just an update from West Virginia

I took the curious kids out the edge of the gorge and peered over. For a few minutes, they stopped talking.

It's been a dramatic few weeks here in west virginia.

now, if anyone wrote that in my writing class i'd slash it out and remind them that abstract weak little words like 'dramatic' mean nothing (same with good, bad, nice, interesting) should always be replaced by the concrete and tangible.

it's been gauleylicious, for some more than others. isn't that always the case.

in the past few weeks there have been some massive NRS pro-orders. Some epic paddling on the lower Gauley with a dream, dodging punchy waves and foaming holes on a scrappy little line that barely eeked me through, excruciatingly haunting and overwhelmingly sorrowful harmonies late at night with Andy and Tino. Some hiking and disc golfing in the surounding woods and raft companies and gorges. We've been swimming in the dried-out dries run of the New River Gorge and sliding down waterslides in tiny canyons.

I've slept under a tarp in front of the embers of campfire at the Gauley put in. And drank pints of beer at Pie slike

I've been teaching about the league of New England Geniusses and pulling my hair out trying to make the kids laugh while learning about Whitman which isn't easy. I watched one girl get eaten alive with poisin ivy and hauled her off to the health clinic where she got injected with a gallon of steroids, then I bought her a chocolate milkshake.

There's been little sleep but a lot to eat. There's been a lot to do, more every day. There's been not very much paddling for me but the ride was good when I got it. The classes have been long and longer. The photo-shoots I take my photo students on have been sketchy in a deliverance kind of way. SATs are creeping up. Today Kara handed me my itinerary for Chile. And that's the update from West Virginia, more or less.

Wishing you were somehow here again

I put Hometeam in a car today. She's going back home with David and Tino who were heading that way for the Whitewater Symposium. I'm sending her home early so she doesn't have to put up with the airplane I'm taking in a few weeks at the end of the quarter. Since getting into Fern's catfood, she can no longer fit under the airplane seat. Tonight, my bed is cold and my heart is stone. HT, tonight, this song is for you.

Teaching for the national AP Literature and Composition exam

The best part of teaching high school English at a tiny, alternative boarding school is that the overlords of education are not breathing down my neck, and my classes need not comply with the materials on the standardized testing omnipresent in today's public classroom. My Advanced Placement class has to pass the national AP exam otherwise I'll be in a lot of trouble, but it's up to me how I go about learnin' them all the test materials. So far it's involved a huge turkey supper and this Grapes of Wrath Monopoly board game. The best part of Haaken's game was that in the end there were no winners because the bank took all your property and money. I'm sure Steinbeck would have approved.

Ducks on Gauley

The 2nd half of the quarter is underway. Tino is leading the ducklings down the upper Gauley today. In the rain. It's warm and humid here, like swimming in a soup, an unsettling climate. Yesterday we swam in the dries, swooping down the rock waterslides, building dams out of rocks. All the kids were just kids and the trees were still as green as they were this summer. But I feel restless. I think all the time about the upper corners of the map, the one on the East and the one of the West, where the weather has turned to tang and chill and the fires are lit each night. And I think about North Carolina.

76 rides

Holy shit! Garborator wave came in today, the first time in over 2 years. Most people gravitated over thataways so pushbutton wasn't nearly as crowded as you'd expect on a Saturday. The line waxed and waned. Today was a half day of school which meant I was on the water by 2 and didn't get out of my gear until 6:15.

I was ripping through rides and getting back on the wave so quickly that I started to count to see how many rides I'd do.

In four hours of nonstop paddling, I got 76 rides on pushbutton today. 76 beautiful rides of spins and shove-its and violent windowshades. The wave was so low it had turned completely into a hole, a sticky hole that worked me a few times so hard my helmet came off and my noseplugs broke.

I hit a wall within the mid 50's but pushed on, knowing it was my last few hours on the Ottawa for a long time. It may even be the last few hours in my playboat at all for a while. In the end it was just me and two Airbone Athletics guys, then there were two....then it was just me. It was...glorious.

What wasn't glorious was crawling back to camp exhausted sore and sunburned to hear that dinner was going to be 3 hours late, the brownies the kids made tasted like salt and burning (seriously how do you mess up brownies) and Mid-term grades were due tomorrow. Ugh. But still....76 rides!

....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: