evan… on the hunt.

Evan and I shot a wedding this summer.

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Wading through the over 7,000 photos to select and edit, I was way more joy-filled than I ever thought I would be. And partly it was because I came across this sequence of Evan so in the zone. So excited about working like this together. So excited to capture love.

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I can’t explain exactly why… but I love it.

[so so much.]

a nearly grand anniversary.

One Year. 366 Days.

One year ago from Sunday, Evan and I set out on a great adventure—marriage. But we decided to make the actual day an adventure, as well, so we set out on bikes from Jackson, Wyoming to String Lake in Grand Teton National Park [28 miles], waited out the rain, vowed to love each other forever [do note: “every second of every day” is different than “forever”], and then danced into the night with so many loved ones at a ranch in Wilson.

It’s been a year. A big year. So we wanted to celebrate in a big way. With a big day. We decided we wanted to climb the Grand Teton on our one year anniversary—August 14th. I’ve never summited the Grand. Evan has many times. I was hungry for a summit and excited for a day in the mountains with my love.

The first night in Wyoming, we arrived later in the night to our camp spot. We drove the van around, listening to an anniversary mix I made for Ev and talked about our favorite moments of the last year. I couldn’t have been happier. I told Evan…

– I love this. I love you. I could drive around forever.

I’m glad we didn’t, because as soon as we stopped and got camp ready, Evan surprised me with the. best. anniversary present. A year ago, we had a “cheese cake” for our wedding.

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Mary at the Jackson Whole Grocer helped us put together a dream of a wedding cake for me.

Evan contacted Mary again and had her make us a mini wedding cake! Just like you’re supposed to do for your first anniversary! I died. So exciting. The best. He even brought our cake topper, made by the ah-mazing Lindsey Yankey. It might be my favorite thing from wedding times… besides, you know… my trophy husband.

cheese_cake!

We drank wine and ate cheese and talked into the night. A perfect beginning of anniversary weekend.

Saturday, we couldn’t get a high-country permit for camping near the climb, so we spent the day getting ready, running around String Lake, swimming, cooking, and getting to bed very early, in preparation for our big day.

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We woke up at midnight. After coffee and oatmeal and drawing a Tarot card each [he drew the King of Swords! I drew the Queen of Swords! a couple! on our anniversary!], we set off on the trail in the dark, alive with excitement and love. We had 7,000 feet of vertical gain in front of us and we were ready.

Just kidding.

Here’s a hot tip that you probably don’t need: Don’t try to climb a 13,700 foot mountain off the couch.

The first seven miles were great—for me. I was kicking ass and taking names, but Evan wasn’t feeling so hot. He started slowing down, because his stomach was hurting so bad. We got above the upper saddle [farther than I had ever gotten!] and Evan had to emergency veer off the trail to tend to his belly.

Even when he went off the trail and stayed there for a while, I put my head in my hands and closed my eyes for a bit. I wouldn’t admit to myself just how tired I was, just how un-ready my body was, because I wanted to summit so bad. I wanted us to be on top of the Grand together on our first wedding anniversary. I brought my wedding dress in my pack, to maybe even put it on on top of the Grand.

Evan came back from his trip off trail and told me he wasn’t feeling well. He then dry-heaved for a bit while I looked away and started to tear up. He said he didn’t think he could do it. I told him we could just go home and go back to Bozeman; I was so upset.

We should’ve turned around. But we didn’t. Evan gave me some indication that he might might be able to do it and I told him…

– Make a decision. You either need to buck up so we can do this or you can call it and we’ll bail.

I think I even said something like, “All this for nothing!” I was upset. I was tired. We had been hiking for almost seven hours and I thought that not summiting at that point would be the worst. I am not proud of this moment of our anniversary. I am not proud of this moment at all.

Evan entertained the thought of us getting to Wall Street—the first pitch of the technical climb—and seeing how he felt. I was so excited. We started that way, but were going at a snail’s pace at this point—stopping a lot.

