Beauty

Life is about balance. I want to be mindful and aware that, in spite of hardship and struggle, beauty and peace also exist.

  1. 7th grade students – full of wonder and enthusiasm for life and learning
  2. Colleagues – wise and patient instructors of children and adults alike
  3. The night sky here – fiery layers of stars from dusk until dawn in a deeply dark bowl above and around me
  4. My family – implicit supporters in spite of the tears and fears
  5. The sunrise on the morning Steve left – sorbet layers of clouds and desert haze above the blue mountains
  6. The way the air shimmers after a windy day
  7. Tiramisu – light and creamy
  8. Scout’s caramel eyes – sparkling with love and excitement
  9. Clean sheets – crisp and cool; an embrace
  10. Tight pants – confidence
  11. Smoked gouda – guilty pleasure and favorite Farmer’s Market find
  12. Lemonade – acceptable substitute for water, which I miss
  13. Raisinettes – desk drawer treat
  14. Baby bunnies – everywhere, always
  15. Cooler mornings – a chance to wear sleeves and hoods on morning jogs
  16. Earlier sunsets – a welcome end to every day
  17. Heirloom tomatoes – colorful, firm, flavorful
  18. Roadrunners – Ridiculous dinosaurs
  19. Dog park friends – compadres
  20. Yoga classes – twisty, restorative me-time
  21. Raspberries – relics of wilder, wetter lands; tasting of sunshine and dirt
  22. Autumn in the San Bernardino National Forest – colors like northern home
  23. Southwestern food – a staple
  24. Weekend couch naps – essential recharging
  25. Books – sweet escape
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Title Options

Some ideas for working titles for my memoir if/when I survive this experience:

  • “‘Why Is This Wet?’ and Other Questions I Don’t Want Answered – A Memoir of a Junior High Teacher”
  • “Dick or Cactus – The Dangers of Encouraging Drawing in the Classroom”
  • “You Kiss Your Mother With That Filthy Mouth — Yes, I Have Ears”
  • “Fist Fights, Drug Busts, and Runaways – My First Month of Teaching
  • “You Wish Today was Rock Bottom; Count Your Blessings – A Devotional”
  • “8th Grade is my Vietnam – A War Memoir”
  • “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things and Other Realizations”
  • “This Class is Lit – Words of Affirmation from Generation Z”

A New Climb

Struggle is subjective.

Everything I have ever thought was the hardest thing I have ever done has, over time, been replaced by a greater challenge. There will always be a greater mountain to climb and perhaps that is the purpose of life. Perhaps when you run out of challenges, life is over.

I thought losing Jaydon was the hardest thing I could go through. At that moment and in the months that followed, it was. Then it was the sale of the family home. Then it was raising a puppy. Then it was the credential process. Then it was walking away from the perfect relationship. Then it was leaving Yuba City in conjunction with accepting the desert. Now it is teaching.

One day, this will be a mountain that I look back on from another higher vantage. I will reflect on how, at the time, I thought I would never reach the peak.

Every struggle you have will one day feel doable. Every hard moment will one day be a distant memory. Every climb leads to a great view …and after every great view, you get to do it again.

Many days, I sense that I am fulfilling some purpose that was chosen for me millennia ago. Some days though I feel like a joke. On those days–the days that I am the jester–I try to remember that this feeling is short-lived. These moments feel lengthy in real-time but, in hindsight, are formative and swift. There is a snap, a sting, a shudder …and then there is nothing (save wisdom and strength and the wherewithal to do it over again).

This is hard but likewise have many other experiences been and, furthermore, will future endeavors likely be. If it is hard, it is working. If it is hard, I am still living.

Struggle is subjective but still this climb is daunting.

I Lived

“What’d you do this summer?”
“I lived!”

Even by my standards, this was a busy break. I visited the 9 western states, which took many hours of online planning, a nearly equal amount of time in cars, and 12 flights to accomplish. I explored new National Monuments, state parks, historical sites, museums, galleries, and eateries along the way. I slept in rentals, in tents, on couches, and with family. I stocked up on ridiculous souvenirs and took enough pictures to fill a new Dropbox. There were heat waves and sunburns and thunderstorms and flood warnings. There was joy and there was uncertainty. There was delight and also frustration. Nevertheless, I sought out new experiences and areas outside my comfort zone and I was rewarded handily. The “Summer of Solo Travel” is something I definitely anticipate repeating moving forward, as a result of this inaugural experience. I don’t know what this school year will be like or what the next 10 months will hold, but I know that I did everything I could to make this time my own. These next months belong to MUSD, or TPJHS, or even CCSS. They belong to students. They belong to administrators. But these few were mine alone and I lived them to the fullest.

