Saturday, December 10, 2016

Write your governor.

Letter I wrote to my Governor: Dear Governor Mead, 
I am writing to you with deep concern for this apparent trend in the GOP to sell off public lands. Wyoming's parks and forests make our state a very special place, and to sell these jewels off to the highest bidder will cut future generations off from a rich and varied natural habitat. Please stand up to the forces that would destroy this legacy. And please let me know of what I can do to help. Best, Amy Kathleen Ryan

Response I got a few weeks later:
Dear Ms. Ryan,
Thank you for your message to Governor Mead about state management of federal lands.  The Governor asked that I respond.
This year, a Wyoming Legislative Select Committee has been examining the effects of the state taking ownership and management responsibilities of federal lands.  Over half of the surface area and two-thirds of the subsurface of Wyoming is owned by the federal government.  This access to open, public land is a hallmark of Wyoming.  It has provided residents and others great opportunities to hike, fish, hunt and make a living for generations.  It also comes with certain challenges, such as slower economic development and decisions that are not necessarily in the best interests of citizens of Wyoming.
As the study of Wyoming taking ownership of federal lands within its borders has progressed, the Governor was asked in a recent interview his thoughts on the matter.  The Governor does not believe Wyoming’s constitution, its act of admission, requires the federal government to cede public land back to the state.  This of course varies from state to state.  
Wyoming has worked on a pilot project to manage a small tract of federal land for a specific purpose.  This was done in an area torched by forest fires.  Wyoming worked with the U.S. Forest Service to avert the spread of cheatgrass, an invasive weed.  This is an example of how Wyoming can work for the best management of federal land in coordination with the federal government.
Thank you again for your message. Please let me know if you have any further questions.

Colin McKee

So I followed up:

Hi Mr. Mckee, I do have further questions.

How can Wyoming fund the management of such huge portions of our state without the fiscal support of the federal government? A lot of people are afraid responses like yours are just doublespeak for a plan to transfer public lands into private hands so that corporate interests can "help" the economy by destroying a natural balance that can never be repaired. The very study the state commissioned reported that a sale of public lands to compensate for the cost of management would be almost inevitable, and then who is to stop the owners from destroying the precious habitat that hangs in the balance? Wyoming is unique. If it is "developed" it will be destroyed. You must know that. Some things are more important than money.

I would appreciate hearing more from you about this. 

Thank you, 

I have not yet received a response. I don't really expect to.

Update: Because a lot of people in Wyoming spoke out against this legislation, it was dropped. For now.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Write your congressperson.

Letter I wrote to my Republican State Representative: 
Hi Congressman Lummis,
Thank you for your newsletter that I didn't ask for. You wrote to me of executive overreach, so I'm going to write to you about congressional obstructionism. Your political party has been playing a game of brinksmanship that has brought our government to a standstill more than once during a time of severe economic duress. You have obstructed infrastructure spending bills that would have brought much needed jobs to the working class, knowing doing so would increase the political power of the Republican party. Congratulations. You have obstructed "common sense" climate change measures that could save countless people from respiratory illnesses and unclean drinking water. You have obstructed supreme court nominations of perfectly reasonable, centrist nominees. You have created a huge controversy about "security breaches" regarding an attack on a single embassy when the Bush administration suffered 13 such attacks that resulted in 60 deaths. Your political party has become the party of obstruction, lies, and racism. Don't talk to me about overreach because to me that is utterly hypocritical. Sincerely, Amy Ryan

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

On How Difficult it is to DECIDE this Presidential Election!

Gee, I'm having trouble, because both candidates are so BAD!

I could vote for the guy who had to ask an advisor twice, on camera, why he couldn't use nuclear weapons, and still seemed unsure... Or maybe I should vote for the woman who worked with Russia, China and the EU to create sanctions against Iran to force them NOT to produce nuclear weapons.

Hm. I'll have to think on this some more.

I could vote for the guy who repeatedly refuses to disavow the KKK, or I could vote for the woman who wants to create a national task force to address violence against African Americans at the hands of police departments. But calling half of the other side "deplorable" was kind of a dick move, you know? Sure, there are a lot of swastika tattoos at those rallies, but she's white herself, so...

