Wednesday, May 25, 2016

The Bus

We went out the Bus yesterday. My Time Hop told me that we had been out there on that day exactly a year ago. Strangely I remember that day. Maybe because it was the first time we had been out there. Maybe because the sun was warm, the skies were summer blue and we didn’t even think about putting jackets on for the first time since we had arrived in the wild West 7 months before. We had survived spring and now summer was starting to show up. Maybe its because that was when I started to get a glimpse of the beauty of summer up here. The flowers were starting to bloom. White, purple, orange, yellow all starting to peek their faces up and out towards the sun.

Whatever the reason I remember that day. I had a posse then. We walked at a snail’s pace. We held hands, I carried them and their snacksdrinks. We would stay out for an hour but have gone a quarter of a mile total. 

I loved that we were outside, drinking in the sun, breathing in the flowers but I was so hungry to see what was beyond those couple of feet we had managed to crawl.

I got out their a few times to run that summer, I hit dead ends a couple times, ran out of daylight a few times...I just haven’t known enough about where I was going to get the the elusive bus that makes it ‘the bus loop’. And that’s ok. I’ve known there would be a time I’d get there. The destination isn’t the thing anyway right?

Yesterday the clouds were hovering over the mountains dark and full of rain. We needed to get out before those things stole the sun from us AGAIN this spring. The Bus is on the other side of town from us now so we don’t venture out there very often anymore but we decided to take a gamble on it this time.

And I kept thinking ‘some things stay the same’ and also ‘everything changes’. Same place, same kids, same day, same feeling with the skies and the sun and the flowers and the sage in the air---and don’t forget the cows! They are all out now.

But we had a totally different experience. I have a crew now who works with me. They carry their own stuff, including themselves. They help make decisions. They walk at their own pace and we check in every so often. We have a call and response system if someone gets a bit too far ahead or behind and they are just out of sight. They know what they need on the trail to be successful...and i’ve learned that too. 

We went a long ways. I’m still not sure where the bus is--I think we could have made it there if we knew which trail to take in the spiderweb of trails out there. BUT who care?! Everyone was happy!! We were out for more than twice as long as we used to be able to hang with it---and everyone was smiling when we got done. It won’t always be like this I know. There are still some more disaster hikes to come our way. 

But I’m going to hold on the successes. The ones where we enjoyed it, and each other, and maybe got a little bit further down the trail than we did last time. (And also where I didn’t have to sing Old MacDonald or 5 little monkeys...or any other long repetitive children’s song that has pushed us to the end of so so so many hikes. That’s success as well.)

Monday, May 2, 2016

part iv

We had a graduation/2nd birthday/1st birthday party because other wise we would have had one party a week for three weeks. And then we started packing and tossing things. Minimalizing to fit into what we knew was going to have be a be a pretty small space. October 1 was his start date but he went up early to get us a place to live. Which took a couple of weeks. It’s a tight market here. The posse, as they were known, and I took an extended vacation with my parents and then made the long long drive out here with Pop-pop who helped tremendously.
In the end, we were in an 800 sq. foot duplex with two bedrooms and an amazing backyard. Three bedrooms would have been ideal but it was perfect in so many ways. We moved in and froze that first night. We weren’t dressed for October in the mountains. We weren’t ready for it when it snowed a week later, or the week after that.
Darkknight was working nights and we were in the small apartment with barely enough money to feed ourselves (but we did) and two kids under 2. It was insane. And I had no idea what I had gotten myself into. Where were we?
The kids played and played in the backyard and the deer came to visit and it was a private oasis back there. I could hang the laundry on the line and believe we were the only ones in the universe who could feel the sun, that beautiful strong sun backed by those blue blue blue cloudless skies. And I struggled to remain open to this rugged place.

