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March 2, 2001 ... Hi. I'm back.

I'm sitting in front of the keyboard, staring at the screen, and the two-week-old writer's block is creeping back in. But it's not as bad as it could be. I've spent some time thinking about what I want to say here, and what I was doing last month that left me so dissatisfied with the whole effort of writing. So I know what I want to say now -- the question is just actually getting it out of my system and onto, err, e-paper.

I was dissatisfied with my journal, see, because I didn't feel like it was accurately reflecting anything about my life. It all felt ... fluffy. It was dodging my real issues. Now, there's nothing wrong with what I was writing -- and in fact a lot of it did report on events I experienced in my day-to-day life -- but it just wasn't me enough for my tastes.

This conclusion wasn't really that much of a shock: Writing about myself doesn't come naturally. As odd as it seems for a man who believes something as left-field as draconity, I work hard to maintain my image. I get paralyzed whenever I think that my actions or feelings will cause others to question me. Actually, I think the topics of "odd beliefs" and "concern over image" are very related -- I hold myself to very high standards in the name of my inner dragon.

I've talked about one facet of this in my history essay: that I once harbored feelings of draconity being a "reward" if I could just be "good enough" for it. But the other part is more insidious -- that, now that I know I'm a dragon, I feel obligated to be a shining example of draconity. I feel that if I have problems, it reflects badly on more than just me: "Well, gee, someone who thinks they're a dragon is fucked up in the head. What a surprise."

The problem with this is that everyone has problems. I'm no exception, much as I try to convince myself otherwise. Still, whenever I sit down to write and try to actually face up to one of them, that's the wall that slams down in my way: Admitting I'm not perfect breaks that carefully maintained facade.

Erin and I have talked a lot in other contexts, actually, about the idea that I need to accept that it's OK for me to have issues. I'm grateful for that. It's allowed me to come back to my journal with a clearer mind, and a little more resolve to say those things I feel need to be said. To talk about myself a little bit more.

I don't intend to turn this into a whinefest, but then ... you know what? If I do, so be it. This is my page and I shouldn't be ashamed of how I choose to fill it. That having been said, I will promptly make a hypocrite of myself by noting wryly that this is getting entirely too self-referential for my tastes, and dropping the subject.

I hate writing about my opinions of my style of writing.

Anyway. I don't consider this to be an especially exciting return post -- heck, had I wanted drama, I could easily fill half a page with earthquake anecdotes from Feb. 28's shaker -- and I don't expect it to get much better in the next few days. I'm going to need a few days to adjust and to get fully comfortable with my new style resolutions. I don't expect what I say to be quite as intellectually stimulating as it has been in the past; the journal forum may suffer. That's a consequence I'm willing to live with.

But then, I shouldn't get ahead of myself. There's a lot of drama in the details of life, in the little quirks and idiosyncracies and frustrations; writing about me, my reactions to things, can be as intricate and fascinating as any bunch of wild ideas and speculations.

Which defines my challenge, really: To write myself into my journal. To re-introduce the recurring character who until now has played mostly bit parts. To flesh him out with all of those little things; to free him from the shackles of narration; to build for him a voice.

It should be an interesting experiment.

March 5, 2001 ... Low blood sugar is no fun. Your mind wanders; your body wants nothing more than to sleep, even though you're not really tired; you find yourself easily distracted from even the most immediate of tasks. It's a lot like hypothermia, except that you're suffering from lack of potential energy (the hydrocarbons surging through your bloodstream waiting to be processed by passing mitochondria) instead of thermal energy (heat).

Just like hypochondria, in extreme cases you lose the ability to do anything about your situation. (I actually meant to type "hypothermia" there, but I think I'll leave it unedited, because there's more than a touch of ironic humor in that slip.) I sit here, in an extreme blood-sugar-low moment, lacking the hand-eye coordination to properly eat a piece of candy.

