Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Bathroom Zombies: The End is Nigh

Who would have thought it would end like this? Cowering in a bathroom stall with my pants around my ankles, hand over mouth to keep my fear-wimpers silent... this was not the heroic ending I had imagined.

"HRNNNNNNNNNNNNG!" The moan echoed through the bathroom.  The stall was shaking with the force of the zombie's blows.

I knew it was a mistake to go into a different bathroom.  I should have waited.  I should have.. I don't know.  Held it.  And now it was too late.

I watched the floor, waiting for the pool of blood to reach me.  Not that I could see the pool of blood yet, but I knew it was there.  Somewhere.  Spreading slowly from the stall at the end, carrying it's zombie pathogens closer and closer across the ugly tile floor.

I thought I was prepared for the zombie uprising.

Obviously not.


 The day started off simple enough.

I woke up to my alarm.  I didn't shout "FUCK" at the top of my lungs like I usually do because we have company with little kids.  While I am not opposed to teaching my nieces how to cuss, I am not sure how my brother would feel about it, so I held back.

Probably a mistake.

Not cussing first thing in the morning always throws me off.

I fixed my one slice of crunchy peanut butter toast and one piece of strawberry jam toast (both dripping with butter of course), cracked open a Diet Mountain Dew, and sat down to read my book.  Three cats and two dogs milled around waiting for me to acknowledge them, but I ignored them.

At 7 I showered, and I was actually out the door at 7:30 (on time for once) and headed south to work.

I was in my desk at exactly 8AM, logged into my work email, reading blogs, checking facebook, checking Google+, reading the news, and working on Diet Mountain Dew number TWO for the day.

By 9 AM, I was ready to get started with my real work, so I got up to go to the bathroom before I peed my pants.

Two Diet Mountain Dews in the morning have that effect on me.

I work in a place with cubicles.  I may have mentioned this before.  I will now attempt to describe it in more detail without giving away any actual information about where I work, or what I do for a living, and without giving away any trade secrets by mistake (because I don't actually know any (of which I am aware (I don't know, they may be secret))).

Back in the dawn of time (somewhere in the 1990's I think), my Corporate Job Place was built, and some time later, an addition was added to it in order to make navigation more difficult.  The ceiling is between 15 and 40 feet high in this particular cubicle farm, with padded grayish-cream colored cubicles set in neat little rows (they are the color of old lady teeth).  They are a bit over five feet high, so if I stand on my tippy-toes, I can see the foreheads of other people walking around in the alleys between cubes.  I am very good at identifying my coworkers by their foreheads.

Every three or four rows are taller cubicles that are maybe 7 feet high.  These cubes have doors, but no ceilings, and they call them "offices".  The top two feet are made out of Plexiglas, and remind me of snot-guards they put over cafeteria food.

Everything is identical:  Carpet, padded walls, drop ceiling, hanging fluorescent lighting, and there are little signs on the ends of the cubicle rows with number letter combinations so that you can find your way (if you are a wizard and can read that kind of thing).

Anyway, for me to go to the toilet, I need to walk through rows and rows of oddly quiet cubicles to the main hallway of the building.  At the north end of the hallway is the closest bathroom.

Today, that bathroom was getting cleaned.

I stood there, looking at the bright yellow cart and doing the pee dance while I tried to decide what to do.

I could:
  1. Go upstairs to the bathroom directly above
  2. Walk down the hall 100 yards to the next bathroom
  3. Hold it
  4. Piss on the floor
I opted for idea number two, although I was strangely attracted to idea four.

Going down the hallway, I passed the glassed-in humidity control rooms with robots (and I believe it is where they are developing the zombies) to my left.  This area reminds me of the Hive in Resident Evil, only not filled with zombie water.  Yet.

I walked into the girl's bathroom and stopped dead.

It was dark.

Not so dark that I couldn't see, just... dimNot bright.  It wasn't just the flickering florescents, either.  The tiles were a dark pre-stressed terra-cotta color, instead of the medicinal light gray of the other bathroom, and it made the stainless steel stalls look sinister (OK, alltogether now, say, "Sinister stainless steel stalls" 5 times fast).


I had to go.

I walked into the first stall and locked the door.

The first thing I noticed was that there was a pile of used toilet paper on the edge of the bowl inside.  I waved at it.  Well, I waved at the toilet in general, as it is a motion detection type of toilet and I was trying to get it to flush.

When that didn't work, I searched for the little override button, found it, and pressed.

The wheezing toilet trickled through a ridiculously un-satisfying flush, failing to move the toilet paper.

Fuck it.  I had to go NOW.

It was such a relief at this point, that I may have groaned slightly in pleasure when I finally released.

And that's when I heard it.

Shuffle shuffle.



Shuffle shuffle.

