Fossil Creek

 

My potential new roommate, her brother, and I went spur-of-the-moment to Fossil Creek yesterday.

Fossil Creek is amazing. I don’t know how I’ve lived in Arizona the past eight years and not experienced it. It’s near Strawberry and Payson, and you drive on this dirt road and park up at the top of this desert/forest mountain to start. I’m not used to that; I usually hike up to a destination and down, exhausted, to the car.  Fossil Creek tricks you.

It took about an hour and fifteen to get down the mountain, poor Kira running from one shady spot to another. The trail comes down to an oasis, where a couple people stop and just play in the creek there.

Don’t just stop and play in the creek there.

It gets so much better! We walked another fifteen minutes or so and came to a waterfall, where other twenty-somethings were throwing themselves over into the churning water beneath and then floating to a boulder.  I carried Kira to the other side since the current was too strong, and oohed and ahhed at the waterfall.

The Potential New Roommate and her brother were at the top of the fall getting ready to jump in. I’d already pardoned myself for not jumping; I hadn’t brought a swim suit, I wanted to stay with Kira, blah blah blah.  However, watching the PNR and her brother up there, encouraging her to jump, wasting my camera battery keeping it poised for the moment of truth…I knew I had to do it.

Its not that I feel like I have something to prove, or I want to be a badass and jump off waterfalls.  I just need to do these things, for me.

When I was a little kid we went to a beach in California where elephant seals migrated to every year. They beached themselves on the shore to have their babies, fight each other, and mate. No particular order. The first time we discovered this, my family did the whole “no trespassing sign? What no trespassing sign?” thing and hung out on the beach, feet away from these massive animals.  My dad even got my brothers to sneak up and touch the things.  He tried to get me to do it, but I was, like, six, (and wise!) and wouldn’t do it.  We left that afternoon and I remember feeling sick to my stomach with regret; I should’ve touched one of the seal’s tails. My dad would’ve protected me! I would’ve been fine! My four-year-old baby brother did it!  I burst into tears and begged to go back, but we were too far.  And the rest of migration season we couldn’t make it back.

Finally, the next year, we made the drive and I determined to touch a flipping elephant seal.

Do you know what’s coming? Are you already disappointed? Ugh, I am just telling you about it.  We arrived at the beach and, lo and behold, there was a fence and a park ranger patrolling that fence.  There was no way to get around him and his khaki shorts.  Every year thereafter there were khakis and that damned fence, and I will probably never get another opportunity to touch an elephant seal.

All this to say, I found a stranger to hold Kira’s collar and I propelled myself off the waterfall.  Twice.

It was terrifying standing up there! It was exhilarating to free-fall.  It was fulfilling to float with the current to the boulder everyone was chilling on.

I was congratulated and then shown this massive cave in the water, with another cave under the water in the big cave.  We’re planning on returning with goggles and more snacks (adrenaline apparently makes you hungry like the wolf), and a completely charged camera battery.

You need to check this place out! Fossil Creek is amazing, a little known heaven away from the crowds of easier-to-get to play areas.  As PNR’s brother observed, there were no whiny kids running around* or jerks leaving their garbage everywhere.

We even found a tarantula on the way out. For the win!

*Um, when I bring my children here they won’t be whiny.  Pinky-promise.

America; the Southerly regions.

Got this burning, burning, yearning feeling inside me.

I want to go to South America.

Two days ago I was melancholy thinking about it, because is there anything more selfish than traveling?  And yes, I realize this is the same ground I’ve trodden and crawled over and examined before, but it resurfaces every time wanderlust gets the better of me.

“Wanderlust is not passion for travel exactly; its something more animal and fickle – something more like lust.”
-Elizabeth Eaves
Wanderlust; a love affair with five continents.

“Travel is like adultery: one is always tempted to be unfaithful to one’s own country. To have imagination is inevitably to be dissatisfied with where you live. There is in men, as Peter Quennell said, “a centrifugal tendency.” In our wanderlust, we are lovers looking for consummation.”   
-Anatole Broyard

My melancholy is for this; traveling has virtually no “kingdom value”; its not explicitly blessing other people and the intentions for it are entirely self-centered; I want to see the world. I want to experience other cultures. I’m going to spend this money on my adventure.  Even I want to learn is selfish.

