Saturday, August 17, 2013

I’m a Just Roamin’ Cowgirl and Other Montana-based Fantasies

The thing with Going on Vacation is that it can be exhausting—there is all of the time you spend frantically Preparing to Go on Vacation, then the time you spend actually On Vacation, aggressively trying to relax, then the time Coming Back from Vacation, unpacking, doing laundry and cleaning out the car, which somehow turns into a mini-hoarder house after about ten minutes on the road. All of this to say I skipped last week’s post because Mr. Typist and Went on Vacation! We drove our butts off from Seattle to the wee little town of Livingston, MT and stayed here:

Our future Montana homestead

at this adorbs little mini-cabin on the banks of the Yellowstone River. Owners and lovely hosts, Dee Dee and Ursula, live on the property and rent out two cabins, the Calamity Jane and the Annie Oakley, during tourist season. (We stayed in the Calamity Jane, which was a fitting tribute considering the summer we’ve had.) Dee Dee and Ursula  own a house and an art studio right next door to the rentals, and the property is liberally decorated with Ursula’s imaginative metal sculpture:

The Goddess Lives!
They also have an organic garden, and were kind enough to bring us over some fresh-picked cherry tomatoes, squash, and Swiss chard, which we threw into a delicious salad. Dee Dee and I chatted about Seattle and the acting scene here. She was a professional actress in Seattle for many years and then taught acting at the college level. She’s now in Montana, doing plays in Bozeman, a city she says has undergone on quite a renaissance over the last few years.

This was the view from our backyard, which is why the minute we can afford top-notch riverfront property, we will promptly be moving there and living off the land. All we need is love and trout, right?

Our Backyard at Dusk

Our Backyard, looking downriver
Mr. Typist spent the entire week fishing on the river and almost cried when we had to go home. I fished, too, but never caught anything. My most startling moment while fishing came when a river otter swam up onto the rocks, waddled over to me, gave me a long, curious stare, and then disappeared back into the river again. Otter Medicine, according to Shamanic Journey, is about woman’s healing wisdom, guidance in revealing ones talents, understanding the value of playtime, primal feminine energy, joy, and playfulness—all things that have been badly lacking in my life lately.

We also took a day trip to Yellowstone Park, which was truly amazing. I’d never thought much about Yellowstone—I knew it as a famous vacation site, of course, but never felt particularly drawn to visit it. Having a spent only a day there and seeing just a tiny portion of its magnificence, I can see why it’s so sought-after. Oh, my pretties, it is truly a magical place; a place that got into my bones very quickly, and made me crave a return trip the entire time we were in Montana. Since we only had a day there, we decided to do the West Loop, which took us from Mammoth Hot Springs to the hoppin’ town of Norris, through the Upper Geyser Basin, Canyon Village and back out again. I wanted to eat the air. I wanted to take the essence of the place and wrap it around me like a giant quilt. I can’t stop thinking about it, and I would love to go back and spend an entire week there. I’d even be willing to, God forbid, camp, if it meant that I could spend some time in some of  the thousands of miles of back country.

Some Highlights:

This is Dragon’s Mouth Cave, an ominous, Lovecraftian hot spring that belches stinking steam into the air:

"I love the smell of belching sulphur in the morning"
We were lucky enough to have timed our visit to coincide with this gigantic rogue bison who had wandered away from the pack and settled in by the mouth of the cave to treat herself to a nice steam bath:

More bison

A thundering waterfall

Yellowstone Lake:

Oh, and we saw Old Faithful pop off, too, but that was my least favorite part of the trip—extremely crowded, hot, and touristy. Not really worth it in my opinion—just watch a You-tube video and consider it done. The only thing really intriguing about it was the church-like atmosphere; thousands of people gathered on pews to witness the almighty geyser do the same thing it’s done every 91 minutes for thousands of years. It is a bit miraculous, but still, I was glad to get away from the heat and the mobs.

Here's a purty sky:

A purty sky

During the trip, Mr. Typist re-discovered his long-lost passion for fishing, while I re-discovered my long-last passion for photography. I minored in film and photography in college, but at the time, digital cameras were unheard of, (yes, I’m that old), and darkroom rental fees, photo paper, and film were an expensive prospect for a 22-year old earning $6.00 an hour and living in a studio apartment above Ritzi Rags. So photography fell by the wayside for me due to sheer economics. But fortuitously, on my first day of vacation, Mr. Typist and I tackled the long-avoided task of Cleaning All the Things, and I unearthed my old Minolta in our storage unit. I promptly polished it up and brought it with me on the trip.

The light in Montana acts like a giant paintbrush, coloring the hills and bringing out the dark shadows and crevices. It’s such a beautiful state, and I think simply the act of carrying the camera with me made me notice the landscape in a way I normally wouldn’t have. I would love to go back some day and just tool around with my camera during dusk, capturing the mountains and the beautiful desolation of the prairies. There were so many sights that intrigued me on the drive down I-90 East—a broken-down shack with the light slanting over it just so, a single deer in the fields, the mountains fluted with dusty plum and indigo as the sun settled in behind them. The independent, rough-and-tumble  spirit of Montana injected me with uncommon courage and I imagined myself one day renting a Jeep and rolling down the interstate alone,  (no matter Mr. Typist tells you, I do not drive like Mr. Magoo on codeine), stopping along the way to hike into the fields and shoot hundreds of rolls of film. I’d sleep in a sleeping bag in the back of the jeep and fish my way along the rivers for sustenance. I’d wear cowboy boots, carry a Bowie knife in a sheath, and keep a rifle on the passenger seat. I’d roam for days and days like that, just me and my camera, alone and free under the endless sky. There’s a part of me who exists as that woman in my fantasy, and I like her a lot. Maybe even enough to garner the courage for that solo trip someday.

--Kristen McHenry

The Road to Home

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