Summer Fever

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Broncs and Bulls
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                I don’t have to tell you, all of the athletes in the finals have busted butt all year long to qualify. Clearly, for the cowboy in the chute, this isn’t his first rodeo. He probably caught the bull riding bug from his dad, who caught it from his own dad, and so-on and so-forth.
                As the chute opens, a meaty, white bull throws his boulder of a head toward the dirt, kicking up his hind hooves, throwing one shoulder forward, pulling all of his mass in a wide arc, along with the chaps and hat on top of him. In a second kick, the cowboy loses his balance and as the bull jumps up, the cowboy falls down.
                As the cowboy goes down, a horrified scream erupts from the bleacher seat behind me.
                Watching the bull, I can see his feet landing in one solid connection with the ground, centering the beast directly over the man.
                The scream has now become a series of connected screams – Ahhh! Ahhhhh! Ahhhh! – And the bull is jumping again, spinning. When he lands, the cowboy is still centered directly beneath him.
                It continues. The bull jumps and spins, jumps and spins. The screams repeat with terror. The cowboy stays on the ground. Four hooves land unified in the dirt… and I can’t help but smile. I can see the magic. As if it is choreographed, the bull comes down, missing the cowboy, every time.
                Finally, the pickup men see their chance and they pull the cowboy one way, pushing the bull the other. The crowd takes a collective sigh of relief and applause echoes through the arena.
                The screams from behind me turn into quiet crying and the voice mutters, “A mother is allowed to be concerned for her son.”
                Her friend supports her by the elbow, leading her down the bleachers and toward the chutes.
                Summer is rodeo season. One cowboy’s mother has just had a heart attack. It won’t be the last one. This is dust and mud, broncs and blood, and her son has the fever.
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Over at The Rumpus, readers submitted stories having to do with Summer Fever.
My entry (written above) didn’t make the cut… but these great stories did!
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Boom Town Saloons

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Location – Historic Landmark, Gold Mine Town – South Pass City, WY

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Me:    Were all of those saloons in town operating at the same time?
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Tour Guide:    Yes. In fact, when the town was in it’s biggest boom, there were 12 operating saloons.
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Me:    Wow. That sounds like there were more saloons than there were people!

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Tour Guide:    Well, at the time, the population was 2,000 people!
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Magic in the Journey

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A few members of the Unitarian Universalist Community of Casper were asked to give a 5 to 10 minute speech about their “Spiritual Journey.”

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                                    —  here is what I said  —

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            I would say, I was directly or indirectly raised in the religion of Academia. My mom is a teacher, my grandfather was a university professor and I have college-educated grandmothers on both sides of my family. I was told that I would reach fulfillment by studying and working hard in school. Academics should allow me to follow any opportunity – to be whatever I want to be. Like many children, I struggled with my religion at some point. Namely my sophomore year of college, when I was barley passing chemistry-heavy classes and one professor in particular told me that I was failing his class because, clearly, I have a learning disorder. But, not to worry, he noticed this in many of his students in their 20s who had never, ever been diagnosed before.

            I began to like school again about the time I graduated and, now, I’ve even found myself considering, more and more, the possibilities of going back.

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            If there are people who don’t see a spiritual connection in academia, maybe they have never taken a Survey of British Literature class that inspired them almost daily, or an Intro to Animal Science class that included holding chickens and milking cows. Even calculus shows that, even though I have a hard time finding them, some answers in life can be concrete. That special nook in the library or at the coffee shop, a perfect spot to study in solitude while simultaneously being surrounded by the energy of hundreds of other students – there is spiritual connection in that.

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         But I have also experienced spirituality in many, many other places. Once upon a time…

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            My mother’s mother’s parents helped build a Unitarian Universalist church in Davis, California.

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           Fast forward a few generations…

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           My mom and dad were married on the front porch of the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone, in October of 1983, by a Unitarian Universalist minister. During the ceremony, a geyser from the Lion Group erupted. It had been dormant for several years and is considered a rare and special event that happened to be visible from the balcony of the Old Faithful Inn that day.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to rocks and to the earth, a trip to Yellowstone might give them a new perspective.

