Supporting My Friend Carleigh

Some of you may know that I have this amazing friend from way back in the day – when we were just teenagers at ‘Coyote Tracks’ the nickname of the organization called Children of Earth Foundation (Cotef) which at that time was based in New Jersey. It is the youth nonprofit that was created by Tom Brown’s Tracker and Wilderness Survival School. Carleigh Fairchild and I became friends during the summer programs and while it was years later that our friendship realized its full potential, we are great friends for life.

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Carleigh & Joannie in a Hawaii Waterfall

Carleigh has done quite a few cool things with her time thus far on our Planet. Starting with Coyote Tracks as a kid. She has hiked a large portion of the Pacific Crest Trail. Took classes with Earthwalk Northwest in Washington state. And more recently enrolled in the WildernessFusion program where we are in the same class (which has been a freaking blast) together. Being the two crazy Alaskans who fly the furthest for these classes 4 times a year is a bonding moment in itself!

Last year Carleigh was one of 10 people picked to go out into the wilderness to survive for up to a year all the while filming their experiences for History Channel’s ‘Alone’. Season 3 takes place in Patagonia and they were dropped a couple of weeks before winter set in. I recommend checking it out – even with the over the top reality tv show feel it has. Most of the people on it are real and have a passion for being in the wilderness. The winner gets $500,000 and some serious bragging rights. Season 3 just finished airing and Carleigh was so close to winning! Two people were left when she was sadly pulled by the show because of her low body mass. There is a lot of speculation going around that it could have been rigged and wasn’t fair. I do agree that the runner-up really should get a little extra money for their efforts and perhaps more when it’s practically a tie. I don’t claim an opinion about the show being rigged or not, but I do know that History Channel left themselves open to a lot of backlash by how they portrayed the final weigh ins and pulling Carleigh out. Showing one person’s BMI but withholding the other is not okay, especially when its the female contestant being scrutinized by the all-male medic team while there is a plethora of gender and women’s rights issues all over the News. Leaving themselves open to so many potential avenues of attack just doesn’t fit. I am confused History Channel. Many of the viewers are confused and downright pissed. While I believe that Carleigh has more than earned monetary compensation (outside of the small stipend every contestant was given) for her time out in the woods, 86 days to be exact. She was expected to film 40 hours a week AND survive alone off the land indefinitely. I have absolutely no ill will towards Mr. Fowler who did walk away with the win. I only wish him and his family the best.

An incredible amount of people have been touched by Carleigh’s presence on Alone and inspired by her state of being. As her totally biased friend – I whole heartedly agree, Carleigh is freaking awesome. During the finale, such an outpouring of comments and posts were made for Carleigh that Shaun (my partner and also friend to Carleigh) got a wild hair that night and started a Gofundme for Carleigh to celebrate what she achieved. Shaun gets the credit as this was entirely his idea. The Gofundme is just a way for people to reach out, if that is what they feel called to do, and support Carleigh. The Gofundme is taking off much quicker than we initially expected and overall is well received. Being the internet, there is of course those who react to the idea that money is being given away – which I personally find fascinating. I always wonder what makes a person think their opinion matters when it isn’t their cause or their money involved.

Link to the Gofundme:  Celebrating Carleigh

I am sharing this with all the people I can – as many of you also know Carleigh. But for anyone who received this link and doesn’t feel called to give money its OK. If you feel called to just share it – that is great! No expectation here just because I wrote about it on my blog. I’m simply supporting one of my best friends and bringing awareness of what she has accomplished.

~Joannie

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Joy in Grief – Mom’s birthday. 

This day arrives as it usually does for myself and I believe most of my siblings, quietly with grief and memories of a time when we had celebration. While it was and is in subtle ways a joyous date, there is great sorrow. Today is my Mother’s birthday. And she is not here. No phone calls to be made. No cards to write. No meals served with love or visits to be had. Not even Grandparents to call on their daughter’s birthday. It is sad, this day. It is lonely. It is also full of memories of when it was bursting with life. This contradiction we live in. It could tear one apart. 
I don’t feel overwhelmed by this date. Once, I believe I did. Now it arrives with a quiet awareness of what is and what was. I am painfully familiar with this Place, where the deep bottomless well of grief resides. Most of the external world cannot see it. I rarely bring these notable dates up within my day to day life. I wonder at that. How hard it still is to share. Within the context of my siblings and a few close friends it is almost always acknowledged and never forgotten. This feels good that outside of our crazy external world, there is still connection of what is real. What continues to move us.

