Monday, September 29, 2014

The Obed

I woke up early on Saturday morning. My two friends and I drove down that horrendous strip of I-40 West, through Knoxville and into the endless cliffs of the Wild and Scenic Obed River. I left behind all the stress of chemistry lab, and the maps of the cardiac system that tend to overwhelm, and all the shitty phone calls from doctors. We brought the dog, Rocket Girl Beer, a complete trad rack and too many ropes and instant coffee. We sailed down to into Tennessee with weak arms and all the dust that had collected on our climbing gear and so much excitement that I don't think I stopped talking, once, ever, the whole trip.
It's been forever since I've been on a climbing trip. I didn't realize that when I left Seattle, when I left Index and Leavenworth and the Exits and the Tieton and Squamish, Snow Creek Wall, Orbit and Outer Space and Heart of Gold and Total Soul and Infinite bliss and all of the rest, that I would quit climbing nearly completely. I never intended to do that, but I fell into other things. 

I sunk a lot of money into a mountain bike and I fell in love with the endless tangle of trails that are right down the road.  Then I fell in love with a redhead who claims to be afraid of heights, although I know that's just code for I'd-really-rather-kayak, and we got a house that needed to be skinned and gutted, and I went back to school, and I got a job, and I got a little lazy about meeting new climbing partners. 

I have a lot of excuses but I think it boils down to this: I let myself forget how purely and perfectly and I love to be outside on rocks, and the cool nights of woodsmoke and the sore, slow early mornings that follow. 

And then Rip moved to the Southeast. Rip, one of my best friends from Seattle, moved to Nashville two weeks ago, and now the Obed is directly between us.

So if you think about it, I didn't quit climbing. I just waited around until my favorite climbing partner to join me. And it took him just over a year.
Thankfully, Nell and Josh were in the same place as me- they'd taken a rest day that had lasted about a year, so we all struggled and fell and slowly made our way to the top of the some not-too-crazy routes. The woods were red and apple green, a mix of sweltering summer and new autumn, and the dog barked at every leaf that twirled down from the sky. 

I remember one glorious moment where Rip, belaying me from far below, said two words, some Arrested Development joke we used to say all the time, and I laughed so hard that I fell off.  I was leading, a foot above the bolt, and I landed halfway down the route. I have rope burns on my back from getting twisted up at the impact and all I was thinking is, "This must have been how Tina Fey felt when Amy Poehler joined SNL; 'My friend is here! My friend is here!'"  
That night we slept at Lily Pad campground with a lot of other climbers. Nell and I drank the Rocket Girls and then the marshmallow lover's hot chocolate with the little packs of freeze dried marshmallows. On the tin roof on top a the shed, a dog named Monster dropped tennis balls on our heads.

There was a crowd around the campfire but everyone was tired out, and sat at Rip's feet and tipped my head back, watching the white smoke turn into a fresh white spray of stars. The crickets were very loud, and in the shed behind us four musicians played Angel from Montgomery and House of the Rising Sun. Hometeam made a few discerning laps around the fire before choosing a young blonde man to curl up with for the the evening. When I went off to bed a few hours later and carried her with me, she was obviously angry at being pulled away from such a scene. 
Dave spent the weekend paddling the Gauley River in West Virginia. We got home at the same time on Sunday night, and used our last shred of energy to bike into West Asheville for dinner. Then we went back home and struggled to stay awake through one episode of Breaking Bad before that hard-won fatigue caught us in its jaws.  

I used to climb every weekend in Seattle. But this was the piece of the puzzle that I'd been missing for so long. I'd always been elated to leave the city on a Friday night and drive towards mountains and rivers and rocks. And I still am. But now on Sunday I'm elated to come home. And between the happy leaving and the happy return, I think that covers it all. 
For more photos of adventures, coffee & dog, follow @melinadream on Instagram

Friday, September 26, 2014

All in 2 weeks

1. fighting flu season 2. on a trail somewhere after class 3. a caveman feast in the countryside- hands, knives and goblets only 4. lots of raw food lately 5. without her I'd be glued solid to my text book 6. Wednesday ultimate- losing by a lot in a little rain, Ryan turns to drinking 7. Caveman games 8. coffee & chemistry at 5:30am  is, absurdly, a combination I've grown to like (stockholm's syndrome?) 9. post lab farmers' market 10. zonked out on the ultimate field 11. a rare, long, precious solo ride  

If you like coffee&corgis&calculator, follow me on Instagram. And hey, I'm about to leave for a climbing trip, so it should only get more interesting. @melinadream

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

All in 2 weeks : Embracing Social Atrophy

My friend Ryan, who recently graduated from law school while working a more than full time job (and planning the world's most elaborate theme parties) told me to 'embrace social atrophy' while I'm in school.  Which is something I most certainly did not have to do in college. Fiction writing is an easier degree than anything math or science. For me. Probably for everyone.

My first step in embracing the atrophy of my social life, muscles, and general photogenic quality of my existence, is to admit that I don't have enough interesting photos from each week to warrant a weekly round up.

However, I don't want this period of my life to go undocumented completely, nor do I want to shrink down to a lonely pea. So I'm hoping to get out into the wilds a suitable amount to be able to post photos every two weeks.

As soon as I wrap up school, publish my book or win the lottery, I'll be back to my regularly scheduled All in a Week. Here's hoping.

