I think I just committed to leaving town

Whoa, shit. I just put a feeler out there on Facebook for job or house in Moab. oh my – I said it out loud.

I think it’s going to be really tough to find both so I need to put the word out there as far and as soon as I can, which feels a little like committing even though I have nothing in place.

So now it feels like this might actually happen. I’m spinning a little and will probably chicken out more than once but today, this is what I want to do.

Why Moab when you’ve always said that it’s too much like Summit County and you could never live there?

Number one reason is that I still want to hang out with my boys so I don’t want to go some place like Boulder, UT. Moab to Durango is completely manageable and they love Moab.

Rationalization – it won’t be so Breckenridge-y in the winter. Hopefully.

I want to live in the Desert. I am a desert person. I’m a goddamn lizard. It’s where I go to feel joy so why not live in the middle of it?

Duh.

And, suddenly, I find myself totally free.

Or I will be as soon as those boys of mine find an apartment.

I haven’t been this free since the day I fell for my ex-husband. That’s a long time. And not a lot of people get this opportunity at 52.

I want to write. I want to write about the desert. Hard to do when you’re not there.

Am I running away?

I’d be lying if I didn’t say yes.

Sure I am. But not with my tail between my legs.

There are definitely things down the road that I don’t want to be around for – and I don’t want my crazy to show up in Mancos again. Once was plenty.

This place is home – no doubt about that. I am so honored to be a part of this community. I couldn’t have raised my boys in a place any better than this.

And, before here, I never lived anywhere longer than 2 years. I am a wanderer, a loner, an adventurer.

I used to love moving; I loved the excitement of finding the secrets of a new place; to find my favorites – book store (if there is one, which there is in Moab), coffee shop, thrift store; to be able to explore some place where you don’t already have your favorite running trail or your go-to storm watching site. I love nesting in a new home.

I detest packing up an entire house. So this time I am going to sell the fuck out of my belongings and get out of Dodge with about 1/4 of what I currently possess.

Of course, there’s the piece about being so sad and wanting a fresh new world for a little while.

Breaking up in a small town just sucks. No way around it.

But, it’s time for an adventure. It feels a little ephemeral – like it’s just another random idea on a long list of fantasies. So I figure if I start talking about it, it just might happen.

SOOOOOOO scary and yet, every time I picture living in the Desert, my heart rate picks up just a little bit and I find myself smiling.

So, I’m putting it out there and am going to see what the universe presents.

Today my heart…

…is heavy.

Every year, come hell or highwater (which is exactly what it was this year – thank you Hurricane Matthew) my mother goes to Paris. Paris is her heart place; a piece of her soul lives there. We who love her, know this, embrace this, and send her on her merry way every October.

She’s almost 80 and legally blind and a badass adventurer.

But my 85-year-old father’s health hasn’t been so good lately. Actually, we’ve had some pretty big scares recently.

So Mom was going to cancel her trip but instead, I flew to Florida to hang out with Dad.

Perfect solution for all of us.

And then came the hurricane. Mom was gone, Dad was evacuated, I didn’t know if I was going to even be able to arrive here.

Turns out I was. Dad had just returned to his home which was damage-free, yet still a mess. When I got here, there was a massive amount of debris and the steel “shutters” still covered every window and door except the garage.

It was mighty dark and fortressed in here – like a bunker.

Dad was in pretty good shape and very good spirits. I was super psyched that I was here.

We’ve had a week of cleanup, chores, and lovely talks. We completed some projects that he would never have been able to do on his own.

And I have seen things; I’ve gained insights into my father and into being elderly in general.

I’ve witnessed that a sense of order is important. I’ve experienced the frustration of not being able to do simple things by oneself. I’ve opened the doors to the near empty refrigerator of people who no longer cook for themselves. I’ve met the comrades who take care of each other because none of them can do it completely on their own. I’ve been here for the death of a close friend’s child.

This morning my father is visiting a friend who can no longer leave the house and has become isolated and depressed.

I sat in the cardiologist’s office while he explained that they can’t explain what is happening to my dad’s heart and lungs.

I’ve watched my father wince in pain. I’ve seen that he needs to sit down and catch his breath after taking the dog into the yard to pee.

I made the decision to stay with my dad rather than take advantage of a once in a lifetime opportunity to see my best friend from high school – a choice I certainly would never have made when I was 17.

And, I’ve borne witness to his strength and resiliency. He’s still the same guy; kind, witty, intelligent, loving, and totally unwilling to give into old age and sit on his ass.

Vital.

We’ve had gallons of coffee, bowl after bowl of ice cream; we casually ate our meals at the bar in the kitchen rather than the dining room table. We’ve lingered, we’ve shot the shit, I shared some incredibly personal and painful bits of my life

For the first time EVER, we have watched the news and agreed on politics.

