A Jungle-Haired, Mountain Conquering, Non-Beggar

Musings

I had two major motives with moving back West: I needed to be enveloped in the vastness of the mountains and Mother Nature, as nothing soothes me better than those two things—mmm, other than the sea, but that counts as Mother Nature—and I needed to focus on my writing.

I strongly felt when I left Wyoming the first time that I had unfinished business. Mostly with the cowboys and the ranchers, but also with myself. Coming back, I did want to focus on some sincere hobnobbing with the aforementioned folk, but also on not having a job that wore me right down so as not to write when I got home.

I happily joked with my best friend that a job cashiering/bagging at a grocery store would offer me the perfect amount of mindlessness to then go home and work on my novel and my Wild West research. So imagine my surprise and dismay when I applied to King Soopers, (an affiliate of Kroger) only to have them email me back the next day saying this:

“After reviewing your submission and application, we have decided to pursue other applicants who more closely match the needs of this position.”

To borrow terminology I like from the Brits: color me gobsmacked. I wanted to be outraged, and admittedly I was for a bit, wondering how on earth I wasn’t qualified to ring up people’s pears and toilet paper? But after some brief thought, I decided cashiering at King Soopers sounded loathsome. What kind of name is King Soopers anyway?

My favorite responses to my indignation over being rejected by King Sooper were from a gal I had only just met last night who I naturally felt compelled to tell the story to. She said, “they don’t deserve you!” mirroring my own outrage.

And then from my sister, who said: “They probably only hire teens. What a bunch of pervs.” 

And then I was over it.

Immediately following this blow, however, I saw a comment on one of my blog posts from a stranger asking me: Do you beg, like the healthy people I see in New Orleans who display jokes on their cardboard signs? Kind of funny. Kind of annoying. Kind of desperate. Are you desperate? I again was gobsmacked. Do I beg? Where had this stranger gotten the notion that I beg for anything?! I have never in my life stood anywhere with a sign asking for so much as a nickel. Okay, actually, once I held a sign at Coney Island offering free hugs—read that story here—because I was sad, but if that’s begging well then I am not sorry!

I tried not to be rattled by the King Soopers rejection and a stranger coming to the conclusion that because I sometimes hint at being a starving artist that I have resorted to begging.

And so what I did do was make a gratitude list to cheer myself and I found that while King Sooper may find me an unworthy candidate for their conglomerate and a stranger may think I am a nitwit, I had a lot going for me in this exact moment.

Like this:

– I have a really exceptional mountain view out of my bedroom window.

– My hair has been looking particularly jungle-esque and dare I say full. Errr, full-ish. Okay, I am pretending it looks full.

– My dear friend Diana has been giving me forehead kisses, which if you know anything, are basically the greatest thing in the world.

– I started working out again and am deliciously sore.

– I lost one pound. Who knows if I can attribute it to the working out or the anxiousness that paralyzes my ability to eat. But either way I will take it.

– The gracious men at the Hyundai dealership not only fixed my car but were ever so nice to me in the process. And it was a long process; after one day spent sitting in the Hyundai customer lounge, they still hadn’t determined the problem and asked to keep my car overnight. Of course I was okay with this. But I was beautifully surprised when they arranged a ride home for me when I couldn’t get ahold of my friend. Now that’s what I call service.

– I had a job interview today. Granted it could have gone better. Maybe I got overly cocky in the fact that job interviews no longer intimidate me and so karma was dealing me a blow. I got there an hour and a half early (because I am neurotic to a fault) however, getting there that early was slightly stupid, because I then saw the interviewer interviewing someone else before me, and that admittedly threw me off my game a bit and my cheeks insisted on flaming up because really, why not? And so I did the whole interview looking like I’d recently exited a sauna. Also I started sweating rather profusely. I am not kidding, I could feel it running down my arm. Super charming. But still. I had a job interview. So. Progress.

– Did I mention how happy and grateful I am that my baby brat car is fixed?

