How about a "New Year" post two weeks later? This post will take on a more personal tone, though we will confront meteorology has it has effected me personally.
At the close of 2008, I sat and waited for the clock to tick down; ready for the year to be over. Having graduated with my dream degree that year, you think I would have been on top of the world. Due to various reasons however, I was not. Notably, I still hadn’t found a job in my field. But in 2009, on the other hand, well let's just say it will go down as one of the best. I didn't win the lottery or fall in love but I experienced a tremendous amount of personal growth and accomplished many things. I'm not going to get too deep into specifics on the personal level, but suffice it to say, I finally put into action, my belief that life is what you make of it and if you really want something, you just do what it takes to achieve it.
The past year has been great to me. Suddenly, I found myself with a job I love and suddenly I could run five and a half miles in one stint. Suddenly I had a better place to live and a little more money in my pocket. Suddenly I found that I could help others out more, suddenly my friends and family seemed more special and suddenly the sun was just a little brighter.
Okay, so maybe that was a little mushy and I understand that this is just one small step, as it were. There's still so much I want to accomplish but instead of looking at it from a distance, I'm running toward it. I know it won't be easy. This year I really got philosophical about chasing storms... and I realized it wasn't just storms I was chasing, it was everything. My head is constantly exploding with fantasy and possibility. Througout my life, I’ve walked slowly toward all this, waiting for things to just happen; for everything to simply all into place. This past year, I stopped standing around waiting and started running. I have all these goals that I'm chasing and I realized that I won't be young forever. Every moment of every day is an opportunity to an extent. I’m not the kind of person that gets bored. One of my unfortunate traits is my desire to learn and enjoy more hobbies that I can afford time-wise or money-wise. This challenges me as it is very, very difficult for me to prioritize. I've gotten better but it is something I have to be vigilant of. Don't worry; I realize that you can't be on the go twenty four-seven. Sometimes you need to sleep and dream, sometimes you need to relax and enjoy the moment. I still know when to do that.
As far as storm chasing goes, I would love to get out as much as possible this year. I'm not sure how much I will, though. I'm trying to be more financially responsible and for me, chasing is not very financially feasible. Last year, I chased over 15,000 miles on 37 separate chases. I don't make money chasing. It is purely for personal enjoyment. I love to go out and document a storm, to experience it physically and spiritually. That, beyond anything else, keeps me out there. On occasion, I enjoy sharing that experience with others, but I'm most happy all by my self. I was able to chase some in my home state of Montana this summer and that is an experience that I wish to repeat this summer as well. I believe that there are a lot of people that are out there for different reasons than me and in this past year, I’ve felt rather disenchanted by that (look for an upcoming post detailing my view of the ‘state of chasing’) I’m not against letting people know that I chase. I don’t want to come off as simply a ‘tornado chaser’, because I am not. I would say that a tornado is probably the best result from any chase, but I go out for many other reasons. I talk about chasing a lot because it is my intent to share my love of meteorology with others in the way someone reacts to an amazing song or piece of art that really moves them.
Unfortunately, I’m looking forward to this year with a bit of trepidation. Aside from the aforementioned people that I wish to avoid, the amount of ‘documentation’ I have amassed has crippled my organization skills. I have an enormous amount of photos and video from this year and I would love to organize it all and share it all. Right now, I am a bit overwhelmed with organizing that effort. It is my intention to get a fully-functioning website running with a page for each chase which would include statistics of the chase, all photos and video, and a full account. It is also my intention to make all of my photos available to view and even possibly to purchase. I would still like to create a DVD of some of the video from this year. I just haven't really attacked these projects yet. Any tips on organizing these efforts would be appreciated! I suddenly find myself on the cusp of another year and feel like I haven't accomplished any of the archiving I wish to do from 2009.
This year does hold some exciting opportunities and challenges for me.
-I have many friends who would like to accompany me out on chases this year. This works out well for many reasons. First, I love seeing the wonderment in someone’s eyes the first time they are in position on a really menacing storm. Also, it’s definitely nice to have help with the cost of gas, especially when Der Schploder is lucky to get 17mpg on the highway.
-During some of this year, Michael Carlson will be riding along with me and documenting me as I chase. I am very excited to see the approach he takes to the whole endeavor and it should be a lot of fun having him along on those chases. In my opinion, he is becoming a very talented photojournalist.
-I’m going to try and spend two weeks in July up in Montana with the intent to see my family and chase Montana and the northern plains during that period (and even Canada since I now have a passport!) On off days when I’m not with my family, I will be exploring. I can’t ever seem to get enough of Glacier or Yellowstone Parks, plus I recently realized that there is a lot of Montana that I haven’t seen. The entire trip should be very therapeutic. I’m also thinking that I might end it with a trip to Chicago to maybe see the Cubs play, but this isn’t set in stone just yet.
-My equipment repertoire will not really change this year. While other chasers are really going high-tech, I’ll still be out there with books of maps, my phone for data, and my eyes. I don’t see an investment into a technological upgrade happening this year, though I do need a new tripod since I backed over my good one last summer. I’d love an HD video camera and/or a DSLR (since I’m still shooting with a point-and-shoot!).
-Der Schploder is getting up there in years and mileage. I’m not sure how much she has left in her, which might necessitate the purchase of a new vehicle, which would in turn make spending money chasing less feasible.
With that all said, I will try and get out as much as possible. I can’t imagine spending my spring any other way…
For the holidays this year, I went home. I've known for some time now, though, that for me, home isn't just one place. I feel at home when I'm with family or loved ones, whether I'm at the place of my birth in Butte, Montana ... which is an incredibly deep city if you take the time to look, or even here in my apartment. Home is the feeling I get when I'm out under a storm or even at some restaurant in a fading town on the plains of this great country watching the lightning of the storms to the east before I make my way back.
I know you're asking why I'm making such a big deal about 'home'. Well, it was important for me to go "home" for the holidays this year and to stay for the New Year. Sometimes we don’t realize how important home can be. Being there this time really reset a lot of things for me. I guess you could say that I simply felt happy… and when I’m happy, I often find myself driven to explore. And it was for that reason that on the way home from home, I went on a little adventure and found myself in South Dakota for a beautiful sunset.
Under that beautiful sky, I realized that you're never far from home, especially when you take it with you, wherever you go. Chasing storms isn't an escape for me, in fact, it's quite the opposite... it's just another way home. So I'll continue running toward it, always chasing it.
Home, like life, is what you make of it.