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Mountain Law

Friday, August 1st, 2014

This morning, I set out to try to climb Humboldt Peak, the mountain that thwarted me last September. I’ll just go ahead and tell you that I didn’t make it to the top – because this is actually a story about something different.

In the trail description, the guidebooks said that a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle is necessary to get to the trailhead, and that if you’re not in the appropriate car, just park at the bottom of the road and hike up. Now, my Subaru Forester is far from being high-clearance, but I figured that it was worth a shot – because who wants to spend a bunch of time walking multiple miles up a rocky road?

Dumb idea. I made it about half a mile before the road got too rough for Subaruthless – and if I didn’t want to high-center my car on a boulder, I knew that I couldn’t go any further. Despite all of the signs along the road that said “PRIVATE PROPERTY” “NO TRESPASSING” and “NO PARKING,” I pulled over.

“Does anyone really enforce those signs?” I thought. “Doubtful.”

I threw on my emergency brake, placed some big rocks behind each tire to keep the car from rolling down the mountain, and Foxy and I took off for the summit.

Fast-forward a few hours. We were 5 miles in and just crossing tree line when the dark clouds got the best of my nerve, and I decided to turn around – because I have a strict No Death by Lightning policy.

Humboldt

As we headed down the trail, I started to think, “I hope my car is okay…” but was distracted by Foxy leaping into the air and catching a QUAIL in mid-flight.

“Foxy!” I yelled. “Foxy, no!”

And then before my very eyes, my sweet pooch shook a wild bird to death.

“Foxy,” I said, now serious. “Drop it.”

She opened her jaws and the lifeless fowl dropped to the ground.

I can’t decide which I’m more shocked about: that I witnessed my dearest companion’s first blood, or that she obeyed “drop it” on first command.

By now, the rain was starting to come down in sheets. I pulled on my Patagonia jacket and we high-tailed it for the car –

The car!

In all of the excitement over witnessing an actual murder, I had forgotten that my car was parked illegally on the side of a mountain road. “Surely they wouldn’t tow it…” I thought. “But there might be a ticket?”

You can imagine my relief when my Subaru came into view – and without a backwoods rancher with a shotgun alongside waiting to greet me. The rain was pouring, Foxy was a mudball, and I knew that before anything else I would need to get the towel out of the back to dry her off. I reached for the handle to the back door, put my fingers underneath the latch to pull up, and…

What is this.

I pulled my hand back toward my face and smelled my fingers.

It was feces. Of the equine variety.

I walked around to the driver’s side door to open that instead, and found the same.

Someone had packed horse poop under every door handle on my car, and smeared it on the windows for good measure.

I recoiled in horror – and then, surprise of all surprises, I giggled. Before I knew it, I was laughing hysterically in the middle of a rainstorm on the side of Humboldt Peak, drenched and muddy with a handful of horse shit. I knew that I had no right to be angry – the signs had made the rules crystal clear, and I had broken them. And the thought of a crotchety old mountain person securing their perimeter each day by applying the dung of their livestock to any offender’s vehicle… well. It was spectacular, really.

Because when it comes to Mountain Law, all’s fair in love and manure.

A nighttime park sit

Sunday, June 22nd, 2014

Last night at 10pm, I walked Foxy the block to Jefferson Park.

Even in the dark by myself, I feel safe in the park. It’s the hub of the neighborhood, home to big family barbecues and outdoor movie nights and workout boot camps, and late at night is the only time I feel safe letting her run (because remember?).

When we showed up last night, three college boys were tossing a light-up Frisbee, which was terrifying to Foxy and she ran wide circles around them. Whenever the glowing disc would hit the ground close to her, she would bow, barking ferociously, but never get close enough to investigate.

Eventually, I sat down on the hillside and called her over to me, talking to her like she understood what I was saying. “Fox, that’s just a Frisbee. You’ve never seen one before! I know, it’s verrrrry scary.” She sat right beside me in the dark, following the saucer with her eyes, and l scratched her ears. As I continued to talk to her, she leaned her body into mine and nosed her way under my arm until she was completely encircled.