We should’ve bailed. You know this. We knew this—deep, deep down. But we didn’t. Getting on rope in the Tetons with his favorite person made Evan whole again—for moments at a time. He was so happy. We started each pitch by saying…

– Happy Anniversary. I love you. You’re on belay.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too. Climbing.

– Climb on.

It was the best. Until it wasn’t. Until we started moving even slower. Until we had a route-finding problem a handful of times. Until after five pitches, I couldn’t imagine climbing again. Until the wind crushed my soul and then the sun burned my face. Until I started really bonking. Until we realized, “Okay, we’re really not going to make anniversary dinner reservations.” Until we realized, “Shit. We are not in a good place.” Until we saw the sun getting to a place it wasn’t supposed to.

We had two pitches left. We got to the top of the second to last, the sun was setting, we were hardly speaking to each other. I asked Evan, where do we go now?

– I went the wrong way up there. The way we were supposed to go for the summit. We’re going to bail. I’m so sorry.

I lost it. I started crying. All this for nothing! ALL THIS for NOTHING. I’m tearing up thinking of it now. Evan apologized over and over as I berated him for everything under the sun. [again, not proud.]

I just kept thinking, “What the hell does this mean about us as a couple?! How did we get here?? Is this day symbolic of our marriage? We’re fucked.”

[do note: there are no photos from our time actually in the mountains… for obvious reasons. I think our lack of selfies is very telling of the fact that we were miserable.]

We headed to the rappel and I could not stop crying. Just your casual silent sobbing. There was another climbing party on the rappel who we shared a rope with. I went first as Evan was still coming along. The woman who shared her rappel with us was there climbing with her brother. She was so friendly and struck up conversation with me, probably because she could tell I was upset.

– I wouldn’t be upset you didn’t summit. Look how beautiful it is!

– [through not-s0-sneaky tears] Yeah, but we just went the wrong way. And it’s been a long day.

Evan came down the rappel and the chatty, nice woman asked him his name.

– Evan.

– Evan, I’m Kim. Where you from?

– I’m from Jackson, but we live in Bozeman now.

Kim took off her sunglasses and lunged towards Evan…

– Hey! Evan! Oh my god!

Of course. Of course they went to college together. Of course they’re friends.

– What’s new?? You live in Bozeman now with your beautiful… girlfriend?

– Wife. Rachel’s my wife. And she’s pretty upset with me, because I’m a dumbass.

– Rachel! Don’t be upset at Evan! He’s the nicest guy in the world!

Here’s a hot tip everyone always forgets: When someone is in the throes of anger, telling them to not be upset is risking murder-suicide.

[Disclaimer: Kim is lovely and I am so psyched I met her, but she caught me at a rough time.]

– I know he’s the nicest guy. I do know that.

We continued the descent down back to the saddle while Evan caught up with his old friend and exchanged news about ever person who went to the University of Oregon from 2002 to 2008, while I trudged along in the back, wondering if you can die from the affects of suppressing anger weeping.

We parted ways with Kim and her brother and had a moment together. It was starting to get really dark. I told Evan…

– We didn’t summit and we don’t get to have fancy anniversary dinner and I’m just so tired and sad!

– I know. I know; I’m so sorry. And I even had a surprise for you—I got us a cabin at Colter Bay.

I collapsed in tears. Sat down, head in hands. I just openly bawled. I’m sure the whole valley heard me yell-crying…

– I COULD BE IN A CABIN RIGHT NOW?!? WHY ARE WE HERE?? WHY DID WE THINK THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA?? HOW DID WE GET HERE?? WHY WOULD YOU DO THIS TO ME?? I COULD BE DRINKING WINE IN A CABIN!!

I composed myself and we started down the trail, in the dark.

We had about seven miles to get out. In the dark. We were wordless for a while, before I stopped Evan to apologize. I apologized for being a loose cannon of emotion and way too blamely and for not listening to him when he was trying to tell me we should bail ten hours ago. I told him…

– I’m deciding to change my attitude right now. We’re in this together. I love you. I’m sorry. If we can laugh again at some point on our hike out of here, I’ll call this a win.