I have been told, repeatedly, by many of the folks in this town, “You are your mother.” I am honored.

My father is amazing, a gem. He is the most decent man I know. After close to 60 years of marriage, he and my mother are still in love.

So today, I depart. He will drop me off at the airport at noon so I can return to the rest of my family who I miss terribly.

But I am sad. I could stay here forever. I would love to be here when my mother arrives (tomorrow) and have more time with both of them.

This trip has brought to my awareness the fragility of life and the desire to share these last years with my mom and dad; they won’t be around forever.

I get that in a way that I’ve never really gotten it before.

I adore my parents. I am so fortunate to have been born into this family.

I am so thankful that I outgrew my stupid teenage rebellion.

Friends adapting to change

Me: “Elvis Aaron Presley, you get back in that car.”

Her. Spoken: “You said ‘git’, with an ‘I’.”

Her. Unspoken: “You fucking hillbilly.”

Me: “Right? What the fuck happened? I was a country club gal and now I have chicken shit on my boots and I’m talking high school football records with a ditch-digger.”

Her. Spoken: “I went away for just a little bit and came back and this is your life. I missed the process.”

Her. Unspoken: “Maybe I shouldn’t have gone away – I could have stayed here and reined you in.”

Me: “It’s like you going away and coming back a lesbian.”

Her: “Exactly.”

Me: “Thanks for noticing.”

Her: “Right back at ya.”

“Weight is Training”

Espresso-Maker

This morning as my stove top espresso maker was completing it’s brewing task, and it made that volcano about to erupt sound that means coffee is imminent, I declared, “There’s that sound!” like I’ve said a thousand times before.

But this coffee brewer is new.  I’ve been using a different method for years. So my instinctual reaction, the words, the anticipation in my pores, is a throwback to a time in my life I can barely remember in my old age.

Working in “the field.”

As I poured my hot drink into my mug I said to MCB, “This is how I used to make coffee in the field.  I love that sound.”

“You carried one of those in the field? No wonder your shoulders hurt.”

Well, duh, of course that’s part of the problem, but was it worth it to have a decent brew at 4 am before climbing the Wham Ridge with a bunch of whiney, incompetent teenagers?

Most definitely, yes.

What I didn’t say was, “Don’t forget to add in the 2 pounds of coffee to get me through until the next resupply.”

And the down jacket, the 30-below down sleeping bag, hammock for a 3-day solo, geology and natural history books, climbing gear (rope, rack, shoes), ice axe, helmet, stove, fuel, clothes, mid (shelter), various and sundry other items (journal, chacos, chocolate), and enough food to keep this scrawny little body from completely wasting away at 13,000 ft.

If I could fit it into my Astralplane, I carried it.

 

Big mother-fucker isn't it?

7000 cu. in. Big mother-fucker isn’t it?

 

And anything and everything could fit into that pack.

I once carried 90 lbs.

At 20,000 ft.

I lost an inch in height.

This was before plastic french presses. I did carry a glass one for a summer but finally broke it over a fire ring trying to knock the grinds out of the bottom and had to drink cowboy coffee for 3 days.

It was horrid.

Besides cowboy coffee (swirling the grinds around in a pot of boiling water then tap-tap-tapping the sides to get the grinds to settle enough to pour it into a mug) the other options were:

The Gold Filter, which, while light to carry, made light coffee and had a tendency to tip over just as the last of the water made it through and into the mug.

There was The Sock. Some fucking genius thought that one could make coffee in a large cotton condom, over and over, each and every day, and that it would actually taste good.

coffeesock1Just looking at the flaccid, stained, sad little resevior, made me consider options other than coffee.

I tried some of those.

Tea? Blech. Tea is fine before bed or after being caught in a storm – it serves its purpose when one needs to warm up but it definitely doesn’t satisfy in the dark and the cold when one has to motivate to put on a heavy pack and climb to the top of a mountain.

In other words, as a motivator, it sucks.

But what sucked even worse were coffee substitutes.

Double blech.

contains: barley, chicory, rye

contains: barley, chicory, rye

Pero, the substitute of choice, especially in my militant vegan days, was vile, although I pretended to love it just as I pretended to enjoy Textured Vegetable Protein.

A little chicory and barley powder mixed with a little powdered soy milk and voila! you have a morning drink that will make you want to hide back in your sleeping bag.

After you hurl.

I realize that there are many other options out there nowadays; that brewing up is still the pleasure that it always was, just a lot lighter and easier.

For one, someone came up with the idea of small, lightweight, backpacking stoves instead of a Whisperlite and 60 oz of white gas.

