might piss some people off with this one…

When my children were just tots, we, along with another couple, decided to start a charter school here in town.

We were educators; educators of the experiential and outdoor type; and we wanted to create a school that would create the environment that we believed was best for learning and growing.

Our intentions were good. We wanted this for the community, not just our children, and we “knew” that this was the best form of learning in a town this size with the resources at hand.

We put together a presentation for interested parties that was well researched, thorough, and super convincing.

We knew that everyone would jump on our bandwagon.

Until they didn’t.

I was standing in front of a room full of neighbors gathered in the community center and before I could even finish, a local woman (whose name I won’t mention but if I did, no one would be surprised that she was the one to set me straight) spoke up and asked,

“Who the hell do you think you are coming into our town and telling us what to do with our children when you haven’t even set foot in the existing school?”

Needless to say it kind of took the wind out of our sails. We were astounded that we didn’t have the support of this town because we obviously knew what was best for our children and therefore the children of this community.

Our school didn’t happen. Kids went to alternative preschools (primarily because we overqualified for Headstart by $13.) and then, our boys went to kindergarten at the public school and stayed there until they each graduated.

The school here did some great things for my kids and my children were failed in some ways. We got involved, PTA (for a brief time), classroom volunteers, school board, curriculum committees.

Fucking D.I.

Our kids made friends with the local kids, girls and boys, older and younger. They grew up knowing everyone in this town because the reality is, the school is the heart of a community like this and there is no faster way to become an integral member of the town than by getting involved in the school and going to school here.

During this last year, I have relied so heavily on friendships that developed while sitting in child-sized desks eating blue cupcakes. The other football parents are my family; 8 years of sitting in the stands, in the cold, in some place in the middle of the San Luis Valley, brought, along with the suffering, a bond that includes a deep love for those families and all of those boys in helmets and pads.

When Number 3 moved in with us, we were inundated with food, clothing, furniture, and love to help make it possible for this boy to thrive.

Everywhere I go in this town – the grocery store, post office, library, etc., I know people who care about me, care about my boys, and about whom I care deeply.

I am thankful that all of those years ago, DW, gave me that reality check.

The reality being…we did think that we were better than, our children more deserving, and that we knew better what was good for our community…

Without ever setting foot inside the institution that we were trying to protect our children from.

In a nutshell, we were elitists and we got shut down.

In all of the pros and cons of my children’s educational experience, I am so glad that my  boys went here; they are loved and included and supported by so many amazing people that we would have missed out on knowing had we kept them separate.

And each and every one of those people has added value to our lives.

Well most everyone.

My son said to me the other day, “Mom, I know that if the shit ever hit the fan I would have so many people here that I could turn to if needed.”

The other one has said, often, “Some of these kids have such hard lives, it makes ours seem pretty easy.”

Gratitude.

Empathy.

Compassion.

Sometimes I feel as if I can’t say enough about the beauty of being a member of this community, about the kind and wonderful and fun and funny and smart and valuable folks that make up this town – people I would not know if I had isolated my children and therefore myself.

I know people who I never would have known otherwise, good people who I may not have much in common with but we have children and that is all that we need to have in common.

We would never have known Number 3, and therefore would never have opened our doors and our hearts to him, and our family would be lacking.

DW also let us know that night that if we want something different, first, experience what already is and then, get involved, be the change that you want to see.

Don’t just go to a school board meeting when there is danger of a tree being cut down.

I’ve learned so much and grown so much, as my children have; I am no longer that wide-eyed snobbish gal who believed my children to be better than my neighbors’.

So, as this school year begins, I hear a lot from the parents of young kiddos asking “What are you going to do about school?” and the answer is not, but should be, “Duh, he’s going to kindergarten here.”

From my crone throne I see families going through the same angst that we did; I see solutions that range from homeschooling to driving 30 miles twice a day, several days a week to make sure that the kids get the education they deserve.

Let’s talk resources people.

I shake my head, I get a little fired up, I see the hypocrisy of preaching community and yet refusing to participate in that one thing that lies at the heart of said community.

There are more families now that are looking for alternatives than when my boys were young. That’s that many more children who will not be going to the public school.

That’s that much money the school won’t be receiving. That’s that many more educated caring parents with time to get involved who won’t be getting involved here. It’s more children who will grow up isolated from their peers, hanging out with only like-minded boys and girls with like-minded parents.