1. north carolina mountain state fair at night 2. we flew to Jersey for 48 hours 3. sunday's hike 4. the 100 hour chemistry assignment 5. this beautiful cocktail hour at Nell's house 6. Lee, our porch, a violent storm 7. at the gates 8. my 3rd season of Asheville ultimate started up 9. southern style bakery 10. northern style bakery in NJ,  I was so excited I bought a pound of cookies & 2 cannolies 11. fair fish

If you enjoy the 'all in (some number of) weeks' posts, follow me on Instagram @melinadream 

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Now it's September, again. This is my 29th September. I'm fairly accustomed to them by now, although I can't remember one ever being so hot. 

It's 90 degrees during the day, and I sit in biology lab and watch through the window as steam rises from the pavement outside. At the front of the class, someone is flipping through slides of the endocrine system, pointing out thyroid from parathyroid, squamous and simple cuboidal, the two lobes of the pituitary. I'm trying so hard to focus, to dredge up some interest from somewhere inside of my brain, but I'm coming up dry. The words, the cells, the slides, seem to just glimmer away before I've absorbed them, like those first light snow flurries in Vermont where the tiny points of snow melt the very second they hit the ground.

I like school. I've always liked school. I love the way it forces me to hyper-organize my things and my time, notebooks stacked by color, coffee cup cleaned and waiting on the counter for the next morning. I love how it neatly dissects my day into blocks, and I always know where I should be- now class, now lab, now driving to the tutor, now opening my books on the kitchen table for the evening.

But this time around, my attention is waning.

I've heard that the golden gate bridge is so long that the people hired to paint it never get to stop. They start at one end and by the time they get to the end, about a year later, the first part needs to be painted again. And so on and so on and so on for as long as there is a golden gate bridge. This is what it feels like when I'm doing one of those long dimensional analysis problems with a hundred different steps. I start out so strong and confident and then I lose it it, little by little; the numbers collect but I forget why they are there or how I got them, and by the time I'm near the end I have to go right back to the beginning.

This happens on a macro scale as well, which often disturbs me. I'll be plugging along just fine, feeling satisfied with myself as I solve little puzzles, or get to class on time, or a row of numbers marches across the page in a particularly neat fashion, and suddenly I'll look up and wonder where I am. Why am I back in school? To become a nurse? Who decided that? When did I ever, ever express interest in being a nurse?

Not when I was a kid, certainly. I wanted to be an author when I was a kid, even when I was in preschool. Not when I was in high school or college. (If I'd had the vaguest idea in college I would have taken one math class and made this whole thing inordinately easier.) In college I wanted to be a novelist and after college I wanted to be a sitcom writer in New York City.

Out of the blue it will hit me that I've given up on all that and I'm living out a plan B. I'm not an introvert, writing is brutal, fiction is terrifying, print is dying, competition is soaring, other people are making it and I'm not and I have thrown in the towel at 29 with absolutely no excuse other than I don't want to work as hard as I know I would have to work.  

Those are the bad days. On the good days, I remember how completely enamored I was with my EMT course, how I felt useful in a way I'd never felt before. And I do love people and interacting with them. I think about how nice it will be to make a good salary and how many, many options will be available to me if I just keep going.

Am I a failure or am I being sensible? Will I grow to love it and what happens if I don't?

When I read a book I'm constantly analyzing the writing. I never would have written that sentence. That joke was perfect, what made it so subtle? That word was unnecessary, where did she come up with that, that's overkill, why didn't I think of that first? 

But that engagement, it doesn't seem to cross over into other mediums.

One of my jobs on the ship was to be a naturalist, and I was surely the worst naturalist that's ever been. My boss told us during one crew meeting that the key to being a good naturalist was to be constantly questioning the world around you.

But I look at birds and I think: "Oh. Birds." And I actually think ferns are really boring.

Once I saw a grizzly bear and my first thought was, "That looks like a man wearing a grizzly bear suit."


Oh, a pancreas. So that's how it works. Oh.

Look, I'm trying. I have this lemon essential oil and this peppermint stuff, it's supposed to wake up your brain. I'm mixing all these Super Food powders and hellaciously expensive gogi berries into smoothies to stay alert. I have a daily regiment of little logic puzzles that are supposed to boost your concentration or something. I try and see each class as a game that I am going to win, and that's all I can do for now.

Which is ok. It's ok to be ambivalent. Life is many things.
It's been so hot; everything damp and heavy. It's difficult to sleep, and to think, and the dog is miserable. She glares at me all day from underneath the table while I spin circles around my chemistry problems. I can't wait for the weather to turn, for the crisp, invigorating relief of autumn to sweep through these mountains and make everything feel new again.

Friday, August 29, 2014

all in a (studious) week

Things have changed. Sometimes I go backwards in this blog and look at the 'all in a week' posts from last year. So many activities, so many landscapes, each one matched with the perfect alcoholic apres.

Now? Lots of conversion factors and fluorescent lights. The AB tech math lab followed by private tutoring night-capped with my kitchen table flooded in paper. Not much alcohol as it appears I have interstitial cystitis and I pay dearly for every drink I drink. I found that out this week.  

I don't think the Urologist office will make the post because I could not get a fun-feeling photo out of that place. I tried.

I suppose that's what makes this weekly photo roundup interesting to me, though. How things change.   
1. 94 degree days every day, the dog slouches through her walks 2. my highlighter broke open in my mouth 3. chemistry 4. celebrated one year! 5. weekend in Durham 6. bent creek trails as the sun goes down 7. I saw one friend this week, she made me dinner, I remembered that I like having friends. 8. the dog cooling off 9. late night at Cosmic Cantina with Dave's oldest friends 10. my 'quick ride before studying' became a two hour doozy when I got fantastically lost. 

If you love staged photos of tremendous studying, the dog, and the occasional outdoor sport, follow me @melinadream #longroadtonursingschool