And so it goes…

On August 12, 2019 I left Scotland for a myriad of reasons.

Paramount of these was uncertainty. Uncertainty about the future. Jobs, immigration, where I saw myself in five years. At the time, I didn’t know and as an immigrant, I didn’t have the luxury of time to figure it out. So, returning to the United States was the sound, sensible decision. It wasn’t the wrong decision. But, it wasn’t the completely right one either.

It was a middle decision that made sense at the time with the information that I had. Still, I know that I had inadvertently left a part of myself buried in Edinburgh. I tried to find the person I’d left here on this side of the Atlantic, but found that her shadow no longer fit.

Then, when post-graduation immigration policies changed and the future I wanted in Scotland looked like something that I might actually be able to have, I figured out what I would need to do to get it. I was accepted to my Masters for September 2020 entry, took a break from academics, spent some time traveling, learned how to make stained glass, and finally decided to sit down and write my book.

Then March 2020.

I deferred my program and crossed my fingers. I made the hard choice to leave my job and my family sheltered in place to keep my grandmother safe. I spoke to my friends scattered across the globe and waited. Truthfully, I didn’t know when I would see them again. Most were still in the UK with some stuck in central London. While others made it back to Taiwan just in time or found themselves stranded in a Norwegian mountain hut with enough food and booze to rival Valhalla. With time zones all over the place, we Zoomed the best we could and I tried to keep track of messages.

I tried to not let it bog me down too much. I watched the news. I volunteered on campaigns, passed on election information, and phone banked for the Kansas Democrats. Saturday mornings were spent making upwards of 100 phone calls. I was cussed out, cried to, and listened as people asked what was going to happen next. I didn’t know either. I read a bunch of fantasy novels. I wrote a fantasy novel. I gardened with my mom and grandma. I made stained glass. My sister celebrated her 21st in July and we drank an entire bottle of whisky on the porch.

August 12, 2020 came and went and I was still on the other side of the Atlantic. Still, I was one of the lucky ones. Here in Kansas, I had the luxury of space and sun. Maybe too much space and sun at times.

I poured out my frustrations and anxiety into something that became book shaped. I finished GALLOWGLASS in September of 2020. To help build back my writing confidence, I submitted it to Pitch Wars. I was shocked to receive a request out of the thousands of applications. Although, I wasn’t chosen, I gained some invaluable feedback and learned more about what it will take to see my book on shelves.

Then, I moved out to Colorado to work with AmeriCorps. On the day, I would have started my masters I was learning how to drive a fifteen passenger van. During what would have been my first semester, I was in the Missouri Ozarks working with the State Parks Department on firelines to develop two new state parks. We built roughly 10 mile of line through the forests and hills and burned 33 acres.

Christmas 2020 was a strange occasion and felt like those snowed in holidays I remember from when I was younger. I revised my book and submitted it to Author Mentor Match. This time around, I was chosen. My mentor and I have been busy working to prep the novel for the slog of querying.

In February and March, I returned to Colorado and worked to prep project reports and other logistical things. In April, I drove an eight hour round trip from Denver, CO to Colby, KS to get vaccinated and subsequently cried with joy in the Dillons pharmacy parking lot. Then I deployed alongside FEMA to work at a max vaccination site in Loveland, CO and saw 6,000 people get vaccinated in a week. With a quick turn around, I took up a new team and traveled to Houston, TX to assist with housing repair from Hurricane Harvey and Winter Storm Uri. I hung drywall, mucked out moldy flooring, painted, drove a fifteen passenger van through Houston Rush Hour Traffic, and spent my 24th birthday talking to the police. Nice.

However, by May, I returned to Kansas after making the incredibly hard decision to resign from my position. Without speaking long, I will say that I loved my job and didn’t even mind sleeping on a cot for months at a time. However, I found myself in a situation involving member safety and mental health and I could not fundamentally agree with how those important topics were not addressed within the administrative policy chain. And hey, if my retired Marine/Air Force general dad said that he would have done the same thing, there was probably some merit in my decision.

Nevertheless, by June, I was applying for my new visa and by July I had it in hand. I drove Crosby from Kansas to Orlando, FL and dropped her off at Disney World to start her new job. Crosby drove a record one hour out of three days and during that hour encountered both a police car chase and a flaming minivan. We love Florida !!!!1111!!!!

August was spent largely at home. Writing and working away on settling things up before I leave the country. Dad and I went for PSLs on 24 August and injected that sweet, sweet, pumpkin directly into our veins. Then I frantically panicked for 48 hours before deciding that ‘what happens – happens.’ We love anxiety !!!11!!!

