By the end of October, hiking at elevation gives way to watching the snow fall. Another winter stalks in quietly from the North. Out come the skis, we wax, we wait and hope for a good base. We plan. Life in Jackson Hole is ruled by the month, by the weather. Our lives change with the season, with the temperature, with the snow pack, with the day.
Spring in the Tetons is mud season. It is good to get out of Dodge. Not enough snow to play on, too much snow for hiking. We flee to the sun. We go to Hawaii or camping in Mexico. We often run into someone from JH. at these spots of refuge. One year, camping by the gulf In Mexico, we see a couple of kids in flip flops climbing a scree covered mountain. “Only someone from a place like Jackson would do that,” my husband remarked with a laugh. He was right. They were the Ottos from Otto Brother’s Brewery in Wilson. The boys had been surfing in Mexico and one of them had been injured so they were heading back home. The small scree covered hill was nothing to a kid from Wyoming, even an injured kid.
In Hawaii, we stop in a small interior village on the Big Island for an impromptu dinner after touring around the island for the day. Some friends from Jackson are sitting in a dark, cozy corner booth. I did not know they would be in Hawaii. Jackson Hole is a small world.
One spring I went with friends for a 3 week walking tour of Provence, France and a few years later to Tuscany. We take the girls on a three week tour and sailing trip with friends in Greece and Turkey. It is good to be gone in the spring. When we return, the world of the Tetons is no longer black and white. Color is returning and migrating birds are winging in with raucous cries. In a couple more months we will be able to get to elevation, to our canyons, to our lakes. We wait. We hike the lower trails and plan.
When youngest daughter was a senior in high school, my husband bought another sail boat. At 37 feet she is a few feet longer than the sailboat we built in the 70’s and a foot shorter than the one we built in the 80’s. It is much easier to buy a sailboat than it is to build. “Fidgity Feet” lived in Florida. For the next many years, just as the first snowflake fell, my snow phobic husband would announce, “There is a lot of work to be done on the boat before we can take her to the Bahamas.” By the middle of October, he would be on the boat caring for her needs. I was home caring for the teenager, while she was still at home, and my ailing parents. The first year, Daughter #2 went with us to the Bahamas for three weeks during spring break. She somehow managed to wrangle an extra week of vacation. Once during college, she joined us again this time, earning eight credits for her trip. She is a gifted negotiator.
I would meet my husband in Florida or in the Bahamas depending on how my parents were doing and then, after Dad died, on how Mom was doing. It was difficult to divide myself between children, parents and husband. All of them needed me with them. Even when the girls were in college, and away, it was still too long a distance. I now tell my friends, who find themselves embarking on caring for aging parents, to be ready. From that time on, they will always, always feel they are disappointing someone, even if it is only themselves. There is the eternal push and pull for women. Husbands, parents, children, everyone needing time, care and love in their own way. It is impossible to fulfill every need, and therefore we fail. Not in everyone’s eyes, but in our own. Dad died the day before I returned home from the Bahamas one year. My husband had to stay with the boat. Dealing alone with the grief of losing my father, my guilt at not being there when he passed, my mother’s anguish, my children’s sadness and relentless, constant decisions was brutal.
The boat had its delights. Sailing in Florida is far different than sailing in the Pacific. The shallow water surrounding the islands is tricky to navigate and we were thankful for the GPS unit we had on board. This kind of navigation is a far cry from the sextant and charts we used in the 70s. At times one of us had to be stationed on the bow, watching for coral and sandbars. The consequences of hitting one would be far reaching.
We explored Miami and the East coast of Florida and we explored the islands of the Bahamas. Beautiful weather, fabulous water, wonderful diving, the months on Fidgity were fun. When I had to be home in Jackson while my husband was on the boat, I skied and played in the snow. I did my best to shovel the snow and keep the drive clear with the snow blower. One year, after a particularly deep snow, I pulled out the snow blower, and mumbling under my breath, tried to get the darn thing started. The snow was four feet deep and the drive a quarter mile long. A snow shovel was not going to make it. However, this was my husbands job and I was feeling quiet petulant about being left alone to deal, while the boat was getting all his attention. I got the darn machine going and tackled the drive only to have it sputter to a halt. Damn, out of gas. I slogged through deep snow to the garage. Red gas can, got it. Funny thing though, the snow blower did not seem to like the gas at all. The truculent beast refused to move. Finally, I reached my husband on his cell phone. He was basking in 80 degree weather but found time to listen to my complaint and offer advice. In the course of the conversation we realized, instead of filling the gas tank with gasoline, I had filled it with kerosene. The engine was not happy. My patient guy sighed deeply and suggested I park the snow blower in the garage and he would care for it in the Spring. Meanwhile, I still had a driveway covered in four feet of snow. Such is life in the mountains.