This is actually where yesterday's story (In Search of the Granola Girl) began. Here is the backstory to how I ended up at the Utah Writers' Project in 2002.
DO MOMS DESERVE ADVENTURES?"What would be wrong with my perfectly good running shoes?" I wondered aloud to no one in particular, but aware my husband could hear me. "I wore those heavy Vibram-soled hiking boots back in the early eighties, but why should I spend so much money on a pair of hiking boots I'll never wear out?"
My husband was used to my questions; tired of them perhaps, but he listened. It had become our routine by then.
"Don't you think my Nikes would work? You know, the only reason I would buy them, if I do, is so that Dan guy, whoever he is, won't laugh at me after our big hike and tell me, 'I told you so.'"
Each Utah Writers' Project participant had received a list of suggested hiking gear a few weeks before camp from Dan Kirby and Bill Strong, the leaders of the advanced writing course. Dan had mentioned we should bring good, sturdy hiking boots, a nice Nikon camera, if we had one, and binoculars.
I couldn't believe I was going. Not only was I treating myself to a week-long nature writing experience, I was shopping for luxuries like new hiking boots. Buying boots and clothes for hunting was something my husband did every fall, but for me, this seemed like such a luxury. It was finally my turn to leave the house, and do something I wanted to do. He did it all of the time, leaving us at home, while he hunted, fished, and trapped. Why did I feel so guilty for wanting to take a week to write and hike?
It had been AGES since I'd even considered hiking, and I was struggling to justify the expense of the camp and new boots. When I was single, I had all sorts of specialized equipment: hiking boots, back pack, down sleeping bag, Kelty tent, cross-country skis, and rock-climbing shoes. All of that stuff had disappeared over the years after I got married, and we had moved from fixer-upper to fixer upper every three years. I lost my gear to nephews going on Boy Scout trips, and who knew where else. I had three children then who needed shoes of their own, and more. We found much of what we needed at thrift stores and yard sales. I wasn't sure I deserved this week-long writing vacation, let alone a brand-new pair of boots. My point-and-shoot camera would have to do, and if I needed binoculars, my husband's camouflage-taped binoculars would suffice.
"Denise, just buy the boots. Maybe you'll come hunting with me and Dylan, and come with us more if you had them." I rolled my eyes. "Anyway, they're 'required' for your class; they'll be a tax write-off." He knew that would get me.
In the end, I chose the low top hiker by Pacific Crest. They had a respectable-sounding, outdoorsy name, and seemed a good compromise between a running shoe and a hiking boot. All of this thought for a pair of shoes.
"I'm going to a writing camp; I should be picking out pens and journals, not worrying about silly things like boots," I thought. "He's right though, an eight mile hike had better be done in comfort."
Secretly, I was nearly giddy with excitement. I walked around the house in my new boots, trying to break them in to avoid blisters hiking around Bear Lake. I couldn't believe this was happening. I made lists of phone numbers and schedules and chores for the kids. I made a packing list for myself. I didn't have a big suitcase; we didn't do a lot of traveling as a family. My husband assured me his hunting duffle would hold my gear. He had two of them for his out-of-state excursions; I could use one of those. They were hideous to me, but I really couldn't justify buying a suitcase, too. It would have to do.
After my shopping excursion at our local hardware store, I confessed my insecurities to my husband about going to Bear Lake. "It'll be me with a bunch of environmental activists. I guess I used to be a bit of a tree-hugger myself back in my college days, reading Edward Abbey, and hiking the Uintas, but now here I am, married to you, trophy hunter of the west, fisherman of the world. I've killed a deer with a bow, for crying out loud. What does that make me? And what about the kids? I shouldn't be leaving the kids for a whole week. Good moms don't do this kind of thing."
My husband and I had been married for almost 17 years, and we were a living example of the "opposites attract" theory. While he traveled to Alaska, and all of the states surrounding Utah in search of fish, fur bearing animals, and big game, I taught school, and took care of our children. The things I loved to do had been on the back burner for nearly two decades while he continued to pursue trophy animals throughout the western states. Our interests were so vastly different, but I was content to be with my children; they were my favorite people in the world. My husband and I generally tried to find common ground for most of our discussions, and agreed to disagree on the rest.
Was it really two decades ago that I was a wide-eyed college girl just finishing up my bachelor's degree in Provo, Utah? Weekdays were spent teaching a captive audience of fourth grade children, and weekends and holidays were spent in the mountains with Sid.
Hmm...I hadn't thought about him much. He was a high school biology teacher who offered outdoor adventures to this elementary school intern looking for adventure.
Sid was the one who first called me "Granola Girl." We hiked, cross-country skied, rock-climbed, and white water rafted together. You'd think after a couple of years with a man you'd see the end coming, but I didn't. I just kept thinking things would work out. It turns out they did; just not the way I expected.
Late Sunday afternoon, I dropped down out of Logan Canyon, and found Garden City sprawled before me. I clutched my cell phone tightly after I heard my husband's voice on the other end.
|Photo Credit: Utah-Travel-Secrets|
"I've just seen the lake, and it's so HUGE. It's so much bigger than I had imagined! And the color; it's so blue that it looks nearly tropical." The phone went quiet. My voice softened, "Thank you for encouraging me to come." I could almost hear his smile. He knew how much I needed this time away, but it couldn't have been easy for him to take on the responsibility of the kids. I'd made arrangements beforehand, making sure they had things to do, friends to visit, and meals prepared before I left. Of course, I did. I felt like I owed them that much; I felt so guilty for leaving them during our precious summer vacation. He assured me everything would be fine at home.
When I flipped my cellphone shut, I tossed it on the seat beside me. Gripping the steering wheel a little tighter, I took in a big breath, and let it out slowly. It was finally happening. I desperately hoped no one would question my presence at this advanced writer's workshop. I didn't know a soul, and I wasn't sure I would ever fit in, but I'd come this far. My adventure was just beginning.
This Granola Girl series continues. Part 2 is here: In Search of the Granola Girl. Maybe your former self had dreams of the stage, of owning your own business, of making a difference. Are you in touch with who you were, or have your dreams changed over time?