I cannot find happiness or peace on this date. I also do not feel that I need to. For I can find joy – not in the traditional sense of ‘happiness’ but in the upwelling of emotion that has flavors of gratitude, delight and appreciation for the years we did get. For the context of this grief is to have known the other side of pure joy. I may not smile much on this date, but I can feel the love that is still present even after these years of sadness and despair. I don’t know what it looks like for everyone, but rare it is that I have seen a Mother so wholly loved as mine was and very much still is. How can this not bring tears of joy and not just sorrow? 

This pain we feel, it’s very real and soul deep. Words skip along the surface like stones on a stream, never sinking below the easily seen shallows and ending up on the other bank. Being told to only remember the good times is dismissive of our pain. I cannot say in place of my siblings, but for me, it is okay if you cannot connect with my pain, my grief, my reality. But do not ask me to separate from it. Do not ask me to smile for your sake. Not all of us can run from a lack of comfort, please do not burden me or my family with an inability to be uncomfortable with loss and grief. 

If I could- I would gladly hug each of my brothers and sister and tell them that I know the joy in the pain on this day. And that it is okay if they do too. That whatever it is they feel, it is okay. These feelings and emotions do not need to define you. Instead I am 4 time zones away and hope my words will reach them. I hope they find something in the ways I am able to be there for them. 

I have love on this day. I have grief and acute sadness. I have joy and a bittersweetness of memories. I have appreciation for those who see and a lack of patience of those who cannot. I don’t know what else I could give my Mother on this day other than just being me. For that is all she ever wanted for every one of her children – to have peace, love and purpose in their lives. To find joy. And mostly, to be who we are. And to grow. 

Happy Birthday Mom.

This grief, it tears apart my heart, just as the love around you keeps it going and strong. This contradiction I live in. 

~ Joannie

Changes to the Blog

As you might have noticed the Blog is undergoing some changes. I think my time away from writing has gone on quite long enough. While I am not entirely sure what this revamping will bring in terms of writing content – I am sure it will be a little different from past posts. At this stage I really cannot make anymore large posts that are primarily photos – I no longer have space with WordPress. At least until I decide if I want to shell out cash for said media space. I am also setting up ‘Pages’ that are static (on the front menu) as I have been getting more and more people who I’ve never met as readers, and having context for my posts seems very useful. The ‘Author’ page for example is now the Back Story page, with sub pages like the one for my Mother. Hopefully I will add to these soon in the ways that I feel called. I also felt a need to really spend time on the ‘Places along the Journey’ page and create sub pages for each Place that has been significant for me along the way, both past and present. This will continue to be a Personal Blog for myself – and while I tie in plenty of other people, places, groups, and the occasional product or author – it is and will be foremost my thoughts and experiences. Hopefully with this intent I will actually be churning out regular posts as well as filling in some of the pivotal moments that I haven’t covered from the last 2 + years. That said, I’m only human so don’t be surprised if this is a struggle for the next little bit.

More to come!

Close to a Year

“Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” is an often quoted statement. In a way, I completely agree. Life has been chaotic, amazing, trying, exciting and sometimes just plain busy. It’s been almost an entire year since I’ve last written. Even just a mediocre sparse update about how I’m ‘busy’ but good overall. I think there is probably a multitude of reasons for this sabbatical. Some of which are; I got even busier with less down time during 2015.

My class homework with WildernessFusion became even more time-consuming than previous.

Shaun moving to Alaska and living together meant I was naturally busier with more outside social things and have had less drive to write.

