Fearless

 

Recently, a stranger paid me one of my favorite compliments to date:

He told me I was fearless.

I was at the Buffalo Bill museum in town covering an art discussion for work. I had my notebook and photographer (my boyfriend, Raym) in hand. The older gentleman had ambled over to talk to Raym before the presentation. He’d then reached over to shake my hand and tell me he greatly enjoyed my columns for the newspaper.

I write a column on adventure, called This Wild Life, in which I generally do wild and crazy things that scare me. Not every time is it crazy, but I have written about going over my handlebars while mountain biking, flying in an aerobatic plane and taking a dip in the frigid waters of the Shoshone River on New Year’s Day.

At first, this person shaking my hand with no proper introduction (he hadn’t asked my name) and professing to like my writing thrilled me. I get compliments from time to time, mostly from women, though it means a great deal to me all the same.

But this was different. People who have paid me compliments in the past generally know me or I’ve interacted with them on some occasion. I had never seen this man. Somehow that already seemed greater, as he had no stake in reading what I wrote.

And then he made that fearless comment.

At first I was stupefied. Does this man know what he’s talking about? I am the most scared person that ever was.

Truly. Everything scares me.

I feel a weird lump on my head and become alarmed; I WebMD cancer. My boyfriend is late in getting home and I fear he’s gotten in a wreck. I write a story that deeply moves me and the New Yorker doesn’t call and I am afraid I’ll never make it.

And that’s just everyday nonsense. That isn’t even my “wild and crazy” adventures. I had a coworker recently joke about how much I profess a fear of dying in my columns. I don’t think I am a dark person per se…

Please reference my favorite movie here:

Harry: When I buy a new book, I always read the last page first. That way, in case I die before I finish, I know how it ends. That, my friend, is a dark side.
Sally: That doesn’t mean you’re deep or anything. I mean, yes, basically I’m a happy person…
Harry: So am I.
Sally: …and I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that.
Harry: Of course not. You’re too busy being happy. Do you ever think about death?
Sally: Yes.
Harry: Sure you do. A fleeting thought that drifts in and out of the transom of your mind. I spend hours, I spend days…
Sally: – and you think this makes you a better person?
Harry: Look, when the shit comes down, I’m gonna be prepared and you’re not, that’s all I’m saying.
Sally: And in the meantime, you’re gonna ruin your whole life waiting for it.

While I feel a little like Sally in my happiness inclinations, I can relate to Harry’s need to prepare for the end. I suspect it’s moreso my dramatic flair rather than any real darkness, yet it is something I worry about incessantly.

It mostly stems from this deep seated fear about my life being cut short before I have accomplished it all. I almost have to believe in reincarnation because I know I can’t get it all in in this life alone and that’s with me really trying.

So the fact remains. Nearly every time I do any adventure I inevitably plan for my death just in case. I try to make peace with God, kiss my boyfriend, or not kiss him, because I am a believer in the jinx, and usually tell my mom what I am about to do. Like a chairlift evacuation on a ski hill.

A black cat crossed my path the day before I did this and I had to try really hard not to read into it. The amount of scenarios that ran through my mind on that mere adventure were nothing short of a doomsday prepper.

I was fine. It all went so smoothly as to be laughable.

Then later that night I ran into the stranger surmising that I must be a fearless person.

While I loved that a word like that could be used for me, one that so bespeaks of bravery, my mind couldn’t help but think this man had gotten the wrong impression. I am a huge scaredy baby.

But then later that night I asked myself the question I always ask myself when doing most things that scare me straight down to my underwear.

Why do it? Or better yet: Why constantly put myself in situations where I am afraid?

The answer, I realized is twofold.

If I do something that terrifies me and I don’t die (which has been every time to date), I call on that experience for the next time. I remind myself what it’s like to be truly terrified and how I conquered it.

It makes me feel stronger and somehow braver when I know myself to be the polar opposite of brave.

This works for adventures, all kinds. But it also works for when the everyday fears kick in. When I am not rappelling off mountainsides or sliding myself off a chairlift midair trusting someone has me down below, well it’s all a little more bearable.

I feel like I am living my life to the fullest. Or at least 3/4 of the way full as I sometimes am still miffed I have yet to run with the bulls in Pamplona or master croissants in Paris.

