Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

Dirt Work: An Education in the Woods, Christine Byl

In keeping with my interest in all things outdoors (while being trapped in the confines of a city), I checked out Christine Byl's Dirt Work. The memoir recounts Byl's days as a trail dog in Glacier National Park and Denali Nature Park & Preserve. It serves as a good complement to Cheryl Strayed's Wild, I suppose---who helps build the trails that we traverse? My heart belongs to Yosemite, but now I'm itching to visit more national parks. And in addition to explaining the uses of a shovel and a clinometer, Byl has some wisdom to pass on.  

On parts of speech and finding what's real:

An authentic life will be built, at least in part, of ordinary verbs: wake, plant, dig, mend, walk, lift, listen, season, note, bake, chop, store, stack, harvest, give, stretch, measure, wash, help, haul, sleep.

On finding your way in a new situation:

The only way to enter a new world without humiliation or offense was to keep ears open and mouth shut. Quiet is better than stupid.

On the changing of the seasons, and how being attuned to them affects us:

I love fall in part for its contemplative underpinnings, the way it makes me notice the concrete world (everything's dying) and think about the abstract one (everything dies). When trees and brush go aflame right before leaves and blooms pale at winter, I also wonder: will I have even minutes as full of purpose as these plants do, when my hue is tinted by the tasks of my hands?

Lovely. The rain falling on the concrete this morning smelled, just for a second, like sweet pea; then the tangy metallic of industry overwhelmed it---a fleeting reminder of the powerful call of nature, of what I miss about the Northwest and the Sierras, always in my thoughts when I read books that invoke the great outdoors.