Time sped up. My days have been constantly fuller be it work, people or just trying to catch up. Time seems to be moving quickly and often at a rate that I sometimes find hard to stay present with. Working multiple jobs often feels like this to me.

Some days there simply isn’t enough time for all the things. The phone calls that have to be made by 1pm because of the time differences, the bank/business/store errands that have to be done before they all close – but working later into the day means there is only a couple of hours to get to everywhere at the most traffic dense time of the day.

In addition to all the practical reasons, I’ve also been struggling with ‘what’ to write. Often I simply don’t want to share what’s been on my mind because it’s not always happy or nice – and/or I don’t have the energy to create an ‘adventure’ and ‘fun’ post with all the details and all the cool pictures (which takes hours to sift through, reduced the top choices to a more reasonable number that I can again try to trim so I don’t spend just 24 hours alone uploading large picture files) that while I love when I can crank one of those out for all that want to know what I’m up too – sometimes the mental energy just isn’t there (which has been a lot in the last 2 years). I often have the image that I’m pathetic and shallow if I openly discuss whatever challenges and trials are happening in my life when I also have all these amazing things going on.

Simply stating this feels a little gross, I’m sharing the stuff that I dislike about myself and are my ‘reasons’ for not writing or posting picture adventure posts. But Alas I want to work on my writing and this is one of the few avenues that I can seem to find some words in.

It’s 5:30am here and I’ve yet to sleep much. Shaun and I both have today off and there is a list of things to be done, hikes to be had, dogs to be walked and our lives to be lived. Something I actually enjoy more often than not these days.

~ J

Constant State of Transition – A Quick Note

I am on a plane yet again flying north back to Alaska (River too). Work – the doggies are in need of me. While I am not thrilled to be leaving Shaun, I am ready to see mountains, my ‘Alaska family’ as I refer to the Gardners and a couple of other very close people I am lucky enough to have in my life. This year started off in a state of transition and shows no signs of stopping that trend. My name as a ‘Dog Trainer’ has spread and I continue to be able to make travel and work..well, work. In only a few weeks, I will be flying back to the East Coast for more dogs and to spend time with Shaun.

My time is rather largely shared between Alaska and the East Coast. This is both awesome and exhausting depending on how much sleep I’ve had. I continue to find people in all sorts of places to share things like rock climbing, a festival or just a cup of coffee. Occasionally the stars (I mean schedules here..) align for people whom are very dear to me and we can get together. Recently I had a very short but still sweet visit with Lorien. Sadly my siblings and I have been unable to make it work – but I am hoping in the coming months that will be rectified.

The main thing I’ve come to realize is the difficulty of writing on the blog, returning phone calls, emails and such when one is in a constant state of transition. If I haven’t been quick to respond or you feel ignored, I am sorry and hope that one might understand that is it quite unlikely a personal thing. I will say for those who may need to get a hold of me for whatever reason – a text saying ‘Need to talk’ will get you a callback faster than an email or voicemail will.

The constant change of time zones, climate, driving style (east coast verses Alaska is a VERY different set of challenges), personalities of the people I’m around (in the Gardner house I can say fuck anytime of the day, in my relatives space not so much), and even worse – food option challenges, tends to leave me a little discombobulated. I wouldn’t trade it for staying in one place in the least, but I cannot say it is easy or leaves energy for other things at times. All in the trials of being a Wanderer.

I hope to add more content soon (but I’ve said that a few times before..).

~J

2015 ~ A Quick Note

Now that I’ve let the Blog sit in silence for months…I figured it was at least time for a quick short update of sorts. The Holiday season of 14′ was pretty busy & I spent most of it laid up in bed sick as a dog! Not my favorite way to kick back. I spent my sick Holidays in Alaska with Shaun & my Alaska people. Other than being essentially deathly ill, it was a pretty good time.

Mid January found me headed to Asheville NC to be part of a higher level WildernessFusion class – they needed people with immune system problems to use as teaching. River & Shaun went with me for support. Lorien & her wonderful Mother Barbara stopped by for the night to get a quick visit in. It was short but very sweet!

