Tuesday, May 31, 2005

i love adventures

More than anything, I love adventures. I had one of the most magnificent adventures of all time the other night. The moon was full, the night was warm, and I was riding on the high seat of an airboat like I could have been a queen on a safari. It was so beautiful and wild, I could have been in Africa's Okavanga Delta (only I was a hundred miles east of Houston). The spotlight illuminated a hundred glowing orange eyes of alligators (soooo cool) and we saw so many marsh birds and their superfragilistically deliciously cute chicks. Black-necked stilts with their fuzzball chicks with their super long legs are so comical. Moorhens have fuzzy black chicks each with a little red dot on its forehead; one of them got scared and submerged and lost its siblings. Poor thing, we righted it and sent it in the right direction. Saw many mottled ducks and their faithful little ducklings paddling behind mama through the marsh. I was on an airboat in the coastal marshes of JD Murphree Wildlife Management Area, out with biologist Mike Rezsutek who studies mottled ducks. Halfway through the evening, I switched airboats and went with the gator gang while they lassoed gators for a food habits study.

On this same trip I saw the most intense beach erosion at McFaddin National Wildlife Refuge, near the Louisiana-Texas border. The beach was so eroded that the clay underneath formed "cliffs" (see photo). In other locales, they had put up drift fences and with very little cost they had restored a several foot-high dune over just a year's time. The dunes provide habitat for many creatures -- crabs, beach mice, wildflowers -- and give the beach such a natural and soft beauty. On Matagorda peninsula and Matagorda Island the dunes extend quite a distance behind the beach. Its great to see nature actively being restored in places like McFaddin and Texas Point NWR. Dean Bossert and Marty Bray spent the day taking me around to see the various projects.

The only last thing for the month, I cut my hair short. I have always had long hair and it just felt like the thing to do. Change. I love it. On a personal level I have been grieving again. When I get deeply sad over my losses sometimes I feel so selfish. I think, who am I to feel such pain when I have it so good. I could have lost a child in a tsunami or my own children - God forbid - and they are here and doing so beautifully. Yet my pain is real and to deny it isn't truthful either. I suppose like all things it is a balance between feeling our emotions and not dwelling on them, not feeling sorry for our lot in life but being grateful for all we have. That I could force joy into my soul! Its such an elusive butterfly.

Thursday, May 19, 2005

rising like a phoenix

What a difference a few days makes. I am feeling really good about things again, empowered even. I know that my moods shift quite a bit - I am hypersensitive to those around me and things happening in my life and in the world, but I'm trying to find balance between feeling like the world is on my shoulders (i.e. I alone have the power to make things happen, and I am responsible/guilty for all things that happen) and not losing the compassion and drive to take charge and make a difference and make positive choices for my life (which I believe derives in part from the former).

The problem lies in knowing what is the right decision - something I have struggled with probably since I was forced by fate and circumstance to choose between my parents in a custody trial. Someone is going to get hurt, and my choice made that pain. Who was it recently who told me, "You were a child forced to make a grownup decision and the weight and burden of that decision was a direct result of the failures and selfishness of the parents, not yours." It was an awakening. I can acknowledge that truth without any bitterness or resentment toward anyone involved because they did the best they could and had no idea of the weight placed on this little urchin's shoulders. Despite the suffering (and emotional pain and toil is real suffering), I am a stronger person for it.

Now these days I am figuring out the best decisions in my own personal life. I find it so incredibly hard to make decisions sometimes, that I often make them and then change my mind (about twenty times!). I don't want to hurt anyone. I don't want to sabotage my own happiness. I want to stand up for what I know I need, but I think that maybe I am being too selfish, too impatient, too demanding. Maybe I am, but in the end its our lives and that is what we have to live with.

