Covered in Romance

Musings

Green acres is the place to be
Farm living is the life for me
Land spreading out,
so far and wide
Keep Manhattan,
just give me that countryside.

You know what’s funny about this song lyric? I used to sing the other verse, Gabor’s line that went like this:

New York
is where I’d rather stay
I get allergic smelling hay
I just adore a penthouse view
Darling, I love you,
but give me Park Avenue.

Back when all I wanted in life was New York and Park Avenue. Don’t get me wrong I am still crazy about New York City. I love Zabar’s coffee and fondly recall every Sunday riding the subway all the way up from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side to get me a bag. Then the whole subway ride home the smell of Zabar’s roast would fill the subway car and my nostrils.

I loved walking up and down the city streets looking for used book shops and bakeries, or the perfect slice of pizza. I once went kayaking on the Hudson’s choppy waters with my sis and we paddled to and fro in our small buoyed off area, giddy and light as the waves. Walks through Central Park midday and runs across the Brooklyn Bridge at night, will always make me happy that I at least tried on city life like a promising pair of jeans.

But see, I had it wrong. I don’t prefer a penthouse view, or Park Avenue, though both those things are perfectly lovely and I can appreciate them from a vacation-y standpoint. I do want land spreading out far and wide. And farm life, oh gosh, yes please. I will happily shovel manure or attempt to mend a fence, or lay pipeline. Which is what I got to try out this weekend. Well the pipeline part at least.

I worried before I actually began this new farming/ranching endeavor that maybe I was romanticizing it. I have been told I do this. I once spoke with a Navy recruiter on a whim and boldly told my mom some hours later that I was joining the Navy. She looked properly aghast as I had never once expressed even an iota of an interest in the Navy.

“Don’t be impetuous, Cassandra,” my mom said. I actually didn’t know what that word meant until that moment, when my mom expounded upon her point. “Why do you want to join the Navy?”

“I’ve always loved the sea and I would love a life at sea!” I exclaimed, getting my shackles up for what felt like non-support, when my mom truly is the most supportive mom out there. Especially in regards to my mostly rash decisions.

“The Navy is not romantic like you are imaging life at sea to be.”

And the moment she said those words I began to consider the version of the Navy I played out in my mind, versus what the Navy would actually entail. I saw myself in some sort of fetching romper and sea cap looking out of a telescope on a ship with sails. When in reality I would be on some behemoth steel vessel, probably in the bowels, and more than likely doing grunt work in a grey janitorial looking uniform that enunciated my plump midsection.

My mom simply asked me to consider my decision on the Navy for a month and see how I felt at the end of that time. A few days later, I had already admitted to myself that my mom knew me pretty stinking well. I was romanticizing the Navy quite heavily. And in all actuality, I would probably despise it. Especially all that authority and getting bossed around.

So, yeah, that was an instance—among many if truth be told—where I romanced the pants right off of something altogether not that romantic. Now people, have been hinting that maybe I am doing it with this ranching business; even the ranchers themselves have pointed out to me—when my face lights up with glee talking about how badly I want to learn ranch work—that it’s not all that romantic. And I politely nod, while thinking, yeah, sure okay. Says the person in a cowboy hat, covered in workin’ grit, working the land and cattle all day long. Sure, no romance my arse. You’re covered in romance!

Except I don’t say that.

Because, a small, teensie part of me feared maybe they were right. What did I know about ranching? Sure I understood it was buckets full of work and grime and sweat and uncertainty and feces and death, and maybe all I was seeing were the Western hats and cowboy drawls and horses and painting all this poetry when I had no right? What did I know?

Well, nothing really, until I gave it a whirl which I did this weekend. I went out to a friend’s ranch to help them with laying some irrigation pipeline. She had texted to ask if this was something I would be interested in helping with or shadowing. I said yes with all the enthusiasm that I had once reserved for attending  a Fashion Week event at the Plaza. Although I was so nervous about that experience that I needed to take half an emergency Xanax to muster up the will to hobnob with models.

I had ample nervousness about failing at ranching, or worse being wrong about it—that maybe there was no romance—and I would yet again be altogether wrong about myself and then what? But I had no emergency Xanax this time and if I had, I wouldn’t have taken it.

I threw on jeans, my cowboy boots and a somewhat worse for wear Wyoming tee and drove out to the ranch. My friend met me, introduced me to her husband and children while giving me a cursory explanation of the day’s workload. For the first half of the day I mostly just followed around dumbly, as I had no idea about laying pipeline or where to insert myself to be of help, when everyone seemed to have a handle on things. Though, once in awhile my new friends would ask me to hand them wrap-around tape or a pen, or a power-saw and I happily obliged.

Soon enough though I was climbing down into ditches to help maneuver pipeline. Then I got to help lift the gigantic pipes, handing them to the men at work in the ditches. I began to get just a smidge dirty and when hours later the sun began setting in the Western sky, I felt it. I felt the romance. It was there alright. Though I had done nothing fundamentally difficult yet, and while I was mostly an accessory to the irrigation process, I felt it. The fresh air on my arms, the hard dirt sloughing against my boots, the heaviness of the pipeline. And all that besides, I felt the importance of this work.

The importance of it to farm land, to grow a crop, to feed animals and therefore feed people. And I adored it. I adored all of it. I liked being in farm trucks that had a thin layer of dirt covering the dashboard; the smell of hard work permeated in the seats. This is how I remember my grandpa’s truck smelling when I was a child. He owned a drywall business that my uncles now run and their trucks too, have this smell.

I realized this wasn’t something new to me; this was something already intrinsically in me, that I had adored since childhood. Riding down dirt roads in trucks, having my uncles take me out to the woods beside my grandparents house to teach me how to shoot bow and arrows and guns. They were not only outdoorsmen, but working men and I idolized them not only for their work ethic, and love of God’s vast landscape, but because they could build something out of nothing with their bare hands.

This all came flooding back to me sitting in a dirt covered Ram that impressed me with its power in hauling massive farm equipment up a steep hill while I sat in the passenger seat, admittedly beside myself in the romance. Yes, I was not mistaken, the romance was there. It was in the work truck, in laying pipeline, in the Wyoming hills and in ranchers who believed in their work and purpose, even if it was grueling work with no guarantees.

I was deeply relieved to find that I had been right. There was romance here and I wanted to uncover more of it.

I came back the next day, eager to do more, to learn more about laying pipeline, to feel somehow instrumental in this process. And my friend’s father in law who was sitting high atop a John Deere excavator for digging the ditches, hollered down, “you came back for more?”

