Monday, July 15, 2013

How To Pack

One of the hardest preparations before leaving on any journey is figuring out how to fit most of the things you will need in as few of bags as possible. I spent days as I always do in my organized prepared state of mind trying to fill every possible crevice of my bins and bags that I would take with me as I began my 6 month adventure in Nevada with the NCC. I packed, unpacked and repacked multiple times, ate a few tubs of ice cream out of frustrations and then started the whole process over again. Maybe it was my paranoia that I didn't want to be the girl who showed up with everything she owns and doesn't need, but then again, showing up with only the shirt on your back probably isn’t the best approach either.

But the reality was that all my fears, excitement, and anxiety and uncertainty about the future that lie ahead of me weren't as concrete as the items I was packing. Most of the stress about leaving for a new state and a new experience revolved around questions like how many pairs of socks should I pack, do I need eating utensils,  what will I need for my apartment which I had yet to find? Will I be prepared? Will I have everything that I need?

When I got to Nevada, the items I had packed in my bags started to lose their importance, Because being part of the Nevada Conservation Corps is much more than anything I can pack in my bags but rather it is a series of constant change, adjustments, successes,  even failures at times and of course….work!

This month has been filled with some great hitches, a few which tested my gag reflexes and one that brought  a whole new insight to picking Brassica. I didn’t even know what Brassica was when I first arrived in Nevada. But I soon became an expert as the first three weeks of my new life in the NCC was filled with nothing but Brassica. At first it was exciting. It was new, and challenging as I tried to identify what Brassica was and what the native species that looked very similar to it was and trying not to pull the wrong one. But soon the Brassica plant was forever welded to my brain and we picked plant after plant. I can certainly say that there were moments in those first three weeks where it seemed like no matter how much Brassica we picked as a crew it wasn’t ever going to make a dent in the amount of Brassica which was out there. I remember working out at Flat Top Mesa, where we picked 3000 lbs of brassica that hitch.  It was insane! And there were those moments during the last hours of that last day of hitch where I had no more energy and had no more motivation to pick another Brassica Plant. But looking back on it now, only a few weeks later I realize that every single thing we do has a significant purpose and the smallest act of picking a single Brassica plant can matter even if your mind is telling you otherwise.

Our second hitch of the month brought us to Pahrump for BLM desert cleanup. It’s exactly what you think it is. We are picking up people's trash in the desert. It’s not glamorous by any means. To put in bluntly it was gross, disappointing but eye-opening at the same time. I experienced pride, wonder, mystery and a lot of trash! When you look out at the area behind Pahrump, it might not seem like much to someone just passing through. It’s a dessert covered in Mesquite groves, but it has a beauty to it which cannot be described.  And the beauty doesn’t necessarily come from the landscape but rather from the people. There was one site we went to covered in many household goods, clothing, toys and more things than I will ever be able to describe. As we were putting what once was someone’s life into all these bags, a ranger pulls up to our work site. Being part of an NCC crew, you do a lot of work that often times goes unnoticed. You don’t get glorification or thanks you’s for it. But every once in awhile someone comes along who does notice what you are doing and thanks you for it. And that is exactly what this gentleman did. And he wasn’t the only one. There were many other community members who came out to thank us for our work, after of course they realized that we were picking up the trash instead of dumping it. Sometimes a small thank you is all you need to keep you moving and motivated when picking up trash.  You also find ways to occupy your mind on hitches such as this one. I found myself in investigative mode as I picked up dump site after dump site. Who where these people? What is their story? My mind would wander to crazy places making up stories in my mind all from the trash on the ground. It’s such a mystery to me as why people would dump in the middle of this land when there is a free dump just down the road. But it also fulfilling to know, as people in the community come out to walk their dogs, ride their bikes and enjoy the dessert, the land will be that much cleaner due to the work we accomplished that week.

I look back on the past month and it’s easy to list the bigger achievements. The project sites we enjoyed, the boat rides and the hike to the hot springs. The new friends I have made within my crew. The classic service experience that people might think of when they hear about a conservation corps. But I hope to hold onto some of those smaller moments. The days spent building trail in what feels like 40 mph winds. The knowledge I gain from the failures and the endless hours lost in conversation with my crew surrounded by the majestic beauty of the desert which I have grown to appreciate in a whole new way.

The memories, friendships, laughter, hard work and unique experiences can never be measured. Even after a short month of being in the NCC I realize how ridiculous it was to worry about what to pack. Because serving in AmeriCorps and the Nevada Conservation Corps is much more than anything you can ever fit into a bag.

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