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            A number of years later, I was born – a full month early. My parents had not yet chosen a boy’s name and they had barely settled on one for a girl. It wasn’t until after I was born and officially named that my Mom found out that the meaning of Natasha is Christmas Child. My birthday is 3 days after Christmas and 3 days before the New Year. It’s hard to ignore my connection here to the giving and loving spirit of December.

            Now and then in December, my family would visit a Unitarian Universalist church in Colorado for their Christmas Eve service. It’s in one of those L-Towns in the flatlands… Longmont or Lyons or Littleton or Lafayette or Louisville. I can’t ever remember. At any rate, at the end of the service, every individual has a candle, lit by their neighbor, sharing the light of the flames. All of the other lights are turned off and the congregation sings Silent Night.

            If a person has never experienced a connection to the spirit of Christmas, a candle-lit hymn in the middle of winter might give them a new perspective.

            I happen to be an incredibly lucky person who has gotten to travel and see quite a bit of the world. I highly encourage everyone to take trips, if they have the opportunity – Even if it’s only a day trip. We are only a few hours from Devil’s Tower, Thermopolis, the Black Hills. There is magic everywhere.

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           The first big trip that my family took when my dad was hired as a pilot with an international airline was an attempt to get around the world, as far as we could go. My dad’s great aunt lives in Hawaii and we stopped in to see her.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to gods or goddesses, a trip to see the flowing lava of the islands might change their perspective. Pelé is a goddess alive and well in Hawaii and my dad’s great aunt will be thrilled to show off the tricks of the Menehune.

            Eventually, we ended up in Bali, Indonesia. Altars to the deities were everywhere, colorful and beautiful and full of wonderful smells. In fact, everything was colorful and vibrant and full of life, from the altars and the buildings and the people, to the fruits and the plants, to the monkey forest and the fish that we saw while snorkeling on our sunrise trip in outrigger canoes. There were reminders everywhere showing thanks to the many gods and goddesses that grace that corner of the world.

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            Closer to home, when I was 22, my little brother was living in Flagstaff, Arizona and I met up with my parents there to visit him. A friend of his was working at a resort and she hooked us up with a place to stay in Sedona. Artists and spiritualists from all over the world go to Sedona to feel the power of the earth. The rock is rich and red and the town itself is full of art and inspiration. While we were at the hotel in the canyon, it snowed – Feet of snow. Google says Sedona gets 18 inches of rain per year and 4 inches of snow. We definitely experienced more than 4 inches in only one night.

            If a person has never experienced a spiritual connection to the native history of a place, watching big fat snowflakes fall on the red rocks of Sedona might give them a new perspective.

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            When I was in college, I took a month-long trip to France with 50 other students from all over the United States. One of our stops was at Mont Saint-Michel – an island mountain dedicated to Saint Michael. The architectural and artistic ability of humans is incredibly evident there, and visitors would be hard-pressed to not have some fascination with this prince of angels. More than that, the island sits in a bed of quicksand that becomes completely uncovered and covered by the sea.

            If a person has never had a spiritual connection to saints or angels, watching a tide come in and cover a giant area of sand in only minutes might give them a new perspective.

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            Speaking of Christianity, my dad flew internationally for a while and his trips to Europe typically had a 24-hour layover. On a few lucky occasions, I tagged along on his 24-hour adventures. One such adventure was in Edinburg, Scotland, where we trudged through town, made it to the castle, but didn’t have enough time to go in. On the way back to the hotel, we heard music coming from a cathedral and we gently tried the door. It opened and we went unnoticed by the practicing musician.

            If someone has never had a spiritual connection to God, they might get a new perspective, standing in an empty cathedral in Scotland, listening to the full, cavernous notes of a pipe organ.

            I grew up at an elevation of 8,500 feet, up in the mountains. When I was older, the town put in a movie theater that plays one movie each weekend, on Friday and Saturday nights. Every now and then, there is matinee. A word to the wise – if you plan on watching the Bridge Over the River Kwai in old high school theater seats that were installed 30 years ago, bring a pillow (although, both the seats and movies (usually) are newer now). Many times, I would walk down to the movie and then walk back up the hill to my house when it was over. At the top of a mountain in a small town, there are very few lights to hide the light of the stars.