Then I realized, hello, do like all my friends do and volunteer abroad!! I started googling volunteer opportunities in Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, etc. Orphans, widows, wildlife, oh my!  I even, to my shame, looked into short-term missions trips.

This didn’t last very long because my conscience won’t allow it.

For one thing, I don’t believe in short-term missions trips. And neither do the real missionaries. Sure, we of the white western descent love to serve the less fortunate. Every summer you can see the suburban missionaries parade into Mexico, Argentina, Belize, etc. with their kids’ crafts and their Jesus stickers, leaving in their wake some good memories, emotional highs/lows, and a quiet dependence. We the Fortunate bring home good memories, emotional highs/lows, and lessons learned. We may even carry along a gnawing feeling that our missional vacation didn’t actually do any lasting good.  Maybe we’re the only ones who benefited from it.

Plus, all that money raised and spent on our “life-changing” mission trips could fund a real missionary’s family for months, possibly the whole year.

Check out; http://www.theveryworstmissionary.com/2011/09/using-your-poor-kid-to-teach-my-rich.html

Enough on that for now.

The second reason I despaired over my voluntourism ideas is because its just that – voluntourism. Its simply a way for me to go do my selfish traveling and feel justified in doing so. “Its for a cause”, I whine. It would just be a way for me to feel good about myself, maybe a bit self-righteous too.  Its not that I actually care about people; I just don’t want to feel guilty.

The revelation of which caused more despair, and I threw myself onto the couch.

“Woe is despicable me!”

Also, I don’t believe our volunteer efforts do much good.  We ought to be empowering and building community from the inside out, not strutting in and laying out the blueprints.  We usually ought to not do for the poor what they can (and should) do for themselves. Check out http://www.whenhelpinghurts.org/

I’m reading the book and it is blowing my mind.

So where does one turn? What does one do?

We’re supposed to live in service to others, as blessings to others, and point them away from ourselves and to the Lord.  So how?  And what do you do with wanderlust?

So I phoned a friend.  That friend being, of course, my father, who quoted Slingblade at me (“That Frank, he lives inside of his own heart. That’s an awful big place to live in.”) and told me to just go to South America for kicks and giggles.

Not that my dad is the authority on all things moral, but it’s nice to have parents who are encouraging.  Even if they’re encouraging a directionless, experience-grasping existence. ;)

In all seriousness though, how do you feel about traveling for fun?  How do you feel about short-term missions and voluntourism?

I came to the conclusion in Oz that traveling wasn’t sin and in fact does much good.  For example, teaching appreciation for all people and learning that Amurica’s way of life is not only not the only way out there, but also not necessarily the best.  And remember Warriuka? I was able to volunteer at two camps, one of which was dangerously low on leaders.  So what do you say to that?

I would rather be honest with myself, with God and with you, about my reasons for going somewhere or doing something. I can’t pretend its for anything other than learning, fun, and to experience the complexities, the beauties and tragedies, of creation. I’d rather not try to pull one over on you, on God, and even on myself.  I want truth at any cost.  I’d feel more guilt as an imposter.

And you know what? I even have a friend who wants to go with.  He’s a complicated friend, but a friend nonetheless, and I can’t imagine a better vagabonding partner.

All this to say…

I have four dollars in the account now, but the account is called Chile, and friend, it will grow.

http://www.wwooflatinamerica.com/

BFD

Speaking of friends being more important than money, I flipped the metaphorical bird at getting enough sleep for work last night and proved to myself that I can, indeed, work at my old job and still have a social life.  Here’s some fun from last night’s Breakfast For Dinner at the Nuplex.

Mimosas in mason jars…it actually doesn’t get any cooler.

How we do.

Meet the new boss…same as the old boss.

Bus route 81.

Today is Friday, Friday, gotta get down on Friday, and my second official day of working.  All year.

Whoa, I just realized that. I literally haven’t earned any money this year until yesterday.
I’m making this money, this glorious, tangible, functional money, at the job I vowed to n’er return to.

