photography, Uncategorized, weddings, writing

Mr. & Mrs.

Storyboard.jpg

I had the wonderful honor of photographing the wedding of one of my oldest and dearest friends yesterday.

Sara and Brad were married in Sundance, Wyoming, where the couple met.  She was a beautiful bride.  He was an adorable groom.  They were surrounded by their family and several close friends. The whole affair was simple, understated and tasteful.

I loved photographing the details of the details of the day, from Sara’s vintage inspired lace dress and gold-toned hair comb to the bouquet of spring blooms and yellow roses put together by Serendipity Floral and Gifts in Sundance.

But my favorite part of the day was seeing how Sara’s children were involved, not just the during ceremony, but in the entire event.  Her 9-year old daughter made the wedding cake and the cupcakes.  Her son gave her away.  And Brad’s vows talked about how he wanted to be a role model and positive influence in their lives.  I know the smile he wore wasn’t just for his bride, but for the entire family he was gaining in the process.

Sara and I have been friends since college.  As such, I’ve known her as many things…a cohort in crime, a gambling partner and a best friend.  I watched her become a wife and a new mom.   Life threw a few curves at her, but Sara tackled them with her usual tenacity and steadfast commitment to her values and ideals.  She created a new normal and a new life for her children as a single mom.  It was a full life, filled with love and laughter.

And now Brad joins that life, making it richer and perhaps even a little bit stronger.  I don’t know him well, but I can see how that he softens Sara.  Where she is structured, he is smooth.  Where she is by-the-book, Brad is more spontaneous.  They are not opposites so much as complements, rounding each other out and setting off the other’s personality in wonderful ways.

Life is beautiful.  It is also messy and hard.  That duality can leave some of us beaten and bitter.  It takes courage to rise up from the mess, to dare to imagine yourself as something different.

I’m so proud of my friend for believing in herself, for rising up and finding happiness again.  I am excited to see where this new partnership leads, and what new roles Sara will take on as she, Brad, Madeline and Jameson begin their new journey together as a family.

Take care of her, Brad.  She is a treasure, now and for always.

Teresa

family, Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

The Mother of Invention

We’ve got a house full of new toys Wyokiddo received for Christmas.  But for almost two hours tonight, she entertained herself with a box, straws, tape, beads, feathers and pipe cleaners.  Lots and lots of pipe cleaners.

She was creating an “invention.”  I’m not clear on what the invention will do once it is finished.  I don’t know that she cares.  Wyokiddo was all about the process, attacking the placement of each hole, each bit of straw, with a great deal of concentration and seriousness.

Wyokiddo is too young for New Year’s Resolutions.  But I think I’ll take my cue from her and work to find joy and purpose in the little things that surround me.

Teresa

 

 

Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

Are You Tough Enough?

Winter in Wyoming

“It’s winter in Wyoming,
And the gentle breezes blow,
Seventy miles an hour,
At twenty-five below.
Oh, how I love Wyoming,
When the snow’s up to your butt,
You take a breath of winter,
And your nose gets frozen shut.
Yes, the weather here is wonderful,
So I guess I’ll stick around,
I could never leave Wyoming,
’cause I’m frozen to the ground!”

A lot of folks tell me “Oh, I wish I could live in Wyoming.  It is so beautiful!”

And it is. Until it isn’t.  Are you tough enough?

Teresa

Uncategorized, writing, Wyoming

The Kindness of Strangers

15288473_1336222559773643_4148337940582574606_oEarlier this week, a man Stephen C. Reiman died in a Wyoming hospital.  He had no visitors and no one to claim his body.  His nursing staff knew little about him, other than he was a Vietnam veteran and liked Bruce Springsteen.  Mr. Reiman had come to Wyoming via California, and had only been in our state for a few weeks.  No family could be found at first.  The Natrona County coroner arranged to have Stephen Carl Reiman buried with full military honors at the Oregon Trail National Veteran’s Cemetery, but feared no one would attend.  So the call went out via Wyoming news outlets for folks to attend this hero’s funeral and to give an unknown veteran one last great salute.

