Sunday, August 29, 2010

A Jammer bus ride, Glacier National Park

Yes, we moved to Montana in 2007, but then the jobs went away, and people stopped spending money.  So, my hubby got a job back in Massachusetts in 2009, and as you know from reading this past winter's posts, that's where we were this past winter and spring. Cape Cod was cold, Cape Cod was so rainy in March that it was literally off the charts, and then summer came with the traffic jams and accidents.  I made it through the Fourth of July madness, which I actually like, but then the traffic really got to me. So I escaped to our home in Montana. Big hay bales in the fields, lots of sunshine, and not many people.  One million people and three million cows, that's Montana. I have to say, I'm a lucky lady to be living in two "M" states, with family members in both locations.

I've been here in Montana, body and soul, but my mind's been back on Cape Cod in the 1880's-  fact checking and re-editing and re-editing my historical novel. I have finished my book, and it will be published soon. . . self-published because I feel my mortality every day, and want the book out there. It deserves to come off my desktop, and I must stop obsessing over it and release it to the world.  Eva and Henry, A Cape Cod Marriage should be on the Internet bookstore shelves within the month. Should be. I've been saying that a lot.  Glitches, witches. . . something's been holding back the release, perhaps it is the very close position of Mars to the planet Earth, but the spell is about to break, I can feel it. I needed to do something to get my brain here, too, and take in the scenery.

And so.   I decided to take a visiting friend for a ride, a very physical as opposed to mental thing, and I hope it rates as one of the rides of her life. Not a horse back ride, because I really wanted to relax and not worry about the safety of my non-riding friend.  A Jammer ride. Yup.  In our very own citizen-owned Glacier National Park. You really ought to add that park to your bucket list. Before the Glaciers melt for good, which they are doing rather quickly. Sadly. But back to the ride. . .    check this out-- copy and paste

A Jammer is a reconditioned very cool touring bus, the bodies originally built in the 1930's.  About ten years ago or so, Ford motor company very graciously re-conditioned all of them and put in automatic transmissions, which makes a tourist feel far safer on the way up and down the mountains on Going to the Sun Road to the top of the Continental Divide.  The driver no longer has to  jam the gears down on the way down the grade as a braking aid. So, no more real jamming, but the name stuck.

Here we are, traveling along with the canvas roof rolled and snapped back. Looking through the windshield, you really cannot see what's up above your heads-  some of the most dramatic peaks in the Rocky Mountain system.  And in the 1910,  the brilliant engineers of the day surveyed a road through the Logan Mountain Pass, and built it.  Yes, we went up a road that is 100 years old.  I believe the president or vice president may soon travel up that road in honor of the big birthday, but it does clash with the big birthday of the Pilgrim Monument in Provincetown on Cape Cod.  Big birthdays in both my favorite places.

Our driver/guide, Matt, was very knowledgeable about the formation of the mountains by the heaving of the seas and the shifting of the plates, and he actually pointed out some really cool rock which was embedded with ancient sea creatures and now rests about 5000 feet above sea level. He called the rock stromatolite, and I thought he might be making up a word to hoodwink us tourists. But then I looked it up on Wikipedia when I returned to my abode, and lo! By golly, there is a picture in Wikipedia of the exact stromatolite that he had pointed out to us. Have a look--   For you rock lookers (do not even think of carving a hunk out of this rock) it is located just beyond the tunnel heading up the west side of the Going to the Sun Road. So it will be on your right, and on your left will be. . . a huge empty space where the side of the mountain drops away. Get used to it.

Matt wouldn't say how many eons ago this rock was formed, though, probably because he has learned that people with different religious notions about when God got things started can get puffy and huffy about scientific facts. (My interpretation, based on my own experience in Montana and elsewhere,  as to why he wouldn't say when asked, "What era?".)  He did say, "I don't like to say." But he was very knowledgeable, and very friendly, and a very good driver, and had been driving his Jammer for 11 summers. Which is why I didn't have a heart attack looking over the 1000 foot drops.  A million people will have visited the park this birthday year, and Matt is probably getting ready for his hibernation.  He told us that in the long off season, he lives OFF THE GRID.  He has to hike in to his house (or cross county ski when the snow piles in) for a mile or so from the road. Wood stove, hand pump for water, a few solar panels, a composting toilet, and no utility bills.  Can't get cell reception. His choice. His preference.  