I fumbled around in my desk drawer for the roll of Chewy Spree that I keep handy to fuel me during long days of coding. I managed to remove one from the package, even. (Although it did take me two hands and two attempts; the first Spree was green, and there are some limits beyond which even basic survival instincts won't go.) I picked up the life-renewing morsel, carried it up to my mouth in a casual, practiced motion ... and missed.

It bounced off of my cheek, ricocheted from my pants leg, and promptly got lost somewhere on the floor. I actually had to get off of my chair and get down on my hands and kness to locate it. (It didn't help that the candy was purple and the carpets could charitably be called "Navy Blue.") Fortunately, the movement seemed to help focus me, and the next candy I ate did in fact go down.

Lest you think I'm a hopeless sugar addict -- which I am, but give me some credit; it's my sole addictive oral vice -- my candy stash actually doesn't quite measure up to my carbohydrate reserve. My desk drawer is also home to beef jerky, a one-pound bottle of peanuts (plain, unsalted), some Cups O'Noodles (in case the office refrigerator empties out), chewing gum, and ... uhm ... three pairs of unused chopsticks. I suppose I could gnaw on those for roughage if all else failed.

March 7, 2001 ... I learned something very obvious last night. As is usual with very obvious things, it struck me as quite profound.

That being, most human* relationships are built on a fundamentally flawed model. (* I'm using "human" in an inclusive context here; the "residents of Earth" sense, not the "people who aren't therianthropes" sense. I'd have said "sapient" relationships, but it would have been too broad, and sounded stupid.)

See, our lives are built around contract, obligation and reciprocation. We do something for another person, and in return they do something for us. Good consequences follow good actions, and bad consequences follow bad actions. This underlies almost everything in our life -- economics ("you give me three of those dollar bills, I'll cook you a hamburger"), law ("you take that hamburger without paying, and the police will arrest you"), employment ("you cook burgers for eight hours a day, and I will give you the money which allows you to purchase food, shelter, and clothing"). And, unfortunately, relationships.

Some examples of this, especially if one backsteps through the timestream for a century or two, are pretty clear-cut ("you keep the house clean and bear and raise my children, and I will provide the income for both of us"). Today, with the breakdown of traditional gender roles -- note that I'm not arguing this is a bad thing, merely observing that it's happening -- and with the higher prevalence and acceptability of divorce, this "mutual fulfillment" is often along far more emotional lines. "You satisfy my wants and soothe my insecurities, and I'll do the same for you." Of course, in most relationships this is hardly spelled out. In most relationships it's just an undercurrent. Joe brings home flowers to make Jane feel special, and hopes in return to have Jane's appreciation work for him.

This is where the problem lies.

The implication of a reciprocative model in relationships is that, whether you realize it or not, you keep a "balance sheet" of your output of good actions versus your partner's output of good actions. This may come out in the long term -- in suspicions of not being loved because your side of the sheet is continually overweighted -- or in the short term, when you make some major sacrifice that is met with seeming indifference. One way or another, though, it will come out. Not necessarily because your partner is actively failing to support the relationship; most of the time it's just because your emotional needs and expectations differ.

What if Jane doesn't like flowers? Joe's just gone out of his way and spent money for her -- to him, he's taken a big positive action. But she's registering a negative on the "balance sheet", and may react indifferently, and bam! there's a problem. Or what if Jane does like the flowers, and shows her appreciation by making Joe breakfast in bed next morning, but what Joe really wanted in return was sex? Her side of the "balance sheet" checks out, but Joe is still in the red.

Communication helps ... as it always does ... but there's a certain point beyond which the only thing that really makes sense is to abandon the bookkeeping. If Joe is firmly convinced that the flowers were a Good Thing and Jane should hop in the sack with him, and Jane is firmly convinced that the flowers weren't all that special really and she's just too tired from a day of housework, someone has got to adjust their side of the ledger, and no amount of talking can replace the simple act of throwing out the books.

The secret is to give what you have to give, take what your partner has to offer, and come to an understanding about which of each others' needs you can meet.

