Monday, September 26, 2011

rain drops in california.


Today was a memorable day. It has been a month and three days since I left Southeast, and it was the first time since I left that it has rained. Granted it was a much warmer rain than what we had become accustomed to in Slocum Arm, but water is water, and I felt a wave of nostalgia rush over me as the drops sprinkled my face. It has been an interesting transition, returning back to Berkeley and starting classes again. The first week or so was spent adapting to the noises. The sound of cars, sirens, cafe chatter, my friends laughing, music, the bells of the Campanile, the sound of our broken fridge, the coffee grinder. There were sounds in Slocum too, but they were different in every way. The sound of the paddles moving though the water, a float plane overhead, the rustle of the trees, the creaking of a leaning tree, the splashing of a salmon jumping, squirrel calls, and Paul and Odin singing as they walked back to their tent. In Slocum I could let my mind wander and heard my thoughts frequently and without interruption. Now, here in Berkeley, I often find it hard to hear my own thoughts as I struggle to drown out surrounding sounds. Even as I am writing this, my housemates are watching ESPN football highlights and periodically screaming.

In addition to the increase in noises, I have also been dealing with an increase in people. I never noticed how crowded the campus and the city is. People wait in line to filter into class rooms. I swerve on my bike to avoid throngs of pedestrians. Even my house has five more people than our intimate group of four out in the woods.

This summer proved to be one of the most challenging experiences of my life. There were times, like I described in earlier posts, where my limits were undoubtedly put to the test. There were moments when I thought of how easy life in Berkeley was. But now that I have gone through that experience and learned how to live in Slocum Arm, completely immersed in a wild place, I realize that Berkeley poses just as many challenges. Suddenly I have “real life” worries, whatever that means. In the woods we were thinking about where we were going to pump our water, or how we should rig the pulley system to minimize bear infiltration. Now I am faced with turning in homework on time, answering emails, meeting with advisors, or helping ease the anxiety of friends who are trying to figure out what comes next after graduation. I have learned that no matter where I am, I will always be faced with challenges, and the ability to overcome these challenges is what keeps life interesting and engaging.

This summer has impacted my life in so many ways, some of which I may not even be aware of yet. It gave me self-confidence in my abilities, as well as humbled me in things that I needed help with. It gave me some perspective on my life and what makes me happy. It gave me strength and the will to conquer anything. Most importantly it gave me respect for Odin, Paul, and Lauren. Odin taught me to pay attention to and respect everything in the woods. He taught me the power of curiosity and the value of selflessness. I will forever be indebted to Odin for the hours he would spend picking blue berries just so we could have something fresh and sweet to put in our morning oatmeal. Paul taught me what it means to work hard and stay positive. I don’t think I heard Paul complain once, and when I was crawling into the tent after a hard and long day, Paul was staying up to sew the end of the tape measure back on so that our measurements would be exact. When I was in “pout town” because it had been raining for two days straight and we were still in a plot at 7 at night, Paul was seemingly unaffected, telling jokes and taking DBH measurements as if it were a warm summer day. Lauren taught me persistence and an unwavering will to succeed. If I thought my summer had challenges, Lauren had ten times the challenge. Lauren not only deserves respect for accomplishing such a physically and emotionally taxing project, but she also put together a dream team of people. Although we all had our differences, one thing we shared was a determination to get the job done, and get it done well. I truly am honored to have spent my summer with these amazing people, and there are many things that I miss about our time together on the outer coast.

I guess to wrap up this sentimental blog post I would like to thank everyone that helped with the project, we really couldn’t have done it without you and would probably still be out in Slocum on a weather hold with nothing but Mountain House dinners left to eat. I will remember this experience for the rest of my life, and I can already feel an itch to return to the wild and beautiful outer coast.