xxiv

Hello everyone !!! It’s me. Here to complain and expel emotions on my personal blog.

Also, it’s my belated birthday post so… happy 24th to me.

It’s Saturday afternoon here in humid and rainy Houston, Texas.

Since you’ve last heard from me… I deployed from working a FEMA Vaccine site in Loveland, CO to working disaster housing relief in Houston, TX. I was asked today which natural disaster the team is responding to… and well, it’s a bit of everything. But, the big two are Hurricane Harvey and Winter Storm Uri.

I’ll be working in the Houston area until June… from there, I don’t know. What I do know is that I’ll be working with AmeriCorps until mid-July when my service contract is up. After that, I’m going to turn my focus to prepping to move back to Scotland and sleeping. Lots of sleeping.

The team completed their construction training and then started work on a variety of housing sites throughout the city. We’ve been mucking and gutting, cutting and hanging drywall, taping and floating, painting, and texturing. I’ve also fulfilling my duties as a Team Leader to ensure team safety and wellness.

And, this last week has been… a lot. I’ve been wearing many a hat this week operating as a Field Team Leader. It’s been exhausting and rewarding all at the same time, but we are surviving and, hell, we might actually be thriving by the end of next week. Who knows?!

But, anyway. My birthday! I turned 24 on Wednesday, 28 April.

In my 24 years of consistent suffering on this planet, I think I might have actually managed to retain some practical knowledge and life skills. It’s amazing, I know.

Just from my last birthday I:

  • Made 16 stained glass projects over quarantine
  • Finished drafting a 102,000 word manuscript
  • Was accepted into one of 31 spots a professional writing mentorship program that recieved near 500 submissions in my category and 1700 to the overall program.
  • Completed 56,000 words of revisions on my manuscript
  • Built 9.2 miles of fireline and managed a prescribed burn in the Missouri Ozarks
  • Worked in the AmeriCorps Southwest Region office in Aurora, CO
  • Worked with FEMA to administer 8000 vaccines at a mega-site in Loveland, CO
  • Currently working in Houston, TX to rebuild 7 homes damaged by natural disasters

And yes, that’s a lot. But, as I reflect on it I see a person who behind it all is really just trying her best to keep moving. This last year has been incredibly hard and I don’t think for a second that it is a weakness to admit that.

Sometimes, all we can do it keep moving and that is okay.

I know that for me, continuing to move is what is keeping me afloat throughout everything. It’s given me a purpose, an outlet, a way of making direct, positive change while I wait to get back to my life in Scotland this September. Throughout all of it, I’ve been holding onto a lot of memories and ~big emotions.~

And that is okay.

I’d like to close out this birthday post with a lil snippet of something that I wrote when I turned 21… back when my biggest worry was making sure that I didn’t get a sunburn while laying in the Meadows or hoping there would be an empty table at the Argyle.

And so, my birthday came and went and I am so glad I spent it here and with those people.

I know it’s a broken record, but as a kid I wanted what I have now so, so, so badly.

I still remember the first day of High School, my English teacher had us read a poem by Walt Whitman.  He said it probably encapsulated what we were probably thinking:

A noiseless patient spider,

I mark’d where on a little promontory it stood isolated,

Mark’d how to explore the vacant vast surrounding,

It launch’d forth filament, filament, filament, out of itself,

Ever unreeling them, ever tirelessly speeding them.

And you O my soul where you stand,

Surrounded, detached, in measureless oceans of space,

Ceaselessly musing, venturing, throwing, seeking the spheres to connect them,

Till the bridge you will need be form’d, till the ductile anchor hold,

Till the gossamer thread you fling catch somewhere, O my soul.

And I think it still does in many aspects. 

But, at least in this point in my life I don’t feel detached or in a ‘measureless oceans of space.’ 

I’m connected to this city and to my friends and I life I built here for myself. Truly, built for myself and by myself in a brand new city and brand new country. So now, as I move forward with the next chapters of my life I’m excited.