It’s opportunities missed to learn compassion and empathy and humility.

This school is far from perfect – I don’t know of any rural public school that is. But if we have chosen to call this town “home” then fucking participate don’t separate.

I say, at least give it a try. I know some folks whose children have gone here for several years and will now be attending school somewhere else. That’s different – that’s we tried it and it doesn’t work for our family. Not, we know that this school isn’t good enough for our child even though we haven’t even given it a try.

I will also give credence to those who have been committed to homeschooling since babies were in the womb. But there are opportunities  there to mingle, as some parents have – send your kid here for a couple of classes, let them participate in sports, or the school play, or music with the most amazing music teacher a school could ever hope for.

And let me also say here that predetermining who the good teachers are and who you’re willing to let teach your child is of the same mindset. We have some exceptional teachers. Phenomenal. And sure there are some less than perfect ones too – but you’re going to find that in any school.

And if you make the decisions about who you want to be your child’s teacher based on hearsay, then you’re still being a snob.

As I’ve gotten older I have less tolerance for anything that hints at elitism, especially when it’s couched, somehow, in “community.” You can’t be a part of a community if you avoid it, if you think you know more than, if you think that your children are more deserving, more special.

I say all of this with the wisdom of age and experience because, as I began with, I was one of those parents.

And I no longer am.

So, I will end my tirade with, give what we have a try. Get involved. Participate in your community.

Be a Blue Jay.

This is happening right now

I settle into my chair under the stars and suddenly Elvis is barking incessantly at something.

He’ll bark at the neighbor dogs occasionally but I’ve never heard him do this nonstop, rhythmic, “barkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbarkbark…”

I call him and he doesn’t even pause.

Okay, obviously there is an animal over there that my dog is antagonizing.

Fuck.

I have to run inside, grab my phone, slip my flippies on, and run across the yard to see if I am about to be eaten.

Of course, I was worried about Elvis too.

I’m thinking, “Is this going to be my cougar encounter that I’ve been dreaming of (or dreading)?”

And then, the meager light from my phone reflects off of two white stripes in the darkness.

My brain works faster than I ever thought possible: skunk, dog, has he been sprayed already, I don’t smell it, hunh my foot hurts, skunk between me and elvis, do not, I repeat, do not want to get sprayed tonight, I cannot smell like skunk, fuck, I can’t go to work, so many skunkings, remember tessa when she rubbed against you, whatever you do, don’t let him touch you.

I start calling Elvis, with a sense of urgency in my voice which cripples him into submission, on his back, with a hard-on.

At the skunk’s feet.

The skunk turns around and Elvis cowers then finally comes running just as that tail lifts high in the air.

I wanted him to hurry but I wasn’t about to pick him up. I still couldn’t tell if he’d already been sprayed or not.

We tear up to the door and Elvis is a nervous wreck and I make him lie down so I can sniff him, which freaks him out even more.

Then I let him inside.

He’s so wound up from all the excitement that he runs laps around the couch for a solid 3 minutes.

And I think, “Ouch, my foot hurts.”

And I look down and the damn thing’s blowing up like a balloon and turning black and blue before my eyes, and there is a lot of point tenderness, and…

I don’t have a fucking clue what happened.

Not one bit.

There was a moment facing off with the skunk that I noticed it hurt but I wasn’t aware of anything that I had just done, but I so crazed about the beast that maybe I just don’t remember.

I can’t figure it out. It has changed shape over the last hour – it’s gone from an overall swelling to a rising mountain of swole right by the raven.

(please know that I know that “swole” in only a word if you’re 16 in hillbillyland.)

It’s got a solid 2 inch diameter – you’d think I’d have some idea of what happened, but I really don’t. It’s all a big skunky blur.

All I remember was the sight of those two white lines.

I need something

Besides sex, I need something else – a purpose or a change – something to get excited about, look forward to, to ponder, to wonder, to wish for – something positive to occupy my brain.

I am depressed and lonely – not horribly so, but it’s there enough that I have to consciously fight against it to get out of bed and do the day.

After sleeping most of the weekend away, I forced myself out yesterday and went on one of my go-to adventures: a trip to Silverton.

Silverton is where I had some of the best times of my life, where I felt strong and competent and light. Plus, it’s so fucking beautiful and feels like home. Going there usually helps any negative feelings wash right off and all I am left with are elation and joy.