Stolkholm Syndrome (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stockholm_syndrome) is the way I’d classify my relationship to my work, at least six months ago when I left it. It is truly such a brutal job, and my managers so ruthless, that my affections for it and them can be explained by nothing else.

Serving is wild in its own right, and breakfast serving has its own weird niche.  It is by-far the quirkiest place I’ve ever been employed, with unique and unforgettable characters. The drama! My god, was there drama here.

I think because I love a good story and love even more a good character, I became obsessed with work. I couldn’t stop thinking about the crazy stuff that happened on the floor or in the kitchen. I loved it.

I loved the hierarchy; how hostesses acted like high and mighty hot shots, telling us about spots we’d missed and drinks we needed to deliver. I loved how we blew them off because, psh, they were hourly, the dear things. I loved how Rafa, the only male server, consistently hated every customer he served and every new girl he trained. I loved how the cooks cussed picky customers out in Spanish and called the dishwashers cruel names, and then helped them do the dishes because that’s just what you do. I loved that we servers never threw each other under the bus.

The defiant camaraderie. I loved it.

Oh, and remember how we weren’t allowed (this is a Real Rule) to be friends with each other, and we felt like such badasses because we’d go get sushi and go play soccer and bitch about work together? Remember when we pulled the ultimate “Come at me, bro” and went in to eat at our restaurant, together, when we all three had the day off? And remember feeling like such a rebel when we asked the cooks if they wanted something to drink, in Spanish?!? (Talking to the cooks is not allowed. Spanish is not allowed either. The audacity!)

Remember trying to even out our bicep muscles because our rights were getting all beefy from tray-carrying while our lefts stayed scrawny?  Remember serving nightmares?!?

Remember desperately vying for the Management’s approval and the absolute validation when they, say, let us try the new pancake batter mid-shift? Oh my gosh, remember when he made cornbread and we ate it while finishing our side-work?

Those were good times!

Since coming back, all these quirky little memories and attitudes are coming back to me. Its hilarious right now, but there is context that must be added; the owners of my restaurant really are harsh. Those of us who stuck around (there were three, and then I became one) barely bothered learning the new girl’s names; they’d usually be fired within two weeks. The reason we were so giddy over good times with The Management is because it was usually terrifying to be near them, or to even know they were watching us on the security cameras.  They could be unpredictable. One minutes they’re making jokes with you and the next they’re pissed because you got too comfortable. And friend, they will put you back in your place.

I lived this place. Like, my whole life was lived relative to Work. I made sure to get to sleep as early as possible, I made sure I wore expensive makeup and jeans (as I was told to by The Management), etc. And it was such a Life-comsuming job. Five, sometimes six, days a week as a pancake slave for Scottsdale Snowbirds, for my controlling and terrifying managers. I talked about Work every time I opened my mouth, it was just so dang interesting.

And by interesting, I mean mind-numbingly boring to everyone but myself and my coworkers. My brother eventually snapped and said he didn’t want to hang out with me anymore; all I talked about was Work.

It was fun though, to have this Secret while I was at work. The secret being that, if I played my cards right and didn’t get fired, I’d have the ultimate last laugh. I was going to Australia. And I was going to do it by their own sketchy standards; g

iving them two weeks notice verses what I’d have done in a normal job and telling them as soon as I bought the ticket.

There’s more to this. Important notes are, I won. I got the last laugh. They asked me when I was planning on buying a car and I said, “I’m not. I bought a plane ticket to Australia instead. I leave Arizona in two weeks and won’t be back until April. Suck my balls*.”

*Slightly fabricated.

So anyway, I’m back. My reasoning is that I’m poor and already know the game here; no training necessary. And it makes money like you wouldn’t believe. So much has changed in my absence; Rafa’s the only server I know, as the others freed themselves after my abrupt and triumphant peacing-out.

I have set up barriers so as not to become as involved as I’d been before; I’m only working four days a week. Hold me accountable, friends, because you’re more important than money.

I’m going to learn how to work like a dog and still maintain relationships outside of work.  We’re going to do it right this time.