Which isn't to say that it's simple.

It took me a year and a half to even realize that I was playing the bookkeeper, and I don't think I'm doing poorly by any metric.

March 8, 2001 ... In the moral hierarchy of life, I hold sellers of diamond rings on about the same level as that occupied by drug pushers.

The drug pusher makes his profits at the expense of his customers' lives, by selling them promises of short-term happiness through chemical alteration. The diamond pusher makes his profits at the expense of his customers' relationships, by selling them the lie that financial expenditure is a reliable indicator of long-term emotional commitment.

Certainly, in cases where the customer knows what they're getting into, such purchases can be beneficial, if not necessarily cost-effective. If all of the salesman's customers were well informed, there would be little or no problem with their profession; the great difficulty is that they profit from the ignorance (or reliance on the cultural paradigm) of their customers, and derive the greatest profits from those who benefit the least from their services but feel compelled to use them anyway (eiher via peer pressure or a dramatic overestimation of the product).

The major difference that I can see is that drugs cost a great deal of money because they're illegal, while diamonds cost a great deal of money because the diamond industry deliberately restricts production to keep the supply artificially lower, and profits therefore higher.

Correction: My moral hierarchy holds diamond sellers slightly below drug pushers.

March 13, 2001 ... As I type this, it is now 8:40 AM on a Tuesday morning, and the upstairs neighbors officially scare me.

They're not good types, the third-floor renters. Dave caught one of them trying to steal a chair off of our porch. Misty says, if I remember correctly, that the police have been by once or twice to issue them warnings over something or another. And of course there's the music. Apparently someone up there spent a few too many years working as one of those guys who waves the light batons at taxiing planes at the airport -- and forgot his earphones one too many times -- because someone on the third floor seems incapable of playing music at any lower than window-rattling volume. I have been able to, on occasion, make out the lyrics to the songs they're playing, muffled through two floors of insulation.

Now, these neighbors are obviously of the frat-boy temperament (and are, in fact, white and male). I say this because they have very audible parties every Friday or Saturday night. Loud music on weekends ... I don't want to go so far as to say it's expected, because that implies some sort of implicit condoning of their habits ... but it's fairly logical. That's when people party. That's when frat-boy-type people invite their friends over, drink lots of booze, throw up, and presumably attempt to steal the neighbors' furniture. And play really, really loud music in the background, preventing the people two floors below them from going to sleep.

But at eight fucking forty-five on Tuesday morning?

It's worse than I thought. We're not merely living two floors beneath Joe Schmoe, Rogue Frat-Boy Slacker. We're living two floors beneath Joe, Schmoe, Rogue Frat-Boy Accountant. Maybe in fifteen minutes he'll head out the door to work and the music will stop. I can only pray.

... As for what I'm doing up at 8:45 in the morning ... woo, boy, is there a story behind that one. Brace yourselves for my next journal entry, probably later today.

March 15, 2001 ... So much for last entry's promise of "later today." I've managed to waste over 60 hours doing absolutely nothing of consequence. I'm kind of proud, though; it's actually a novelty for me to go two days without even so much as checking my e-mail, and it's good to see that my innate apathy is strong enough to overcome my guilt urges, at least once in a while.

Now, when I say that I've spent the last 60 hours doing absolutely nothing of consequence, I mean that in the strictest sense: My greatest accomplishment from Tuesday afternoon to Thursday night was ... uhm ... buying a new two-button mouse for the Macintosh here at home, and beyond that, playing Diablo II long enough to level up my Amazon to level 41.

You see, I got laid off on Monday.

The act itself caught me completely off guard. You know those stories about dot-com workers whose first clue that they've been fired is that their card key is failing to work? That really happens. It's easy to dismiss those stories as aberrations -- after all, such outright paranoia is just a dumb business practice, because it plays hell with employee loyalty and productivity while serving no practical purpose except in the very extreme cases where the firee is actively disgruntled -- but if my case was another such "aberration", then I have to wonder what race of aliens is now controlling the minds of Wildtangent's executives, because they've otherwise done such a damn fine job of building employee loyalty and mutual trust.

