Friday, May 02, 2003
Standing at the doorway of my life in this house,
Trying to find a way to get out.
Looking for a sign that I should open the door.
This craziness is getting me down.
But today's the day, that we break free.
Today's the day, that we break free.
Walking down the stairway to the traffic below.
Anything could happen, I know.
But I'm sick of everyone telling me what to do.
I'm here now, hey, but I'm already gone.
And today's the day, that we break free.
Today's the day, that we break free.
It's clear in my mind after all of this time
What I feel is lonliness.
There's so many times
That the sun dosen't shine
And I feel I've got to go
And today's the day.
- Poe, "Today," Great Expectations Soundtrack
Well, it's my last day of work, my last day in Salt Lake. I'm up at 5 a.m. because I have nowhere to sleep tonight. There's a small band of light creeping over the mountains and the city sparkles in the twilight. It will be a few months before I see it again.
The drive out of Tooele was clogged with traffic and red lights, as if the town were trying to reel me in, keeping me at bay in my final moment of escape. The goodbye to my coworkers was fairly emotional this afternoon. How do you say goodbye to the people who stand by you so much of the time? As deadline wound down and my final issue of the Transcript-Bulletin hit the press, even sources stopped in to bid me goodbye. And today I felt so ingrained in the town, so set in its movement, that leaving felt like an ebb in flow. I know it isn't. But to have the mayor, the president of the chamber of commerce, and the owner of the town's largest business all say they're going to miss me, well, it makes me feel like part of a community. At the same time, I drive 35 miles back to my house in Salt Lake, the college dorm for late 20-somethings, the place where nothing is mine and nothing is sacred, and I feel like it's time to go. I'm going to miss my friends, but I know I'll be back this way again. And I'll get to see them in that new light, that new context, that comes of leaving the past behind. This feeling begins....
posted by Jill at 6:22 AM
Sunday, April 27, 2003
The plan is to leave for Alaska in 4 days. i've been mentally ready for this departure for about 3 weeks now, physically ready for about 10 days, and now though, i find myself in southern Utah deep down in Dark Canyon maybe not quite ready to let go of the red rock desert of southern Utah for so long. this has been a good way to let go of my obsession though. to come here alone knowing that this will be my last southern Utah fix for quite some time.
my plan as of friday was to spend 2 days down here in Dark Canyon and be home to salt lake by tonight. it turns out i need another day though. the time came today after lunch when i was "supposed" to hike up out of here and head north - "North to the future," as the alaska state motto boasts. i just couldn't leave. i need one more night out here, and so now here i am for one more night. deep in Dark Canyon, at the mouth of Lost Canyon, trying to find comfort with leaving this place.
the wind, which has been whipping continually for 3 days has stopped completely now. it's twilight - my favorite time of day - and the bats are coming out again, finally sending these pesky gnats away. the temperature is perfect as could be, as April, i've come decide, is the perfect month in the desert. it's going to be hard to leave this for so long, but this last adventure here has been so peaceful and enjoyable that i find great comfort in knowing that eventually i will be back down deep in the Utah desert canyons. in the meantime things won't be so awful either. 3 1/2 months in alaska, 3 months biking from salt lake to syracuse, and my planned move to new york city for an indefinite amount of time should keep my mind consistently on what i'm doing at the time and off what i'm doing right now. on occasion though i will daydream of these desert canyons and remain constantly unconsciously anxious for my eventual return to Utah.
For a more detailed account of my hike into Dark Canyon via the Sundance Trail please check out the Backpacking page.
posted by Geoff at 8:21 AM
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
The emergence of spring is always more nostalgic than it is revolutionary. Here I am, at the threshold of a major transition, and the blazing green that recently coated the mountainside keeps bringing me back to a day, seven years ago this week, when life became startlingly circular.
A deep storm had just subsided late in the afternoon, opening up a small window of time for the annual "Dairy Air Fest" in a little-known suburban oasis called Draper Park. I traveled in my usual Taco Bell caravan away from fifth period Physics, packed as tight as ever in a 1969 Volkswagen Van. Every year the amateur music festival brought the most deeply anonymous garage bands into the sun for one moment to shine. I hadn’t missed one since I followed the echoing noise from my front yard when I was 12 years old. At 16, I was there to see a friend’s band that had actually become popular in the local circuit. We called them “the band formerly known as Paradigm,” which was their name until they experienced a paradigm-shift and converted their signature bubblegum ska to screaming gutter-punk. Still, we were faithful fans, and this was a great reason to skip school.
