Wednesday, March 04, 2009

In Like a Lamb

After work today I went to pick Big Cat up from the vet where I'd taken him to have his teeth cleaned. His breath had gotten so bad that I could tell when he yawned from across a room, and it was only confirmed as he howled in my lap all the way to the vet and the rather rotten smell of his pink, puffy gums and plaque-covered teeth filled the car.

I hate to say it, but I rather adore him doped. He's unusually affectionate for a cat under normal circumstances, and he does cuddle, but I rarely pick him up or carry him, because he squirms, and he's big and strong. When I pick him up after he's been under, though, he's bleary and limp, and I drove home tonight with him wrapped in a blanket in my arms, trembling and moaning. I deposited him in a heap in front of the heater by the bedroom window where he spends a lot of afternoons, but he was up immediately, stumbling after me as I went from room to room, his back legs in a knot. I'm trying to get Kitty to stop inspecting him.

Except for a few bleak, blustery days, this young year has been unfathomably beautiful. We've had 40+ degree days for what seems like weeks, and I haven't minded even the 30 degree days. They've been threatening snow for what seems like weeks, but January and February were for the most part dry in our corner of Wyoming.

There has been enough snow up north to provide for a great weekend of snowmobiling (almost two weeks ago now), and we got a Saturday so lovely we couldn't have ordered it any more perfect. It's easier to see when the sun is shining; the snow has more definition and shadows show where treacherous rocks and logs and ravines are hiding. We kept to a packed trail, for the most part, through the Green River Valley and up into the Windriver Mountains, to a lodge near Dubois called The Line Shack, where we had a lovely lunch.

Cordale, who had been piggybacking (since we were short a machine and The Place was out of rentals), got on the little 600 Polaris (my favorite, a steadfast and very rideable purple machine) and proved that boys and fast objects go perfectly together. He was so wild to drive himself that I piggybacked with Mom most of Sunday on her brand new Arctic Cat Crossfire (the same machines The Place rents, so Morgan had one, too, and at one point she sank it beautifully in three feet of powder trying to turn around uphill) and found that being a passenger is its own kind of heaven, because the scenery in that part of the country is unparalleled and sleds are the only way to see it in the winter. The long distance vistas take your breath away, all that snow-covered granite, and there's something heartbreaking about a blonde cloud of winter aspens with their black bones showing through.

Snowmobiling -- at least the modern way -- is a very solitary experience, even in a pack. I think it's the helmet. Your thoughts are your own in your sound-dampened world, your own breath and the snarl of the machines blocking out anything anyone might shout to you, and even riding double doesn't really make you feel connected even though you're clinging to someone else for dear life. I felt like a little girl again, reassuring my mother that I could hang on no matter what (I was wrong), wrapping my arms around her down-padded torso and trying to feel which way to lean, peering around her to anticipate when she would dive off into the powder to pack snow into the track to cool the motor. After a while I got complacent -- she's such a good driver and the nice new machine rode so easy -- and I wasn't hanging on very tightly when she avoided a large rock and hit a small one, and when the machine bucked I was bounced into the air before I knew what hit me. I landed on the packed trail but was completely unharmed, protected by the helmet and four layers of clothing. I got right up and ran after her.

Also due to the noise and the helmets, there's an unspoken language on the track, a series of gestures, mostly thumbs-up and expansive waves, and a great deal of head-bobbing. You know the riders in your pack by the clothing they wear and the machines they're on. Mom's coat (like mine) has a wave of black-and-white checkers on it, and Henry wears red to match his red machine (which was handy, since we were always squinting at him from far, far away). There were a lot of riders congregating on the trail due to a poker run that day but not a lot actually moving on the trail.

Nights in the Green River Valley are pitch black despite the expanse of summer homes; the night we arrived was so cold and clear that the stars were visible like you never see them if you live in a community of any kind. The Milky Way shimmered and constellations twinkled bright crystal white in a black velvet sky, and even at 9 degrees we had to stand outside and admire them for a time after we unloaded plastic totes of gear into our rustic cabin. The wall that separated our two spaces was so thin that we spent the weekend hollering at each other from the other room and M and I got harrassed for whispering and giggling late into the night.

Except for weekend adventures like that, the days are flying by and I'm feeling battered, exhausted by Jeff's enthusiasm and my neighbors' antagonism and the thousand little things that fill the time of my days. I can't catch up and I can't get control and I can't sleep even though I desperately need to. The neighbors stopped cleaning up after their two dogs as soon as the snow fell; when Kathy came by and told them to clean up they cleaned the twelve square feet around the front porch and left the giant pile of poop the dogs have deposited right next to my car door. I am a certified animal lover but I can't stand these particular specimens, a giant, yapping Pomeranian and an idiotic, unfriendly Boxer adolescent (I've never met a Boxer I liked), and I hate the way their owners stand on the porch and scream at them the whole time they're out in the yard, three or four times a day, as if the dogs understand. Also they keep them in a kennel on the other side of my kitchen wall while they're gone for hours at a time, and the Boxer will occasionally spaz out in its cage and bark and rattle and whine for half an hour.

I wish I were more interesting and coherent and happy, but it's technically Thursday night for me, and I'm shot. Fried. Tired. All I want is some hot tea and a little time to unwind and keep an eye on my poor old cat, who is still trying to figure out what hit him. I wish I could tell him I know how he feels.

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