This is a real brain twister.

I could vote for the guy who wants to put pregnant girls in jail for trying to get an abortion, or maybe I should vote for the woman who made that historic speech in China about how women's rights are human rights. But don't forget: she's a woman! That's a conflict of interest right there!

Golly, this is a thinky problem!

I could vote for the guy who publicly appealed to Russia to hack the Democratic server to undermine the US presidential election, and has openly praised that horse-riding shirtless bald guy who murders journalists, (Vladimir somebody? The Impaler?!) or I could vote for the woman who brokered a cease fire between Israel and Hamas that lasted for eight years...

Nope. Still not sure.

It's just that she got some important emails mixed in with thousands of other emails on her private server that she wasn't supposed to have even though many government officials have them, and she deleted some emails to protect the privacy of her family and friends. That is MAJOR. Also she talked to somebody about her Foundation while she was in her State Department Office, and she got all those people in Benghazi killed. Sure, the FBI exonerated her of wrongdoing about the emails, she doesn't even draw a salary from the Foundation which sends medicine to AIDS patients worldwide, and I guess there's something about how the Republican Party repeatedly blocked requests from the Obama Administration to increase funding for security at high risk American embassies, but still. It's because of her.

I mean I guess with the guy who's running they were talking about... fraud was it? Like he's being investigated for it? And someone is suing him for rape when she was a child, and she has witnesses? And his like, BEST friend at the time is now in jail for rape? And there are no former presidents endorsing him at all? And also wasn't there something about how he took money from HIS foundation and used it for personal reasons? But is it really stealing if you're already rich?

This is really hard.

She has like, a squishy neck? Like she's old? And she doesn't smile enough. And... and... and...

I think I'll just vote for somebody who can't possibly win.

Friday, September 16, 2016

On The Scariest US Presidential Election in Recent History.

Responsible journalists and commentators have listed ad nauseum all the ways Donald Trump is unfit to be President, but let's give it a go, shall we? He's made it clear using nuclear weapons would be on the table for him as commander in chief. He's made it clear he plans to deport tens of thousands of people and to build a wall reminiscent of the Berlin atrocity. He's promised to prosecute journalists who report things he doesn't like. He has a long, sad history of making deals with small businessmen, and then bilking them out of the money he owes them by sending a team of lawyers to intimidate them, leaving their livelihoods in ruins. Trump University was an obvious swindle by which he cheated hundreds of earnest people, taking their money and giving them absolutely nothing in return. The way he talks about women would not be tolerated in any corporate boardroom anywhere. And who could dismiss his cute little references to assassinating Hillary Clinton, like a petty dictator tries to take out political rivals. He routinely lies in speeches, interviews, and even during presidential debates. To dismiss his praise of reporter-murdering Vladimir Putin as some kind of jujitsu statesmanship is to twist yourself into a pretzel because you're so horrified at the idea of Hillary Clinton running the country.

You shouldn't be.

Her use of a private email server in order to preserve her privacy, considering she's endured one humiliation after another, is not much of a story. Sorry. It really isn't. No damaging material was compromised in her private emails.  She did not risk national security in any way, and no criminal charges have been brought against her. It would be ludicrous to compare Clinton's emails to the actions of David Petraeus, who showed a binder full of top secret government documents to a woman he was having an affair with, and then lied about it to the FBI. In short, Clinton was exonerated of wrong doing. And that much ado about the Clinton Foundation? Absolute bullshit. It's an AIDS foundation that saves lives across the globe. The independent vetting organization Charity Watch gave them an A rating --as highly rated as UNICEF. Hillary Clinton has done a beautiful job combatting the AIDS epidemic, and she served as Senator and Secretary of State very admirably.

Here is an abbreviated list of her many accomplishments over her career: As First Lady she fought to pass the Children's Health Insurance Program, which cut the number of uninsured children in the US by half. As Senator she co-sponsored the Employee Free Choice Act, which made it easier for workers to unionize, and harder for their employers to stifle them. She also co-sponsored the 9/11 First Responders Bill which helped people suffering health problems from volunteering at Ground Zero, and much more. As Secretary of State, she negotiated a cease fire between Israel and Hamas. She also worked with Russia, China, and the EU to craft trade sanctions that forced Iran to make a deal with the US not to develop nuclear weapons. Think about that. She brought Russia and China to the negotiating table and got what she wanted. To list all her hard work, all the ways she's changed the world, would not fit in this essay. She has worked tirelessly to make the world a safer place for millions.

