Saturday, February 18, 2012

Update 5

Im sitting at a table in a cafeteria at Farm and Wilderness where we are spending our first Layover.

We are all in the middle of our Big Jobs and have been for quite a while.

Conor just came out of the kitchen with a large heavy pan and took it outside. Michal is asking me to spread the word that our batteries have been recharged and we should put them back in our headlamps. Everett is pouring over maps and looking for good campsites with Chris, our new teacher, who just asked if weve learned about natural pathways. They are preparing the Second Leg, which Everett will head, while Malcolm is pouring over a second set of maps with his journal out and a pen in his mouth, preparing the First Leg presentation. Noah is hand sewing up all holes in our group tent with patches of Egyptian cotton. Willie just came up from the basement with a loaded dry laundry bin and Lu is asking him about the clothesline in the basement.  Now shes headed out to find Michal. Adam is cooking English muffin pizzas and beet cabbage salad for dinner, Josia is in the kitchen with him talking about scrubbies and refilling the spice kit. Conor just returned with bags and bags of trail meals carried on the pan he had brought out and hes lining the bags up against the wall. Ive been trying to write this update for a very long time, but Ive been unable to find a beginning that I like.

Im happy with this one. There have been a few strong moments where I feel spectacularly in the moment and writing this was one of them.

Right now we are with Lu and Chris, while for the past few days we have been with Misha and Andrew. Andrew is coming back in a day or two, before we head back on trail the day after tomorrow, but Misha is back at Kroka now preparing for an expedition on the Rio Grande with schoolchildren.

We dont know if well see him on trail again but we hope we do, otherwise it will be when we return to Kroka. I am so grateful for what he has shared with us and I cannot wait to bring back what I am learning into my life back home. Sometimes it is hard to stay in the moment and continue learning because I cant stop thinking about how to apply it later. That is a lesson in itself!

Misha has talked with us about how he chooses to approach his own life. He doesnt think its worth it to spend your time fighting against something you dont believe in when you could be changing your own life to support your own beliefs and values, what you do believe in. This way you are creating something rather than trying so hard to stay still. If you change yourself first the world will change around you.

I want to approach college differently. Ive only gone through one semester and during that time I was fed in a dining commons one minute from my dorm, where the dorms floor and bathroom where cleaned every day by a very nice janitor. I did not participate in clubs more than a few times because I was always too tired to go. I kept planning to do it later and I did just enough to stay happy about it. I did not work and my parents paid for everything. I took a few classes and some of them were really interesting, but one was certainly not worth it. I got all As, but they werent so challenging. I learned I want to learn a lot, but I did not dig too deep. I was slightly uncomfortable with that, but I told myself "I will start soon, when I have more time", and I did not manage my time well.

Being here I am realizing that I was blocking myself. I should not wait and I should not have to sign up for something next time in order to make a change in my life or find what I am trying to find, but Im so glad that I signed up for this. Every moment.

Theres so much more to learn from Misha, but theres so much to start learning from Chris too. They have two very different approaches on the same ideas and that will for sure be valuable. Misha made sure to remind us that his way is only his way and that we should not take anything that he says for granted. Weve got to develop our own ways.

Conor packed different trail food depending on which teacher we would have and jokingly said that the difference between Misha and Chris can be summed up by saying that Misha is InstaBeans and Chris is soaking them the night before. The truth is that Misha said that theres no such thing as instant beans and we just ate different meals rather than deal with them. Still, each meal took time, preparation, work, and love. One night we had millet and lentils with rehydrated peas and carrots, and another morning we had seven grain with plenty of butter, completely cooked the night before.

Some of my favorite conversations have been about how to prepare food or food history. I want to make sauerkraut when I get home. I really like that on trail we can only eat what we can store away for the winter. The only fruit weve had is dried, or a leftover apple thats been frozen and thawed repeatedly in Willes day food bag next to a jalapeno. It tasted very strange. Im happy that were eating so well that I have no cravings.

Life on the Trail is something else.

On our first day we were driving to Somerset Reservoir to be dropped off and begin our Expedition because there was no snow to start on at Kroka, and as Misha drove by a trailhead he asked us if we wanted to start 12k further South. He seemed enthusiastic, so half of the half who were awake loved the idea and the other half either said "I guess that sounds fun" or they woke up parked not at Somerset Reservoir.