I was told that 13 percent of the company got the same treatment. The poor human resources workers. I had to suffer the trauma of being told I was being axed; they had to go through nearly two dozen iterations of being the bearer of bad news. And then deal with the aftermath, on top of it all. (For instance, while I was upstairs receiving the news, a crack squad of IS techs went into my room, disconnected me from the network, unplugged my computer, and left with the power cord. I couldn't even so much as check the latest version of my files into source control, or copy personal files to a floppy disk. All of that has to go through HR, presumably to make sure that I'm not disclosing company secrets. And you thought I wasn't being serious when I called the practice "paranoia"?) I also pity the company's remaining 87 percent of employees -- or at least the ones who weren't informed ahead of time of the layoffs. Everyone now knows that the company is capable of such merciless and immediate acts ... but the survivors have to continue working there, knowing this. In many ways it's a relief having gotten the boot in the first round.

Which isn't to say that I'm reaching to find the silver lining in this cloud. There are a lot of hidden blessings that have kept me from getting too depressed over the job loss. For instance, I'm actually spending time at home again, the importance of which cannot be overstated. (Especially since I'm in a relationship, a fact which was easy to gloss over when approximately 90 percent of my time at home during the week was spent sleeping.)

Speaking of sleep ... my heart was in the right place in getting this entry written, but it's far too late at night to give this topic the treatment it deserves. Rest assured that there's far more to say on it, and hopefully this time around "tomorrow" will, in fact, be tomorrow.

March 19, 2001 ... It has now been a week since my former employer deemed me financially unnecessary. It does feel like a week has gone by ... but nothing has really happened. I suppose this speaks either for my desperate need for a vacation, or for my inability to self-motivate.

Oddly enough, this lack of activity hasn't particularly recharged me. It was my assumption that that was the way it was supposed to work -- doing work and being focused tires you out, so doing nothing and losing focus should let you rest. It doesn't seem like it has, in hindsight. Right now I mainly feel two things: An irritation that my usual routine has been so broadly disrupted; and a vague listlessness, not really knowing what to do, and so my natural impulse is to do nothing at all.

It feels like I'm withdrawing. That's been the big emotional impact of unemployment, for me. I haven't gotten bitter (except at the manner in which I was fired; see last entry) ... I haven't gotten melancholy ... I've just shrugged, and fired the world right back. Of course, replacement worlds don't always live up to the claims on their resumes. While beating Metal Gear Solid and Diablo II, et.al., have provided me with both something to do, and a sense of accomplishment, it just has been no substitute for the real thing.

Really, it's been escapism. I've been playing games because I didn't want to answer e-mail or write journal entries or update my resume or finish "Therianthropy: A Classification" (for TTU) or ... well ... anything I cared about. I have this odd notion, see, that if I'm going to do something at all, I should do it well. The two major results of this are that when I do deliberately invest time into some pursuit, I do it with an eye toward perfection ... and that I spend a lot of time not getting started on anything because I don't feel I can do it justice. In those latter cases, I have to find something to do to kill the time. That's escapism.

I might as well be blunt: I'm not particularly looking forward to a job search. It has to be done -- it will be done -- sooner or later, just because money does make the world go 'round. (I was laid off at a good time, all things considered; I'm out of debt and have several thousand dollars in the bank. Still, that won't last forever.) It's not hard to find excuses to put off the job search. But there are plenty of things I'd like to do in the meantime, things which I now have the time to accomplish, and which I would view as really meaningful. Things like spending time with Erin ... or driving out to the mountains to go out on a hiking day-trip ... or spending more time visiting Terra, keeping up with Cipher properly. There are also things I'd like to do which I wouldn't particularly find fun, but whose effects would make me happy: Adding new features to my website ... cleaning my room ... rearranging the material on my computers' hard drives so that I could give Erin's MkLinux box another 2 GB of space ... hauling my car in to the shop so that I can get it to pass the smog inspection and stop driving around with an expired registration.