It didn’t really work yesterday. I spent most of the day driving around crying; loud crying that just wouldn’t stop.

I was going to drive up one of the passes and hike along a ridge above tree line to get to an old haunt that I haven’t visited in years, but on my way up 550, it rained a bit and I resigned myself to not hiking above tree line for fear of lightning.

The day just fell apart from there. I got in my head that there was going to be lightning (danger) everywhere so hiking as an activity was off the list.

Then I decided that I would still drive the pass but after dealing with one mildly rough road and a bunch of OHV’s I decided that I wasn’t in the mood to go four-wheeling either.

So I chose to drive up into a gulch that I remember as beautiful. The road was more narrow and steep than I recalled. I got a few miles up and then hit a turn that would have sent me plummeting had I made one wrong move and I turned back.

What happened Sally? What happened to your ease and comfort in the mountains? Where’s your badassery?

I used to drive HUGE F350 cage trucks up, down, and over way worse, fearlessly, and yesterday I couldn’t make it around a simple bend.

And, the skies were clear.

Why did I sabotage my own day?

Because I am sad and lost and directionless. My self-esteem has been shot to hell.

I need something to which I can look forward; but it needs to be ongoing, not just a one day event. I’m going to Florida with my kids next week, which is great, but I am already dreading coming home to the humdrum.

Recently there was a possibility (again) of moving to Utah, and there was a not-boyfriend in the picture who had the potential of becoming a boyfriend.

Neither one happened. The stars did not align for the move (this town just will not let go) and the not-boyfriend became a not not-boyfriend, which is fine.

But those two things gave me reason to get up every day: I had something to anticipate, get excited about, hope for, and it helped.

Now I am left alone with my grief, my lack of direction, the weight of it being one year later and not feeling like I’ve landed on my feet – at least not yet.

It could be worse – my son could be in jail. Someone could have died that night. I know enough to be eternally grateful.

But with all the friends in the world, I am lonely. And not necessarily in a “I need a man” kind of way, but there is a hole in my world, in my heart, that still exists; it hasn’t filled itself in yet.

Part of me is thankful to have life be back to normal, uneventful. I keep saying “Boring is good” after this last drama-filled year.

But back to normal is relative. I no longer have a normal to return to – my normal was obliterated.

And I’m not the same person. This year has made me feel old, weary. I don’t have joy in my world like I used to, daily. I wouldn’t necessarily say cynical and jaded, but worn down?

Yes.

Less enthused. Sporting a blanket of sadness. Heavy.

I want something to bring me back to joy, excitement, enthusiasm, lighthearted happiness.

Any suggestions?

 

my chair

Tonight I took the time to sit under the moon in my chair, a ritual that I lost over the winter.

Shortly after I lay down I got shaky – physically and emotionally – and it was suddenly a year ago and I was in my chair, on the Ranch, trying to continue breathing while I dealt with my devastation.

Then I thought, “In a couple of weeks it will be a year.”

A year.

I can’t say whether this year has gone fast or achingly slow; it’s been both.

The hours I spent under the Ranch cottonwood tree staring at the same mountains in my view tonight, just from a different angle.

I mentally sifted and sorted. I cried, I had a few moments of relief. There was too much noise in my daily life – my chair was the only place where I found some peace.

Prior to the breakup, as things fell apart, I had trouble sleeping. As things got worse, I barely slept at all. And when I did catch a wink of sleep, it was in my chair wrapped in a quilt under the stars.

Tonight while half my brain said this is good for the soul, the other half wanted to run inside.

But I stayed. I flitted in and out of sadness and solidity – memory and the present.

Such sorrow for having had to have gone through this.

And yet, I feel my strength too. I didn’t lie out there feeling morose for the entire time.

It’s beautiful and spiritual and utterly fascinating.

It is good for the soul.

Utah vs Colorado

I went to Moab this weekend to have dinner with my son.

What I am aware of when I go to Moab, is that I don’t call it going to Utah.

When I “go to Utah” I am going for desert and solitude and nature.

When I go to Moab I’m going for an urban experience, so the two barely feel like the same place.

When I am there, as beautiful as it is, I feel incredibly disconnected from the rocks around me; I’m distracted by cars and people and coffee shops and parking spots and sometimes even schedules.

But my boy is there, so there I go.

