Monday, December 30, 2013

Wind Songs

HEY!  What are YOU doin'?
He always answered his phone the same way when I called him.

I always smiled at the sound of his voice, and always answered his greeting the same way
Talkin' to YOU!  What are YOU doin'?

I'm at a baseball game.
Oh yeah.  Where?
Tullahoma??  Are you working it or just attending it?
Working.  I wouldn't come to Tullahoma just to watch a game.
Why didn't you TELL me?  I woulda come over to see you.
I dunno.
You wanna call me back later when you're not working?
No it's OK.  The game hasn't started yet.
Well........we're in Manchester right now.  LC's in a pawn shop lookin' at guns so I thought I'd give you a call and see if you got my email.

Hesitation before he spoke.
Hesitation as he began to speak and as he continued to speak.................

Sean had gotten my email and he was sorry that he hadn't responded but he just didn't know what to say.
He understood that Tullahoma was getting rougher all the time.  He knew that we didn't like all the people that were in Tennessee and that we missed Wyoming.
He understood if we wanted to retire in Wyoming.
They would miss us.  And wouldn't be able to see us as often.  They'd really like it if we could stay in Tennessee until after the baby was born.  Maybe we could put our house up for sale and stay with him and Jessica until after the baby came?

I dunno Babe.
Let me give it some more thought. 
I better go.  Get back to work ya lousy bum!
In my mind I could see the smile on his face and I could hear it in his voice as well when he replied.
 I'll give you a call in a couple of days, OK?
I love you Baby.
I love you too mom..............

There had been a handful of times over the years when I had a decision to make, and I found myself (for prolonged periods of time) bouncing back and forth, unable to make that decision.
Floating seemingly unendingly in that awful, stomach-churning, frustrating, no-mans-land of indecision.
Without Sean ever knowing it, there had been a couple of times in his life where he had been the catalyst for a decision.
When he had unwittingly provided that one moment of clarity that suddenly pulled all the pieces of a puzzle into place.  
And when that happened - suddenly - magically - the picture was all there laying in front of me, and the decision ended up making itself.
One single look.  One single sentence.  One single moment of hesitation is all that it took............

When I asked Sean if he had received my email he hesitated.  We'd miss you.  We wouldn't see you as often as we do now.  We'd like it if you could stay until after the baby arrived.  
I listened carefully to my child talking on the phone, and even as I hung up the phone I knew that I would have to greatly disappoint LC.
I didn't like all the people in Tennessee or the high crime or the sagging pants or the drug deals we saw go down at the "Maggot Market" (our nickname for the small local grocery store that was located only a couple of blocks from the house) or any of the other places we had watched drug deals go down.
I didn't like any of those things and I missed so many things about Wyoming.
But I couldn't leave.
I couldn't leave Sean.  Not again.
Only..........two days later he was dead.
He died never knowing that I was going to stay.
He died thinking that there was a good chance that I would leave him....................


Sean was born on December 30, 1983 at 3:06 in the afternoon.
It was a Friday and it was snowing and he was ten days late.
He weighed 7 lbs 6 oz, and he was 27 1/2 inches long.
He had long arms and long legs and a long body and a warped shaped head and a splotchy face, and I thought that he looked like ET.
And I thought that he was the most beautiful thing that I had ever seen in my life.......................


Sean's son is now 14 months old.
His son was given both Sean's first and middle names.
I can't stand to call my grandson (who I have never met) by my sons' name.
They will never know each other....................


A few months after we moved back to Tennessee Sean invited us to a football game that he was working in Winchester (a small town 30 minutes from where we lived).
I posted this blog post after going to the game:
At the end of that blog post I cut and pasted a quote that reminded me so very much of my boy.
It was a quote by a woman named Julie Perkins Centrell.  I found the quote (as I do with so many that I post on this blog) purely by accident, and always loved it.

