Friday, September 24, 2010

That teenage feeling

August sky from the front porch of my house in Challis, Idaho

Sometimes I miss high school crushes; my heart racing at a glance. Unintelligible fits of giggles rising from my stomach and pouring out of my mouth. Feet floating like feathers, but eventually crashing from the overly drawn-out, dreamt-up heights. Love was not a tree, rooting deeper and growing stronger with time. It was a comet, bright and powerful—one I thought would last through the millenniums.

I think of the nights I spent staring into the clear night sky, the vast amount of stars hanging overhead—infinity spread out with an unmatchable palette. The whole world laid under one blanket, but I had no knowledge that I would miss this one spot the most.

That feeling of not knowing, but sensing something so big and incomprehensible sitting on the other side of the mountains. Like a sleeping giant, it laid just under the surface waiting to be woken from its slumber. What was waiting for me outside of the valley walls? How far could I follow the sun before I ended up back where I began?

Emotion dripped from everything I touched. Creativity and restlessness outlined every scrap of paper within reach and manifested in doodles and poems. Homework was only a means to an end, because deep down I knew my education rested in the hands of the world and school was just the vessel to deliver me there.

In those years I heard the word “success” often, and “potential” became a common identifier.

“You’re really going to do great things with your life.”

“You’re going places.”

“You’re going to be great.”

I didn’t realize it at the time, but it was because I saw the world through such rosy glasses that people said this. They saw that pessimism had yet to get its grip. Optimism and wonder were my confidants. It wasn’t that I was especially talented, or that I was privileged. It was my small town naivety mixed with an adventurous soul. It was my glass-half-full musings that I wondered out loud.

I was gregarious, but I was timid. I wanted to conquer the world, but didn’t know how. I was a teenager.

These people saw someone who hadn’t been told they couldn’t yet, and told them they could. They wanted to banish the timid, and plant a seed for the future when pessimism and hatred would eventually break down the walls of the small valley. They wanted to dig deep in the heart of a teenager, the face of the future. Because talent will only get you so far, but heart will get you all the way.

Today my determination and will have grown strong like a tree planted long ago. The roots dig deep, and the boughs reach high. I am sometimes subdued, feel small, and lose my way-- but never for long. I was built strong, fashioned for work others weren’t meant to bear. I was built by those around me.

But sometimes I still miss the feeling of a high school crush…feet floating.

The feeling of not knowing--

Of something waiting just on the other side of the mountains.

Friday, July 9, 2010

In Memory

Telly Evans, July 25, 1974- June 16, 2010. Photo by Matt Yost
Last month, the world lost a dear friend. A mountain man, a river man, a great man.

I met Telly while I was stationed at Boundary Creek working for the Forest Service. When you live at your job (and your job happens to be in the Frank Church Wilderness) you make friends with people you may not have the opportunity to otherwise.

Along with a slew of private boaters, there are commercial groups that have an eight-day rotation for permits on the Middle Fork. I had the chance to meet hundreds of new people each week, but it was the commercial boaters who were a constant in the continuous influx of people coming to boat the River of No Return. Although they weren't the only people I looked forward to seeing, the night Telly's company Rocky Mountain came to Boundary was one I looked forward to most.

The bond that forms between people drinking around a campfire shootin' the shit week after week, year after year, is hard to describe if you haven't experienced it, and that goes ten-fold for the Middle Fork. Oftentimes, my good memories of Boundary Creek are synonymous with my times spent around Telly.

Telly had a presence that only someone of his nature could. He was over 6 feet tall with an unforgettable laugh that came straight from the belly and echoed for miles. He was good looking, gregarious, light-hearted, engaging, and welcoming. He gave good hugs. He mixed a mean cocktail that may have done little to his large frame, but knocked me flat on my ass. He was a storyteller, a conversationalist, a friend of many. His smile (and that laugh! You can never say enough about it) were incredibly contagious.

Telly and I weren't close friends, but I did consider him a friend.

Which was why it was like an arrow to the heart to hear of his passing last month. Especially the nature of which, (and I do not mean to exploit his death, but only say this to clarify) being that he took his own life.

I sometimes feel that because Telly and I weren't close friends, I don't have the right to feel this way. It seems that because I am not family, I have no right to cry. But it doesn't change the fact that a day hasn't gone by that I don't think about him, and that if I don't keep my mind busy, I still cry. I think about his family and his friends and the Rocky Mountain crew. I think about anyone who got the chance to sit and talk with him and discover what a great person he was. I feel awful for the loss these people have endured. They are on my mind more often than not. And yet I got a chance to spend more time with him than some, being someone who spent five summers seeing him every week, and I don't feel I deserve the same.