Rewritten

As part of the comprehensive changes characterizing this year, I have rewritten many parts of my narrative. Some are major elements with plot twisting impacts; others are less so. One of the lesser elements I’ve adjusted to suit this latest variant of Carolyn is my taste in music. [This was more or less facilitated by the area I’m now living, which gets 2 radio stations, both of which are talk during morning commute hours. I’ve moved on to streaming music–I know, I know, ever the late bloomer–and have chosen genres without prior attachment as my sole musical selections.] Even so, I keep running into songs that speak to my heart. Here are some I’ve overplayed across the summer miles:

The Night We Met: Lorn Huron

I am not the only traveler

Who has not repaid his debt

I’ve been searching for a trail to follow again

Take me back to the night we met

And then I can tell myself

What the hell I’m supposed to do

And then I can tell myself

Not to ride along with you

I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you

Take me back to the night we met

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you

Oh, take me back to the night we met

When the night was full of terrors

And your eyes were filled with tears

When you had not touched me yet

Oh, take me back to the night we met

I had all and then most of you, some and now none of you

Take me back to the night we met

I don’t know what I’m supposed to do, haunted by the ghost of you

Take me back to the night we met

Ghost Towns: Radical Face

I’ve got no need for open roads

‘Cause all I own fits on my back

I see the world from rusted trains

And always know I won’t be back

‘Cause all my life is wrapped up in today

No past or future here

If I find my name’s no good

I just fall out of line

But I miss you

But there’s no comin’ home

There’s no comin’ home

With a name like mine

I still think of you

But everyone knows

Yeah everyone knows

If you care then let it go

I’ve seen more places than I can name

And over time they all start to look the same

But it ain’t that truth we chase

No, it’s the promise of a better place

But all this time, I’ve been chasin’ down a lie

And I know it for what it is

But it beats the alternatives

So I’ll take the lie

I still miss you

There’s no goin’ home

There’s no goin’ home

With a name like mine

I still dream of you

But everyone knows

Yeah everyone knows

If you can, let it go

Stubborn Love: The Lumineers

She’ll lie and steal, and cheat, and beg you from her knees

Make you think she means it this time

She’ll tear a hole in you, the one you can’t repair

But I still love her, I don’t really care

When we were young, oh, oh, we did enough

When it got cold, ooh, ooh, we bundled up

I can’t be told, ah, ah, it can’t be done

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all

The opposite of love’s indifference

So pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out

And I won’t leave until you come downstairs

So keep your head up, keep your love

Keep your head up, my love [x2]

Keep your head up, keep your love

And I don’t blame you dear for running like you did all these years

I would do the same, you’d best believe

And the highway signs say we’re close but I don’t read those things anymore

I never trusted my own eyes

When we were young oh, oh, we did enough

When it got cold, ooh, ooh we bundled up

I can’t be told, ah, ah, it can’t be done

So keep your head up, keep your love

Keep your head up, my love [x2]

 

Every Little Thing: Carly Pearce

The scent that you left on my pillow

The sound of your heart beating with mine

The look in your eyes like a window

The taste of your kiss soaked in wine

Every little thing

I remember every little thing

The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting

Of every little thing

Guess you forgot what you told me

Because you left my heart on the floor

Baby, your ghost still haunts me

But I don’t want to sleep with him no more

Every little thing

I remember every little thing

The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting

Of every little thing

I remember every little thing

The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting

Of every little thing

They say time is the only healer

God, I hope that isn’t right

Cause right now I’d die to not remember

Every little thing

I remember every little thing

The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting

Every little thing

I remember every little thing

I’m haunted by the memories of

Every little thing

The high, the hurt, the shine, the sting

Every little thing

Save As Draft: Katy Perry

[Okay, Okay, KP is definitely Top 40 but she has been reading my mind]

I remember when you used to be my every other thought

But now my calendar’s so full, it’s easier to move on

Sometimes I swear I pass your SUV on Sunset Blvd

I don’t fuck with change, but lately I’ve been flipping coins a lot

I struggle

I juggle

I could just throw a line to you

But I should let sleeping dogs lie ’cause I know better, baby

I write it

Erase it

Repeat it

But what good will it do

To reopen the wound

So I take a deep breath

And I save as draft

You don’t have to subtweet me

My number’s always been the same

But all’s been said and done

Will we ever really close this case?

Yeah, I will always be here for you, but I could no longer stay

Still my body goes in shock every time I hear your name

I struggle

I juggle

I could just throw a line to you

But I should let sleeping dogs lie ’cause I know better, baby

I write it

Erase it

Repeat it

But what good will it do

To reopen the wound

So I take a deep breath

And I save as draft

I’ve heard you’ve done some changing

I’ve been rearranging

Wish that I could know, but I just don’t know

Never get that time back

Fear we’d fall in old traps

Why can’t we just let go

Staring at a fork in the fucking road

I struggle

I juggle

I could just throw a line to you

But I should let sleeping dogs lie ’cause I know better, baby

I write it

Erase it

Repeat it

But what good will it do

To reopen the wound

So I take a deep breath

And I save as draft

Summer jams, fam! Check ’em out. Overplay them and hear them in your sleep like me.