Somewhere off to my right deep in the bowels of the bathroom, I had woken up a sleeping zombie. It must have wandered into the handicapped stall before I had come in, and accidentally locked itself inside.



Could I sneak out before it broke loose?  It was passive when it was alone, but as soon as I entered, it started moving around again.  These bathroom stalls were NOT going to keep me safe from a zombie.

"HRNNNNNNNNNNNNG!" The moan echoed through the bathroom. 

I thought about just darting out and running into the main hallway.  I could run faster than most of the engineers out there, and it was sure to get distracted by the easier meat (and bigger brains), but that left me with the problem of pulling up my pants and washing my  hands.  I couldn't leave the bathroom without washing my hands.  I was raised better than that.

The toilet I was sitting on decided at that moment that it was time to flush with a great big WHOOOOSH!

I jumped up, yanking up my pants and darting from the stall.  I shoved my hands under the sink, which today decided it would be scalding hot rather than icy cold.  I frantically rubbed my hands together under the spigot,  pumped the foaming soap like a madwoman, then rinsed quickly but thoroughly.

I waved my hand in front of the paper towel dispenser, and it made its loud WHIRRRRRRRRR noise as it spit out slightly more towel than I needed.

I ripped it off and dried my hands and was just tossing it in the trash when the stall on the end opened.

I turned to meet my fate.  I had no weapons, nothing.  I was zombie meat.

"Hi, Leauxra."

It was one of the managers.  She use to be mine, actually, maybe three or four bosses ago.

"Hi," I said, groping for something to say.  The adrenaline pumping through my system, I had to force my fists down.  "Lovely weather, don't you think?"

"Yeah, it's so nice to have cloudcover."

"Yeah," I said.  "See you."

I walked out of the bathroom and back into the blinding brightness of the main hall, and I couldn't help but wonder:  What was she doing in there, having a baby?

Today, I have learned an important lesson.  I must be boy-scout-like in my preparedness.  I must ALWAYS be prepared.  Because the zombies are coming, folks.  They're coming.

Friday, July 22, 2011

How Did I Get to be So Ridiculous?

I was frantically shoving a sandwich into my mouth  after working out the other day, and I almost bit my finger.

And then I bit my tongue.


I tried to keep chewing my peanut butter and jelly sandwich while my eyes teared up.  I kept thinking, "It's OK, it isn't that bad.  The pain will fade," but it kept hurting.

It was like stubbing your toe, but instead of the pain fading, it gets worse and worse.  I unintentionally let out a very zombie like moan from my cubicle before I could stop myself.


My PB&J tasted like blood and strawberries.

It hurt for hours.  I took to sticking out my tongue when I thought no one was looking because it hurt to have my it inside my mouth.  It hurt to eat. It hurt to talk.  It hurt to drink beer.

Boyfriend caught me "resting my tongue out" and laughed at me.  I tried to explain that my tongue hurt too much to keep inside my mouth, but I'm sure I looked really stupid talking with my tongue sticking out like that, so I can't blame him at all for continuing to laugh.

As bad as it was, though, it did heal, and I forgot about it.

A few days later, I was driving to work.

Maybe my tongue was still swollen from the previous mastication accident.

Maybe I was THAT out of practice blowing bubblegum balloons.

Maybe the Extra sugar-free gum I was chewing was just that AMAZING.  Seriously, their apple pie gum is shockingly flavorful.

Maybe I was distracted by the hot air balloon descending from the sky that looked like it was about to land on the roof of the building where I work.

And who the hell gets to buzz around in a hot air balloon on a Wednesday morning?  I am extremely upset about the unfairness of it.  How was I supposed to know that my lifelong dream was to be a hot air balloon pilot?


I was driving along, singing off-key to the radio, and chewing gum.  I was (for once) having a good driving experience, even though I was going to work.

I was in a little town called Hygene. 

I remember thinking that it was too bad that this town was so expensive because I would love to live there.  It's so cute.  I wondered if there was a bar, because that would make it perfect.

And then I bit my tongue.


My voice went from badly singing the refrain from "Little Lion Man" on the radio (filling in the Fuck-word where the radio deleted it out) to howling like a little baby.

I felt something hit my lap with a little thump and bounce away.

"Holy shit, I just bit off my tongue!" I thought as I swerved back and forth across the road, narrowly missing a car coming the other way as I searched for the severed piece.

I would probably speak with a lisp for the rest of my life, and not be able to say the "L" sound anymore.  I wouldn't even be able to say my own name, it would be like, "Wah-rah" or something.  Can hospitals reattach tongues? Shit shit shit shit shit!


My fingers wrapped around the gum on the floor that had fallen out of my mouth.

