Author: Betharoni

Other Words Beginning with ‘Re”

It’s January 27th and I finally mailed the package of Christmas gifts home. It’s very late, it’s true, but not entirely my fault. The gifts were all ordered nice and early, but complications with new addresses and post offices that automatically return mail created a snarl of confusion that I didn’t have the time or energy to tease out until after the new year began. Then, there was the sprained wrist interfering with planned crafting projects, time spent awaiting refunds and re-ordered items, and the wrapping paper sending itself to my billing address instead of my shipping address. I’ve had too many changed locations in the past years and it confuses Amazon, apparently. Sadly, the gift box is not expected to be received at home base until Friday, which means that the brother and sister who are driving out to Washington that day will likely experience even further delay in gifting arrival. At least I’m not burdening them with the items just before they’re trying to move their household?

– short break from writing to greet my chef from last winter, who unexpectedly appeared in the Starbucks I’m currently using as a writing base. It’s always strange to run across chefs in street clothes, and even stranger to see them outside of their restaurants. But it’s nice to run into former acquaintances here and there in this wilderness of strangers. –

After several weeks of avoiding the cold that my roommates and co-workers have been passing around, I’ve finally succumbed. Fortunately, I packed my handkerchief drawer and am well prepared for this mini-crisis. Work has been running at a very relaxed pace during my sore-throat days so far and I’m trying to use my days off to rest up as well as possible, since the schedule is up for the first two weeks of February and looks a bit scary. The Alpine World Skiing Championships may not affect our restaurant very directly, as we are nicely exclusive and the public can’t get in – but since our paychecks come from the mountain dining department here in Beaver Creek, we’re expected to pitch in with some out-of-restaurant work. It’s all being managed by our chef, so there isn’t much adjustment from my perspective, although the added stress on the management team is not always reassuring.

February is also going to be a much busier party season than January was, so the possibility for switch shifts and doubles is much increased. As it is, for the first two weeks, I have a nine-day stretch with three doubles, followed by a single day off, then a five-day stretch with three more doubles. 90% of the kitchen staff will be working six-days-a-week and the chef has scheduled himself for seven day weeks. As long as the restaurant continues to serve lower numbers, the double shifts and outside tasks should still remain under Christmas stress levels, although if I had my choice, I would not be headed into this fortnight with sneeze attacks hitting every half-hour. At least the cast is off my wrist and I’ve regained most of my right arm functions. I even took the trash out at end-of-shift yesterday, which proves I am greatly recovered. And no, I am not re injuring it, when an activity truly hurts or even irritates it, I back off and find alternate approaches.

This seems to be another work-focused post, but there isn’t much going on with me right now that isn’t work-focused. Midwinter doldrums come and go, although there has been a great deal of blue sky warm weather here this month. Sadly, it causes more whining among the skiing enthusiasts than joy among those of us who would prefer that slippage chances continue to decrease with the ice sculptured lumps melting off sidewalks and staircases.
Work at least passes the calendar days quickly and I can mix my excitement over visiting parents, new babies, and final trips home into one grand countdown. On the other hand, between ramping up and down from busy stretches and my personal health issues, I have yet to accomplish any of the CAP homework that I am due to complete this winter. I should bring that up again with the chef, I suppose? Some of it is true homework, which means that as long as he can supply me with the raw data, I can convert it to a finished project on my own time, if I happen to have any available. Other parts have details which require the chef’s participation or use of software that is really only present on work computers. Hopefully I don’t end up needing to sacrifice any of my days off to visit the work computer interface, but this may be the rotation where I have to present a planning schedule to the chef, since even on the slow days when I’ve suggested beginning to look over the materials it seems to slip his mind. He has remembered to ask me to stay for the summer and/or return to work at the cabin next winter, which opportunities I have more or less declined while attempting to conceal my enthusiasm at having no commitments to live away from home base after the mountain closes in April.

It’s about time to start serious job-hunting/living-planning for my post-Vail adventures. My parental figures have never yet seemed poised to kick me out to starve in the streets, but sometimes pre-emptive maneuvers are the best defense. The best defense is a good offense? Or is it the best offense is a good defense? Either way, while I’ve counted down almost every day of this two-year contract, it has certainly kept my post-college life and career path choices down to a minimum. Now I have to re-evaluate and reconnoiter and other words beginning with ‘re’.

To Stress or to Sleep? Why Not Both?

The town has passed the low point of the post-Christmas holiday’s slow down. Now everything is gearing back up toward the world championships here the first two weeks of February. Signs are going up and advertisements are getting hung and everyone is beginning to speculate about exactly how much increased business and pressure the event is going to bring to their particular job.

My restaurant doesn’t expect a huge leap in guests during the time period, but our February was already going to be a busy time. Not necessarily due to regular service, which should still be hovering at a very manageable 60-120 people per lunch, but because of buy-out events in the evenings. This is where the single shift regular operation schedule starts to hurt a bit more. There is no evening crew to cover events, so I expect to work a fair number of doubles during the month. Of course, since the line closes down after 2:30, the doubles aren’t as difficult as they might otherwise be. The break between service and party can be focused entirely on preparing for the night’s event and three or four cooks dedicated to one project can make a lot of progress in three and a half hours.

On top of twenty-six nights of the months having some sort of scheduled event (based on my info from a month ago, which is honestly horribly out of date), the chef, sous-chef, and general manager of the restaurant are expected to spend some of their working hours away from the cabin, helping with food vending at the world championship event. The chef keeps teasing me about being in charge while they’re off doing whatever they end up doing, which I interpret as ‘you won’t have more authority, but please, enjoy some extra responsibility during this coming time of trial.’ Which is an extra reason to hope and pray that the orthopedic surgeon removes the cast tomorrow and gives me permission to do whatsoever my heart desires with that arm.

