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The new site is up and running, though not quite finished.

The new site is up and running, though not quite finished.

They tell you that having a child changes everything. While I’m  not sure that’s entirely true, I am sure that bringing George into the fold has resulted in a shift in our priorities and goals. With that, Mike and I have started a new project to celebrate and sometimes commiserate integrating a child into an outdoor-oriented lifestyle. Please check out raisinggus.com and let me know what you think. Are there topics you’d like to see explored? What’s been your experience with bringing your kids along for the adventure? I’m looking forward to sharing the journey with you.

Photo by Catalina Jean Dow.

Photo by Catalina Jean Dow.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and summer seems to be moving at speeds well past the posted limit. Below is a quick update on where I’ve been and where I’m headed in the next few months.LowerGunny_628

In early June Mike and I traveled back to Oregon where we proceeded to fish, bike, run, work and get married in a several week long celebration of friends and family. It was an amazing time, and I am so thankful. On a professional note, I changed my name from Brown to Eaton, and my writing byline moving forward will be Aimee L. Eaton. I understand that changing my name after publishing under it for several years presents some challenges, but it feels right to me. Please, if you have questions about what I’ve written in the past, or what I’m responsible for in the future, don’t hesitate to contact me.

We came home to the western slope to find summer had kicked off in force. The trails are clear of snow and fishing has been amazing. Plenty of walk wading in addition to regular float trips (the raft came out to CO with us, and I’m attempting to learn to row. Talk about a junk show.).

In August I’m headed to Labrador to fish for landlocked Atlantic salmon and trophy brook trout with Gray Ghost Prodcutions. To say I’m freaking out would be an understatement. If everything goes as planned there will be a few stories and films from the trip.

CollaredThen in October, my book, Collared: Politics and Personalities in Oregon’s Wolf Country will be published by OSU Press. I’m finishing up the last details for the manuscript now, and the press is beginning marketing work.

In the meantime, I’m working on stories, working as an editor at the Crested Butte News, filling a few shifts at Dragonfly Anglers and in general rocking and rolling.

Here’s hoping things in your world are amazing.

I lived for a brief time in Washington D.C.

I tried the city on like a suit of clothes and found it didn’t fit. It chafed in awkward places, left me feeling too exposed, and also too covered. For the most part it itched and didn’t breathe. But there were moments when it wore like old jeans, offering comfort like the college hoodie that’s splattered with blue and yellow from the time you painted the kitchen the colors of a Mexican village.

Those times most often happened while dancing in the kitchen with a roommate who became a friend — a woman to hold on to during the ups and downs. To rejoice with and to share tears. This music makes me think of her.

Here’s to friends. And to banishing the bad days by dancing like no one is watching.

I was cited for speeding this week. Pulled over on the shoulder, red and blue lights flashing, rain coming in my rolled-down window, drops falling from the brim of the officer’s hat, leafing through the glove box to dig out registration and proof of insurance, I couldn’t even manage to be upset. I was speeding. I knew it. The cars I had passed knew it. And, for sure, the radar gun with its big flashing red numbers knew it. So, when the officer asked if I was aware of the speed limit on the road, and did I know how fast I was going? I said, “yes,” and “too fast.”

I didn’t tell the officer I had a meeting, or that I’ve driven that road hundreds of time, or that my speedometer isn’t super accurate. Instead I apologized, said I’d try to be more conscious, and that I’d work on slowing it down. Then I warned him to be careful and watch his head on my car’s roof racks as he reached over to hand me a ticket. He missed cracking his skull by less than 1/2 an inch, but as he startled and stood back-up, his hat brim caught on the bar-end sending a stream of water down his neck. For a minute he wriggled and danced at the cold, no longer a police officer, no longer an authority, just a young guy with icy rain running down his spine. When it was over, he smiled, didn’t even try to pick back up the image, just sent me on my way. I smiled back, thankful he hadn’t decided to cite me for endangering a police officer. I really should put warning tape on those racks.

The milk carton is empty. The produce drawer is barren.

At 8:30 on a Wednesday night the grocery store is largely deserted. I wander up and down the outer aisles trying to figure out what I want to eat for the next few days. Slowly I fill my basket. A box of tea, a head of broccoli, apples, carrots, mushrooms, spinach, milk, 3lbs of potatoes, leeks. I think I should be a farmer. Or at least put in a garden and cross my fingers for a frost-free July.

