It started with a dream and $1,200 in a shoebox.
My first night in Seattle, I cried myself to sleep. I could not believe that I had signed up to travel “clear across the country with no human or canine companion,” to quote a text I sent to a friend that same night. Now, nine weeks later, I struggle to leave.
BY CHANARA ANDREWS
Last summer I graduated from my undergraduate program at Seattle University. Less than 24 hours later a car packed full of food and gear would sustain my fellow backpacker and I for roughly the next 24 days. I guess I needed to get away from computers, classrooms, final exams, and general structure for a moment. Over 3,000 miles of driving, and 250 miles of hiking, as leisurely as you can do it, is not always relaxed, even if it is rewarding. Carrying everything you may possibly need leaves little room for indulgence; yet I dream of being in the glacial lakes, soaring mountains and endless horizons no matter the toil.
Artist’s Statement: In the 4 years that I have lived in Seattle, the closest I had gotten to Mt. Rainier was driving up Boren and seeing the mountain through the gap between buildings. She remained a constant backdrop, only available in the summer months, coming out and reminding us that spring has arrived along with clear, blue views of the Cascades from any rooftop in Seattle. But Rainier remained a distant, inaccessible landmark until I was finally able to camp with IMBY and get to experience the mountain up close. I wanted to capture this new view I had of Mt. Rainier, both literally and figuratively, by drawing her portrait from the Longmire Campground. I spent quite a bit of time drawing on this trip, taking time to examine flowers, leaves, and cones. Drawing and sketching the world around me is how I connect to the natural world, and capturing those majestic moments cause me to reflect on the experience and reexamine what I saw. It allows me to reexperience the moment in a different light.
After spending a night at Mount Rainier National Park with my fellow IMBY teammates and supervisors, I realized that packing my snow jacket and ski pants was a great idea. For a girl that loves the heat and gets cold fairly easy, my ski outfit was definitely the way to go when the sun went down. Yes, I may have looked and sounded like a goof because I ‘swished’ every move I made from the nylon in my jacket and pants, but I don’t regret my decision of whipping those bad boys on.
Growing up in a very practically minded family, my parents always told me, “You can wear whatever you want but you cannot complain.” This resulted in my clothing choices maybe not being always the most practical; as a child I liked to wear my butterfly embroidered jeans when visiting the park on mid July afternoons, and my poorly insulated pink petticoat to the outdoor ice arena in December. Rarely was I suitably dressed for the situation but I felt like I had the freedom of choice and consequently I never wanted to complain. I had some control over the situation I was in, therefore, I was in control of my attitude. I still carry that same mindset with me today.
In my last post, I said that coffee was Seattle’s redeeming quality. I’d like to retract that statement. The more time I spend here, the less the area seems to need redemption. This is especially evidenced in its natural beauty. I have yet to encounter a space in the city that doesn’t offer a picturesque view of mountains, beautifully inviting waters, or trees galore. Before coming to the Pacific Northwest, my experience with the outdoors was comprised almost entirely of family cookouts, city parks, and beach trips. These things have always been a part of my life, but I never considered them enough to call myself an outdoors person.
BY CHANARA ANDREWS
“In four hundred feet, turn right,” Siri prompts me. Despite my unwavering loyalty to my handheld lifeline, I manage to get lost anyway. It’s my third day in Seattle, my second time utilizing public transit, and my first day of work; I’ve got all the makings of what Judith Viorst and Alexander would call a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Still, I journey on. The wave of relief I feel seeing the green “Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park” text over a set of double doors washes me up on the shore of reality as these same doors fail to open. I turn in confusion and despair and see excitement personified in a 5’3”, red-haired woman. “Chanara?!” Yes! I am Chanara! Please help me! I think this but simply respond, “Yes! Good morning, it’s nice to meet you.” The South in me wants to hug her upon meeting, but I’ve noticed that people don’t do that sort of thing up here. Thinking on this, I realize that there are quite a few disparities between here and home. I, Toto, am no longer in Kansas.
by Chanara Andrews
I am struggling a bit to write this post. I’ve started and stopped three times. As I reflect back on this summer with IMBY there are almost too many experiences I could write about. We took amazing trips to National Parks, worked hard to develop a sustainable, respected program, and even met the Secretary of the Interior (shameless plug for my previous blog post). But when I truly reflect back on what made this summer’s experience worthwhile, it was the people. Continue reading