He looked at me with eyes that made it clear he was unsure if we’d ever be able to laugh or even smile, ever again. But we headed on.

We had to get to the van. We had to get through the dark and to the van.

So we banded together. We took turns losing it. Completely losing it. We lost ourselves in the boulder field. Then we found the trail again. Then we lost ourselves again, in the second boulder field. We lost ourselves for a while. We walked in circles. We lost it. We cried. One at a time. We took turns seeing things. We took turns freaking out. We took turns, breaking down, telling the other one, in a shaking voice…

– I’m losing it, babe.

Then one of us taking the other by the shoulders, comforting them, and saying…

– It’s okay. You can do this. We got this.

We realized we had been awake for 26 hours. We thought about calling Search and Rescue. We talked about how stupid we were. We talked about how dumb this was. We walked in circles around boulders. We tried new strategies. We finally saw headlamps of new adventurers, heading up the mountain, coming towards us on the trail. Saved! We walked towards them and found the trail again.

Only four more miles to go. Oh my god.

This was the hardest time. These last four miles. Our legs were aching. We were delirious. Evan was feeling so sick. Evan threw up. I thought my knees would be forever damaged. We had to take so many breaks. We thought we saw scary things in the woods. We fell asleep walking. We stumbled. We fell.

But we laughed. We laughed at ourselves. We laughed at memories. We laughed at our situation. We laughed at these parts of each other that we only get to see in the deepest of breakdowns.

How, when times get really tough, I get this weird camp counselor energy that makes me ask get-to-know-you questions to keep spirits up. What did you want to be when you were little? What’s your favorite thing to ski in Jackson? Did you ever think about not following me to Missoula? [okay that last one was a little deeper of a question, but made for great conversation! for a while! spoiler: he definitely did consider not moving to Missoula. dummy.]

How Evan will deliriously recite pop songs and when he gets tired enough, he’ll be quiet for a long time and then excitedly say…

– Wanna hear my new song?

– Of course.

– Ohhhh, child… Three more miles… Oh, hot damn… Gotta make it to the car.

It made as much rhythmic sense Sunday night as it does now… none at all. But we laughed. Hard.

Here’s a hot tip for music enthusiasts: Think hard before you put those ironic pop songs on mixes before big days in the mountains, because those the catchiest songs will be stuck in your head for HOURS.

That song put on there because we got doooooown to it on our wedding night:

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That one actually made for some amazing call-and-responses throughout the day…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Feelin’ good as hell!

Or more accurately…

– Baby, how you feelin’?

– Like I’m gonna die!

At one point, while walking, Evan said…

– Ray? You okay?

I literally opened my eyes, standing up still…

– Were we just having a conversation? Or was I dreaming we were.

– You were dreaming we were.

Shit. Wow. I was walking and sleeping. We laughed… in a sad way… but still… laughing.

We—finally—made it back to the van. At 5am. 27 hours car to car.

We did it! We comically high-fived. We kissed.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you.

– Happy Anniversary. I love you, too.

Evan passed out immediately, but I was determined to drive 20 miles down the road to our cabin. I drove in delirium. Don’t worry, I was safe. I was determined.

I saw the biggest elk I’ve ever seen, right by the road. [or at least I think I did… delirium.] He had a rack that reached well above the van.

– Oh my god!

I yelled, as Evan snoozed in the back.

I pulled up to the check-in and the man at the counter was semi-impressed with my literal sob story.

– So, you think you’ll make it another year?

– I mean, I’m gonna try. A very late check-out would help.

We got to the cabin. I woke Evan up and he was way too tired to function. I set his flip flops down on the ground in front of him and the van. He looked at them, looked at me—so confused, looked at them again—more confused. I bent down and turned them to face him and moved them closer. It was like he couldn’t figure out what these things were and what he was supposed to do with them. Laughter again.

We got to the bed. We slept for as long as they would let us. It was glorious. We took showers. We felt like brand-new people, who knew a lot more about ourselves and each other and could hardly walk down stairs.