Of course, when he is really tired of himself, it's summer again, and he gets to drive the bus and talk to people from all over the world for three glorious months. He lives in the National Park dorm-like employee housing with other full time jammer drivers.  Neat life, Matt from Montana. The ultimate solitude and the ultimate driving experience with the ultimate views (check out the above inserted website on Glacier National Park)  Can't beat that no how.

So back to the ride.  We saw wildlife, but no bears.  The highlights were nanny mountain goats with their kids, right beside the road!  And  bighorn sheep (licking anti-freeze. . . sweeeet.. . . off the parking lot. shoo! shoo!  bad for you!)  Lots of little marmots. Birds of prey.  Forests, waterfalls, mountain peaks, the dissipated glaciers, and the other Jammers coming toward us on the road so we could see how scenic we were.  And tourists from all over. Including me and my friend. 

Thursday, June 10, 2010

A fisherman has died

I must pause in my quest for a quality life and reflect on a life just finished.  My cousin, Steve "Bavis" Paine, is gone. He was so happy-go-lucky, so well liked in the town of Wellfeet.  He went to Nauset High School in the sixties, smoked a lot of cigarettes, surfed a lot, and rode a horse like a cowboy all over Wellfleet before he got his driver's license.  He could whistle to his horse, Joe, a quarter horse, and Joe would trot over, skid to a stop and lower his head to the ground. Steve would put his leg over Joe's neck, and then Joe would lift his head, Steve would slide down and, presto, was sitting right where he wanted to be on Joe's back. He always rode bareback, a saddle was a bother.

I thought this was something that all riders could do, this was a normal way to get on a horse. I have never seen anyone do it since.

Steve became a fisherman. It was a way to get out of small town Wellfleet and wrestle big-time with Mother Nature, because when you are a fisherman on Cape Cod, you go out on the ocean.  My brother went, too, so the two cousins fished together.  Steve and Bud. Steve and Bud. I was upset that I was a female, I was a young mom, I didn't go have adventures like that. The stories were always good when they got back in, BECAUSE they got back in.  A lot of guys didn't.

And so, this went on for quite awhile, and then Steve's younger brother got into fishing, too, and Bud went fishing in Alaska. So, Steve and Dave fished together, two brothers, on a double ender called the Ocean Bird. A very picturesque boat out of Wellfleet. All the tourists would look down on it at the pier, and remark how neat and well painted the boat was.  Take lots of pictures of it as it came in and went out.  Everyone liked Steve. Everyone liked Dave. Dave was quiet.  Steve was the more outgoing of the two, the extrovert.  Very cheerful and kind. I never heard him say anything bad about anyone. Eventually Dave got a "real" job, with benefits, from the munipality of Wellfleet. Steve had an oyster grant. He got into aquaculture and was out on the flats at every low tide, tending his baby oysters.

He had a girlfriend once.  I remember they were such a couple that I think she got my grandmother's silverware when she died, that's how much of a couple they were. But she left him. He was not going to leave Wellfleet, and she was. That was broken heart number one for Steve. And then, twenty years later, another woman who he loved left Wellfleet, she died.  

A few years ago, Steve had a stroke.  It was quite debilitating.  He slowly came back, he could think, he could talk, he could see. He couldn't walk that well, so he had a wheelchair.  His brother Dave would bring him out to the flats in their truck at low tide so Steve could see Dave working their oyster grant.  Steve was still very concerned about how the oysters were doing, how many could be harvested, how did the restaurants like them. But, he was unhappy.  He had been so physical, and now he wasn't.  Dave quit his job to take care of him. They both lived home with their dad. Their mom died ten years ago, right after mine did.

Steve had another serious stroke and/or heart attack the last week of May.  He was brought to the hospital, where he hung on for awhile, but then he just slipped away. Machines kept him going, all the machines... and  everyone prayed. We prayed that things would come out the way he would want them to. And he passed over on Friday, this past Friday, June 4th.

It's been a week now that the first person in my generation has died. He was only a year older than me.  Our two dads, brothers, are 83 and 90. They are still here. I saw my uncle today, and he is conversing sociably with the people who keep dropping in. But Dave is another story. It's going to take Dave a long long time, and I don't think he'll ever get over it. Steve has two sisters, too, and I saw the three siblings together today. There is a definite hole there, Steve was a big happy cheerful part of their family glue.

