Friday, January 1, 2010

NPR - Four Years later

On December 30, 2005, I walked out of the USGS office in Tacoma and into my new life and work. Actually the official day was the Saturday, the 31st, at the end of the two week payperiod. They also let me leave around noon after turning in my ID card and keys. I had already put everything in boxes and moved them to the van parked outside.

And then I walked around and shook everyone's hand to wish them well in their career and life, everyone I respected or liked. The rest I figured they didn't care anyway. I still have some of the stuff in boxes. I never really saw a reason to open them since it's all official or personnel stuff from the 28 year career, and most of the good stuff was lost in transit from Phoenix years ago.

When I transferred from Phoenix, AZ to Tacoma, WA in 1987 I shipped 6 boxes through the Post Office, remember it's before really good shipping companies. They lost two of the boxes in transit, and they couldn't find them, also before they had tracking. These were the two most important boxes, one with all my personal notebooks and files from the previous 10 years of field work, and one with all my academic books.

Gone, maybe misplaced but I suspect stolen, books taken and the rest trashed. I've always kept hoping someone would find them somewhere in a warehouse. I've replaced the books but I can't replace the notebooks. They were 10 years of every day of field work I did for the USGS in Oregon and Arizona. While the general memories are still there, it's the details I wanted to keep. Just notes of my life.

Anyway, the boxes when I retired went into the storage locker at home and then to the rental storage. And I took the weekend off to wonder and wander what I wanted to do. I had already decided to work on my photography, and then work on the Mt. Rainier NP photography guide, whatever it would be and wherever it would take me. It was a big unknown.

And that was a gross understatement and underestimate of the work. It simply took on its own life and work, which nows is most of what I do and what I want to finish, or at least the book part. The rest will always be an on-going project. And the history projects spun off their own life. And the photography, the large format work the business and the photo cards took a back seat.

What does it all mean then? I don't really know and probably won't beyond knowing it's what I did, to retire and then focus on the guide and my photography, it's what I like doing, and will do for the rest of my life. I still have a lot of things to do with it and with life, too many for too little time. But that's what happens.

I also know it changed my perspective on life, and especially my Dysthymia. Almost all my anger at people, and mostly people at work, is gone, minus the obvious anger with stupid politicians we seem to keep re-electing for strange reason or personal agenda and with people who don't seem to care, understand or accept others. Those people don't change and neither does my anger.

But my other anger has changed from being angry with other people who didn't want to hear my ideas to improve work and the work environment, the typical career ladder climbing asshole (either gender) and didn't want to give me chances to prove my ideas and show what I could do for the agency, people, customers and the public. I'm only deeply sad now.

It has changed to be more focused on myself, which isn't a good thing, and it's mostly on just getting old and finding what I want to do now is battling time, age and genes. And the realization I won't be what I thought and hoped I could be. It's not only not hopeful or wishful thinking, it's not even realistic thinking past a certain point.

Yeah, it's the reality of getting and being older, and now over 60. But it doesn't change the anger. And the answer now is simply in the trying and the work. That's the best I can do, and then hope nothing catastropic happens to turn it upside down and/or leave me a financial wreck, as has happened to so many.

And in the end, it's the same questions. Had I to do it over, would I do it differently? Not much, and only a few significant things which would be different now, but nothing huge. I miss the work, especially the opportunties, and some of the people, but those weren't going to happen. The reality we all must face in and with our life.

So, in the end, it's what happened and I'm still sitting here on the way to my fifth year with many more to come and lots more to do. It's all in front of me. Always there and waiting for me.


  1. That's sad about your books and papers. Postal theft isn't as bad here in America as it is in some other countries but it happens. We just lost a video camera (a few months ago) ...but the local postmaster got arrested and hauled off in handcuffs - not for our video camera she stole but for all the other stuff (mostly post office box fees). And several years ago a UPS driver got caught stealing packages. There's no risk-free existence.

    My mind wanders and I want to ask you about monoliths... completely off topic except for your whole USGS career. :) I live near Haystack Rock at Pacific City. That's not the most famous Haystack Rock (which would be Cannon Beach) but it's far and away the biggest. Some chamber of commerce type used to use the slogan "the world's second largest monolith" ...I wrote to he DC USGS office about that but I got an answer that basically said that there isn't an official definition of monolith so who could say...

    As for doing things over. Well, we all think about that. I've done some pretty wild and crazy things with my life and sometimes I wish I'd lived a life more like yours. Especially since I have children (both now grown and living in Washington state). I could have done more for them if I hadn't been preoccupied with my gender issues and being an "artist" ...pfft. A lot of good that did. :) Still, I always remember that living a more normal life would also have cut off all my most interesting experiences. There are trade-offs in everything.

    For both of us.

  2. Pagani, thanks for sharing.

    A monolith is defined as a single geologic structure composed entirely of one type of rock, eg. Ayres Rock in Australia, Stone Mountain in Georgia, Half Dome in Yosemite NP, Rock of Gilbaltor, Humbug Mountain (OR), etc. are excellent examples. Coastal monoliths, such a Haystack rock, are large, but not by any measure that large compared to the world's monoliths.

    As for gender issues, we all have them, I'm no different. It's how we fit them into our life, if by choice, happenstance, accident, public outing, others, etc. As for the details of mine, that's personal and private, and not open for public discussion.

    As you said, it's all in the trade-off's in life.