I stopped at the single intersection in town, pretending to be OK even though my mouth was throbbing.  Pretending seemed to work until I noticed the guy that sells coffee in a nearby parking lot was staring at me.  Probably because I had my tongue dangling limply out of my mouth with a bit of drool dripping off the end.

I gassed the car without looking, and almost ran into an SUV.

They had good reactions, though, and we didn't die.

Images of dismembered bunnies floating through my brain, the taste of blood in my mouth, I pulled into the parking lot at work without further incident.  I concentrated on keeping my tongue inside my mouth.

There are a bunch of prairie dogs and bunnies out in that field.  Those jerks who think they're so special, flying around when other people have to work.  Probably going to get the plague.

The hot air balloon I had seen earlier was descending in the field behind the parking lot, and I stopped to watch it after I got out of my car.  It wasn't pretty anymore.  It was annoying with its bright rainbow pattern.

Damn balloon distracted me.


I flipped it off before turning away, realizing too late that I had also just flipped off the security camera in the parking lot.

P.S. Yes, you're right.  The pictures of the balloon were taken on two separate occasions, because whoever that hot air balloon pilot is, he apparently gets to "ballon" just about every day, the damned showoff.

Friday, July 15, 2011

"Lucky" Rabbit Feet

Let me start by saying that although a picture is worth a thousand words, no one wants to see that shit, not even people on the internet, so I will just tell the story the hard way instead.

And this is kinda gross, so if you are eating, you may not want to read on.

You've been warned.


Boyfriend and I went for a walk after work.  I had had a shitty day, and it was nice to relax on the bike path.  The path went through some wheat fields and meandered near some man-made creeks and canals.  The sun was shining and the streams were overflowing.

I mean seriously, isn't this fucking beautiful?

Also?  The building way the hell out there is a pharmaceutical company that may or may not be responsible for the upcoming zombie apocalypse.   Just FYI.

I was taking some pictures of flowers, because I get endless enjoyment out of talking shit to the little showoffs.

Boyfriend laughed every time I did my little "spider dance" as a daddy-long-leg skittered across the hot pavement, and every time I said something like, "Wow, look at that shit!  It's so fucking beautiful!"

I was in a cussing mood, and yes, with every f-bomb, I felt a little better.

Cut your hair you damned hippie!
We walked for a ways.  The clouds that had been threatening to give us an afternoon thunderstorm dissipated and it started to get warm.

On the way back to the cars, we discussed wheat and drainage ditches, flowers, and how carrying a rain jacket is a sure way to make sure that it would never rain again. We passed geese and other chirpy chirp birds, the occasional bicycle rider zoomed by on our left.

I guess what I am saying is that the walk helped.  I stopped feeling like I was going to cry from work.  I started feeling like life was OK again.

Wheat?  Grass?  What, do I look like Farmer Joe to you?
Since we met at a park, we had two cars, and we were driving back to his place separately.

I tried to hold onto my peaceful calm even though that fucking Subaru cut me off and then slowed down, the little asshole.  I didn't honk or scream at him once.  I was like, a total Zen-fucking-Master.

A while later, we got stuck when I was following Boyfriend as a train passed.  I turned off the car and watched the boxcars roll by.  Some of them had some amazing artwork on the sides, and I was determined to enjoy the free vandal art show.  

One had fancy letters and the world "Chicago", and I wondered if it was where they were from, where it had been tagged, or maybe someone's "road name" or something (I have been researching a possible career move to riding the rails, and they all get road names apparently).  

Another one just looked like random scribbles, followed by "Eat my dick". The handwriting was that of a 6 year old, if they were particularly bad at writing.  Little asshole.  Can't even make the tag pretty.

Before I had a chance to really stew about it, though, the train ended and we continued driving.

Boyfriend lives in a basement out in the country with his two cats, Tais and George. The cats wander free in the large backyard, and probably range into the nearby horse pasture occasionally as well.

Every week or two, George likes to bring home a present... a half-eaten vole, a bird, a bat.  Whatever he gets his greedy little claws on.  Cats are built for killing, they have FIVE pointy ends.  They are born assassins.

Today was different.

I stood in awe, trying to piece the... pieces... back together in my head.  What had it been?

It looked like it had exploded.

"Oh," I said.

Boyfriend: "What?"

Me:  "Look."

He looked.  "Yeeesh," he said.

Me:  "What was it?"

Boyfriend: "Was it a rabbit?"

Me:  "Oh, yeah.  That's a bunny ear." (And yes, "Stuck in the Middle" by Stealers Wheel started playing in my head.  Just think "The ear scene in Reservoir Dogs".  That song.)

Boyfriend went upstairs to get a shovel to clean it up, and I just kind of stood there and stared at all the little limbs.  I bent down for a closer look.  After a few minutes, I realized that I was looking at part of the head, with one of the ears still attached.  The other ear was several inches away.