It’s been four winters and three summers since we decided to give Wyoming a chance. And I’m not the same...errr I’m more the same than I have ever been. Who knew Wyoming was going to teach me more about myself than I knew? And give me the freedom to be ok with who that person is? It certainly wasn’t me. I was drowning in my posse--all that spit up, diapers, screaming, yogurt everywhere mess. But here, instead of a triangle to walk, there are the mountains. We walked and hiked and walked to keep my sanity. On the trails and around town. Wherever we could go. Whatever the weather. We didn’t have the right gear and we walked effing slow at first.  1/2 mile took an hour. And the posse couldn’t make it back. I strapped one to my back and I scooped up the other and I got strong. And we started to get the right gear for any weather. 

I learned to persevere atalltimes. Screaming kids, raining, snowing...whatever. Breathe in--hold it--breathe out--let it stay empty for a moment--breath back in...onefootinfrontoftheother. I learned all the tricks of the trail. SNACKS! SONGS! STORIES! Lookatthatrock and lookatthatstick! I’ve carried more rocksflowerssticksbugs in my pocket than I can even begin to count. Those 1/2 miles added up to miles and miles and hours of hours and it did something to all of us.

The posse morphed into the crew right in front of the me. They help packs our bags and fill our water. They encourage each other down the trail (when they aren’t racing to be the allusive ‘trail leader’). We are a team now and not a one man show (or a two man show when Darkknight gets to roll with us). We have no holding rules now. We are all stronger. We know ourselves and our limitations a little better. We know each other better. We love each other fiercer.

We are faster and can go farther. We still need SNACKS! but not as many and not nearly as many songs and stories. They hike way out front and way behind happy to be where they are. I get to walk hands free, back free with my face lifted to the sky breathing the air feeling all the gratitude for this place, this time and all the groundedness that comes with placing one foot on the red packed dirt (mud, snow, rock...) in front of the other.

I thought winters were terrible in Missouri. Wyoming springs are even worse, I say as I sit in my sunless sunroom staring out at the fog that covers the freshly snow covered mountain when its almost May. It’s cold outside, it has snowed off and on for three days straight. There’s no relief in sight. Everyone has pictures of themselves in short sleeves and flowers blooming and we are still a month and who knows how many more snows away from flowers blooming. We are learning the tricks. Go outside anyway preferably to the wilderness where you can forget how ugly concrete is when its wet, write as much as you can, get a pink himalyan sea salt lamp, hold onto June--its going to be breathtaking when it comes. Get out of town! Even to somewhere else in Wyoming with the same terrible weather. Daydream about living in Naples. These are helpful tricks...and you need tricks to anywhere you live I think. There is always something that isn’t perfect. 

There aren’t many things that are perfect in the world right now. I don’t need to repeat the news. But outside--in whatever geographical space--things are pretty perfect. And I am full of gratitude and awe that I am here. Wyoming, if you let her, will dig her claws in deep inside of you and refuse to let you go. And even if we move on someday I won’t be free of her for a long long time.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

part iii

part iii
In those school, diaper, spit up, single-parent, car less days I was the point person for all things. And so I was the one applying for a lot of these jobs. My feet were firmly planted on the ‘not Wyoming. Anywhere but Wyoming’ side of things until we were a month away from graduation and still no prospects. Something in me decided to look--and whoa were there a lot of jobs available Lander. I closed the computer and thought and thought. And then I opened the computer and just did it. Ran through the application, attaching the resume as fast as I could so i wouldn’t regret it. And didn’t tell Darkknight.
How could I? No way. I couldn’t do it. After all the years of trying to convince me and me only agreeing to mountains, hiking, and camping but NOT Wyoming. I had been trying to compromise. And now I was giving in. Fully. Throwing the towel in. 
There was still the possibility of not getting a call back--I knew that and was banking on it. 

I have a scattered history with rash spur of the moment decisions, and almost every time I do these rash spur of the moment things I know its the right thing to do...even if not the thing I want to do. But I try to stay open and running though the process has been the only way for me to stay open to the newscarydifferent. 

But there was a call back and I was excited and frozen with fear at the same time. 

I think Darkknight was thrilled. I was on board. I wasn’t really. But I was.

My parents were shocked and horrified. They knew we were looking at the mountains--but I didn’t exactly tell them in the most graceful way. I think mostly because I wasn’t sure how badly I really wanted to do it even if I was getting tired of the concrete and the traffic and the people.

