last cup of coffee

Last morning sitting on the deck watching the sun rise over the mountains.

Last morning with the frogs and red-winged blackbirds.

Last morning listening to the wind in the ponderosa.

Last day of using tree stumps as deck furniture.

Last day of hanging my laundry all over the house and yard to dry.

Last day of listening to my neighbor make really weird noises with his dog.

Last day of worrying about getting my driveway plowed.

Yes, I worry about that every single day, even in the summer; March 2019 traumatized me.

Last day of being a Mancos resident.

Last day with PO Box 843.

Last day of cool mountain breezes.

Last day in the brown leather recliner – it fits better in this house than in my storage unit.

Last day of Netflix.

Last day of banging my head on the sloped ceiling.

Last fire in the woodstove.

Last day with my bully rufous hummingbird.

Last of the spinach out of my garden.

Last climb up my sketchy stairs.

In this home, I have recovered from a (brutal) breakup.

I have walked by my son’s side as he faced 16 years in prison.

I have collapsed with relief when the judge didn’t send him away.

I have revived long lost friendships – both near and far.

I have shared intimate secrets with amazing women on this deck.

I have cried, sobbed, wept myself dry.

I lived in the living room while my innards healed.

I lost my father while living here.

I fell in love in this home.

I’ve had a lot of sex in this house.

My children have come to consider this their home away from home.

Elvis has worn a path across the yard by chasing the fucking tennis ball fifty-two-thousand times.

I’ve been pulled out of the snow in my driveway at least fifty-two-thousand times.

I broke my foot in this yard – that involved Elvis and a skunk.

I’ve killed countless mice – including the one that drowned in my bucket of cleaning water yesterday.

I’ve slept under the stars here on the same deck that was covered in 6 feet of snow last winter.

I have clocked thousands of hours in phone time with my Mommy.

I came here lost. I found my soul again. My heart.

I have loved every second of being here, even when I wasn’t enjoying myself.

This has been my most cherished home. Never, ever, have I wished that I lived elsewhere.

And as difficult as it is to leave, to part with my insular little world, I’m ready to close the door on this 3 1/2 year chapter of my life.

It’s time for something new.

Goodbye old friend.

My gratitude is boundless.

A piece of my heart will always remain.

leaving

Today is my last real day in the cabin. Tomorrow my family shows up to help me move all of my shit to either storage or the new home.

I’ve done most of the packing already; moved more, much more, of my belongings than I have remaining. The thing about packing is that it doesn’t leave time to just be; to stop and look around absorbing as much as I can of the goodness and serenity that this home has provided for me.

I’m so focused on the future, on the new place, that it detracts from the sorrow that comes with leaving a home that has been my refuge.

This cabin caught me when I was falling faster than the speed of sound. I was so lost and damaged and broken when I moved in.

Really, to be honest, when other people moved me in while I crumbled.

The day I moved out of my last home, the home that we shared together – MXB and my sons – was one of the saddest days I have ever survived.

My children helped then, but they too were broken. We were lost and scared and floundering. Tomorrow they will again help, but it will be with lighter hearts.

3 1/2 years ago when I moved, I was literally climbing over MXB’s shit that he left in the house when he bailed. Every time I carried boxes through the garage, I had to maneuver around his couch, his two freezers full of animals that he had killed, his ammo reloading table that he built and never used.

At one point that day, just to add insult to injury, she (the friend that was no longer a friend because she was the new love of his life) showed up on the ranch to drop something off for another resident. It was the first time I’d seen her since she blew up my world.

And on that painful, agonizingly heartbreaking day, she tore me a new asshole. She self-righteously shredded the last little bits of my soul.

Still not sure how her betrayal got twisted into being my fault, but she made me pay.

I lost my home, my friends, my sanity. My son almost died…and this cabin caught me. Healed me. Quieted my mind and gave my heart the space to repair, to become whole again.

It became my sanctuary.

These 800 square feet, my east wall of windows that brought the mountain peaks into my living room – made them my constant companions, the leather recliner in front of the woodstove, my deck under the stars: these are the bits of the cabin that gently held me while I clawed my way out of my pit of despair.

I can’t begin to count the hours spent curled up under a blanket in the chair, next to the fire, staring at the view, sporting the green hoodie that belonged to my dead best friend.

Deep, all-consuming, unadulterated, crippling grief.

