for the last year, i have been pretty much housebound. some days i couldn’t get past the end of the driveway. but a gal can’t live like this forever. so having been freed up this past week, i’ve decided to take a road trip and who better to go with me than. . .
Tag Archives: william clark
If they had not told me I was ugly, I never would have sought my beauty. If they had not told me that they would break me, I never would have learned I’m unbreakable. If they had not told me that they were trying very hard not to be mad at me, I wouldn’t have known that they failed.
“We live in Bozeman,” my facebook friend Lanny wrote me. “Stop by. Sarah and I would love to see you.”
I arrived in Bozeman expecting saloons, hitching posts, wood sidewalks and the clop-clop-clop of horses. Instead, there had been some geographical hocus pocus because Bozeman is basically a very sweet, charming college town with soigne restaurants and trendy clothes stores. It looked to be imported from Massachusetts except for the mountains at a distance.
“I could get used to this,” I thought.
To be fair, greater Bozeman seemed to stretch a mere four blocks in every direction, but that was so much larger than any ville I have been in for the past week so I was impressed.
I followed the directions Lanny gave until I got to the part where I was to follow the switch backs.
I am scared of heights. Sky rise hotels I’m the one asking for the second floor. All of the West Virginia by ways spooked me. I have never been to the top of Willis Tower even though I lived in the Chicago area 53 years.
I cried all the way up to Lanny’s house because at every turn I thought I was going to fly over the edge of the road and tumble down the mountain.
Shortly after I arrived, Sarah returned from a grocery trip.
“How do you DO it?” I cried.
“Oh, you get used to it,” she said.
And she’s absolutely right.
After I left the Joneses, I traveled up to Canada to Banff.
in Banff, I visited my facebook friend Madame X. Madame X doesn’t want me to use her name because she has a stalker ex-boyfriend. She’s even changed her name on facebook in order to shield herself from him. I totally sympathized. We had a wonderful evening in town and the next morning we climbed Sulphur Mountain. There is a series of switchbacks up the 7500 elevation mountain. There were spots when I would look down and cry. There were spots where I told myself that it was okay, I have lived a long, lovely life and I have two great sons to show for it. There were spots when I counted my steps “one, two” and then stopped and started over. This wasn’t altitude sickness, this was naked fear.
But there was a weird part of me that was proud that I was keeping up with Madame X. After all, she’s an adorable, athletic twentysomething year old. Here I am fifty four years old and I’m keeping up. Then we got to the peak.
“Sorry I was pretty slow,” Madame X said. “But I twisted my ankle a few days ago.”
Still, I got up the mountain. I even sat on top for a bit and even looked down. But now I had a problem.. . . how to get down. i am a western girl used to switchbacks but not quite ready for the ride back down. Maybe you’re afraid of something–lightning, clowns, spiders. I believe you are not afraid that you are inadequate, but your deepest fear is that you are powerful beyond measure. xxoo
i’m a little under the weather and i always welcome missives from friends who want to share with other friends. this from lanny jones, a facebook friend i visited this past year. he wrote “william clark and the shaping of the west” about my facebook friend and faux fiance william clark. here’s what lanny had to say:
Three weeks ago, on August 28, a fire detection specialist named Steve Christman was riding shotgun in a lightweight Cessna 182 flying over the Gallatin National Forest in Southwest Montana. Below him was some of the most rugged terrain in the Northern Rockies — the Gallatin Crest, a rocky, heavily timbered crazy quilt of creeks, steep slopes, and 10,000′ mountain peaks. Sprawling just a few miles from the resort community of Big Sky, it is a region beloved by hikers and mountain bikers but inaccessible to just about everyone else.
My wife and I spend the summers in a cabin that borders this forest. On a map, you could draw a line south from our porch and hit nothing but trees, rocks, and lakes to Yellowstone and then to the Grand Teton National Forest and Jackson Hole before you hit a paved road. But in a matter of hours after Christman’s flight, we were to be engulfed in one of the largest and most public events imaginable. It brought with it acts of astonishing individual bravery, as well as the combined efforts of more than 500 firefighters, and the expense of at least $7 million of federal funds. All of this was produced by a mega-wildfire beguilingly named Millie.