“I did!” I beamed, “I loved it. This is definitely the life for me.”

He beamed back and said, “I like her.” And then began to sing, “Farm living is the life for me…”

How to Be Alone

Musings

I listened to this song by Jason Isbell this morn per a friend’s suggestion and here is how it starts:

I been working here, Monday it’ll be a year
And I can’t recall a day when I didn’t want to disappear
But I keep on showing up, hell-bent on growing up
If it takes a lifetime

I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime

When I heard that line about learning how to be alone I stopped what I was doing, which was heating water on the stove for coffee in my french press. Which funny little thing about that. I have a morning ritual of talking to my best friend every morning around 7:30 a.m. She is basically my alarm clock and the only person I would deign to talk to at that unholy hour, especially before I’ve even had my coffee.

I grumbled to her the other day that I am negligent about cleaning my french press after my morning coffee and then I am mad at myself the next morning when I have to clean it out before I can make coffee, to which she responded deadpan, “wow, first world problems. I don’t even know what a french press is.”

Anyhow. Back to that line. Learning how to be alone. I loved that line and admittedly thought about it all day. Though if truth be told I had already been giving considerable thought to my learning how to be alone before I even heard the song.

Admittedly I have never really enjoyed or relished the prospect of truly being on my own. And not in the way of singlehood. But being without my sisters or my friends. Now initially the thought sounded novel to me, before I had experienced it. But once I had experienced ‘on my own’ for the first time when I moved to New York City, I warmed to it with all the excitement of having a cavity filled.

I blame growing up in a big family. Because of this, I have always been surrounded by people, chaos and noise. And this has always comforted me. As a child if I fell asleep to silence it meant I was the last one up and I hated that. I would strive to go to bed before everyone else, that way I could still hear the TV downstairs and kids chattering. A silent house put me on edge and frightened me.

Now there have been plenty of experiences I have done on my own and loved. I set off for college seven hours away from my family and after the initial shock, adjusted accordingly. After college I moved to Green Bay and while my only friend there was at work, I took myself on museum dates, movie dates, I even once did a wine tasting by myself. I like myself and I like spending time with me. It’s just the whole truly being on my own thing, as in falling asleep alone and coming home to my computer, book collection, and stuffed giraffe somewhat heebs me out.

But that is where I am at these days and I will admit, I initially reacted in much the same way as I did in New York. Funnily enough I wanted to be back in Wyoming bad. Oh something fierce, so I shouldn’t have resorted to pissing and moaning about it, but that is exactly what I did after the new and novel wore off a few days in.

The intensity of being alone, coming home to an empty house, having no one ask me about my days adventures, and then the nights, oh gosh, nighttime was the worst. Mostly because I am a giant toddler who thinks every noise is something about to snatch me or kill me or both. Also, I am woman enough to admit I am sort of afraid of the dark. On my own in the dark, okay! The first couple nights I slept with one of those fake plastic tea light candles in my bed as a makeshift nightlight.

And then one night I looked in the mirror across from my bed after I’d shut off the lights and remembered that childhood tale about Bloody Mary. I became intensely overwrought that I would accidentally think Bloody Mary the obligatory three times and what if it wasn’t just a legend and I was stuck in a house by myself with a bloody apparition in a town where all my nearest neighbors were deer and the elderly. Although, let’s be real, this is Wyoming, people here have guns. I would totally be okay. But if it’s an apparition… Anyway.

Besides night frets and an overly quiet house that caused me extreme discomfort, I forcibly settled in with that discomfort, set on this being the one time I would not run away from any of my fears. And they are plenty. Reference my earlier blog on highly irrational fears.

I would face doing my work. I would face a quiet house. I would face being hundreds of miles from my comfort zone of friends and family. I would even face the dark without Nyquil or whiskey, though I considered both viable options if I wasn’t big girl enough to handle all my fears. Though turns out I am.

Last night was my epiphany moment in bed. You know that scene in Home Alone where Kevin is irrationally afraid of the furnace in the basement? Well one day he goes down there, still sort of afraid and then has his ah-ha moment and tells the furnace to shut up and he’s over it. Yeah if Kevin—an eight year old—can do it, I probably could too.

I was lying in bed exhausted, watching The Office on my laptop when I heard a noise. I suspiciously paused The Office listening intently to see if I was about to be murdered and I was about to press play again to drown out my worries in Steve Carell’s nonsense, when I got fed up with my own nonsense.

I shut the computer, enveloping myself in complete blackness, because I was tired. I told myself the noises were normal house noises and if I were about to be murdered then so be it. Go to bed, you idiot, I thought. And I did. I just went to bed.

That was kind of huge for me.

Not only that, but I have adjusted. While I do want to come home and tell someone stories, there is a certain empowerment in coming home, tending to my own needs, cutting potatoes, cleaning the kitchen, jotting down notes in my journal and curling up to watch I Love Lucy that makes me feel, well… kind of like an adult.

And the loneliness thing? It’s easy to see it that way at first, like the loneliness would swallow me whole, but it’s hard to feel lonely in a town of 75 people. It seems the opposite would be true but it’s not. In a town this small, people care. People learned my name right away and use it when they see me. Everyone waves. All. The. Time. Which is my favorite thing.

In fact I have been running daily and if someone passes me from behind they make sure to hold up their hand and wave anyway so I still get a wave even if I didn’t see them head-on. I get waves from tractors and hellos from people in town who I haven’t even met yet, but they will take time to stop and ask me how I am doing or comment on my running or that they heard I was a writer.

The friends I have made include me and ask me to do things with them or text me to ask about my day. Or perfect strangers offer to teach me how to rope because I mentioned wanting to learn. And that in itself is incredible because the woman who offered to teach me to rope is a rancher and this is a busy season for the ranchers. The fact that she would haul a hay bail, cow dummy head and rope over to my house and give me a roping tutorial when I am sure she has better things to do is mind-boggling.

And it has made me fall in love with this town and feel the furthest from being alone when in fact, I am alone. If this being alone, I don’t think I could’ve found a better place to give it a whirl.

I’m learning how to be alone. I fall asleep with the TV on
And I fight the urge to live inside my telephone
I keep my spirits high, find happiness by and by
If it takes a lifetime

The Group Chat

Musings

I awoke this morn to my phone buzzing beside my bed. It was a group chat in which my best friend, Em, who was pregnant had sent two photos of an incredibly sweet newborn baby. Being that I had still been sleeping, as it was 6:40 a.m., I was taken aback and simply wrote, whaaaat? With a lot of a’s like that.

