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.

zoomingstring_lake_smeethenscooking

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:

rachdroppinit_2 copy

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.

redemption_day

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 want to be here.

It was a week ago today that I was in the ski accident. The ski accident where I lost control. Couldn’t gain control.

The ski accident where I hit a tree. With my face. Whiplash. Lost consciousness. Blood everywhere.

The ski accident when I broke my nose and cheekbone and bit through my lip.

The ski accident that gave me my first IV. My first CT scan. Two CT scans. The first when they thought there was bleeding in my brain. Where they might have to drill.

The ski accident where I was taken down on toboggan, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Bozeman, driven in an ambulance to the airport in Bozeman, flown to Missoula, driven in an ambulance to the hospital in Missoula.

Right after the accident, there is a lot I can’t remember. There is also a lot I do not want to be reminded of about that day. That accident. The ski accident.

But there are some moments I don’t want to ever forget.

G E T T I N G   T W E N T Y   S H O T S   I N   M Y   F A C E

The pain of the actual accident was actually surmounted after the fact. After realizing what had happened to me, that it was serious, that I wasn’t going to make happy hour, that I needed to get about 40 stitches in my face; I waited for the plastic surgeon to come sew me up. A man walked in and looked at me. Just stared at me. Turned around.

– Hi, I’m Rachel. Who are you?

– I fix things like this. [stares at me again.] I think I can fix this.

And then he turns around again.

I give Evan the WTF? hands and he just shakes his head in confusion. The doctor prepares the needles and adjusts my bed so that I’m laying down flat.

– I’m going to numb up the area and then I’m going to stitch you up.

– Okay. I’m very scared of needles, but I think I’ll be okay.

I am scared of needles. When they put morphine in my IV, I asked, “Will this make me less scared of needles?” It didn’t. I don’t think it did anything, really. My adrenaline was too high.

This doctor did not care about my fear. He was so cold, he felt heartless.

He started putting the needles in my cheek. I tried to be brave; I really did, but it hurt so bad. And there were just so many needles in my face. So aggressively.

It wasn’t long before I started crying and it wasn’t long after that, when he started putting shots in my nose, that I started bawling.

He stood there silently, relentless, and stuck me over and over. It felt more aggressive with each needle.

By the time he got to my lip, I was begging. I was pleading with him to stop. It was the worst pain I’ve ever felt and it felt like an attack.

Blood and tears streamed all over my face and I begged, screamed, as I sobbed, for him to stop. And he wouldn’t. Not for a second.

– Please, No, No, No, Please stop. STOP! PLEASE! NO MORE! PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, please, please, no, no, no, no…

As I cry now, remembering it, I try to figure out why, why exactly, I want to remember this. Why do I want to remember?

Do I want to be able to compare every little pain I complain about to it? Remember what real pain feels like?

To realize that it was all worth it? In the end, the doctor did an incredible job stitching me up. His work was beautiful and those shots were ultimately a part of that.

To find faith in compassion? As I begged, he pressed on silently. As I bawled, he didn’t flinch. A hand on the shoulder or a “there, there, I promise it will be okay” would have beamed a bright light into my life. Empathy. Compassion. Something I want to remember.

T H E   S T A R S   I N   B O Z E M A N   T H E   S T A R S   I N   M I S S O U L A

The bathtub keeps bringing me back. I can’t take showers right now, to keep my face dry. So I take baths. To wash my hair, I have to lay my body down, my head horizontal, to dip it in the water. I’m rarely ever that flat, with nowhere to look but straight up. But recently, I was like that for a very long time. And these baths bring me back to the stars.

In Bozeman, they told me that there might be some bleeding in my brain and they were going to fly me to Missoula to get checked out. I cringed as they brought the backboard in. They put a neck-brace on me, they rolled me over onto my side, slid the board under me, rolled me back, and strapped down every part of my body, including [especially] my head.

