On Not Looking Down


Pike's Peak in Colorado, USA.

Image via Wikipedia

While on holiday, we off-roaded, following the forestry roads high up the peaks into logging country. Tourist types typically keep to the highways and attractions requiring little physical effort. You run into, across or past them on the well-worn trails of 3 km or less and at the venues close to the main roads. You will not find them up a mountain. Especially this time of year with the Canadian summer only officially beginning.

Our first off-road experience took us to Fenwick Falls, a sweet little waterfall up past Canal Flats. Gravel roads and not another person for over four hours as Rob rambled us up and up the mountain in search of Fenwick Lake, a mountain lake that feeds the creek and falls of the same name.

At times, riding shot-gun, I could literally look out my window at the thin air followed by a sheer drop to the river valley below. I have learned though not to do this too much because it’s quite terrifying.

The first time I ever rode  up a mountain, seemingly on the clouds, was back in 1999 on my honeymoon in Colorado. Will decided we should follow the rest of the lemmings to the top of Pike’s Peak. There is a monorail, but he had an issue with heights and refused. He had to be in control to contain his pesky (and in his opinion not at all manly) vertical aversion.

So up the mountain we went and nearing the top, the road is bald, narrow and framed with air. The first time I glanced out the window, I was keenly aware that inches separated our truck from taking flight. And I burst into tears.

I cried the last miles and Will, who couldn’t turn back and couldn’t take his hand off the wheel to take mine because the traffic was too heavy, tried to console me with reassurances about his superior driving skills. Not once did he chide me or try to talk me out of being afraid. He just allowed me to be a girl about the whole thing and when we got to the top, he walked us around until I felt brave enough to ride back down.

Riding down is also hugging the mountain, which isn’t nearly as bad.

I tell the story only because Edie and Silver were also on holiday in the Columbia River Valley this past week and the campground they stayed in could only be accessed through mountain roads. Edie, at shotgun, discovered what I did long ago – shotgun riding up a mountain really sucks.

“She looks down and bursts into tears every time,” Silver confided to Rob when we stopped for a picnic during another off-road adventure later in the week.

When Rob told me, I smiled. I couldn’t help it. The women of men who drive trucks up mountains eventually cultivate some measure of zen though I can’t personally say I enjoy heights or living a bit dangerously, as Rob thinks everyone should.

It’s funny because I can ride up a mountain now and only just phantom brake, but I hate climbing or standing close to edges. Twelve years ago I couldn’t ride but stood on the edge overlooking steep canyons while Will watched nervously from a distance. Change is reversal? Or just change?

We hiked the Hoodoos and due to the erosion, some of the trail is narrow and slippery with sand. I was all for going around but Rob coaxed Dee and I out. I was vocal about my fear. Some of it is actually bad knees. Climbing – down especially – hurts and I am keenly aware that it wouldn’t take much to strain or pop something. But worry about Dee is also a factor.

When we discussed Edie’s tear bursts, I reminded him that just because I don’t cry doesn’t mean I am not frightened. I simply tell him when I am scared and/or uncomfortable. Voicing terror works wonders. It’s an age thing and it’s also grounded in the fact that I don’t feel a need to “man up” for Rob. He is well aware of my weenie side and apparently is fine with it.

Interestingly Edie also has the same trepidation about driving trucks that I had back in the long ago days. Will had a Silverado and I avoided driving it like she declines to drive Silver’s truck.

I didn’t counsel her about the shot-gun position. I could tell she felt a bit foolish. Indeed, it is not something I expected because she is so like my sister DNOS, fearless and strong. But she will be fine. Eventually, she will concentrate on the horizon or on Silver or – perhaps one day – wee people in the backseat and the sheer drop to her side won’t hold much power because it won’t have her undivided attention. Change. Happens to all of us.

Being Single Is So Easy That a Houseplant Could Do It


Houseplants and Clean Air

Image by Chiot’s Run via Flickr

That’s the title of a post I would write for The Elephant Journal if they didn’t happen to prefer overwrought clichè navel-gazing posts on the evil of marriage or the enlightenment to be found through singularity.

As it is 2011 and we are decades past the women’s liberation movement, one would think that the knee-jerk “men pigs and marriage bad” rhetoric would be considered – if not actually archaic – then at least too tritely tired to form the basis of any arguments where being single by choice was concerned.

But they are not.

Though Rob possesses a similarly low opinion of his gender for the most part, I don’t think that men in general deserve the slagging they get at the hands of women who left unhappy relationships and have “found themselves” as single women.

