I woke up this morning hungover and hungry. I bought another pack of beer with a skull on it, and it was terrible. School starts up in about a week and a half, and I’m not looking forward to it. Teachers and students are all making their way back on campus and I’m nowhere near ready for them yet. Earlier this week, the governor updated his mask mandate to include schools, which threw everyone on our staff and all the parents of our kids into a tussle. I’ve been wearing a mask all week, and you know what? I don’t like it. It fogs up my glasses and makes my beard sweat. But I’m still going to wear it. Apparently, a parent of a student tested positive for the virus and school hasn’t even started yet, so who even knows what’s going to happen in the long run.
It’s Saturday, and I’m headed off to work for a few hours before my mini-vacation next week. God knows I need it.
I went for my first walk of the week. I wasn’t expecting anything special, but when I looked out across the creek, I saw these ducks relaxing on the water. I hung out with them for a bit and took a few pictures, but my session with them ended early when I ran out of memory on my SD card. I only have the one, and I figured that’s a good enough reason to invest in another one. I like how much easier it is for me to leave the house than it had been before. One of my goals had been to expand my walls beyond the physical ones of my home, and I think I’m succeeding. It’s a slow journey.
For the past few years, I’ve been following Craig Mod, a writer, photographer, and walker based in Japan. What attracted me to him was how he was living the type of life I wanted to live. He would walk hundreds of miles across Japan, take beautiful photographs, and later write about his journey. He would talk to people and learn about the land and eat new food and otherwise absorb the world in a way I wanted to do, too. Last year, he wrote this essay about his quest for pizza toast that has stuck with me since I read it. I’ve had this crazy dream to walk across America and do something similar to what Craig does, but I don’t know if I have what it takes. But there’s something about walking, photography, and writing that appeals to me so much. I wonder if I’ll ever get to do a long walk like he has done, something in the 500–1,000 mile range. Maybe one day.
It was a cold and cloudy day, and I spent a majority of it indoors. I skipped another workout because of my back, and as I sat on my couch and watched another episode of One Piece, I felt unaccomplished and lazy. “You should do yoga,” a friend of mine told me yesterday. “It’ll help with your back.” I said that I should, that I have Beachbody On Demand so I have access to quality yoga videos, but I didn’t. Instead, I watched an old man yank on Luffy’s outstretched neck and help him pull himself up from the water. Luffy then rejoined the fight and defeated the super strong fishman. I cheered and felt happy.
“I’m not a young man anymore,” I told my friend. “I can’t push through the pain anymore. I have to listen to my body.” My back continues to hurt, and I think I will take the week off from my workouts. I asked for next Monday and Tuesday off from work, and I’m going to spend those days relaxing. The weather should hit the high 90s early next week, and I’m hoping to drag myself out of my house and go to the river or the lake. I haven’t walked for a few days, and I miss it.
Sat down to take a breath in my office and wondered how much time I had left before school started. I looked at my calendar and realized it was still on July. I flipped it over to August and noticed the “Welcome Back!” message, and all I felt was dread. “All the teachers are coming back,” a coworker told me. “Yeah,” I said. “I think I miss the kids more than I do the teachers.” She laughed and said, “Me too. The teachers are just so needy.”
I’ve spent the last week taking down one computer lab and refreshing another. My fingers are sore from plugging and unplugging cables, and I’m tired from lugging desktops and monitors from one building to another. There’s a certain sense of accomplishment, though, when everything is ready and I push the On button on two dozen desktops and see them all spark with life. I’ve been at this job for six years, and I continue to feel joy when the machines I’m in charge of hum happily in the background. I can’t wait to see the kids use them.
Joe Biden chose Kamala Harris as his running mate last night, and I felt the same vibe when Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination twelve years ago. Four years ago, many of my coworkers and friends in Montana voted for Donald Trump to be president, a stark contrast from twelve years ago when my coworkers and friends voted for Barack Obama in California. All the pollsters and pundits predicted a Hillary Clinton win in 2016, and all the pollsters and pundits predict a Joe Biden win this November. I don’t know if I trust anything they say, but in my characteristically contradictory nature, I subscribed to the New York Times last night for the first time in my life. Other than unlimited access to their reporting, I wanted access to their crossword and their vegan recipes. Like with anything else, I’ll see how it goes.
Like I feared, the pain in my lower back has impacted how I spend my time. It hurts to get out of bed, it hurts to stand up from my seat, and it hurts to bend down or twist to the side when I’m standing. But I’ve been here before. With enough rest and time, the pain will fade until it no longer hurts. Can the same be said about wearing masks?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve noticed more and more people not wearing them inside grocery stores with signs on their doors that mandate them. People are brazenly and shamelessly defying common sense and altruism for what? A twisted sense of patriotism? Of liberty? Of not wanting to be muzzled? At this point, I’m tired of this. Yesterday I received a package of more masks for me to wear, and I’m going to wear them. I believe in their effectiveness, and I want to do my part to ease the pain this godforsaken virus has caused and will cause. Because like the rest of the world, I want this to be over sooner rather than later.