We called Monday “Redemption Day.” I put on a white dress. We went to a fancy-ass lunch and had cocktails. We exchanged gifts. We took our leisurely time driving the van home, stopping at sites we wanted to see, picking up hitchhikers, listening to the anniversary mix over and over, making memories. We walked around Yellowstone and held hands.

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We got ice cream cones. We came home and drank fancy bourbon that was gifted to us on our wedding day. We ordered Chinese food and listened to records. Redemption Day. Living up to its name. Its made-up name. A fresh adapter, that Redemption Day is.

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This morning, the reality set in like a heavy haze. I drove to work and then the dentist and faced scary deadlines for each. I suddenly missed the mountains—delirium and all. As this rush of missing came over me, Evan texted…

“As ridiculous of an adventure that was… I enjoyed every minute of it because I was with you. I’m exhausted. I can’t believe you’re at work right now.”

I agree. It’s true. I enjoyed every minute. Because we were together.

This life is crazy and stressful and hard and beautiful and hilarious. And it’s all of those things, but brighter when I’m with Evan. It’s an adventure that I know will be hard and I know might not yield all the results I want, but that doesn’t matter as much as it matters that I’m with him through it all. It’s a crazy thing to realize—this power of this love. But I can’t stop smiling about this realization.

And for Year Two celebration, we’ll be ready [training, climbing, trail running, a push-up or two] for the Grand. And—just in case—we’ll have another kickass Redemption Day planned.

[one.]


 

Alternative Title Considerations for this Post:

“Five Steps for Your Crying-est Anniversary Yet”

“Blame it on the Tetons… or Your Poor Husband”

“Youths Report: The Up-and-Coming Hip Part of the Grand is Right Below the Summit”

“How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Start Hallucinating”

“My Husband Made Eye-Contact with a Grown Man Whilst Having Explosive Diarrhea on our Anniversary”

“Symbolism – It’s Overrated!”

I accept.

During a welcome beat of my new-found stride, I went on a hike with some badass ladies tonight. We hike fast up the “M” in Bozeman. It’s like the “M” in Missoula… same same, but different. Montanans love putting letters on mountains.

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Afterwards, we hung out on a bench and talked and watched in horror as Cree [Rebekah’s dog] hunted a grouse and drank my new favorite beer and toasted a new [awesome] job [for Chelsi] and basked in this Bozeman life.

When we got back to the trailhead, we said our goodbyes and I got into my car. When I turned the key, I immediately recognized the voice on the radio and was excited that I was tuning in right in time for Hillary Clinton’s speech.

I decided I wanted to drive and listen to it. So I drove to a popular lookout for sunset. A few other cars were there, awaiting the fiery sunset. I cranked the speech, cracked another beer, and watched the sunset.

I couldn’t help but think of the journey that led us to here. Me to here. I sat contemplating the person I was with—myself. I drank a beer with a coozie from Luckenbach, Texas on it. Texas. Where I was born and raised. But now I’m in Bozeman, watching the sunset over this beautiful mountain town. How I got here is quite the journey. I moved here to work in advertising. That sentence alone makes me shake my head and smile.

I’m listening to a woman I’ve grown to admire. I’ve listened to so many speeches, debates, addresses. I’ve read so much about this election in the New Yorker—who am I?? But I have a subscription now, thanks to my mother-in-law. Yes! I am married. I have a husband—how did that happen? When did I let this grown-up world become me?

I thought back to my early jobs, my early hobbies, my early boyfriends, my early voting habits [sorry about that, America], my early goals, my early dreams—all while watching this sunset and listening to this incredible speech.

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Clinton’s words, “When there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit” rang over and over in my ears as I watched this beautiful sky. I half-smiled, because “The Sky’s the Limit” is the name of the latest tourism campaign my company executed. From dabbling in Photoshop at an office job when I was 18 to Art Director now. From women not being able to even vote to Hillary Clinton. We’re here now. I’m here now. A woman is running for president. This place, this life, this country accepts and encourages and applauds powerful women. My heart swelled, my eyes teared up, I took stock in this life and timeline and felt proud.