He has the spirit of the sun, the moods of the moon, and the will of the wind

When LC and I moved from Wyoming to Idaho, I ruminated that I needed to change the name of this blog again.
Over the course of only three years this blog has been named Living the Juneau Adventure, Wyoming Wind Songs, A Tennessee Life and Wyoming Wind Songs again.
Just one small sign of the ridiculously unsettled life that we have led over the past three years.
On the day of my Blog-Name-Ruminations I speculated that it would be much easier if I finally just named the blog something that doesn't indicated a specific place.
And then it hit me.
He has the spirit of the sun, the moods of the moon, and the will of the wind.
Today I will rename the blog one more time.
It will just be called Wind Songs.
And inside my fractured, ruined head I will sing the name to Sean, because the name is dedicated to him..................


Sean would have been 30 years old today.
A video that I used to love because it always reminded me of the love I felt for my boys.
I loved this song.
No matter what I was doing over the years (over the lifetime I shared with my boys), whenever this song came on the radio I would stop for a few minutes, listen and picture my life with my sweet sons.
Now I can't stand to listen to it:


Somebody I have come to know a little, recently read the story I wrote about Sean back in August of last year.
It seems like that was written so very long ago.
An entire life time ago.
They say that time heals all wounds, and I think that I always believed that, but I don't anymore.
I only have two things left of my son:
1.  The love and good memories of our lives together.
2.  The pain and the grief of his death, and the emptiness of my life now without him.
I don't want to lose either one of those pieces of him.
Both the love and the pain keep me connected to my child, and I continue to embrace both.
I can't wrap my head around Sean being gone, and as I continue to count weeks and months since my beautiful son died, it is almost as though I am counting down the weeks and months until the time I will see him again.
I can't wrap my head around the fact that he will never be coming back.
I will never hear his voice again.  Never see his smile.  Never hear his laugh.  Never watch him shooting baskets.  Never touch his face.  Kiss him on the cheek.  Wrap my arms around his neck.
Not ever again. 
I will never know what he could have done with his life if only he had had a chance to LIVE his life.............


That's him.
The one with the Gatorade bottle.
I haven't looked at this picture since the day I pulled it off the wall.
One of the schools that Sean worked with was holding a fund raiser for Jessica and the baby.
Sean had been dead for two weeks, and I stayed long enough to make an appearance before making a fast and very shaky escape, because I couldn't stand it anymore.
On the way out the door I angrily pulled this picture off the wall.
Today is the first day I have looked at it in 20 months.
It will be the last time for a while.
I loved him so much.
I miss him so much.................

Friday, December 27, 2013

Wandering In Wintery Mackay - Part 2

After leaving the Ranger Station dedicated to Salmon-Challis State Forest, LC drove the mile back to the center of Mackay and parked the truck on a little side street.
While LC headed towards the bank I grabbed for Kory's leash and encouraged her out of the truck.
We would wander a little ways and see what we would see.
Looking up at a Christmas decorated street light I reached into the pocket of my winter coat and made a grab for my camera.
Raising my camera I was just about to take a shot of the decorations when Kory unexpectedly yanked on her leash.
I was pulled forward and momentarily off-balance, and my camera promptly fell out of my hand and down into the snow bank by my feet.
Sighing in mild frustration I held tighter to Kory's leash as I bent down to pick it up.
Wiping off my non-waterproof camera I looked through the camera viewer wondering if it was dry enough to try and take pictures.
Maybe........... it wasn't and these first few pictures prove my point.
I didn't realize it at the time, and as me and my dog began to wander along the side walk close to where we had parked, I looked for interesting things to photograph.
Mackay is a lovely and friendly little town.
People are relaxed (even at this busy time of year) and they smiled as I walked by them.
Christmas music was being piped outside from the lone grocery store in town.
When I heard the music I smiled inwardly.
I could take relaxed and smiling and mountains and sunshine and a quiet walk on the day before Christmas.........