It does me no good to sit around and fiddle with my hoard all day. I think it's time for this old dragon to get up again and go confront some knights.

March 20, 2001 ... I found myself pondering, today, what my life would be like as a sitcom.

I think it's a far more common question than we give it credit. I think it's one of the questions of Western civilization that everyone runs through their head, at least once, if only because it's such a basic question that lies so close to our shared paradigms. I think it's one of the adult equivalents of wanting to grow up and be President -- a dream that everyone synthesizes independently, if only briefly, just because we're all wired with the same underlying chemistry and similar underlying social structures. (Of course, I could be way off base here, in which case I expect a bemused reply in the forums.)

I also think that the majority of college-educated people are convinced of two things: That their life would make for a very unpopular sitcom because it's altogether too out of synch with "average TV watchers"; and that it wouldn't be particularly funny despite scoring points through sheer weight of absurdity. I am, of course, no exception. On the other hand, I think I've got a very strong case for that first point, and some convincing evidence for the second.

The recent events in "Living With A Dragon" -- although I'm sure that the show would have a far catchier title, given that a team of highly paid professionals would spend slightly longer than 0.6 minutes coming up with it -- should serve as an illuminating example:

In this week's episode, our dragon-in-human-body hero gets laid off from his job! See his wacky hijinks as he frantically tries to avoid updating his website, and plans for a long-overdue camping trip ... in the middle of March! Watch him stay up repeatedly until dawn, and then sleep through his alarm clock and stay in bed until 5 PM, dreaming of firing a pistol at the grille of Arnold Schwarzenegger's new car! See him drive a roommate home at 2:30 AM after she gets frustrated while waiting for a bus, having been propositioned by some random guy asking her for "triplets"! Watch him go to his mohawked therapist, and take his mate -- who happens to be another man's wife -- out to dinner! Then enjoy the drama as he's ambushed by ninjas, and uses the lost art of Pi Qua Quan to defenestrate their leader and save the free world from destruction!

Okay, I was kind of kidding with that last one. But I have been playing a lot of "Dead or Alive 2" lately.

I was actually going to get to a serious point with this one, which is that our lives are so abstract and utterly removed from nature already, that there's little difference between "real life" and the art which imitates it. But I think I disturbed myself with the episode summary; my train of thought is rather derailed at this point.

Not to mention that it's dawn again. *sigh* I'll try not to dream of Arnie's car on the shooting range.

March 22, 2001 ... When did I stop feeling at home in bookstores?

I've always been big on repositories of knowledge. The formative years of my childhood were spent in libraries, both school and public. They were places of quiet, places of entertainment, places of kindred spirits. Bookstores were much the same, except they were smaller, had a more eccentric selection, and allowed you to purchase books ... all of which were big pluses in my book. And yet I feel a little awkward going into bookstores these days.

Is it the expectation of purchase that comes with an adult's grasp of economics ("if I don't buy things here, the store may close") and income ("I can afford to buy books, and I've got a job to get back to at the end of lunch break, so being here just to hang out is poor form")? Do I get self-conscious when admitting that no, I'm not actually looking for anything in particular, that my tastes in books generally run to the "look for out-of-print stuff that I've never heard of, flip through a few pages, see if it grabs me"? Is it that I'm increasingly connected to the world's ultimate repository of knowledge, entertainment, and kindred spirits, and I've outgrown my treeware roots?

(I've been trying to work that word into my writing for a few days now. "Treeware." Heh. Isn't that just the keenest thing?)

For that matter, paper-based reading is becoming an increasingly smaller source of my information intake. I feel sorrow at this. There's really something mystical about books. On the other hand, they're really space hogs in bulk, don't have built-in search functions (although a select few of the nonfiction works do have an index), and aren't nearly as easy to keep archival copies of. There are good reasons I make that trade-off; it won't, however, stop me from feeling nostalgic.

