Tuesday, November 19, 2013


Well, I will say this for NY- there are a lot of attractive tall men wearing very tight pants.

The only thing better than men is tall men. The only thing better than tall men is tall men in tight pants.

For the briefest of moments, the BRIEFEST of time capsule split second zings, I LOVE NEW YORK.

But I refuse to buy the Tshirt on multiple principles.

I did get my nose pierced though.  Twice. To celebrate being unemployed (and mostly because my friend was running late and the piercing shop happened to be next to our dinner destination).

New York.  It overwhelms me.  City of fantastic leather boots and iphones and headphones and squirming merging crowds.  New York, the city that glitters and moans and mobs and is hope or hell or home for millions.  New York, a hybrid crisp of a juicing apple, enchanting and repulsing, maybe its like Africa, maybe once you bite the apple, it gets in your blood stream, under your skin and in your heart and skyline haunts your dreams.

 New York - to me it represents the best and  worst of America.  The roaches and the skyscrapers.  Wall Street and the homeless, leather briefcases and cardboard signs sharing the same side walk space.  Is it easier to march through a rat colony in high heels?  Is it easier not to make eye contact in sunglasses? Is it easier to be rude if you are reasonably sure you'll never see that person again? 

Sitting on a slatted wooden bench, hard and scratches and smoothed by thousands of jean pockets, a quintessentially "dapper" old man (if you will)  with cartoon red rimmed plastic glasses and a purple knit hat, "Missed that train by a whisker,"  he laughed. 

"You know that expression? They say it in England."

Speaking with an accent that wasn't English but decidedly foreign.  Danish, perhaps? I smiled at him.

"In England? Where are you from?"

 He stiffens and the electricity in the grey changes and...

"You can't just ask me that. You can't do that here. No hi, my name is... No introduction.  This is New York!

Actually, I'm on my way to being a millionaire, I write encyclopedias on garden flowers from A-Z,  I am here trying to find a publisher.

Where am I from!! [scoffing] you can't ask that. It doesn't work here."


I am a long way from Alaska.

After just a day, I'm a long way from me. Already wishing I wasn't wearing mud boots, already breaking my rules - the people on the street, busking in the corner or on the subways, shaking plastic cups of change, red and ringing Salvation Army bells, I walked past every one. I didn't have cash, but I never stopped. I was too afraid of what New Yorkers would think of me.  I, who have everything. The disease of caring more about what a stranger would think than if I stranger would live.

And the subway, rubbing shoulders out of necessity, hanging on the silver barred hand holds, sitting side by side in burnt orange and yellow plastic seats, strangers that make it look effortless, the art of being perfectly attuned to everyone and everything around you while managing to never look at or acknowledge anyone. Is it human nature? Preservation? Culture? A normal human response to such caged and prodded and crowded yet wild and pulsing surrounding? The length of one subway journey, I have been ignored, cursed, and laughed at.  Or would we be meaner? We the good neighbor and smll towner who pride ourselves on friendliness and community? The very nature of small town life provided checks and balances and very real consequences for nasty behavior. The answer is probably much less pseudo philosophical- I simply don't understand New York.  Being in a place for three days hardly qualified me for cultural commentary. But I can't help it. Just take my silly judgements with a grain of salt. It has to be humanity.  The study of how we behave based on our environment. 

I think we all do it.  It's survivalst. It's basic.  All those silent ones on the subway have friends and loved ones and people that would make them grin and cry and dance and shake. I guess it's not wrong. I just want to live in a place where the mask is a little more unpeeled is all.  Where I can smile at the person I pass on the sidewalk. 

 To be honest, if I lived in New York, I'd probably change too. I might not go out in sweat pants.  I might buy Michael Kors sunglasses and tight skinny pants and fabulous knee high leather boots. I might wear fitted gloves and vintage dresses.

"I had to buy a whole new wardrobe when I got here," she said, "you really have to up your style if you want to make it here."

 So would I conform? And if I did. Would that be wrong? The me fresh from Tchad would say yes, YES, it's wrong to buy nice clothes when people are starving.  The me now wants the person back that said that. 

She did look truly fabulous. Glamor and grunge and dark bouncing curls.  This girl I hiked the Blue Ridge Mountains and cooked over an open fire with grown into a goddess. And I am here to interview with MSF anyway.  Trying to talk my way back into the raw way to live.

"I'm waiting for my third mission now," my interviewer smiling, eyes shining, "it gets addictive."

 I know that drug.  Give it to me please. I 'm already addicted.

I think it want well. I'll hear in 2-6 weeks if my application is " moving forward."  This would mean they are serious enough to check my references, background, and liscensure, to invite me back in February for Information Days.  Fingers crossed and all I can do is hope and believe. But I have not one regret. I was so prepared, so professional, and I gave this my all.

And I can't wait to leave New York. 

My wonderful friend Angela who journeyed here
 for moral and navigational support:)

Standing in front of MSF
headquarters in NYC

Thursday, November 14, 2013

.greyhound bus

November 14.

Greyhound bus.

Home to Idaho. In 11 years this is my second time back. It has been 2 years since I've seen my parents.

The bus winding up through southern Idaho, following the path of the Snake River. Huge rolling pickle green and mint "hills" rising sharply up from the river, rolling and towering into each other like petrified cookie dough, dotted with the occasional fierce pine tree, orange and neon yellow low left brushes, and weeping willow.