Em wasn’t due until the 18th and hadn’t even started maternity leave yet, so I knew this obviously had to be her baby, but still I was dumbfounded at the suddenness of the baby’s arrival.

Being that it was a group chat between Em, and my other best friend Ash and my sister Savvy (who wouldn’t be up for hours yet) the texts started pinging back and forth about the new baby arriving early and how beautiful she was (she really is exceptionally perfect) and that was all fine and lovely.

Though I was suddenly having trouble swallowing my wells of emotion over the fact that my best friend from childhood—my longest running friendship in fact—had brought life into this world. A little girl so radiant in her perfection that all I wanted to do was share in Em’s joy. I wanted to be there. I wanted to hold the little angel and already tell her embarrassing stories about her mom thinking she would end up a nun and how wrong those histrionics were.

Until the labor talk started. Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t about having a queasy stomach or not understanding that hideous pains accompany labor, no, no, that wasn’t the issue. The issue is the group chat.

See the thing is I have been on the receiving end of many a group chat with my pregnant friends and while I fully appreciate their including me and their time-saving techniques of messaging a bunch of close friends at once, there’s just this teensie tiny thing. It’s that one friend or other will inevitably start talking preggo things, like contractions, or cravings, or the sex or the lack of sex, and then they’ll go off topic agreeing with the cravings or the contractions or the shocking pain of labor and I am left doing that slackjawed thing, because uhhh… I know about none of this and therefore cannot contribute in any way.

And that is okay, obviously. I choose to be a restless nomad who wants to learn to rope cattle—or cowboys—in the West right now, but it still kind of stings. Because, it doesn’t mean I don’t want that one day. I want to talk preggo cravings and pregnancy pain. And yeah, I get it, my time will come, but in the moment, the here and now when in the throes of group chat with my married friends who have kids or are having kids and are talking about the twinkle in their husbands eye after they look upon their newborn daughter, well, it plain ol’ makes me want to sob.

My heart hurt. And it hurt for a variety of reasons. It hurt because Em’s new baby girl was so freaking beautiful I wanted to sob. It hurt because Em and I used to ride the school bus together and talk boys and dream of the one, and now she had the one, and she had a baby. But it also hurt, because I felt left out of the mommy elite group who knows about babies and birthing and contractions and doting hubbies.

And though I would never ever say so, or want to take away from any of their happiness or joys, I did want out of the mommy group chat.

And so I went back to bed, thinking about what it would be like when I had a baby, and the best my brain could come up with was having one of those surprise ‘I didn’t even know I was pregnant’ stories where you think you’re constipated and your baby drops in the toilet. But it comforted me nonetheless because it meant in my imagination I had a baby and that happily made me doze.

Until I woke up and realized, if I had a baby right now, I couldn’t go back to sleep until 9 a.m. if I felt like it. And I certainly couldn’t dawdle about the house all day, leisurely drinking coffee out of my french press and reading and writing. Or go on a really long run midday, in which a cowboy waved at me and my stomach did that giddy drop. He could’ve been 55 for all I know, but I didn’t care. When a cowboy waves at you, it’s stomach-drop worthy alright? I don’t know a woman that would disagree and I wouldn’t trust her if she did. Like women who say they “like” sports. Ohhh-k. Sure you do.

Well, to be fair, I think the women in Green Bay Packer-land like sports. And my cousin Heather seems to, which I can’t rightly wrap my brain around, but I digress.

And then I went to book club and yes, it was a lot of elderly people but they had wildly fascinating stories about war and Vietnam and ranchin’. And then I went to the local saloon and a woman agreed to teach me roping, as I had uhh… mentioned how much I needed to learn roping. As in I am now going to learn to rope stuff! Hopefully a cowboy. I kid, I kid. Not really. But anyway.

And then I met a cowboy who tipped his hat to me upon meeting me and though he was married and it wasn’t about that, it was about the Old West, and gentlemen, and cowboys and ranchers, and learning to rope, and making my way, even if my way was suddenly all about becoming a rancher.

And my way would one day include babies. And a smiling twinkle-eyed husband who gripped my hand while I let out horrendous screams during labor. Or at least that’s what I’ve gleaned from my married friends who talk about labor in group chats with me.

And it mattered. My life right now that’s fixated on chaps and saddles and the cowboy hat tilt and wave and roping cattle means a great deal to me, just as having babies one day will mean a great deal too. It matters. All of it matters.

As does my friends happiness. I am beyond deliriously happy for my married friends who are having beautiful little bundles of joy. And I am happy to share in their joy. Honestly, it’s just that stinking group chat. I can’t help but feel sorely left out of the Mommy Club and while I wouldn’t trade learning to rope right now for diapers, it still makes me yearn.

So, please, ladies, tell me all about your contractions, and your husband falling all over himself about his new little girl, and your hormonal donut-induced rages, but maybe just one on one. At least for now. When I too, am a part of the mommy club then please let’s all group chat til the cows come home—and I hope they do, because I’ll be a rancher—about the horrendousness of birth, followed by the sheer delight of a new baby girl.

This Ranching Business

Musings

I have been living in Hyattville, Wyoming—population 75—for just under a week. On the first morning after I arrived, shaking the dust off of my nerves from my harrowing GPS debacle, I happily sipped fine coffee in an even finer log cabin.

The woman who the log cabin belonged to was a friend of a friend who I had been communicating with about ranching before moving to Hyattville. She insisted I stay with her when I first arrived, putting me up in her guest room, feeding me dinner that she’d set aside, and generally being as hospitable as people in Wyoming are known to be.

The next morning, her father was preparing to go to the ‘old timers’ coffee at the local community center, while my gracious hostess caught up on some work. She mentioned to her father, however that he should invite me along.

“Is that allowed,” I asked somewhat bemused.

“Oh yes, you can come,” her father said.

I was not going to decline an invitation for coffee—old timers or not—especially in my new town heavily populated by ranchers. There was work to be done, and step one was getting to know people.

We arrived at the community center where I saw two men already seated sipping coffee. They did the ol’ cowboy head nod at me—looking very rancher-esque in Carhartts and boasting weather-crinkled skin. The skin of the working man—and smiled while my new friend did introductions. They continued visiting, until a natural lull in the conversation occurred and they turned their attention to me, peppering me with questions. Being un-shy and someone who loves meeting new people, I happily answered their questions.