At the checkout, the clerk makes small talk. “Get out for anything fun, today?” A run, I say. A sloppy, chilly, dirty trail run where my feet were soaked a mile in and I still had more than an hour left to go. “Those are the best kind,” he says. He’s right, and I’m thankful to be reminded of it.

I don’t say prayers. I’m not religious. But more often than not, and even when things aren’t perfect, I try to start and end my day with a short  recognition of just how good I’ve got it. A heathen’s form of Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep, undirected and informal, but wanting to be heard nonetheless.

Thank you for this day. For yesterday and tomorrow. Thank you for muddy trails and ankle deep puddles. Thank you for coffee and milk. Apples and peanut butter. Thank you for salmon colored ski pants and a skin track to follow quietly into the woods. Thank you for family and friends. Thank you for stories, music and the Moth Podcasts. Thank you for picking up the phone, for calling back. For smiling big first thing in the morning and at the end of a long day. Thank you for sunny days, and freezing rain. Thank you for everything. Thank you for this day.

After a long drought, with only a day or two of respite, it’s finally snowing, but not even just snowing — nuking. An inch an hour. Two inches an hour. And windy. Snowflakes fly like needles piercing unprotected earlobes. Frostnip shows itself as small patches of white skin on angled cheekbones. Hoods cover googles cover hats, but still ice sticks to beards, curls, eyelashes.

Peering through the flatlight, eyes squinted, I can see the base building. I can see windlips forming from here to Kansas. It’s brutal.

At home the message light blinks, the emails pile up:

Where are you?
Is your phone working?
Are you alive?
What’s happening?

I’m here; I’ll call you back soon. I’m not sure, but I’ll call you back soon. Yes! I’ll call you back soon. Winter is here and it’s a gift. I’ll call you back soon.

Hayward died last summer. Cancer. He was the best one. Had a bit of an obsession for tennis balls and at ten-years-old still slept with a baby, but he was solid. A sucker for laying on the floor with his head in your lap, or stretching out long with his face smashed up against the heating vents, he’d bounce up in a second at the word, “Go.” As in, “Do you want to go…” for a run, to the park, skiing, outside, on a bike ride, to bed, in the car. You name it, if it was with us, he was all in.

In deep snow, he’d try to catch a ride on the back of our skis, both on the up and on the down. Sleeping in a tent, inevitably I’d wake up to 80lbs of golden retriever trying to spoon, or just laying outright across my knees and chest. Trying to move him, he’d go limp and start to grumble before giving in with deep sigh and a head shake, as if I should know he was only trying to keep me warm. Every time we’d roll into Bend he’d start whining at the smell of juniper and sage.

He was prone to ear infections and allergies, and his tail was almost always matted. I gave him haircuts with sewing scissors, and made him wear socks when he’d rip his pads chasing after tennis balls, or after a few too many miles on the trails. One season he chewed up every pair of goggles I owned, then started in on my wooden clogs. As a puppy, he ate the turn signal indicator off my Subaru in the five minutes it took me to run into the grocery store.

In the spring he’d nibble raspberries off the bush with his front teeth. He was so gentle that the core would remain on the plant.  He thought the only thing that could beat diving into the canal was laying the mud. In the fall, his head would turn yellow with pollen from the tomato bushes he’d raid for the fruit. For his money carrots were fantastic, and we regularly shared apples. He never minded that I got the good part and he got the core. He wouldn’t leave the porch without us, content instead to sit by the door and wait until we were ready to face the world together. He was the best one.

My friend lost his Jack Dog over the holiday weekend. Jack shared our office in grad school. In our space the size of broom closet the three of us each had a tiny stretch of lab table and a straight back chair. Jack had a couch. At night he’d wander the halls of the second floor his tags jingling. He was a magnet for the ladies. He loved going for mountain bike rides. He could outrun even the fastest of us. I cried into his coat when my first advisor said I didn’t belong in the program, and danced with him after I defended on top. He saw me strip and change clothes on several occasions and never looked anything but slightly amused, “There she goes again.” As long as he was with my friend, he was stoked.

Here’s to all of our best ones.

An addendum: My friend Cam Scott wrote a column about this time last year, titled, “Thanksgiving for Mountain Dogs.”  If you don’t click through for the whole piece, this paragraph, at least bears a read:

God love a good mountain dog. The fishing, hiking, skiing, biking, passenger-seat-hogging, beaver crap rolling sort of kind. The leave me at home and I’ll knock down the trash, chew apart your avalanche transceiver and sunglasses kind. The tail wagging through sage brush, rose hips, and skunk cabbage kind. The kind who spends all day eating grass hoppers, dead fish, and voles then plants a big sloppy kiss in your open-awed mouth. Yeah, that kind.