It's a hard thing to trust someone else, and feel betrayal and frustration when you see someone else making what you think are utterly wrong decisions (going against deep truths I believe in). Its also hard to walk in someone else's shoes and I can not judge, though it hurts. Despite the seeming end of what I thought was a really beautiful relationship, I find myself at peace about things for the first time in a while. I feel that I simply must let go and I find I am actually able to do it. I have felt anger and grief, but for me anger is a short-lived emotion. I try to grieve in the moment so it doesn't slurk out from under the rug when I want joy. I forgive and move on. Would that I could force another to follow the direction I feel would heal all, but sometimes the moment is just not ripe and I may simply not know best. The love lived, it was real, but sometimes people idealize themselves and are unable to do the hard work it takes to actually build a garden. And sometimes a field must lie fallow. Though I don't know which is needed, I know only that I am free and alive and it feels great.

Adventures: I spent several amazing days exploring Matagorda Bay, Matagorda Island, and Christmas Bay. Check out my photos.

  • I got to help band endangered Aplomado falcon chicks with the Peregrine Fund biologist Paul Juergen, and FWS biologist Chad Stinson taught me about the different shorebirds as we beachcombed on untrammeled Matagorda Island (found 2 unbroken sand dollars, 2 huge sharkeye shells, and many more). I was annoyed and dismayed by the trash that washes ashore and learned it comes directly from shrimp boats and offshore oil rigs and idiots throwing "messages in a bottle" off of cruise ships (don't do it! Its called littering!). I always thought beach trash was sort of a random bunch of stuff washing ashore from Timbuktu, but it has clear obvious sources. On the island, I saw a TX horned lizard and held a grass snake (I think snakes are utterly cool, but have a mild fear of holding them which I'm trying to overcome by holding them whenever the opportunity arises - "Do the thing you fear and the death of fear is certain" -Ralph Waldo Emerson).

  • I got to explore all around Matagorda Bay with a TPW biologist Bill Balboa and saw where an active river delta is forming - such power. Bill gave me a sea bean that he found as we walked along Matagorda peninsula and said they are good luck in love. "Rub your sea bean," he assured me, "you will find that you will find what you want most when you least expect it." We seined and trawled for bay creatures - a sting ray, oodles of jellyfish, huge white shrimp and tiny grass shrimp, baby blue crabs, croakers that make a precious little croaky noise. Also visited and seined in Mad Island Marsh along the shoreline of Matagorda Bay. HARC intern Ruthanne came along and we had a great time!

  • Yesterday I kayaked Christmas and Drum Bay with Jim Blackburn who taught me how to wade fish in the marsh and oyster reefs. What a place of incredible serenity and vibrant with life. Herons, egrets, gulls, roseate spoonbills all in their places watching their nest or in some cases, performing elaborate mating rituals, full of raucous noise and chatterings that make up their lives. What an honor to witness a part of it. Jim caught two redfish and I caught a diminutive croaker and a small black drum - mostly by accident! I truly enjoyed it.

Friday, May 13, 2005

dancing like a banshee

My mood has lifted quite a bit. The human mind and psyche is so fascinating and weird. I once heard that you can't feel both sadness and joy at the same time. I think its probably true. So if you want to avoid sadness, find an activity that makes you feel good or happy or that brings laughter. The other night, I decided to crank up the Newsboys and my kids and I danced like wild banshees in the kitchen to the blaring jamming music, clapping our hands, spinning around, not trying to impress anybody. It was so much fun and I felt so great afterwards! I danced for 30 minutes probably looking a bit like a complete moron, but I didn't care. My kids and I do this on occasion and I think we need to do it more.

I am heading on an adventure this weekend - to Matagorda Bay and then to Matagorda Island to explore the estuary/bay ecosystem and the beach/dune ecosystem respectively for my Houston Biodiversity Atlas I am writing. I love being out in the field tromping around and seeing wildlife - hope to catch a view of an Aplomado falcon on the island. I always wonder why more women don't like putting on a pair of hip waders and slogging around in the swamps, or exploring the wilderness, looking for wildlife. It is such a blast! I'll try to upload some photos.