But that's not what the Republicans want you to believe. They want you to think she was doing secret deals with scary people, that she's corrupt and untrustworthy, that she's incompetent. And you know why they want you to believe that? Because she scares them.

They should be scared. In increasing numbers, the American people are no longer buying the insane Republican ideology that what's good for the rich is good for everyone. How the GOP managed to keep voters believing this ridiculous economic fiction for as long as they did simply boggles the mind. The middle class is not doing particularly well in America, and that should be obvious to everyone. We are being bankrupted by medical bills, paying more for college and housing and saving less for retirement than any generation previous. And why is that? Very simply because the tax code has been quietly rewritten ever since the Reagan presidency to go easy on the rich so they can keep more of their money, while the middle class pays a HIGHER PERCENTAGE of our earnings to the federal government for services that are constantly under attack. The GOP is peddling a heaping pile of fetid excrement to the American people, but we are wising up, and they are losing.

Right now their strategy resembles the writhing death struggle of a pinned rattlesnake: They are scapegoating the brown people. Oh those Mexicans, those Muslims, trying to steal America away from us honest hard working white people! This is the best they can come up with, which is absolutely pathetic.  The GOP has routinely made life more difficult for the middle and lower classes, but they want you to think our woes are the fault of the hispanic guys in the parking lot of Home Depot. You know what would curb the practice of hiring undocumented workers in the US? Put the people who hire them in jail. Simple. They're breaking the law too, right? How about we disrupt their lives just like we rip families of undocumented workers apart when we raid the sweat shop? Let Mr. Joe Public spend a month in jail thinking about what he did. Huh? No? Not gonna happen? Gee. That's kind of racist. People who hire undocumented workers and pay them less than minimum wage face paltry fines for their first FEW offenses, which, when factored in as a business expense, do absolutely nothing to their bottom line. It makes more economic sense for them to keep paying undocumented workers ridiculously low wages and risk those fines, which to me says, hello, THEY'RE NOT BEING PUNISHED ENOUGH. But I digress. This kind of logic does not fly with the GOP. They don't blame the piece of shit white guy who pays desperate people two dollars an hour and works them for twelve hour days in sub-human conditions. He's not the bad guy. No. The poor, terrified, desperately struggling people who are fleeing crushing poverty in Latin America --they're the bad guys.

If this isn't proof of racism in America I really don't know what is.

And Donald Trump has mounted the fire breathing stink-worm of American Bigotry and plans to fly on its ragged wings right into the White House. And people are LETTING HIM. The polls that claim voters believe Trump has more integrity than a woman like Hillary Clinton who has spent her career fighting for working families reveals a shocking gullibility that is troubling in the extreme. Donald Trump must not become president. And that means, for the love of God, vote. You need to vote. Deal with the inconvenience and go to your polling place and vote for Hillary Clinton and get your sticker and go home and watch TV. It is the least, the very least, any of us can do. This is not a time for complacency, folks. The stakes are higher than they have ever been.

To learn more about Hillary Clinton's many accomplishments, click here:

To learn more about Trump's scandalous history:

Thursday, June 9, 2016

To the Stanford Survivor.

First, I want to tell you that you are a very good writer. I think you could make a career of it. I hope
you do.

Second I want to tell you that you are an inspiration. You are courageous, and your poignant letter to that smudge of excrement who attacked you will serve as an inspiration to other survivors. You have inspired me.

Third, I want to acknowledge your repeated trauma, first at the hands of a morally bereft Neanderthal, and second at the hands of a morally bereft injustice system. Much of our society functions in a haze of sociopathy, without remorse or empathy, and your letter forces us all to take a look at that. Well done.

Fourth, I want to advise you to reclaim your body, your sexuality, and your life, as quickly as possible. I am a survivor of sexual assault too, and I can personally attest to the possibility of a full recovery. You will enjoy sex again. You will enjoy life, and love. I bet you've already had good moments, and laughter. That horror of a few hours will fade, and you will get better. If you get therapy to help you deal with PTSD, you will get better faster. But know that you will get better. Your life HAS NOT been ruined.

