One could go on and on forever talking about anything, but I'll just touch on it here.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

When You Come Across Three Snakes and a Swarm of Mosquitoes . . .

. . a grizzly and her cub are the least of your concerns.

I really wanted to go looking for the bears that we were warned about by three hikers, but I wanted us to be able to tell our stories as well. It's okay; we have more days to risk our lives. What I don't want is for our family to be notified that our bodies were found swarming with snakes and drained of blood by mosquitoes.

But before I get to that lovely encounter-

Day three

Stop one: Cafe Boheme

After sandwiches and cold hotdogs yesterday, tasty though they were, this morning we sought out a breakfast in town (and Luke really wanted coffee). The atmosphere was great, lovely French music, and the crepes-mmmmmm. Then I heard the baker's French accent and knew why the food was so amazing.

Stop two: Annie gapes at the mountains

We spent the day mesmerized by Grand Teton et. al. Our hike around Jenny Lake detoured us because of the bear sighting, but we saw plenty of wildlife. Just you wait for the photos. You, too, will be in awe.

After a little research with Asimov, I am kinda certain that the critter we saw making away with a bird in his mouth was a marten. The rest of the birds chased that guy for awhile, chirping and panicking, poor things.

So we had a couple of great hikes, but, really, you had to be there.

Getting away from the hoards of people from all over the world who just wanted us to leave so that they could have our parking place, we found a slightly isolated pull off and started down a trail that was out in the open. I sprayed my arms with insect repellent, but Luke didn't want to this time. The trail soon entered a forest and we returned to our silly songs and noises to keep away the bears. Then I thought, what if they can't stand my singing and track me down to do away with us? Or what if they think it's karaoke time and come join in with "The Bear went Over the Mountain?" As I was amusing myself with these ideas, Luke jumped back with an "Oh shit!" and I grabbed the back of his shirt, certain that a bear was just ahead. What his feet were avoiding happened to be three slithering snakes. Three. I'm thankful Luke didn't run screaming and leave me behind. But no, he wouldn't do that. Pausing while I took pictures, we realized to our added horror that mosquitoes were taking the snake diversion as opportunity to murder us. We retreated.

Campfire time. Asimov dislikes the smoke, so I'll check back in later.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

No Starbucks: Travels Day Two

Our drive from Idaho Falls to Jackson, WY certainly took my proverbial breath away. Water the greenest of green on one side and mountain blue on the other. And the fields! The mountains! Check out one view from the car while we sat in traffic stopped because of an accident.

Hmm, sorry. Asimov doesn't know how to put that picture up. Well, if she does she's not telling.

Stop one: Jackson or Jackson Hole (I have yet to see the hole so maybe we missed it)

So we stopped at the visitor center and visited. We also walked around historic and really-what-it-is tourist trap Jackson, but mostly we drove back and forth and then, for fun, back and forth again to Wilson, WY looking for our campground. After tirelessly searching for a Starbucks, we gave up and called the campground for directions. I have no idea how we found this place- even with directions. But here we are, no Starbucks to be had anywhere in town or nearby towns- not even in Idaho where our next stay will be- but we have wifi.

Thunder crashes above, rain rattles the tent (at least easing up on the dust storm), and we kick back to figure out what we want to see around here.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Anniversary Adventures

Finally on the road, two blocks from home, and I yelp, "I forgot blankets!" The heat of Boise made such camping necessities forgettable. But we turned back for them and headed off to buy ice.
Okay, this may turn into a long story short as I swat mosquitoes and learn to interface with a new friend, but we are happily settled into a campsite under a Russian olive tree in Idaho Falls. I blog and Luke hums and strums in the chair next to me. Sweet! Our one-year anniversary is just around the corner and we are plunging into the next great adventure! Join us-well no, please don't really. Maybe stop by for lunch tomorrow in Jackson Hole. Just not tonight.

Stop one: Shoshone Falls (pictures to come)
Picnic lunch and views of the falls

So yes, we saw the falls. Hmm, what is there to describe in mere words how spectacular that falling water is?

Stop two: We stop to pick up a hitchhiker and decide to adopt our new friend, Asimov- As for short

She was hanging out at Best Buy holding up a sign asking us to please give her a lift. We asked, Where to? and she said wherever we were going. She looked fun and we hated to leave her there for who knows what kind of somebody, so we asked if she would just like to join our family. The adoption was super easy and not as expensive as I expected. Soon we were a family of three.

Stop three: a little Mexican food, Starbucks and wifi, and camp

It's starting to get dark and Asimov still claims she's at 78 percent, but my battery is in need of more charge. Good night!