I’m also struggling because shouldn’t work be meaningful? Shouldn’t the place we invest this much time and energy glorify God somehow? And help people? Serve them, I say with tongue in cheek.

Lets explore this sometime soon, ok?

Kira

When I was sixteen years old I convinced a dog rescue to break the law for me.

Here’s how that happened;
I wanted a dog.  I wanted a dog the way some women start wanting babies. I read every book on dog behavior and psychology I could find. I scoured breeders’ websites and I researched bloodlines. I attended agility and conformation shows and imagined hiking, walking, driving, playing guitar, snuggling, with my dog.

I was basically lovesick over the idea of my very own Czech/German Shepherd, and I saved up two-thousand dollars to buy one.

Go big or go home.

Reality starting hitting (that dog would be difficult to carry home if she got hurt, and would my future apartment complex be wary of such an animal?) and then my conscience kicked into overdrive. With millions of dogs and puppies euthanized every year, who did I think I was contributing to an overpopulation problem?

Thus, the quest for the perfect mutt was embarked upon.

I want to make this story short(er), so I’ll spare you much in the way of details, but you do have to know that I’d all-but given up when I shambled into Petsmart for rat food. They had adoptions that day (who’d have thought) and this wiggling black ball of energy immediately caught my attention. The pure joy radiating out of this puppy was magnetic. I picked her up, she slathered my chin in slobber, and I was a goner.  They told me she was called “Coco”.

…and that she was called for!  Devastated, I refused to consider her siblings and pouted all the way home. I’m pretty sure I assumed the world was ending, there was no god, and the next step was nihilism. I spent the next day wallowing in self-pity. Exasperated, Mom and Dad forced me into the van to go look at Coco’s siblings.

No other puppy measured up. We were about to leave when the foster mom announced that the people who wanted “Coco” didn’t fit adoption requirements and God still existed.

As I was underage, it was illegal for me to adopt the puppy, so my parents filled out the application.

We waited for the response.

The response was, “I’m sorry, but you both are way too irresponsible to own a dog.”

True story.

This began an epic battle in which I sought to convince them that though my parents were less than stellar at adulthood, I was a pro.  I had my friends’ parents and my babysitting clients call the rescue to sing my praises.  I sent them emails explaining the dog behavior books, the agility courses I intended for my dog, my bank balance. I was a fury of puppy-wanting lunacy.

They were impressed, but it was illegal, and good luck on my ventures.

So I played dirty. I sent them pictures of the dog crate, of the bowls, the leash, the park. I showed them the apartment complex in Colorado I was intending to move to after graduation.  I sent them a detailed schedule of a typical day.

Friends, I am persistent.

They called to tell me that some rules were meant to be broken, and could I pick her up Christmas day?

I thanked my ninth-grade speech and debate class and Coco became Kira.

Lets fast-forward four and a half years.

The emotional turmoil spawned from what to do about the dog has been astronomical.

I’m a twenty-one year old scratching by in a college-town condo. I am going to be working two jobs (oh frick, I have to tell you about that!) and trying to have solid hang-out times with friends. I want to travel. I want to go out dancing.  Dogs are expensive in deposits and extra-rent.

And the family that was watching Kira while I gallivanted in Australia wants to keep her. They said “please please please” and listed their stable home environment, the daily bike-rides, the three doting children, and the acres of land, among other things, to persuade me that their home was a good one for Kira.

I’ve never been so torn. On one hand they are right, and on the other hand, my God, can you imagine coming back from another country, reeling from the trip and detached from one’s culture, and not having the dog as some semblance of familiarity?  Instant home; just add dog.

Many tears shed, many nights spent tossing, and much what-is-love rhetoric later, and I spent Sunday morning in the lawn outside of church waiting for the family to give me back Kira.

Kira yelped and cried and spun around in circles. I was slightly less emotional.  Slightly.

So I don’t know if I’m doing the right thing, or if there even is a right thing.  I know the family that took care of her is devastated (although, hello, I’m certainly not shocked to give back the children I am paid to babysit), and I know that things will be more difficult for both Kira and I here.  But I also know that there is nothing that brings me more joy than watching this dog run around like a maniac, and nothing feels more like home than my routines with Kira.