So we'll have a memorial down at the breakwater beach on June 19.  I will guess that several hundred people will be there. Too many people to fit in a church, because, Steve was popular, like I said. And he felt uneasy going into a church, God is outside anyway, to be found out at sea, to be found under the big blue sky.  We'll all look at pictures of him and swap stories and sprinkle his ashes in the salt water and have a good time in his name, and then we will go home and miss him. It's very hard to say, but, good-bye, Bavis. You've finally gone and left Wellfleet.

Friday, May 14, 2010

If you had one wish

If someone gave you one wish today, what would it be?  For a few years now, my wish has been to walk pain free.  And today, the wish has materialized.  Yesterday I went to Massachusetts General hospital in Boston, and guided by x-ray cameras, the docs injected my ankle with dye, lidocane and cortisone as a diagnostic test.  Today, still numb.  I love it.

It makes me sad that for so long I have not been able to move around easily, from doing laundry to walking across the yard to the car. Today I feel like I've been deposited into a new body. I know the effects of the procedure, which was diagnostic, will wear off. But today, I could dance. Or walk down a trail. Leave my cane behind. Go up and down the stairs as many times as I want. I can abandon the behaviors developed by being in pain. . . including bracing myself for the pain when my feet first hit the floor in the morning. Today, all cringing muscles relaxed as I realized it did not hurt to cross the bedroom floor. I would not need my cane to make it to the bathroom.  I can probably walk into the post office with my old stride.  Let's dance!

We went to Montana last week to get some work done before this round of medical sessions, which will lead to either total ankle fusion or to amputation.  How wonderful to be there, in spite of April snow and wind storms.  How wonderful my husband was with me to load the wood stove and carry things for me. But I didn't go out to the barn once. I could not walk that far. After the winter of pain that I've had, whatever is best according to the docs is where I will go. 

But right now, today, what should I do?  I have my routine. I am doing laundry.  I have a writing class. It is raining. But,  I think that I should go run a marathon or something this day.  A fairytale, epic day has been given to me. What epic thing will I do?  Walk down the beach, probably.  I have not been able to do that for soooo long.  And maybe will not be able to do it again.

PAIN is so invisible, and yet affects people so strongly.  I know it as changed my personality. I am upset that I have lost so many of the things that I once did so happily.  I fell in love with my husband while we were dancing. But I have not danced once this year.  I fight against becoming a martyr, a couch potato, a person who orders my husband around in a cutting voice, ala Ethan Fromm.  I try to have everything that I will need located next to me when I sit down, so I won't have to drag myself across the floor to answer the phone.  My husband suggest that I crawl around the house.  I would if my knees were not so bad.

Today, he is having a normal day. I kept exclaiming to him as he left for work that I CAN WALK and IT DOES NOT HURT. He had to go. He cannot celebrate with me.  I hope it lasts a for a few days.  I really want to be be me again.  So maybe an ankle fusion, maybe the amputation and new prosthesis.  Whatever it takes, I will say as the pain returns. 

Medications? they do not work.  Neurontin, Lyrica, Codeine. . . they take a little edge off, that's all. I've broken through morphine in my dreams. . . nightmares of doberman pinchers chewing on my leg. I feel so badly for the people who endure pain. I understand suicide. I have fought that off. Many times.

And so, I am getting off this computer, standing up, and walking away. I have things to do, places to go, people to see.  I want to go be me. I do thank you Ellen DeGeneres, for cheering me up most mornings, but I won't be watching you today. You rock, though.

Monday, April 5, 2010

April, Cape Cod

I am here awaiting a medical appointment in Boston. Serious stuff. So, I distract myself with the big wide world around me. I am appreciative of the fact that I am temporarily living (aren't we all?) in a house that is just about a mile from where Henry Beston's Outermost House was. In other words, I am just about as far east as you can get on Cape Cod, and look right out there over the Eastham Nauset beach.

I see the weather coming in off the ocean before the rest of Cape Cod gets it. A fog bank just hovered out there on Saturday, threatening to come in and blanket us away from our sunshine. Big puffs of fog broke off every now and then and floated down the cove, temporarily obscuring the small boats that have begun to putter back and forth.