And no matter how much my reading slacks off in favor of Internet-based periodicals ... no matter how awkward that first step inside the bookstore door ... there will always be impulse buys.

March 27, 2001 ... Haze. Frustration, guilt, haze. Inexplicable longings. Disruption of routine, irritation, defensiveness, vicious sulking, reassessment, haze. Anticipation, liveliness, remembrance, diligence, distraction. Frantic compensation. Self-propelled upheaval. Closure.

... My week in 25 words or less.

Except for the closure bit. I'm not quite done packing for the camping trip yet ... closure comes when I get all the stuff I need in one big pile so that I can throw it into the car tomorrow and take off for the coast of California.

I really shouldn't even be working on this journal now; I need sleep too badly. But heck. Since when have I ever bothered with journal entries at any time besides three minutes past bedtime? Lately, never. It'll catch up to me sooner or later, but for now all I can do is shrug helplessly as the other half of my brain chides me for my inane priorities.

To my credit, I actually have been sitting in front of a computer for most of the past three days -- and not playing games, either. I've been working like mad to do some spring cleaning on my external hard drives so that I can bequeath one to Erin's new Linux box. I just finished that this afternoon; the hardware is all assembled, and ready for installation, and in general I'm feeling very satisfied with myself despite my complete lack of effort on my website.

I'm doing things again. I answered some e-mail (!!) yesterday. I cleaned my room. I've been tinkering with hardware, supervising some pricey car repairs, running errands, and packing for tomorrow's trip. It feels like the kick in the pants I needed. It feels like I've left my rut -- granted, I'm still running around on well-worn trails, but I'm not running around in circles any more.

The job search is still a week or two down the line; all of the computer work I've been wanting to do will have to cool its heels. But I've taken that first step back toward productivity. My apathy is turning. That's something to celebrate.

(*Runs off briefly to assemble camping gear*)

... Note to self: Always make sure to triple-check that directions to destination have been printed out and safely stowed in car. Doesn't matter how much preparation you've made if you don't know where you're going.

(*Smacks forehead, prints directions, continues*)

Blur. Movement, reflection, movement, organization, fatigue ...

Dream well, all, and see you next week.

March 29, 2001 ...

Trip Record: Smith River Nat'l Recreation Area

As I write this, it is dark. Not so dark that I can't see the silhouettes of trees against the beautiful, crystal clear night sky (and just yesterday it was pouring rain as I drove down here!) ... but so dark that I'm remembering just how far the human eye can adapt. Moon-set-an-hour-ago dark. Hand-in-front-of-face?-what's-that? dark.

It is also silent. It was windy a few hours ago, but now all I can hear is the stream far, far away and the occasional breathing of FC sleeping. It's so silent that I'm feeling safe from bears; nothing could reach our bags without me hearing it. Except perhaps for teleporting ninjas. But they aren't native.

It's also very temperate -- especially for March, especially for outdoors at 2,400 feet, especially for what must be close to 1 AM (FC refused to tell me the time earlier, so I'm just kinda guessing). [I found out the next morning it was closer to 11:30 PM, but the point stands. -- Bax] I'm not even wearing gloves!

Oh, yeah, it's also very un-buggy. NO MOSQUITOES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! yet.

FC & I have both commented on how odd it feels to be out here. (In my case, again. I haven't been to Smith River before, but I have gone overnight in the baxcountry.) Neither of us is really acclimated to the darkness, the silence, the grandeur. As I remarked earlier: "I've been urbanized." I haven't done anything like this for ... uhm ... 29 months was my last Camping Trip. [Kings Canyon National Park; recorded earlier in the journal I'm transcribing this from. --Bax] A year and a half since the SCA event where I first met Erin face-to-face. But in some ways neither of those count: it's been 5 1/2 years -- five and a half years -- since I've slept under the stars, not within sight of pavement or artificial lights, worrying about keeping the packs safe from bears and consulting topo maps.

