Sunday, April 27, 2008

3 Weeks

I'm realizing I've never really left behind a place before: West Hartford will always feel like home, and I will always be back there for a week or so every year. My stint in Haverford last year was my shortest since I arriving at college--at a solid two months. And now I'll be spending another year there. Every few months I seem to hope a plane and head home--to one of my homes. I take note of what new changes have accrued and then fall into easy old rhythms.

My roots in South Dakota feel much less permanent, though: within a year or two, all my close friends here will have picked up and moved on, too, to somewhere else.

When I come out to visit next year, I imagine it will be strangely unlike coming home. For the first time in my life I will be visiting an old home, a place I once lived in and (probably) never will again; revisiting a part of my life, that, unlike even college, won't be truly repeatable again.

It will be strange. I'm already over prone to nostalgia.

South Dakota Weather

For the past two weeks, South Dakota has been at its springtime best: every day I walk out of school with my shirtsleeves rolled up; the sun is shining; even the grass, usually dry and brown, is turning green after the snow. Camping weather, finally.

We made plans to head to Custer. Then I started checking the weather: high of 53 on Saturday. Then a revision: high of 48 on Saturday. High of 42 on Saturday. High of 38 on Saturday. 60% chance of precipitation on Saturday.

So camping turned into cabining.

Saturday turned out be a nice day. It was sunny but cool in the morning. In the afternoon we decided to drive to Little Devil's Tower. My guidebook said it was a hike suitable for families with small children.

When we got in the cars it was 40 degrees out, cold but sunny, a beautiful day. Within the 15 minutes it took us to get into the park, the temperature had dropped to 30. Still nice if you kept moving.

Passing into the rocks.

The hike was flat at first. Then it started to get steeper. And steeper.

Small children can't climb rocks like this.

The top of the hike was great. We were scrambling straight up rock faces. Atop the mountain, we had a view on one side of Cathedral Spires (I think) and on the other Harney Peak. The other side of Harney Peak was lost in a low-lying cloud. A bitter wind blew across the mountain. And as we waited for the stragglers to arrive, the clouds moved closer.

Soon a few tiny bits of snow were swirling in the wind. By the time I made my final ascent, I could not even see the outline of Harney Peak and the Spires were a swirl of mist. Just clouds.

Climbing in the snow.

Zach enjoying the view and the snow.

Within the twenty minutes we spent on top of the mountain, we found ourselves in a full on blizzard. An inch of snow had accumulated before we made it off the rocks--nearly an inch by the time we made it back to the cars.

And for those keeping score: 65 degrees and sunny today.

Cross reference the first photo to see the changing conditions.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

4 Weeks

Four weeks with students; five weeks at school; six weeks--maybe--in South Dakota.

I'm anticipating the end of my teacherly responsibilities with a good bit of impatience, something I feel somewhat bad about. But then I stop to think about what teacher does not look forward to the summmer? It's one of the perks of the job, really.

Four more weeks with students still seems like a lot of lesson plans and tests and, yes, behavior problems. Seeing the end so close deflates my work ethic: I just wish it was here already (and there will be a lot of work in these four weeks, unfortunately). It's a microcosm of my two-year experience; knowing that there was a best-used-by date on my teaching career made me less invested in a lot of aspects of teaching. I would've done much better, I know, if I had thought of this as an experience with no end.

Only six more weeks in this state, though, seems like a damn short time: that's really six more chances to go camping, to walk through the Badlands, or to hang out with the friends I've met here.

My parents came to visit this weekend, and I took them to some of the local "attractions": we hiked out on Eagle Nest Butte, seven miles south of town, and out at Wolf's Table, in the Badlands seven miles north. We drove 50 miles north to Philip for dinner, the first time I've been to the town; two nights ago we ate at Club 27 in Kadoka, the first time in my two years I've made it there, either. I also talked a lot: told them a lot of the little stories from the past two years that I hadn't shared yet. I've always known that I'd get nostalgic when it came time to leave here; it's in my nature to be wistful about everything I leave behind. Now I'm starting to see where that nostalgia will leak out from, and it's making the littlest experiences--a sunny day, or a drive through a canyon--seem that much more poignant.

Sunday, April 06, 2008


I'm stressed right now. As previously mentioned, I visited the Crow Peak Brewing Company yesterday and talked for a while with Jeff Drumm, the owner and brewer. (It was awesome. Great beer and the coolest bar I've been to in South Dakota.) Today I've been trying to pound the interview into an article. I've got about 700 words written and I'm realizing I have a lot to learn about journalism. Never mind the fact that I have three more brewers to interview yet, at which point I will probably have to rework what I've already got. I've put aside the many other things I need to work on--lesson plans this week, preparatory work for my conference in Houston next weekend, plans for the PLC I am facilitating in two weeks--and spend 5 hours writing this instead. I probably will take a while falling asleep tonight as I work out ways I could improve the thing.

I recently came across Health Magazine's ranking of the most (and least) stressful jobs.

The relevant points:

1. Inner City HS Teacher
7. Journalist

I'm going to assume my job is just about as stressful as an inner city high school teacher's, for obvious reasons. So I'm moving up in the world! If all goes according to plan, I will no longer have the world's most stressful job--just it's seventh most stressful!

The difference: I'm excited to stay up late and write and edit and rewrite. Making lesson plans? Not so much.

Time to go do some of that other work before my bed calls.

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Coming Soon: South Dakota Brewpubs

I may be doing a magazine article on South Dakota's local brewpubs in the near future. Stayed tuned for info and photos on Crow Peak Brewing in Spearfish and the oft-visited Firehouse in Rapid City. I'm hoping to get tours and do interviews this weekend.