Thursday, May 30, 2013

Assuming the guilt

Have you ever felt yourself apologizing for something that you were just tangentially connected to, but for which you weren't in the least responsible? No? Then you weren't raised Catholic.

Today I was minding my own business, copying title pages and title page versos (the back of the title page but I had to show off) so they can be sent to the Park Service librarian in Seattle so the books can be added to the library catalog. The copies were from books that were oddly enough on the shelf, complete with spine labels and call numbers, but weren't on the shelf list, the item-by-item inventory of the library. Don't ask me how they got the labels because I don't know. The labels come from the librarian, presumably when the books are added to the catalog, but maybe I forgot something about the process since library school. In any case, the books aren't on the list.

As I say, I was at the copier, finished my stack of books, and went back to the library. A while later I went back to the copier with a couple more books where I found the Chief Ranger staring at the copier, willing it to work. He said it wasn't working and pointed to a gigantic stack of identical copies sitting off to the side. Holy crap. The stack was copies from one of the books I'd taken down earlier. There was no sense playing stupid because it was clearly a library book image.

So what's the first thing I do? I said the only thing a good Catholic-raised girl can say, "I was raised Catholic and have to assume the guilt for this but I didn't do it." I don't think anyone in the office believed in my innocence despite them all saying, "It's OK! Don't worry!" in precisely that tone that says I'd better start worrying, except I'm a volunteer and they can't do anything and that kind of pisses them off. (These are nice, nice folks and if they read this I hope they know I'm joking.) It must have been two reams of paper and when the copier finally got working again the low toner light came on. Oh, man. I had to start apologizing all over again.

Thought of the day:

Guilt: the gift that keeps on giving. (Erma Bombeck. RIP)

Everything which is infinite, which is yes

Yesterday I was lucky to go on a hike I’d been looking forward to for some time. A few weeks ago I was at a meeting where the park Superintendent talked about a trail that he said wasn’t ready for prime time, the Blue Mesa to Teepees trail. The trail follows ridge lines through the badlands and was washed out in spots, and in some places footholds had to be chopped out with a pickax. Some sections are only a foot or so wide with a pretty formidable drop on one side and a wall on the other. I talked to paleontologist Bill about going on a hike there and he said I could trail along the next time he went, which turned out to be yesterday. I toted along my hiking poles because I’d heard the horror stories and wanted to be prepared. I didn’t need them.

In the last couple of weeks a group of teenagers has been here in the park, working on that trail and at least one other that I know about. When we hiked the trail yesterday we found footholds chopped into steep sections, foot after foot leveled out, an inner curve secured with stacked rock, and a generally challenging trail, at least for me, but a navigable one. Like the trail down into the Painted Desert that I wrote about some time back, I was sucking wind in spots but it was so worth it.

I’ve posted pictures here before from Blue Mesa, the ones taken from the established loop that visitors can easily see and travel. The views from yesterday’s hike were very different, as they were taken from the top looking down, as opposed to looking up out of the valley the loop trail follows.

One of the ridge lines, where we’re walking on top of the world.

Navigating a steep hairpin turn.

Another ridge line section.

Petrified wood lying in a gully in Blue Mesa, lying where it eroded from. The only place in the park where it’s been moved is in front of the Rainbow Forest museum at the south entrance to the park, where representative samples of the different kinds to be found have been placed. The rule on wood or any other thing found in the park is to leave it where it was found.

Badlands, as seen from above.

Look at the size of the petrified wood log in the background, exactly where it eroded from the surrounding earth.

The Teepees end of the trail.

More teepees, so called because of their conical shape.

I can’t wait to go back and take some time. It might have taken us 45 minutes for this trip, but I’d like to spend at least a couple of hours there. I love this park. Everywhere I look is more and more beauty.

Thought of the day:
I thank you God for this most amazing day, for the leaping greenly spirits of trees, and for the blue dream of sky and for everything which is natural, which is infinite, which is yes. (e.e. cummings) 

Monday, May 27, 2013

Decoration Day

I spent the weekend near Tucson with my buddy Melvin and his son Bob. They're always so gracious and generous in opening their home to me. It's about a six-hour drive from the park to their house, but it goes by so quickly because I travel the photogenic highway 60/77. I called it 60 in an earlier post but the long stretch of it is actually 77.