Thursday, July 21, 2011


Number one, say nothing the first day, the second, the third. For like a week you need to keep your mouth shut. She'll stand up front talking, talking, speaking to you, at you, over you. Maybe have a pencil, some paper; draw on the desk but not too much until the second week. Wad some paper. Make some eye contact—she sees you when you don't. Eye contact makes you invisible.

Oh, be sure to be you. Keep your hair in your face, your pants baggy, but do some work.

Call her Miss. She'll remind you of her name. Say Sorry, Miss; I'll remember, Miss.

When the rules and stuff aren't talked about so much anymore, start being tardy. Ah, like, come just as the bell rings or something so you can have your feet in the room. If there's a be-in-your-seat rule then run to your seat just when the bell rings. Save the really tardy days for a few months later. But when you come in, not every time, but come in several times a week really loud. Come in like, Yo!, Dude!, or I'm SO angry! Grin. Sorry Miss.

Sit down but don't stay there. She might stalk you around the room. This is good. If she doesn't follow and tries the ignore-kid trick, see how many times you can wander around the whole room. And don't keep this to yourself. When the time is right, you know when she decides to deal with you, announce how many times you made it around the room: that was like, ten times I went around the room!

Uh, maybe you get tired sometimes. Put your forehead on your desk, maybe drool. Gotta lay low, you know, so she isn't on your case all the time 'cause you won't escape being sent to the office if you push her too much. And hey, let me tell you, the principal won't actually kill you but those secretary ladies might. They're worse than your mother. They stare at you like pit bulls. Your behind gets sore just one look from them.

So a good day comes up. You get to write a story or something and you have your pencil with you that day. You get to choose what you write. She likes it when kids share, so volunteer to read something up front, then tell that story about the llama and his sexual encounter. Yeah, you'll be sent to your seat, but all the kids will be laughing. See if her face turns red. If you're really quick say Miss, your face is red! Yeah, you might get sent out, but you'll be back.

Next time bring a plastic spoon and chew on it. Day after, bring five. Get them really nasty with spit. Leave one gnawed-on spoon on the floor. You'll probably be safe on this one. I know, you're like, really? But she takes spoons better than sunflower seeds all over the floor. See THAT one gets the janitor mad. She's in good with the janitor. If they gang up on you, you'll be scrubbing scuff marks off the hall floors, or worse.

When she has her back to the room—and no there ain't eyes in the back of her head but she will pick up on your tricks, especially if there are too many brown-nosers in there—throw a pencil at the ceiling and make it stick. She'll find it, but she can't prove you did it 'cause she didn't see you do it.

After a couple of months, bring a list of dirty jokes in Latin and share them with a guy in the back. Have the translation of course, but keep it separate—it's better to memorize what each one means—in case she takes the Latin pages away from you. Oh sure, she'll try to make you think she knows Latin, but nuh-uh. K this one might get you grounded at home. It's pretty funny, though.

It really won't take that much until she'll probably stop trying to get you to do your work; instead, she'll be trying to stop you from ruining hers. Ah, but don't leave her hanging like that. At the end of the year, write: You rock! on the whiteboard. Best teacher ever! Or, if you really can't bring yourself to go that far, just smile at the thought that you can do all this again next year 'cause you ain't going on to high school.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Words from Camp: The Attic, The Table, The Saddle

Last week I went to a writer's Disneyland. Instead of rides we voyaged on words. Instead of big furry cartoon characters we visited with the creatures in our imaginations. I can sit under a tree and read poetry, flop on my bed and write in my journal—and for many years I chose literature in solitude—but only a few hours into camp I knew that I was meant to be there with that group of people.

Strange, I mused, but before last week not only had I never before met those 11 other writers but I hadn't even known that they existed. These marvelous storytellers, artists, poets—no longer in hiding as in when they worked their day jobs. Soon I was sharing aloud the tumblings scrawled in my notebook. I was listening to ideas, feelings, light and dark moments from other artist voices.

We began each day in The Cabin attic, freewriting and reading poems, essays, and stories from our leader poet and teacher. Yes, we discussed the pieces, used literary terms, and tried to find out what every work meant even though we weren't supposed to. But this was the best kind of school: no grades, no homework—and we wanted it!—and no one there against his or her will. Three hours a day were not enough. Five days—not enough.

From the attic we left to find ourselves writing in the park, the library, the history museum, and a coffee shop. We wrote, laughed, talked, and even cried in concert with gull squawks, lawn mower and traffic noise, spray paint fumes, and yelling children. I wrote sitting on a couch, a picnic table, a hard-carpeted floor, a heavy metal chair, and a saddle.

We explored forms of poetry new to us and discovered words flowing out of pen and pencil that surprised us. I used the words noose, monster, cradle, and llama. Every piece now has a start, awaits revision.