Work has gone better than I expected, for my right wrist being so restrained, but there are still certain activities that I am accustomed to being able to accomplish and it’s frustrating to discover that they’re still beyond my reach. Plus, I can tell when an activity has become significantly less efficient due to the cast’s interference. Knife work is one of those things that I can do, but not with the proper form, which would lead to faster accomplishment of tasks and less time stress in my days.

The many subtle stresses throughout the day when I can’t perform what I would consider a normal task (hair washing, dish washing, floor washing, cleanliness in general, really) are joining with the onset of a cold and the threats of another hectic couple of weeks to make me want to sleep constantly and avoid people and outside activities. I’ve held to that plan of action for the past two weeks and feel that it has been quite successful at keeping me relatively happy and healthy.

So as long as my scaphoid cooperates, I’m feeling fairly satisfied with how geared up I am for the oncoming weeks. Busy is hard, but it makes the time here alone fly by all the faster. And the paychecks fatter, which I never complain about.

Experiments in Poetry

Having one hand in a cast doesn’t seem to be particularly detrimental to either inspirational flow, or typing ability at this point. So here are six poems in the six poetical forms I was inspired to play with today.

IMG_0695.JPG

Form: Rondeau
Rules: Strictish, number of stanzas and lines in the stanzas and which lines rhymes with which are dictated by the form. To be a rondeau, it must be a three stanza poem, with the first stanza rhyming aabba, the second rhyming aab, and the third aabba. Some portion of the first line is repeated as a refrain at the end of the second and third stanzas.

Lost Rondeau

Buried deep depths deep, bad news forgotten in the past
Sneaking came upon you, but dropped behind just as fast
Ethereal and substance-less, a random thing of life
Panic of the moment, brushed off spot of strife
Unexpected, expelled, bad news doesn’t last

Worst news is cold, frozen, icicle waves so vast
You see your breath in its looming face, aghast
And plug your ears against its shrill, eerie fife
Buried deep depths deep

You would steer out of its path, but you’ve lost your ballast
Tall ship on raging water, speeding forward without a mast
Huddle behind bathroom doors, sit so still, yet the knife
Of it is carried with you. In silence and storm the pain rife
So tangible, no easing air to gasp and lighten heart forcast
Buried deep depths deep




Form: Tanka
Origin: Japanese in origin, like the haiku, the tanka is also syllable based, comprising five lines with 5/7/5/7/7 syllables and was apparently used by courting couples. Early form of texting emojis? The goal is to have it be one continuous thought, with the first three lines focused on an image and the last two discussing emotional response to the image.

Code of Tanka

List lies blank on page
Form still uninterpreted
aabb strict
codes that will become flowing
thoughts spoken from inner heart




Form: Triolet
Mood During Writing: Whimsical. Triolets only require that you write five lines, but you’re supposed to repeat them until the poem is eight lines long. My repeating poems always seem to force themselves into moodiness or a Dr. Seuss type of style. Line A, Line B, rhyme a, Line A, rhyme a, rhyme b, Line A, Line B, for anyone (besides me) who wants to know the rules.

Triolet of a Hookless Cookess

There once was a one-handed cook
Trip, fall, splash, and slide
Without the saving grace of a shiny hook
There once was a one-handed cook
Couldn’t even hold a recipe book
Yet somehow the calamari still got fried
There once was a one-handed cook
Trip, fall, splash, and slide




Form: Terza Rima
Meanderings: This poem has an endless form, as in, you could keep writing within its strictures as long as you could find a rhyme from the previous stanza’s center line. Three line stanzas repeat forever, or until you stop abruptly. Alternatively, apparently some English writers like to wrap things up with a couplet. I repeated the 1st and 3rd lines because they seemed to fit, but it’s not an actual part of the form. So, to summarize, the rhyme goes like this – aba bcb cdc ded, efe, fgf (or ff)

Wanderer’s Terza Rima

Mountains, white and cobblestoned
Or wooden boardwalks warmed in sun
For the past years I have roamed

Meeting the bears is a special kind of fun
Leaves the blood racing for hours
They leisurely pose, you stare and can’t run

Summertime under a sky that glowers
With snow clouds in July
But still creates bowers full of wildflowers

And in the winter you can lie
In the powder and stare at bright blue
An open, glowing bowl of sky

Sweating on the steep hikes, rue
Not eating dinner beforehand
But lose all regrets when you see the view

Icicles the size of a man demand
Personification, as they lean down
Toward the drifts that hide hard land

The folds of valley, skirts of a gown
The untouchable peaks snow-combed
Creating a magnificent crown

Mountains white and cobblestoned
For the past years I have roamed




Form: Bop
Dance moves: This style is apparently rather new and also lacks very precise rules. In fact, the descriptions that I found differed from the examples they proffered. My interpretation, after looking at both description and example was that rhyming pattern doesn’t matter, first stanza is generally five lines, second is eight, and last is six. A refrain line occurs at the end of each stanza. First stanza sets up a problem, second develops it, third resolves it. Sounds kind of like fantasy trilogies, eh?

Crusoe’s Be-bop

Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up
Which way is up again?
My sense of direction is corrupt
It says that down is East, but I’ve lain
Here so long looking for the West, it’s too abrupt.

