the convicted felon is in the woods

I was taking a walk to sugar house hill this evening, under phosphorescent skies, and all of a sudden the light had drained out of the sky. I cut through the woods to get to the road, knowing in the back of my head that walking in the woods at dusk during hunting season- posted land or not- was a bad idea. Just as I hit the road I saw the farmer cruising up on his four-wheeler. It had no break lights or tail lights, I could just see the red glowing tip of his cigarette gliding up the road as if it were floating. I froze, trying to melt into the hillside. I liked the farmer very much but he was a compulsive talker, and I wanted to get home.

I saw him ride past, come to a stop, and back up, having obviously spotted me. "Don't shoot me!" I yelled out, half playing, half frightened. I could have easily passed for a deer in the darkness. He swung his leg over the 4-wheeler and started coming towards me. "DON'T SHOOT ME! IT'S ME! DON'T SHOOT ME" I shouted again, springing up from the ground and running towards him.

"Thought you might have been a hunta'." He said, his heavy Vermont accident sinking the end of each word. Although the farmer hunts freely on the land, no one else is permitted, and just like his father before him, he does not take kindly to trespassers. He put his cigarette out and started in on a story of stalking and running off a small handful men from the land in the last few weeks. "This one guy, I seen him here a few times, hes a Knott I think."

"A nut?" I ask him. "Like, a total nutbag? And he's wandering around our property with a gun?"

"No, a knott" The farmer spelled it out. "That's his last name. But he is a nut. He's a convicted felon, not even allowed to carry a weapon." So there is a crazy, dangerous murderer father slapper pope raper of a man wandering around the property....which means the crazy ideas that I harbor between the hours of 10pm-8am when I'm home alone were correct. I asked how he managed to go hunting without a gun.

"Nah, he can't have a rifle, but he can have a bow and arrow."


"and a muzzleloader."

"I see." It was then I resolved to never again roam around in my underwear. So much for that simple pleasure.

"How's that cat?" Asked the farmer, changing the subject.

I told him she was alright but that I had to go. I wanted to get home and lock the doors and- I'm not sure what- sit in wait with a steak knife. But when I got there, with the yellow light pooling out of the windows and the animals lying around fireplace and the VPR pledge drive on the radio, things seemed far less grim and desolate as they had on the remainder of the walk home. The crazy dangerous murder father slapper pope raper stalking through woods seemed, if not anacuous, then somehow far, far away.

first night with Smokey Jo

I've got a week and a half to tame, or at least begin to socialize, a feral kitten of unknown age and unknown gender. This has become a fantastically larger undertaking than I had anticipated. (Although I would like to insert here that I did not know I was going to be acquiring a feral kitten, but sometimes these things just happen.) After a week and a half I get on a plane to Chile and the kitten is either an acclimated pet, or it goes back to the farmer and gets shot in the head. So, pressure's on.

It spent most of its first day shivering under the old dresser. We had cooked thanksgiving that day, a month or so early, since I'll be gone for the real thing, and I've got this thing for Holidays. I can't stand to miss them. Anyway, we had a bunch of people over and spent the evening drinking wine and champagne and eating all the good stuff, including these pecan tarts I made that would just break your heart if you could see them. One of the guests was Cassie, my proclaimed 'soul mate' since 7th grade, and the two of us spent the hours post-meal sitting in the guest room catching up. The kitten was at one point, quite mysteriously, sitting up on the bed when we walked in the room, and stayed remained there with us, at a considerable distance and casting furtive looks the whole time, for an hour or so. Other than that she was hiding under the dresser. Cass and I walked up into the field in cold and the dark, wearing our warmest winter jackets and admired the audacious, steely shine of the Northern stars. And then when everyone was gone, I sat near the kitten and read aloud from the entire Patagonia catalog, and then from The Tracker, and then I just talked with her.

I went to bed at 2am and found a despondent Hometeam waiting in my bed. I woke up at 5 to the little beast crying her head off. Back downstairs I went and read aloud from the Tracker. At first she shut up and listened, but after a few minutes she just cried right along anyway. She is a loud thing. Ear peircing howls. Eventually I gave up and trodded on upstairs again to sleep.

I know she or he or whatever is terrified and homesick and misses her mother and probably is going over and over in her mind that terrible moment where it stepped into the trap. It's hard not to be able to reach out and stroke it, an instinctual urge. It's a cute little thing, I mean for god sake's it a kitten, green saucer eyes and the tiny nose and the whole deal, but right now it's just mean and unholy.