– I had two alcoholic beverages last night and felt sensational while playing euchre and baking grandmama’s secret chocolate chip cookie recipe: the new gal I had met asked for the secret ingredient. I told her I couldn’t tell her, unless I married her. She said she’d buy me a ring tomorrow. But admittedly the smallish intoxication made me want to text my ex. I did not, though. I went and gave my phone to my friend and said, “I am contemplating doing bad things. Take this away from me.” She replied with, “You did the right thing.” Then asked me if I wanted her phone to peruse Facebook. I declined but noted what a good friend she is, and happily went to bed, pleased with my self-control and dizzy wine fizz.

So yes. King Soopers thinks I am not a good fit. And one reader thinks I am a beggar. But I think I am a jungle-haired, mountain conquering, non-begging lil lass, who may be sometimes red-faced and sweaty, but has this thing called sisu. That’s a Finnish term for having guts and grit. And according to one Ted Talker, people with grit are the people who make it. So ha ha! Put that in your pipe and smoke it, K. Sooper. Cue a song about making it.

 

Some Version of Camping

Musings

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About a week ago, after a six day work week of ten hour days spent hustling between tables and scraping leftover bites of pancake into the trash, it was imperative that Kirst and I escaped the lodge for a bit. And truly escaped, meaning no day spent off catching up on cleaning, or paying bills or driving two hours down the mountain to go linger in coffee houses. No, none of that. We were going to instead be one with Mother Nature. We were going camping. Or as my good friend Francis would say, campin’.

We left our trailer in the early afternoon as I wanted to spend an unhurried morning lazily flipping through one of the 12 books on Hemingway I picked up from the library. As I readied the car and looked at the directions drawn out for me by a forest ranger for our designated nature adventure, I spotted Kirst coming in and out of our laundry room—which really doubles as one giant dressing room—with multiple bags. The route we needed to take was what the term “off-road” was coined for. We would need to cross a river that had washed out the road and then go straight up into the mountain, over various rocks and potholes big enough to be considered small gorges. I watched as Kirst loaded clothing piece after clothing piece and bag after bag into the living room.

“Do you want me to pack body wash?” she asked in passing.

“Why on earth would we need body wash for one night of camping?” I asked.

“I don’t know…” she said as she stuffed more clothes into her already heaping bag.

“Kirst, where do you think we’re going? Paris? Why are you packing so many outfits? We are coming back tomorrow.”

She disregarded me as she loaded up another bag with paints and books.

“You do realize we have to carry all this stuff across the river if my car can’t make it across.”

“Oh really?” she looked surprised that any work would be involved in this camping trip.

“We also have to carry the tent, the air mattress, the cooler, the food bag, the fire wood, the blankets, the pillows, the hammocks…”

“Oh…” she seemed contemplative over this information but still unwilling to downsize on any of her “essentials.”

We were going to have to cross the river in the car. Or camp elsewhere. Or I would simply have to accept that camping with Kirst meant some version of glamping where she put on her white wedge sandals for the ride to look the part of fashionable summer gal.

At this point I should note that my tire had all but disintegrated a few nights prior and my good pals had to put the spare on… which was still on. I meant it when I said no errands and no runs to town on my day off, even for tire repair. Which left us with the question of do we ford a river in a somewhat sissy SUV with a spare on to get to Calvin Lake to camp?

Well ya know that joke, Why did the chicken cross the road… To get to the other side. I think the chicken must have worked a whole bunch of overtime, waiting tables at a mountain lodge and had this one beautiful coveted day off a week and he had heard of this pristine lake on the other side of a road that had been flooded and so naturally he was getting to that other side. My only confusion is why this is considered a joke. This is no joke, man. I totally get why that chicken was willing to get plowed down by a vehicle to see what was over yonder. I was willing to risk getting stuck in a river, on a mountain, with no cell service, just for a glimmer of what I knew was tucked into the Big Horns.

When we arrived at said river and the sign that said Road Closed, I hesitated for a moment staring at the water. It didn’t look too deep or fast flowing. Though my SUV is a baby brat, she does have one thing going for her and that is height. I asked Kirst her thoughts and she told me to just gun it. And so I did. I fucking forded a river. In my girly SUV. With the spare on. That’s exactly how Lewis and Clark would’ve handled that slight dilemma too.

Okay, so for making it across the river, my vehicle could not make it up the next road which was straight incline combined with jagged grooves of dirt and rock. I tried going up anyway and made it about halfway before having to reverse all the way back down.

