It's been a while, hasn't it?

I'm not exactly sure where to start, to be honest. Maybe the good things that happened this past year?


*crickets chirp*


Well, my mother managed to get through her bout with breast cancer mostly intact. That was good.


Also, I finished my fine arts degree, seven years later. In December, actually, instead of May, when I'd actually completed the last of my coursework, because I was a fucking wreck thinking about my mother lying in bed, barely able to move, barely able to eat, constantly in pain from the treatments she was undergoing an ocean away, and, well, handing in that paperwork just slipped my darned mind. Golly gee.

No one likes to be reminded that their parents aren't immortal super-beings who will always be there when you need them. The thought is terrifying when you first experience it as a child. You file it away in the darkest corner of your brain and do your best not to think about it again. Well, until something like this happens.

It probably doesn't help that my family has a habit of lying to each other through their goddamned teeth if they think that it'll make the other person worry less. They tend to be lies of omission, for the most part. (Hence the reason why my parents still don't know I'm just a leetle bit gay, or that I worked as an artist's model for about a year for extra money). My parents decided to lie about when my mother got sick, and just how serious it was. For the kids, of course. My father refused to let any of us come to visit them while she was undergoing treatment. There were no pictures, no descriptions of what was going on. No, that came afterwards, when it was all over. Everything was just fine, fine, fine while it was happening. Don't you worry.


But she's alive, and for now, that's what matters.


Other good things that happened? Well, as I threw in there somewhere, I managed to finish my fine arts degree. Which means I'd get an extra special paper hat when I applied for a minimum wage dead-end job. Or I would have, if I could have found some place that would hire me. Being unemployed for months on end, unable to even get a job at Starbucks, made me feel like finishing said degree was so worth it. Tee hee, I jest. They don't give you special paper hats; you have to make them out of your diploma.


I wound up taking one more class this past fall in order to get insurance coverage for the rest of the year. It was cheaper to pay $2000 for the policy and one class than to try and get a month-to-month plan. It was pretty much a blow-off course, but it kept me from going completely off the deep end from boredom and desperation.


Unsurprisingly, I sank into a serious depression once the semester started. This was far from the first time this has happened, so I more or less gritted my teeth and got through it. Until one day, I couldn't. So I forced myself to go back to the counseling center on campus and ask for help. I would rather have driven rusty nails through my skin than go, but I did it. My therapist, dealing with the psychological equivalent of a gunshot wound to the gut on top of a bunch of long-festering, suppurating sores, suggested medication once again.


Surprisingly, I agreed. (I have a rather poor record with pharmaceuticals, and generally prefer to suffer through things rather than deal with the side effects that tend to come along with medications.)

I've been on Lamictal since mid-October, more or less. It's a strange little medication. Designed as an anticonvulsant for epilepsy, it also works as a mood stabilizer for manic depression. Don't ask me how. All I know is that I'm under orders not to go off it suddenly, lest I wind up accidentally inducing a seizure.

Being diagnosed as bipolar is another positive thing that's happened this year, I guess. Or at least it means I won't be prescribed medication that causes fits of mania anymore.

Also, to be fair, whatever the medication actually does, it's helping. For the most part, my depressive cycle's gone from being months long to being a few days, maybe a couple weeks at the outside. On the down side, it's a lot more painful to go from being up to down now, since it's no longer a slow decline so much as a switch that gets flicked from off to on.


In addition to the magical piece of toilet paper that is my diploma and eight more months of health insurance, I also came away from this past semester with a new goal: to apply for and complete a master's degree in art conservation. There is no work available in Buffalo for an artist, a theatrical costumer, or a copy editor-- at least, none that I've found. There's almost certainly no work here for a conservationist, but I'm pretty damned sure that it exists in other cities, and at a higher pay grade than operating the fryer at the local burger joint.


So I've decided to go back to school-- for realz, this time-- and begin the coursework needed to apply to a master's program next spring.

Meet a brand-spanking-new chemistry major.




I've already had issues trying to get into the courses I need to complete my goal along the timeline I've set. There was a Kafkaesque dance with the school bureaucracy that lasted several weeks to make sure that I did, in fact, graduate in December. I was only able to begin registering for courses on Thursday, and classes officially start on Monday. Not least of all, the main course I need to take, Fundamentals of Chemistry, is completely full. I need to beg, borrow, or steal my way into that course, because, goddammit, I'm not letting anything get in my way from now on.