It has been a strange thing to work through, both mourning Telly and feeling undeserving the right to mourn. Yet I cannot deny the affect his death has had on me. I have come to the same thought over and over again during the sleepless nights when I can't chase away the confusion, disbelief, and sadness.

People don't understand the strength of their presence or the mark they leave on others. The imprints we leave on eachother's hearts and minds can be made in an instant and last longer than fingerprints, but are just as unique.

Does it matter that I wasn't as close a friend as some? Were we not two people put on this earth who met and shared time together, no matter how short? People come and they go, but it does not lessen their importance. It does not weaken the lessons we learn from them.

Telly is someone I will never forget. He never knew in those nights around the campfire he was making an everlasting impression on me, or that he was a player in an era of my life that has left me forever changed. And he probably never once thought I would be affected if he were gone. But I am, and his passing weighs heavy on my heart.

I didn't make it to Telly's memorial, and I have felt unsettled not being able to make a proper tribute. This is hardly deserving of such a great man, but it is the best I can do. I was taught to use my talents, and so writing of life and loss is what I have to offer.

Telly, you meant more to this world than you'll ever know. I hope wherever you are the rivers are as beautiful and wild as the Salmon, and you have found peace.

Monday, June 7, 2010


Image of perception from Google image rocks.

I'm sitting in the spare bedroom reading blogs and catching up with Facebook, and I keep smelling sandwich meat. Specifically, the really thin Western Family turkey. You know, the kind that in no way actually resembles turkey, is so thin it can dissolve in your mouth, and kind of smells like hot dogs? I keep smelling that, like when I was a kid and would just eat it straight and smell it on my hands for hours on end. Only thing is, we don't have such meat, and why would it smell like that in the spare bedroom?

It has taken me about 20 minutes to realize it's actually the lilies Justin bought me for my birthday. They are extremely fragrant (in a good way), but apparently somewhere between the dining room and here, the smell has taken a bizarre shift.

This isn't exactly the same, and I know this is a really round-about way of bringing this up, but how often do we (as in you, me, and whoever else) mistake things for something they aren't? How many times in a day are you absolutely certain you are perceiving something correctly, but perception has led you astray? And my biggest question is, how often is that discovered or corrected? Or does it need to be?

I'm not the person with the answers, but I sometimes wonder if anyone asks these questions regularly? Not of anyone else, but of themselves. How often do people double-check themselves, question something they think or assume to be true? I feel like I'm constantly asking these questions, because everytime I think I have the answer, someone else shifts the scales with different possibility. Not everyone can go through life constantly questioning their ideas and beliefs, but if people did more often would there still be fundamentalists? Would people continue to be so stubborn and unforgiving? Would people listen more to other ideas, collaborate more, gain deeper insight and tolerance, or build stronger communities and relationships?

Like most people, I don't like unanswered questions. Which is why I assume most people already have the answer made up in their mind about the world, in both the larger sense and their own personal sphere. I can think of so many things today in which my perception has been greatly altered. My question for everyone else is, when was the last time you questioned your perception of someone, something, someplace? And I don't mean lose confidence in yourself and your place in this world, just question.

Apparently, this whole world is just a matter of perception. And I have a feeling that perceptions are going to be shifting greatly in the near future. But that's just my idea. What is yours?

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

A still moment in a crazy world

Think about your normal day.

How often do you check your e-mail? How long do you spend in traffic, sitting at red lights? You drink coffee, you store your lunch in the company fridge (or go out to eat). Do you carry cash or rely on your debit card? You sit on a computer, you listen to music, maybe watch some youtube videos.

All these little things about our day that we think nothing of, but consist of so much.

Today my average day was jerked to a halt. Now, my average day isn't the average American's day. I wake up anywhere between 8 am and 11 am. I ride my bike down the steepest hill in Corvallis to work on the busiest street. I spend six hours making coffee, food, and chatting with customers, usually while playing my favorite music. Everything has a process, everything has a flow, and everyday is usually the same.

That is, until the power went out.

Oh how easily we forget what our lives would be without electricity...

The music [literally] jerked to a stop, the coffee stopped brewing, the credit card machine went black, and it seemed as though everything stood still.

We couldn't work the register. The wi-fi internet went out (for those with enough battery saved on their laptops). We couldn't sanitize the dishes. We couldn't grind or brew any coffee and we couldn't open any fridges for fear the delicate balance of health-code temperatures would rise.

But surely this was just a passing thing? Something that would turn back on within minutes?