In the early cabin days, every time I pulled into my driveway I thought, “Thank god I have this place.”

Each day since then, as I began to feel sane again, to feel happiness and joy and gratitude, I have said, over and over, “I love my home.”

As excited as I am to move to the desert and have a new adventure, I feel as if I am being kicked out of the nest.

And..I am ready. I’ve recovered.

I have changed. I am a different person than the one who took up residence here all of those years ago.

There is no way to survive what my family has been through without changing, without becoming new.

Or at least revised.

At Outward Bound we had a belief that we imparted upon our students…

‘Outward bound’ is a term that applies to ships – as a boat sails out of its safe harbor into the open seas, it is said to be outward bound. As we dragged kids up mountains and encouraged them to learn new life skills, we reminded them that their Outward Bound course really began when they got on the bus to return to the big wide world – taking with them all of the skills, knowledge, and self-awareness that they gained while with me for a month in the wilderness.

Tomorrow, I am outward bound.

 

my son, my heart

I took my boy to see my new home.

There’s an apothecary chest that comes with the house.

If you aren’t up on antiques, an apothecary chest is the single most useless piece of furniture to have in your home.

Super cool if you have enough space to own large pieces of furniture that have no practical purpose.

This particular one takes up an entire bedroom wall. It’s the size of a dresser and it has drawers.

FIFTY of them.

All about one square inch.

What the fuck do you put in fifty minuscule drawers?

One pair of earrings in each?

One bra or panty?

Then, out of the mouth of my babe…

“Your rock collection, Mom.”

That’s my boy.

 

 

 

zip code

After 24 years as a resident of 81328, I am mixing things up, heading west, and will be a new member of the 81321 community.

Holy shit, right?

It was just finalized yesterday afternoon and still hasn’t sunken in. I was going to savor it, roll it over in my mind, get used to the idea, before making it public. But, as we all know, there are no secrets in a town this size and word has gotten out already; the rumor mill has begun and therefore I am making an official announcement.

Questions abound, such as: Why would you leave your cabin that you love so much? Why wouldn’t you stay here, where you raised your boys? What about your friends here? Why 81321???

I would never, ever leave this cabin if I didn’t have to. It has been such a sanctuary for me. I would not have survived the past three years without these 800 square feet to call my home. The beauty, views, access to the lake, birds, bears, lovely neighbors, peace and quiet; it has all helped me to heal from tragedy and pain.

But, my wonderful landlords actually want their home back. They would like to live in this perfect place. I always knew this day would come, although I had hoped instead that they would call one day and say, “You’ve paid enough rent, the cabin is yours.”

That did not happen.

They gave me notice months in advance so no rush. After my initial distress, I started thinking about the requirements for my new home starting with “where.” Every time I left the house and drove somewhere, I thought, “I could live here, or maybe here, ooh, definitely not there.”

And weirdly enough, it didn’t even cross my mind to look in my home town, even after all of these years.

I had become rather myopic about the 1300 people and .6 square miles of my town, but since moving to this cabin, located between towns, I have expanded my world to the rest of the County.

For those of you who know here you understand the significance of County. For those of you who don’t, this is the rural west, what county you live in is more significant than the town. Ours has a very strong identity, vastly different from the surrounding areas. Ours has a distinct persona, one that I am proud to be a part of, yet because of said myopathy, I lost connection to. 81328 is fabulous, but only a piece of this place that I call home.

And 81328 is changing. Changing in ways that I don’t love. I’ve caught myself, many a time, mumbling under my breath, “fucking newcomers.” I have felt crowded and curmudgeonly.

Dating TAM has drawn me out of that tiny world. I have spent vast amounts of time reacquainting myself with people and places that have been out of my range. It has been lovely.

I have had a renewed love affair with the community at large.

So when I learned that I would have to move, I began a list of what I would need in a new home to make it okay to leave this one.

quiet. private. views. birds. space. closer to TAM. excellent landlords (because mine are the very best.) liveable inside space – although I can be quite creative so inside wasn’t quite as important as outside. space for Elvis without being so close to anyone that I would have to worry about him taking a leg off a passerby. solitude and beauty.

most importantly, a place to sit outside and drink my coffee naked if I want to.

One morning a place popped up on FB, I called, I went there immediately (the Jersey Girl pushed her way right up to the front of the line) and I fell in love.