Over there was the cute little fluffy tail.

I didn't want to know what that weird bratwurst shaped grey organ over there, or that liver-like... uh... liver... uh.  Nevermind.

Boyfriend came with the shovel, and tried to shove it under the various pieces in order scoop them into the trash bin.

It seemed to work for a second, picking up bits of bone and the head.  But then it just kind of rolled over a piece of fur in a sickening way.  

Boyfriend:  "I need a stick or something.  This won't work."

Me:  "I can pick up the pieces."  I said it without really thinking about it.  I realized I would be fine as long as I couldn't smell anything, and I had plastic of some kind between myself and the bitty bunny bits.

I wrapped my arm in a trashbag, pinched my nose with the other hand, and started. Leg.  Leg.  Cotton tail.  I picked up the head and tossed it quickly as it crossed my mind that I kind of wanted to do a scene from Hamlet with it, and it wasn't appropriate and WHAT THE HELL IS WRONG WITH ME THIS IS GROSS, WHAT AM I DOING? Yeah, bunny's name is Yorick.

I got most of the things into the trash.  I tossed the bratwurst without any trouble.  But the liver-thing was still there.

Flattened.  Dark red.  I closed my eyes for a moment, grabbed and tossed.

It was squishy an cold, and left a blood stain on the carpet.

I tore off the bag and walked away, heaving slightly.

"Texture.  Not.  Good." I managed to say, then started washing my hands, scrubbing furiously.

Boyfriend did the rest once the big bits were all gone.

Yuck.  I mean Yorick.  I mean.  I don't know what to say now.

George came up, wanting to cuddle.  Was that carrion on his breath?  Yeah, not right now kitty kitty.


Something I have learned about myself today:  I don't have a problem picking up cute little half-eaten bunny heads, scattered ears and feet, fluffy tails, and assorted bones, but squishy organs make me heave.

Do you ever do something like this and quietly give thanks to parents that allowed you to watch HBO when you were 6 so that you are thoroughly desensitized to body parts as a grown up, or is that just me?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Come Play With Us

Have you ever been to a bar with no booze?  

I did that.  Last weekend.  Crazy, right?

Instead of beer and liquor, they had dolls.  And while I do not actually have a pathological fear of dolls, I am working on it.

No, really.

This happened.

I was startled as I walked up to the building when I saw their glassy eyes peering out from behind the gate.

I knew it was going to be a booze-less day.  I'm usually fine with that.

It was Boyfriend's step-mom's father-in-law's (it's complicated) birthday party.  I only knew a half a dozen people and expected to spend the day feeling like a party-crasher, but I still thought I could handle it.

And then I saw them.

The infestation.

I tried to laugh at the doll in a cage.  "What did she do to get in there?" I laughed.  But I was uneasy.  They locked her up for a reason.

When I walked in to the place, I thought, "INTERESTING."  

I am not sure if I meant "interesting" in the "wow, this is a fascinating collection of memorabilia" way, or "interesting" in the "walked in on an episode of Hoarders" kind of way.

Either way, my first thought was to take some pictures.  So I could share.

Some of the dolls appeared to be scouting out the escape route.

The problem is that if you take lots of pictures, you end up looking at the things you're photographing more than you would have, and you have photographic proof that it actually existed. 

The fear and memories don't fade like they are supposed to.

This doll was out in the main hall.  She was particularly upsetting because she kept a photograph of her first victim in a frame on her lap.
Sure, I have always been a bit creeped out by toys.  As a child, I was both obsessed with obtaining them and fearful of their reprisals if I hurt their feelings.

I have always laughed a little bit at the people who told me they were afraid of dolls.

I am sorry.

I was being insensitive.

Please accept my apology.

I just didn't understand.

I honestly thought dolls were pretty and maybe a little bit misunderstood.

"You can't escape us, Leauxra. "
But I was wrong.

"There is nowhere to hide from us, Leauxra."

Dolls look almost human, but behind their eyes is nothing.  Dead.  Reflective. Waiting.  Wait... something?

"You can try to lock us up, cage us..."

You can figure it out if you are brave enough to stare deeply into a doll's eyes.

It's jealousy.

Jealousy that humans get to walk around and feel things, and all the dolls have is the hard rubber skin.  

They are jealous of our skin.  

They are jealous of our feelings.  They are jealous of our anima.  They are jealous of our souls.

 "...but we are many."

They do not age, they do not change.  They collect the secrets of little girls silly enough to confide in them.  Over the years, they take a piece here, a piece there, they build a strange patchwork soul for themselves.

They are patient. 

"...and we will never stop."
So yes.  I get it now.

Dolls are scary and really do want to eat your soul.

You've been warned.

