The End Times of Yosemite Dan

On the first of December, 2017, I entered Yosemite National Park for the second time.

My inaugural visit to the park had been just that – a visit, as a tourist.

Five years later, I was about to become a resident.

That was seven very short, very long months ago. Back when the days were winter cold, the nights all layer upon layer of stars, the waterfalls abundant and full, an ever-present roar behind the call of ravens and Steller’s jays.

Now we’re deep into a scorching summer. The falls fade fast. The mountains blur out behind a choking veil of smoke. The sun burns red. Not far away, the woods just straight up burn. Wildfire has come to California. The park’s crowds of sightseers thin. The humidity overwhelms the Majestic Hotel’s walk-in refrigerators, forcing hundreds of pounds of refugee food into cramped trailers on the back docks.

Aesthetically, it all looks rather like the end of the world.

Realistically, it’s only the end of my time here.

My Tirzah left for Fresno a month ago, and with her departure came a familiar feeling. An itch of entrapment. A need for escape. The lonely ache for home that’s only ever further from reach when she’s gone from my side.

It was time to go.

Well, first it was time to find Fresno employment, so I wouldn’t be ditching the park and an income all in one go.

‘Twas a frustrating job hunt. Blame it on my curse: For whatever I most desire, I am forever doomed to call into the void, often without so much as an echo in response.

But finally, a former manager of Tirzah’s hired— well, not Me so much as Tirzah’s Highly Recommended Friend. I shall simply have to show my new boss why employers are always bummed to see the back of me. Lord knows my current manager is loath to let me go.

Most Valuable Employee tweet
Narrator: “Alas, her flight was to be none so swift and easy…”

And part of me is sad to leave the Yosemite I’ve come to know. I’ve seen her blanketed in snow, spilling over with floodwater, playing in the wind. I’ve wandered her pathways and rivers, climbed her boulders, crossed her fallen trees. I’ve smacked her mosquitoes and painted her ducks. I’ve treasured every rainbow she gave me.

Yosemite Watercolor, Mine_Rivertime
“Rivertime” –  Deshipley, 2018; watercolor, painted en plein air in Yosemite National Park

She actually gave me many things – memories chief among them.

And independence.

Resilient courage.

The reassurance that no matter how life’s challenges flatten me, I’m tough enough to eventually rise up for more.

Also, hella biceps.

There is much I’ll miss. But I’m ready to move on. Ready to leave Yosemite Dan behind, and be… still me. Just, as of next week, planted somewhere else.

Next chapter ho…

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Open Journal: Home is… Where?

My sad, stressed-out brain, one morning at work: “I want to go home.”

Me: …

Brain: …

Me: “What home do you mean?”

Upon reflection, I didn’t mean my Yosemite tent-cabin – although, without another six hours to go on the clock, I’d have gratefully settled for that.

That was before the employee housing office handed me and Tirzah a third roommate – who is, first impressionally, a not unpleasant young lady. But to my highly sensitive, germophobic, and socially anxious self, no space I have to share with an outsider is strictly safe. And if I feel unsafe, how can I feel truly at home?

For ages, home was my parents’ house. It had my stuff. My food. My family.

Many a dream transported me back to the condo called home for my first seven years – to the patio off the living room, and its view of the pond with its willows and ducks.

Most fond memories take place in the little yellow house that followed – three years of horsing around in the basement; making crafts during cartoons in the TV room; more hours of playing, writing, and learning on the computer than you’d think a single day could hold.

Then the place I’ve lived the longest – our Victorian beast in a Michigan-shore ghetto. The house that first gave me my own bedroom, and (after years of begging) a dog. The heavy sliding doors that compartmentalized half of the first floor. The kitchen too laughably small for all five of us at once. The stuffy attic braved only for necessities like fancy clothes and drum practice. The computer room with its cantankerous printers. The sun room with its karate-sweat mats and invasive ladybugs. The driveway that never seemed longer than in winter, when it was covered in snow and the blower was busted, so out came the shovels, day after day.

Photo Shoot Stairwell
Not to mention my favorite photo shoot stairwell.

This was home. Until I outgrew it. There is – and is no – going back.