The sun made its final bow and the cars cleared the overlook, but Hillary was still speaking, still making history. I thought about how far we’ve come, how much I’ve grown up, as Hillary’s voice faded quieter and quieter… until silence. I was extremely confused. Was NPR fading out to start a new program??

And then there was the click of everything dying.

My car battery died. Of course. Oh, how quickly I felt not very adult at all. My husband was working and was not picking up his phone. Of course. Of course I am a child who doesn’t understand how cars or radios work. I called a friend. She was on her way.

I found the jumper cables in the back and waited. In the dark. With the opposite of Hillary’s encouraging words to listen to. All I had was the laughter of my own thoughts as they mocked how “far” I’ve made it in life. Dammit.

About five minutes later, in the absolute dark, a car pulled up. Not my friend’s car. It parked noticeably far away from my car. This car was either here to murder someone or round the bases with their high school crush. Considering my options—hero, victim, or buzzkill—I made my way towards the car.

I got too close to the car before anyone saw me for it not to be the most awkward thing in the world. I got close enough to obviously see this was the latter of my choices and I was about to be the biggest buzzkill. I startled the couple and motioned to roll down the window. I did this in the way that children born in 1999 or 2000 have no idea what I’m pantomiming—the big wooshing roll of the manual windows.

– My car battery is dead. Can I get a jump?

– Uh, sure. Do you have jumper cables?

– Yeah.

I called my friend and told her I found a jump. The car pulled up to mine, but not close enough. I had to tell the boy [the driver] to get closer. He quickly told me

– I’ve never done this before. I don’t know how to do this.

– We’re gonna be okay. Thanks so much.

I felt old again. I felt the familiarity of where he was, where the girl in the passenger seat who never left the car nor would hardly look at me… I knew where she was. I knew the uncertainty of jumping a car. I knew the freedom of being out in the middle of nowhere in a shitty car. I felt old in this way. Old in the knowing way.

I popped the hood and connected the cables. As I was connecting them to my car, I paused and stood up

– I’m Rachel, by the way.

– I’m Max.

I told Max to start his car. We waited. I started my car. It started.

I high-fived Max and thanked him over and over. Then, in par-for-the-course fashion, I said

– Sorry if I interrupted anything fun or important.

He awkwardly laughed at this stranded lady who must’ve seemed 100-years-old. We parted ways and I turned on the radio to hear just the recaps of Hillary’s speech.

It was perspective at it’s best. Humbling. Comical. Triumphant. Reflective.

I interrupted some frisky teenagers so that I could help them help me out. All so I could listen to our first woman presidential nominee speak and drink beer.

[god bless america.]

brightness. back with me.

The weeks have been bright. There was pulling off the surprise for the best party for my best friend with her best friends:

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Then there was a perfect Missoula trip for work:

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One of the nights in Missoula, I ended a wine/inspiration/gossip-fueled dinner at one of my favorite restaurants with a colleague and decided I should probably go to the Death Cab for Cutie show that was happening at the university. I didn’t exactly want to, since I had to be up early for a sunrise hike up the M. And also, I didn’t want to be that old lady sitting in the back of a stadium by herself at a concert, maybe falling asleep and definitely hating every person on their phone. I asked if we should get more wine, trying to give myself an out on skipping the concert. We decided enough on the wine.

I asked my friend to drop me off [she was not interested in the concert], telling her I would just walk to the hotel afterwards. I handed a nice man my ticket as I heard the drowned out version of “Crooked Teeth” and I was immediately brought back to one of my favorite college apartments and so excited.

I loved that song. I love that song. I loved every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs. Turns out, I love every one of Death Cab for Cutie’s songs.

I sat by myself, in the dark, singing along, crying a little bit, which was to be expected. I’m a crier. But then I cried more and a bit more. I cried, because love. Because college. Because life. Because of relationships—broken and bright alike.

Because of who I was and who I am. I cried because of how these songs shoved me hard in the chest, knocking the wind out of me, waking me up, back in my late teens and early twenties. And I cried because here they were waking me up again, leaving me gasping for air again. Remember it all.

