Arizona Meteor Crater

If you are the kind of nerd that I am (and I like to think that you are; Hello, Nerd Friend), you will remember the week in elementary school that you learned about the Barringer Meteorite Crater in Arizona. You know, the giant ball of iron that zoomed in from space, made a fantastic hole, and probably killed off the dinosaurs? Ok, that last part isn’t true, it wasn’t THE meteor (which was, by all accounts, one of many significantly larger ones), but the Arizona meteor was a pretty big one, and because the plains around it are still completely desolate, it’s easy to imagine mass extinction. A few weeks ago Mr. Blue Eyes and I decided to go on an adventure close-ish to home, and the crater was near the top of my list.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (3)The crater is massive, over a mile across, 2.5 miles in circumference, and 550 feet deep. You can see a bit of white in that photo up there, those are outbuildings from the mining operation that used to be at the base of this pit.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (7)This is a piece of the meteor that made the impact. Most of the 150 foot rock dissolved upon fiery impact, but from time to time the ranchers in the wide open spaces around this crater find pieces of this heavy nickle-iron space-debris on their land. The largest piece found so far is about the size of an infant car seat and weighs something like 1,400 pounds.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (4)Blue Eyes and I wandered around the museum, took the tour out to the edge of the crater, were curtailed on said tour due to a nasty-looking storm brewing to the north, but did check out several fixed telescopes to get a better look at the geology of the crater, some old leftover mining operations that were hauled down there by mule, and the debris from a small airplane that crashed in the crater, not taking into account the wind in there it was unable to get out and smashed into the rocky sides of the pit.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (2)The museum was small, but had a lot of interesting information on meteors, meteorites, and history of the area. Blue Eyes is a mining geek, and a dirt & rock geek, and I love space stuff…so we frankly had a blast at the museum. Man, science is awesome.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (1)As we were leaving the storm we’d been watching turned into a pretty intense summer thundercloud with speedy winds whipping it across the plateaus. Glad we weren’t on the rim of the crater for that, but am also kind of bummed we didn’t get to go exploring a little more.

Arizona Meteor Crater_feistyharriet_July 2016 (5)Uh, this is not at the crater, this was a wrong exit that I insisted was correct, only to be met with some weird tribal-alien ruins of what once was a money maker on historic Route 66.

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Sequoia National Park, California

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I grew up at the base of enormous mountains, but my mountains make up the most western outcrop of the Rockies, and the eastern wall of┬áthe Great Basin Desert that stretches across Utah and Nevada to the Sierra’s in California. My mountains get a lot of snow, but not a lot of rain. We don’t have lush forests, we have plenty of pine trees, and groves of aspen trees, and a few stands of cedars, and a lot of scrub oak (which has zero resemblance to an actual oak tree). But thickets of giant trees and miles of lush greenery? Not so much. My mountains still constitute the high desert which is not known for it’s lushness.

Visiting Sequoia National Park in eastern California was almost overwhelming in how much Tree-ness was surrounding me. Not just little saplings, either, but the soaring monoliths as impressive in their height as their girth. Yes, I most definitely am in-love with the sequoia trees. In. Love.

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This was not the biggest tree in the park, but look at those tiny people at the left of the trunk! (Also, this pic not-at-all-professionally-stitched together because my camera lens is not wide enough to actually capture the enormity of these trees!) I just…even looking at these pics again, I can hardly fathom how gigantic these living, growing organisms are. They are the blue whale or brontosaurus of the forest: giant and overpowering and awesome in every way. Not inherently dangerous, but you know, would smash you to pieces without even noticing your existence under the right (wrong?) circumstances.

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That pine tree at the bottom? A good sized Christmas tree.

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I wandered through the only-sort-of-marked trails in the park for hours, wishing my camera lens could somehow capture what my eyes could see, and also glad that part of the majesty and awe would only leave traces in my memory.

 

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General Sherman, largest living organism in the world. Calling it an “organism” somehow makes me think it’s more like algae or plankton instead of this towering giant. Sherman is the largest by volume (52,000 cubic feet), while it is no longer growing taller, maxing out at 275 feet tall, it does continue to gain girth. At the moment it’s already 100 feet around at the base, and still growing.

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Point Reyes National Seashore, California

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A few weeks ago I spent a lovely Saturday at Point Reyes National Seashore just north of San Francisco with my sweetheart and my oldest, dearest friend and her family. It was heaven in every possible way and I want to go back.

