought of him fondly as my new housemate. I see him once in awhile: dashing behind the stove, squirming underneath the sink, lounging on the sofa. But this new turd thing is not pleasant, and I call the line at a housemate who shits everywhere. So, after a breakfast of fried eggs and potatoes and homemade coleslaw (cabbage is one of my favorite foods; Carsten, I think you’ve got my back on this?), I walked over to the natural resources office and inquired after a mouse trap. A live trap, because, come on, this is Oscar we’re talking about.

In their dusty, musty garage, Katie found me a small stainless steel box called the “Tin Cat,” which promises to hold thirty mice (although, looking at the thing, if there were thirty mice in there, I would hope for their sake that none of them were claustrophobic or suffering from body odor.) So now it is in the corner of my kitchen, and I’ll let you know what happens.

It’s been a month of ups and downs since my visit to Michigan three weeks ago. The downs I will not go into detail here, since this is a public blog that anyone can read, but I will say that there are days when I feel terribly lonely here, or frustrated at work, or disheartened with working for a bureaucratic government agency. For all of that, there are also parts of this job that I love, that lift me up and make everything seem very worth it, and there are coworkers who make me smile and chuckle and feel safe and respected and comfortable. The parts of the job that I love are all of the moments when I connect with people – the evening programs where people are asking questions and lighting up, shaking the hand of a new junior ranger and watching them melt in pride, solving a natural history mystery (it rhymes!) for a visitor. All of these people learning new things and getting excited about it. And I’ve gotten some great positive feedback from people at work lately too, which doesn’t hurt.

Weekends, of course, are always fantastic. This past one, I stuck around here for the first time in quite awhile, and re-acquinted myself with this park, and also, sleeping in. Mike (still the best neighbor everrr) showed me some rock art I hadn’t yet seen at White Rocks, and we hiked in Echo Canyon, pouring with puddles and eddies after all of our recent summer thunderstorms, and saw two little dead coyotes who smelled very bad. (We’re still not sure why they died; caught in the big flash flood through there? Some coyote illness? Poisoned by a local townie?) Shortly thereafter, my friend Lauren arrived, and we spent an extremely pleasant couple of days hiking more in the park, cooking yummy food, having a dance party with the neighbors, sitting on rocks overlooking the Grand Valley, discussing many facets of life, being productive in a coffee shop, and losing terribly and enthusiastically at pub trivia in Grand Junction, where we nontheless were the recipients of several rounds of applause from the regulars.

The previous weekend was an excursion, and a ridiculously excellent couple of days. Mike and I headed west and met up with my brother and friend Jonny in rain-soaked Eagle, from which we drove south on an increasingly-wild road into the Holy Cross Wilderness Area, in the White River National Forest, in the Rocky Mountains. It was brilliantly-green aspen forest with peaks rising up all around us, and we camped, ate delicious bean burrit20130901-082724.jpgos, drank whiskey, answered riddles, and had one of the world’s largest fires – Mike had us carting entire dead trees back to the firepit. The next morning, after a leisurely breakfast and coffee in camp, we hiked nine miles round-trip (with about 2000′ elevation gain) to a clear, blue mountain lake at 11,000′. (Nothing like taking your friend who has just flown in from sea level and making him hike miles and miles at high altitude, that’s what we always say!) The entire trail followed a rushing creek and the whole thing was in this lush, rich, complex alpine forest that smelled good and sounded good and looked good. And the big meal and beers after the hike wasn’t bad either. We finished the day in a terrible, bank-owned motel in Eagle that smelled like overcooked tacos and was stiflingly hot after the a/c unit quit working, and got an early start the next morning. The hotel did offer cinnamon candies at the front desk, and there was a small party out of the back of someone’s pick-up in the parking lot after dark, which we kept tabs on out of the window.

The weekend before that on20130901-082755.jpge, which now seems so long ago, is when I headed into the La Sal mountains in Utah and met up with my friend Alina. That trip was also rich with good conversation, aspen forests, cozy tent camping, and hikes and rock scrambling in Canyonlands. We checked out Newspaper Rock, illegally scaled a fence and climbed a metal tower just to say we had, jumped in a mucky lake, drove to the summit of Abajo Peak, and ate these weird things called corn nuggets in a deserted restaurant in Monticello. It was all extremely satisfying.

I promise I’ll try to get back to regular postings now – I’m still here for another five weeks and possibly as many as ten, and there will be more stories, and of course we need to know if Oscar is crazy enough to enter the Tin Cat.

I miss you all.

 

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