The ambulance was ready in a parking garage, so it wasn’t that cold, it was nothing to see [upwards, at least].

When we arrived at the Bozeman airport, they opened the ambulance door and the cold took me over. After wheeling me out, I could instantly see the fog of my thick breath. But beyond that were the beautiful stars. So gorgeous in their perfect, comforting placement. It was like they were the only ones really [really] looking at me, understanding. We stared at each other with a pumping vein of tenderness and then I was lifted into the small plane.

The plane ride was almost miserable. I couldn’t move any part of me and every part of me hurt. Claustrophobia set in quick. A man who was flying with me, making sure I got everywhere safe, noticed my tears and rubbed my arm. When I told him my head hurt from the board, he loosened my head-strap and massaged the back of my head. I would have never guessed that the reassuring touch of a stranger would be so comforting, but it saved me.

We landed in Missoula. As they opened the plane door, the cold consumed me again. When they lowered me down and started rolling me to the ambulance, there they were. In the same exact place, the same exact pattern, like they had waited to make sure I arrived safely, the stars were there. And I realized that this was the same sky, these were the same stars, that shine on everything, everyone that I love. Everything can look up at these stars and find the encouragement of love, hope, and beauty.

This huge world filled with so much that I love, so much that I don’t even know yet, can all be united under this gorgeous blanket of stars. As they put me in the ambulance, my third ride of the day, I realized I want to be a part of that world.

Something I’ve never had to worry about wanting before, something I’ve never had to question, something I’ve had the privilege of being a given, suddenly became a question. And I answered with a feverishly adamant, “YES.” I want to be in this world.

I want to be here.

i should mention…

I woke up this morning.

Outside it should’ve been bright… but it wasn’t… it was dark and alive.

Then the rain came.  So, I quickly made a playlist consisting of some of my favorite rainy day songs…

…and starting reading my book.

It was a peace of comfort.

Then, [partly because i’m addicted to the internet and partly because i’m waiting for this silly screen to tell me my future], I checked my email.

An email from my father.  [these rarely happen, but when they do, they’re either hilarious or blindingly thoughtful… this was the latter.]

It started with, “Preface: A Letter from a Father to his Daughter”

I read and read and just started bawling.

“Because of you, I am a successful man because Love is the measure of worth & nothing else matters.”

In bed, wrapped up in down, Sufjan Stevens playing, it started hailing [hailing hard] and my cheeks were streaming with love.

I can’t help but share.  I want there to be more recognition of the success of love within us all… in me… in this.

The day went on… the rain stayed pretty steady throughout the day… which was fine because I packed all day… ’tis moving time.

Okay, I didn’t pack all day… I had brunch with a friend.  She went to the bathroom as we were leaving our brunch destination and asked me…

– Do you ever get an overwhelming fear of getting locked in a bathroom?

I laughed out loud as I remembered this story:  WHY DID YOU LOCK THE DOOR??

Oh, good times… or, funny times at least.

The aforementioned friend came over to try on clothes of mine that I was purging in honor of the recent move.

I sat on the floor of my living room that contained most of my material life in it while she fashioned outfit after outfit.  I drank my coffee and read Billy Collins in between all the “oohhhh”s and “ahhhh”s.

We giggled to ourselves as I read aloud…

Purity

My favorite time to write is in the late afternoon,
weekdays, particularly Wednesdays.
This is how I go about it:
I take a fresh pot of tea into my study and close the door.
Then I remove my clothes and leave them in a pile
as if I had melted to death and my legacy consisted of only
a white shirt, a pair of pants, and a pot of cold tea.

Then I remove my flesh and hang it over a chair.
I slide it off my bones like a silken garment.
I do this so that what I write will be pure,
completely rinsed of the carnal,
uncontaminated by the preoccupations of the body.

Finally I remove each of my organs and arrange them
on a small table near the window.
I do not want to hear their ancient rhythms
when I am trying to tap out my own drumbeat.