At 2:21 p.m., Christman noticed a single plume of smoke rising from the south slope of Storm Castle Creek. A 25-year veteran of the Forest Service, Christman was not surprised; a lightning storm had rolled through the mountains the previous day. This year’s long drought had baked a region already weakened by bug kills into a forest of bones. The moisture content of trees had fallen beneath the requirement for kiln-dried boards sold in a lumberyard. The fire covered less a tenth of an acre, most of it creeping in the ground cover, but Christman immediately radioed for help. “It was in heavy timber and had fairly high potential,” he says. “I knew it would take a while to get an engine into it, and we needed to do something or else we’d have a fairly big fire.”
At 2:32 p.m., eleven minutes after Steve Christman radioed in his first report, dispatcher Kayla Lemire faxed a request that a Smokejumper team temporarily based in nearly West Yellowstone be flown up to the fire. The request was received by Dan Cottrell, a seamy-faced, deceptively relaxed 38-year-old who has been jumping out of the air into fires on the ground for more than dozen years. Smokejumpers are something like the SEALs of the wildland firefighters (though they would get an argument from the equally highly trained Hotshot crews). They undertake some of the most physically demanding jobs in the federal work force, though Cottrell likes to say that the most dangerous thing he does every day is to drive to work.
By 3 p.m. Cottrell and his stick of eight jumpers were circling over the fire, which by then had grown to a half-acre of flames, mostly on the ground. Cottrell requested a helicopter to bring in the “Bambi buckets,” 500-gallon dollops of water scooped from a reservoir and nearby lakes. The Smokejumpers chose a desired landing-spot a half-mile from the fire. They tossed several streamers out of the plane to gauge both wind direction and the best flight path to the LZ. They were carrying four “squares” — parachutes that work best in high winds — and four “rounds.” After the four squares jumped, they threw another set of streamers — but now the wind churning up the ridgetops was becoming dangerously turbulent. Cottrell decided reluctantly that he and the other three Smokejumpers would have to return to West Yellowstone and drive back in their truck – a journey of several hours.
Meanwhile, a local fire engine crew stationed at Big Sky had been ordered to the scene by the Forest Service. It would take 90 minutes for them to crawl up the gravel road to the fire. Among the four men aboard Engine 661 was Dan Kettman, a newly trained, 25-year-old rookie fire fighter who was on his first assignment. He had never fought a fire before. “We kept hearing traffic on the radio about the fire,” he remembers. “We knew it was growing, and I was starting to feel a little nervous.”
Circling overhead in his Cessna, Steve Christman saw that the fire had grown to 30 or 40 acres and was burning rapidly on all sides and up towards a ridgetop. He told the dispatcher that the fire had “a high potential to run.”
View of Millie from my porch, August 29A little before 5 p.m., Dan Kettman and the crew of Engine 661 arrived at the Blanchard Ranch, a private inholding in the national forest with a few guest cabins and horses. They cut the lock to the gate and requested that the owners be notified to take out the horses. They then crossed Storm Castle Creek and took a Forest Service road to an overlook of the drainage. They were startled by what they saw. The fire had grown to 60-75 acres and was generating its own weather system in the treetops. “You could hear trees popping like Roman candles,” says Kettman. “It was too close for comfort.”
Concluding that they could no longer fight the fire on the ground, and worried about being encircled and entrapped, they backed off. “I was the new guy,” says Kettman, “so they had me stand on top of the engine to look and make sure we could get out.” As they were backing away, the four Smokejumpers who were first on the fire walked out of the smoking woods.