Saguaro cacti are in bloom everywhere down there. They were beginning to bloom when I was there in April and I was surprised to see the blooms continuing. They grow only in the Sonoran desert but not everywhere in the desert, and grow only to an elevation of about 4000 feet. That leaves us at Petrified Forest out of the loop because we're in the neighborhood of 5500 feet.

It's always so peaceful at Melvin's. No agenda, no expectations, just long conversations and pleasant, interesting, and intellectual company. We didn't leave the covered veranda all day Saturday until it was time for dinner. In the heat of Tucson it was still comfortable there in the shade. We watched hummingbirds, rabbits, flickers, quail (mom and dad and their brood of 12 chicks), and doves visit the water fountain and feeder. We watched the full moon rise and picked out Saturn. Life can be so good with the most simple things.

Highway 77 travels through the Salt River Canyon, some of the most spectacular scenery I've ever seen. This trip was the second and third time I've traveled the road and it hasn't failed to disappoint. The speed limit drops to 25 in many places as the road makes hairpin turns, there are several 7% grades, and every inch of the road offers beautiful, beautiful scenery.

On my way home to the park this afternoon I was approaching the twisty parts of the road where the speed limit drops to 55 to get you ready for the really slow speeds ahead. I'd already geared down on one of the steep grades, was riding the brake anyway, and still found myself hitting 65. You know what's coming, right? An Arizona State Trooper sitting on the other side of the road pulled out, made a u-turn, and just blended into the flow of traffic behind me. Didn't matter; I knew he was gunning for me. This was a smart guy. He waited until I was approaching a pull out before he put his lights on. Before that spot there was nowhere to pull over but I'd already been looking for a place because I knew he wasn't after anybody but me. Now here's the ironic thing. I nearly always cruise at 60, which is usually below the speed limit. I just stick to the right lane and keep it slow. I really don't like to speed because I don't want that clutch in my chest when I see lights in my rearview mirror and because I'm trying to squeeze out marginally better mileage from Grace. 

He came up to the van where I was already kind of laughing about the irony of it, and I told him what I just wrote here. He was very nice, polite, and respectful and all I got was a warning. I didn't tell him his mother would have been proud of his manners. I think that might have been pushing my luck.

Thought of the day:

On Memorial Day, I don't want to only remember the combatants. There were also those who came out of the trenches as writers and poets, who started preaching peace, men and women who have made this world a kinder place to live.

Eric Burdon

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Blue Mesa

Ask just about any volunteer who does roving what his or her favorite part of the park is, and they'll tell you Blue Mesa. The Painted Desert, at the north end of the park, is colored in warm colors of reds and oranges. Blue Mesa, about halfway down the 27-mile length of the park, is mostly on the other side of the color wheel, in blue, purple, gray, and some green. Why the difference in color? Oh, and what's roving?

Roving means putting on a uniform, checking out a car, and heading out to the field to interact with visitors. Rovers answer questions and are a presence, a face representing the park. I've done it officially once and it's fun. No one I've met so far expected me to know everything, and what they really like is personal attention from someone who looks official. I've also done it unofficially many times when I've been out for my daily walks, when I stop to take pictures so whole families can be in the same shot, to chat up bikers, or to offer information about a place, as I did a few days ago at the Painted Desert Inn. 

The Painted Desert Inn, at the rim of the Painted Desert.

Of course I'm not in uniform when I'm off duty and out walking, but I always identify myself as a volunteer. A little PR for the park can't hurt, plus I learned today that I should keep track of that time because it affects funding.

The red of the Painted Desert is due to a high amount of iron oxide in the soil. At Blue Mesa, blue, purple, black, and gray come from magnesium oxide and decayed plant and animal remains, green from chromium and unoxidized iron, and white from gypsum.

People on the Blue Mesa trail.

The trail is only about a mile long. There a few steep sections but it's mostly very walkable for anyone who's reasonably fit.

John Muir first named the area Blue Forest for the blue-gray tint of the landscape. He did some exploring and excavating, but published very little about the park.

