Tag Archives: Grand Teton National Park

As Luck Would Have It

I’m the luckiest person in the world.
Am I the only person to have this kind of moment? When a nearly tangible wave of pure contentment—a little stirring in the gut—gives rise to the realization that Lady Luck, Providence, my Fairy Godmother, or whomever, is routing for ME. And all is right in the world. At least at that moment.

I had one of those moments recently and I paid close attention to how it unfolded, so I could savor the feeling.  It came over me while seated in the center of the concert hall in Teton Village, where I was hearing the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra perform. I’d finished my job that day in enough time to take the 45-minute drive to Festival Hall and get a $10 rush ticket (fortune was smilin’ already). Half way into the program’s first piece it happened: stirred by the music, the sensation bubbled up inside me:

I am the luckiest person in the world to be sitting where I am at this moment, listening, seeing and feeling…well, blessed.

Nestled in that comfort, I was ready for the debut of a commissioned piece, “All Things Majestic” from the composer Jennifer Higdon, in which she expresses her impression of the Tetons via 99 musicians on stage. Ahhhh. Those kinds of chills don’t occur often, which makes it especially noticeable when they do.

Maybe I should begin cataloging these waves of blessed contentment. Would I notice a pattern? Does it occur in proximity to an art form or performance? Does it happen when I’m already feeling confident, or when I need a boost after a rough patch? Does it matter whether I’m alone or in someone else’s company? Just curious. Not necessarily looking to create conditions that produce more of the same. I rather like the intermittent, stealth appearance. It can happen any time. If I stay conscious, notice, I’ll recognize its arrival.

What do your moments look like? Hands around a hot cup of aromatic tea, watching waves lap at your toes, looking fabulous in the dressing room at Banana? When does everything feel totally right in your world?

My soundtrack today: “Luck Be a Lady Tonight,” Sinatra, of course.

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The Mating Game

This was meant to be posted over two weeks ago, so the time references that appear are dated. There is a sorry lack of WiFi where I live, so I’ve learned I have to be in an area with a stronger signal to work on WordPress. I will adjust accordingly.

I arrived in western Wyoming May 25. By now I’ve settled into my cabin—the same one I was in last year—at base of the Grand Tetons, my home for over four months. It’s always interesting arriving here, meeting the new roommate, getting to know my new co-workers from around the world. This experience is so much different from the first time  I came here in 2009, and I’m enjoying the comfort that comes from  familiarity. I have great empathy for those stepping into a new situation.

Here we are, all thrown together. Over the course of the first four days, our goal was to learn our jobs and open the lodge for the season on May 30. It’s intense—especially for those who aren’t used to being away from home. But eventually it all comes together, and inside of our first three weeks, we managed to form both social and workplace bonds. We’re all in this together.

I like the part about getting to know people. For me, it’s gradual—a conversation in the women’s bath house or on a road trip to town; post dinner talks in the employee cafeteria, hanging around the campfire or riding shotgun on a bar run. There are all sorts of small occasions to get to know one another. There are more “older” people to keep me company here this year. To qualify as “older,” one has to be mid-40s. Admittedly, my peers are not all that interesting. Not when compared to the 20-something set. Now that’s interesting.

No time to lose
The young crew, many fresh out of college and with varying degrees of work experience, seem to have their own language for getting to know one another. Night after night they gather outside various cabins, drink beers or vodka or Capt. Morgan, sit around the campfire and talk. They’ll hit town for Whiskey Wednesday, swing dance at the Cadillace or caravan to neighboring lodge bars. They size each other up and … the mating game begins.

In keeping with my past two years here, the boys and girls are generally paired off by the third week. This is risky business:  hooking up with someone you’re living and working with. But it’s inevitable. Cute kids stuck in the same remote place for four and a half months. It’s a charged atmosphere. They have to move fast because they don’t want to be the last one standing.  Not everyone gets chosen and I wonder how that feels. Actually, I remember exactly how that feels.

One young man I know from last year asked me to put in a good word about him to one of my teammates. But it appears he’s lost ground to a rival. By now it has become more obvious—who’s pairing up with whom. Or who longs for whom. Or who’s teasing whom.