We got there early and before the crowds, soaking up streams of sun in the cool air of a partially shaded pavilion. Picnic tables formed the makeshift stage, crowded with small speakers and amps. Terrible, terrible noise punctuated the air as musicians attempted to play in unison, or over one another, though it was hard to tell which. We reveled in every minute of it, perched on plastic swings, watching blurry-eyed teenagers struggle for something brutally sublime.
Another set started, and the audience began to flow in. As I made the obligatory rounds past familiar faces, a pattern began to form. I found childhood friends, kids I shared milk with in Elementary school that later faded into the background of relentless change. I found the concert crowd, moped-driving rude boys who were my best friends at shows, but strangers in real life. I found quiet kids from art class, loudmouth peers I never liked, and self-proclaimed revolutionaries who always crashed our EARTH Club tree plantings to promote their version of romantic Marxism. I found the ‘one’ boy I never thought I’d find again and the ‘only’ boy I thought I’d never get away from. And suddenly, I felt like every person who had impacted my thoughts was crowding in on me, in on the small concert. The music, the noise, the sweat and the energy of my childhood memories converged in a swarming mosh pit. And as unchecked volume pounded our ears we collided in a moment that quietly defined an entire year.
Funny how life refers back to simple moments. I can’t help but wonder what this spring will bring.
posted by Jill at 11:34 PM
Monday, April 21, 2003
Easter Sunday brought the daunting chore of breaking the news to my extended family - “I’ll be gone ‘til November” – and the bombardment of questions that followed. Everything from “Are you crazy? Do you know what the economy is like right now?” to “Sounds like a great time. Don’t get eaten by a bear.” In the end, I left my aunt’s house feeling quietly dazed, the kind of feeling that follows a night of reporting what the people who love you the most consider bad news.
Maybe it’s all in my head, but my aunts, uncles, cousins, sisters and grandparents all reacted with a air of uncertainty. No home? No job? No definable points of destination? I come from a culture where couples get married out of high school. College is something you do while raising two children. A career is a reliable, domestic job, and if you’re lucky you’ll only ever have one. The daily routine is distinct and unchanging - grocery shopping on Wednesday, sex on Thursday - and Sundays are your only spiritual, albeit dogmatic, outlet. This is my culture. This is my family’s culture. Direction is steadfast, bolted to an iron rod, and anyone who would veer from this preset path is viewed with confusion, even distrust.
Luckily, my family is not completely culture-bound and they understand the advantages of adventure. “These are the experiences you’ll carry with you throughout your life,” my mom said. She said this exact phrase the last time I went traveling, and I’m pretty sure she hoped that would be the last time she’d say it, but she’ll continue to support me even if it means potential grandbabies are slipping further into the future.
My dad, of course, had many questions about my financial status, all of which I answered to his liking. He took one look at our van and said, “That thing’s never going to make it to Alaska.” He proceeded to recite his version of my future blog: “Day 14 of the van getting stuck. Out of food and very hungry. We would eat Jen but yesterday she got eaten by a bear.” I think he means it in the most loving way.
My sister, Sara, turns 16 next Tuesday and she wants my car. As far as I’m concerned she can have it, though I don’t think my parents are too keen on the idea. My other sister, Lisa, is too mired in nursing school finals to even think, but she gave me a necklace and told me to have fun. This, I believe, was my most genuine response to the news of my trip to Alaska.
I leave in 10 days and there is still much to do. Please keep in touch with these postings as I plan to add to them a lot more often now.
posted by Jill at 5:41 PM
Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Today was one of those days that make you not want to quit your job. Really. After burning 10 hours on the clock at my desk I set out for my late-evening assignment, an interview in Erda. Erda is a small farming community on the outskirts of town - bright green alfalfa and wide-eyed cows. This particular interview was with a lady who adopts wild mustangs that might otherwise be put to sleep (due to overpopulation on public land), and trains them to be domestic horses before giving them away to new owners. The BLM recently awarded her their "volunteer of the year" award, and I've actually talked to this woman before, so I planned for a pretty routine assignment.
