Life on the Colorado Plateau

Yesterday I sat in the bleachers at the home football game wearing jeans, a long underwear top, flannel, wool socks, work boots, wool vest, down vest, sleeping-bag-like down coat, wool scarf, and hat.

The sky was grey. Very grey.

Today, while harvesting pounds of carrots, then playing catch with Elvis Aaron, I stood barefoot in the grass, wearing a tank top.

Green grass.

Orange scrub oak.

Yellow aspen.

White snowy mountains.

Blue sky.

Hot Damn I love it here.

img_2691

 

Sketchy drive and the feelings evoked

Utter despair are the first words that come to mind.

Yesterday I drove over the hill for a couple of appointments and to try to find the elusive pair of much needed jeans.

I ended up spending a massive amount of money on everything but jeans.

I now have lovely new placemats and napkins. We’re having friends over tonight.

Scored some Cashmere too.

Not the point of this story. Distracted once again.

As everyone around here knows, the weather has been turbulent and summer is most definitely a thing of the past.

Just as I was getting ready to head home, it began to rain. Then it became torrential. Then Biblical.

I sat in my car in the parking lot of the grocery store thinking that at least if flooding kept me from going home, I was at a place with an endless amount of food.

It wasn’t really that bad, but these days, you have to be prepared.

When I began the westward drive, the rain let up and the sun sank low enough to be right at eye level (and just below the visor).

My shitty ass, $5, fashion forward sunglasses did not make matters any better.

So the sun was in my eyes. It was still raining a bit. The road was steaming. Water was spraying back at me from every car or truck ahead of me. Each and every plant, tree, dirt speck, and guard rail was wet.

And in the breakthrough sunshine, it sparkled like a glitter cloud. All of those droplets shot refracted light right into my eyes making it almost painful to look out my cracked windshield.

(As someone commented later, “That’s when you realize that you need to Windex the inside of your windshield.” Yup.)

The road wound uphill through a canyon. There was enough water for a spontaneous hydroplane.

Then, the vehicles coming towards me coming downhill towards me had SNOW on them. It was clumped beneath their wipers and piled on their bumpers.

Snow, I tell you, SNOW.

Fucking snow.

The beautiful red and orange oaks were covered in rime.

200 feet above me, they were covered in snow.

I stopped worrying about hydroplaning and began to be concerned with black ice.

It. Is. SEPTEMBER.

September folks, not December.

Besides, “Shit shit shit, I hope I don’t blindly slide into everything because I can’t see and I have no control over my truck at the moment,” my brain was screaming, “NONONONONONONONONONONONONO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!”

Not yet, please not yet.

I am cold. Skinny and cold.

I am not ready for needing a fire in the wood stove.

I am not ready to shovel.

I am not ready to slide off the road.

I am not ready to fall down.

(I fall down a whole awful lot in the winter.)

They say when you feel desperation, to pray.

So I prayed with all of my heart last night, all night.

I prayed again when I woke up in the dark this morning.

And then, I waited for the brilliant sun to rise over the Menefee to the east.

And it didn’t.

8:28 and it still hasn’t.

The sky has lightened, for sure, just enough to see the heavy, dense, grey clouds ready to drop their load on my sad little head once again.

Despair. Grief. Disbelief. Anger.

And a strong sense of camaraderie with my friend who I ran into on the way to my house and verbalized all that I was feeling.

Misery loves company.

“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

 

There is a Guardian Angel

“Mom, you’re not Christian or Mexican, why are you so into Jesus candles?”

“You know Buddy, just in case.”

Who knows if it does me any good, but I figure it can’t do us any harm, and last night felt like a Guardian Angel was looking over my family so, I’m going to keep on lighting them…

…just in case.

It was the night of the Homecoming Dance, and hand in hand, the Homecoming after-party.

Back story here:

My boys are teenagers. We live in a small redneck town where kids drink Coors Light, chew Copenhagen, and go mudding in the mountains in their big trucks. I was a teenager once and made a LOT of really stupid choices. My children have made a lot of stupid choices. So have their friends. Their father, a recovering alcoholic, thinks that a “talk” here and there about the dangers of drinking, especially with their genetics, is keeping them from imbibing in said alcohol.

So the way I look at parenting them during these years, given the above factors, I have 3 choices; tell them not to drink and think that they won’t, thus having them lying and sneaking all over the county with a beer in hand; cruelly forbid them to ever leave the house just so I feel safe; or be totally realistic and hope that a policy of transparency will keep them honest and maybe a bit more careful if they’re not having to lurk around behind my back.

Since Dad has gone for number 1, and number 2 just isn’t fair since they haven’t done enough to warrant its implementation, I’ve opted for number 3.

Number 3 is great when sitting around the dining room table, me being the cool mom.  It’s a whole other story on a Saturday night when they are making plans to go to the mountains with 235 of their closest stupid friends to drink beer and Fireball, at two o’clock in the morning.

Which was last night’s post-homecoming plan.

So many things were freaking me out about it, yet I chose to let them go: with stipulations.

No drinking to vomiting status.

No taking advantage of drunken girls.

No drinking and driving.

Curfew.

First one, I just had to keep my fingers crossed that they too believe that Vomiting Isn’t Fun.

Second – I just trust them. Should I? I certainly hope so.

Third – I offered, as I always do, to do the driving for them. I always agree to drive up to the mountains at extremely-early-in-the-morning (like 2) to pick them up to guarantee that they won’t get in a car with a “sober” driver.

I remember one night that I was the “sober” driver – I was chosen because I was the one in the group who’d only eaten one hit of acid instead of two.

Curfew – Of course they don’t want one. Of course they’re going to get one.

“Can we just spend the night up there?”

Fuck. No.

So they asked if they could spend the night at a friends’.

“Is this your way of getting out of having a curfew?”

“Yes.”

Remember, I have asked for total transparency.

And, I said “Sure.”

Crazy, right? It just seemed so much easier having another parent involved, even if it was one who was going to let them stay out all night.  It gave me the opportunity to turn a blind eye.

And I took it.

God I love denial.

It didn’t mean that I wouldn’t stress, freak out, lose sleep, etc. But in saying “yes” I hoped that they would be able to say “no” if necessary.

Another part of the equation was this:

Friend wouldn’t be drinking or driving like an idiot because he’ on probation and has to take a pee test tomorrow and the truck is his dad’s and if he messed it up, we’d all be running for the hills to avoid the wrath.

“I wish I felt okay about this because I trust Friend to make smart choices, not because he’s made so many dumb choices that he can longer afford to make more. But I’ll take what I can get.”

And then, I received this text: No one wants to go to the mountains, it’s too cold and too much driving. So just a few of us are going to go to Friend’s to hang out.

No stupid driving on stupid mountain roads with stupid drunk teenagers. No wondering if the cops (who always know when there is party in the mountains) will show up and issue my children MIP’s (minor in possession).

They go one place, where they will stay, with parental supervision, right in town.

Yes. Yes. Yes. Have fun. Have a great night.

And there is proof that a Guardian Angel does exist and thank the heavens above that I lit that Jesus candle yesterday.