Now I sit down at the desk, ready to begin.
I am entirely pure: nothing but a skeleton at a typewriter.

I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.
I find it difficult to ignore the temptation.
Then I am a skeleton with a penis at a typewriter.

In this condition I write extraordinary love poems,
most of them exploiting the connection between sex and death.

I am concentration itself: I exist in a universe
where there is nothing but sex, death, and typewriting.

After a spell of this I remove my penis too.
Then I am all skull and bones typing into the afternoon.
Just the absolute essentials, no flounces.
Now I write only about death, most classical of themes
in language light as the air between my ribs.

Afterward, I reward myself by going for a drive at sunset.
I replace my organs and slip back into my flesh
and clothes. Then I back the car out of the garage
and speed through woods on winding country roads,
passing stone walls, farmhouses, and frozen ponds,
all perfectly arranged like words in a famous sonnet.

——————

I’ll never be able to get over that one line, “I should mention that sometimes I leave my penis on.”

“I should mention…”  haha… so amazing.

And then I remembered what a love sent me some days back…

Oh, please let my children [in the event that they ever exist] recite Billy.  I’m sure they’ll sing bad pop songs and maybe even talk smack about monsters…

…but please PLEASE let them recite Billy.

be hope.

Hey American Friends…

How’s it going?  I hope you’re paying attention… because there’s a lot going on…

Tomorrow, President Obama is giving his State of the Union Address.  I’m sure you’ve heard about this and I hope you intend on watching.

A lot of talk about our economy.  Where are the jobs?  And then Health Care Clusterf*ck 2009/10 and National Debt Ridiculousness, etc… etc.

Over a year ago, I gathered with the Teton County Democrats and other Obama supporters to watch the election at a local coffee shop.  The excitement of Obama winning was overwhelming.  People crying tears of joy, friends hugging, hope… HOPE.  True hope is something amazing… a form of love, I believe… and we all had it.  It inspired us.

Tomorrow I join the Teton Democrats again to talk about a year with President Obama and watch his address.  There’s a different feeling in the air, for sure, but is our hope gone?  I hope not.

There are things that are not good in our world, our country, our county, ourselves… but I challenge us to [get ready for the cliché] be the change we want to see.

Get involved.  Be hope.

I’ve thought a lot about this lately.  What is important?  What are the good things I want to be hope for?

1.  People.  Loved ones and my loved ones’ loved ones and others’ loved ones.   People.

2.  Our Earth.  The beauty of it.  The abundance of it.

3.  The things that enhance our world and make community.  Love.

I don’t know where that should go, what that should mean… but it’s time to get involved.

•  Help people.  Help Haiti.  Holy Hell.  It’s a tragedy.  It’s a disaster.  Families gone.  Homes gone.  The things that are too precious to think about ever leaving us… Gone.  And we need to continue giving when the cameras turn off, the reporters are gone.  Give. Help.

•  Pay attention to the world you love.  Help it.  Reduce.  Reuse.  Recycle.  Be proactive.  Love what we’ve been given.  A stranger commented this on my last post: http://veganvideo.org/ Awakening.  Changing.  [i mean… don’t get me wrong… i love cheese as much as (okay, more than) the next guy… so, this is a whole different topic of discussion…]  But pay attention to what you eat.  Maybe you don’t change anything… but pay attention.

•  And then there’s this gorgeous world of love and dancing and smiling and crying from beauty.  [my favorite.]  Get passionate about it.  Volunteer love.  Anywhere.  What you have a heart for, help it.  Get together with others and glorify what is good.  Whether that’s art, music, climbing, skiing, faith, yoga, food, laughter, building, learning, giving, political optimism… it matters not… it just matters that the heart, the beauty, the hope remains in this wonderful, wonderful place.

I know those things aren’t really political… I digressed… I am Distracto… but you should watch the State of the Union Address.  Pay attention.

