Saturday, March 30, 2013

A Man Of My Country

 When my husband thinks he has heard me say something a tad on the elitist side, he calls me a"townie". This used to hurt my feelings because I generally consider myself to be a live and let live sort of person. I confess however that I do have tendencies of elitism when it comes to Wyoming. I think most Wyoming folks do.
 I think there is a common perception that because the folks in this state largely use their hands and muscles to make a living, we are an uneducated group of people. While there is a large part of our population who don't have college degrees, it would be a mistake to assume our folks are uneducated. Because we have long winters the great majority of us read. We read a lot! I think if the personal libraries of Wyoming folks were gathered into one collection, it would be a very impressive collection indeed. While we are proud of those in our state who have secondary degrees, neither are we overly impressed. Largely we assess a person by how they treat their fellow man, their animals and the land. It's not that we don't have the capacity to be honest about our shortcomings. We are well aware of our native quirks but we do have feelings about those who come to our state for the mineral trade and complain bitterly about the climate while they rape our land and make a very comfortable living.  They complain too that there is nothing to do, so they shoot the wildlife for fun, and take their mud bogging trucks into the fragile desert and destroy in thirty minutes what it took mother nature a hundred years to create and will take another hundred to repair! I think they are lucky to be here and that they should try to live the old adage "when in Rome".
 Of course this is a generalization.  It is not to all of those who come to this great state that we take amiss. Once in a while one encounters a newcomer who if you didn't know better you would think is one of our own.  I happen to know just such a person. I always feel rather grateful when I meet someone like this. At last a newbie who refrains from disparaging remarks about the land I love.  He is a son of the south, but it seems to me when he came to our state, he came ready to embrace it. No arrogance or condescension there, he looks at our little town with eyes of wonder.  Wyoming is a grand adventure to him and the pictures he posts from time to time are scenes that I have seen my whole life and while I do love our vistas, one can get tunnel vision when living in a place this long.  It is refreshing to see these scenes through the eyes of someone who approaches them in the spirit of  a pioneer who is settling a new country. He observes Wyoming eccentricities without judgement and is delightfully amused or incredulous depending on the circumstances. Always a gentleman, soft spoken, never stooping to meet us. He is a quiet scholar and so unpossessed is he that some would never guess I think; that he is one who is capable of true nobility and greatness of thought.
 This is not an easy place to adjust to. The climate is difficult and harsh, the economy is feast or famine and the people are not always kind. True Wyoming natives are usually welcoming and helpful, but they are staring to fade into the background as more and more we are becoming a community of newcomers, folks that would rather be anyplace then here but stay because they can make a living. If I could have my wishes come true, I would wish that all sojourners to this state would take a lesson from my friend.
  If It was a different age I would have him knighted as comrade and protector of the realm. If he were younger I would adopt him! But I think because I have lived here my whole life and I am the fifth generation of my family who has, I will just make him an honorary Wyoming native. He would be embarrassed to be singled out and he doesn't stand on ceremony, but if I can ever get him to let me buy him dinner I will lift a glass to him and say "Welcome from the bottom of my heart!"