 Blue Mesa is 3 1/2 miles off the main road. I always tell people that they're going to see that sign, go "uhhh, no," not willing to make the 7-mile round trip, but they really need to make the drive. It's such a beautiful place and nothing like you would see anywhere else in the park.

The wide blue sky is even better with cloud accents.
A big hello from the overlook.
You can see what a gorgeous day it was. I went here the second or third day I was at the park.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Field trip photos, just as bad as the old slide shows, except I won't know if you get up and leave

As promised, or threatened, depending how you look at it, here are the photos from yesterday's field trip to Jasper Forest. Here's an article about the road on the park's website.

Near the entrance to the trail we took, which used to be a loop road people could drive on into the forest. Its use was discontinued in the 1960s, but not until someone took a picture of Albert Einstein and his wife standing outside their car alongside the road. What is so exceptional about Jasper Forest is the amount of petrified wood lying around. It's easy to see the big log sections, but nearly everywhere you step there are stone-sized pieces in a literal rainbow of colors.
Paleontologist Bill told us tons of information that my brain couldn't absorb, but basically it is now known what time period each of these bands of color belong to. This was a major feat, requiring a team to walk the park for two years. This is knowledge they didn't have five years ago.

Bill used his rock hammer to chop steps in this butte so he could pose next to the stump of rock on the right side of the top. It fell over I don't know how many years ago, one of the facts not retained. It's much steeper and higher than it looks as I've cropped off several meters at the bottom.

Here he is, king of the hill, mimicking the pose.

Common fleabane, but extraordinary in its ability to grow in this environment.

All the chunks you see lying around are petrified wood. This is sparse for this part of the park.

Typical formation showing irregular erosion patterns. The horizontal rough band about half way up is sandstone and indicates there was water there, at that level, at one point.

A beautiful day, a beautiful sky, and chunks of petrified wood. This trail, like many others, is available for visitors to walk. I'd like to see them marked at the trailhead but I'm not in charge. I have the advantage of going to Bill and asking him where I should walk next.

A portion of a pronghorn deer antler we found resting next to a petrified wood section. Pronghorn deer are the fastest animal on this continent.

OK, that's it for now. You can go home now if you haven't already.

Field trip!!!

Yesterday, as part of seasonal training given to new employees and volunteers, the staff paleontologist took us on a vastly interesting and wow! factor tour of the park. I can't possibly begin to tell you everything he said, not only because of the volume of information he passed along but also because I don't remember it. Oh, to have my buddy Melvin's memory. Fortunately, there were handouts that I'll have to refer to a lot.

The walking part of the tour was to Jasper Forest, a favorite of his (let's just call him Bill because that's his name). Of course it's not a forest; there are a scarcity of trees here, but what is does have is an abundance of petrified wood in a rainbow of colors in sizes from pebbles to large boulders.

In a few brief, shining moments a couple of nights ago, I was able to get the holy grail: a wifi connection while I was sitting in Grace. For once I didn't have to sit outside the post office on a folding chair, wrapped in fleece. It lasted one evening and into the next morning but since then it's been as elusive as warmth in a landlord's heart. I have 15 good photos from the field trip that I will post tonight, whether I have to take a mini field trip to the post office or lounge in the luxury of Grace's upholstery.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Sugar high

When I was in Show Low last week to pay $90 plus gas to have a switch flipped, I also stopped to have my propane tank filled. All I use it for, now that heating season is over, is cooking, a relative rarity, but I still wanted it filled.

When I went to the office to pay there was a box of World's Finest Chocolates candy bars on the counter. I love those things. I've been eating very well lately, no junk food at all, but I had to have one. Just one, caramel and milk chocolate, a combination that is the food of the gods. It was as good as I remembered and worth every single calorie.

I have a story about World's Finest Chocolates and I may be the only one who remembers, or chooses to remember. When the kids were little they played soccer and baseball and one season they were given boxes of WFC to sell. I took a box to work, others got sold here and there, and the surplus was put on top of the kitchen cabinets. At the end of the selling time, we toted up the money and retrieved the boxes from on high to return what wasn't sold.

