Eyes on the Mountains (Part 2)

The first time I visited Wyoming was… Honestly I am at a loss for words. Really good love stories do that to you. Encountering Wyoming was one of those real top-notch tales of romance, like the movies. I may not have always had that kind of storybook romance with my men, but damn if I didn’t have it upon meeting Wyo.

But I fear I am getting a wee bit ahead of myself. I left off in my last post still living in Virginia. And before Virginia, New York City. I felt shaken up and beaten down from my time in NYC. It jarred me having to come to the realization that maybe big city life didn’t do it for me. I craved solace in the mountains. That seemed the logical antithesis to my post city blues.

Ray Lamontagne has this song called, New York City’s Killing Me. And while I have always been a big fan of him, prior to living in NYC I thought Mr. Lamontagne had it all wrong. Until I left NYC did I really appreciate that maybe Ray and I had something in common.

I get so tired of all this concrete
I get so tired of all this noise
Gotta get back up in the country
Have a couple drinks with the good ol’ boys

I just got to get me somewhere
Somewhere that I can feel free
Get me out of New York City, son
New York City’s killin’ me

At any rate, the mountains of Virginia were a proper salve to some of my problems. But that aforementioned deep discontent inside of me wasn’t about Virginia lacking something, it was more so about a wrongness in my relationship there.

Let’s just fast forward to when I left the relationship, the apartment with the mountain views, the man who once cared and who no longer did, Virginia, and my beloved mountains. I had to get away again. I took a brief respite in Michigan feeling displaced and wondering what the plan could possibly be now that New York and Virginia were both busts.

I had no ideas other than my gypsy soul telling me the natural solution was to wander until a new place to love came along. That’s when I started to hear the West calling me; it was a faint murmur, but I could hear it. I hadn’t ever given much thought or consideration to the West before. But when some of my friends and sister planned a road trip out West, it seemed as good a time as any to see what the fuss was all about.

We first landed in Denver, staying with our friend there. She took us out on the town. We ate dinner at a snazzy restaurant that used to be a morgue and didn’t have cheeseburgers on the menu. It drizzled rain, and we went thrifting. I thought Denver seemed neat enough, and the mountains were grand to be sure, but I didn’t feel it yet… Then we saw Estes Park and Rocky Mountain National.

I was inching nearer to properly boggled, especially when I saw the night sky in Rocky Mountain National, and yet…

The next day we were headed to the Tetons and I remember being drowsy as we left Colorado. My friend was driving, so I dozed in the warmth of the sun rays in the front seat. When I lazily woke, to still more sunshine, I could feel something was different. In my core, something was thrumming. I looked around me out the windows. The landscape was open and vast, hilly and dry looking.

There wasn’t anything of note, yet I felt different.

“Where are we,” I asked.

“Wyoming,” my friend beamed, as she pulled off an exit to get gas.

All the openness for miles was already seducing me in such a way that were Wyoming a man, I would’ve open-mouthed kissed him.

I got out of the car and ambled into the gas station. And this is when I knew, what I already knew from waking up in Wyoming and having my body lean into this place like a long lost sailor leaning over the rails upon seeing shore.

The man behind the counter wore a cowboy hat and had a handlebar moustache. He nodded his head at me, and said, “howdy, ma’am.”

I wanted to squeal. I wanted to ask if he was a real cowboy. I wanted to persuade him to marry me immediately.

And with the simpleness of a cowboy and waking up in a wide open space that felt like it had been untouched since the settlers first started moseying West, I was in love. Sometimes love at first sight doesn’t work out, sometimes, it’s initial vanity and there’s no real substance there.

This was not one of those cases.

The further I delved into Wyoming, the further I fell. By the time, I had seen more cowboys, men in chaps, beards aplenty, horses by the dozen, ranches, hills, canyons, elk, bison, and oh the mountains, sweet God-built pieces of jagged splendor, I was done for.

On my way out of Wyoming several days later, I was driving, winding my way up through the Bighorns. My heart was hammering in my chest with each mile spent ascending up into the clouds.

I knew I would soon be back in the Midwest and I was trying to brand every image of Wyoming in my mind and on my heart. I joked with my sister to leave me on the side of the road and keep going, even though we were in my car. I saw a sheep-herder riding his horse with his trusty dog trotting along behind him and I wanted to weep, it was all so perfect and all so meant for me.

