Tuesday, July 26, 2011

The Perfect Day

"What is your perfect day?"  It's the kind of question I never know how to answer.  What kind of fabulous combination of people and adventures makes up a perfect day?  It depends on where and when you're at.  Over the 4th of July I had not just a perfect day, but also the best Independence Day holiday I've ever had.  I didn't even stop to take a picture of any of it because I couldn't bear to let a viewfinder get in between me and the moment.

It began Friday afternoon with a last minute trip to Salt Lake City.  I left Gardiner worried and confused.  I arrived in Utah late that night to find my old roommate, Amy, waiting up for me.  Saturday dawned clear with a sunrise walk, time in the temple, and an afternoon spent with my sister-friend Miriam.  Have you ever met a person that you know is your sister, but was stolen away at birth?  That's Miriam.  We drove up to the mountains to swim in cold lake water, laughed in the sun, and ate at a fancy French bakery for dinner.  In Montana bison burgers are easy to come by, but nicoise salad is much harder.  That evening I went with Amy to see fireworks.  We danced to the live band and I reveled in the sparkling array that lit the night sky.  As I lay on my back and watched the sparks dance, I reflected on what a great honor it is to work in the National Park world.  At that moment, my work felt rather patriotic.  Amy and I talked far too late into the night.  I had forgotten what it was like to have someone to talk to before bed!

Sunday morning found me attending church in the chapel where I worshiped for my time in Salt Lake.  I soaked up hugs, friends, and the looks of surprise when friends saw me.  In the afternoon I drove south to visit with my sister Eve.  We cooked Indian food, took long walks, talked and talked and talked, wrote, read, and then were silent.  An old friend came by that evening for a visit which ended with us running through sprinklers in the dark and laughing as the water dripped our noses.

Monday morning came.  Eve and I went for a short hike and then I began working my way north.  I stopped for dinner with my family in Idaho and then drove to our cabin to stay the night.  It was Independence Day and although there were no city fireworks to see, an evening thunderstorm created a show much more impressive than any city could accomplish.  I arrived at the cabin where the mosquitoes were as thick as the rain.  The storm had knocked out the power, which was fine because I was so tired I fell right into bed.  In the morning I rose with the sun and finished the drive to my work.

The confusion that I had felt leaving Gardiner was gone.  Instead, there was clarity and peace inside.  I understood myself and my course.  A perfect day, or days, don't have to be complicated at all.  Looking back, the events are a small part of the equation, but being with people I love more than completes it.  I've said it before and I'll keep on saying it: people matter most.  No wonder I studied sociology!  Of course there were friends I didn't see during that whirlwind weekend, but I still look back and see that Independence Day trip as the best holiday I've had in a long time.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011


I ran for twenty minutes today.  That's twenty minutes more than I have run without pain in two years and eight months.   I last ran a marathon almost three years ago and sustained an injury shortly afterwards.  It has been a long road to get back.  In summary: two physical therapists, three sports medicine specialists, one nurse practitioner, one acupuncturist, home remedies, running store advice, wacky shoes, and endless Google searches.  Treatments have included two years of physical therapy, four kinds of insoles and orthotics, sleeping with a night splint for ten months, oral steroids, a handful of steroid injections, two x-rays, ultrasound imaging, and six "dry needling" procedures (think lawn aeration or meat tenderizer), and pain killers.  I gave up running, hiking, dancing, walking, and standing.  I counted each step.

I recognize that I am not fully recovered and that more treatments may still be in store.  There were times I doubted, but I am now confident that recovery is possible.  There were times I looked at past medals and wondered if I would ever even walk without limping.  Now though, I can be grateful for the injury.  I learned a few things.  Two weeks off an injury is much better than two years--listen to your body.  A one mile walk is not to be poo-pooed.  I have a glimpse of what it is like to live with a disability or constant pain.  Faster and farther are not always better.  Patience, patience, and then keep hoping someday I'll learn patience.  Sometimes it's good just to be still.

When I left in the morning, knowing this was the day I would try to run, I worried that I wouldn't like to run anymore.  Not so.  Winded as I was, I loved feeling my heart, arms, legs, and lungs all pumping together.  I'm taking it slow (don't worry, I've learned my lesson) and have no plans for races any time soon.  But I love waking up before my alarm goes off because I can't wait to get outside and greet the sun as it slips over the mountain.  I am blessed.  Anyone up for a run?