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Meandering “hiking” down to the old lighthouse with ocean views for daaaays.

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Laughing at her kiddos as they clambered around, taking in the old history and the newer exhibits.

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Sneaking kisses with my sweetheart as the cool wind blew my hair all sorts of crazy. Listening to the waves crash against the shore.

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Stopping to explore anything that looked remotely interesting, and ending with a few hours on a quickly deserting beach watching the waves and chatting with my BFF (seriously, we met in Kindergarten and she set me up with Blue Eyes on our first date). California, why you gotta be so far away?

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I dreamed of being a fighter pilot: memories at Air Force Academy

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Once upon a time, many years ago, there was a young girl who was smart and stubborn feisty and nontraditional and she refused to live within the cookie cutter shape anyone else suggested (or demanded) she try to squeeze herself into. When she was in 8th grade she took a skills assessment test and despite whatever boring career those results told her to pursue, she was determined to be a fighter pilot, followed by a lengthy and successful stint as a military attorney, JAG. As she progressed in school, the dual fighter pilot-JAG dream continued to grow with her, she made good grades, loved political science and geography, and kept her eye on that prize. Her senior year of high school she took a test for the armed services and scored ridiculously high, every branch of military started actively recruiting her. She chose the Air Force and by spring was ready to enroll in the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs and was mentally and physically preparing for basic training.

She was going to be a fighter pilot. And then an attorney, a Judge Advocate Officer, for the United States Air Force.

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…..and then she started to doubt herself, people told her that women shouldn’t be fighter pilots, or military attorneys, or have the big dreams that she had. They told her that she was too hard, too prickly, and would be alone forever because no one wanted to be with a woman like that. Even her friends began to seriously question her choices and tell her she’d be better off pursuing something more feminine. And this young woman began to falter, she’d had a REALLY rough year and, despite her brave heart, she wasn’t strong enough to continue this dream on her own. She told Air Force she wasn’t coming, she gave up her spot to graduate in the class of 2005. She moved to the city, began working three jobs to save up tuition money for a university she hadn’t applied to yet, hoping to begin classes the next January.

Four months later a couple of hijacked planes crashed through thee long-reigning peace of American soil.

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Once upon a time, I was going to be a fighter pilot. Once upon a time, my career trajectory was a JAG attorney. Once upon a time, Air Force Academy would have been my home, my alma mater, my family. I walked away from this opportunity fifteen years ago and from time-to-time I still wonder what my life would have been like had I pursued that path. Everything would be different, in some really positive ways, and in some very scary ways.

A few weeks ago I was in Colorado Springs, CO for a work conference and on my one free afternoon I drove to the Air Force Academy campus for a tour. As I was driving towards the visitor’s center I started to cry–to sob, really. I absolutely was not expecting that reaction. As I watched the video following a group of cadets through their first year at the Academy I sobbed, heartbroken because that experience wasn’t my experience. I walked around campus, grateful my sunglasses hid my tears. I spent quite a bit of time in the Air Force Cadet Chapel, trying to get a hold of myself and sort through my emotions.

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I would have been a great officer for the Air Force. I would have been a great fighter pilot. I would have been a kick-ass attorney. That could have been my life; I would have missed so many of the horrifying and hurtful experiences of my twenties; I would have had a family of support and camaraderie; I would have been happy. Now, intellectually I know that my most painful memories would have been replaced by equally difficult experiences that come with military life. No one escapes life completely unscathed, and the military is not a place to hide from fear or pain. I know that. But, even so, it was impossible to explain that to my grieving heart.

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This grief and heartbreak, trying to process why I was so emotional about a dream I had walked away from fifteen years earlier, was very unexpected. Recounting the story afterwards–the dream, the tour, the tears–I got emotional all over again, and even in writing this post I had to brush tears away. I don’t know if all of that emotion is based on my wishing I had pursued that dream**, or if it is frustration on those UNIMPORTANT PEOPLE who told me I couldn’t or shouldn’t, and me listening to them and agreeing that “Yes, you’re right, I should be more who you think I should be, not who I think I should be.” For the record, not a single one of those doubters are currently involved in my life in any way, not even social media contacts. Yet they were so important to me at the time that I permanently altered my life’s course and set aside my dreams to appease them.