Its a selfish kind of love, and I don’t know what to make of that.

What would you have done? Honestly?

“Its funny if it wasn’t my life.”

Republished, because apparently someone liked it (in the fifteen minutes it was On Air).

Ok friends, I’m just going to hang it all out there. Good, bad and ugly.

The good? I basically am employed at Starbucks and am hopeful about a number of breakfast restaurants.  I’m itching to get back in the game of making money.

I’ve paid rent this month for my new condo. In fact, I’m about to move in. Just waiting on the ride.

I’m selling my fancypants ipad for $300 to a coworker. $300 is also what I paid in rent this month, so that’s fun.

I’m picking up my Best Dog, Kira, from her would-be dognapper (not exagerating) on Sunday. Yay! Yay yay yay!!! We are going to hike and play at the Papago (dog) Park and snuggle.

I still have $400 of the $1000 I came back to America with in the bank.

My new roommates and I cooked our first dinner last night and we are going to get along.

That newspaper I was writing little ads for? They want me to do a two-part series on WWOOFing and my travels in general.  Actually, you can go ahead and file this under pees-your-pants Excited.

The Australians haven’t forgotten me.

The bad?
Before Australia I had a minor stroke (I know) and against my intuition let the paramedics and my then roommate talk me into going to the ER. I sat in the room, they told me I don’t have insurance, I booked it the fuck out of there, and came home to almost $600 in debt.  I spent this morning with Extension #703 pleading my case and crying, and my brother told me to basically tell them to shove it.  I now have this on my record, or something, like a criminal. I’m not sure how this whole debt thing works, as I have a stellar financial background (gobless Dave Ramsey), so this is going to be an interesting little sparring match.

The aforementioned old roomie is getting married and is needy.  Not needy in a totally negative way, as they are legitimate needs.  She needs me at her bachelorette party, the waxing (yup), her nail-painting thingy, her rehearsal dinner, the hair/makeup doing the day of the wedding itself. I’m ecstatic to be in her wedding, I am. I’m just overwhelmed by the less-than-romantic aspects of the Real World.

Much adult beverage has been consumed in the last week and a half.  Whoops.

The ugly?
What the hell is going on with this acne?!?!?

 

Retrospect whale sharks

As promised, here’s some whale shark pictures.  The first one is of Matt and I fulfilling my Aussie fantasy of jumping off a cliff into the marina.  It was taken by this awkward and adorable little boy who’s countdown began with “ten” instead of “three”.

Longest ten seconds of Life.

And the whale sharks? Every picture is more stunning than the last. If you’re wanting to see more, let me know and I’ll post a couple others. I have more snorkeling shots too

Still groovin’, and here’s why;

Evening at this weird junk-yard place near my mom's.

Dear Reader,

oh hey, you’re looking good today. We should hang out more. I’ve missed you.

How was Australia? Oh, it was good.  Played with kangaroos, swam with whale sharks, met awesome people, the ushe. What are my plans now? Oh, well I’m moving into a condo in Tempe and have interviewed at Starbucks and Herb’n’Flavors. I think I’ll take the Starbucks gig and find a high-volume breakfast restaurant so as to be rich again.  I think I may change my major (again) to Nutrition Communications because I like healthy food and I like talking. Next stop? Oh, I’d like to meet my Australian friends in Japan next year and learn how to snowboard with them.  I’d also like to tramp around South America, but, you know, who knows?

Am I going to keep blogging?

See, I was having a hard time with that.  I felt, coming back, like I am Just Another Person here. I’m not that interesting and I’ve certainly not got a lot to inform you about.  I firmly believe a blog should be either entertaining or informative, and would I be enough of either to keep this going?

So I was insecure.

Your attention spam, dear Reader, is probably much like mine own, so I will spare us both the tedious recap of the last two weeks in America and the inner turmoil of deciding the blog’s fate.  I’m going to do it bullet-point style using the categories already in place.