But I feel as though, slowly but surely I am getting there. One fear-filled day at a time.

Then when I do run with bulls, or learn to mush sled dogs, or birth a child, or ever get to have an all important book editor look at my work, I can remind myself:

Girl, you’re fuckin fearless.

At least, one time that stranger told me so.

 

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Croissants and Siberia

It wasn’t enough that they’re paying me to fly upside down in planes, bounce along in a big rig down rows of sugar beet plants and fly over my handlebars while mountain biking. Okay that’s actually more than enough and all I could’ve dreamed of in landing my first big girl journalism gig.

But see, somehow I still want more. While I am at work writing about coffee shop owners crooning after hours in nun habits or covering a court case about a spurned lover and his descent into madness, I can’t help but think about baking pan au chocolat and croissants this weekend and becoming the next Julia Child.

Or I find myself casually looking up rates to attend the Iditarod and as an aside learning to become a sled dog musher. Do I have enough time in life to learn to mush sled-dogs, get adequately good at it and enter The Last Great Race? Maybe I only have time to cover it as a journalist? I suddenly wonder about taking time off, spending upwards of 15G’s and fulfilling a lifetime dream while dressed in furs worthy of a Russian czar.

And speaking of Russia, why haven’t I ridden the Trans-Siberian Railway yet? Why, why, why, why, why? I mean, all fanciful, croissant loving girls-about-town surely fantasize about steaming ahead through wintery Siberia in a historic train-car. That can’t just be me right?

I won’t wax poetic on how I have wanted wild and outlandish things my whole life, how as a child I gave serious thought to the logistics of digging my own swimming hole in our backyard, until I broke ground, saw a worm and ran. Or mused about whether I could actually jump a train, from the tracks nearby. The way I saw it I probably would’ve befriended a wolf while singing hobo hymns with a snappy if not disheveled gentleman who’d teach me railroad wisdom and share his canned beans.

Honestly if I had a nickel for every time I dreamt about croissants and the Trans-Siberian, I could’ve paid for both tickets to France and Russia easy peasy. If I expanded that notion and had a nickel for every time I’ve thought about fancy bakery and riding the rails in general, well I probably wouldn’t be having this conversation with you, because I’d be too busy tending to my grape vineyard/snooty sandwich empire in Italy and flitting to Switzerland at a moment’s notice with my husband the mustache twirler and cigar smoker.

Ah, but to dream. It is sincerely my favorite pastime. I dabble with my wild fancies so much so, that I oftentimes have sleeping dreams of places I’ve never been, doing things that only Peter Pan can do—ahem don’t you fly in your dreams—and sometimes I even howl out and thrash like a wild thing, because some otherworldly figure is trying to swoop me out of my boat and take me to his underground lair. My boyfriend becomes nearly jarred right out of his drawers when I do that and shakes me awake informing me that I was having a nightmare.

I shrug and say, “not really, though it was alarming and he almost got me.” And then I casually try and go back to bed while he looks at me suspiciously, while eyeballing my neck for suspicious marks that indicate some sort of possession.

All fanciful dreaming aside, those of you who have followed my journey as Adventuredame, know how seriously I take adventurous living, but I am in my 30’s now and it was time to become a grown-up professional. Naturally Cassandcastle the Dreamer was an obvious choice to encompass my new decade of life. As if I ever do become too old to be a dreamer well then someone or something has taken over my mind and I am not to be trusted.

This was really all to say, I am still here just more sophisticated and thirty-like. Except 30-year-old me still wants to stuff her face full of Parisian-esque sweets—although Parisians would surely turn down their noses at face-stuffing, so I promise to be more dignified when I go there—and run away on the rails.

So I guess I am not more professional, dignified or sophisticated. But I still want you all to be in the loop when I run away with my mustachioed love—for the record my love really does have a fabulous mustache that he refuses to twirl, but lets me twirl when I have a hankering—and start a bread and chocolate shop while contemplating buying a team of sled dogs.

xo

-Cassandcastle

An Eager Beaver

I have never been good at playing it cool. I am the quintessential wear my heart on my sleeve kinda gal. Some of my sisters (I have 6 of them) tease me about this and how if, say I like a guy, I don’t really dally about being coy and waiting to see what will develop. If I ever do seem coy and cool or mention that I don’t much feel like shaving my legs, then trust me, I do not have a crush on you. If I did have a crush on you, I would certainly be a red-faced, stammering fool as well as pretending my legs are about to be featured on a Venus Razor commercial.

For the record, I am never cool.

I was once wearing my running shoes: Asics, in a hippy community and I was chastised for it.
I am usually sweaty. Even if it’s wintertime. Even right now, whilst writing. In air conditioning.
I have a rock collection.
When I dance, there is always one point where I am compelled to snap my fingers. My sister tried teaching me what to do with my hips during a sultry dance at my brother’s wedding and I fiercely shook my head no. I can’t even practice how to be cool.

My sisters are all unspeakably cool, though. They go to concerts of popular bands before they are popular, dress like they belong in an underground L.A. hipster movement, though they’d kill me for saying so, and they are who I look to, though I am the oldest, because they are my muses.

So it would stand to reason that if I can’t be cool, I certainly couldn’t play it cool. With men or otherwise. This is where my eagerness comes in. Men and otherwise. Especially of late.

I am real excitable, see? Sometimes if someone seems passionate about a topic that I too am passionate about, my words come out of my mouth, tumbling over one another, like kids just released for recess, fighting for the first to be on the swingset—wait are swingsets still cool?—and I bulldoze the person with my words and giddiness.

I later feel terrible, though it was merely my excitement, my eagerness to share in passions that leads me to sometimes talk over people. I did this with a guy I liked a couple of months back. He taught me how to fly fish and I packed us a picnic, though it was too windy outside, so we went and sat at his kitchen table and talked for hours. He was so easy to talk to and wanted to talk about things like bears, donuts, making homemade jam, and our grandparents.

So naturally my excitement levels were that of effervescent champagne bubbles, bursting, simply bursting. At one point, in a flow of words I couldn’t stop, I was trying to make a point about how I’ve heard childbirth is nothing like the movies—thanks always for the grim details, Ash.

I kept going though, trying to further my point, saying, kind of how my introduction to the real ins and outs of sex as a teen were from reading Harlequin Romances. You know, those ones where the woman on the cover is in a too small dress and the man has too-large muscles (there is such a thing, sorry Ryan). And those sex scenes lead you to believe that orgasms are always multiple and simultaneous. And then when I really did have sex many, many years later, I thought, wait what? WHAT!? This is an outrage!

This is when I realized I was sharing too much, getting too excited, and I stopped myself abruptly. Talking sex wasn’t something I had had on my agenda, even in a cheeky comparison manner. I wanted to keep going to explain that my initial disappointment in sex had gone away, but I didn’t want to dig myself deeper.

So I shut up, red-faced and mumbled “TMI,” while sipping my second cup of coffee.

He never called.

I figured it was one of two things. My overflow of words. Or my sex anecdote.

Either way, I shrugged it off. When I later relayed the story to my sisters, much to their constant amusement on my treacherous love life, I noted that if a man isn’t in love with my words or my wild and inventive ways of accidentally embarrassing myself, well then he probably isn’t my fella.

But the thing is, I cannot help it. I am easily and overly excitable. I am an eager beaver. I am an antsy-pants. All these are my nice turn-of-phrases on the reality, which is that I am mostly just good old impatient. And the only time I have noted that my massive impatience was a good thing, was when I lived in New York City and it seemed everyone there too was also an eager beaver.

How this plays out lately? Well. I am impatient, err, very eager to make some friends. I know this isn’t something that can be rushed. Especially because I value quality over quantity. It’s simply that I am a social gal. I like having word-athons with someone. I like when people like what I like: hiking, fly fishing, photography, books, Hemingway, bourbon, donuts, animals, humanitarianism, trees and mountains, orgasms, ya know, all the good shit.

And it’s tough, when all my people are, well, not here in Cody, Wyoming. Then I find myself offering up abundances of information with near perfect strangers, like my fly fishing coach. I told him the other day that I was down to five pairs of underwear and not my good pairs, because the thought of doing laundry at a laundromat would lead me to going commando—something I despise more than underwear that aren’t boy shorts—before I caved and actually washed some clothes.

