The Middle

First of all, my apologies for the gap between this posting and the last. (Have I used up all my “but the wifi is so unreliable!” excuses yet?) And secondly, my apologies for misleading you with my former blog entry, which promised that the upcoming post would be a food-centric one. I’ve actually written that post (it’s sitting patiently on the Here is Away dashboard, labeled Draft), but my lovely Mama and godmother are coming to visit in 6 days (!) and I have some eating adventures planned for us, so I thought it’d be best to hold off. Hopefully it’s worth the wait!

I can’t believe my Mom will be here in 6 days–like all anticipated events, her trek to Wyoming seemed abstract in its distance. When I arrived on June 2nd, I thought of July as barely existing, because of what stood between me and Mom: an entire month and then some; 7 weeks; 14 days off; 3 paychecks. (It’s funny how the context of our lives defines the way we record the time within it.)

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And yet the cool, breezy days of June slipped into the dry, bright heat of July, speckled with ephemeral afternoon thunderstorms. Somehow, I have been here 6 weeks. Somehow, I leave in 5.

It’s been busy, both on the clock and off. Maybe that’s to blame for the (wonderful) craziness at work–we girls sing so often that our boss directs this joke at one of us at least daily: “What’s you do with all that money?” (What money?) “The money your momma gave you for singing lessons!” Each day the cookies we make seem to get larger, challenging their predecessor sitting in the bakery case. We dance past the finger-smudged deli case, the two meat slicers, the counter filled with salads we need to package. We ride on the carts we use to stack bread and we joke with the ice cream customers. As far as work environments go, it’s not half-bad.

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The buzz of Colter Bay during busy season is infectious; sleeping late seems a waste of time, especially as our Middles tick towards our Ends–Marissa has only 20 days left here. On Sunday we woke up for breakfast (a rare occasion, as breakfast here lasts 6:30-8) and attended church in the amphitheater. It was a short service, only 30 minutes, but lovely nonetheless. The services here are run by ACMNP, A Christian Ministry in the National Parks, which is an organization made up of volunteers, most who work in the park as well. Marissa’s coworker, Jody, helped lead the service, and sitting wrapped in a blanket on a wooden bench, birds twittering above, sun dripping onto the stairs, was a pleasant start to Sunday. Afterwards we rented kayaks, and were the only ones on the water. We lazily paddled across the clear water, which was gently ruffled by a morning breeze.

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Another night, Kathleen, Ben, Connor and I watched the sunset at our beach, where the boys dragged a picnic table into the water. They dipped their feet into the lake while I sat cross-legged on the table top. In the distance lightning flashed, but not the way it does back east, with sharp skittish bolts. This was more a puff of white that lit the sky, made dusty by the clouds that hid it. I imagined the clouds as a sort of VIP curtain, hiding a celestial party from human eyes.

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On our day off Marissa and I began a hike along String Lake, but deciding the weather too hot and the just-out-of-reach lake too appealing, turned around and headed directly for the water instead. We claimed a half-submerged rock in the lake’s middle and laid in the sun, legs cool underwater and heads warm from the the cloudless sky. Afterwords we drove to Jackson, where Marissa introduced me to the wonders of the DQ Blizzard. (Is there anything as satisfying as soft serve on a scorching day?) We tried to find materials to make 4th of July shirts without success. And then we drove back to Colter, where Kathleen’s visiting parents cooked us Thai food over a camp stove. Once night fell we built a campfire, and of course ate s’mores (smeared with chunky peanut butter).

And then there was the 4th. At home, we have no real 4th of July traditions. Maybe cook on the grill, eat outside, walk around the harbor at night. This year my parents were at Tanglewood for a concert with two of my aunts and my uncle. In Jackson there was a free concert by Old Crow Medicine Show (Wagon Wheel, anyone?) and the 3rd best fireworks show in the country. I worked for 3 hours and then was let off early by my manager, so my 4th was off to excellent start. We piled into Ben’s car and made for town, where we ate pizza and posed with a wooden bear statue a block away from our dinner spot. We parked the car in a free parking garage and walked to Snow King, a skiing spot during the winter where the concert was. We passed through the entry tents into the crowded venue, where clumps of people waited for drink tickets, lounged on blankets, and searched for the port a potties. We wove our way to a spot near the stage and bobbed our heads to the opening act. Lauren and Connor decided to do the rock climbing wall. We spotted them at the top and took pictures, Lauren’s red bandana looking especially patriotic against the blue sky. Once the sun dropped away Old Crow Medicine show came on, and we cheered and danced. Lauren was hoisted above the crowd on Connor’s shoulders, and couples around us embraced and spilled their beer. The fireworks concluded the night with bursts of color, slow drizzles of sparks at first, then almost frenetic successions of light at the finale, where the fireworks were so close together they seemed to be chasing each other out of the dark sky. We held hands as we left, knotted together as strangers swerved around us. Connor chased after cars and bicycles in the street, and we chased after him. Once we arrived at the parking lot we entered a slow line of cars, and we slumped against one another, tired and content. But we didn’t go home right away–it was McDonalds time first, where I added a McFlurry to my “tried” list of frozen dairy treats. It was good, but not as good as the blizzard. When we rolled into the parking lot at 1am we rubbed our eyes and climbed tentatively out onto the pavement, testing our drowsy legs. I ran into Lauren again in the bathroom, where we were both brushing our teeth. She shoved her toothbrush to one side of her mouth and spoke to me through the other: “That was a good night.”

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