Wyoming answered that call, as did folks from neighboring states.  More than 2,000 people showed up to bury the sailor.  Fellow veterans, active-duty personnel, doctors, nurses, ranchers, business owners, law enforcement officers and every day citizens gathered in Casper, Wyoming, to honor a man they never met.  It was standing room only in the chapel, and folks lined the streets for the funeral procession.  They braved nasty roads and stood in the cold and the snow because they felt it was the right thing to do.

Each time I read an article or see photos from this beautiful demonstration of humanity, I am brought to tears.

My state, and many of her citizens, have been labeled as deplorable during the election season.  But on this day, Wyoming proved it is anything but.  Our citizens showed their kindness, gratitude and compassion to a man they’ve never met.  On “Giving Tuesday,” the people of Wyoming gave thanks for the life of a stranger that served our country.  Mr. Reiman might have died with only his nurses at his side.  But he was buried as one of Wyoming’s own.

God bless you, Sailor Reiman.  May you finally find your peace.

Teresa

 

Uncategorized, writing

Forty

graded-roadSomewhere shortly after midnight, I turned 40.  Another year gone by, a new milestone reached.  I know lots of folks, women friends specifically, who have a hard time with these “big” birthdays.  They refuse to say the number.  Pretend like the birthday didn’t happen.  Self-medicate with chocolate or wine.

I’m 40.  Forty.  4-0.  Cuarenta.  Quarante.  Vierzig, if you speak German.  Oh, I like the sound of that.  That sounds wise.  From here on out, when anyone asks how old I am, I’m going to reply “veirzig.”

I don’t stress over birthdays.  My life is no better or worse today than it was when I woke yesterday.  I suppose it would be easy to get caught up in the worries that my life is not where I thought it would be when I turned 40.  Because it isn’t.  It is better.

Ten years ago, I celebrated my 30th birthday as a single woman, surrounded by friends at our local watering hole.  Today, my day was started with happy birthday wishes from my husband and daughter.  The county decided to grade our road.  I’ve gotten texts and Facebook messages from old friends, and well wishes from new friends I’ve made in the last 10 years.  I also have an evening out with my little family, birthday brownies, presents and a trip to Vegas with Outdoor Guy coming up.

Forty is awesome.  Or should I say veirzig ist genial.  Veirzig ist genial.

Teresa

Uncategorized, wildlife, writing, hunting

Hunting with Dad

first-pheasant-3Yesterday was the last day of what folks around here call the Springer General hunt.  The white dog and I celebrated by going hunting.  I almost chickened out.  The temperature was in the mid-twenties with a chilly breeze blowing from the northeast, and I am a fair-weather hunter.  I’m a fair-weather everything, come to think of it.  But I layered up, stuck my license in my pocket and we headed down the road.

This time, we found some pheasants.  The problem was, they were hunkered down in a shelter belt and weren’t relinquishing that warmth and safety for anything.  A few yards past the trees, my non-bird bird dog finally kicked up a hen.  Excited to actually see a pheasant, I rushed my shot and missed her by a mile.  Safe from my shot, she tucked her wings and disappeared into the tree belt.

A few hundred yards later, the white dog hit a scent again.  I watched, ready, as she found another hen.  This ol’ girl didn’t want to get up and fly, instead cruising just above the ground and Roxy’s head, preventing me from taking a safe shot.

As we rounded the corner for home, Roxy put a rooster in the air.  He doubled back, soaring right over my head.  This time, I took my time, kept my head down and made the shot.

It wasn’t the wind or ringing in my ears I’d heard as I dialed in on the rooster.  It was my dad’s voice.  “Want to know the three rules of hunting?”  I heard him ask in his big, booming barritone.  I repeated the punchline as walked up to the downed bird.

“Rule #1.  Keep your head down.  Rule #2.  Keep your damn head down.  Rule #3. Keep your God damn head down.”

It was  joke he’d tell over and over.  He never got tired of telling it.  Oh what I’d give to hear him tell it to me again.  It’s been almost a year since he died and I wanted so badly to hear that stupid joke one more time, my heart physically ached.  It was that thought that congealed into tears and trickled down my cheeks as I slid the rooster into my vest and loved up my dog.