I’ve worked hard to get where I am today and I have had a lot of help as well. So, thanks everyone. I hope I won’t disappoint you.

But today, as I finish writing this in the sunny shade of the Meadows I am thankful. Thankful for what I have seen, the places I have been, and the people I have met along the way. 

And I don’t know what it will be, but I am sure I will be thankful for whatever comes next.

So. Happy late birthday to me! And Happy Beltane today.

To whatever end and to whatever comes next. I guess, this will all make a fantastic story one day when I find the time to write it.

With love and tolerance, Kennedy

round 3: deploy the boi

Oh hey!

This blog post is going to be a hot mess. Fair warning.

Since you’ve last heard from me, I have in the course of the last 2.5 weeks:

  • Finished up a two month term at the AmeriCorps Southwest Region campus as a Support Team Leader. I was working alongside staff and compiling Weekly Progress Reports for projects in Arkansas, Texas, New Jersey, and New York, as well as, performing logistical assistance when needed.
  • Drove to Colby, KS to get vaccinated on Easter weekend. Subsequently, died from exhaustion and then was reborn on the next day after chugging four gallons of water and consuming a full bag of pita bread. It has been two weeks and I am fully-vax gang now and can lick all the doorknobs I want. Jokes.
  • Deployed at a FEMA mega-vaccine site in Loveland, CO to support two field teams with the administering of nearly 8000 vaccinations over the course of a single week. I worked directly alongside paramedics in the medical tents to check-in patients using FEMA information systems. The site was completely outdoors and we worked 10-hour shifts through sun, wind, and rain. Lots of rain…
  • Hit the 55,000-word mark of revisions on Gallowglass for Author Mentor Match. This is close to the mid-way point of the book !!!
  • Returned to campus last Thursday after working the vaccine site to meet my new team for Round 3. Went to Rocky Mountain National Park and screamed into the mountains.
  • Organized deployment prep in 48 hours before driving my new team of eight and two vehicles 1000 miles to Houston, Texas over the course of two days. The boi has been deployed.
  • Currently writing this from my new lodging in Houston, Texas where I’ll be until June helping to rebuild 7 homes damaged in either Winter Storm Uri or still left from Hurricane Harvey in 2017.

I am tired.

But, that’s what the gig is about isn’t it?

I helped 8000 people recieve vaccines and now I’ll be getting 7 families back into their homes. Just doing whatever I can to make the spaces around me better and through that, I will slowly get back to the life I left behind two years ago. If we help each other, all of us can get back to where we left our hearts.

Edinburgh is an ancient city and these two years probably haven’t been more than a blip for it… but for me, it has been incredibly long, isolating, and at times, often quite lonely. I miss coffee shops and browsing in bookstores and standing so close to the speakers at concerts you can feel the vibrations and talking shit in pubs with my friends.

But, I’ve had to keep moving and not dwell for too long. I’ve turned my focus to where I can help. What I can do. Now. Here in the present.

Holding me through it all is how I imagine what it will be like to step off the plane in Edinburgh this September. Breathe in the cool air. Grab a coffee at Black Medicine. Go running along the crags. Move back into Roseneath.

The sigh of relief knowing that through it all, I made it back.

Alright. There’s my gross emotional sobbing for the week.

Anyway.

We start training on Monday with construction basics before starting out on site Thursday. Besides the humanitarian aspect of getting people home again, I am really excited to get practical experience before digging into theory during my masters in Architectural Conservation!

Other than that, I’m getting to know the new team and finish revisions for my book. Also, if anyone is interested… my 24th birthday is in 12 days.

~the longue durée~

If my ‘Line a Day’ journal proves to be a trustworthy primary source, today points to the first time I scribbled a reference to COVID-19.