The interview was schedule for a month out. Enough time to finish school, wean the baby, arrange babysitting and be excited for a few days away that we hadn’t had in years.

Darkknight’s parents came up to watch the crew. and we happily flew off. Because of a mix up we flew into Jackson instead of Casper and that is enough to do anyone in. ‘This? In my backyard? It’s not real. I’m dreaming.’ 

Except not. Not dreaming at all. 

We rented a car and drove over the pass and past Dubois and the butterflies ate at me as the last 76 miles crawled to a snail’s pace. But then we started seeing houses and green fields after miles and miles and miles of the brown barren high desert that lays in between us and Dubois. And the mountains started get closer again. And I started to feel ok about this mysterious place. We entered the edge of town and there was a brand new grocery store and a brand new hotel that we were staying in! ok, ok ok. 

The next morning was the interview. I dropped him off and I went to find the library and explore the town. I found the library. It was new! But not open until mid-morning. My first experience of small town culture. So I piddled around walking and exploring. Up and down main street. The morning had started out cool compared the high humidity 100 degrees I just come from and my first thought was ‘its going to be too cold here. Can’t do it’ 
But then i felt the sun. The way it burns its way through you even when the air is 70 degrees and I was quickly hot.
The mountains were lovely. The sky was blue blue blue. The town was adorable. Small but thriving on Main Street--not the abandoned messes you see in some small towns. All the stores were local. No chains! (later learned there are a few--I just had never heard of them before)

The hospital sits on top of the highest hill in town. Amazing view. And I thought ‘We are going to be able to BREATHE up here!’ Have space to rest and recharge. 
We came home excited and ready for a new thing. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

part ii

I might have started with wonder and imagination, but my imagination never brought me out West. My imagination dreamed of a life in the city and thats exactly where I found myself--and loving it. 

Wyoming wasn’t love at first sight as one might assume from my previous visits out West. I did suddenly feel like I could breathe, I did find myself in wonder, and I did go home frustrated with the concrete and traffic and amount of people everywhere. But I also was coming home--to the place I had wanted to land. I loved living two blocks away from a magnificent park, and a magnificent farmer’s market. I loved all the huge trees in front of century old houses. I was always pondering what their stories were--what all they had seen and heard, been a witness to, inside their walls and out. I loved the local food restaurant just down the street. I loved that all our friends were basically in the same neighborhood with a few exceptions. I loved being in the part of the city and only 15 minutes away from where my parents grew up. Regularly getting to go past the streets that they called home and that I frequented as a child.

That was the life I had dreamed and made real for myself. 

So every time Wyoming came up as a legitimate place we could live I dismissed the idea  out of hand. Yes, its beautiful and you can hike and camp there but we can do those things here! Yes, he would say but its different out there. I asked and asked for more details and never got much more than ‘its about the open spaces’. And I didn’t feel satisfied and so put the idea of moving to a remote open spaces with no big cities out of my mind. I didn’t even entertain it with a daydream.

As the years passed I slowly became frustrated with how complicated things seem in the city. So much congested driving and opportunities to buy things everywhere. More stuff will surely make more happiness is the motto on every strip mall, shopping mall, convenience store...which are on every corner. The Target we chose to frequent had an underground parking lot! There wasn’t enough space to have a regular parking lot, so they had to put one in underground. We eventually moved to suburbs and that was worse. Surrounded on two sides by major roads and on one side by a skinny-two-lane-with-no-shoulder road we were stuck inside our little triangle of a neighborhood. Stuck became an even more appropriate word when we were down to one car and the one car had to drive 25 minutes into the city everyday while I was at home with two babies all day long. I would take those two babies in the running stroller my mom graciously bought me and we would run up and then down every street in our three street neighborhood, if I ran for a bit on the major road which was terrifying I could make it home having run just about three miles. Enough to keep my sanity. And then we would walk up and down the streets over and over and over to practice walking. Not being able to get out is the definition of stuck! Friends no longer in the same hood, no longer two blocks away from the fantastic park... Out in the suburbs things are more spread out, less congestion, but also it feels like more somehow. More concrete, more strip malls, more consumerism--less culture. 

