Tuesday, May 14

Conservation Never Sleeps, Four Months Later

"I believe in personal work, in thrill, & in the heart, & nothing else. Oh sorry - & in having balls."

Sedona, Arizona / Photo Cred: Brett Krenzlok

I've seen beautiful things that will forever be punched into my mind, into my subconscious, & I will never be the same.

My time as a conservation corps member has come to a bittersweet end. No more waking up at six in the morning & hiking miles & miles & miles & miles into unadulterated wilderness; sweet, but no more waking up at six in the morning & hiking miles & miles & miles & miles into unadulterated wilderness; bitter.

I'm back in the Arizona Bay (i.e. Los Angeles) & I already miss my mountain-man lifestyle where peeing in the bushes five feet from your friends is acceptable, snot rockets are encouraged, & "fart baseball" is a thing. I'm being thrusted back into a reality I've always known, forced to wake up from this sweet sweet dream.

Tonto National Forest

In retrospect, I've made a ton of questionable decisions. I turned 21 & I did things that 20 year old-me would have been a total judgmental b-word about, but we talked it over, she & I, & those questionable decisions are mine & only mine & I think that stick I had up my ass for 20 years is only but a mere twig now. I had fun & I was happy.

She said I've grown. That's the nice thing about an experience like this: Nothing's forced. Growth is a subtle thing that happens with delicacy & grace-- with footsteps so quiet that after four months, you look back at the footprints & you're surprised you never had wings in the first place. But, I mean, I kind of did.

Needless to say, I'm going to miss making those questionable decisions. Why? Because freedom.
 I'm also going to miss waking up next to my best friends on my off days & going to Senor Pickles for a killer killer-of-hangovers hangover breakfast & getting called "Iced T" by the owner every time I walk in because "nobody goes into Senor Pickles & only orders an iced tea."

It's the little things in life.

 Hiking through a dry riverbed to the Colorado River

Colorado River

On project, I worked with unconditional vigor & passion. I did things I never thought I was physically or mentally capable of doing, surprising myself every day & feeling this infinite gratification on every single project, no matter the work. I was doing something for the greater good of the outdoors.
Plus, I got to work in the most beautiful places where people would normally go to escape. That was my life.

Colorado River

I was fortunate enough to have met the raddest people along the way.
These people didn't suck at being human beings & I was in awe from the very beginning.
They were a new species to me--a highly evolved version of whatever I was accustomed to back in Los Angeles.
We all came from different walks of life, but we all shared a common interest: life & living it.

My brother away from home, Joey / Photo cred: Gemma Fontane

Always overly-excited

To all the people I love & lived with & kissed & had wild nights with, to the people I got attached to who left too early & the people I got attached to towards the end of my journey, you are my family--my brothers away from home & the sisters I never had--& I've made lifelong connections with you all. You're my homies, my besties, my compadres. Come visit me in Los Angeles & (hidden agenda:) I'll make you stay with me forevs.

Let's just make it noted that some of you owe me a designated drive. Kidding - though, nothing beats forgetting how to drive automatic (I know, Joey..."what the actual f-ck, Mel?") & then remembering how to drive automatic the next night literally right before I had to drive Maximiliano's monster truck. That same night, I drove into the Albertson's parking lot & went wild with the steering wheel & the acceleration pedal while there were at least five (drunk) people in the bed of the truck. I was sober & totally coherent, I promise. I did it for Gemma, Sofie, & the Rainbow Girls.


Music. Evidently I'm physically incapable of dancing to bluegrass music. You'd think that after all the bluegrass & folk shows I went to on my off days, I'd know how to keep up with the beats, right? But when your friends are chanting "faster, faster" to you because your otherwise sweet sixties moves are too fluid & just not cutting it, you start to rethink your skills as a "good" drunk dancer.

Wilderness sunset

On project, there wasn't just work.
If the crew was killing it & getting the job done, we were given some leeway & rewarded with adventure. There was a time where we'd finished work early & hiked up to the most incredible natural spring that gushed water. We climbed the spring to the spout & had some of the most refreshing & delicious mountain water I had ever tasted. Totally amoeba free.
Or the time where we hiked to this prehistoric-looking 8-ft-deep swimming hole on a hot day, took our clothes off, & washed five days worth of dirt, sweat, & grime off into the river. Totally amoeba free.
When you work in such beautiful places, you have this primal curiosity to explore.
Beauty invites exploration.

Swimming hole in the Mazatzal wilderness / Photo cred: James Maxwell
Two post-it notes that were mailed with my birth certificate & social security card by my mom after my id was stolen so I could get a replacement (pictured).

What I've learned:
You don't have to go about a conventional or traditional way of pursuing happiness & success.
Never try to live up to the expectations of sad people.
Money is nothing.
Family is everything.
PBR is a good beer when it's the only beer you've ever tried.
PBR is a good beer when it isn't the only beer you've ever tried.
Sometimes you just need your mommy.
The sky is underrated.
Elevation. Tolerance. Be careful.
It's okay to happy cry at proud-of-you texts your dad sends you.
(i.e. I am a full-fledged, shameless daddy's girl.)
If you're at a house party where everyone has to take their shoes off before entering the house, don't expect finding your shoes at the end of a drunken night to be an easy or painless feat.
There are good people here, there; there are good people everywhere. I promise.
Always keep your id on you, even on backcountry projects--especially on backcountry projects.
Hard work always pays off.
You have leg muscles!

Lastly, fuck expectations & fuck first impressions.

My tiny tent overlooking the Verde River

I know absolutely nothing about what I'm doing after this or where I'm going & I'm happy about it. Before, I had nothing to lose. Now I have everything to gain; everything is a clean slate. It's all blank pages waiting to be written on. It's all about going forward, trekking forward. It's all about uncertainty & possibilities.

Sedona sunset

Happy tears were shed for this four-month-long wilderness slumber party spent with the loves of my life + the celebration of loving the absolute fuck out of life.

Cheers to change, cheers to life, cheers to (all things) life-changing.

"Look to this day for it is life, the very life of life.
Within its brief span lies all the verities & realities of your existence: the bliss of growth, the glory of action, the splendor of beauty.
For yesterday is but a dream & tomorrow is but a vision, but today well-lived makes every yesterday a dream of happiness & every tomorrow a vision of hope.
Look well, therefore, to this day."
- Matthew, friend, brother


Constance said...

These photos are sooo beautiful...

Korek Api Indonesia said...

I am always amazed by nature. Awesome photos!

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