I should have been half way through my Masters. I should have been back in Edinburgh exhuming the piece of my heart that I left buried there. Sitting in the golden-walled kitchen at Roseneath, I should have been writing this post to tell you all about my courses and essays and upcoming dissertation. I should have been in the library up to my neck in books and primary sources and probably more than a few takeaway coffee cups. I might have even had brunch with my best friends.

But, that’s not what happened.

A year ago, I never thought that it would be over two years before I saw my best friends again or that I would have found myself in the Missouri Ozarks throwing logs and setting things on fire or driving a black, government van through the Rocky Mountains to deliver supplies or compiling reports from mega vaccination sites in New York and New Jersey to send up to the chain to AmeriCorps leadership and FEMA. I certainly never imagined that I’d donning a uniform and blousing my trousers every morning before settling into my desk at the Southwest Region AmeriCorps campus in Denver, CO.

But, I also never could have imagined what 2020 would bring and with it the loss of 500,000 American lives.

According to the New York Times, 1 in 3 Americans knows someone personally who has died due to COVID-19. Everyday I am so thankful that my family is keeping safe and well and protected. But, I also know that my family is incredibly lucky.

Last March, I remember watching the nightly news and thinking how out of control I felt. I saw my own personal academic goals slipping away as the world continued to spin around me. For as much as I believe that it comes down to every single one of us to lift up and reach back, I could only sit idle in the Kansas countryside making stained glass and reading on my porch while I knew deep down that I should be doing something somewhere to help.

(I blame my father for these self-sacrificing tendencies.)

So, after it became apparent that returning to Scotland just wasn’t in the cards, I knew that I had to act and joining AmeriCorps as a Team Leader became that action.

In the past seven months, I’ve received leadership trainings, made new friends across the country, and gained new contextual understandings of government bureaucratic management. I’ve been able to directly see the impact of my service work too. Just recently, I received an email from the Missouri State Park Department. The 187 acre unit my team enclosed with fireline was burned recently in a prescribed fire. My team’s line held like a champ.

Stay with me as I continue that metaphor… the line that my team dug out of the sand and mud and soil along the rocky, undulating glade landscape of the Ozarks held against rain and wind and flames. The line that both prevented wildfires from escaping and ensured that the enclosed 187 acres had the best chance of rebirth held firm.

I wasn’t there to see the burn but, that’s what reaching back and lifting up is all about, isn’t it? Planting those trees, digging those lines that you might never see. But, I know what that line means. It means that invasive species are being removed and that the land will begin its cycle anew. It will heal and mend and become something truly spectacular.

But it won’t be all at once, and it certainly won’t be because of the singular actions of eleven young adults.

But, it is certainly on its way.

In historical analysis, we call this the longue durée, a school of thinking primarily used by the 20th century French Annales School to explore long term changes across historical nexuses. How slow changes add up to create monumental shifts. How even the smallest actions, the most insignificant actions join together to leave the greatest impact.

Like the actions I have done over the past seven months and the actions I know the world will do over the coming year.

So, hang tight. Hold on. I’ll be here in Colorado sending emailing, making phone calls, running supplies, compiling vaccine site reports, and taking packages to UPS every single feckin’ day.

But, hey, it’s all for the longue durée.

It’s all for that hope that I’ll be able to sit on a unbalanced stool in the window of a cafe in moody, dreich Edinburgh and watch the rain hit the cobbles while I pretend to listen as my friends prattle on about something inconsequential.

belated thanksgiving on a snow day in the ozarks

hello pals!

It’s me, here again to give you another insight into the life of a liminal-space-living-service-minded-individual-in-the-middle-of-a-global-pandemic. As I joked with a few archaeology pals from Bamburgh, the service coverage is a tad better than Northumbria but definitely worse than wading along the Danube in Romania.

The team is heading into the final week before the Southwest Region departs for Winter Break. It’s a lazy Sunday here. Snow is collecting on the cars and I’ve been reading and drinking copious amounts of coffee. You know the like. Tomorrow, we are back out in the mountains building fireline.

