The end is only the beginning, or so I’ve been told.

I came here in jeans and a bright pink leopard-print shirt. I sped into the parking lot at the office building to look like I was “cool” to the group of college kids standing out front, and I never met one of them. I still don’t know who they were.

Maybe that small, insignificant 5 minutes was the greatest moment in my life, but then again, maybe the greatest moment was the first time I climbed to the top of a needle with Cody. Maybe it was the first time I rode a roller coaster, had a slice of Lintz Bros pizza, laid out at Center Lake with Kori, took my first step, or was the day I graduated from high school – but who cares? What matters is that I’ve had more “greatest” moments this summer than I ever have in my entire life.

I feel ethereal. I feel like I’m floating between two planes and there’s nothing I can do about it. I feel the tug of happiness right within my grasp but I also feel a dark sadness looming over my head like the rain cloud that’s moving over the park as I write this. And yet, I feel like I’ve met too many amazing people here at Custer State Park to indulge in the selfish emotion of sadness, so instead, I’ll tell you about yesterday.

Last night, the people who still remained in the park went to a small picnic. We laughed until our sides hurt and took a million embarrassing photos – my face is still sore from laughing. After the picnic I headed to Hill City to see my boyfriend and as I drove, a strange calm came over me. I think it was because the rain was coming – it had been for about an hour, so there was a deep, black cloud that hung above the park as I trekked onward.

And right when this song came on my iPod, I saw it. Feel free to keep listening while you read.

Some things you can’t capture in a photo or with words – all you can do is try, and even then you know you’ll ultimately fail. What matters is that you tried.

The sun was setting with a bright pink glow in the west while a giant black cloud hung over top of it. It’s like whoever was in charge of the sunset that day felt bad about not letting us see it at the park and pulled back the edge of the clouds just a little so that I could get a glimpse. The fuchsia pink of the sunset over the tops of the glowing green pine trees was too beautiful for words and the picture I took with my cell phone doesn’t even begin to do it justice. And at that exact moment, it stopped sprinkling and warmed up just a couple degrees; enough to make the rain begin to evaporate from the road and create a dancing, swirling mist the shrouded everything near it.

It was perfect, and as I drove through the mist that whispered of Ireland toward the sunset that looked like it would have tasted like fruit punch, I knew this moment was created for me and me alone.

And then it was gone as quickly as it came – the temperature got one degree too warm or too cold for the mist and the cloud finally defeated the sun and blanketed it completely. But that was ok, because just like this summer, it was perfect while it lasted and anything more would have just made my head explode with happiness.

This won’t be my last post, but this is the last time I’ll be writing from my windowless, awesome, hole of an office with my bats, my phone that still confuses me, and the cookies I’ve been slowly and inconspicuously eating out of the freezer (sorry, but they’ve been down here for weeks and nobody has claimed them.) I would love nothing more than to come back, repay someone for those stolen cookies and work here again one day.

Signing off for now from Custer State Park,
Anna the Lightning-Chasing, Buffalo-Stalking, Rain-Dancing, Hiking, Biking, Walking, Gate-Working, Phone-Answering, Scanner-Using, Photo-Taking, Rambling, Happy Intern

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Narrative

I am 21 years old and I have the legs of a boy half my age who has spent the summer away at camp for the first time. I am itchy with chigger bites and my knees bear the scars from nights playing sand volleyball and days spent hiking. My feet are covered with a kaleidoscope of tan lines from various sandals and my pink toenail polish is all but worn off. As I lie in bed at night and stare blankly at my computer screen, a tiny gnat – one of many – lands on my bright screen. I am surrounded by the type of wood paneling that makes you think of dank flannel shirts and as I try not to think about the ghosts that surely inhabit these walls, I have never been happier.

But summer is ending. I can hear my new friends outside in the hallway saying cheerful goodnights to each other, but we all know this bacchanalian is about to end. Nobody wants to talk about it though, because frankly, we all might start crying, and the scary part is we’ve all become so close that it would totally be ok.

I have one week of work left and I am almost hoping my boss forgets and just lets me keep working. The only thing keeping me from begging for a full time job and dropping out of college completely is the fact that my mother left school after 3 years and I know I can’t disappoint her like that. But it would be so easy…and it would feel so right. And the whole point of college is to go out and get a job, right?

It isn’t just the woods and the animals and the smell of campfires accompanied by the joyous laughter of children. It isn’t just that I love my job. It isn’t the buffalo and it isn’t the deer who live so near to our dorm that we talk to them like they’re our community dogs. It’s the people here that have made this experience so amazing, so the only comforting thought I have about leaving is that perhaps, in years to come, the same people won’t be back here and therefore it won’t be as awesome and I won’t be missing out. It’s selfish, but I’m a girl and I’m feeling sentimental, so cut me a little slack.

You see, I have Fomo Syndrome – a term we coined at the dorms that stands for “fear of missing out.” I’ve always been like that; Fomo kept me from taking naps as a child because I thought I was going to miss out on something important and I hated going to bed early because I knew that was when all the juicy stuff happened. I don’t want to miss out on more of the phenomenal experiences I’ve had while working at Custer State Park. Hopefully in the future we all will still see each other; a few of us already have plans to visit and those of us with significant others in the park are all going to try and make it work. There are quite a few of us who are going to come back for the Buffalo Roundup in September, so as I look forward to that I can only bite my lip, carry on through this week, and soak in every last drop of goodness in the air.