i was with a small herd of elk this morning. if sixtyish is small.
i did not lallygag in the morning manner i’ve grown accustomed to over the past 18-months of homeschooling with my homies. Mornings have been devoted to slow starts, snuggles, reading together, and moseying about.
now they have a different a different pace. instead of waking up, i wake-them-up. there is breakfast making, lunch preparing, folder checking, paper initialing, snack gathering, water bottle filling, dog and cat feeding, car starting, windshield scraping or snow shoveling, bundling, hugging, kissing, and waving good-bye…all before 7:20am. whew!
i don’t mind the new pace…i rather love it. i love both. it’s not a contradiction. i like lots of things lots of ways. in fact, all questions i abhor begin with “what’s you favorite ______?”
we have the new mornings because after 18 months, my wee Socratic Sponges have returned to public school.
because transitions typically come with turbulence, we planned ahead to smooth it out as much we could. we went into the school in early October. we met with the principal and scheduled a reading assessment. homies got reacquainted with friendly and familiar faces who seemed genuinely happy to see them. They got a peek into their classrooms and saw some of their classmates. we got schoolwork from their teachers. we shopped online for clothes that fit, sneakers for PE, and the list of school supplies.
for schoolwork in October, we went light. we worked on the math lessons their classmates were doing, we read and we journaled, and we kept up with Letter Writing Wednesdays. The rest of the time was for play and adventure. by the final week of the month, the weight of how dearly i would miss them grew from heavy to burdensome. love leaked out of my eyes a little each day.
i reckoned the transition would rock me a bit too. i intentionally attempted to smooth my course by enrolling in my first ever Zoom yoga class. It was taught at 5pm Indian Standard Time…which equates to 5:30am Mountain time. Three mornings each week for the month, i practiced yoga with other people….kind of.
it was darkity dark when i came out to move the couch from the wall and gather my blankets and chairs and bolsters and belts and bricks (i think i said straps and blocks before, but Arun says belts and bricks and i like that better). At 5:27am, i’d click the link to enter the Zoom Room. There were at least 40 other people in each class – from all over the world. India, Italy, Spain, Peru, Argentina, a lady from New Jersey, and me….from my remote abode in the Wyoming Wilderness. I could hear dogs barking and horns honking in the streets of India through the screen, while my dark mornings remained silent.
it was an incredible way to spend the 1.5 hours of daybreak in October. It was all new to me. a particular way to practice yoga that brought me both challenge and bliss. it felt great in both my body and my mind. been a super long time since i’ve begun my day with a 7-minute headstand.
Devlin still wakes in the 6’s. He asked me to set up a space for him to join me when he comes down. He sat in my lap for the chanting at the end of each class. the OMs remain his favorite part of yoga. Arun taught him to feel them from his chest.
Despite all the intention of handling the transition, i was a wreck when they went off to school. My guilt was sky-high. Who sends their kids to school in the middle of a pandemic if they don’t have to? My fear punched through the ceiling too. Do they know what they need to know after spending 18 months alone with me? Sadness showed up too. The three of us had quite a go of it together for a year and a half. Indulgently rich days packed with adventure and curiosity and fresh air and art and healthy food and yoga and medis and a million books and a trillion laughs. Being Miss Fo’Shizzle at the Moose Willow Adventure Academy could be the best gig i’ve ever had.
i never intended to hold the job full-time for more than a year. i value the voices of many, and they have been hearing just one. i don’t want them to know just what i know and i certainly don’t want them to think just what i think.
we have been doing this all alone. just the three of us. there is no homeschool community here. they have zero friends their age outside of school. With winter closing in on us, while the rest of the world is being advised to isolate with their households, we sent our kids back to school.
the elk hunting tags were round two of transition mitigation. i eased myself in. i spent last week as a fair-weather hunter. i was not committed enough to head out first thing in the cold morning. so i lallygagged, drank the second cup of coffee, and scrolled my newsfeed. it was election week, after all. once the sun climbed high enough to warm things up a bit, i hiked the hills. its been six years since i’ve hunted.
last week was all about reorientation and reclaiming some fitness. Jeremy helped me to pack my pack, sight my rifle, load my bullets, sharpen my knives, and share his OnX tracks with me. The rest was up to me. The days were splendid and i hiked to the top of all the hills i could see. i practiced being quiet in the timber and swift in the open meadows. my shoulders ached with the awkwardness of carrying the rifle and my quads screamed at every uphill. i was sweaty and smelly and delighted. i needed that week of getting comfortable and confident again. i came up on several bucks and practiced getting in position and lining them up in the scope. i learned the landscape and followed the tracks. it was great practice.