Dad and I did a lot together when I was growing up.  He was always there for soccer games, school plays, speeches and horse shows.  But hunting and fishing wasn’t sometime we shared.  I don’t know that it ever really occurred to him that his tenderhearted animal lover would actually enjoy hunting.  I know it never occurred to me to ask him to take me.

By the time I started working for the Wyoming Game and Fish Department, his health prevented us from sharing a day in the field.  Instead, he passed on his trusty .22 rifle and behemoth double-barreled shotgun to me.  Anytime I asked, he would regale me with stories of his days hunting pheasants at Springer, including the time he almost lost our family dog, and the time he got stuck over night in the mud and the muck.

In that moment, as I stood wiping angrily at my eyes, I knew.  I knew that if he was up there, somewhere, somehow, he was watching and he was proud.  Not proud that I’d finally got on the birds.  But proud that I was trying.  Proud that I was taking care of my family, following my passion for writing and photography, staying true to my own beliefs, and taking risks.  Proud that I could make my husband chocolate-chip cookies in the evening and chase pheasants in the morning and wrangle a 4-year old after lunch.  Proud that I was out there, living my life with the people I loved.

Roxy and I spent another half hour looking for pheasants before we called it a morning.  I headed home with a heart that felt lighter than it has in almost a year.  If anyone saw me out there, they would have just figured it was me and my dog, hunting solo in the first snow of the season.  But really, I was hunting with my dad.  I’d carried him in my heart this whole time.

I miss you big guy.

T-Bird

 

 

country life, Uncategorized, writing

Soul Food

Life can be so complicated, so crazy, that we often get caught up in the elaborate.  But there is joy in the simple things.

Tonight, our family opted for a simple dinner of ham-and-cheese omelettes, potatoes from our garden, peppers and peaches with cream.  While I prepared the omelettes, Outdoor Guy joined me in the kitchen to slice and fry the potatoes.  I could hear Wyokiddo happily playing in the living room as we worked and chatted.  We couldn’t help but run into each other in the tiny kitchen, and each time, Outdoor Guy would take the opportunity to steal a kiss.

I enjoy the challenge of  cooking a complex meal, or dinner on the town with my handsome husband on my arm.  But nothing beats the quiet camaraderie of my beautiful family, homegrown food and a Wyoming sunset.  The preperation and the meal were both food for my soul.

Teresa

nature, Uncategorized, wildlife, writing

For the Benefit and Enjoyment of the People

Pole Mountain.jpgThis weekend, our family took a drive to the high country of Albany County to enjoy some fishing in the Pole Mountain area of the Medicine Bow National Forest.  We were in search of some beaver ponds for Wyokiddo to fish, an afternoon away from the house, some elbow room and fresh air.

As Outdoor Guy called his old boss and colleague to get some directions to potential fishing spots, Wyokiddo and I packed a picnic lunch.  Ninety minutes later, we were three thousand feet higher in elevation and equally as high in spirits.  It felt good to catch a brook trout, smell the pines and see some aspens.  Between the three of us, we caught five little brook trout and lost almost as many bobbers.  We even saw an amorous bull moose moving across the country, grunting his way to a possible romantic encounter.

As I slogged my way through the marshy bottoms of the ponds and streams, I was reminded how lucky I am to still have these opportunities to enjoy public land.  Pole Mountain encompasses about 55,000 acres just West of Cheyenne.  Prior to 1959, the War Department administered the area as a military training ground.  Now, it is managed by the U.S. Forest Service for public recreation and livestock grazing.  Folks can hike, fish, hunt, bike, climb, ride, camp and ski in the area, most of which is free of charge.  It is a place where families like mine can enjoy life beyond the concrete.

Wyoming is blessed with an abundance of public lands.  Nearly 48.2% of our state, in fact, is public land.  This includes national parks,  forests, wildlife refuges, monuments, wilderness and lands held by the Bureau of Land Management.  These areas are some of the few true wild places left where the everyday citizen, any citizen, can recreate.  They are places where any kid can fish, any woman can hunt, any man can camp (provided they have the right permits of course).