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Hope in a Package

 This time of year, I find myself  focused on thoughts of Spring. I'm tired of bitter wind and brown snow. The brownness just adds insult to injury. It would be one thing if the snow were fluffy and white and picturesque, but alas this time of year it is scattered, windblown and brown with dirt.
 The other day my sister-in-law and I went for coffee and the wind was blowing so hard the light poles in the parking lot were swaying.  I didn't even check the temperatures. I know by now that if one actually knows how cold it is; it's just that much harder to bear.  As we were standing in line for our coffees a gentleman said to us a tad sarcastically ,"When does it start to get cold around here?" My sister-in-law rose to the challenge and said, "Have you been through Salt Lake? the air is so bad it is dangerous to go out." "It's true we have wind, but the air is clean." I think that is just a lovely spin to put on such a cold situation!
 The old idiom " March comes in like a lion and goes out like a lamb." doesn't apply to us. The lion comes in February and roars until the end of April. Now is the time for the gritting of teeth and the mustering of courage. "Hunkering down" we call it. The thing is, if you stay in you can trick yourself into believing it just isn't that bad out there, that is if you ignore the leaning trees. Open the curtains the sun shines in and it looks really nice. I always get the urge to take a walk when it is so sunny. But step outside momentarily, and one becomes instantly disabused of that notion! One must be able to breath when they walk, and if they breath that air for to long their lungs will freeze.
 I try to read, or knit, or take on home improvement projects but there are days I find myself wandering aimlessly; a bit like a tiger in a cage. So I think of Spring. The raking of the yard,the planting of gardens and flowers. My herb box overflowing with flavor for the picking.
 There is a trend here, because of water issues to put rocks and cactus in yards; xeriscaping they call it. I live in the high plains desert; which is pretty much defined by rocks and cactus. We are allowed summer about three months out of the year. I shall have grass and a garden and flowers! If one waters wisely this is possible.  It takes most of June to get it all put together and then July is beautiful and lush. August comes and the battle against the heat begins. Early mornings, just as the sun comes up is the time for watering and tending the plants. The birds come in to the fountain for water and there is the frenetic activity of the building of nests and the feeding of young. We soak it up as much as we can. We stay in during the hottest part of the day and as soon as possible the doors and windows open and we are on the back porch in rocking chairs breathing the night air. Even the dogs rejoice!
 When Stan tills the garden before planting, the dogs are out burying their noses in the earth and inhaling the scent of leaves and earthworms. I never can figure out how they do that without snuffing dirt up their noses.When they come up they always have a little mound  between their eyes. They run laps around the yard and yap deliriously because we are out with them. Finally they collapse at our feet panting with happiness. Life is good! These are the thoughts that help me get through winter.
 Last week we popped into the dollar store to pick up some drinking glasses. (Ours get broken so often we have started to shout Mazel tov! when we break them.) While browsing, I found packets of wild flower seeds. My spirits picked up immediately. Little wild flower seeds for one dollar! Such a reasonable price for hope in a package.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Confessions of a Cell Phone Junkie

