Thursday, May 10, 2012

Guest Post from the West Coast

Introducing our newest guest blogger, Silvia, for our first edition of Guest Post from the West Coast! This is a great reminder to live in the present. And Silvia: I, too, dream of someday living out of a car -- a vintage vw van, actually.  ( :

Peace from the East,

Author’s Note: I wanted my first “Guest Post from the West Coast” to be about adventure.  However, I recently tore my right ACL (did it last year to my left knee in a stupid telemarking breathtaking view type situation) backcountry skiing Mount Gould in the Central Sierra.  I can write a post about that later. So as a now “ACL-less” person, I’d rather talk about something else for now.  I’m not sure who will read this, as I typically don’t write blogs this long, nor with footnotes.

A few Wednesdays ago was a day of thought and revelation- more so than most days.  I sat in the library nearly all day clicking through options for how to pay for grad school, and looking up other school and job options.  It wasn’t necessarily a day where I accomplished much professionally.  I did manage to check out the first book I grabbed while taking a stretch break.  Oddly, it was by Vermont author, Chris Bohjalian. I found a little bit of comfort in that. I am not quite sure I’ll finish it before the two weeks is up, but I’m really good at starting things lately.  I’ll have to work on the finishing part.

It was a dreary day in this little and soon-to-be bankrupt town of Mammoth Lakes, CA. A town with lots of black bears eating fearful tourists' fish and garbage, people from L.A. wearing their botox, tight pants, and ray bans, and a bunch of adventure loving freaks such as myself.  People flock to the Sierras to soak up, encapsulate the beauty, and revel in the Range of Light, and rightly so.  I am by no means as adventurous as I’d like to be, nor as adventurous as people I know.  I admire all the feats the brave residents and wanderers of the Sierras partake in.  I think for me it is a warming up process, and a what-injury-will-I-get-now-that-both-my-knees-are-bad process. 

Never know who is at your local coffee shop. Gas this day was $4.69 for 87 grade
Some of my family and friends at home don’t understand the dirtbag lifestyle of the West. It’s almost that time of year where multiple rv’s, old station wagons and vans, pimped out vans, and the like start touring through more than they do in winter.  I remember being excited to see who would show up next and driving what when I worked at the Mammoth Lakes Welcome Center.  Granted some of these folk are taking their lifetime dream trip, but a good share are seasonal workers, or people who have saved up, quit their job, retired, laid off, and in general are taking life by the horns with whatever funds they have or havenot.  You get one of everything here.  I have a list that is so long of the things I want to do in the Sierras that will take a decade at least, and I may never make it to British Columbia! Maybe I need to live out of a car bigger than the one I own someday[1].  The idea of a house and garden is getting nicer sounding everyday, though.  

Taken on a sunny day where I sat along Mammoth Creek
 If you know me, you know that right about now is where I remember I am trying to make a point.  So, this revelation, you see, came after a night of visiting multiple hot springs and a morning of sleeping in  (til 11!).  Just about 4pm, my van friend and I were getting frustrated with the library and took the path from the library to a dirt path along Mammoth Creek.  Just in case my PT has time to read this, it was an “even” surface.  The sky was an indigo blue toward the Glass Mountains and Long Valley Caldera[2].  Fog and low-lying clouds were settling in the Sherwin Creek drainage (drains into Mammoth Creek). We both wanted to walk closer to the creek.  I mentioned my fear of drowning, but that I am drawn to water to calm me down and give me solace.  We sat on a rock with some pussy willow shrubs blocking the view of the creek, but the sound of the lively water was the background of our conversation.

It started to sprinkle.  Rain doesn’t happen a lot here, and we just sat in it for a few minutes. It wasn’t anything to be concerned with.  We decided to walk back.  That’s when the most beautiful rainbow I’ve seen appeared. Nestled at the base of the Sherwin Range and extending into the Long Valley Caldera.  It was stunning. Perhaps I’ve been watching too much of the Wonder Years lately[3], and everything is making me nostalgic and sappy. Logically, this rainbow appeared because of the weather, but there is religious symbolism to rainbows. I could start asking, “What does this mean?” but I’m pretty sure our neighbor in Yosemite did that on YouTube last year. 

To me, the slight melancholy feeling I’ve been having regarding what is next in my life is nothing new.  It happens every spring before the seasonal transition.  As Real Deal Matt Beal said in college once, “you are always looking for jobs.” It still holds true today.  I achieved my career goal of the USFS, but there isn’t much advancement for me without furthering my studies or somehow finding another in.  So debating whether to go into debt to get a Masters degree instead of hoping to move up the ladder is a big deal. Moving is a big deal.  Establishing residency or not is a big deal. Insurance and where it is based out of is a big deal.  Insurance companies don’t understand seasonal workers move where the jobs are and can’t keep switching insurance all the time, nor switching residency. In a way the government is creating a health care problem by having seasonal workers with no benefits. It is frustrating getting no support from your employer and hassle from insurance.  Either way, I came to California on a whim after listening to that Led Zepplin song[4] and I like it here.

The revelation by the creek was simply: I have to consider that current present situations may affect my decisions. I cannot get so stuck in the future as I tend to.  I have to think about it and be actively pursuing it, but make sure I sit on a rock and enjoy the present once in a while. We all need those reminders sometimes.

Studying for the GRE exam in my tent and hiking all summer as a Wilderness Ranger gave me plenty of time to reflect and revel.  A dream job some say. A job I was fortunate to get.  A job I cannot perform this year because I need to give my knees a break after multiple injuries to them since moving here.  I had a lot of opportunity to think about what I like to do and don’t like to do while backpacking in the wilderness.  I still don’t know what my dream job is, but I’m sure it’ll appear someday.  The seasonality of my resume is still a problem[5], but I’m not quite sure how to solve that.  Which is why we sat by the creek that day. To talk about life and listen to what the water had to say.

Great time to reflect and plan
Never-ending hill- great time to reflect and plan
Calderas are great for hot springs and reflecting and planning.

We all need reminders sometimes. I am thankful for my past, as it has led me to my present, and will help me define my future.  I just have to remember to take a moment to embrace the now. 

If you need any inspiration about living in the present please read this:’s-possible-on-a-mountain-bike

[1] I ponder living out of cars, because my friend visiting lived out of his van all last winter in the Sierras, and did a fair share of couch-surfing at friends’ houses as well. Some people do it year round.
[2] The Long Valley Caldera is one of the biggest calderas in the world. A caldera is a basin-shaped volcanic depression involving magma giving way underneath.
[3] Season 1 has a lot of Joni Mitchell to make you feel like you’re missing something.
[4] It was a job offer. Sorry LZ.
[5] I remember Kip asked me that at ORS. Sorry Kip! Adventure called! I miss you all!

1 comment:

  1. Next time I'll email the photo files a bit bigger!