My personal opinion is that women who see themselves as better off single ought not to have married in the first place due either to inherent personality traits that make co-habitation emotionally tiring or a rather microscopic view of reality that only allows room enough for them and their needs. It would be refreshing to read someone admit that relationships just don’t suit their temperaments or the need to be concerned solely with one’s self because there is nothing wrong with that.

But the articles I’ve run across from women who are militantly single, or single after a string of relationships or a long marriage, inevitably focus on the details to the exclusion of honest explanation.

These women drone on about the maintenance of life – holding a job, running a household and even raising children – as though no female in the history of humanity, anywhere on the planet, hasn’t mastered a single one – ever.

They go on – and on – about “independence” to such a degree that I wonder if perhaps they don’t know what the word really means.

Anyone with an IQ that exceeds a houseplant can live on her own. Financially supporting yourself, taking care of the myriad of daily living details, long-term planning and even parenting aren’t independence milestones. Being a grown up isn’t something they hand out gold stars for doing.

The most recent “look at me! Am I not wonderful because I am single” post at The Elephant Journal was written by a woman two years out of her 25 year marriage. Judging from the photo, she married young, so I suppose her surprise that she can take care of most matters in her life without a husband isn’t too surprising. Though it is disheartening to think that someone in my peer group is so mid-1950′s in a Ronald Reagan kind of way.

She writes that all she needs a man for is a “good fuck and to have someone to pick me up from the airport”, though she admits that sex and a ride home are not beyond her abilities to self-manage either.

But is this a stereotype that women should be crowing about in the 21st century? That “yes, we can!” take care of ourselves?

I left home at 18 and spent the next nearly 16 years taking care of myself. Put myself through university, worked, managed the daily tasks and the crises – big and small – all by my lonesome little self without applause or cookies and milk for my efforts. It was no big deal.

And what’s more, most of the women I knew did the same thing. A fair number of my friends were single well into their 30′s and some are still single now that we are in our 40′s. Though boyfriends came and went, these men were add-ons to our lives not necessities to off-load responsibility on or fix us and our problems.

Being single is not really hard, but like anything else, it can be a monotonous grind over time despite the “freedom” of not having to concern yourself with anyone but you.

I think the point people miss in the war between marriage and single is that they are choices and that neither is utopia. People who whine about either state would be better off looking inward to figure out what is wrong than to lay blame externally.

Single was okay. It could be very lonely at times and not having someone around who had your back regardless made it lonelier. I continue to not understand people’s preference for single over married just as I don’t understand people who equate marriage with bondage.

Barring deal-breakers, if your marriage isn’t working then one or both of you isn’t doing something you should and probably that thing is communicating and coming to consensus on what needs to be done. Marriage “haters” labor under the delusion that relationships are not work or that they are driven solely by attraction and soul-matey connection nonsense that should have been discarded for reality when we graduated from Sweet Valley High.

Women will spend any amount of time nurturing their relationships with sisters, mothers, friends, co-workers and children, but barely a second thought for their husbands. Romance to too many is about “what’s in it for me”  and not about “how can I show this amazing person who shares my life how important he is to me and how special he is”.

I don’t really have many close female friends and perhaps my impatience with articles like these are the reason why. I am too practical and male in my approach to relationships. But, being single is not an accomplishment because taking care of yourself is – or should be – a given, so quit giving yourself “high five’s” already. You didn’t do anything that millions of us haven’t already done or continue to do.

A Valentine’s Post


Couples at square dance, McIntosh County, Okla...

Image by The Library of Congress via Flickr

Not many evenings ago as Rob and I sat at our desks in the home office because we still don’t have a living room and the new incredibly comfy sofa is sandwiched behind the dining room table in the space soon to be known as the kitchen, I waxed wistfully about the not so far off day when the fireplace will be operational and he and I can curl around each other in front of it.

“Like the teenager I never was, ” I said.

“We’ll need mood music,” he replied.

“70′s and make out-ish,” I concurred.

April Wine it is.”

Truthfully, I only knew the most syrupy bland ballad of their career before I met Rob. A Canadian band, most of April Wine never made it onto the American Top Forty rotation, which is a shame. And even more truthfully, the first romantic interlude Rob and I shared was soundtracked by Tool, but the former is a better V-day pick.

Happy St. Valentine’s Day, whether you celebrate or scorn it, anything that promotes love has an edge on just about everything else in the world.