Painted Desert

Painted Desert

Friday, June 04, 2010

Too much is not enough

This was my car a week ago in RI. I wish I could convey to everyone how nicely it was packed... I had estimated the volume of material that would actually fit in the car and sold, gave away or stored the rest of my stuff, but I didn't actually know if my estimation was correct until I packed on friday. And every square inch of space was filled up without blocking the side and rear views. Perfect.

I spent the first night of my trip at S.B. Elliot State Park in western PA, which is conveniently placed just off the highway. The state park is, I mean. Most of western PA is not convenient to anything. It was probably the most pleasant part of the drive, which is funny because I remember how awful it was when Katie and I drove out to AZ a couple years ago. Western PA just seemed this endless, incredibly boring stretch of trees. (With no elk! Apparently there are actually elk in PA, though, which I infer from the state park brochure claiming that elk watching is a favorite pastime in the park system.) However, this time it simply seemed pretty and peaceful. There were many raptors and, well, trees, and it was the only time I had any stretch of highway to myself until I got to eastern Colorado much later.

Ohio was a trafficky mess. I left I-80 to head through Indianapolis because I wanted to avoid the Chicago area. And spent the second night at the famous Jubilee College State Park in Illinois, as you know. Actually, my first choice for a name for this park would be "Daddy Long Legs Capital of the World State Park." (My second choice would be "Gnat State Park.")

I spent my third night in Lincoln, Nebraska, with Jordan from field camp. Remember Jordan?

Here is a picture just to prove we were actually in the same room together. We went bowling. I could not get cell phone reception in Lincoln. People who insist I should be able to at least get service in metro areas must have some Other cell phone network. Mine does not work that way.

Nebraska looked nothing like I imagined from how it had been described to me. I drove from east to west across the state and it was no flatter or more boring than any of a dozen other states I've been in. The highway was mostly winding and hilly with a mix of farms and trees and, you know, hills, on either side. Perhaps those of you who described it to me as a vast, flat, ugly kingdom of boringness were thinking of Wisconsin. (I have never been to Wisconsin.)

Anyway, I am renting a room from a retired couple in Golden, CO. The room looks like this.

I put up some of my posters and things, and the plant I bought when I moved to Rhode Island. 1/5th of the plant, anyway. The rest died over the intervening five years.

We are located at the foot of Lookout Mountain.

Green mountain is to the southeast:

...and South Table Mountain is to the northeast... at least, I think that's what it is:

Also note hummingbird by feeder.

I have not done very much since I got here. I went to work for 3 days but there has not been much to do. I have had many jobs but none has involved sitting in an office for 8 hours, so this has been a challenge for me. You will note that the view out my office window is the same as the view from the patio above:

except that the mountain is now closer. But the window does not even open. This is my office:

They have set me up with a desk and a computer there on the right, and another student intern has the other desk. As mentioned, I have had many jobs, many of which could even be called "real" jobs, but in some ways this is the realest job. I have my own computer (which is password-protected!), my badge that lets me into the building, I have a government credit card, I can drive the government vehicles, I have a salary that would put me above the poverty level if this were more than a 3-month position, and I have a 40-hour work week. (I do not have health insurance. At 32 I have yet to work a job with health insurance, but I am still hopeful for achieving this goal before I die.) I have not had very much to do so far and as you may know I do not think very much of sitting at a desk all day. Human beings were not meant for this sort of thing and I think anyone who works this way must be some kind of alien. On the other hand, it is nice that people would pay me to sit in a chair and read papers all day.

I have done about two things since I got here, and one was to explore the "Triceratops Trail" which has its head halfway down my 15-minute walk to work. It has some dinosaur tracks and impressions of things like palm fronds. It is next to a golf course. Here are palm fronds with golf course.

The palms did not fall sideways 68 million years ago; rather, they fell down, and then later the rocks were tilted sideways.

Above is a view of Golden, CO from the Triceratops Trail.

The other of the two things I've done is that tonight I went to visit the Denver Flagship REI store, which has three stories, a climbing wall, and extensive outdoor landscaping including a bike testing path. And many other things. I didn't have much time to look around but I did notice a children's slide that was shaped like a canoe. I did not have time to pick out a book about hiking around Denver before the store closed. And this brings us to the problem that this post is about.

The book section of this outdoor sport mecca was preceded by the map section, with walls and kiosks and tables covered with topographic and other maps of mountains and trails and heaven knows what, for here and who knows where else. There was a couple at a counter consulting with a staff member over a map. I love maps, deeply. I want to marry them and have ten thousand of their babies. I love hiking and camping and beautiful, wild places and adventure. I realized that I had walked into a place that was built for people like me, and that in fact Denver and Boulder and Golden were filled with people like me, that the area was probably teeming with the sorts of adventures I wanted to have, as well as the sort of people I would want to be friends with or date, and of course all these things were foremost in my consciousness when I chose to move here.

And I have a weekend coming up tomorrow and I find myself paralyzed. Katie and I found ourselves paralyzed on weekends, in Arizona or in Rhode Island, because after a time we had exhausted all the things worth doing within a couple hours' drive. And so we would teeter sometimes for an hour in indecision over the very poor list of choices remaining to us, small-town museums and vaguely recommended hiking destinations, none of which we were very enthusiastic about. Here I am paralyzed by the overwhelming array of high-quality destinations and experiences available to me, from world-famous natural features to zoos and aquariums and museums, concerts, festivals. The point is that there is an abundance of things to do.

The problem, which I am slowly coming to, is that I do not feel very good. By which I mean that I feel terrible. This is partly physical, and partly, perhaps, due to the effects of altitude, despite the fact that altitude sickness isn't supposed to affect you below about 7,000 feet and the additional fact that I have spent plenty of time above a mile high in Arizona, New Mexico and Wyoming with no ill effects. But I described my exhaustion and malaise and my host said he felt the same when he first moved here. In any case there are no doubt many things contributing to my general lack of well-being; I was feeling very poorly in Rhode Island, which is part of why I wanted to try being someplace else. But at least when I felt poorly in Rhode Island I had some friends to feel poorly around. Here I just have all these things to do and no energy, and very little enjoyment in what is around me. The instant improvement in mood and energy that occurs with routine predictability whenever I travel has failed to occur, which is what is particularly troubling to me.

To say that things will change, that I will start to feel better soon, is to repeat what has been repeated endlessly since I began to feel so badly last October. I was told with great confidence that I would feel better once the semester was over; once finals were over; once I was on vacation; once I was back in school; once I was done with the grad school process; once the semester was over; once finals were over; once my thesis was done; once I was packed and ready; once I had gotten to Colorado. I am tired of being told I will feel better once some particular thing on the horizon has come and gone. Health and well-being apparently follow their own logic that has nothing to do with the ideas and reassurances of the people who care about me. So it is no use saying I will feel better once I'm settled; either I will or I won't, but the reassurance has come to be quite hollow and I have developed some contempt for it. Of course I will feel better some day; we will no longer pretend we know when.

I will still go do the things I would normally enjoy, as I have been doing for the past six months, so I will go hiking and sightseeing this weekend. Monday morning our team leaves for the field, where supposedly our hotel will have internet access, so I will theoretically be able to post an entry from the field, but there is a good possibility that I will not have time either this weekend or next week, so you will have to wait for more stories.

1 comment:

Mom said...


Like the palm frond and your room looks nice

Love, Mom