Writing Samples 1 & 2

Writing Sample 1

Reason for selection: This piece was published by Creative Colloquy in Tacoma, WA and performed by author in August 2019. Permission was given for reproducing article to WSU student for thesis on female writers in comedic story telling. Come to think of it, she never got back to me as to whether she passed.

Post date: June 2017

How to Camp with Strangers

 

I have only ever camped with total strangers once, so I boast only cursory observations in this instructional post on exactly how to go about camping with strangers.

XLMS​​

First, you will need some strangers [Figure 1]. For this, I recommend leaving the apartment, house, or even looking up from this screen. I had to do all three (and many other things), on several different occasions (my entire life up to this point), until such an event as will be depicted here could be achieved (I had no idea what I was doing regarding any element of this adventure).

 

Next, you will need to interact with the stranger(s). Walking up to someone with the opener, "What are your dreams and deepest passions in life?" may be tempting, but I advise against its frivolous use. My surveying says the response is almost always a very laborious and pregnant silence.

 

Starting from a place of common interest is a good way to go (everyone has always told me this, in some cases in different languages, so this is just a human thing, apparently). If you go about it right, you might end up driving away from your camping excursion in a state of divine bliss with something new on your list of 'Have-Done's. Plus, there might be ice cream.

 

Camping with strangers was precisely what I did this past weekend, and it was downright phenomenal. This is that story.

 

When a total stranger asks you, "Are you pretty agile?" while leaning casually on a ginormous pickax, you may feel compelled to assume the worst.

Had this happened to me six months ago, my gut reaction would likely have been, "Dear god, I am about to be murdered and buried with that pickax, and I haven't even paid off my car." 

 

The man, already grizzled from a morning of digging elsewhere, asked me this while we waited, alone, for his friend to return from their car. I believe in providing people with the space to define themselves, and so that is how I will describe my weekend mountain rock heroes: Timotheus was an adventurer and Nathan a farmer. Both were staggering in their expertise as to the geology of the region, and nothing other than gentlemen. Theus's dog loafed happily in his wake around the trail while we waited [Figure 3]. There was no trail, actually, we happened to be following coordinates from his GPS along a ridge of Red Top Mountain.

SMXL

Thankfully, this was not six months ago, and my gut surprised even the other self-aware body parts that compose me. I tried to smile without being smug, and said, "Yea, I'm pretty agile; think I'll be fine." I beat down my Kaufman-clan impulse to wink because who winks at a stranger holding a dirt-caked weapon, in the middle of the forest?

 

Theus nodded, somewhat to himself, and said, "Good, because this is gonna require some agility." Half turning back to me, he added, "and a lot of digging." 

 

"Thank god," I thought. I knew I had come to the right place [Figure 2].

 

Truth be told, I hadn't come to any place in particular. That afternoon, after finding myself lost yet again because I punched the wrong coordinates into my phone, I had turned impulsively to the internet and made a decision about the rest of my weekend. Like so many of my morally destitute generation, the web was Plan B.

 

My very pregnant sister had been unable to go camping near my station that weekend, and thus the blue prints for my free time had fallen asunder. Instead of binging on goodies around the campfire in my lovely desert, I was lost, alone, and trespassing somewhere northwest of BFE. I rashly clicked "Going" on the Facebook group invitation to "23 -25 June Campout Red Top Mountain" of a Facebook group I had recently joined. After messaging the coordinator, who would later show me the proper way to drag tailings from a dig site, I set myself along a new trajectory. From my idling place behind a stop sign overlooking a gorge adjacent, I swiveled right, instead of left, onto a rural highway and sped toward the Cascades.

 XLMS​​

They say you shouldn't meet people from the internet in remote places, always tell someone where you are going, have an escape plan, and generally be prepared for a cut-and-run death pursuit if things go belly up.

 

Well, omnipresent 'they', I didn't do any of that. After being on the road for an hour, I sent my sister the link to our potential location and told her the general plan, while gassing up. Her response, "So your going to camp and hang out with other rock geeks?" galvanized my endeavor to do just that. 

 

Although, knowing that a single mountain can hide many bodies, I harbored no illusions about the irrelevance of my gesture. Of my many gifts, self-preservation will never be counted among them.

 

It was a *uniholystring thing that I even encountered these two magnificent nomads on their journey around the mountain. 