At the time, this song called Red Canoe was playing on my sister’s iPod, and I remember playing it over and over again, so that whenever I heard the song in the future, I would see Wyoming, the Bighorns, the sheep herder, the cowboys and invite it all back to me.

That song and that sentiment created a fervor in me to come back. Leaving was heartbreak, but I knew it was only temporary. I, of course, did come back, nearly a year later, to the exact lodge I had passed in the Bighorns on my trek back to Michigan. And the fact that I left Wyoming a second time, is slightly unfathomable to me still.

I had found myself staring at the cowboys in line at Starbucks and Walmart, with their bandanas wrapped around their necks, cowboy hats and cowboy boots donned, trying once more to brand these people and this place into my memory bank. As, I certainly never saw a man with a cowboy hat and a bandana around his neck at Starbucks in New York City.

And what happened that cowboys and ranchers and cattle and sheep-herders and fly fishermen and rodeo stars suddenly had imprinted themselves on my being? I can recall loving nature from a young age. And horses. And the outdoors and even outdoorsmen. But this seemed excessive coming from a girl who used to dream about brownstones on cobbled streets in NYC boroughs.

But with leaving Wyoming a second time, it seemed that this life was all I wanted, perhaps all I had ever wanted, and leaving it was all wrong.

Hence why I only lasted about two weeks back in the Midwest.

And what’s remarkable to me, is how I haven’t actually changed at all. If I had really been paying attention I would’ve seen the signs all along. I picked the college I attended based on its proximity to forests, rivers, and lakes. I spent my time as a child reading about high adventure and then trying to recreate it in my backyard. I bartered for riding lessons as a sixth grader with my neighbors who had horses. Every birthday and Christmas I either tried asking for a horse and when I wisened up that Santa wouldn’t bring one to store in my shed, I started asking for riding lessons instead. I even almost bought my own horse once in college and thought better of it, because uhhh… I had nowhere to put it.

So I guess it shouldn’t amuse and delight me so much now when I find myself picking up Western Horseman magazines or stalking— that’s a harsh word, let’s say perusing—every cowboy, farmer, and rancher I can find on Instagram, lapping up their horse posts, fresh egg posts, cattle-roping and wilderness packing posts.

I, of course have been singularly applying to work as a ranch-hand though I have no ranch experience. I understand that, but I fervently tell the ranchers that I want to learn to mend fences and tend cattle and maybe lasso—please don’t laugh I want to lasso so bad—and that I’ll prove to them how much of a Western gal I really am at heart.

I used to want to sashay into a top magazine office in Manhattan in a sharp suit, riding up the elevator to my posh job that required heels—or if not required, then strongly implied. Now I find myself aching to get up at dawn and feed animals and work on things with my hands, and get filthy, and ride a horse somewhere far, far off, and wear myself thin. Seriously I really wouldn’t mind wearing myself thin, I have a slight penchant for chocolate croissants. You’d be doing me a favor, guys.

And who knew?

Well. Me, I suppose. I guess I knew all along this is where I belong. So hey, uh ranchers, if you’re reading this, c’mon, give me a go. I won’t let you down. I mean if you’re not convinced by this love letter then I am not sure what will convince you. Hmm… maybe my ax wielding skills. They are on point. Ish. But in the hearty ranchess sort of way. Not in The Shining madness sort of way. Aaaaand, I think that’s my cue to wrap up.

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Eyes on the Mountains (Part 1)

I used to fancy myself a city girl. I sat in my humble house in the country, located in a small farm town in Lower Michigan and dreamed of getting out. I envisioned bigger and better. To me bigger and better was New York City. I watched When Harry Met Sally as a teen, and seeing Sally aimlessly walk through Central Park with Harry, or drag her Christmas tree down twinkly streets was so picturesque and vastly different from Fowlerville, Michigan that I latched onto that place and vowed to get there.

All my thoughts orbited around New York City. How to get there, how to make it there, how to have what Sally had. So easy and simple. She moved there as a hopeful writer and voila, she was a writer. She had this friend that kept coming back to her and he fell in love with her. She watched Casablanca and had lunches at the Boathouse with her girlfriends, while bemoaning men.

I moved to New York City, fresh with my newly minted writing degree, down ninety-two pounds from working my arse off on The Biggest Loser and ready to take on the city streets, writing and love with all my know-how from When Harry Met Sally. Imagine my surprise and dismay when the only jobs I could find were waitressing and Starbucks. The only men looking my way were gay (fabulous, but not interested in any sort of lip-locks) and the city streets, while magical in their own right, were also fraught with a lot of trash and noise, making me realize that maybe making it there wasn’t like the movies at all.

