Friday, August 14, 2015

August Inventory

Reading I brought The Vacationers on vacation with me, and found it to be trite, dull and a waste of time frankly.  With a title like that, I didn't expect or want anything broody or deep, but this wasn't even entertaining.  I also finished The Husband's Secret while on vacation.  It came closer to meeting my expectations even while I have to say that the epilogue was the most provocative few pages of the book and perhaps, because then it was over. Last week I read The Unfortunates and for the most part liked it, but I really felt it was front-end loaded: the climax was abrupt and unsatisfying.  The characters were characters though and the writing smart.  Now I'm into Sally Mann's Hold Still and Messud's The Woman Upstairs.  It's too early to tell what I think of these works, but I've been looking forward to them for a long time.

Wondering where we will go next even while I am absolutely content to stay put for now.  Teddy is lobbying for Webb Lake next year.  He's not a fan of long car rides, but he is a fan of family and vacations and adventure and, therefore, family vacation adventures.  Webb Lake will be perfect.

We've put on close to 4000 miles in the past 2 weeks.

Noticing that the world we live in never ever ceases to awe and amaze me.  Yellowstone's landscape sits atop an active volcanic hot spot that is both predictable and improbable at once. Old Faithful erupts every 91 minutes, but the Mammoth Hot Springs are encroaching on nearby roads and new geothermal features appear over night.  I forgot to breathe every once in awhile when my nerves kicked in, but I kept my eyes open afraid not only off the dangers lurking, but to miss a single sight.

Two elk grazing at Mammoth Hot Springs.

Watching the flat Minnesota landscape evolve into the lush North Dakota countryside decorated with hay bales and happy cows, and then the buttes on the edges on Montana morphing into ranges the valleys and canyons filled with livestock and a random antelope here or there.  We have been off the grid for the better part of two weeks. One day while the rest of my family slept in past 6 a.m. on a Montana morning, I tried to get some news on the television and couldn't.  I resigned myself to sit outside watching the elk across the river realizing that I wasn't missing anything at all.  It was strange and also satisfying to be disconnected from the rest of the world under the grand splendor of Big Sky Country.

Definitely big sky.

Listening one week to the elk in the field across the river bugle into the gloaming, and the next to every pronunciation possible of my kid's name as one announcer after another manned the microphone at the ball field.  One sound filled with such primal longing even to my human ears, and the other booming with as much pride and tradition and excitement as the first time I ever heard it.

Moon over the Absaroka Range after a storybook day.

"#3 Tedd-E Wig-E-haufT!"

Eating not much, but not particularly well either.  On the go.  Both times we returned from traveling we craved veggies and pasta.

One of the only meals we cooked in Montana served on a pretty plate.  Our cabin was filled with beautiful things.

Drinking Layer Cake, which is a rich Malbec, but then one night we actually partook in a giant jug of Robert Mondavi chianti so maybe the answer is whatever was served.

Wanting another month of summer. It's literally disappearing right before my eyes.  I can only imagine what my kids feel.

Wearing bug spray and sunscreen, and later Benadryl and Aloe.  Hats and sunglasses.  Whatever is clean, or relatively so.

Hoping to make the most of our last couple weeks of being mostly footloose and fancy free.  I have lots of time off so I hope to fit in a few fun things that baseball and travelling kept us from, but also realizing that we may not have made it to Lake Michigan or Lenwood Lake yet, but we swam in the Boiling River and the Gardner River and also the Don Hall Guest House's pool!

 Boiling River: swim at your own risk.  Hazards include: strong currents, scalding water, freezing water, sharp rocks, thirsty elk and stupid selfie taking tourists.

The Gardner River where the locals and their dogs swim.  It was our favorite too.

Thinking that we don't have to travel far to experience amazing things.  I often dream of going to faraway places like Spain and Ireland and Australia, but then I pinch myself because I have yet to see so much splendor that is only a car ride away.

On the road.

Enjoying the simple creature comforts of home: the constant company of the cats who no doubt fear we'll abandon them again, sleeping in my own bed, salads with homemade dressing and the ability to prepare healthy meals in my kitchen, my linens and bath products, even a schedule.

What's for dinner? Broccoli with a side of spinach.

Loving the ease with which we came and went the past couple weeks, embracing an air of spontaneity, a family adventure or two, our hosts Jon and El and also Jack, Sage and River, that my Dad came to Indy and we had such fun hanging out together for a couple days, that my daughter is watching little league on television right now and I just heard her say, "Another homerun! All those runs were earned!" and most of all that a beautiful bluebird caught my attention as I was expressing my gratitude to the Paradise Valley the last moments before our trek home.  My Mom is somehow connected to the birds.  I know this because I feel it.  I feel it deep and absolute. I'd only seen two bald eagles, a lone trumpeter swan and an empty osprey's nest in all our time in the area so the timing struck me as more than Mother Nature.  I started to cry because I was reminded how thin the veil is between life and death...between the living and the dead.  They weren't sad tears, but rather tears of joy and affirmation.  The universe was talking...singing...and I was not only listening, I was lifted, hugged, reassured.  I had a similar feeling the night I know there were angels visiting my Mom as she clung to life on earth.  She was not alone. I was not alone.

 I'm never alone.