God bless him, he didn’t kick me out of the store. And even seemed mildly pleased when I showed up for fly-tying later in the week. But yesterday when I was about to peruse potato salad options at the local grocery store, which happens to be near the fly shop, I found myself going in, out of sheer eagerness to just be near another human who wanted to talk to me. I told myself I was being an eager beaver. Not being cool at all, trying to harass my fly fishing guide into hanging out with me after hours, just for the sheer camaraderie that is having friends.

He wasn’t there, which I think is for the best. If I didn’t embarrass myself with the underwear story, I surely would have trying to reel him into a forced friendship.

But, see that’s just how I am. An eager beaver. An antsy pants. Someone who is very excitable and wants to share passions: words or big O’s—hard won though they may be—or both, when I do meet that fella.

And realistically, uncool or not, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

Richy Rich

I bought a seven speed bicycle the other day. It is a rust bucket of a Schwinn. The seat is torn and gaping open and it will only shift into two gears: six and seven, the two most challenging gears. Of course I didn’t know about the gears when I bought it. The bicycle also had two mostly flat tires, and yet I was willing to take my chances for the five dollar price tag and the pure wind-in-my-hair joy I knew it would bring me.

The thing is, I have been on a bit of a budget. Not that I don’t always thrill over a deal, or typically have wads of cash to throw around on fancy high-dollar peddlers, but a five dollar bicycle in a tourist town, in July, well, I consider that good fortune.

I have had a lot of other good fortune lately and it has mostly coincided with my mad attempts to horde the few dollars I have to my name. Exciting as it has been to start a new job as a reporter, find my own place and start the heady task of furnishing said place, it is no inexpensive feat. Also I haven’t gotten a paycheck yet.

Upon moving into my very cozy cabin-esque apartment a little over a week ago, I took stock of what I needed, which to make the list short was: everything. To be fair, the apartment was furnished with a queen-sized bed, vintage dresser, kitchen table complete with two cushioned yet stained chairs, an orange and brown scratchy/deeply hideous loveseat, one torn and tattered green rocking chair, and a ripped footstool. I am not exactly sure why so much of the furniture is torn and stained but I chalk it up to the last tenant being a bachelor and not a serial killer.

I slowly began the hunt for my long list of household items. I spent my lunch breaks from the paper poring over every shelf in every thrift store in town, checking things off my list: silverware caddy, utensils, baskets for storage, a single plate and single bowl. I was as vigilant for deals as a hunter is for the snap of a tree branch. I got my glassware half off one day. I found forks and knives five cents apiece, along with the baskets. I accidentally bought a space heater instead of a fan, so that was a loss, but lucky for me, Cody gets so cold and windy at night that I feel like I might be swept off to Oz. And I might one day need it, probably before July is through.

I bought a cooking pot for $2 at a consignment store and a vintage turquoise hamper for $6 although, that was a bit of a splurge, but I put back the fly fishing vest for $5 that I yearned for deeply even though it made me look like a husky pre-pubescent boy. I found an electric tea kettle with a sticker that said $4 but rang up $3. I passed on things like full dishware sets or drinking cups, and chose to stick with my one plate for now and drink out of my Nalgene bottle when I was thirsty.

Also I had a vast coffee mug collection to start with, so I’ve survived. A friend slept over one night and I heard her rustling around to get a drink in the middle of the night. When she crawled back into bed with me, I apologized for my lack of dishware and she said it was alright, that she’d found a mug that said Milk. It actually says Beast.

What was left over after I paid rent, bought absolute essentials like toilet paper, dish soap and a small starter set of grocery items like bread, blueberries, yogurt and almonds—things that could not be purchased thrifting—was a meager amount. This was of course after I bought a celebratory pizza and a six pack of Blue Moon as my one indulgence to life on my own. I proceeded to eat pizza for two meals a day, four days in a row. I rationed that pizza pie like you wouldn’t believe. I even rationed the beer. There is still one bottle left.

I felt a little grim about making a grocery budget out of five dollars, but that was what I could finagle for the week. I knew the bread and blueberries could only go so far, but I also knew my mama raised me very well when it came to being thrifty. I decided I wanted some sort of sliced turkey or chicken breast because I knew I could eat that for two meals a day like I had the pizza.

I went to the grocery store where I saw sliced chicken breast was on sale for $3.98 a pound and I was beside myself, thinking I had an extra dollar to work with and I could get a whole pound of chicken when I realistically expected only half a pound. There was some debate about the sale, however and a manager was called, then another manager. I grew a little frustrated as I had my heart set on the sale price and was not backing down, though I tried to come across as friendly, I insisted the sale sticker had no date and said clear as a bell the $3.98 price.