On vacation, home’s wherever you happen to leave your bags. The hotel or hostel or guest room you ditch to explore and to experience; to shop and sightsee; to get sick of your companions, all your good times saved for later in Polaroidsdisposable camerasdigital cameras … selfies. Then back you go, to flop wearily onto questionable comforters, surfing through the local channels for anything fun or familiar, wondering where dinner’s coming from – head back out, or order in? Depends how sunburned, waterlogged, footsore you feel.

That room’s your home base, ‘til the traveling’s done. But you know it’s no more than a placeholder.

I called Germany home, however half-true it was. (The forest truer than the house shared with [never mind him].)

I called that apartment behind a Chicago store home, however temporarily.

I may sometimes call home the down-the-mountain destination for which Tirzah and I fight public transportation every weekend. Her parents’ home. Where I happened to leave most of my bags.

Me: “Is that where you meant? Or there? There? Or there?”

Brain: …

Me: “Well?”

Heart: “You know where we mean.”

I don’t know exactly where. I don’t know precisely when. But what is meant, I know.

Home will mean my stuff. My food. My Tirzah.

Safety. Privacy. Solitude.

Adult annoyances, doubtless. Rent, utilities, homesteader headaches.

Not all of it fun. But all of it ours.

Mine.

That place at the end of your vacationexile … odyssey,

where you stagger in late, let your bags drop for the last time,

and breathe.

The Continuing Adventures of Yosemite Dan

Yosemite Dan

“So, how’s life in Yosemite National Park?”

I’m glad you asked, unspecified italicized voi— Wait. Didn’t you already ask that question, back in January?

“Danielle. It’s practically June. Things may have changed.”

You’ve got me there, voice. Heck, has anything at all stayed the same?? Let’s run down the list and see…

The Job:

For one thing, I’m no long a steward in the dish pit of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. (Not officially, anyway…) As of the end of March, I’ve been promoted to Storeroom Clerk. Same hotel, different end of the dining service spectrum: Instead of cleaning the dishes post-meal, I help stock the ingredients that make the meal possible. The job description includes helping the lead storeroom guy put in regular resupply orders, LOTS of heavy lifting when the deliveries come in (hey, Carpentry-Fail Danielle! Chin up, babe – you get stronger!), and helping cooks and servers locate where we put everything.

“How do you like the new job?”

I’m so tempted to add that question to my blog’s FAQ page… People are constantly asking me that, and I have to search an answer other than, “I’m constantly terrified I’m going to screw up and let everybody down and get yelled at and wanna die and—” I don’t know whether to blame the new job for this weeks-long anxiety attack, or if my brain just decided I’d been too chill for too long, but here we are.

Still, the new job comes with a higher hourly wage. So there’s that.

The Cast:

Unofficially? You’ll still find me in the dish pit, from time to time. Because the cast of Joes has undergone a drastic overhaul. Several Joes, both mentioned and omitted, have left the pit for other positions, with too few yet arriving to take their places as the busy summer season approaches*. Although, one very special Joe has lately joined the force.

Call her BFF Joe. Better known, Tirzah Duncan.

Yosemite - Work Besties

That’s right – my bestie came to live with me in Yosemite! And, y’know, to work with me, which we got to do for about two weeks before I moved to the storeroom. But that’s 90% of the reason I still don the latex gloves and vinyl apron in the never-ending battle against dirty dishes: No way am I leaving a skeleton crew that includes my girl Tirzah to struggle alone!

So between my official position, the dish pit overtime, and, oh yeah, the whole self-publishing author thing, I’m working something like 2-and-a-half jobs, and I have the total lack of energy to prove it.

Yosemite - New Job

The Perks:

Did I mention the part where my best friend and I are in Yosemite together??

Yosemite - Together Forever

I mean, given that we’re working two different full-time gigs, we don’t get to see each other as constantly as we’d like. But as of her second week here, at least we’re roomies! In a tent-cabin, right outside the dorms that used to house me. Though a bare third bed warns that the Powers That Be may eventually try to saddle us with a third roommate, the current situation is perfectly livable (and, with our dual paychecks, because #YaySteadyMoney, more than affordable). Moreover, the manager in charge of our schedules has been gamely working to accommodate our need for matching days off, meaning that we’re generally able to visit our loved ones in Fresno every week.

