Friday, March 16, 2007

Moments Close to Home

This winter we had a couple weeks of brutally cold weather. Our local media even called up Nome, Alaska, to see how they felt about experiencing temperatures above freezing while the lower 48 was in a deep freeze. Nome wished we could trade; they had to change the route of their dog sled race.

Eventually the weather warmed up to merely bitterly cold. When the temps finally got up to around freezing, I left work early to take a walk. Initially I wanted to walk at Sugar Bottom, but it was closed, so I drove a little ways around the Coralville Reservoir and found MacBride Recreational Area.

There were two vehicles already parked in the last lot: a pickup with a flat tire and a small car. As I walked across the parking lot toward the Hawk Ravine Trail, three or four hikers in full packs returned to their car from the opposite direction. I walked a short distance along a snow-packed cross-country skiing trail (which I later found out was not the Hawk Ravine Trail) and saw a bunch of raptors wheeling about. I watched them until they flew away, then walked on through the Fox campsites out to campsite 8, which was a fantastic spot overlooking the reservoir. I'd like to camp there some time.

I walked back to the parking lot and headed up the road that the backpackers had come from. I passed the Wolf campsites and a shelter, waved hello to a jogger, found a map, and decided to go on as far as the raptor center. Before I got there, though, I found the Hawk Ravine Trail. This was obviously a short trail headed in the direction of my parking lot. The sun was going down, and I had left my flashlight in the car, so I took off at a good clip down the trail, scampering up and down the hills with my feet sideways so I wouldn't slide in the snow. When the parking lot was in sight, I stopped on a wooden bridge and listened to the calls of the birds and the rustle of the breeze, and I looked all around.

After a while I walked on quietly for a few yards, then turned around for another look. About 50 yards behind me there was a timber wolf. I couldn't believe my eyes. I just stood there and stared, wondering if I was mistaken. I still can't say for sure that it was a wolf because he kept his face turned away from me, but he had the markings and the tail for it. Wolves seldom range this far south, but it was very cold this winter, and they do travel in winter.

The wolf studiously pretended to be interested in something else and didn't make any moves toward me. Still, it seemed to me that if a wolf showed himself to a human, he was probably hungry and might be kinda hoping that I was wounded or very small (or maybe only that I might toss him some beef jerky), so I made stomping noises as I walked quickly back to my car.

I'm reading a book of "unforgettable journeys" and trying to plan a trip on the Trans-Mongolian Railway for next year, but at the same time I feel that a person can have unforgettable moments close to home if she doesn't close herself off to them.

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Monday, March 12, 2007

Home Internet At Last

I hardly know where to begin. I've let the blog slide for nearly a year, but I finally bought a home computer and internet access. It's pretty thrilling.

My aunt died last summer, and I dropped most of my usual activities.

I didn't take my camping trip last summer. I went to Hawaii by myself instead and visited my old friend Charlotte. I figured that since I planned to buy a condo, I'd take a rather expensive vacation while I could still afford it. We went to the Big Island, saw Kilauea erupting at night, played on a black sand beach while staying 15 feet away from the sea turtle, hiked in a caldera, and visited the Ka'u desert. On Oahu I spent a day at the Bishop Museum, saw Halona Cove and Sandy Beach, circumnavigated the island, ate a magnificent meal with Charlotte's parents, and played with Charlotte's cat so much that the cat and I were both bummed out after I left.

Char and I went snorkeling in Hanauma Bay twice. It was one of the most fascinating experiences I ever had. I loved having my head underwater and still being able to breathe, and watching the fish. I loved seeing a sea turtle. There were these crazy deepwater fish that kept coming after all the humans to scare us, and they were grinning. I'd never seen a fish grin before. I loved wearing prescription goggles so, for the first time since I was very little, I could see clearly while swimming. It was incredible.

When I returned to Iowa, I devoted myself to my house hunt, and in December I closed on a small condo. I now have a bathtub, a big garage, a washer/dryer, and an office that's separate from my bedroom: just what I always wanted. I'm relaxing and feeling more like myself, although I still get very uptight rather often. After all that time not finishing my Ph.D., then not being able to get hired for anything but part-time jobs, and unsuccessful dating,... It's been tough for me to not feel like I have to struggle all the time, but instead to relax and enjoy myself.

I'm trying to accept that things are okay and will be okay, and there's no wolf at my door.