So I’ve been simmering the last few weeks. Actually, maybe that’s not true. I’ve been boiling over, which tends to be the time when I DON”T write. When work and world are going too fast for me, poetry is my escape. It doesn’t require that I read or think in full sentences. It captures essence. It’s about feeling not doing. And this, to me, feels free.
I keep coming back to this one from W.H.Auden:
He was my North, my South, my East, my West
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever. I was wrong.
The stars are not wanted now. Put out every one.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun;
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the wood.
For nothing now can ever come to any good.
Dramatic? Yes. But, when life is busy, when it is full of the yucky, gray areas that constantly leave you wondering, “Am I doing this right?”, pure emotion like this – unchecked by logic – feels so much simpler.
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun…I’d prefer to start fresh tomorrow.
“In the woods, a man casts off his years, as the snake his slough, and at what period soever of life, is always a child.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson
Some men, therefore, should stay out of the woods.
Now, I don’t mean this as an affront to men in general. Many of you are good, well-rounded, interesting, empathetic, employed people. This is not about you.
This is a special breed that grows in the woods, particularly when those woods are on the side of a ski mountain. The breed is known in ski towns as “Bro Bras.” The “Bra” comes from their tendency to morph vowel sounds in a way that emphasizes how fully laid back they are after years of “sick” slopes and awesome “powpow” (aka powder aka snow).
All female rangers ultimately get the question, “So are you married? Who do you date way out here? … How do you date out here?”
My answer, “Not many and not well.” Let me explain.
Having met Jeff on Tinder – the most ADD of dating sites – I knew almost nothing about him. Tinder was a last resort. Tinder is bare bones: four or five pictures, a few sentences, and the ability to text without exchanging phone numbers…an ideal hook up site. Match, however, yielded two dates in six months for me. And eHarmony? Zero. Unless you count the guy in Florida who is twenty years my senior and the school teacher three hours away who could be my child but wants to date me.
So I met Jeff on this app. The bar is low. His photos did not show him holding a knife in his teeth or a dead animal in his arms nor did it show him shirtless with a light peppering of sand on his sweaty chest. This qualifies him for the minimal coffee date.
I get to the coffee shop in my happy little ski town and sit down, waiting to order until I meet the man of my dreams. A man with weathered good looks and bright blue eyes walks up.
“Hi, Megan,” he says and hugs me hello.
He is wearing four layers of questionably laundered shirts, a pair of dirty Carhartts, and an off-kilter toboggan from 1976.
“It’s nice to meet you. I’ve been kind of in a slump lately. I don’t know it’s the start of a new year so I think I’m gonna try to change things up, you know maybe cut back on the drinking or whatever…”
“Mmmhmm…I think I’ll go grab a cup of coffee. Do you need anything?” I ask, looking down. His mug is half drunk and stained down all sides, having sloshed out multiple times already.
“Oh yeah right sure.”
I sit back down with a frothy chai.
“Oh fancy,” Jeff admires it. “Yeah so anyway, I don’t know. I just moved here last year…well, I’ve been here 9 months.”
“Where’d you come from?”
“Missoula. I’ve been there a long time. My friend says its like an eddy. I’ve been stuck there since college…you know…it’s expensive but it’s a ski town so there’s a fun scene, people drink a lot…I felt like maybe my dad was right…maybe I need to start planning for the future…”
Yes, you are 37.
“So I moved here…”
Right. To Jackson. Where people ski a lot and drink too much and pay some of the highest housing prices in the country.
“…I got a good job, you know, but I am behind in rent. I’m really in a slump right now. I’m gonna try to stop drinking though. I mean, I diabetic so that would probably be a good thing anyway. I’ve been sober a couple of times before and I felt so good – got up early, had lots of energy – so I’m gonna do that. Yeah. I think I’ll stop drinking…”
Coffee splashes out of his mug as he motions with the same hand holding it.
“I’m a couple of months behind on rent but I called my dad today and he’s going to send me some money so, I don’t know, I guess it all works out.”
In 25 minutes, I learn that this man is a diabetic alcoholic with financial problems who still calls his Dad for money at age 37. Dear Lord, what would I find out if I made it to date #5?
The social theory of relative deprivation postulates that when you are surrounded by tons of really talented, amazing people, you probably feel like crap about yourself even if you are talented and amazing. The good news is that this works in reverse, too, and I now feel amazing about myself for being sober and single and am thrilled to return back to my house a free woman.
Cheers to idiot boyfriends (and girlfriends) who remind me that life isn’t so bad on my own after all.
Jeff I wish you well. I shall not be dating you.
Note: Names have been changed.
Some days, when it seems to much to think in words, I sit down with a pile of NatGeo’s and a pair of scissors to let the pictures do the talking.
Grace, she is
Thirsting in the desert
up sweep her arms
against angles of landscapes
Poised for centuries
Pouncing on a moment of rain
surging growth from the trails of water
– Does the surge churl like maggots under carcass skin?
…Awkward and uncomfortable…
Too far she is pushed
Memories release from years of pulling on rich, red rock
spicy, sweet smoke rising
Grace under fire.