Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Life These Days.

The Grand Tetons

It feels like life these days is a series of snapshots, moments, that I play back in my mind, looking back and wondering how in the world it is that it goes by so quickly in the long-run, and yet so slowly in the moment.  The rollercoaster of daily chores, the beastlings, the random outings and busy-ness we create for ourselves revolve around routine meals interspersed with playtime and children's shows.  If Matt and I can get in a good conversation, have a laugh, a drink and get in an episode of a fun show, I call the day a success.  This is not the wild adventurous life I imagined for myself, in plain terms.  It is intense in very different ways than I'd thought it would be (everyone chronically underestimates the utter madness and reciprocating joy of parenthood).  But it's wonderful.  Better in so many ways than I ever thought.

Despite this, up until about six months ago, I clung to the absurd tendency to construct my views of what my life should be like based on the idealized life of 26-year-old-me: newly married, adventurous, unfettered and with decent amounts of disposable income to fulfill my dreams and whims (generally interchangeable).  So many of those things are no longer true, sadly in two cases and happily in all the others:
- I'm so glad to no longer be a newlywed despite the happy expectation, promise of that time period in my life.  
- I'm still adventurous despite having very different outlets for that personality trait than I did ten years ago.  
- I am quite fettered - this we know, and we love (though they may drive me crazy half the time).  
- And the disposable income, while not overrated in its ability to add to the quality of life, it is neither here nor there in this rumination, really (except that I will say that it is shockingly expensive to raise three kids).  

Six months ago a bubble burst.  I had to redefine those stubborn, outdated "perfect life" terms as something more realistic based on what I needed, and not necessarily what I wanted.  That didn't sit well with me and I fought it, with frustration, desperation, jealousy, annoyance and denial.  There were so many things I wanted - and why shouldn't I have them?  

- I wanted to travel as much as 26-year-old me.  I can't. Not yet anyway. 
- I wanted to live in a very specific beautiful place that I love - my living, breathing watercolor, as I like to think of it; a place that inspires me daily, despite my husband having little chance of finding a good / fulfilling job in that place, and despite it being a somewhat arbitrary obsession.  I can't.  
- I wanted to be independent, not have to lean on people like family or friends.  I can't.  
I desperately need the support of my family and people I care about, in ways I never knew or admitted before.  And it seems that for ten years I've refused to admit that until that need literally grabbed me and shook me and looked me in the eye and said, "Why are you still pretending you're not desperate to go home? Why are you still pretending you don't know where home is?"

I don't know.  I don't know why I do that.  It makes no sense.  And so this impending manifest destiny leading me home has washed over me like a warm, unstoppable wave.  At first I was dragged, kicking and screaming, until I saw that it was inevitable.  Suddenly, the reality became a positive one; rather than fighting the current, I went with it and actually found I was excited.  Right now, I'm at the crest of the wave, happy but impatient because I am waiting to crash down into a whirlpool of change and upheaval, with only the promise of landing on a distant but familiar shore at the end.  At lease there will be many familiar hands waiting to lift me up when I do, unlike every other time I've ever crashed into a new life.

I am trying to enjoy the view, enjoy the feeling of being suspended in the air, on a beautiful ride.  I'm looking around, trying to absorb what I see and experience and feel from this perspective that will soon be gone.  It feels good to accept this new reality, finally.  There's not much to let go of, practically speaking, here in Utah.  And there is charm and magic in suddenly taking on an adventure I never foresaw wanting to take on.  But it's hard and it's frightening and I oscillate between excitement and being overwhelmed. One day I'll look back on this first voyage of my life as grown-up-me and think how beautiful it was, with all its stops and wanderings, and amazing discoveries (no matter how much I hated or complained about them in the moment).  I'll think of all the interesting things we did, and how lucky we were to do them.  Because one day soon, I'll be in my cozy new house on that new shore, finding new things to be inspired by.  But this time, I won't be on an island.  I'll be surrounded by familiarity and people and that will make all the difference.  Because a life worth living is a life shared with those you love.  It is neither here nor there - it's not any "where."  It is in the moments and memories and happiness suspended between you and the many souls that love you - an invisible tie that doesn't bind.