Well, well, well. There was nothing to return because the boxes were empty. Oh, yes. I knew immediately which kid had eaten his way through, oh, I don't know, several dozen candy bars. I'm not naming names but it's the second-born and his first name rhymes with 'blames.' It's apt, isn't it? He'll probably still deny it.


Thought of the day:

I can resist everything but temptation. (Oscar Wilde and the kid whose name rhymes with blames.)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

The color purple (or green or gray or blue)

People have asked me how hot it is here. I would ask the same thing. It's Arizona, it's the desert, and it's close enough to summer to touch. But it's not hot at all, yet. From what I hear, it's going to be blistering but we're not there yet.

What we are is windy. We're so windy I have to close the vent over the fan in the roof or it would be ripped from its hinges. There's enough wind to push me a foot or so over on the road when I'm out walking, to make me tie my hat on or have to take it off. Enough to whip branches on trees as though they were string and not wood, whistle through open windows, and rock the van. I've never lived in a place so consistently windy in the afternoon. It wasn't like this when I got here but as we've progressed toward summer and the desert heats during the day, the wind awakens.

What often accompanies the wind is a dramatic sky. One evening last week the neighbors and I were sitting around, watching a storm over the desert. As the clouds blackened and grew, they pushed powerful gusts of air toward us. Great dark clouds moved eastward, sometimes filling the sky, other times allowing blue to come through. We watched until a light rain compelled us inside. Yesterday afternoon a flat plane of threatening clouds hung over the Painted Desert, pushing gust after gust. They morphed to ragged strips of varying gray but the wind persisted.

A small portion of the Painted Desert taken from the historic Painted Desert Inn.


Rarely has it rained, maybe a smattering, enough to speckle Grace right after I washed her, but a couple of weeks ago I woke to heavy rain in the night. Within a day or two, what an amazing sight to see that the floor of the Painted Desert was a green haze.

The sky here is sometimes the purest Southwest blue, sometimes leaden with unfulfilled promises of rain, and sometimes cluttered with flat-bottomed white puffs, but it's always wider than wide, from horizon to horizon. This part of Arizona, at least, has a 180 degree bowl arced over it, changing by the minute and always eye-catching, enough to make you pause to look. It's as much the Big Sky state as Montana.

I'm waiting for the impressive, theatrical thunderstorms that come with summer. I can't wait. When I was a girl our father always called thunder, whether deep rolling rumbles or the whip-crack that accompanied lightning, sky booms, and I was never afraid of storms. How could anyone be afraid of sky booms? I wonder if they sound the same in Big Sky Arizona. I'll keep you posted.

Thought of the day:

I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it. (Alice Walker)

Friday, May 17, 2013

That's what friends are for

The volunteer community here at the park is an amazing source of support. I've already written about how they stepped right in when I had the electrical problem with Grace. The neighbor who spent a hour with me trying to find the inverter is also the one who picked up the GFCI from the store when he was going to town for something else. I didn't have to ask; he volunteered and wouldn't take any money until he came back with it. Someone else returned the GFCI to the store for me to save a trip. Another one lent me a volt meter to test the circuit. (Melvin told me to get one and I hadn't. When I called him with my problem he asked if I'd ever gotten one as he said to do and I had to I hang my head in shame, but Amazon is sending me my very own even as we speak.)

On my first night here I heard a knock on my door. It was another neighbor telling me to come over; there was a get-together outside someone's motorhome, BYOB. This happened two or three nights in a row until the weather turned cold but when it warmed up again we're again sitting around in the evening. I have an invitation to come over any time, for any reason, from all of them. My next-door neighbors issued an invitation to come watch TV. I have another open invitation to ride into town when they go to church on Sunday. They don't expect me to attend with them; it's just an invitation for a ride. I meet another one for a walk nearly every night. They pick up groceries for me to save me a 20-mile drive to town. As seasoned volunteers they offer their wisdom on other good places to go and where to avoid. In the beginning I wasn't sure how I'd be received as the only single person here but I've never been made to feel as the odd woman out.

I've been kind of conditioned over the years to not ask for help and to keep to myself. It's outside my comfort zone and I don't like to feel beholden, but these people, these wonderful folks, have told me, "This is what we do. We take care of each other."

