Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Sink Like a Stone

So we used to drive this:

But then...
Car: ping, ping, ping.
Sam: What's that noise?
Kris: Noise? Bah, this old thing's gonna run forever.
Sam: No. What's THAT noise?

So now, we drive this:

Don't let the scale of these photos fool you; the new car's just a Geo Metro on steroids. Gone are the days of leisurely cruises and extra-thick cushioning. Gone are the days of blaming all driving mistakes on our presumed old age. Gone, like so many withered leaves. Gone.

R.I.P., Car With the Couch in Back, 2002-2010.
R.I.P., Our Bank Account.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Thoreauing the Days Away

A few years ago, while writing my Master's thesis, I happened upon a book published in 1950, titled "Great American Nature Writing". I seem to remember purchasing it at a used bookstore (which I frequent) or perhaps a library book sale; however, at present I can find no tell-tale price in pencil on the front matter. (I fear I may have stolen it, though from whom I don't know...sorry, if it was you...)

When I first read the book, back in '06, I read to contextualize my own memoirs as nature writing. (I'm full of asides today--In case you didn't know it, you are now free to say that you know someone with published memoirs. Written at the age of 24. And gathering dust in some ignominious stack of irrelevent what-nots. The memoirs, not myself. Gathering dust, that is.) Anyway, I guess inspired by our trip last week, or in one last desperate attempt to elevate my thinking before ruthlessly punching it back down to the size of werewolves and dragons and seventh graders, I've been rereading portions of that nature writing anthology this week. Thoreau, mostly. I don't think I realized in previous readings just how funny that guy was (his passage about playing games with the loon on Walden...it might not be stand up, but I was cracking up for sure!). And, of course, he's a quotable sucker. Here are some of the passages that caught me this time around:

*"How to make the getting our living poetic! for if it is not poetic, it is not life but death that we get." This last year has been a hard one for me. Don't get me wrong, I can easily list (in ten seconds or less) ten trials that would be worse than what I've struggled with and ten blessings I enjoy that other people would die to have. Still. I didn't realize it for a long time, but the process of coming to grips with our infertility took a lot of poetry out of me. It's like that one failure to create (that one failure, every month) sapped my will and desire to make anything. Maybe even my faith that I could create or that it would matter anyway. I'm embarrased to admit it, but in Jewel's words, my "standard of living somehow got stuck on survive." Even appreciating beauty eluded me. I finally figured that out a couple months ago and I've rejoined the process of creating by learning to make artsy, crafty things. I'm even cooking nice meals again (sorry for the negelct Kris!). Maybe sometime soon I'll even be able to write something worth reading. I've missed that. So this idea of Thoreau's really struck me coming from all of that context. It's my goal this school year, in all the getting of my living, to make it poetic.

*"As if individual spectators were to be allowed to export the clouds out of the sky, or the stars out of the firmament, one by one. We shall be reduced to gnaw the very crust of the earth for nutriment." I love this quote because it has some keen warnings for today, though offered 160 years ago. It's also such a lovely simile. And at least a little of me likes it because I can admit in it that Thoreau tended to be a little self-consiously melodramatic sometimes (Sorry Thoreau lovers, I can find fault in the man's work, even while appreciating him!).

*"When I think what were the various sounds and notes, the migrations and works, and changes of fur and plumage which ushered in the spring and marked the other seasons of the year, I am reminded that this my life in nature, this particular round of natural phenomena which I call a year, is lamentably incomplete. I listen to a concert in which so many parts are wanting. The whole civilized country is to some extent turned into a city, and I am that citizen whom I pity."

*"Cold and damp--are they not as rich experiences as warm and dryness?" Thoreau made this observation just after celebrating the "evening chant of the mosquito from a thousand green chapels." So while I agree with the sentiment in part, I am not about to hunker down in a swamp until the bugs devour me or glamourize the mosquito's whine. (Sorry, Henry. And sorry for using your Christian name; after all, we don't even know each other!)

*"Today it snows again, covering the ground. To get the value of the storm, we must be out a long time and travel far in it, so that it may fairly penetrate our skin, and we be, as it were, turned inside-out to it, and there be no part in us but is wet or weather-beaten--so that we become storm men instead of fair-weather men." This one sounds to me a lot like a fair metaphoric sermon on life. Amen!

This morning, I harvested in our garden.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Flat Tops Wilderness: 'Shroom Lust 2010

When Kris started his job in June of 2009, he had zero time off. So this summer, with his newly acrued days of freedom, we planned to do something big. Something epic...but what? And that's when my dad offered to take us on a week-long pack trip in Colorado's Flat Tops Wilderness.

I was stoked! Right after high school I spent three summers working for the Forest Service up in the Flat Tops and I really wanted to go back. So how cool is my husband? He takes his first vacation in a year to get down and dirty in the woods with me. Yep, pretty sure he is AMAZING! So here Kris is, adventure hat and all, riding like John Wayne. Check out the rock pile behind him...we rode through it right before this picture.

And this is my rad dad. My parent's lived in a tent beneath Shingle Peak (pictured in the background) the summer they were pregnant with my brother. The story goes that Dad wove a cot out of willow branches for Mom to sleep on more comfortably... but she prefered a belly-shaped hole dug in the ground.

This is a closer view of Shingle Peak and the still water stream where we were catching fish like crazy. Our sheep used to feed in that meadow.

And here I am, roasting over the open fire a fish Kris caught. It's the only way to eat fish, I tell you!

Dad and I with Island Lake behind us. You can't tell from the photo, but we are standing at the edge of a pretty sheer cliff.

Kris and I with my old horse, Hoppy. I got him for Christmas the year I turned six; best $200 my parents ever spent!

And now we come to the title of this post...Bolete mushrooms. I love them! If you've never had the opportunity to pick and saute one, you haven't fully lived. I grew up hunting for these mushrooms and a common snack in the summers of my youth was a tasty Bolete bud fried up in butter, salt, and pepper. Some of you may be thinking that this revelation explains a lot about my quirky self, but these mushrooms are quite safe and unmistakable. Here I am with a rather large specimen. I love how the alpenglow lighting showcases our mutual beauty. :)

This was Kris' first time picking mushrooms, and Dad was as hungry for them as I was...so we may or may not have picked enough to eat Boletes with every meal. And then some. The 'shroom lust was upon us! From the big one we made mushroom "steaks."

My dad is a real gourmet camp cook. From this little wood stove and oven combo we had steak, pancakes, roasted cornish game hens and other delicious treats. When I was a kid, my mom used to bake gingerbread in the oven.

Our trusty pack string.

It gets pretty dirty out in the woods. Kid the horse demonstrates proper bathing technique...if you're a horse.

Dad with fish from the South Fork of the White River.

Home, sweet home!

It was a spectacular trip. I could go on and on and, believe it or not, post even more pictures. We rode through grass shoulder-high to a horse in Park Creek, covered some 60 miles, and mostly didn't see a soul. We laughed as our little pound puppy became a fish-eating, river-swimming wilderness dog, and we marveled at the stars, so bright and crowded. It was just the reminder I've needed about the simplicity that really makes life beautiful.