Primarily because of the one requirement that wasn’t on the list (because I never thought it could be)…

It’s in the Desert.

Yes, my dear readers, I am moving to the desert. Red rock, sand, cactus, cliffrose, scorpions, lizards, heat. My heart’s desire.

It’s about fucking time.

This new home meets all of my other desires except it’s farther away from TAM, not closer. But he is lovely and supportive and we will make the extra driving work. It’s only 15 minutes more.

My view to the south is a giant sacred mountain. To the north, it’s open pasture all the way to the border of our local National Monument – a canyon landscape that I will be able to wander at will, filling my soul with magic and beauty. Between my home and the slickrock is a creek that feeds into the river which holds me heart.

And, it’s here. It’s not leaving the state. I’m still going to shop at the same grocery store. I’m still close to my children and my dearest friends. I will come back to 81328 to work, but then I will return to a refuge in the canyons. A place that feels a million miles away.

I’m dropping almost 2000 feet in elevation.

No more digging my way out of multiple feet of snow.

I realize, remember really, that I am a wanderer. Nomadic. Before coming here, I had never lived in one place for more than two years. I get it from my mom; she too is an adventurer. I stayed in one place for so long because I raised my children here.

And because I love it.

But the kids are out and doing great. And I do most of my work from home. And I have no choice but to move.

With this sudden freedom, my hunger to explore new places, creating a home in an as yet unlived-in community, can be fed. I hate moving, but I love to “move in.”

I like to mix it up and I haven’t for so very long.

I feel a certain sense of freedom. I am spreading my wings. I am expanding. Leaving my safe little world. While a bit nerve-wracking, it feels like growth, power, self-love.

It feels like the very right, next thing in my life.

I have made this decision based solely on what I want. I’m not moving to a ranch because of a man. I am not moving to a shitty ski town because of a man. I am not giving up my desert dreams because of another young man and his bad choices.

I am doing this because it will feed my soul.

So goodbye 81328 – you have been so good to me. I have felt safe here. I feel loved. I have friendships that I will continue to nurture and value. I will remain a part of this community, but with some distance.

 

 

 

 

 

playing hooky

I had so much to do this weekend.

Work – tons of it – hours and hours.

Clean out my truck – you know, skis and shit.

Fix the broken window in my truck – in case, after getting my skis out of there, I decide that I want to pack my camping gear so that I am ready on the turn of a dime.

Dishes.

Laundry.

Taxes.

Write a piece for a book that I’ve been contracted for a contribution.

What did I do?

Not taxes, not dishes, not work.

I ran a load of laundry but then walked away from it for two days so everything has to be washed all over again to get rid of the still-wet stink.

I went for a run. I went to yoga. I napped. I went to the desert.

When I ran on Friday, I decided to try something new.

Stretching.

I know, totally new concept.

At 54 I’ve discovered what the rest of the world seems to know; to stretch is to not hurt.

I’ve been struggling with my running for a few years – my problems have gotten progressively worse, and yet I have continued to put one foot in front of the other because for as much effort as it takes, running with lead-filled legs is better than not running at all.

The other major problem with my running has been the need to pee. And pee.

And pee.

Since giving birth, I haven’t been able to run more than 100 yards without stopping to dribble.

Between my legs becoming hard as a rock within 25 steps and then having to stop and drop my pants, my runs have become far from fluid and have consisted of this weird pace of runwalking that I can continue for 15 miles but certainly wouldn’t want anyone to witness.

Post-surgery, post convalescence, I have realized that I am fragile. That as tough as I am, my body needs more care than it did when I was 30 and could do 10 miles, off the couch, with not a sore muscle afterward.

I’ve realized that perhaps, I need to take a little bit better care of things (me) so that I no longer have to live by the motto, “Pain is inevitable, suffering, optional.”

So on Friday, as I am clawing my way back to the land of the living, I decided that I would try this stretching thing. I climbed up to a slickrock bench overlooking a canyon and spent 30 minutes doing a combination of yoga and 1980’s field hockey stretches.

And lo and behold, I could run. for the first time in years, my breathing, not my legs, wore out. This may not seem like a big deal to most, but I feel as if I have just discovered sliced bread; something everyone else knew existed, but I hadn’t bothered to try.

Also, because of the surgery, my bladder is fixed – back to “normal” – and I can bounce without anything falling or pouring out.