We sat there in the darkness, leaned up against each other, each taking comfort in the others’ presence, and I thought, “I am so thankful for this dog.” I may have gotten this pup from a rescue, but I’m learning that rescue runs both ways.

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Steaking her claim

Monday, March 31st, 2014

Foxy and I spent the weekend in Steamboat Springs visiting some dear friends.

This is how I know they are dear friends.

On Saturday night, they made an incredible meal: steak, baked potatoes, salad, wine. We were laughing and enjoying conversation, when all of a sudden Amy yelled, “The dog has the steak!”

Sure enough, Foxy had gotten up on the counter and dragged an entire flank of delicious red meat down to the kitchen floor, where she was helping herself.

Absolutely mortified, I sprang into action, grabbing the puppy and swatting her nose – “Bad dog! Bad dog!” Then I lifted all 35 pounds of her and carried her upstairs where I forcefully locked her in her kennel. “Bad dog!” I scolded one last time, and then headed back down to join the dinner, embarrassed and disgraced – because it’s an odd thing to feel responsible for a living, breathing creature that you actually sometimes have no control over.

When I arrived back at the table spilling over with apology, PJ shrugged his shoulders and said, “Ehhh, we threw it back on the grill. Nothing that 500 degrees won’t kill.” And when he brought it back to the table, we ate it anyway.

THESE ARE MY PEOPLE.

And the next morning when we went for a hike, Foxy, still drunk on red-blooded protein, grabbed joy by the jugular and LIVED IT UP.

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I smashed my nose

Tuesday, February 11th, 2014

There are seasons when life feels overwhelming, like my brain has too many tabs open. I jump from one page to the next trying to figure out what to focus on, and with each change in visual, I forget what I was looking at before.

Last night, I walked Foxy to the dog park in the dark. About halfway there, I slipped on a patch of ice and landed nose-first on the sidewalk, which totally hurt my feelings. The blood was minimal, and so far my face doesn’t look any different – but even just sitting still today, I am very aware of my schnoz and the throbbing therein.

I own a shotgun house that’s the end of four units. None of the other owners live in theirs – they rent them out – but I email with them about shared things, like water bills and yard work. On January 17, the owner of Unit B went missing in Texas – vanished into thin air. I’ve been tracking with the story, and although I’ve never met Leanne, I feel a strong connection to her. I hurt for her family. The unknown has to be worse than news, good or bad.

I was in California last week for work to attend the Biggest Loser finale (I witnessed the shock in person), and this week I’m heading out on another business trip. I’m packing a yoga mat, snowshoes, and high heels, because always be prepared.

You may wonder what happens to Foxy when I’m gallivanting around the country. I am lucky to have a tag-team of friends and a sister who have been pitching in, trading off, and helping out. This dog is getting big – she’s close to 30 lbs. now – and when strangers meet her, now they sometimes have to ask, “Is she a puppy?” because from the look of her, it isn’t entirely clear anymore. But then she helicopters around and ties me up with her leash, or jumps on someone, or decides that a piece of trash from the sidewalk is the greatest thing she’s ever discovered, and her puppy-ness is all too clear.

I only have one wedding to attend in 2014, which is obviously a huge change from years past. What on earth will I do with all of this vacation time, time that has typically been spoken for? I have a mega-plan, but it deserves its own post. I’ll tell you about it soon.

I still daydream about “one day” when life will feel good and right, but then I realize that this is it. This is what I’ve got. And I have a sneaking suspicion that just like other imperfect seasons of my life, one day in the not-so-distant future I’ll look back on this one and think, “Those were some great days.” I’m living an utter gift, replete with friendship, experiences, provision, and freedom. And cheese. There’s a lot of cheese.

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SWF seeks That Person

Monday, January 20th, 2014

The moment I opened the door, I knew. The air was different. I just knew.

Throwing my purse and lunch bag to the couch, I made a beeline for her kennel, calling her name as I went. “Foxy? Foxy, are you okay?” I was sure of what I would find when I got to her, but had no idea the extent of the damage – until I crouched down and saw it with my own eyes.

I was immediately on the phone with the emergency vet.