Another man ambled in, poured himself a cup of coffee, sat down and began to tell a story of a trapped cow. I listened raptly. The same way I was listening earlier when the men talked about cribbing horses, using the term, ‘cribbing old fool.’ I was delighted and wanted to take notes but didn’t want to seem overeager.

Then the new fella, a bit younger than the two old-timers and sporting a worn cowboy hat, asked my name, and offered to top off my coffee cup.

We delved into another conversation about how I really wanted to learn ranching.

“You should’ve been with me this morning then, trying to get that cow out,” the younger cowboy chuckled. I wish I had been there this morning, I thought to myself.

Then I piped in with my story.

“Ya know, a friend of mine gave me some ranching advice,” I said, “he told me all I had to do was remember to close the gate and make sure my truck was full of gas and I’d be alright.”

They laughed and said that was pretty good advice, but I kept on and told them the story of my getting to Hyattville, following the rogue Google advice and how I didn’t gas up when I had the opportunity, causing my extreme anxiety while being lost in the Wyoming wilderness, finishing with, “and so I failed my very first piece of solid ranching advice which was, ‘always gas up the truck!'” to which they all burst out in greater laughter and one of the old timers chimed in with, “but there’s a third piece of ranching advice you need to know…”

I looked at him expectantly.

“Never listen to your GPS.”

More rounds of laughter burst forth and the younger cowboy got up to go and commented, “Well I’m glad I stopped in today, this was exciting.”

I was glad I came too. I learned about cribbing. Sort of. And hobnobbed with real ranchers. And best part of all, made them chuckle with my idiocy. Honestly, I’ll take it.

The rest of the week passed in my learning my way about town. That took about 1.5 minutes. I went to Wednesday’s pizza night at the old saloon, where I met still more ranchers. My gracious hostess took me to see the Medicine Lodge archeological sight and upwards into the high foothills where I glimpsed every mountain range in Wyoming as far as the eye could see. Literally I could see the mountains as far as Yellowstone.

I went on runs to explore the hills and creeks nearby, and counted the cars that would pass. The most I saw was on a Friday night for a grand total of 3. I settled into my new and temporary home, which is a friend’s place he has on hand for Wyoming visits, while he resides in Texas. He also owns a ranch here.

I slept the first three nights with one eye open, reacquainting myself to the intense and deep quiet of Wyoming. The kind of quiet that comes with being able to keenly hear an animal sniff about the house, a deer prance past, or the bed creak beneath my weight. Every sound had me thinking: ghost! or scenes from the movie The Strangers which I am still kicking myself for watching.

I met up with an old cowboy pal of mine in Cody on Saturday and he told me this fantastic story about putting out a fire once on Halloween at an old hotel. He said that he and another firefighter saw a man in horns coming out of the smoke, looking remarkably like the devil.

“If that’s who I think it is, we’re never putting this fire out,” my friend said to the other firefighter.

Turns out it was the bartender in a devil’s costume.

I then went and checked out the dude ranch I will be working at this summer tucked neatly between Cody and Yellowstone, nestled between bluffs and canyons. I was in heaven and already picturing drinking my morning cup o’ Joe on the big homestead porch overlooking the mountainous terrain.

I drove back to my sleepy little ranching town and happily dozed by nine, my vigilant ghost-watch forgotten.

I awoke on Sunday excited about church. It was a short walk, as the church happened to be on my street.

Being heavily neurotic, I arrived ten minutes early to a completely empty church other than the pastor. Slightly stricken, I asked, “did I miss it?!”

She smiled and said, “no. It’s a small town and they’re like New Yorkers. They’ll all arrive at about two minutes til.”

I was relieved. The pastor asked if I was new in town and I told her yes, that I was here to dabble in ranching.

“Are you a writer?” she asked, taking me by surprise. Although instantly I felt flattered.

“I am,” I said.

“It takes one to know one,” she smiled, eyes twinkling. Color me more flattered, I thought sitting down. She then came back to ask if I wanted to read scripture in the service. I did and took my part very seriously, finding which scriptures I needed to read and marking them in the Bible beforehand.

I recognized one of the old timer cowboys from coffee and his wife, and waved. And several other townspeople came and introduced themselves.

The service was sweet and traditional and the hymns reminded me of my childhood and I sang them slightly teary-eyed as I am that way.

Afterwards, I met a woman who owns a sheep farm and I expressed my interest in seeing her farm, and another woman offered me fresh eggs, while still another woman asked if I wanted to carpool to a Lenten luncheon later in the month. Small town Wyoming. You gotta adore it.

And so here I sit. Upon a new week. I went to old timers coffee again this morn and was delighted when a rancher referred to a truck as an ‘outfit.’ I had brought my notebook this time, on the ready; though I was too self-conscious to take notes. But I listened and was gleeful when they would turn and ask me something, calling me young lady.

At any rate, no one has needed me yet, or maybe they aren’t taking me seriously with how eager I am about terms like ‘outfit’ and ‘cribbing,’ but they’ll come around. They’ll have me on board. And then we’ll see what this ranching business is all about.

The Avoidance Trip

Musings

If someone had told me as a child that I would one day have a real compulsion to not only know ranchers but to potentially be one… well I probably wouldn’t have laughed it off as I have always been wildly imaginative and I might’ve seen the merit, even then, but I may not have entirely believed it.

So when an opportunity came about for me to potentially apprentice with some real Wyoming ranchers, I threw my bags in my car—having been hunkering in Colorado Springs until just such an occurrence gave me reason to leave— and put the petal to the metal.

I had a brief pit stop in Fort Collins to see my beloved lil sis Kirst who now resides there. She made me laugh until I cried and plied me with craft brews, whiskey and homemade tacos. Then bought me coffee and one extra large donut the following morning after too much whiskey and tacos, while generally confirming my suspicion that my sisters are my soul mates and always will be. There’s no love like that.

Anyhow, even though Kirst and her new beau wanted me to stay another night I was anxious to get on the road and only lingered until about 10:30 in the morn, knowing I had a 6.5 hour drive ahead of me and not wanting to travel after dark.

I had already looked at my GPS and even talked about what route I would take with Kirstie’s man, having settled on coming up through Thermopolis to my new destination. This route would take me through some areas I hadn’t seen before which was promising, however, going through Thermopolis and the Wind River Canyon had me less than thrilled. You see the ex-cowboy took me on my favorite date of all time there and I already had a pit of doom about driving through it and thinking of him and all the ways in which he used to make me laugh.