~Finances~

Well, obviously I need to afford my life. Not only that but I need to be a good steward of my finances, and how does one do this as a college student living in Tempe, anyway? Finances pertains to the making of money, the spending of it, the saving and the tithing of it.  I’m actually more excited for this topic than you’d think I’d be; money is incredibly interesting and powerful and it matters how we interact with it. Also, I’m basically starting from scratch again, having blown all my dollars on another continent, so it’ll be fun to see how this pans out.  If you’re down to explore this area of Being Human with me, I’d be honored that you keep reading.

~Food~

God I love food. It is my favorite. I’m eating a vegan tamale from Tempe Farmers Market as we speak. The philosophy of eating and the substance itself is insanely interesting to me, and something one cannot help but interact with on a daily basis. Not only what tastes good, but how our eating choices affect others, the environment, our physical and mental health…it is fascinating and hugely important. So how does one maneuver through these young adult years and make wise food decisions? Beneficial to herself and to the community at large?  Want to find out with me? I’m excited to learn and share recipes and thoughts on food and if you’re interested, well shoot, keep on reading.

~Life~

Really? Is that a real category? This must be for when I have no idea how to categorize something. Life is all-encompassing and the greatest cop-out. You don’t even have to think to label a topic as Life. Moving on…

~Relationships~

Its all relational. Our culture emphasizes fancy meaninglessness over relationships and you know what that causes? It causes people who talk to their cats, that’s what it causes. I want to have friends. I want to be authentic and feel at ease with my friends. I want my brothers to know how much I love them, and not because I tell them every once in a while but because they just know. There are some exciting relational shenanigans in my life right now, and if you’re breathing you can say the same. I’m stoked to write about it, to take pictures of it, to hear your thoughts on it. This is a big one. This is my focus, actually. I’m craving a new community. I’m going to a new church.  I’m going to be living with two other girls. I’m living in the same 4-mile radius as my big brother. I’m in one of my best friend’s wedding in two weeks. I’m twenty-one and can order a margarita at Fuzzy’s whenever I want.  How does one build and maintain authentic, caring relationships? Let’s find out.

~Spirituality~

We are spiritual beings. Can’t get around it. There’s no one more spiritual than you and no one less so. Some people are more aware, I guess. Reader, my thing with God keeps getting more refined. I’m learning, I’m growing, I’m hoping to share and learn from you as well.  I’m excited that I’m a spiritual being.  Are you?

~Travel~

I’ve caught it.  Bad.  That pesky travel bug that turns the rest of life blurry and into a Means to and End.  I don’t want a job I can scrape by on; I want a job I can make bank at to afford my next trip. In this section I will include travel deals I become aware of, my current out-of-town obsession, and general thoughts on the topic. Traveling is not my life’s purpose or goal, its just an element I would really like to pursue, as God made this amazing world and it’d be nice to see it.

~ Un-Categorized and WWOOF~

Well, I’m not currently wwoofing and may not be writing much about it, unless I’m remembering something and want to tell you about it. Un-categorized? Why is that a thing?

So, there you have it. I’m going to keep writing for those reasons and because I like the accountability. My original intentions in blogging are the same as four months ago. The Australia part ended, but nothing else did. Life’s still beautiful and quirky over here in Arizona.  I love your comments, I love that you’ve read this far.  I love posting pictures and I love noting the fun little things that go on in life. Thanks for reading.

Sincerely.

On being wild.

20120413-105007.jpg

Good lord, today was a dream. I feel the way I felt journaling that night after Rottnest. I’m awed that I’m here. I’m giddy that I did what I did today. Everyone’s getting grinned at right now. (your welcome, YHA members.)

I swam with whale sharks!

WHALE SHARKS!!

This elusive gentle giant. I swear pictures are coming, plus the “free” (em, nothing’s free on a $400 whale shark diving tour, excuse me) DVD of the day. For now be satisfied with the upcoming links on whale shark info and this picture of my sunnies:

20120411-172123.jpg

As I may have told you, things got weird for a minute there in Perth. I started really stressing about going home, about buying a car and it’s insurance policy, about gasoline and dog food and moving into an apartment in Tempe. (oh please oh please oh please) I got all jittery and sick-feeling in the pit of my stomach because there is Real Life stuff to do back home. I even have a bridesmaid dress to buy.
In this anxious state I decided to sit around watching Friends, not spend money, and wait to go home. Security!

