By Corinne Flax
July 14th, 2005
Damn That's Cold
A few days ago I jumped off the side of a Zodiac boat into an Alaskan Bay somewhere in Glacier Bay National Park. The water was a clear blue green with giant kelp drifting in it, and there was a light rain falling. I jumped in with my sister, my three cousins, my mother and her two sisters. When I hit the water it was so cold that I literally could not breath. The water was slightly choppy and about 49 degrees Fahrenheit. Water that cold makes you feel like your lungs are folding in on themselves in your chest. Water that cold forces all the blood out of your extremities and into what is called your core body, consisting of you brain and you torso. Fairly soon after getting into the water you start feeling a tingling sensation in your hands and feet, almost as if they are going numb. Meanwhile the blood that has rushed into your core body makes your chest, back and face look flushed while your arms, legs, feet and hands seem blue and pale in comparison.
After getting back into the Zodiac we all felt compelled to jump back into the ocean, an act of bravado if ever I've seen one. The second time in was just as cold as the first, and so was the third. After we were done we motored back to the Sea Lion, wrapped in damp towels and whatever clothing we'd brought with us. My cousin Ari (the youngest cousin of all,) had stayed in the water longest and started to shiver, which made everyone appropriately worried. Back on the boat we all showered to take the chill off. Our hands and feet glowed red as circulation returned back to normal.
On the zodiac we had all congratulated ourselves on our bravery, our sheer pluck for swimming in water that is clearly to cold for swimming. The other passengers made us feel even better. "I can't believe you all went in." more then one person said to me. "And you did it as a family, that's amazing!" Everyone seemed thrilled that were all on this trip together, and now the idea that eight of us had braved the icy water was (apparently) a true testament to the power of the family unit.
What amazed me was this; there is really nothing simpler then just jumping into something. All you have to do is let yourself go. Before we got out on the zodiac there was some speculation that we'd have to go into the water from the beach itself. My cousin Kyle and I didn't even really want to go into the water, what with its being absolutely freezing cold and all that. We decided that if we had to go in from the beach we wouldn't do it, because that meant we'd have to wade in and walk for perhaps twenty feet before we got in up to our necks. The thought of having to slowly creep through freezing water while stepping on barnacles, rocks, and god knows what else was enough to make both of us decide against it.
Once there was a boat involved, once we were already out over deep water to start with Kyle was the first person in the water, and I was right behind him. To me there was nothing really amazing about any of this. Of course we went swimming in Alaska, I mean we've been on a boat surrounded by water for the last five days, how were we not going to jump in eventually?
July 12th, 2005
The marvels of modern technology are just that, marvelous. I am writing this on my Dell Inspirion 1000, listening to my Creative Zen Touch, looking out the window of my room on the Sea Lion, a Linblad Expedition Trips boat. I'm floating somewhere in the middle of Glacier Bay in Alaska. On this boat are all the members of my immediate family with the exception of my fraternal grandmother. Besides the fifteen members of my family there are about 55 other passengers on the boat, and about 20 crew members. The boat itself is four stories tall, and as I mentioned before the boat is called the Sea Lion.
I'm going to be on this boat for seven days, seven days of relentless relaxation and rest. Each day will be made up of rich meals, nature hikes, kayaking, zodiac (a small inflatable boat with a 50 horse power motor,) rides, and lectures on the many wonders of Alaska's seemingly endless wilderness. We've already seen so many spruce trees I probably smell like Pinesol not to mention all of the orcas, hump back whales, devil's club plants, salmon berries, sea otters, jelly fish, salmon jumping up waterfalls, and lots of moss and lichens.
Do not think that I'm unaware that this is beginning to sound somewhat like an advertisement. Despite being truly relaxed and well rested for what may be the first time in months I am also tremendously bored. I can't make phone calls, check my email, listen to the radio, or watch TV. Every day we get a synopsis of the NY Times, and for the first time in years I've been reading the newspaper. I love talking to my cousins, and its amazing being with my whole family, but I will be totally ready for this vacation to come to an end.
Once I'm back in my real life things are going to get very hectic. I'm going to be taking a class this fall at either The Bank Street School of Education or a Norwalk Community College. I'll still be working at Starbucks, and probably volunteering at Columbus Elementary School as well, not to mention side work like babysitting and of course, writing. My life is going to feel like an elaborately choreographed ballet of train schedules and shift coverage with (I'm sure) plenty of late nights and early mornings. What will be important for me to remember is that my time will be my own, even if I've farmed it out completely.
This Fall when I complain about being overtired, over worked, underpaid, underappreciated, over stressed, and under socialized I hope someone will be able to remind me about how I feel right now. Just to clarify this feeling, I am happy to be sleeping eight to ten hours a night, looking at the beautiful scenery, listening to pirated music from my cousins, sharing space with the people I love the most in the world, eating amazing food, drinking fantastic Alaskan beer, and in general being a total lazy ass. When life resumes its normal break neck pace it's going to be a shock, and hopefully not as shocking as the water will be when I jump off a Zodiac boat into it later today.