Kettman and the others were concerned about what wildland firefighters call “a blowup.” Here is what Norman Maclean says about blowups in Young Men and Fire:
“The chief danger from a ground fire is that it will become a ‘crown fire,’ that is, get into the branches or ‘crowns’ of trees especially where the trees are close together and the branches interlace … The crown fire is the one that sounds like a train coming too fast around a curve and may get so high-keyed the crew cannot understand what their foreman is trying to do to save them. Sometimes, when the timber thins out, it sounds as if the train were clicking across a bridge, sometimes it hits an open clearing and becomes hushed as if going through a tunnel, but when the burning cones swirl through the air and fall on the other side of the clearing, starting spot fires there, the new fire sounds as if it were the train coming out of the tunnel belching black unburned smoke. The unburned smoke boils up until it reaches oxygen, then bursts into gigantic flames on the top of its cloud of smoke in the sky. The new firefighter, seeing black smoke rise from the ground and then at the top of the sky turn into flames, thinks that natural law has been reversed. The flames should come first and the smoke from them. The new firefighter doesn’t know how his fire got way up there. He is frightened and should be.”
Steve Christman, still circling overhead and watching the fire gallop ahead, was running low on fuel. When he saw the Engine 661 pick up the Smokejumpers, he dipped his wing in acknowledgment. “When I saw that I knew we would be okay,” Kettman remembers.
By 6 p.m., Dan Cottrell was back on the scene, now designated as a Type 3 Incident Commander, the boss of the operation. He reported that the fire was now up to 150 acres, burning ferociously with a wall of flames waving 20-30 feet high. It was making runs through thick timber and up the rocky slopes. Additional resources had been ordered in: Helicopters, air tankers, a Native American Hotshot crew from Ft. Apache, AZ, and an “Air Attack Platform” plane to observe the fire. At 11 p.m., Cottrell reported “significant fire activity” near the Blanchard Ranch. He would soon bed down for the night, anxious about what the next day might bring, especially if the hot, dry weather continued.
Over the next 24 hours, on August 29, this fire — her sweet name of “Millie” apparently resulted from a dispatcher’s typo of “Miller” — erupted into one of the most devastating conflagrations of the season. Leaping from the dried-out grasses into the crowns of the subalpine and mixed conifers, Millie took a running start and jumped Storm Castle Creek, burning a swathe five miles long and two miles deep, torching and blackening everything in its path and consuming almost 10,000 acres. Firefighters reported large predators in the area – bears and a pack of 20 wolves dislocated by the fire. The largest predator of all, of course, was Millie. Writers describing fires almost inevitably fall back on an atavistic, primordial vocabulary. Fires are a deranged, feline creature — “crouching,” “creeping,” “licking,” “leaping,” and “waiting.”
Two deputies from Gallatin County Sheriff’s office placed us on “evacuation warning” on August 30. We moved our so-called valuables to a friend’s house and took our dog everywhere (in case we were prevented from returning to the house). We visited the fire camp — or, as the Forest Service calls it — the ICP (Incident Command Post), a mini-city of 550 souls, many of them living in tents in a former hayfield. By this time the fire had been upgraded to the level managed by the Great Basin Type 2 Management Team — a group of 30-40 experienced managers who travel around the country providing logistical support — food, shelter, sanitation, communications, finance, administration, security — to firefighters on the front lines.
My wife and I feel close to Millie. We have spent the past two weeks in her close company. Our house and those of our immediate neighbors are the closest structures to the fire, which, as I write this, is still burning five miles away — uncomfortably close to the same distance it moved on its first, intense day of rampage. The amount of energy released in a typical woodland wildfire is comparable to that of a nuclear explosion. Over the past two weeks I learned about about Bambi Buckets, Sky Cranes, torching, and spotting. I talked to people identifying themselves as Fire Behavior Specialists and Fire Meteorologists. I visited the perimeter of the fire, near the spot where Engine 661 picked up the Smokejumpers.
What did I learn? I learned that mega-fires like Millie will become increasingly common in the years to come, as climate-change clears our forests. And I learned that the men and women who fight fires in our country are the best we — and our government — have to offer. At one of the public Fire Information Meetings I attended, a local woman from Bozeman stood up and thanked “the foreigners” for the dedication and professionalism they had amply demonstrated at all levels of government — federal, state, and municipal. Witnessing this, it is difficult to understand why some politicians attempt to curry favor by denigrating the work of these and other public servants.