But obviously I wasn’t going to let the ex-cowboy ruin any of my plans or my love for the Wind River Canyon just because he told me inappropriate pirate jokes there and held my hand and smiled at me in a way that made me forget about what wind and rivers and canyons even were.

That was until I double-checked my GPS and saw that there was a third route that wasn’t an option before. And it shaved off half an hour. It didn’t go through Buffalo or Thermopolis. Hmmm, I thought, that’s a new way too, and no uncomfortable ex-boyfriend memories. We have a winner. I happily cruised along on the sunshiney day listening to podcasts and planning my future as a rancher.

When I got to Casper I noted that gas was $1.42 a gallon, which was good but I was at half a tank and didn’t feel like stopping yet. I left the city of Casper and passed another gas station touting gas for $1.53. I kind of regretted not getting gas at the $1.42 place but still didn’t want to worry about it at the moment, though I suspected it would only get more expensive from there.

I also had to go to the bathroom, but not terribly bad so I kept on. Now this is when my GPS had me turn down a road off of the main highway. The road was in disrepair, looked rather desolate and seemed an odd road to take, if I were going to listen to my intuition, which I did not.

If my life were a horror movie this is where the eerie music would pick up signaling the heroine was about to head into serial killer country while you the viewer clench your midsection knowing that she’s an idiot and should have never turned down that road, but you watch on anyway to see what ghastly scenario she finds herself in.

When I crested a hill and saw not a hundred sheep in the road, not five hundred, but a gaggle of sheep so thick and dense that I could only surmise thousands, I began to wonder further about this road choice of Google’s. But I chose to be charmed instead, eyeing up the sheep blocking the road as if I were in Scotland. I slowly inched my car toward the sheep and a farmer nearby on a four-wheeler. I rolled down my window and said hello.

He smiled and asked how I was doing, I said good and asked him how he was doing.

“Couldn’t be better,” he beamed, looking at his sheep. This charmed me further and so I disregarded that this was a bad road and thought, this is a Wyoming road with a lovely sheep farmer that’s welcoming me back to my state that I love so much. Where the traffic jams involve sheep and happy farmers instead of road-raging idiots and blaring horns. 

He asked if I was heading on up the road and I nodded, though I hesitated wondering if I should ask him about this particular road and if it was okay… and my now half a tank was at about 100 miles until empty. Would I make it 100 miles on this road before another gas station, I almost asked and then didn’t, but just watched mesmerized while he parted the sea of sheep like Moses parting the Red Sea.

But soon after exiting my sheep jam, the decrepit paved road turned to dirt. I again wondered about this and wondered why my GPS surmised that this was faster, but kept going, against my now better judgement which was pointing out there was a gas station back the way I came, where I could pee, and fill my tank, and also this couldn’t be right.

But now I felt sort of stubborn and adamant about where this road could be leading me, so I kept following the cues provided by Google Maps. I went deeper into what seemed pretty wild Wyoming territory, passing a historical sign about the Sand Creek Massacre. If that wasn’t some pretty intent foreboding, I don’t know what else could have been. I was also listening to a sermon at the time about not letting your negative thoughts become words and instead having faith in God’s favor.

At this point, every new road that I turned on was another dirt road, leading me further into deep canyons and gorges and further and further from civilization—or gas stations—of any kind. The sheer magnitude of my surroundings began to frighten me, because though my GPS claimed I would reach a highway of sorts before my now 88 miles til empty, the sprawling, mountainous wilderness before me looked as though there couldn’t be a gas station for some several hundred miles.

Plus the road was getting worse. It seemed the only vehicle that should be back there was an all terrain vehicle or a four-wheeler. This is when the road wound down the side of a canyon, covered in sheer ice. My fingers white-knuckled the wheel while I stayed as close to the canyon wall as possible while reminding myself not to think negative thoughts and instead have faith.

I could no longer listen to the sermon as I was too tense and now very negative-minded about what I had gotten myself into. I waited to see if the next turn was perhaps pavement or had a neon glow sign for gas and vodka, because I now needed all of the above. Instead I saw a sign for a town with an arrow. It said the town was 26 miles away. Instead of immediately turning toward the town, I listened to my GPS one more time thinking maybe just over this last hill I would be homefree.

Except just over the hill was a nightmare of a road that was all tore up, had enormous rocks everywhere and soon was completely covered in snow. At this point, I had 71 miles left til empty and so I naturally hit the panic button and called my mom as I had two bars of service—I had had no signal for almost the entirety of this “joyride.”

“Mom,” I practically screamed, “I am on a mountaintop in the middle of nowhere Wyoming; It’s like a farm road or something; I am lost; I have 71 miles until I run out of gas; This is the only spot with cell reception and I passed a sign for a town a ways back and I need you to find out if Armington has a gas station!”

“What?” she said patiently, “I am only getting every other word. How do you spell Armington? A-R-M-Y?” she started spelling.

I tried not to reach hysteria as I yelled, “no like an arm, an ARM! A-R-M-I. Armington! Mom I am going to lose you, or fall off a mountainside. These roads are really scary and I don’t have time to dawdle. I have hardly any gas left!”

“Armington is in Montana,” she informed me while I made the executive decision to precariously turn myself around on the mountaintop. “Are you in Montana?”

“I don’t see how I could be… but maybe I am really lost and Montana is now close…”

And this is when the call failed and I could not get my mom back.

I gingerly maneuvered my car back down the mountainside while trying to force my negative thoughts that were now circling about me like goons about to do some knuckle-breaking, out of my head and instead focus on my faith.

I got back to the sign and it did not say Armington-26 miles, it said Arminto-26 miles. The sign also said Kaycee- 31 miles. I felt sort of happy about that because I knew of Kaycee, however the arrow pointed back the way I had come from before and I had seen no signs for Kaycee and I was driving on that road for a long, long while.

I decided to take my chances with Arminto, though something ominous inside of me now suspected that Arminto could be anything: an old wagon post, a historical marker, a factory… who the F knew? I sure didn’t.

But I went ahead and started driving toward Arminto while nervously eyeballing my gas mileage that was dwindling with my hopes of ever seeing another life form again.