July 8th, 2005
Windows To Nothing
One of the benefits of being underemployed (not unemployed,) is that you've got a lot of time on your hands. Most of my favorite pastimes do not involve opening up my big yellow guide to graduate schools. One of my favorite things to do is walk around with my MP3 player looking at whatever it is that surrounds me and trying to let the world wash over me like a warm bath. I started going on these walks when I lived in Sutton MA, a town that had almost nothing of interest to look at except nature, which was ok by me because I do love trees. When I moved to Watertown MA I was excited to find myself in a much more stimulating walk environment, and now that I live in Norwalk CT I have many different kinds of walks that I can choose from. Sometimes I walk along the coastline, sometimes I'll drive upstate and go on hikes. A lot of the time I'll walk all the way across town to the bus depot and take the public transit bus home, giving me not only the pleasure of the walk itself but also the people watching experience of public transit in a small New England city.
I'll walk for hours sometimes, mulling over my profusion of confusion, my thoughts and theories regarding my future and the complications and implications therein. I wander and I wonder and very rarely do I have any defined destination nor have I reached any conclusions regarding myself yet. But these walks keep me sane and make me happy. I enjoy them solely for themselves.
Sometimes when I come home at night from work or hanging out with friends I'll feel lonely and afraid. I'll wonder if there's ever going to be another kind of life for me, one where I don't have to quiet in the bathroom because I'll wake up my dad, one where I won't have to wonder what my schedule at work is going to be next week. When I'm walking I don't feel that way at all. Walking brings out something in me that I love and cherish, an independence that I've tried to nurture and make strong. Even though walking does little for me as far as a job is concerned it makes me feel great, and sometimes that's enough.
Today I walked along the Norwalk river, which leads out into Long Island Sound. I went down a tiny back street called Ludlow that opened up into an industrial park. There were huge mountains of sand and gravel, machinery who's function I could hardly guess at, and many many trucks. Right next to this there is a brand new apartment complex going up. Because the building was still being worked on many of the apartment doors were wide open so that I could see directly through each apartment. Each room had floor to ceiling windows which looked out onto the river, and the industrial park on the other side. I thought, with nothing but nothing on the other side of the river why bother having windows at all?
July 7th, 2005
Devil In The Details
For every black cloud there is a silver lining, at least that's what most of us would like to believe. Even though it hurt like hell dislocating my shoulder, even though right now I have a heating pad on it to try and relax the muscles, even though I scraped my knee up something awful and felt a complete fool the entire incident was not without some value. Here is what I got out of dislocating my shoulder; I literally got out of having to go to work on Saturday July second. I had been planning on going to Maryland on the third, to go to a friend's house party. Since I didn't have to work on the second I was able to go a day early.
Of course somewhere in the back of my mind a small voice was telling me I probably should be lying around the house recuperating, but there was no way that was going to happen. Providentially my friend T decided she wanted to come with me, so I didn't have to drive down alone, and there was someone to hand me things. On the drive down we didn't really talk all that much about anything, just listened to music and watched the scenery rush past. It was relaxing and fun, although in no way productive, much like the house party itself. Over the course of four days I saw a lot of people from college, drank copious amounts of lite beer, played beer pong, watched fireworks, grilled meat, went to the zoo, went shopping, and didn't sleep nearly enough. All of these activities are fun, but they don't add up to all that much in the end.
Thoughts about productivity can ruin an evening for me sometimes. I feel like a slacker a lot of the time, and it seems that this feeling arises especially when I'm almost completely unable to do anything about it. As I talked to my friends, some of whom I had not seen for almost a year I felt smaller and smaller. One friend has applied to law schools but decided to defer because she didn't get into the one she wanted. Another is going to BC in the fall for graduate school, where she will be majoring in English. The friends I was visiting rent a house and work places that they love, one doing some sort of paralegal work the other some sort of veterinarian's assistant type of thing. Everybody seems to work 40+ hours a week or is heading back to school.
Even though I know in my heart that I am making good decisions for myself in terms of the big picture its easy to get bogged down in the details, as the saying goes that's where the devil is. When T and I went with our friend (the future lawyer) to Georgetown for a drink on the pier we started talking about the big picture. T said that on "Sex in the City," a show that has shown me what it means to be a successful woman, they said that there are three things in life that every woman(and maybe everyone,) needs and that almost no one can have at the same time. These three things are; the perfect job, the perfect apartment, and the perfect mate. After T said this we all got a little down, thinking about how we didn't have any of the things on the list, but then we realized there was one thing missing that we had an abundance of: good friends.
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