But back in the old days, the 9-cup, aluminum (which is why I barely remember those days and will soon forget them all together) ultra heavy, ultra noisy pot was the best option.

So when I hear that sound in my kitchen in the morning, coming from a stainless pot, no longer aluminum, it brings a smile to my face; memories flood my not yet awake brain.

And my shoulders start to hurt.

“Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.”  

haruki murakami

 

Reality hits

92
Everett

 

Position
Linebacker
Height
5-11
Weight
195
Class
Fr.
Hometown
Mancos, Colo.
Highschool
Mancos

HIGH SCHOOL: 2016 graduate of Mancos High School … Competed in football, track, wrestling and basketball … Four-year starter … Played linebacker and full back for the Bluejays.

PARENTS: TW and Suzanne Strazza

Fort Lewis College

© 2016 FORT LEWIS COLLEGE ATHLETICS | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

 

Coming out of the closet

I’ve been struggling to write.  I haven’t been especially inspired.  Really it all began with the shutting down of Single in the Southwest.

That was my choice – yes it was, in many ways – but to be totally honest, I hated ending that blog. It still exists, it’s just that I don’t write there any more and no one has access to it unless I allow it.

My Ex, T-dub, hated Single. Vehemently.

And I sort of can’t blame him, yet I repeatedly explained the math to him – stop giving me so much to write about and I will quit publicly raking you over the coals. I thought it was simple, yet apparently he didn’t see it that way.

In a moment of, I’m not sure what, frustration? indignation? I got so sick of him and his oh poor me I am such a victim of her writing act that I decided to rid the world of Single in the Southwest.

I understand why I did it and in the moment it seemed like the right thing to do – for the children.

Not that I believe the children were being hurt by anything I had to say – they didn’t even care about the blog – but T said that he would cooperate and be respectful if the blog was gone so poof! gone.

And I called his bluff. He “spoke” to me one time after that – ONE TIME.

And that was via text and just enough to inform me that no, he would not be paying his portion of the kids medical bills.

That was a year ago.

Could I have had my First Amendment Rights upheld in a court room? Probably. I certainly wasn’t writing anything that wasn’t true.images-2

I didn’t lie about him calling me a whore. I didn’t lie about him dying his chest hair. I didn’t make it up when he threatened me in public – in front of the kids and their entire football team – screaming that I had failed my children.

I also didn’t only write about him. There was a series on vibrators, quite a bit about parenting teenagers, and the one about work that almost cost me my job. And yet, he thought it was all about him.

Typical.

So yes, there was a good chance that I could have kept on typing away but I grew tired of the fight.

I also had a lot of fear. What if a Judge saw me as a bad parent because I wrote the things that I wrote? What if we stood in a courtroom and the Judge agreed that I was harming the children with my words? What if the judge called me a whore?

Then, the moment preceding the moment where I threw my hands up in the air yelling “I give up,” T was in the middle of insisting that of course, the blog could stay, but that he would be able to determine if anything that I wrote was suitable or acceptable.

In other words he believed that he should have final editorial approval before I hit “Publish.”

C.E.N.S.O.R.S.H.I.P.

Fuck that noise.

So, Blog – Gone.

Writer’s block – here for the long haul.

One of my greatest sadnesses when I look back over the years is realizing just how much of my life has been run by fear – primarily fear of him.

I have this deep anxiety-producing paranoia of getting in trouble which most likely started when, surprise surprise, I was a young kid and didn’t want to get in trouble.

Unfortunately I lived my marriage in a way that created the same dynamic. And then it showed up in a few other areas of my world, like work, and suddenly it became crippling.

I’d like to say that it became the litmus test for all decisions that I made, but the truth is, it didn’t.

I’m still independent and feisty enough to not let anyone else tell me what I can and cannot do.

I just suffered the consequences afterwards. In other words, I got in trouble.

So with my kids’ well-being at stake, I cowered in the face of fear and shut my trouble making mouth.

And in the process, shut myself right down.

But things are shifting for me. Or I actually need them to shift and so here is a step that will hopefully take me in that direction.

Over the last couple of years and the last few court hearings, I have come out on top – way on top. I have seen that the court system may be really flawed, but if you get a wise judge who is also a parent, sometimes things work out the way that they should; the way that is actually best for the children and…fair.

With the freedom of a few wins and watching a judge put him in his place and validate that I am a good mother, I am able to shed some of my fears.

So today, I am taking a monumental step. I am coming out of hiding.

Have I thought this through?

Probably not thoroughly enough, but I tend to be impulsive anyway.

I’m sick of the fear. I am sick of hiding. Sick to death of handing my power over to him. And living in secrecy has been doing just that.