The photographer beat me there and was busily capturing some new arrivals, fluffy yearlings fresh off the Cedar Mountain Range. They walked cautiously around their pen in a tight herd, jerking at his slightest movement and eyeing the new arrival - me - with extreme suspicion.
Janet, the horse mentor, walked up to me holding a horse I had met fall 2001 on his new arrival to the ranch - "Moose." He approached me in front and stuck his face in my hand, which Janet informed means he wants a scratch on the nose. This is a horse that just 18 months ago threw himself against the pen in desperate blows. A wild animal, now completely tame.
"Isn't that amazing?" I said. "He's so calm."
"He's a very social horse," Janet told me. "He loves people."
This transformation surprised me, not because a once wild stallion had been broken, but because with gentle coaxing Moose had come to appreciate, even relish, in his new life. Janet is so enamored with these horses that I can confidently say she never mistreated - or "broke" them, and yet they seemed so content.
"Do you think their behavior patterns differ from domestic horses becuase of their past?" I asked, which was my way of saying, "Do they ever think about their old life, wild and free on the range?"
"Actually," Janet said, "If anything they're even more well-behaved and loving with people (than domestic horses). They come from a herd environment. One leads and the others follow, and they learn respect."
"They know another life and then they see what it can be like here," she continued, gesturing to a girl brushing a horse as it munched on a pile of hay. "These horses want to be domesticated."
Want to be domesticated? The prosepct seems surprising at first, until you think about it. Behind a steel pen they have food, water, people to scratch those hard-to-reach spots, and a regular job transporting riders from place to place. Sure, they live behind steel bars, but it's a tradeoff, and one that people make every day of their lives.
posted by Jill at 10:57 PM
Monday, April 07, 2003
I went to my first major-league baseball game on Friday, the Los Angeles Dodgers vs. the San Diego Padres. Geoff dosen't like either team, but we were in California and this WAS baseball, after all. He hates the Padres but he hates the Dodgers even more, and I'm all about rooting for the underdog, so we secured two centerfield plaza (cheap) seats drapped in XXL Padres T-shirts, compliments of Discover Card reps. All around us were Dodgers fans who drove an hour to suburban San Diego to watch their team - the better one, by far - get whopped by the swingin friars. The Padres made some epic outfield plays and some good pitches, too, to finish 4 to 2 in the top of the ninth.
To tell the truth, I wasen't watching the game most of the time. Geoff called me on it more than once. "Did you even see the last ten pitches?" he asked, that tone of exasperation dripping from a rhetorical question. "Um, probably not," I said, fixated on the gallon tub of nachos on the lap of the Dodgers fan in front of me. A little girl in a Padres jersey danced two rows down; a guy in a purple sweater spilled $5 beer after $5 beer on the ground; a hapless "wave" circled the stadium and a Padres fan jumped around with a homemade sign that read, "at least we're not the Tampa Bay Devil Rays." Baseball is fascinating.
We made our obligatory trips to a half dozen beaches between Long Beach and San Diego, sprawled out on the sand as the blazing sun made shadows of the towering palm trees. It was cold, but not too cold, not like the blizzards and wind that raged through Salt Lake City in our absense. Why is California so perpetually bright? The people, the stucco houses, glass buildings and swaying palm trees bathed in sunlight and green, the only constant in a city of 15 million. It's like a paintbrush carefully applied a coat of simple primary colors to hide the gray inside.
posted by Jill at 9:59 PM
Monday, March 31, 2003
Just got back from a weekend in the Southern Utah desert. It seems like its been ages since I went camping. Two months actually, and the arrival of spring hasen't brought much warmth. We weathered below freezing temps with a strong breeze Friday night on the Green River, but it was worth it for the beautiful 60 degree day on Saturday.