I’ve trapped myself in my own mind

I think I’m laughing and it makes me sad
I sit in gloom and feel instantly glad
Imagination is rocking my boat
But while I cling seasick to the sides I gloat
Because even if I get stranded I have this goat
That I can milk and then I’ll make cheese
Like Swiss Family Robinson, I’ll dig a moat
Around a trickster’s house and let blow the breeze

I’ve trapped myself inside my own mind

Ah, that would be a stomach growl
Not a wild beast’s howl
How long have I lingered with the jungle fowl
Of my overgrown thoughts and the coffee-hyped
Meanderings my restless fingers typed?
It’s probably time to buy a vowel

I’ve trapped myself inside my own mind




Form: Pantoum
Frustrations: I enjoy all the example pantoums that I’ve seen when copying down poem rules from various internet databases, but they’re hard to write to my own satisfaction. The second and fourth lines of every stanza repeat as the first and third of following stanza. That much repetition means that you have to refine each line really well and/or give in and fidget a couple of words in the line to change the meaning. As soon as you start, you have find a theme that can develop multiple meanings easily and the first line wraps around to become the ending refrain, so you can’t stray too far from the initial thought. There’s probably a better pantoum lurking in my backbrain, but I couldn’t coax it out today, so you get this one, inspired by my effort to write itself after I was almost poetried out for the day.
Four line stanzas, repeating as follows:
Line 1, Line 2, Line 3, Line 4
Line 2, Line 5, Line 4, Line 6
Line 5, Line 7, Line 6, Line 8
Line 7, Line 9, Line 8, Line 10
etc., ending with Line 1

Pantoum in Motion

Momentum still carries you forward
Even when you’ve lost your will
Sometimes you’re headed homeward
Sometimes it’s getting further away still

Even when you’ve lost your will
Your goals still linger in distant profile
Sometimes getting further away still
Although you’ve been striving for a long while

Your goals linger in distant profile
Enticing in pictures of the future
Although you’ve been striving for a long while
In time you’ll taste them, you feel sure

Enticing pictures of the future
Feeding from past well completed
In time you’ll taste them, you feel sure
And lie back, content, repleted

In the past, goals completed
Gallery of triumphs urging you onward
No time to lie back, content, repleted
Race even harder, the memories hoard

Momentum still carries you forward

The Most Occult Scaphoid (and its fashion choices)

I live in Idaho for 22 years. Everything is going along swimmingly. I graduate college and decide to issue forth and explore the world for a while and what do I get in return for my trouble? My first ever cast. Well, new experiences are what I was looking for, right?

The story of the injury is brief and unexciting. I’d survived my twelve day streak of holiday madness work shifts, and languidly shuffled around the town and apartment during my two days off. After a nine hour shift on Wednesday, I joyously realized that my energy pack was not yet drained and decided to start fitting runs back into my weekly schedule. Something about thirteen hour days and 300 person meals had briefly dimmed the appeal of outside exercise, but now it sounded fun again. I jogged and walked intervals up to the top of Beaver Creek Village and then started back toward the apartment. About halfway down the trail, my balance decided that while that icy spot hadn’t been an issue and that snow patch was navigable, this particular combination of winter hazards was unacceptable and sent both of my feet flying forward in a synchronized maneuver that left me seated on icy pavement with the dawning realization that I had fallen. Disgruntled from the clumsiness, shock of unanticipated pain, and snow damp seeping through my thin meshed running clothes, I growled a few words at the nasty hill, shook myself out and resumed the intervals.

I quickly realized that although I had fallen on my rump and both hands, the only body part that wasn’t backing off of its initial pain levels was my right wrist. I experimented with range of motion, inspected it for signs of scraping, bruising, and swelling, then decided that it was just jarred and called my sister to whine about the deceptive traction levels of iced-over pavement.

As the evening wore on, the appearance of my wrist went from fine, on to slightly swollen, on to a nickel-sized lump appearing on one side, just below my thumb joint. My medical consultant of choice, Mother Hen, recommended x-rays, but said if I could sleep though the current levels of pain, it could wait until the next day.

Thursday morning, I decided to go ahead and catch the snowcat up to work, just to see if I could function in the kitchen. Just getting my hair up into a bun had been a painful trial, so I’m not sure what I was expecting, but the longer I stayed at work, with my right hand either hanging by my side or cradled into my stomach, the worse the pain seemed to become. Seventy percent of the projects I would have considered became “oh, no, don’t you dare,”s from my throbbing hand and the thirty I did accomplish felt slow and pathetic. This was not helped by the co-worker hovering around every corner telling me not to do that or that he would finish this. I was beginning to feel pointless and distracting in addition to pained and inefficient.

Ziploc bags were a trial, I almost cried trying to work gloves on and off my left hand and after the first attempt, didn’t even worry about gloving my right. I could, barely, stand to support the weight of a knife in my right hand, but couldn’t twist my wrist far enough to hold it correctly, much less apply enough force to actually cut anything with it. After two hours of makeshift salad tossing and sandwich assembling, accidentally tweaking my wrist every ten minutes, I told the sous-chef I was useless and said if he would let me go, I would get my opinion verified by a doctor. After being ushered out of work with a combination of well-wishes, overbearing advice, and speculation on what my actual injury might be, I headed down the hill to the gondola.

Stress, pain, and paranoia are not good walking companions, if anyone was wondering. I called my mother to discuss insurance cards, since my latest copy was supposedly in Idaho, and after she reminded me that she was in Oregon, I called my brother and asked him to rummage through my mail while he was housesitting. With a call to my older sister to keep me distracted, I made my way down to the HR office. Here, I explained my plight of not being familiar with the area, not having a car with me, and not being sure if my ‘new’ hire paperwork at the beginning of the season had changed any insurance details.

After exclaiming that my wrist was “jacked” and surely broken, the HR lady settled down into a more helpful mode, conducting a monologue as she decided whether to call Urgent Care, or Colorado Medical Something Group before settling on an orthopedic office. “You’d just end up there anyway,” she declared across the room to me as she dialed. I sat and listed in a zoned-out fashion as she asked whether this doctor or that doctor was available, enquired after the birth of their babies, explained that she knew they were ankle specialists, but would they look at a wrist this once?, and finally procured me a 2:30 appointment in Vail. Wonderfully, the office ended up being in the U.S. Bank building, which was a place I knew exactly how to navigate to and the stress of having to locate a strange building on a deadline without a car was instantly lifted.