I am sure a lot of people could’ve told me that. And there’s a reason Frank Sinatra croons, “if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere!” This is true. NYC is not for the faint of heart. I don’t believe myself to be faint of heart, but I think I gave a lot of credence to my city love (based on a movie and a couple class trips to Chicago as a youngster) and zero credence to my country love.

I was having the worst anxiety of my life while living in New York City. While she was a dreamy place full of fantastic culture, art, cupcakes, architecture and wonder, I felt closed in and manic. I never slept while I lived there. This isn’t one of my dramatic exaggerations. I really didn’t sleep; at least not at night. I had insomnia that wouldn’t go away and I utilized this the best I could by training for my first marathon in the middle of the night, instead of tossing and turning in bed, fitful with worry and damp with sweat.

I lived in Brooklyn Heights and I would leave my apartment in the middle of the night and start running: across the Brooklyn Bridge, weaving through Manhattan’s skyscrapers, past policemen milling about, fishermen fishing off the pier, kids skateboarding, and the homeless sleeping against fence-enclosed graveyards. And then I would run back and sit on a bench looking at the sun coming up across the Manhattan skyline while rats scurried beneath my feet. I would amble home, shower and lay in bed in utter exhaustion until eventually I dozed somewhere around five, or sometimes as late as seven.

I remember talking to my friend once as I walked to work in the Village, telling her that maybe I overestimated how much of a city girl I was and underestimated how much of a country girl I was. This troubled me, because I wondered how I could be so wrong about a place I had planned on loving for over a decade.

A need for nature kept hounding me, a need to escape to somewhere quiet where I could gather my thoughts, which were as rampant and erratic as the New York City rats. I would look at the skyline and wish it were mountains. I wanted all the hustle and bustle to be forest-still silence. I wanted the murky concrete puddles to be cloud reflected lakes.

My mom blamed all of this on a love who had recently broken my heart and then up and moved to Alaska while I headed for the big city. She thought the reason I saw mountains instead of skyscrapers was because of him. And that the whole heartbreak thing was ill-timing, ruining my NYC experience. And maybe to a certain extent it was. But I think it was more than that.

I think the mountains were in me long before that love came along and broke my heart, long before I saw When Harry Met Sally, and perhaps long before I even knew which way to go.

When things began to promptly fall apart in NYC, around the time I was due to fly back to the Midwest for my marathon, I didn’t much feel like going back. I was in between apartments and without a place to live. I was sleeping in a hostel in the fetal position and sniveling, wondering how in God’s name Madonna had done it, and starting to unravel in a most disheartening way. I would wander into churches and cry alone in a back pew. Or find parks to sit and do yoga-style breathing techniques and then get mad when I heard an ambulance blare on by.

When I told my mom after my marathon that I couldn’t go back, I just couldn’t, she seemed distressed, thinking I was giving up on my dream and that I had to just stick it out—the anxiety and insomnia and noise. My mom wasn’t being pushy, she was being supportive of how bad I had wanted this one dream.

I couldn’t do it though. I loved New York City and truly always will, but I knew what I needed and it wasn’t skyscrapers and bustling streets. In fact a guy I had started dating around this time took me out one day when I was visiting a friend in Maryland. I was still living in New York and was wildly shaken up. He asked if I wanted to go see Washington D.C. and I all but screamed, no! I didn’t want to be in the city. I didn’t want to hear traffic or see people. I wanted him to take me into the country. “Where?” he asked. I told him where the pumpkins and apples grow.

It may have come as a shock to everyone who knew me and knew how badly I wanted the city-girl life when I abandoned ship and ended up moving to Virginia. Granted I was living outside of Washington D.C. in an urban metropolis about as busy as NYC, but I told my boyfriend at the time that I didn’t care where we lived as long as I had a view of the mountains and easy access to them. Suddenly the mountains became my new focal point.

They were my obsession and I wanted my eyes on them at all times. On my way to work they were on my left; on my way home, on my right. I wanted to talk about them constantly and found myself in a continuing state of awe over their grandeur. I must admit not many people in Virginia seemed to share my amazement. I got a lot of people giving the Blue Ridge Mountains the ol’ brush off and saying, well have you seen the ones out West? I had not, but I thought it was a little disrespectful to discount mountains right in front of us, for even bigger ones far, far away. Clearly these people weren’t mountain lovers.

