Thursday, August 18, 2011

On Tuesday afternoon, I got the call/request to go "on assignment" to a prescribed burn at Little River Canyon National Preserve. I wouldn't find out for sure that I was going until 8AM the next morning when the forecast showed the burning conditions. My first burn- I was excited! I had fo gather my gear and get ready to be on a crew, just in case.

My phone rang at 8:15, I was going. Report time was noon.

Wildland firefighters have to wear a lot of gear and carry a fair amount, too. I felt like I was getting ready for a deepsea-dive. It could have just been the boots:

The prescribed burn, as it turns out, was small. I was a part of a crew of seven people. As far as I am concerned, it was an excellent introductory experience. We were to throw fire down through wooded areasin order to help remove the plants that blocked light for the bogs in the area.

Did she say "throw fire"??? But Smokey says!!!

Yep. We made the wooded area burn, using these:

Several rare plants live in these bogs and the fire would open up the wooded areas for the plants to thrive. We were to walk through the woods with these torches and set fire as much as we could (throwing fuel in a figure "8" shape, in order to cover as much ground). Walking through a jungle-like forested area with fire is an as intense experience as it sounds. Fire is hot! Smoke makes it hard to see and tears fall! Without keeping your wits about you, I can see panic overtake a person very quickly. And this was just a small, contained burn...

After we burned the second targeted plot, my supervisor asked me to walk the perimeter to check for spot fires. You know how the very best campfire for toasting marshmallows happens right when the flames go out? The embers radiate a heat that almost feels hotter than flames? That's what I had to walk around, holding my glove to one side of my face to try to protect from the heat.

When walking through the burning woodlands, it gets hot. Countless bottles of water and sports drinks did not seem to provide enough hydration to quench that kind of thirst. I thought of pools and oceans and lakes, any body of water I could immerse myself in as a mental break from the heat. Imagining wasn't so hard, as I had soaked through all layers of clothing with my sweat. Whew.

My two and a half hour ride home felt nice. I now have new blisters on my feet, scratches and welts that cover the whole front of my body (I will not be shaving my legs for at least a week until these heal), soreness in my shoulders, biceps, and back, and a new level of respect for wildland firefighting.

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Wednesday, August 17, 2011

wore out

I promise I will write more tomorrow. I spent the day in northern Alabama on a prescribed burn. Currently, I reek of smoke and sweat, have crunchy hair (from the dry sweat), am covered with scratches, and am feeling a soreness pulse from muscles I did not even know I had.

That means it was a good day. I worked at Little River Canyon National Preserve. I have some pictures of my firefighting experience, but will leave you with this for now:

See? I said it was a good day.

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Monday, August 15, 2011

Lazy Monday Afternoon

I had planned on reading today but then saw that the highs for today would only be in the eighties. I should go outside and enjoy the day! But I have new books I want to read! What should I do??

I took myself to the bank of the Stones River, found the crook of a rock to serve as a seat and am enjoying listening to the song of a lazy afternoon, comprised of cicadas and the gentle currents of a riverbend. I brought my book, so I've got the best of both worlds.

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Tuesday, August 9, 2011

illusions and glimmer

Yet again, I am reminded that I am not in control. I am good at creating illusions for myself to make it easier for me to pretend that I have a grip on life and indeed, am the one steering my own ship called Fate. This has never actually been the case, however. I can't control the tiny spasms of my diaphragm during a case of the hiccups, why do I believe I can control every aspect of my life?

My reminder today, though, was a positive one. My name got sent out to several parks as a potential hire (because of my graduated status). Within an hour, two different parks contacted my park about me. Do you see that? That little piece on the horizon that seems to catch the light just right if you squint? That's called a glimmer of hope. I might get through this life just fine, after all.

What excites me most of those prospects is the fact that these jobs are what I want to do. I love what I do and don't dread going to work. I love to see the spark in a visitor's eye that indicates provocation of thought. I love to see brand new Junior Rangers take the pledge with their serious face, then proudly march out of the visitor center with their shiny, new badge. I love taking down the American flag and helping put the park to rest in the evening, knowing it will be there tomorrow, ready to greet visitors at dawn.

I don't know where I will end up, but my future excites me plenty. I could move to Massachusetts! Or Maryland! Or Florida! But I do know what I want to be when I grow up: fully aware that I can't control all things in my life but also grateful for every day and what each day brings.

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Thursday, August 4, 2011


I am currently straddling a fine line between deliberate laziness and boredom. I would like to get more involved in a project of some sort but also know my time here (in middle Tennessee) is limited. I don't want to start something here that I can't finish. I think my boredom is more of just an adjustment to having free time. I have been dreaming of all this free time for years! Literally. I have been going to school for over two decades of my life. In less than two weeks, I will officially be graduated and no longer a student. Weird.

It isn't that I don't have things I can do. Like organize that stack of papers all related to my thesis that are currently haphazardly waiting by my desk. Or finish crocheting the baby blanket I started over a year ago (the infant is now ten months old...). Or even just doing dishes. But my "ah, I have finally finished" mindset overrides my will to be productive. Just give me a minute. Soon enough I will get back to my old work-super-hard-and-accomplish-much-for-life-is-short ethic. But for now, I am enjoying my summer break. A REAL BREAK! Still weird.

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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Living in a digital world (and I am a digital girl)

Today I took a class on digital media through our training center in Virginia... but I am in Tennessee! Technological advances amaze me! The class is Digital Media for Interpreters, a course designed to point parks in the right direction to best use the digital world to get people connected to parks.

In sixth grade, I remember a conversation my dad had with my mom about the wonders of the internet. He tried to sell her on the educational value. He told me that one day whole libraries will be online and worlds of knowledge will be accessible with a few clicks! Ha! Yeah right, Dad! You're funny.

Now here I am on the other end of that world, trying to keep up with ways to make these worlds easily accessible and relevant to a wide audience. It is fun, exciting, and minorly terrifying all at once. And the questions will still echo tomorrow- how can parks exist digitally? Does digital media take away from the experience of visiting a park? What about the personal connections, will digital media takes those away? These are valid questions with no straight answer. But regardless of my day, I am fortunate enough that in the midst of dealing with these philosophical media debates, I can walk outside at catch a real sunset if I so desire.

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Monday, August 1, 2011

Test. Test.

I recently chose to technologically advance myself and got a smart phone. I used to think having access to my email at any given moment would be a distraction. Now I have access to the world at any given moment. I am testing my ability to blog via my phone. In theory, I can update more often and include pictures (and video, I am told) at any time. But immeadiacy does not always allow for ponder time. So this is just a trial.

Besides. Typing a lot on a phone hurts my thumbs after a while.

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I have taken this whole lack-of-thesis-writing to the extreme. My apologies for not posting, but I have spent most of my free time lounging about (have finished four fiction novels in the last two weeks... that's a record for me). I have also slept a lot and have increased my running milage (and it is the most amazing feeling!). Not having the weight of school crushing me is practically indescribable.

I have a list of things to actually do today (in addition to lounging about). Indeed, my hungry cats woke me up at 6 this morning, so I have already gone grocery shopping, cleaned the kitchen, wrote some letters, started laundry, and dove into another book (and 'tis only 9:30!). I still have more things to do, but here is the beauty of it: they are all things I choose to do! Job searching is one of the things on my list. There is an opening in Boston and I don't want to miss that chance (even if it is just a small chance). My next hurdle is securing a permanent position. Bring it on.