Thursday, July 14, 2011

One Year Anniversary.

"Most people last only one winter up here, just so ya know" a neighbor-man looking about six months pregnant said as he walked up my new driveway. New to me, that is. In reality, old with three years of forgotten dirt.

"You livin' up here all alone?"

"My sister will be here for a few months, but otherwise yep, yessir I am."

"Well..." the pregnant man grunted (from a distance, I could hear his labored breathing through nose-hairs which should have begun being trimmed decades ago) "...welcome. But ya know, most people only last one winter..."

'Most people' I thought. But not me. That was one year ago now. I made it through the long winter, and have started hauling wood for the next.

The neighbor-man doubted, and so did the realtor. When I called to set up viewings, the expected and unavoidable question came: "is that time good for your husband too?"

"I don't have one."


Awkward silence.

Friends questioned my abilities and my sanity in buying a house, and a fixer-uper at that "but you have no honey to do," they said. No, I didn't. I'd have to do, helped along by my dad on his visits out to Colorado. I'd never been any good at making lists anyhow and I'd never call anyone honey, even if I was sweet on them. 

Pulling into the driveway the first time, meeting that realtor (and yes, without a husband) -- I fell in love. It was May and there was still a blanket of snow, but that only made me fall harder. The shed; the awning in want for a wood pile; the stone fireplace made out of rocks from the mountainside; the weathered deck; the scalloped eaves; the overgrown wintered grass; the stream lining the property heard as clear as its water. The raspberry canes bulwarking the house. And the windows...dear god, the windows. I'm home. It was the same feeling I would get reading and months later meeting a fisherman and fellow writer at a coffee shop. I'm home. I fell in love with him too.

Strange, my mother always told me it would happen this way. That I'd just know. And now, I just know exactly what she meant. Took me awhile though. Took me a good long while.

It was the scariest thing I've ever done in my life, buying this property alone. Scarier than riding a 15 hand horse bareback for my first riding lesson. Scarier than moving off to college from rural Iowa to San Francisco at age 17. Scarier than getting married. Scarier than being diagnosed with a disease. Scarier than getting divorced.  But this land, it needed me. It needed attention, and that I had. The hole in the bedroom wall crumbled drywall into my hands. But it was my drywall. The paint chipping off was my paint. And the dead ants coating the kitchen floor? Yeah, those were mine too.

Somehow, this was comforting. Dead ants.  

I should have been a pioneer. I romance myself with 'should've been a cowboy,' but I know it's only that: a brief romance....a girlish crush on the Marlboro Man. But as a woman, I needed land. I'm no nomad. I needed roots. I needed space, and most of all, I needed time.

And so I came to the mountains -- gathering my wits and broken pieces, working mule-hard, and saving everything -- to get to my canyon. To my side. I came here because something in my pioneer soul called me up....higher. Further up; further in. It may not always be safe, but it is good. I came here because of my adolescent infatuation with Sam, and his side. Like an injured animal, my soul shot through. Pierced, though not with cupid's arrow -- rather, with the pain of pulling out. I retreated. I nested. Finally, I felt safe. My soul found its sanctuary in painting the cabin, stacking wood, shoveling snow, and having no need for curtains on the windows. There are no Peeping Tom's in my neck of the woods, save turkeys.

People worry that I will become a hermit. And they are right to do so -- I may yet become one. They worry because I refuse to get a phone. They are probably right to worry about that as well. They worry I will develop the eccentricities evident in canyon folk -- "well, she's sure got that crazy mountain woman thing going on, huh?" I've overheard. But really? Really, I have nothing "going on" besides just being me on my side of the mountain.....through many, many more winters....

.....although now, no longer all alone.


  1. There's contentment in 'dem words and it's a joy to see. But you'd better be careful - I hear happiness is hell on writing. ;-)

    Thankfully, it's not affecting yours.

    A lovely post.

  2. "...eccentricities evident in canyon folk" , in alaska we called them "end of the roaders" and the eccentric nature was just a total normalcy due to lack of the rat race or caring about it. Its a really good thing, like this post.

  3. Okay, well I won't be worrying tooo much about you crazy mountain lady. Here's hoping that wishes and dreams have found you on your side of the mountain. Just remember that friends are there if you need them.

  4. The only "fishing" blog my wife reads...another good one Erin!

  5. "Somehow, this was comforting. Dead ants." Somehow I get that. Maybe it's better than live ants? Or a beehive living in your closet.

  6. I just saw a show on wild foods that had ants on the menu. At least you won't starve.

    Nothing wrong with being a hermit. Idle conversation is highly over rated.

  7. You are just way to awesome ...

  8. Mike - There is contentment indeed, and yeah, somewhere I've heard that thing about happiness ruining creativity ;) .....but I seem to always have just enough angst to keep me writing.

    Travis - Yeah, I think I'm, pretty darn normal. It's all those other people!

    Cofisher - Oh yes, I think they've found me. And don't worry, I'll remember.

    John - Really!? I'm!

    Kev2380 - Way better than live ants!

    Ken G. - My Grandpa Joe always used to try to trick me into eating chocolate covered ants. I fell for it once. Taste was good. Thoughts after eating, not so much so. I agree about idle conversation, and I'm horrible at small talk...avoid parties like the plague.

    Ankur - Thanks...and someday, I'm going to come fish India. :) I'll bring you a loaf of GF bread!

  9. "And so I came to the mountains -- gathering my wits and broken pieces, working mule-hard, and saving everything -- to get to my canyon. To my side. I came here because something in my pioneer soul called me up....higher."