News came that the power was out down the street. The power was out on campus. The power was out all over town.

Stop lights were out. Campus was pitch black. Businesses closed up. And my one could charge their electronic devices.

The power outage continued, and we had to turn away customers without cash and offer only pre-made items up for sale. People took their bike-lights into the bathroom in order to see the toilet. Some who were taking advantage of our wifi mulled around, walking inside and outside and muttering how bored they were. One customer even said, "My God, I'm reduced to reading the newspaper."

Thirty minutes went by. Then an hour.

It was so quiet. The chattering had hushed. Once a word was spoken it couldn't be taken back, it bounced off the walls and into the coffee shop for everyone to hear. The usual buzzing of everything around us could no longer cushion our voices.

Soon my co-worker and I had nothing left to do. And it just became natural for us to sit down, as if we didn't work there.

I don't know if the people that were in there were stranded, wasting time, or just had nothing else to do, but they just stayed and sat. Soon we were all talking, brought together by this common bond of bewilderment without electricity. If I were camping, or out at Boundary Creek or Indian Creek, I would have no problem. But something about being in the middle of a city without electricity makes everything lose order.

After I let my mind race through survival mode, I let myself just be. And we all just kind of sat there, people who see each other every day and exist in a symbiotic relationship; the coffee shop and the customer. Comrades in our routines, living as complete strangers.

So the wall between the cash register and the customer line was broken down and we talked and just as we came up with new things we would do because of this situation and new ideas of how to go about our day, the lights came back on.

The shop was immediately loud. Loud with the buzzing of electricity and angry machinery pushed out of its routine and abruptly brought back to life. And so we stood up and went back to work. The music came back on, the customers with their credit cards came back in, and the espresso machine hissed with its next creation.

I was sad to see it return.

For five years I worked as a seasonal in the Forest Service spending my summers in back-country guard stations. This time of year I always get an itch to go back to that stillness and silence, but this year I'm not returning. The hour and a half of power outage in the buzzing coffee shop that has become my life was so perfect and simple. I wish more of my days were like that. I was allowed to just stop and take notice. We could all use more moments like that.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Woman. Whoa-man.

Middle Fork Trail near Indian Creek in the Frank Church Wilderness
August 2009
All Alone.

I am a runner. I like to run. I may not run everyday, I may not run every week, but it’s in my blood and in my genes and I accept it fully. I may not be as fast as some, but I’m faster than others and it doesn’t matter either way. I’m just another girl, out there, running.

The other day I bought a book on running, specifically for the reason of training for a 10k, half marathon, and eventual full marathon. I bought the book The Complete Book of Running for Women.

It should’ve gone as no surprise that the sixth chapter was titled, “Running Safely.” And it didn’t mean safety from injury; it meant from being attacked.

Do you ever have moments where you have almost an out of body experience? Where you’re put somewhere else and suddenly realize, “Oh wait, that is my life,” before you come tumbling back to earth? Like you forgot your circumstances, your past, your present, and you saw everything for the first time?

I had that when I saw the headline to the chapter. It’s not like I don’t know I need to be safe running. I don’t even walk from my apartment to my car without a game plan about what I’m going to do if some jackass is hiding in the bushes. As freeing as runs are, I constantly have to bring myself back to attention about where I am, what’s around the next corner, if anyone would notice if I was gone. But reading that chapter just reaffirmed, “No, this isn’t a bad dream, this is your reality. You will never be 100% safe because you are a woman.”

And I’m not trying to get all extreme-man-hating-woman-mafia on you guys, but how much does that fucking suck??

A couple months ago I was reading Cunt; A Declaration of Independence by Inga Muscio (per recommendation from my awesome lady friends in Boise) about being a woman in our culture and its influences on our lives on our relationships and our bodies. It is definitely a fierce, woman-power book (as you can tell by the title), but even I was having a hard time reading about how much men suck. Because men don’t all suck. They aren’t all raping, pillaging, thieving, self-serving assholes. The men in my family are amazing, my guy friends are amazing, my boyfriend is amazing. But there are those guys out there who ruin it for everyone.

However, the book had some very valid points. I came to a chapter titled, “The Anatomical Jewel,” where she discusses something as simple as getting on her bike to go to the store, at night, to pick up soy milk. She actually dresses as a man so that no attention is paid to her. Her language may be considered “colorful” for some of you, but she writes,

“I’m fully privy to the reality that my cunt’s presence on my body can inspire people with cocks to attempt to exert their power by attempting to humiliate me. I have no illusions about what happens to women in “the wrong place at the wrong time.” I have seen too many movies, read too many newspapers, watched too many episodes of Unsolved Mysteries. I know too many people who have been raped. I do not pretend too realistically that I am free to go where I please.”

