Monday, April 29, 2013

Butt Holes.

Let me start by repeating the phrase that I could have used at work last week. It went something like this:

"You need to make sure you properly cover your butt holes, otherwise squirrels could fall in and die."

I did not use this phrase because it would have been unprofessional. Let me go back to the beginning.

I work with construction workers now. I've been doing biological consulting for a company in San Diego, and my main project is monitoring a powerline transfer from wood poles to steel poles. My job is to make sure they don't crush/maim/destroy/kill any sensitive species or habitat in the work area, and there's a lot of sensitive area. They come in with several pieces of large equipment, dig a hole about 10 feet deep, place a steel pole butt (technical term) in the hole, then pour cement to fix the pole into place. Most times, there's a few days lag between digging the hole and placing the pole butt, so they have to really make sure their pole butt holes are covered well. Or else, you know, squirrels could fall in and die.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Going Away, Headed Towards

This past week has been a little surreal.

Three weeks ago I accepted a position at a consulting firm in San Diego. I am very excited about the change, but the decision has one fundamental flaw:

I had to leave the island.

I've been on the island for three years (on and off, of course, we got 4-day weekends every other week in San Diego). Three years is a lot of time to amass tons of stuff and memories. As it often happens, I ended up with more stuff to take off the island than I had originally anticipated. I found the same with memories, which were probably heavier than the clothes and field gear.

There are so many things that I'm going to miss, such as friends, shrikes, and a free gym. I know that I'll make friends in San Diego, and I'm not concerned that I won't. I'm just going to miss my island friends, and all the activities we'd engage in. Making a group dinner in the field kitchen. Watching movies together. Snorkeling when it's warm enough to swim. When I was on the plane this past Friday afternoon, I watched my housing and office get smaller and smaller as we climbed higher and higher until it finally disappeared. I'm not gonna lie, my eyes got a little misty (side note: I swear, I barely ever cry).

I'm going to miss seeing D every day the most. Not much more I need to say about that.

At the same time, I am also excited to start a new chapter of my life in San Diego. I'm going to be in a stable living condition for the first time since college. I can take cooking and yoga classes, two things that have been on my bucket list. I may have been in California for three years now, but I still feel like a tourist; maybe now I'll become a "regular" somewhere. I'm going to start a new job that I hope will vastly expand my skill set.

It's going to be a huge change, but I welcome it.

So, goodbye island! Goodbye shrikes! I hope someday we will meet again.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

A belated second hello

Well, it's been almost two years since my last post. Hello again! I still think that perhaps writing about my day-to-day is a little superfluous, but if I had the money to see a therapist I'm quite sure he or she would tell me that writing is a good way for me to express myself since I do it so poorly amongst others. Please excuse my stream-of-conscious-style of writing here.

There's a quarter of a black ring smudged onto the side my nose from pressing my face against a scope for several hours today. Welcome back to the breeding season! The beginning of my fourth here on San Clemente Island, studying the endangered San Clemente loggerhead shrike. The average lifespan for biologists on this island is roughly two years, so the fact that I'm starting my fourth year is somewhat of an accomplishment. When I came out here I did not have an exit strategy.

The generalization part of my brain is starting to tire of doing the same thing day in and day out. Hike to site, watch shrikes or watch nothing, hike out. But I'm also laser-focused and completely changed from who I was when I began out here in January 2010. I can pick up a shrike call from several hundred meters away. I can navigate through cactus like a champ, and only get nailed once every month or so (when I began I got nailed almost every day, leaving ugly bruises and tiny red dots where the spines had broken off in my skin. My legs looked diseased.). I have quads and calves of steel from hiking gnarly slopes, even if the rest of my body has somewhat gone to mush. My hands look 10 years older than the rest of my body from sun exposure, despite vigilant sunscreen use. I have made excellent decisions and made tragic mistakes. I have gotten hurt, emotionally and physically.

I have also learned patience. Hence the smudge on my face. It's a double-edged sword, however, because it gives me way too much time to think. Lord help me when I get inside my head too much.

Part of me is much more discplined than 2010 me, but another part is much less disciplined. This island, with all it's harshness, has really made me quite soft. There was a time in my life when everything I owned was in my car, and the thought of living in the woods in my tent was so much more inviting than getting fat in front of a TV.

One of my favorite times in my life was the break I took from the island in 2010 when I went to New Mexico. I like to refer to that experience as "The Best and Worst Thing That Ever Happened To Me." I think I'll write a separate blog entry for it, because surely a story with that kind of loaded title deserves it's own space.

For now I'm going to soak my sorry shoulder in a hot shower (tore it last fall... it's about time to see a doctor about it, I think), then kick back and catch up on Walking Dead (separate post about my love of zombie culture to come as well). I hope your evening is as lovely as mine is sure to be.