There is one grocery store, a couple of gas stations, a beer slash bait slash ammo store, a couple of banks and hair salons and restaurants and other assorted small businesses that cater to a population of 517 people.
The closest town to Mackay is Arco a little over 20 miles to the south.
Challis is another 30 miles or so north, and further into the Big Lost River Valley.
This truly is one of those beautiful little mountain-surrounded communities that started life as a copper mining town and eventually morphed into a small, farming and retirement town.
Some blurry pictures of down town Mackay while waiting for LC to catch up with us..............
This was only the second time that I had walked in a town with Kory.
The first was while we were killing time waiting for LC to see a doctor about his injured back in Blackfoot.
She responds well to the sounds and sights and bustle of town, even though she spends so much time living in the quietness of rural Idaho.
As we walked, Kory looked in all directions, trying to process everything that was going on around her.
A few cars, a few people, Christmas music, endless doorways to closely inspect.
Constantly looking in first one direction than another, my new pup was enthralled with everything going on around her............
By the time we found this snow man my camera had apparently dried out and was again taking clear pictures.
As Kory and I slowly wandered down one street and then crossed over to head back the way we had come, I looked around me.
Old fashioned store fronts.  Christmas decorations outside stores and Christmas music playing in front of stores.  Snow covered 360 degree mountains.
A beautiful little town.
I'm not sure why it took me a while to warm up to Mackay, but I love this little place very much...........
I looked over at the bank, and with LC still not in sight turned and walked across the road and headed towards a park that I had noticed on a previous trip to this town.
Away from the buildings in town the wind suddenly began to strongly gust.
Cold coming off the snow covered mountains.
We had always just driven past this park, and even though it was suddenly very cold I was pleased to be there, and eagerly walked over to the information board to see what I could learn............
I was at an ATV off-load park, and it contained maps showing directions of trails, and also contained drinkable water, restrooms, places to park trailers and trucks.
A huge wide-open space at the edge of town where 4-wheelers could gear up in preparation for motorized adventures in the mountains............
As Kory wandered to the full length of her leash I smiled at her and absently watched as she walked in a centrifugal-force-driven semi circle.
I liked this dog very much.  
She makes me smile.
As we both wandered to the far end of the park I looked down and realized that the snow was deeper than I had realized.
I was shin deep in snow but was wearing insulated and water proof boots.
My feet were dry and warm and I contentedly walked in shin deep snow with my dog, who has found out in the past almost-two months (since we picked her up at the airport in Boise) that she loves snow as well.
Kory saw him before I saw him.
I turned and realized that my Mountain Boy was heading towards us.
I stood at the edge of the far end of the dirt and snow covered parking lot, watching him smiling at me and walking towards me.
We wandered only a little while.
The wind was getting stronger and blowing straight off the mountains.
Soon it was freezing cold.
Time to slowly make our way back to the truck.
A beautiful, old painted sign found on the outside of a building close to the grocery store where we were parked.............

I hope that everyone had a wonderful Christmas.............

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Wandering In Wintery Mackay - Part 1