Gods, I've missed this.

Thea is wrapped up alongside me. My sleeping bag is wedged in just uphill of a small fallen tree; with my light off, the branch sticking up over me looks like a dragon standing guard. I am content. I am comfortable. I am whole.

On the way down here last night (let's not even get into today's driving adventures; suffice to say FC and I didn't reach the forest until after twilight, and hiked up the trail a little ways and stumbled upon a campsite in the dark), I was singing along to Billy Joel's "Piano Man" as I pulled into Roseburg, OR for dinner. "And the waitress is practicing politics / as the businessmen slowly get stoned / Yes, they're sharing a drink they call loneliness / But it's better than drinking alone." ... I burst into tears. Because of the beauty of the song, but also because it hit so close to home. It feels like I've been doing that for so long ... just being fundamentally disconnected. Being with other people but being lonely together. Not really finding anything to latch onto in the world.

But then, the world's never the same once you've been out in the REAL reality -- the one that's here, that's always been here. The one that we didn't build for ourselves. For five and a half years I've been living in society's kinda-real shell of a world, with memories of sleeping under the stars, but staring at a CRT. I think it's been one long, gradual slide. I have high expectations for this trip ... it already feels like something I've desperately needed for a while.

And the weather's been awfully obliging; it's been clear all day today, with a night sky of scintillating stars ... which I will now turn my light off and go to sleep watching.

March 30, 2001, Part 1 ...

God made the mountains,
God made the sky,
God made the people,
God knows why.
He fixed up the planet
As best as He could;
Then in come the people
And gum it up good!
The first thing ya know:
They civilize the foothills,
And everywhere He put hills,
The mountains, and valleys below,
They come along and take 'em
And civilize and make 'em
A place where no civilized person would go.
-- Excerpt from a song (I don't know which one) in "Paint Your Wagon"

Quote of the morning:
[in a hypothetical conversation]
"This doesn't taste like milk!" (said of Bisquik powder poured into water)
"Try fluffing it."

Quote of the lunchtime:
"Dude, if you have a famed sphincter, I don't want to know about it."

"Whatcha up to?" I asked.
"Sitting. And listening."
"Not much to listen to. But then, that's the point, isn't it?"
"Yeah. It's a shame that there aren't many places around any more where you can just sit in silence."

March 30, 2001, Part 2 ... It was our first day of hiking. I woke up before dawn, then slept in for a little extra heat. We ended up arising a little after 8, eating a light breakfast (as we were so light on water that we couldn't cook, or even make hot chocolate), and returning a tent to the car. I had brought it thinking it was a tarp; we decided to tough it out with only the tarps for shelter. (Besides which, I didn't have the tent poles.)

Concern about water continued as we started hiking. That, plus my 2 1/2 years of being out of practice, almost sent me into heat stroke. The first few hours definitely were not fun. I reached my low point around 10. My resolve wilted. But like a good hiker, I settled into "put one foot in front of the other" mode, paced myself a little bit slower ... and once we reached the end of our climb, and the trail levelled out along the ridgetop, I was feeling better.

A second day of summer sun! I can hardly believe it after last week's repeated storm systems. It really feels like I've been given a gift. Well, and it feels like sunburn. Note to self: ALWAYS pack sunscreen.

We made a very pleasant discovery of a trail unmarked on the topo map -- which led to a crystal clear, gentle mountain stream. This was cause for celebration! We refilled our bottles and stopped for lunch. Another hiker passed us and commented that this was the first time he'd ever seen anyone else while hiking here. The company helped make the wilderness a little less isolated -- which, oddly, was a good thing.

I came out here to cure my apathy. It does seem to be helping, but I seem to be instead feeling restless. Granted, I'm out of practice ... sunburned ... a little chilly ... but it feels weird to be away from the house, away from the computer, unable to do anything, taking time just to walk around with 50 lbs. weighing down my back & making my feet ache. Is this what truly city-dwelling people feel? "Civilization shock"?