 

After stopping at the turn sign for Red Top Mt., I stood outside my Jeep and looked about aimlessly. For those who have ever taken a jaunt into the wilderness with me, or ventured to a new location I stumble upon via recommendation, you know this is not a new physical expression of my lostness. Turning several times to examine the same line of trees twice, I thought, "Ok, I followed the coordinates,...and found nothing. Why didn't I wait for a response before hurtling into this dead zone? I've even been here before...I knew it was a dead zone and I came to meet people from the bloody internet, anyway! Did I expect a neon sign?!"

 

I did, actually. The warring 13 year old girl and middle-aged woman in me somehow managed to assume people still post directional party signs when a group converges at a new social event. But this was a camping/hiking/rockhounding trip, planned by assumed professionals, so it's natural to have fallen back into these ideas.

SXLL

 

 

 

\Climbing back into the bucket seat, I cranked up that same playlist I haven't been able to update since my Mac exploded and kept driving up the trail. Simultaneously, I wildly gesticulated, to no one in particular, that I had no real delusions that any part of this madness would work out as planned. After all, that would require there to have been a plan. Which there was not.

 

With my car full of field guides, camping supplies, a half-eaten bag of stale marshmallows, some protein powder, carrots, and an unreasonable amount of M&Ms, I secretly always knew I'd end up hoisting my tent alone in the forest and bumbling about the mountain streams stag. I just didn't consider myself the "type" to facilitate productive adventures drawn from the internet... Foolish, human, I was! 

 

I decided after the fourth road sign promising salvation, in the form of a parking lot at the trail head, to throw AJ (my Jeep: Awesome Jeep) into park, and ask for some damn direction. I re-applied my shirt, that had made its way to the passenger seat in the summer heat, and before I changed my mind, jumped out to greet two fellas hovering around a white Dodge truck outside the primitive bathroom.

 

"Hey, how are you guys, today?" I poured every ounce of sanity into my inflection. It must have worked, because neither of the hikers ran screaming at my approach. "Good. Hey, do you need something?" one smiled and offered. "Shit, they're on to me," I thought and hastily changed tactics. "Yea, please," I implored, "Have you guys seen any rockhounds around here? Like with hammers or-" XLMS​​

 

"Oh yea!" the other one interjected. Looking up from fiddling with his backpack, he looked to his friend, who said, "Yea, you just missed them! Those guys, up there, said stuff about rocks!" Both pivoted to indicate the silver, 4 wheel drive something-or-other currently making a K-turn, up the trail. 

 

Somehow, I had managed to catch the coordinator of the campout and his buddy, just on their way back from a dig at another location. Damn near walking into the path of their car, I smiled and waved. 

 

"Hey, are you guys with the rockhounding group?" I almost begged.

 

"Yea, NW Rockhounds. We just came back from digging earlier. Nobody else seems to be around, and we've been looking for NW Rockhound bumper stickers. I'm Timotheus." Theus shook my hand through the rolled-down window and Nathan greeted me from shot-gun.

 

"Wow, that's great, I'm so glad I caught you guys," I replied. As it turned out, there was a message with their vehicle description waiting for me in my Facebook inbox, and I was in even greater luck because they were "really good at this" and invited me to follow them to the next site. 

 

SMXLAll too eagerly, I hopped into AJ and we drove for a spell until pulling aside near a bare space in the trees [Figure 3]. The space encircled a fancy fire pit, that someone (probably other rockhounds) had built up 3" tall with blocks of crumbling basalt.

 

"Do you have bug spray?" Theus asked while we three stood, prepping for the dig. I did not, and he presented me with DEET and some 70 SPF sunscreen, and we were off! 

 

There are almost no photos from the Red Top site, other than the tailings Nathan and I picked through [Figure 4]. This is because I was so immediately enraptured of the experience, that photos hardly seemed to compare with the sights and discussion my senses imbibed for the duration of my weekend. The sun stretched shadows into drawn lines along the ridge, as we attempted to pilfer goodies from the earth.

 

I absolutely basked.

 

Initially, so is the custom in mining, we had to carve out a place to stand in front of the exposed rock. Next, clear the tailings left from the last digger and erosion from the months since. Then, it was time to grope, squint, and pile-drive the cleared rock face with our hammers, chisels, picks, and masonry tools in order to follow veins of blue, red, and yellow agate. These veins should have lead us to bubbles in the basalt, AKA, geodes. They did not. But I had a marvelous time anyway.