"Shut up shut up just leave me alone!  I'm not scared of you!"

P.S.  Yes, I know I have a huge forehead.  And it's shiny.  Just shut up about my enormous melon, please.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Pokes and Jabs and Stings and Tatoos (or "Musings on Mosquitoes")

Pokes and Jabs:

Boyfriend stepped on a nail two days before we left to go backpacking.

It wasn't deep, and it wasn't messing up his walking, but was worried he would get lockjaw or something.  I had just written about how my booster shot was totally overdue, so the night before we left, we headed over to Walgreens so we could get immunized.

I glanced at the factoid sheet about the shot while the nurse practitioner chatted. She upsold us on the idea that we should get the pertussis vaccination at the same time. It's something "they" added to the booster shots several years ago, and "they" want you do do it once as an adult.**

Boyfriend was a little worried about the addition to a tried and true booster shot, but relented when I said I would get the pertussis one with the others under the "might as well" flag.  Who knew how long it would be before I decided to do this again?

Boyfriend went first, and it was a done deal remarkably fast. While the nurse alcohol swabbed my arm, he started really reading the factoid sheet.  I had seen the information about the possible moderate and severe side effects, but hadn't bothered reading carefully.

"One in four adults who receive this shot will experience sleepiness," he read.

The nurse stuck a needle in me and I fought to not cry like a little baby.  I was startled by how much it hurt, but tried to be a grown up.  "Huh," I said.

"One in five will get nausea."

"We're going backpacking tomorrow," I said to the nurse, "If we get one of these side effects, it would be before we left, right?" 

"You'll be fine," she said.  Thank you for not answering my question, lady.

I looked at the fact sheet while she Band Aid-ed my arm.  Nausea.  Diarrhea.  Also, my arm felt like someone punched me really hard.


Just what I wanted on a backpacking trip.

Luckily, we were living in the lap of luxury, and this toilet was only about a 40 minute walk away, uphill and through snow.  It even has three walls!  THREE!

Stings and Tattoos:

I started feeling a little sick on the second day of our trip.  I didn't know if it was something I ate, allergies, elevation, dehydration, or what, but I was a bit woozy.  It occurred to me that I was feeling some side effects from the shot because I was also super-duper tired.

It was also possible that I was about to die of hypochondria.

I decided to take a little nap under a tree near the tent, sort of in our "dining area", hoping that some rest would make me feel better.

I dozed for a few minutes, but woke up again when the sun went behind a cloud and the temperature dropped a few degrees.

Boyfriend came over to check up on me, and in the middle of a sentence, reached out to brush a mosquito off my forehead.  It exploded with my blood.  That little asshole was EATING ME.

Mosquitoes love me for some reason.  It's like they take a sip and they're all, "Hey bitch, you taste good.  Gimme some more of that shit!"

Either I'm just hot (temperature wise) or there is so much sugar in my blood that they just CAN'T FRICKIN' RESIST me.  Serious.  Medical science will figure it out one day.

I had been bitten several times that day even with the Skintastic with DEET I'd been spraying on myself, but I am use to it so it was almost tolerable.

Frustrated, cranky, and still tired, and now bit on the forehead, I decided to go lay down in the tent for a bit.  The bite was aching, though, so I decided to see how bad the mosquito bite really was, and took a self portrait.

Am I sexy now?

Yeah, I should never have looked.

I curled up into a little ball among the sleeping bags and passed out for about an hour.

When I got up again, I decided to pull out the big guns.

100 percent DEET.


It occurred to me that maybe all the DEET was what was making me sick.  That shit is CRAZY.  If I forget to double bag it in my pack, it will EAT THROUGH THE MATERIAL.  For reals.  There is a three page warning on the back of this bottle starting with the following statement:

"It is against federal regulation to use this product in a manner inconsistent with its labeling"

Seriously?  What will it do?  If I drink it will I develop some kind of mosquito repellent superpower and finally be able to join the Justice League?  These guys need to be more specific.

This stuff did seem to work.  Either that, or the fumes made me so high that I didn't notice anymore.  Either way, WIN!

That night I had a dream that I joined a secret society and this lady tattooed my forehead in her kitchen.  It was a ridiculous looking six-shooter and some bullets that had wings.

Thanks, brain, I needed that.

**I have no idea who "they" are, but the nurse practitioner kept talking about "them" and "they" and I was a little afraid of asking.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Identify Them Thar Flowers, Kids

I had this brilliant plan.

I am not good at identifying star constellations, pine trees, birds, fishes, insects, rocks... pretty much anything.  But it seems like everyone gets to impress people with some intricate knowledge in the outdoors except for me.  Have you ever been around a person who hears a bird chirp and will tell you that it is the red-bellied meadow thrush or some shit?

