Ranger Kathryn's Arches

June 29, 2011

Out of the blue: the “X event”

How many times in your life do you come to a fork that is life-changing? Where everything is measured by “before X” or “after X”? It doesn’t happen often. A family death, your or your parents’ divorce, first-time parenthood, a big financial gain/loss, or a major medical diagnosis qualify as “life-changing.”

I had an “X event” a few weeks ago. On the other end of my phone a doctor was informing me that I had Type 2 diabetes.

Maybe there was some mistake; maybe he was looking at another patient’s lab results. There is no way my blood glucose level could be 199. Not me. I exercise a LOT, eat wisely, don’t have a sweet tooth, have zero extra fat, and am in general in fabulous health. This news DID, however, make sense of my odd symptoms [polyuria, polydipsia, extreme fatigue], but it sounded surreal as the words fell on my ears.

The farmers' market sold me this Swiss Chard. I'm learning to prepare it, as it is part of my diet as an aspiring vegan.

And for days afterward.

And still.

What do you mean, I can’t eat whatever I want? I want mint chocolate chip ice cream. What do you mean, I’m at a way higher risk of heart disease? My blood pressure’s always been 110/60 and cholesterol normal. What do you mean, I have to take this pill for the rest of my life? I never take pills.

It felt like a cruel joke.

Everything was out of sorts — physically, mentally, emotionally. After a week or so I had a day where I shook my fist in God’s face and told him in no uncertain terms that I was pretty angry about the whole deal. His response? The most loving tender embrace, with whispered assurances that he knew what I was going through and would never abandon me to walk through it alone. My heart melted.

I’m on a new adventure. Reading, changing my diet, learning how my body responds to a new med, calibrating my activity level to how I’m feeling. It’s not good, not bad, just different. I’ll be fine. Really. Now, if only I could get that Swiss Chard to taste good…

February 7, 2011

In which I am offered the internship

Turret Arch, photographed through North Window. Better than any cubicle.

My phone rang as I was pulling into the Trader Joe’s parking lot; the 435 area code told me that it was rural Utah. I took a deep breath and calmed myself. It had been all of eight hours since I had applied — a contemplative, prayerful eight hours.

In the subsequent twenty minutes I was offered, and I accepted, the raptor monitor internship at Arches National Park. It would be a season of becoming intimately familiar with a small portion of the Colorado Plateau and its avian residents. A new skill set would be required of me, distinctive from that of interpretive park ranger. In my head I heard the familiar words of my dear dad: “Not better, not worse, just different.”

I unfolded the park map on the seat next to me, slowly perusing its 119 square miles as I spoke with Tricia. “Kathryn, before your season is done, you will have hiked most of what you see on the map, ” she informed me. My heart leaped. 76,000 acres of mostly wilderness would be my office. Its lizards, insects, snakes, jackrabbits, spiders, scorpions, and large mammals would be my sweet companions. The desert plants, in all their spring glory, would be a visual feast when I wasn’t peering through binoculars at the birds I’d be studying. What an utter privilege to have been selected.

I floated into Trader Joe’s, humbled, grateful, thinking of Psalm 21: “You have granted her the desire of her heart and have not withheld the request of her lips.” I headed straight for the dark chocolate pomegranate seeds — such a fitting celebratory purchase.

It was a two-box day.

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