Monday, May 23, 2011

"If you dance you'll never grow old."

There was a time in my life when the world revolved around dance.  Not because I was particularly good at it.  The technique of dance was anything but natural.  Becoming a part of my university's beginning team took three years of training prior to beginning college, nine college classes in dance, and three auditions.  But the love of moving and music was much, much easier.

Growing up my family owned a cassette tape with the music from Disney's Aladdin.  I would put on the tape and dance to it all around the living room.  In eighth grade I spent an afternoon in a friend's garage where there was space for her to teach me all the leaps and turns she was learning in ballet.  Within a week or two I was enrolled at a local studio.  After a few years of ballet and jazz dance I began looking for a better teacher, but there weren't any in my small town.  At college I spent many more hours dancing than studying.  I became part of the International Folk Dance team and did my best to learn to clog, tap, Irish dance, and every other kind of dance from around the world.  I loved every single moment of it.  Through dance I made some of my closest friends, had most of my romantic relationships, and experienced some of my most bitter disappointments.  The time came when I put my dancing shoes away and pulled my books out as I worked my way through four years of graduate school.  Dance became a social hobby rather than a performance driven pursuit.  Around the same time I experienced a painful injury in my foot from running that has curtailed all activities that involved my feet.  Now, after two and a half years, I am able to again stand on my toes, do turns, and walk.  I find myself bumping into my furniture because I don't have enough room to dance to the music playing in my little house.

There are many things I love about living on the edges of Yellowstone: no stoplights, quiet nights, small towns, good people, a sky as big as the outdoors, and the pine trees that whisper my name when no one is around.  My dance studio is different now.  When no one is looking at work, at home, or when I am alone on a mountainside I find myself reaching for the sky and spinning down the trail.  I dance under the blue sky and I have to be careful that I don't turn an ankle in a ground squirrel hole.  I have no audience and I need none.  This time I dance simply because it expresses so much that I feel and cannot say.

This came to my mind because I recently found the following animation.  It reminded me of all that I have and do love about dancing.

Monday, May 16, 2011

"Oh, Montana, give this child a home."

A few pictures from being out and about walking around town.  
There are moments when I am overwhelmed by the fact that this is home.
Gardiner with the sun setting on Sepulcher and Electric Peak
The Roosevelt Arch: if you look closely, there is a coyote crossing in front of it
Sunrise on Sepulcher and the Arch (dedicated by Teddy Roosevelt in  1903
A mama bison and her new baby resting in town, safe from predators

Looking back at Gardiner
A bighorn sheep ram not far from town
Investigators at church
Spring in Montana

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Who Is My Neighbor?

It is funny the things that make me feel like a grown up.  In the past decade I've graduated from college twice, worked in positions that could have been career choices, lived in four different countries, and all over the United States.  But none of these experiences, including purchasing and paying off a car, made me feel like a bona fide grown up.  This past winter, however, there's been a change.  Nothing makes me feel more adult than a utility bill and a 401k in my name, shoveling my own porch, purchasing non-essential decorative home items, talking about and planning my career path, and going to the dump.  For those of you who live in cities here is some news that make surprise you: in rural America people load up their garbage and take it to the dump.  There is no such thing as curbside pickup.

Growing up in rural Idaho, I remember trips to the dump.  It wasn't that we were rednecks--everyone took their trash to the dump.  "Going to the dump" was fun.  It meant that the kids rode in the back of the pickup (the only time we were allowed to) to keep the cans from falling over on the 1.5 mile drive to the dump.  The dump was on the shores of the Blackfoot River.  While my dad handled the trash I'd watch the canal-like river flow under the bridge.  At some point the big bins near my home were removed and now my parents wheel a large garbage can to the edge of the road once a week.  But here, in Gardiner, Montana, the dump tradition lives on.

Unlike the dump of my childhood, these dumpsters are surrounded by a tall chain link fence.  After 4 pm the main entrance is locked, but there is a small gate I enter on the side.  It is held closed with a few rocks.  I have no difficulty moving those rocks, which is why I think they do little to prevent other guests from doing the same.  The sign hung on the gate reinforces this idea.

It is a little creepy to be there alone.  There are a dozen ravens picking through the trash and at each other.  They perch on the dumpsters and seem confident in their ownership of the place.  The call loudly to each other and bicker over the choicest kitchen scraps.  Usually, I quickly toss my bag and cardboard in the appropriate bins and scurry back to my car before my imagination gets the better of me.

I like ravens, but those at the dump somehow seem very different than their cousins in the park.  Perhaps I am uneasy because this is the place where humans and animals interact.  The dump represents so many of the conflicts that occur as humans and animals meet on the fringes of each groups territory.  I drive home thinking of development, bears looking for food after a long winter of hibernation, mountain lions who need room to roam, and my own desire for a home and land to claim for my own.  In taking my trash to the dump I am acutely aware of my role in these clashes and that I cannot divorce myself completely from being part of the conflicts.  At the dump, I cannot ignore that I have a very real impact on the places and creatures I love--they are my neighbors too.  What I see at the dump is only a very small piece of a much bigger puzzle.

Being all grown up isn't anything like what I imagined it would be.