  Telecommunications have come along way from the days of party lines and dial phones, we jumped on the bandwagon as soon as cell phones became small enough to fit in a pocket. Since that time I have become inextricably connected to my cell phone. I am sure this reveals something neurotic about my personality but since I am intimately connected to my own neurosis I give it very little thought. There are much bigger fish to fry in that department let me tell you!
 As cell phones have become more sophisticated, more and more people carry them, which equates to a lot of people talking on their phone a lot of the time. Thus the advent of cell phone etiquette.
Out of curiosity, I googled cell phone etiquette. There were 10,600 results to my inquiry. This confirms my theory that cell phone rules are ambiguous and relative to who you are.  For example; when you go to a Doctor's office you will find in every room a poster requesting that you turn off your cell phone. When cell phones were new I thought they were a little bit magical; so I assumed that Doctors wanted me to turn off my cell phone because there may be pacemakers in the room and if my phone rang the pacemaker would be disrupted and I would have someone's death on my conscious. Of course now I realize that its because Doctors are important and busy people and they don't want your phone to interrupt the consultation. This does not seem unreasonable to me but, and this is where relativity comes in, if the Doctor's phone rings they do not mind the interruption.  This actually happened to me once. I was in the emergency room with my mother when the Doctor's cell phone rang and he left in the middle of a consultation to have a phone conversation in the hall. It wasn't an important case as one might assume. In thirty seconds I understood that it was VERY personal. Conclusion; your place on the importance scale definitely has something to do with when and where you may answer your cell phone.
 These are murky waters and I have been trying to figure them out for a long time. If one just tries to learn by observation, good luck! But fortunately  I have adult children to help me navigate through the obstacles, plus there are some rules and lessons I have personally adopted to fit my situation. This is what I have learned.
1. If you should leave you phone home by mistake try not to panic and whatever you do, don't let on to anybody that its driving you crazy and that you have broken out in a cold sweat that will last till you are reunited with your cell phone.
2. NEVER assume that you may text when you are with your adult children just because they are.
3. It is rude to answer your cell phone in public. Everyone does it just be aware that it is rude.
4. It is not reasonable to assume that just because your children haven't immediately answered your texts that they have been kidnapped and their hands are tied.
  Of course my education is an ongoing thing. A couple of weeks ago I answered a text when we were in the movie theater. I don't get what all the flap is about. That little tiny light on the phone can't possibly compete with the big screen. Never the less, the scolding I received from my husband was painful enough that I'm not likely to make that mistake again soon. Also, I have learned that I must turn my phone off when I go to church; because if I get a text while I'm there, God goes out the window. Once I did reply to a text from my daughter when I was in church. It wasn't during an important part just for the record, but she somehow found out and the look of horror made a deep and lasting  impression. "Mother I can't believe you texted me from church!" "Well I replied God knows me and I'm sure he understands." I have since decided that she is correct and so I turn the phone off because if I am alerted about a text, no matter where I am, I feel compelled to answer it.
 Many women I know carry their phones in their bras.  Call me sentimental but I propose that it is as close as they can get to their children when they are away and so they wear their phones over their hearts. I remember when people started wearing their cell phones on their ears. I indignantly stated that the day I started wearing a phone on my ear was the day hell would freeze over. But I'm starting to think that it is preferable to have a phone on your  ear rather then sticking your hand down the front of your shirt every time it rings. That is until they find a way to have them surgically implanted.
  Some years ago when I still worked for the library system, I worked in youth services with a delightful woman who indeed kept her phone in her bra. She was masterful at discretely answering it and most of the time no one noticed it because she kept it on vibrate. She worked with a teen group and one night when they were all in the teen room, her phone went off in a quiet moment. The curious looks of the young people indicated that they had heard it but could not tell where it was coming from. Finally they all realized that it was coming from my friend. "Pacemaker" she said without skipping a beat and moved on with the meeting.
 I'm not sure, but I think this attachment to cell phones might be something just my generation suffers from. Certainly my own children do not have cell phone attachment issues. It could be days before they answer calls or texts. Not because they don't care, but because the phone is not part of their consciousness at all times like it is for me. When our youngest was in college I would call him and there would be no answer. In my defense I didn't start to panic immediately but after some hours of not hearing I would start to get nervous. By the time he would call back, he had died a thousand violent deaths and I was starting to make funeral arrangements. "Sorry mom, my battery was dead." I never said it out loud, but on the inside I was screaming" your battery has been dead for three days? Really?" Who knows the real answer. He would not be the first kid to ignore his mother's calls, but I think he just wasn't that connected to his phone.
 I think my family has probably entertained thoughts of an intervention. My husband's dream vacation always includes me leaving my cell phone behind, I'm pretty sure if I actually did that, I wouldn't be the only one making adjustments. How would he find me when we got separated?

