14 November 2007

Boot 'n Paddle - November 9, 2007

Around this time of year I always like to sit my friends down in front of a fire and tell them this story. This year, since I don’t have a woodstove, and I technically don’t have any friends, I’m going to tell you.

Kip took another bite. “I’m sick of eating fish,” he said.
“Huh?” Jeremy was puzzled. Sick of fish? A bear had never said, or even thought, that before.
“Especially trout.” Kip pushed the half-eaten fish corpse into the river.
“Shh…come on…you don’t mean that…Kip? Kip. Kip you don’t mean that.” Jeremy knew all about his friend’s…odd personality, but he didn’t want the bears downstream to hear what he was saying.
“No! I’m serious! I’m sick of it, Jeremy! I’m sick of eating fish, I’m sick of sleeping in damp, dark caves, and I’m so sick of walking around outside when it’s raining. Jeremy! I’m sick and tired,” Kip’s eyes softened, “I’m sick and tired of being a bear.”
“Kip! Quiet” Jeremy slipped on a rock and fell into the river. He poked his head out of the water. “Are you crazy, Kip!? You can’t say things like that!”
“Why not, Jeremy? Huh? Why not?”
“Because there are certain things bears just don’t––“
Kip turned his back to Jeremy and the river and sauntered off towards the forest.
Jeremy’s voice trailed off, “…say.”
The large brown bear ambled through dense underbrush and spruce stands. He stubbed his toe on a root and poked his eye on a dried up pine branch. Kip had had his off days just like any other bear, days when the water seems just a little too cold, days when every fish bone seems to get caught in his throat, but never had he felt like this.
Kip stopped and stared up at the forest canopy and whispered, “I can’t do this anymore. I’ve got to get out of this trap.” He didn’t realize the irony of what he said.
Kip stood still with his eyes closed and his neck bent backwards. Then he opened his eyes wide as though he had just had an idea. His best friend, Jeremy, who Kip had known since he was a cub, and who, even though they didn’t know it, was actually his half brother, knew what that look meant. It meant he was going to start building a home out of logs and underbrush, or that he would decide not to hibernate because he enjoyed the winter vistas. It was that sort of look that meant he was about to do something very uncharacteristic of Grizzly Bears. Usually, Jeremy was there to discourage Kip’s unusual impulses, but on this day, Kip was alone and fully intended to, finally, carry through with one of his ideas.

Later that afternoon, Jeremy decided to stop by Kip’s cave to apologize for what had happened during lunch. Jeremy knew that he was right but he decided to be the better bear. After all, he didn’t want a little dispute to affect their friendship.
When he entered Kip’s cave, though, there was no sign of his friend! All that was left was a note pinned to the cave wall. Jeremy walked over and pulled the note off the wall. The writing was washed out and runny because cave walls are naturally moist, but Jeremy did make out, “…needed some time… job application…try something new…”
Jeremy’s heart sank.
Kip was gone.

Over the next few months, Jeremy heard from Kip a couple of times by what Kip referred to as “snail mail.” He was living in Boulder, working for the Department of Transportation programming traffic lights. He was dating a real estate agent named Meadow (which to their annoyance was always a big joke at parties), and just bought a new Pontiac Sunfire. Kip seemed genuinely happy.

One day, Jeremy walked down to the river, just like he always did, to eat some breakfast. But this particular day was special. He wasn’t alone.
“KIP! You’re back!” Jeremy ran down to the river and tackled his friend into the water. “What are you doing back? I thought you had everything you ever wanted in Boulder?”
The two bears stared at each other, both dripping cold, glacial water.
“Jeremy, I came back because, this is where I belong. Because I’m a bear and I love that.”
Then Jeremy and Kip hugged in a way only bears can. “Plus Meadow broke up with me.