Kirst and I decided to find a camping spot in the nearby woods and mountaintops and then hike up to the lake instead. While setting up our hammocks I went to retrieve rope from the car and felt a presence near me. I lifted my eyes to see a moose staring back at me from about 100 yards away where the grass dipped into a creek.

My heart stopped and I quickly ducked down so he wouldn’t see me. Kirst who was off to my left, tucked into the forest was oblivious. I loudly whispered, “Kirst!” several times until she looked at me and I motioned her over while pointing with big eyes at our visitor who now had dipped his head into the creek. Kirst came over and together we stood on the inside ledge of the car leaning over for a good look.

From time to time the moose lifted his head up, met our eyes, and then dipped back down to munch on grass and gulp water. We were giddy as we repeatedly looked at each other, then looked at him. Well as long as he stayed where he was and we had a ton of steel between the two of us as protection in case he decided to charge.

After hiking up our appetite on the way to see Calvin Lake, we discussed food on the way back down and how I forgot to pack the marshmallows while Kirst was busy packing multiple outfit changes.

“Is there anything else we could roast?” she asked as she navigated her way back down the trail. I followed behind taking photos.

“No,” I said.

“Well I am going to roast your fingers then,” she quipped. I smiled, delighted by her response. “Or we could roast some ants or cockroaches. You know some people do that… Actually I couldn’t be one of those wilderness survival people. I love the wilderness but if I was in that situation, I’d just let wilderness take me down.” I laughed as I watched her touch tree branches and observe Mother Nature.

We got nestled back in our tent just as it began to rain. We devoured our snacks. Now this is where maybe I didn’t get the memo on appropriate camping snacks as instead of buying some ballpark franks and mallows, I had packed proscuitto, goat cheese, hummus, pita crackers, veggies and dark chocolates. Errrr and maybe some mint oreos for extra chocolate measure. Oh and Leinenkugels. Lots and lots o’ Leinenkugels.

We lounged and read and napped and hammocked in the breezy Wyoming high country. We awoke to a clear sky and snorts from a nearby animal. I froze thinking the moose was back and surely would trample the tent with us in it. I peaked out and saw a deer meandering past.

I unzipped the tent and went to make the fire.

We sat beside it basking til dusk and then went back into the warmth of the tent to play Scrabble and await the midnight sky and the star show that would ensue. When we unzipped again, the sight before us was nothing short of Godly in its overwhelming perfection. We oohed and ahhed and shivered and took turns peeing one last time behind the car.

As soon as we were back in the tent we heard nearby snorts again and froze, looking at each other in girlish irrational fear. We each located the large and imposing knives Francis had sent with us. We told ourselves it was just deer and put one knife on either side of the bed and hunkered down in cozy abandon.

I awoke several times in the night shivering in the frigid mountain air, clinging to Kirst for warmth and more warmth, twining my legs around her, to acquire all of her body heat. I borderline wanted her to just lie on top of me, maybe even my head so I could get some relief from the chill, but I dozed in and out clinging to her, breathing hot huffs on myself to perhaps warm my nose.

Even though every time I camp, it ends up being the worst nights sleep of my life: I wake up on a rock, with a dewy tent on my face, my back is stiff, or I am chilled to my very marrow, it seems entirely worth it for the endless stretches in nature, free from Facebook or work concerns and then those happy run-ins with moose and abandoned fishing poles on mountain lakes.

Honestly, if you haven’t camped, or glamped as Kirst and I would do it—with tall wedge sandals and prosciutto—well then, you are missing something truly grand. Even if you have to sleep with a knife under your bed and your sister on top of you.

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If This is 29…

Musings

My twenty-ninth year has arrived. And in style I might add. Admittedly I was getting a wee bit skittish about inching ever closer to the nervy thirty, simply because I am so goal-oriented and feel that I am not quite where I ought to be for thirty-ish. Sure 401K’s and babies seem appropriate but I am not giving much thought to either of those at the moment, even if I should. No. My only thoughts seem to center around my writing career taking off and well, adventure.

This is only natural as adventure has been my long time beau and damn if he isn’t good to me. Celebrating a birthday as a new transplant to the West was as enchanting as one might expect with all these mountains and old fashioned gents about. A girl could get downright spoiled if she weren’t careful. In fact that was most definitely the theme of my birthday. Spoiled, spoiled rotten. Just how I like it.