This means, for the first time in 22 years, I can drink water when I run.

Before it wasn’t worth it. One sip of H2O and it would dribble right down my leg with the first two steps. I have been dehydrated for YEARS.

Between the stretching and the drinking, I felt like a powerhouse superhero Olympic athlete for almost all 3 miles.

Everything changed. I have found a new love and appreciation for this tired old body. I am reveling in taking care of this bag of bones that has taken such good care of me over the years.

And with my new joy, I decided that I should definitely go to yoga on Saturday. Which I did, but then needed a nap to recover in the afternoon. And then, wanting to try out this stretching thing again, I had to go to the desert to see how it worked there.

We hiked, then we stretched, then we hiked more. And I felt great afterward.

Until I got home to the piles of dirty dishes and stinky laundry and shit tons of work that got ignored while I practiced being an athlete.

Which is why I had to say goodbye to TAM (This Amazing Man) last night and sit at home, alone, late into the evening reading through handwritten letters from prison inmates.

And which is also why I have been up since 5 am pouring coffee down my throat, reading more of those letters to prep for a meeting this morning in just a couple of hours.

My dog won’t even get up yet.

And as I sit here with a pile of files on my lap, all I can think about is my new discovery of athletic prepping, so instead of those fucking files, I’m blogging about running.

Still playing hooky.

 

Things that make me a better person

I ran today.

Let me say that louder:

I RAN TODAY!!!!!!!!

First time since last June.

While I ran, I kept thinking, “Running makes me a better person. Keeps the mental squirrels at bay.”

Then I decided to make a list of all things that make me a better person.

Things that maintain this fine thread of sanity that I tenuously grasp:

Running

The Desert

Sex

Sunshine

Air on my skin

Writing

Sex

Time alone

Grass

Naps

My children

Sex

Ice cream (in particular, Alden’s strawberry)

Good food

Hanging with my dog

Sex

The right music

Baking

Eating chocolate cake (see “baking”)

Sex

Hanging with TAM

Sex

 

 

 

 

 

blackbirds singing

Whatever my plans, my best intentions, my responsibilities were for this weekend; they’ve all gone right out the window because the red-winged blackbirds are singing.

This means only one thing…

Desert time.

I worked well into the night last night to free up time today. I swear that I will come home and work all day Sunday, and vacuum my house, and do the dishes, and my laundry, and maybe take a shower and water the plants, and pay the bills, and respond to emails, and write the piece that’s due in 3 days.

I will do these things, but there is no way that I can focus while those conk-la-rees! are all around – coming out of the trees, the willows, the tamarisk.

The siren’s call beckons me to come west. It’s not enough to listen to them here at my house. I have to be there.

My excuse is that the dogs need some exercise. And that there is no place here that they can get enough running around and therefore they need the wide-open spaces, the miles of slickrock, the immense blue sky, the river, the silence.

Can’t possibly get their yaya’s out any other place.

And, obviously, they need to stay at The Lodge, take a hot tub under the stars, and eat food from the convenience store next door because there are no other eating establishments open at this time of year.

Yay gas station hot dogs!

And they will sit outside in the morning, with the sun shining on their faces, listening to birds, chatting with the neighbors, drinking coffee, maybe even getting in a little writing.

My dog has learned (and is teaching his buddy) that “we’re going to U-Tah!” means joy all around.

It means freedom and fresh air and sunshine and maybe even rain. It means lizards and unrecognizable rodents and long stretches of uninterrupted space in which to leap and bound and laze in the warmth of the sun on rock.

Maybe there will be swimming – who cares if it’s cold.

Maybe there will be soft-serve ice cream.

Definitely, there will be peace and calm and joy.

And, there will be the song of the birds of spring; the red-winged blackbirds.

 

“Ego Tube”

Back in the day – the day when I was taking people deep into the wilderness; when I was young, vibrant, idealistic, and rather self-righteous – the day when I was a purist, a leave no trace purist – I had a thing about summit registers.

There was a handful of us who believe(d) that Leave No Trace means leave. no. trace. and that leaving a plastic tube with paper and pencil, attached by cable to the top of a mountain in the middle of nowhere was leaving a trace.

Trash.

A physical reminder of man’s need to make his mark, to conquer, to claim fame.