And with my eyes on the mountains I started rerouting my belief system. About what I really wanted and questioning where I really belonged. I considered that maybe I belonged in Virginia because I had fallen in love with her and the man that lived there. And yet… there was still a displaced restlessness deep down that haunted me. It didn’t keep me up quite as badly as it had in New York, but it was there lurking in the shadows all the time.

To be continued…

Searching for a Story

I was freaking out the other day—like I am wont to do—over the notion that maybe I was out of stories. Maybe I had nothing more to say. I had said it all. Which okay, that in itself is quite laughable because I am the most verbose person I know, and I find that I know a lot of people, especially other verbosers like me.

I really had a fret about me as I tried to go about my day enjoying myself, whilst still searching for a story. But when I find that I may not have a story, inevitably a story finds me. Because life is beautiful and happenstance like that.

And surely a few things unfolded. First of all, I did find a story, or more appropriately, I located Story, Wyoming: a darling little village with a population of about 800 people. I suspected right away with a name like Story that I was going to fawn. And fawn I did as my sisters and I wove through the back country roads of Story while it drizzled and the windows fogged. A river wound past us and tall pines lingered in our peripheral.

If that weren’t enough to elicit love—which I’ll be honest, pines and rivers are always enough to elicit my love—what’s more is when I happened upon a quirky little guest house in Story’s dinky downtown, named the Waldorf A Story. As a lover of words and stories—duh, I also greatly admire wonderful plays on words. I was delirious. I popped on over into the library after fully devouring the Waldorf A Story, which was built with bright logs and as warm and charming as Story itself. I chatted with the librarian about the Waldorf A Story, about the town and how I was very enchanted and maybe I just might have to move to Story.

“We actually have a lot of writers who live here,” she smiled.

Naturally I had worked into the conversation that I was a writer. And why wouldn’t I consider living somewhere that appreciated words as much as I did?

The whole ride home I would not shut up about how wooed I was and how conflicted I felt. I loved this place, not just Story, but Wyoming. I loved the mist coming off of the mountains and how nice the librarians are here, not uber grouches like they seem to be in Michigan—come on gals, don’t you know you have one of the most cherished jobs in the world—and I liked the cowboys and their ruggedness and how seriously they seemed to take their ruggedness. I liked seeing them lasso in the middle of the day when I was out shopping, because that is the kind of thing you see in Wyoming. I also liked that my customers understood my Wyoming love and even encouraged it, asking me questions like, “Well, why don’t you just marry a cowboy?”

To which I always responded with, “I’m trying! Why haven’t any proposed yet?” Cue 90’s Paula Cole crooning, Where Have All the Cowboys Gone.

Then I got to thinking, no but really, why hasn’t a cowboy asked me out yet? I posed this question to my girl friend at work today and before she could answer I mused, “Well it could be that I give myself only 17 minutes to get ready in the morning and then I go back to bed for five of those minutes and then run out the door letting my hair frizz out and only having put on one dab of mascara… but that can’t be the only reason…”

So what’s the dilemma then? If I love the mountains and the mist and the librarians and the rivers and the pines and the ruggedness of the men, then what is the problem? Well I suppose it’s that I know deep down I am not ready to let anyone or anything claim me quite yet… even Wyoming and so I feel a bit of melancholy over the whole ordeal, whilst at the same time feeling deep wells of gratitude for my good fortune of being in a mountains embrace dreaming of cowboys.

Do you see? Or maybe you don’t see at all, because I am a slight crazy person, but it’s like this: Wyoming wooes me so much of the time that I genuinely want to sob. I told this to my sister and I hammered on the point of sobbing so much, especially over this ballroom I had recently visited in an old Wyoming senator’s home, that my sister asked if I was pregnant.

“No, I am not pregnant,” I proclaimed, “not even possible! You have to have sex to get pregnant.”

But I had gotten to thinking after seeing the ballroom with the steepled ceilings and stained glass windows in a mansion perched on a hill, and the Buffalo farm nearby, and the town of Story and living atop a mountain, in a place where I felt others understood not just the beauty of the land but the magic of moving Westward, that it was grand I had moved on. Wasn’t it grand and maybe worth a sob or two?

