December 06, 2006

Thinking About Paths

Things I've Learned:
1) The black-throated sparrow can survive in the desert and low-water conditions by, eating insects and green vegetation and then metabolize moisture from their food. They can also reduce losing moisture in their waste by one forth when water is scarce (Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country).
2) The Plains prickly pear has a larger inhabitated range than most cacti. It can be found from southern sections of Canada to Texas. Unlike most cacti, the plains prickly pear can survive at, or below, freezing temps (Naturalist's Guide to Canyon Country).
3) The dry, fluffy snow that makes the "famous powder" in Utah is called Talcum Snow.
4) In 1976, the Chicago White Soxs baseball team's uniform included shorts!
5) While taking a "Blog Hiatus," I learned that I really enjoy Nordic skiing.

This past weekend I went to Millcreek Canyon to go Nordic skiing with some friends and I had a blast! It was more fun that I expected, to tell you the truth; at first I couldn't imagine that trying to "jog" up-hill on skis in the freezing cold could be much fun, but I proved myself wrong. Now by no means am I claiming to be any good at this sport, in fact, a friend compared me to a clumsy duck on ice-skates. Never the less, this new adventure was a lot of fun and it's a new activity that I intend on doing more often.

After this weekend I thought, 'Did I ever imagine that I'd find myself in the mountains enjoying Nordic skiing?' I've been in Utah for 11 months now and sometimes I still can't believe I'm here and seeing what I'm seeing, doing what I'm doing or experiencing what I'm experiencing. I mean, I'm a girl from a town of 500 people; Hawk Point, MO, a town I love and call home. As hard as it was for me to leave my corner of the world, I went to the "big city" of Springfield, MO for school and now I find myself 1300 miles away in the "booming" area of Salt Lake City, having an array of experiences of a lifetime.

Admist this reflection I think, 'Wow, how did I get here? What events in my life lead me to Nordic skiing in Millcreek Canyon this weekend? What has influenced or inspired me to be where I am today?' Could this be a debate of Nature vs. Nuture -- was I determined to be on this path? No, I don't think so, I think life throws all sorts of forks in the road that we decide (consciously or no) to take.

One path that I took to get where I am now is an academic path, a path of curiosity. I remember in 6th grade, me and my classmates took a test that would tell us what we're "supposed to be when we grow-up." I don't really remember what the test said, all I remember is that I tried to figure out the test so that I could be told that I'd have a "cool" job. Turns out, the test didn't really have any influence on me, but picking up a copy of National Geographic later that day did. For various reasons like getting to travel, write, meet interesting people, take pictures, and getting paid to do so, I decided that I wanted to be a photojournalist. I followed that academic path throughout high school, on my own and onto college where I got involved with a lot of volunteering which lead me to the possibilities of AmeriCorps. I found the perfect AmeriCorps program for me. A program that would foster my desire to travel and try new things, write and help others; and now I'm sitting here, writing about the journey I've been on.

The academic path, however, was not the only route of getting to where I am today. There have been many paths that I am grateful for, paths filled with choices, chances, people and inspiration. One of my favorite sayings is, "I'd rather regret something I've done that regret something I didn't do." My mom always said (and no, I'm not trying to sound like Forrest Gump here), is that she regrets not doing something like the Peace Corps. I didn't want to live with a regret like that and so I did some research on AmeriCorps and, as the old saying goes, "the rest is history."

For me, the decision to actually join and go through with the AmeriCorps adventure wasn't as easy as it sounds. I was worried about the whole thing; Would I like it? Would I do a good job? Could I handle being 1300 miles away from home? Through my wavering confidence, I heard an old Zen saying, "Leap and the Net will Appear." Take this chance, take this opportunity and something will catch you.

How did I decide to come West? I had never been out West and I was curious about the romantic ideas of adventure and expanding the free-spirit. Perhaps this was inspired from hearing the free-spirit tales and adventures of some close friends that I greatly admire or from reading about Muir, Thoreau or Kerouac. Either way, it's another fork in the road that helped me find myself where I am today and doing things I've never dreamed of doing: River rafting, rock climbing, dog sledding and even Nordic skiing.

Reflecting upon the paths I've stumbled upon, blazed or trekked through, I'm grateful to be where I am and I can't help but wonder what will happen when I find the next fork in the road?

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