We've named it Smokey Jo.

shout::shout::for joy::rejoice::

i'm home again after

far far faaaaaaaarrrrrrr too long in southern airports and



over southern skies. (and it wasn't even that long.)

how i've longed lately to be home. and of COURSE. winter upon us. but not:
quite wintered in.

sky all sharp and diamond strung. Cold air, and clean. Two dogs, fireplace, VPR on the radio. pile of books taller than myself.

already had a cinnamon dolce hot chocolate and leafed

around a bookstore, eaten an entire loaf of bread.

Getting ready to march around the hills. at night you will find me and hometeam buried under quilts with extra socks on- my friend The Trout puts it this way: this is the closest I'll ever come to religion.

(why do I ever leave?)

beautiful, outstanding, ecstatic--

My heart was stolen when I was 18. I fell in love hard. She is everything person strives to be- beautiful, outstanding, ecstatic, hilarious, loyal, intelligent, emotional, determined, fierce, gorgeous, witty, disastrous, balanced, talented, tumultuous, self-reliant, a walking firecracker. She reminds me of the seasons changing: reliable yet surprising, beautiful, always changing yet dependable. Even though we're approximately 2, 4641.4 miles apart, I'm still in love with her. And somehow, for some reason, she loves me back. She is my best friend. I'm sorry for sentimentality. I payed a lot of money to go to school to learn how to write without sentimentality, but fuck it! Lisa is turning 25, she whirled around this planet for a quarter of a century, and if that doesn't deserve a little emotional tribute than I don't know what does.
Lisa is a graphic designer, and many other things, for 5ultimate. She studied international relations and Element Ultimate Frisbee for 5 years at UW, half of which time she was on playing field across American and the other half she was holed up at Zoka Cafe writing papers on displaced people and diaspora. Lisa is on her second year as a semi-pro ultimate player on Riot, one of the top women's ultimate teams in the world. She is from Ballard. She's been all over the globe, visiting her parents who are traveling around the world on their boat. She studied in Nepal and India. She's a superstar. She's a heart breaker. And I miss her, a lot. Sometimes I feel her pulling me back to Seattle, a force as elemental as the tidals being yanked inward the celestial bodies.

Sometimes this job is glamorous and sometimes.....

When I run into friends back home and in Seattle I usually hear, "wow, you've really got the dream job!" And sometimes, it is a dream. Like today, sleeping in, designing my own curriculum for an hour, and then surfing push button wave under grey skies for the rest of the day. But there are many aspects of the job that are not so dream like. Here are a few examples of the slightly aggravating, sometimes strange, sometimes bizarre, extremely un-glamorous moments:

1. Waking up in the middle of the night to the dog struggling to get out of the sleeping bag and throwing up all over the bed. Falling back to sleep. In the morning, strip the bed of the sheets, and sleep the rest of nights on a piece of foam because there are no more sheets and no washing machine.

2.Spending endless hours sitting in a waiting room reading Canadian parenting magazines, while the kids are in doctor's appointments and the ER because it's really easy to get sick away from home.

3. Scrubbing a medley of puke off the floor because in Chile, EVERYONE gets sick at the same time, except for you.

4. Driving yourself to the ER in Tennessee for giardia. Getting lost, because, well, you're not FROM Tennessee and it's 3 in the morning, having to pull over on the side of the road to explode, curl up, and want to die. Making it to the ER and being yelled at by the nurses and then admitted while everyone else gets to paddle the Ocoee, because everyone else already got sick and you waited till you could be the only one.

5. Having five classes to prepare for and little time, and whatever time you have you can't CONCENTRATE because certain boys age 15-17 want to play loud FOOS BALL TOURNAMENTS.

6. Eating a lot of budget Chilean mystery meat and 'goulash surprise' meal after meal.

7. Having to squander away SO many quippy one liners because they could be inappropriate and the last time you did that you got in trouble.

8. 17 hour road trips with cranky teenagers who want to hear "pop it rock it" by Hannah Montana played on repeat.

9. "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall." "Turn off the kayak movie, it's study hall."

10. I know we're sitting above the coolest surfing wave in the world and we're going to be on it very soon, I promise, but right now....can I interest you in....SAT VOCAB WORDS?? Anybody? Anybody?

11. Who in H did this to the bathroom? If you don't clean this now, you're not going on the water!? Hey, did you hear what I was-- okay, fine, I'll just leave it. (Then, clean it up anyway.)

12. 7 weeks abroad, 6 pairs of underwear, no washing machines.