Tourists abound – it’s like a monstrous bus opened its doors and dumped out thousands of passengers then went away and came back with another busload.

The people are there for thrills, Arches, and shopping for Red Dirt T-shirts.

We have tourists too – they’re here for ruins and train rides.

The thing I notice the most about the adventure tourists is that they tend to be really uncomfortable in their bodies – these are people who do not spend a lot of time outside connecting with the dirt beneath their feet.

Everything in Moab is about the adventure; boatingbikingclimbing4-wheeling. It’s a scene.

My son loves it – he gets sick of the crowds, but as a river guide, he is right in the thick of the action – he’s part of the energy that creates the scene.

It’s a world that I used to be a part of but no longer am. I am conscious of bringing a little bit of country with me when I sit down at the dinner table at the restaurant owned by the boating company which caters to people in hiking boots and brand new Keens.

I used to feel so cool when I was a guide there. Now I’m totally not cool and totally okay with it.

After dinner, as I was leaving town, I thought about the fact that I no longer fit into that scene and I realized that after close to 23 years in a rural ranching community, I am very much a Colorado gal.

Albeit a Colorado gal from New Jersey.

2 hours away from each other, my town and my son’s town are like night and day – I feel like a hick – unsophisticated, working class, an intimate participant in the landscape of my home.

We work hard and get dirty a lot ’round these parts. W e are comfortable in our bodies because we use them and because we have a connection to the land.

On my way south to my very remote camping destination, I stopped at a used gear store on my son’s recommendation and my observations were proven correct.

In Moab, people buy pearl button shirts and straw cowboy hats at the same place they buy climbing equipment and wetsuits.

Hip, trendy, cool.

Over here, on this side of the border, we buy pearl buttons and hats at ranch stores.

Utilitarian.

 

 

Yep, my dog is THAT dog

My next door neighbors have two female black labs who Elvis crushes on big time.

If there is any sign of life next door, he races over, impossible to detain, deter, or dissuade, hoping that he’ll get to see the girls – even if only for a moment.

Said neighbors are getting married this weekend and they have family in town which equates to lots of activity over there and lots of “Elvis, get back here.”

It’s already embarrassing, but tonight…

There’s a man outside, Elvis’ substantial ears perk up and he’s running before I can even open my mouth. So I hurry over, yelling, “I’m so sorry.”

I’m far enough behind to be useless if he tries to eat someone, but close enough to see him run up to the wine casket and pee on it.

“I’m really so sorry. My name is Sally. I’m the neighbor with the wretched dog.”

Then I call the dog and attempt a graceful and hasty retreat.

I look over my shoulder at the father of the bride to say a quick toodleloo and watch my dog vomit all over their patio.

shitdamn

fuck

There’s that moment when the clouds part after a storm and what you see is that the mountains which, yesterday, were bone-dry-brown, have turned blue-white; thick with fresh snow.

Today, when that happened, I felt every part of my body unclench just a tad. I had no idea how tense I was until I wasn’t as much.

It’s been a stress reaction to the seriousness of the drought.

We had an orange fire moon in April.

But this tension isn’t on a mental or emotional plane; it’s visceral. My body feels parched along with the landscape.

Just a little bit of moisture has brought relief – at least for today. There is snow on the mountains. The river literally doubled it’s flow today. The pastures turned green while I was at work.

You can feel a collective sigh amongst the community. I doubt there’s anyone in this town who hasn’t said a prayer of thanks today.

I feel so connected to this place. I think most of us do. It gets in your cells.

It feels as if the lines between me and the dirt and the rocks and the grasses are quite blurred.

There’s a sense of solidity to this landscape that keeps one grounded.

It’s breathtakingly beautiful.

A woman asked me today, “Does it ever get old?”

No. No.

It’s so overwhelmingly stunning in every direction, and it’s so big, so, so big, and every moment of every day the light changes, drifts in and out, casts shadows across the mountains and the canyons, and, there is wind in the ponderosas, owls hoot-hooting in the night, and meadowlarks singing up the sun.

Our storms are events; people drive up to the mountains to them. Wildfires are yearly happenings. The sun will melt chocolate buried in your pack, in February.

It’s ever-changing and never-boring here.

When you love a place so much that it becomes a part of you, and you it; when your soul connects with the soul of the landscape; when it’s relief is your relief; that’s true love.

And true love never grows old.