Since October, my team has constructed near on 8.2 miles of protective fire line and enclosed over 700 acres of land for the Missouri State Parks Department at the new, underdevelopment Bryant Creek and Ozark Mountain State Parks. The two parks were acquired in 2016 as part of an environmental land settlement due to corporate pollution into public lands and waters. We also worked to clean native plant seeds for a prairie revitalization project happening in the north-central part of the state. Additionally, the entire team was certified with Level 1 Fire Management through the Missouri State Parks with the Missouri Department of Conservation and just this past week assisted with a prescribed burn of 31 acres at Roaring River State Park. Between carrying 45 lbs of water and using the drip torch to set fires… it was a pretty exciting day. Busy stuff, but I am doing what I can to develop future leaders and help America build back better from a safe distance.

At both locations, we are housed out of two vacant houses located within park boundaries and a good drive from the nearest town of any size. I hung up fairy lights over my Government issued cot and between a plastic folding table, metal chair, and a stack of Young Adult fantasy novels, I’ve set up a cozy little space to drink my morning coffee before setting out to throw logs and jog through the forest and mountains eight hours a day, five days a week.

Things have been going. Some days things move quicker. Other days, the weed eaters run out of cord and the chainsaws are blunt. But, that’s the gig ain’t?

Since you’ve last ~officially~ heard from me, the team celebrated Thanksgiving in our ‘lil house in the Ozarks and being the sentimental piece of shite that I am, I got to thinking. Philosophizing. Using my pretentious Edinburgh degree. You know the like.

Out of the last six Thanksgivings, I spent only one in Kansas with my parents, sister, and grandmother. The other five, I was… somewhere, elsewhere, everywhere, and nowhere. Sometimes, I seemed to be in the place I needed to be, but not maybe the place I wanted to be. Or, if I am in the place I wanted to be, I might not be in the place I needed to be.

Each year, somewhere in the world, someone left an empty chair setting for me. This year I received well wishes from Americans, gal pals in England, some rowdy Scots, my dear Norwegians, a lone Lithuanian in the Emirates, and a beetle-chasing boy in Taiwan. 

Over the past six years, Thanksgiving (and I guess the Holiday Time in general) has become a time to understand the sometimes long but all too often fleeting impact I leave. You might never know what you leave with a person, but legacy, impact, whatever word you want to use is all about planting trees you will never see but trusting that they might actually grow. I’ve never been one to plant small trees and I tend to hold a little too tightly onto hope.  

That is what the gig is about, isn’t it?

A home isn’t always a place. Sometimes it’s a group of friends or a state of mind created with something as simple as fairy lights strung over a Government issued cot deep in the Ozarks.

I do feel sad knowing chairs were left empty for me, but I rejoice in knowing that in some way a single, obnoxious American was able to leave enough of an impact on a bunch of rowdy foreign nationals for them to leave that chair.

So, maybe this time of year has become liminal for me. It didn’t matter if I was in a flat in Edinburgh, a bothy near Skye, a farmhouse in Kansas, or a cabin in the Missouri Ozarks so long as I could still look around the table and understand the significance of those gathered. Nationalities represented. States accounted for. For beliefs, race, creed, age, sexual orientation, and gender.

That’s what it’s all about isn’t it? Putting faces to the unknown. Understanding what we don’t. Lifting up and reaching back. Creating spaces to foster new thinking. Helping to move the world forward, together.

I mean, I did decide to do a year of national service and mentor a group of young people during a global pandemic… what did you expect? 

Like I wrote in 2018 when Roseneath hosted a group of 40 odd humans with me acting as the sole American representative: 

As I looked around at my friends, I said that I was thankful for the hope that I saw around our living room in Edinburgh. I was thankful for the hope I saw for the future. I was thankful for the hope vested in my friends from all over the world. I was thankful we were all able to sit down together for a meal. Looking to each one of them, I know that together my friends and I will overcome the bigotry, hatred, and fear seemingly everywhere these days. Even when things seem the darkest, I hold onto that hope I saw in my friends’ faces.

