Friday, February 23, 2007

Hard Candy

Funny how bones and muscles have memory, how the things we do become imbedded in our skin. Funny how my fingers fumble over the piano keys and pluck melodies out of thin air, long after my eyes can't recall the notes on the page. In many cases I never saw the music, I suppose. My ears drive that bus. Many songs I can't even name.

Physical impressions haunt our limbs and digits. I thought that, after eight years, I would have forgotten how to ski. But once my shins and calves were corseted in those rigid boots, they remembered. Once my hands were looped through the straps and gripping the handles of the poles, they remembered. I felt the jerk of the lift chair swinging loose before the attendant (a stout, smiling Sherpa in a red wool sweater) even let go, and the bump as the clamp on the metal cord passed over the pulleys on each tower was no more a surprise than the crushing silence that descended as the lift neared the top of the peak. Some things never change.

I found it easier to ski than I ever have before. I didn't devote much time to wondering why, whether advanced fitness or maturity played a part; soon I was flying and the 'how' was forgotten. On the way up the lift I closed my eyes and listened to the rhythmic whisper of skiers on the slope below, and when my turn finally came, all I had to do was imitate that sound. Every bone, muscle, nerve and tendon seemed in tune, and the fear and doubt I expected never bubbled up. In a way it was less exhilarating than I remember without that fear to trigger endorphins, but it was something new and glorious. It was magical, peaceful.

I took about a dozen runs, my favorite being the outside arm, the long and twisty Bonneville — marked with a blue square — that ended on the road Mom and I hiked up two autumns ago, before the snow and skiers. We were looking for another road, the entrance long since bulldozed, that led to the sawmill where she spent a few summers with her family. We found it and hiked quite a ways up the hill, picking up memories and agates.

On the way down the mountain I saw my grandmother Rose in her white Lincoln heading up, most likely on her way to dinner at the lodge. I turned around and followed her up (intending to thank her again for the ski passes she gave me for Christmas) but took a spin on the snowpacked road and wound up facing down the mountain again, so that's the way I went. I decided I'd call her instead.

I have one more pass, and just a short time to use it; the scarce snow in western Wyoming won't stay long this year. I'll gladly sacrifice another weekend of catching up on precious sleep to find that feeling again, but I'm not afraid I'll lose it anymore. There are many ways of remembering, but my favorite is the kind that takes no effort, the kind your body does for you, soaking up life like a sponge. There is matchless joy in having it wrung out again years later and finding it still fresh and fine.

There's one more thing my body remembered, and with no way to prevent it and even a little bit of eagerness for it, because it means that I am still blessed with the ability to do something I have always loved, I just thought of it as the reasonable price I would pay for that afternoon of amazing enjoyment: my thighs ached for three whole days.

Monday, February 19, 2007

Atmospheric Perspective

Lyman, Wyoming

Parking lot and lifts at Pine Creek, Pinedale, Wyoming

Fremont and Dollar Lakes

Half Moon and the Jonah Field


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Strange Valentine

Monday, February 12, 2007

Swimming with the Fishes

Eric will be the big One this Wednesday. Wow. Where did that year go? Also, witness that the Olympus came through her first underwater experience with flying colors. Or splashing colors, as the case may be.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


The List looked too long and far too mundane tonight, so I took a walk. It was snowing, sort of, more of a mist with occasional thick wet flakes that melted instantly wherever they landed. It felt and looked like a loose, halting rain, and town looked sort of glossy and nice. I started out in what I think of as Old Town, went past the library and stone churches and the old junior high and the neat rows of houses on the hill, but I wound up walking up Main past Kate's and crossing Front to take the underpass under the railroad tracks, then turned left down County Road, where I suppose I intended to go all along.

I had to go talk to the small, tidy gray house at 237 County Road and explain why Monday morning I have to call Gail and tell her I'm not going to make an offer to buy it, even though it has a two-car garage and a lovely garden and new siding and new electrical throughout and it would look fantastic with a red door. A woman, twenty-seven, feeling maybe ten, walking the night worrying about a tiny old house with cracked plaster walls dealing with rejection issues. And yet I walked away feeling certain and serene, if a little wistful. I'm sure we would have been very happy together.

And yes, Bekah, she stenciled the toilet seats. They're quite lovely. (Snicker.)

At China Mary Road I stopped on the bridge over the black Bear River, broken halfway open by the recent thaw, and imagined the old Chinese woman the street is named for hauling buckets up the hill to the laundry behind the Joss House. It must have been a bustling place, the dirt crossroads filled with wagons and people and dogs.

Back on Front Street I smelled Chinese food and cigarette smoke and heard Saturday night traffic and saw neon and if I closed my eyes I felt transported, somewhere urban and unwound, somewhere vivacious and unpredictable. And I guess that's part of why someone else will be calling 237 County Road home. In my columns the pros
(washer and dryer! bathtub! linen closet!) far outnumbered the cons, but one con weighed heavier than all the pros. And then there was my doubt. I don't want to feel at all reluctant when I hold my hand out for a key.