The desert is slowly coming into bloom. This is the best time of year for color - the grass and cottonwood buds are still brilliantly green, contrasted on red rocks and deep blue sky. Geoff and I hiked up Negro Bill canyon and sat beneath a Natural Bridge, revelling in the quiet movement of the desert. Being so close to Moab, southern Utah's redrock Mecca, we met the massive influx of tourists head-on. We watched climbers scale massive cliffs and mountain bikes roll on the slickrock plateau above. The tourists never bother me down there - even the motorcyclists and jeeps, who most "self propelled" explorers despise. The rock formations and subsequent canyons dwarf the tiny outcroppings of human movement. Moab is one of the few places in the world where you can stand in a crowd and feel alone.
We visited friends of Geoff's who recently moved from New York to Moab for kicks, Steve and Mayda and a three-year old girl named Sage. They were traveling cross country, arrived and Moab, and couldn't go on. They had to stay. Who can blame them?
posted by Jill at 8:05 PM
Thursday, March 27, 2003
The daily commute, the tedious chores of life. It’s simple math at its most mundane - movement between two required points along an established route. Everyone glazes over the commute. Driving is one of the few activities where typically alert people lose all recollection of distinct moments. I used to find myself in this situation all the time while I was in school. I’d exit the freeway 20 miles from my home and remember nothing after leaving the driveway that morning. I was never alarmed by this tendency to “zone out.” After all, I’d been down that same freeway countless times. I could traverse it in a coma.
Then, one day I came home from a three-month road trip in desperate need of a job. I hooked the first one that bit – a community newspaper in a rural/suburban community 35 miles from my downtown Salt Lake City home. Early in my employment I still moved in travel mode. I remember being constantly fascinated by the things I witnessed along that 40-minute drive… migratory birds dipping in and out of the salt marshes, white crests rolling across the Great Salt Lake, barren tree limbs caked in delicate frost, a dismantled waterslide strewn along the skeletons of train cars, the iridescent glow of the copper factory, strange rock formations hidden among the foothills. Every day I discovered something new, and this small act of “traveling” kept me very alert as I headed into another new day of routine. Part of this was my way of coping with my newfound cage, but, after two years, this part of my routine has never left me. Early this morning, I passed farm field irrigation pipes dripping with thousands of ice cycles. Apparently, some local farmer jumped the gun on spring watering before the morning frost set in. Moments like this remind me that life is an endless adventure, even along the daily commute.
posted by Jill at 8:16 PM
Wednesday, March 26, 2003
March comes and goes, and with it another Better Newspaper of Utah contest. My newspaper walked away with first place again, notable to say that it consistently beats out much bigger weeklies in the state. Another March, another thank you luncheon provided by the brothers who own the Transcript-Bulletin. They dragged us all the way out to the press room today to collect our chicken, au gratin potatoes and roll, inhaling gas and ink fumes with our lunch as the press churned away in the background. Seems like mere days ago that I came back here to eat catered lunch and soak up short but sweet bragging rights about our award-winning editorial staff. So little has changed, it's the day to day grind, and the reward for a year of strangling deadlines, interviews, late meetings followed by 7 a.m. clock-ins, 12-hour shifts and stress-drenched articles is chicken. Chicken and brownies. Years aren't supposed to slip away like this, are they? Whatever happened to the great unknown?
posted by Jill at 9:48 PM
Tuesday, March 25, 2003
First posting. I'm creating a blog to chronicle a road trip I'm embarking on in May, a meandering drive from my home in Salt Lake City to the Alaskan wilderness. Though this trip has been on the back of my mind for months, recent developments have nurtured my growing desire to wander. Spring creeps over the snow-crested mountains, and with it the light and the warmth that ignites old dreams. Gulf War II escalates, and the Canadian border becomes more and more appealing as a safe haven from the burdon of being American. Out there I could spend months cut off from society, watching clouds roll across the untouched sky. Cut off cold turkey from lifelong addictions to news and pop culture. More aware of the movement of water, earth and sky. Isn't that, at least indirectly, the goal of most extended vacations? Not so much about escape, but heightened awareness? Awareness of the world. Awareness of a life we're so eager to squander on unrealistic expectations. Awareness of ourselves. That is my goal, and this is my blog. Full-legnth postings can be found within my web site, www.biketoshine.com. Check it out, and keep in touch in the future!
posted by Jill at 6:23 PM