So. Here’s to the place I find myself next week, month, year and the people sat at that table. I’m sure we’ll find something to chat about. 

Right boyos, the team’s just called out me outside and I need to go win a snowball fight. Catch ya l8tr. XD

round 1 project: fireline and forest management

Hey friends! It’s me your community service minded friend here again to let you know the haps and situs I am currently experiencing.

It’s been a while and there’s a lot of ground to cover (hahaha that’s a joke you’ll get a bit).

As you know, I’m currently working as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC. My team of ten departed from the AmeriCorps Campus a little over a week ago in our black Goverment 15-person van in convoy with our Government issued cargo truck. We drove across Colorado, through Kansas (with an overnight stop in Junction City), before cutting down south to the Ozarks for our Round 1 project. Round 1 covers 6 weeks and we’ve just finished our first full week.

So. What have I been up to? My team is working with the Missouri State Parks department to construct 8.2 miles of protective fireline across two new state parks in the southern Ozarks we are also going to focus on removing invasive cedar trees to clear the land for native plant species. We are going to be receiving Fire Management Level 1 training through the Missouri Conservation Department! Both parks are newly acquired and are vast expanses of predominantly untouched Ozark forest and glades.

Prescribed burns have been used in the area to help protect the natural environment and also prevent wildfires. By scheduling controlled burns, park management can ensure that there isn’t a build of of burnable fuels (leaves, branches, fallen trees, etc) on the forest floors. It also helps to remove invasive species and germinate native plant seeds.

After equipment training and lectures about the science behind prescribed fires, my team set off into the forest. Using backpack leaf blowers, weed eaters, hand saws, and chainsaws we’ve been clearing away previously burnt areas as well as venturing into untouched woodland to connect new lines. This week we constructed roughly 2.2 miles of fireline within the first of the three burn areas.

Firelines are constructed around burn areas to contain flames and also serve as channels for fireteams. To construct one you need to clear a six to eight foot path through the forest, removing all burnable debris until the dry, mineral soil is exposed. Without fuel to burn, the fire will stop at the line. However, this also means that you need to be aware of hanging branches or hazard trees that could collapse or throw embers. That’s were knocking down dead trees or the use of a chain saw comes in.

I spent most of the week with a backpack blower wandering through the forest laying the foundational line or removing debris to widen the line. I also kicked down plenty of dead trees and threw them down a ravine. You know, #justgirliethings.

We’ve been living close to the parks themselves near beautiful areas of untouched nature. Beautiful night skies and quiet, dark forests. It’s been a well received welcome back to the field for me. I’m always happiest outside and surrounded by dirt it seems. Service is limited however, hence the lack of uploaded photos. Soz, babes.

But, it’s all for the greater good.

By helping now to repair and manage these two new parks, my AmeriCorps team will ensure people in the future will be able to enjoy the natural beauty of the Ozarks. In the midst of a global pandemic, it’s about what we can do to help and right now America’s natural environment needs my hands to build it back better.

TLT/CTI & general haps

oh woah.

I’m sorry, my dudes. I have been very negligent about informing you about my existence. Don’t fret. I’m alive. I’m stressed. I’m thriving.

Team Leader Training finished about a week ago with a flourish of Critical Incident training and certifications to drive big, black government vans. I’ve still yet to give my 15 passenger van a name but am actively seeking submissions.

Last weekend the Team Leaders left for Rocky Mountain National Park. We were COVID tested and have been quarantining as a pod for the past two weeks. I got to spend the Saturday in the mountains. There’s just something about throwing my trekking poles into mud and the crisp morning mountain air. We left our lodging around 5.30 am and did a comfy, socially distanced 12 miler up to Timber Lake and back.