“Hello, I have an emergency. Actually, it’s not an emergency-emergency, but just this thing that’s happened and my dog is in her kennel and I don’t know what to do.”

“It’s okay,” she said. “Slow down.”

“I mean, everything’s okay, it’s just that my dog – ”

“Do you have an emergency?”

“No. I mean yes! I mean, I don’t know. My dog is sick.”

“Your dog is sick?”

“Yes!”

“Is she breathing?”

“Yes – ”

“Is she vomiting?”

“No – ”

“Is she conscious?”

“Yes!”

“Is she – ”

“Ma’am, my dog has had an explosion of diarrhea.”

I waited. Silence hung on the line. Finally,

“Is that why you called the emergency vet?”

I explained to her that my dog had been spayed on Friday, and that the clinic had told me to keep her incision dry at all costs, and that since I’m a rule follower to the fullest extent – I spent years using a full 1” of toothpaste on my toothbrush every time I brushed because that’s what the package told me to do – I wasn’t sure how to clean her without water hitting her belly, and also do you know how much toothpaste I was going through?

“Well, you’ll just need to be careful – keep her incision covered while you wash her off.”

“Ma’am, I don’t think you understand. My dog is covered – covered – in poop. There’s no way I can get her clean without washing every moment of her body.” I thought about some of those… moments… namely the ones beneath the tail… and what it was going to take to get her clean (that is, my own personal fortitude).

“You’ll probably want to get someone to help you. Just keep the incision covered and you’ll be fine. Good luck!”

And that was that.

I scrolled through the contacts in my phone wondering who to call. Because who is That Person? WHO IS THE ONE you count on in moments like these? I’ll be honest, I don’t think I have That Person* – because the yearbook didn’t call them out in the superlatives, “Friend Most Likely to Help Scrub Caked Shit Off Your Dog Whilst Protecting Her Lady Parts.” I knew that this was going to be a solo endeavor.

Like a surgeon in an OR, I prepared the bathroom. Towels – check. Dog shampoo – check. Hair in a ponytail – check. Okay. Let’s bring her in.

I opened the kennel door, and my crap-crusted dog bolted out like her life depended on it. “FOXY!” I screamed, as she tore under the dining room table, hiding between all of the chairs, rubbing poop into the rug. “No! Come here! COME HERE.” I pulled her out from under the table, and we retraced the brown paw prints back to the bathroom.

Friends, someday I will find the words – but tonight’s moments in that bathtub are beyond my current storytelling abilities. I am now familiar with areas of Foxy’s body that, frankly, I never want to think about ever again.

And I’m sure she feels the same way.

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*If you are That Person, please let me know. This is an arrangement best decided upon in advance, like the meeting place for your family if your house burns down or where you’ve stashed the fake passport when you need to make a run for it.

Adventure

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I’ve been thinking a lot about adventure. So many of us crave it – but what is it, actually?

Is it doing something crazy – quitting your job and selling everything you own and taking off for parts unknown? Is it doing something risky – hanging from cliffs and diving out of planes and willingly allowing your life to hang in the balance? Is it doing something gigantic – traveling around the world and living large and turning heads?

All of those things certainly count as adventure – and my life has included some of those moments. But could it be that the experience doesn’t have to be berserk in order for it to make you feel alive?

Because I think that that’s what adventure really is: an experience that makes you feel alive. Something that snaps you into the present, a place most of us are more comfortable avoiding. Often, all that takes is doing something out of the ordinary, something different than usual, something that you’re not exactly sure will work out.

I woke up on Saturday morning, the only thought in my head, “I don’t want to stay home.” I love my little house, and am usually perfectly content to spend time within the four walls, but something about this weekend had me itching to get out. The weather was inopportune, as the snow had started overnight and was continuing to come down, blowing in blustery circles, slicking the roads and driving people inside.

But I needed an adventure.

So I grabbed my snowshoes, loaded up Foxy, and drove west.

snowshoe

If you live in Colorado, you know that I-70 is the worst place to be on a weekend morning. The ski traffic is merciless, and when you add bad roads into the mix, it can be aggravatingly slow. And about 30 minutes into my drive, that’s exactly where I found myself: bumper to bumper, creeping along at less than 5 mph, wheels grasping for grip on the ice.