Today the first couple left. They weren't due to go until mid-June but the wife suddenly became ill and they're going home to Texas to her own doctors. When they came back from the hospital yesterday we all gathered to see how she was doing, and once again our little community came together to help with anything they needed done to be ready to go. Next week my walking buddy and her husband leave, and in a couple of weeks the last of the ones who were here when I arrived will head out. But a new family came in the other day and someone else arrives soon - an ever-changing community of more or less like-minded people, if we leave Obama out of it, who take care of each other. My life is richer for having known all of them and I look forward to paying their kindness forward and forward.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I get by with a little help from my friends

Grace blew a circuit the other day. The overhead fan quit for a second and the microwave beeped and then everything seemed ok. It wasn't until the middle of the night, when I got up to plug in the heater, that I found a dead outlet. I don't have an abundance of outlets and losing not just one, but two, was an inconvenience to say the least. So at 3 a.m. I was awake with the owner's manual and a flashlight and was able to figure out that the two were on the same circuit. I tested all the breakers and pulled the fuses and everything was all right. Now what? Go to the neighbors.

Within 10 minutes, tops, of asking one neighbor his opinion, everyone else up and down the volunteer line knew of my problem. I still don't know how it happened. Everyone pretty much suggested the things I'd already done. Now what?

I called Melvin, my all-around brilliant person. In the short time I've actually known him in person he's astounded me with the breadth and depth of his knowledge, to the point if I ask him something and he doesn't know the answer, I take it as a sign the apocalypse is upon us. The man knows ev-er-y-thing. He had me running in and out of Grace, plugging and unplugging, starting and stopping the generator, turning lights and fans on and off, turning the air conditioner on and off, running the engine, stopping the engine, and doing the hokey-pokey. He concluded several things, boiling it down to the inverter. The inverter changes 110 volts to 12 volts and vice versa, so if I'm plugged in, the AC power will charge the battery; likewise if I'm running the generator to charge the battery it will convert the battery power to 110. I had orders to call him if I got to a repair shop and they started getting shifty.

One of my great neighbors came over last night and crawled around on the floor with me, trying to find the thing. He must have spent an hour and we think we found it but it would have been behind a panel in a cabinet and I wasn't about to start tearing things out myself. I did try replacing the ground fault switch and that didn't solve the problem.

I juggled my work schedule so I could take Grace to a repair place in Show Low today. Melvin nailed it. It was the inverter and if I could have found it, which was under the bench/bed I sleep on, and could only be accessed by lifting the platform, I might have figured it out. Or my neighbor might have. Or Melvin would have for sure. All it needed was a little nudge of the switch from one position to another, and for this I paid $90 plus gas. Resetting the inverter also took care of the GFCI switch, so I can take its $16 replacement back to the store.

Now I know. And now I have a super duper deluxe whole-house surge protector on its way from Amazon. I ain't going through this again.

Within 15 minutes of my return from Show Low and talking to the first neighbor who spied me and came to ask, everyone knew, including park staff in a building down the road.  If only I could harness this speed to the Internet here. I'd have no complaints at all. 

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Moon watch

Last night I sat outside and watched the moonset.

Such a lovely evening tonight,
the sky a darkening cobalt.
The air is mild,
the breeze - gone soft.
Hanging low in the sky
is a sliver of a moon ~
the merest golden light cupped upward,
waiting for the evening star,
poised above it, 
to fall.

Thought of the day:

When I admire the wonders of a sunset or the beauty of the moon, my soul expands in the worship of the creator. (Mahatma Ghandi)

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Walk the walk

Life is full of paradoxes, isn't it? Yin and yang. On the one hand, but on the other hand. I wrote a few days ago of being so furious with the ex-husband and at the same time grateful he's finding whatever peace he'll allow in his life. The only way I can explain this dichotomy is to say there cannot be just black and white, that life's episodes are on a continuum from bad to good. Or maybe it's finally dawning on me that narrow-minded thinking, a byproduct of fear and hate, just takes too much energy that is better used on improving the quality of my life.

