Fun fact: The Mississippi River drops 1,475 feet over 2,340 miles.

As some of you know, there’s a nonprofit (founded by Puget Sound Crew alums!) called OAR Northwest that’s all about adventure education and long, self-propelled journeys via water.  They’ve won an open-water rowing race across the Atlantic Ocean, mostly completed a second Atlantic crossing to collect scientific data and run online webinars, have tootled around the Salish Sea and Puget Sound a bit, and most recently have rowed the length of the Mississippi River to collect water samples and visit local schools doing environmental education programs.

The Mississippi trip (also known as Adventure: Mississippi River, or AMR) isn’t just supposed to be a one-time thing, though.  They’re hoping for it to be an annual trip with a new set of rowers each time, each with a different story and each experiencing the river in different ways.  For example, last year, the group of OAR Northwest guys was trucking along, doing their thing, chatting to kids in an elementary school in Tennessee, when apparently they heard a boy say that girls couldn’t do what they were doing.  Therefore, the trip this fall will not be all guys.  It’s a changing beast – both the river itself and the AMR.

Anyway, on Thursday I got to row with Jordan Hanssen, president of OAR Northwest, in one of the modified skiffs that they rowed from Minneapolis to the Gulf of Mexico (the first 400+ miles, from Lake Itasca to Minneapolis, were traveled in canoe to account for the narrower and shallower waterway).  I’ve been rowing since my freshman year of high school, but this was a bit different from competitive racing.  For one thing, the two person boat weighed more than an eight person racing shell.  It’s a whole lot wider and doesn’t need anyone’s help to balance itself.  Also, the oars are an entirely different shape, which sounds trivial, until you consider the fact that the hydrodynamics of your water propulsion have changed.

I hear you get used to it pretty quick, though.

Night Showers

The first floor in Thompson, the University’s Mathematics and Sciences building that forms one-half of the frame of a quadrangle with Harned Hall, is one of my favorite study locations, if only for the conference rooms that it offers. These conference rooms contain tables that, mimicking the macrostructure of the building, are arranged in outline of a rectangle, framing a vacant internal space. But that’s not important.

One night as we were studying, it began to rain. This was not out of the norm, being the Pacific Northwest. But it came down heavily, testing the glass windows, which was enough to grab our attention. I walked over to the windows and pulled the blinds. The ground of the quadrangle glistened with the spatter of the drops under the moon. Across from us, I could see other students gazing at the rain.

I took a chair facing the window and leaned back. Water streamed down Oppenheimer Café’s crag-like glass sides. The quadrangle itself glowed, though unlike anything I’d ever seen before; I couldn’t pinpoint it.

I asked my friends if I could turn off the lights.

I wasn’t wrong. The quadrangle was glowing, but not with the light given off by the buildings or by the light of the hidden moon. Not exactly. Rather, it glowed with light refracted through tiny globules of water. As light passed through the rain that had accumulated on the window-glass into the dark room in which we sat, the shadows of the room gave way to shifting spots of diluted light. Like sitting in a snow globe or in the middle of an aquarium. And I imagined it was snowing or that I was a fish.

A crow landed outside the window to escape the rain beneath an outcropping. It examined the dark room and the spotted glass that lined it. Looking closely at the droplets, it saw three figures in the room. Seeing that they were upside-down, it flew away.

A Bit More Light

Some time ago, my friends and I bought a light-up Frisbee, which we played with in the dark at a park in Auburn. After that day, however, the Frisbee saw no activity, quietly taking up space on the floor of a friend’s room. Until one day, seeking a study break, my friend and I decided that we should enjoy the sunshine, and with sweatpants and jackets—for though it was sunny, it was cold—we exited Trimble Hall and sought a large, vacant place to waste time with a Frisbee.

We ended up in the Field House parking lot, which was relatively empty. I ran down the gravel, at first, outrunning, but then, running after, the saucer that arced above my head.

It fell about twenty-feet in front of me.

No worries, my friend said, as I picked up the glowing disc.

I flicked it back to him.

As we tossed the Frisbee back and forth, a little Chihuahua came into view and began to walk down the length of the parking lot. We watched it reach the side of the street, then turn and continue down the sidewalk. I thought it might have been lost.

I’m just glad it didn’t walk into traffic, my friend said.

We continued tossing the Frisbee, every so often, trying a more difficult maneuver, such as curving the flight of the disc or, unsuccessfully, throwing it with a forward-flick. Each time we did so, the Frisbee slipped through our hands or flopped onto the ground. Disheartened, however, we would not be deterred. Each failure became a lesson, until finally:

I reared my hand and flicked forward with my wrist, launching the Frisbee from my hand,

It flew low with a slight arc and halfway to my friend began to wobble,

My friend ran forward and with arms outstretched and hands open,

His fingers closed around the spinning Frisbee.