Finally the manager handed over my sliced chicken and apologized for my long wait and all of the confusion, saying the item indeed was on sale. I started to walk over to produce to find what I could get for $1 when I noticed the sticker on my chicken said $.48 not $3.98. I stared at it thinking there was some mistake and but then I thought perhaps God was giving me a break. I was downright jubilant and found some guacamole on sale and sweet potato chips and went home and ate that for days until the chicken ran out. When the chicken was gone, I spread guacamole on toast and sprinkled parmesan and red pepper packets on top that I had left over from the pizza and washed it down with a brew.

I panicked one day when I thought I had run out of shampoo but then I remembered my bath bag where I had stowed away half empty travel size bottles of shampoos that people left in their cabins, back when I was doing housekeeping in June. I put all of the travel size bottles in my shower and calculated that I had at least two weeks before I actually needed to buy a new bottle of shampoo.

I hung out with new friends who gave me an old blender and a stash of Mason jars they had in their garage. I signed up for text alerts to get free movie codes for Redbox rentals.

I had next to no money for groceries this week until I get paid and I had called my mom one day to excitedly ask her, “did you know you can buy a single carrot?”

My mom asked why I would buy just one carrot.

“Because it was seventeen cents!” I exclaimed. “I could get two side meals out of that carrot!”

And that’s when I found my bike. That money was strictly earmarked for groceries but I had to. Hence the single carrot. The tires were low and needed to be filled and there wasn’t a single gas station that I could find that had a free air pump, though I did find one that you could pay by the minute. Or so I thought.

I had exactly one quarter left to my name that I honestly didn’t want to give up, but I really wanted to ride my new bike, so I put it in the air machine. Nothing happened. I stared at the machine, not exactly feeling dismay but wondering vaguely if I could get my quarter back, when a man nearby hopped out of his beat-up truck and asked if I needed quarters. I swatted my hand, “no. I just thought you could pay for one minute. I didn’t know you had to commit to the four minutes for a dollar. I really don’t need four minutes.”

“I have a whole bunch of quarters here,” he insisted grabbing a bunch off his dashboard and placing some in the machine while I still argued that he didn’t need to do that. Suddenly air was whooshing out of the hose and he smiled. This was the epitome of people in Wyoming, just wanting to help.

I thanked him profusely and he was gone. I filled up the tires on my bike and checked to see if my car tires needed air once I was on someone else’s quarter. I then brought my new/old Schwinn home and took her for a wind-in-my-hair, joy-filled ride. A grin was perma-plastered on my face. Even when I went uphill. Even when I realized the shifter was broke. Even when the handlebars stained my hands black.

And you know what the funny part is? Used shampoo bottles and used spatulas and coffee mugs that say Beast and rickety bikes and guacamole sandwiches and single carrots, and free movie rentals, and tattered furniture and faux wood paneling in a studio apartment that looks like the scene where the Grinch steals everything and even the mice are aghast at the nail holes and crumbs aside… well all of this doesn’t make me feel poor at all. It makes me feel quite rich.

I think I’ve finally made it.

**My good friend Ryan and sweet sister Kia helped in the way of my grocery budget funds. Without them I wouldn’t have eaten guac sammies and carrots and blueberries and almonds and pizza and Blue Moon’s, but instead would’ve had to eat s’mores fixin’s and Extra Virgin Olive Oil. I would be remiss if I didn’t say I am also rich in family and friends.

Solo Camping

I think I might be a grown-up. I know how this sounds. Of course by all standards, I am a grown-up. I live apart from my parents and pay my bills and brush my teeth and get dressed in the morning unassisted. I don’t know that these are qualifiers for grown-up-hood actually because five year olds too know how to get dressed and brush their teeth, but they can’t buy whiskey and move cross country whenever they feel like it, so I stand by my declaration.

Anyway, this occurred to me last night as I was walking to the bathroom at the campground I was staying at. By myself. I kept giggling like I was a kid who had in fact snuck out of my parents house to do something illicit. I did do this once as a youngster, with my best friend Katee Peach—that really was my childhood best friend’s name, isn’t that perfect?—this is what Bad Mary Janes we were. We snuck out around midnight, drove to Meijer—a nicer version of Wal-Mart, but not as classy as Target, for those not in the know—bought bulk candy and sat in the furniture section feeling smug, rocking on faux leather office chairs until our eyes got heavy and we inevitably just drove home.