These places are a gift, really, because there aren’t a lot of these kinds of places left.  I used to take for granted that these places would always be there, for my grandchildren or great grandchildren.  But a recent movement across the Rocky Mountain West to demand the federal government turn control and ownership of all federal lands over to the states make me wonder if there will even be national forests for us to roam in the next decade.

To put is simply, I am against this idea.  Vehemently against this idea.  I could list the many reasons I don’t support this effort, but I’d rather encourage you to read this piece written by a very wise friend and former colleague, Chris Madson.  He says it better than I ever could.

http://www.wyofile.com/column/selling-a-birthright-what-would-the-west-be-like-without-its-federal-lands/

If you hunt, fish, camp, hike, climb, bike, ride or otherwise recreate on federally owned public lands, I urge you to get informed on this issue.  Learn what is at stake and think about if you really trust your state officials to keep these lands public.  Or do you believe, like I do, that these lands will be sold, piece by piece, as cronyism and declining budgets demand, until there is nothing left?

I’ll leave you with some of Madson’s words on the matter, words that could have poured from my own soul, if in considerably less eloquent terms.

“More than government or business, more than constitutions or flags, the land held in common for us all is what keeps real freedom alive in the West. The nation’s forests and ranges are the foundation of a way of life. Without them, this part of the world would be like any other, a landscape whose only purpose is profit, subject to the will of a tiny minority, closed to the rest of us. I can’t even imagine it. I don’t want to try.”

I can’t imagine a Wyoming without a Pole Mountain and beaver ponds where my husband, daughter and I can dunk a worm and see a moose.  I don’t even want to try.

Teresa

nature, Uncategorized, writing

Too Far Gone?

 

A few days ago, a friend shared a post from America’s Funniest Home Videos via Facebook. The video showed a little girl “playing peek-a-boo” with a bear at a zoo.  It was a cute video.  The comments, however, were not so funny.

Many comments discussed how it wasn’t a cute video at all, because the bear actually wanted to eat the little girl.  There was also the usual hatred for zoos.  And then there were comments refuting the claims the bear was just trying to eat the little girl.

“Bears are vegetarians.  They don’t even eat meat.”

“Bears are friendly.  They don’t hurt people.”

Um, wait, WHAT??

Bears eat meat.  They are omnivores.  They are opportunistic and will always prefer the easiest method of getting a meal.  Bears will eat roots, tubers, nuts, seeds, berries and fruits.  They’ll also eat insects, moths,  fish, cattle, sheep, deer, elk, bison, sheep, moose, dog food, snowmobile seat covers and and just about anything else that smells yummy to them.  The leading “bear guy” at the Wyoming Game and Fish Department used to say that a bear can smell an animal carcass upwind from more than 15 miles away.  It is that sense of smell that leads them to campsites, cabins, campers and other homes with improper food storage.  But bears, at least all bears in North America, will eat meat.

Bears are not friendly.  Bears are wild animals.  They don’t want to be petted or scratched or loved on.  Yes, they can be playful.  But they are wild animals, not a dog or goat or horse that thrives on human interaction.  Polar bears, grizzly bears and black bears can and will attack, hurt and kill people.  Most black bear attacks are not fatal and they tend to be less aggressive than their white and brown conterparts, but they are still plenty dangerous.

To perpetuate the myth that they are “friendly” is dangerous for both humans and bears.  It is the attempts at “friendly interactions” that gets bears killed.  Baiting a bear into your yard with food so you can watch it feed is an invitation to trouble, and will almost always end up with the bear being euthanized because they have become people dependent.  A fed bear is a dead bear.

I really shouldn’t be surprised by the sheer ignorance of people when it comes to wild animals and spaces and our encounters with them.  Bison in SUVs.  A man dying in a Yellowstone hot spring.  A lady run over by an elk.  A toddler getting drug into the water and drowned by an alligator.  Society has been building to this for the last 160 or more years.  The Industrial Revolution saw the invention of machines that  changed a way of life as well as methods of manufacture. New jobs became available in the cities, working in factories and mills.  People left the farms and the country for prosperity in the cities.  And the exodus has continued to this day.