I spent some time in Ocean City with Shaun and his newly acquired Blue Heeler ~ Dusty. River is officially getting a pack on each coast. I’ve also started getting some dog training clients outside of Anchorage – which is quite helpful for the travel budget. Mid February River and I flew back to Alaska for dog work and friends that were visiting. It was an action packed – social extravaganza  – adventure filled 10 days with great people!

As I write this now, I’m flying back to the East Coast for a week for my quarterly WildernessFusion class. Shaun picks me up from the airport in DC and I get a couple of days before I drive to NY. Due to work in Anchorage, I literally only stay a week on the Eastern Seaboard before flying back to Alaska – where I also will only stay a week (its spring break in AK which means doggie care is in high demand) since I have commitments back on the East Coast! Whew. River is riding out the week in Alaska since it is so much bouncing around. She is not thrilled.

That’s all I can hash out while on a Plane flying over the states at the moment.

~ J

Back From Europe – A Quick Update

I have been stateside for a few days now – I can finally get my brain settled enough to do an update tonight! I (obviously) survived my trip to Europe with the Gardners. No fevers or muggings were had. A train or two may have been missed but not the planes! I did get patted down in the France airport (like searched – hands in uncool places) while Kathy & Dave just waltz through..I clearly looking threatening here with the freckles and pants that used to fit and now are just über baggy…

The trip was AMAZING. I am so, so beyond THANKFUL to Kathy & Dave for taking me with them and making this possible. I also very grateful to Kathy’s Sister and her Husband for allowing to stay and showing us around.

We arrived in Paris – and then on to London after a subway and then train through the Chunnel just in time for ‘Dinner’. We  had left Chicago around 8pm the day before! I fell asleep before dinner and then woke up at 1am (London time). I finally figured out that the strange bird calls I was hearing were the Jackdaws (within the Corvidae family – looks similar to a crow) and the wild Ringneck Pheasant. We stayed in England for about 8 days. During that time pubs were visited, the Stonehenge was experienced, a Castle strolled around, the Highlands explored with the help of Kathy & Dave’s Nephew and lets not forget London.. Tink’s a Disney whore – that place is intense! Pictures and details are coming…at some point in the future. Monday Morning after a rather packed weekend found the 3 of us dashing with our luggage in the London Underground on our way back to Paris. Once checked into the Hotel (not as easy when all the signs are in French) we strolled out into the French night to check out the Louvre (weird triangle building that the De Vinci Code talks about). It was pretty cool. The next morning had us up early and on the cobblestones hunting breakfast out. The entire day was spent on foot (and occasionally subway) touring about in the older part of Paris. Notre Damn was visit – well worth it I might add. Crepes consumed and plenty of coffee to fuel the weary. Before dinner, we did the Eiffel Tower during a rain/wind storm..in the dark… Was quite exciting. Dinner was wolfed down. Desert followed later at another vendor with Irish Coffees (really strong ones I might add). It was late upon return to the hotel – I was unable to fall asleep so I started the journey back to the states in traditional Joannie Miller style – totally sleep deprived. 6am came quickly (I just simply got up – was already awake) and the trials of travel started anew. Almost 12 hours of flying (I barely slept) had us in Sunny San Francisco – it was disgustingly hot. Customs and then a packed flight to Seattle – an hours worth of down time and back on the plane again finally landing in Anchorage around 10:30pm. 28 since the flight from Paris officially took off. It was a tad surreal!

The trials of travel were well worth it. I cannot say I wanted to come back…I was ready to set out backpacking and see more! I think my body was grateful to be in a less crowded place with cleaner air though…

Since being back, I’ve only begun to realized how ‘peopled out’ I am. As a fairly introverted person who really likes her quiet and ‘alone’ time – Europe is a fucking populated place! Other than some texts and as minimal phone conversations as possible – I’ve been hiding from Humanity. Dave had to go on a work trip and then Kathy left two days later – so I even have had the whole place to myself the past 2 days. I interacted with dogs and their people only!

Hopefully I will sort through all the pictures in a timely fashion (one can dream anyway) and post them with the details of the adventures!

~J