And as I let these damn songs creep back into the open cracks in my chest and find their meaning in my life today. I had had the pleasure of not associating any of these angsty songs with my relationship with Evan. And then as this song came on and I remembered our recent promise to one another, I just lost it. Dammit, Ben Gibbard.

And then I realized just how much I love the new[est] album. I really had no idea. The concert ended, I clapped as hard as I cried, and I walked over the bridge in the dark in Missoula, thanking all the stars for aligning and encouraging.

Lately, back in Bozeman, we’ve been peering excitedly into the future as Evan started nursing school today. He has—mostly unrelatedly—been listening to the new[est] Death Cab for Cutie album on repeat the past week. I’ve been coming home to a husband at home [which is a treat in itself] listening to this song.

Last night, we listened to the album before and after seeing David Sedaris speak… again. He made us laugh so hard and then afterwards, while signing our book, he talked to us about doctor’s seeing his ass. We loved it. We treasured our time. Bright times.

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So to celebrate these bright times and Evan’s first day of nursing school—complete with a freak blizzard and a town-wide blackout and a photo that I just cannot stop looking at—I decided to walk over to our local record store to buy Kintsugi on vinyl for him… for us.

I came home and excitedly kissed my husband, gave him the record, and poured us both a glass of wine. He loved the album and I was eager to play it, but I also just really had to/wanted to have a one-song dance party. A one-song dance party to my new favorite pop song that I can’t stop moving to. The one I have played at work probably 38 times since Friday morning.

Evan and I played it and laughed at each other and danced and laughed more and pushed play again.

And took a million photos. With—yes—my grainy, mirrored, computer camera:

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Then we caught our breaths and dished up dinner and put on our new album and played rummy with our new bird-themed deck of cards. We ended the night with more wine, a third listen to the album, and me insisting I look at all of the bird cards and organize them by favorite.

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It feels like such a new time. Such a great time. A bright time. [no matter what Ben is singing about.]

[brightness. back with me.]

 

 

 

uh-oh.

I read (heard?) somewhere recently that couples who don’t post gushing stories/photos of their significant others are way more successful in love… actually a lot happier.

Well… we’re screwed.

Last night, I put up a new profile picture on Facebook. The fact that I wrote that last sentence down kind of hurts my heart in a weird way. I’m not even exactly sure why.

But the photo—the photo—makes my heart so happy.

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Somehow we don’t look tired from everything. Somehow I look shorter. Somehow our love shines through, purely. You don’t see the stress of finances. You don’t see the clothes all over the floor. You don’t see the ships-passing-in-the-night schedules. You don’t see the actual ugly arguments over card games. You see the kitchen dance moves. You see the late night laughs. You see the morning walks. You see the genuine gratitude for this love.

Because we find that gratitude constantly. It is hiding sometimes. It hides under piles of clothes, usually. They’re not in the hamper, because they’re not actually dirty.

So let me gush a little more. Because I’m in a sunbeam of this lovely gratitude for my husband and if I’m not usually one to half-ass something, so if social media says we’re already in trouble, let’s go balls to the wall.

———

The last year has been comically packed. And within it all, I convinced Evan to participate in something crazy:

And he did it. And I thought he might drown. But then he didn’t. And he somehow still loves me. And he wrote this story about it all: http://www.visitmt.com/picnic/evan.html

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I love it.

———

Through all of this craziness and all of this moving and movement, one of the brightest moments of happiness and love came right before August.

We moved to Bozeman. I convinced Evan we needed to move to Bozeman for this amazing job opportunity for me. He was pursing a nursing degree and getting into the Bozeman program was close to impossible. Only 16 applicants get in. We knew that we would probably have to part again, but we tried not to think about it. We moved to Bozeman. We forged on through uncertainty.

Evan was working late this night. I was screening a film of a friend’s. Watching. Taking notes.

Evan came home. We tiredly greeted each other as he made some food and sat at the table, tuning into his phone while I continued watching my computer. All of the sudden Evan stood up…

– Turn that movie off. Pause it.

