A Better View

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

A Better View

As one who has often felt this need, and who has found refreshment in wild places, I attest to the recreational value of wilderness.” -George Aiken

Marie had called it quits for the day.  The constantly ringing office phone, the boss who had a seemingly endless pile of projects for her; and then there was the commute.  She rolled her eyes at the thought of her drive.  It wasn’t just the traffic; it was also the construction that had eliminated half the lanes for what she thought were pretty cosmetic upgrades.  Marie was done.  She needed an escape.  She only had so many vacation days left but her mental health demanded that she take one.

Thus, early on Tuesday morning, Marie climbed into her car and revved up the engine.  Her normal business attire had been shirked for shorts, tank top, and shades.  The cup of coffee that she usually guzzled down by eight a.m. had been replaced with a bottle of water.  She had already sent an e-mail to her boss that something had come up and she wouldn’t be able to make it into the office.  Marie purposefully neglected informing him of the details.  Vacations were meant to be taken, she decided.  She’d worry about the consequences some other time.

Driving down the interstate, she giggled at the rows of cars.  They were all heading towards downtown while she was driving speedily in the other direction.  As the vehicles became less and less frequent, the mountains in the distance grew closer.  Even on the warm sunny morning, she could still see plenty of snow on the majestic peaks.  Marie’s car bounced and bumped along the gravel road.  An hour after she had left her house, she had arrived at the park of her choosing.

A cursory glance at the lot revealed only three cars.  Marie nodded in satisfaction.  That meant that the trails would be almost entirely clear and that the park was, in theory, open for her boot-clad feet.  She signed in, paid for her parking, and took herself and her backpack into the woods.  She left the real world and her cares behind with the car.

The longer she spent on the dirt path, the more life seemed to make sense.  What did it matter that the blind date from last week had been shockingly incapable of chewing with his mouth closed?  Who needed a successful date when there was a perfect waterfall that could sooth and relax her?  Did it matter how many voicemails were on her phone when there were chipmunks to chuckle at and watch as they skittered from tree to tree?

The petty everyday tasks and annoyances were put into their proper place.  Mighty trees that had withstood centuries passing and forest fires showed her that there was more to the world than a week’s “to-do” list.  The world kept turning, the trees kept growing, and the mountain snow would still melt and feed into the cascading rivers below.

As if to further punctuate the point, a doe scurried up the hillside.  It had no need for trails.  It leapt, bounded, and bounced between the trees and over any rocks in its way.  The doe stopped for a moment on the path.  It glanced calmly at Marie, blinking once, and then twice.  Marie wanted to step forward and get a closer at the animal, but she knew it would dart away.  The two female creatures stood there for a minute, each measuring up the other.  The doe’s ears turned up the hillside, obviously aware of something.  Just like that, the doe changed course and took off up the mountain.  Marie gave the doe the thumbs up gesture as it left.

The two hour hike gave way to a breathtaking view.  The sound of waterfalls had died down.  Marie wondered just what this lake was going to look like.  Then it came into view.  “Holy…”, was all Marie could manage to say.  In front of her was a panoramic view of a dozen peaks.  The lake, having thawed just recently, lay cool and calm with small chunks of snow dotting the surface.  The white covering still dominated the terrain.  That didn’t stop the rocks from trying to break through.  As the sun glistened in the clear blue sky, Marie beamed in response.  She spread out on a giant rock and lay down, using her pack as a pillow.

Bring on the sun, bring on the warmth, bring on the freckles, Marie thought to herself.  This is the life for me.  Marie knew the scene was too perfect to last.  She refused to acknowledge that truth quite yet.  Her batteries simply needed a recharge and the best power source in the galaxy was happily obliging.  With sunglasses on her face and heat waves rippling off her skin, all was well with the world.

The Family that Freezes Together Stays Frozen Together

In “Anecdotal Tales”, stories will be told. Some will be fun, some will not. Some will be great, some will be less so. Some stories are true, some are merely possible. This is one of them.

The Family that Freezes Together Stays Frozen Together

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” -Mark Twain

(As I often do, I took this blog topic from kiradault.  Really, you should check out her stuff.  It’s rather delightful.)

I have been known to wear short-sleeve shirts when it snows.  My standard jogging attire varies only slightly.  The tennis shoes that adhere snugly to my feet are required.  In addition, I can be counted on to shun sweatshirts, jackets, or anything with a sleeve that dares to infringe upon the space beneath my bony elbows.  A large factor behind this is that I do not like extra fabric rustling against my arms.  However, another very key reason is that after the family vacation of 2000, short sleeves are all I really need.

