All posts filed under: Lifestyle

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 …

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.

On Adulthood and Hiking

Why does anybody ever hike? There’s a comfort that many of us can get lately, these past couple hundred years. We walk outside for fun, not because we have to. We don’t need to go out. Nobody’s telling us we have to go outside. For most of us in the U.S., we don’t thrust our feet into gnarled boots and drink bitter coffee before creaking outside to our own field in the frosty predawn to twist corn off stalks, over and over and over again until it’s done, in order to eat. We don’t need to taste our front yard for its cool mineral ping, in order to gauge its suitability for wheat or beans. We don’t need to feel a gnawing in our bellies about weather this season. Now many of us have indoor jobs and grocery stores. We don’t have to go outside. So why do we? For me, it’s to dissolve the clutter. People clean out their homes and I clean out myself. I hike so I can feel clean. I hike so I can discover. I hike, …

Risking a Fairy Feast

In the old European fairy tales, the eeriest and grimmest of fairy tales, a person, a regular person not a fairy, was safe in fairyland as long as she did not eat the food there.             Here is an example:             Anna goes for a walk in the woods behind her house.  She sees a warm light in the distance.   When she follows it she finds a tiny cottage and the door is slightly ajar.  Anna, curious, creaks open the door.  Behind it is an enormous hall with an enormous table and hundreds of people with clear skin and sparkling eyes and richly dyed clothes.  They are eating more food than Anna has ever seen before, with the most exquisite textures—the juiciest birds, the most savory meats, the most emerald spinach and the most crimson apples, the latter of which somehow seem to have dyed everyone’s lips.  Everybody smiles at her, touches her with cool hands.  Someone pulls out a chair.  Anna sits.  The woman next to her bites into a peach.  Juice drips down …

Vignette 2. An Ethnographical Account of Hipsters in Laramie

Many intellectual/anarchist/musician/scientist/poet types claim Front Street is the best bar in town. People say Front Street is a hipster bar.  As far as I can tell I haven’t seen any hipsters, only bearded outdoorsy types in flannel and thick black-rimmed glasses.  I think of that more as a mountain man with poor vision than a hipster.  Maybe, though, it’s been awhile since I’ve spied a real hipster.  Maybe hipsters in cold western towns are different from hipsters in silky hot Austin.  This is a place where dressing up for going out on the town means putting on your best pair of Carhartts.  Sometimes overalls, or, as Wyomingites and some Coloradoans tend to call them, bibs.  Carhartts lined with flannel appear to inspire great envy among the locals.  Though I’d like to avoid environmental determinism, this envy may be due to the ubiquitous wind that comes slamming horizontally over the train tracks and through paper-thin skinny jeans.  As such, the hipsters of Laramie have pragmatically ditched skinny jeans and creative, ironically vintage facial-hair sculpting for flannel-lined Carhartts, …

September in Laramie

There is very little water here. The plains look like ocean, and they ripple with gold and blustery wind.  It’s high up here.  We have an aspen in our front yard, and now in late September the first of its leaves are shivering in the persistent wind and spinning down like coins into the yard.  We have rocks, and a deer skull, and potted mint. This place is old. Our house was built in the year 1900.  The walls are three feet thick, solid stone.  It’s cool, even in the afternoon, and especially when the wind blows in the gray dawn, and the bedroom air on my face is fifty degrees cooler than my body wrapped like a warm gyro in thick down and my great-grandmother’s quilt. The outside is beige stucco.  On slow rainy days I walk, and on sunny days, days when things are happening, I bike on my mother’s candy-red 1982 Univega.  I walk to my office in the English building.  The office is a graduate assistant office.  I share it with …