[sorry if this was lecturey… did not mean to be too lecturey.  i just got real excited about things… about the good that could be… in the world, in the states, in myself.  you know i’m not good at things… things like following through, staying focused, doing more than saying… so, i’m saying to myself as much as to all three of you who read my blahg.  so so so much love.  tons and tons.]

a wreck.

The weather was pretty bad yesterday morning, which made it even harder to leave Gretchen.  Dan Long and I had such a great time visiting her in Denver… so much love.

are you guys dating? no? well, then you must be brother and sister.

Dan was driving.  I was passengering.  We were both singing.  “No!  Sleep!  Til Jackson!… Jackson!”  Being silly.  Being us.  We got on I80 in Cheyenne, on an overpass, hit black ice, sliding, started in the right lane, spinning to the left, towards the guardrail on the bridge, I thought we were going over.  I thought [really thought] this was it.  Dan said calmly, “Hold on”, I said, “Oh my god”, we hit the guardrail, spun around, hit the guardrail on the other side of the bridge.  Our car sitting sideways, blocking traffic, finally stopped…

– Are you okay?

– Yeah.  Are you okay?

Dan looking over my shoulder, the side facing traffic…

– There’s a car heading straight towards us.  Oh no, Rach… We’re about to get hit again.  Get ready.

– [not even able to look]  No.  Please, no.

I just kept facing Dan, looked at him, then closed my eyes.  The car barely missed us.  She was spinning out of control, but managed to miss us.  She pulled over, ran up to our car…

– Oh, I’m so sorry!  I’m so glad I didn’t hit you!  Are you okay?

I’m so glad she didn’t hit us.  I was convinced she was… throughout the whole thing, I was convinced it was dying time.  I don’t know why… It was terrifying/weird.

A nice man with a big truck helped move our car to the shoulder with his tow strap.

I called 911… for the first time in my life.

– Is anyone hurt?

– No, I think we’re both okay.

– Are you sure?  I hear someone yelling in the background.

– That’s Dan, the driver… He’s okay… We’re just both very upset.

The cop came.  Dan went and got in the cop car.  I got out of our car…

– Rach!  Stay in the car!

– Oh, okay.  Yes.

I didn’t know what to do with myself.  Just sitting there.  Emotion finally caught up with me and flooded the car.  I almost died… or so I thought.  And where am I?  What have I done?  Who do I love?  Do they know that?  Am I happy? I started crying.  Loud.  Primally.  Uncontrollably.  I stopped, settled.  Still didn’t know what to do with myself.  Started cleaning up the car.  Coins everywhere.  How are there so many loose coins in this car? Two iPods on the floor.  Picking up my sunglasses and hat… realizing that they were on my head when we crashed.  Cleaning, Dan comes to my door and opens it…

– Are you okay, Rach?  Do you want to go get checked out?

– Ummm, no.  My chest hurts but I think I’m okay… I’m pretty sure I just got the wind knocked out of me.

– Well, if there’s any question…

– No, no, I’m fine… I promise.

Dan hugged me.  I lost it, started crying again.

– I’m so sorry, Rach.  I’m glad you’re okay.

– I’m sorry, too.  I’m so glad you’re okay, too.

The tow truck came.  We loaded up.  So cold.  Got into the front of the truck.  Our tower was a character.  At least five teeth missing, but I think that’s on par for Cheyenne.  Mean?  Mehdunno… We saw a lot of people with missing teeth.  He told us about how he was hoping to watch football that day, but we were his forth call.  Oh, so sorry we ruined your football plans, Mr. Tow Man. He was very nice, though.  A character.

We were all very tight, very close in the front of his truck.  Dan was upset, rightfully so, his hands bleeding, scraped, he wasn’t upset about them, I was a bit, heartbreaking, bleeding.  We get to the Collision Center, it was closed, it was Sunday.  Tow Man unloads the car.  He gets back into the truck and helps us figure out weather for the next couple days, rental cars, hotels, etc.  Then he looks to Dan and says…

– Hey, you might want to turn your emergency lights off so your battery doesn’t die.