            If a person has never had a spiritual connection to the cosmos, the moon and the stars and the planets, walking in the mountains in the pitch-dark, looking up to the heavens might just give them a new perspective.

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            I was born under a Capricorn sky. I have seen Mayan temples and I have watered Hibiscus plants for a Hindu neighbor who lived across the street. My great-grandmother read palms. I have been to cowboy church near Saratoga, I have touched the waters of different oceans and even the Great Lake Michigan. In this very room there are Christians and Buddhists and, at least one agnostic polytheist.

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            Wise words say, it is not about the destination, it is about the journey. In my journey, the magic of spirit is in many, many different places along the way.

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P.S. – A special Thank You to Nancy, who always encourages me to share my writing with such inspiring passion!

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Gambler

He was trying to impress me – so he threw down a five dollar bill and told me to roll the dice.
I lost that five,
And the next pile of fives that he put on the bar top in front of me.
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Finally! My luck turned up and I took a win!
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I pushed the pile of cash down to him.
He smiled, took the cash, and anted up again – for the both of us.
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What could I do?
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I laughed and rolled again…
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Break-up

You have been great, I said.

I meant it, it’s true.

But a girl has to do what a girl has to do.

We’ve been together awhile

and I was a little bit sad,

especially because there wasn’t anything bad.

But it’s a dog-eat-dog world,

a corporate zoo,

and my provider lost out to the hullabaloo.

Dear internet folks,

I wish I could say,

Your bill wasn’t three times the amount I’ll now pay.

Thanks for the deal

you tried next to offer,

but for the past years I’ve been emptying my coffer.

If things don’t work out

with my new web-access guy,

I’ll call back to see if we can give a new deal a try.

Flash-Snow in October

Engine white-noise creates an artificial silence in the navy-black sky, with shiny, diamond point stars.

The intercom beeps and the flight attendant’s even voice informs us that our 38 minute flight from Denver is now delayed. The weather in Casper has deteriorated rapidly, and the airport is now closed.

Collectively, the unanimous nap of the passengers becomes idle chatter concerning the news.

If we have to go back to Denver, let’s go now.

If we get to go home, it will be worth an extra 20 minutes of circling the sky.

Soon, the pilot’s voice comes up over the intercom and the message is repeated, as a matter of fact, with apologies for the delay and a thank-you for our patience. We are informed that the aircraft has been supplied with extra fuel. Visibility in Casper is half of a mile.

How much fuel is “extra” for a 38 minute flight?

The flight attendant offers us coffee and water. We again, go quiet, blanketed in the vastness of a night sky. Stars above us, and a pillowy cloud layer below.

“Ladies and Gentleman, visibility may have improved, slightly. We will be attempting the approach. We will be descending into Casper, but if it turns out we still can’t see, we will have to come back up and return to Denver.”

How close do you get before you know you can’t see?

“Your flight attendant will be through the cabin to collect any last items you may have. Please, be seated and buckle your seat-belts. We expect turbulence on our approach.”

Down into the cloud we go. Fluffy puffs from under us become sideways streaks of white, like an old TV station that doesn’t come in. We are a silent cabin of air travelers, jetting through the snowstorm at the speed of our plane.

The flaps creak, in a low mechanical moan of sound, extending out from the body of the wing.

We bank right. Leaning sideways, as our collective mass pivots through the sky.

Extended wing flaps seem like a sign of landing. Banking through the snowstorm could mean anything. There are no visual reference points for orientation.

Where are we now?

KA-THUNK

A half-inch of space is briefly created between the seats and the people in them, as we all jump. Then the space is gone, as we are all seat-belted in.

Landing gear.

Our voices remain absent. The snowstorm blasts past us in sideways streaks. We bank to the right again. All eyes trying to focus out into the fuzzy white outside.

Lights!

Runway lights!

Is it cold enough for the runway to be icy?

Like the collaborating cells of an organism, we sit back in our seats, as the wheels touch down. The gate agent waits to greet us with a rolling staircase, taking us to the ground.