The fog was cold; it reached out and touched skin to make goosebumps. And then the sun would melt it as if it was some bothersome cotton candy, and it was sunburn weather again. Just Mother Nature, being herself. She can deal out the good cards with the bad, and vice versa.

I scared a rabbit who was having her babies out on the lawn under a bush. She took off running, strewing babies behind her across the lawn. I picked them up with a plastic sandwich bag, so my scent wouldn't cause her to reject them even further, and I put them into the nest from where she had run. I wonder if she'll go back and take care of them. Maybe.

It was in just that one second, when I walked past her hiding place, that changed everything. That's how quick it was.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Cape Cod Nor'Easter, Another One

Picture: the calm before the storm. Weather on Cape Cod now: 6 inches of rain in the past 24 hours, 40 mph winds, 40 degrees F.
And so, my lovelies, I've been sent back to Cape Cod, through a myriad of circumstances that could never have been predicted. But if life was predictable, it would not be life. It would be some pre-programed script. I'll take life.

In the meantime, I am living with one foot in Montana and one foot in Massachusetts, and I'll tell you, this is a pretty wide country. You've heard of left brain, right brain. You've heard of rural vs. urban. You've heard of north vs. south. The differences between Montana and Massachusetts (Cape Cod, specifically) are many, but they are not polar opposites. The culture of the two states is just very, very different.

For Example: You will never find the head of an elk mounted in a supermarket on Cape Cod, or the head of anything mounted. You will simply find the slabs of beef perfectly cut and cello-wrapped in the meat case with nary the head of a cow nearby to connect you to the fact that you will soon be eating a creature. The disconnect allows for all kinds of mis-perceptions.

You won't find anyone on my street in Montana who has outside garbage barrels. No, that would attract the bears. Garbage has to be dropped off at the municipal trash bins almost daily, like you drop off the mail. Otherwise, you'll be cited for attracting and feeding the bears, which creates a dangerous animal, which results (usually) in the death of the bear by Wildlife Control.

When walking in the woods on Cape Cod, there is no need to carry a weapon (read gun or bear spray) as defense against mountain lions or bears (but if you've been tuned in, the coyotes are getting pretty brazen). I won't walk down the Cape Cod bike trail without a big stick now. It looks like a walking cane to you, but it feels like a security stick to me.

Reality is the name of the game in Montana. We could do with a good dose of it here on Cape Cod. Recently a woman in Brewster had to beat off a coyote who attacked her leashed 40 pound dog while on a walk. When are the official warnings going to go out to the new mothers of small children that it is dangerous in the back yards this time of year when the coyotes are desperately hungry? No mention. In fact, Peter Trull, the anointed coyote expert on Cape Cod, was recently quoted in the Cape Codder as saying he had never heard of a coyote attacking a dog on a leash. Where's he been? It's been happening. I know of several people whose dogs were taken by coyotes, both on and off leash. One contractor friend of mine had to go out in a marsh and rescue his Labrador retriever. .. it was being stalked by three coyotes one sunny afternoon, and they were going after the back legs. He rescued his dog just in time. He was able to chase away the coyotes.

Cape Cod: It was only a few years ago that a small child on a back yard swing was attacked, and the father had to beat off the coyote with a two by four board. That was a highly publicized incident that was highlighted on television news. But television news comes and then goes. Where is the general public awareness? What public official on Cape Cod will dare to say openly: coyotes are dangerous. Hey, in Montana, everyone knows that even deer are dangerous. Beyond jumping in front of your car or truck on the highway, they will also gore you during mating season, or just because they are being protective of their territory.

A well know rising star folk singer was recently killed in Canada (Nova Scotia) by two hungry coyotes on a heavily frequented National Park walking trail. She was young and healthy. It was a "rare" attack. But, it happens.

And so, as I sit here in this blow of a Nor'easter that's been shaking the house and drenching the yard, I watch the German shepherd sized coyote trot over the front lawn, sniffing the rabbit trail that leads (yes, it does) to the brier patch in front of the house. I know what it can do. But, do you? Do you keep your toddlers safe? Do you let your cats out? Do you let your dogs out without you? We are not just living with wild animals in our backyards, we are living with predators in our backyards. Predator: must kill to eat. Reality. Attention must be paid.