– Oh, yeah… Okay.

Dan and I get out of the truck and start walking towards his car… his poor, totaled car…

we cannot drive it home with one headlight.

I see a small smile find Dan’s face as he looks to his car, then looks to me and says…

– Yeah, because I would hate to have to buy a new battery.

Laughs.  Smiles.  Light.  Friendship.  Warmth.

I want that, those things, that part of all this, for you.

I love you all.

i am done.

It was a hard year.  The hardest yet.

Last fall.  Leaving Yosemite in a blur to try and soften the blows of a family emergency and my sister’s divorce.  The darkness of that.

Fresno.  The tears of family, the delicacy of a two year old in question in your arms.  Hard. The frustration of uncertainty.

The pain of an uncertain love.  Being embarrassed by the pain and hopes of it all.  Dark.  Pain.

Twelve job applications.  No employment.  Lost.  Losing.  No direction.

Jackson.  Laying in bed, not able to get up, can’t see clearly.  Physical pain like I’ve never known.  Waking up in the middle of the night sweating, shaking, freezing, crying, confused.

Five minutes to get up.  Ten to get out the door and into my car.

At the Emergency Care…

– You have a horribly bad kidney infection.  We don’t even know how you got here by yourself.

– [trying not to cry and focus on the face of my doctor or nurse.]

– You could either just take the antibiotic for $4 or the shot for $170.  We highly recommend the shot.  You need to get something in your system now.

– [trying not to cry.] I just can’t afford the shot.  I’ll have to just take the pill.  I’m sorry.

– …We’ll be right back.

They leave the room for about five minutes and then return…

– Well, you’re in luck.  Usually the shot is $170, but today it’s on special for $25.  Would you like it?

– [crying.] Yes, thank you so, so much.

Georgetown.  Home.  Defeated.  In every single area of my life.  Not winning at anything.

Australia.  Australia?  Australia.

The. Family. From. Hell.  I kept searching for hidden cameras.  Not from the family, but from some kind of cable TV show.  This had to be a joke.

Lonely.  The loneliest.  Missing everything.  Everyone.

Crying.  Daily.

New family.

Lonelier.  How?

Mother/boss lost her job.  Fired.  What?  One week’s notice?  Whatever, screw you.  Middle finger to this place; I want to go home.

Beat down.  Defeated.  Desperate for living of any kind.

The darkest time.  Family, love, friends… All torn down, failed.  My own doing.  My responsibility for my darkness.  Powerful.  My responsibility for darkness in general.  Crushing.  Suffocating.  Ready to be done.  Making the decision that there is nothing to live for, nothing in myself that I want to look at… but the belief that maybe [some day] there will be something there again… and having to desperately grasp on to that.

Jackson.  Home.  Friends.  Calling it quits [again] on a love that cannot be willed into working.  Tears… always.  Empty.

Too many jobs.  Worn down.  Good thing?  Yes.

Throwing up.  All night.  Why?  Because this is a bad year.

Finding joy.  Finding light.  Getting excited?  Whoa… slow down.

Ear ache.  Ear infection.  What am I, nine years old?

More sickness.  Scared.

I was ready for it to all be over.  But this time it was different than that way I wanted it to all be over that last week in Sydney.  I’m calling it my bad year… hopefully my worst… and I’m moving on.  But there had to be something to symbolize the end.  Something big.

So I ran a marathon.  In Fresno.  Where this all began.

marathon.

the finish.

I hardly told anyone.  I didn’t tell my closest friends.  This had to be something I did by myself.  For myself.

It was hard.  Rightfully so.

I had a mix of songs throughout the year to listen to.  The songs started in Yosemite and ended with two weeks ago.  It was powerful.  You’re laughing at me, but I don’t care.

A mile for every two weeks.  Running.  Reflecting.  Hurting.

Mile 6, thinking, “Really?  I have TWENTY more miles?  What the hell am I doing?”