Which is extra good, because Tirzah would probably snap and drown Muttering Joe in a tub of pre-soak solution, otherwise.

The Takeaway:

It’s not a perfect paradise, but it time and again appears that I’m becoming adult enough to handle it. One helpful coping strategy is remembering that all things are temporary. I’ve only got to deal with all the stressful parts until I don’t. And until then, I have only to lift my eyes to the mountains to recall the parts I’ll miss when this chapter is behind me.

Yosemite_Mountain View

*Speaking of a surplus of job openings: Want a gig in one of the most gorgeous locations in the world? The dishwashers of the Majestic Yosemite Hotel want YOU!

…Assuming that you’re a reliable worker, game to be a(n often unsung) heroic part of a fast-paced kitchen environment.

Serious applicants, grab your resume and check out this link!

The Life and Times of Yosemite Dan

“So, how’s life in Yosemite National Park?”

I’m glad you asked, unspecified italicized voice*. It’s been… something else.

Yosemite - Adventure Usual

*(Or didn’t I name that voice, at one point? I wouldn’t put it past me.)

The Job:

I’ve been about a month working in the Majestic Yosemite Hotel as a dishwasher – ahem, make that as a Majestic Steward, according to my manager.

Yosemite - Majestic Steward

Running rinsed flatware, glassware, utensils, and more through the pair of heavy-duty machines. Working with the team to keep the kitchen’s dishes in some semblance of order for the chefs and servers. Walking the line between mind- and body-numbing repetition and cracking the puzzles of how to make everything fit on the shelves – like a living video game that dries out your hands and tweaks out your shoulder.

Two weeks into it, aforesaid manager sat me down to say that he was very much impressed with me and wished to groom me into his managerial position. Color me both flattered and terrified! Of course I strive to shine in whatever role I’m given, and due recognition for my efforts is always appreciated. But… a manager? At the Majestic? Whether I’m psychologically competent to handle the responsibility aside, I’ve never planned to stay in Yosemite long-term. By the end of the year (at the latest), I want a place in Fresno with the BFF.

This I told my manager, largely anticipating that would be that. But, “Oh, Fresno?” he says. “The company has a branch in Fresno. Let me make a phone call…” And he totally calls over there to see what kind of position might be available for me within a year’s time.

If that’s not a sign to go ahead and accept the position of his protégée, what in the world is?

The Cast:

I wasn’t long on the job before I started thinking this would all make for quite the book.

Yosemite - Outlaws AU

Not that I’m big on memoirs (unless you count the upcoming Inspired, which I halfway do), but something in the rom-com vein would suit. …minus any romance, at this point, since none of my coworkers have yet to make a move on my heart. That’s just as well. Amusing as these characters may be to read or write, they’re hardly Deshipley love interest material. I mean, just get a load of these guys – all, for the sake of identity-protection, to be called Jo[e]*.

*(As life would have it, Joe is the actual name of one of my coworkers. Which? I’m not about to tell.)

Mansplainer Joe = Here to make sure that I know he knows what I should know. Because I guess my quick competence is only visible to actual bosses, not just bossy people.

Dead Inside Joe = Going through the motions without any memory of why he once cared, if ever he did. Should probably get a different job before there’s nothing left of him to save.

Muttering Joe = What’s that he’s saying? Nobody knows, and I suppose it doesn’t matter, given that he’s 9 times out of 10 talking to himself. Freezes with overwhelm when the servers pile the unwashed dishes too high at the sink. Will be taking his break now whether there’s anyone to relieve him or not

Super Joe = This elderly man doesn’t speak English (I think he’s some kind of Eastern European?), but he can pull and stow dishes like nobody’s business. “He’s a superhero,” Dead Inside Joe says candidly. “Whenever he’s here, I feel safe.” Clearly, the Majestic Steward that Gotham needs right now.

Sociopathic Witch Priest Joe = …Or so he claims. There’s no telling how much of his manic chatter is true, and how much is him just trying to keep himself entertained. Can verifiably wash and load dishes at the speed magic, if and when he can be bothered to work at all. Loves my high-level use of English. Thinks we should plot a murder together.

