Eight weeks ago I started my drive from Seattle to Silicon Valley. On the way, I camped at Crater Lake National Park, leapt off an 18′ cliff into the deepest lake in the U.S. and drove to Lassen Volcanic National Park, walked a quarter mile underground in a cave carved by lava. I made it to San Francisco in time to have my fingerprints taken for my new job as a scheduler for California Attorney General Kamala Harris.
It was my first time doing a road trip alone and camping alone. I enjoyed the time I had on the open road, watching the sun come out and the land rise and fall around me. Keeping me company was an audiobook of An Unfinished Life about President Kennedy’s childhood, family, and policies.
The trip reminded me how much I love the radical concept of setting aside inspiring land for everyone to own and explore. The reminder wasn’t intellectual; it was visceral. My bones remembered that they are part of the earth as I plunged into azure waters and stubbed my toe on the doll-plinths lava left behind far from the sun.
Now I’m back in California, I am making a list of parks I want to learn to be human in. If you have a favorite, please share it and I’ll add it to my itinerary.
When I got my job in Olympia last December, I texted the only person I knew at the time with experience staffing an elected official. I told him I’d been looking for a book to let me know what excellence looked like in a staffing job, and that I hadn’t been able to find one. He said the best guide was reading Presidential biographies, and gave me a list. Since January I’ve read books on FDR, Lincoln, Kennedy, and Teddy Roosevelt, supplementing it with memoirs by Hillary Clinton and Elizabeth Warren.
My friend was right–reading stories of great leaders told me what I have needed to know. If no one takes you seriously, be serious and make them Eleanor Roosevelt seemed to say. Fight the big, hard fights was the message from President Lincoln. Take what people hate about you and make it yours came through loud and clear from JFK. Catholicity of interests is a strength, not a weakness was what I got from Teddy Roosevelt. Fight hard came from Senator Warren. Bring others with you sounded loud and clear from Hillary Clinton.
I’m going on another road trip tomorrow, driving to camp at Lassen Volcanic National Park for Labor Day weekend, this time approaching from the South. I’ll be listening to a biography of Thomas Jefferson and thinking about the leaders and the people who are the reason we have a Labor Day to celebrate and national parks in which to marvel. I’ll share updates and photos as I go.
“The work of the world is common as mud.
Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
But the thing worth doing well done
has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
but you know they were made to be used.
The pitcher cries for water to carry
and a person for work that is real.”–Marge Piercy