Astra and the Mountain Goats

September 18th, 2010 No Comments »

As we left Cripple Creek… I found out the universe has a sense of humor

We left Colorado rather exhausted and in my return to Austin I finished editing all the video and wrapping up the blog; however I forgot to include a small remarkable event.

Astra and I packed up the last morning and I was grateful for some cool weather before dawn since mid-July around the Colorado Springs area brought some high temperatures. We drove down the track towards the main road out of the Cripple Creek KOA and I told Astra that we were lucky to have been able to take the trip. She was less than enthusiastic. My daughter is not known for her pleasant morning temperament. I reminded her that she had seen an amazing assortment of wildlife on our travels and that alone was an incredible experience.

She agreed for a moment but then piped up about never seeing any mountain goats. I told Astra that she was lucky to have seen all the animals that we were fortunate to encounter and that the universe does not grant your every wish, nor should you expect it to.

We started our descent into the next town, Divide and about four minutes after we pulled out I hit the brakes because there was a small group of cattle on the road in the shadow of the mountain. As we inched closer, I realized these shaggy cattle were mountain goats shedding winter coats. Astra was elated. I rolled down the windows and the goats were around the car for a moment and the bounded up the side of the mountain in great vertical leaps. I was breathless, feeling like a perfect ass. Astra was in the back seat yelling, “See mommy!”

And I could see, too. I had just not four minutes before uttered a statement to assure my daughter that she was lucky and not all things come to you because, well as adults we have moments of disappointment. I laughed, shrugged and drove on towards Divide. I guess I was wrong and you can get everything you wish for; perhaps not exactly when you want, but no reason not to keep wishing.

Looking for folks to tell me about their town

June 2nd, 2010 4 Comments »

The search for a new home may be a less than scientific process because I
have given up looking in online databases for “the best places to live”. If
I went by the statistics for housing, crime or cost living then I would not
know where to go. I am simply lost in all the data. So it’s time to pack the
Prius and set out like a pioneer. It must have been an incredibly empowering
moment when after months of hauling all your belongings in a covered wagon
you came upon a valley or river bend and knew that you had found home.

My home quest will begin in northern California taking me up the Oregon and
Washington coasts with potential detours, then crossing northern Washington
and heading into northern Montana. I have a planned stop in Kalispell, MT. I
met a nice woman from Kalispell last year — she was my Farmer’s Insurance
agent who came to our area after a spring of hailstorms. During our
conversation she told me about her hometown. She spoke of the people and
lifestyle of this town and ever since then I’ve wanted to visit it. I’ve
also applied for a few jobs in Montana — Anaconda, Missoula and Great Falls
and while I didn’t make second cut for the federal jobs, I’d still like to
see these places. After that I will head south into Wyoming and finally wrap
up my search in Colorado before returning to Austin.

During this journey I plan to collect my own data informally as I pass
through the states mentioned above interviewing local people to find out
about their hometowns. I have a few folks lined up already, but I would like
to use a network of ‘friends of friends’ like the kind that exists on
Facebook. My travels will be presented in a kind of blogumentary with video, pictures and journal entries. The interviews will be videoed and uploaded onto
http://greatbluewanderers.com . So if you or a good natured friend or family
member would be willing to spare some time this summer, I’d like to hear
from you. I can be contacted at sher@greatbluewanderers.com.

The interviews will take place in and around your local area, not at your
home. We would meet somewhere that you feel epitomizes the spirit of your
hometown, maybe a market or town center and the interview would take at
least 30 minutes. I might gather other footage too and interview people on
the street if they are willing to talk with me so your information would be
part of a possible series I collect for that area. Your interview would be
public access so anyone could view it online, so be sure you don’t say
anything you don’t want recorded for posterity.

My intention is to get honest opinions about the places I see so if you feel
the economy is not so good in your area or the city is not planning well for
the future, then by all means feel free to say so; I expect that each place
will have some extraordinary things and some challenging ones too. The goal
for me is to collect enough information to narrow done my search for a new
home and if I am lucky enough I will have that “aha moment” like the
pioneers did and find my spot along the way. However, the universe generally
makes me work pretty hard for all my epiphanies so I expect I’ll have to
visit all the areas I am considering before making any decisions.

How our quest came about…

May 24th, 2010 1 Comment »

Great Blue Herons are majestic water birds that soar above creeks, bayous, suburbs, highways, and vast undisturbed swaths of wetlands. Upon landing they glide with an innate sense of purpose and set down smartly as if that perfect spot were always known to them.  Humans have not such grace or poise with their landings. The lucky few manage to land feet first. The rest of us plant faces or land with great big thuds, fracturing bones and bruising our bodies. It’s nature’s joke. We have one of the most highly developed brains on the planet, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we know how to use them. I want to learn to land like the Great Blue Heron, gently and feet first.

We came to Austin after Hurricane Katrina because we had to go somewhere and it was suggested I head to the Texas capital where my youngest brother and his family resided. (Visit my Hurricane Katrina Blog.) There was nothing left of what used to be and the daily ritual of detours because few bridges were still intact, coupled with a sea of slabs where houses used to be was just too much. I needed work and hoped I could find it in Austin and we needed to start over. It was a rather simple decision. When you are in refugee mode, you move on as best you can, hoping soon the fog will clear and you can see the why of what happened to you. It’s been almost 5 years and the why still eludes me. It was a natural disaster so I can’t take it too personally. There are thousands of people like me who walked away and had to start over. I can’t believe I moved somewhere without a job first and I can’t believe I am considering it again only for very different reasons.

Sometimes an insignificant moment can precipitate the most amazing transformation. It was the quiet of the morning, driving to school and mulling over jobs I had applied for in several states when my nine-year old daughter said, “It seems strange to leave a place that you never even called home.” I told her that I liked Austin, but it never really felt like home. She nodded. “It doesn’t feel like it to me either, mommy.”

We had discussed this once before. Austin didn’t feel like home. It has great people, delicious food, live music, over a million Mexican free-tail bats, and stimulating culture and if you were a big city person, then Austin, Texas would be it for you. I am not a big city person. I need more land and less suburbia. I like towns that I can drive out of in 20 minutes. I can drive for an hour and still be in Austin. For 18 months I have been looking for jobs, mostly federal in other states and though I make the first cut, no one ever calls me for an interview. The economy is tight right now and there are a lot of displaced workers waiting to slide into those spots.

It was during this morning ride to work that I realized I needed to feel home, sense it in a deep meaningful way and settle on a place where my heart could melt into the land and never desire to escape. The first part of this journey begins with a quest for a more permanent nest. I am sure all Great Blue Herons would approve.