Monday, December 7, 2009

Off to be a Ranger in Washington DC!

To begin with I did complete my travels and arrive safely back in Phoenix after also moving out of my house in California. Now I am engaged in helping repair old things around the house and trying to deal with a whole lot of stuff to sort through!

A few days ago I received a phone call out of the blue from the NPS office on the mall in Washington DC offering me a nine month position as an interpreter. This morning I received a second call saying that my initial background check is cleared (since I just did it a few months ago at Wind Cave) and offering me an official start date of January 4, 2010. I accepted. So I am heading to Washington DC to be a park ranger! 

New Life Out of the Ashes

In the classic image of the Phoenix new life is birthed out of the ashes of fires that have come before. As I sit this morning in the quiet of my home in Phoenix, AZ the image stands prominently in my mind, made more potent because of what this day signifies. Today marks the 68th anniversary of the day that will forever live in infamy, the day that Japanese bombers and torpedo planes launched a remarkably effective surprise attack on the United States at Pearl Harbor.

It was an attack that had many repercussions, most directly serving as a catalyst for the overt entry of the United States into WWII. No other conflict has ever so captured the multi-facets of humanity as profoundly. Ranging over much of Europe, North Africa, both western and eastern Asia, and both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, it was a great conflict that affected the entire world and touched the lives of all of us. The number of people who remember those days is rapidly dwindling as the years roll by, and we who live now would do well to pay attention to the stories before they are lost to history. For the events of those years continue to influence and impact our lives today in diverse and multifaceted ways.

We are poised on the edge of a new era. Of that I have no doubt, but I also believe that we have the power to influence and determine what that era will be. Oft called the "greatest generation", those that lived through the experience of WWII and came out on the other side shaped world we are living in today. We have a responsibility to do the same. Must we wait until the fires of war consume us before we act, or are there enough fires already burning that we might affect change now and be born anew from the ashes?

Causing positive change is often far easier than we realize. Perhaps we can't rebuild the whole structure, but we can do much to make the existing structure better. I have spent much of the last two weeks working to repair, rebuild, repaint, and shore up an old chicken coop in my backyard. During the era of WWII it housed chickens in downtown Phoenix. Since those days it has sat idle, slowly falling into disrepair, filled with the accumulation of generations gone by. For decades it has sat in disrepair because it was too big of a job, too overwhelming to tackle, and too hard to fix the many problems contained therein. So the problems just kept growing worse and we did little more than watch it happen. Finally, we decided to do something about it, and it has been amazing to see the slow transformation, out of the dust of apathy, and into something new. It doesn't look pretty. It doesn't look new, but it is beginning to have a new identity. And perhaps someday soon we might be able to once again use the greek term Telios to describe it as "perfect," fulfilling its created purpose once again. See, the original intention of the structure was to house chickens, but the larger purpose was to provide shelter, so although the chickens have moved on we can repair and modify the structure to fulfill its purpose in a different way. It can still find a place and purpose in the postmodern world.

Perhaps the world at large isn't so different from an 80 year old chicken coop in downtown Phoenix. Perhaps by tackling the many issues one at a time and sticking with it we can begin to see our world take a different shape, one that still fulfills the intended purpose of its creator, but transformed into something new out of the old. Perhaps rather than sitting idly by we can remember that day of infamy as a catalyst for action and a catalyst for change and continue to carry on the legacy of those of have come before and help to bring new birth out of the ashes surrounding us.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Some "final" Thoughts

Funny how things end up moving so very quickly near the end! It seems like there is still much that I am trying to do before leaving and that doesn't even include such things as trying to see people, which is usually very much a part of this sort of thing! It was strange coming in to open the visitor center this morning and realizing that this is the last time that I will be doing that. The last time I will do the weather, put up the flag, anything... I close everything tomorrow for the last time. I am glad it worked out that way though, I will be the last person to leave the building tomorrow after closing everything down one last time.

I have been getting rather creative with food, trying to eat things up before leaving. I made an excellent pot of stew a couple of days ago that used up a bunch of vegetables and some beef that I had in the freezer. It actually turned out to be some of the best stew I have ever made! Now I need to eat up the rest of it so that I can clean the crockpot and pack that in the car! Other feasts have included such things as pancakes and bratwurst. I had bisquick that needed to be used so I made pancakes for breakfast yesterday morning and I had cooked up some brauts on the grill the other day but didn't have any buns so yesterday for lunch I ate the sausage wrapped in pancakes. It was... interesting!

So last night I was burning the last of the wood I had collected because I need to get everything cleaned tonight and having a bunch of wood stacked up is not the cleanest situation! So anyway, I ended up making quite the fire! The heat nearly drove me out of the room and I unintentionally released smoke out into the room, which quickly permeated the whole house. I discovered that I actually have four smoke detectors in the house, and guess what? They all work!

I have succeeded in getting a lot of stuff, not only packed, but actually in my truck, and will get even more of that done tonight. The plan is still to leave early Sunday morning and start heading east. I have all sorts of maps and directions and plans so we shall see how it all works out! I am attaching my "calendar" as best as I know it at the moment so you have at least some idea where I am! It is very much subject to change and modification of course, but at least it gives you the basic idea!