On Day 2 I found myself double polling across that frozen reservoir, all alone for a long stretch between two bends in the land. The ice was dark and the heavy wind blew the snow across like sand and a few soft mountains rose up just beyond the shore. I moved slowly and felt small in front of the landscape, but like a part of it. I was very tired, but I was supposed to stay with the front group so I kept trying to catch up. We, Misha, Josia, Adam, Everett and I, had been sent ahead to find and set up camp before nightfall, because the group was very tired and would not make it there together before it was dark. By starting 12k earlier we made the first few days much more challenging. We had a resupply scheduled with Lisl that we had to make, so each day we went farther and we were still wobbly. It was a good thing.

We are much better skiers now, even though the snow has not made it easy on us. It is icy or crusty or in patches not even there, but we are making it across and even going on some fair downhills on it. Some of us have to walk more than others, but with the first good snow we will all realize how fantastic we can move.

You know when you can make it down a long windy hill on the just barely not icy Catamount Trail with a large heavy backpack and drop offs on either side that you are better than before. You know that you have improved when you herringbone up a hill. Previously, when walking, you might have used your hands, but now with that same backpack it is easier than what you remember without one.

We are confident when we sing. Confidence makes you sound better and that gives you more confidence. That doesnt just apply to singing.

Because we still have running water in the streams, we wash ourselves every day.  The water is cold, so we use our bandanas or hands to bring the water back up. The steam pours off of our skin and warmth comes over us like chills do after a hot shower.

One day we were by a stream deep enough to dip under in and some of us went for it. Im proud that I did, but Malcolm shallow dived and showed everyone up.

Later we learned we disrupted salamanders hibernating in the mud. Misha saw one swimming and knew that it would die soon, and we dont want to do that again.

We are more aware of the clouds and the weather, the Four Directions, the trees, drinking water, and animal tracks. I love to follow the moose tracks. They often follow the Catamount and are fresh. Misha helped us to notice them and Chris will be there to bring us farther in our tracking skills. With Misha weve covered a very strong foundation of Wilderness Medicine, and we were even surprised with a drill where Andrew supposedly went to use the bathroom and never came back. We searched for him in a safe and organized way and found him slumped against a tree. He did not wake up, so we covered him in a sleeping bag and carried him back to camp. We only had to carry him a few hundred feet, and afterwards he sprang back to life and said we all did great, but he did look very cold when we found him and he was very difficult to carry. It was good to go through that before it might be real.

There was a long and steep and wide stretch of snowmobile trail so we grabbed each others backs and formed two high-speed bullet trains. Just before the bottom we lost it and rolled hard or slid hard to a stop, and it was an unbelievable amount of fun. We got going fast. You should all try it.

Looking in the mirror at Farm and Wilderness has been so fascinating.

Each of our personalities are distinct and strong and are strengthening the group, even if they dont believe it. We all belong here for different reasons that compliment each others reasons. Sometimes we are mad, but the closest Ive felt us was the night after our most challenging day. We shared ourselves as we have before, but it was so much stronger and meaningful because of the friction and I loved everyone in the group, especially those who struggled most. Thank you for being here and opening us in that way. Everyone is reforming themselves here in some way and I feel different. Each person is having a strong impact on me and I want to share them with you but its something that has to be shared person to person.

Some of these feelings may be hard to take seriously from reading an update at home, and that may be because these updates condense a lot of reflections that I accumulate without all the context of being here. There are so many stories! I want to tell them all.

Im in the middle of a frozen beaver pond staring up at the dark white evening sky and the silhouette of an enormous tree. It sprouted from the center of the pond, where there is an island, and I wonder if it remembers a time before here became America.

I walk over the ice, over the rise in the land, and press my hand against the bark as the stars come out.

1 comment:

  1. Hi again to Everett, and aloha to you all--
    We got the note your mom mailed, Ev, and are happy to see this next update. Don't forget to wish on the evening star when you see it; we do for all of you. Gusty winds here; maybe that way the breezes will be mild when they reach you folks. Toby sends a verse on his ukulele--join in on the chorus! xo