A few months ago I did an online interview with Edie who is working for the concessionaires about life and work in the Park. I’ve finally had a chance to work through the interview and post it.
YB: Why did you want to work in Yosemite?
Edie: I found myself, at the age of 45, at a time in my life when I was free of encumberances. I had been living in New England for 16 years, far away from California where I had grown up. Single, unemployeed, my son grown and all my pets had passed on. I was helping a friend open a bookstore in Uxbridge, MA. One day she turned to me and said “Edie, have you ever thought of working in a National Park?”
“Where the heck did that come from, Susan?” I asked.
“No, I’m serious. You love being outdoors, and you love people. Working in a national park would be perfect for you.”
I flashed on a memory of standing in Stoneman Meadow one very cold night when I was a small child. It was crowded with people and cars, so much so that I couldn’t see. A man picked me up and put me on his shoulders, and I sat in wonder watching the firefalls for the only time in my life.
Beside the memory of the cold, I remember the falls moving down the face of Glacier Point in slow-motion. I suppose I heard the sound of people ooh-ing and ahh-ing, but I don’t remember. The red of the embers was searing itself into my young mind.
I turned to my friend Susan and said “You know, Susan, that’s a damn good idea. I think I’d like to see Yosemite again.”
YB: What was your first impression?
Edie: My cousin Cindy drove me into the valley on Rt. 120. Not the most spectacular entrance, but I remember a growing sense of anticipation. Seeing Half Dome in the rain was incredible. That sense of astonishment has stayed with me for the 2 and a half months I’ve been here. I hope it never goes away.
YB: Where do you live? Do you share a room? What’s it like?
Edie: I live in a dorm room with a young woman from Samara, Russia. We get along very well, and I enjoy her youthful enthusiasm. The dorm is relatively new, with a bathroom on each floor. I think my biggest complaint is the lighting in the room. We have a single circline flourescent light, and it’s cold and harsh. The walls are a cool white, bordering on grey. The carpet is industrial, and a blue grey. I loathe it. But, overall, it’s much better than living in a tent cabin. My single window overlooks the fascinating trunk of a large ponderosa pine tree. No, I’m not being sarcastic, it really is a beautiful sight to see the different light on it. I’ve seen some woodpeckers on it, too.
YB: What would you consider the greatest benefit of working in the Park?
Edie: Well, the fact that I get to live in one of the world’s greatest geological treasures is pretty damn cool. Hiking, exploring, camping…
Another aspect of working in the park is learning all the hidden treasures. Little known or secret trails that are pretty much the sole territory of employees–good advice from long-time residents, and learning that no matter how crowded the valley gets, you can always find a place to just be by yourself. Plus, there is ample time to really get good shots. I’m here 24/7, and so I get a chance to go back and gt a better shot in better light. This is the best place in the world to learn photography.
YB: What’s the biggest detriment?
Edie: Sometimes feeling like I’m trapped here in the valley because I don’t have a car. Being so far from friends and family, too. Oh, and the damn mosquitos. *swat!*
YB: Do you think you’ve changed since you began working in the Park?
Edie: Definitely. I’ve lost about 30 pounds here so far, simply from all the walking I’m doing. I think that being here has also taken me out of my rut, and made me get out and *do* things again. I’m learning, I’m getting in shape, and I sleep like a rock every night. My blood pressure has gone way down, too–back to my normal 110/70!
YB: What advice would you give someone who wanted to work in the Park?
Edie: Be prepared to leave behind a lot of baggage. Go light, get out, and push your limits. Don’t expect to get rich with money, but you can rely on the fact that you will grow rich with experience.
YB: What’s it like working for the concessionaire?
Edie: This is a tough one to answer. Having worked in corporations before, I know that they can be evil. What’s different for me is the addition of bing in a union for the first time in my life. I will say that it’s not all peaches and cream, but it’s not so bad that I want to quit.
YB: Have you made any good friends?
Edie: Ah, I suppose it depends on what you mean by “good friend”, doesn’t it? To me, a good friend is one that you can depend on in a crunch, someone to share joys and sorrows with. Kahlil Gibrhan once said “Seek not your friend with hours to kill, but rather with hours to live”.
There is a very palpable sense of community among the old-timers here. The seasonal help comes and goes, but those of us who make it a point to live and work year-round band together. When a finncial emergency arouse recently, a woman I know was kind enough to drive me to Oakhurst with only an hour’s notice. I count her as a new friend, and we’ve been learning from one another. She has incredible stories of the valley, of the old days, and is a remarkably talented photographer. It’s been my pleasure to help her with her computer, teaching her to use Photoshop, and making use of the internet.
YB: How long do you think you’ll continue to work/live in the Park?
Edie: Another tough question. I’ve fallen in love with Yosemite; Like any relationship, you hope it will last until you die. There may come a time when my feet itch, and I’ll need to leave again. I do plan on spending at least a full turn of the seasons. I may stay for the rest of my life.