I had loved Virginia in a way that I thought couldn’t be topped. I had also loved New York City, but in a different way. In a desperate sort of manic way. And I love the U.P. with the whole of my being. All these places have become a part of me no matter where I go, but what if I had stopped at the U.P. and never discovered the beautiful insomnia of late night runs across the Brooklyn Bridge, or endearing myself forever to beer, cheese and cows in the heartland of Wisconsin? Or the rolling horse country of Virginia, and Appalachia, and whale watching and falling in love with my nation’s capital and a man all at the same time?

So the conundrum is I can’t stop here in Wyoming. Not yet anyway. Now is the time for lingering. Oh and gosh darnit if I don’t want to linger with cowboys and mountains. But I also want to linger in Italian vineyards and along seaward coasts and wade through cranberry fields and dance at moonlit festivals.

I guess what all the fuss and fanfare is about is that I want to be a little morose already over potentially having to leave another love… because trust me, it ain’t easy folks. But at the same time, damn if it isn’t all so beautiful and worth every one of my seconds that I could simply sob. And I probably will. And no I am not preggo. I am just an emotionally overwrought kinda gal—or as one of my friends would say: a rollercoaster of emotion—and I like to cry over ballrooms, mountains and towns called Story.

What the Native Americans Would Do

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I made the executive decision some time ago that I was going to sell all my earthly possessions in order to be unencumbered when I moved out West. In order to acquire experiences, I would purge my things. Also when I was working at North Star Academy back in the fall we had Native Americans as guest speakers to teach the children about their customs.

I have always been wildly fascinated and appreciative of Native American culture. I think it is so beautiful, poetic and speaks to the kind of life I would like to lead. So when the classroom of children (myself included) got to make friendship bracelets I was pretty jazzed. But here was the stipulation, the woman speaker told the class, these friendship bracelets had to be made with the intent of giving them away. Already I felt overly attached to this bracelet having only slid a few inexpensive plastic colored beads onto my strip of leather.

I wasn’t unfamiliar with friendship jewelry and its purposes. In middle school I was always buying the best friend necklaces that I could give to my bestie so that she and I could proclaim our allegiances to one another. But the thing with those was, there were always two. Usually it was the same necklace but with two sides of a heart split down the middle and one half said best and the other said friend.

My problem with things—all kinds of things—always has been that I immediately attach a memory to the item in question. In this case, I was happily making a bracelet with Native Americans in my beloved classroom full of first graders and learning about a culture I greatly admired. I wanted it for myself!

Then the woman said this next part, which there has been no recovering from since. She said that in Native American culture there wasn’t a word for “mine.”

“Nothing belongs to us,” she said.

I admired them even more. And I vowed then and there to give my bracelet away. As soon as I wore it a whole bunch first, obviously, as it was now filled with Native American memories and good energy. This also became the first stepping stone in my acknowledging to myself that maybe, just maybe I could part with my things after all. They were just things and parting with them didn’t mean I was losing the memory, just the tangible item.

I have read countless stories about individuals who sell all their belongings, maybe even their house, to travel the world, and while I own a whole lot of thrift store treasures, nothing in the way of footing the bill for a yearlong adventure, all my things feel priceless to me. I’ve always wondered how these people did it? In fact every time I try to put a price on anything of mine, I feel like I am giving up animals from a shelter and that I need to do background screenings on the applicants and find the best and most loving homes where my items will be cherished in the way they deserve.

Most of my things have been in storage from when I moved back home from Virginia after a particularly painful breakup. Putting it all in storage was beneficial because I really had no place for most of my furniture and things at the time, and furthermore it felt like I didn’t have to deal with accepting that a life I was bent on having with a person was officially over.

Furniture and boxes of my beautiful things: books, decor, my art collection have all been under lock and key for nearly a year. I recently decided to tackle the removing of said things and the beginning of the purge. I began to deliver old trunks that used to house my vast board game collection to a cousin’s house and put other things away to be sold at my mom’s flea market. The whole day of moving my stuff felt like pure agony. I cried and moved things. And cried some more.

And most of my tears felt like unshakable loss. A loss of things, felt like a loss of self. Who would I be without all this defining memorabilia? All this purging also stirred up uncomfortable reminders of where all this happy furniture used to be placed in a home I shared with my ex. An ex I planned on marrying. Had picked out baby names with. Showed him engagement rings I liked when he asked to see the styles I preferred.

I spotted this fuzzy little deer he had purchased for me two birthdays ago when he took me to see the Luray Caverns in Virginia as a surprise. He told me I was allowed to pick out any treat and I picked out that silly deer. He asked me if I was sure of all the things in the souvenir shop, that the felt deer with plastic horns (clearly made for a child) was the one thing I wanted.