During this interval, the second HR worker had run over to Starbucks and procured a gallon of ice for me to lay across my wrist (and hand, and entire arm beneath the elbow, by the time it settled) and another, seemingly random, Beaver Creek employee had wandered through, pulled my chair off to the side counter and helped me elevate the injured arm.

Thus fussed over, I headed back to the apartment feeling somewhat diffused, although slightly more panicky over the thought of broken bones. I should have broken an arm trying to fly or a leg playing soccer back when I had childspeed healing and a centralized sympathy system, rather than face the threat of a broken wrist alone with a job that requires mobility from both hands. Serrendipitously, I came across a roommate at the bus stop, who insisted on carrying my backpack and the bag of ice that was now traveling with me, which made the isolation seem less extreme.

A pleasantly distracting Skype conversation with my one-year-old niece (“hi, hi, hi. Hi!” “Hi, Cori, how are you?” Flirtatious grin from urchin. “Hi,hihihihi, hi.”) passed most of the dead hours between making the appointment and having to prepare for and transport to it. Her mother may have contributed to the conversation here and there, as well… The bus ride to Vail was not pleasant, motion and pain combined to make my preferred method of distraction a no-go and I slipped the book back into my bag and stared out the window for twenty minutes instead. It was fun, though, to arrive in Vail and recognize locations.

I arrived at the office twenty minutes early, which was fortunate, since there were about twenty forms which needed to be filled out. One of the ‘girls in back’ sat with me and transcribed my answers until it was time for my awkward left-hand signatures. Then there were three x-rays, in manageable posiotions, and the PA came in. Being a medical professional, he looked at the swollen lump on my hand, poked it and asked me if it hurt. He took my exclamation of pain and recoil as an affirmative and decided that the first set of x-rays had been too easy. The fourth x-ray required pain, but ended up not showing much more than the original set. The PA explained his diagnosis, the possible options, and then disappeared. With my wrist elevated on my lab and a non-jouncing seat, I pulled out my book and amused myself for the fifteen to twenty minutes I awaited the doctor.

The doctor was slightly sneakier than the PA, poking the opposite side of my arm, opposite side of my hand, thumb, and under my knuckles before landing a finger on the swelling. Again, my jerk and cry seemed to make him realize that I didn’t appreciate the gesture and he, too, explained the theory.

My hand/wrist had enough welling and tenderness that they expected something to be broken, but all of the bones they could see clearly in the x-rays looked fine. It was possible that it was simply a bad sprain, but also possible that I had an occult (the PA took pains to explain that this didn’t mean it was Satanic) fracture of my scaphoid (bone between thumb and radius). Either I could schedule a nicely expensive MRI to determine instantly, or cast the wrist up for two weeks and take more x-rays after the cast came off. So, being the traditionally in-debt college graduate that I am, my right wrist is now in a stylish little black cast. In two weeks I will either have a healed sprain, or a fracture that they recommend casting for two months or, for a quicker fix, inserting a screw into. So now we wait.

Sadly, most kitchen tasks are designed for people with three or four hands. With ingenuity and experience, they can be managed with two hands, an elbow here and there and the occasional chin maneuver. In past kitchens, I’ve viewed people attempting to function one-handed and never been struck by an impression of efficiency or efficacy. Culinary paperwork is all well and good, but I doubt it can be stretched into 80 hours worth of busywork for the incapacitated employee. Not expecting to get much done on my leisure projects either – left handed running stitches might be possible, but I get frustrated with the sewing speed of my right hand, so unless the left has some hidden genius it’s ready to bust out…

Fortunately, I’ve already received offers of rescue should I end up unable to work and my pain levels seem to be decreasing, so I shall not yet despair.

Cats, Sleighs, Gondolas, and Busses

A bit off from the traditional ‘planes, trains, and automobiles’, but the overall concept is the same. My paths of travel are becoming better worn, although yesterday’s snow may have covered up most of the previously laid tracks. Without a car, I don’t go anywhere directly from the apartment complex. Instead, I walk about five minutes up to The Landing. That’s down three flights of stairs (inside), across the upper parking lot, down two flights of stairs (outside), across the lower parking lot, and along a short piece of sidewalk connecting the employee housing area to the more upscale guest areas.

From The Landing, options begin to branch out. A two-and-a-half mile stretch of paved walkway winds along and above the road up to Beaver Creek Village and the main base of the ski area. The bus stop is visited (ostensibly, at least) every ten minutes by Vail Resorts free busses which will move you from Landing to Village, to the wildly named Elk, Wolf, and Bear parking lots, and the other bastion of employee housing at RiverEdge, which holds the leasing office and package delivery. And now that we’ve hit mid-December, the mini gondola to the Avon Transit Center and the Bachelor Gulch chair lift run in opposite directions along the mountain. It was frustrating for the first weeks to continually be told ‘just take the gondola, it’s super easy’, when the gondola showed no signs of ever intending to be in motion. Now, however, I have had the opportunity to use it several times and it is rather convenient.

Early transportation exploration was hampered by my arrival schedule – travel on Sunday and Monday, new employee orientation on Tuesday, work on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. The work days were fairly short, but so is the daylight in these parts and wandering alone, around strange towns in the pitch black of 6:00 p.m. does not appeal to me. I was forced into a couple of trips by the need for provisions and supplies, but the circuitous routes I managed to navigate did not make me confident that I actually knew how to get anywhere directly. Matters were complicated by the fact that the town busses here stop running at 6:00 every evening, which seems odd and is certainly less than convenient when you work morning shifts.