The mountains of a smaller community started to sound appealing. We could walk places, we could breathe a little. We could hike in the mountains just outside the door instead of driving 40 minutes through the concrete jungle to get to the true-er wilderness lying right outside the limits of the city. We started looking at those towns--the small ones nestled at the foot of mountains. There are quite a few. So we started making lists. Big poster board pros and cons for what each mountain town had to offer. We made a trip to the town I was rooting for. We took our six month old and our 18 month old, rented a car, checked into the cheapest hotels we could find and did our first family vacation. We visited a friend of a friend who has a farm out there. He lived 20 minutes from the town where things were quiet and spread out and lush and green. Hardly any concrete anywhere from the drive out of the city and onto his land. And the mountains! And he had pigs! We fed the pigs as we talked about life would be like out there. We had dinner in the local places, we walked around the town and the neighborhoods smelling it out. Does feel like home? We noticed how friendly or not friendly people were. Took note that there was ethnically true food around (quite delicious) and we drove out to the blue ridge parkway and hiked awhile a long a river. Found parks. And then we drove home and talked and talked and made lists and notes and had thoughts. In the end it was everything I wanted it to be and not quite everything Darkknight wanted it to be. But we thought we would go for it...with no luck. No jobs opened up. So we kept hoping but had to move on.

Saturday, April 16, 2016


I am not a cowgirl. My husband is not a cowboy. It is a bit strange then that we landed in this rural, isolated spot with 2 acres to our name.
We both grew up within city limits and for the most part enjoyed our time there. My family tried to instill a love of the outdoors in me and it worked but not because of the all the camping they made us do. We would take these camping trips every spring and fall. Rarely in the summer, that was for the beach. We sometimes got to bring friends with us and I always felt amazed that friends would agree to go. One time my dad- by himself- packed my brother, two of our cousins who were also are most preferred playmates and myself into this tiny little black truck we had. This was in the days before extended cab was a comfortable standard for most trucks. The little Nissan was tiny and only people under the age of 10 could really fit in the ‘extended cab’. I have no idea where my mom was this weekend. My memory of the weekend is pretty hazy but I remember a couple of things. First, delight at being on such a crazy adventure and that my aunts and uncles had agreed to letting their offspring come along. Second, it was raining for the drive. And that’s it. Just this small snapshot from the drive and feeling like this was the greatest adventure I had ever been on.

But all the while on every trip we took, I was not stoked that this adventure was taking place in a 1970s recanvased pop-up camper trailer. It was humid, sticky, dirty outside! With no space of my own. I was with my brother all the time. Had to sleep next to him. I love my brother--he has turned into this unbelievable human being who is at the top of his field, he is pretty intelligent and kind. I also finally think he is funny. But when we were kids I didn’t understand him at all. He was curious in the lets-take-it-all-apart kind of way, impulsive, was always getting dirty, trying risky things, trying to accidentally kill me on a few occasions. And I was a reader, a quiet, clean imaginer. I didn’t need to get dirty if the people in my book were doing it for me. And I didn’t need to try risky things and I was definitely not impulsive. I didn’t understand why he and has friends ran around screaming, yelling, shooting at each other all the time. Couldn’t we just play doctor? or teacher? Where everything was in order?

I think most of all I did not enjoy camping because I was 10 when we started going out. And at that point no one that I spent a lot of time with was camping and I felt weird about it. You know ‘my family is starting this new weird thing that my best friend’s family doesn’t do and that makes me feel way to different’.

Even ten years later when I was thinking about spending a good chunk of time in West Africa, the thing that was hardest for me was the dirt. I didn’t want to be dirty. Eventually, I breathed in and out and surrendered to the dirt. It was going to be there, and if I wanted to be there as well the dirt and I were going to have to be friends. There was a lot of breathing during my days and at night, showers never felt so good. Although I was always a little horrified about the amount of dirt I saw swirling down the drain. I got over it. And just learned to relish the feeling of being clean on top of my sheets (you can’t get in them when it is still 90 degrees outside)

So when we decided to move to Wyoming so we could hike and camp and be outdoorsy my family was shocked. Three and a half years later and they are still shocked when I tell them about what adventures we are doing next.

