Unable to Concentrate

Every once in a while, I think I have a moment of clarity. Of inspiration. Of direction.

And then it’s gone.

It feels as though I am being pulled (pushed?) in several directions at once, and a) I’m not doing my best at anything and b) I feel like I am being separated from what I love: my passions and inspiration.

I know everyone must feel like this from time to time. I know I am not alone.

So how do you get yourself back? How do you regain focus and control?

A friend of mine issued a challenge (well, actually repeated another’s challenge to her) that we all write every day. First thing in the morning, after you do the basics, but before you check email or go to work.

For me, this is rather difficult. I am NOT a morning person. I barely get in the shower in the morning without injuring myself. Plus, I do go in to work fairly early. Getting something done before work? Not a chance!

But I have taken that challenge and adapted it to my life. I am going to sit down and write a little bit every day. I am going to sort out some of this blur of thoughts. This tangled, hurried, messy jumble in my brain. Maybe it will help me pare down the constant stream of project ideas, research topics, vacation planning, and of course, those audits at work.

No, I am not being audited; I am doing the auditing. I had 5 spreadsheets going today for one of my current cases. Now you see why my brain is messy?!?

Anyway, wish me luck, chime in to my thoughts if you like, and maybe challenge yourself. Who knows what we will figure out?


Stand Tall and Enjoy the View

Over the last decade or so, I have had the priviledge of watching a big change.

Believe me, change is never easy. It took me a couple of years to realize and accept this experience as a ‘priviledge’.

I know this sounds like I underwent some big transformation. Or my life took some unexpected turn. But really, I was mostly an observer. Sure, I went through the stages of grief and denial for this thing I loved so dearly. (‘This really isn’t going to be that big of a deal, right?’)


It turned out to be a very big deal. And one that also affected some of my friends. But in the summer of 2012, my thoughts were already changing, and one afternoon it just hit me:

You are never going to be this tall again.

I was at work in the Colorado River District of Rocky Mountain National Park. I was setting up for a Junior Ranger program which I was assigned to lead later that afternoon. So I was walking up the hill behind the Kawuneeche Visitor Center, setting out things for a game I would play with the Junior Rangers. Anyway, I sort of got lost in my own thoughts as I put my props in their places. I just sort of wandered around the hill, looking at the wildflowers blooming in the dappled sunlight on the forest floor.

As I walked, I knew it was a bit unusual to see that much sunlight reaching the forest floor, especially on the western slopes of these peaks, where the forests are a bit thick. But sunlight shining on the carpet of pine needles and Kinnikinnick was becoming more common. The Mountain Pine Beetle had really done a number on our magnificent pine forests, and it saddened me to think of all of the grey, needle-less trees on the slopes around me.

I knew the science behind the pine beetle epidemic; I explained it to park visitors every day. Understanding the process should make it a bit easier to take. I tried to keep myself away from the mindset I often heard visitors express, “Why are the trees all dead? Can’t the park do anything about it? It’s so ugly!”

But you see, it was easy to slip back into their mindset, focusing solely on the dead trees. Rocky Mountain National Park was my favorite place growing up, and still is today. And it hurt to see the widespread death. It just hurt. It was personal.

I’m not sure what shook me back to the present moment that afternoon. Perhaps it was the chattering of a squirrel. Or maybe some park visitors talking nearby (in a ranger uniform, you are rarely alone for very long, especially around the visitor centers). I took another glance over the slope and saw something amazing. Sure there were lots of dead trees towering over me.

But they were the past.

The future was all around me. All over that hillside, there were new members of that forest community standing tall, taking their place in the sun. Spruce and pine seedlings were popping up everywhere. Most of them were just small enough that some people might have disregarded their importance. I decided then and there to NOT be one of those people.

For once in my life, I was taller than the living forest.

Imagine that. At 5’2″, I am rarely taller than anything, except maybe some of those Junior Rangers. But here was this massive ecosystem renewing itself right at my feet. It’s hard to not be impressed when you get to see such an extensive changing of the guard, right before your eyes.

It made me appreciate the national park even more. This place is special because here we can experience things far bigger and more complex than our own existence. We can get a glimpse of our place in this system and the far-reaching effects we can force upon it.

I suppose I will put pen to paper again and talk about all of those forces another time. But for now, I have a bunch of friends all descending upon Rocky in the coming weeks for our annual snowshoeing get-together. I just hope everyone pauses to realize how tall we all are for this brief moment in the forest’s history.

