i would like to subscribe myself to patience.
when i was young, probably still in single digits, maybe just out, we did a spelling bee in class. my word was aim. it was so easy everyone giggled, and i stood up and said A-I-M and panicked at the laughing -E.
next week i am done with the montana conservation corp. it’s been a tremendous two years, and i have learned so goddamn much, surrounded by a staff that cares about me, asks how i feel, forces me to reflect and get the most out of this expansive thing. a few weeks ago i found my heart broken. my life is wildly uncertain. forgetting what i already know, adding -E. it’s easy for me to fall into nightlife traps, drink too much, sleep too late, get nowhere.
instead, this time, no. i lock the living room door and close the blinds, nestle into russian literature and give in entirely to slow, to deliberate.
i am too old for surrendering to obvious giggles, to -E. if i have learned nothing else, it’s that i am strong and worthy. it has been easy to apply to trail work— slowly up the mountain, all day with the same tool in the same 20 foot patch of land, good leadership never has a cruise control. i can do this with my life, too. i should. it is too valuable to leave at work.
tomorrow is the first day of our last hitch.
when i started this in february, i swore to give myself to it entirely. to be present, in tune with my crew, do this is a very real and uncool way. now i am being reminded to take care of myself, too. create things again.
it’s hard to love something hard. there’s one boy on my crew who also loves this, but the rest are done. tired. they hate the hard hats and safety glasses, are mad we make them wake up well before dawn, shuffling off cold, the glitter of hard frost, no hope for a warm day even as the sun comes up while we tool up and prepare to hike to work.
my pre-season was spent anticipating so many problems this crew may have— homesickness, hating each other, fear of the woods, insecurity, ego— but i did not give this a thought, that i would have a crew that just does not like trail work.
the crew loves each other, and i focus on that. give them long breaks to reflect on the season, relax, be together. our nights are spent huddled around a wood stove in a canvas tent filling the empty national park with our laughter. they take care of each other, never leave one behind, but they hate this work, and that is so damn hard.
i am accepting that my crew did not grow much this season, but i know that i did. ultimately, i am one person who has tried and had an experience.
for the next five days, i am just going to let myself love this work again.
every day i wake up in the orange of my tent, put on the same pair of cold work pants, battle the grounds in my crudely made cup of coffee and then i get to do the most beautiful thing, which is pick up a pulaski at 7 am, and then swing that same tool until 5:30, and go home tired and sure and content.
my sense of my role is coming to an end, but i know that i can say thank you to mountains, swing my tools, appreciate the cold as distinctly yellowstone, do my work, cultivate my peace. for the next five days, i am working for myself again.
i can’t believe that this is almost over- that this is how it has gone- but i always have the orange of my tent, my frozen boots, all those trails.