04 November 2007

Boot 'n Paddle - November 2, 2007

Scarefest 2007 is over and it’s time to turn our attention to a different sentiment: love. Wait. Let me first say that I think we should stop talking about emotions only when they are promoted by holidays. Let us stop feeling glee only during Christmas, pride only on Independence Day, and betrayal only on Leif Erikson day. How does glee on a day-to-day basis sound?
Don’t wait until February to enliven your hearts with the warmth and fervor of love. Love today. Love right now (Boot ‘n Paddle). Don’t let remorse seize you until you one day realize you are utterly incapable of loving anything other than your collection of porcelain butter knives. While in some respects that relationship can be rewarding (nothing beats the thrill of acquiring a new butter knife!), it just isn’t the same as loving a fellow human being. It doesn’t necessarily have to be romantic love. Just love.
I have a story for you.

There was once a hermit thrush that enjoyed his perch so much that he never left it in fear that he might not remember where it was (he had a really bad memory). As he grew old, all of his siblings left the perch for new parts of the forest where they made friends with other woodland animals.
On his perch remained the hermit thrush until one day, in the later years of his life, he realized that there was something missing. He sat on his perch thinking about it (in a very simple, bird-like way) until he heard a sound that reminded him of his younger days with his brothers and sisters. It was a “tw-tw-tweet.” The hermit thrush responded in typical bird fashion, “tweet,” to which he heard a “tweet tweet tw-tweet.”
“I remember!” thought the hermit thrush. “I remember talking with my brothers and sister like this.” A flood of memories overcame the bird as he remembered, with much fondness, his youth. “It has been so long since I spoke with another bird like this, and it feels so good!” he thought. The thrush began tweeting very excitedly and heard tweeting in response.
“A friend! A friend! I’ve made a friend,” thought the bird and he lifted off his perch and flew towards the responding tweets.
He flew to the base of a large maple where he found, not a bird, but an 11 year-old boy. The boy, who had been whistling in response to the bird, saw the thrush flying towards him and threw a pinecone at him. The bird, having realized his mistake, turned to fly back to the safety of his perch, but he couldn’t find it. He had forgotten the location of his perch as well as the sound of a real bird. He never found his perch, never loved and never had a friend for the rest of his days (which was one day. He was eaten by a mountain lion the next afternoon).

The hermit thrush lived a life of solitude until one day, as a result, he was eaten by a mountain lion. I’m not saying that if you don’t feel love, a mountain lion will eat you. But I am saying, I did some research, and they usually attack people who are alone. No friends + No love = Vicious mountain lion attack.

Boot 'n Paddle - October 26, 2007

I get scared…pretty easily.
I’m scared of sharp things, cell phone radiation, planets, a fire that’s too large, piano strings snapping, polyester, rabies, you (if I don’t know you), pewter, factories, palindromes, freedom, drifters, facial hair, the Gap, canvas, Julia Roberts…I’m scared right now, writing this. This keyboard is freaking me out.
So if I have a crippling fear of most things, how do I function on this campus- or anywhere- for that matter? Well, I was left in the dark for most of my life (not literally, but I am scared of the dark so even metaphorically it scared the bejesus out of me), and it wasn’t until I met John Zaffis, a paranormal investigator, that I finally found the secret to quelling my fears. Who better to ask about fear than a man who works with ghosts and demons on a daily basis (and runs a paranormal museum out of the second floor of his garage)?
This guy is good. I talked to him and he said he’s reduced combating fear to four simple steps that I now use several times a day. It’s pretty clear when I need to use them… my heart starts beating faster and faster, my hands go numb, my eyes tremble and fog up, my ears secrete liquid and my bald spot tingles. Here are John’s steps, and a real life situation that happened to me just a couple of hours ago.

1) Think about where you are and what you’re doing.
I’m at a grocery store buying unflavored frozen yogurt.

2) Figure out what exactly you are feeling.
My temples hurt.

3) Identify the scary thought that goes with that feeling.
Why is the man behind the counter not looking at me?! Are my ears bleeding?

4) Argue with that scary thought! Make fun of it and belittle it!
He’s probably just doing his job…oh look; he’s mixing potato salad. That’s why he wasn’t looking at me. And my ears? I can see my reflection in the glass display. They aren’t bleeding. What a dumb thing to imagine! Oh… now he’s looking at me. Why’s he looking at me? (At this point, I would have to go through the steps one more time.)

This Halloween, if you get scared, use these steps. They really work!