Sunday, June 11, 2006

Home, but still in mountain time (and possibly the longest blog post ever)

We got home yesterday (Sunday) evening...and I admit that the only thing that got us back home were the animals (I missed them so much!). I could've stayed in the mountains all summer or probably all year if someone would have just delivered Anu, Vico, and Moonshadow to me. But alas, my heart strings pulled me home where I am now surrounded with love from all of my four-legged babies.

I know it's been a good trip because I've been home for nearly a whole day and almost nothing has been put away yet. I've been walking with Anu and in between walks have been sitting outside with her reading Anne Lamott's Blue Shoe because I've fallen into the story and see no reason to emerge quite yet. That's a good sign. It means I am really, honestly relaxed. Our bags can wait.

At the moment I am drinking a wonderfully real espresso made with real Italian roast coffee beans from a fragile green porcelain cup (rather than Folger's tea bags in a travel mug). Last night I slept in my bed that was as soft as down. These are some of the marvels of being home...but, at the same time, I find myself continuously seeking the outdoors. All of the windows are wide open to let in fresh air, light, and bird song. I feel a little claustrophobic inside right-angled rooms. I now hate the sound of television. Last night I ate my dinner on the front step in the light of the setting sun. Oh my god, and did I mention just how GOOD I feel? I will try to maintain this sense of balance as long as absolutely possible...and when I feel it slipping, well...back to the woods I'll go.

We left last Saturday after I finished working at the gallery and made our way across half the state of Minnesota and all of North Dakota by 1 am. We were getting tired and opted for a cheap, seedy hotel in Williston to stretch our bodies in a real bed and a hot shower in the morning to aid in a fresh start. It worked. We slept good and were ready to rumble early the next morning. Of course, we had to laugh at some of North Dakota's border town sites...
Or maybe we just have dirty minds, because it wasn't the only thing oddly sexual we noticed on our trip...
I mean, really!
* * *

It felt good to travel
I don't know what it is, but I have a thing for "big sky" country. I'm attracted to all that open space for the same reason I love winter--both make me feel like I have room to breath. I feel the shadows from inside of my head begin to lift and my lungs fill with more oxygen than usual. To me, there is nothing boring about the plains. It was beautiful as always.

We eventually settled into a camp in West Glacier. It felt good to get out of the car and do some exploring and hiking. Vinny and I stopped at the Lake McDonald Lodge and bummed around the lake for awhile trying to take it all in and feeling the muscles in our tired bodies start to loosen.

Oh joy! We made it to the mountains!!

Over the next several days we spend a lot of time going on short hikes...

Relaxing at camp... (oh sweet hammock!!)

Eating good food...

Going on little adventures...

And unhinging creative juices...
There were a few pages left in my old journal, but I took a new one along because something about this trip felt like a new phase in my life. It felt good to scribble and ponder and write a bunch of nothin'. I went for long walks and thought about a lot of things in my life. I walked through cedar and pine forests trying to comprehend the many ways in which my life has changed and how much I have changed. I gave myself time and space and fresh air to think about some of the things I don't understand, but am trying to. Being so far away from home made it easier. I savored the time alone with my thoughts and felt anchored by the mountains that surrounded me.

I think Vinny did, too.

I reverted back to my hippyesque tree-huggin' days...
But can you blame me?

The place was absolute magic.
This photo turned out blurry, but I kind of like it that way--there was something mystical about this beautiful creature.
There was something mystical about the whole place.
...most definitely the home of fairies and elves...
It was damp and cool with pounding rapids and endless velvety browns and greens...
...Vinny had to keep me from jumping off of the cedar planked path and running off into the wilderness forever.

We ended up staying at the same campground all week. It was still quiet because the tourist season had not yet started. We had the place almost to ourselves...
Need I say more?
Dang, it's hard to look at these pictures and not head straight back!

But maybe it's better that we don't...
I'd hate to ruin the incredible experience we had by seeing any more stupid tourists like these yahoos!
They pulled into on-coming traffic, left their car parked on the wrong side of the road, piled out, and oggled at whatever poor animal was in the woods like idiots. I was hoping they'd get eaten by a grizzly.

At one point we considered camping at our old haunt further away from other people. But the first night, when we set up our tent, we found that something had DIED in it! Oh man, it was bad! There was nothing left of "it" (whatever "it" was) except the smell, strange colorful stains and oxidized metal. It was a nice 4-season tent...unfortunately there was no hope for it and it went straight into the garbage. With no tent we opted to stay at the one campsite where we had lucked upon a bear-box for our food and semi-comfortably slept in the mini-van at night. We were glad for the bear-box because then we didn't have to shuffle around the cooler and food containers. Instead of moving camp, we took day trips instead.

Even though everything around it had been swallowed up by a recent forest fire, our old camp-site was just as beautiful as we remember it. We were there 4 years ago almost to the day. It was the very beginning of our relationship together and so we celebrated it as an anniversary.
We had a picnic lunch and then hiked up the creek a ways.
We were in heaven.

One day we were driving up a little mountain road to go hiking and a storm rolled in. The wind was so strong that there were trees falling and debris flying across the road. It was down-right scary (and a little fun--although I don't think V. agrees)! So we headed back to camp and hung out by the lake watching the clouds and waves instead...while waiting for a tree to fall on our heads.

Our last day of camping we planned to head down to Bozeman and camp in the forest outside of Yellowstone. We packed up, hit the road, and were hit by rain so hard that we could barely see to drive. It lasted all morning and created an easy justification for stopping in Missoula to get a hotel and check out some art galleries. I was bummed not to be camping, but the five hot-tubs at the hotel made for good compensation.