Finally, to any other survivors out there, it wasn't your fault. Were you tricked? Were you coerced? Did you feel safe when you weren't safe, and made a decision that resulted in disaster? Your decision was to trust. His decision was to rape. That wasn't your fault. Repeat after me: It wasn't my fault. And the shame society tries to impose on you? It isn't yours. It's theirs.

With a raised fist in the solidarity of love, AKR

Saturday, May 14, 2016

On All the Things I Used to Do Before Social Media Took Over My Life

Authors have to do social media, they said. You must develop a platform, they said. Post eighty percent on random crap, and the other twenty percent on shameless self-promotion! No ten. Actually fifty! You must include Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr and Twitter, wait, not Twitter! Twitter is dying! No it's not! Are you writing a book about birds? Look for message boards filled with people who will attack you like a flock of rabid chickadees if they get ANY INDICATION AT ALL that you are there to promote your book. You must promote your work without SEEMING to promote your work! Actually it's okay to promote your work! People expect it now!  Unless they are internet purists. Avoid the purists. They will TROLL YOU, destroy your reputation, accuse you of trying to actually profit on the very activity with which you are desperately trying to earn a meager living. Get noticed by people, but not OVER noticed, or they will come for you. The misogynists and militant vegans and religious fundamentalists and crazy lonely cat people will lie in wait for you on message boards and in comment sections. They will surround you like hyenas circling an injured baby wildebeast! Don't be a baby wildebeest. Be a hyena. Unless there are catfish around.  Or cat-fishermen. Or...

Avoid animal metaphors!

And forget. Forget how you used to sing in a bar at a thing called a Hootenanny, how you would practice with your friend Mimi and harmonize for a group of tolerant middle aged people. Forget making dinner for friends, showing off your lasagne, telling them that hilarious story that happened in Spain and making them laugh. Instead entertain those friends from afar with 140 characters. Forget how you used to get bored of being home, and you'd put on your shoes and walk to a coffee shop to read a book. Especially forget that you used to carry a book with you everywhere you went, because books are heavy and iPhones are light, and Twitter is even lighter. Forget sitting quietly in a park listening to birdsong. Forget taking naps.

Entertain yourself entertaining people entertaining you.

And definitely forget about how much you used to write. How much MORE you used to write. How much longer you used to write.

On second thought, forget it all. Forget Twitter and Facebook and Instagram and Tumblr. Forget your passwords. Forget your iPhone. Remember that story you never sent off? That book you meant to read? That idea you had for an essay about how social media is destroying your attention span?

Look out the window.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On Migraine.

It's scary when your head hurts so badly that you can literally FEEL that a vein IN YOUR BRAIN is swelling up, causing clusters of neurons to cry out in agony. It makes your stomach turn inside out. It totally exhausts you so that taking a single step requires an act of will. You lie there helpless for hours, for days maybe, and hopefully your special pills from the doctor will work. But sometimes they don't. Sometimes the headache takes on a life of its own, and it won't be controlled, it won't be reigned in, and your only choice is to huddle your poor head between two pillows, pressing an ice pack to your temple, and just pray for time to go by quicker.

I had a headache like this on Sunday. It really started Friday night, but it was late when I felt the first pulls inside my skull, so I took a prescription pill and went right to bed to sleep it off. Or so I thought. The next morning I woke up and, since it was Saturday I had time to myself while my husband played with my kids, so I ignored the slight ache in my head, and took myself to breakfast, and then took my dogs for a nice stroll in the woods, thinking a little food and nature would be restorative. But by the time I got back home, I felt shaky, so I decided I better lie down and take it easy. I figured I wasn't dealing with a migraine, I was dealing with a migraine hangover. And in most cases, I would have been right. I've never had a migraine last for longer than a day. That night I endured a headache while I put the kids to bed. (Hubby got to go out with friends, only fair after he took care of the kids all day, and I was glad he had the chance for some fun of his own.) I watched a little trashy TV before I finally went to bed myself.