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Horses in Winter

  Every winter my husband says,"If you are going to live in this country you have to embrace the winter!" This seems like sound advice considering we have winter close to nine months out of the year. But last week when he shared this bit of wisdom I said,"Go ahead I'll wait here". Last week we had several days of sub-zero temperatures. The thermometer on my back porch read -28 degrees. Add the windchill factor and it was just a tad nippy!
  One must strike a balance in Wyoming winter. If you don't go out enough, along about February a general malaise sets in and by the end of February you find yourself in a black hole that takes most of March and April to crawl out of. It's a combination of cabin fever and sun deprivation. So when my husband suggested we go up the mountain, I checked the thermometer and found that it had warmed  to a balmy 20 degrees . After securing the necessary promises that there would be no death defying deeds of derring- do (I have reasons and they are epic!), I agreed.
 White Mountain is really a plateau. It is so named I am assuming because it is lovely and white in the winter. It stretches out on the west side of the valley we live in and heads North. It was a beautifully sunny day and the light on the snow left millions of diamond sparkles that dazzled the landscape as far as the eye could see. Others had been there before us and so a trail had been broken through some of the drifts on the road. There is one particular spot where the county has erected one of many plaques that relate bits of interesting information about the landscapes that can be seen from different vantage points. It is my favorite spot because it tells me that the landscape I am looking at is bigger then the state of Massachusetts.  I have lived in Wyoming my whole life and I never take the landscape for granted. It is some of the last earth in North America that isn't covered in asphalt or concrete.
 We stopped and looked out for awhile, sipped the tea in our travel mugs and then moved on. As we came round a curve, there before us was a herd of wild horses.  It is not as though horses wild or otherwise are a unique sight in this country, but there is just something so satisfactory about seeing them in unfenced territory doing what horses do naturally.  They were relaxed and at ease and some of them lay in the road warming in the sun.  Magnificent in their woolly winter coats, they were unconcerned about us. My husband eased forward and they moved aside but didn't run They were all around us now and I looked for signs of hunger or distress and they all appeared to be in the best of health. 
 I love horses though I do not ride. An unfortunate incident when I was about six years old cured me forever. I was bucked off and never got back in the saddle.  My father was a horseman. His family were in the sheep business but they owned about two hundred head of horses in the days it was in full operation. In the last years of his life, I came into possession of dozens of pictures of "the ranch" and it's happenings. I took them to my Father to see if he could help me identify some of the people. He didn't know any of the people at all but he knew the names of the horses. Not just the names but the pedigrees, who they belonged to, and from whom they had been purchased. He loved to ride and in his youth he would ride on this very plateau on which we were currently perched.  Once I asked him,"do you miss the country Dad?" "I miss the horses" he said. So when I see horses, I always think of him and it is bitter-sweet for I miss him. 
 We watched these horses for several minutes and they became nervous that we were lingering, so they started to move along. They crossed the road in front of us and began to walk out across the desert. It was then I noticed a colt tossing his mane in the wind. In spite of the lump in my throat I laughed out loud at the antics and pure unadulterated joy of this youngster! There is something so winsome about a young horse. They can be quite narcissistic creatures. They are in love with their power and agility.  Though the wind was blowing hard enough to move the snow along the ground, he was not affected. No walking with head down and shoulders hunched, "it might as well be summer" I thought. We watched as he tossed his head and bounced about challenging us. At last he reared on his hind legs, turned, and with another toss of his head cantered off. "He's embracing winter" I said. But now when I think about it, what he was really embracing was life.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Me and Tulips

  Although there is a part of me that would love to run with abandon, I much prefer a stroll. I miss a country road. When one strolls down a country road, they are aware. Aware of the crunching of gravel underfoot, the sweet grasses blowing to and fro, the gurgling of the water in the canal, the trilling of the red wing blackbird on the post.
  I confess that I walk for exercise and so much of what I wish I noticed remains unnoticed. This pretty much defines me. I am destination oriented. I don't know if one who has been focused on arriving for 53 years can change, but I want to give it a try. I've always wanted to give it a try. In my heart, I am a person who dreams of mindful living. But I have been forced by conditions to seek the target like a tulip in a green house is forced to bloom out of season. And the thing is, I have been forced to bloom prematurely so many times, I'm starting to fade. I wish someone would plunk me in the good rich earth so I could soak up the nutrients of becoming. If only I could bloom naturally from here on, I would go to the earth that last time a content woman.
  I realize of course this is something I must do for myself. I intend to all of the time. But once I set foot to floor I am off like and arrow for the bulls eye! Alas my copy of Mindfulness for Dummies remains unread. It called to me from my bookshelf the other day so I pulled it out and set it in my chair so I would remember to read it. I don't know how, I have no conscious remembrance of moving it, but it now resides on the floor next to my chair, a companion to a pile of other books I want to remember to read.
  On Mother's day last year, my daughter came and picked me up, stopped and got a coffee and then drove me around and told me about her growing up. It was an awesome present because I had forgotten so much of it.  Now I have grandchildren and it's happening again. When I cleaned our freezer a while back, I found a teething ring that belonged to our granddaughter. She will be turning 10 this month.
(for the record it hasn't been ten years since I cleaned our freezer, the teething ring was hiding in the door shelf where I can't see because I am short.)
  I want the surprises I am missing because I am not paying attention. It's like the birds. Some years ago my husband and I started paying attention to the birds. Since then we have seen amazing and even rare color and observed very different types of bird behavior. Before we started paying attention, I just sort of thought all birds were brown.
  So, here goes. I am going to start to pay attention and see what happens. I fully expect a grand adventure! Undiscovered territory! I am going to stop and smell the tulips.