Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Set Me Free to Find My Calling

I like seeing other interpreters in action. Throughout my week, I interact with many type of interpreters who have many strengths (and different focuses). I watch and think about what seems to be effective with different audiences. I usually anticipate to learn something, although I rarely expect to be moved.
This guy could be a ranger with
all that pointing.
Today’s portion of the trip that I lead weekly is a float down the Colorado River, from the Glen Canyon Dam to Lee’s Ferry. It is a 15 mile stretch of flowing water that generally reminds me of my size. I am small. I have done this trip several times, each with a different river guide. Each guide does a good job sharing things about specifically strikes her or him. Each guide shares about the importance of the Colorado River. Today, our guide did that. But he also did more.
First, I was impressed with the guide’s use of silence. He would make a suggestion or statement, then let it sit. I am personally a fan of that interpretive tool and attempt to use it, often forgetting because I remembered something else (being quiet is a challenge for me). Let your resource speak in the silence! The resource could be cliffs or a river. It can also be a line from your story. Let that silence sink in. Our generation doesn’t have much opportunity for silence, so the brain is making all sorts of jumps in those moments. Let it make those jumps.
At one point along the ride, our guide turned off the motor and we floated quietly for a bit. I loved it. He told a story about John Wesley Powell earlier, then read a line from one of Powell’s entries. The particular entry demonstrated Powell’s own uncertainty of his travels ahead. Primary source material on what is a natural setting? Sign me up. We floated for a bit and had an opportunity to think about Powell’s trek along the Colorado and how he had no idea what was just around the riverbend.
At a final stop, around yet another stunning and peaceful setting, our guide turned off the motor. He mentioned singing earlier in the tour and said “I’d like to sing for you.” And he did.
In the quiet misty morning, when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing and the sky is clear and red,
When the summer’s ceased its gleaming, when the corn is past its prime,
When adventure’s lost its meaning, I’ll be homeward bound in time.
Bind me not to the pasture. Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.
If you find it’s me you’re missing, if you’re hoping I’ll return,
To your thought I’ll soon be list’ning; in the road I’ll stop and turn.
Then the wind will set me racing as my journey nears its end,
And the path I’ll be retracing when I’m homeward bound again.
Bind me not to the pasture. Chain me not to the plow.
Set me free to find my calling and I’ll return to you somehow.
In the quiet misty morning when the moon has gone to bed,
When the sparrows stop their singing, I’ll be homeward bound again.

His voice resonated within the canyon. The lyrics resonated with us. We are travelers, maybe feeling the urge to roam. But then home is a big theme. Searching for home, what is home, returning home. A mention of homeplace whilst floating along this wild and untamed river was an amazing contrast.
I know myself and the rest of the folks will remember the singing because it stood out as something different and unexpected. But I also believe folks will think back and not just remember the song, but what the song stirred up inside of each of us. It was a shared experience and fiercely personal all at the same time.
 One day, I hope to be able to stir up somebody in the same way that guide did to me today.
*Written on my own time (while overlooking a ponderosa pine forest, if you must know)
**Song is Homeward Bound by Marta Keen. There are some pretty fantastic renditions online, if you care for a listen.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Everything New This Season (Except the Name)

If you saw the number of drafts I have started, outlined, spewed forth, scrawled out, etc. etc. you might be surprised. It is hard to get back into a writing groove. I have been wanting to write and post, but then Twitter distracts me. I want to share things, but then I sometimes doubt myself. Actually, a lot of times I doubt myself.

I also waded into a world where I wasn't as actively constructive as I could be before. I imagined myself an instrument for good and I kind of just stopped. When I handed in my park ranger badge, I thought of all the different ways I could still influence and contribute to the world of history (and interpretation). I have done a little. I'd like to do more.

This is pretty much how I feel.
As a way to reintroduce myself into this wild world of blogging, I'll start by saying what I do for money (sometimes called "work") has changed. I still work with an historic walking tour company downtown Nashville. But now seasonally, I work as a tour director. Think Tour Guide Barbie who also shares about local history, culture, food, and people while keeping 40+ people organized on the road for weeks at a time.

This is pretty much me four months out of the year now.
The tours take me many places, but I am currently concentrated in the desert southwest of the United States. I'll be here at least another six weeks. It works out well, as I visit several National Park Service sites with the group during these trips AND I get to pull on my way-back-when studies of the American West.

Fun Fact About Elizabeth: my previous research has included the geography of the American West, the history of tourism in the United States, and cultural landscape studies related to touristy sites in the American West. Oh, and prostitution, but that was not just restricted to the American West.

"Can you say 'Saguaro? Say it with me: Sa-WAR-Row."
Yes, this particular line of work fits me well. Yes, in many ways it is a dream job. No, it is not easy. I work between 10 and 14 hour days and don't really get days off while on the road. Keeping 40+ people happy alladatime is stressful. Shoot, just keeping track of 50 pieces of luggage every day is stressful. But I enjoy it. I am writing this as a preface of sorts for my upcoming posts. While on the road I have loads of raw data I am planning on working through related to research back in Tennessee. I plan on writing about some of that here. I will likely share thoughts about interpretation on the road. That means my writings will likely swing from racial relations in post-Civil War Tennessee to cacti, from what an inky page from over 145 years ago might mean to geology. Oh, and prostitution (again, not restricted to the American West). I think it is fair to share a disclaimer that sometimes I feel incoherent (lack of sleep and all) so maybe I will sound incoherent. Also, there is this:
At least there is a dinosaur to sooth my frustrations.
Connectivity is weird on the road, especially in parks. I know, I know: I am supposed to connect with nature! Between cell phone reception and internet, I don't always have access to sharing or posting. It's a real bummer sometimes. But I will try.  
So that's that. Here's to Everything New This Season, including the costumes.
DISCLAIMER: I still wrote all this nonsense on my own time and these are all my own thoughts! I could have been napping, but I am not!