December is never my favorite time to travel to the eastern part of the country.  I rather enjoy the northwest climate and our typical one day of snow every other year.  However, my parents, who I am sure were aided and abetted by my sister who lives just up the road from them, thought my brother and his then-girlfriend should all trek out there for Christmas.  I had a break from school and they were paying for airfare, so I packed my winter jacket, gloves, and submissive attitude.  Off to frigid Pennsylvania I went.

The first part of the trip was rather typical.  We had our little family Christmas-time together.  There was my mom, my dad, my sister and her soon-to-be husband, and my brother and his not-quite-as-soon-to-be-as-the-other-sibling-but-they-were-married-not-too-long-after-them wife.  Oh, and there was me and… uh…, well I had my Duct Tape Pro hat.  It was a very nice, black hat with white letters that I had adorned with comic book-related pins.  So I had that to keep me company.  (Shrugs)  All was cozy in a home that invoked Rockwellian scenes of dinners around a large wooden table and fireplaces that beckoned to all who wished community and warmth.  Then my mother dropped the bombshell; New York.

Now, I understand why people want to live in New York.  They want the excitement, the drama, and the fast-paced life that only that city can provide.  The only allure that New York could ever hold for me is the building that houses the offices of DC Comics.  I’m not a city sort of fellow.  So I admit that my enthusiasm for this family trip was a bit lacking.  However, I was told we were going to go see The Rockettes.  I didn’t actually care for the dancers as much as for the show itself.  Trust my mom to know she could sucker in her youngest son, the drama minor, with a visit to the famous theatre.

Admittedly, it was a rather nice show.  I don’t recall being blown away by it.  The whole thing was pleasant.  The theatre was nice, the dancers were in synch, and there was a general merriment to the whole thing.  It was not a life changing moment, but I certainly was not bored.  In fact, I would have had only pleasant memories of the entire trip had my family not uttered those now infamous words, The Statue of Liberty.

I work rather close to the Space Needle so tall buildings have lost much of their power over me.  As I mentioned, I am not a city type of guy so a view of the water is all well and good, but I’ll take snowy mountains over skyscrapers any day.  If others like their long-lasting reminder of liberty and hospitality, I say go for it.  But as we got on that ferry on a cold December twenty-sixth, I had other matters on my mind.  I was more focused on the matters at hand.  Mostly I was wishing I could feel the fingers on my hands.

Honestly, it was the ride away from the island that got to me.  We didn’t feel the need to go up the statue itself.  We strolled around the island, took some pictures, and hopped back on the ferry.  We all sat on the same bench along the side window of the ferry.  This is where my being a weather wimp did me in.  It was eighteen degrees outside.  That was not including the wind chill factor which was blowing off of the ocean.

My sister had lived in Chicago for four years.  My parents were raised in the middle of America.  My brother spends his free time in the mountains sleeping in the snow.  I had no such experiences to toughen me up.  I don’t know if I had ever been in twenty degree weather before, wind chill or not.  I can tell you, with utmost certainty, that to this day I have never been as cold as I was that day.  The hat pulled low, the gloves, the winter coat; they certainly took some of the frigidness away.  I was still miserable.  It was the only time I have ever wished for a pair of long johns.

I can understand why my parents did it.  Now that I have three nieces and a nephew, the thought of the entire family getting together and strolling down the city streets seems laughable.  Have you ever visited a strange city with ten people and tried to see tourist spots; all without losing someone?  No thank you.  I am sure the thought had entered my mind of, “Why now?  Why not some other year?”  But next year would have been completely different.  Next year visitors to The Statue of Liberty would have had an entirely altered experience.  The year after there would not have been The Twin Towers in the background.  A year can make a huge difference, whether it’s the number of kids in your family, or the state of a nation.

I don’t regret that vacation.  It’s the bitter cold that I disliked.  I like my family just fine.  They do an admirable job of trying to offset the weather with hugs and cheer whenever I visit.  There was talk about all of us going out to Yellowstone.  I am quite fine with this idea since they want to go in the summer when it’s warm.  Plus they have cabins there instead of ferries, so how cold could it really get?  (Don’t answer that.)  For now, I shall continue to wear my short sleeve shirts year round.  For a dozen years Seattle folk have questioned my sanity for that reason (and many others).  I think back to that day, remember just how cold I was, and shrug it off.

Image

I apologize for the quality, but it’s a scan of a print-out of a scan of a glossy. 😐
Oh, and Mom took it.

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