“This is stupid,” I thought. “I should turn around.”

But something in me said to stick it out. I wanted to find out what might happen if I just kept going for as long as I could.

After an hour and a half, I reached Idaho Springs (a mere 30 miles from Denver), and then turned south onto an unplowed mountain road. I drove for 14 dicey miles until I reached my intended destination. And Foxy and I headed out into the winter air, where we explored in complete stillness and peace.

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I thought back to the moment I had wanted to turn around, and realized that that’s when the adventure began. It’s the moment when you’re not sure if your plan is going to work, or if it will, how. The decision to keep going despite the unknowns, heading into something out of the ordinary, is unsettling and exciting (two things which often co-exist). And often, the “getting there” is just as much a part of the adventure as the destination itself.

So cook something new for dinner. Take a different road home. Sign up for the art class. Throw your name in the hat – for a job, an opportunity, a relationship. Loosen your grip on control so your hands are free to grab life and enjoy the shit out of it. Foxy will show you how.

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All things new

Tuesday, December 31st, 2013

Just the other day, I was reminiscing with my mom about 2011 (i.e. The Worst Year Ever) – and while she said that she has blocked out a lot of those memories, to me they’re still vivid, still shocking. Cynthia Monahon calls trauma “the occurrence of the unthinkable,” and if we’re using that definition, 2011 was traumatic in so many ways. While the events of that year aren’t as viscerally painful as they once were, sometimes I still can’t believe that they happened.

In early 2012, I remember praying that God would “throw me a fucking bone,” because God doesn’t mind an honest swear, even if some people do. And while I don’t necessarily credit that prayer with the change, I have to admit – today, things are different.

2013 was good, so good, in so many ways.

I made it through two sisters’ weddings, as well as the remarriage of my father. I experienced four different managers at work. I bought a house. I lost a beloved dog, and gained another. I found myself in Los Angeles, Nashville, Kansas City, Minneapolis, Austin, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, a beach in Florida, the summits of Colorado mountains, cocoa farms in the Dominican Republic, the shore of Lake Superior, and the seat of a bicycle (of all places). There were hours and hours of walking, hours and hours of silence, hours and hours of friendship, and many bottles of wine. I barely went to church, but I read my bible more than ever before. I chopped off my hair, and started the long, slow work of growing it back. I played my guitar. I met so many new people.

It was a rich year – not without heartache, but somehow without heartBREAK. And that was a welcome change, a gentleness I’d forgotten was possible.

Today, as I retire my 2013 calendar to the bookshelf that holds 10 years of its companions, I look ahead to 2014 – and I’m so excited. I’m just so excited for what’s on tap for this year. I can’t wait to see what the time brings – because despite my sparse church attendance this year, if there’s any promise that I love, it’s that all things are being made new.

new_year

Unleashed

Tuesday, December 10th, 2013

I live a block from a city park where Foxy has made a lot of dog friends. There’s a huge grassy area in the middle, and a lot of dog owners have taken to letting their pups off leash to run like banshees. The Fox loves it, and there’s no better way to tire her out than to have her chase dogs 5 times her size.

The only catch: it’s illegal. I’d been warned by the other dog owners that city officials will ticket if they catch you with your dog off leash; the first time is $80, the second is $150, the third is $300, and most everyone I’ve met at the park has been ticketed at least once.

So yes, I’ve been warned. But I’m Annie Parsons and live on the edge of danger.

Today, on this beautifully bright morning, I bundled up and walked Foxy to the park. The sun was gleaming off the snow, and she couldn’t wait to chase the ball I’d brought. I did a quick spin-around and saw that the perimeter of the park was clear of any city trucks, then unleashed her to run like the unrefined mongrel she is. A few other people showed up, and we chatted as our dogs romped.

All of a sudden, one of the women hissed, “TICKETER.” And sure enough, walking toward us was a man, notepad in hand, his white Parks & Rec truck at the curb.

So I did what any self-respecting person would do. I ran.

I grabbed Foxy and ran full speed in the other direction.