Right now I sit in the library trying to hold on to it all so that I will keep filling the pages. Look at that: a group of young campers just joined the tables near me. I hear them whispering about character and description. Will they take away a similar joy from camp that I did? Will they beg to return next year? Will they keep in touch with each other?

We scattered, the adult campers and I. Returned to our worlds with a sigh, saddened as those back home after a magical vacation. Maybe we'll bump into each other in the city. Maybe we'll decide to meet up again and share our latest penned treasures. Maybe we'll read each other one day, in print.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

In The Gloaming

(This is an old piece that I keep revisiting. Consider it a look at some work in progress.)

Just before dark, one can imagine the view through the window. Immersed in a dream, the day welcomes the gloaming. Soft lighting carries an unnatural air; every face takes on a haunting beauty. No visible blemish or flaw, no grotesque face appears. Even the sky takes on a new character. After or before storms, dark clouds contrast moodily with the grey-blue sky, and the right sunset leaks its pinks, reds, and oranges into the watery mix. The leaves on the trees make statements in bold outlines, and the blackness of the branches gives the bodies weight and power. Their majesty reveals the reality of Tolkein’s Ents; expect the trees to walk. Whisper in reverence, dashing lightly from tree to tree while hiding from invisible sprites.

High noon leaves nothing to the imagination. Everything shines clear and real and dull. Nothing quite delights like the passing of day into night. The changing of the guard. A time when serious ones leave work and playful ones come out of a deep sleep. Name it the transformation of the selves. The true self feels free, not on stage, not out in the open exposed to scrutiny, not picked apart by all the rest, not wearing a mask. In the gloaming, what’s magical is true. What’s make-believe is reality after all. No phony lights, no scripts, no restrictions, no order, no pomp and circumstance. Just poetry. And there’s no better way to prelude one’s head hitting the pillow than to walk through the gloaming.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011


I often carry on conversations with people in my head. Wait, let's be clear: the people are not in my head; they are quite outside of it and very real. These imaginary bits of dialogue take place many times when I think of talking to someone but don't muster up the courage to do so. And sometimes they are planned out very minutely as if I will speak the words—at least my side—to the person, but I want to prepare first.

Rarely, however, do I let the thoughts leave my head, enter my mouth, and exit in speech. No, sad to say I let them, the two formless people—one being me—talk, laugh, cry, yell—inside my brain. The times they do get set free are usually when the person, whose words I make up, is someone I know. Unless the reason for the conversation is one better left unspoken. You know, when I'm angry and it's really quite good that I keep some words to myself.

But, say, there's someone I've just met or would like to meet and I want to say or ask something, then I will likely yabber away inside and leave the lips closed. This is potentially dangerous, for two reasons. First, what if I DO get up the moxie to talk and find myself referring back to that other time—you know that other time said person and I spoke—and all I get are Huhs? and awkward moments because he or she has no idea what I'm talking about because the conversation never took place. At least not outside my head. Oops. No, I don't think that this has ever happened. Please, please let it not happen.

The second danger could be the worst. Since I, imaginary-world person, get to invent both sides of dialogue when the conversation is in my head, what if, in accidentally speaking of it as if it had been real, I disclose characteristics of this other person that he or she does not have. I am making that person into a character in my twisted story, and I decide the opinions, beliefs, and words. Not too cool.

One might think that all this agonizing over should I speak, shouldn't I, and the fear that this role play might be a terrible mistake, would STOP the insanity! Ha! I just carry on all the more with this fake getting-to-know-you fudge and then write about it.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Facing My Fear with Mouth Wide Shut

It's true, what I said, about my butterfly phobia, but the papillon beauty is too great for me to run and hide from every flutter. So, when I went to the zoo this week with my father and niece I paid the extra dollar to enter the butterfly exhibit.

Staying on the path, watching my step in case the butterflies chose to land near my feet, I admired the vibrant variety of winged creatures. Yes, I heeded Sydney's warning that she yelled out to me before I went in: "Keep your mouth closed!" 

With butterflies swooping around my head and a small crowd of people winding their way around the flowers and trees, it was quite active in that small enclosure. I took my time, however. I wanted to take pictures (as did everyone) and just take time to observe some butterflies that I don't see in my backyard. I haven't identified any of them from my photos, but one almost snuck home with me. Before leaving the habitat I had to twirl a few times for the teen volunteers to check for stowaways. Yep, one was on my back. Hey, at least it wasn't on my face!

As we were walking away from the primate cages, about to leave the zoo for the day, I heard two women talking. "I can't believe that you're scared of butterflies!" one said to the other. Hmm. I guess I'm not the only one! But honestly, as long as I keep my mouth shut I'm perfectly fine!