(updated May 31, 2012)
I created this blog in July 2010 with the title Ranger m goes to Alaska. At the outset, I wrote a brief post by way of explanation entitled The game led north. It later occurred to me that I only explained the original inspiration for this blog at the very outset of writing and hadn’t revisited or updated my thinking or the way this blog seems to have taken on a life of its own. For anyone finding this blog who does not happen to click on July 2010, there is very little else to provide context or orientation to this site and the writing found therein.
The following is a brief orientation to Ranger m, including original intent and what this blog and writing have come to mean for me.
A bit of background
In the spring of 2010, I had just completed my first year in a low-residency PhD program in Sustainability Education at Prescott College. At the outset of the fall semester, faculty and former students in the program had encouraged the students in my own cohort to keep a journal during our time in the PhD program as a way of documenting our experience. This became my first goal in creating a blog.
I was also in transition, having recently migrated north to Alaska from my home of seven years in the North Cascade Mountains of Washington state for a permanent position with the National Park Service. I was in need of a creative outlet for expression. This outlet came in the form of two assignments during the spring semester 2010. PhD faculty asked that we submit two papers written in a free-write format, one describing our Ecological Self and another detailing the events of our spring break. I found the style of writing both reflective and cathartic. It seemed a perfect way to reflect on my changing relationship with place. This became another goal for writing.
Ranger m was also an experiment for me to discover whether I had propensity for writing and if I would find inspiration to continue writing. I didn’t want to stop writing over the summer months, so it seemed a perfect way to maintain the practice of writing on a regular basis without being required to fit within a stuffy, academic mold.
I have always found blogging to be a strange pastime. Isn’t a journal meant to be a private, solitary form of reflection, a safe space to write any and everything one experienced day in and day out? The notion than anyone would choose to make public the deepest, darkest realms of their psyche is kind of odd.
When I began writing, I vowed to try and write in a manner that was fluid, reflective, and hopefully not too whiny and self-involved, despite the fact that I was posting to a personal blog.
What have I learned?
What I have discovered through Ranger m is a virtual community. There is great comfort in sending missives out to an unknown but not completely foreign realm. Perhaps, this is due to the fact that the virtual universe is a means of connecting with living, breathing souls who may be seeking the kind of support and understanding one hopes to find in a more tangible community.
This blog has truly taken on a life of its own. In two years’ time, my life has shifted dramatically. My own way of being has become far more fluid than in years past, with fairly extreme changes in my personal, professional, and academic life. I have joined communities in four different regions of the United States, changed jobs multiple times, and parted with friends and loved ones during each metamorphosis.
Writing has become a way for me to feel connected to friends and family in the many places I have called home in my travels. It is a way of reaching out and feeling less alone.
Writing is a meditation. In the practice of writing, I find strength and wisdom through reflection. I work through unsustainable times in my life. I find community.
life inspired by writing; writing inspired by life
I dreamed of becoming a writer for years before ever putting virtual pen to the virtual page. Inspiration to begin writing creatively in a personal narrative style came from two free-writing assignments for a Modes of Scholarly Inquiry course I took during my second semester in the first year of the Prescott College Sustainability Education doctoral program. I created this blog in July 2010 as a virtual journal to capture my time as a doctoral student of sustainability.
My intention was to write at least two times a week during my first summer in Alaska as a way of keeping in the practice of writing. At first, I worried that I might sit down to write and ideas would not materialize. The reality was quite different. I found myself composing sentences as I walked through the forests and along the sandy beaches of the rural community in Alaska where I was living.
I could hardly wait to go home and write them all down. My initial fears that this creative venture would fizzle out as quickly as it began disappeared, and I found comfort in the catharsis I experienced each time I sat down to write.
Becoming a writer was the first of many changes I set in motion to create an identity that brings meaning, purpose, and joy to my life. Nearly three years later, I continue to write. I also compose songs from spoken stories in my academic, personal, and professional life.
What I began to discover was that the more creative expression I incorporated into these realms of my life, the more sustainable my life became.
What did it all mean?
With each passing semester, the dreaded D word loomed ever closer. Dissertation!
With all of my traveling during my years as a doctoral student, finding a project idea for my dissertation became a challenge. I realized that my topic would need to be something mobile. The most mobile topic I could think of was me. Perhaps, I could study sustainability in the context of an individual life using my my own lived experiences as data.
I eventually wrote my dissertation as an Autoethnography on the concept of self-sustainability. Over my four years in the Sustainability Education doctoral program at Prescott College, I had made many changes in my life toward a more sustainable path of existence. With each shift toward a more balanced, healthy life, I found myself more available to help others navigate difficult times in their own lives.
Eventually, I came up with the idea that the key to creating sustainability on a global scale was to encourage individual people to cultivate sustainability of the Self. I could begin this movement by delving into a deep study of my four years studying sustainability at Prescott College and looking for possible themes or patterns to explain my own shift toward a more sustainable existence.
My dissertation was the resulting publication of my work. Should you wish to learn about the idea of self-sustainability from my humble experience and research, you may find it here:
I presented my dissertation at the Prescott College Sustainability Symposium in Prescott, Arizona on May 17, 2013. Film clips of the presentation, which was a collaborative effort with my research partner, Malcolm Brooks, can be watched on my youtube channel in the playlist called “STS Dissertation.” These clips also include a Story-to-Song demonstration with a participant from another program cohort.
My work has been highlighted in the Prescott College PhD Viewbook for prospective students:
The image below is a fun way to visualize my dissertation and four-year path to sustainability. The “wordle” program synthesizes the 227 pages into the words that appear most often. Words used most frequently-e.g. sustainability-are the largest in the image.