On a very beautiful and very cold Christmas Eve LC, Kory and I drove north to the very small, mountain surrounded, town of Mackay.
LC loved Mackay right from the get-go. 
Right from the very first time we visited there early last year, during a whirlwind house-hunting trip from Cody to feel out the area and see if buying a home here would be a realistic option for us.
It was late in the winter - March I think - and even at that time of year he loved this little town.
Mackay took a while to grow on me though.
A small town that we first saw at a time of year that tends to be messy and dirty and grey.
But it is also a place that has grown on me a lot over the past year, as we continue to be drawn to it for one reason or another.
We have now seen Mackay in mid-summer and the dead of winter.
Been to community bar-b-q's and local yard sales and driven up into the mountains to see the remnants of the old copper mines.
Driven through it on our way deeper into the Big Lost River Valley.
I love this little town.
And on this day, we all headed that way for two separate reasons.
We needed to grocery shop and heading to the bigger cities of Blackfoot and Idaho Falls the day before Christmas was not going to happen.
We also wanted to stop at the Salmon-Challis National Forest Ranger Station in Mackay to ask questions about the area and to pick up area maps.
There are mountain lakes, waterfalls, streams, canyons, trails - endless outdoor recreation opportunities - that we know exist but had no idea how to find.  
Where did we even start?
We want to spend spring and summer exploring our area, and the Ranger Station seemed like a logical place to begin to find our way around.
There is a paved road from Atomic City that leads to the highway (and that would take us to the valley in one direction and Blackfoot in the other).  It is about one mile long and is the way we usually go when we have places to be and things to do.
On this quiet and very lovely winter day we decided to take the dirt road to the highway.
It is a few miles longer, is partially covered with snow and ice right now, and divides this section of the enormous INL (Idaho National Laboratories aka Secret Squirrel Lab) in two.................
The drive from Atomic City to Arco is very hard and fast.
The straight and mostly flat highway is without fail always quiet, and is usually entirely devoid of traffic.
Although the distant snow-covered mountains are visible during the first 20 miles of the trip, the terrain begins to get more and more hilly the closer we get to the small town of Arco.
Arco is the town where we began our search for a home in Idaho.
I had never heard of Arco or Mackay or Challis or Atomic City until I surprisingly found a few very reasonably priced pieces of property during online searches while still living in Cody.
Some of the homes were not in great shape, which was information neither visible in pictures nor provided to us during communication with real estate agents.
Other properties were fine but had qualities that just didn't suit us.
We had to "see" to "know", which was why we made two whirlwind trips over the course of a couple of months.
We settled on Atomic City because it was close to everything, because it was quiet, because the house was the best quality house of all that we looked at, and because the house was cheap.
We love it in Atomic City, but regularly need to be close to any combination of trees, water and mountains.
Increasing hills as we got closer to Arco.............
The outskirts of Arco.............
After the fast and flat 30 mile drive from Atomic City to Arco, the drive slows down but only a little.
The rugged mountains that we always see from a distance (and that are increasingly covered in snow) get closer and closer to us.
The road, still flat, slowly begins to wind its way to Mackay.
There is farmland on both sides of the road where long standing farms grow vegetables and hay and cattle............
I had called the Ranger Station before we left the house, wanting to confirm that the facility would be open the day before Christmas.
A friendly lady told me that they were indeed open but she was hoping that the Chief Ranger Dude would let them close early for the holiday.
With that in mind, LC and I decided that before we did anything else we would head straight to the Ranger Station.
After having driven a little over 50 miles of very quiet and very beautiful to get there, Karin headed for the rest room while the lady at the front desk opened up a map and began talking to LC.
Don't laugh.
A picture of the wall paper border in the ladies restroom of the Ranger Station in Mackay............
We picked up a lot of maps and area brochures that described the recreational opportunities that are available to us locally, and then spent a good long time with a woman behind the counter who highlighted some of the local trails, campgrounds and lakes.
There is a hugely exciting, virtually unlimited amount of adventures almost in our back yard, and although much of it is snowed-out and closed-up right now, we at least have some direction.
Mt Borah.
The woman at the Ranger Station had hiked it, and after highlighting maps for us she showed us an enlarged picture of the rocky peak, that speaks to climbers all over the country and compels them to tackle it.
Pointing out her route, pointing out the most challenging portions, the woman was eager to share her experience with both of us and as I listened I could see her hike in my mind as clearly as I could see the picture in front of me.
A link to an article, videos and pictures of one newspaper reporter's experience climbing to the top (and likely the toughest part - climbing back down again):
And one more video:

After heading back outside (and after a very friendly and informative conversation with the woman at the Ranger Station), LC walked over to the Tahoe and I wandered around the grounds of the facility, snapping quick pictures.
Blue sky.  Snow covered mountains.  Trees.  It was a beautiful day and we were in a beautiful little town..........
After quickly power-snapping pictures at the Ranger Station I headed back to the Tahoe.
We were just beyond the downtown section of Mackay, and the plan was to park the truck in town and wander.
Just a little.
On the day before Christmas................

You never climb the same mountain twice, not even in memory. Memory rebuilds the mountain, changes the weather, retells the jokes, remakes all the moves.........Lito Tejada-Flores    

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The More I Like Dogs

Pictures of Kory taken over the past couple of weeks.
Some on leash, but most not.
Click on any of the pictures and they will enlarge..........
Wrestling with LC during a walk in town.............
Kory continues to like and respond to the hot dog game, and she quickly figured out that we would give her a bite when she comes back in response to our calls.
Recently she also figured out that if she comes back on her own and without us calling to her, she will get a hot dog treat then as well............
Eating and playing in the snow...............
We have walked and run in this place just on the outskirts of town a number of times.
Kory is both completely interested and completely perplexed by this strange thing.
I am thinking that she has never seen farming equipment before.............
Our truck barely visible in the distance..........
She is fast.
She is SO fast, and sometimes it is hard to catch her in a picture.
I miss her more often than I catch her..............
The more I see of man, the more I like dogs...........Mark Twain