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Here are some impressions of life over the past six months in random order.  It has been busy and beautiful but I'm ready to leave Utah when the time comes!

Antelope Island views

Sparkly little birthday boy.

Impressionistic Bison.

Ogden Valley sunsets never get old.

Needs, not wants.

The world did not end that day.


Hygge Home.

Frozen salt flats.

Snow swimming.

Peachy porch time.

Millions of peaches.  Peaches for me.

Unidentified beautiful sky.

The serendipitous discovery of pop cream / ice corn at the zoo.

Big western sunrises too.


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Sunday, June 12, 2016

Grand Tetons National Park: Phelps Lake and Family Fun.

Somewhere in the middle of Idaho.  Adventures awaiting.

Living in the wild west means I am perpetually hounded by the trips I should be taking.  It is no secret that I don't plan to live in Utah forever and so my mind has a list of must-sees about a mile long that may or may not get seen but feel urgent nevertheless.  My current, incomplete, western bucket-list goes something like this (right now; it changes constantly and is in somewhat random order):

1. Sequoia National Park
2. Seattle & Vancouver to gorge myself / see my dad
3. Brice Canyon
4. Lake Powell
5. Yellowstone National Park / Grand Tetons National Park
6. Hike at least one Slot Canyon
7. The Grand Canyon (even if just for the photo op)
8. Canyonlands National Park (gotta take a pic at Mesa Arch!)
9. See St. George (I've heard it's a cooler town as Utah goes)
10. Disneyland / Legoland (threw that in for Roman's sake)
11. Zion National Park
12. Grand Sand Dunes National Park in CO (we never made it there!)
13. Have a raspberry shake at Bear Lake during raspberry days
14. The Ogden Rodeo
15. Drive to the top of at least 1 mountain in Utah
16. Go camping at least once in Utah
17. Rent an RV and drive around the west with the kiddos
18. Las Vegas (never been!)
19. Go back to Park City
20. Go to Provo

Ironically, I did not realize we only live about a 4 hour drive away from Grand Teton National Park and 6 from Yellowstone National Park.  Upon being enlightened, those two things quickly moved up to the top of my bucket list because, well, duh, but also because it's the 150 year anniversary of the National Park system and I am a lover of nature.

Jackson Hole, WY
Neither Matt nor I had ever been to either of these parks but we determined that with 3 small children it would be impossible to do them "right," and so we flew by the seat of our pants, focusing only on Grand Tetons National Park.  I looked up a family-friendly hike on my phone as we cruised the open roads of Idaho, and, for once, food was not a priority on this trip.  I focused on having a nice time hiking in the park for a few hours and getting back to our hotel where we could exhaust the children at the awesome waterfall-filled, fake-bear-decorated pool, and perhaps get a rustic bite to eat at a local game-restaurant.

Roman admiring the river on an overlook.
It was a good plan and we were gainfully rewarded when we took the advice of other travelers and hiked the short, 3-mile roundtrip to Phelps Lake in the Rockefeller Preserve within Grand Tetons National Park.  It was uncrowded (possibly due to the patchy weather) and included multiple fun stops for the boys, among which was a waterfall with a metal walkway directly against it so that the boys could grab at the water and splash each other.  The ever-present danger of black and grizzly bears in the park is something I simply could not let go of and it did cause some stress during our hike (especially with the wee ones), but I decided the best way to keep the bears away was to sing loudly with Roman.  That meant ceaseless repetition of old Girl Scout classics like "My Grandfather's Clock," "The Gay Old Desperado," "I Said A-Boom-Chicka-Boom," "Daisy on my Toe," and some songs Roman decided to make up including an unforgettable rendition of "Jingle Farts" (sung to the tune of "Jingle Bells," of course).  I'm fairly certain the bears stayed away out of annoyance.  Mission accomplished.