Work transport, on the other hand, has been remarkably easy to unravel, following my first botched attempt. Let’s just say that when you’re told to make the employee service ride starting at 8:00, it would be useful if your contacts also informed you that it ends at 8:15 and if you, breathless, cold, and confused, show up at 8:17, you will be directed to wait in line for regular lift service to begin at 9:00. Once you actually make it onto the ride, however, it’s quite relaxing. The lift is a mix of chairs and gondola cabins and as foot traffic, you are requested to ride in the enclosed bubbles with the padded seats and 360 degree view out over the village and mountain ranges as it shuttles you about 3,000 feet up the mountain.

Once I’d begun adjusting to the gondola riding routine, I stopped filling in at the cafeteria-esque establishment at the top of chair 6 and had to begin meeting the snow-cat at the base of the mountain to be hauled up to my regular workplace located just above chair 1. Having only seen grooming ‘cats before, I was apprehensive about how exposed to the weather the kitchen crew would be. Would we be perched on the back in the open air, or stuffed uncomfortably into the cabin? Happily, our morning ride is more along the lines of climbing into the family suburban. It isn’t particularly decorative, but the seats are soft, the heater is warm, and the entire arrangement is enclosed with windowed walls that allow you to admire the snow with minimal exposure to it. The driver and the chef sit in isolated glory in the front cabin, while the rest of us goofily prepare for the morning in the back.

Coming down from a morning shift involves a bit more contact with that powdery white stuff that everyone around here enthuses about. It’s rather disconcerting to walk down the side of the ski mountain – I feel so out of place, trudging down with careful footing, while skiers and boarders swoosh along beside me, but after eight hours in the kitchen, the fresh air is pleasant and it isn’t far to the Buckaroo Gondola, which will rock you gently down the remainder of the slope if you make it to a cabin before 4:30. If you miss the gondola, but the mountain is still open, you can pick your way down the bunny hill, keeping a weather eye out for those children who have no fear of downhill speed, but are still struggling with the concept of steering.

Weddings and night shifts are less common, but bring in new techniques and challenges. One cannot catch a snowcat ride uphill while skiers are scattered across the mountain, so you hop onto the Buckaroo Express for the first stretch and then hike uphill to the cabin. The hike isn’t long, but the slope is steep and my calves whine about being forced to walk uphill so soon after uphill running became the norm. I’m still hopeful that it will become more effortless as the season wears on. It helps if there’s another afternoon shift co-worker making their way up – in front and you can chase them, behind and you can try to stay ahead.

The end of the nights when we have a dinner party of some sort are perhaps the prettiest mode of transportation, but also the chilliest. It’s a perk for the guests, open-air ‘sleighs’, drawn behind a ‘cat, but they don’t haul up a separate escape route for employees, so we hop on as well. The first night I rode a sleigh, the weather had been warm and the snow steadily melting for a week – but someone had parked the seats under a snow-maker, so they were quite icy. The night had that crystal clear quality you only seem to get in the cold and you could tip your head back and admire the entire expanse of stars, or look forward over the slope to see the glittery golden lights of the village. My only other ride, thus far, was in the first snowfall since Thanksgiving. The clouds hung so low that you could only peer out a little ways beyond the edge of the sleigh and the flakes were forming soft pillows on every exposed surface. Magical, but a shiver inducing type of enchantment. Fortunately, the bus stop in the village is full of heaters and still large enough to pace around until some of the absorbed damp has melted down and evaporated off.

And that’s what I’ve learned about ski and car free transport in Beaver Creek over the past three weeks. I have yet to venture out on a camera expedition, so you’ll have to take me at my word when I avow that between the street lamposts, the snow-laden evergreens, and the cobbled pathways, I’m pretty sure I’m occasionally passing into Narnia during my wanderings.

The New (Again)

Beaver Creek housing is shaping up to be much cozier than my past two rotations. I suppose I was getting a bit spoiled, with my own room and spacious kitchens (which, let’s be honest, I underutilized). Here, I share a bedroom with one other girl and have two more roommates across the living room. The kitchen is minuscule, but the bedroom is pleasantly spacious, and I managed to get all my little boxes and bags unpacked and squared away within our space. All the other girls are very friendly and helpful thus far, which, since we have to rub along together for five months, is a good way to start out.

IMG_0703.JPG

IMG_0702.JPG
Views of my half of the bedroom

I have yet to figure out a reliable way to travel to and from the lower town area, although I managed to meander to the grocery store once, but I have managed to find the base of the mountain and locate the lifts I’ll be using to access work. It’s a bit odd, not being able to actually walk to the place itself, but if past seasons are any indication, I’ll be steadily settled in a week or two.

The pattern of impressions and feelings is certainly holding true and in the uneasiness of the first week, I am holding to the little details of routine that I like to claim help me survive and maintain a semi-healthy level of sanity.

These details range from calculating the length of my stay in improbable fractions to visiting the grocery store as often as is on the inside edge of reasonable. 3/19 isn’t an easily envisioned fraction for me, but it’s a marker, proving to my frustrated brain that time is, in fact, passing. And even if I don’t need much from the store, I’ll wander the aisles and take comfort in the neat rows of food. I’ll admit, I’m not sure how much of my comfort comes from the fact that I don’t have to cook it all… Here in Beaver Creek, or BC according to the omnipresent resort symbols, I am having to become accustomed to a new grocery store, as the local City Market chain is the only location close enough to walk to easily. The rows of shelves still seem to work their soothing balm, though, so the adjustment hasn’t been terribly rough yet.

