The Beginning…

I recently was asked when I began to write. This is a difficult question without an easy answer. I have always been of the mindset that a photographer was born a photographer-that a photographer is someone who has taken photos their entire life, well before they ever even possessed a camera. To me, writing and storytelling are the same. I cannot pinpoint the moment when writing truly began for me. I come from a long line of storytellers, so in its most basic form, writing has been there since the beginning-after all, what is writing if not telling a story? In a vague timeline of my life it’s easy: I sat down one day and began to write. That’s it-that’s how this all started. There was no grand plan-no outline was made, no epiphany struck me in the middle of the night. The most common question I get after the “When?” is “Why?” Why do I write? Who am I writing for? I don’t know-certainly not myself. For that I could just as easily set myself down with a pen and a paper and jot my thoughts down in my clumsy, cramped script, and then squirrel it away from prying eyes like those who keep a journal or a diary. I wouldn’t be so dull as to say that I’m writing for everyone, which in my view is just as pointless as writing for no one, “everyone” being such a wide and untouchable audience. Writing is a fairly simple way to memorialize oneself-to attempt to prove one’s personal importance on this earth. As humans, we surely all must feel the pull to make each revolution around the sun count before the count begins to run out on us. But that thought gives me disquiet because it seems selfish and unfulfilling to write for that reason alone. It seems cheap. So, as you can see, “Why?” is just as problematic as “When?” with regard to my writing.

In this vast new world of technological shout-outs it seems that we are all willing and able to showcase our own madness or minutiae to the masses via social media. Are books and articles going to be just another casualty in the 140-characters-or-less lifestyle to which we are so accustomed? I hope not. Perhaps I continue to write because it is my possibly optimistic view that you, reader, will garner some entertainment value out of this brief peek into my life, and by so doing, learn to appreciate the aspects of your own life that stand out as uniquely yours, without the accompaniment of hashtags or filters.

My husband, daughter and I moved from Nebraska to Wyoming in May of 2005. As a child, I did not realize how lucky I was to grow up deep in the country, with the Platte River as my backyard. Until I was in college, I did not realize how lucky I was to have a childhood where I was free to roam amongst the trees and the wildlife from dawn until dusk. By then, I was living in the city and longing of the wide-open spaces of my youth. When Sierra was born, Josh and I knew it was time to leave the claustrophobia of the city behind and find a place for her to grow up where she too could have true outdoor experiences. We needed her to know what the first light of dawn smelled like in the mountains-how the dew glows on grass like droplets of liquid silver in the morning. We needed her to be able to stand still and listen to the sounds of the earth, untouched by time and progress. The human spirit needs places where nature has not been rearranged by the hand of man. By moving to our tiny Wyoming town and the Wind River Range, it was my hope that she would make her way through life exuberantly and full of appreciation and love for each coming dawn, and full of satisfaction and ready exhaustion for each approaching dusk. What more could anyone ask for? What more could any parent hope for their child than sheer happiness in every single moment, every single breath, every single beat of a heart?

As I sit writing this, spring has finally come to our corner of the Rockies, and summer will soon be on its way. After a long winter, we are all feeling relieved. What is it about that first hint of birdsong and the raw appearance of spring that makes our heart stir? That first smell of rain in the air rather than snow, and the pungent scent of soft and thawing dirt rather than unyielding frozen tundra alerts our senses to the natural changes and rejuvenates us somewhere deep inside. I’ve always felt that people actively hibernate in the winter-despite our day-to-day activities our metabolisms slow, tempers flare, and fatigue sets in as subtly as the seemingly eternal darkness that comes with the colder months. But with the onset of spring, things change. We quicken. We seek out the sun and we follow the fresh open ground to find ways to reconnect with the outdoors after hiding from the harsher days of winter.

And so, we hike. And we camp. And we climb.

I love camping. I love the whispering of wind on the tent walls, and the quiet, mysterious sounds of the night. I love the unblemished stars in the sky that shine down like so much magic. I love the crispness of the morning air and the smell of the sun-warmed earth and rocks. I love the wide-open spaces that make me reflect on my own insignificance on this earth. Camping is good for the soul. It makes us stop. It makes us just breathe. Sierra spent her first night in a tent when she was thirteen days old. Josh and I both grew up camping. I see the value of immersing myself in the natural world more and more as I get older and more responsibilities get heaped onto my plate. I feel it. Elsewhere, it seems like people are becoming more detached from the natural world. When people no longer believe in nature, it becomes unimportant. When it becomes unimportant, they build something in its place, and will never understand the foreign longing in their soul. They will never understand how deeply they need those moments of stepping back from life and experiencing the soul-cleansing that a clear blue sky and a mountain meadow blanketed with wildflowers can offer. I am glad that Sierra will have grown up with a different set of opportunities. It is my sincere hope that in the future, she will continue to feel the presence of nature in her very bones and will follow the compulsion to immerse herself in all of the beauty that is out there quietly waiting to be appreciated. It is unimposing, silently therapeutic, and unfortunately disappearing.

Living here in our small Wyoming town, it is easy to forget sometimes how truly lucky we are. Our wild spaces are more protected than in other areas, so they become easy to take for granted. After all, the Winds have always been there, and they will continue to be there for the foreseeable future. It’s easy to delay and put off adventure because we always have “other things to do.” I too am guilty of this procrastination. But each day when I come to work I see the faces of those visitors who come here to experience for just a few days what we get to live with. I hear it in their voices, these people from the cities. They crave the outdoors. They probably don’t even notice the flatness in their eyes, or the pleading tone present in their voices prior to their trip. Afterward, when they come back to me filthy and sunburnt and physically exhausted and shake my hand and tell me with loud enthusiasm all about their adventures in the wild, they are like completely different people. The laugh loudly, they move more while they are talking, using their hands to describe the places they saw and the things they did. They are alive. They are vibrant. Oftentimes, these changes mean they are completely unrecognizable at first. Each time this happens I am plagued with wondering, “Which version of them is the real person?”

I wonder, “Was I like that?”

I wonder, “Should I tell them?”

It is my hope that Sierra will never be like that.

And so…perhaps I am writing this for her. Perhaps that’s the why. Maybe I am doing all of this so that one day she may look back on her life and feel some relief at the way she was raised. So she may understand all of those things that we did, or didn’t do, that made her furious, confused, exasperated, sad, ecstatic, gleeful, grateful and proud. Perhaps, just maybe I write so that one day she will look back on all of these quick notes and feel something good-anything good. By this simple act of writing down thoughts, intentions, fears and gratitudes, I will have memorialized myself in her, and I hope that she can carry that sense of being good with her wherever she goes on this wild ride called life. It is more lasting than pen and ink, and secretly creates strength in the long run.

You have before you barebones words and photos, with a smattering of humor, of life, and of love tossed amongst the posts. You have before you my life: the life of a simple dirtbag family from Wyoming. You have before you the reasons why I write.


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