– But this is the really good part!

– Pause it. You have to read this.

I begrudgingly got off the couch and stumbled over to Ev to grab his phone. My eyes scanned an email from Montana State University School of Nursing:

“Dear Evan,

It is our distinct pleasure to inform you that you have been selected…”

I screamed. I screamed and jumped on Evan the way the adorable women do in movies. Running. Jumping. Hugging. Wrapping their legs around the receiver of the hug. As a six-foot-tall woman, I do not usually get to running-jump on people and wrap my legs around them. It seems like I would have to give someone much notice before I did that, to avoid disaster. But somehow, this night, it was okay. It was amazing. We hugged and kissed and laughed and screamed more and celebrated.

Evan said…

– I want some whisky!

I grabbed our nicest bottle of whisky and poured us a couple glasses. Then I excitedly played this song louder than I should’ve at midnight…

[minus that weird minute-long record scratch of a skit.]

And we danced. And smiled. And celebrated. It was a lot like this…

…except Evan’s a man. And we were celebrating being able to live in the same town.

We finally let ourselves think of what would’ve happened if he hadn’t got in. We would’ve had to have lived apart. Again. And then we let ourselves think about how hard this program is. ONE OUT OF SIXTEEN SPOTS… out of over 400 applicants.

So proud. The best feeling. It was a moment up there with the moment Evan proposed. Just perfect.

———

Filled with gratitude for things you didn’t know you’d always had been asking for. Always.

Gushing.

Uh-oh.

[always.]

 

 

some much needed alicia keys.

It’s been a weird few weeks. That is being generous to the last month. A lot of it came to the saddest apex yesterday with layoffs at my job. I survived this first round. Some of my closest Bozeman friends did not survive the layoffs.

The tone today at work was sad/confused/dazed/sad/overwhelmed/dazed/sad.

I saw this video and immediately felt SO MUCH YES. I know that blahg posts like these are incredible irrelevant these days, because most of you will say, “yeah, I saw that on Facebook hours ago, wtf, this is useless.”

But I don’t care. THIS. This is exactly how I feel. About going forward. About the last month. About life. About dancing. About my friends. About love.

I watched it five times today.

I sent it to a friend who was laid-off yesterday and told her I was going to come to her house and do this. All of this. Now.

I sent it to my best friend in the world and she told me he reminded her of Evan and me dancing at our Wyoming wedding celebration. I smiled so big.

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I loved it. I love it.

[that is all.]

You Can Be Here.

[this was mostly written on tuesday evening. it took me a while.]

I wouldn’t know how else to write this. To be half-disappointed in myself because I had three drinks with a friend/coworker at our local haunt. But then to know that if I told my friend Dale about my disappointment he would slyly smile and tell me to Ah, fuck off. You’re great. That’s wonderful.

A year ago today, Evan and I were laying on our carpet in our living room, drinking whisky. Trying to sum up the courage to listen to a piece of art. A piece of sound. It was a dedication to our friend Dale. He was on his deathbed. His literal deathbed.

Deathbed. I cannot believe how jovially I used that term before I knew someone—loved someone—who laid their head on a pillow that lived on a deathbed.

We wept. I don’t know if Evan and I said a word to each other that whole night. We just listened. Deeply.

Dale was a friend, mentor, inspiration to both of us. He was a professor of mine. He was one of those people who meant so much to me, but I only filled a small slot in the multi-paged dance card of admirers he had.

We had a few conversations circled around my intense insecurity about being an artist. Or—rather—not being an artist at all. Being a complete imposter. Crying about it as he told me that most people call themselves artists and never make anything. He told me that I was making so much and not calling myself an artist, which wasn’t fair to anyone.

Dale was a huge part of “20/Nothing.” He had mentored us through the project and his hand in everything meant so much to us. We picked him up from his house in the craziest blizzard Missoula had ever seen. We slide all around the roads as we drove to the university. We sat in terrified silence in the studio as we screened “20/Nothing” for him. It finished. We sat in silence. He stared at the blank/finished screen and then said…

– One more time.

