Mandala Reflections often visits the holistic experience of well-being as it relates to personal vocation and self-realization in the greater world. Guest blogger and Crew Leader for Montana Conservation Corps, Anne Higgins, is taking what some might call an “alternative” route in the work she does, and yet her and her “job” fit nicely into this larger conversation about vocation and the meaning of life. Mandala Reflections is honored to share her eloquent work, “The MCC Forecast,” adapted from a piece by Douglass Wood.
There is a 95% chance that today’s weather will be either too hot, too cold, too sunny, too rainy, or too windy.
From a desktop sign, Quetico Park Visitors Center
In many ways, trail work is an endlessly repeated exercise in various modes of misery, each one a contrast – therefore, a relief, albeit temporary – to the misery preceding it. So there is always the illusion of looking forward to something that will most likely be … another misery.
Trail work could in fact be described as swinging or cutting or chopping or digging until arms ache, back hurts, skin is burned, legs are cramped and muscles twitch.
Finally a break and a chance to bump camp and a chance to stop swinging, chopping, digging and move to a new area. Also a chance to deal with blackflies, deerflies, and various other versions of evil incarnate; a chance to climb up and down hills with loads that would crush a burro, that strain neck, back, and hamstrings and threaten to drive shoulder blades through hips; a chance to wade through mud, muck and other corruption, to climb over and under deadfalls and trip over stuff and to figure that death will probably arrive – mercifully – before this infernal trail reaches sight of an open, sandy grassy campsite. Where of course, the cycle begins again.
The greater goal and end of this particular cycle is the evening camp, that blessed spot of rock and tree kissed by evening breezes and the last slanted rays of the sun. Having found the camp, at whatever stage of exhaustion seems appropriate to the lateness of the hour and the rigors of the day, it is time to set up the tent, gather water, start the stoves, get out the food, cook the food, and …ahhh…eat. And drink. In a warm and happy trance of pure bliss and satisfaction. This lasts… some moments. With the arrival of the evening watch of mosquitoes, the cooking gear is up-gathered and washed; the food repacked; the pack hoisted and hung safe from bears, mini-bears (chipmunks), and micro-bears (mice); personal hygiene is attended to; the tent entered; tent invading mosquitoes dispatched (except for three which are never found); the sleeping bag snuggled into and finally, sleep. The sweet, dark, wonderful nothingness of…Rock. Root. Pinecone. These are the nemeses that will be there, along with the three renegade mosquitoes, all through the night. They will become intimate with back, sides, and stomach, with muscles, bones, and insides – and loom ever larger and sharper and more offensive in the imagination and the anatomy, until dawn cannot come too soon.
And with the arrival of dawn – the pack is lowered (mini-bears found it anyway), breakfast cooked, water filled, camp attended to, and – back to trail work once more.
So why…why go through it? Why even be here?
The second answer is easy. Because “here” is where the beauty is. Here is where the sunsets are. Here is where the campsites and campfires are, and the clear deep waters, and the wildlife, and the pines, and the mountains. And yes, the storms and the big winds and the downfalls. Here is where the journey is.
But why go through it? Why do I…why do I go through it? I think because no one else can go through it for me. And because the modern city-world system uses people to get work done. Important work, supposedly. That’s the whole idea. That’s why we get paid. But here – here I’m using work … to get myself done. What better work is there than that?
Anne is a Crew Leader for Montana Conservation Corps. Her crew goes out into the Bitterroot National Forest for 8- 10 days at a time, maintaining back country trails. (Anne is much more than her work, and I personally adore her).
A closing quote to bring it back to Mandala Reflections and the greater community:
“Work is one of the most far-reaching mysteries in a human life. Because it is so common and so much a part of everyday life, it’s tempting to consider work only on a literal level–as a way of making a living. Yet…work is what makes life worth living and accounts for meaning and deep satisfaction…If we were to appreciate more fully the connection between work and our general emotional state, we might withdraw our attention from narcissistic preoccupation with self and find the soul at work in the world. Then we might also realize that it isn’t enough to consider work only in relation to personal and individual issues of meaning and emotion, but that work always implicates family, neighborhood, community, nation, and the globe itself. If the soul is to be served adequately, it isn’t sufficient to find meaningful work for the individual; we also have to examine our social, corporate, and political views on work.” -Thomas Moore
Anne, you continue to make your family and community proud of the work you do, and I can’t wait to learn what’s next on your journey. Thank you for sharing your soul with the world.