There is supposed to be rain for a good chunk of tomorrow and there is a 20% chance that it will turn into light snow after midnight Saturday night. I am really hoping that it will not do so, or that it will only be a light dusting, because that could make things a little harder with leaving!

I am also doing all the final check out stuff necessary for me to leave, which includes my official final meeting with Ted, my supervisor. So I had that meeting yesterday and it went extraordinarily well! He definitely did much to confirm me and my abilities as an interpreter. He told me that I have a gift as an interpreter and that he would not only recommend me in any way he could, but also push for anyone to hire me if he was ever given the opportunity. He also told me that I had received more visitor feedback forms than anyone else this summer and clearly was connecting with the visitors in a powerful way as well. And he rated me as exceptional in customer service, interpretation, and for working with others as a team, which are the three main evaluation categories. So basically is was a huge validation of me and what I have done here. He also told me again that they want me back and are planning on me coming in April, but that if something else came along that is totally fine. I have not signed a contract and do not have to come back here if I did change my mind for whatever reason, which was very nice of him as well! And Tom said very similar things today as he left, again telling me that I was a great hire and that he is very glad that he had me come this year and wants me to come back. So that is a pretty nice note to leave on!

Finishing the adventure and soon embarking on the next!

Friday, October 16, 2009

The End has Come: The board is Set: The Pieces are Moving

The end has nearly come! I am down to only nine remaining tours at Wind Cave. That is pretty crazy to think about being finished after doing so many! It has continued to be a lot slower...until today. Apparently schools in Colorado, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota all decided to have parent-teacher conferences and not have school today. Well that had a rather profound impact on us since all sorts of families suddenly showed up at Wind Cave! And only Charlie and I were working today so we had to get rather creative in getting people into the cave. Both Mary and Ted (my supervisors) ended up leading extra tours and we switched the later tours to natural entrance tours in order to facilitate more people. All told we took an extra 100 people through the cave in addition to what our maximum number would have been had everything sold out. Pretty crazy!

That meant I did get to do one final Natural Entrance tour, which was exciting for me. I enjoy that tour a lot more and had fun doing it one last time before leaving. I had all kinds of kids on the tour which is very different from what it has been recently! That meant that my whole tour ended up changing and being very different than what I normally would do. I also had several screaming babies on the tour. I really do not understand why parents bring their infants into the cave. What do they think their child is going to do in that environment?! They do occasionally sleep, but much more often they fuss and scream the entire time. Add to that the fact that I built everything up to the point of lighting the candle and turning off the lights in the post office (the first stop on the tour) only to find that the candle was completely burnt down so I couldn't do it! Luckily we do have a second point later on the tour where you can do a blackout and there is another candle, otherwise I would have had a lot of disappointed people! So it was a very interesting day at work today, to be sure!

I will soon be leaving and departing upon a journey that will take me across much of the country and end back in Phoenix. My first season as a park ranger is nearing its completion!

Living in dangerous wonder...

Friday, October 9, 2009

Garrett Looking Ridiculous on Youtube in Order to Apply to be a Roadie with Invisible Children

So as I have received more and more negative responses from the various national parks that I have applied to for the winter (I just received another "no" from Jewel Cave yesterday), I have begun to think about other possibilities of what I might do in the spring. A few weeks ago I received an email from Invisible Children requesting applicants to be "roadies" for their spring tour. It is something I have thought about doing before, but never actually pursued. However, it might actually be a possibility now because they need people from mid-January through mid- April. So I decided to go ahead and apply. Well part of the application is to submit a five minute video that tells them about yourself and addresses several particular questions. In normal circumstances this would have been fairly simple for me to pull off and a lot of fun to do. However, in my current situation things are a bit more complicated because I do not have access to a video camera or editing program. So I had to get pretty creative in order to put it together.

Through the use of my digital camera I was able to film little bits of video that allowed me to begin putting something together. There is an old version of Windows Movie Maker on one of the computers here, which is ridiculously hard to use and does not allow you to do all sorts of things that I had taken for granted. So my original idea (which was to have me driving and having a conversation with John Muir, who I was going to put in the video as a still picture with my mouth talking, essentially creating a talking head) was severely modified by the end. I also ran into all sorts of other problems like not being able to have two different streams of audio and not being able to superimpose pictures over video, things which it never occurred to me I would not be able to do! I had selected several songs I wanted to use, but the program decided not to read most of them and even when I converted them to different file types (such as MP3 and WAV) they still didn't work, so I had to go to plan H on the music! I had also found several videos that I had taken in various different national parks including a great shot of Yosemite Valley from Glacier Point, a shot looking down Nevada Falls, and footage in the redwoods which I was planning on using. But after a great deal of arguing with the computer I finally conceded that it was not going to read the files and I couldn't use them.  So the video is not good, is not anywhere near what I could have done, and is very different from what was actually in my head originally, but it is still kind of fun to watch. :)

This is the link on youtube (which is how they wanted me to submit the video to them) where you can watch the video. It should take you right to it.

I have also attached the "script" of what I did for the video so that you can follow what I am doing if you choose to do so. There are a few parts of the text that are no longer in the video because I had to cut it down so that the video itself would be less than 5 minutes long. So anyway, if you want to get a good laugh, take a look at it!