The next morning I woke up, made breakfast for the kids, and realized by the shaking of my hands and the spike in my head: I had a full on migraine. I took a pill, which is usually enough to make it better, and lie down. Hubby took the kids out for some fun. And I waited for it to get better.

And I waited.

It didn't get better. And I had taken my last pill. And my husband was gone.

At some point, with a migraine like this, when you've run out of pills, you begin to cry. For about an hour, I let the tears come as I pressed an ice pack to my head. I called in a refill for my pills, and texted my husband to please go get them. He did, but I had to wait, and that was not an easy wait.

The second pill took the edge off. I was able to kiss my kids goodnight before going right back to bed. I slept through the night, and then had a weird migraine hangover that lasted another twenty four hours, which included foggy thinking, poor muscle coordination, and knock-you-down dizziness. But the worst was over.

There are supposed to be four stages of a migraine: the Prodrome, where you don't feel quite right; the Aura, where you might see things or have ringing ears; the Attack; where you lie helpless in all encompassing pain; and finally the Postdrome, or hangover, where you feel foggy, confused, and SORE. But I submit there should be a fifth and final phase, which is the Aftermath. Every migraine is so painful and scary and isolating that when you finally come out of it, the world looks different. You feel unbelievably lucky to be able to walk across the room without leaning on the wall. You can look out the window at a sunny day without feeling like someone with long fingernails is pinching your optic nerves. You feel grateful it's over, and incredibly relieved, and yet. And yet.

You will get another one.  Sometime in your future another headache is lurking. Maybe next week. Maybe next month. Maybe next year. It's impossible not to feel afraid.

If you have a friend who suffers from migraine, or a family member, you can help, but just a little. Make the room dark and quiet. Bring them ice packs. Bring them cups of cool water to sip. Don't touch them. Don't speak. Above all don't make them talk.

If you suffer from migraines like me, I'm here, buddy. I know.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

On Politics

It's an election year, did you hear? This time around, it's scary.

Our Republican front runner is building his power with rhetoric that scapegoats vulnerable minorities. Muslims fleeing political upheaval and civil war, who have had their lives destroyed by extremism, are being told they will not be allowed in the country whose motto is Freedom and Justice for All. He wants to build a wall to keep people out because he is so ignorant of history that he believes walls actually work, when in fact they embarrass the nation that builds them. Remember "Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall?" If not, you should look it up. A Republican said it. He wants to register Muslims in the United States because their young men don't feel excluded and disenfranchised enough. He wants to deport millions of people from US Soil. Do you know what has to be built in order to accomplish such a feat? Internment camps. Sound familiar? Other Republicans are talking about carpet bombing the Arab world. These people are being cheered by thousands.

We have another candidate using facts and figures to build his argument that the middle class in America is in danger. He is only saying what economists have been saying for decades. He wants to give free college to everyone, like they do in Europe. He wants to bring single payer health care to America, like they already have in Europe. He wants to readjust the tax structure to pay for it. The numbers work. Independent agencies have vetted his math and approved it. He wants to bring prosperity to the middle class again, and how is he dismissed by the media? Not possible. Can't do it. Pie in the sky. Vote for the one who is in bed with Wall Street, the one who will uphold the status quo, won't rock the boat too much, won't piss off those powerful billionaires who are really running things, including the media. They try to prop her up. They try and try. Maybe they'll do it, and she'd be so much better than the fascist orangutan, but only because she's not insane.

Please don't bother posting your defensive comment spewing hysterical fear, and rage, making some veiled threat like, "You'll feel differently when the scary brown people come for your family!" No they won't, so no I won't. And I won't feel differently when people are forced into long lines where they have to register, and ushered into camps where they await deportation, and become more angry, more embittered, and more sadly aware that after a death defying slog through deserts both figurative and literal, the land of Freedom and Justice for All was a mirage.

Let's not go down this road, America. Let's remember who we are. For the love of all that is holy, if you are capable of empathy, if you believe that violence and oppression are not the answer, if you don't buy into the easy scapegoating being touted by a bullying braggart who inherited his wealth, if you believe that hope is a worthy cause, vote. Please vote. And remember what Edmund Burke said:  The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men and women to do nothing. 