We pushed play again.

It finished. He looked at us and said…

– Well, hell. You kids have something here.

All of our insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

He was the first person I texted when we won the PBS POV Award.

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In his own way, he got in that positive jab. Did he invent that? Making fun of someone whilst simultaneously complimenting them to the core?

During all our talk about being an artist or not, I told Dale about how much I wanted to do an art installation one day. He encouraged me, telling me he was always—especially—excited to help with those kinds of projects.

The last day I saw Dale, we did not speak. I just saw him briefly and he nodded at me and I knew something was wrong. He did not look well.

I found out that day he was sick. He was going to die.

I couldn’t stop thinking about our last conversation. I had seen him in the hallway and asked if I could talk with him about something I couldn’t shake. I was in the car with a producer, working on a film, and the producer hit a puppy and it was horrible and it was a nightmare and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

Dale told me that I couldn’t shake it because I was a caring person and we should never feel bad for caring. He so readily comforted the fact that we were human and stood up for the goodness in all of us and acknowledged the fucked-up-ness in all of it.

We walked together out to the parking lot and the conversation turned to his frustrations with some parts of his job. His last words to me were paired with a very Dale curtsey,

– They don’t even pay for my parking, Rachel.

Those were the last words. And then he was gone.

Then we were laying on the floor, listening to this piece of sound. This piece of art. Dale’s dance card of loved ones saying goodbye.

 

 

 

………

 

A week later, it was time to name my thesis project for my master’s program. I adamantly insisted on an art installation.

It was a crazy idea I pitched and Frontier Space accepted. They accepted it so much that they insisted it be a First Friday opening.

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My idea was to take out the timers in parking meters and change them to music boxes. I also wanted to recreate parking tickets, rewrite them. Change the things they say to be inviting, encouraging, raw, open. Inviting people in. Talking about all the people that I want to be here. And cover a wall with them. Pink tickets. That was the color they had on campus.

It was the craziest time of my life. Learning a new art form, moving to Bozeman [for a new job], commuting to and fro between Missoula and Bozeman [because of aforementioned new job], starting the new job, trying to keep up with a newly-minted fiancé, finishing my master’s work, and ordering a ton of parking meter and music box pieces from eBay and praying to god it all works out.

Evan Smith was a saint and the most clutch team-member you’d ever want on your squad. He was an incredible tinkerer.

I wrote. Evan tinkered. I helped tinker. Evan welded. My advisor gave constant and solid advice. I spent many a nights in a small, cold space, reflecting, installing.

“You Can Be Here” was born.

I reached out to Dale’s wife to seek her input/approval. She said she could only come by late the night before the show opened. I was terrified.

It was all set up, ready to go, but the meters weren’t placed in their final positions yet.

She walked in the small space at 10:15pm and I held my breath. She looked around and made frank observations and gave honest critiques and advice.

– The meters need to be all in one line, close to the tickets.

And then on…

– You need to get the title of the show and your name printed in vinyl and put up on the wall.

She kept saying things like…

– Dale must’ve warned you about me, right? How I don’t hold anything back with my critiques.

I assured her I loved every turn, twist, and scenic overlook of this feedback.

We talked about art. About installations. We talked about how art is such an important part of the grieving process. We talked about Dale.

Then she said…

– This is really good. Dale would’ve approved. This needs to travel.

And then my insides smiled warmly as they collapsed together in an ecstatic faint.

That moment. That late night approval. That love. That was one of my favorite moments ever. It was connected in all the ways you want to exist.

“You Can Be Here” existed.

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The next evening was also up there. So many loved ones, so many strangers, gathered in an alley. They picked up coins. They discovered the meters. They listened to music. They read the tickets. They laughed. They cried.

I was a buzzing part of it all. Dale was a gentle part of it all. It all shined. It all pulsated. It was everything.

It was one of the best times of my life in the saddest and the most joyous and the most connected way.

Thank you.

You can be here.

Please.