Wednesday, February 26, 2014

New plates, still a flatlander

I am now the owner of a car, with all new tires, registered in Vermont.

My parents generously transferred the deeds to the car I drove east when I moved, which gave me a month to get it registered. The process involved a morning at the Department of Motor Vehicles and then a trip to my local mechanic for an inspection.

Duncan's is owned by a woman named Kelly, who is rugged and kind. The combination of strength and softness that I admire. She wears Carhartts has short cropped hair and calls me "Em" or "Bud," and once "my little chickadee."

I left my car with Kelly, and when I came to pick it up the next morning found out that it would not pass inspection unless I had all my tires replaced. I went with the cheaper of the two tire models that Kelly had priced, and came back the following day to pick up my car to the tune of $400 — reasonable, I think, but a good chunk of my monthly earnings.

Affixed to the front and back of my car were green Vermont plates. Kelly gave me the old, dust covered blue Iowa plates in an envelope, which I mailed to my mother.

Still, I plan to keep a piece of the flatlands from where I came — all that is humble and close to the earth.

Monday, February 17, 2014

I find my ski slope, with a little help

Vermonters tell me that winter goes more easily if you pick up a hobby — mainly downhill, Nordic or snowboarding.

I guess that shifts the paradigm. A snowstorm represents the potential for fresh powder skiing rather than the dread of having to shovel out your car. The cold ensures that snow stays on the ground instead of being a nuisance.

With just one skiing experience under my belt some 17 years ago, I had the impression that it was not for me. I had spent most of that day on the bunny hill with kids half my age and when I ventured on an official ski lift, I fell off at the top and caused the entire lift to stop while I clumsily attempted to get up.

So when I listened to co-workers talk about the joys of skiing, all I felt was trepidation about coughing up something around $100 to be the bumbling overgrown bunny of the kiddy hill.

One of my co-worker, however, offered to take me Nordic skiing, which seemed like more my incline and price. Plus, she was a ski instructor. Instead of signing up for a class with 10 year olds, I could learn from a friend.

So we made Saturday plans. She reserved a chariot for her infant son, and I put off a trip to visit my aunt and uncle. We arranged to meet at noon. In a matter of 10 minutes, the baby was bundled and safely fastened in the chariot and we had clicked into our skis and were off on the trail.

There was a minute or two of clumsy wobbliness, which I liken to a baby calf adjusting to the use of its legs. My friend told me to take the worn tracks. I fell into a rhythm. We climbed a little hill and I skidded down without much control but also not too fast.

I asked for tips about gaining more control. She told me to press me the outer parts of my feet flat and to make a wedge with my skis.

We climbed a bigger hill, and I confidently started on my way down. I picked up speed. Panicked that I was going a little too fast. Made a wedge to help slow down, plowed into a drift and came to a stop on my butt. My friend said that was the most controlled fall she had ever seen. I felt good about that, hadn't hurt myself, and we kept on.

After more than two hours, I was thoroughly sweaty and the baby had woken up from his nap and was chattering in the chariot. We pulled toward the start. My friend asked if I wanted to head straight for the lodge, or should we do one small final loop.

I chose the loop.

Monday, February 10, 2014

On far-flung family, friends

What about a Google Coffee-up, a Candlelight Supper FaceTime or a plain old mobile phone conversation?

I much prefer spending time face-to-face with my family and friends. I like inviting them over, planning the menu, cooking, playing hostess, hugging goodbye. I like walking together and seeing the same things. For example, the long walks I used to take with my sister Catarina through suburban Iowa neighborhoods. We'd comment on decor, remodel choices, the potential of house to be more than what it was. Yes, walking through the world with others is definitely best.

The nomadic lifestyle I have lived for most of my 28 years has brought me into contact with new friends many times over, and also forced us apart. I'm slow to forget memories, which spurs me into the realm of technology- and U.S.-Postal-Service-assisted communication. For many years I have been an avid letter writer and regular keyboard-pals with a Chilean friend. I also speak to my Mama and siblings on a daily basis.

But the past few weeks have brought a welcome uptick in my contact with far-flung friends. Although I don't put much stock in psychic connection — again I prefer the face-to-face, hand-in-hand, hug-eachother kind — the timing is good. The darkness and cold of winter continues to keep me indoors and near my computer.

Technology has allowed me to have coffee with Harum and Charles, in Missouri and Florida, respectively; candlelight dinner with Caroline in Connecticut; mobile conversations with Amy in New York and Kevin in D.C.; and at least a dozen email exchanges with others.

I am grateful. As my physical world comprises primarily two rooms, my heart enjoys expansion across states and continents.