Everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though there’s no oxygen at 8,000 feet. And everything is relative, of course, but it seems as though a rural vacation is considerably less work than charging hard at moderate levels of adrenaline six days a week to prove my worth at work.
This week, I’m paying off my nostalgia for summers in the high desert, sharing with my boys the quirks of tree-line living, of rural rules and assumptions, of the city mouse’s game “what was that noise?” and “what kind of snake is that?” In between explaining about well water and deer vs elk, I’m taking some deep breaths.
Not just because there’s (relatively) no oxygen here, though. Because everything is different. At home, there’s a busy street 50 feet from our front door. Here, there’s a pond 50 feet from our front door, so stuffed with fish that they throw themselves into the (relatively) thin air to catch grasshoppers. At home, the subway is three blocks away. Here, three blocks is not a recognized form of measurement. There’s here and “about an hour from here.”
We drove four hours from the airport to get to a spot populated by tractors, heron, and large toads.
The first day we enjoyed several major projects. We wandered the yard catching grasshoppers and the boys fished with them, relying on their grandfather to both bait and release the hook from half a dozen bass and bluegill. We wandered the yard looking for antlers and found sun bleached bones from a creature who I’m willing to bet was a calf, and who, judging by the vertical leg bone we dug (with oak sticks) out of a deep hole probably got caught in the mud, and who met her demise some time thereafter.
The boys dug up all the bones they could find, and today we might try to reconstruct the skeleton (which seems to me lacking a lot of the fundamentals, unless cows these days are mostly leg.)
Today we will wander the creek. And the boys will whack down all the dried wild parsley they can find, bashing the weed that does whatever you ask when you’re wielding an oak stick.
I think I’m going to name my band Oak Stick.
I don’t sleep well at elevation, because my sleeping brain is convinced that there’s (relatively) no oxygen. I wake several times a night hyperventilating. But I’ve been here before. From at least the time I could walk through preschool, and every summer since, I’ve been in the southwest, hot and dry days, chilly nights, trouble baking, and breathless. My dad taught me long ago to fight off nighttime oxygen panic by exhaling and only breathing when I actually need air. My brain is wrong. It tricks me.
Just like the panick at work. Self-imposed deadlines and a low-level standard urgency lead me to fly from meeting to meeting, call to call.
It’s not working for me.
Neither does fishing.
So I’m back to reading and writing. Exhaling completely and then forcing myself to wait until I really need a breath. Listening to what works rather than the stressful combination of “should” and “hurry” I’ve concocted. Recalibrating.