Some Random Thoughts for a Sunday

1. People ask if you’ve read any good books lately. But I generally don’t have much to share. I am pretty sure they are looking for something ‘fun’ or ‘entertaining’. But outside of the occasional mystery or re-read of a Jane Austen novel (can you ever really get enough of Hercule Poirot or Mr. Darcy?!), I really don’t read much fiction. My current tome is this:


2. Granted, in school I grabbed on to math and science. History and civics classes were never much of interest to me. But as I have figured some things out about how I learn, I think these subjects never captured me because I couldn’t be active in them, like I could math and science. Math and science required me to think and to do. Social studies classes, at least as they were taught to me (from what I can remember), required me to merely memorize random facts. Memorization was always a losing battle with me.

3. Back to the book. Politics fascinates me, and I find working in such political entity both fascinating and entertaining. One of the chapters I just finished talked about President Hoover’s ideas and policies in the first half of the twentieth century. He talked about voluntary sacrafice a lot, both as a necessity to stave off coming crises and for personal political gains. It makes me wonder… How many modern Republicans have disavowed Hoover ideals? How many people even know what he wrote about or what he suggested to President Truman in the years after World War II?

4. How did those policies clear the way for our modern system of agriculture and food production? And the current quality problems we face in regards to food? (Emphasis mine.)

5. Back in my undergraduate years, I knew this young woman. We will call her “Red”, for the purposes of this discussion, because of her red hair. Something she said to me once stuck with me. I have no idea what we were talking about at the time, although I was probably questioning the ‘why’ of some or another concept, as I usually do. Anyway, Red giggled quietly, clapped her hand over her mouth, shook her head at me and said, “Jenny, you think too much.”
   To this day, that still stings horribly, and has forever shadowed my opinion of her. I believe it is our job as citizens, much less human beings, to question the world around us. If we are to learn, to grow, to help make this place a better place for us all, we must question our leaders and our institutions. If something is confusing, or doesn’t seem to work correctly, isn’t it better to point out the issues and change things for the better?

   Now, to the best of my knowledge, Red is still judging me on the paths I have NOT taken, and wondering why I think so much.

Let her wonder. Maybe the thinking will do her some good.

Meanwhile, I am going to keep learning and reading and questioning. This country we live in is amazing and I would rather be an active citizen than an armchair critic.

Where to begin?

To say I’m a little lost is easy. Actually, I feel like I’m in one of those TV scenes where the camera focuses on the person, but everything else around said person is blurry, noisy and out of control.

Four plus months into the new job and I feel like I’ve learned a lot. Mostly about certain parts of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) and which government departments and agencies are, uh, “special”. And really, that list doesn’t include the National Park Service. In fact, most Interior subagencies are fairly boring from a Personnel/Payroll/HR standpoint.

But of course, the U.S. Department of the Interior is responsible for processing many other agency’s personnel/payroll/HR paperwork (approximately 300,000 federal employee accounts to be more precise), so I’ve gained a bit of insight into a few other departments.

While I can’t delve into the details – much of the data I deal with daily is protected by privacy laws – this has provided me with a better baseline to understand the bureaucracy.

Yes, the B word. The bane of all Republicans everywhere, or at least the Republicans who I grew up around. (The other universal curse word, by the way, for this group of Republicans is “politicians” – meaning any, of course, that are not the RIGHT side of the aisle.)

The problem is, I’m willing to bet my college education (which is considerable) that most U.S. citizens really do NOT understand our country and our government as well as they like to tell people they do. “Bureaucracy” has become a buzz word when people want to complain. About everything. I have had to learn that I heard a lot of complaining when I was growing up. But I’m questioning the factual correctness of a lot of what I heard.

Now, I’m not going to say that problems don’t exist. They certainly do. But I wish more people would do their homework and actually understand that of which they speak – instead of just sharing memes on Facebook, as seems to be the habit these days.

It is infuriating to me. Absolutely infuriating. The problems themselves are infuriating. And the people who speak as though they are ‘experts’ (who are really just pandering to ‘leaders’, leaders who rely on the masses REMAINING uninformed and undereducated) are equally infuriating.

Please stop and think for a moment before you share any memes from one side of the political aisle. There is always two sides to every story. A good place to begin is to acknowledge the existence of both sides.

I have decided that I need a better understanding of the roots of our nation’s policies and beliefs. Because things have changed over time. But things have also stayed the same, in many ways. And it is one of my new goals to understand this much better.