IMG_0708.JPG
Dinky little kitchen

I am still deciding how I want to deal with my running schedule – there’s no race looming in the distance to dictate what mileage I want to aim for in long runs and I’m still working through elevation change. I should certainly look for a hilly race for my next competition – my choices for running from the apartment are grueling uphill and then down to finish off, or relaxed downhill and then up to finish off. Eventually regular runs will happen, since they are the happiest way to shake out stagnant kitchen standing muscles and de-must my head with crisp air.

Since last season’s blog-a-week was frequent enough to share the good bits, but not over-pressuring to my various other scheduled events, I’m also trying to keep up with regular postings. And since this season is quite probably my last with Vail, I’ll be trying something I’ve hardly ever done – daily journaling. I kept one sporadically when I was 10-14 and journaled daily for the length of a trip to the east coast with grandparents, but daily for five months will be far and away the most I’ve tried for.

IMG_0707.JPG
The bedrooms hold two of us apiece, and all four of us share this living area, the bathroom, and aforementioned dinky kitchen.

So this is the blog recounting the five days into the first settling, wherein I become accustomed to elevation, living quarters, bus schedules, grocery store locations, roommates, and not-at-homeness. Next week, I up the ante and juggle everything from the first week along with the start of my official job, investigations into my chances for a regular schedule, meeting a new chef, learning how transport to and from work will be handled, and an abundance of people to talk to while having very few to talk with.

Tune in next week to see how far my sanity has crumbled.

IMG_0706.JPG
View from the balcony at the back of the apartment.

Zeniths of Beauty

It’s the single digit countdown, people. That part of the season when people wind down and pack up and head home. Coffee shops are quiet and spacious where a few weeks ago they were buzzing and crowded. Work shifts drag out until you wonder how many times it’s practical to deep clean the refrigerators in one week. And I lay down to sleep and happily squirm in the knowledge that I will be home soon.

But the word nostalgia exists for a reason and these are the last few days that my work contract will have me here in Jackson Hole, with a view of the Tetons right outside my bedroom window. Despite my hermit-like avoidance of social gatherings, I have become familiar with certain aspects of this place. There’s the coffee shop where I like to plug in and write these blogs. The main square park, where you can sit and people watch the crowded downtown shopping area and dodge tourists posing in front of the piles of elk antlers. The sidewalk stroll along Snow King Avenue that leads by a stream across the back of town, past parks, rodeo grounds, the summer fair, and ski lifts to the library and mountain side trails. The view from the top of Snow King, dropping down into the forest on one side, stretching across the entire town, elk flats, and foothills out to the Grand Tetons on the other.

There are the bridges and turns of the pathway where I ran many of my distance training runs, the back roads and neighborhoods where I went on shorter excursions. The hiking trailheads surrounded by lakes and the narrow trails that I’ve hiked in sandals, trail shoes, and barefoot. The spotless night sky, where you can see every star, with no city lights interferring.

Right now, the fall leaves are gorgeously softening the landscape. Spires of red, yellow, and the constant green of the pines cluster in front of the mountains and the musty scent of autumn floats everywhere. And because my days here are numbered nine to zero, I can relax into the changed beauty and enjoy my last glimpses of this breathtaking landscape.

The summer must have been beautiful as well, I’m sure some of my photos prove it, but right now the scenery is at its zenith. Partly, I have a partiality toward fall, but partly because it’s always easier to appreciate the not-home when you know home is almost within reach again. The last two summers here have been hard and fun and stressful and rewarding and full of laughter, complaints, joy, and pain. The scenes of Jackson will always have connections to certain memories now – the Albertson’s coffee shop where I waited for the bus that took me to my little brother’s wedding, the hillside trail where I had what will probably be my last long chat with my grandmother, the employee housing loop where I first really lived away from home.

This is the best part of any enterprise, the moment when you can pause at the end and reflect on what has happened, what has been accomplished and what has changed and wrap it all up in a sturdy list. And then you turn around and find yourself standing on the edge of a cliff again. Neatly summed up experiences and timelines behind you, you have to gather your breath for the next leap.

My housing deposit is due for the winter soon. I’m headed to Beaver Creek CO, nearly twice as far from home as my current location. And that will be the last one. It’s almost time to start thinking beyond the edge of this two year expedition, which seemed so huge and complicated when I started it. Last year, when people asked me if I’d be back in the summer, I said yes. This year, I murmur and evade. “Yes, it’s been fun, no, I don’t really want to commit to coming back next year,” just leads to more questions. You have to work around it with “I’m not sure”s and “I guess we’ll see”s. They don’t fool anybody, but they fill the social obligation of conversation.

For now, the only thing I need to be sure of is basking in the shining, fall sunlight and breathing in the wet, storm air. My suitcases are lining up by the apartment door, impatient to walk into the car trunk and secure in that, it’s easy to appreciate the last few days of my mountain summer.

It’s the Bear’s Knees

Couches in coffee shops; fresh, cold wind on a bike ride; random flakes of snow and miniature balls of hail; rambling chats with sisters and mother; window-shopping; lack of schedule or constraints – these are the lovely things about today.

(pictures probably to come, if I decide to actually go through the rigamarole that using my laptop to download photos from my camera has become.)

Less lovely is the stiffness in my knee which has been more or less constant for the past couple of weeks and has effectively curtailed my training runs. I was hoping that biking would not aggravate it, but it’s hard to tell if that hope will be fulfilled. The current twinges could still be results from Monday’s nine mile hike. Of course, on Monday, I blamed the twinges on Thursday’s four hour hike and on Thursday, I thought they might just be soreness from the previous week’s six mile run. It can be hard to pin these things down.