About a year ago I got into a downward spiral toward a depression that I know from experience would be a long haul out of. Six months before, we'd closed the magnificent failure of the family business, blame was being cast hither and yon, and most of us weren't speaking to the other most of us. After working an exhausting 60-70 hours a week on my feet, I suddenly had nothing to do. For someone who likes and needs structure, I was destined for The Pit. 

There were weeks I didn't leave the house; when I did it was a major event I had to hold my breath and unthinkingly charge into to accomplish. I started running looping tapes in my head about what a failure I was. In a massive demonstration of self-flagellation I began searching online for people I knew from high school, excuse me, more than 40 years ago, to see what successes they were, so I could add some grease to the spiral. Of course everyone I found was a success! None of them appeared to be criminals so I made the highly logical assumption that if they were Googleable, they were successful.

I still had enough sense to know I'd better stop this martyrdom sooner rather than later so I saw a psychiatrist. He heard my tale of woe and made a small dosage change in my antidepressant, but it's what he said that has really stuck with me. He said to ask myself, "How is this helping me?" That's it. Five words I've said to myself a thousand times. Five words that are a reality check, words that bring me back to the paradoxes my sister's death has stirred up.

It would be so easy to feel nothing but sorrow and loss. How can anything good be dredged up from losing a sibling? Just dive into the awareness of one's own mortality, look at positive proof that life isn't fair, or acknowledge the long-ago waste of her potential and try to find the good in any of this. I asked myself, how is being lost in this darkness helping me?

Well, here it is: Know, really know, that life is short and its end can be unexpected, and you'd better do something with that knowledge. Take advantage of every opportunity to tell those who matter to you that they do - never let a phone call or email end without saying, "I love you." Call the sister you haven't spoken to in years, not out of bad feelings but just because you haven't. Mend fences. Say thank you. Believe in something. Stand up for something. See beauty everywhere. Don't imagine slights. Allow events only the importance they deserve. Cultivate perspective as a sixth sense. The crisis of Mary's death put the ex-husband out of my head for the first time and when he slunk back in I had kind of a "who cares" feeling about it. Even if I have to continue to battle his demon, I KNOW this new feeling exists, it is real, and it will return.

There is a continuum from sorrow to joy, from hate to love, from craving to giving, from denial to acceptance. Find your place on your line and open yourself to ways of nudging yourself from darkness to the light because that is what helps you.

Thought of the day:

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.” 
 Mother Teresa

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Give 'em hell, Mary

My sister Mary died Wednesday night. She was four years older than I and had fought diabetes since she was 25 years old.

One of the things I remember most from our childhood was her escape from doing the dishes. When there were dishes to wash and dry, what a coincidence, Mary had to go to the bathroom every time and, wow, her exit from the bathroom coincided perfectly with the last dish being pulled out of the rack by someone else. For years I called an excuse to be somewhere else when there was work to be done, "Pulling a Mary." Another sister remembers Mary being the first in line at the doctor's office when we kids were lined up to get shots. Because she could be counted on to pass out or throw up, the rest of us could have our turn with the needle while Mary was being seen to. What an irony; the one with the most fear of the doctor's office was the one who spent her adult life in and out of them and the hospital.

She was eventually disabled by the diabetes and hypertension and had to leave her job as a social worker for the state. By 1997 her kidneys had failed to the point she was finally able to qualify for a transplant. I remember her saying they had to be functioning at just 10% before she could get on the list, and of course she'd been on dialysis for years. When she died she had one of my kidneys inside her. It too failed her at the end but it worked very well for 16 years, getting her off dialysis, for which I was very grateful. 

She was a fierce advocate for her health.She had to be because she was in and out of the hospital many times over the years, but boy, did she know the system. I was counting on her to guide me through Medicare. Now I'll have to wade those waters alone. She remained in control of her care to the end, spelling out on a board several times her wish to have life support removed. She had fought all her adult life but she was done and made her choice.

We were seven but our oldest brother, Tom, was a Detroit policeman who died in the line of duty in 1972. We miss him still. And now we are five. Rest in peace and good health, Mary, and give 'em hell, whoever gets in your way. It won't be the same here without you.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Work! (Remember Maynard G. Krebs?)