In the spirit of this, with tongue in cheek, I provide the following perspective.  Because now, it is something I can laugh about.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

First Light

A week ago I went for an early morning walk on Sepulcher's foothills.

I was in search of Bitterroot blossoms.  It was dawn and I had never seen the flower, it grows mostly in Western Montana and parts of Idaho.  I knew I would know it when I saw it.  I felt that way once before.  I was in the Louvre in Paris, looking for a statue called The Slave by Michelangelo.  I had never seen a picture of it, but had read a book about Michelangelo's work.  Lost, I wandered from room to room.  As I entered a new room, I saw a white marble statue from the back.  Without sign or even full form I knew that this was indeed the piece I was searching for.  That's how I felt about Bitterroot.  I desperately wanted to see it, for reasons that are hard to put into words--I felt I would understand this place (and in it my place) better.  I found some buds, watched the sun creep over the mountains, and waited for the petals to unfurl.

The blossom is beautiful--a delicate pink--and grows out of the most unforgiving, rocky soil.  It would be spectacular anywhere, but is especially breathtaking given its unlikely location.  Bitterroot's scientific name is Lewisia rediviva.  Lewisia after Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition who found and named it.  Rediviva because the plant is legendary for being able to live without water for over a year.  It is sometimes called the "resurrection flower": it symbolizes strength and beauty under almost impossible conditions.  The leaves appear first, looking a little like green anemones, then they die and the blossom appears alone in the rocky soil.  I imagined the Lewis and Clark expedition traveling not far from where I stood.  I imagined Lewis's wonder as he saw the blossoms appearing underfoot.

I thought of the many Native American tribes (Nez Perce, Flathead, Shoshone, Spokane, Kalispell, and Pend d'Oreille) who depended on it for food.  As the name Bitterroot suggests, the root wasn't too great on its own.  But it many tribes timed their trek east for bison hunting with the Bitterroot flowers so they could dig its taproot.  The roots were cooked and then mixed with meat and berries into small cakes--the first energy bar! These could be carried and eaten while traveling.  The plant could also be traded with another tribe or with pioneers or trappers.  A sack of prepared Bitterroots could purchase a horse.  Sometimes there is much to be gained in life by knowing how to handle something that on the surface is bitter.  The bitterroot was valuable when properly prepared.  We too can become better when tested and changed by life experiences that initially seem bitter.

One Native legend tells the origin of the plant.  A mother was crying because she could not find food for her children.  The sun heard her cries and changed her tears into the Bitterroot so that she would always have food for her family.

I gently touched the petals--aglow with the morning sun.  I pondered new hopes, second chances, perseverance, and new life found in unexpected, difficult places.

Sources: http://www.50states.com/flower/montana.htmhttp://www.wildflowerinformation.org/wildflowerfolklore.asphttp://ezinearticles.com/?The-Resurrection-Flower---Montanas-Bitterroot-Wildflower&id=886513

Friday, July 8, 2011

"June is Bustin' Out All Over"

There's something funny about Gardiner, marmots, mountains, and the kinds of pictures that I find on my camera at the end of the month.  I can think of nothing deep and profound about the following images, but they seem to represent the strange world that I currently call my life.  All I can really say in my defense is that despite the many, many pictures I have of marmots I always take more.  Perhaps that is because they are an animal that actually holds still and is close enough for me to take good pictures with my little camera.
This, my friends, is the furry namesake of the outdoor clothing company "Marmot".
Here he is again, looking like he's about to give a speech.
My office has no window; sometimes I get desperate.
This is phlox, it is growing right in a bison footprint.
The local tow truck.
Driving back home on the 4th of July.  Great natural fireworks.  Ignore the bug guts on the windshield.
Talk about saving money on invitations.
The profile is good too.  It's nice to be photogenic from all angles. 
The Gardiner Rodeo is the social event of the summer.
The view from the arena is pretty good too.
Sunset on Electric Peak.
This tail seems like it was borrowed from some other animal.
Sunset in a geyser basin.