A couple weeks ago, I went to High Island and saw the cutest little fuzzy pink baby roseate spoonbills at the rookery at Claybottom Pond. Completely melted my heart. Major alligators slurking all around the island, hoping to nibble one that falls... isn't it a trip that without the gators the whole rookery couldn't exist because coons and coyotes would get in and eat everything. Wow.

Saturday, May 07, 2005


I sat in the parking lot today crying and wondering why this disconnect between the joy I so strongly seek and the current grief. I had dropped off my kids at a gymnastics sleepover and was watching some of these preadolescent girls living in the moment, smiling, hugging, excited, unencumbered. I remember those moments, and how freeing it was to let loose and laugh and be crazy-silly. It has been a while. It made me sadder to know I want to be there but I am presently stepping backwards away from joy.

So I questioned why do we adults repeat the patterns we try to break out of like we are broken records? Why do I? Why do I let fear undermine my ability to enjoy the moment? Why can't we who love one another be patient enough and committed enough to simply slowly patiently work through it, whatever "it" is? Why do we bolt in a fight or flight panic? Patience has never been my strong suit. Why do I try so hard to understand people and end up grasping at air?

I am in limbo right now - so many things going well for me (new job, new house, great friends, great kids), and yet a lot of uncertainty, confusion, fear. A relationship with the love of my life - one that had everything going for it or so I thought - seems to have fallen through the cracks of my own fears and insecurity and I don't know how to let go or if I should. It all makes no sense. I don't know how to walk this in-between land of unknowing and uncertainty. I have such a incessant need to know. I told my ex that I think I am relationship-retarded! We laughed. I can have just about everything else pretty together, but when it comes to interacting with people, I can be quite clueless. I find that I put so much faith into things, I want to believe and I let myself and yet I can be an utter cynic and my skepticism and doubt undermines the faith. At least it seems to be in this situation I find myself stepping through.

I have been on an inward journey (read: beating my head against a wall trying to figure out life) and I have had many new insights. I saw that Chicken Little lives inside my brain. I mentally do gymnastics thinking the sky is falling, and react accordingly, which can definitely screw up a lot of good things. As much as I despise game-playing and want utter honesty and forthrightness, I myself can say things to get a reaction, or inadvertantly try to get attention or outcome I want by pushing the opposite of what I truly desire. These things are not pretty and I am not proud. To be aware is so much easier than to change. But where is the line between standing up for what one truly needs and letting go and letting God? To love the other in a way that brings them joy and acceptance is so much fiercer and scarier and harder than trying to squeeze drops of affection from another.

I got turned on to Debbie Ford by a friend, and was inspired to know that Alanis Morissette, my all-time favorite singer-songwriter, is also into her. I started doing The Best Year of Your Life exercises. The first exercise I randomly chose is Forgive Yourself. Apt, since I am currently beating myself up over mistakes and wondering where this beautiful thing I held in my hands went awry.

Why do I dig 5-foot deep wells and wonder why I never reach water?

So as I sat in the parking lot I thought about what I could do for a change and to make life the best it could be. I decided one easy step that I would enjoy would be
to start a web journal to share these post-divorce figuring-out-life crazy thoughts and strivings and dreams and aspirations - its been over a year since my divorce but the healing and growth will certainly continue for some time. I am trying to learn guitar (3rd time's a charm) and I may try some martial arts classes. I'll keep you posted.


I am so grateful for my friends - Paige is a beacon of light who is so peaceful and hopeful and sees beauty in me and brought tears to my eyes with her wisdom; Daline my best friend who I relate to on so many level, I sometimes think we live parallel lives and who has time and again lent her ear and incredible insight to my dilemmas; Jennifer the strongest and most courageous woman I know and whose web journal inspired me to do mine - http://www.joelmagnussen.com (her husband Joel died of cancer).

PS The photo above is Daline and I recreating a photo from our college days... this was in Breckenridge, CO on my first ski trip a few weeks ago.