Thursday, July 20, 2006

Visiting Memories

As always, I'm running around doing a zillion things before my vacation. But I'm SO looking forward to it that it's worth it. Completely.

When I return, I begin my life in a new office, my ninth spot in three different buildings in 9 1/2 years of work at the same local company.

I'm off to Montana, Wyoming, Idaho and Washington for a week on a riding on a tour bus with a bluegrass band-meets-fun with old friends-meets my long-since-forgotten past tour. Along the way, I'll hook up with my good friends, David, Margot and Tim & Jill, do some singing, drumming, interviews on camera, river-rafting, videotaping of a local wedding and camping.

My past is the fact that 17 years ago, I worked as an assistant team leader on a trail crew in Maine. One of the best summers of my life. I brought then-puppy, Jake, out on the appalachian trail with me and worked hard for long and hot eight hour days. Then I slept on a ledge under in my tent and awoke each morning to Jake's nuzzle, muddy black coffee and stale bread. We were out on the trail for weeks at a time. (so, no showers and the inevitable subsequent dreadlocks.)

I raced my team's Suburban with a moose. (really, I did that.)

I've never been able to replicate the incredible physical shape I was in that summer. Our crew was chosen from the whole state to represent in Wyoming at Yellowstone National Park to work on fire-recovery. It was the summer after the big fires there in '88. It was an amazing experience, especially for a 20-year girl from Maine who'd never really seen the dramatic natural splendor of the West.

I'd never seen anything like Yellowstone, and I'd never camped in grizzly territory either.

I think that's about the right time period. Memories flood in when you see yourself in a picture from long ago. 1989. There's Jake as a puppy and the beauty of early autumn in Maine. I think it's up on the Swift river with my dad. Right before I flew us out to Wyoming for a year at UW. What a turbulent time period. My parent's divorce, my increasingly more permanent exile from Maine, a year of intense hardship and lot of stupid mistakes. I learned a lot there tho', and while there, I started considering a move to CA.

I started an underground newspaper called "Hole in the Ground" on the UW campus in response to a broadcast teacher telling me to cover the damn football game when I wanted to cover the AIDS crisis. He told me there was no AIDS crisis, because there were "no gay people in Wyoming". Dick Cheney was their rep. in Congress at the time and Laramie later became the setting for the hate crime annd death of Mathew Shepard (who was gay).

As I mentioned, it was the year after the fire in Yellowstone. Surreal. Ash on everything, then you'd spot a perky little purple flower a foot high in the middle of the blackened earth. Every night we'd stumble back into camp, near Canyon, and be covered with ash from head to toe. We'd draw tribal symbols on each other's bodies.

We rebuilt bridges out of trees we cut down in the forest, made a boardwalk up to Fairy Falls and created waterbars on countless trails that most tourists probably never walk upon. We went to the Sweet Pea Festival in Bozeman that summer and lounged in hot springs right next to the river near Gardiner. I felt so lucky. Tough, naive, becoming street smart and vulnearable all at once.

My Montana friend Margot, who I adore, but haven't seen for several years, will greet me tomorrow night at the little airport in Bozeman. I'll remember how I flew in there that summer of '89 and how much I've experienced and grown since then.

While I pack tonight, I'm dreaming of a peaceful repose, the books I'll read and an adventure to write in my blog about.



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