We’re back from the Dude Ranch and I don’t even know where to start.
We had a wonderful week—a very different kind of vacation from our usual. There is so much I want to say but my writing feels awkward and rusty after a 10-day absence here. I feel certain I can’t properly do justice explaining all the good and all the odd and all the … depth of where I’ve been since my last post. Because I’m not sure how to bring cohesion to it all and because the massive volume of the task threatens to prevent me from attempting to share it, I’m just going to dive right in. I’ll scattershoot, and hope this collection of snapshot moments provides a somewhat accurate sense of why this might have been our best vacation ever.
I want to convey the sheer beauty of where we were. High north in Colorado, close to the Wyoming border. 8,000 feet above sea level, where desert cliffs meet lush green wildflower meadows. It was QUIET. So quiet at night that I literally couldn’t hear a single sound, no matter how hard I strained my ears. Very strange and very isolating and yet very comforting. And oh my gosh, the stars.
I want to talk about how I was completely unplugged for a solid week. There was very little cell or internet service. I managed to check email and texts once a day and let the kids call The Ex—but then only if we climbed a hill and scaled a big rock and held my iPhone up to the heavens in order to physically pull the signal down. For 7 days, I didn’t see a tv, hear a radio, read a paper, get online, or watch a movie … and neither did my kids. And never, not once, did I ever hear a single “I’m bored.” In and of itself, a miracle.
I want to tell you about the horses and how amazing they were. My preteen girl fascination (like all of my gender) was finally fulfilled, some 25-odd years later. I had never really ridden a horse before. Last week we rode every day. Foxy was mine, Avery rode Red, Owen rode Dusty (a shockingly spry 37-year-old, no lie). For hours each day we walked trails and trotted and loped. I rode down (and back up) Suicide Slide. I trusted my horse, and trust felt good.
I want to laugh about how and why, after 20 years of living in Texas, I might finally have become a cowboy boot and hat kind of girl.
I want to rave about how on Saturday, I rode Foxy bareback and swam with her—a truly unbelievable once-in a-lifetime experience.
I want to talk about how it was a week chock full of “firsts.” How in addition to first-time horseback riding, there was first-time rock climbing and first-time whitewater rafting and first-time serious-ass hiking.
& And I want to tell you how my hands were shaking when I finished that first climb, and how the adrenaline rush felt good, like a drug, like something that changed me and altered my reality a little bit.
I want to explain how funny it was that Amelia refused to take off her pink cowgirl boots all week. How she charmed the pants off of everyone she met (as usual) and how proud I was when people commented, at least 100 times, about how well she talked and how big her vocabulary was.
I want to write about that “summer camp” experience I remember from childhood, and that I watched my kids experience for the first time (another “first”)—when you spend a week with new people and you’re sad when you leave and you hug and you cry and you know, just know for absolute certain, that you’ll keep in touch with them and see them again … but then you never really do.
I want to tell you how filthy dirty and caked in grime my kids were for 7 days, no matter how many baths I gave them. Smudgy faces and a line of dirt so thick under their fingernails that it took days to get it out after we came home. The kind of dirty that only comes from hard outdoor all-day play, and I want to tell you how I kinda stopped worrying about it mid-week and just let ‘em be grubby.
I want to write about how Owen got tossed from Dusty one day, and about how proud I was to hear all of the male wranglers discussing how impressed they were when Owen immediately tried to climb right back up on that horse, and how one of the wranglers (James, below) even wrote a poem about it and read it by the campfire one night.
I want to tell you how good it felt to hear other moms praise the way I handled Owen when he wasn’t quite as brave … when he got a black eye 20 seconds after we started our whitewater trip (my son, the disaster magnet), and when I didn’t let him quit, and when he ended up LOVING the rafting because of it.
I want to write about how we celebrated Avery’s 8th birthday while we were there, and about how the staff baked her a birthday cake and sang her Happy Birthday. And about how after sundown, she and the other kids played an impromptu soccer game in the horse arena with a Frenchman, a Croatian, and an Australian. Is that a birthday memory or what?
I want to write about the many bottles of wine and the adults’ laughter at night on the front porch while the kids ran free and roamed safe.
I want to talk about how odd it felt to sit around that first night or two and realize I was the only single in a group full of doubles. And, odder still, how it felt to realize that I actually wasn’t the only divorced person there … that in my discomfort I’d made incorrect assumptions and suffered blind spots and been so keenly aware of my own awkward feelings that I simply hadn’t noticed there was another single mom there with her kid. And then the discovery of how offensively similar my divorce story was to hers. And how I was, as always, sort of stunned by what a cliche’ The Ex became. And how, by necessity, what a cliche’ he also made me.
I wish I could write about how tremendously lightened I felt when I realized that I was having a much better time without The Ex being there than I ever would have had if we’d been there together, married. About how I met new people and truly enjoyed them—their conversation and their children and their stories and their company. About how glad I was to interact with them and about how I never would have done that if The Ex had been present, because his sense of superiority made him feel that interaction with others was an annoyance and a waste of time. I wish I could explain how, among so many other discoveries this past year, I’ve realized that I am not nearly the misanthrope I believed myself to be while we were married.
I want, I want, I want, I want. I want to tell about all of these things, completely, because I gained so much from this vacation. I need to write them and write them well, so that I won’t forget. But I can’t … there’s just too much. It will have to be good enough to say, “It was a truly amazing week and a wonderful vacation.”