Friday, January 8, 2016

On Loving Yourself.

I was always a little uncomfortable with the phrase, "Love yourself." Aside from it being a bit touchy-feely, I feel it puts too much pressure on a person. Love myself even after I said something I deeply regret to someone I love? After I embarrass myself? After I tell a lie and betray trust?  The truth is it isn't always easy to love yourself. We all make mistakes, some of them disastrous, and living with the consequences can be crushing.

Besides, how do you really love yourself? When you love someone there's a certain polished sheen we give them. We forget the nasty sides of their characters, and see only their glossy goodness. Parents love children this way, often blind to their character flaws, sometimes to damaging effect. And romantic love might be the most blinding of all, sometimes making us vulnerable to a malicious personality, or simply a careless one. Love is blind. Familiarity breeds contempt. Both are phrases coined by the Bard, and they've taken hold in the English language because they perfectly express profound truths about human nature. Don't we all know ourselves far too well to see ourselves through love goggles?

I think what the phrase, "Love yourself," really means is that you must treat yourself lovingly. Think of yourself during that embarrassing moment when you did a social belly flop in front of your peers. Oh, you're probably pretty angry at yourself for the way you undermined your social standing, sure, but try viewing the scene with the compassion borne of love. If your best friend did the same thing, or your child, or your lover, wouldn't you wrap your arms around him? Wouldn't you give her a kiss on the cheek, try to say something encouraging, and maybe run her a nice fragrant bath where she could relax and put it behind her? Instead of those self-punishments, try a little self nurturing.

Or think of the stranger who is being attacked by a group of mean bullies. This type of thing happens all the time in school when you're a kid and at your most vulnerable. Most people walk by, trying not to get involved, and sometimes this is the best thing to do if the situation seems dangerous. (An even better thing is to run and find an adult who can put a stop to it.) But those silent observers are not on the side of the bully. Most of them are on the side of the person being attacked. So if you're the one being attacked, and you have no choice but to be a silent observer in your own humiliation because you're outnumbered, or in physical danger, try compassion for yourself. Instead of admonishing yourself, even hating yourself for being the target of a bunch of knuckle draggers, try being the kid who, when the whole thing is over, picks you up from the ground, gives you a hand, tries to say something kind and comforting, and buys you a chocolate sundae. Because it's not your fault what some troglodyte decides to do to you for some random reason in his own twisted mind. You can't control how he treats you, but you can control how you treat yourself. If you can't love yourself in this moment, at least be loving.

Be your own friend. Never be a bully to yourself.

That's what that silly, touchy feely saying is all about. Maybe you can't love yourself the way you might love that beautiful girl or that handsome boy. Maybe you can't cuddle yourself the way you cuddle your dog, cat, guinea pig, lizard, what have you. But you can be kind to yourself. Instead of being malicious in your internal dialogue, catch yourself, notice when you're repeating some cruelty done to you by a peer, or a parent, and reverse it. Be loving. Give yourself a nick name. Call yourself sweetie. Give yourself a hug. Go ahead and be loving toward yourself.

It's the first step toward a better life. I promise.

Friday, January 1, 2016

On Coming Home

I am from Jackson Hole Wyoming, where the winters are snowy, COLD, and gorgeous. Hoar frost glistens in the air so that in the morning when the light is right, there is a rainbow halo around the sun and teeny diamonds floating all around you. Sure, it might be twenty below zero, but when the sun is out, all that lovely radiation warms you up, and you don't feel the cold. The town is situated in one of the most remote areas in the continental United States. The closest large city is Salt Lake, which is a five hour drive away. In all directions, for miles and miles, there is nothing but twisting mountain roads, tiny western towns, cows, and wildlife. On a single drive dropping off a dear friend at the airport recently, we saw moose, elk, deer, and buffalo. There is a place right next to town where, in the fall, you can drive your car and be surrounded by a herd of bighorn sheep who come to lick the salt off your doors while looking you right in the eye. 