Even if the hiking did aggravate an injury, I can’t regret it. After a fairly dismal and grey August, the first week of September here was all crisp air, blue skies, and sunshine. Thursday, I hiked up into a meadow hidden within Paintbrush Canyon and despite trying to exercise some restraint, managed to snap 77 photos. I tried to get some panoramas to show the atmosphere created by the splashes of green and waterfalls in the center of the huge rocky points that are the ‘little’ mountains of the Tetons, but as always, nothing can quite compare to the actual experience. Standing on a rock in a clearing right after the forest falls away and spinning with head craned backward to see the sharp edges of grey against the bright skies can’t be replicated in any photo.

The wildlife highlight of that excursion was the moose, who placidly grazed in the bushes as a bunch of us hikers gathered on the wooden bridge and repeatedly tried to time our pushing of the shutter button with when it lifted its head.

Monday’s wildlife was a bit more stimulating. First, on the way up the hill, which we were still sweat free and relaxed, two young buck were casually walking along a few yards to the side of the trail and obligingly posed for photos without spooking off into the woods. As we continued the ‘STRENUOUS’ rated jaunt, I think our panting and low oxygen levels prevented any additional sightings on the upwards journey. Down was another mattter, though.

As my Russian co-worker and I began our descent from the mountain lake that we had climbed about 3,000 feet to admire, I noticed an odd animal in the bushes to the side of the trail. I stopped moving to process what I was seeing and then managed to call out, “Anastasia! Bear!”

Still processing what we were seeing, we backed up the trail until there was a more significant distance between us and the animal. Although we were excited to see a bear, we were also both relieved that the animal was clearly a fairly small black bear. Apparently, bears are one of those things that I’ve seen so many times in pictures that it was surreal to actually see one in person in the woods. Anxiety level wise, it was very different from watching the ZooBoise bear in its concrete pit. Then my companion noticed another, smaller bear, hanging out behind the first one and we began hearing an odd crying noise from the woods to our right. Nature videos paid off again and I said, “There must be another cub, hear him calling his mother?”

It was difficult to determine where the second cub was, so we hovered on the bend in the trail where we could be as far as possible from Mama Bear, while still being able to keep an eye on her movements. Since remaining stuck in that spot seemed like the wisest choice and noise is recommended during bear encounters, we kept up a stream of excited, nervous, adrenaline driven chatter and snapped photos of the unconcerned wildlife. Mama backtracked slightly toward her crying cub and then the three bears slowly meandered across the trail. Proving that she considered us insignificant, the mother bear then lay down in the middle of the meadow next to the trail, while the cubs scampered across the hillside fringes of forest.

Once we felt the cubs were far enough off the trail, we continued down the mountain, with a final friendly reminder to the family that picnicking on humans would be bad behavior. Moving slowly and staying alert until we had safely rounded a couple of switchbacks, we soon began passing a steady stream of uphill traffic. We let out some additional adrenaline by warning them about the imminent nature encounter and by the time we were another fifteen minutes down the trail, I no longer felt quite as panicky about the whole thing. Of course, this was when we encountered a pair of hikers who told us they had just seen a bear just a little bit further down the mountain. I guess they were all out enjoying the nice September weather as well? There was no additional bear sighting, although the warning certainly kept us alert during the remainder of our hike.

So now, having managed to wrack my mother with anxiety by telling her of the incident after the fact, and received properly silly advice on bear cub hugging from siblings, I can check another experience off my list and count down the last days of this second Teton summer secure in the knowledge that there are indeed bears in these mountains.

Chocolate Driven De-evolution

I know my college days are past and I’m supposed to be maturing in my habits, but this living alone isn’t terribly encouraging to that. My mother recently bemoaned not having made her bed for a day (possibly even two!) and began singing to herself to block me out when I sympathized by revealing how lax I’ve been in that department for the past three months. For the first time in my life, I’m drinking out of the milk carton (hey, I buy the cute little half-gallons now and am less afraid of dropping them on my head during the procedure), eating 50% of my meals sitting on my bed, and experimenting with the cooking powers of an electric kettle. Using a bowl and plate together with multiple applications of freshly boiled water, I have determined that I can cook nearly any type of pasta without leaving my hermit hole.

Yesterday, however, I sank to a new low. Last week, I purchased the necessary ingredients for baking brownies, feeling that I might have need of therapeutic baking in the near future. Yesterday, I took advantage of my foresight and used baking therapy to create a batch of brownies to be used as chocolate therapy. It was a very calming experience, it’s true, and I washed all my mixing bowl and wooden spoon immediately afterward in an extremely mature and prompt manner. We won’t discuss how many times I licked my fingers during that process, since that’s irrelevant, really. I condensed the 9×13 pan worth of batter into a single 9″ cake round, since that was the closest baking dish I had handy, and when it was finished baking, I …. well, I took a fork and ate them straight from the pan.

I don’t want to mislead you, I’ve eaten brownies from the pan before. When made at home, they will frequently sit out on the counter with a cookie spatula in the pan for quick and easy access. But there is still a pretense of civilized behavior, as we cut out a square of brownie and separate it from the remaining block of chocolate fudginess. Yesterday, I devolved past pretense. It was me, cross-legged on the bed, and the pan of chocolate in my lap. My first bites were dug directly out of the center of the pan and I didn’t stop until there was an Australia shaped hole. Looking back, I’m shocked to recall how far I fell – not even eating in a regular polygon shape.

But it gets worse still. Yesterday I wanted brownies for lunch, but I resisted, instead consuming an entire head of steamed broccoli before allowing myself to move on to the chocolate. This morning, upon awakening, even those inhibitions had dissolved and, still pajama’d, hair uncombed, bed unmade, I once more fell upon the brownies. I ate around the edges, I ate from the inside edges, there was no pattern or reason behind my attack.