So, today, I will link HDD to my own Facebook page.

And right here, right now I will say:

I , Suzanne Strazza, am High Desert Darlin, the artist formerly known as Single in the Southwest.

And I am a writer, a mother, a lover.

I am exercising my First Amendment rights.

And I am free.

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Run River Run

Yeah, I totally stole that name – Ann Zwinger, incredible author, boater, and all around lovely woman, came up with that for one of her books, but, it’s perfect here so I’m at least giving her credit as I pilfer her title.

Anyway…

Two summers ago, right at this time of year, when the rivers were peaking and some even flooding, I almost drowned.

Seriously almost drowned – not an exaggeration, not being a drama queen – we’re talking, sinking underwater, about to give up and accept the end, understanding the depth of my will to live, not going to leave my children motherless, completely life-altering, drowning.

Years ago a friend of mine drowned – I know that it happens.  I do not think that I am invincible in water. I have always had a healthy respect for the power and unpredictability of H2O.

And yet, I’ve also had complete confidence in my boating and river-navigating skills.

So coming that close to the bottom of the river was not only terrifying, but came as quite a surprise.

What also came as a surprise is, once I dumped out of my boat, everything I’ve ever known (and taught) about river safety, went right out the window in my panicky fight for my life.

For a brief bit in the ensuing days, I tried to convince myself that it really wasn’t that big of a deal, that I was fine. I tried to sort through real danger vs. perceived danger. I attempted to list the incident under the latter.

But then, for the first time in 20 years, I didn’t want to get on the river. The sound of rushing water caused my heart to race. I stood on river banks, thankful that I was on dry land.

This was so unlike me – the obsessive boater, the person who took to the river over and over again as refuge and respite.

That’s when I realized that this had been actual, real danger.

I’ve become afraid of the ocean. I recently had to turn off a surfing video because seeing that much water from a go-pro’s perspective was unbearable.

I’ve only been boating a couple of times since then. I have let other people row my boat. I’ve lost all trust in myself.

Last weekend we had company in town and decided to take them on a float. Our river options are currently aplenty. Big water everywhere, rivers flowing that haven’t flowed in years.

I am actually the person who suggested the one day adventure. I had hoped to float my dearest river, which usually takes 2 or 3 days, in a day. The weather is warm, (in case someone accidentally took a swim) and since I know the river like the back of my hand, it felt like the safest option.

But, no permit. That still left 4 other stretches of water from which to choose. Trying to make that choice left me stressed out and unsure of myself. There was even some tension with MCB about it until he came up with a manageable plan.

Once it felt like someone else was in charge, I was able to relax just the tiniest bit.

At the put-in, I was quite spastic – concerningly so. I couldn’t remember how to rig my own boat. I tripped getting onto it (while still on dry ground) and ended up face down in the bottom of the vessel. I slipped, I almost backed my truck into a ditch, couldn’t maintain my footing as I squatted to pee.

MCB assumed that I would be rowing. He had confidence in me that I didn’t have. Yet, I did bring a huge heap of ego with me which made it impossible for me to not jump on the oars in front of our company.

When we finally went afloat, I got an oar stuck twice in the current, I got yanked off me feet, I slipped, I got the other oar stuck in the willows, and I couldn’t manage to get off-shore.

I rowed for a little while, I negotiated a few wave trains, I practiced my strokes trying to regain my ease and composure at the helm. In my head, I repeatedly talked myself down.

Then I offered for any of the others to row. First one guest did, then the second. Then MCB jumped into the driver’s seat and I lay down on the front of the boat, able to relax knowing that we were in capable hands.

The next thing that happened took my by surprise. I began to get that familiar I Want To Row itching. It took a second to realize what the feeling was, but when I did identify it, I thought, I’d better get on those oars right this second or this desire could pass on, maybe forever.

So I totally passive aggressed MCB into letting me row again. I wasn’t really fair to him about it but I wanted to nurture this little shift from fear to familiar comfort and thought that I let him continue to row, I might never be brave enough to do it again.

And thank goodness he’s a gentleman.

I rowed. Not totally smoothly, not flawlessly, but with budding confidence and no major mishaps.

It was healing, but really, it was just fun. The kind of fun that one gets to have in a beautiful place, with water and trees and views, the kind of fun that happens when everyone feels good about where they are and what they are doing.

This was huge.

I even took a quick swim at the take-out.

So now, I am obsessed again. It’s a relief, really, to know that I haven’t been scared off forever.

I’m not ready for “big” water – I may never be again, and I am okay with that.  I can start with what is small and familiar.  If I get beyond that, great.  If I don’t, I’m super fine with that, as long as I can enjoy floating in some of my favorite places and not have panic attacks.

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