Today is day 4. Day 1 was Monday, when I saw a bald eagle, both flying and sitting in a nest. Day 2 was Tuesday, when I saw a different bald eagle, both flying and sitting in a (different) nest. This one flew directly over us, which is supposed to be a good omen. Day 3, Wednesday, I saw a black bear (cinnamon-colored; black bear describes a species which comes in different colors). Well, I saw its butt as it ran away.
Today--day 4, like I said--I saw a toad. Well, I saw more than a toad. Although I didn't see any "charismatic megafauna" today, I did have a pretty cool experience. It happened while I was about to measure the diameter of a very large (over 4' in diameter, which is by far not the largest conifer I've seen so far, although still very large) ponderosa pine. I walked around it to the uphill side, which was draped in the tree's shadow. Sticking out from under a section of the yellowish bark was a mass of grayish-colored plant debris--old pine needles, twigs, etc. I was puzzled. It reminded me of what remnants from a high-water line would look like, except they were under the bark.
Curious, I began inspecting this mystery with my fingers. No sooner had I gotten closer than I realized what I was looking at. At that very moment, I was looking at a little forest bird, sitting in its unusual, hidden nest. It blinked. I blinked. I could have caught this bird with my bare hands quite easily, and my face was about a foot away from its. I looked at it for a moment, then called my teammates to see. The bird stayed, frozen except for blinking, lest it give away the location of its nest through movement.
We backed off. It flew away. I measured the tree. It flew back.
That was very cool.
So, yes, in case you didn't know, I'm in the beginning of my summer job working for an awesome sustainable timber company in Chester, Ca, near Mt. Lassen. Welcome to my expository journal entry.
This job isn't all amazing wildlife encounters, although they are frequent. There are bad parts. I suppose I can list waking up at 5:00 every morning, although I'm getting used to it and I'm even against the suggestion by my boss that we bump back our start time by a half hour. One natural problem with these early hours of the day is that it's fucking cold. Really. This morning wasn't bad at all, but some other mornings this week have rendered my fingers immobile and left me with fingertips that sting until the next morning. There's hunger and fatigue, but there's always hunger and fatigue no matter what you do, isn't there?
I'd like to take a moment to describe my co-workers:
Craig is my partner. We'll be working together as a team of two for the next eleven weeks. We live together in a cute house on the company lot. Craig goes to Cal; we went to camp together. He's a military veteran of our now-forgotten war in Afghanistan and looks very, very strong. He's quiet except when there are guys around talking about things like hunting or pulling pranks, but we share politics. So far I'm under the impression we're not nearing sick of each other, but I'm not sure what he thinks of me.
Today we spent half the day working alone together for the first time, and I had a lot of fun.
Andy is our boss. Andy is a smallish-framed guy but very strong. He cracks jokes all day and likes to take long random breaks to tell us stories detailing why he can't stand the Forest Service bird guy, etc. He chews dip and apparently this makes you spit all day long; in the truck he spits into his coffee cup. He's a Cal grad and is very "Go-Bears!". Jeff Tedford (this is the coach of our football team) just bought a $2 million+ house up here on the lake and now he's having Andy cut down some trees that are blocking his view of Lassen. This excites Andy tremendously.
But honestly Andy is the best boss I've ever had, by quite a bit. He gives encouragement and scolding as appropriate, and is very open and fun to be around. He used to hang around Barrington. I like Andy, but he and I don't have the same kind of bond that he and Craig do.
Sometimes I feel a little bitter about what I perceive to be a "boys' club" with some people up here, but more and more I'm getting used to it. After all, these people have less in common with me than with each other. So far, only Craig knows I'm a vegetarian.
Don't get me wrong: I'm having a lot of fun up here. I'm particularly enjoying the independence, which I would say is the highest degree I've experienced so far. My waking hours are in exact sync with the sunlight (read: I go to bed at 9:00) which feels pretty cool. I'm surrounded by massive trees, snags, beetles, butterflies, birdsongs, deer, creeks, pretty clouds, all these things. And I get to watch them and think about my life and the people I know. Life is a funny and unpredictable thing, isn't it? That's the conclusion I've come to.