I nodded excitedly. See the thing about that deer was, I had always loved those felt animals when I was a child. I would see the toy horses in the Native American themed souvenir shops that we would stop at on vacation, right after we passed the Mackinac Bridge, but I was never allowed to have them, because they were too expensive and we were just looking. Acquiring the felt deer felt like a win for childhood me and I loved it dearly (no pun intended) and immediately.

It seemed an absolute impossibility that I could part with this deer. The deer was more than plastic and felt. It was my ex. And birthday surprises. And childhood. And murky, dripping caverns of Virginia. It was my love of nature. And happiness. How did the Native Americans do it? Who could this deer ever belong to that would look at it like that?

I didn’t do anything with the deer at the time. I just shut the lid on the box and my feelings and told myself that maybe I could keep it as a small memento of DC. But I also wanted to keep the flea market ring he’d bought me and the patchwork quilt. Could I justify all these reminders when our love had ended? I doubted it and so I let myself part with the ring (my most coveted of the DC possessions) lending it to my sister when she left for Iceland as she confided in me that it was her favorite ring of mine. I told her it too was my favorite ring and that she better come back with it safe and sound on her finger.

I discovered last night, however that DC who let me keep his Netflix password when we broke up, changed it as I couldn’t log in anymore. I know it seems like small bananas but it smells suspiciously like moving on to me and maybe I ought to do the same in regards to the items I still cling to in the way of him.

So Kia can keep the flea market ring. And maybe I will sell the quilt. But the deer… I just don’t know if I can bring myself to get rid of that cheap felt deer. And maybe the Native Americans would understand? I like to think they would. Also I need to talk to them about my blazer collection which I am also having a hard time parting with… I know I have no right to still own a blazer collection as it isn’t 1980 and I am not an extra in the film 9 to 5, but man do I look downright fetching in a blazer.

I think I am pushing my luck though and getting into a murky misinterpretation of what the Native Americans feel is justifiable to hold onto. Alas, I have claimed to be many things, including a lover of Native Americans, furry creatures and new adventures, but letting go easily has never been one of my strong suits. And so still I struggle to hold on when I know, it is time to let go.

 

You Know It’s Love When…

I haven’t been writing here for many reasons. Mostly because I’ve been happily in love and I was content to just exist in that love and not write about it. And then for a time I was sad but I didn’t want to confess my sadness, so I buried it, until it could find me again, which it did. It always does as you can’t bury things like that.

The last time I really wanted to write (other than every second of my life) but write for proclamations sake, to share with the world, was a few weeks back—or was it months—in regards to my love. I write about him a lot I know, but not nearly as much as I could, because I’ve never wanted to be a smug bastard. You know the kind.

At any rate, we were lying in bed cuddling and watching The Office, our nightly ritual, my boyfriend snug against my back as the big spoon, when he casually said,

“You farted on me in your sleep last night.”

“What?” I said in disbelief, instantly berating my sleeping self for letting one go like that. I then apologized profusely feeling mortified.

He laughed and snuggled me tighter, saying, “don’t be sorry, it was adorable.”

I farted on my boyfriends leg while sleeping and he thought it was adorable. Adorable. This is love I thought. I have finally reached the warmest and most secure part of love: When you finally fart on your boyfriends leg unknowingly and he doesn’t screech in horror and you don’t turn fifty shades of red when you find out and want to leave him because he now knows you’re human. And when you instead cuddle a little closer admitting to yourself that you already knew it was love because you shaved your legs 2 days ago, okay 5, fine 7 and still he wants to touch you. And then weeks later when you leave Nair on your upper lip for too long and scorch your skin off and there is no way to hide the hideous burn which is growing somehow into what looks like a degenerating brown mole and getting worse by the day seemingly like it could only be seen as a Herpes outbreak and your boyfriend very concerned asks you what on earth happened to your upper lip and there’s no reasoning, you have to confess and he just laughs and doesn’t judge while the rest of the world most certainly does, yes, that is when love is comfortable and good and right.

And I wanted to share. I wanted to share with the world that I farted on my boyfriends leg, because it meant something! It was the place I always wanted to be in a relationship and I had gotten there. Well not the farting part, but despite the fart, the staying part, the commitment part. The you can show your most unattractive, unappealing self to another person and they stay part!

