Author: Erin

On the Ranch

Come for a walk with me. I’ve been walking a lot, lately. It’s winter and I live in the Bighorn foothills, and I miss hiking tall mountains. The season prohibits that. So I walk on the prairie where I live, on the ranch. A ninety-two-year-old Texan extracted oil in Wyoming, decades ago. He believed that taking requires returning. So with the money he made he bought a ranch, near the oil wells. He wanted to make a ranch that could be a model for all ranches, that could show that conservation was attainable. He ran cattle. He renovated the farmhouse, barn, and schoolhouse that sat on the property. He moved the defunct train depot from the tiny town nearby. And he invited artists to come. I live here now, on his ranch. I work for the artist residency program. I’m an intern here for a few months. I have plenty of time, and more space than humans need. So I walk a lot, up and down the road outside my house. This time of year, things …

New Year News

I’m a little late for the new year, but 2016 still feels new to me–the plants have retreated deep into their bodies, the rabbits huddle under my porch, and the season hasn’t shifted into dynamic springtime yet. Still winter. Still new. I’ve retreated, too. I finished my MFA in December, and left Laramie and my beautiful community there  for a more remote part of Wyoming.   Since late January, I’ve been living on a ranch in northern Wyoming. I live alone and work for the ranch and I write. Mostly, I spend my time alone–writing, running, reading, cooking, walking. It’s a good post-MFA writer’s life, for a little while. An idea incubator and maybe a human (me) reboot. More about the ranch later. But for now, NEWS: I was featured on an episode of Willow Belden’s incredible podcast, Out There! The episode is my essay about failing a thru-hike. Check it out here. Also in January, I had my own episode on HumaNature, the podcast I produced! To bid me farewell, they featured my story about working at …

The Beginning of the End of the Trail

It’s been awhile. A month has passed since I got off the trail. Maybe a little over a month. Things happened. Life happened. I got home and immediately went back to Colorado for an event in Boulder. I came home again. Breathed for a moment. Opened my computer, on a rickety shelf. Above it, an over-watered aloe plant upturned, spilling onto my keyboard. The m key displayed j, the w was t. I took the computer to a local repair shop, which kept it four weeks, for mysterious reasons. I took a friend to get a medical procedure in Casper. Wyoming Public Radio obtained a grant to pay me part-time. School started. And in all of that, somehow, I neglected to finish writing the trail. I think that at least part of this is due to my uncertainty on how to think about it, my smallness at grappling with being off the trail. And overwhelming. How do I describe everything that happened? I was only there for two weeks. It feels like a different life, someone else, but it was my life …

Creative Sunday Afternoon

For a creative Sunday afternoon, you will need tea, and the sun to come through just right onto the flowers in a jar on the table. You will need to feel a little sleepy from the night before, when you stayed out late, when you wore a beautiful dress, when you smiled and clinked glasses with the others, when you felt alive and young. You will need a book, something slow and contemplative, maybe poetry or a book about religion or meditation or a canonical novel or a literary magazine or an anthology. You will need a notebook, something you can write in. You will need it to have large pages for splashy ideas and room to draw lines and arrows and upside-down lists. You will need a yellow pencil. You will need a seat that is soft and swingy. Finally, you will need to close your laptop, and swing in the soft chair, and set your teeth around your pencil, and open your book.

Tuckman’s Stages of Group Development

In the morning it was raining. I woke up. I listened to the rain. I thought, Not today. I closed my eyes. An hour later it stopped raining but still the air oozed dim. The tent poles arched heroically. A fly crawled around and around one, then buzzed weakly. It hit the rain fly, again and again. I thought, maybe coffee. I sat up and unzipped the tent and reached for my stove. I went against all black bear protocol I had ever learned or taught to earnest New Mexico Boy Scouts and made coffee from my sleeping bag. I am Storming, I thought. Tuckman’s stages of group development. I used to warn Boy Scouts about it. “Be mindful of each other when you’re Storming,” I said. “That’s the worst part. Be compassionate when that happens.” I wished I had myself as a ranger to tell myself things like that. Exactly myself, outside my body, younger, to appear in a polo-shirted hologram and say, “That’s the worst part. Be compassionate when that happens.” Or to just smile at myself. How do …

The Rain

It rains here, in Colorado. I don’t know how to tell you about the rain. Maybe you are in a place where when it rains you watch it, soothed, from inside a window. Maybe you stay dry. Maybe you think about the plants and how the water eases through the soil to infiltrate their roots, flow up into their bodies. Maybe you watch the rain with hot coffee in your hand and you sit next to a window in an office or a classroom or you’ve ducked into a shop, and you peruse vintage clothes or hand-blown vases while it pours. Maybe, where you are, when it rains everybody’s heart rate slows down a little. Maybe yours does. Maybe you daydream for a moment, watching it come down. Or maybe you live, like I have most of my life, in a place where it rains very little, where rain is an exception. Maybe you live in Arizona or California or West Texas or Utah. Maybe you crave rain. Maybe the earth around you looks cracked like …

The Fourth of July

Six things happen on the Fourth of July. 1. The first thing is really two things, but they happen all at once. It’s my second day on the trail and I notice strawberries. I bend down to pluck one and I eat it–tart, cool against my tongue. I close my eyes. I open them again and on the trail ahead of me strut two baby birds. “DUCKS!” I squeal. They are not ducks. They couldn’t be ducks. There’s no water nearby, and anyhow I can recognize that they are not ducks. They waddle, tiny and round and fluffy, with a level of arrogance all out of proportion to their cuteness. An adult, presumably their mother, pops from the grass to the left of the trail. Her tail arches, ruffled like a tiny turkey. She’s mad, mad, mad at me. Her neck feathers stick out in an irregular fin, like forehead veins. She stomps toward me and thrusts her beak and clucks. She’s a grouse, I’m pretty sure. “Duck!” I say to her again, delighted. She raises her wings …