    Beautiful :-)

  10. Strange how you just know when a place is home. Speaks right to your heart!

  11. Amazing. If you become a hermit you should blog about your hermitdom. And follow other hermit blogs-- it would be ironic.

    I'm sold, I need a jar labeled "mountain abode" with some pennies in it.

  12. Sanders - Thank you, as always!

    Phillip - Strangely and wonderfully familiar...

    Brian J. - "mountain abode" jar with pennies. Love it!

  13. Solitude should never be confused with loneliness.

    I think most anglers crave that solitude that modern life does not allow, away from the pressures and pace of modern life, i know i do.

    I have often wondered how much a good family sized cave would be :)

  14. I can just picture you, sat on the porch - in your rocking chair - shotgun on your lap :-)

  15. Happy anniversary :) Sam would be proud.

  16. Always proud IPOY, and glad you have someone to share your canyon home with. Someone just as in need of its healing echoes and soothing silence.


  17. Tom - "Solitude should never be confused with loneliness." I shall always remember that line. Thank you...and good luck on finding that family sized cave!

    Dave - ha! Yep, sounds about right. Well, minus the shotgun!

    d.nash - thanks....and I hope so. :) I think perhaps I need a raccoon...

    sgb - I am glad too...and you'll hear its silence echoing again soon. 19 days.

  18. Your prose is lovely, so evocative and soulful. It's a real pleasure to read your blog.

    Sounds like you have lots of reasons to celebrate, happy anniversary!

  19. Someday I hope to live in such a place. Currently, I am in the city. I don't even have a tree in my yard.....someday.

  20. "People worry that I will become a hermit"

    I think you've got too many friends for that. Funny how the intertubes makes the whole notion of place relatively meaningless. You're a canyon dweller yet you also live in this place where you chat with at twenty or so folks every day.

    I've found that the biggest problem with the end of the road is the other folks you meet. Too many people in those places are running from some other place instead of running to that place. That's why they leave after the winter. It's not their place. Glad you found yours.

  21. LoARSqred - I'm very glad you enjoyed it! And thanks so much for reading and the thoughtfilled comment!

    Justin - This was the first time in a long time that I had windows...and I remember living in San Francisco, people PAVED their "lawns." Freaked me out! May your neighbors be trees soon...

    Steve - It's really interesting, isn't it? How the intertubes connect us all...and I'm very thankful for them and you all. That's a good point you make about running...sadly, too often true.

  22. Nobody has asked what I thought would be an obvious question: The the old pregnant guy give birth or trim his nose hairs yet?

    Sounds like a person would be crazy not to live there.

  23. Hell of a post. I look forward to more, and sharing in your experiences. Also, thank you very much for your kind words on my most recent post.

  24. Kirk - The old guy is still pregnant. WAY overdue by now. Although I do think his wife might be making him do something about the nose hairs. You know, before the baby arrives and all...

    Russell - Thank you, and glad you'll be back! I try to hone my "eye" on good photographs, and frequent your blog a lot. Thanks so much for reading and for your comment!

  25. Dang that was good Erin. Read that one about a dozen times.

  26. Those city people are the weirdo's. Seems like life is treating you pretty good up there.

  27. Great post Crazy Mountain Lady! By the way, just found Floating Ash. Didn't know you were a Crazy-Mountain-Poet-Lady!


    You don't have to sing this looking for found it. But a tendril of root will always be back here on the plains.


  29. backcountryfishnerd - yeah they are...although we're always thinking it's the "others" who are the crazies, eh? ;)

    Justin - Ah yes...the poetry. Glad you're back online. Heard you were helping out at Fish Camp!

    sgb - Wow, didn't expect that to be me. ha! And yes, the plains will always hold my soul....'tis why I love being above treeline...

  30. d.nash - or a butler...or housekeeper. I would like a housekeeper, cleaner, and cook. :)

    Herringbone - Many thanks...

  31. Oh this is gorgeous! And I loved s.b.g.'s perceptive comment on your "someone".

  32. Hart - I think my 'someone' and I are very good for each other, and the canyon for us...

  33. I think your blog is my favorite; it takes me away and puts me in happy place. Congratulations to you for finding your piece of heaven in the canyon. Sometimes just getting your hands dirty and having something to call your "own" is extremely profound.

    I'm behind on your posts, darn school gets in the way of everything, but I am catching up. Just keep writing, because this blog is where I come to have peace during the day.


  34. Stephanie - Wow. Thank you for that comment! I can't tell you how much it means to me....truly humbling and encouraging! I'm glad my writing can bring some peace to your days....

  35. Having recently found your blog I am catching up. Love this post as well. Where from in Iowa? I lived on the family farm about an hour south of Des Moines, graduated from high school in Bettendorf. Joined the USAF, and have lived in Texas since '84.
    Ever read Bill Bryson's Lost Continent? As an Iowa expat, I think you would like it. He also wrote a book entitled "A Walk in the Woods..." about the Appalachian Trail that is a good read.

  36. Mark - The farm I grew up on was in Malvern, in the SW corner of Iowa. But I know right where Bettendorf is. :) Bryson! Yes! I love him. I think his "A Walk in the Woods" is his best, but "The Mother Tongue" and his books about travel in England are also favorites. I haven't caught his most recent two...but they're on my infamous "list."

  37. Our family farm was south central, near Humeston. Biggest nearby town was Chariton. I went back a few years ago and wrote about it here:

    The picture was the farm as it appeared in the late '40's as best as we can tell.