When i see the Big Dipper resting low in the west corner of the north sky, i am automatically connected to a different time. It takes me to the first season that i became aware of its positioning in the night sky. The first season i intentionally coupled a bunch of what-if’s with let’s-see’s. a practice i continue to hold dear.
two seasons before, in the same year, i was pushing 30. Careerless with Master’s Degree paid for with government loans. i was making gourmet pizzas in Boulder, CO and struggling to pay each months rent. i sat in front of my roomates large-monitored Gateway computer several evenings searching databases like Infoseek to find the job of my dreams – except i was never sure what exactly i was looking for. I had only three criteria: 1. i must be more active than sedentary in my job 2. i must work with people rather than accomplish tasks 3. i must spend more time outside than inside.
as an assignment in graduate school, i was asked to write a paper describing what a school would look like if i were able to design it from the ground up. my school was heavily doused with Greek spice. i wanted just a handful of students. to live together in a grand house on acres and acres of land. i wanted great healthy meals we prepared for ourselves and harvested for ourselves as much as possible. i wanted lecture in the morning. i wanted several hours in the afternoons devoted outdoor physical pursuits and activities. i wanted evenings to be devoted to the arts…music, painting, drawing, writing, creating, all ways to process and imprint the days. i wanted field trips galore. day trips, overnighters, and expeditions. i wanted the students to learn through a myriad of experience. i wanted the experiences to be the teacher.
Before Google was a thing, the inter webs guided me to a website that seemed to have it nailed. it was as if someone read my paper and brought it to life. i clicked. i filled out the application and i interviewed. i loaded up all my belongings in my ’89 Oldsmobile Cutlass Sierra and skedattled outta Boulder.
by the time my awareness grew to include the nightly positioning of the Big Dipper in the autumn Wyoming sky, i was living a dream. i was partnered with an early-20-something fella just out of college. it was a feat at first, to decipher the intended message of his communication through his thick-as-kudzu southern drawl, but once we moved past that we were a peasandcarrots kind of pair.
our job was unlike any you could imagine. the two-of-us were responsible for the safety, the care, the education, the life-skill development, the nourishment, the personal growth, and the love for a group of pubescent co-eds seeking a learning environment that suited them best. we base-camped from 8,000ft. on top of a mountain in Wyoming. we lived in one building. we cooked and ate in another. and we school-worked in a third. we split all our wood and burned it for our heat. we planned our menus and prepared them. we respected our space and treated it so. we shoveled paths between the buildings. we built ramps for sledding off the deck. we did our best to care for ourselves as we guided our people to care for themselves…and each other.
when we were not at base camp, we were out on expedition. road-tripping for up to 22 days at a time. all over the west and south west. backpacking. mt. biking. hiking. kayaking. exploring. bouldering. climbing galore. experiencing. growing. separately and together. it was the most magnificent thing you could imagine. like my dream school that i didn’t have to invent.
that was the year my dream life crashed in to my reality. it didn’t matter to me how time-consuming or life-consuming it was. it didn’t matter to me how selfless i’d have to learn to become to be good at it. and how self-aware and self-caring i’d have to become to be great at it. it didn’t matter how unskilled or unprepared i felt for the job. it mattered that i thought i could be good at it. i thought it was up-my-alley. and i thought it was worth all my effort.
a gave it a confident whirl. and i proved myself right. it fit me like a glove. like a several-seasoned practiced-and-played middle infielders mitt. It took considerable effort to get it to fit just right. once it did, success rate high, error rate low.
The fall of 2004 was the first i was absolutely aware of the big. dipper.’s space in the fall western sky. i slept outside more than inside that season and i watched the sky from National Parks and Forests all throughout the west. i became intimate with the phases of the moon on a level i had never known before.
i felt more like myself than ever before. i felt more in service than ever before.
my stars lined-up. and i was tuned-in enough to notice. i could tell my life was taking on a new shape. i made my first adult commitment. and i followed through. i felt the shift begin that fall first fall. when i spent countless nights staring at the big dipper resting in the notch of the northwest sky.