**Sidenote: Blue Eyes and I would still have met had I joined the Air Force, we were set up by friends who would have still been friends and gotten married, regardless of my higher education choices. My JAG career could have aligned with my current sweetheart, a man who has always supported my biggest, craziest, most out-there dreams.

My adult self tells me that it is useless to hold a grudge towards those doubters, I made my choices fifteen years ago and cannot go back. My life as an Air Force JAG will forever be a dream lost, and that’s all there is to it. My optimistic adult self also tells me that in my interactions with young people I should never EVER poo-poo on their dreams simply because those dreams are not mine, or never would have been mine. Telling someone they can’t (or shan’t) simply because it’s not my cup of tea is heinous and will leave nasty little cockroaches in their brains and hearts for years and years to come. I want to positively encourage young people to take a careful stock of their dreams, their skills and talents, and opportunities, and to make the best choice they can. And then, dammit, I will support that choice. I will never tell someone they “can’t” be or do the thing that makes them happy.

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A few notes on the photos: The Air Force Academy Cadet Chapel is definitely the most distinctive building at the Air Force Academy, designed by architectural firm Skidmore, Owings & Merrill and completed in 1962, it is this looming monolith among low-slung classroom buildings and retired fighter jets scattered on the enormous lawns. Each week there are services for Buddhists, Hindus, Jews, Mormons, Muslims, Protestants, Catholics, and others in the various spaces of the chapel. From the outside, this building is all steel and concrete, sharp and straight and pointing towards the sky, beauty found in an austere, architectural, modern sensibility. The inside, however, is jaw-droppingly gorgeous. Stained glass and other windows that are practically invisible from the outside make the inside glow throughout the day as the sun filters through, slowly changing the colors on the pews. Smooth benches and very little frouffy decoration give off a Scandinavian vibe, but to be honest, I mostly felt like I was in an art deco spaceship, in all the best ways imaginable.

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The Tidal Basin in Washington DC

Washington DC Tidal Basin_feistyharriet_June 2016 (1)A few weeks ago I spent a whirlwind two days in Washington, D.C. for a work conference. I knew I wouldn’t have much free time, so I decided to spend the few hours I did have doing things I’d never done in DC before. After my meetings were over I decided to walk around the Tidal Basin, swooning over all the monuments all lit up at night.

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Mr. Lincoln was a very popular stop with crowds of people everywhere. I only spent a few minutes here and kept wandering, past the Korean War monument, and the Vietnam Memorial. I stopped at the Martin Luther King monument and listened to a tour guide talk about Dr. King’s life and his dedication to civil and human rights. I walked through the memorial to FDR and his political policies, and kept wandering around the Tidal Basin towards the Jefferson Memorial, my favorite. It was pretty late by the time I got there, and I had the place almost to myself.

Carved into the wall of the memorial are several quotes, but this one hit me square in the gut:

I am not an advocate for frequent change in laws and constitutions. but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths discovered, and manners and opinions change, with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also to keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy as civilized society remain even under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.

—Thomas Jefferson

Of late, there have been a lot of political upheavals on better gun control and policy, LGBQT rights, issues surrounding race and ethnicity, religious freedoms, women’s rights to determine their own healthcare needs…and I can’t help but think that our Founding Fathers are shaking their collective heads, somewhere. Jefferson knew that government must evolve as humanity progressed, so I am baffled at the argument that it should not because that’s not what the constitution intended. Wrong. The constitution is a living, breathing, CHANGING document, as it should be, as we as a collective citizenry are constantly changing, evolving, and becoming more enlightened than our “barbarous ancestors” who didn’t provide protections and established individuality for women, people of color, and the “other.” We know better, and we should campaign for better, not for status quo.

Washington DC Tidal Basin_feistyharriet_June 2016 (4)I have been thinking about activism a lot lately, and the more I think about it the more I get this sinking feeling in my gut that it is time for me to act; and that scares me a little, it’s outside my comfort zone. But if I don’t–if we don’t–actively work towards a more inclusive, safer, more peaceful world, who will? Watching so much fear and hate and violence and Drumpism fill the media, I just…I can’t sit still anymore. For my fellow Americans, as you celebrate your independence over the weekend, perhaps spend a little time thinking about those who have gone before you to grant you the freedoms you enjoy, and how can you help those who are coming along with you, or behind you, to enjoy similar freedoms in their lives.

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