Eventually I passed cows, which seemed a good indicator. Cows meant people. People meant maybe I would have help if I did run out of gas. I passed some guest ranches but was too nervous to stop in case they were seasonal ranches and no one was there. With every bend in the road I prayed Arminto was around the corner and I would be saved, but still it was more vast open nothingness, with some red rocks and mountain ranges far, far in the distance. At this point my gas light came on and my mileage disappeared as it does when I am 30 miles until empty. I rounded a corner and saw a rather large animal skeleton stuck on a barbed wire fence.

You’re going to die out here, I thought miserably. This is where things go to die.

But I tried insisting on my faith instead of my rampant fear that this was some sort of sicko plot by Google maps to lead me to my death. As I rounded yet another bend and saw only more emptiness I wanted to bawl while considering whether to turn around and go back to one of the ranches.

But that is when I saw something faint and black and square-ish in the far distance. Could that be Arminto? Was it a truck? Or a house? Or a sweet, and beloved gas station? I decided to take my chances that it was Arminto and that I was saved.

But as I came into what was indeed Arminto, I again felt absolutely sickened. It looked like nothing more than a ghost town. As I crept through I looked around and saw a teepee in the distance and then to my right a sort of tin looking house with an old car graveyard, but also some new cars in the driveway.

I wondered if I was on a reservation. Now normally this would not have scared me as I love Native Americans. However, I was already in a wild state. And I also would like to throw a lot of blame on the ex-cowboy here for getting me in a tizzy of worry over reservations anyway with his advice of “you stay away from the reservations. You’ll get thrown in Indian jail and never get out.”

I had no choice though. I couldn’t go a moment further if there was indeed no gas station in my foreseeable future. I had to ask the residents of the tin house where in God’s name I was and if I could make it to a gas station, otherwise they were driving me. Or murdering me. Or throwing me in Indian jail. But I had to take my chances.

I parked my car in their driveway. I clutched my keys and nervously walked up to the door, when it swung open and an old man walked out and said point blank, “you must be lost.”

“Uh, yes, very,” I said relieved that he wasn’t cuffing me and dragging me to a teepee for disturbing his land. “Do you happen to know if there is a gas station within 30 miles of here?”

“Well…” he didn’t look convinced that there was. My stomach began to drop thinking about what a flaming idiot I was for choosing to take the so-called shorter route to avoid painful ex-cowboy memories, when in reality this route had added almost three hours to my trip, caused me considerable more grief than simply recounting a Wind River Canyon date, and would surely cost me ample more in gas money. “Yeah I think you can make it. There’s a gas station in Highland, about 18 miles from here. Stay on the pavement. Don’t get off it. And at the stop sign turn right.”

As if I was ever going off the pavement again, I thought as I thanked him profusely, got back into my car and gunned it to Highland. It was a dilapidated motel/gas station combo, with gas pumps so old I could hardly read the prices, which had me slightly relieved, because I didn’t want to know what this was costing me.

I got a paper map and went over the directions to Hyattville with the gas station attendant.

I had to go through the Wind River Canyon and Thermopolis anyway. And yes I thought about the date with the ex-cowboy and his silly pirate joke, and his smiling and hand holding and how much I still adore the kid though I hate that I do. But I also thought how happy I was not to be stranded somewhere in the deep wilds outside of Casper. And how my mom being the super sleuth that she is, deduced I wasn’t in Armington, Montana from that brief phone call, and that I was near Arminto—population 5, she later informed me—and that had I run out of gas back there, Mama Sturos would’ve sent a helicopter for me before letting my bones rot in a canyon.

And so my so called shorter 6 hour trip in fact took me 9.5 hours.

But guess what? This story would be the story I told to the ranchers the next morning over coffee, while they laughed and shook their heads, but seemed delighted I was there. But more on that later.

Eyes on the Mountains (Part 2)

Musings

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.

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.

 

A Prosperous Mouth

Musings

In case you were wondering I haven’t completely lost my marbles and I am not trapped in Fargo. I didn’t even have to dole out bj’s to pay my way out of Fargo. I kid! I would never resort to doling out bj’s. It wouldn’t come to that. I have too nice of friends. At least 7 of which offered to take care of my car issue. So all is well.

Well-ish, I should say. But well enough. The men in Fargo sort of fixed my car and it got me into Wyoming and then the exact same issue started happening again. My check engine light came on and my car started to lurch and bog. I still had four hours to go so naturally I wanted to just pull over on the side of the road, put my car into neutral on a cliff bank and watch her ease down into a canyon in a blaze of fire over my aggravation.

Alas I didn’t resort to that.

This is why:

I hadn’t gotten very far on the day I left Fargo, maybe five hours. I was almost to Montana. But the sun slipped down and with it went my somewhat uplifted spirits over being on the road and Westbound. I suddenly felt all sorts of glum all over again. I turned around, because I had recently passed some motels and I decided there was no use in hoarding the last of my money. It would be gone shortly enough anyway and what did I care?

I found a red motel called the Cowboy Inn and I checked in.

I peeled off my clothes and socks that I had been wearing for two days because my car was an explosion of disarray and I was too lazy to find clean garments. I showered and curled into bed without brushing my riotous mop of curls.

I woke up to hair that looked exactly like Gene Wilder’s. But if he were taking a bath and dropped a hairdryer in it. I crawled back into bed because though I thought a night of unencumbered rest at the Cowboy Inn would cure me of my blues it had not.

I lay there feeling frozen in fear over the state of my life and again asking myself—as I had done many a time before—why I did such whimsical things like buy one way tickets to places, or crash on people’s air mattresses in their living rooms, or sleep in strangers homes, or sell all my earthly possessions, or pack up my car to drive West with nothing to support myself other than one fancy red sequined Jessica Rabbit dress, no job and no real ideas other than that my soul seemed certain on this one particular place. Much like it had felt certain on lots of other things before.

Because I listen to my soul more often than I listen to my brain. And I won’t say this gets me into trouble, because my troubles are never really troubles. They are more so cheeky calamities. At least that’s how I view them once I am outside of them.

But at that moment in Belfield, North Dakota, I wasn’t so much in the cheeky calamity realm. I felt troubled. Deeply troubled. And so I told my mom I was not going to leave this cozy, seventies motel room, with cowboy cartoons in the bathroom and mugs with mules on them.

“Nah,” I said. “I am just going to stay here, and I am going to buy some whiskey and lay in the fetal position drinking it amongst the cowboy tapestries, until the motel people drag me out.”

My mom, nonplussed with my mood and my melodramatic declarations suggested I get a nice omelette and get going.