Not bureaucracy. Not anxiety. Not my own brain doing its best to sabotage my efforts. I have a goal now, and I'm going to go through with it if it kills me.

Hello, nodegel. Here's a cross-posted announcement that I put up on my website last Monday and onto Facebook on Wednesday afternoon. Thought it'd be good to share it here for good measure.

Noders of a particular vintage might recall that I made a similar announcement all the way back in March 2005, but had to abandon those plans due to a lack of funds and experience. I moved to Arizona instead (as chronicled here), then to the PNW a year later. I'm five years older and five years better prepared now; it's much more of a sure thing this time. And it's got me excited as hell. ~RP

The big news

So, I won't bury the lede here. The big news is this: On Friday July 1st 2011, I will be leaving Bellingham. I'll be leaving with a backpack, a change of clothes, 30-odd pounds of carefully selected and tested gear, and some boots. Good, well broken-in boots, because my car will be staying here. I'll be leaving on foot.

I'm planning to take a shakedown hike through the San Juan Islands, then later in July I'll be meeting up with my dad and sister at Sea-Tac and I'll spend a week touring around NW Washington with them. After that I intend to hike the PCT from Mt Rainier to Cascade Locks, and west up the Gorge to Portland. From there, I'd like to hike farther south on the PCT from Mt Hood to Crater Lake. From there, who knows. I see trails, trains, and many long-missed friends and family members in my future.

I'd like to end up Back East eventually-- I've never seen many of the east coast states, and most of my family lives in Florida now. I have old friends in the Carolinas and in Maryland who I haven't seen in half-a-forever. Of course I'd love to get back to Michigan for an extended visit too. I likely won't be able to fit all or most of that into this year, but starting this summer I aim to have lots of time on my hands and few obligations, and thus fewer excuses not to keep right on travelling. With luck, that'll carry over well into next year and beyond. Remember: it's always summer somewhere.

I plan to get back to Bellingham eventually-- I love it here, after all-- but it won't be for quite some time, and it probably won't be to stay.

I informed Kevin (the miller / my boss) on the first of the year; I've told my sister, mom & dad, a bunch of my local friends. They've all taken the news quite well. That's been incredibly encouraging, thanks you all. (I'd been wanting to tell the rest of you all weeks ago, but haven't had the time or energy to write this properly until now.)

I'll try and explain my motivations more in later posts, but it all comes back to old ideas of living simply combined with post-industrial ideas about making a living through ingenuity. To quote an influential document: "Appropriate technology, green thinking, machines doing what machines do best, people doing what people do best."

Those of you who know me know that I've been harboring such notions for quite some time. The big news isn't that I'm leaving town on an extended backpacking trip to tromp around the States on foot. The big news is that I've picked a date.

July 1st 2011! Fourth of July weekend, baby. My phone has a little home-screen display that I've programmed to countdown the days. Today is D-165. Only twenty-three and a half weeks until July. In the meantime, I have a lot of preparing to do.

As I cryptically alluded last time, I have a New Year's Resolution going to sleep outside 1 day out of every 7. Every Saturday, to be precise. It's been coooold the past two weekends and I've chickened out, but this weekend I'm hoping to drive up to Lynden with some gear and camp out in a friend's backyard at least.*

*Update 1-23-11: Turns out, this bit didn't happen. It's been in the 40s and raining steadily all weekend. Blah. ~RP

This week I've also started switching my everyday diet over to trail foods-- natural dry milk, good ol' granola, organic dehydrated potato flakes, trail mix. Not a huge stretch away from my usual diet really, but I may as well start now.

I'm also leaving my car parked at home again this week and getting back to my daily routine of taking the commuter bus to Burlington then walking from Cook Road Park-N-Ride to the flour mill each morning. That's about a 1.5 mile hike along the railroad grade-- or 3 miles round-trip every day, with a light pack that I'll gradually be filling to full travel weight. I put up some photos of my daily commute on Flickr yesterday; it's actually quite a lovely walk most days (and of course I'll be saving hundreds of dollars in gas money in the process). Have a looksy.

In five and a half months, I aim to be ready to leave my cozy home here in the top-left corner of the map and get back out into the wider world again.

Every morning I wake up and think,
“oh, there are so very many things.”

Yet all through the day I forget this, and I am glued in place by matters of little consequence.


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