It was a bigger deal than it seems. We celebrated, affirmed that our efforts had paid off. Though it was only a minor victory, we knew it reflected a lesson true of college and of life. Tired, we started to walk back. Before we crossed the street, in the hush of a passing car, I heard a faint barking. I like to think that that dog made it home.

A Few Things about the Puge I am Excited to Show My Best Friend

My best friend from high school is arriving for a visit tomorrow. Here are just a few of the many many things I can’t wait to show her!

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1) The sunset behind Wyatt Hall, shining through the Chihuly glass sculptures.
2) Foggy morning walks across the South Quad
3) Rain against Oppenheimer’s glass walls
4) My colorful dorm room
5) The colorful dorm rooms of all of my friends
6) My friend Aidan’s fantastic audio set up, and the cool lights he was wired to it
7) Coffee in Diversions
8) The trees. So many trees.
9) Sitting in the bright upstairs room of Wheelock, in one of the little alcoves on the side, where three people fit like a puzzle
10) The cellar on Saturday night, when it’s full and the music is loud.
11) Playing music in the Piano Lounge
12) Norton Clapp Theater
13) Point Defiance Park
14) My classes, where discussions are deeper and more intense than I could have ever imagined possible in high school
15) My club meetings, where students are passionate and engaged about their acvitives, and really want to be there
16) Mt. Rainier if we’re lucky!
17) The way a group of people I didn’t know six months ago now know me and love me and make me laugh so hard it hurts—almost every day.

This is just a sample of the magic of the Puge. Hannah—I am beyond excited to share what life at UPS means. AKA—I love you a billion times over , get on the train so we can have a fabulous time together. See you tomorrow with a big sign and a big smile, my dear!


The transition back to UPS after the break can be a bit jarring, in the sense that flying in the Alps can be a bit bumpy. Over break my main responsibilities were drinking chai tea and reading chick lit, half the time I didn’t even have to get the tea myself. I was sick so my family got it for me. Now I’m back at school, I’m getting my own tea again (though admittedly it’s not that hard to take out a tea bag and fill it with hot water from the SUB). I’m also reading books with sentences like: “America is neither dream nor reality. It is a hyperreality. It is a hyperreality because it is a utopia which has behaved as though it were already achieved.” When I was on break all anyone asked me to deal with was reality, now I have to figure out hyperreality too. The whole thing seems very surreal.

But there are good points to coming back to UPS. The cherry trees are blooming and the SUB is serving Pork Hum Bao. We’re exercising our minds again, by force if necessary. I enjoy learning things and UPS is where I do that. Last semester I learned some Marx, some post-modern literary philosophy, and how to get nail polish stains off a carpet. This year I’m looking forward to learning what Henry Louis Gates wrote in his memoir and how to scuba dive. It involves oxygen and a wetsuit, and that’s pretty much all I know about it.

That being said, it’s a good idea to take some time for yourself. You can watch a movie, take a walk with a friend, or even make plans to become an international fugitive to avoid student loan payments. Take a deep breath and thank God it’s Friday.

Fun fact: I am 112 days away from being a college graduate.

Well, we’re done with the first week of classes.  I’m not sure what I think about this.  Do I like the relative security of being a college student?  Of course.  Am I looking forward to adventuring off after graduation?  If I weren’t looking forward to it, then I wouldn’t be doing it.  So yes.  Does that mean I can’t wait for the end of the semester?  Not really.  I try to avoid thinking about it.

On that cheerful note, I think I’m going to talk about the unseasonably warm weather we’ve been having lately.  There are bulbs sprouting by the front door of my house, and I’ve spotted a few blossoms outside the library.  Man, they’re going to have a hard time in 112 days if it rains like it did at last year’s graduation.

Okay, take two.  Classes.

I’m taking three upper-division English classes, one of which is an internship with the Gig Harbor History Museum, so there will be a lot of reading and writing this semester.  I’m also rowing, of course, plus one of the quarter-credit EPDM department classes (which I highly recommend, by the way; they’re a fun way to mix up your course load), plus beginning rock climbing.  I’ve been meaning to get into rock climbing for a while, and am really excited that I got into the class in my last semester of college.

Nope, we’re not thinking about that.

What about winter break?  I lounged around for a couple of weeks before volunteering for the internal communications department of the U.S. Geological Survey headquarters in Northern Virginia.  Turns out that that was the place to be, because my supervisor introduced me to all sorts of cool people – the director of a team of three hundred scientists doing coastal research, the chief of the Science Publishing Network, the regional director of the Northwest region, who might have some contacts to help me get a job this summer after I graduate.