I walked past the new monument at the Fire Hall and noticed a plaque dedicated to Darrell Staley, Bud's best friend, who was electrocuted on the 4th of July in 1988 while rescuing a cat. The plaque had
a little brass oval door as did the other two on the wall and I opened it to find Darrell grinning back, decked out in full firefighting gear, surrounded by smoke, covered in ashes.

I could see the three lights on the front of the new plant up on the hill, a place of purgatory and salvation both at once. I also saw a pair of shoes
I want in the window at Sawaya's. I have to stop walking by there.

I walked back up the hill into my neighborhood, went a few blocks over to check the progress on the remodel of a big old house I particularly admire but would never want to have to clean. And then I went past Van Syoc's and Harvey's and up the next block to Jo's, and as soon as I saw the glow of the little house she and Don have poured their hearts into for over a decade, I was sure. If I'm going to buy a house in this town, it's going to be that one. And I wonder why people are so driven to own a pile of sticks and shingles or bricks and tin perched on a hollow block of concrete. Nothing really belongs to us.

Two more blocks and I could see this house, this peach, pointed behemoth divided up inside like an ice cube tray. There was a light on in every window, and it looked so inviting that I had to stop and enjoy it. And inside it's warm and welcoming and familiar, and I feel safe and sort of cradled in my basement and no longer so alone. And I guess I'll sleep better than I have in a week since I've finally made a decision.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Attack of the Acronyms

One of you works in wastewater, another labored for BP, a third was cruelly misapplied by Disney and another gathers years in university offices; one of you toils in social services and yet another claws her way through the Manhattan marketing world, and two more served in separate branches of the military for vastly different lengths of time. There was that cab company you owned, Mom, and LBT will forever hold a dual meaning for us, even if neither LBT is still in the family, so to speak. The point is that today, pretty much everybody can sympathize with me.

After a pleasant pre-dawn journey with Bruce in the City Expedition, we sat at a linen-draped table in the datedly grandiose ball room of the Rock Springs Holiday Inn. And there we found ourselves faced with a slideshow saturated with the most baffling assortment of acronyms I have ever seen. We were continuously bombarded. From the deceptively simple VA (Vulnerability Assessment) to the unpleasantly evocative WEURM (irrelevant, but oddly appropriate if you knew which City employee it represents), the acronyms were flying like fastballs from a pitching machine. ERP! SCADA! NIMS! DEP! ICS! WARWS! AWWA! SEMS! CDC! LEPC! LRN! WARN! I wanted to crawl under the table and curl up in the fetal position. It was worse than those months with the Census Bureau. (WHUHEE!)

They kept coming all afternoon, down to the final TEF (Training Evaluation Form), at which time I noticed that even the instructor's name was followed by an illustrious PE (Professional Engineer). During this barrage of simplification-turned-aggravation, a girl brought in a tub of icy colas (POP) and a tray of freshly baked cookies so hot the sugar burned my tongue. And even though it hurt, there was something sweet about that.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Monday, February 05, 2007

Yellow Submarine

Mom snowmobiling in a creek.
(See her on land here.)

Friday, February 02, 2007

Something Up My Sleeve

I went looking for my black spandex pants tonight. They're the ones I wore under my marching band uniform in high school. I still have them because I also like to wear them as a base layer when I ski, under my North Face snowpants, and since I'm going skiing soon, I wanted them. So I went looking. I know they'll still fit because they're, you know, spandex.

So I'm tunneling through a plastic storage bin of summer clothes, thinking perhaps they'll be at the bottom, when I see a glob of black. I grab it, but it's not slick and stretchy like spandex. It's rather rough and itchy, like polyester. I pull.

Out comes a pair of perma-creased black polyester slacks, very slightly tapered, high waist, flat front, a few tiny snags on the hips and one thigh. Where did these come from? Why are they still here? Should I bother to keep them? Do they even fit? So I pull them on, and as I zip them up and fasten the plain, flat black button, I remember. I recognize the way they fit and feel- a little different now, looser on the waist and tighter on the thighs, but still- and where I wore them last.

I wore them to my college graduation with a slinky striped knit shirt, under my black cap and gown at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles. I wore them to dinner with my best friend the last time he and I had sushi together in San Diego, and I wore them to see Miss Saigon with Shnookie and Toni at the Civic Center on a Saturday night with a sparkly mauve v-neck top. And I wore them all over Europe in the late summer heat- Paris, Venice, Lugano, Innsbruck, Amsterdam, London, more- playing concerts (yay, Red Band!) in parks when I was fifteen years old. And do you know what?

They're too big.

Thank you, rowing machine.