Which leads us to now.

And so it goes…

Once again I find myself sitting with a gross five hour layover in Chicago. Once again, I’m doing the immigrant thing and maybe this time we can make it stick a little longer. I hear the islands are needing people…

But, arriving back in Edinburgh after over two years away is both exciting and terrifying. I know the version of me who left isn’t the same one coming back and while that can be scary – it is also so so so exciting. New chances and opportunities are just around the corner and I cannot wait to see where they lead.

I’ll continue to revise my book and write more stories. Gallowglass is really getting there and I’ve distracted myself pretty will with a YA fantasy too. I’ve somehow hit 40k in just a matter of weeks which is actually terrifying because I am the SLOWEST drafter ??? I don’t know. I’ll escape to the Highlands as soon as I can and probably be a terrible climber after living in Kansas. PSA I turned into a cyclist, alright. Ride or die gravel. Hi, Dad please ship my bike. I need it.

I’m probably going to be a gross sobbing mess when I arrive back at my flat with my !!actually condensed!! metric fuckton of baggage. Hello, I am a Taurus. We like our shit. But, then I’ll head off to get a cup of coffee and everything will be right in the world again while I cross off things from my To-Do List and see when I can do some excavating.

Anyway. Send good vibes that my bags don’t get left planeside in Chicago again or that British Airways remembers to feed me this time homies. I’ll catch you on the other side of the pond.

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.

round 2: the electric boogaloo

Hello friends in high, low, and medium places. It’s me.

Again.

I’m officially back in Colorado for Round 2 of my service year as a Team Leader with Americorps NCCC. This time around, however, I won’t be deploying to a project in the field but rather be sticking around campus to work as a Support Team Leader! I’ve been given a host of new tasks and will be working as a middle point of contact for teams in the field.

It’s a change of pace for me, but one that I am really excited to take on. Between mountaineering and archaeology, the gaps in my CV are in the office/admin department so I’m glad to be able to fill them with relevant experience. (It’s also nice to know that when the teams do deploy from campus in the next week that I’ll have my own bathroom!) Each of the five units currently working out of the Southwest campus has an office STL, so I will be working alongside them in our shared office. It reminds me a bit of the dig offices at Bamburgh with an array of sentimental and strange mementos, so at least something is familiar!

This also brings me to my second exciting point. I’ve been selected as mentee for Round 8 of Author Mentor Match! AMM is an international writing mentorship program that pairs aspiring authors with seasoned, industry professionals to help revise and ready the manuscript for submission to literary agents. It’s a first step in the many directional puzzle that is publication. Acceptance is selective and contingent on the submission of a polished manuscript, a query, and summary. This year, there were over 1700 applicants with around 20 spaces in the Adult Category. My mentor selected my 95,000-word Adult Fantasy, GALLOWGLASS, out of the pile and I’ve been screaming about it for a week now. Right now I am reading the first of my assigned “homework,” a book on story development as it relates to cognitive development and the desire to escape through thoughtful stories!

I don’t really talk publicly about my writing, but it is something that I’m actually, quite proud of. (And, I guess that pride is where the privacy stems from.) I’ve always wanted to be a writer and see my work on bookshelves, but, I guess, more important than just paying the bills, I want to tell stories that make a difference in someone’s life. Make them question that world around them. Make them realise something new about themselves.

Then, above that, I want to tell stories that bring people joy.

But, I have a lot of people to thank for even being in the position to apply to the program. My parents for supplying me with stories to read. My friends for helping me make my own. My English Teacher aunt who made sure I had all my semicolons and clauses in a row. And also my teachers. I was incredibly lucky to have numerous champions throughout my education who saw a spark in me and made sure that I never let it go out.

I will be, forever, incredibly grateful that I had a desk in your classrooms.

Books, words, worlds apart from the one in front of me have been my haven since I was a child. In the years’ I was too shy to connect with my peers or the days I felt the slums of anxiety around me, stories (and history!) were my tether, my line back to shore. When things sucked, stories made it so they didn’t suck entirely.

Writing GALLOWGLASS was that for me and I hope to one day share the joy I found from it with others. It’s a story that I started, deleted, and started again seven times over the course of five years. I started the first draft my third year of University, but couldn’t find the right path. Then in March of 2020, amidst everything, I started a new document and set to work. It’s a story shrouded in magic but also became a deeply personal exploration into fear and sadness and longing. When I had to defer my return to the city where I buried my heart, GALLOWGLASS was there to transport me back to my beloved cobbled streets and misty skyline. When I set out last September to lend my hands to those who needed them, GALLOWGLASS was there show me the strength I could pool from those around me.