On our hike we encountered a deer only 1-2 feet away from the trail; he was so accustomed to humans that he just stood there looking at us as we passed.  I was nearly driven mad by the bountiful collections of mushrooms in bloom, among them many lovely Morels, all of which are highly verboten to pick at any National Park.  The compulsion to get them almost drove me to break Federal law, but I stayed strong.  Alex was miserable for most of the hike (read: until we got to the lake and it was snack time) and I can't decide if it was because we woke him from a nap to hike (without offering coffee), or if his little hiking boots are getting too small.  Either way, I felt bad because he's too big to carry anymore, and anyway, I was carrying Linus.  Linus was a trooper for the most part, but decided to punish us by having a somewhat intense #2 diaper situation in the middle of the hike (and, as luck would have it, we forgot the wipes).  Disaster was averted and we made it to the lake without too much incident and delay.  When we got there Matt admitted he'd been trying to hurry us along so we could do a longer hike than we'd intended (there is another 2 miles around the lake), but it had become abundantly clear that the 3-mile round trip was more than enough for everyone.

*  *  *

Snacks and "Peace" at Phelps Lake
Phelps Lake was breathtaking.  Not only is everything painfully pristine in the Grand Tetons, but we also happened to be there on a day of on-and-off rain storms.  When we arrived at the lake the land was in a state of perfectly screaming pigmentation as a small storm had just passed.  It was sunny and blue-skyed, the water was invitingly emerald with the backdrop of the snowcapped Tetons and framed with towering pines and evergreens.  I've become somewhat jaded about the beauty of the mountains because we live in such close proximity to them; sometimes it just doesn't feel as exciting anymore, but this view and this environment left me speechless, kind of the way Acadia National Park did.  I wanted to sit still and silent and absorb it.  I got about 3 seconds of peace to do that.  Then I was brought back to reality with the squeals of two little boys chasing chipmunks all around me, bounding into piles of pine needles, chugging gatorade, and screaming and giggling non-stop.  Hey, I didn't say it was a bad reality, just not very peaceful. :)  Matt and I snacked on Spanish chorizo and the boys enjoyed goldfish and other sundry snackies.  All that was missing was a nice glass of wine.

Phelps Lake: Fresh air is good for the soul.

We stayed at a lovely resort called the Snake River Lodge and Spa in Teton village, a ski village just outside Jackson Hole.  The whole thing looks like a modern Swiss or Austrian village, and is nestled right on the side of the Tetons with ski-in-ski-out access being a perk widely advertised in our hotel.

We were greeted by a double rainbow at the end of our hike,
and just dodged a downpour.
In the off-season it was just wonderful.  Not too many guests, a great facility with a beautiful indoor/outdoor pool, and a restaurant or two just a short walk away.  That evening we had dinner at the local Wyoming-themed restaurant called The Mangy Moose.  The boys loved the name and the moose face on the sign.  They also loved the extensive taxidermy and antique ski articles hung all over the inside of the restaurant.  We were seated at a large table set into a small alcove, facing out on a main dining area, making it a semi-private dining experience and an easy place to corral little ones. Amazingly, this dinner was a landmark for our family.  It was one of the first and only times that all three boys have willingly sat down to eat without complaining and interacted in a decently civil manner with us.  I ordered a rabbit and venison meatloaf that came with broccolini and mashed potatoes, and Matt had elk sausage and the same sides.  We also had fried pickles to start and were very pleased to see that they were sour gherkins battered and fried whole.  They were delicious.  Roman was forced to try one but, alas, he still hates pickles no matter how much we harass him.  Alex gobbled one up and so did Linus.  The boys had mac n cheese and tried some of our food.  As a reward for the good behavior, we ordered a Mud Fudge cake and it was the biggest piece of ice cream cake I have ever seen.  The boys pounced.  Matt described it as we were throwing carcasses to vultures.  They simply would not stop until it had been devoured and were then energized, bordering on maniacal, for a quick dip in the hotel pool.

A view to the Tetons from the start of the Phelps Lake trail.

We returned home early the next day, Memorial day, (sadly two of us became very ill with a stomach bug Alex had had), good memories in our hearts and a determination to soon come back, this time to Yellowstone, in our minds.  But, really, who knows what the next adventure will be!

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