Now, I may not have agreed with her that everything bad on this earth was because of a man, but where could I disagree with her on this?

Think about this statement once more:

“I do not pretend too realistically that I am free to go where I please.”

I think sometimes I like to pretend I can go wherever I please, because I am an independent, adult woman. However, I forget that I don’t go wherever I please because it is automatically ingrained in me not to go certain places. It is automatically ingrained in me not go certain places alone at certain times of day with or without certain people.

Obviously there is inherent danger in some situations with anyone, male of female, but how many more situations are there present for just female? And I’m living in a country where I’m considered lucky.

I know I’m beating a dead horse here, repeating what everyone has known from the beginning of time, because until recently, women couldn’t go anywhere by themselves.

But I am saying this because I am seriously going to start looking for self-defense classes in Corvallis. (I should mention Corvallis was ranked one of the safest cities in the U.S., but that doesn’t matter. As a woman, my chances are 1 in 4 that I will be raped in my lifetime. I don’t like those odds.)

I want to go running. Running is my release, running makes me feel strong, it is freedom. I want to go on a run by myself and be free. And although I’ll never be fully free, I don’t want to just think about what I would do if someone did jump out of a bush, I want to know what I would do.

And seriously, I mean if I haven’t in the next month come up with a class I’m going to attend, I want all of you to hold me to it. And if you’re one of my rockin’ woman friends (or just a woman who has stumbled across this), I hope you have too.

And if you’re a man-- love the women in your life. Honor them, be good to them, and let them blossom. Let them feel free in a world where they may not be.

And don’t you dare think you’re better than them. You never know if they’ve learned to throw twice their body weight on the floor and hang anyone in their way out to dry.

Monday, February 15, 2010


Bright eyed and bushy tailed in '91/'92

Once when I was in the 1st grade, I had a question for my teacher, Mrs. Stevenson. I don’t remember what the question was, but it was important enough to take time away from my recess, seek her out, and ask her. Anything that important must have been vital.

I found Mrs. Stevenson in the hallway near our classroom talking to Mrs. Forester, the other 1st grade teacher. Whatever they were saying was of no importance to me, but by the way they didn’t so much as glance at me, it was obviously very important to them. So I gave them a couple of seconds, and then tried to interject my question. I barely got out a peep before they continued talking, not even noticing my attempt to disrupt their conversation. So I stood and kept my mouth shut a little longer. No way whatever they were saying was going to take that long to discuss, right?

But they kept talking,
and talking.

I kept my mouth shut because I knew if I didn’t I would surely get in trouble. But even knowing to keep my mouth shut wasn’t enough for me to cease attempts to interrupt. I would let out a peep, only for it to be dismissed again and the conversation to continue. So I stood there, mouth shut, waiting. And waiting. Recess slipped away. Kids walked by me with jump ropes and kick balls.

I waited.

The doors would swing open to the playground and I’d hear talking, yelling, and laughter wave into the silent hallway, only to be cut off by the shutting doors.

I still waited.

They kept talking.

My legs started to squirm. I bit my lip. I twitched my fingers. I stared at Mrs. Stevenson’s face. My heart beat faster. Maybe if I stared really hard, maybe if I swayed back and forth, she’d realize what I had to say was important?

They kept talking.

I stared. My pulse raced. The clock ticked.

They kept talking.

The door opened and laughter came in and out. I bounced on my toes.

They kept talking.

It felt like electricity was rushing up my neck,
like words were trying to kick their way out of my mouth,
like my head was going to explode if they
wouldn’t stop talking,
wouldn’t look at me,
wouldn’t listen to my question,
and wouldn’t let me go outside and play.

And then finally, Mrs. Forester walked away, and Mrs. Stevenson looked at me.

“Amanda,” she said in a commanding voice.

“Yes?” I bit my lower lip (I am sure I did, because it was a bad habit of mine then). My stomach sank as I waited for the ensuing lecture I was sure to get for attempting to interrupt with my little peeps and my squirmy body parts.

“Thank you for being so patient. You did a very good job waiting for us to finish our conversation. Now what do you need?”

I was shocked. That was the first time I remember being told I was patient.


Today, I am outwardly a lot more patient, but on the inside I’m still the same six-year-old trying to keep her head from exploding. I’d like to think I’m a lot better than some people, but there are still many things that I want to happen, and happen now.

Maybe it’s my generation or the way society as a whole has become. We want everything faster, better, shinier, and good damnit, in fact, fantastic. Instant downloads, instant pudding, instant gratification. We want it all so much and so fast, we cnt evn spel it out.