There will be the drunken “mistakes” and subsequent awkwardness when they see each other at work. But somehow, this annual rite of spring works itself out. Despite the Peyton Place this employee village has a tendency to become, I’ve never witnessed any big dramas that had a serious impact (in an earlier year, though, it came close to a melt-down that was thankfully avoided).

This is a good thing. Because we’re all in this together—in our little community of 20-30-40-50-60-somethings in the mountains.

My soundtrack today: “New York City” by Mason Jennings.

Running Away From Home

I’m doing it  … again. I’m running away from home. Actually, I’m trying out a different perspective. Consistent with my increasingly positive attitude about life in general (and mine, specifically),  “running away,” has become “I’m running to.”  In this case I’m running to:

  • Open space
  • A simple life
  • Mountains
  • Hikes and bike rides
  • Cowgirls
  • Community living
  • Punching a time clock
  • Meeting lots of people
  • Peace and  Insight

The next two weeks will be devoted to organizing my life so that I can head out to a seasonal job in Wyoming.  You might say I’ve been down this road before—twice, in fact, in 2009 and 2010. So, this third time’s the charm. I’m sure of it.

I’ve had a precious opportunity to reinvent myself and consider what I want the rest of my life (or the foreseeable future) to look like. And boy has it been a process! When it originally started two years ago, I thought I’d have my life figured out in six months, but I confess I’m still saying, “I don’t know,” more often than I probably should. On several occasions I’ve questioned whether this “timeout” is age appropriate.

A little background
It began with selling my house in 2009, mercifully right before the real estate crash. Undecided about where I’d live next, I weighed some options. After research on CoolWorks.com, a web site advertising seasonal work primarily in National Parks, I made the leap and applied for jobs in Grand Teton National Park. Ever grateful to the man who took a chance by hiring (over the phone, no less!) a middle-aged woman whose previous hotel experience was over 20 years ago, I landed a job at a small, high-end mountain lodge where I’d also be housed and fed. Housing problem solved! I chronicled the horror and delight of my transition from owning a home to living in a cabin with roommates in an article for More.com early in my first season.

For each of the past two years, when my contract was completed, I left Wyoming thinking I would not return to the job. Now as I prepare for my third season, we can see how that turned out. Each time, though, I’ve struggled with the decision about whether to go back (I struggle with decisions in general, but that’s another post entirely).  There’s the rational pragmatist trying to beat some sense into the creative dreamer, and the dreamer resisting the threat to her freedom. The pull (or more precisely, the yanking) can be downright exhausting. But now it’s settled and I’m returning to the mountains to absorb anything I previously may have left behind.

It’s no place like home
I crave the simplicity of seasonal life in the mountains. My domestic responsibilities involve only a small part of a small cabin.  Meals are cooked—I just show up and eat. I go to my eight-hour shift at the front desk or as concierge. Afterward I develop and nurture friendships over a glass of wine or a White Russian at the local establishment, check out Facebook, and read or write. I try to never miss a sunset, hike daily, bike after dinner, ride the occasional horse, or paddle the canoe. This business of being immersed in nature really appeals to me: “awesome,” “thrills,” “joy” are at the top of my vocabulary list when I’m there.  And that easy-going western lifestyle—with all that open space and sagebrush—is so unlike home. I’ll be looking for a way to somehow bottle “mountain essence” and bring it back to Minnesota in October. I’ll rub it into my skin so every fiber of me absorbs it, and design a life where I feel like I do in Wyoming.

Don’t misunderstand, I like my life at home in Minneapolis where I have close, fun friends and there’s always lots to do. If I stuck around for the Twin Cities’ beautiful summers instead of their long winters, I’d love to be here even more. But life at home is different—you don’t realize how different until you’ve had an experience of being away and living simply for a serious length of time.

Moving at my own speed
It’s been a process, this quest—for clarity, peace and ease, fulfillment, and relatedness. And it takes on an added curiosity (or urgency?) inside the wisdom of my age. How do I take my insight and experience, and make this time of life extraordinary?

I get it: running away from home isn’t all that productive. Moving forward, however pokey I may be, is. I’m getting there. Third time’s the charm 😉

My soundtrack today: Wide Open Spaces by the Dixie Chicks