I told myself when I moved to yet another new place by myself, that I was going to attempt to do things alone, things that I would have previously never considered doing alone. One of those things was go camping. In my mind going camping alone, seemed rather lame. Who would I chat with and snuggle and eat s’mores with? Turns out the s’mores thing was hardly a problem. I made it my mission to eat enough s’mores to account for two people being there. I know, I had to take one for the team on that one.

I had decided to ease into camping by myself, I wouldn’t venture into the Wyoming wilds alone, alone. First I would start with a campground and I opted for Buffalo Bill State Park on the reservoir. Not too shabby canyon and water views, accompanied by the secure feeling of collective campers, and a distinct lack of grizzlies seemed wise.

I brought my childhood stuffed giraffe that I still cart around the country when I am in between snuggle partners as she makes a good fill in. Lula didn’t disappoint. She didn’t fight me when I put her worn orange cotton ears tightly underneath my neck. She also didn’t object to my constant position switching in the night to get comfortable on my stack of about 9 folded blankets.

I can’t say I deserved a high-five for setting up my tent because it is new technology and basically idiot-proof. I am pretty sure I could have Mary Poppins’d that shit, and sang a song to my tent and it would’ve risen. Also God love a Coleman, because the beaut held up to insane and persistent Wyoming winds all. night. long. I kept checking the corners which I had weighed down with rocks, because my campsite was pure rubble and I could not get the stakes in.

But the tent and Lula held through the onslaught.

I had made a fire, no prob, because duh I was a Girl Scout. Although, okay I love to throw that out there, but I think I actually was a Brownie and never graduated past Brownie. But I did sew something once, so, I am pretty sure I still get the honor.

I drank peach beers and smiled dreamily at my blazing fire, the sun dipping down behind Cody canyons and felt like I was figuring it out. At least I hoped I was. I wanted to start in on my laundry list of worries because that is my usual pastime, but I refused. I told myself I would simply enjoy the pure pleasure of being alive and able to camp on my own in the West. Turns out this wasn’t a hard feat.

I kept laughing and it wasn’t from the peach beers, though to be fair, two did make me tingle a bit. I sincerely felt in awe of doing an activity that seems like it should be a two person activity, and making it fit one. My bed, happily high from the obscene amounts of stacked and folded blankets only took up a small space in my five-person tent. But I liked my miniature living room, with dimly lit lantern, Wall Drug cowboy satchel filled with books, my styrofoam cooler brought purely to protect the chocolate and brews, and then there was me and Lula.

I always say that I have the worst night’s sleep on record when I go camping, and I surely did. I was up every half hour it seemed with howling winds that shook every seam in my tent relentlessly. I wondered if the wind would pick us all up: me, the tent and Lula and cart us off to Oz. I dreamt about packing up the tent multiple times, but each time I woke up and heard the wind and rain, I snuggled deeper into my blankets and prayed. I didn’t pray for protection against a wayward tree crushing me, but for God to not let my new Coleman get destroyed after only one use.

I had fallen asleep wearing pants, a long sleeve shirt, doubled with a thick sweater and wool socks. I awoke sweaty and to the sounds of squawking birds. The tent was now still and my body ached as I wearily peeled off socks and multiple layers of my clothes. I whipped off the mounds of blankets and unzipped the tent flap to a cool breeze and bright morning sun. I gulped in the fresh air and wondered about coffee. I also wondered if I could shoot the squawking birds without incident.

Camping is slightly like heartache following love. You wonder why you bother, yet secretly are up for all the thrills all over again.

I debated whether I had the energy to pack up without caffeine first, but I swallowed some stale water from my Nalgene bottle and ate three squares of a Hershey’s bar and determined that would have to suffice.

As I tried to stuff the tent back in the bag that never seems big enough to hold what came out so easily, I thought, hey, I did it. I camped alone.

The Camp Hosts from Georgia who were making their morning rounds around the campground called out, “leaving already?”

“Yeah I was just here for one night. Now I am going hiking.”

“Be safe,” the man said.

