> jumping into life.


second day of school: i got into the class i really wanted, the natural history and ecology of the southwest. this is a class that meets tuesdays and thursdays from eight until five. really. i'm dropping the fiction writing class, because i think i liked bio better and with southwest you only take one other class. this is going to be a lot of work; today i'm reading some forty pages in my bio book and there's a comparable amount in southwest, with reactions and a class summary to write. it's going to be a lot of science work, and i haven't done science since high school. but i'm even more excited that i'd expected. so horray.


first day of school: biology and fiction writing. in bio, we started talking about symbiosis, which led to a discussion of lichen, which led to a viewing of lichen under a dissection microscope, which led to everyone running outside and finding things to look at under the scope. we had some leaves, more lichen, a rock, bark, a cicada shell and a run-over snake. in fiction writing, we each came up with a handful of questions that we would ask someone if our lives depended on getting to know them very well in five minutes. then we partnered up and asked them, and then shared with the class. "these are the questions you should ask your character," said the professor. "nobody cares where they grew up if that doesn't affect the one thing they want most to do in life, or their definition of love, or the most important thing they've lost."

my bio class has nine people in it, including me. my writing class has six. my bio professor told us that when we're doing our weekly labs and can't have food in the classroom, we'll take a coffee break and go to the cafe across the street; my writing prof swore twice in the first hour. we're going to have two quizzes in bio, and one is actually a board game designed by a former student. acceptable final portfolio formats include lab notebook, ongoing notation, or interpretive paintings. when the college president gave a speech at the end of orientation, he did it in hiking shorts and a baseball cap, and told us that he had a few openings available for "best friend" position; we were all welcome to stop by his office any time and apply. corny, yes, but i see it as an improvement over my previous experience.


time moves strangely; three weeks fold over themselves like maybe they never existed, and i keep writing august on everything even though september is almost over. it's no use to try and describe the trip, nothing that happened makes sense in a world of automobiles and telephones, all i have to show is a ridiculous tan line and a p-cord bracelet with a little blue bead. but.

we walked some sixty miles through the Blue, in the apache-sitgreaves national forest. canyons with huge logs wedged thirty feet over our heads, and we watch the gathering clouds nervously. when the desert rains, it doesn't joke around. up blinding mesas, heat heavier than our packs, cat's claw and goat's head and prickly pear, agave and yucca, christmas cactus and barrel. a rattlesnake sleeping where i almost almost put my foot. bear tracks bigger than our own, rubs on the juniper and claw marks over our heads. up and up and up. wide burns with standing charcoal trees, lupine and pin rose coming out of the new soil. aspens, firs, spruce, at 9000 feet finally a forest that smells like woods. meadow. water gurgling out of a cleft in the rocks, not seeping but springing truly, miraculous, and the group leaders turn their heads while we drink greedily, untreated, this water from stone, blood of the desert. i climb a rock, fifteen feet only, toes and fingertips in cracks and reaching around the cactus, get to the top and everyone cheers. swimming with the pack on, cold cold water in the early morning canyon shade. elk bugles and coyote yips, a butterfly that sat on my nose while i packed my pack. a praying mantis that sat on top of my head all during dinner. trail food: rice, beans, lentils, pasta. greasy cheese. gorp and salmon jerky and smashed crackers.

solo. three-day fast, my stomach refusing any more iodine, dehydration. sun. no fire, no flashlight, no food. no schedule, no neighbors, no speaking, no sound but the buzzing of flies and the whisper of the river. then back to the group, a sweatlodge, bathing in the creek, soup. hiking out to the sound of cars that i keep thinking is thunder, the blunt arching shock of a bridge. home, to my little house with its wide soft bed.

and tomorrow i'm going to washington to visit my bestest friend. then next monday school begins and look, hey, i live here, here now, this is where i am.