While I was slogging through six years of graduate school, first in Vermont and then in New York City, I missed Wyoming desperately. But I married a New Yorker. To someone from America's greatest city, (arguably,) Jackson is stark and isolated. New Yorkers have the instinct to be around lots of people because you're less likely to be mugged if there are dozens of witnesses around. Here in Wyoming, the only witnesses would be the elk while you're being mugged by a grizzly bear. For understandable reasons, my husband was reluctant to move to Jackson, and I thought Colorado would be an okay compromise, thinking the nature and climate would be comparable. Fort Collins is at the base of the Rocky Mountains after all. 

I regretted the move almost immediately. I found out we were living in what's called the Banana Belt of Colorado, along the base of the Rocky Mountains, which experiences mild winters and very hot summers. A lot of people imagine huge piles of snow for Colorado dwellers, but this is not true along the Front Range. Because of the huge wall of mountains that cuts through the state, warm air gets trapped at the base, creating a bubble of warmth in a sea of cold. This is called an inversion, and I hated it.  Sure, we'd get a little snow, but it would melt usually within a week or two. Winter was a brown, slushy affair, flaccid and boring. Not enough snow to cross country ski, and no alpine ski resorts within a reasonable driving distance, so winter sports just weren't the emphasis there, unless of course you count indoor hockey. Yuck. Nothing against hockey; it was the indoor part I didn't like. In the summer the temperatures are punishing. Sure, you can go for a hike in 100 degree weather, but do you want to? The town is great. The people are great. But at night I had dreams of Wyoming, recurring nightmares featuring people I went to high school with who'd stayed in Jackson, whispering at me that I could never go back. I would wake up in anguish.

My husband loved Colorado, loved the sun, loved the mild winter, but he saw what it was doing to me. Even though I had resolved to live there for the rest of my life, and had tried hard to do so cheerfully, he knew it was eating me up inside. One day when we were in Wyoming visiting my Dad, walking through the woods, watching our kids happily scrambling over the mountainside, he said out of the blue, "Okay. Let's move here."

I dissolved into sloppy, grateful sobs. 

So we moved in July, and I was ecstatic. The summer was glorious, a pleasant upper seventy degree paradise. I took my kids on hikes, and they were little mountain goats, scrambling over the hillside, loving it. Oh, I was so happy. So utterly thrilled! I looked at the mountains every day and I thanked the universe, thanked my father who helped us buy our house outside of town,  and above all thanked my amazing husband for his loving sacrifice, which was large. I thought I was the luckiest woman in the world. Autumn was just as gorgeous, with intense yellows and golds glowing in the slanting sunlight. At night in our rustic home we listened to coyotes talking to each other, and elk bugling, their hauntingly beautiful mating call that sounds a little like whales singing. Paradise. Winter was beginning, the first true cold of the dark months, and skiing soon! Hurray!

Then I had a bad week. 

My husband left for New York on a week long business trip, and I was all set to enjoy the time alone with my kids. We would watch movies and cuddle in bed, and I was going to handle everything just fine. Best of all, it had started really snowing. We'd had a few humble snowfalls, but finally we were getting some REAL snow, about a foot expected to fall over the next five days! Finally a real Jackson winter!! 

Then one day, on my way home from dropping my kids off at school, I was approaching the turn off to my neighborhood from the highway. There was a large truck right behind me, and I was afraid of being rear ended if I slowed all the way down before I made my turn. There was enough snow on the side of the road I couldn't move over to the shoulder to slow down either. So I decelerated as I made the turn. I was going probably twenty five miles per hour as I came down the slope, and I hit my brakes again to turn onto my street, and slid right into the ditch by my house.

Allow me to describe this ditch: It is about twenty feet deep, with a STEEP drop down from the road, steep enough it would be hard to walk down without sitting on your butt as you slide. It's almost cliff-steep.

I started screaming as my car approached the edge. Even my car screamed. I didn't know I had an alarm that beeped if you were about to roll your car. I know it now, and it screams in your ear, making you even more scared. Somehow my lizard brain took over and I was able to straighten out so that my nose was pointed down. I stopped the roll, but the ride down was bumpy and scary as hell. I wasn't injured much beyond being shaken painfully against my seatbelt. For two weeks afterward, my neck and back ached, with pain radiating down my shoulder into my arm. But it could've been so much worse.

