Sometimes

Sometimes
Sometimes I think
Sometimes I think too much.
Some days
Some days I need
Some days I need your touch.
One day
One day I’ll know
One day I’ll know I’m just
Nothing
Nothing to you
Nothing to you but dust.
I’m tossed
I’m tossed aside
I’m tossed aside by you
I know
I know this much
I know this much is true
This heart
This heart of mine
This heart of mine does break.
It’s gone
It’s gone no more
It’s gone, no more to take.

 

Time in the Tower: High Point

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High Point
Nearly seventy feet above the highest peak on Palomar Mountain sits a 13 x 13-foot structure. With six flights of stairs in a switch-back design leading to the top, reaching this small space—the cab, as it’s called—isn’t easy. The 6,140-foot elevation at which High Point Lookout Tower’s base resides is a contributing factor to the oh-my-gosh-I-can’t-breathe experience that accompanies the climb.

But once the climb is over (and you catch your breath), it’s worth it. The 360-degree view overlooking forests, valleys, faraway mountain ranges, and desert communities is one that few get to experience.20160514_090429

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I’m one of the lucky ones. I am a forest fire lookout volunteer with the Forest Fire Lookout Association, San Diego-Riverside Chapter. The breath-taking views, fresh air, and solitude of the tower are perks of the job; and that’s all they are—perks. Being a forest fire lookout is more than sitting at the top of a tower, surrounded by the beauty of the mountains and waiting for a fire to start somewhere. It’s about vigilance, dedication, professionalism, and partnering with local agencies to keep the area safe from wildfires.

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Me. That white thing in the background is Palomar Observatory

Before I started my training, I had my own ideas as to what I would be doing as a volunteer lookout. I envisioned sitting at a small table, my laptop plugged into the nearest outlet, and using the solitude to work on my sure-to-be bestselling novel. Of course I would need to look up from time to time to make sure the county wasn’t burning down, but how hard could that be? You see smoke, you call 9-1-1, right?

Wrong.

My romantic visions of being a weekend J.D. Salinger were quelled during the orientation meeting. It was then that I learned I would be responsible for weather recording and reporting, learning landmarks, and how to use the azimuth/Osborne Fire Finder.

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An Osborne Fire Finder—works by lining up the sight and cross hairs on a smoke. Once lined up, the degree can be found by looking along the outside of the circle. From there, the map in the center is used to determine distance and nearby landmarks.

Most importantly, I would be expected to report any smoke I see—along with its location, distance away, and nearest landmarks. Being a forest fire lookout is a lot of work! And that’s fine by me. I like a challenge and this one is rewarding for so many reasons! The hours I’ve spent training so far have confirmed that this is my kind of “job.”

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High Point Lookout Tower              from the ground

 

Looking Out for Forest Fires

Smokey3Palomar Mountain in San Diego County has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Camping, fishing, hiking, winter camp … these activities have been the source of most of my favorite childhood memories.

A couple of years ago, I discovered a new-to-me mountain treasure—the Boucher Hill Lookout Tower. There has been a tower located on the site since 1921, so why I had never been there nor heard of it before then, I don’t know.

One day when I brought my boys to the lookout site, there were a couple of people working in the tower who called down to us that we could come up and take a look around.

I was amazed. Really? We’re allowed to go to the top of the tower and maybe even walk along the catwalk? Heck, yeah! I pushed aside my natural reluctance to make small talk with people and dragged my boys up the three flights of stairs to the cab of the lookout tower.

I was smitten. The view, the history, the location … does it get much better than this? I knew we’d be back.

On our next visit, we waited to be invited up by the tower lookouts. This time, I was in a more talkative mood. When I found out that the lookouts were married to each other, I had to ask: Are you both rangers?

They said people often mistake them for park rangers because of their uniforms, but they are actually volunteers. Wait—volunteers? Yep. And the organization was always looking for more. I knew from that moment that I wanted—needed—to be a volunteer forest fire lookout. So the couple gave me a phone number and email address and I went went down the mountain, head filled with visions of dressing up like a forest ranger and spending time in the fire tower.

I had to wait almost a full year; the training for the season had just ended and the next session wouldn’t be held until the following April. I was disappointed, but I didn’t lose interest.

I began my training this past April and I learned pretty quickly that there is a lot more to being a volunteer fire lookout than the uniform and sitting in a tower, looking for smoke. But I’ll have to save all that for another post.

Smokey the Bear photo by Forest Service, United States Department of Agriculture, in cooperation with the Association of State Foresters and the Advertising Council [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

 

Xenodochial (R.I.P. Rocco)

Xenodochial is an adjective that mroccotuxeans “friendly to strangers.” At least that’s what http://adjectivesstarting.com/ claims.