But before you get the wrong impression in thinking I’m a birthday brat, although I am a little bit of a birthday brat, understand that my favorite part of my birthday isn’t about being spoiled with presents. It’s the fact that I get spoiled with love and affection from all my favorite people across the globe. And if that isn’t about as humbling and awe-inspiring as standing before a mountain top, then I don’t know what is.

Then my main man, God went and did one better and spoiled me with Mother Earth. I already adore my birthday so I was off to a swell start with my waffle heaped with strawberries and whipped cream and piping hot cup of Joe in my cowboy mug. I was so full of pep and pizzazz that a coworker of mine asked me in all seriousness if I was on drugs. I resisted replying that I was high on life—I am corny but not that corny—but did indeed explain that, no I did not need drugs to feel this good and why would I ever need drugs in a world where birthdays and mountains coexist?

I proceeded to take myself on a date down the mountain. I stopped in town at the old Mercantile and visited a little with the old men lounging there. Then I wove my way into a canyon with raging rapids flowing past me on my left and jutting red rock faces sprouting up in front of me on all surrounding sides. I gasped in delight and felt an abundance of gratitude to share my birthday with the canyon and endearing locals.

A couple hours later I drove back up the mountain to pick up my sister so that we could then drive right back down the other side of the mountain into wild horse territory. I had spoken with one of my best friends on the phone and told him if I did indeed spot wild horses on my birthday then I really was the most spoiled birthday girl this side of the Missip.

When Kirst and I made our way down into the bright and blazing sunshine of the valley, Kirst couldn’t contain her excitement over the landscape in front of us. She kept squealing that she needed to marry the land, and run through the vast fields before us, and kiss the ground and gather good Native American spirits. I pulled over so she could do three out of the four. I really would marry Wyoming too, but who would perform the ceremony?

Kirst true to form bounded out of the car and ran straight for the nearest field where she wove this way and that. She laid down and jumped up, kissed the ground and pointed to cactus as this side of the mountain was dry, hot and barren, while the other side I had just been on was lush with green and misty with low hanging clouds. When I caught up to her she was lying on her poncho staring at the sky.

I felt giddy with her enthusiasm for the striking nature before us in every direction. The mountains stretched as far as the eye could see and boasted every possible color. Deep blue in some areas, red and speckled, green and rolling, grey and jagged, white capped with snow or shadowed from the clouds above.

I knelt down to kiss the earth too. It seemed only right. I wanted to honor Her. And maybe Kirst was right. Maybe Native American spirits or Mother Earth or some force much bigger than us would take note of our love and shine favorably upon us.

We made our way back to the car to head into the wild horse range. There we crossed over into Montana. We stopped at Devil’s Canyon, a canyon so deep, my mind couldn’t fathom that there are canyons larger, like the Grand Canyon. Again I was humbled deep into my core for my existence and my part in the universe, however small it may be. And standing next to that gorge of rock, I felt very small indeed. In that beautiful way of feeling small, like maybe sometimes that is exactly the size you ought to be.

We moved on and yes, we did spot two wild horses. While my romantic, fanciful brain expected them to be running or kicking up their legs in obvious wild abandon, the two black beauties we came upon were casually munching on some grass oblivious to me and Kirst’s ogling.

After staring for a spell, we wound our way to the bottom of the canyon where the river spliced through rock. We turned around to head back up and passed a herd of horses being led around the winding road by cowboys. But wait… wait. Upon exiting the wild horse range I spotted a massive rainbow taking hold of the sky to my left while Kirst dozed in the passenger seat. At this point, the sight might’ve been overkill, with the canyons and wild horses and cowboys, but it was simply an affirmation that the West had won me over, fully and implicitly.

Being that both Kirst and I are somewhat poor planners, nothing was open for dinner in the small town at the base of the mountain, as it was Memorial Day. We feasted on gas station hot dogs and Coca-Cola’s in a Veterans Memorial Park. We beamed at each other because it felt fitting and perfect. Like the rest of the day. Like the West. It fits and it’s perfect.

If this is twenty-nine, saddling up to my thirties with mountain ranges and desert flowers and earth kisses, then yes please. I will take more of this. Who needs a 401K anyway?