One glance over my shoulder, and I saw the city man about-face and head for his truck. He was going to circle the block and head me off at the corner – because is this girl seriously running?

But the thought of an $80 ticket was sickening, so I picked up speed, blessing the tread on my Sorels as I beat across the ice.

I made it to the edge of the park, and turned to see the truck about a half block back on the other side. The light was red, but we crossed the street anyway. I cut through a neighbor’s yard and into the alley behind my house, crouching behind the fence just in time to see the truck pass us by. Just like the movies.

And when I finally made it through my front door and locked it behind me, I closed the curtains, put my hands on either side of Foxy’s little furry face, and collapsed into a pile of giggles.

Patience

Monday, December 2nd, 2013

“How’s your writing going?” he asked.

It’s the question I’m coming to dread more than any other (except for maybe “Been on any good dates lately?” – bless your heart), because whether songs or prose, the answer is “It’s not, really.” The thing I love to do more than anything in the world is bringing nothing but disgruntled resentment these days. Inspiration is nowhere to be found. The well hath run dry.

Of course, I’ve been through this kind of thing enough times to know that the drought isn’t permanent – at least, I hope it’s not permanent. One never quite knows for sure. Surely, at some point, writing is going to bring me joy again? My thoughts are going to arrange themselves in some sort of semi-organized fashion? Or maybe it’s going to take me grabbing them by the horns and wrestling them to the ground like a cowgirl, the kind I used to watch at the Montrose County Fair when I was a kid.

Life is fairly daily these days. The rhythm has become predictable – which, how is it that I can both appreciate and despise routine? Foxy the Wonder Pup is growing, we go on a lot of walks, I ride my bike to work, I grocery shop. There is coffee in the morning and a crock pot of food at night. I haven’t been on a plane in a month – an abnormally long stretch for me. I see friends, I clean the house, I rearrange the money in my bank accounts. And I think ahead to 2014, wondering what it might bring, praying for the things that I hope for.

Hope is hard – because I’m a person of action. If there’s something I want, typically I make it happen. Time waits for no man, and especially not a woman. But some things aren’t up to me, and no amount of posturing or positioning will make a difference in the ultimate outcome. This reduces me to – okay, tears of frustration – but also a reliance, a faith, a giving over of myself, a trust that something, whatever it is, will be.

“I have to write these things now,” I told her, frantic. “If I don’t, they’ll pass by – I’ll lose them – they’ll spoil.”

She smiled at me. “They won’t spoil. Maybe they just need to marinate for a while.”

This is an “in between” time – in between the exciting moments, in between the sowing and the reaping, in between the preparation and the meal. And in the quiet, slow rhythm of it all, I remember one of my favorite quotes by Frederick Buechner:

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.”

All moments are key moments. Life itself is grace. The humdrum is valuable, if only I can find the patience to sit with it for a while. And in the midst of the mundane, I want to engage with life with the same enthusiasm as this one – because she is bringing me a lot of joy.

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I’m a fan

Tuesday, November 12th, 2013

I got a bike and a puppy within a week of each other, and this is what it looks like: wake up (in the dark) to take dog on walk, ride to work at natural foods company, ride home at lunch to take dog on walk, ride back to work at natural foods company, ride home at dinner (in the dark) to take dog on walk, rinse, lather, repeat. My days have been full, even when there are no real markers of “accomplishment” – besides, you know, burning a bunch of calories, keeping Foxy alive, and not crashing on my bike.

I’m in love with this little pup, though. True to my prediction, she is ruining my life (so far she’s chewed on the legs of the dining room table, pooped on the rug, woken me up at 3am, 4am, 5am, and barked incessantly at my bedside when I try to go back to sleep) – but somehow, she’s still won me over. I’m a fan.

(Ready for the segue?) Guess what else I’m a fan of?

Leopard print
Epicurean Black Truffle Butter
Kale Krunch
A variety of Frye boots
“The Newsroom”
This interview with Gretchen Peters (she is fascinating and inspiring)
This interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber (again: fascinating and inspiring)

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to spend the day dreaming of owning a Winnebago and driving around West Virginia without a care in the world.

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