They say write what you know and with GALLOWGLASS magic became metaphor and metaphor became a story about a girl lost without her art, a boy lost to the idea of himself, and some magic stained glass.

That being said, I am excited to revise and edit and rip it apart at the seams if necessary. Writing is rewriting is rewriting. It’s a book out my heart and when it finally hits the shelves you best be sure it’ll be the best version.

Stay tuned boyos.

bye felicia.

Hold on to the memories, they will hold on to you

New Years Day, Taylor Swift

Hey it’s 2021.

Like many people, my plans for 2020 got upended, twisted, broken, bent. I was supposed to be back in Edinburgh. I should have been halfway through my MSc in Architectural Conservation. In another life, I might have been writing this while drinking coffee in Roseneath’s yellow kitchen after spending Hogmanay with my dearest friends.

Instead, I had to defer my masters. Stay on this side of the ocean. Add another year to the time I haven’t sat across the table from my dearest friends or walked the cobbled streets of the city where I buried my heart. I had to find another path, another way. Take Anne Shirley’s classic bend in the road. But, like I wrote in July:

Not being able to get back to Edinburgh this September is not a setback.  It is just a slight bend in the road.  We’ve all been there and all we can do is continue to move forward.

So, instead I set out to do something on this side of the ocean. I learned how to work with glass and created dozens of stained glass things… windows, flowers, boxes, sun catchers… I also set time aside to write. For the first time in ten years, I finished a manuscript.

I shaped a magical world filled with glittering stained glass and magic mirrors. I saw a young women deep in her fears and anxiety and wrote her journey as she found herself back. The end product was a 100,000-word thing filled with memories and magic. Who knows, maybe one day you’ll get to hold a copy of it yourself.

Then, I joined AmeriCorps as a Team Leader and spent two months working with the Missouri State Parks Department building fire line and restoring native glade environments. I took out my frustrations by kicking down trees and throwing logs in the Ozarks eight hours a day, five days a week. But, as I hung lights and drank my coffee on the porch swing of our little cottage in the Ozark, I knew I was helping our Earth heal. Then through 1 prescribed burn certification, 2 months sleeping on a cot, 8.2 miles of fire line, 10 humans to feed and coordinate, 31 acres burned, and 700 acres of forests, mountains, and glades enclosed I started to mend myself.

hey, this little place is probably going to inspire a book one day. isn’t it?

me post project completion. bruh, she’s ready for a nap.

I saw what lifting up and reaching back really meant. I realized this was how I could make a difference. Here. Now. In the future, when I look myself in a mirror I could say that I was there. Despite everything I was doing something. Using my skills and helping where I could. Being a part of something greater than myself.

It’s together that we are going to get through this.

It’s together that we can create the world of the future.

The kinder world, the smarter world, the beautiful world.

I realized that maybe things suck. But, not entirely.

Historical precedent would tell us that after the plagues of the 14th century, we had an extreme period of creativity, worldly exploration, rebirth. The Renaissance. Humanity’s fear and loss and frustration overflowed into exploration and celebration and memory.

We aren’t there yet, but I can imagine it.

I imagine the day that I can go to my favorite coffee shop again. I’d sit in window. Taking in the golden afternoon sun with a warm mug in both my hands. Or, when I get to browse in a bookshop again. All the stories of hope and love pouring out from worn, wooden shelves. Who knows, I might even find my own words singing out. Or, when I can finally hug my dearest friends after three years. Sing loudly in the car. Kick stones down cobbled streets. I imagine the day when I can finally plant my own roots and move from boxes scattered around my parents’ house, a locker in Colorado, or an attic in Edinburgh to a quiet place with a green velvet sofa with brass fittings. Ivy growing up trellises. Rolling moorlands and roaring seas out the backdoor.

We aren’t there year, but I can imagine it.

So, I guess on this New Years Day I’m holding onto my memories. And, I guess my memories are holding onto me too.

Anyway, bye 2020. Please shut the door on your way out.

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

tomorrow is now.

*views expressed in this post are solely my own*

In the final year of her life, Eleanor Roosevelt declared, “It is today that we must create the world of the future. Tomorrow is now.”