Boy Band Joe = Looks like an early Nick Carter. Proudly calls himself the weirdest person here. (Which, wow, have you not met Sociopathic Witch Priest Joe?) Can barely keep it in his hairnet. Low-key resents the manager acting like this is a job to be taken seriously.

“It” Girl Jo = Or is Boy Band Joe the only one hollering for her attention all night? Whatever the case, I’ll totally buy her as the queen bee of the dish pit, proving that you don’t have to look like (or be) a Mean Girl to read as popular. Knows her job and gets it done. Caught me proofreading “Inspired” and showed an interest. Obviously one of the smart ones.

And those are just some of the folks I encounter day-to-day, to say nothing of the rest of the kitchen’s colorful crew. Come at me, Netflix; let’s collab on the next hit original series.

The Perks:

One free meal (often big enough to split into two), plus random tidbits to be had throughout the day. I’m saving like whoa on groceries!

Yosemite - Yum

Yosemite - Fruit

Yosemite - Veggies

Steady money via a job I don’t hate. I began to doubt I’d live to see the day.

Yosemite itself. Sure, I spend most of the winter’s limited daylight hours laboring indoors, but nature’s glory is never far, and is miraculously healing. My head and heart, praise God, are feeling healthier than they have since before the trauma at Germany’s end – and that goes for some of my characters, too.

– Seriously, my characters love it here. The trees and rivers and mountains fill them with joy. And since they’re inside of me, the benefits are partly mine to share.

– When I’ve got two days off to rub together, the BFF is just a few hours away by bus and train. Our reunions are always sweet, and keep us going strong until we’re back together for real.

The Takeaway:

For now – and for once – I’m fairly sure I’m where I’m supposed to be. Certainly, I’m feeling well taken care of. And whether this experience ever makes its way into a book or onscreen, I know it to be well worth living.

Yosemite - Nature

*Music Intensifies* (CONCERTO Release Spotlight)

Officially, I’m not blogging during the month of December! But low key, I’m posting today to spotlight the latest release from Xchyler Publishing, because I do occasionally roll like that – like that time I had a review stop on the blog tour of “Forte” by JD Spero. Well, guess what?

Forte_Banner

New young adult urban fantasy – CONCERTO – “the spellbinding sequel to FORTE by award-winning author JD Spero”, released this week!

First, the blurb:

Samantha McGovern sacrificed her magic to save her home town. Finally, after more than two years, stirrings within her whisper of a reawakening. However, nothing can offset the misery of parting with her boyfriend. How can she keep Jason when he’s moved on to college life, but she’s still trapped in high school for another year?

In Boston, Sami’s new friends help her rediscover her power, and, reunited with an old crush, he now seems into her. Sami struggles to ignore the intoxicating charms of Miles Eichen, but with Jason’s increasing distance, it feels like a losing battle.

When her strange visions begin to come true, Sami discovers a new purpose to her magic—magic stronger than she could ever imagine. Millions of lives are in danger, and only she has the power to foil a great evil. However, it will take a different kind of magic to repair the rift between her and Jason.

Next, the cover:

Concerto by JD Spero, full spread cover

Chick-a-plao! Does that look like hot stuff, or what?

And now, a word about our author:

JD Spero

Johannah Davies (JD) Spero was born near a pristine lake in the Adirondacks and has lived in various cities such as St. Petersburg (Russia), Indianapolis, Dallas, and Boston. She has pursued her love of narrative through degrees in English, Russian, and teaching—and has worked as an actress, a yoga instructor, a web design entrepreneur, freelance writer, and a high school English teacher. She lives in the Northeast with her husband and three young sons.

www.jdspero.com

If “Concerto” looks like a read you want in on, then make like a cool kid and get yourself a copy – or, if you’re behind the game, you can first catch up with Book 1. Congrats on your new book baby, JD Spero! And Ever On Wordians, I’ll be back in January. *peaces out*

The Year of Winging It

I’m a gal who likes to have plans on plans on plans for things as far in advance as possible.

You would not know that, based on my behavior this past year.

I. How much wood would a wood fan work if a woodwork job would work?

At year’s start, I was working a data entry job that, under a change-up in management, had grown increasingly miserable. I wanted to run, but I didn’t know where to – until, on a whim, I said, “Why not try carpentry?”