I wonder how many people started this blog and after seeing the length decided they didn’t have the patience to finish reading it?

Patience has always been hard. That’s why it’s a virtue. It’s as if our society has so many conveniences that our idea of patience is a little skewed.

Right now, the thing I’m most impatient about is where I’m at in my life. I want to be in so many different places doing so many different things that I feel like I’m ready to jump out of my skin. I want to be in South America, I want to be in Spain, I want to be writing and traveling, I want to be learning new things, I want to be in Boise with my friends, I want to be here in Corvallis with Justin. I want, I want, I want!

But, I can’t. At least not now, or not all at once. So I have to pick and choose and be mindful about where I am now, who I’m with, and what I’m doing.

Since I can’t be a globe-trotter, a travel writer, a language expert, or international gluten-free food connoisseur, I am taking time to do the things I never got to do. Things I've wanted to do but never had the time or took the time. I am finally making myself sit down and learn the guitar. I always felt like I couldn’t do it on my own, that I had to have a teacher I went to every week. But after some pushing from my brother (who is a music teacher and excellent at the guitar), I am taking time everyday to practice chords, or even just press my fingers on the strings to form calluses. I am not a natural at the guitar, and I am terrible at memorizing notes and chords. I may not have someone giving me lessons every week, but at least I’m starting what I felt like I couldn’t without someone instructing me.

I’ve also taken up swimming. In Challis, the closest thing to a pool was the hot springs. I learned how to save my life, but not how to swim a lap. My boyfriend is taking the time to help me with my breathing and swimming technique at the OSU Recreation Center. It’s been hard, and I feel inadequate next to the girls who do their fancy-flip turns and swim really fast while I use a kick-board or a flotation device to keep my hips from sinking. But, I’ve had a lot of fun and I’m already getting better just after a couple days a week for the last three weeks. Justin and I now swim, run, and bike every week. Although I may not be signing up for a triathlon anytime soon, I feel better about myself and like I’m accomplishing something.

Some days, I still feel like I’m doing nothing and getting nowhere. I have to step back sometimes and realize I’m actually doing quite a bit. By taking up these hobbies that I’ve either never had time for, or have given up on time and again, I’m taking up the practice of patience. It takes time to learn new things, and it takes patience to stick with it. I have to stop expecting myself to appear at the finish line when I haven’t put the work in to get me there, or even signed up for the race.

I think I will always be an impatient little girl on the inside; squirmy and unsettled. But it doesn’t mean I don’t know the good things in life take time. It just means I will be pushed to do more. I will try to turn my impatience into determination, and maybe in the end I’ll gain a virtue that so many of us need, but have a hard time waiting to receive.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

The fruits of our labor

When I was living in Granada, I experienced something I was not used to growing up in a high mountain desert area in Central Idaho; an abundance of fruit. Not just fruit in the super mercados or street markets, but also as part of the vegetation. Oranges were especially abundant.

One day as I was walking (as I often did) I went along the edge of the river that cut through town. I looked down into the not-so-clean waters and I saw an orange bobbing. And I don’t know why this struck me so, but all I could think was, “What a waste.” I was not in absence of food, but I wondered if someone who was in need of food would look at that bobbing orange and wish they could have it instead of the river.

I must have been in one of those moods that day, because this orange became quite a focus for me. This orange was not just an orange floating along; It was waste. It was rich and poor. It was starving children. It was, “God-giveth-and-God-taketh.” But of course, being the over-analyzing person I am, and being human, I had to make sense of this debacle in my mind. This is what I came up with to make myself feel better:

There is a lot of fruit in the world. Some fruit that people don’t even know about, in places people can’t get to. It is impossible for every piece of fruit to be used and taken advantage of. Some fruit gets picked at the right time; some falls to the ground and rots. Some are taken before they have come to fruition. Some are formed in seasons that make them unfit. Some fruit is bought and gobbled up, and other fruit is bought and still rots.

(And here’s where I get really sappy and Hallmark like) God, the Universe, Allah, Great Spirit, Atoms, Cellular Division, whatever, did not make us to perform the same task. Just like the orange, not all of us can prosper and come to full fruition.

Lately, I feel like rotting fruit on the counter. As if I were picked to fulfill many things in this life, but I am not doing everything I can to accomplish them. It is an empty feeling, one that makes me question everything about who I am and where I’m going. I don’t want to rot. I don’t want to fade away. Somehow I need to find my way back to the place where I wasn't just a rotting fruit, but someone who made things happen.