Tiny fishing boats sideways in the current, fishing in the eddies, skiffs filled with what I imagine to be the proverbial fathers and sons but could just as well be stuffed with old friends, river guides, perfect strangers, or just neighbors. The road climbs into a stand of pine then plummets down into a prairie and I start to glimpse the Idaho I know, that perfect mesh of Palouse, the black rolling fields of lentils and herds of Appaloosa horses (these are imaginary...but I love horses), peeling white painted farm houses, clustered with silo and mossy barn and various levels and textures of rusted farm equipment.  Carpet fields of harvested hay and herds of black cattle, desert turned patchwork gold, slowly giving way to mountains, real mountains, pungent bristling evergreen, clear mountain streams, abandoned rail road tracks, startled deer, logging trucks loaded with stacks of new cut pine, and tiny desperate derelict towns that my childhood eyes were so enchanted with.

It is lovely to be back, its almost not real - to see the same landscape with a different prescription on my glasses. 

I am an hour away now.

Leaning into the window, I'm typing and fogging the glass with my breath, wondering how many people sat in this red striped blue plush seat, thinking quite predictably about Simon and Garfunkle songs.....I've come, to look for Americaaaaaaaa....(I can't help it!)  Conversation from the back of the bus, about Alaska, "I hear you can make big money up their man, North Dakota too, go work in the mines, or get on a boat."

"my cousin got on a boat.  Make 14 grand first 3 months."

Across the isle, "Gotta do something, can't just sell drugs, gotta work."

"yeah, gotta do something....."

I tell them about Alaska, wishing it could be their fairy tale too. 

Nodding, uncomprehending, I'm a white girl anyway, cans of coke disappearing and the talk drifts around me, prison, girls, one fresh from a sweat lodge, headed to the half way house, the other just out of prison in Texas, 4 days on the Greyhound, hours from home, headed back to the res to a brand new car and a girl that might have waited for him.  The other, mostly silent.  All of them agree it's better to be in your room playing video games and petting your dog then outside getting into trouble.  All of them agree to do more sweats, to go to church, to spend time with the old ones. 

I grew up on a reservation, but I still know nothing.  I never will.  And that is alright.  I can never change the color of my skin.  I can only give space and respect.  I can only realize I don't understand.

I love Americana, in all its crumbling neon vast beautiful littered guts and glory. The buses the trucks the cars speeding insane through pockets of wild windswept emptiness, small towns Ill never know the name of, people Ill never meet living out their lives in peace, misery, love, and struggle. There is nothing like America witnessed from the highway, the dirt road, the gas station. Like the child sprawled sleeping on the blue cushioned bus seat, mother outside with a cigarette,  who kept turning and grinning shyly back, peeking over the seat, wide unworldly button green eyes, or the vomit congealing in the sink in the back of the bus, or the man in the ballcap missing teeth, clutching 2 Dr Peppers,  talking loudly on his cell phone, "I heard there is opportunity to work in Spokane, you know, I'm going where the jobs are.  I'm going to get a computer."

 Everyone, including me, has messed up hair in this bus, rumpled clothes, junk food, society of the vagabonds and busted.  Where are you all going? Where did you come from? Are you running away or going home? Meeting a lover or headed to a job? What did you look like in your prime? Who did you want to be? Why am I assuming you looked or wanted better?  Why can't I stop judging?  Who will I be at 50?

Passing windmills and railway trestles, spanning gorges and fast fat creeks, the damp mossy stillness of covered bridges, the way no two trees ever look the same, the way each sunset is unique and maddening, smoky orange, sky scraped by bleeding purple cloud fingers, and I have this manic desire to soak this in, all of it, every color glance thought observation, second. The road brings out something joyous in me, a channel through which to cascade my wanderlust.  The lurch of the bus grinding me down to something harder, more basic and sharp and solid.

Did you know that in 1901 after many failed attempts to navigate the river at the bottom of the Black Canyon of the Gunneson, it was finally achieved by two men on a plastic air mattress?

In our own ways - crooked, posh, stark, impromptu, fervently, or feebly, we are all trying to navigate the unknown. We are all hoping the dark unexplored canyons will someday lead us home.  And we know that even though the old barn still caves in the same spot and the same aroma is wafting from the fields and trash cans and kitchens, that everything will have shifted, that wrinkles and creases and hatred and sorrow have crept onto high smooth cheekbones, that we have missed moments, that things will never be the bright perfection of memory.  But we are going anyway.  Clutching our air mattresses and our dreams, we are jumping whooping into raging rivers, washing up drenched and ragged and free on the other side. 

Courage packed into sodden suitcases.

This is a spirit that cannot be drowned. 

This bus - this is the home of the brave. 

This, this is America.

road feet

Idaho sunset


Tuesday, November 5, 2013


pale pink perfect


cosmic sunrise

Last morning in paradise and it is perfection.  My bags are packed my goodbyes are said and my heart is throbbing with TOO MUCH LOVE.

The support I have been gifted by friends, co-workers, acquaintances, and strangers has been overwhelming.  I am the luckiest girl and I cannot believe that a year ago I knew no one.

I have been tackled by hugs and last minute heart to hearts at 4 am, I have a little turquoise silver travel turtle nug for protection, my co workers gave me grapes and a chocolate cake, a wool knit hat, a signed mug, and other beautiful things. My friends all showed up to a bonfire and everyone took time out of there lives to toastand laugh and let me crash on their couches.

I think my peace has almost been made with leaving. I am flying out on the wings of a love for this place and this people that I have never before found. I am basically just groping for words to somehow convey the extent of my gratitude and how much each and every one of the mad quirky individuals I have tangled paths with means to me.

Through the goodbyes, I have realized how much love I have here and my heart literally feels like it is too big for its encasing tissue and with each beat I might just burst open.

I know hard times are coming. Loneliness. Exquisite experience. And I'll deal with that as it arrives. But I want to remember this feeling forever.  Being surrounded and carried on a magic carpet of complete and utter love.  Being so aware of gratitude it's hard to breath.  The knowledge that no matter what happens I can always come back to these mountains. That i can always come home.

last morning love