So practical for a woman who birthed ten children who all have these sort of whimsies and theatrical flairs. Well maybe except Nick. Nick probably would never threaten to drink whiskey in Belfield. Nick’s perfect though and isn’t prone to flights of fancy.

I did like the thought of an omelette, however and the simplicity of the advice struck me. All I had to do was one thing and that thing obviously wasn’t figuring my life out. That was too large a task and impossible to do with some sixty-nine dollars left in my checking  account while I sat dallying in a cowboy motel in the middle of nowhere.

I could, however get out of bed. Which I did. I still didn’t brush my hair. I took two pictures with thumbs-up of the large curled tufts and sent them to my best friend. Because this is something I like to do. Send her morning pictures of my wild bed hair.

This made me feel small-ish-ly better. Then I made coffee. I took two sips and it was revolting. I set the mule mug down and got dressed, abandoning the caffeine. And I got going. I didn’t get an omelette because I feared it might be a little ‘spensive. So instead I ate up the sunset. And then I played nothing but Ted Talks and sermons on my radio while I cried and nodded along with Joel Osteen’s peppy declarations: like stop having a poor mouth and have a prosperous mouth. I didn’t care if people say he’s a feel good preacher. I wanted to feel good.

I listened to Tony Robbins and Rob Bell. I listened to Lewis Howes (still don’t know who he is, but he mentioned something about being an athlete and talked a lot about greatness in a very manly voice) and David Steindl-Rast—a Benedictine monk—and Mike Rowe. And a whole bunch more.

So by the time my car decided it wasn’t actually fixed, I had the wherewithal not to drive it off a cliff—and also to call the place in Fargo and say, hey you did not fix my car, I want my sister’s money back!—and to simply take Joel Osteen’s sage advice of trusting that God was working behind the curtain of my life and I really had no need to worry. So I told that to myself for the next four hours while my car lurched and bogged and refused to accelerate properly until I got safely to my destination.

And though driving into Wyoming was akin to the happiness I felt with a really proper orgasm or a hot donut dipped in a decadent French roast, I naturally still had all new freakouts a day later upon evaluating that I still needed more money in my account than I had (very little) and that a job was in order and all that other noise. Adulthood can be a real racket, I’ll tell ya that.

I feverishly repeated Mr. Osteen’s advice while applying for jobs and having God on speed dial. I had worked myself into a bit of a lather when my sister Kirst called and said she was having much the same day as I was. It was her first day alone at her new job, and she was filled with nerves and she broke a glass and then wanted to slit her throat with the glass.

And this is what did it. Perked me right the hell up. Knowing that I was one-hundred percent not alone in my melodrama and that life can be just as uncertain and unforgiving for someone whose thighs don’t touch and always has a man falling about her feet, because Kirstie is as striking as a Wyoming sunset.

We went back and forth telling each other the things we wanted to do in order to deal with our hunger for art and our desperation at making it happen despite having to hold down customer service jobs. Kirst said she contemplated cutting off all her hair. I told her I was on a whiskey fixation and wanted to spend my last twenty dollars on a bottle. Kirst said she had a shot of whiskey when she got home and ordered a pizza. I bought a bag of peanut butter cups and ate one after another while debating if I could live out of my car in the mountains.

And then we felt better. And agreed it would be hard. It’s always hard when you want it real bad. But Tony Robbins said, how bad do you want it? Where is your hunger? And so Kirst and I agreed we had to get real hungry for our art because we wanted it real bad. We had to hunker down in the bowels, while not cutting off all our hair or developing a drinking dependency.

We understood each other and we understood the hunger. And that for the moment cured me of my need to understand everything and instead understand that God was behind the curtain and I couldn’t have a better hand orchestrating the rhythm of my wildly fanciful life. And there’s no amount of whiskey that’ll give you that kind of comfort.

That Wasn’t Rock Bottom

Musings

Moving home and the breakup and going for broke and the looming big 3-0 all seemed like really good contenders for rock bottom—ah-ha, so nice to see you again, you rotter, long time no see—But no, no that was premature. That was a very, very premature statement. And I fear I was remiss in thinking it.

Let me give you a piece of advice, friends. Don’t ever say you have hit rock bottom. Don’t even dare think it. Because if you think you are at rock bottom—you are in fact not—that is just the sludge, and you can sink infinitely deeper into the mire than you ever thought humanly possible, and that may be rock bottom, but it’s hard to say. It could get worse. Don’t tempt fate.

I had decided after being home all of two days and having the onset of pretty heathenous panic attacks, that I simply could not live in the Midwest for anything, not love or money—though neither of those things were batting at my door. And I decided I would turn around and go right back to Wyoming.

However, my fundage was not exactly ideal. I had enough to get back and the ever-so-smallish cushion of once I got back, having a teensie dot to work with should I need to fill up my gas tank to go apply for a job. Being footloose and fanciful, I thought that was fine.

Though I feel I should interject with this little tidbit: before I left the Midwest I was having chest pains, reminiscent of what I thought were heart attack symptoms. Perhaps that was premonition. I even went into my chiropractor in a tizzy of distress and said, “is it possible I am having a heart attack?”

To which he laughed and asked how old I was and promptly told me no.

My cousin—also a chiropractor—told me it could be residual effects of heartbreak. Cool, awesome, I thought snidely. During my first breakup, I got so stressed out—to be fair there were other factors then as there are now—that I started to give myself hives. All. Over. My. Body.

Now, I had simply worked myself up to heart attack symptoms. My breakups are bound to kill me in time, it seems. This is why I should probably just date the mountains from here on out. If those kill me, at least I will be respected and revered as some sort of mountain woman and not some overly sentimental fool.

I digress. Naturally.

So how did I go from deciding to move back to my beloved Wyoming while somehow manifesting my life into wild writing success plus owning a ranch, to heart attack symptoms and crying in a car repair shop in Fargo, North Dakota?

Well, you see it went like this: I thought taking the more Northern route seemed fun for a change of pace and to see things like the famous Fargo, and the Painted Canyons. It was only forty five minutes off course, anyhow. Big whoop. I made it to Fargo last night and had good intentions to keep going. But see, I haven’t been sleeping all that well, on account of the chest pains and the worry, so I was plum tuckered out and my mom rather insisted on an airbnb.

So I found a nice single mom with a bed to spare in her house for $32. I slept poorly even though the gracious hostess gave me a heaping glass of Chardonnay—she didn’t know about my nerves but I had told her I just drank a coffee amped up on espresso and probably wouldn’t fall asleep.

