Sunday, April 15, 2007

Breaking the Silence

A year of silence on this site is quickly coming around the corner. I suppose I can call it a sabbatical. A shift needed to happen. Then it began whether I was ready or not - whether I welcomed it or not. The past months have been a time of change.

This past Friday I took my co-workers rafting. It was my day to teach the staff something for professional development. Let me backtrack to put this into more of a context. I am working at Coloma Outdoor Discovery School on the banks of the South Fork of the American River. Twice a week I dress in bloomers and a straw hat adorned with ribbons and bows (thanks Mom) to teach 4th graders about the lifestyle of the 49ers. The other days are spent hiking with them to teach them about the natural history of the area, taking them to Gold Rush related sites, and then talking to them about stewardship for the earth. Although we teach on the bank of the river, for most of my co-workers it has become a backdrop that they no little about.

I needed to show them the river. While on the river I stopped periodically to read some of my past writing for the South Yuba River Project – the dialog with Beatriz Terrazas, and, and a few other things to put that into context. Primarily the theme was learning how to listen to the river and the importance in doing so. I spoke briefly about the shift that happened to me twenty years ago when, at the age of thirteen, my dad took me rafting on the Kern River. I related that to the shift that happened to me this past year, first on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, and again in New Zealand.

At the end of the evening, Sara was riding with me as I drove back to the put-in. She wanted me to talk more about the recent shifts on the Canyon and in New Zealand. Where they physical, mental, spiritual shifts? I paused. This was my answer: While I was in the Canyon, especially at Thunder River, the place reached inside me, shifting, turning and tweaking things so I can never see it again like I had before venturing into it. It’s something that I have tried to explain to others but it always comes out sounding like gibberish. Recently I read a book called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. Two of the characters had been abducted from their world and whisked away into the fairy world. Daily, when they returned to the realm of humans and tried to explain their miserable predicament, nothing they said had any relevance to anything they meant to say. They used complete sentences that structurally made sense, but had no relation to what they actually intended to say. They wanted to cry for help but ended up telling the complete history of fox hunting in England instead. I feel like this when speaking about the Grand Canyon, New Zealand too.

Last year I realized that confining my work to the South Yuba River and the constraints I put upon it was far to limiting. Now I am expanding. I’m going to see if I can somehow untangle the gibberish.