On a similar note: While I was in REI prepping for the trip, I saw in the food section -- get this -- self-cooking meals. You pull a tab on the side, let it sit for 20 minutes, and eat a hot meal! Unbelievable. The practice of actually interfacing with nature, I think, is quickly becoming a lost art.

Of course, I say this inside polyester clothing, sleeping on a plastic tarp in a thermal poly-fill sleeping bag, lugging around a metal-frame backpack with zippered pockets. Walking on a trail other humans are paid to maintain (although, this being March -- before camping season officially starts -- FC & I have done our share of clearing fallen trees off the trail). Not much "real nature" there ... but it's the closest you get these days. (... And, thankfully, probably much safer than they used to have it.)

Thea's here, but been elusive -- not saying much, and off talking with Raven tonight I think. I miss her. I miss being more spiritually active. I hate my inner cynic for thinking, after scanning the area last night for bears and having it come up clean, that what I did was a "pretty fiction." I really don't want to go there ... but I can't deny I thought it ... and I need to resolve it. I need to convince myself I really do believe, because I do, and equivocating about it is destroying my effectiveness. It should be easy -- I can't justify throwing away half a decade of valid experience as "pretty fiction" -- but what I'm trying to convince isn't me, it's the inner skeptic, and in some ways I'm scared.

Maybe that's why I'd rather be home right now, living in comfortable denial.

"Come away to the hills ... Come away where the wine of life distills ... Feel the healing of your heart ... Come away, come away." (Annwn)

March 31, 2001, Part 1 ...

(To the tune of "Lola" -- or, more accurately, Weird Al Yankovic's "Yoda")

I grabbed it from the ground underneath my pack
Where it's wet all the time, like Mother Nature had spilled all her cola
C-O-L-A cola
I zipped up the bag and I put it away
But I knew we'd be eating it throughout the day
Oh that granola
N-O-L-A nola, gra-gra-gra-granola

Well, I've been around, but I ain't never found
Another snack that's so healthy or so tasty or brown
Like my granola
(Song mercifully left unfinished)

March 31, 2001, Part 2 ... And we start sinking into sleep. At 9 PM. (!!) Underneath a tarp.

Mum pulled a little prestidigitation with the weather patterns today; our 3-day streak of sunshine ended gracefully as clouds rolled in from the ocean just in time for our southbound hike. (Probably saving me a fair amount of sunburn.) ... And then were followed by fog. And more clouds ... and more fog ... and occasional clearings-up, one at sunset (conveniently allowing me to watch the sun go down and take some spectacular photos of the Trinity Alps) ... and so much variation that I eventually threw up my hands and stopped predicting anything.

Today's hike was extremely satisfying. We finally got to a part of the ridgeline with the incredible views that I was expecting. I seem to have acclimated to the hiking; plus our packs are getting lighter as we eat, and our pacing is getting better. Sunburn is still a problem. I'm red all over. I wore long pants during today's hike, taking the heat/sweat tradeoff for a little sun protection.

It was also a leisurely day. We left camp shortly before 10; hiked to the end of the trail; went down the road a little to look for water (and ate lunch at the stream we found); and -- during our hike back, we took a shortcut, discovered some abandoned mines, and were able to get inside one of them far enough to investigate some side shafts (until they disappeared underwater or into a cave-in, some 30 feet down). It was really an adventure -- bringing back memories of Eagle Lake's caves, albeit through manmade tunnels and feeling a bit more at risk. Got some neat photos, though (if they develop).

It really was a good day. My spirits are high, despite huddling under a tarp to forestall getting rained on in the middle of the night. Yesterday's uncertainty seems to have vanished -- I'm looking forward to going home tomorrow evening [or at least getting bax to civilization, from where I will leave for home the day afterward], but I'm still having fun. That's important.

I also got to interact with Thea a lot today. Every moment feels like a blessing.

... and my flashlight is running out.

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