Monday, September 8, 2014

The young girls

Two young women drifted over like butterflies to sit with us at the pub. Their skin glowed and their arms chimed with the music of many bracelets. Their hair flowed long down their backs. One was headed for six weeks to work for a packer in the Wind Rivers. The other, to a heliski company. They had no real plans beyond that. They were gloriously adrift, like I used to be.

"Well, they probably look up to you," J said later. But I don't know. I probably look like an older lady who has never, could never, have experienced drives across country, road atlas on the passenger seat, chasing fire or wilderness, a new job every season. It's not so much that I miss that old life, the taking off and leaving, constant, constant, but the possibility, the endless years ahead of me, that I miss. It's strange to form the fabric of a new life, a settled life, while still trying to be wild.

Do other people feel this way? I don't know. This is why I left at three in the afternoon on a Thursday and hiked up to Maxwell Lake for the night, waking up with ice on my sleeping bag. This is why I hiked in torrential rain because it was the weekend and the other choice was to stay home. This is why I run, bike, take trips. I'm trying to hold on.

This weekend, four of us hiked towards Echo Lake, a three thousand foot climb over three miles, and we met up with other women doing a day hike. Why is it only the women out here, we wondered? But it is, all women of a certain age, the men at home puttering. Echo was beautiful and remote, nobody else venturing up the eroded "trail." We scrambled up the goat trail and down to Billy Jones lake, a place where perhaps two hundred people a year venture. Maybe not even that.



When is it enough? I don't know the answer. My friend and I sat drinking a glass of wine and we agreed: if something happened to us tomorrow, we've had rich lives and we would be okay to go. I don't know if you can get any better than that. I watch the young women leave the county and hope the same for them, when they get to be my age, countless, impossible decades from now.

10 comments:

  1. I look at myself now - stay at home mom of three boys - and I can't even see the firefighter and forester I used to be. I understand trying to hold on though, and I'll raise a glass of wine with you - to living in the now.

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  2. Now that my kids are grown, I'm trying to have as many adventures as I can before I get too old and creaky! :) I hike and ski with a group of people well into their 60s and they are still going strong. There's hope for us!

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    1. I've noticed that too, people older still out there. It makes me happy.

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  3. Just back fromrafting trip on the Salmon River...group ages from 42 to 80, and they swam rapids, paddled oar boats, hiked to historic ranches and pictographs, slept out under the stars, and generally laughed at stereotypes. So it can go on! BTW, great photo.

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  4. I had some of your thoughts as I watched the seven young women river guides on the Salmon River. One was 40ish, and had a settled life in Salmon, but the oldest of the other six had just turned 26. They were heading off for the winter, often not knowing where they would end up, but confident that they would I silently wished them well, safe and happy, envied them a little but would not trade my life for theirs. They have years to "settle down" and find a path or paths for their lives. Whether they know it or not, their paths have been blazed by adventurous women who went before.

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  5. Love this post. Especially with the change of seasons, I wonder if I'm getting to old to not be settled yet. I suspect it will be a lifelong change finding balance.

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    1. I still don't really feel settled! And I'm old!

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  6. Oh boy. Yeah. All that and more. In all technical purposes I would appear to be settled. I have lived in the same town for 14! years now. Previously to that I had a moving average of every 6 months. Now, that my step kids are all grown and on their own I have had countless battles between the settled me and the previous gypsy me. I am slowly coming to some sort of reconciliation between the 2. But, I will never give up the adventures, I say, there is never enough.

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  7. This was really beautifully written. Thank you for writing it. I just turned 44 and am conflicted about my settled life and my tiny adventures I try to squeeze in, so this really resonated.
    Tracy Zhu

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