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...