We spent the day gallery hopping and lucked out when we found the Dana Gallery where a National juried exhibition of Oils was being shown.
There was some breath taking work. Landscapes, portraits, abstracts, many different styles and blow-your-mind-away talent! I left the gallery excited to get to work on the ideas that have been coming together in my mind all week.

Neither Vinny or I had ever been to Missoula. Turns out it's a pretty cool not-so-little town...with some very good food (still salivating at the thought of those gyros!). And dogs everywhere! Yep--my kind of place: dogs, art, good food. What more is there??
Vinny and I walked down rainy streets talking about how good and necessary it is for artists to travel and have down-time to find inspiration and to fill the well.

The ride home was windy and raining. We camped our last night in Theodore Roosevelt NP. Wet. Cold. Beautiful.
Rain or not, the open road still felt pretty damn good. But there's a different feeling when driving home then there is driving away from it.

We drove and drove and drove until we found the sun, until we got to my grandparents house on the river where it was quiet and lush and Minnesota green. My grandma laid out towels by the hot-tub along with luxurious soaps and lotion. On the counter there was a vase of peonies from her garden with 2 crystal champagne glasses sitting next to them and champagne keeping cool in the refridgerator. After the hot-tub, Vinny and I took our glasses of champagne and sat down by the river to wait for them to get back from a wedding they were at. My grandma pampered us even in her absence. It felt good and we felt loved. When they got back my grandpa made us steak on the grill while my grandma made salads, corn on the cob, and roasted baby red potatoes with lots of butter. They had already eaten, but sat and talked with us while we ate. By the time we were done I felt satisfied and filled in every corner of my body and being.

Since my parents' divorce a year and a half ago, my relationship with my grandparents has been strained to say the least. It's been down-right horrible some of the times. It felt so good to be welcomed and taken care of and loved so unconditionally.

...and I realized just how much I missed having that.

The next morning my mom showed up and we all headed to my cousin, Dillon's, high school graduation party. He's had his share of hard-knocks in life too. But he's turned out to be a really cool kid. Him and his friends reminded me of myself and all my punk-rock friends from high school. It was good to see him. I like who he's become.
I hope he takes some of that graduation money and goes on an adventure of his own.

I was thinking about how many unexpected turns my life has taken since graduating high school...and I am amazed. Back then I thought that the most important thing in life was to follow your heart.

I still believe that.

And right now, heart feels like it is exactly where it wants to be.

I am thankful for the mountains and everything in between for slowing me down enough to see where I am in the first place.


Kristine said...

Welcome home!
I loved reading about your trip and seeing all of your pictures. Sounds and looks like it was amazing...

gkgirl said...

what in an amazing post!
so interesting
and so full of pictures
(holy, the sunset picture?

and insights...
sounds like a fantastic trip!

Dana said...

We had Kum & Gos in Kansas City when I lived there. I don’t know if there are any left there now, but the name always made me giggle.

These photos are great. The one of the mountains with the clouds reflected in the water gave me chills. I’m not even kidding.

erin said...

glad you're back and feeling rejuvenated. those pics made me ache to road trip!

Patry Francis said...

Great pictures.

deirdre said...

There is something so soothing about being in the mountains. And coming back to "civilization" can be a little disconcerting. I was only away for a couple days and felt like a new person when I came home. Good for you for taking a week. Welcome home.

paris parfait said...

Jessie, hooray for you! What an incredible journey. Thanks for giving us glimpses through your lovely post and those incredible photographs! Wow! Just beautiful! I want to go to Montana. And Blue Shoe is one of my favourite books! :)

Amber said...

I'm glad you're back...and I'm jealous of your trip. We're trying to decide whether we want to go camping on our two days off later this week, and this helped me decide. (I'll have to make sure Eric reads it, too.)

tara dawn said...

What an incredible post...the pictures are breathtaking, your words captivating. Thank you for sharing your journey and allowing me to hike beside the creek with you, if only in my imagination. I am so thrilled for you and V to have had such a wonderful trip...there is nothing as refreshing and energizing and life-affirming as being immersed in nature.
And the galleries...the food...the lovely visit with your grandparents...I loved reading all about your time away from home.
Thanks so much for your sweet means so much, especially coming from such an incrediblly talented and inspiring woman as you:)
I'm missing you girl. We really must chat soon!
Big hugs and love,

Loralee Choate said...

I went all around montana last year. I did an entire blog about it, it was SO AMAZING. You were, indeed lucky to have a bear box and to have such an awesome adventure

I loved this post!


melba said...

What a lovely post and those amazing pictures! I really enjoyed reading this (and I have to admit sometimes with long posts I start to skim, but you kept me interested.)I see why you had such a good time. It is important to fill the well.
I am glad you had a good time; you deserve it!

j e p p e said...

"Dang, it's hard to look at these pictures and not head straight back!"

I always feel the same way after my trips. Anyway, great shots. It looks like you should make some prints.

Signora B. said...

I am so glad you love this incredible big sky country.
The first time we went to Glacierpark ,the beauty took my breath away and I hated to leave.
Love your pictures,words and am glad you had such a good trip.
Missoula is the greates.
Love the photo of those nutty tourist.
We saw a group of tourist from who -knows- where ,placing the children right close to a buffalo and told them to smile.
It drove me crazy.This was in Yellowstone Park,they did not realize the danger those children where in.
Enjoy the summer.

liz elayne said...

oh this just made me feel so good. like i am sitting with you in a cafe drinking tea and you are bringing me up to date on your adventures. fantastic. i hope the relaxation and deep breaths have continued into the middle of the week. keep coming back and reading your own post so you remember.

silverlight said...

It's nice to get away somewhere and one just really needs a treehug. It grounds you and recharges your chi.

GreenishLady said...

What a great post - pictures, words, atmosphere. Welcome home. I laughed at the tree-hugging, because I did a bit of my own, too, on my holiday. Some things just will not die in us "old hippies"!