MDLT

Today was my last day at Mojave Desert Land Trust as I prepare for some final summer trips and the return to school in August. Moonlighting in the environmental conservation sector has long been something I was interested in pursuing so this was an experience that I have appreciated on many levels.

I liked that it allowed me to contribute to preservation and conservation during such a tumultuous time for the environment. I liked that I got to network with so many local and like-minded individuals. I especially liked the relationships I was able to cultivate during my time here. I’m looking forward to continued interactions; my work “framily” and I are planning to attend weekly trivia nights. Spoiler alert: we’ll slay.

I also liked that working for MDLT gave my summer vacation a purpose. Through the years I’ve noticed a trend wherein I invest a lot of time looking forward to break, go extremely hard in the first week accomplishing all the things I’ve wanted, am forced to nurse assorted wounds from said “going hard” during week two, the allure wears off in the third week, and by the fourth I’m in a full-blown existential meltdown. What’s my purpose? How am I contributing to the better good? Is this the life I should be living? What is life? Where all da people at? etc. Finding a summer job has completely alleviated this dynamic.

Clocking out today for the final time was therefore bittersweet. Summer vacation can begin in earnest, on one hand. On the other, my days spent fighting on behalf of public lands have come to an end, and that’s something I’ve really come to embrace as part of my identity. The sun may have set today on my time as a Desert Defender, but tomorrow the sun will rise on my first day of summer vacation.

Let’s do all the things! 

Quote

“We were victims of unsynchronized passion. Those times when I was out of love, the Kraut was deep in some romantic tribulation, and on those occasions when Dietrich was on the surface and swimming about with those marvelously seeking eyes, I was submerged.” –Ernest Hemingway

Where I Needed to Be

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I have ended up where I needed to be.” –Douglas Adams

 

In many ways, I have achieved much of what I imagined for myself as an adult. I live on the boundary of a national park and every evening, the shadow of the mountains blankets my house as the sun sets and the stars rise. Coyote howls come in the open windows on the wind. I’m moonlighting at a conservation agency partnered with organizations like Patagonia and The Sierra Club. Last week I conversed with an author of desert literature I’ve long admired, whose canon of non-fiction books dot my shelves. Today I met the superintendent of Joshua Tree National Park. Next month my contract begins at the junior high, where I’ve been hired as the 7/8 English teacher and entrusted with a new curriculum developed with the help of the History and Bio channels. I maintain an active, healthy lifestyle characterized by travel and new experience. I just spent my first weekend home since April. I have seen every sunrise (thanks for that, Scout). I have made work friends to brighten my days and dog park friends to fill my evenings. Sometimes they even overlap. What more did I want for myself than these things?

 

I am humbly grateful for this life. It is not what I expected; it is not what I could have imagined, but it is what I needed. I am unaware of the long-term plan shaping my life, but I see it evidenced at each stop along the way.  If I didn’t move to these new places periodically, I would have missed out on meeting these people, seeing these sights, learning these things, sharing these insights, and being shaped by these elements.

 

Your gifts are not given to you for you. They’re given to you to share with others. This experience is not what I would have chosen for myself, but it allows me to share my gifts with those who either need or appreciate them. I am thankful to be such a vessel. It is fortunate that while being able to share my gifts, I am also able to fulfill so many of my own desires.

Night Hike

Today I am hurting.

Buttered bread and water are my silent company.

It was worth it.

My coworkers and I–a group we’ve begun calling ‘our framily’ for we are all orphaned here alone together–went on a boozy night hike on some of our preserve land under the gilding glow of a full moon. Temperatures were still in the high 90’s after a day of record breaking heat (take that, 131-year-old record!) but the breeze was steady and strong in the boulder-strewn foothills outside JTNP. The moon emerged from a band of high cirrocumulus clouds as we reached the trailhead and cast everything in silver. Joshua trees and creosote bushes threw eerie shadows as their limbs whipped in the gusts. Scout trotted ahead in the lead at an alert crouch, her blinking pink collar interrupting the otherwise bluegraywhite landscape. In our hands, cold cans condensated. Conversation flowed easily in the group, as it does between those of similar minds and educations, carried by the wind between individuals then lost in the chaparral. We reached the top of a rise and were able to look out over the Joshuas into the Morongo Basin below. Across the valley, a summer storm performed above the opposite mountains. Golden lightning bolts snaked to the ground and flashed between higher altitude clouds. The storm was fast moving; it scuttled away on its electric legs as we continued onward. Even as it left the area, golden flashes continued to interrupt our silver-gilded evening for nearly another hour. Drinks were finished, crushed cans were exchanged for fresh counterparts in packs, and fresh stories and perspectives were shared as we continued winding our way through the blue Mojave night. We lost and found trails, toiled in the deep sands of washes, got generally yanked around by Scout, and had a wonderful, tipsy time. She and I got home just before 2 in the morning, the moon now lost in an overcast sky. It was a perfect evening, as far as desert evenings go.

Today though, I am hurting.

It was worth it.