We're in Denver by midnight and although B.K. and Jusko head to bed quickly, my day is far from ending.
One of the great joys and onerous responsibilities of my work is that I'm able to do it while I travel. I remember talking with my professor on the phone and trying to reiterate my need to travel as clear as I could, to carve a definite agreement out of the vaguities in which we spoke. He told me it was all right. He told me that he'd do this if he could. He reminded me that the previous summer he'd gone to the North Pole for inspiration on a math problem. He told me that other people might not understand how you could work away from your office or why it made sense to travel while working, but that none of that mattered because we did understand. And it was on those terms that I took the job. It was on those terms that I gave up my return to Alaska.
And I've taken advantage of this. But sometimes, when you're surrounded by mountains and friends climbing in them, it's difficult to remember you're employed. So, while the others went and slept, I stayed up until about 3:45AM programming.
Last Friday, S.W., who works the climate project with me, and I stopped in to talk with the IT department about getting a website built. They asked us what we'd like if we had an unlimited budget and unlimited amount of time. So I told them. They sat patiently through my explanation and then told me that it was impractical, so we put together cheaper, quicker substitute that'd take four programmers maybe a couple of weeks for about $10,000.
But the word difficult is an interesting word to me. I like it and, in this instance, I was pretty sure I could meet the challenge.
So, when 3:45AM rolled around, I discovered that either the IT people had got their quote wrong, or I was quite good… because I'd done it. I'd probably have savoured the feeling, but that's not my style. Getting a good night's sleep is more my thing. I went to bed.
I'll try to show you the results sometime :-)
[Finishing this on 02013-05-08, I can say that I did end up building the site myself. It's since been copied over to the university's servers where you can find it here.]
And by a good night's sleep, I mean that I woke up about four hours later… at 7:30AM. I'd set up a trail of packing the night before. Get out of bed, put on socks. Place sleeping bag by basement door by cellphone charger. I encounter my toothbrush already ready in the bathroom, use it, and deposit it in my backpack in the living room, where I pack up my laptop and switch to my first new shirt in more than a week. I'm out the door by about 7:45AM. By 8:05AM I'm sitting on the steps of an old Jewish synagogue listening to the blaring, off-pitch pulse of the evangelical Christians who bought out the Jews (presumably).
I send a message to Danifen: I'm at your door.
A few minutes later, a reply: Augh! Awake now!
I begin calisthetics while I wait and then reply with a text explaining where I'm at. The second time sticks: "Oh. Let me put a shirt on."
Breakfast begins with donated muffins which are rejected as being to sweet. Let's try again. Milk a week past its sell-by date mixed with chocolate syrup make up a good beverage. Donated eggs, cheese, tortilla shells, spinach, and green chili make huevos rancheros. I destroy mine trying to flip it; Danifen, being much more skilled, succeeds.
She's been working with the Colorado Vincentian Volunteers (CVV) for the past year. The group's site explains that:
We are a community of faith and action that responds to the Gospel call in the spirit of St. Vincent de Paul. We are young men and women, ages 22-30, who serve Denver's poor, elderly, homeless, developmentally disabled and troubled youth. Our year-long program offers an opportunity for spiritual, emotional, professional growth, and a way of discerning and living one's Christian vocation.
In solidarity with their mission, the participants live on only $75 per month. And, when you live on $75 a month (or nothing), donated or expired food is an excellent option and one that's both mostly safe and mostly tasty—just make sure to smell it first.
We take a walk past the capitol building and through the chaos of Gay Pride week. And here's another difference; I've met so many of the "deeply" (please insert the appropriate adjective here, dear reader) religious who would decry the parade and occasional spectacle passing by us. Though I don't ask her about it, Danifen wanders through it unconcernedly.
We stop at a booth where a Peruvian is selling sweep curves of butterflies he's collected, framed in glass. He tells us he doesn't kill them, but collects them dead, or collects them and waits for them to die [in a butterfly house?]. He tells us how when he was younger he'd see maybe 30 butterflies a day (seems like a lot to me!), but now he sees more. If he says a half-million we'll believe him… but the truth is closer to a million. And the big cats and other animals have made a significant recovery as well. Including the monkeys, who steal your glasses while you sleep in the hammock. It's an ecologic story I've never heard.
Back at her house, Danifen shows me pictures of Snowmass monestary—I've been thinking of spending some time doing the hermit thing—and El Paso. The picturs and stories of the latter are the kind to which the only real response is "Oh". There are injustices in this world.
And then Jusko and B.K. drive over and I head North with them; who knows when we'll meet again. Visiting's good, though, it reminds you of who it is that you know, and of who you are.