Monday, July 8, 2013

Fire Season

Last month Prescott was threatened with the Doce fire. Roads were closed, neighborhoods were evacuated, and fire fighters came from all over the West to assist in the fight. The high school near my house was turned into a home base for all the visiting hot shot crews and support personnel. One morning as I walked Harvey I counted trucks representing more than 12 different fire districts from around Arizona, Texas, New Mexico, Utah, and even Montana. Trucks returning from long days and nights in the field wafted thick, warm scents of forest fire as they drove by. Seeing the tents on the baseball field, the exhausted firefighters sleeping on the pavement next to their gear and their trucks, and the full operation of the emergency services was a daily reminder for me of how far from home each one of those people traveled to willingly put themselves in harm's way and to spend excruciatingly long and difficult shifts on the front line without even the promise of a cool shower or a soft bed as a reward at the end of it. The fire never made it into Prescott, but it did burn up the Granite Mountain wilderness area, which is visible from pretty much every part of town. Luckily, no structures were lost and the only injury was a bee sting. Prescott was very, very fortunate to have such a strong support crew protecting property and lives.

The Doce fire blazing atop Granite Mountain.

Unfortunately, that was only the beginning of fire season in Arizona. As soon as the Doce fire was under control and no longer a threat to the town, fires started popping up all over. The Prescott fire crews were able to make it out of town to help out at other hotspots. Unfortunately, the outstanding success with the Doce fire was not repeated in the town of Yarnell. The Yarnell Hill fire ravaged the town and 19 members of Prescott's Granite Mountain Hot Shot crew were killed when a quick turn of the winds sent the blaze unexpectedly in their direction. The loss has made national news and people all over the country are grieving. The tragedy has of course rocked Prescott to the core. During the week of 4th of July, immediately following the tragedy, every celebration of freedom and independence was intertwined with praise and memorial for the firefighters.

I didn't know any of the hot shots who died but no matter... every fire truck, every purple ribbon on every business, every sign with a shout out to "The Heroic 19", and every incredibly friendly and polite member of the Black Mesa hot shot crew that just bought coffee from me brings tears welling up behind my eyes. I've been conflicted about how to honor the fire crews and their support teams. I do believe they deserve respect, from the nineteen who lost their lives to every firefighter that puts him or herself in harms way and all the way down to the folks behind the scenes, but on the other hand I don't know any of the guys who died. I would like to leave space for their friends and family and I feel incredibly resistant to the "tragedy tourism" that goes along with devastating events. Do I buy a T-shirt or make a prayer flag? If I do, why? Is wearing a T-shirt a sign of support or just a boast of "I was there"? What about that girl with the fresh ink on her shoulder, "...something, something about our brave 19"? If I don't make a sign for the fence and everyone else does, what does that say about me? I didn't even give the Black Mesa hot shots discounts on their coffees...

A recent meme on facebook read, "There comes a time in life when you walk away from all the drama and the people who create it. Surround yourself with people who make you laugh, forget the bad, and focus on the good. Love the people who treat you right. Pray for the ones who don't. Life is too short to be anything but happy. Falling down is part of life, getting back up is living." For now, I think the best way that I can honor all those fighting to protect our homes and land is to keep on living. Firefighters are risking their lives so that my life can keep on as normal. I think we can all honor their efforts by living as best we can, by staying happy and healthy, by not putting too much dependence on our material possessions, and by taking the time to appreciate what we do have and, more importantly, the people around us who make our lives better. A warm smile and a good laugh go a lot farther than a few cents on a coffee anyway.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Duck Disappointments

When I returned from Montana, the four eggs under my duck were all rotten. I didn't crack them open to find out, but it was easy to tell from the outside. They were clearly black and soupy on the inside. The eggs under my neighbor's hen were scheduled to hatch June 2nd, but I gave them a few days to be sure. When I checked on her, those four eggs also were not looking like hatching any time this year. I took the eggs from both the chicken and the duck but both birds continue to sit, committed to empty nests.

Am I a little bit sad? Yes. On the other hand, in the midst of working four part time jobs, I'm a little bit relieved that I don't need to care for who knows how many little ducklings. The three I raised last year were a handful. Now I must decide what to do with my two ducks... They are so entertaining to me and I love having them around, but the whole purpose was to get them to reproduce and they didn't succeed this year. I do have faith that they will be better at it next year, but I'm planning on leaving town right after I graduate and right at the time the duck would be nesting...

I guess that's a decision to make later. For the time being I'll just continue to enjoy my morning watering routine with them and the frequent chase around the yard those times Jesse James makes his break for the chicken coop.

Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Months in One Blog Post

The semester is over and the beginning of summer in Arizona is absolutely beautiful! Five months of stuff is too much to really capture in one blog, so I'll make it a fairly short photo recap.

Here's what I've done so far in 2013:

I gave a duck a bath.


My mom and my sister came to visit. I got to meet my adorable nephew Andrew for the first time and of course, I got a picture of everyone with him, except myself.

My black duck unexpectedly died. My guess is that she choked. Unfortunately, I paid $75 dollars for that duck and was expecting great things from her. My mom and I rather unceremoniously buried her beneath a Scrub Oak in the forest. 

I went to Santa Monica to preview the Vidal Sassoon cosmetology school and take a picture of the Ferris Wheel on the pier, then slept in the back of a Caballero at the Cherry Park skate park in Long Beach, then went to Corona to meet my partner's parents and 14 small dogs. It was beautiful and fun and California is a crazy place.

