Long time, no speak. I hope you all are well, feeding your neighbors in this time of troubles and all that jazz. When in doubt, make cookies, that’s what I always say.
Anyways, I wanted to throw an update your way. This regards the trail, and my general state of mind about it. As all of us who want to cross the border to walk the last 886 miles through Canada’s Maritime provinces know, the border’s been closed since March/April, and though I’ve met some people who work on current border electronics and other friends who swear they know secret ways because they’ve lived on the split their entire lives…
One brush with Canadian law enforcement and the threat of forcible removal was enough. Although, we all can admit that, “Arrested and deported for sneaking into Canada, spreading fear and viral plague among the townspeople,” has a certain ring to it.
So, in March, I was working in science research in Connecticut, with that same lab I’ve been gathering environmental science data for as I hiked.
That crashed and burned.
It probably had something to do with the idea of following the trail being pulled out from under my feet, and the uncertainty we all are facing, coupled with the lack of physical activity and having a dark roof over my head instead of cold clear starlight. Add in isolation, because volunteering a couple hours at the city’s quarantine shelter successfully wards off all comers, friends and family alike; and you have a formula for Sail, sitting alone in the dark in her temporarily rented space, facing her residual hatred of desk work, while listening angstily to city traffic as sirens scream by at one in the morning.
So I left.
After a few months of uselessness, anyways. It got to be too much. I wasn’t accomplishing things, and was poisoning my well and scorching that bridge.* Spent quality time with fam (Hi, family) while applying to technical jobs across the country, because wanna know who needs repair work done in towns along your ole national IAT? Everyone, that’s who. Erstwhile physicists? Useless. Carpenters, deckhands, and dishwashers, looking for trail work? Much easier to get money for a sammich, or passage on an impromptu trans-Atlantic crossing, I’ll tell ya.
*Bridge may have burned away. Unclear.
In June, I picked up work in traditional trades (carpentry, shipwright work, historic restoration) through Conservation Legacy and the National Park Service, partly for the above reasons, and partly because working with my hands is a lot better for happiness. Due to unclear job descriptions, I accidentally landed on a tall ship.
Ever dreamed of having a ship’s carpenter grumble decades of knowledge into your ear, like a shoulder angel, except instead of ethical decisions you get the practical commentary of a grouchy, weather-beaten shipwright commenting on whomever designed this boat, he doesn’t know why they did this but now here we are with this rotten beam?
Me too, fam. Me too.
So, here we are.
We’re stepping* two of the three masts, this week, for the first time in four years. They’ve been lying about on the grasses, with their wood bits and ratlines all exposed and moldering for about that length of time. You can see some to the right in the above photo… and we’re also doing it at the same time as an environmental audit. Get rid of all the unlabeled toxic liquids all mixed together, y’all, oh lordy they’re coming.
* “Stepping” the masts means putting them in. Centuries of maritime tradition mean one must use special speeches for all speechifying.
The job runs through January.
Afterwards? Unclear. Anything could happen. I could continue working here. The border could open. We could find the cure for cancer and an all-encompassing treatment for COVID-19! We could have our politicians engage in bouts of fisticuffs on the Senate floor. I could decide that three years of rambling is too much, and walking around the North Atlantic basin is only for chumps like this guy, who has walked all of North America’s IAT, and most of Europe’s sections at the very least, and who also incidentally was working on tall ships last October. Or I could be on trail at this very moment.
Who knows. Not me. Go mind your own dreams,
said the crabby tree-walker.
Stay well, and please stay wonderful.
* * *
On a different, but related-because-this-involves-my-entire-life thing:
It is worth noting that this year we have progressed from walking on a trail where I’m one of four brown distance hikers I’ve met, over the entire 3800 miles… to working where I am now, where I’m one of one brown people I’ve met, working and facilitating access to our outdoor/historic recreational spaces. And then we all, hikers and coworkers and the public alike, have discussions about brown people in the outdoors, and while I watch members of my community argue, it is useful to point out the following.
1. People have been killed within living memory for being in places that they “shouldn’t” because of their skin color. This includes some of our most beautiful designated outdoor recreational spaces, access to which was open to the public, but traditionally closed to non-whites like myself. With this history and our current social climate, speaking up is very helpful.
2. Y’all, the next person I hear tell me, “It’s just not their culturrrrrrrelksflsk,” will first get a bucket on the noggin. Don’t give me that disrespect, say it isn’t my culture, you’re saying it to me; and then I shall launch a delicate inquiry into how they managed to fit 7 consonants in a row into their sentences without falling over, because that is an accomplishment.
3. The next person who is visibly and vocally surprised to see me hiking with such a large pack, and then asks me where I’m “really from,” will get no additional commentary, literary or otherwise. A good walking stick is a treasure. Sourcing them is too high-maintenance for me to be breaking one out to crack noggins every other week, or multiple times weekly during stretches of balmy weather when the cute town batpeople come out of their batcaves to go camping and poke inquisitively at the wildlife, bears and distance hikers alike.
Also, this merits reiteration. Please, please don’t be having discussions about how to solve the issue of under-representation… without, at some point, reaching out to bring the very populations you’re discussing into the meetings. Billy, that is not how two functioning adults effectively solve a mutual problem.
Educators, elders, or community leaders in local under-represented communities are an incredible resource, if you haven’t gone to lunch with them already. They’ve got decades of valuable experience living with and addressing these problems, unlike Sail, who may talk big talk but actually just walks among the trees and sleeps with her face in the dirt.
Anyways, I’ll get off my brown person soapbox. But there are so few of us. I speak for the trees. And brown people hikers. If I don’t yell things virtually over the internet, who will?
*crickets as we all look at the internet*
Anyways. About the chickens: this is your bi-annual reminder that I have none, though they certainly are fluffy.