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God’s Country – Part One

June 17, 2008

My grandfather lives in a small town in northern Wyoming. He hasn’t been well. We went to visit last November, thinking it might be the last time we could go. He has lymphoma, a non-aggressive type, but he hadn’t been responding well. His platelets were low, he was weak, and we were scared. When we were there he seemed at peace with things. He said it was up to the Good Lord to take him when He was ready. He’d lived a full life and was ready to go whenever it was time.

A few months, a bout with pneumonia, and an experimental drug later, he’s like a new person. His platelets are up higher than they’ve been in a long time–almost to normal range. His voice sounds chipper and cheerful on the phone. He’s breathing easier. What better time to take another trip up there to visit? My Hubby had to work, and Freddy was off to Washington State to visit his aunt for a week, so it was just me and the three, caravanning with my folks. We left Thursday evening, later than we had planned, but with new brakes, fluids topped off, jumper cables, a fresh bottle of washer fluid in the trunk, and re-charged air conditioning all thanks to my thoughtful husband.

It was a beautiful day–not too hot, a little cloudy, the sun taking a respite from blistering heat to gently warm instead. The kids rode in the van with my Dad for awhile, elbowing for the opportunity to pick the first movie they would watch. My Mom rode with me and she and I had a chance to chat. It was nice to have and be a captive audience. Usually our conversations happen on the cell phone, in between dropoffs and pickups somewhere, or during someone’s soccer game, or dance class. The conversation usually starts and stops several times, interrupting my train of thought, and jumping around from topic to topic. It was nice to talk without interruption, without another call to take, another place to go, or a hard and fast time limit.

A few hours later, north of Cheyenne, amidst a great political discussion with my Dad who had traded driving duties with my Mom at the last stop for gas, the sun started to go down. It was quite possibly the most incredible sunset I have ever seen. As it sank behind the mountains, the sky lit up with brilliant reds, golds and oranges, then deep pinks and soft purples, fingers of clouds stretching away from the mountains as far as they could go, like they wanted the amazing beauty to reach across the whole sky. I wanted to stop and take a picture, but I knew that I would never be able to capture on film what my eyes were seeing. I settled for drinking it in, wishing it would stay there just above the snow-capped peaks for the rest of the drive, saddened as the light dimmed and the last tendrils of color gave way to the blackness of a sky untouched by city lights.

We spent the night in Casper, at a place the kids adore. They loved it when we went in November, and have been asking to go back since then. The excitement on their faces was worth every second I waited to tell them. We didn’t get there until well after 10:30, so they were disappointed that they couldn’t swim, but we checked into our room and fell asleep amid promises to wake them at the earliest second I possibly could so they could go directly to the pool.

At 7:30, My Hubby called and woke us all from our sound sleep. There’s something about sleeping in a completely dark room, away from the thoughts of dishes and laundry, with several extra pillows propped up beside me to fool my body into thinking My Hubby is there, that make sleep so deep. I stretched and moved slowly. The kids were already a flurry of activity, racing to see who could get their bathing suit on first, and they were practically headed out the door for breakfast before I was done with my call. Post-breakfast, they spent two hours in the pool.

It’s an incredible pool. It’s not large, but it sits on the southeastern side of the building, completely enclosed in glass so the water and the room are warmed by the rising sun. The water, completely still when we arrived, sparkled and winked after the first cannonball and I relaxed in a lounge chair while they screamed and giggled with delight. My Mom came later, to spell me, and I got some work done while they worked out the rest of their energy.  When they finally left the pool, they went for round two of breakfast and it was time to head out.

As we drove we watched for antelope (“ampelope” in our lingo), and marvelled at the gorgeous rolling hills, green for this time of year from all of the rain. Each hill looked like a new piece of slightly crushed velvet, mossy and soft, dotted here and there with antelope, sheep, and cattle, smooth except for clumps of sagebrush and an occasional gnarled, weather-worn, tree. Far away, the cows looked like little ants, though not as busy. Up close, they stretched out on the hillside, noses to the ground, or big brown eyes lazily watching us, chewing uninterestedly, as we flew by. The antelope were more skittish, long-legged and gangly, heads snapping up to see what we were doing, spotted babies jumping along behind their mothers like their spindly legs were on springs.

In the background, the Big Horn mountain range rose up from the hills like spiny spikes on a dinosaur’s back. The top peaks were solid white, snow-capped and majestic, falling down into lower peaks so thick with pine trees they looked almost black. Lower still, more rolling hills, broken by flat bluffs and outcroppings of rock. One I saw looked just like a child’s building blocks, discarded on the hillside until the next playtime. In other places the hills were carved by water long ago dried up, leaving the top green, but the sides exposed, soft brown like the inside of a warm muffin. The designs were amazing — some zigzagging, some diamond shaped, some softly curving, some so straight I pictured God using water as a putty knife, sculpting the shapes just so.

Along the way we laughed at the names of the rivers and creeks we passed, rushing and swollen, water tumbling over the rocks in a hurry to get to wherever it was going, or almost dry, the flow down to just a lazy trickle. We passed Crazy Woman–the middle fork and the north fork–and that was the only time I thought about The Egg Donor (ED) all weekend. We passed the Powder and the Platte. We crossed old bridges and new, rolled past miles upon miles of snow fence, and wondered who named interesting locations like Antelope Hill and Teapot Rock.

Somewhere just north of the road construction, I realized that my shoulders were no longer tense. The hum of the tires against pavement, the rythmic sleepy sighs of the kids from the backseat, and God’s country all around me served to melt away the stress of the past few weeks. I felt my brain quiet, the constant thoughts of courts and filings and work left undone slowing to make way for all that my eyes were seeing. I felt my lips turn upward at the corners and my neck muscles relax. I forgot about chores and bills and responsibilities.

I lived only in the moment…

only for what would be over the next hill…

8 Comments leave one →
  1. Robyn permalink
    June 17, 2008 9:27 am

    Sounds absolutely heavenly!! Glad you are able to relax and enjoy and escape all the drama for a bit. Look forward to hearing more…

  2. lyndaspix permalink
    June 17, 2008 11:03 am

    I would have loved to take that ride with you and the kiddos! Wyoming is still my favorite place on earth.

  3. June 17, 2008 11:31 am

    Whew! Talk about a much needed break! Glad your grandpa’s doing better, too.

  4. Tulip Girl permalink
    June 17, 2008 1:07 pm

    I am concerned about what is around the next corner…

  5. June 17, 2008 4:35 pm

    Yes, Wyoming is God’s Country. I remember driving to Cheyenne as a young teenager. I was enthralled by the natural beauty and the endless sky. This is exactly what you needed, a visit with your grandfather and surroundings that are only matched in God’s imagination…Thanks for sharing.
    PS I don’t know if they still have it, but when we went through Cheyenne, a major rodeo was being held. It was one of the first that I had ever seen. Just thought that the kids might enjoy such an event…it is a once in a lifetime experience.

  6. June 18, 2008 9:40 am

    You are discovering the secret. I cannot believe the people in Maui who are so busy photographing the sunsets that they are not just drinking them in. Your mind will remember something better than a camera can capture. Good for you!

  7. June 20, 2008 5:51 am

    Ahhh, I just love road trips. It’s a close rival to – believe it or not – a trip to Italy! We drive to Montana frequently enough that as enough time goes by it starts calling my name….


  1. God’s Country - Part Four « In this house, I’m the Mama…

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