Well, so much for not thinking about graduation.  In any case, thinking about it is only serving to help me put off homework, which is sort of a necessary component of getting there.  Plus, I’ll be rowing 2,300 miles with OAR Northwest’s Adventure: Mississippi River expedition this fall, so why should graduation scare me?

I Remember



I had forgotten what it was like here. Being home for a month had left me distracted by the dog and my best friend and my parents and my little brother’s infectious laugh and my older brother’s eyes twinkling across the dinner table. I had fallen back in love with the Bay Area, and the entire beautiful idea of home.
So I forgot what it was like here.

When I got onto my plane at OAK on Monday, I was tired, and I already missed my mom. My phone was low on battery, and the book I was reading was at a slow, depressing spot. In short, I wasn’t in a great mood. I wasn’t sure I was ready for a second semester. I wasn’t sure I was ready for independence again.

But then.

Then the shuttle pulled up in front of Wheelock, and there, waiting on the sidewalk with grins about to split their faces open, were two of my closest friends here. People who love me. People who laugh with me. People who make me whole. Continue reading

A Long Way Back

The flight from Hawaii to Washington is not very long, relative to the distances some of my friends on the east coast or in Asia have to travel, but as short as the five-to-six hour plane ride is, it can seem like a lifetime. Because I can’t sleep on planes, I’m usually bored by the time the plane lands, having exhausted one or two movies, two or three albums, and a fair amount of trips to the lavatory. Though, of course, a part of the reason the trip can seem so long is due to the fact that it is a trip away from home.

For me, the return marks a leave-taking that never seems to get easier. All I’m carrying is a carry-on, but the weight is somehow more. Did we know this when we were high school seniors looking to get away for a change? Maybe. So it goes.

But as sad as leaving one place is, the trip is also a return to another place, a place of learning and friendship, a place that pushes students to grow intellectually and personally. So that when we return home, we’re a little older, a little wiser, and a bit more appreciative of what it means to be back.

As I leave behind the setting sun, whose light illuminates every groove upon the glass window to my left, I know that, to return, we must first away. Flying to Tacoma, I know that no sooner will I have landed than I will be finishing finals and chasing the setting sun to get back home before it’s dark with more reasons to return.

The Long Return

New Semester’s Resolutions

Last semester was hard.

The gravity of that statement cannot be underscored enough. It was hard in a “life-class-wow-this-is-a-serious-adult-like-issue-that-i-am-now-dealing-with” type way.

But it’s over now. And after four solid weeks of doing nothing except eating food and crying about The Hobbit: Battle of Five Armies (it’s not weird at all okay) (you think that I am joking) (I am not), I have returned to school completely rested and with a list of Things That Will Make This Semester More Enjoyable And Less Hard.

1. Actually! Talk! To! My! Professors! I tend to be the sort of person who is convinced that she can handle things on her own. The University of Puget Sound has, however, really awesome faculty that want me to come in and talk about my problems, both directly related to the course and barely related to the course.   So my major goal is to stop being anxious about “bothering them” and actually making use of my professors and the amazing resources that they have.

2. Submit a poem (or poems) to Crosscurrents. Crosscurrents is the literary magazine at our school, and every single time the submissions are open I always manage to find excuse towards why I cannot publish. Which is dumb. I am actually enjoy writing poetry and I am Not Terrible at writing (I mean, I’m writing here), so I should be getting my work out there.

3. Find something every day that makes me happy. The idea of this is to focus more on the good things of life, and to note them as they happen. The bar of happiness is set extremely low: literally, “I had a shower and it felt really good” is an acceptable thing. I just want to be more happy and remind myself that good things are happening all the time; I am just unaware of them.

4. Eat more chocolate. My friends think it cannot be done. I say otherwise. Chocolate is good for the soul.

5. Read more books. I have actually decided to keep a reading journal for 2015, into which I am only allowed to put books that I have not read before. This goal is to a) provide enjoyment because READING IS AWESOME KIDS, b) allow my eyes to rest from the glare of the computer, thus cutting down on headaches, c) make me use the various libraries around Tacoma more, and d) broaden my knowledge base and make me smarter.

I have other, lesser goals, of course: educate myself on every social issue so I can become a decent person, continue exercising, treat myself (my friend and I have actually established a Treat. Yo. Self. Day as a New Year’s Resolution and I heartily recommend it), say yes to more things, wear red lipstick more often, learn how to do the perfect wingtip on my eyeliner, get straight A’s, discover the meaning of my life, get a job. . . .Some are feasible. Some are less easy. But I am setting myself up for success.