Sunday, without the weekday morning rigamarole, i got dressed in the dark and headed out early. there were a few fresh inches of snow so i thought i might have good luck. the spot i planned to park and hunt had a trail of enormous grizz tracks freshly planted in the snow, so i boogeyed a mile or so further and aimed for new turf. my morning hike was lovely. the alpenglow shining on the back of the Ramshorn stopped me in my tracks. I explored a new area and was pleased with the morning when i hopped in the buggy to head back home.
on the drive back out, i came across a bunch of elk tracks that were not there when i drove in. i pulled over, investigated, tossed my pack on, slung my rifle and stormed off to follow the tracks. i stayed right on them for 1.5 miles through downed trees up to sa slight ridge in the deep woods. there i found 8 beds. Razzamafrazzama! such a sucky elk hunter. i returned to the side by side with my head down.
On Tuesday, i tried again. i met myself halfway. i had the second cup of coffee. it was 11 degrees and i was hoping the rising sun would warm things up. it did not. so off i went anyway. this time, i took advantage of the frozen ground and drove deeper into the woods hoping to drum something up. boy, did i! i parked in a mess of fresh tracks. i confidently figured the direction they were moving and followed them. there were so many! they climbed the the glades hills zigging and zagging their way along. i lost the tracks a few times in the hillsides bare of snow. when i caught back up with them, i patted myself on the back for my keen intuition (the same back i was flogging when i found the elk beds.) it was freezing but fun, so i stuck with it for a few miles. once the trail narrowed, crossed the creek, and headed into the deep, thick forest i slowed down. my decision to turn around was sealed when my foot was swallowed up in a bear track. i looped back to the side by side merrily. i found the herd!
This morning, my hunting costume was on before the homies were out the door. several fresh inches of snow fell overnight and i was eager to get out there. I saw only one set of headlights coming out in the dark. i hopped up in down in my seat when i saw those truck tracks did not turn down “my dirt road”. it was just me.
i was feeling quite suave as i cruised the familiar line of straddling the ruts as i hummed a happy tune in my head. i think we noticed each other at the same time. They were up above me, around the corner, and on the go. i zoomed around the bend and shut the engine off. i grabbed for the range finder. razzama….it was attached to the pack! no problemo, i knew they were close enough. i hopped outta the side by side with the rifle. i pulled it up and had a cow in the scope. i did not feel stable, and it moved. there were so many, but they were like one. they moved like a school of fish. i changed positions a billion times but couldn’t get myself adjusted quite right. i kept telling myself to chill the eff out – but i wouldn’t listen. i had the lead elk clearly in the scope, but it was a spike. i couldn’t get it all to line up. i wasn’t ready. i missed the opportunity to shoot an elk, but boy-oh-boy i relished the opportunity to stand next to a sea of them at first light.
they scattered together. all willy nilly, but synchronized at the same time. poof – they were gone. i got back in the buggy and scooted to the far side of the meadow. i gathered my wits and my pack and my rifle and pursued on foot. i followed the tracks for an hour, but never saw them again. how in tarnation can 60 elk vanish into thin air…or thick forest? once the falling snow rendered the visibility negligible, i headed home. i worked up a soaking sweat and i was COLD. my body remained buzzed from both the excitement and the majesty of it all.
For 18 months, i dove in deep with my Socratic Sponges and left all my things back at the surface. i did not write, i did not teach yoga, i did little personal creating, i did not go to the desert, i did not spend many minutes alone. i was all in.
today, running through a narrow trail in the forest carrying my rifle like Rambo, i realized how that this elk hunting business is to homeschooling what my bike ride was to changing diapers for years.
i am out there alone. in extreme conditions and challenging terrain. carrying with me only what i need. the success lies in giving it a go. this morning was a success. if i don’t end up with a cow elk in our freezer, it will be much like hopping off the saddle on the top of Union Pass instead of in Mexico. that won’t be a disappointment to me.
like my Grammie told me all those years ago “you are not going out west to FIND yourself, you are going to BE yourself.”
I will miss getting to be Miss Fo’Shizzle terribly. this past week elk hunting has reminded me of what i was before and all the things i have yet to be. aren’t we incredibly lucky that we don’t have to spend our entire lives being just one thing?