Jett and I took Harvey to Willow Lake. We got our feet muddy, threw sticks for Harv, admired all the gorgeous aquatic birds, and spent a lot of time examining, and photographing, the finer details of the natural world, like this dried up pond scum and this drift wood:

 We spent a night and a day at Fossil Creek.

 I made BANANA BREAD CINNAMON ROLLS! Maybe one of the best recipes I've ever found.

 Spring finally sprung in the gravel of Jett's front yard.

I got a job with Prescott College's literary journal Alligator Juniper. This year I'm on the pages as Administrative Staff, but I've already advanced to the position of Assistant Managing Editor!

Check out the Alligator Juniper blog!
Jett and I went to the Songkran Festival at Wat Promkunaram Buddhist temple in Phoenix. It was the Thai New Year. We gave rice and limes to the monks.We were invited to feast on the most delicious home-made Thai food. I didn't take any pictures.
Then we spent some time sneaking around in the bushes surrounding the outer fence of a zoo in Surprise, Arizona because we didn't want to pay $32 each to get in. Then we went to a car show at a funeral home. Then we went seeking a smoothie in Anthem. I didn't take any pictures of that either.
The next weekend we went back to Phoenix to watch the finals of the Desert Ice Bonspiel, the Coyote Curling Club's annual curling tournament.

My classes started wrapping up at the end of April. The final result of the Newspaper Journalism Practicum was not a newspaper, but this beautiful magazine The Raven Review. I wrote articles, took pictures, helped edit and design the entire magazine, then took responsibility for a portion of the distribution once it was printed. Great experience with tangible results!


I saw the Hoover Dam for the first time.

I went to Vegas for the first time. I stayed with a really fun little group of girls at Rumors Boutique, enjoyed the palm trees, and hung out by the pool.

The lot of us got dressed up and went out on the town to do bachelorette party things on The Strip. It was fun. Vegas is a crazy place.

Weddings usually happen after those sorts of parties and I had the pleasure of making the cake! Here is the 'topper' I made. It was more of an insert really...

My good friends Dillon and Anya got married on the rim of the Grand Canyon, so the cake design was also inspired by the Canyon. I baked each layer to resemble the main geological layers of the Canyon, then carved an actual canyon into the finished cake, complete with the muddy water of the un-dammed Colorado River and river rocks.

Jett made the trees. The trees, rocks, and tiny flowers were all made from edible fondant. The mossy, grassy looking stuff was Graham Cracker crumbs that I spray painted green with edible spray paint.

Instead of the traditional cutting-of-the-cake-by-bride-and-groom, Dillon and Anya took turns giving a Grand Canyon geology lesson as they sliced down through the layers.

 My remaining female duck started nesting.

So far she is dedicated to setting, but she's not very good at it. She often loses some of her eggs, once she lost all of them without realizing any had gone missing, and she doesn't really get the whole idea of hiding the nest in a safe, secure location. I'm hoping that her inadequate nesting methods are due to this being her first time. I gave four duck eggs to a neighbor with a broody hen. At this point I think the chicken has a better chance of hatching her four eggs than my poor duck does hatching the remaining four.

Jett and I are getting ready to finish out the month up north, rafting and camping on the Snake River, then visiting family and friends all over Montana. Hopefully some ducklings will be hatching when we return at the beginning of June!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

С новым годом!

Two weeks ago I returned with a giant backpack to a ghost town, my college campus seemingly abandoned, cold and empty. The first few days back in the States were rough. Before leaving Kyrgyzstan I was given a little debrief on 'reverse culture shock'. Upon my return I pretty much went completely through the checklist of emotions and exhaustion that was predicted and is common amongst international travelers. I was tired, excited, sad and overwhelmed, feeling unable to relate to or communicate with the friends and family I live with. I missed my friends abroad and almost the entire Prescott College community had left for the holidays. Indeed I came back to an empty, lonely place. And then I got sick. A terrible hacking cough that kept me up at night and doubled me over during the day. As happy as I was to be breathing fresh air, flushing toilet paper down the hole and eating bacon, I was terribly depressed and just wanted to return to the familiarity of Bishkek.

I have since got my possessions in order, overcome the jet lag and depression, and am on the upward swing to health. As I sat in the sun on campus yesterday I witnessed fresh looking young people walking slowly taking in the sights of the empty campus with their parents, clearly eager, excited and nervous. Today I saw so many people walking the town with large overstuffed backpacks. The Prescott College veterans, with their weathered backpacks, looking tidy and confident on their walk from the shuttle station through the barrio, while the incoming freshmen looked disoriented, wide-eyed with wonder, and not nearly as stream lined. The semester starts tomorrow and the fresh buzz just serves to remind me of all the new chances I get, all the opportunities I have in my life to start anew and to continue to expand my spirit.

At the beginning of 2012 I went to Ukraine, my first experience traveling solo. During the spring and summer I explored various aspects of relationships and my own shortcomings within those. I used my time in Kyrgyzstan to learn and grow in the realm of communication. My coming home was a fresh take on grounding myself and finding my bearings in my own culture. And while it still seems that winter has not really set in here, it feels like the beginning of a new season and with that a new and different chapter of my life. I am overjoyed with the anticipation for whatever will come next and can only smile at the memories of 2012 and at what a challenge some lessons are to learn.

Happy New Year Y'all.