I think what happened was that I came out here. I came out to visit for a short time while  Darkknight was working out here, I came out again for our friends wedding, and then again for the interview that moved us out here. And every time I came out I felt like I could breathe. The air feels clean and wonder/awe/beauty are not hard to find. It surrounds. Then we would go back home to concrete and traffic and masses of people everywhere and huge shopping malls and while that was the only life I had ever known I started to want something else. Something more and something less at the same time. 

Now I realize that while I never loved being dirty and in my preteen years doing things my friends were not doing, I have always loved being outside. I would sit on our porch for hours writing horrible poems about feeling like I didn’t fit in, or feeling judged for the shoes I wore to school. I remember climbing the tree in our front yard and just sitting there for long periods of time, trying to think of something really meaningful to carve into the tree. I remember loving when there were trails at our campground and we got hike around -- we mostly always had to turn back before I was ready too--this is still true even with all the hikes we do. I loved riding my bike down to the edge of our neighborhood with the breeze in my hair. I would pedal as hard as I could pretend I was totally getting away from those bad guys who wanted some important thing from me. When I got the end of the road, the bad guys disappeared as I walked off the pavement into the woods with the tall dense trees and the crunchy leaves and I was lost in a whole other world. I didn’t think about being dirty then and if I’m honest now I would have loved to have my brother with me on those adventures but I didn’t know how to ask him then. ‘He will probably just be crazy or hit me with a rock’ I thought. 

When we were twelve my best friend and I convinced my parents to let us walk from my house across the fields and ‘forest’ that lay in between us and the neighborhood a couple miles by road away where a lot of our friends lived. But we weren’t taking the road, we were taking the bushwack. We blazed our own trail that day. We got some scratches, had to cross a creek, stopped at a ‘grown up friend’s’ house that was in the middle for some tea before continuing on. It took us quite awhile I think, but we were bushed when we were done. We laid in the sun on our friends driveway like solar panels afterwards trying to recharge and feeling like it was taking too long for our parents to come pick us up (which is probably how they felt waiting for us to call to say we had made it). It was the greatest thing I had done up to that point. We drew a map and named all the geological features we had crossed and promised to do it again. No one had ever been that way and it was our secret. We never did do it again. But I don’t think we needed to--we proved to ourselves and to each other and to our parents that the world was our oyster. We were going to conquer it. And in our ways we have. She is conquering the concrete jungle, blazing her own trail again with her own high end business. And me out here in the wilderness, blazing my own trail through motherhood and life in a place with such a harsh beautiful landscape isolated from the rest of the country. Sometimes I am literally blazing my own trail again walking through the sage and through the willows and up and over the boulders, and across the creeks. Although this time I know I’m not the only one who has ever been there and the geological features have been named for hundreds of years (but that never stopped anybody from renaming a place).

This wild place has reminded me of who I am and where I started. I started with wonder. I started with imagination. I started with loving adventure. I started with loving the sunshine. I started with pushing myself beyond my perceived physical limits. And that has always brought me life. Made me feel alive in the most visceral way.

Here I am all these years after being ‘forced’ into camping with my family and I am grateful to have had those experiences. They have shaped me and brought me here into this life I am making for myself and my crew. One with no lack of imagination and adventure and perseverance. And maybe it isn't so strange after all that we landed in this rural isolated spot...

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Sweet and spicy girls

My daughter. My amazing, sensitive, caring, creative, problem solver, hard worker, big thinker, spicy daughter. She throws these fits.Throwing is not an exaggeration. She saves them for home...outsiders rarely get a glimpse. I’m sure they think I’m exaggerating or crazy or not a good mom, thinking ‘get your kid under control!’.