I have a girlfriend visiting from a few states away. Last night after making dinner and cleaning up we settled in front of the fire. I flipped through a few magazines and cast on the stitches for a knit hat. She crocheted a tiny white and pastel blanket. It was very calm, very domestic. When I looked up from my knitting she had this serious, concerned, deep-in-thought look on her face. In truth she seemed to be scowling at the fire.

“What are you thinking about?”

She looked up. Long pause.

“Babies.”

“Oh yeah? What about babies?”

She proceeded into a long and bouncing soliloquy about starting a family. She covered: the pitfalls and benefits of childbearing; adoption options; appropriate timelines related to first finding a partner, then spending time with that partner, then marrying, then spending time married, then reproducing; financial commitment of a child in both the immediate and over the long term; the dangers of advanced maternal age; the cons of a sperm bank. The list went on. At the beginning she said more than anything she wants the option for children. At the end she said she wants children.

I sat across from her and listened to the worries and concerns pour out of her, and I couldn’t help it; as she was winding down, I smiled a bit.

“What?”

“Do you want to know what I was thinking about?”

“Sure.”

“Ice climbing.”

Then she scowled at me.

It’s not that I don’t ever think about children, partners, or life down the line, I told her. Right now, though, I know that as as much as we might try to plan, or schedule, or force things to happen, when it comes down to it we have to play the cards we’re dealt, and hopefully enjoy it while it’s happening. There’s a lot to be said for knowing what you want out of life and taking appropriate steps to achieve your goals, but sometimes I think we can get ahead of ourselves. We plan the wedding before the first date. Turn on the oven before catching the bird.

I want my friend to have the option to have babies. But I also want her to know that today there’s a great, big, beautiful world out there, and it’s not going to wait for her to get out in it. I want to take the silly quote, “Life is what happens while we’re making other plans,” and sticky note it around the house while she’s here. A gentle reminder that sometimes worrying can get in the way of living.

I ran into a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a while. We started chatting about jobs, then trips, then winter plans. She’s hoping to move this way. Hoping for a little skiing this winter. Some climbing when it’s warm. I asked if she’d want to jump in on some tours, maybe a bit of mountaineering. She hesitated. She said she doesn’t want to be uncomfortable, and that she doesn’t find suffering fun. She’s a rad girl. Strong, intelligent, aware. She knows what she likes, and is empowered enough to lay claim on what she doesn’t. I like that.

In continuing to talk she asked why I seem drawn to discomfort. I didn’t have a good answer. Or, I had a lot of good answers:

I like walking into the storm, and coming out of the cold.
I like sunrises, and emergency headlamps.
I like the taste of blood in the back of my throat.
I like the shared experience of doing something hard with a close friend, running out of water half way through, and dreaming about what we’ll eat if we ever get down.
I like trying to face up to the fact that in a battle between mind and body, mind is almost always the weaker of the two.
I like falling asleep sitting up, with boots on, and a hat covering my eyes.
I like being dirty, smelling slightly wild, and then the magic of a hot shower.
I like how one good day outside turns the volume down on a week inside.
I like feeling soreness in muscles of which I’d forgotten.

I like all those things, and they all, in one way or another, point to the real truth: I like it when it hurts a little.

Straight from a run, covered in mud and sweat, I went to the grocery store to get bananas and coffee filters. Standing in the produce is a late 20s, early 30s couple. The guy is tall and scruffy in worn Carharts and Chacos. The gal is very pretty, rocking a bit of smudged mascara, nice boots and the hood up on her puffy. If I had to guess I’d say it was the morning after the 2nd date. The guy points out the Chanterelles in the case. The gal’s response, “I hate mushrooms.”

“Really?! You hate them?”  he says.

Then he looks at me over in banana land. And I sort of make this grimace, the uhoh-you’re-screwed-face. And he laughs. Out loud. “You think that’s a deal breaker,” he says. I sort of shrug and smile. Then the gal notices. He says, “She thinks this might be a deal breaker.” She’s not amused, and I’m a jerk.

She strides off, “Well, at least we’re having breakfast.”

Strike one up for the socially inept. I should get out more. Or less.