My go-to source for most things word related, Merriam-Webster Dictionary, doesn’t recognize that form of the word so I can’t say for sure it exists. But I’m going to use it because it works for what I want to write about. Because two days ago it was “X” day for the A-Z Blog Challenge.  

Because two days ago, we had to say good-bye to our sweet Golden Retriever. 

We adopted Rocco four years ago. Even then, he had enough white fur on his face and body to tell us that he was an older pup. Still, he was energetic and healthy for most of time we had him. And, like most Golden Retrievers, he loved just about everyone—friends and strangers alike.

A few months ago, things changed. His health and vitality began to decline until finally his suffering, his struggle to breathe and eat, became too much.

It was a gloomy, atypical rainy day in San Diego County when we gathered around Rocco as a family, stroked his once-golden fur, and said tearful good-byes to our faithful friend. We were there when he took his last breath.

I couldn’t help but think of the day—two years ago—I sat by my dad’s bedside, held his once-strong hand, and sobbed as I told him how much I loved him. I was there when the first man I ever loved took his last breath.

In Rocco’s final moments, he lifted his head and looked toward the door of the vet’s office. Maybe it was a normal reaction. Maybe he noticed a change taking place in his body. Maybe it was electrical impulses. I prefer to think he was responding to a loving call to transition to the other side of life.

I wonder if it was my dad—who always enjoyed visits from our happy, loving dog—he heard. Maybe Rocco recognized the man who slipped him pizza crust when he thought we weren’t looking.

In any case, I know Rocco is being taken care of. I know I will see him again. I also know we will always love and miss him.

Good-bye, sweet Rocco.

drroccoroccopup

 

 

Working Again

WThis year’s A to Z Blog Challenge has been a fail for me. Since I went back to teaching in February, I have little time or energy to do much else. There’s a lot I want to write about, but by the time I sit down to do it, all I want to do is not think.

I know it won’t always be this way; it just takes time to settle into a new routine, new school, and new curriculum.

It’s almost summer and my workload will soon decrease significantly. I hope to catch up on the A-Z Blog Challenge during that time.

Thank you for stopping by. I promise to stop by your blog if you let me know you visited. Just hit “like” or make a comment.

In any case, enjoy the last few days of the A to Z Challenge. As always, I look forward to reading all the different posts!

Happy

HIs being happy a right for humankind? Is it a requirement to show that you’re all right? Is it okay to not be happy? My answers to these questions are no, no, and yes.

I would love to be happy all the time, but I believe that is unrealistic.

That’s not to say that I think we should be happy being unhappy. That’s not okay either.

Life throws us curve balls. Grief, sorrow, fear, anger, and disappointment are all real and legitimate emotions. We’re made to feel more than “happiness.”

The difference, I think, comes down to another “H” word: hope. Hope makes unhappiness bearable because hope tells us that things will work out, that the pain is temporary, that our circumstances don’t define who we are.

I’ll take hope over happiness any day of the week.

 

My Fitbit is Stalking Me

FI got a Fitbit about a week ago, and I’ve been having a lot of fun with it. I could go on about how motivating it is to have a device that tells me how many steps I’ve taken, how many calories I’ve burned, and how many flights of stairs I’ve gone up.

I could go on about all that, but I have a feeling it already knows how I feel about it.

It’s a little freaky how much it knows about me—in particular my sleeping patterns. It records when I fall asleep and get up in the morning. It knows when I wake up briefly during the night and even when I’ve simply tossed or turned.

I test its accuracy by looking at my clock when I do wake up in the night (too often, thanks to my cat) then checking the Fitbit’s data in the morning. I’m sure there are brainiacs reading this who can explain to me how the Fitbit works, but I don’t get enough sleep to comprehend any other explanation than my watch-thing is watching me.

So, with that in mind, I’ll leave you with this…

“Every Breath You Take”
by the Police

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take, I’ll be watching you
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay, I’ll be watching you

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you

Since you’ve gone I’ve been lost without a trace
I dream at night, I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying, “Baby, baby, please”

Oh, can’t you see you belong to me
How my poor heart aches with every step you take

Every move you make and every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I’ll be watching you
Every move you make, every step you take, I’ll be watching you

I’ll be watching you
Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)
Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)

Every breath you take and every move you make
Every bond you break, every step you take (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)
Every move you make, every vow you break
Every smile you fake, every claim you stake (I’ll be watching you)
Every single day and every word you say
Every game you play, every night you stay (I’ll be watching you)

Cataloging

I’m trying something new to me. For my A-Z Blog Challenge, I’m challenging myself to write a young adult story. No promises since work and life keep me pretty busy and I’m the slowest writer I know. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, a first draft, subject to many changes. I’m not looking for critiques, nor am I looking for praise. Read it if you want. Comment or don’t. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Continued from previous post/chapter “Beginnings”

I nCever liked the notion that I was somehow special, someone more deserving than others to live. The summer of my eleventh year, I expressed this to my mentor as we cataloged artifacts brought to us by a Traveler.