I nodded, feeling sweaty from the effort of shoving the tent into its too small bag.

And just like that I was off in search of the largest coffee I could find and a hike that would quench my never-ending thirst for more adventure. Alone or otherwise.

Pink Thunderstorms

I have a real problem with believing I don’t deserve things. Not things like Prada, to be clear, but things like farm animals or a writing career. Despite this flawed way of thinking, God repeatedly shows me that I do deserve some serious grandeur at the very least. Like this pink thunderstorm for instance. You read that right. I was privy to my first ever pink thunderstorm. It was quite possibly the most exquisite sight my eyes had thus far beheld in my 30 years here on earth. And it was happening right out my window at 5:30 a.m.

I awoke to a barn-rattling thunderclap that jarred me out of an uncomfortable dream about ticks embedded in my legs that I was trying to claw out. I was happy for the intrusion and happier yet that it was because of thunder. I was lying there, having checked my phone and deduced that I still had an hour and a half left of blissful slumber before I had to be up for work. Maybe the wind had picked up or another thunderclap had cracked, or the sudden gusts of rain slapping against my window had alerted me, because I tossed my quilt aside and went to the window to investigate.

When I pulled the curtain aside, I saw what seemed to be a deleted scene from The Wizard of Oz. I had to resist checking my legs for ticks to be sure I wasn’t still dreaming. A pink haze enveloped the whole outdoors, like the inside of a snow globe lined with cotton candy.

The pink sky was clearly from the sunrise, though there was no sun in sight. Then I noticed the wind whipping up dirt and powerful rain in miniature tornado swirls across the horse corral to do a dizzying drunken dance right into my window pane. Which is when I realized rather large gusts of rain were suddenly blowing in. I slid the window shut while still looking on. Two of the horses who had shelter were partaking of it while looking slightly askance. While all the other horses suffering through the elements seemed nonplussed. I stared for a moment, completely mesmerized by the pink and the swirling. And then the thunder clapped again, like God was in a horserace and was whipping his steed to move faster, move faster.

I wanted to watch the whole thing play out, but I felt the pull of my bed and my coveted one point five more hours of sleep. I laid back down but left the curtain open to watch, while I happily dozed back asleep to the thunder and the wind gusts.

I would later play the image of the pink thunderstorm and the swirling wind tornadoes over and over again in my mind.

So alright. Maybe I don’t have a farming/writing empire yet, with a handy bearded husband who likes to rope things—me included. Ya know, rope me and then tie me to the bedpost. I am kidding! Sorta. Though, my ex used to joke that he would in fact tie me to the bedpost. But not in the fun way. He said he’d do it in order to deter me from this penchant I have about saving the rainforest and chaining myself to trees in order to stop factories being built. He said he would do a simulation and tie me to the bed, turn up the heat and play the movie, The Jungle Book. This scenario was definitely when I fell in love with the kid, but no matter. That ship has sailed and I digress.

But, c’mon, man. Pink thunderstorms?! That has to be right up there with odds like getting struck  by lightning. Okay, maybe they’re not that rare, but still, I feel like God was up to something and up to something good in order to shake me up.

Shake me up to that nonsense about being undeserving.

If that was His M.O. then I think I got it. If God thinks I deserve pink thunderstorms, then just you imagine what else I probably have got coming to me. I actually can’t even fathom, because I never even considered pink thunderstorms.

All I am saying is, if you’re anything like me, then you will have your moments of debilitating self-doubt from time to time, but keep your eyes and ears alert, because God has always got something wild and wonderful up His sleeve.

The Wildness in Me

I attended the Cody Rodeo last night. I even purchased a season pass, so color me committed. I ate overly salted popcorn, drank apricot beer and gabbed with my girlfriend from the ranch. She’s the wrangler there and would whistle with bursts of enthusiasm for the riders while watching raptly.

The sky’s brightness and the summer heat diminished and I begun to get chilled in my sleeveless white sundress. I watched the cowboys get flung from bulls and cowgirls turning a sharp corner on horses full of sinewy grace in barrel racing. I sometimes leaned back and hardly noted the action, instead just noted how I felt, which was charmed and at home, and other times I sat in wonder over the difficulty of roping a moving calf.