Mile 17, the stitch.  My right side, all the way down.  Thinking, “Oh god.  Please let this stop.  I’m never going to make it.”

Mile 20, my ankle failing me.  Thinking, “I want to cry.  I can’t.  I have to keep going.  I want this to be over.”

Men older than my dead grandfather passing me.  Women in metallic wigs passing me.  Me thinking, “Well, this is just embarrassing.”

Finishing.  Time: 4:57.  Slow.  I could care less.

My family there.  Cheering me on.  My sister, my biggest fan.  Yelling so loud, smiling so big.  So proud.  On both ends.

I’ve never been happier.

Finished.

I am done.

I’m glad to be back.

Thank you for everything.

All of you.

…and then lied about it for the next two years.

After a long day, I came home to this…

a pleasant supplies.

a pleasant supplies.

It reads…

Ray-Ray-

Sorry I ate your dinosaur cookie from Bishop and then lied about it for the next two years.  I got you this replacement from Pendl’s*.  It’s technically a tea cake, but it’s the best I could do.

Looove You,
A.”


You must be thinking, “Ohhh, how sweet.  That Anna girl is a doll”… but, NO!  You’re forgetting why I am now receiving this dinosaur tea cake.

Two years ago, Anna and I traveled to my favorite place on earth.  [Yosemite, California.]  We climbed, danced, drank, swam, climbed, danced and [most importantly] visited the best damn bakery in the whole wide world: Schat’s.

There, my favorite bakery, I found the most amazing thing:  A dinosaur sugar cookie with green icing and Sour Patch Kid candies on top.

You must be thinking, “Gross”… but, WRONG!  “Awesome” was the word you were looking for…

Dinosaurs = Favorite Animal.

Sugar Cookies w/ Icing = Favorite Cookie.

Green = Favorite Color.

Sour Patch Kids = Favorite Candy.

This Cookie = Mind-Blowingly Awesome.

Naturally, I bought it.  But I was so amazed by it that I couldn’t eat it… not just yet.  So, I saved it.  I saved it “for a really bad day… then I’ll eat it and it will be the best day of my life.”

It traveled from California back to Wyoming with me.  I would constantly check on “THE cookie”.

I set it in an assumed safe place in the kitchen and went about my normal life.

It wasn’t but three days after coming back from our trip that I had a bad day.  It was time for THE cookie.

I went to the safe place, looked to my white paper bag… became terrified when I picked it up… THE BAG WAS EMPTY.  Only the crumbs of the happiest cookie on earth remained.

I kindly consulted my many roommates…

– WHERE THE EFF IS MY DINOSAUR COOKIE?!

– What?  What happened?  It’s not there??

– NO!  WHO ATE IT?!

– I dunno… I didn’t… [this was repeated in rounds by them all.]

I was so upset.  In the end, I think they convinced me that mice might’ve had their way with it… but I was still pretty skeptical that a mouse crawled INTO the bag, ate the WHOLE cookie and then crawled back out and CLOSED the bag.

Later, I confided in my lovely roommate, Anna…

– I’m still upset about that dinosaur cookie mishap a year ago…

– Yeah, I really think Chris ate it.

– Really?!  That bastard…

– Yeah… bastard…

So, I finally let it slide… I think I finally got over it when I got to have another dinosaur cookie the next year… during my next visit to Schat’s.

Turns out, Anna actually ate the cookie… she was SO good at hiding it!  Apparently, she got home one night STARVING and just could not resist the T-Rex cookie… Can you blame her?  YES.  But will you still accept this cookie as payment?  Well, of course… it’s deluscious.

And it goes amazingly with ginger beer…

what?  ain't nothin' wrong with a graphic designer who gets paid in ginger beer.

what? ain't nothin' wrong with a graphic designer who gets paid in ginger beer.

*Pendl’s is my favorite Teton Valley bakery… and AND they serve flat whites.