Now you know the embarrassing tale of my chocolate-driven de-evolution. I am a living warning – the stuff is not safe. Each episode with this batch of brownies has taken me further down the dark hole of the etiquette-less. I look back and remember that I was reading Miss Manner’s Guide to Proper Behavior only a few short months ago and blush at how far I have fallen. And, like a dark cloud at the edge of my consciousness, is the remainder of the pan, sitting in my room, calling to me. Next time, I might not even remember to use the fork.

June, July, May, Cause Depression – Keep Ice Cream Medication At Hand

What does the end of July mean? It means August 1st. 4/7ths. 80 days spent in Wyoming and 59 days left in this rotation. It means that other seasonal people are starting to hunt for winter positions and various people at work are trying to talk me into returning next summer. Can I share the response that feels too blunt and prone to misunderstandings to give them? I don’t want to come back to Wyoming next summer, I don’t want to go back to Colorado next winter. Being away from home feels like one of those toxins that gradually builds up in your system, or the frogs in slowly heating water. You don’t really notice it until all at once it’s overwhelming (or, in the case of the frogs, you never notice and you’re dead). Last summer was hard in its own ways, like the weekend that I did get to visit home which involved twenty plus hours on busses full of strangers while suffering through a horrible head cold (I doubt anyone was thrilled to be sitting next to me and my bag full of handkerchiefs). When I signed on to this program over a year and a half ago, I didn’t expect it to lead to me sobbing through my bother’s wedding reception. Still, with the halfway mark in my rearview, I was hoping this summer would glide by.

Ever run across the notion that things get easier with time? This isn’t working that way. Sure, the logistics of it might be easier – I know better what’s happening when and who’s going to be doing it. The functions might be easier – if you asked me if last summer with no car and cafeteria food was better than this summer with car and kitchen, I’d say that yes, I prefer car and kitchen. But last summer I was only four months away from living at home. This summer I’m fourteen months away and that makes everything harder. Last summer I had one nephew to miss, this summer I have one nephew and two nieces who send me lots of photos that make me long to cuddle the chubbiness. My hug deficit is growing. I get to visit home for a few weeks after each rotation, but it is not enough to make up for five months of hug deprivation even with the high rate hug schedule my family allows me to use.

The drama this past week at work wasn’t helpful either. The surface issues are now resolved and the particular point of conflict shouldn’t arise again, but there is now one co-worker who I dread sharing shifts with. There’s a slight language barrier, but I still feel like she manipulates that and isn’t against lying to serve her own goals. This is not a comfortable sort of person to work alongside. My supervisors have assured me that they don’t hold me responsible for the conflict, but the stress of working past it feels like it’s falling on me as the ‘nice and conscientious one’. Sure, she may be holding a grudge and be resentful, but I’m always so pleasant to everyone, so can the drama just stop? So the conflict was dealt with, but the fallout is still to come and I’m rather dreading it. Lots of praying about finding the right blend of being pleasant, but not being bullied.

20140801-152106-55266625.jpg
this is me not thinking about conflict

My favorite subject of homesickness having been thrashed out once again, the end of July has also brought some more tangible accomplishments. I spent most of my evenings this month working on a story for the NaNoWriMo Camp cabin that my sister asked me to join. 50,200 words written in a month and camp is now over. The story isn’t finished, but I won’t be working on it as frantically anymore. I don’t think there was more than one night in July when I went to sleep before midnight, since that was the time of my word count daily deadline. I’m happy to have reached the goal and encouraged by the fact that I stuck with it for the entire month, but it’s going to be a relief to my schedule to have it done. The midnight deadlines interfered with my goal of transitioning my schedule from an 11 a.m. – 3 a.m. day to a more common 7 a.m. – 11 p.m. type of day and between training runs and writing goals I haven’t gotten much done on my culinary program checklist.

On the other hand, I ran nearly 85 miles in July, up from 76 in June and 29 in May. It makes me happy to look back at all the training runs that I dug into and completed. I’ve only skipped one run, due to a combination of muscle fatigue, nausea, and stress that made running seem like a very poor plan. I think the once-a-week long run definitely makes the time pass more quickly. You run twelve miles one day and suddenly it’s Monday again and you have to run twelve point five. When my schedule is my (current) typical Sat – Wed workweek, Thurs/Fri weekend, Mondays pass the quickest of any day of the week. Two and a half hours of running in the morning, eight hours of work, and my humpday ends with me falling into bed and passing quickly into sleep’s oblivion. Saturday is the slowest passing, falling as it does on the last day before I can scroll my calendar down one more week. I’m also rested from my two days off and have no scheduled run that morning.

Last week mixed my schedule up a bit, with me volunteering to work a six day week, since one of the night shift cooks had to leave due to a family emergency. Then, this week, my days off were split apart, because of a 320+ person catering event at the club. If I were diagnosing, I would say that the longer work weeks have probably been contributing to my frustrations, although I feel silly saying so, because I worked six day weeks all of last summer and many people at work are putting in more hours than I. Next week’s schedule is not yet posted, but the Sous Chef is switching his nights off for visiting family, which can’t help but affect my schedule. So we’ll see. The month August may involve more self-pity and ice cream medication, or perhaps it will go smoothly and pleasantly (please). I have Trenchcoat Escapades: Mirror’s Poison, to look forward to in the latter half of the month, will probably hear where I’m being sent for the winter somewhere mid-month, get to check off the milestones of 5/8ths, 3/4s, and 7/9ths, and hope to complete a couple of fourteen mile runs.

July, June, May, done. Deep breath, don’t panic. August and September, home. And I force myself to enjoy the fact that the chefs and kitchens I’ve been with during this program all want me to come back and work for them again, while remembering that I am not in any way obliged to do so. August, September, home. And the last rotation beckons.