I myself started practicing roping a few months back, and it is no easy feat. I can only rope a calf if it is plastic and held fast in a hay bale, three feet in front of me and unmoving—which obviously helps if the calf is plastic. The idea that these riders can be swiftly moving atop a horse, swinging their rope, and catch a high-tailing calf is astounding and worth a whistle. If I could in fact whistle, which I cannot.

I had just wrapped up my first week at the new ranch, full of cooking up cheesecakes, biscuits, baked chicken, and cleaning cabins, learning to saddle and getting swept up in windstorms.

I felt as though I had hardly taken much of a breath as the night before last I stumbled up the barn steps and fell into a deep sleep at 6:30, not awaking again until 6:30 the next morning.

I was trying to keep track of all the newness, which had caused me to feel so breathless. Baking in a big old Western abode befitting a feature in Western Horseman. Riding horses up the side of a canyon while my nostrils inhaled an intoxicating amount of sage; I swayed with the horse and the sweet intensity of the smell and my surroundings. I heaved saddles on and hefted them off and felt that I belonged to the West and saddles and painting posts and sagebrush and that I always had.

And then when I had time to catch my breath my best friend told me she would go into labor soon. She is having twins and we texted back and forth in excitement. But then it started creeping up to me again. That feeling that I have tried to shake for months, but won’t go away. That my egg count is dwindling and motherhood is very far away from me.

I suddenly felt guilty about gallivanting up mountainsides on horseback and cruising around in a golf cart with a cow dog by my side with the wind making my hair look like Marv from Home Alone—because it is short again and the curls are as wild as my spirit. I felt like I had done something selfish somewhere along the line choosing to be so footloose and fancy-free. Had I chosen the wrong path, though it had felt like the right one?

Would choosing this kind of wildness prevent me from ever having something I had always wanted which was children.

I fear this kind of thing may not disturb men too greatly, or maybe even young women, because I don’t ever recall considering my egg count until my thirtieth birthday started nearing. And now I am somewhat obsessed with terms like egg counts and geriatric pregnancies—which for the record was the term for women who got pregnant after 35—adoption and egg freezing.

After many a meltdown as my thirtieth inched closer, and I masochistically read mommy articles and cried, I made a vow to myself to knock it the fuck off, and enjoy my present moments of ranching, making cheese, learning to fly fish and saddle horses, without thoughts of my egg supply or a geriatric pregnancy.

But all this rushed to the forefront of my mind again, while my bestie spoke excitedly of the impending birth of her daughters. I tried to keep a stiff upper lip, not portraying jealousy over her joy, while she consoled me that my time would come. I even marched on and went to the rodeo anyway, despite a sudden and distinct empty feeling in my uterus.

I watched the cowboys and tried not to picture little cowboy kids in my mind. I did anyway. I stared at the ropers and came back to my egg count. I looked at the running baby calves and tried to surmise if it were possible that I could live without children.

Which is when I turned and confessed all this to my very new friend who was very kind and understanding as I ranted about my barters with God: I will give up any lofty career aspirations and settle down as a respectable banker if it means I get to have babies. I mean it, God. I will stop being wild. Errr, I will try really hard to stop being wild, but I can’t make promises once the babies come, because I want them to ride horses, camp under the open Wyoming sky and go on whale watching adventures on the coast.

For some reason just admitting to my barters about being a banker in exchange for babies, while she laughed and said she understood, caused all the egg count and swaddled babies that I might never hold, and ideas that I could possibly be undeserving of a baby to disappear into the Western sky.

I stuck my hand back into the too-salted popcorn box, popping handfuls into my mouth and washing it down with my can of damn fine beer. The sky was a deep blue, yet the mountainous outlines were black against the blue, like a very fetching bruise.

I let out my breath again and decided I’d be okay. This was nice. The young wrangler girl was nice. And the rodeo sure was nice.

As we walked past all the corrals of animals upon leaving, I dreamily took in all their beauty. The wildness of the horses and bulls and even the baby calves struck me and I told my friend, “I want them all!” To which she laughed again and nodded, like why not?

Maybe, just maybe there will be a way for me to have the wildness, the West and little cowboys of my own. If I have learned how to saddle, make fresh cheese from scratch after milking a cow, not take my instructor’s eye out when learning to cast a fly line and rope a plastic calf, then I suppose anything is possible. At least, that’s what the West would have a girl like me believe.