It was so nice to be among the rocks and twigs and ~mountains~ again. It reminded me of my friends back in Scotland. But, as much as it made me happy, it also made me a little sad. Due to COVID, I have to face the reality that I won’t see my closest friends for near on two years. Hiking and being outside was what we did. My memories of soggy tents, early morning coffees in the mist, and cloud inversions from summits are some of my most prized possessions.

But, seeing the night stars brought me hope that I will see them again. We will all be together under the clear Highland sky again. It’s just a matter of patience, responsibility, and time.

We returned to campus and prepped for the arrival of the Corps Members for CTI (Corps Training Institute). On Wednesday, I met my team and we started inprocessing and training. I was put in charge of boot fitting. Between my experiences in the field and working in the outdoor industry, I think boot fitting went smoothly. No reported blisters yet.

Training has consisted of a mix of online and in person. Lots of policy and procedures. I’ll be able to talk about projects hopefully in the next week, so stayed tuned.

I’ve received letters from my grandmother and my copy of VE Schwab’s new fantasy novel I ordered from my local bookstore back in Lawrence, the Raven. I also spoke on the phone with my friends. Time zones though make it hard. I spoke with Ben and Alven yesterday. Ben is still in Scotland, Alven is in Taiwan, and I was sitting in my lil dorm room in Colorado. It’s a big world, but being able to speak to my friends makes it a little smaller and that much brighter.

Regardless, I am excited for the year ahead.

The weather is chilling down here in Colorado. I made a coffee this morning and took a short walk outside, the chill in the air reminded me of Scotland. Those little things continually give me hope for the future ahead. For the positive impacts I will leave in communities across my own country and for the visions of a kind, responsible America that I hope my international friends see in me. All I’ve ever wanted to do was leave the spaces around me better. If we all do that, we can make this world a better, safer, and kinder place.

Stay tuned boyos.

AmeriArrival 2020

Hey all! Welcome back to the blog.

Things have shifted speed. I’m not in Scotland but ~Ad Caledonia~ is more of a mist soaked, coffee stained state of mind anyway (insert peace sign emoji here)

I’ve officially arrived in Colorado for three weeks of Team Leader specific training before an additional two weeks of training when Corps Members arrive. I’ll be deploying for my first (of three) project around the end of October.

For those who haven’t been around for a hot second, I’ll rehash the current life situ. After taking a gap year, I was due to begin the Architectural Conservation MSc back at Edinburgh this September. March happened. Global shutdown. Visa closures. I called the University and got my offer deferred until next year. You get the picture.

But, my life motto is just to keep moving. Snap your fingers and move in a new direction. It’ll be fine.

As Olaf said in Frozen 2, “This is called controlling what you can when things feel out of control.”

From March until now, I entered an extreme creative phase at home and made 16 stained glass windows and wrote a 102,000 word fantasy novel about an anxious stained glass maker in a pseudo-Gaelic city inspired by Edinburgh (more on that later… I’m entering it into Pitch Wars tho!) I was basically sheltering in place because I live with my parents and my grandmother. I read dozens of books, watched the news, and listened to a lot of NPR.

I wanted to do something to help. I needed to do something to help.

Which is why I’m currently serving as a Team Leader for AmeriCorps NCCC. Loosely based on FDR’s Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930/1940s, I’m currently in training to lead a team of excited young people on various community service projects. I could be trail building, helping with educational programs, fire fighting, or even doing some remote contact tracing. All good stuff that allows me to use my skills to help people. Which is all I’ve ever wanted to do. We have to do what we can and if everyone does something then we all end up in a better place.

Yesterday, I was issued my snazzy green uniform and equipment. Then, I got a swab stuck up my nose for #democracy (jk it was a COVID test). We’re quarantined on campus for 14 days. Today, was the first full day of training and soon I’ll have a first aid course and learn how to drive a fifteen person van. All good skills that will serve me well when I’m back in Edinburgh.

(Maybe next year I’ll be able to drive the Yummick Minibuses and go see all the archaeological sites my lame friends didn’t want to see. lol)