Ranger Kathryn's Arches

October 18, 2010

The anticipated identity crisis

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“When you’re finished changing, you’re finished.” — Benjamin Franklin

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The blank before me asks my occupation; I swallow hard. “Former park ranger” is too painful, but “park ranger” isn’t exactly true, so I settle on “seasonal park ranger.” I suppose I could write “substitute teacher” or “motivational speaker,” but I haven’t quite jumped into those roles yet. “Park ambassador” is fun to ponder; I’d love to figure out how to make that one earn a salary. Bottom line: who am I?

 

A lovely autumn day in the front yard in Minnesota (said with a very round 'o')

 

My Facebook profile pic, a lively head shot of me in ranger hat and garb, had to be updated; every time I looked at it I gulped and thought, “That was then. I need a ‘now’ photo.” (Again: who am I?) Selecting a new one was an important part of acknowledging that I’m moving forward after one of the most marvelous summers of my life. Many changes accompany the transition.

I no longer reflexively upend my shoes before slipping my feet in, as scorpions don’t live in Minnesota. I drink the tap water instead of filling my 5-gallon jug at Matrimony Springs or Gearheads. My hat is for warmth instead of solar protection. The environment is all green instead of all red. Lizards are strangely absent. My wardrobe is no longer for outdoor activities, but for “hanging out.” Glorious sunsets are non-existent. I’m mocked by the rock climbing gear sitting on a closet shelf, with nowhere to take it. My ‘snake vigilance’ when walking at night is now zero. The misplacing of my sunscreen is not cause for concern. Olive, my car, doesn’t turn into a giant portable oven. The Milky Way is hardly visible to me. Potlucks here showcase dishes with tater tots and cream of mushroom soup, instead of quinoa or wheat berries. Hey — I can even make a left turn onto Main Street without an interminable wait.

Change, even when positive, is tinged with melancholy. I left a good chunk of my heart in the parks and people and landforms of Utah. In exchange, I have hugged, conversed with, cooked for and played croquet with my children this weekend, the very ones whom “nearest and dearest” describes. I’m not more than a mile from my sweetest girlfriends, the ones who would do anything for me. I’m watching autumn take over my back yard as I make coffee for my brother who comes to bow hunt the deer. I’m once again within driving distance of those who matter most in my life. I feel rich.

Ralph Waldo Emerson sums up this trade-off: “For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” These are the exchanges that make up my life, your life, each minute and hour. Today I’m cultivating a grateful heart that can celebrate presumed losses and anticipate coming joys.

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12 Comments »

  1. Kathryn—how about park maven? Glad you were out this way and glad you are home to Lake Woebegone land as well. The West misses you but the Midwest rejoices at your return, I know. Blessings to you old friend.

    Comment by Kate Kresse — October 18, 2010 @ 11:45 am | Reply

    • Park maven. I like that.

      Comment by kath56ryn — October 18, 2010 @ 12:56 pm | Reply

  2. Kathryn!

    One of my best friends is a seasonal employee of Theodore Roosevelt in North Dakota, she has the same feelings about leaving the park this winter. She misses everything about that park! Just wanted to stop in and say hi. Hopefully the next time you make it up to Duluth to visit with my parents I can drive up, because it has been far to long!

    Comment by Amanda Youngman — October 18, 2010 @ 12:38 pm | Reply

    • Indeed! I hope we can make that happen! You know, this seems to be a fairly universal experience among rangers; I guess it’s something you just get used to. *sigh*

      Comment by kath56ryn — October 18, 2010 @ 12:55 pm | Reply

  3. Welcome back! I resonate with your last paragraph: ““For everything you have missed, you have gained something else, and for everything you gain, you lose something else.” These are the exchanges that make up my life, your life, each minute and hour. Today I’m cultivating a grateful heart that can celebrate presumed losses and anticipate coming joys.””
    I miss my dear friends in Austin, but have gained time with my family. There is a sense of loss on one hand, but joyful anticipation of new friends and wonderful opportunities to treasure my family relationships!
    I have lots of wildlife in the backyard pond, but no mountain to climb….hope you will come visit soon!

    Comment by pamlarson — October 18, 2010 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • I will, oh yes, I will.

      Comment by kath56ryn — October 18, 2010 @ 2:32 pm | Reply

  4. Welcome back to MinnesOta.I’ve enjoyed this past season with you.

    Comment by Tom Sauer — October 18, 2010 @ 1:37 pm | Reply

    • So glad to have had you along.

      Comment by kath56ryn — October 18, 2010 @ 1:45 pm | Reply

  5. Loved this. You have a talent with words Kathryn! Can’t wait to see you in the springtime.

    Comment by Tara — October 18, 2010 @ 2:29 pm | Reply

    • Methinks it’s too soon to start counting, but you know I’ll be back! And we are going into the wilderness, woman!

      Comment by kath56ryn — October 18, 2010 @ 2:53 pm | Reply

  6. I miss the HAIR!!

    Comment by triciao — October 27, 2010 @ 8:17 pm | Reply

  7. the front yard in minnesota, were is

    Comment by Billy — January 12, 2011 @ 3:45 pm | Reply


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