I’m already feeling it; I can foresee the bumpy road around the bend. Housing check-out is five days away and I am mentally going through the “lasts.”
Today is my last shift at Arches National Park. Today is the last time I can announce the 15-minute orientation film, pick Encyclopedia Lee’s brain, and issue permits for the Fiery Furnace. It will also be the last time I hike up to Delicate Arch wearing my beloved green-and-gray park ranger uniform and the coolest hat on earth.
Yesterday I did my final hike in Canyonlands NP to Upheaval Dome. The photograph of the carefully-constructed cairn was taken at the first overlook as I was hit with a wave of fond memories of my many treks up there to interpret this geologic anomaly for visitors. Tomorrow I make my last gorgeous drive up to Island in the Sky for my final two days’ work and a sleep-out on the basketball court.
Goodbyes will be wrenching. Deep friendships have been forged in this desert land, and the men and women who have become part of my life are very dear to me. This is a part of park service employment that is difficult for everyone, and each ranger deals with it in his or her own way. Some just don’t let their hearts become attached because of the inevitable pain of the goodbyes; that is not possible for me. I’ll just try to staunch the bleeding, and heed my wise mother’s advice not to mix driving and crying.
I found this photo of my dear children as I was scrolling through iPhoto — the last one we took before I came out here in February. It made me tear up and want to gather them all in my arms and hug them and squeeze them and cook with them and laugh with them and relish being in their presence. THIS is what makes leaving bearable, and pulls me eastward. Even though I have become a hopeless ‘desert rat’ through and through, Minnesota is still my home.
Friends and family — see you soon. Meanwhile, I need to go polish my boots.