Dear Reader: The truth is never an absolute; it is subjective and it changes over time. So I do not claim that any of what I write is the truth. It is only my perception and recollection of events as they happened many years ago. In some situations I have changed names and details to protect the privacy of people involved, but I do my best to maintain the underlying substance of events and their impact on me.
A few weeks ago on the drive to work, I saw what first appeared to be a dog running across the road. But rather than loping, it slinked – stealthily and warily. It stopped on the far side of the road. I checked my rearview to make sure no one was behind me, and came to a stop directly across from him. The coyote was only a few feet away, and locked eyes with me. We stared at each other for some time. He looked healthy, furry and not at all scrawny. Then the coyote turned and disappeared into the woods. A few days later I saw him again, but this time it was just a quick glimpse as he darted among the trees.
I continue to thrive in my new life and at my job as a park aide at Cape Disappointment State Park. Our office manager’s baby is due any day now, at which point I will step into her role during her three months’ maternity leave. This change will include a new supervisor and a more traditional Monday to Friday schedule. And of course it will trap me in the office, which does not thrill me. But I am grateful to have this opportunity to continue working at the park.
I will miss being outside in the spring weather. Yes, somehow spring has arrived. I weathered my first winter at the mouth of the Columbia River. It was a terrifically mild winter, with many clear sunny days, much less rain than typical (so I’ve been told), and just a handful of mornings below freezing where I had to run the car for a few minutes to get the crusty frost off the windows. It seems unreal that winter has already passed. Sure, there were mornings that felt pretty cold working outside, but it really never felt that bad. I was expecting to suffer far more than I did.
A couple weeks ago I received the news that I have passed my initial application and background check for becoming a park ranger. They are even now trying to coordinate the date for the fitness test, which will probably be sometime in April.
For months I have been training six days a week: three days weight lifting (upper body), two days running (a two-mile run one day, and sprints the other), and one day of yoga and stretching. I have upgraded from working with a small collection of free weights at home to using the weight room at the coast guard base that neighbors the park (the base offers use of the weight room to rangers, and when asked extended the benefit to me), and run exclusively on the rubberized Ilwaco High School track. I’ve also eliminated caffeine, refined sugar, alcohol, and dairy from my diet – all foods that alter my levels of energy.
I’m no stranger to working hard and pushing myself mentally or physically. However asking my weenie upper arms to bear significant weight (my body) feels unnatural and wrong! They are so unused to such demands that it has been quite a struggle. The 20-pushup requirement is my single biggest worry about the fitness test. There is no time limit, but I have to keep my body in position until I reach 20.
It took a good couple months to increase from a single pushup, at which point I jumped to four. Then ten. Then one time I reached 14, but it was an isolated event. I was terribly discouraged when for several weeks I backslid and was only able to do two or three pushups. At that point my training ramped up even more. On work nights I no longer socialize; I train. I also leave Jackie alone longer so that I can train before coming home. And my pushups have been steadily increasing: 7, 8, 11, 14, and tonight – 21!!!
I’ve started referring to when I become a ranger, rather than if I become a ranger. Now I know this is within my reach, and my excitement just keeps building. In the meantime my body is looking significantly different than it has ever looked before. I’ve had strong legs before, but my arms seem twice as thick as they’ve ever been. I am simultaneously proud of the visible results of my hard work, and worried that I’m looking too butch! But such is the price of glory!
Our Ranger-In-Training Bob just returned from three-and-a-half months at academy. He is now a full-fledged park ranger, and after the official ceremony on April 4th will be a fully commissioned law enforcement officer. I have yet to hear many of his stories, but he says that the experience has completely transformed the way he looks at the world. It has been so beneficial to be working at the park while he has been going through his process, and hopefully I will be following in his footsteps before too long.
I have been at Cape Disappointment for over half a year, and in most ways I feel like I’ve been absorbed into the park community. However I am still a park aide, a seasonal employee, and there are times that I am excluded. I grumble that “all staff” meetings should be renamed “all permanent staff” meetings.
Today is our park manager’s retirement party. I was informed succinctly that I would need to stay behind and run the office to check in campers. As the last group of rangers were about to leave for the party, over the radio we heard that a pod of Orcas were swimming offshore, visible from the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center. As the rangers hastily rushed out of the office I called after them, “You all suck.”
Today I do not feel at all enthusiastic, and I’ve noticed more days lately when I’ve felt cranky. My desire to belong is in conflict with the reality that I am still in transition. I do not know if I will become a ranger at Cape Disappointment and continue to have Astoria accessible to me. I may have to move to another park elsewhere in the state. It is not yet time for me to put down roots, though a part of me longs to do just that. My future is still open. And that is both liberating and terrifying.
Dear Reader, please consider posting your comments and questions below. I would love to hear from you! Please let your friends know about my blog. And thank you for visiting!