I woke at 6, to my harp sounds alarm, which no matter how you dice it, is always irritating. It jarred me from sleep, but still I felt exhausted, but once I was awoken, I couldn’t fall back asleep for my constant companion Incessant Worry was now up too.

I packed my things, wrote a note to my hostess, and got in my car. Only to have it lurch and sputter and barely accelerate while the check engine light blinked at me as manic and pulsating as my heart.

I made it to a McDonalds where I got out, tried my mom and sisters, to no avail and then broke down and texted my ex. Because I am mostly an idiot. But I am also a sad and distressed one at that. He gave some suggestions, and made me laugh, to his credit and then my mom called. I began to get hysterical upon hearing her voice, because by this point I had driven to a car repair place and called several and apparently “free estimates” are not a thing that is done in Fargo, North Dakota. Everywhere starts out around $100 to simply tell you what is wrong.

What else was wrong, was that my mom was calling me from the hospital for chest pains of her own.

I began to have visions of being stranded in Fargo. Of something happening to my mom. Of truly being in a sad, sad state where things definitely could go from bad to worse. I checked car repair, after car repair, only to be told diagnostics were around $100. And that is when I lost it on one of the men:

“But what if I pay you $100 only for you to tell me it’s a $200 repair?! I don’t have that kind money!” I yelped with a wavering voice. He just shrugged and said, he was sorry.

I get it. He is sorry. Sorta. But he can’t give me preferential treatment because I am a sobbing girl and my life is scaring me to my marrow and my mother’s in the hospital. I get it man. And I told him that I got it. He was running a business, not a charity. But that is when I calmly-ish-walked back to my car and all hell broke out from my attempting to hold it together by repeatedly telling myself this would one day be funny, when in reality my emotions needed to overflow.

How dare you think that other stuff was rock bottom! I berated myself while I sobbed big gut shattering sobs. That was clearly not rock bottom. Now, possibly having to live in Fargo, North Dakota to work off a car repair I cannot afford, while my mom is in the ER and I am not there because I am a flighty human, is definitely in the vicinity of rock bottom.

I looked up and saw that my eyes were the color of a mermaid’s tail reflected underwater and I noted the irony of their beauty when I was truly at my most downtrodden.

I called a friend who is very calm and helpful in these situations and she took the reins and made me a car appointment and told me to go in because nothing could be done until the problem was diagnosed.

So now, here I sit. I think I’ve worried all the worries right out of my system because I actually don’t have any more.

At any rate, what can be done really? This is the exact mire I am in right now, and the beauty of rock bottom—yes there is beauty, and no it’s not that you can only go up, gag, I hate that cliche—is that I think I am about to be on the threshold of brilliance. I deal very poorly with initial curve balls, but once I adapt I am very resilient.

Plus one of my favorite quotes of all time is from one Ms. Incredible J.K. Rowling stating as follows:

Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

I guess it is rebuilding time. Also I am going to learn how to fix my own car. And have a proper savings account that has more than $5.70. I guess I’ll start there.

Bold Instead of Blue

Musings

You let time pass. That’s the cure. You survive the days. You float like a rabid ghost through the weeks. You cry and wallow and lament and scratch your way back up through the months. And then one day you find yourself alone on a bench in the sun and you close your eyes and lean your head back and realize you’re okay.
-Cheryl Strayed

I am feeling full of despair today. I am not sure why. Maybe it was simply time for a swell to pull me under again because I have been feeling above the waves—almost powerful and light-footed. Or maybe it’s because I dreamt about the cowboy. And not even in a good way, mind you, like where I actually saw his face or touched him. No my fanciful brain that can allow me dreams in which I am flying or am a Japanese Samurai apparently didn’t have the capacity for that—or maybe it did and it spared me. But no, all I dreamt was that he texted me, how are you doing, lover? It was summetime in Wyoming and I was driving through the mountains.

He had never called me lover in real life, for starters. And second of all, I was then mulling over his text in a playground with Bob Harper and Jillian Michaels. None of us were working out, but we were watching people workout and Bob was lazily smoking a cigarette while swinging back and forth on a swing. Also, preposterous, but that’s dreams for ya.

Anyway, maybe it’s that or maybe it’s not that. As the day drug on, and I say drug because sometime after lunch I wanted the day to be over and it simply didn’t listen—it is still today, unfortunately—I got progressively more fretful and blue.

And not just about the cowboy and his jarring absence in my life, but the whole of it and what to do with myself and my wild ways. I know, I know, there is no sense in worry. There really isn’t, but sometimes it attacks me from all sides and my shackles are down and I simply succumb to the onslaught.

I did for awhile. Succumb, you see. I laid there and felt bleak and panicky, bleak and panicky. And then I told myself to at least move. To do something in the arena of being bold instead of blue, and I liked that. I liked that very much. Bold instead of blue, I repeated to myself as I put socks on and then my boots, in which one of my boot zippers got stuck and split open halfway down my calf. I started cursing under my breath, saying to the boot, not now! Please not now! You are my only pair of cowboy-ish-boots and I can’t afford new ones! I felt manic and like the broken zipper might be the end of my day because it signaled everything in my life was truly broken shit.

Then rational me chimed in with firm motherly tones, suggesting I take off the boot, get the zipper unstuck and go from there.

I unstuck the zipper.

Oh okay, so alright then. No need to be psychotic, clearly. I put the boot back on, re-zippered it and all was well. I walked out the door into the crisp 14 degree day and meandered down the street to the library.

And here I sit. Still sort of craving a cry and a coffee. Though I’ve had plenty of coffee today and crying seems like a lot of work. Plus I am in public. And ya know, it’s a whole thing, with mascara and looking like swamp-thing and having people legitimately think I’m a crazy person.

Although, there has been this weird rattling above one of the light fixtures across from my table the entire time I have been here and it’s been irking me to no end. Instead of just moving to a new table, I chose to sit here and have fantasies about knocking down the terrorizing light, perhaps with a sword—I have been reading too much Highland lore—and then running up and down the aisles freely having just destroyed something. Maybe I am a crazy person.

Anyway. Attempting bold things like emailing people I know in Wyoming and asking them if they know cattle ranchers who want a handy gal to mend fences—I don’t know how to mend fences but they don’t know that—admittedly is improving my mood. As is the idea of breaking the light—of course I will not break the light; I am a civilized lady—and writing about my blues.

So maybe I will now go get that coffee and skip the cry. Yeah, that sounds like a plan.