Drove my car through a car wash and enjoyed the show. After, I took my car for a drive and tested my new tires. They drove beautifully. I went and bought a tribal conservation permit, but instead of putting it to use immediately, I drove back home and spent the rest of Sunday lazily. I turned on my PS4 for the first time in almost two months and played The Last of Us Part II. I finished watching I Know This Much is True on HBO Max, and I thought Mark Ruffalo was incredible. I watched the season finale of Perry Mason and enjoyed the conclusion. I went to bed and watched another episode of One Piece before I fell asleep. I think I dreamt about Taylor Swift, but I’m not sure. I woke up with a pain in my lower back, and I’m afraid it’ll sideline me for the week.
In The Last of Us Part II, Ellie keeps a notebook to document her thoughts and sketches, and her pages are beautiful. I love notebooks so much, and hers inspired me. I thought about this website and how it reminds me of a notebook. Every photo is taken the day before I write my entries, and along with my words, they constitute my journal, my notebook, and I love it. I’m eager to see where this goes.
Bought new tires for my car and imagined the unknown and untravelled journey that lies ahead. This followed a dream from the night before where my car wouldn’t start. I turned and turned the key in the ignition but all I heard was the sputtering of the engine and no spark. An omen, perhaps, or just a dream. Sometimes I wonder what life would be like if I lived in a time of magic and wonder, where dreams were taken more seriously and where my night terrors are caused by the devil and his minions. But we live in a time of science and enlightenment, a time with its own magic and wonder. One of my favorite memories of my time in Montana has been when I enter any of the elementary school classrooms and fix a teacher’s technology problem. The eyes on the kids when they see the computer working again is intoxicating. Their eyes are full of their own magic and wonder, and I’m the magician. If only I can fix all life’s problems like I can a computer.
A few nights ago, the school board approved a tentative reopening plan for the 2020–2021 school year. A majority of our students and staff will return to school if they choose; there is an option to offer remote learning to those families who don’t yet feel safe sending their kids back. School will shift to a four-day school week with every Friday being a remote learning day. Masks are not mandatory in all situations; teachers have the option to either require them or not, and there will be zones around campus where masks are required. Sports, as of today, will return in the fall, and I think that’s what most people want more than anything else. It’s safe to say that staff, parents, and students are tired of this godforsaken virus and want things to return to normal, and I hope this plan gives them that.
However, I foresee God laughing at our plan and our desire for normalcy, and the next few months will be a playground for misery and despair. The MLB can’t keep their adult players from going to casinos and contracting and spreading the virus, and I can’t see our kids doing any better. Our plan allows kids to do both remote learning and sports, and I can’t follow the logic there. We still don’t know how adept kids are in spreading the virus, yet people take this lack of knowledge as permission to do what they want. I overheard a parent say he’s against mask wearing, but he will send his kid to school with a red “Trump 2020” mask in protest. I imagine he shares the same type of brain as the person who designed this Mexican restaurant’s logo and thought it a good idea: a Mexican with a sombrero holding a taco and riding a skateboard. It’s illogical and racist and I doubt anyone in the valley feels the same way.
Woke up to a power outage, and my first thought was, Shit, I can’t make coffee. I order my coffee beans online on a weekly schedule, and each bag is different. One might come from Texas this week and the next one might come from Peru. I have a coffee grinder that can hold an entire 12oz bag of beans, and I have set it to a fine grind, suitable for my AeroPress. I’ve been making AeroPress coffee for the majority of my time in Montana, and I haven’t switched it up because this device makes delicious coffee. I have an electric gooseneck kettle that allows me to control the water temperature to the right degree. 205ºF, if you’re wondering. Finally, I have a kitchen scale that helps me weigh it all down in 0.1-gram increments. It’s a beautiful morning routine, one that helps me start my day my way. Friends have ridiculed me for having this routine, but I don’t care. It’s mine, it makes me happy, and I love it.
The moon no longer looks full in the sky. I’ve never studied the phases of the moon, but perhaps I can start. Some cultures have personified the moon as a deity, some God with supernatural abilities. Others have used the moon to help them keep track of time. In fact, the etymology of the English word month stems from the moon and the interval between one new moon and the next. But for me, the moon can be my anchor while I try to figure out what comes next. When I feel lost, I can always look up at the sky and see the moon and understand its phases and perhaps feel its supernatural abilities to help me figure out what might come next. Right now it’s telling me that I need to make another cup of coffee, so that’s what I will do.
The other day I asked a friend if she had read any of my entries on this website, and she said she hadn’t. I told her I wanted to know if it sounded like I hated Montana. “No you don’t,” she said. “You love it.” I have my doubts. The thing is, I don’t think I’ve ever felt love toward any of the places I’ve lived in throughout my life. Settling down in any one place scares me, and I don’t know why. It might be a fear of stasis, of seeing the road ahead and not walking it, of leaving things alone. As much as I have lived my life in fear of so many things, I’m afraid of not moving the most. Every time I move, I discover something new about myself, something that prepares me for my next journey, and it’s that realization that fuels me, that gives life meaning. I understand that not all journeys require a new place to live. I’ve yet to be married or have kids or own a house, things that will take me on new journeys, on new paths of self-discovery, and perhaps that’s where I’m headed. The thing about life is that no one what’s coming next, but the thing about humanity is that we have the power to shape our paths, to forge our own destinies.
I just wish I knew what to do next because I’m not sure. I guess I have to keep walking to find out.