13. All those friends back home who live in tidy little houses and get out of work at 5pm...that are your age....that you so desperately miss....

that's love

The other day, I pulled my skirt over my deck and slid into the flat water of the Ottawa. Usually do a warm up and then head across the capacious river to an island. On the other side of the island is mccoy's rapid, corner wave and babyface- contingent, of course, on water levels. As I pushed out into the gloss I heard Hometeam freaking out on the bank. Whenever I go kayaking she wines and wimpers and sometimes wades in after me. Sometimes I'll place her on my skirt and paddle around, which she likes very much. But since I was going out to surf, I told her to be good and left her there.

I was almost to the island when something made me turn my head. And thank goodness, because there was Hometeam, halfway out in the deep river, paddling like mad to get to me. Hometeam is shaped like a 1/2 fat badger, 1/2 sleek sea otter, and watching her swim is predictably hilarious. She looked very concerned to be out so far away from shore but also madly determined.

I had to paddle all the way back and try unsucsessfully to scoop her onto my bow, which I couldn't do, so in the end I just sheperded her back to the bank and locked her inside for the afternoon. She was howling mad. I wish I could have taken her with her, but the thought of her little badger otter body recirculating in phil's hole like a stuffed animal on a wash cycle-spin cycle stops me.

Up all night, sleep all day, just another strange day at NRA

I started to fade a little yesterday at the end of class. I was exhausted. I was reading aloud from The Last American Man and had been reading for about an hour when all of a sudden I felt like I was about to keel over. But the water was warm, the sun was out and the wave was in, so I decided to get in my boat and I'd probably start to feel better. I strapped on my wet booties, put on my shorts and my still damp poly-pro top, then headed over to my cabin to get my PFD. Then I saw the bed, my sleeping bag, so inviting, so soft....and decided to just have a quick lie down. Just for a moment. So, wearing my cold, damp river gear I fell straight forward onto my pillow, like a tree falling, or a dead person. And I realized I couldn't get up. I couldn't even move. No worries, I figured, the kids will be paddling for hours out there, no harm in just....

.....3 1/2 hours later I woke up. The early evening sunlight was softer, and most of the kids had already paddled home, showered, and were lying around in their pajamas staring at You-tube videos.

Waking up in the middle of the day, particularly when you had not planned to sleep in the first place, is disorienting. I spent a few hours running my eyes over The Grapes of Wrath and fiddling with the aperture on my camera to prepare for the next day's classes, but I couldn't concentrate. Then I taught an SAT prep-class, then I read aloud for another half an hour to my English II boys, who were half asleep themselves on the couch. At 10 o'clock I staggered across the banks of the Ottawa to my cabin and fell hard asleep.

I woke up in the middle of the night. I hardly ever do this. For a minute I felt nothing, and I wondered why I was awake. Did I have to pee? No. Hmm. Puzzle. And then, I felt it. A stab of pain through my stomach unlike anything I had felt before. It was like a bolt of lightning, like someone had hooked me up to a telephone and was running shocks through me. Then another. Then a blinding storm of pain that lasted the entire night. I was up, wide eyed, trying not to move, and nothing (NOTHING) I did made the pain abate. Nothing gave me so much as a moment's relief. I could barely breathe. Hours went by like this, until I saw dawn creep up over the Ottawa valley and the mist begin to rise off the grass outside my windows.

Finally, when I heard everyone else waking up and head off to workout, I got up long enough to tell the first person I saw to cancel my classes, and then I lay back down. Finally I sifted back to sleep and slept and woke up and slept and woke up feverishly for hours. Finally, at 3pm, as the final class period was ending, I woke up for good. My dog had slept next to me the entire time, 17 hours since we had initially lay down for the night.

I felt a little better but still off kilter. The dog and I went inside and I read aloud for half an hour to my class. Yes, it would make a lot more sense for the kids to read to themselves, but we don't have enough books, somehow. So I read to them. They say they like better that way, anyway. Of course they do. All they have to do is curl up on a couch and shut their eyes and pet the dog. I like it too, though, it's a nice change of pace. They don't dread English class, that's for sure.

So after my strange day of dreaming and pain, I geared up and slid into the water in a new boat, a Pyranah 420 I borrowed from Nicole Mansfield, who is up visiting with Dave Fusili. The water, I noticed for the first time, was the same color as the beef aspic in the movie Julie and Julia, and warm as bath water. With no one else on the river besides Nicole, Dave, Andy and Matt, we had complete reign of the waves. For the first time I hit babyface dead on and got three long surf sessions in.