Well, I want to be that person.

Picking at random, I want to be able to identify flowers in the mountains.

Bringing the flower identification book is a huge pain in the ass though, because it weighs about as much as  everything else in my pack combined. 

So I came up with this brilliant plan.

Are you ready for this?

OK.  I was going to take pictures of flowers, and then look them up in my handy dandy book later, at my leisure back home, while sipping a beer and feeling smart.  I even went so far as to make a mental note as to where each picture was taken, how big the flowers were, and anything else I could think of that would help me to identify them later.

So here you go.


  • Some kind of orchid, maybe?  Does Colorado have orchids?  I think I will name this one, "Attacked by a hoard of screaming mosquitoes so I couldn't sit still long enough to get a good picture" flower.  Screw you.
Yeah, this is going to work
  • This flower can survive being submerged in icy snowmelt water for at least part of the day.  Are you a water lily of some kind?
Let's call this a "Marsh Marigold".  I guess.   (Caltha leptosepala)  Maybe. The book does say it blooms close to receding snowbanks and in wet places high in the mountains.  Doesn't say anything about "underwater" though.  This is also known as "Elk's Lip" for some vague and arcane reason.
  • Wait, are you the same flower as above in a different color?  Wait, you are different?  Try being more individual next time.
A "Globeflower", (Trollius laxus) it also likes wet places in the mountains.  Duh.
  • The most boring flower in the world.
"Heartleaved Bittercress" is in the mustard family, which I guess makes it slightly more interesting because I really like mustard.  (Cardamine cordifolia)  Alpine stream banks and blah blah blah, yup.  That's totally it.
  • Scratch the above.  THIS is the most boring flower in the world.
This flower is apparently too boring to exist.  It's not listed.  Therefore, it doesn't exist.  It's like bigfoot, only much, much plainer.
  • Actually pretty, although a little small, really.  Try getting bigger next time.
I was going to say this looked like a violet.  It's called a "Blue Violet", which is kind of funny because that's just two color names.  (Viola adunca)  Or some hybrid because they cross breed easily, the little sluts.  Also known as a "shrinking violet" because it is all pretending to be shy.  We know what you're really like, no need to be coy.
  • I can fly!  I am also a complete mystery!
Yeah, seriously, no idea.  Maybe it hasn't actually bloomed yet.
  • WHAT ARE YOU?  There are only a million billion of you on the side of the hill here, and NOT ONE open bloom?  Not ONE  overachiever?  Well, fuck you, flower.  Fuck you.  I hope you get eaten by a moose.
"Kinnikinnick" maybe?   (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi) The book says it's a "creeper", which totally works in my mind.  This flower is also known as "Bearberry".    THAT'S comforting.  It grows on the coast OR in the high mountains.  Make up your mind already.  Apparently it has a medicinal use of being able to control sexually transmitted diseases.  Who knew?
  • Shit, I guess I did take a good picture of this flower later.  What do you know, it IS an orchid.  Did I call it or what?  I am frickin' amazing.
"Calypso", or "Fairy Slipper".   (Calypso bulbosa) Apparently fairies have strange feet.
  • EW!  A bug!
This might be a "Heartleaf Arnica" which is the the sunflower family.  Like an idiot, I didn't get a picture of the leaves,  and there are a lot of yellow flowers that look similar to this one.   (Arnica cordifolia)  If I'm right, and I am usually right, right? it lives pretty much everywhere in the west.  I think I'll just call it a "wild sunflowery thingy that flies like".
Yeah, I'm totally an expert.

Maybe I need to get a good map of star constellations next.  Or edible mushrooms.

Also, I keep saying "kinnikinnick".  "Kinnikinnick!"  "Kinnikinnick!"  Kinda fun.  Except now the word is kind of stuck in my head, like a song without a tune.   "Kinnikinnick!"

Stupid kinnikinnick.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

A Moose Among Us

Because I am insane, I think it's a pretty good time to go camping.

I am not talking about pulling a trailer up to the plugs at the KOA, and I'm not talking about throwing some lawn chairs and a cooler full of beer into the back of the truck and heading to the woods to make a giant bonfire.  Those things are fun and all, but when I say I like "camping", I am talking about putting everything I need to survive in a backpack and then heading for the hills.  Not in a car.  Using my feet.


Told you I was crazy.

Boyfriend and I decided it was time to take our first trip of the year on the 4th of July weekend.

We swaggered into the backcountry permit office and told the ranger we would take "whatever" if it was around 6 miles in and open.  It's a busy weekend and we didn't plan ahead.  We ended up getting a spot in a place called the Tonahutu Meadows on the west side of Rocky Mountain National Park.

This was our first view of our home for the next two nights.