On September 13, the Gallatin County Sheriff rescinded our Evacuation Warning. On September 14, the Great Basin Incident Management Team turned over management of the fire to the Gallatin National Forest. We can unroll the rugs we had readied for a quick departure. But we are not yet ready to put the photographs back on the wall. Millie still sends up unnerving smoke columns when clumps of trees within the perimeter suddenly burst into flames, as if to remind us that she is still in the building. Current predictions are that she will still be burning until November 1.
new york is like a love affair: getting out is so much harder than getting in–and leaving new york at three o’clock on a friday afternoon, with an e-ticket for a flight at laguardia, you should be prepared for an experience that will not compare favorably with the ex-boyfriend who slashed your tires and dumped a box of your thong panties, that sex toy, and the edible body lotion from victoria’s secret on your mother’s with the words, “i think these are for her.”
but i got out of new york after my visit with facebook friends azusa watanabe from tokyo and carolyn quinn and michele persiak from new york even with a cab driver who got lost, a terminal change, long lines, surly t.s.a. agents who claim they want to touch my junk because i’m “random”, gate changes, delays, cancellations, etc.
several times over the last year, facebook friend david janis and i have tried to set up meeting with each other. while i was in new york, we talked on the phone and i resolved that i would really do it! i made reservations at a hotel and plotted the course. a few days before my arrival, david messaged me that he was having anticipatory anxiety attacks which was particularly difficult because of some other health problems he battles. i decided that since the hotel was prepaid, i would go anyway.
david is an agoraphobic who embraces himself and his way of life. he doesn’t shy from it. and he helps others who may want to change and others who may not want to–as well as those who think they have no options. he has a lot of interesting wisdom. i wanted to hear it! i told him how long i would be in st. louis and if the anticipatory anxiety fell away i would be happy to see him.
yesterday, i went to the jefferson memorial park and i would have ordiniarily confined myself to going to the westward expansion museum. but then i thought why do i place a limit on myself or on what i believe is possible for me?
brave before you have your ticket to the arch tram is one thing. brave after you have put your money down . . . well, in my case, courage evaporated. and i think part of the mood change, the anticipatory anxiety if you will, is the same as in airports. the park rangers are now equiped with a conveyor belt, metal detectors, harsh voices. i saw one poor woman moved to tears because she had to go through the metal detector three times. finally, she lifted her shirt, as if to say “look, i don’t have anything!” and this is what we do just to visit a national park.
i needed an attitude change but i couldn’t get enough privacy to create it. after a long line that slithered down into the basement of the museum, we were loaded as a group into a room about the size of a motel six bath not included. we should have been appreciating the exhibit items devoted to the arch’s architect eero saarinen. instead, we were crowded together so tightly contemplative thought was not possible. we were half an hour late. we were then herded further into the sub-basement of the museum into another area where we were shown a three and a half minute safety and history video.
i admit it, i freaked in the eero saarinen tram car. seats five but only if the five are freakishly small or they are quite friendly in a kentucky cousin sort of way. getting off the tram and entering into the arch’s viewing area, i totally lost it. i stood in the center of the eight feet by twenty feet room, with its low slung windows overlooking the city. i waited for my legs to stop shaking.
the arch shifts a little, there are noises from the bumping tram cars, children running up and down the narrow space made me want to scream “stop it! you’re going to make the damn arch collapse!”
i waited. the park officials–can you really call teenagers officials?–looked bored. a group of teens turned their backs to the windows and took pictures of each other with their cell phones and then texted. lots of texting. i decided that yes i was scared. but hardly anybody was aware of it. except for that poor couple who had driven up with me on the tram. they were from indianapolis and i think they were glad to get out of the tram and even more relieved that i was going back down without waiting for them.
we take our victories whenever and however we can find them! and now i hope that i meet david, but if not, i still have other facebook friends to visit in the gateway to the west!
this morning, murphy my always and forever cab driver picked me up for the ride to the airport. i had some exciting news for him.