“If the Author is able to control events, why not save all the baby girls? Why was I saved?” I struggled to keep the anger out of my voice, but I failed.

Brother Phinneas didn’t answer right away. Instead, he rubbed away the dirt that had settled on a broken piece of tile. His efforts uncovered a smooth, white surface etched with swirling lines of blue. The old man set it next to a small but growing pile of tiles of the same design.

Not sure that he heard me, I was about to repeat my question. But then he answered me with a question of his own. “What do you see when you look at this pile of broken tile pieces, Alistair?”

I followed his gaze to the rubble between us. “I see broken tiles that are similar to each other. They look like they were once part of something beautiful … maybe from one of the ruined towers in the south.”

“You have learned well. Indeed, these are from the south. The Traveler carried them all the way from the ruins of London.” Brother Phinneas picked up the small piece of tile he had cleaned moments before. “Suppose all he unearthed was this one small piece. Would we know what it was? That it was part of a larger design?”

I shook my head no.

He lay the tile on the table and placed another from the pile next to it. Then another. He continued to place the tiles until most of them were arranged next to the others. Then he said, “Come. Stand next to me and tell me what you see.”

I rose from my place across from him and stood by his side. Although there were gaps and missing parts, I saw that the delicate blue lines against the white had become the petals of a rose in full bloom. “It’s beautiful,” I whispered.

“It is. If we were to evaluate just one small piece of the broken tile, we would miss the big picture. Oftentimes, Alistair, we are allowed to see only a small piece of the Author’s grand design. The piece on its own makes no sense to our limited view. But in the Author’s time, the full picture will be revealed and we will understand.”

I continued to stare at the wispy blue rose until I felt Brother Phinneas’s calloused hand on my own. His voice was softer than it had been and he sounded a bit sad, which was unusual for him. “I am just a man, dear girl. I don’t have all the answers and cannot see the reasons why things happen they way they do. I just know there is a larger plan though we don’t know what it is.”

I understood what Brother Phinneas said, but it didn’t take away the guilt I felt for being allowed to live when so many others had not. The anger within me grew and without saying so to my mentor, who I was sure would not approve, I longed to make the Hadithites pay for what they had done and were continuing to do to my people.

Beginnings

I’m trying something new to me. For my A-Z Blog Challenge, I’m challenging myself to write a young adult story. No promises since work and life keep me pretty busy and I’m the slowest writer I know. Keep in mind this is a work in progress, a first draft, subject to many changes. I’m not looking for critiques, nor am I looking for praise. Read it if you want. Comment or don’t. In any case, I hope you enjoy it.

Continued from previous post/chapter “Allistair”

BI mentioned that the Brothers found me at the edge of an apple orchard. Whoever left me there must have cared about me, for I was wrapped warmly and placed in a location where the Brothers visited daily. There was nobody nearby when the Brothers found me, no indication of who I was or where I came from.

Brother Phinneas said there was never any question that they would take me in and raise me in the Brotherhood. The recently widowed sister of one of the Brothers moved into the caves with her young children to nurse me and take care of me until I was old enough to start my apprenticeship at the age of five.

The fact that I was a girl was known to only a few of the Brothers. With my name and my shaved head, nobody had reason to think I was anything but a boy. I dressed like the boys who had been taken in as apprentices. I learned to read and write like the boys of the Brotherhood. And I played with them as an equal during our free time.

Even I didn’t know I was different until I began my apprenticeship with Brother Phinneas. He and the Council decided it was time I knew how I came to them and why I must keep my gender a secret. Nobody could find out, lest word got to the villages that a girl child had survived the Purge. The king would offer a large sum of money to anyone who led his warriors to a girl born of a slave.

Late at night, when I lay awake looking into the darkness of my tiny room, I wondered who my parents were. Did they know I lived? Were they still alive? Was it my grieving mother who left me to be found by the Brothers?  Or maybe a midwife whose conscience wouldn’t allow her to follow the king’s orders?

Brother Phinneas told me not to wonder about such things too often. He claimed that no matter who wrapped me up and left me in the orchard, it was the will of the Author of the Book of Life that I be spared.