 

Nathan and Theus spent a lot of time explaining to me what they were doing and looking for, along with answering an endless stream of questions about everything I could detect with my senses regarding the process. They should call me ThousandQuestion Kaufman. Both were selflessly patient and enthusiastic at my ravings about what was probably a normal past time for the two of them. I go rockhounding most weekends since coming to Washington. Finding the weather immaculate in every direction, the people kind and welcoming, and the ground ripe for the pickings. It just all makes so much sense. For the next 30ish hours, we shared food, water, knowledge, and stories while hiking in and out of the Red Top and First Creek dig sites. 

 

NW Rockhounds is more than a rock shop, it's also an organization, school, museum, and utopia for rockhounds. The tribalism of this experience has only whetted my thirst for the next adventure. Hopefully, the sweet finds keep piling up and the strangers keep on becoming former strangers. Figure 9 is my favorite photo from this adventure, and not just because the geode ended up leading to two others.

 

Side note: One of those geodes had crazy, fat crystals inside [Figures 6 & 7], and the other was a voluptuous sucker with a sick water line. That one also ended up being sexy as hell once cut.

SMXL​​

It's my favorite photo because it perfectly illustrates those 30 hours. Sharing in the experience of outdoor foraging, freshening, sleeping, firing, hacking, sweating, dehydrating, rummaging, digging, tossing, sorting, and ruminating over rocks (even when it's balls hot outside). Perseverance, strength of mind, character, and determination. Find your hobby-tribe, guys; I hope it is filled with strangers. 

 

 

Happy Hounding!

 

Rock Rat

 

*uniholystring: a word I have constructed to suit my present needs; intended to denote the conglomerate influence of the divine universe and its positive energies running along an infinite web to shuffle my own assorted fates at any given moment.

Writing Sample 2

Post date: February 2020

Take Off

Lost my job last Monday.

Lost? No, that don't feel right. I know exactly where the contract for my employment was when I exited from  the staff entrance over a week ago. Even now, it's still unlost to me just no longer my contract. It ended, as contracts do. The next phase of the project will be getting under way without me. Started to cry, in that way that I do, on the drive home. Quietly, sniffling every few breaths, eyes on the road. What will my daily To Do list look like now? Will I compose, for sanity's sake, tasks related to my next hopeful position? Or will I drill out an arrangement of chores and breathing exercises to occupy my workhorse brain in the absence of dutiful assignments? Always with the lists, even when out of a job. Keeps me perched upright, on the toes, almost like I'm about the sprint one way or another.

 

Funny, I can't sprint. Always been much more of a distance-over-speed kind of jogger. Lists will be writ on journal paper, the right-most column, neat little cubes to the left of each word or phrase to be checked when complete. Smooth, white paper, lined in readiness for ink, instead of the unwelcoming yellow square of the (previous) office sticky notes. They were that pale yellow that darkens under the buzz of fluorescent lighting. Yellow like dried phlegm. Mucous, maybe, repeatedly wiped on the sleeve of your blue checkered shirt on the drive home. 

 

My love calls to speak to me in her harmonic, gentle tones, a voice like walking onto a warm hardwood floor with the smell of an up-kept log fireplace. A voice encouraging mindfulness in its tone and delivery. Mind the fullness. She comes home for lunch to check on me. Sits on the other side of the couch and pats her left shoulder, Come, lay with me for just a few minutes. Let me dry those tears with a merciful thumb and hold you without judgement. She knows I love my jobs, even when they're challenging. Especially when they're challenging. Alone again. Try to clean the kitchen- make it as far as the dishes in the sink before breaking into another roll of quiet mourning. Grief or fear? Yes. Go to the gym, a midday treat! Under different halogens the pages of my reading still turn yellow, but the sweet smell of effort being exerted all around comforts me. Yellow paper, like stains on an aged Hanes tee. Step up the incline and keep up the pace. Recall just months ago, when you couldn't even do that without shooting nerve pain? Isn't this nice? Relief comes in waves of sourness, it drips onto the bottom of the page. Wipe it off quickly, but will it still yellow?