Since, y’know, I liked wood, and I heard carpenters make good money, plus it’d be skills I could take with me anywhere, meaning I wouldn’t have to feel tied down to the Chicago area.

…Once I’d completed my 4-year apprenticeship, anyway.

So began the months-long process of getting into the pre-apprenticeship program.

II. Trippin’ down the road

In the meantime, early summer found my sister and me on a road trip to—

Me: “Where you wanna go?”

Sister: “I dunno.”

Me: “Pittsburgh? I hear Pittsburgh’s nice.”

Sister: “Ok.”

Sure, there was minimal planning before we set forth. We booked our hotel rooms in advance, and mapped out a budget of roughly how much we expected to spend. But otherwise, the whole venture was explore-as-you-go. And by and large, the results were good, including walks along water, art shows and animals sanctuaries, an impromptu viewing of “Wonder Woman”, and more.

Road Trip Triptych

III. Wish granted

Not long afterward:

Me: *is depressed*

Mom: All right, none of that. I’m sending you to see “Aladdin”.

Me: !!!

And I mean, you can’t always make your brain less sad by saturating it with a dazzling onstage performance of your childhood heart’s first love. But it sure worked wonders this time!

Aladdin Onstage Triptych

IV. Will Scarlet dies smiling

Then came carpentry school and Temporary Apartment and – the year’s highlight – a visit from BFF Tirzah Duncan! Her coming was very much planned. More spontaneous was our attendance at the Wizard World comic con.

Me [scrolling on Facebook]: “Oh, hey, it’s gonna be in Chicago the weekend you arrive.”

Will Scarlet: “Wait – JOHN BARROWMAN’S going to be there?!?!?!”

Tirzah: “Ohmygosh, can we—?”

Me: “ORDERING! PHOTO OP! TICKETS! NOW!”

Will: *weeping*

John Barrowman Photo Op 2

Honestly, the Barrowman thing was an entire blog post unto itself.

V. Lightning Strikes Twice

Weeks later, I’ve dropped out of carpentry and am questioning absolutely everything about my life. But then—

Me [scrolling on Tumblr]: “Wait – MAGGIE STIEFVATER has a book tour stop in Chicago in two days?!?!?!”

Will and Tirzah: “Babe, you should totally—”

Me: “ORDERING! SIGNING LINE! TICKET! NOW!”

Maggie Stiefvater and Me

This, too, was an entire blog post unto itself.

VI. Living the dream?

Back at my parents’ house, prepping for my split-decision move to California. I knew I needed to land a paying job, so I started filling out online apps for everything from clerical gigs to warehouse work. Not that I really wanted to do any of that.

Hypothetical voice: “So what do you want to do, Danielle?”

Me: “I don’t know! Why can’t somebody just pay me to run away to the woods?!”

Yosemite National Park: “So hey, that dishwashing job in our super fancy hotel you applied for? It’s yours.”

Me: “…”

VII. What comes next:

I have no idea. There’s a month left in 2017 – the year Will Scarlet laughingly (and rightfully) dubbed my Year of Winging It. Anything could happen, particularly if my unpredictable pattern holds going into 2018 and beyond.

It’s a terrifying prospect. And yet… *looks back on it all* …just maybe it’s the life I’m meant to live.

For now.

Fortnight of Fright: Flash Fiction From Danielle E. Shipley & Tirzah Duncan

Books Take You Places

FoF2014Hi, friends! Today we have Danielle E. Shipley, author of the Wilderhark Tales novellas and the novel Inspired (see her other features on my blog here and here). Also contributing is Tirzah Duncan, writer of novels, short stories and poetry. They are here to share some truly awesome flash fiction to help us celebrate Fortnight of Fright this year. I have always been a fan of Danielle’s work and after reading this post I am sure that you will want to read more from her and Ms. Duncan for sure. Take a gander below and don’t forget to head over to Amy Brittany’s blogs to see who they have featured today! Don’t forget, we are hosting wonderful bloggers & authors for two whole weeks with recipes, book recommendations and a lot more awesome!

Once upon an October years ago, there transpired what might only be described as a supernatural occurrence:…

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