Monthly Archives: July 2010

Home again

Twas a bittersweet weekend. Yes, I knew that Teton Valley, Idaho, resonated with me more than any other location has. From San Diego to Michigan, Alaska to Boston, leaving one place for the next simply indicated it was time for the next adventure, opportunity, or poor decision.

I didn’t realize how deeply that valley had seeped into my soul, at the risk of sounding cliché, and the melancholy of knowing that my husband can’t pursue his dreams as a water- and natural resources- conflict mediator there. I used to joke that if I wasn’t chained to that husband of mine … But then my sister and close friends told me it wasn’t funny.

How naïvely I left. Nothing connects you with a population more than working as a reporter for the local newspaper. And I’ve found no community more delightful and fulfilling to connect with. But I was 25. I didn’t realize that the media industry as I knew it would complete it’s topple, and I’d be left in the rubble questioning my purpose, role in community, and talent. I’m “going for it” during the rebuild phase. I didn’t realize I’d miss it as much as I do, and that it would become so unattainable later on.

It had been three years since I packed up my truck and headed Portland-ho with my boyfriend at the time (now husband). And I’ve tried to bloom in several other locales. Portland (big Franzia-filled flop of rejection from the jobs I even had “resigned” myself to apply for), Aspen (a riotously-fun and unsustainable time working for the Aspen Times), and then to Golden, Colo., where I lost my soul in the corporate world (Read, my Meat Marketing Dispatches) and am “fakin’ it ‘till I’m makin’ it” as a freelance writer/journalist.

Truth be told, I was a little scared to return. When a community becomes a magical gloried past, you have to expect to be disappointed on the first visit back. Thing was, I wasn’t. The sense of community, seeing people I hadn’t thought of in years but remembered their names and details about them, and likewise for me. Nowhere I’ve felt I belonged so. I know I’m still young, but what if I never find that sort of fulfilling sense of home and community? Is it simply because that was the only place I felt I actually belonged? Should I eliminate “simply” from my previous sentence?

Don’t get me wrong, I love my husband. He also is my sense of home and community. And the friends I’ve been fortunate to gain in this post-Teton life are wonderful.

But oh God I miss it.

Going back to the Tetons was a bittersweet reminder that it still feel like home.

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Potato in the rapids

Matt, my husband, is a rabid tuber. We live walking distance from Clear Creek, and when the temperature soars, as it does here in the Front Range of Colorado, he loves to wheedle me into navigating the rapids (the kayak park in downtown Golden has a handful of holes) in a blown up tire tube.

This is our third summer in Golden (most consecutive seasons spent in a single place for me since I was in middle school). The first summer I remember taking a big spill in one of the holes popular amongst kayakers. With helmets, pfd’s, nose plugs and the rest of the kayak trimmings, the boaters shot concerned, horrified and general “should-we-help-her?” looks to the bikini-clad girl clasping her tire tube. It was a poignantly pathetic moment indeed.

So Matt put handles on my inner tube.

Throughout the summer and the following summer, I hesitantly agreed to go tubing. It was always fun, but for some reason I’m uncomfortable with being a “tuber.” Kayakers are to tubers as the French are to Americans — so it seems — and I unfortunately also let this get to me.

Beyond the middle-school self consciousness of it all, it just feels scary to me. Last summer I walked with Matt to go tubing, while I picked a random spot to sit by the creek with our 9-week-old puppy and wait for him. About 20 minutes after I walked downstream and decided upon a spot, I saw Matt in his tube with an intense look on his face. Then he grabbed a body floating face down in the water right in front of him. For a second they were pinned on a rock, Matt pulled the body to shore. The face of the boy still haunts both of us. It’s the closest I’ve come to seeing a dead body. Gray and lifeless.

I called 911, Matt began administering CPR and rescue breathing. Matt recalls the body jolting back to life. Rescue came and put the boy on a stretcher and took him to the hospital.

In my teenage years and into my early twenties, I was a lifeguard. In the seven years of guarding and teaching swimming lessons, the closest call I’ve ever had were the handful of times I’ve had to jump in and rescue young children that had gotten in too deep.

I’d like to say that I was calm, cool and collected on the phone with the 911 dispatcher. In reality I shrilly told them what had happened and where we were. The operator asked which side of the creek we were on, and it took me too long to be able to tell her. Hopefully the dispatch offices deletes their recordings after a year. That’s all I’ll say about that, as the point of the story is the kid lived. Matt became a local hero.

Oddly enough, the week before Matt and I were talking about how we’re surprised that there aren’t more accidents in Clear Creek, as it seems a popular spot for teenage kids to smoke pot and hang out. Matt said he had already pictured a scenario in his head of what he’d do if he saw a dead body floating in the water. (I’m a skeptic, but this isn’t his first psychic moment.) Also odd, was that I randomly chose to sit right there, as it’s not his normal take-out spot.

Last week was the first time I went tubing since then, when the weather reached 100 degrees, Fahrenheit, along the Front Range. It took some convincing on Matt’s part. Though I didn’t realize it, in the back of my psyche are the boy’s empty eyes. I begrudgingly said OK. As the only tuber wearing a life-jacket (it’s a very high-use area, too), the experience was pure fun.

This summer we’ve been on a few rafting trips with a boat Matt purchased when he worked as a river guide a few years back. He’s got a natural talent for reading the rivers, but no solid experience guiding whitewater. Nor has he taken a swiftwater rescue course. We’ve been working our way up, and have done a class III+ rapid. But it’s more scary than fun for me. Despite growing up rafting Browns Canyon in Colorado’s Arkansas Valley.

What happened to me? I used to be so fearless and invincible. Is this what happens when you get older? You collect scary close-call experiences, lose people you love, and realize how delicate life is, how easily the string is cut?

I guess it all boils down to taking calculated risks, working your way up, and knowing how to respond to the consequences.

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Oh deer

Just as the sun began to lower yesterday as we walked up a knoll at the Conifer, Colo., disc golf course, I looked up and saw Ullr, our 1-year-old puppy (well, I guess he’s in his ‘tween years), running and frolicking in a meadow. You could see sunbeams shining through the trees. It was as if each blade of grass relished this time of day, in sideways light.

Sometimes when you’re in a moment, you know it will become a memory you summon later on. As I watched Ullr’s youthful vigor, it made me think about 15 or 20 (hopefully the latter) years from now. Someday he will be a crotchety old dog, and I will remember him running through fields. It felt mildly morbid to think about, definitely bittersweet, but it also deepened my appreciation.

I mentioned the thought to my husband, Matt.

Then, about ten minutes later, as we walked down a hill to the disc basket, we saw a deer. Not unusual, we see many deer. But then it appeared to chase Ullr, who seemed oblivious to it until it began running after him. Ullr ran toward a tree, Matt kicked into gear and ran toward the two. It created a standstill, Ullr on one side of Matt and the deer on the other. The deer did not run away until Matt yells, “Get out of here!”

Odd. It could have been bad, deer’s hooves are sharp and could do a lot of damage to a dog.

While walking back to the car, Matt conjectured that weird things happen when you say things like, “I’m always going to remember Ullr just like that, playing in that meadow with the light shining through.” A jinx, if you will. To which I made the point, “Maybe it just happens because you put energy toward believing that.”

Who knows. Moral of the story? Deer can be unpredictable.

Ullr began disc golfing at a very early age …

Our adventure pup!

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