It was a relatively comfortable spot, even if the meadow was completely swampy and had more bugs than I would like.  Our camp was in the trees, so there was still a bit of snow here and there, but we managed to make ourselves a nice temporary home.   

The Incident happened on the second night of our stay.

It had been a lazy day.  I had been writing bits and pieces here and there, thinking I might have something worthwhile to say about the woods. It wasn't exactly a journal, more a record of some thoughts that crossed my mind and notes about things I wanted to make sure I would remember later.

While we drank our last little bit of hot cocoa before turning in for the evening, I wrote the following:

"If you're worried about wildlife, and think that even the deer and bunnies are out to get you, make sure you have your camera out and ready at all times.  It is the best wild animal repellent there is."

I wrote this because about a year ago I had run offtrail to pee at on another backpacking trip, and left my camera with my boyfriend.  Not 20 feet later, I almost walked into an elk.  We were maybe 5 feet apart when we noticed each other.  It was relatively young, so it didn't know what to do anymore than I did, and it looked at me with the stupidest expression I have ever seen on such a noble creature.  Its tongue was sticking out a little, it looked buck-toothed, and it's eyes looked crossed in startlement.

I slowly backed away and I vowed to never ever set down my camera ever again while in the backcountry for any reason.  Ever.

Anyway.  The Incident...

If I hadn't written that bit about the camera, would the moose have avoided us?

If I'd brought my camera, would they have steered clear?

Am I just being superstitious?

Bed time is relatively early while backpacking.  After all, what are you going to do after dark?  We couldn't even have a campfire at this particular site, so there was no reason to stay up.

Since you can't risk leaving dirty dishes around for fear of attracting bears, we were walking to our dish-washing spot in the meadow a couple hundred feet from camp to clean up after cocoa.

A moose wandered into the other end of the clearing, maybe 100 yards away.

Boyfriend and I laughed a little that I didn't have my camera (I had brought it with me to the privy earlier in the day just in case.  And now I didn't have it.

I set everything down on the ground, thinking I would go to retrieve my camera, when Boyfriend said, "There's a calf."

My heartrate spiked a little.  I did NOT want to be around a mama moose and a calf.  I glanced back, but  continued on for my camera.

Things got a bit chaotic for me at this point.

Something, maybe us, maybe the mama moose that had entered the scene, spooked the first moose, and it took off running.  It charged through our dishwashing spot and disappeared into the woods behind our camp. It then popped out moments later after crashing through the undergrowth,  and charging through the trees, snapping branches and making a racket.

It was like some kind of monster, and I swear I saw fangs as it veered towards me.  I did the only thing I could think of doing, and dodged behind a large tree.  Somewhere in my brain came the thought that this was a young moose, maybe a yearling, and that we were lucky it wasn't some huge male with antlers bigger than my car.

The moose passed within 15 feet of me, and turned again in it's pounding run towards the creek.

Here's a map I drew of the incident in my little notebook (not to scale).  And yes.  Everything I know about drawing maps I learned from J.R.R.Tolkien.  What of it?

We were between our camp and the small stream to the west, although we completely lost track of each other while the moose was running.

Once it was going away instead of towards me, I hurried back to camp for my camera like it was some kind of magic talisman.

Boyfriend asked me to pick up his trekking poles while I was there.   He was still on the edge of the clearing watching the moose (Mooses?  Meeces?  Multiple Moosi?) and I asked him what good they would do, what was he going to smack at it while it pushed him into the ground?  But I picked them up and handed them to him.

What were we going to do?  What if they bedded down nearby? What if they stomped on our tent?

Holy crap, adrenaline.

I could still see the no longer running moose stopped and flipping its ears around a couple hundred feet away.  Mama and baby were slowly exiting the meadow on the far side.

Maybe the camera WAS a talisman.  Those huge animals faded into the darkening meadow before I could turn on my camera.

No, seriously, there is a moose mama and calf out there, about dead center in this photo.  I am totally not making this up.  It was mostly dark, and they were pretty far away.

And THIS is why I will never be a wildlife photographer.  Wildlife scares the shit out of me.  That little dark spot in the middle is the running moose after it stopped.  I think it was pleased that it scared us.

We were up pretty late after that.

Yeah, I will stick to taking pictures of trees and mountains and rainbows, and leave the animals to someone braver than me.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Fortune Favors the Brave

Fear is a funny thing.

I have a lot of phobias.

Spiders.  The dark.  Aliens.  Shadow-monsters-that-want-to-crawl-in-through-my-nose-and-possess-me.  Heights.  Trolls.  Spiders.  Yoga.  Closed in spaces.  Open spaces.  Driving.  Getting lost. Vegetarians.  Spiders.

I am pretty much afraid of everything.

Every day I wake up and realize that there is a whole new day of fear and dread ahead of me.

