All posts filed under: Travels

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 …

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 …

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 …

Vignette 1. Cow Tipping in Nepal

They’re upright, among the grass, strong and heavy and asleep.  It’s before dawn and the grass streaks dew along your legs and you creep, low and fast and quiet as you can.  The first one smells faintly sweet and like something else, something animal, sweat and hormones and the body results of all the processes: digestion and flowing blood and some deeply buried semblance of thought.  It peers at you with this side’s eye and the rumbling beginning of a low grumbles from its throat.   You put both hands on its side and it’s too sleepy to move quickly, to bolt, and you push hard and after one stumble it tips. “But,” Rashmi says, “why?” There’s a pause.  “Because,” someone says tentatively, “it’s fun.”

no place but here

I sing it with a broken soul voice. I put the “m” on the front of “baby” like John Fogherty does, but it’s mostly lost to the wind coming in through the windows. Here landscape supposedly flashes past cars like it does everywhere else, but you wouldn’t know because the terrain is identical for miles: flat. Wide. Cotton, sometimes maize. A monocrop culture of people who might live in a city and teach at a university but who are only one generation removed from a family farm. It’s three weeks after the puddle jumper landed with a bump on the runway a few miles north of here, and I alighted into a town I’ve known for eight years. My brother is driving in fast careening curves, my father is in the passenger seat, and I am content in the back, dreaming about the present. We’re singing “Suzie Q.” We’ve got some harmony going and the wind participates too. I have tried to talk but found that people mostly don’t want to hear, so I stay …

down the rabbit hole

Last night Heather and I left our hostel and wandered around the block in search of food. We entered the first restaurant we happened upon, and when we were handed menus by the waiter whose first language I could not speak, I flipped through in numb confusion. Kebaps. Lamb. Beef. Gyros. What country was I in? There was a moment when I honestly could not remember. I looked around me for clues. There on the wall was an engraving of a mosque with six minarets that looked suspiciously like the Blue Mosque. Turkey, then. No. We left there ages ago. I was tired from little sleep and a long bumpy bus ride, but surely I could remember where I was. Austria. Vienna. I was in a Turkish restaurant in Vienna. The waiter spoke German. Since leaving Cape Town, I have been in nine countries. European cities are old and beautiful, with extremely old churches and museums that hold things you studied back in middle school. But after so many cities with so many holy spaces …

Philosophy regarding a Turkish commode

“I can hold it,” Laura announces, sliding defeatedly into her rickety plastic chair. “It’s Turkish.” We are at a bus terminal in Athens waiting for transport to Delphi, and Laura has “just paid fifty cents to not use the bathroom.” I have two bottles of water and a cup of coffee in me, and a forthcoming 3-hour bus ride. I decide to take my chances. I hand the woman manning a table before a door labeled “W.C.” fifty (euro) cents, and pass her, focused on entering the dark watery beyond. “Wait,” she calls after me. I turn. “Paper?” She holds up a generous portion of toilet paper, and I accept it, smiling. Then turn back to my fate. I open the stall door to find a Turkish commode: two rippled foot ledges bordering a porcelain funnel which disappears into a dark hole. Like peeing in the woods, I decide a moment later. Except with a convenient sink and soap. Cleaner, in fact, than the U.S. and English version of toilets, given that you don’t touch …