A week inches by to the highs and lows of a caterpillar-crawl. No follow-up calls left to make. They have my resume and letters, each crafted separately for their respective audience inviting applicants to a position offering enrichment. And income. A few folks even promise to call when the application closes and the review process begins. That should be comforting, but it has all the appeal of re-heated cafeteria food. Feel lucky you have it, but try to hide your disappointment. 

 

Piano lesson with Dixie on Wednesday, Tuesday is a loss for chores as they were all run through on that second Monday of funemployment. F---unemployment. Go on a walk -you contract cabin fever like a spider catches flies. Go to see that view of the High Bridge from below, the one over Latah Creek. Take your new-to-you lenses. See what you can before the sky churns with snow and the ground turns dusty with white powdered sugar. Like a beignet. Half way to the turn-around point along the Latah Creek trail, only the solitary twitter of a wintering chickadee breaks the tussling sounds of the low creek through its channel. I can't find it, but I know it's in that tree to the left of the apartment because there's a feeder still advertising free winter noms for birds nearby. I hope it makes it to spring. Has a successful clutch. Make the trail more musical the following winter. A large primary feather -turkey, of course- has been stuck in the thawing soil just off-trail. Doesn't present very natural, maybe it was put there by someone else. Into the fold of my hat it goes. A hat that reads "Birds, Rocks, Bliss" in white lettering. I pull it as far down as my glasses will allow. The air is dry, but mostly still, and winter impresses itself upon my walk. 

On the way back, now, it's more of the same. But ho! A merganser disturbing the flow! Common! Female! She's gone before I screw in the optimal lens. A fine day to make a day fine, perhaps. The water is low and accessible from this bank. Take a photo. Set it to auto and just take a photo of anything. Perform an action to generate the motivation to seek out further actions. Find anything you think could compose this overcast lighting around a decently focused image. There's a print! Racoon! I can hear, briefly, the timid skittering of claws on the eroded stones pocking the grey sand of the print. Must be a good place to be, if you're a rodent. Plenty of den potential. Good cover. There! A color catches the sun, funneling it into a glowing effect between the gravel! It's a mussel shell, still occupied! I toss it back into the water, to settle in the sand and clay. Now there's something to actively look for: signs of life along a bridge-covered creek. 

 

Graffiti artists color my view looking at the the structures rumbling with commerce, above. That portrait of a bird skull, I recognize- the artist participated in the graffiti show hosted in the soon-to-be-renovated gallery at the downtown Spokane library. Looks almost identical to the one they painted for the gallery. Neat. But I'm not here for a show. When I find it, I'll know what I'm here looking for on a February afternoon. Ah, yes, a baldie soars on by. How nice for them, a day spent in the sky. A nest! A raptor nest! I can make it out in the shadow under the bridge. What a clever spot they've picked. Expertly hidden in most hours of the day. Who made it? Still an active nest, by the signs. Snap a shot of that and wait for the nesters' return. This berm is higher, better to wait for a look. Oh, look, here they come, at speed! Alighting on their next, a pair of red-tailed hawks! They brought in with them a catch, mouse maybe? I focus for a catch of my own. 

Not a pair to dawdle, the two are up and away in seconds. They circle over the creek, airlines entwining counter-clockwise toward each other as they coast, climbing upward. It is a search pattern for prey, I know this, but today it is a dance of lovers -partners!- to be enjoyed against an azure backdrop of sunshine breaking through the opaque grey/white clouds. The two raptors don't seem to be in much of a hurry. Good, neither am I. When they find what they're looking for, they'll know it and be off. For now, they dance lazily together, closer than any other bird would be allowed. It looks very much like their space, up there, illuminated and circling. Do they remember the eagle that just passed over? Is that why they returned to check the nest? Could be. And there they go, riding up a thermal, moving westward in stylized grace. 

 Take me with you.

 

With feet planted firmly on this berm of earth, I feel the slightest twinge of change about the air. I am imagining it, obviously. Must be a lift in my perspective. Wonderful thing to have, an upward perspective. My turn to circle back to my nest, start the prep for dinner. Think I will make kale chips, too. Tell her what her strength has done for me, brainstorm on the walk back ways to show her that my professional lens is also flexible. Transitional. Malleable, in this whirling state of national affairs. We will be just fine. She knows that already, but I can be part of that mantra, too. Time is valuable. These urban birds, still scintillatingly natural. 

 

The End

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