well, maybe we’re going to have to work on our domestic bliss! i told murphy i was off to see facebook friends in new york–and he wished me luck and took down my flight information so he could meet me upon my return.
one of the most common things for agoraphobes to do is to want to remain in their “safe” place. that’s mostly their house, but sometimes it includes other places. in the past, my “safe” place has, at its best, included my house, downtown winnetka, my kids’ schools, and the place where i climb on a stairmaster in the vainglorious hope that i shall look like elle mcpherson one day. at its worst, my safe place has been my bedroom. even the walk across the hall to the bathroom seemed iffy.
but last year, meeting my facebook friends in america and abroad, i have learned to make the safe place wherever i am. it’s a discipline i have to remember every time i go out. and sometimes it just doesn’t work. i had three housebound days this week and i was really worried that i wouldn’t get to the airport. the airport was crowding because a stormline was coming in and flights were being delayed, canceled, bumped. i aimed for the nearest bar.
an airport bar is actually a great place to create a safe zone. forget about those big planes outside the window, forget about the people rushing back and forth, forget about the announcements, just find the place nearest your gate and pretend you’re in your own neighborhood. amongst friends. ..
look! even mr. clark is making friends! mr. william clark, as you know is the nineteenth century explorer best known for his travels (1803-1806) through the northwest with merriweather lewis — also known as the lewis and clark expedition. clark died in 1838 but oddly, he has a facebook profile page, posts daily accounts of his travels and is my facebook friend (f2fb friend #60). his biographer lanny jones (f2fb friend #59) sent me a Clark doll to remind me to explore fearlessly. looks like clark’s doing a little exploring of his own. . .
eight pounds, four daughters, three sons, and many friends–what facebook gave me this year for valentine’s day!
weight on january 1, 2011 — 138
children as of january 1, 2011 — joseph, living in new york, and eastman, a freshman at oberlin college in oberlin, ohio
new sons acquired during the past year and one month–
emilia who is from indonesia. he’s muslim, likes hip hop and jempoler’s mania. aldo who lives in seoul but is originally from indonesia. he’s also a friend of emilia. it’s nice when siblings get along.
shizuka who is from nagano, japan and has more siblings and daughters and cousins than anybody i know. and oddly, i’m not his only mom. and he’s just three years younger than me.
daughters: maya and andrey from indonesia and ayin from malaysia–cory who is about to leave quezon city and move to kuwait to work for burger machine.
i think on facebook it’s sort of a sweet “extra” friendship to list friends as your relatives. so they join my father justin and my sister casey, and my biological sons joseph and eastman as part of my facebook family. and i have a lot of new facebook friends, many of whom have written to me about their experiences with being what once was called a “recluse” but is now more frequently called agoraphobic or having a social phobia. facebook allows us to have friends and family but not necessarily have to travel or see them in order to keep up in real time. so the reclusive or the socially anxious person isn’t shut out of social interaction. the only difficulty is figuring out what is real and what is not real on facebook. for instance, you might believe i have nine children. . . .
weight as of this morning: 146 pounds. i blame my thyroid. or maybe spending a year (2011) traveling–airport food is a diet buster. does anybody know how to lose weight quickly?
tomorrow, we celebrate valentine’s day, a day that combines family, friends, and gaining weight. how? well, there’s chocolate, the traditional gift of the day–that’s going to put some more pounds on me. and there’s love–which we share with our friends and family and on this day we try to make a point of expressing to them. and then there’s the pressure. . .
i am ready for a facebook friendship adventure! or at least, i’ve packed my carharrt’s bag! tomorrow morning i head east to ohio and then ultimately, on thursday, i will end up on the doorstep of my first facebook friend of the year. she might have a panic attack. i might have a panic attack. we might together panic a bit. there’s a certain element of uncertainty!
my facebook friend in michigan has not left the house for some time. today i had a very afraid day and i think she must have those days every day. still, i want to see her and be a good friend to her. i think it’s really important to use facebook as a tool for good friendship, but good friendship can’t “just” be facebook.
so wish me and mr. clark luck–i am nervous, but i know that nervousness is just the other side of the coin of excited!