…is for pansies.

I was like, ohemgee, I totally did not spend like two thousand dollars to come to Australia and sit on my ass.

I’m not here to save money. I’m on vacation, not a diet.

So I gave my panic the finger and booked a whale shark diving tour in Exmouth. And subsequent plane tickets to and from.

http://www.environment.gov.au/coasts/species/sharks/whaleshark/index.html

Three Islands Whale Shark Tours (http://www.whalesharkdive.com/) picked me up form the hostel at 7:30. We drove around collecting more eager, albeit a bit sleepy, tourists and headed out for the boats. I was assured I would have special food in my own special lunch box, but that if I decided I wasn’t allergic to gluten and my conscience failed I could help myself to what the others were eating. Winning.

We first snorkeled at the most amazing reef. I’ve gotten over those first gasping, mistrustful breaths I used to take when first jumping in the water. I’m a pro now. I just waddle to the deck and plop into the water, and I’m off. And I get tapped in the shoulder multiple times to come closer to the rest of the group. You guys, please go snorkeling. It’s another world down there. I’ve never seen a forest so alive. I saw two manta-rays! I saw Dory!

En route to open water (shale shark water) we caught a glimpse of a turtle coming up for air, freaking out at our boat, and diving out of sight. I almost wept. Who sees sea turtles?!?

The spotter plane let the skipper know where the shark was spotted, and we made a beeline for him. By now I was best friends with a lady form England and a girl my age from Perth, and the three of us sat wide-eyed and tapping our heels. Anticipation is deadly.

Here’s what happens; they pull the boat way in front of the animal, in his path, and ten of us jump out and swim forward. It’s deep blue, and you can’t see anything. You’re just trying to stay near the group because, conceivably, they know what they’re doing. You hope the school of jellyfish you just swam through play nice. Then out of nowhere, silently, shape takes form in front of you. Spotted and wide-mouthed and getting massive the closer it gets, and you gurgle “holy shit on a stick” and kick to one side of the giant to let him pass. You can’t take your eyes off him.

It is so beautiful. So passive. Unthreatened and unthreatening. And it is silent, because your ears are under ocean and you aren’t breathing heavily, if you’re even breathing at all.

Once he’s passed you swim beside him as long he let’s you keep up. You watch him bob in the swells and fan his gills. You know his tail could knock you unconscious if he wanted. He doesn’t want. The other nine swimmers fade and you feel naked and alone in open water with a peacefully ancient creature. It is very much like a dream. Multiple times, you get in and out of the boat to catch up and swim with the shark. To see him coming toward you, all mouth and dorsal fin rising up behind him, is almost terrifying, except you know you’re perfectly safe. You can see his eyes, his lips, his spots, the stripe by his gills, his impossibly tall tail fin swaying in the water.

Back on the boat, you can’t explain why you feel like crying and laughing at the same time, so you just stay quiet.

I think His attention to detail is stunning, don’t you? I think he’s a divine madman, a creative genius with a flair for the unexpected and exotic. He’s probably tickled that His biggest fish is harmless. He probably can’t wait until we figure out what the pyramids are about. He probably loves watching us swim with His whale sharks and throw sticks for our dogs.

Wild. I’m reminded of that friend of mine, the one who things got so messy with. I’m reminded of him shaking his head at my misplaced defiance, telling me I needed to stop being so resistant to things I feared would settle me.

“You’re so scared of being tamed, you miss out on living. You wanna be wild? He’s the wild one.”

And isn’t He?

Denmark fun.

I’m going to be receiving pictures from travel friends I’ve met for some time. One girl at Uralla took heaps she’s going to send as soon as she gets home to Holland.

My other Dutch friend, met at the hostel in Denmark, recently flew home and emailed me these. I’m actually stoked to receive pictures (or be tagged in them on FB) long after the event. I get to relive it all.

Anyway, here’s more of Denmark plus the treetop walk in Walpole.

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