So, those few of us who felt so strongly about the issue often ended up with a few summit registers in our packs as we hiked out of 30 days in the backcountry into civilization. Mostly unbeknownst to our students. Mostly. We knew that what we were doing was controversial, but like I said…

self-righteous purists.

Lifting a summit register is often no easy task. It usually entailed telling my students to start the climb down, “I’m just going to coil the ropes, I’m right behind you.” Then, with a few mighty swings of an ice axe, the cable would break and the entire thing got stashed into the top of my pack and down I’d go to meet my group – no one any wiser.

Word of our tireless endeavors to clean up the Weminuche was getting around amongst the higher-ups in our organization and the word then came from those higher-ups to us lower-downs to stop this practice, but, since we imagined ourselves to be the next Ed Abbeys, saving the planet one golf pencil at a time, we ignored the warnings from above.

Until the day when I dragged my students into re-supply way the fuck out in the wilds where a dirt track crossed a remote trail and lo and behold, there was my supervisor’s supervisor’s supervisor, come all the way down from Denver to have a face to face with me.

Apparently, one of my students who was rather perceptive (and impressionable) and fully aware of the trash issue, had taken a register when I wasn’t there, stashed it in his backpack, and brought it home to Connecticut with him where his mommy unpacked his bag, found it, and immediately called our offices to let them know that her child, who had come to Outward Bound because he got in trouble with the law for…stealing…had stolen something with the support of his Instructor.

Me.

Fuck.

Wrist slapped. Warnings issued. Promises made. And the lesson I learned…

Be more stealthy when stealing.

I have lost some of my edge in my old age. I no longer take such a hard stance, although, I do still believe that humans should not be leaving anything manmade in the Wilderness. Especially not affixed to a mountain top.

I understand that some, (most), like the camaraderie that reading other people’s scribblings at the end of a hard climb brings. So I am slightly less militant. I certainly won’t sign one, but I will consider leaving one in place, especially if the people I am with are enjoying it.

Depending on where and how offensive it is.

So, I went out to Utah the other day and climbed to the very top of a ridge which is not a peak – it’s more like an 80-mile undulating wall of China. I am sure there is a “highest point” but it could be anywhere in that 80 miles and the reality is that the monocline is only at most, 900 feet tall; it’s not some massive peak begging to be conquered.

As I got to the tippy top, the place where the sloping incline of rock abruptly stops and there is a 900-foot uninterrupted drop down to the wash below, I saw a cairn (a pile of rocks marking a trail…don’t even get me started on those in the wilderness) marking what seemed to me, to be the perfect place from which to cast oneself into the abyss with no hope of surviving.

I know, as I approached the pile of rocks that I don’t want to take one step past it, but would everyone realize that before they did take that step, that one step too close to the edge?

Dumb, I thought as I made my way towards the offending and potentially dangerous pile of sandstone. And then, I saw it. A glass jar with paper and a golf pencil.

Summit Register.

Not even on a summit.

Granted, it’s a steep climb to get there, but my stubby-legged dog made it, and it was no great accomplishment. Not a big enough one to warrant a symbol of great achievement.

In glass no less. Everywhere you look is solid rock – slick rock – perfect for dropping a glass jar.

Inside, of course, is the inevitable notepad and pencil. One person has written on the register and it says:

Dude, (and Dudette) if you’re calling it an ego tube, and you not only signed it but actually put it there, what’s that saying about you?

And who the fuck carries a glass jar of tomato paste in their backpack? Obviously, this was planned in advance – the jar was clean, pencil sharp, and paper stapled.

The old me was outraged. The newer me was also outraged. Nonononononononononono. Not here. Not okay. Not ever.

So the old me picked up the jar and stashed in my pack. I scattered the rocks used to build the cairn, the new, more careful me resisting the urge to trundle them over the edge since there was a truck below me and trucks usually mean people and I didn’t want to kill anyone.

I fumed. I was disheartened to find that here. Here in my place. Here in the fragile desert. Here where it didn’t belong.

Trash.

When I got back to my truck, I decided that the only thing to do with the offending item was to take it to the visitor’s center. My hope is that they will put it on display with a sign that says, “DON’T be an asshole!”

To the conquerors of the peak, congratulations, you hiked less than a mile and climbed, at most, 900 feet, never losing sight of your truck.

To my old rebellious friends…

I stole another summit register!!