Today, less than 2 percent of people in the United States are directly involved in production agriculture.  About 4.2 percent of the population are hunters.  Thirty-eight million folks are hikers and backpackers, accounting for about 11 percent of our population.  Bird-watchers, anglers, mountain bikers and wildlife lovers account for another few million.  But in the scope of our country’s population, those actively engaged in and knowledgeable about outdoor pursuits are few and far between.

What does this all mean?  It means that there are an awful lot of folks out there who have no connection to the land or her furred and feathered and scaly residents. None.  No favorite fishing hole or hiking trail.  No favorite mountain ride or wildlife viewing area.  Their habitat is concrete and asphalt and the only wildlife they see are squirrels and pigeons in man-made parks.  They grow up learning how to navigate a subway or read the bus schedule instead of learning how to cross streams or navigate a trail.

Kids are spending less and less time just simply being outdoors.  Schools are cutting back on recess and field trips in the name of meeting standards.  Kids are bused to school instead of walking or riding their bikes.  And they are spending more time in front of screens than ever before, which means they are spending less time active and outside.  And when they do get outside, it is more often than not in a structured environment like competitive sports.

And we’ve delegated responsibility for our own safety to others.  The government.  A facility. Park rangers.  Everyone else should be looking out for me, so I don’t have to, right?

Is it any wonder, then, that we are seeing these behaviors?  All over social media, I see people leaving comments like “bears are friendly.” When it comes to folks interacting with nature or wildlife, sadly, I don’t believe they know any better.  Ignorance is not an excuse, but it is a very real phenomena.  Millions of Americans simply don’t get nature because they haven’t experienced it in any real or meaningful way.  The same can be said for folks from other countries.

It’s the same problem agriculture faces in many respects.  People are so far removed from the production of their own food that they don’t even know the difference between pork and beef.  How can we expect to have meaningful discussions with each other on food safety and stability when some of those involved in the discussion just don’t understand the realities of growing food on a larger scale?  So it goes with people understanding and respecting the natural world.  How can people comprehend the danger of an elk when 30 minutes ago they didn’t even know what an elk was?

It would be easy to laugh off these naive and foolish comments and actions.  Except they so often lead to tragedy either for the animals or the people   The risks of this displacement from the land go beyond the individual tourist harming himself or committing localized environmental damage.   There are some tremendous sociological and environmental risks as well.

The disconnect means there is an ever-growing number of folks who don’t appreciate wild spaces and wild places.  They don’t value elbow room or wildlife diversity.  They don’t give a hoot about hunting and fishing opportunity.  They place no importance on green space, roadless areas or backcountry regulations.  They simply don’t care.

When a growing populace no longer cares about these resources, we start to see problems. People getting mauled by bison or falling into hot springs are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg.  A growing body of evidence shows that losing our connection with the natural world has contributed to stress, obesity, attention disorders, other diseases and overall poor health.  There are also risks to the environment too.  Land is lost to development, wildlife are displaced or extirpated.  Our water, air and soil is compromised.

I don’t know how to make the world care more about our environment and the wonder of the natural world around us.  But we could all benefit from some more green in our lives, and I’m not talking money.  Research has shown the following:

  • Living in or near open space can enhance human function and well-being.
  • Experiencing nature in many different forms can help recovery from illness and improve our overall health and well-being.
  • Contact with nature can enhance intellectual performance and problem-solving abilities.
  • Work environments with natural light and ventilation improves worker stress, performance and satisfaction.

I’ve been greatly encouraged by the “eat local” movement, which has lead to growth in local farmers markets and community supported agriculture.  People are starting to pay more attention to what they put in their bodies and where it comes from.  And the “backyard chicken” concept is also a step in the right direction, as is the effort to teach things like archery in our schools.  I was also heartened to see the backlash facing the yahoos that walked in Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.  It means there are a few folks out there who still love this earth and our natural wonders.

I just hope we aren’t already too far gone from our connections with nature that it loses its importance once and for all.

Teresa