I got my car towed, and borrowed my Dad's car while they fixed mine. I had thought loading three kids into carseats in my minivan was exhausting, but my Dad's SUV was a killer on my already sore back. My husband wasn't due to come home for a week, and though he offered to cut his trip short, I insisted I was fine and I could handle it on my own. And I did. The insurance covered most of the repairs, I got the kids to school on time, I did all the house work alone. I managed, but missed my husband. I cried a little, and a couple times I yelled at my kids until I realized I was being a jerk and apologized. 

But the accident left a scar. Suddenly I remembered that these beautiful Wyoming winters are dangerous. Really dangerous. How could I have forgotten? The list of people I grew up with who have died on these roads is unsettlingly long. And now, every single time I approach my street, I tense up. I look down at that ditch, afraid I'm going to end up there again, but this time we might roll, and my kids could be in the car. We have to drive past that yawning chasm of death every damn day. Suddenly the beauty I had longed for seemed menacing, and I began to question my selfishness in moving my family from a home they loved to this Siberian Hellscape. 

The honeymoon period is over. My dreamy joy at living here has been replaced with a mundane seriousness, a grim acceptance that we now live in a place that can kill you. People die from cold. People run into grizzlies and get mauled. People fall off mountains and die. Avalanches can sweep across a major highway that connects Idaho to Wyoming, which hundreds of people commute every day. I personally know of people who have died when their cars got pushed over the side of a cliff by a rumbling mountain of snow. 

There are things you have to know to survive here. Always make noise when you're in the woods to warn bears of your approach, and if possible, bring a buddy and bear mace. Check the avalanche report before you go into the back country, and if an avalanche happens anyway, swim as you fall and try to make an air pocket in front of your face so you don't suffocate. Wear proper clothing if you're going out so you don't get frost bite on your fingers. And when you're approaching the turnoff to your neighborhood on the icy highway, slow down starting about a quarter mile before your turn so the dummy tailgating you is forced to slow down too, make the turn at the top of the hill going at a crawl, so you don't end up rolling into the ditch at night in twenty below weather and end up freezing to death in your car because you live in a remote area, there's almost no traffic, and no one will find you until morning. For example.

Some time has passed, and I wish I could say these dark feelings inside me have dissipated. My husband knows I'm having second thoughts about moving back here, and he's annoyed about it, understandably so. I'm annoyed with myself. I suppose a period of adjustment is to be expected, as well as a mourning period, saying goodbye to those mild Colorado winters, those easy roads, the convenience of living an hour away from Denver. Did we make a mistake moving here? I hadn't thought so. I'd thought it was the best thing we could do for our kids, moving them to a natural paradise, one of the last vestiges on Earth of what this planet used to be. But now I know it's the kind of decision we could come to regret if something happens to one of our precious children. Maybe one, or all of them, will slide into that ditch, rolling this time. I think I will have to be one of those mothers who stays up until they are all safely home, not the one who goes to bed without worry. (Are there any mothers like that?) And if there is a night when they ignore curfew, come what may, and stay out into the late hours in the dead of winter? I will be frantic.  That is the deal we made when we moved here. I didn't realize it before, but I sure as hell understand it now.

Yesterday, when I took my kids sledding, a bald eagle flew overhead through the glistening hoar frost, utterly silent, oblivious to my children's laughter, close enough I could've hit him with a puff of powdery snow. I reminded myself that I do know how to avoid a bear encounter, and my kids do too. I don't have to make that Idaho commute because of the generosity of my father who helped us buy a house on the much more expensive Wyoming side of the Tetons. I'm not a back country skier, so avalanche risk for me is next to nothing. And I now know how to make that scary turn onto my road with relative safety. I'm no longer living in easy going Fort Collins, true, but there are bald eagles right in town. There are coyotes that frequent my neighborhood, singing me to sleep. And the natural beauty is absolutely awesome, in every sense of the word.

Okay, Wyoming, you treacherous beauty. I'm home.

I am pleased to report that I am fully recovered from the accident. How do I know? I was telling a friend that the other night I heard the haunting scream of a mountain lion outside my house. She smiled, and said, "So. Did that make you more worried about moving to Wyoming? Or did it make you feel excited?" My answer was: "Excited. Very, very excited!"