The work I'm doing at the park is plentiful. I'm happy to say there's a lot to do. I wouldn't mind if it were more of a challenge but I know I'm helping because it's work that's been piling up since time began.

I'm almost embarrassed to say how simple it is. They didn't need a librarian, just someone fairly bright with some library experience. One thing I'm happy I don't have to do is catalog because they, like the entire National Park Service, use cryptic and complicated Library of Congress catalog numbers. Unlike Dewey Decimal Numbers that can be as simple as 123 ABC (just think of the shelves at your library), LC numbers look like $(87@\|fGY. Not really, but almost. If I had to catalog I'd spend my entire day thumbing through books, trying to figure it out. I had a very good cataloging class in my masters program, taught by the supervisory cataloger at the National Library of Medicine, but it's like learning a language; you'd better have plenty of practice and I didn't once the class was over.

My work includes converting VHS tapes to DVD; inventorying all the periodicals at the issue level and moving/boxing/purging them; and scanning and converting to PDF their entire holdings of research papers on the Triassic era; I'm going to say at least several hundred papers and manuscripts if not into the thousands. I'm also updating the shelf list, another name for the book inventory, organized by catalog number, by comparing the books on the shelf to the list generated by the catalog. This lets you know what's missing, whether mis-shelved or gone, and forces you to look at every book to assess its condition and if you even want to keep it. While I'm at it, I'm moving all the books that are on one wall of the library to another. Yay!

It's hard to say which of these tasks is the most mind-numbing, but it's necessary library work and they don't have anyone to do it. I've also taken it on myself to create a spreadsheet of their accessions book, a handwritten register of supposedly every book that's come into the library since 1950. Line by line, book by book, handwritten scribbled note by whited-out mark, all transcribed to Excel. I can't believe it's still being done by hand or that they even keep a book like this. All of the information in it should be part of the catalog record in the computer, but mine is not to wonder why.

Are you asleep yet?  

What I'm salivating over is the possibility of working with the collections manager on his records. It will be more like the archives work I did at the museum in DC (no, not the Smithsonian). The collections are the "stuff" held for the museum: pottery, arrowheads, taxidermied critters, skeletons, fossils, petrified wood, everything having been found in the park. The collections manager gave me a tour of his lair, opening cabinets and pulling out drawers, and using long Latin words to describe it all. I kept saying, Oh! Oh! and wanted to touch everything but of course you can't do that. I didn't realize how much I missed museum work until I was crouching in front of those open doors. I'm taking my camera the next time I go but what with the poor excuse for the Internet here it's doubtful there will be enough bandwidth to upload anything.

I look at the grunt work in the library the same as having to eat canned peas as a kid before I could get any dessert, so I'm choking it down posthaste to keep time available, before I leave in the fall, for the collections. I'd love to breathe museum air again for a while.

Far and away the best prize that life has to offer is the chance to work hard at work worth doing. (Theodore Roosevelt)

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Moving on

In January, when the ex-husband announced he was filing for divorce, a month after dumping the PTSD claim on me, I sat in the living room and wrote. Not much, and I didn't continue writing until I started cruisingat60, but I wrote a little of what was in my heart. This must have been a short time after I'd had a chance to think about what I was going to do, because the few things I wrote speak of my belief in his claim that he was setting me free to live the life I deserved to have and one which he wasn't able to give me. I know now that he was honest about one thing at least: I do deserve this better life.

When I saw them on the iPad I cringed a bit because I hoped they weren't dreadful, full of drama. I think they're ok. They show an insight into the failure my marriage was, an insight I lost as other pain overtook it. It was good to see that my first instincts about the path my life should take, even though they lay dormant for a while, proved to be right. 

This is the first, written as I looked out at my beloved canal.

Ripples, gentle in my wake, move smoothly, steadily, 
away from me.
I move on. 
I struggle against the tide, against the wind, against all odds,
leaving memories and dreams dissolving behind me.
The longer I travel, the more distant and ephemeral they become.
It's sad to leave these things behind.
But I also leave the anger and the disappointments,
the sorrows and broken dreams
that had become such a part of me,
as I'm borne along a now-changing tide.