Isn’t that love? It is. It truly is, though there is more to it than that and that’s a story for another day, but today, today I just wanted to say, by golly it’s been good. It’s been real good with you kid.

There’s Nothing Dismal About It

I was desperate for adventure today. I had two things in mind:

-Get real up close and personal with the mountains. Duh, that’s almost always a prerequisite.
-And go somewhere with a cool name where I’ve never been. That’s almost always a prereq as well, come to think of it.

I went into my old office, which now doubles as my sisters room and inspected my map of Virginia that is tacked to the wall and has pink heart pins in all the locales I have visited thus far. I knew I had close to a full tank of gas, $2 in my checking, $10.30 in my savings, and two folded ones in my purse. The money was a non-issue, as I can make adventure out of nothing. The tank of gas was my jackpot. I made sure to fill my stomach with a small potato, one egg and an individual honey Greek yogurt with some walnuts before I left, so as not to be tempted to eat on the road.

Who knew what I might need $14 dollars for and it probably would be better than food.

I wanted to go to Lake Moomaw, VA, because come on. Lake Moomaw. That’s fantastic. But it was four hours away, which meant eight hours total and that seemed to be pushing it for time and gas. I reluctantly let go of the Moomaw fantasy and left the house with no clear idea but headed West toward the mountains. I detoured to buy myself a mint chocolate chip cupcake as I happened to be passing my favorite cupcake place and what’s an adventure without a cupcake and coffee? Besides I needed the sustenance for researching my adventure. As I sat happily munching and sipping, I scoured a VA map again for another contender. And that’s when I spotted, Woodstock.

I was sold immediately but researched further to make sure Woodstock wasn’t just some unincorporated community I would drive through, but actually had a Main street or town hall. It had both. I grabbed my coffee, got back into my trusty steed, put on The Avett Brothers and was off.

I passed a sign that said, Dismal Hollow Rd. and got to thinking how I ended up in Virginia. My first encounter with VA was on a road trip to Myrtle Beach with my girlfriends in college and we stopped in Fancy Gap, VA for the night. We stayed in a terrifying motel with a door that opened to an unlit hallway and all the TV channels were Indian soap operas. We ate fried chicken in a local diner up in the hills and I bought a bag that said, Virginia is for Lovers. We laughed about Fancy Gap for years and that’s all I associated with Virginia, a creepy motel, fried chicken and that it was for lovers, which did endear it to me somehow.

The next time I made my way to Virginia was on a field trip with family friends who were teaching their children about America’s history. We went to the Jamestown and Yorktown settlements. I enjoyed myself and loved driving through the mountains, but I remember thinking, who would ever live in Virginia? It seemed to me at the time that all it amounted to was Fancy Gap, some Colonial re-enactors and a lot of strip malls.

Four years later and I was packing up my things in my boyfriend’s car to move in with him. To Virginia. I didn’t know what to think other than I loved him, so I might learn to love Virginia. I couldn’t find my Virginia is for Lovers bag and that saddened me.

That was over a year ago. As I passed Dismal Hollow, I wondered about who thought this place was dismal enough to name it so? And maybe they were just passing through and didn’t give it a fair shake. I at one time felt certain Virginia wasn’t worth a look-back and now I am happier than ever that I got the chance to be proven wrong. The Mountains. The Sea. The horses. The history. What could possibly be dismal about this place? Well, okay the traffic. The traffic could warrant a dismal.

I drove on to Woodstock and tried on crowns in Three French Hens. I walked up and down Main street where the parking meter lady smiled and nodded each time she passed. I delighted in Walton & Smoot’s old fashioned Pharmacy complete with soda counter. I found pictures of the sea and New Orleans in the local thrift shop, which touted a half off everything sale. I waved to the men in the barbershop who waved at me. I drove up into the mountains and George Washington National Forest and I drove back down spotting the valley below. I drove across the Shenandoah where a suspension bridge dangled above the river and grape vines lined the hill. I got directions from a kindly woman who said, “warsh tub road” instead of wash and I did feel like I was in the old hollow.

I left Woodstock with my thrift store pictures, a 15 cent postcard and a free decal that said, “Discover Woodstock Virginia” for a total spent of $4.33.

And I could not have been more thrilled. Virginia and all its hollows and hills, mountains and vineyards and even lovers delights me so. I came home to a setting sun in my rear-view mirror, my apartment that faces the mountains and put on John Denver.