 Until I talk to another mom of a spicy girl like mine. She adds depth and color to our world that we wouldn’t have otherwise. She is going places! But when she is lying in the middle of the floor screaming, yelling, crying that its my fault she is upset because she doesn’t like tacos anyway (she loves tacos!) or she wouldn’t be so upset if she could just get what she wanted (‘Has that ever worked for you? Do you get what you want when you throw a fit?’ ‘NO!!!’ why are you trying this? Again?) 

She desperately does not want me to be right. Daddy can be sometimes, grammy and pop pop always can be right (although it might at first make her a bit sad) but me? Nope. She is forever questioning ‘how do you know that?’ and if its not a legitmate ‘it happened to me’ answer she doesn’t buy it. or even if it is. Taking deep breathes to calm down--I’ve been able to convince her to try it maybe twice in 5.5. years. Drawing a picture of how she feels has worked approximately 5 times. All the other things I can ever think of to help her get to a calm-enough-place that we can TALK about what happened (talking goes well! When she’s calm she understands, she problem solves, she listens---says she loves chores!)

I love her. I love they way she thinks. She is going to--and probably already has been--making me a better person. Make me love bigger and deeper and wider. Make me think harder and smarter. Make me really search out why we do the things we do and whether or not we can change the way we do some things. Maybe I will be extraordinarly patient by the time she has flown the coop.

Sometimes I worry about new parents. My experience was working with kids, loving them, loving it, understanding them, ‘knowing’ all the behavior ‘tricks’. And then I got this girl who is so far out of my league that I felt helpless. Which is a terrible feeling when its your academic field! So I worry about new mommas and what it will be life for them. That they will feel in over their heads. I worry too much really. Because Brooklyn is unique. Yes, there are others who are similar to her, but no one has ever existed just like her before. She is a whole new thing to be tried out. And apparently I’m the perfect mom for her. And apparently having a brother come just after her first birthday was the best way for me to parent her (and him) and I drowned in that for awhile--but just because I did doesn’t mean everybody does--or should. 

And that’s hard. I see the moms who are so blissfully in love with their babies, and their babies are easy and I feel all the twinges. A lot of the twinges at their base come back to ‘you aren’t enough.’ not good enough, not smart enough, not in tune with your child enough. So much gratitude for the near (and far) and dear ones who remind me this isn't true.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Running and rock moving

For the last almost four years I've used running as my path to sanity. All those endorphins working out all the stress of two children under 13 months. And two children under two. And under three....

I go out with shoulders up to my ears, jaws clenching, and one million thoughts circling-not sure if there is room for any of them to land. Push push push through the first mile and then my legs are like robot legs. They just keep moving. And all those thoughts suddenly have found a way out of my head. The running jogs them from their spot and slowly sifts them down through my body and out my heels where I leave them on the sidewalk. Until only the important thoughts are left. Breathe, run, think. Then stop thinking. The thoughts, even the important ones have been sifted out and it's just me. Moving. Breathing. I feel rested in those moments. The moments where the thoughts have cleared out.

It's my favorite.

BUT. I live in Wyoming. Where the winter is snowy. And while not much colder than other places, still cold. And I just decided this winter I was not even going to pretend that I was going to run in the snow. I Not doing it. I'm not that hardcore runner. And I don't really want to be.

The winter was fine. I skied and sledded and swam and practiced yoga and watched for the return of running weather. And found a race I was super into running. A half in the Red Desert of WYO. 'It would be beautiful!' I thought. I was getting excited and scheduling out my training plan and then we bought a fixer upper. And I knew I needed to put my running practice off for another couple of months. And now. Now we are here in this space. And things are settling, however slowly, and I'm ready to lace up my shoes again.

But here's the thing. Today I carried 50? 75? 10-30lbs rocks 20? 30? yards and arranged them in a circle for an inaugural bonfire at fox valley tonight. Then I shoveled gravel out of a flower bed so we can plant flowers instead of rocks. And then I moved our wood pile. And then we biked up the road and back down a lot of times. And then we walked up the road to our mailbox...

...and after all that I felt pretty sane. Not quite the same, but it seems that living at fox valley is going to be exercise enough.

(But I'll still go for the first run of the season tomorrow)