For example:  I woke up this morning, and had a slight headache.  I thought, "Huh.  This is it.  I have a blood clot in my brain. When I move, it is going to block an a essential artery and I am going to die of a sudden, massive, aneurysm."  The thought made my heart rate spike for a second, and the adrenaline course through my system.

I sat up, and didn't die, and reached over to shut off the alarm clock I have set on my phone.  I paused a moment before touching it.  What if there was a spider sitting on it?  The very thought made my skin shudder, but I reached over and plucked the thing off the end table, flipped it open (yes, I still have a flip phone), and switched it off.

I scanned the floor for creepy crawlies before putting my feet down, then got up and wandered into the living room.

I faced maybe 15 of my fears on my way there, and I didn't scream once.

I think this makes me very brave.

I fear I am a hypochondriac.  I am afraid I will think I am a hypochondriac and will let a treatable but fatal disease go too far and I will die from a preventable illness.  I fear cancer from the sun and my cell phone, and the Diet Mountain Dews I suck down.  I am afraid of dying of an abscessed tooth that is left untreated.  If I get a scratch, I am afraid of lockjaw, but I am afraid of calling people on the phone, so I haven't called around to find out how to get my tetanus booster shot in over 10 years.

But somehow.  SOMEHOW.  I am a functioning member of society.  Most people don't even realize that I panic a little at least 5 times a day.  (OH NO!  I GOT SOMETHING IN THE MAIL!  I AM GOING TO GO TO JAIL OR GET SUED, oh, it's just an ad.)  I worry that all this worry is going to kill me.

It's almost the weekend, finally.  Three day weekend.  Boyfriend and I are going for our first backpacking trip of the year.

...Even though I am afraid of running into a moose who will step on me, and even though I am worried about bears, and spiders, and all sorts of things...

Last summer, Boyfriend and I hiked up to a place called "Lost Lake".  The first night, I kept hearing noises and thinking there were bears and mountain lions outside the tent.  I kept reminding myself that deer make weird noises that are pretty scary, just like cows, and so do raccoons.  It was probably an otter.  It wasn't a troll or anything.

The next morning, as we walked out of our campsite we found a mountain lion track on the trail.

Here, kitty kitty.

And even though I am worried about lightning, and flooding, and getting sick or hurt...

On another trip last summer, we got a late start and didn't hit treeline until noon.  We were hoping to be BELOW treeline by noon, because there are afternoon thunderstorms daily along the continental divide.  Even though the sky darkened and looked all ominous, we didn't turn back. 

It was the first day of the trip.  We were NOT turning back.

I like to think of myself as a reasonably intelligent person, but for some reason, I wanted to keep going.  Even though the storms were just starting for the day, and even though we had miles to walk above treeline.

For a little while, I thought we might actually make it over the tundra and down to the relative safety of treeline.
Somewhere along the way, I had a sore tooth that started aching.  I wanted to stop, but was too afraid of getting fried by lightning.  I was thirsty. I had to pee.  And the rain was whipping my legs like a sadistic jerk.  I sobbed and gasped through mouth because I was crying and there wasn't enough air.

And then all of a sudden we were (mostly) out of danger, and everything was beautiful again, and I was amazed at how far we'd come (we were on that ridge right up there).  And even though I still had to pee and my tooth still hurt, I was excited to be there, happy to be alive, and in a place where 99% of the planet will never reach.
 Last summer I learned that sometimes things that make you cry are still awesome.  And sometimes you just  have to pick the option that is less scary. 

It has been a really rough week at work. It felt like I was being punished for things that weren't my fault.  On the one day I managed to get outside and take a run during my lunch, it was so hot I was afraid I might actually melt and my legs would bend like warm candles.  And I started thinking.

I had just finished reading a book called Between a Rock and a Hard Place by Aron Ralston.  It is the book on which  they based the movie 127 Hours. It's the one where the guy gets his arm smashed in a boulder in a lonely canyon and ***SPOILER ALERT*** cuts off his own arm with a pocket knife in order to get out.

I would imagine that some people would take this story as further proof that going outside and doing stuff is a bad idea.

But as I sat at work yesterday, fighting tears of frustration after not sleeping the night before because I was so stressed out by crap at work, and I thought about how humans are clearly not meant to live in cubicles, and how pissed off I was at nothing in particular, just grouchy, and I thought, "I think I would rather cut off my own arm than be here today."

It was a kind of an epiphany.

No, I didn't quit my job.  I'm way to frightened of life to do that..  I'm afraid of being poor.  Of people judging me.  (Although if I'm honest, I really do kind of want to be a hobo).

Instead, I planned a backpacking trip with my boyfriend for the Forth of July weekend.

And I probably won't die.  But death is definitely less scary than NOT going.