Yesterday, at 10.25 am, I wept in a gas station parking lot in the Missouri Ozarks. Tears of joy and release and hope for what felt like the first time in four years.

74 million Americans voted for Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. More than any Presidential election in history. Beyond politics, beyond legislature this was a referendum on the America we want to be. Not only the America we see within our borders but also the America we project to the world.

So together, the world watched. From India to Ireland. From Edinburgh to Lawrence. The world held its breath. And finally, with a collective sigh of release, the world wept with joy.

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, I shed a very different type of tears. I remember it vividly from my flat in Edinburgh, Scotland. At just nineteen, the world seemed open, expansive, broad… until it wasn’t. I screamed. I sobbed. I felt lost, alone, abandoned, and set adrift from my country an ocean away.

I wept into my friends’ arms. I still remember how tightly I hugged Ellie as I cried or held Tuva’s hand as I watched Hillary Rodham Clinton tell the world with impeccable composure and grace to, “Never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it.”

Four years ago, I had to believe Hillary’s ideas could not die with the 2016 election. If they did, then what did that mean for me? A young, ambitious, American woman seeking the best future for herself. What did that mean for my kid sister? Too young to vote to protect her future. What did that mean for our lands and waters and forests and canyons? What did that mean for the American experiment and the dignity and integrity of those hallowed words sent to page: “We the people.”

I could not allow myself to believe that it was over. If I did, what was the use in still fighting for what was right? What was the point?

I had to stay loud. I had to continue to speak, even if my voice shook. Even if I was terrified. I had to believe in something better. I had to still fight to ensure that “We the people” meant all the people.

The dignity of the individual is too great a cost to lose.

So, I marched. I wrote my representatives, I phonebanked, I donated, I signed petitions. I got into what John Lewis would call “good trouble.” Throughout it all, I never forgot the fear and abandonment of November 2016. Those feelings of helplessness terrified me and I vowed to never see more young Americans go through it.

For four years, I did what I could, wherever I was in the world, to ensure my international friends could see that a light of hope still burned in America. I became the America they needed to see. The tolerant America. The loving America. The America I knew and still believed in.

But, it’s always darkest before the dawn, isn’t it? Before the charge of the light brigade, before the bursting of the dam, before Gandalf arrives on the morning of the third day with the Rohirrim to turn the tide at the Battle of Helm’s Deep. Anyway…

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, my kid sister couldn’t vote. Yesterday, I got to see the smile on her face as she knew that she contributed to protecting our American democracy.

Tomorrow is now.

Four years ago, Kamala Harris was elected as a Senator from California. She was the first female Black senator since 1999. Yesterday, she accepted her role as Vice President-elect. The first woman. The first Black woman. The first South-Asian woman. The first child of an immigrant in a country built by immigrants.

Tomorrow is now.

Dressed in Suffragette white, the Vice President-elect stood on the shoulders of the women who had come before her. On the 100-year anniversary of the 19th Amendment, women across the country saw yet another glass ceiling shatter into thousands of shimmering, glimmering pieces.

Then, after her, Joe Biden spoke in full, articulate sentences about the need to heal. To protect one another. To value our differences because they make us strong. To respect human dignity. Like a calming wave, I watched as the camera panned over the crowd. Settling on children, adults, and the elderly. Each spark of life, each voice, that stood up to protect our American democracy.

In 2016, I wrote here on the blog:

We have to remember Hillary’s ideas didn’t die with this election.

We have to get up and keep fighting for change. We might have been defeated here but we only fail if we give up. Defeat is what happens when you stop trying. Failure is just a growing pain of progress.

I am beyond saddened by the result, but I know that we need to keep moving forward. We can allow this to knock us down, but we cannot allow this outcome to keep us from getting back up. We cannot dwell in our sadness and regret. We have to channel those emotions into creating the America I know we can be. We have to keep fighting for tolerance and equality.

If I learned anything from my pretentious university degree it was this: History is alive. History sways and adapts and changes, but like a river it is always moving. It builds on itself, reacting to events days, months, sometimes even years before. But, everything is connected. We are here today because of the responsibility and grace and drive for change of those before us. And lest we forget, our own actions will reverb through the generations long after we are gone.

So, with integrity, imagination, courage, and a high heart…

Tomorrow is now.

We are the government. The basic power still lies in the hands of the citizens. But we must use it. That means that in every small unit of government, each individual citizen must feel his responsibility to do the best with his citizenship that he possibly can achieve.

Eleanor Roosevelt (1962)

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.