And now I can barely keep my eyes open, the rats seem to be tromping back into my stomach for another all-night chew session, and I wonder when I'll start to feel better. I took the whole summer off and had a team of natureopathic doctors working with me, I took pills and oils and gells and medicinal teas and had all sorts of things donw, but I never got any answers, and I didn't get much better. I can't just wait around forever and hope I start to feel better, so life goes on and I'm back at work, which coincidentally is the worst place to be when you're sick. Life goes on....but it would be so much easier if I could just feel better.

big water Beat down & Babyface

We live in a handful of cabins on the banks of the Ottawa river, it's a full moon, and so far school has been mellow. Only seven kids so far. We'll get one more in a few days. On the staff it's me and three men, one plays the fiddle, on plays the guitar, on was an Abercrombie model, one's got a beard, one has sideburns. They drink strong coffee all the live-long day. I had a cup and spent the rest of the evening hiding from light, hiding from sound, even the light of tepid light of a glow stick erupted throbs of pain in my temple. I have had a migraine since landing on the Ottawa, which I pray will abate as the moon gets smaller and less obtrusive in the sky.

There are six boys and one tiny girl who clips her hair to the side with huge hair bows.

Paddle just a minute or two across the flat water over to a natural playground of rapids and waves: the daunting McCoy's rapid with a line that snakes between Phil's hole and Sattler's hole, both massive. In the middle of the rapid is Corner Wave, directly adjacent to an eddy, and below that is the u-shaped Horshoe hole that stretches across the whole river, with one tiny little tongue greening out through the middle. Below horshoe is babyface, the kind little wave, perfect to learn on, that leads only into a friendly little wave train and then a lake.

Each Thursday is "big-water beat-down day" where the kids plunge happily head first into the meat of Phil's hole and get punched in the face a bunch by the wave before surfing out or being spit out. The point is to gain confidence in big thrashy spots. The only thing it does for me is make me want to blarg all over the rocks. I would describe this as one of my worst nightmares. For the kids, it's just another Thursday.

After much coaxing by Stephen, I consented to follow him down the tongue of McCoy's, a line that kissed the edge of both holes but avoided the worst. "It's a big tongue, just a little bump, and then you're out." Was how he described it. Turned out, it was a big drop into a giant pile of foam. I braced, hit it, got flipped, rolled up, was flipped again, and, while upside down, came to grips with the idea that I was most certainly going to die, in front of everyone, in the gnashing teeth of Phil. I felt oddly calm about this.

Then I rolled up, turned around and realized I had threaded the needle and avoided the worse. Stephen was grinning. "Uhm...I was going into that hole, and I realized, woah that's a lot bigger than I remembered's usually a lot easier at higher levels....sorry about that." Stephen and I travelled to Chile last semester, he taught me a lot about kayaking, he was in my creative writing class. He was enthusiastic, talkative, friendly, and eager to patiently lead me on the river. Once, during a post-Ottawa City wave workout at a burger restaurant called "the Works" he talked non-stop for 2 1/2 hours straight. I don't know how he managed to eat his burger and drink his mocha-oreo shake. It's one of my best memories from 4th quarter, which is good, because that quarter was, for me, totally shit. Stephen is also the moodiest student I've ever had. On a bad day, he can sever off your head with just one searing glance.
Well as usual, I can't go on, because there is never enough time here, and always too much to write about. I feel like I'm just lightly glossing over everything, not really explaining anything the way it ought to be explained. But right now, I have to read aloud from The Last American men to three young American boys, because somehow even after all my emailing and bitching and threatening, we still manage to have only ONE copy of the book between the FOUR of us. And so, read aloud it is. Today during class as I read aloud, Alex fell asleep on the couch and Matt hit him so hard his entire body jerked and lifted off the couch cushion. It was....entertaining.

....and we're back

I took a few weeks off from The Wilder Coast. First I helped my sister walk down the aisle in Seattle. Then I packed up and moved from Seattle to Vermont. Then I helped my cousin walk down the aisle. Then I packed up and drove North to the Ottawa River. Somehow, summer eluded me as it always does, and I am back with the circus of New River Academy. A new year, a new group of kids, a new group of staff. This year we're smaller: 8 kids and 5 staff: me and 4 guys.

And this time, I brought a hair-dryer, and I will defend with my life my right to use it.

The last time I was on the Ottawa was last spring, and the river was at a record 22 feet. The rapids were either flushed out or deadly-huge. Now the river is 21 feet lower and a whole lot more fun. I ran the middle channel yesterday and am happy to report that I lived.

I find that when I'm at New River, the content of my writing goes way up and the quality goes way down. I'm always running off to get on my paddling gear or teach a class or clean up somebody else's dishes. I'll try not to write too terribly, however. But no promises.

One last note: we're starting off this semester with a full moon, which can't be a bad sign: