Monday, March 18, 2013

My 27th year in 27 Moments


1. We celebrate my birthday after the plane crash has been cleaned up. The victims lived or died, we saved them or we missed a moulage wound and they bled out, so deep into the snow that we never saw the blood. Now they are all sitting around the fire at the lodge singing happy birthday to me. An Alaskan paramedic, blond hair falling out from under a knit ski hat, presents me with a cake. I blow out the candles, my 26th year pops like a balloon and my 27th, the year of the Saturn return, begins.

2. Two days from our final EMT exam, Randall and I are at the Icicle Brewery in Leavenworth. "You want to know about boat world?" he says, smiling slowly, as if we're sharing a great secret. "You can't really explain boat world. You should just join us." I shake my head. "Oh no," I say, "I'm done with seasonal work."
3. In early April, standing at the end of the dock at Fisherman's terminal, I shake hands with the captain of a tiny expedition cruise ship. I'm officially a crew member of the M/V Safari Endeavour, bound for Juneau, Alaska.

4. The first climb of the spring season is called Rattletale, on the upper wall in Index, Washington.  I sink my hands into the cold granite crack, all the way to the elbows. Andrew belays me from above, peering down and grinning. He's got a sweet, wicked grin.
5. We are plowing through the waters of British Columbia, sharing the ocean with pods of Orca whale. Alone on the boat deck, I watch dark mountains glide pass, numb, listening to this music on repeat. I've made the wrong decision. I know I have.

6. One night in June, under the still glowing Alaskan sky, I sit on the stern and watch a deckhand named Scott crush a barrel full of glass bottles. The glass will be thrown overboard on turn day. So this is where sea glass comes from, I realize. I've never thought to wonder.

7. On Sundays in Juneau, the mail arrives on the boat. A giant pile of letters and boxes and books sent from my friends, and, miraculously, from blog readers, piles up on my chair. One of the deckhands motions to the pile and punches my arm. "What the hell, Lina?" It feels like Christmas.

8. We are officially sailors on leave, which means we are drunk and rowdy and happy. On the plane to Seattle, the assistant engineer tells me that I am the stuff dreams are made out of. Then he sighs deeply, throws up, and falls asleep.

9. Adam plays guitar and we sing in the evenings, down in the dim, windowless crew quarters. It's wave over wave, sea over bow, I'm as happy a man as the sea will allow. As we sing, the boat rocks in the wake of a giant calving iceberg crashing into the sea.

10. Andrew calls me Melinafish. I don't know where it comes from. If I happen to be walking on the upper deck and we hit a random pocket of reception, I'll get a text from him: Melinafish, how is the swimming?
11. On the last night of a six month season, the crew is at the Boxcar in Magnolia. Everyone is drinking and kissing and smoking and singing. I climb up onto a table. "LET'S GO BACK TO THE BOAT!" I cry, raising my fist into the air. "LET'S GO IN THE HOT TUB AND SLEEP IN A SUITE!" Go in the hot tub, sleep in suite! It becomes a chant. 
12. Now I'm running through Fishermen's terminal, out of my uniform and back in my own clothes, dodging the nets and buoys and piled crates. Andrew runs towards me, we meet in the middle, and it's all very dramatic. My legs wobble on dry land and I'm back home.  

13. Dungarven, Ireland. My sister yanks me into a dress shop three minutes before my first performance. You are not wearing athletic clothes to your show! she hisses. She picks out a new dress for me. It fits. I throw a handful of Euros onto the table and then run down the ancient street and up three flights of stone stairs to the performance hall. 

14. Sean studies metaphors about time for a living. His brother Dermot designs the sets for Tim Burton's movies. The three of us are standing in the pouring rain in a field full of rocks and sheep. "Here," says Dermot, "take this." He hands me his jacket. Their accents are thick and pretty. 
15. In October, we sneak a chocolate cake into the woods and light the glittering 28 candle. Worn out from climbing, we cook dinner over the fire and sing happy birthday to Lisa. We manage to have an immensely good time and Andrew and I don't mention that this is our last climbing trip together. Our last anything together.  

16. At a bar in Whitefish, Montana, Ryan orders me another beer and picks my head up off the table. "Kiddo, you never loved him. Why are you so sad?" 
 17. The morning that the Endeavour embarks for Baja, I am sitting at my kitchen table, doing not much of anything.

18. I begin each morning by counting pills. Celexa for depression, something for anxiety three times a day, vitamins for good measure. At night I can take a handful of Ambien and feel nothing. I could take a handful of Ambien and operate heavy machinery, even though they advise against that. That's how little it works for me. 

19. I take the pulse of a man in Pioneer Square who is lying in a pile of bloody vomit. I can detect something beneath the tissue of the wrist, weak and thready but alive. I look at my watch, counting the beats. "What do you do now?" Asks the firemen who is crouched beside me. I know exactly what to do. Every word from the Alaskan Paramedic has stuck with me.  
20. Colleen sits next to the mattress on the floor where I'm curled up. "Tomorrow, we're going to build you a dresser, because you can't live like this." She motions to the unkempt room, the clothes thrown about in heaps. She is is suddenly very serious. "You can't live like this any more, do you understand?"

21. After three months of silence, Andrew and I go out to dinner. He has a new girlfriend. He says, "We bought a used guitar in Albuquerque." I say, "Please do not tell me about your trip to Albuquerque."

22. In late January I start to laugh again. At the top of a mountain in the Cascades with a girlfriend on our 20th day of skiing. She says something funny, or maybe I do, and we both fall into the snow and laugh until we're so overheated we have to take all our clothes off.
23. I start to write a book. "Chapter One," I write, and then the phone rings. I stand outside, wrapping myself in a thin sweater. "Maybe," I say into the phone, "maybe you should just come and see me."

24. Now Will is here, standing in my kitchen, and it feels normal, like he might live here. I'm so happy that I set out jars of daffodils and white candles and I set the daffodils on fire, I really do. He laughs and pulls me onto his lap, then pushes the hair from out of my face. "I just...love being around you," he says, kissing my forehead. For the first time in months I feel my body completely relax.
25. On the ferry from Coupeville to Port Townsend, Will falls asleep. His head drops onto my shoulder. 

26. Something happens, and people start reading my blog. A huge shift, overnight, no subtleties. After five years, it seems like someone is finally paying attention. I think about this on the beach on Whidbey Island. I look over at the boy who is reading Edgar Keret out loud, he's such a private person, and I wonder how it could all possibly work out. 
27. As the boat from Bainbridge draws closer, the blinking skyline of Seattle comes into focus. In his deep Tennessee accent, Will points out every part of the city that he can remember: "There's the needle, Volunteer park, Capitol hill, Redmond." He has his arms wrapped around me very tight, as if I might go overboard if I wasn't supported. I can't stop laughing, insisting that he's wrong: "No, that's not right, you can't even seen those things from here!" He says, "Shh, shh, this is how it goes." And then he starts over, from East to West: Needle, Volunteer Park, Capitol Hill.... He redesigns Seattle, it is a new city, composed entirely of places we've been together, the rest does not exist, the rest has never been.

58 comments:

SJJ said...

I love you.

Ren said...

OMG awesome. :) :)

Carra Fay said...

Your words and photos are all so lyrical, whimsical and full of heart. Really love what you've created here, thank you for sharing so earnestly & wholeheartedly. <3

Anonymous said...

Hi Melina, thanks for the amazing post! I'm a relatively new follower but each post inspires me! You're an amazing person :)

s. Maiolo said...

Wonderful

Brandi Shope said...

Love!

Hamilton Family said...

I'm so glad I found you. I love reading your posts. You are amazing. You are! Happy Birthday.

dig said...

Oh love love love. Nine hours? Cake. xx

Natalie said...

This was my goodnight story and I loved it!

Tracie O said...

Wow...thank you for letting us strangers in and giving us the honor of reading your words.They are quite beautiful and so are you.

Amy said...

Amaze.

lecinda said...

That was beautifully written thank you for sharing :) Happy Birthday :) welcome to your next year of life on this planet, hope it's a good one wherever it might take you!

liz korb said...

My broken heart is always eased by reading your words.

Jona said...

Should we file this year under "Memorable" or "Character-Building?". Great, great writing Lina.
PS I have the Endeavour on my desk!

Martha Rule said...

You'll be so glad you wrote this someday. I've had many friends and fam work in AK seasonally - felt their stories reading yours. Beautiful!

Liz Stout said...

Magic. A year of incredible memories. Good and bad, they make us what we are. Such incredible adventure.

I can't relate much to the seafarer bits, but the skiing and climbing I understand well. Thanks for letting me live vicariously through you!

Mia said...

New reader here who is enjoying a glimpse into your life--so different from mine. Thanks for your searing honesty.

beersincannes said...

You are a fabulous writer! Keep it up!

Angie Kroeker said...

Thank you. Thank you for sharing this wild and wonderful
Life you live. There is a deep down beauty in your soul that
Manages to out shine your smile, though I don't know how that is possible. You are a stunning heart!

Jana Cottrell said...

Hi Melina, I'm new to this blog (found it from Kelle's website as I'm sure hundreds of others have). I've gone back and pretty much read every post since the beginning. I'm not an athletic person by any means but I love reading about your adventures and your life in general. You are inspiring! Thanks for allowing us all a peek inside your world!

Jamie said...

That you for sharing your stories, I just started reading a couple of weeks ago but have really enjoyed my time reading your blog! (As a fellow Vermonter as well!)

Luckygirl721 said...

There's just something about the way you lay words down. By all accounts I should not, in any way, relate to you...but I do.

Shannon

Kerry said...

perfect.

SmithShack71 said...

Oh, so good. So very good.
You know how when you just love something so much you just sorta want to squeeze it's face off? With your teeth all gritted? That's how I feel when reading your stuff. It's great.

-Angie

Diary of Why said...

Happy birthday, and you deserve all the new attention and all the good things.

Sarah said...

Happy Birthday, Melina! Thanks for sharing your words with us.

Christy. said...

You have such a way with words! I was led here by your post on Kelle Hampton's blog, and can't stop reading! Lovely.

Ashley said...

Beauty. And fire. 28 is going to rock your world.
Thanks for taking us along on the journey.

Darlene said...

Absolutely amazing!!!! God your good!!! Wishing your story was a movie so I could watch it over and over!! This new birth year is going to be a great one!!!! I can't wait!

Jes said...

I wish I had the guts to write it raw like you. Thanks for sharing these vignettes--makes me want to reevaluate some things today (my birthday, coincidentally). So, thank you.

Caroline Dixon said...

Hi Melina,
I am a new follower and love your blog! I came here from Kelle Hampton's blog and just get so lost in your writing. It's like a good book that I don't want to put down. Thanks for sharing!

Caroline Dixon said...

Hi Melina,
I am a new follower and love your blog! I came here from Kelle Hampton's blog and just get so lost in your writing. It's like a good book that I don't want to put down. Thanks for sharing!

Mindy said...

I really love this blog.

Deanna Gohn said...

OMGosh! This post! My heart! Wonderful Melina, really. I felt like I was there for every moment. You will inspire many, no doubt. Loved it. You're kinda my hero today (and maybe tomorrow too....)

Karen said...

You make me tear up and snicker and get goose-bumpy all at the same time.

I get butterflies in MY stomach when you write about Will.. Something is happening!

Lynn said...

And the journey continues....can't wait to see what's in store for you.

pajamasarecomfy said...

I suppose I should say hi, I have been visiting every few days to see what new stories you will tell. Found you through Kelle Hampton's post. You are basically the kind of girl my dad would have liked me to become....so reading is sort of like you're my alter-ego. And it is fun and inspiring! Hope you don't mind me stalking you :).

Erin Marie said...

One of my favorites, Melina. Brava, carry on!

JenH said...

You are one hell of a wildchild and I LOVE reading your posts.

Found you through Nici and just want to say happy birthday kiddo! Keep writing because it's all amazing!

Katie Clare said...

Amazing. Here's to a new year. Seems to be starting off in an a fantastical, amaze-balls, kinda way. Hoping we will be in VT at the same time one day so we can meet up for coffee. Or something a little stronger.

Clare (VT & Boone)

Tammy B said...

You continue to amaze and inspire me. I love reading of your adventures. They seem so, wow. I can't believe that she does that stuff. You are incredible. Your 28th year will be amazing, I'm sure of it.

Susan said...

Reading this was a ray of sunshine on my bleak, New England day.

Carly said...

Your blog is the best blog I have read.

Momma said...

Your adventures an knowledge make me jealous! You have lived an amazing 27 years. You have loved, lost, enjoyed, survived, and adventured. You are truly amazing and make me want to do something crazy so I have some stories. Imagine your future kids reading about your life. Hat an amazing crazy Grandma you will be!!

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday! I read your guest post on Kelle's blog the other day. I find myself missing the outdoors a lot as a New Zealander living in frantic, dreary, beautiful London, so reading your older blog posts on the train to work has become a new obsession :) Thanks for writing so beautifully and honestly.

Catherine said...

Awesome, awesome post Melina. What a merry-go-round or a year. Celexa and I are good friends too...

cindy said...

welcome to the tipping point. it seems to be overflowing with love. love this.

The Mahlke Chronicles said...

Thank you. Your writing is beautiful. Addictive. Honest. Engaging. So many things all wrapped up in a gift bag. I, the reader, the recipient of the gift bag of your shared life. Thank you.

Rachel Ruth said...

I loved every bit of this. You make me want to write. And somehow start climbing. And kayak with orcas. And move back to the Northwest. And I love love Leavenworth; my sister serves there with AmeriCorps. She wouldn't let me steal the glass from Icicle Brewery... she said I had to pay for it.

Anonymous said...

Fantastic writing. I came here from Kelle but relate well to where you are in life (im 29, no kids yet). Your words are beautifully written and deeply inspiring.

Eric said...

Your life and the way you convey it through your words just keeps getting better with every post. Thank you. The comments are the proof that you're doing something right. Twin high fives if I ever cross your path. Ciao.

Melissa said...

I found you via Kelle Hampton and ETST and I just have to say I love your writing. You tell stories so well and I wish I was in Washington to hear them, live and in person! I really hope you get that boy you write so beautifully about and the baby you want. I'm a new mom and I know you will LOVE IT. Good luck to you!

Melissa said...

I found you via Kelle Hampton and ETST and I love your writing. You tell stories so well, and I wish I was in Washington to hear you live and in person! I hope you get that boy you write so beautifully about and the baby you want. I'm a new mom and I know you will LOVE IT. Good luck to you! I will be reading to see what happens next.

Nicolette Gawthrop said...

holy crap, lady. just: holy crap. I like you. I like your honesty.

B. Holmes said...

Melina this post is awesome, I could see each vision with you and follow your year of adventure. Happy B-day Girl! Yes, You are a Writer and a damn good one. By the way, your buddy with the mullet? I'm sorry but please tell him, it has to go... Much Luv From AK.

caitlin jacobsen said...

I love this post - one of the most beautiful, honest, raw pieces I have ever read. thanks for sharing, moving and inspiring me. I found your blog through Kelle's and fell in love with your guest post there and shared it with many. I'm a 27 yr old mother of three - 3, 2 and now a 2 mo old son. I miss my past adventurous life so much sometimes but reading about your crazy, fun life excites me and reminds me not to lose my past self but rather to take my kids along for the ride (or run!). Happy birthday.. I'll support your blog any way possible.. I love it!

caitlin jacobsen said...

I love this post - one of the most beautiful, honest, raw pieces I have ever read. thanks for sharing, moving and inspiring me. I found your blog through Kelle's and fell in love with your guest post there and shared it with many. I'm a 27 yr old mother of three - 3, 2 and now a 2 mo old son. I miss my past adventurous life so much sometimes but reading about your crazy, fun life excites me and reminds me not to lose my past self but rather to take my kids along for the ride (or run!). Happy birthday.. I'll support your blog any way possible.. I love it!

Baby By The Sea said...

This took me places. Not just in my mind, but in my heart, too. You are amazing. And I like your mind as much as your adventurous heart.